Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Buck Stops Here. Finally.

By this point in the clinic, I was so shame-weary that I just wanted out.  I stayed because I wanted to see if maybe SOMETHING good would come of it.  And something did, she wrote with a crooked smile.

So Buck grabbed my horse's head.  Mind you, I was still SITTING on my horse.  I was situated in the middle of the arena up against the wall. Everybody had gathered around me--extremely close.  It was so quiet you could hear a cricket chirping in the far corner of that huge building.  I chuckled because I was the only one who didn't really take the whole thing quite as seriously as I ought to have.  Nobody cracked even the slightest grin.  I did some of my own eye-rolling at that point.

Buck came up to the left side of the horse and straddled Timothy's neck with his arms.  He grabbed both reins. So the dude was basically in my lap.  Odd, right?!  Anyway, he started shouting into the microphone and telling the following made-up story:  "This horse has been ridden in gimmicks! Look at these huge muscles in his neck!" He said grabbing a chunk of Timothy's flesh just behind his jawbone. Now riding in gimmicks means he's been trained using over checks, side checks, Martigales, draw reins, etc.  These are aids that are used when training horses to drive. I said, "Yes Timothy is a Morgan. He was trained to pull a cart before he was ever started under saddle." Buck ignored this reasoning.  Timothy's breed is a light draft breed. They can actually do pretty much anything but the Amish still use Morgans almost exclusively to pull their buggies.  They look pretty doing it and they generally have good minds.  Morgan horses are famous for their stamina as well.  Buck knows all this. Very well.  Yet he presses on with his ridiculous unfounded assertions as if they were gospel.
"This horse has been passed around, given up on, started and stopped, started and stopped and he's a mess!"  He is SCREAMING this into his Madonna-phone. People on Lake Michigan could have heard him, I'm sure.   I tried interjecting, "Well, I just got him right before he got sick." He completely ignored me and continued on his fitful rant "You see this poor animal?! He doesn't stand a chance with this type of situation!" I was incredulous. At this point I just lost it and started laughing my a** off and I did the unthinkable.  I hauled off and punched Buck Brannaman square in right the deltoid just about as hard as I could and said "That's ENOUGH already. You've made your point. You needn't belabor it."  He shot me a glance over said shoulder like 'how dare I?' and continued about how dangerous this situation could be, etc.  And so I did it again! I punched the man again, laughing. And I said it again,  "Dude, that's enough. You made your point. I JUST got this horse. I can't really speak to his entire past. It's not fair of you to come at ME like that.  I did the best I could.  You punk! Don't be such a punk about it.  Go make your point on somebody else!"

He finally softened just a hair.  And when he didn't punch me back, a few people relaxed enough to crack a smile.  I guess he doesn't get that much.  Bullies will lull people into submission with just the FEAR that they'll come at you.  In all fairness to the poor bastard, it is pretty standard for somebody who took as much crap as he did in his childhood.  They just mow the playing field down before anybody has a chance to suit up.  I know bullies.  But the Irish side of my brain would never easily submit to them.  Not without some kind of fight--stupid, embarrassing or pointless as it might end up being.

I came away from that clinic like I said before in a state of PTSD.  It took about a month to recover the will to ride again.  It took the past 8 months to make sense of the ass-whoopin' we all took that weekend. 

Looking back on the whole thing, I don't even TRY to assign any kind of grand metaphorical significance to it.  I'm not saying it's not there.  I'm just saying -- ugh, I don't want to think about it.   It was the weekend I met some really nice people.  I suffered through something crappy (with a bunch of expectations attached to it) with as much dignity as I could muster.  All the while I was missing my kids and the rest of my support network and quietly re-grieving the loss of some beloved friends.  So, you know, just a day at the beach, really.

When I returned home, I sent a Zingerman's Ultimate gift basket to Dave and Lisa.  They called me and thanked me profusely and made me promise to come and visit this summer.   About a week later I got a pretty heavy package in the mail.  Funny, I thought, I didn't order anything.  Wonder what it is...

I opened it up to find the most beautiful thank you note and a brand new, beautiful, totally assembled Mecate.  I just burst into tear-filled laughter.

Darren McCarty would be so proud. 

Jesus Does NOT Wear a Cowboy Hat

I obviously didn't find Jesus in a cowboy hat. What I found instead were some of the loveliest folks on the planet whose horse was in the stall next to mine.

Their names are Dave and Lisa. They're from downstate, west side. Dave is a businessman. Lisa is a stay-at-home mom. They have 4 20-something kids in college and out.  They love horses and came to learn.  Lisa couldn't ride because she was caring for her mother with Alzheimer's during the day. So it was just Dave out there with me. Lisa met us for lunch every day.

Now these two were what you'd call The Beautiful People. They've been married 25 years and she is my age. You could tell that they were the prom Queen and King in high school.  Gorgeous couple. Really beautiful both inside and out. They took me under their collective wing as I struggled through the hell that was that clinic.

On the third day I was there, the second of the clinic, I noticed that Dave was a bit down so I asked him about it.  He told me the following story: Apparently the day before had been the 22nd anniversary of his father's massive life-ending heart attack.  He told me how much he loved his Dad and just how heavy the day always has been for him since.  He said he plays the whole thing over and over in his mind.  He said the images were hard to shake.  The tears were streaming down both of our faces as he spoke.

So here is where Jesus did show up.  I, too, was incredibly sad.  THAT day was the 22nd anniversary of the death of my dear friends Bob and Maxine (Walt's parents).  These are the same folks whose furniture figured prominently in my post a few days ago.  They just happened to be from Charlevoix, the town where I had been staying during the clinic.  Being there always reminds me of them, no matter what time of year it is.  Despite the beauty of the surrounding area and all that that place has to offer, I still get stuck in decades past whenever I'm there.  It starts when we pull off of I-75.  My heart gets heavier and heavier at the same time I have the same familiar giddy sense of anticipation that I used to have.  Like maybe this time they'll actually be there.  I know I will go to the cemetery. I know it will break my soul wide open once again but I can't wait because I miss them so much.  And their son Jeff is buried right near them.  The whole thing always takes me back to a very fragile time and leaves me emotionally raw for weeks afterward. 

So there I was next to somebody, whose pain and loss were far greater than my own of course, who was experiencing the same kind of heartache at the same time as I was.  He told me his story. I told him mine.  We waited for Lisa to come so we could all have a nice lunch and finally laugh again.

Sitting there with them was so gently comforting.  I listened as they shared about Dave's wonderful father and Lisa's ailing mom.  I heard, in between their words, the weight of their situation and the grace with which they bear it every day.  They heard my story and my anguish at being so far away from my kids while feeling such deep sorrow.  They sensed my vulnerability and did not exploit it.  Buck sensed the same thing and did.  Bullies do that.  I'm probably stronger for both. 

We got through the rest of the clinic with a few more weeping casualties.  A few of the English ladies and the super pretty western lady who had a mean mare were crying in the barn.   I think one of the guys even got super pissed off to the point of looking vaguely teary.  One of the ladies who opted out of the last day was an Olympic Dressage rider.  He totally hurt her feelings in an obvious drive-by.  She was so dejected, she just didn't return for the last day. 

The last hour of the last day he started circling me.  And watching. And taking potshots at me.  Then he finally swooped in and grabbed my horse. He got off his horse and walked over to me and said 'gimme those reins!'

(More later)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Today marks 4 weeks of this business. It has gone by faster than I thought it would. I'm still not smoking and I haven't weighed myself. There haven't been any huge epiphanies. Only small victories.  And lots of tough days.  But they all passed--as I knew they surely would.

I'm getting a little more nervous about writing as feedback pours in.  The subject matter involves a lot of you all because I'm writing from the heart.   My biggest concern is offending anybody.  Funny how that wasn't always the case. Think poor Josie in Cleveland.   I now believe it's possible to live out loud without 1) breaking anybody's eardrums and 2) airing the private business of my loved ones in an open forum.

It's funny how disempowering it is to worry about what other people think all the time.  It's sort of what's happening with this blog thing. But I'm just going to forge ahead.  Hey, if I don't end up in a corner daviting and eating my hair, it's all good.

Back to Buck…So, I get to the arena the first morning and look around.  It dawns on me that everybody has been here before. The English ladies are all dressed in schooling gear. Appropriately not too fancy because if you look fancy, he’ll come atcha like a spider monkey on crack.  And all of the western folks got the memo--except me, of course.  They were all riding with a get-up called a Mecate (mah-ca-tay).  For the longest time I thought the people were saying McCarty, as in Darren, the dentally challenged Detroit Red Wing.   But it’s actually a bridle with a lead rope built in and a Romel at the end of the lead rope in case, you know, you might need to crack somebody somewhere.  Me, well, I just had my old ghetto, garage sale, feed-store bridle. Worked fine.  

Apparently, that was not going to cut it. This was clear to me as he harrumphed passed me on his first go through the arena, eye-rolling like a sorority sister at Lilith Fair.  So Buck had one of his minions come over to me and whisper, “Come with me. We need to do something about that bridle.”  She got a replacement from the wall of the tack area, adjusted it and then gave me a small word of advice about tucking the extra into my chap belt.

I don’t mind saying I don’t know everything about horses.  I don’t mind asking for help. But the problem with Buck was he had no tolerance for anybody who didn’t know at least as much as he knew.  That included pretty much everybody in the entire universe, if you were to hear him tell it.  He was quite possibly the worst natural teacher I have ever encountered.  His favorite tactics are shaming, screaming, bullying, blaming, targeting and passive-aggressiveness.  I mean doesn’t that sound like something you’d drive hundreds of miles and pay nearly $1000 to experience?  I’ve experienced bouts of Ebola that were more enjoyable.

Thank God I had the good sense to read his book the night before the clinic.  If I hadn’t, I would’ve been completely blindsided by his brand of assh***.  As it was, it was an autobiographical account so it was very tame compared the real deal.

Buck was badly abused by his father who was an incredibly disturbed WWII veteran.  That’s why everybody walks a wide circle around him.  He’s already had the crap pounded out of him.  He frontloads this abuse info into every conversation so that he can take whatever shots he wants and people feel too sorry for him to fight back.  It’s the oldest war tactic on the planet. I can’t believe people fall for it and don’t just haul off and crack him a good one.

In between barking orders to do specific maneuvers in the arena, he would occasionally ask all of the 30 or so of us to circle up in the middle of the arena to ask him questions.  Meanwhile, there were another 150 people observing from the hayloft above the arena.  A few people had really green horses, one straight off the racetrack, who needed immediate attention.  The rest of us had just the standard problems. Doesn’t back up well, aggressive toward other horses, won’t consistently load on the trailer, etc.  My horse had a host of behavioral problems as well as a significant reduction in overall fitness from his surgery.   He was looking rather poorly and not acting much better.  He was only 6 weeks back under saddle at this point and only 4 months out from surgery. And I barely knew him. I had owned him for a total of 7 weeks before he got sick.

Let me just start by saying my horse Timothy surely would have died had it not been for my dear friend Heather and my husband Jeff.  They were awakened late in the night and dragged out of bed. Heather drove hundreds of miles, lost a night of sleep and a day of work all because she didn’t want my horse to die.  Jeff road along and those two got him to MSU in time for colic surgery at 3am. It was harrowing. I was 1500 miles away in Orlando for the Easter weekend.  I had taken an Ambien at 10:30pm just before getting the disturbing news from the lady at the farm. So I was absolutely useless and slurring my words.  So they handled it and T lived.  

The month post op he was in the hospital. The first few weeks he was home, I was at the barn every 4-6 hours night and day, hand grazing him and walking him miles up and down that dirt road.  I didn’t mind really except that it felt a lot like a thousand-pound newborn who didn’t smell quite as good.

So I raised my hand in the circle and ask Buck, “What can I expect from my horse post surgery? How long will it take to heal, what should I never try to do with him, etc.?”

He replied, “You see this beautiful animal I’m sitting on!? He’s priceless.  If his gut tied up, I’d put him down right now.  I wouldn’t put him through the surgery and the post op. I’d cry for six months, but I wouldn’t put him through it. Now I have vet friends that lick their chops every time they see one of you guys cuz, what, they get $5000 a pop, right?” He asked looking at me.  I nodded, slack-jawed in disbelief.  Then he started going on and on about people getting attached to animals.  So not only did he insult me but he never answered my question.  He turned it around on him so that he could dispense some of his cowboy wit and witticism, or what I like to call ‘horseshit.’  

He went on to kinda yell sideways in my general direction but not AT me, “These horses (of his) eat different hay and drink different water every week. They travel all over the country and not once get tied up in the gut.  That’s all about me. Because I’m good with them, they’re good.” 

I just thought, well, THAT right there was about as helpful as hog shit on a hay wagon. Yeah, thanks. 

Let me just tell you that the MSU vets all said that they have no idea why some horses colic and others don't. They have no credible scientific data to suggest that it's one thing or another.  It just happens sometimes. 

Anyway, I went up north looking for Jesus, I think.  I went looking for my redeemer and my salvation and somebody to tell me whether or not I had any business whatsoever riding horses.  I wanted to be encouraged and coddled and praised for my genius in saving this horse.  I wanted to hear what a great animal he was and what a fine companion he would one day make. 

Ha. The funny thing about expectations is that they pretty much always end in giant disappointment-fueled resentments. 

Especially if you're looking for Jesus in a cowboy hat.

(To be continued)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Beverly Hillbilly Adventure, Part Deux

Beverly Hillbilly Adventures Part Deux

Back to Pittsburgh later... As many of you know, I ride horses.  I used to ride with a great deal more passion and commitment before I had kids. I ride with blurred vision from fatigue most of the time now and a helmet as many of you know.  A helmet to a cowgirl is like a tutu to linebacker. Not cool.

But, as I said, I have kids. And who wants to end up with a closed head injury with little kids?  I already explained in great detail what would happen if I decided to take a day off.  I’d be fishing my Escalade out of the impound lot and bailing my 5 and 6-year-olds out for MIPs. Can you imagine if I were laid up indefinitely with a reduction in cognitive capacity? As if that were even possible.  Perish the thought and cross your heart doing it.

Cowboys don’t wear helmets, by the way. Especially Buck Brannaman, the famous inspiration behind Robert Redford’s “The Horse Whisperer” character.  Only parenthetically choking back urge to hurl right now.

Anyway, I would call myself somewhere between an advanced beginner and intermediate horsewoman.  I don’t keep horses on my property so I don’t have the day-to-day interactions with them that a lot of my friends do. I ride intermittently as a result of the age of my kids and my husband’s ridiculous travel schedule.  That’s the best I can hope for right now.

Buck’s movie came out last year.  I really enjoyed it a lot.  I thought he seemed really awesome with the horses and really sweet with the people. Obviously, that’s just the way the movie was cut!  At one point, somebody says ‘he’s part horse himself.’ Yeah, I bet you can guess which part I think he is now.

So in late May last year, after my horse got out of a month in the MSU Vet hospital, I saw just the TRAILER for the movie.  The trailer made me cry.  I got so excited. I got right online looking for his clinics around this area. 

It was miraculous, I thought. There was going to be one from September 15th-20th in Petoskey at the Bay Harbor Equestrian Center.  The name of the clinic: Horsemanship 101. Perfect. I’ll start from the beginning. Divinely inspired. My sister has a house in Charlevoix. I'll park my rig at the center and then commute the 15 miles in the mornings. 

I spent the first part of the summer eagerly awaiting the actual movie, which we saw in July.  I spent the rest of the summer packing.  I bought a brand new trailer, for goodness sake.  Shaking head again.

Upon my return from this thing, I spent the remainder of the fall rocking back and forth in the corner eating my hair and mumbling to myself.  Horsemanship 101? I don’t know what just happened, but THAT was not a horsemanship class.  That was waterboarding.

The first day I arrived, I met 3 or 4 really nice people. The folks on either side of my stall were great. The women running the clinic were wonderful.  I thought, ‘wow, this is fortuitous.’ 

He made 4 or 5 people cry, not just me. So it wasn’t like I was alone in my shaming.  One poor woman, an environmental lawyer from Ann Arbor who was really cool, had the misfortune of having the name “Adrian”.  Buck’s first wife’s name was Adrienne. So, he was on her like chrome on a trailer hitch.  He screamed her name into his little Madonna microphone.  Earsplitting.  She was riding this little mix of a pony. Mare, rank, ornery, sassy.  So he told her to go the wall of the arena and do serpentines until he said so.  It was 40 minutes until he called her off the side.   He was hollering at her like she was a misbehaving child.  His brand of pedantry was so old school that it would’ve made my Grandma Feeney cringe. And she was old school, ironing-cord style.

I did have the misfortune of catching Buck’s stink eye early in the show.  But let me tell you one thing.  He must’ve known that I would not have taken one minute of him getting in my face like he did to Adrian before I would have knocked his hunched-over, crooked- legged cowboy ass right out the saddle.  So he came at ME sideways. He didn’t scream my name over the mike, he just spoke of the problems I was having in the third person after the fact.  It was so odd that my stall mate road by and asked 'what the hell was that all about?' no fewer than 4 times throughout the 5 days we were there.  That is, until the last hour of the last day.  

(To be continued)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Saturday, May 26th, 2012
Hey all.  Nothing much to report today. Still working on Part Deux. 3 weeks, 4 days and counting. Hope you all are having a wonderful holiday weekend.

Friday, May 25, 2012

In the summer of 1994 at the ripe old age of twenty-snah… something, I did a ‘favor’ for some ‘kinfolk.’  This was no small favor, as it turned out. But the moronic redneck in me kicked in when the favor involved the following elements: 1) a 4WD pick-up truck 2) a manual transmission 3) 2 weekends on the road—one alone, one with my best friend Josie 4) a pack of Marlboro Reds and nobody around who knew me 5) a tape deck w/as many George Jones cassettes as I could swipe from my brother Michael and 6) a very pregnant only sister far, far away who needed me.

It was a two-parter. I don’t remember much about the first part. Except I was single, hankering for an adventure and the gas was paid for.  So I went up to Charlevoix one late summer weekend in said 1992 Ford F150 long-box 4x4 and picked up a bunch of antique furniture from my brother-in-law’s brother.  I brought it down to my parents’ garage.  The following weekend, I hauled it down to Williamsburg, VA where my sister Cara and her husband Walt were living at the time.

Now only those present at the time of my departure from Chelsea (parents, brothers, embarrassed sister-in-laws far more possessed of propriety than I) can attest to the utter ridiculousness of the load I hauled.  Thankfully no photos were taken! The only thing that could have made me look more like Elly May Clampett driving that thing would have been some pig tails, a chicken in my lap, a pair of Daisy Dukes and a push-up bra.  There were more blue tarps and bungee cords on that thing than on a shotgun shack after hurricane.  It was tall too.  That truck sat high to begin with. Then the furniture must’ve been over the cab by at least 3 feet.  I just shake my head and cringe at the thought of actually showing my face, cigarette hanging out of the side of my mouth, driving that thing down the road.  Shaking my head as I type.  Face BURNING red.  Holy shit.

But I thought, who gave a damn if it looked bad on the outside. What was inside was so precious.

That furniture had been passed down to Walt and his remaining 2 brothers when their parents died tragically in 1989.  I loved their parents so dearly. It was nice to be chosen to carry the load a piece. It made me feel like I got to spend some time with Bob and Maxine again.  And Jeff, too.  Not my Jeff. Their brother Jeff who died in 1986.   He was another person who was very dear to me.  His passing, coupled with the loss of Bob and Maxine, basically broke my will to live for a while.  By the point in the story when it was time to haul this load to Virginia, I was beginning to emerge from the deep after almost 8 years of struggle.  I cannot fathom what Walt and his brothers were going through. If what I felt was one millionth what they felt, then I don’t know how they survived.

My survival looked a lot like that pick-up truck.  Jacked up, patched up, smoke and blond hair rolling out the window, black sunglasses and White Lightening blaring from the speakers. I probably had loaded my finger with extra birds, before leaving, too.   I’m certain that I wished a nice gun rack and a 12-guage would have been legal.  That woulda topped it off.

The spiritual metaphor was clear. I was to carry a heavy load of memories to their rightful places.  Rarely in life to do I get spiritual exercises that are this incredibly literal.   That’s another big reason I jumped at the chance.  To let go.

So my girlfriend Josie was in Cleveland that day for an insurance conference.  I was going to pick her up from out front of the conference center and she was going to keep me company through the perilous journey on the PA Turnpike.

Can you imagine this scene unfolding?  She is a very proper lady.  She is an INSURANCE person. She is very detail-oriented, precise, urban and sophisticated and the daughter of Italian immigrants.  She always tolerated my redneckness as a cute novelty. She laughed at metaphors and similes such as ‘about as useful as hog-shit on a hay-wagon’. She sat glassy-eyed through bluegrass concerts.  She was a sport about my own pick-up, which was much cuter than the one I’d arrived in.  She hung tough until that day. 

She was MORTIFIED.  Absolutely MORTIFIED.   I think she saw me coming and realized how incredibly embarrassing it would be for her to jump in the cab and drive off with me.  Her basic fear in hanging out with me these past 20 years is that she’d be mistaken for a lesbian because I always looked so butch.  Can I say that without offending my gay and lesbian friends?  I’m butch. I don’t care. I’m not gay. But I am pretty tomboyish. 

So I think that she actually was hiding inside as I sat out in the valet circle drive of the really nice Cleveland Conference Center--honking.  Yes, I was honking.  In my pick-up filled to the top with furniture. No air conditioning.  5-speed transmission. Blue tarps everywhere.  Honking. So, she must have ducked inside and tried to formulate a plan to get out of driving with me.  I was innocent to this embarrassment at this point.  So I parked illegally to run in and find her—which I did.  She was lurking near a payphone.  This is before every single human being alive carried a phone. 

I don’t remember the actual exchange that day or how I finally got her outside and in the truck.  But I can tell you that Cleveland is a longish way from the Pennsylvania border.  We were just outside of Pittsburgh at a Denny’s before she uttered her first words to me.  

(To be continued--I'm going to see if I can scare up a photo, too)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

I haven’t had good sleep in 4 nights. So pardon the rambling and disjointed nature of today’s post and the distinct LACK of cussing.  Just too tired.  Thanks for the nice feedback, everybody.  Very moving and touching.  It’s great that people think some of this stuff is funny because I never considered myself funny---on purpose. I was always funny by accident. Which is really the definition of tragic. Like toilet paper on a shoe.

Theater of the Uncomfortable is what Crispin Glover calls his brand of weird. It’s what I call my brand of funny.  

I chopped – well not I, but my wonderful hairdresser Heidi—6 inches from my hair yesterday. It took about 8 years off my haggard face. The hair she cut off was the most bizarre texture. It reminded me of doll hair from the 70’s only more desiccated and unnaturally shiny, like it spent the summer eating green popsicles and swimming in the neighborhood pool.  I had held on to that hair way past its personal September, if you know what I mean.

Letting go of 6 inches of hair is not easy. It took about 2 years to convince Heidi that it was time.  In that time period, I probably stood in the mirror with the electric shears 30 times poised to do a GI Jane.  The only thing that kept stopping me was the memory of that sad mug shot of Britany Spears with an off-centered and inverted Mohawk.  Heidi assured me that I hadn’t been ready until yesterday. That should tell you what a crappy day the day BEFORE yesterday was. It aged me a decade. So I’m still 2 years behind.

Cutting unnecessary and harmful things from my life has always been easy for me initially. But then after I execute the task, I have a certain sadness that settles in to replace whatever I lost.  Not really so much about my hair or whatever, but about the loss of that time period in my life.

I feel that same way when I give away the clothes the boys have outgrown.  It’s necessary and good to create space for something new.  But there is always an associated sense of loss.  I think this comes from the fact that it JUST recently dawned on me that I probably wasn’t going to be living forever. Not that there is anything to suggest that it's imminent.  Just that it hadn't really crossed my mind. That memo must have gotten stuck in the spam filter.

Anyway, I cut my hair because it looks like they might have to remove one of my ovaries which will surely at least change the texture of my hair.  I’m sure a lot of guys just clicked off this link because that’s an area of the body that is generally considered off limits in conversation.  Of course boobs are fair game. Asses, totally cool. But internal structure of indeterminate size, strength and function would just make the dudes NERVOUS.  Because let’s face it, girls, we have heuvos, too. They’re just on the inside.

You think the dudes are nervous. Hell, I’M nervous.  There is a chance that it could throw me into the big M about 5 years early. I’m not talking about the carwash on Stadium, either.  My doctor would like to avoid this because it causes bone loss.  I would like to avoid it because it would most likely cause the loss of what’s left of my cool, which, let’s face it, in a life or death situation, is SO important. But if something is not functioning properly in your body, they say it’s good to remove it.  Patti can attest to this. Anybody who has had appendicitis can, too.

The problem I’m having with the whole thing is this: What is this trying to tell me? This is a pretty important and high functioning organ.  It’s the seat of creation.  It helps to nurture life. What is the lesson I’m missing?   

Personally, my hunch is something like maybe I wish I would have had more kids.  Even though I seem to stink at mothering the ones I do have, I always had the dream of a big family like the one I grew up in.  Now I realize that my perfectionism and some bad timing kept me from going for it within the allotted time frame.  Buzzer Sounded. Time up. Sorry. Thank you for playing.  Moving on to the next contestant. And since you won’t be needing that ovary any longer, can you please surrender it at the counter on your way out of the building?  Like a pair of bowling shoes. 

But I am happy and content to have the beauties I do have.  It's all bittersweet. 

Anyway, cutting unnecessary and harmful things out of my life is today’s theme.  I guess it’s also a theme of transition and change.  And being funny by accident.  You know, I’d rather be funny by accident than not funny at all. 

Since I’m such a cowgirl wannabe, maybe I should call this episode:
 “Adios Huevos Rancheros.”

Maybe not.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Yesterday and this morning were hard. I'm not saying it was hard  like the-girl-at-the-end-of-the-exit-ramp-on- Plymouth-Road-with-a-photo-of-her-baby-daughter-on-a-sign hard. I'm just saying it was hard for me.

My sons present behavioral challenges.  They are rambunctious and ill-mannered at times.  They are wonderful and capable at other times.  They (pretty consistently) embarrass the shit out of me.

As children, we were ruled by iron hands.  You can't really do that anymore.  If the authorities didn't get you, your conscience would.   It seems that our generation has a harder time being parents. Just parenting.  Being the bad guys while still being even-handed, fair and not freaking the hell out when our kids act like maniacal ee-jits.  And they do. And I love my kids and think they're brilliant in their own ways, but damn, it would be way better if they'd just shut the hell up and sit the hell down.

I took Henry to breakfast this morning alone before school.  Jeff and I have been doing this for a couple months now about once a week. We switch off kids.  Henry can sometimes be sweet, compliant, gentle, interesting to talk to and plain old wonderful.  Then there are days,  like today, when I run into an old friend.  Henry dipped under the table and just stayed there while I was chatting for a minute.  I'm like, what is he doing down there? So I investigated.  He was under the table eating butters. The little plastic single butter containers.  When I removed them,  he started drinking the coffee creamers.   When I took both things away, he started jumping on the banquette and removing photos from the wall.  He finished with a round of spoon-on-glass xylophone. All before 8:20am.

I look around at my friends' kids.  They can concentrate longer on tasks. They are more academic. They are not challenged by a need for constant sensory input.  Some of them have nice manners. Some do not. 

But I realized that I'm not much of an advocate for my own kids sometimes.  I often am just plain embarrassed by their assyness. Yes I wrote ASSY-ness.  That is my new favorite adjective and noun.

Then I remember that most parents understand that we have only so much control over another human--even the smallest ones.  Even if we read every parenting book on the shelf, employ every great technique, Love and Logic the kids through a tshirt on a 10-degree day, they are still individuals capable of their own decisions.  Some of them ain't pretty.

That's when the 'shoulding' comes in.  I should be better able,  They should be better, I should know how to handle this situation better, I should be able to extract better behavior from them. We call this 'shoulding all over oneself' in the program.  It's basically just an exercise in shaming and blaming.

Whenever I get super pissed at my kids,  I go to the St. Jude's website and read stories. I know it sounds awful, but it gives perspective to my struggles.  My kids are healthy. They'll probably outgrow this assy phase (and then move on to ANOTHER one). But the important boxes are checked for today.  That's really all I have.

The fact is, parenting is hard. It's much easier from the outside looking in. There are no perfect parents. There are no perfect kids.  About the best I can hope for is daily incremental improvement.

Two nights ago at Panera,  Elliot tipped the entire table over and slid onto the floor when I had my back turned. All the while, he and Henry were giggling furiously.

So, I guess we've got no place to go but up.  Literally.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

“No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good...Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is.”

-C.S. Lewis

“As soon as you stop wanting something you get it. I've found that to be absolutely axiomatic.”

-Andy Warhol

Well I hope Mr. Warhol was not talking about crack. Because I don’t want it and I don’t want to get it.  However, I’m afraid the current rate at which addictions seem to be piling up around me would suggest that it’s a distinct possibility.  Like Jeff says when I wear low rise jeans, ‘Just say no to crack, honey.’ I’ll take that under advisement.

I am pretty sure Mr. Lewis was, himself, dipping into the peyote when he wrote that story about the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.  So he’s probably speaking from the firsthand experience of a Greco-Roman throw-down with el Diablo himself.

Wrestling with temptation makes me weary. Wrestling with anything makes me weary. That’s why I think the first of the 12 steps is so key and so difficult: We admitted we were powerless over (insert flavor of OCD here) and that our lives had become a HOT MESS. And when I say a hot mess, I mean looks good on the outside, still managing everything and still functioning at a high level while being profoundly spiritually and psychologically bankrupted by a useless metric, flower pot, cigarette, clean house, addictive relationship, etc.

As for that last one, I had a friend in Miami a few years back who was very intense yet wonderful in many ways.  But she was impossible to please or to connect with in an authentic sense or at least with my authentic self.  The relationship deteriorated when I woke up to this realization: she’ll never give me the satisfaction of feeling good enough around her. I must always know my place—directly beneath her.

That type of a connection is very obviously doomed to failure. I remember trying to tell her one day that she’d hurt my feelings very severely.  Her reaction? She ATTACKED me. She called me a flake, an airhead, (which I don’t deny that I am, but it had nothing to do with the original offense) said that I was lying, that I had misheard her, etc.   When I had confessed to her that I was really struggling in some areas of my life, she retorted with STRUGGLE?! I’ll give you struggle. Which was followed by a litany of apocryphal struggles that were ten times worse than mine.   

I woke up that day.  It was a cold realization. How had I let her so far into my head without the warning lights going on?  What and who else were in there?

I think simply that this type of situation presents a challenge similar to managing any unmanageable situation.   ‘I can slay this dragon. I can tame this beast. I can make her love and accept me.’  And that’s where the addictive and unhealthy process starts. It starts when I think I can manage something far greater in strength and ferocity than I am. 

I ain’t ten foot tall and bullet proof, apparently. 

Anyway, I stopped wanting to be perfect that very day.  It was like getting out of a car I’d hitched a ride in where everyone had body odor and was smoking cigars.  What a huge relief.  It’s taken me 11 years to get the stink off me.

So yesterday morning, I woke up late. Got the kids up late. Threw together a nice breakfast for them. Never uttered the ‘we’re going to be so late’ sentence. We managed to get out of the house on time, with smiles all around and absolutely no pressure.  And in the midst of that, I set the kitchen timer for 6 minutes, took my freshly homemade Nespresso hazelnut latte and sat outside.  I wanted to admire my 42 (down from 66) pots.  I didn’t make it the entire 6 minutes (because my coffee was THAT good) but it was perfect. For 3 whole minutes, all I saw were pretty flowers. I didn’t see the weeding to be done, or the dirt to be swept. I simply enjoyed a nice cup of coffee on the deck with all my pretty flowers.  

I didn’t want perfect anymore and I finally got it. 

For 3 whole minutes.

But that was yesterday.  Today, not so perfect.

More on that when the shock wears off.

Tuesday. Day 21.  3 weeks without a cigarette. 3 weeks without weighing myself.  It feels like 3 weeks without sleep, as well.

Rough night.  I'm going to need a nap and I won't get one.  Wish me luck.  Hope everybody has a wonderful day.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Bum Rush Soccer Mom - Monday May 21st, 2012

I got bum-rushed by a mom at soccer on Saturday afternoon.  Tap, tap, tap on my left shoulder—and when I say tap, I mean pound, pound, pound with an index finger.  I was bent in half attending to my purse (giant tote-of-a-thing that could easily handle half a square bale) so I assumed it was my kids. As I stood, a bit stooped I hear ‘Ma’am. Ma’am!!' This form whizzes past me closely on the left side and presents itself and its giant bosom right at my eye level as I stood up.  Dude, it was WEIRD.

I had been in the middle of a conversation, a funny, jovial conversation about our crazy children, with a woman whom I’d recently met (um, insert sounds of sheepish weight shifting, eyes downcast, stomach in knots) after Elliot scratched (yes scratched) her son in the eye the previous Saturday.  But more on that later.

‘Excuse me! Excuse me! Your son PUNCHED my daughter in the STOMACH!!!’ she forcefully states in front of the entire soccer arena.  I was so taken aback, literally, that I couldn’t understand what just happened.  Henry scored a great goal right at the buzzer and then came off the field. They disappear for a minute in a chute of sorts before emerging where the parents pick them all up.  So I reply, ‘What?’  ‘YOUR SOOOON PUNCHED MY DAUGHTER IN THE STOMACH AND HE NEEDS TO APOLOGIZE RIGHT NOW!’ She said LORDING over Henry who was a bit shell shocked at this point.  She was actually hovering over top of Henry, her boobs in his face and index finger (previously alluded to—obviously her other weapon of choice in the world) outstretched demanding a 6-yr-old to apologize to her daughter who was I’m gonna say at least 8.

Of course my knee-jerk reaction was, ‘Henry say sorry to this girl,’ which he did like 3 times but it was barely audible.  So this woman repeated her demands until she had sufficiently shamed my son and made a spectacle of herself, her boobs, her horrified daughter and anybody within 50 feet of this exchange. Finally she walked through the space between me and my purse and proceeded to spread sunshine wherever she went that day, I’m sure.

‘Yeah but Mama, she SLAMMED me into the railing on the stairs and she hurt my wrist so much that I screeched-ed out!’ At this time, Elliot came to his brother’s defense. He said, ‘yeah Mama, I saw the whole thing and I heard Henry when he screeched-ed out in PAIN.’ 

So we’re walking out (a procession that I have dubbed the Walk of Shame now) and I said  ‘I’m sorry. The whole thing sounds awful and this is totally not fair, Dude, but you can NEVER hit a girl (but I was thinking to myself, at least not in public).’  At this point, the shame had set in and Henry was feeling like absolute shit and bawling his eyes out. 

As I was walking with the boys back to the truck, I was replaying in my head what just happened at the same time I was comparing it to the previous week when Elliot scratched the boy whose Mom I was talking to when the whole thing went down.  Here’s what happened there:  Elliot wrote a letter of apology. We had an email exchange with the parents, who assured us that they were certain the shit was going both ways, that everything was cool and would we like to come over for some ribs! Seriously.  Which we did and had a blast. 

The difference was the reaction of the Mom.  The Index Finger Mom was uptight and felt she had to come to her daughter’s defense by SHAMING my son. The non-uptight Mom said the following while her sons recounted to her in horror their eye scratching incident with Elliot ‘Ow! That sounds like it hurt. Ouch! Are you okay?’ During the entire exchange she was looking at me in a knowing way (and let me tell you I was horrified, horrified because the kids came running up to tell her that Elliot had scratched their eyes). THEIR EYES, people. Does that sound like a budding serial killer or what?!  In fact, no it doesn’t, it sounds a lot like a frustrated little 5 yr old.  And the relaxed Mom knew it.  She conveyed enough empathy to her kids without trying to destroy my kid.  It was very subtle. Very gentle. Very loving all the way around.

So out in the parking lot, I pull over to kind of do a debrief with Henry.  I told him that I could have handled that situation better and that, while I didn’t agree with the hitting, I certainly didn’t like that lady yelling in his face.

Anyway, the whole thing is funny.   And sad.  Parenting is an inexact science.  I’m sure we’ll all survive it.  But the shame thing really bugs me.   According to psychologist Brene Brown, PhD the difference between shame and guilt can be summarized as follows: Shame is ‘I am bad’ and guilt is ‘I did something bad.’  Shame always leads to more bad behavior because it tears at the self while guilt leads to BETTER behavior because it puts the self in conflict with its values.  The self cannot stand being in conflict with its values.  She explains this in all of her books.  And there’s not a bad one so I recommend them all. 

So cool mom Liz, pulls up next to me in her car on the way out.  She says in her nice Texas accent, ‘Oh my, that was just a little over the top, wasn’t it?’  I smiled and told her thanks for saying that.  ‘Now I, too, can go spread sunshine and happiness wherever me and my boobs go today.’ 

We both laughed.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

And the second is like to it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is no other commandment greater than these. Mark 12:31

Dearly beloved, let us love one another, for charity is of God. And every one that loveth, is born of God, and knoweth God.  1John 4:7

I don’t know where I ran into these two bible verses but they were just sitting in front of my face somewhere.  I couldn’t ignore them.  The thing that jumps out at me here is the fact that God didn’t tell us to ‘Like’ everybody (or everything, for that matter).  He told us to Love them. Because love is born from God and basically has some sort of magical transformative power.  The other thing that jumps out is that the entire thing presupposes that we love ourselves. Ugh.  What a *&^%ing pain in the ass.

I spent most of last summer following a nice little formula for sanity, security and liking myself.  It went something like: see my horse x number of times per week, exercise x number of minutes per week, go to mass at least once during the week blah blah blah.   There were regular life things, too, like work with the kids on their reading, don’t be such a loud bitch to everybody, do my flylady ( routine and THEN and ONLY then would I be allowed to enjoy my summer. 

I really felt like I had the bull by the cojones but not quite as psychotically perfectionistic (ha ha) as in summers past.  I had some sense of serenity that was the result of my loose (yet moderately fastidious and quantifiable) adherence to a formula.  I really liked myself last summer.  It was nice. And when I say nice I mean insipidly and conditionally nice.  Like how Doofenschmirtz says ‘Nuh-ice…’   The funny thing I realized is that you can like yourself at the same time you loathe and despise great big chunks of yourself.

Then mid-September came and my sister in law Patti was diagnosed with Breast Cancer.

And there it all started to swirl down into the toilet I remember mentioning in my first blogpost. It was a slow draining process that took from September to May 1st to completely finish me off.  My construct unraveled.  Somewhere along the way, I realized that liking myself is a lame substitute for loving myself and for appreciating my life. Because when the crap hits the fan, as it did in Patti’s life, liking yourself just doesn’t really cut it.  In fact, I am now convinced that loving and liking have nothing whatsoever to do with each other.  I KNEW, for the first time, staring me in the damn denial-filled face, that my artfully constructed little conditional Method For Serenity and Protection from Bad JuJu was not going to inoculate me from bad shit going down. I mean Patti, who has never done a bad thing in her LIFE, no smoking, barely consumed any alcohol, never cusses, great Mom, great wife, biggest sweetheart EVER, eats like 90% organic and always has, couldn’t protect herself.  Shit happens.  And it wasn’t her fault, either. And it’s not fair. Just like Jeff’s accident.  It wasn’t his fault. And it wasn’t fair that somebody died. Shit just happens.

Patti took to her chemo like a charging bull.  She motored through the hair loss, ran through the nausea, prayed through the sleepless nights.  Amazing, I thought. She’s got something I want.  She was an advocate for her own life. She was strong and resilient. She was weak and afraid.  Most notably, she was triumphant.

I don’t think Patti ‘liked’ the way she looked without her hair (although the wig she got was just adorable). But I am guessing that she LOVES herself, her life and everything that she gets to smell, touch, taste and feel pretty much every day now. 

I would venture to guess that she loves her scars as proof of her continued existence here on this earthly plane. 

But she probably doesn’t like them much at all.  And I’d also venture to guess that she doesn’t give much of a crap about not liking them.

Last night at my father’s 77th birthday celebration, Patti took her wig off for everybody to reveal her new hair growth.   My Dad rightfully proclaimed, “You look like a chic New York City Gallery owner. Ditch the wig!!!”  She looks radiant.  Beautiful.


And that, my friends, was not born out of like, I can tell you that much.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Last night I wrote a treatise on the difference between like and love and was all prepared to publish it this morning.  Then I read the thing and wanted to barf.  Like I know!

I spent yesterday actively NOT honoring that little boy with the "crappy" parents (the one who came flying off his horse) by screeching at my kids.  They had spent the previous night with my parents and got to do lots of fun things like drive Grandpa's "Porch" around the yard, Henry got to taste some nice hand soap for telling his brother to move the f*ck over so HE could drive the "Porch" and, of course, they got to stay up late.

The great thing about Grandparenting is that there are really no rules. Which is exactly as it should be. They get to ply the children with cookies, kisses, hugs, pizza, soda, etc. They forgive (almost) every misdeed and proudly display unfortunate school pictures in every room of the house.  Make no mistake this is a universal principle:  Grandparents love getting back at their own kids by these tried and true methods.

And would we have it any other way?

So while I was screeching at the kids yesterday, I thought of that "crappy" mother from the previous night. I thought, she's probably not that bad. She's just lost. Just like I was lost yesterday.  Grumpy, tired, floundering.   The lesson I took away from slamming her was, "shut the hell up until I'm perfect" which will be never.  Have compassion because it transforms everyone and everything it touches.

Just like soap.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Today is day 17 I think. Boy those first couple weeks were rough! To all who are endeavoring in a similar direction: Bon Courage!  In French I think that loosely translates to 'hold on to your ya ya's, this might get sucky before it gets better!'
You know, some days the words write themselves.  Something either funny or earth-shattering transpires and just begs to be conveyed.  Other days, not so much. 

I had a busy day preparing to go to a fun show way up north last night.  For the equine uninitiated, that’s a horse show with just speed events like barrels, poles, flag race, keyhole, relays, etc.  I’m telling you, they make up some awesome games. More on that later.

But back to writing itself, the story I want to tell, I don’t really want to tell. It’s disturbing and saddening and maddening.  It involves a little boy there at the fun show and an accident.  So, let me just tell you, that Mrs. Control Freak-o Suave over here just about lost her sh#t when that little boy came off his untrained horse and slammed head and neck long into the short wall of the bull pen area at the front of the arena.

As if the accident weren’t enough, his mother pulled his limp body up off the dirt right away.  Did I say that his head SLAMMED into the wall—Yes, Thank God, he was wearing a helmet because it made a deafening sound that echoed through the hollows of that giant aluminum arena and sent everybody into an agitated state—even the horses started acting weird.

So she yanks him up and he starts to move. But it took a minute or two.  She took him outside and started talking to him and asking him to wiggle his toes, etc.  She sat with him on her lap for a while really close.  But this was the disturbing part:  Her boyfriend.  He gave me the creeps.  He was inappropriately close to her at all times.

He had scars all over his face as if from numerous drunken brawls. He refused to look me in the eye.  He and the mother of this boy were GRINDING on each other in the arena of a 4H club not 10 minutes after they ascertained that the little boy was going to be okay.  And when I say okay, I mean, she didn’t have a portable MRI to look at his neck, which was at about a 45 degree when his head slammed into the wall.  It wasn’t his head I was worried about. It was his sweet little tiny 10-year old neck.  And his heart.

A short time later, the little boy walks up to the mom/boyfriend conglomeration (they were literally stuck together, he was behind her holding her around her waist, she was in front holding onto his front pockets).  So gross.  This was a 4H event. Kids everywhere. They are not married. He is not the father of that child.  So anyway, the little boy was trying to tickle the guy, trying to lean up against his mother, trying desperately to get their attention.  And NOTHING. I mean NOTHING.  I was the only adult that was looking after him, watching him, talking to him, trying to engage him in conversation.  I was thinking that sometimes head and neck injuries don’t present themselves until well after a scary even like that.   But those two addictive, selfish…and then I stopped myself.

I sit in Alanon meetings and hear stories like this little boy’s every time I go. ‘My mother was taken with any dumbass drunk’. ‘My father kept marrying abusive alcoholics.’  I mean there are variations but the theme is the same.  People who are not in recovery from their addictive upbringings perpetuate the insanity.  What will that little boy think of love, of men, of his mother, of horses, of bystanders?  Of appropriate care when he is injured? What will he do next to get his mother’s attention?  Perish the thought.

Well, MY Alanon tells me that he has a God of his own, the mother does, too. The creepy-ass, nasty, gnarled-up boyfriend who--- I don’t even want to go there--- just had the words parasitic, opportunistic, sociopath tattooed on his soul which were in turn reflected in his over all just jackassness—has a God, too. But please! Grinding at a kids’ 4H event.  No wonder the kid slammed his head into the wall!  He was trying to put a stop to a completely intolerable set of circumstances.

I have an easier time letting go of stuff like this when it’s fully formed adults involved.  I have less of an easy time letting go when this kind of openly expressed disease process involves the innocent.

Then I thought, this is way outside my purview. Like it or not.  But how can I take this into my own life? How can I honor that little man? By the way, he got back up on that horse and trotted the pattern on a lead line.  Well, I can start with myself and my own kids, I guess. I can start by being more appropriate and attentive around kids in general. I can start with me.  And then I can pray for him and all of that shit I saw last night that made my blood boil. Because if it makes MY blood boil, I must have a pot of my own on the stove.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

I did not relapse yesterday. But a new day always presents a new challenge, doesn't it?!

So this time of year another of my many obsessive tendencies begins to emerge and shall we say bloom.   It’s just starting now and I haven’t quite hit bottom---yet.

Hi My Name is Molly M. and I have 65 container gardens.  Hi Molly, welcome.

Uh, I mean where do you go with something like this? I have the oddest two obsessions on the damn planet.  Could I get any more bizarre?   These are at least vaguely comedic. The other ones are just sad---like scratching holes in my neck and scalp—and obsessively trying to outwit God by taking alternate routes places.  As if God doesn’t know what I’m thinking…duh!   I keep hearing laughter upon arriving places—it’s coming from the clouds. I’m pretty sure it’s Him.

This latest oddity really came back into full expression 2 weeks ago.  Tragically, Jeff was involved in a collision in which he was essentially an innocent bystander.  The driver of one car passed out and blew the light at Maple and Dexter and t-boned a gentleman heading home from dinner with his wife. They had driven separately.  He died instantly.
Both of those vehicles spun around and slammed into Jeff—just sitting there at the light waiting his turn.

He was so cold when I arrived with a black sweatshirt in my hand. I don’t know who put that sweatshirt in MY hands.  It was only 43* and he was forced to stand out there for at least 2 hours waiting.   They had not even extracted the poor man from the wreckage until well after everyone was gone.  The pall that fell over our lives that night lingers on.

The randomness of something like that can shake a control freak such as myself right down to the core.  It was the impetus for getting a handle on my OCD. I want to enjoy what might be left of my life.   I also wanted to hand control over to my higher power since I wasn’t doing such a bang up job of managing the randomness.

The next morning I dropped the kids off at school and went to look at pretty flowers. Each time I would pass by a different flat I thought, ‘gee wouldn’t that look nice in a pot on the deck?’ And that one, and that one, and that one…’ $300 later I have 5 new container gardens and a serious replacement addiction. Or at least a colorful one.  I’ll include a photo from some of mine from last year.  You really can’t get them all in one photo.  I managed to nip that obsession in the bud, pardon the pun. I’ve only taken 44 pots out of storage this year.  So that is roughly a 25% reduction in my overall crazy factor.

Today I’m going to take my 2 cats and dog to the groomer to have them bathed and clipped so we can stop eating their hair.  It’s just grossly floating everywhere and they don’t like it when I actually vacuum them. Go figure. 

Yesterday, I went to St. Vincent De Paul to drop off all that stuff that used to be in my horse trailer.  There, on a sandwich board out front of the t-shirt shop across the alley was a sign:   


I actually considered it.  Obviously,  I still have a long way to go. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I almost relapsed today--and I still may! I just thought that I would blog about it first and then see how I felt.   The entire episode of Sherlock we watched last night had to do with his smoking cessation and subsequent insanity. It was funny the way he was getting really close to smokers and inhaling.

Buddy, I am right there with you. 

I always feel like a gerbil on a treadmill.  I thought that slowing down on the weighing and the smoking would somehow give me a sense of calm. WRONG. I'm still the same spastic neurotic just not as well-medicated.

Had a nice coffee time with two authentic and cool moms this morning. Very enlightening and engaging.  Great to touch base with folks and hear of their struggles, triumphs and day to day grind. Great to hear that it's not all foodie-inspired meals with ramp marmalade,  Kumon and harp lessons for some other folks either. Great to hear laughter and no judgment.

Some of us moms parent "out loud" shall we say.  Some are quieter.  I'm sure you all can guess which category you (and I) fall into.

My Mom, sister and I celebrated 'the day that shall not be mentioned' yesterday (for the uninitiated that's M*ther's Day).  My sister was recounting some travails at work and she looked at me and Mom and said the following 'Hey, look, I'm not a calm person. End of story. So some shit like that really sets me off.'

'Hey look, I'm not a calm person. End of Story. So some shit like that really sets me off.' 

First of all, let me just say that from that comment alone you can extrapolate that 1) I come by it honestly and 2) there is but one antidote for members of the spaz tribe (short of a Thorazine drip and a morphine pump): Exercise.  Exercise that takes a while, makes you sweat, feels a bit like work and gets the heart pumping.   Running is my sister's mood stabilizer.  It was my Mom's but she's graduated to fast walking, Pilates, non-stop gardening, etc.

Since I quit the shmaloking and the shmalweighing, I haven't been exercising as much as I apparently should have to maintain a level of calm.   I thought planning to exercise a lot would be just trading one effing crazy ass compulsion for another.   I have since come to the conclusion that some effing crazy ass compulsions are indeed BETTER than others. As in, it's better if I work out too much and stay quit on the coffin nails than wonder around the house, lost, eating my cuticles and then horking them into the garbage can as if it were a spittoon.

Anyway, as I sat here waiting for "the calm" to overtake me, it dawned on me that it might be a while---like maybe not even until I'm dead. So, perhaps I should put my shoes on, drive down to Kerrytown and go for a nice hour and a half hike through the Arb.

If I still feel like it on the way back, I can bum a smoke off of one of the Community High Students.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Hi all. I just wanted to post this addendum to the past couple days of posts about struggle and work.  It has come to my attention that these posts were taken as political statements. I really don't want to create any more political discord than already exists in this country.  So, I just wanted to state emphatically that these two themes are strictly about my own recovery.  Anything that one might extrapolate beyond that is unintended.  I am speaking only from the heart about my own personal issues and struggles.

However, I do welcome all feedback.  I love that folks are reading this. I just don't want to be insensitive or offensive in any way. (Well, we all know THAT'S not entirely true...)


I’ve been asked ‘why can’t you just be nice?’ I think that might be code for ‘shut your damn mouth.’ But I’m not sure.  Instead of shutting up, I will chime in and say something sweet (but just THIS time).

Jeff jackhammered up the entire sidewalk on Saturday afternoon with help from some guys fresh off the farm.  Dawn Farm rehab and recovery center.  They were spectacular workers.  And my husband can work—a la Ann Feeney--work.  I mean the man has no skin left on either of his hands.  

The other guys worked like dogs for 5 straight hours as well. They were breaking up 6” thick concrete and then hauling it to a dumpster.  Let me tell you, this is no mean feat. It was a sight to behold. I am quite sure those crispy farmers slept their sober tushies off that night.

These guys are newly sober---probably inside 90 days. I didn’t really ask.  What I noticed was this kind of pride in the effort that they were putting forth.  I could see it in the way they moved, wiped sweat from their brow and worked together to accomplish this pretty hateful and difficult job.  It was something else.   There was no conversation because the hammers and the compressor were so loud.

It dawned on me how relieved they must be to be acting ‘normal’ even if ‘normal’ meant busting ass for 5 straight hours.

Everybody bitches about having to work.  I’m the top on that list.  And I don’t even have a 9-5 job!  But work defines the parameters of our days.  It gives meaning and purpose to our lives.  Our work products reflect back to us the quality of our attention.  Don’t get me wrong, work sucks. Work is tiring. Work is work.  The only thing worse than work, is NO work.

My babysitter started with me 5 years ago tomorrow.  She was 17 at the time. She was a mother’s helper at that point because she couldn’t drive.  So either I would go pick her up and then load the kids in and then drop her off right before bedtime or her mom would come and get her.  She is a Brazilian-born legal resident of the US now.  She has been late maybe three times in 5 years and none without the excuse of some traffic accident or other catastrophic event well beyond her control. 

I asked her why she was such a diligent and excellent worker. She just smiled.  But then we got taking one day and she told me that she never expected work to be fun. She said that she always thought work was supposed to be work and that fun was supposed to be fun.  Work is work.

It’s always fun when you clock out.