Tuesday, December 2, 2008

silly momma, reindeer don't have wings

After our son was born, my husband and I had several serious discussions about Santa Claus.

We were both firm in our belief that we should never lie to our child, believing that his ability to trust us in all matters was paramount. But where did the line between lying and denying our son the joy of Santa Claus lie?

We recalled my own childhood Christmases filled with the magic of Santa and compared them to his, filled with the same harsh reality that permeated his life throughout the rest of the year.

We ultimately decided we simply didn't have the heart to deny our son a touch of Christmas magic.

Our son on the other hand, had other ideas.

As soon as his second Halloween costume was packed away, I began reading the story, Twas the Night Before Christmas, and we began watching all the classic Christmas cartoons, Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman and a Charlie Brown Christmas, just to name a few.

I scouted the area malls in search of the "real" Santa, you know the one, the jolly old man with the full white beard and twinkling blue eyes. I finally found one two towns away and off we went.

Our son was not impressed. If anything, he was a bit frightened by the man in the red suit.

Later that night, as was having his bath, my two-year old informed me in a tiny, authoritive voice that "Santa Claus not real, he just fortend!"

"What, why do you think that?"

"He not can see EVERYBODY...no time. He not real, he make no sense."

"Well Santa Claus is magic and his sleigh is really fast," I offered, suddenly panicked because I had not thought I would ever have to argue the logic of Santa Claus.

"The reindeer pull sled?"

"Yep, reindeer pull his sleigh and Rudolph lights the way!"

"See, Santa Claus fortend!"

"Why does that make Santa pretend?"

"You so silly, reindeer not have wings," the boy announced triumphantly with a fit of giggles.

I could hear my husband choking on his laughter in the hall as I caved in, saying only, "All I can tell you is they're magic reindeer and magic reindeer don't need wings. One day you'll see, have a little faith!"

That night, long after our baby boy was sound asleep, my husband and I giggled for hours over the boy's seamless logic.

Christmas morning came. The stockings had been magically filled and there were extra presents for each of us, wrapped in special Santa paper, under the tree.

"See, Santa did come," I announced.

The boy just looked at me and giggled.

For the next several years I continued to talk about Santa, careful not to argue with the boy's logic, and the boy continued to erupt in giggles, "momma, you're so silly!"

When he was in second grade, the boy awoke on Christmas morning to find our stockings were filled as always and the plate of cookies left the night before were empty, save for a few lingering gingerbread crumbs. There was a note tied to a ribbon under the tree.

"Follow me,"
he read aloud as began wrapping the ribbon around his wrist. He followed it through the house, out the back door and into the yard, where a huge trampoline sat dusted in frost.

I watched from the living room window as his eyes grew wide and he turned to run into the house.

"He's real, he's real, Santa Claus really is real," he hollered as he ran through the door.

I laughed until tears streamed from my eyes and asked what finally changed his mind.

"There's no way you would ever stand out in the freezing cold in the middle of the night to put that trampoline together!"

"I might have, how do you know?"

"Oh momma, don't be silly," he giggled as flew back out the door to climb on the trampoline.

Four years later, the boy came to me in all seriousness and confided that he was having mixed feelings on the whole Santa thing.

"Santa can't be real, because there's too many kids that go without and I still don't believe reindeer can fly, but, but..."


"But you also can't believe your mom would ever stand out in the freezing cold in the middle of the night to put together a trampoline?"

"No, it just doesn't make sense. You HATE the cold!"

"Maybe so, but I LOVE you and Christmas magic makes all kinds of things possible."

"Ohhhh, I get it! Momma, you're so silly!"

Oh, and for all you non-believers out there, or for those of you who just need a bit of Christmas magic, enjoy this video - my favorite Christmas cartoon ever!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

sex ed 101

*WARNING: The following post may contain especially explicit language and adult content.*

Sex. I've been thinking about it a lot lately. Well, to be more specific, I've been thinking about previous experiences and the many lessons I have learned from them.

The First -or- "Introduction to the Penis"

Up until this point, my sexual education had been limited to a health class discussion of the reproductive system and what I had picked up from the trashy romance novels my grandmother kept tucked away in her credenza. Needless to say, the references to "wantonly arching towards his throbbing manhood," a few diagrams depicting the male anatomy and my own limited experience in kissing (that never made it past a few gropes of the fully clothed breast,) left me completely unprepared for my first voyage into the world of sex.

It felt awkward being completely naked in front of someone else. I was even more uncomfortable with someone else being naked in front of me.

I remember thinking, "there's no way that will ever fit!"

That was my first lesson learned. Apparently, if you shove enough, anything will fit.

While I loved him dearly, he was definitely not the best instructor to lead the course on "Introduction to the Penis," having received most of his training from porn.

The course lasted several months. I studied hard and earned an "A" from the instructor. However, I was not at all prepared for my continuing education, although I certainly learned quite a few things along the way.

"Introduction to the Penis" left me fully versed in the art of pleasing a man through sexual acts. While I've added a few tricks to my repertoire since then, that first course pretty much covered everything so I was at least able to continue my education without ever once being referred to as a "dead lay."

I learned during that first course that sex most definitely does not equal love. In fact, I came away from it all firmly believing that the two had nothing to do with each other. Sex was merely a chore, an always painful duty performed to curb the animal appetite of man.

I learned that groaning uncomfortably or short shrieks of pain only encourages the beast and that soaking in hot water helps ease the lingering ache.

I learned that I do not like being commanded to climax. Interestingly enough, I did not actually learn to do that, although I did learn quickly how to fake it to speed up the process.

I suppose the most important lesson I learned from that first course is that it's okay to say "no" and perfectly acceptable to hurt a mother fucker who heard "yes" instead. While that particular lesson would serve me well in years to come, it would unfortunately not be of any use during my second course.

The Marine -or- A Crash Course in Safe Sex

At this particular point in my life, I was what many people referred to as a "bad ass." In spite of my small frame, I could easily bench more than my own body weight and had gotten quite a bit of practice in the "no means no" uppercut to the nose.

I had not only learned how to fight like a man, but also honed my skills in drinking like a man. I was proud of the fact that I could match a man shot for shot and still be the last one standing.

My rowdy nature, and a desire to go to college, led me to sign up for the Army's delayed entry program, a decision I immediately regretted and worked to get out of right up until the night before I was to ship off to Basic Training.

Sequestered for the night with a couple hundred other new recruits and folks looking to enlist, better judgment took a backseat to bravado and a growing despair that I wouldn't be able to disentangle myself from the contract before the bus pulled out the next morning.

"It's our last night before Uncle Sam owns us, let's have a drink!"

Well I'd never been one to turn down a drink and there was a healthy mix of guys and girls waiting to ship out the next morning, trying to re-enlist after a former discharge or trying to make their decision as to whether or not to sign up. Twenty or thirty of us piled into a double room at the cheap hotel where we were stuck for the night. Bottles were cracked open and plastic cups were filled, refilled and filled again. Music blared and a steady stream of people flowed in and out of the room.

Next thing I know, I am coming to a foggy sense of awareness. The room is silent, but I can hear faint whistles, catcalls, and hollering as though they were coming from somewhere far away and I feel the heavy weight of the Marine on top of me. I'm suddenly aware of what is happening, of the four guys standing behind him, cheering him on, but I can't move, I can't even speak.

"If you don't like it, get your pussy ass out of here," someone yelled.

I struggle to take in my surroundings and notice a blonde kid, like me fresh out of high school, sitting on the far side of the room, his back turned, head slumped in his hands.

Lesson #1 in the "Crash Course in Safe Sex," never, I repeat NEVER drink with a bunch of people you don't know!

Lesson #2, while you may be able to hold your liquor, you are not immune to extra shit tossed into the liquor which may render your ass completely unable to move and barely aware that you are alive.

Lesson #3, only one in five bystanders will even think to come to your rescue and odds are good he'll be too damn scared of the other guys and the 240 lb. Marine to do anything other than turn away and cry.

"Hey let me get some of that!"

I struggled to overpower the sense of paralysis, begged my mind to make my mouth work, to scream, to bite, anything. Suddenly I was swept up and tossed onto the bathroom floor where the assault continued.

Then it was quiet. Dark. Everything hurt. A light tap at the door before the doorway flooded with light, the shadow of the blonde kid. He was holding my clothes and crying. We were alone but he hurried to get me dressed and back to my room.

The blonde kid stayed in my room that night, holding me close, afraid he would have to go off to war, even more afraid of what he'd just seen. He was a good kid, from a good family in a small town. He'd never seen a naked woman before. He kept telling me over and over how sorry he was that he hadn't done something. He'd been afraid of the Marine and his cheering section. Fortunately for me the Marine was a stingy bastard and had refused to share. Neither of us slept that night, we talked instead. He stayed close to my side the next morning until we parted ways as he headed to his bus and I headed to the phone trying to find a way home, having convinced the CO to not make me go.

I was too ashamed of my own stupidity to ever breathe a word, a decision I regret to this day. I hitched a ride with a recruiter to a town close to home. I leaned my pounding head against the glass, refusing to cry or look at the Marine as he got into the same car for the 2 hour ride home.

The blonde kid wrote me a few times from Basic. I always answered his letters. I still have the picture he sent me of himself in full uniform and wish I could remember his last name. When I pray for our troops, I always offer up a special one for him.

Lesson #4, always get the tag number of the bus that hit you so you can send someone to demolish it when you finally recover from the shock.

Lesson #5, get tested regularly and wear a condom...the son-of-a-bitch gave me chlamydia.

My First Husband -or- The Difference Between Having Sex & Making Love

My first husband married a young woman who had been well trained in the art of pleasing a man yet herself found no pleasure in the act of sex.

My previous courses had left me with a number of sexual hang-ups. Patiently he began to debunk many of the lessons I'd learned.

Lesson #1, you should never, ever fake it.

The fact that we could communicate so well was always the glue that held us together. Having been friends for so long before we ever became lovers, we had an easy way of being together, perfectly comfortable saying whatever came to mind. It's no wonder that I once blurted out, "I hate sex," which led to a long conversation about why (most of which he already knew) and what we were going to do about it. The first step was for me to stop faking it.

"How else am I supposed to figure out what you like and what you don't?"

I didn't have the heart to tell my husband that I doubted I would ever like sex.

Lesson #2, our bodies are beautiful.

I particularly disliked sex during the day or with the lights on. Despite being slender and shapely, I was ashamed of my nakedness. I was ashamed of his nakedness. I did not want to see my naked body sprawled out there before him and I certainly did not want to see his penis coming at me. The penis repulsed me. I viewed it as a weapon, an angry appendage with a mind of its own.

I was also of the general opinion that I could never be clean enough. I sleepwalked a lot in those days and my husband would often find me in the middle of the night, semi-awake in a bathtub of scalding hot water, still in my pajamas. Sex itself was a major bathing ordeal. I felt as though I needed a firm scrub down beforehand and another immediately after.

My husband opted to make the best of the situation and began joining me in the tub. It became our special play time, as we splashed and bathed, giggling with the innocent curiosity of children.

"Look what I can do," he would boast as he hung a towel on his fully erect penis, sending me into a fit of laughter.

"Ha, that's nothing, check this out," I would return as I blew bubbles into the water doing Kegel exercises.

We decided we were both immensely talented and spent hours walking around the house naked. Before long, I loved the familiar sight of our bodies and enjoyed the many moods he set with candles, black lights and colored light bulbs.

Lesson #3, sex should never be painful, unless of course you're into that sort of thing.

I was definitely not into the pain, which worked out well because he hated the thought of hurting me. He was so very gentle in his lovemaking. He would often stop for reassurance that my whimpers weren't those of pain. I soon realized that sex was fun when it didn't hurt. I still didn't understand all the hoopla about it and certainly didn't feel the "earth falling out from under me" as described in the books hidden in my grandmother's credenza, but I could enjoy it for what it was, a demonstration of our love.

It was so hard on both of us after my son was born and for years, for the rest of my husband's life actually, I was plagued with contractions that would eventually cause me to undergo a hysterectomy. Sex was again painful. I denied it, but he knew. It all seemed so unfair.

Lesson #4, when you completely trust the person you're with, it's okay to give up control.

Previous experiences had taught me that it was safest to be in a position that allowed me on top. From there I could be in control. The panic attacks that came when someone was on top of me soon subsided and we began experimenting with a number of different positions.

Lesson #5, yes, the earth really can fall out from under you!

"Holy shit, I think you gave me a stroke," I panted as we both collapsed in giggles. The books were right about everything, that whole creeping, flushing heat suddenly exploding into a billion stars as the earth falls out from beneath you, leaving you clinging tightly to one another.

We laid there for hours, neither of us wanting to break the spell as we shared whispered conversations about what the future held for us. For the first time in my life, I didn't jump up to go scrub down after sex, choosing instead to fall asleep in the safety of my husband's arms. That was the night our son was conceived.

The next nine months of my life were filled with constant, passionate, all-consuming love-making. Even after the birth of my son and the pain that seemed to dampen every aspect of my life, I enjoyed a sex life that was both sweet and satisfying.

Lesson #6, a sense of innocence can sometimes be regained.

The Rebound Boyfriend -or- The Joys of Sex

After my husband died, I settled into a deep depression and longed for something, anything to ease the loneliness.

I soon found myself in a relationship with a man who loved life more than I had ever thought possible. He found joy in the simplest of things and was more than happy to share that joy with me, letting a bit of sunlight into my world, in spite of the fact that we both knew the relationship would never last.

He stayed by my side for several years, patiently and gently nursing my shattered heart back to some sense of normalcy, teaching me to find joy in the smallest of things.

One tremendous source of joy for him was sex and he particularly took pleasure in pleasing women. He was a skilled, artful lover and treated my body as some sort of prized treasure worthy of great care and attention.

Lesson #1, there is nothing wrong with enjoying sex.

Despite overcoming so many sexual hang-ups, I was still filled with the notion that sex was not meant to be enjoyed, that somehow my experiences with my husband had defied all natural laws and the notion that "nice girls" didn't like such things.

Rebound boyfriend was one of those guys that could sell ice to eskimos so he had very little trouble charming me. He immediately recognized that I had more of a desire to please than to be pleased, a fact he used against me during this particular lesson.

"But I can't stand being told to climax," I argued.

"I'm not telling you, I'm asking you to do it for me, just relax, you know I'm not going to hurt you."

I did indeed know that. While he had a volatile temper and easily doubled my weight, with a crushing strength that allowed him to easily pick me up with one hand, I trusted my heart, and my body, completely in his hands.

Months of patience and long hours of submitting my body to him without us ever actually having intercourse, eventually crumbled the remaining hang-ups and I soon found sex to be an absolutely fascinating, pleasurable experience.

Lesson #2, you are not dirty and sex does not always require bathing beforehand.

It's hard to argue the point when you're being swept up the moment you walk in the door from work and melting in his hands. I still prefer to bathe immediately beforehand, but it's no longer a necessity.

Lesson #3, it's okay to initiate and take the lead.

Now that I was fully enjoying sex, I had to learn that it was okay to make my needs known.

"If you want it, you're going to have to come to me," he told me, vowing that he would no longer be the one to initiate.

True to his word, for months afterward, if I felt that urge, I could no longer hope he would start something. Instead, I was the one luring him into the bed, and once there, if I wanted anything more than for him to lay there, I would have to tell him what I wanted, tell him what I enjoyed.

Lesson #4, batteries not required, but highly recommended.

Rebound boyfriend was a firm believer that every woman should know how to please herself and have the tools needed for the job.

"It'll keep you from doing some stupid shit."

Wait, what? This went far beyond any sexual lesson I had learned thus far. What do you mean I can please myself? That's just sick. I was never the curious teenager when it came to my sexuality so I only knew sexual pleasure as arising from things someone else did to you.

"Wait, trust me, check this out," he replied, placing the new slender toy he'd bought for me for Valentine's Day on a very sensitive area.

Needless to say, I became very attached to my toy, especially after the two of us parted ways after nearly four years. And yes, it did indeed keep me from doing some pretty stupid shit.

Moving Forward -or- Practical Applications

Thanks to the many lessons I've learned over the years, my current husband has married a woman who is completely comfortable in her sexuality.

My nakedness is no longer a source of shame. Instead I view my body as a playground that I'm willing to share with someone I love and trust to care for it. The male body is now a thing of beauty to me and I am no longer repulsed, but amused by the subtle actions and reactions of the penis.

I still remember all my lessons in how to please a man, yet I also remember the lessons in refusing to neglect my own pleasure as well. I know what I like and I'm not afraid to ask for it. Nor am I ashamed to sneak off with my toy to give it to myself.

My husband is sometimes taken aback by a woman so secure in her sexuality. He cannot appreciate the torturous course of study required for me to reach this point, or his good fortune at not having to deal with my previous hang-ups and false notions. However I'm sure he can at least appreciate my desire to retain all those hard-fought lessons through my firm belief that practice makes perfect!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

they say you never forget your first

I saw him yesterday.

That old familiar grin and the twinkle in his eyes - the one I always wondered if he saved just for me.

I was reminded of that first day we spent together, so much bubbling beneath the surface, giddy and nervous, afraid we'd say the wrong thing.

The familiar strength of those arms, where I spent so much time.

I remember the bruises that lingered along the inside of my thighs and I wonder if he ever learned to be gentle.

Sitting there talking, it all seems so familiar. I remember that feeling so well - spinning dreams, enthralled by the movement of his hands as he strummed his guitar - a couple of kids discovering a connection.

He jumps up to check on his kids. I'm reminded of the baby I never had, the one I never even knew for sure existed although I felt certain it did. I remember his disappointment when I told him I had started. It was my only lie, I needed more time - time to think, time to sort out all I had learned. When the blood finally came I cried, telling myself it had all been in my mind.

I turn to leave and remember I never got the chance to tell him goodbye.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

when the light shines through

Someone reached out to me this week, with words that brought far more comfort than they probably could have thought possible.

I am referring to two anonymous comments left on my last post.

Reading the two comments was like receiving a phone call from an old, familiar friend.

The first brought tears to my eyes simply because its tone was so familiar, its words so closely aligned to those spoken long ago.

My comment of thanks to the unknown person who managed to say exactly what I needed to hear at exactly the right time, was followed up with a second comment, presumably from the same person.

Again, it was exactly what I needed to hear at exactly the right time.

"Sometimes we forget that, it wouldn't be possible to feel such pain if the joy weren't there," the comment began.

My mind flew back to countless conversations regarding that exact notion, and to the day I followed the ambulance to the morgue.

That was the day my absolute, unwavering faith in the existence of God was cemented. Gripped in the clutches of the most heart-wrenching pain I have ever known, I was suddenly surrounded by an intense calm. The colors of the world around me were a bit brighter and I began to chuckle, in spite of the tears, as I realized what I should've known all along — such heartache could only be present in the face of an all-consuming, endless love and such encompassing love could surely only exist in a world created and ruled by God.

I know there is truth in the words, "the joy is still there." I am reminded of that joy every time my child offers some dry remark or random observation, every time he makes a goofy face for the camera and yes, even every time he offers some lame excuse as to why he didn't do his homework. I am reminded of that joy every time I hear the chords of a guitar, smell the salt of the ocean or eat a tomato sandwich.

Yet I haven't managed to reach the point when the reminder of that joy isn't accompanied by a shadow. Oh it's not always such doom and gloom, although I realize this blog tends to serve as the dumping ground for my darker thoughts and moments, most likely because those are the ones most necessary to release. There are often times when the joy nearly outshines the shadow, yet the shadow continues to linger.

Perhaps it is merely my melancholy way...or maybe I've somehow failed to properly let go, although I still struggle to determine how to separate the joy from the shadow so as to let go of the one without losing the other.

I don't know. I know that his face passes through my mind a thousand times a day, most often accompanied by that warm glow that always seemed to surround us. I know that the recent barrage of dreams ceased after I cried in the darkness on the bathroom floor. I know that even while in the midst of the darkest of shadows, I wouldn't trade one ounce of that joy or a single moment of that warm glow.

And I know that I am thankful to that anonymous someone who somehow offered the words I needed to hear.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Just out of reach

There's a reason I don't drink very often these days. Especially when I'm alone.

More often than not it ends up the way tonight did...with me sobbing on the bathroom floor and sitting here at my keyboard shaking.

It all started with a fucking cake.

A Winnie the Pooh cake. The last time I made a Pooh cake was for my boy's 3rd birthday. That was the last one his daddy was here for.

I guess it wasn't just the cake. Who knows, I've been dreaming of him I lot lately, nearly every night over the past few months. It makes it awfully hard to go about the business of living. And I must admit, the pint of whiskey I've consumed tonight makes it awfully hard to go about the business of typing.

It's been eight years. It shouldn't be so fresh, shouldn't still hurt so do damn much.

You would think that anyway.

Yet every time I close my eyes, I can see that trailer, feel myself standing at that stove cooking his dinner, putting my hair up for work in that bathroom — the bathroom he died in. Sometimes it seems like just yesterday, like I've just woken from a dream and have no real comprehension as to how I got here...other times it feels like an entire world away, another life that only exists in my mind.

Tonight was just my own stupid fault. I haven't drank in a few months and decided I wanted to do the cake decorating (for my best friend's son's first birthday) old-school style, meaning I'd drink heavily while decorating the cake.

I know it sounds crazy, but cake decorating is much more fun when drunk. The combination really got me through the year or so immediately following his death. I'd get completely trashed while baking and decorating 4-tier wedding cakes. It was a sort of therapy — it gave me something to focus on while I ignored the ache in my heart, trying my best to drown it with Crown.

As depressing as it may sound, those were some good times. Several friends would be over at the house, my kitchen homey and warm as I baked and decorated and drank.

My mom came over tonight. She drank her vodka as I shot down my whiskey. I really enjoyed myself.

Right up until she left and I found myself alone — standing in our kitchen every time I closed my eyes, waiting for him to come home from work.

It's times like these that threaten to drive me crazy. I can close my eyes and see everything just as it was. I am aware of his scent and sense him standing just behind me, just out of reach. And no, this isn't merely the result of consuming too much alcohol...it still happens when I'm completely sober. I just have a much harder time pushing it to the back of my mind when I'm intoxicated.

So there I am tonight, the cakes finished, my mother gone home, the pint empty....my husband and son had gone to bed hours beforehand and suddenly it hit — the racking, silent sobs that leave me in a helpless pile on the bathroom floor.

I close my eyes and am heart-broken because my soul's sight is filled with what once was...I open them, and I'm angry at the world surrounding me — one I barely recognize as the one in which I belong.

I can hear Dr. Hook from the other room...

"Sometimes I still think about you
Sometimes I wish that you'd call
And sometimes I feel like
You're lying here with me
And it's still the sweetest of all"


...and I crumble, my heart and mind trapped in a time that is no more yet refuses to recede into the past.

I hug the toilet, urging myself to puke...it's gotta be the alcohol — that's why my heart is racing and I can't seem to catch my breath, the knot in my chest growing tighter every time I blink, seeing his face...just out of reach.

But I haven't drank enough to be sick...and I certainly haven't drank enough to not remember it in the morning.

No, I've drank just enough to open the flood gates...but not nearly enough to ease the pain the inundation causes.

I am trapped between that which was, that which is and that which awaits me in eternity — intermingled...a giant clusterfuck of all I've ever loved, my only sense of home. It alludes me, always just out of reach...the memory of it haunts me, the promise of it taunting me, as I cry out to God, "please, just let me have him back!"

Friday, October 10, 2008

church bells are ringing

I have started going to church.

Having never grown up in a church, I've never fully grasped comprehension of the importance of Christian fellowship. It hardly seemed a prerequisite for having a relationship with God.

However,the desire to attend church regularly has been nagging me over the years. It first began when The Boy was just a baby. I worried that I was robbing him by not having him involved in a church. In the end, I always came back to the idea that I would be a complete hypocrite to sit in church every Sunday, going through the motions, when my faith was so shaky.

I never really had much doubt as to God's existence. I truly believe we are born with that innate knowledge, although I admit, I often wondered if perhaps He really was just a creation of a people desperate to believe in something, anything. There were also plenty of times it seemed much easier to ignore His existence, but I never could manage to fool myself to such an extent that I could exclaim "There is no God" without a strangling fear of invoking His wrath. No, my struggles were always simply a matter of my faith in His love for us, my faith in His wisdom and of course, my faith in my own worthiness.

I have also always been troubled by the notion of Jesus Christ as the one true path to God, the solitary savior of all mankind from his sins. I had studied other religions during my search and it struck me as cruel that entire nations of people would be forever banished from God because they chose a different path to take them there. I am afraid that even now, long years after I accepted Christ as my personal Savior, I still have a great deal of difficulty in accepting that God would ultimately reject so many others.

But I digress.

In the years since my husband's passing, I have felt a heightened sense of urgency to begin attending church. I tried to ensure that God was not a stranger in our home and made certain The Boy knew Him, yet I have been haunted with the idea that we were both missing out on something terribly important by not going to church.

We have visited a number of churches over the years, each leaving me disappointed and often even angry. Sitting in a sanctuary surrounded by people who are supposed to be there to worship the Lord but instead view church as just another social clique makes my skin crawl! I often wondered if it wasn't simply the weight of my own guilt, my own sense of inadequacy and unworthiness that made me so uncomfortable in so many churches. But no, the ladies, turned around in the pews, gossiping with their neighbor just before the service began, the men winking at me as their wives bowed their heads to pray, the people looking down their noses at others who did not quite fit in - these were the things that kept us from returning to many of the churches we visited.

And then of course there were the fire and brimstone preachers. The ones who tried desperately to convince you of your eternal damnation should you miss a single service, the ones who sought to put "the fear of God" into their congregations, terrifying the congregation with endless stories of God's wrath against the wicked and His certain abandonment of your soul should you stray from his teachings. We didn't often return to these churches either as I have always firmly it should be love, not fear, that brought a person to God and I was determined that my child not be taught otherwise.

After a while it seemed as though I had abandoned the idea of church altogether.

Then last month, on the anniversary of his death, I visited the mother of a friend who died last year. Never having really known her that well and having a lot of preconceived notions of who she was, I was surprised at the comfortable nature of our conversation. I was even more surprised that, when the subject turned to God, faith and an invitation to attend her church, I found not a trace of judgment in her eyes nor voice.

The Boy and I sat in the back pew during the worship service that Sunday. My husband, who did grow up in a church, had made it clear he had no wish to go. I knew a number of the people there and many of the ones I didn't know made a point to introduce themselves. I have never felt so welcomed in a church. My friend's mother gave me a copy of the booklet they're following in Sunday School before I left.

The next Sunday I bounced out of bed, despite my utter despise for waking up in the mornings, eager to get dressed and head to the service. The following Sunday The Boy and I attended Sunday School, surprised when my husband announced before we left that he would meet us there for the service. This past Sunday was our second week of Sunday School and fourth service. My husband met us for this week's service as well. The Boy has become involved with the youth program, enjoying their weekly Bible study and I am hoping to talk my husband into taking him to his weekly Boy Scout meetings so I can begin attending their weekly women's Bible study.

I find myself reading ahead in the Sunday School lesson and picking up my Bible to read various scriptures throughout the week. Somehow my life seems more full now but I can't quite put my finger on what it is that now fills it. God was already there. I suppose there's a lot to be said for fellowship after all.

We will not be going to church this Sunday because The Boy and I will be out of town spending the weekend with my great grandmother, who is the only person who ever took me to church as a child. At 94, her health no longer allows her to attend church. Her failing eyesight caused her to replace her cherished, soft leather bound Bible years ago with a new, large print version. The words on the front of her old Bible are worn almost completely away after so many years of use and the back cover is nearly completely separated from the rest of the book, but I carry that Bible with me to church every Sunday, complete with her perfect attendance ribbon and a few church directory photo proofs of her and my great grandfather. I also carry my newer Bible, that is just now really seeing any use, as I'm afraid to use hers too much. I simply like having it with me. No one at church has yet to look at me strangely for carrying them both each Sunday. This Sunday I will have them both at her house, along with my Sunday School lesson and perhaps a bit of fellowship with The Boy and I can somehow repay the gift of faith she gave me so long ago.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

say my name

I guess I've finally broken this long silence because I've been thinking of him so much lately. Perhaps if I air out these thoughts they will finally recede to a deeper level of my mind and quit erupting so often.

The word "affair" doesn't do it justice. An affair is cheap, tawdry, all about the sex - or at least that's how I see it in my mind. There was nothing cheap and tawdry about this at all and the sex was merely a byproduct.

It began innocently enough. Old friends who hadn't seen each other since high school reconnected through the internet. Things had always been easy with him. There was never that need to censor yourself and conversations with him often had a way of revealing truths about yourself you never knew existed. Some things never change. Late nights spent discussing everything and nothing all at once, hours passed quickly as we enjoyed companionable chatter, a connection begun as teenagers quickly cemented more than a decade later.

Meanwhile I was miserable with my current life. My marriage was unraveling around me. It did not explode with anger and accusations or demands. I think I could've handled that. Instead it suffocated in silence, two people in their own little worlds, worlds which rarely seemed close enough to touch. It was safe. It was secure. That was what I had wanted after a tumultuous first marriage full of soul scorching passion, the death of my first husband, my best friend, leaving me in tatters, taking solace where I could, accepting of the ideal that such a connection, such a joining of two souls could never be possible twice in one lifetime.

I didn't realize that loneliness is so much sharper when the echo of your own words is the only answer that meets your ears, when your solitude is breached by another presence. I suppose we can accept being lonely when we are truly alone. It's not so easy to accept when someone else is sitting on the couch.

A year into our marriage, which had seemed to grow more and more distant from the moment we said "I do," I received my diagnosis and was scheduled for my first surgery. I was terrified, my mind filled with all the worst case-scenarios as we had yet to receive any definitive information. Through it all, he was silent, my mother and best friend filling the roles of "hand-holders" during doctors appointment he never attended. When the silence was finally broken, it was to ask whether he could somehow "catch" this cancer.

I had spent most of that first year reminding myself that men weren't great communicators, that I couldn't compare my first marriage to a man with whom the conversations were easy and endless about everything and anything to this new marriage to a man with whom the conversations were virtually non-existent but provided a steadfast quality my life I had always lacked.

I explained to my husband once that I needed three things from him - companionship, affection and sex - and that I could deal with not having any one or even two of those three things, but damn, I needed something and couldn't seem to get any of it at home.

The final straw came when the surgery was scheduled, my husband never realizing he was expected to be present, nor understanding why he should want to be and me forcing him to sit down and discuss the matter only to be told, "you've got to understand, this is happening to you and I'm sure this is all you can think about, but that's just it, this is happening to you, it isn't happening to me."

Suddenly, with the uttering of that phrase, I knew my marriage was over. Safety and security was no longer at all approaching enough. Life went on as usual for several months, I in my world and he in his, as I struggled to make myself accept the life I had chosen.

Then an old friend appeared from cyberspace, bringing with him a light I had forgotten existed. Suddenly my life was filled with easy and endless conversations and a growing sense of urgency to free myself from what I believed was a loveless marriage as it was becoming more and more unbearable. A death in his family brought him within a few hours of where I lived and I set off to visit with him. My husband never said a word about the endless conversations or my decision to visit.

The minute I saw him I knew I was lost. I only stayed for a few hours and there was nothing sexual about it at all. Just two friends seeing each other after many years, both jittery as teenagers on a first date but neither giving voice to the pounding of their hearts.

It was days later before he told me he was falling in love with me. The distance between us was unbearable. It had been relatively easy to keep things in perceptive when you were only dealing with computer conversations with someone you hadn't seen in more than ten years. It was a completely different ballgame having seen each other, as though that somehow confirmed the reality of our existence.

Within a few weeks I had decided to take some time off work and board a train to go stay with him for a week. Although he knew where I was going, my husband said nothing as he kissed me goodbye at the train station. Nor did he say anything when he picked me up at the station a week later, despite the fact that I hadn't slept hardly any the entire week and my eyes were puffy and red from having cried the entire 8-hour trip back.

Several days later I told my husband I wanted a divorce. He said he hadn't realized the problems between us were so severe. "But I've tried to talk to you about them so many times, hell I even told you six months ago O was so miserable I was going to end up cheating on you even though I've never cheated on anyone in my life." He just kept saying he didn't realize how I'd felt and admitted he'd often tuned me out when I was trying to discuss it.

He promised to work on things, that things would get better. "You don't understand, I'm past the point of wanting to work on it, I just want you to leave."

I finally told him that I knew we didn't need to be married because I had cheated on him. Oddly enough I think he was more upset that I told him than that I had actually committed the act. "There's nothing here, we don't have a connection." He couldn't understand what connection I was talking about. I actually wrote of that sense of connection in this post at the time.

And so you think you've found that connection with him? "Yes."

He moved out the next day, vowing that he had not yet given up on us.

Meanwhile I realized that when I get that "follow you off a cliff" feeling it's usually because it's someone who will lead me right to the edge of the cliff. My friend was much like my first husband in that way. He was drowning in a sense and I had long ago made up my mind to never again subject myself to the pain that comes with loving and living with someone who has given up on the living part.

All the while, my husband was dogged in his efforts to convince me to give our marriage another chance.

Holy shit, if, after all this, he is still so insistent that he loves me and wants to be my husband, he must really love me and want to be my husband. He deserves that chance. It's only the right thing to do.

Needless to say, lines had already been crossed and there was no going back to the easy conversations and effortless friendship I had enjoyed. We tried for a while, but he eventually decided it was easier to not have me in his life at all.

I was heartbroken and angry. They say it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all and that may very well be true, but not when you lose such a valuable friendship in the process. And especially not when you begin to doubt the value of that friendship to start with for being unable to survive.

And so here I sit, nearly a year since I last spoke with him. In many ways my marriage is stronger. I've come to appreciate the steadfastness of my husband and his tolerance for my moodiness. I've come to appreciate that he never yells, never leaves and never alters his pattern. I've come to appreciate his clumsy efforts at being supportive and his attempts to at least pretend to pay attention as I prattle on.

He has mentioned the affair only once since our reconciliation and that was this past May as we reached the one-year mark. When I expressed concern for his dreary mood one day, he simply responded that he couldn't help but think of what had happened the year before, quickly following it up with assurances that he wasn't trying to make me feel guilty for it or throw it up in my face. And indeed, he's never once thrown it up in my face. Somehow I think he understood, even though he's never found the words to tell me that. He's had a much easier time forgiving me than I have forgiving myself. Our marriage is still silent for the most part, but standing there beside me day in and day out speaks volumes.

Yet I still terribly miss the easy and endless conversations about anything and nothing all at once and continue to kick myself for throwing it all away in an effort to recapture something I was damn lucky to get the first go 'round. That too fills me with guilt.

breaking the silence

There are several subjects I've staunchly refused to broach here. I suppose some things are better left shoved to the back of my mind, far away from the harsh reality of the light of day.

One such subject is the complete crumbling of my marriage more than a year ago and the resulting affair.

Come to think of it, I generally avoid the subject of my marriage all together. I suppose it is mostly out of some sense of loyalty to my husband that I do not write of these things. He knows of the affair of course, but it has not been mentioned in our home since. He also knows about this blog, although I'm not at all certain he bothers to read it, as it is also not mentioned in our home.

I'm certain he wouldn't want to be reminded of the matter and even more certain he would probably raise immortal hell over the public airing of the private aspects of our lives, but this blog was intended to be the catch-all for the maddening thoughts that race through my mind each day, the nagging notions that haunt me in the middle of the night and, basically, everything that makes me ME.

So I've decided to break my silence. To hell with it. Most often my long silences here are the result of my attempt not to somehow betray him by giving voice to that which goes unspoken in our daily lives in spite of the fact that it consumes my thoughts.

But it seems as though a hell of a lot goes unspoken and I grow weary of the silence.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

the itsy bitsy spider

I have spent the past two months in a puddle of self-pity while making frequent trips to the doctor and taking pills.

I came through the surgery and the resulting surgical site infection well, only to be laid on my ass by a critter I never even saw.

Right after the surgery I noticed a spider bite on the outside of my calf. It looked harmless enough and I paid it no mind. As I finished up my seven-day round of antibiotics I noticed the bite was still visible and I remember thinking, "hmmm, this is odd, that must've been one hell of a spider!"

Within a week of finishing that first round of antibiotics, the harmless looking bite had begun to swell and soon I was sporting a hard, 5 cm knot on the side of my leg. I waited a few more days, until the pain finally became unbearable and I could no longer put any pressure on that leg without a sharp shooting pain running down my shin.

The doctor was puzzled. It's definitely some sort of infection. It doesn't look like staph. It's not acting like any spider bite I've ever seen. Let's try a different type of antibiotics and see what happens.

I'll tell you what happened, the antibiotics just pissed it off. By the end of the first week, the knot was continuing to grow larger, was still an angry red and had begun darkening like a deep bruise. Next thing I know, I'm having an inch long hole cut into my leg and having it packed with gauze. Two days later, puzzled that there was still no improvement at all and thinking it must be staph, the doctor cleaned out a bit more of the wound he'd made and packed it again.

By this point I could barely walk.

What kind of pain is it, the doctor asked.

I can't even describe it. It aches and burns all at the same time and every few minutes it feels as though a hot knife is slicing down the inside of my shin.

The gauze came out a few days later when tests confirmed it wasn't staph and I was placed on a third different antibiotic. The official diagnosis? Some unnamed spider.

That was a week and a half ago. I still have a visible circle, about 5 inches across, around the hole made by the doctor and it is still hard to the touch, but the swelling has gone down and the pain has subsided, only flaring up at night if I've spent too much time on my feet or when I accidentally put pressure against it. It's no longer hot to the touch and stopped draining a few days ago, forming a normal looking scab so I assume that means it's no longer infected.

I finally finished the antibiotics yesterday and somehow I've managed not to become addicted to the Vicodin I was eating like candy for a couple of weeks there. Now maybe things will get back to normal around here.

Of course, thanks to a flyswatter and a large amount of Raid, there's probably not a spider living within a five-mile radius of my house!

seven deadly sins

My health has been for shit lately, so I chose not to spread my whiny-ness by avoiding the blogging world completely. Here's a survey I ran across regarding the seven deadly sins just to get me back in the swing of things. I can't wait to catch up on my blog reading!

Wrath....

Who did you last get angry with?
seven men who are elected to represent this county...as one body, they are complete idiots who cannot accomplish anything or grasp even the simplest concepts.

What is your weapon of choice?
a knife, preferably a switch blade, but any knife will do

Would you hit a member of the opposite sex?
damn right, if they have it coming, especially if they have me cornered or hit me first, but I'm a girl, so it's fair...besides if I hit them I figure they have a right to hit me back whether I'm a girl or not

How about the same sex?
only to defend myself, although there was a time I wasn't so patient

Who was the last person who got really angry at you?
hmmm...I don't know, probably my Granny but it's been a while. I seem to have a knack for easily angering her because I refuse to buy into her martydom.

What is your pet peeve?
I hate it when people are rude for no reason. I know everyone has bad days, but some people simply do not grasp the concept of polite, much less kind, interaction with their fellow man

Do you keep grudges, or can you let them go easily?
I used to hold a grudge forever, but I've gotten pretty good at letting them go. I finally realized I was only hurting myself by clinging to the hurt and anger.

Sloth...

What is one thing you're suppose to do daily that you haven't?
with three dogs and a cat in the house, I should probably vacuum every day but I don't. It's an endless chore.

What is the latest you've ever woken up?
I've been known to sleep all day

Name a person you've been meaning to contact, but haven't?
I had been meaning to call my friend Mike for the last few days, but he ended up calling me today cause he knows I'm slack

What is the last lame excuse that you made?
I didn't cook dinner tonight because the meds had upset my stomach so the menfolk had to fend for themselves

Have you ever watched an infomercial all the way through?
quite possibly back in my days as a stoner, but never when I was in my right mind

How many times did you hit the snooze button on your alarm clock this morning?
I didn't count, but it bought me an extra 45 minutes

Gluttony....

What is your overpriced yuppie beverage of choice?
since I hardly consider whiskey a yuppie beverage, I don't have one...when I do get dragged into a coffee shop, I order coffee, that's right, straight coffee, go figure!

Are you a meat eater?
indeed, I have a special fondness for beef and pork

What is the greatest amount of alcohol you've had in one sitting/outing/event?
we used to kill a 1/2 gallon quite often, but by myself, I'd say a fifth

Are you comfortable with your drinking and eating habits?
I generally eat one meal a day and snack the rest of the time. I probably should eat a little healthier...and I should really cut out the sodas....alcohol-wise I only tie one on every few months, so I'm good with that

Do you enjoy candy and sweets?
yes indeedy...in fact I will be making some fudge tomorrow :-D

Which do you prefer: sweets, salty foods or spicy foods?
all the above! lol

Have you ever looked at a small house pet or child and thought, "lunch"?
lol, um, no, I'm a glutton, but not that bad!

Greed....

How many credit cards do you own?
one, and since I've been out of a job for a while it's currently maxed out

If you had a million dollars, what would you do with it?
pay off all my bills, pay off the bills of my parents, my granny and my aunt Linda, kick some to my brother and a few choice friends, stash some for the boy's college, use some for my college, stash some away for old age and start a foundation to help support a variety of causes through grants

Would you rather be rich or famous?
rich, who wants the hassle of people nosing into your life because you're famous?

Would you accept a boring job if it meant that you would make megabucks?
at this very moment? yes, but I wouldn't stay long

Pride...

What's one thing that you have done that you're most proud of?
my son is happy, healthy and has never once doubted that his momma loved him

What's one thing you have done that your parents are most proud of?
I think they're probably just proud that I didn't crash and burn or turn out to be a complete loser

What thing would you like to accomplish late in your life?
I'd like to accomplish it a lot sooner in life, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen...I want to be a grief and Hospice counselor

Do you get annoyed by coming in second place?
not when the first place person really deserves it

Have you ever entered a contest of skill, knowing you were of much higher skill than all the other competitors?
no, in fact, I'm usually the underdog

Have you ever cheated to get a better score?
no, but I did write papers for other people on occasion

What did you do today that you're proud of?
hmmm....I forgave someone who really hurt my feelings without even telling them they had hurt my feelings

Lust...

How many people have you seen naked (not counting movies, family, strippers, locker rooms)?
hahahaha....more than I care to remember and for the record, NO, I do NOT want unsolicited pictures of your penis!!! That is NOT a turn on!

How many people have seen you naked (not counting physicians, doctors, family, locker rooms, or when you were a young child)?
not enough to where I have to worry about running into them on a regular basis, or finding any compromising pics or video on the net

Have you ever caught yourself staring at the chest/crotch of a person of your chosen sex during a normal conversation?
I am sometimes impressed by the perfect fit of certain jeans on certain people

What is your favorite body part of a person of your gender choice?
eyes, lips, arms and butt...in that order

Have you ever had sexual encounters (including kissing/making out) with multiple persons?
no, and sorry but that's not on my wish list

Have you ever been propositioned by a prostitute?
um, no, I've been asked if I would consider prostitution though and yes, I turned them down

Envy....

What item of your friends' would you most want to have for your own?
hmmm...I can't really think of anything at the moment

Who would you want to go on "Trading Spaces" with?
nobody, everyone's life is a little screwed up

If you could be anyone who existed in the world, who would you be?
what's wrong with just being me? I'm ok with that.

Have you ever been cheated on?
yes and it hurts to the quick

Have you ever wished you had a physical feature different from your own?
I wish I could've lost my baby belly, but alas, he's 12 and I still have a pooch...I tell myself it gives me character, lol

What inborn trait do you see in others that you wish you had for yourself?
highly driven motivation

What deadly sin...

Do you do the most often?
sloth

Do you do the least often?
envy

Is your favorite to act on?
it's a toss up between lust and gluttony, depending on my mood, lol

Sunday, August 31, 2008

excuse me while I step outside...

Take a walk, talk a breath, step outside yourself.

I used to be so good at that.

I guess that's one of the abilities we lose as we get older. I've become anchored so firmly in now, in the daily bullshit that commands my attention, I am no longer able to easily step outside myself, step outside my life and exist in a state of limbo, hovering somewhere between this world and another.

That escapist nature allowed me to cope with an awful lot of shitty life circumstances that would have broken me otherwise. Granted, it also caused me to be slightly out of touch with reality at times and put up with a lot more bullshit than I should have.

Perhaps that's why we lose our escapist tendencies as we get older. Time starts running out and we no longer have as many years to waste by stepping outside ourselves in order to put up with the bullshit.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

stupid cancer II

As long as I'm on a roll about the stupid bullshit related to cancer, here's another thing really griping my ass at the moment.

It's a royal pain to try to live a normal life when your schedule is full of appointments with specialists an hour away.

My biggest worry today has not been whether or not I'm told Tuesday that the surgery was successful, but whether what I'm going to do about Tuesday if I'm offered this job I interviewed for yesterday.

Freelancing simply isn't paying the bills, especially when you have to pay over $700 a month just to keep your health insurance, a necessity at this point. So, I've decided to scrap the freelance/work part-time and finally go to school idea and find another full time job. Yesterday I interviewed for a great job in the district attorney's office. He is supposed to make his decision this week because he's hoping he can have the job filled next Tuesday.

Well, therein lies the problem. Let's say I luck up and am offered this job. Now I have to explain the importance of my keeping a previously scheduled doctor's appointment, preferably without having to disclose my condition. I mean really, I know there's laws against such discrimination but who really wants to hire someone with cancer, regardless of the fact that I've only had two surgeries over the past two years. My Lord, each surgery requires at least three separate doctor's appointments, not counting the actual surgery itself.

Meanwhile, I've got some other things I need to look into and take care of, but I can't hardly risk taking any long lunches any time soon, IF I do luck up and land the job.

Sheesh...life was so much simpler before the word "cancer" was ever uttered.

stupid cancer

Cancer.

The word is haunting me today.

I really don't like that word. I don't like the morbid thoughts it brings with its every utterance and I particularly don't like the bullshit you have to put up with when you have it.

The second surgery is now behind me. I won't find out until next week if it worked, but until I'm told otherwise, I'm assuming it did. I was right in assuming this surgery was minor compared to the first one, it was. However I did get a surgical site infection immediately that kept me extremely uncomfortable for much longer than I should have been and led to a stand off with a bitchy nurse in the oncologist's office.

"Well how do you know it's an infection," she asked in a condescending tone usually reserved for small children who insist on jamming things up their noses. "What does it look like?"

Um, the hole left from the surgery is now filled with yellow pus.

"Well I'm going to have to see you before I can prescribe any antibiotics."

Um, could you just pass the information along to my doctor...."Well, SHE is going to have to see you too so we can be sure this is REALLY an infection."

This went back and forth for 30 minutes as I tried to explain to this woman that I was in extreme pain and had been doped up on Percocet for a week, so I was pretty sure there was no way I was going to be able to make the hour drive to the doctor by myself, and since, she had waited until one o'clock in the afternoon to return a 9 a.m. phone call, I was pretty damn sure I couldn't get anyone who could make the 30 minute drive to my house to haul my ass down there.

"Well, I guess you'll just have to wait until Monday," was Nurse Ratchet's huffy reply.

Um, lady, I'm thinking it's not real smart for me to wait through the weekend knowing this infection is only going to fester and worsen.

"Well, we don't know that it IS an infection now do we," she shot back.

Um no lady, YOU do not know it is an infection because you obviously think I'm a friggin' idiot. I, however am not an idiot, am certain it IS an infection, am also certain I will contract some sort of friggin' blood poison if I sit around and wait until Monday and am quite frankly tired of having to arguing the point with your rude ass. I'm sorry you've obviously had a bad day, I hope it improves for you and that you don't have to explain to the doctor on Monday why I'm back in the hospital. Have a nice day, goodbye.

Sheesh! Luckily, I'm not an idiot and I have a very nice family doctor, who was willing to work me in that afternoon. So, I hauled my sorry ass into the car and drove the 30 minutes to his office for him to take a look and confirm that yep, it was an infection and it was probably a very good thing I hadn't tried to wait until Monday.

The $84 antibiotics he prescribed had me feeling much better by Monday when I called the nurse back to inform her of the diagnosis. Bitch.

Now I'm sorry, I know from having worked in a doctor's office that doctors and nurses hate it when people self-diagnose, but I also know, from the same experience that nurses have no right to make such judgments on their own, without the doctor's input. I can't help but worry about the patients who look to their doctors and nurses as Gods of some sort and always trust their judgments. I wonder what becomes of them and figure they probably have a much higher death rate.

how odd

I just noticed I do not have a label for "fate," a point which struck me as very odd, seeing as how fate, or rather my belief in fate, has played such a key role throughout my life.

I've made many a weighty decision based on the notion that I wouldn't be confronted with such a decision at all if fate had other plans. I also spent a great deal of my life firmly believing that by doing so, I had fucked up whatever plan fate had once had in store for me. That thought caused an unbelievable conundrum within my soul as I struggled to rationalize how an ignorant human could fuck up fate, if it truly were inevitable. I labored over how the idea of free will played into fate and wondered if maybe I had simply misinterpreted my fate all along.

After all, it's not fate if it has to be forced right? But if that's true, than why on earth does it seem so forced to do the other and take no action on that which I've always believed was my fate?

And yes, I'm rambling. I blame it on the rain. But at least now I have a post labeled "fate."

ho-hum

Today has been one of those completely off the wall days when I'm filled with conflicting emotions about anything and everything. One of those days that made me argue up and down with a shrink that I had to have been crazy.

He maintained I was merely damaged, I maintained I was nuts. How in the hell do sane people run the entire gamut of emotions in a single day and NOT be crazy? Or, perhaps it would be better to ask how one could do such and not GO crazy?? Sheesh!

Of course, I can trace most of my problems to a complete unwillingness to let go. Ever. Of anything.

I've always been a bit proud of the fact that I'm a "forever love" kinda girl, meaning that once I love you, I will always love you. The one problem with that is that the object, or objects of your affections never seem to be around forever and you're left with your love and your memories. I suppose I finally understand the statement, "forever is a long time." At the time I first heard it, I thought it to be utterly cruel. I now understand the compelling truth of it, in spite of it's cruelty.

Forever is indeed a long time.

However, I must confess that, as long and grueling as forever may be, I would still choose forever over never.

Friday, August 8, 2008

beach trip breeds irrational fears

Wait. These two things are not supposed to go together. The beach is usually a source of relaxation and rejuvenation for me, what the hell? How could the beach trigger irrational fears? We'll chalk it up to poor timing and a subconsciousness entirely too adept at putting two and two together.

I spent the last week of July at the beach with my husband, son and my husband's sister and her family. It was the longest stay at the beach I've been able to enjoy since '99, the summer before my first husband died. Enter, subconscious deductive reasoning, followed quickly by an irrational fear that my current husband's death must be imminent.

My conscious self, not being nearly as clever as its subconscious other, didn't catch on at first. I came home from the beach, suddenly trapped in this whirlpool of morbid thoughts regarding my husband. During the day, while he was at work, I kept waiting for the phone to ring, a strange voice on the other end of the line informing me of his death. When night came, I caught myself listening to his snoring, growing alarmed if it altered the slightest bit, and jumping up to make sure he was breathing if it actually stopped.

Alarm bells went off in my head, warning me that this was not normal behavior.

I was a bit antsy about his health when we first began dating. Not long before we got married, he twice made the comment that he was certain he would die young and was promptly sent to the doctor for a complete physical. I was sure to remind him that I had already spent one marriage with a husband who insisted on reminding me of his belief he would die young and oh yea, hey jackass, he DID die! Don't ever say that to me again.

He hasn't. He is in relatively good health other than recurrent kidney stones. So why was I suddenly so afraid he was going to drop dead any minute?

Suddenly I was on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" and was stumped so I used a life-line and phoned a friend, who promptly began laying out the facts of the case.

Fact: The only other time during my adult life that I have been to the beach for a week was with my first husband and our son - during the last week of July. What a coincidence. He died the following May. We had been married for five years.

Fact: Come September, my husband and I will have been together for four years and we will begin working on our fifth year.

Needless to say, within a few minutes the answer was clear. Duh! Sometimes I think I'm a complete idiot, especially when it comes to grasping the obvious.

My logical consciousness tells my subconscious self to shut the hell up and relax, all the while keeping a wary eye on the calendar, ticking off the days until we reach the comfort of June.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Part 2: living in the rural south - a love/hate relationship

Vegetation

The south remains full of lush green vegetation even in the midst of a long, hot, rainless summer.


Blackberry bushes run rampant in the south and while a severe drought can keep the berries from growing fat and juicy, you can count on the brier-studded brambles continuing their struggle to take over your yard.


The sweet smell of honeysuckle heralds the official start of summer in the south. The flowering vine is a favorite of butterflies and bees and southern children love to the pick the flowers, sucking the sweet nectar from them. Don't let the honeysuckle vine fool you though. It tends to mingle with poison ivy and is known to choke the life out of anything in the path of it's climb.


The ghostly brown tentacles of kudzu in the winter doesn't mean the plant is dead. Come summer, kudzu will cover the south in a heavy green blanket, thanks to the well-meaning, although a bit hasty intentions of some horticulturists and soil conservationists. Kudzu has been known to swallow up entire farms, houses and even livestock and small children in its relentless hunger to devour the south.


Morning glories offer a brilliant splash of color to the southern landscape in the summer. You can count on it returning every year, regardless of how many times you've killed it and careless homeowners will quickly find that morning glories left unattended for the summer will run rampant, crawling up into the siding of homes, twisting along porch rails and window sills to the roof.

A whole mess of weeds threaten finely manicured lawns across the south and, having been born and raised in the south, I am beginning to believe we southerners would be much better off by giving up our fight and letting the damn things take over. After all, grass - real grass that you are trying to grow - falls into one of three categories in the south. There's brown, dirt dead and "Damnation that shit's tall!!"

Dirt dead grass generally stays that way, although clumps of towering weeds demand you mow it, throwing the dust into the air, which turns to muddy streaks on your, um, glistening, face.

Brown grass is deceptive. It can remain in a suspended state of brownness, refusing to grow an inch for as long as three months. Then, boom! A good gully-washer hits and you leave for work the next morning, hoping rain, followed by a day of strong sunshine will put a bit of green back into it. By the time you come home from work, that brown grass has suddenly been transformed into "Damnation that shit's tall!!" Inevitably, one of two things will happen at this point. 1) The temperature will suddenly top out just over 100 degrees, the sun and humidity threatening to melt you from the inside out if you even think about pulling out the lawn mower or 2) the Heavens will suddenly open up and give you a two-day gully-washer followed by six days of sunshine and a lawn mower that refuses to crank.

This potentially dangerous situation requires what I like to call the tiresome two-step. Contrary to what you may be thinking, the tiresome two-step is not a dance, although it does require a great deal of cooperation and attentiveness among partners (you and your push mower.) It's quite simple, although it does take a bit of practice. Don't worry, your partner will let you know immediately if you do it wrong by bogging down and shutting off. You take two steps forward, then two short steps back, quickly forcing all your upper body weight down on the handle of the lawnmower in order to raise the mowing deck at least a foot into the air. Hold that position until all grass clumps fly free from the blade. (Warning, this is usually when the creepy crawlies start panicking and go on the offensive, but we'll get to those in Part 3.) Now, walk forward two steps and repeat. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat. And don't forget to be mindful of the briers on the blackberry bushes and various vines wrapping themselves around your legs as you battle to reclaim your lawn!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Part 1: living in the rural south — a love/hate relationship

Weather

The first key to understanding life in the south, particularly rural parts of the south, is understanding the weather. You can thank, or blame, the weather for practically all things southern.

There are generally two season here in the south — Summer and Winter, that's it, just those two. Spring and Fall never really visit the south. Instead we have what can only be compared to a menopausal woman. One day it's 80 degrees and the next day the temperature never rises above 50. Nope, we're left with Summer and Winter and roller coaster days that fall in between the two.

Summers in the south are hot, I mean HOT!!! Folks from Arizona and New Mexico, who face 120 degree days come to the south and melt. Southerners are blessed with an ever-present sauna, just outside their front door. One step outside and immediately your hair is curled and your glasses are fogged up.


There are some prissy southern ladies who like to say that we are accustomed to the heat and don't sweat, but merely glisten. BULLSHIT! I don't care if you've been born and raised down here, there is no getting accustomed to living life in a steam room and even the most refined ladies SWEAT! Fortunately, your clothes hang damn with the humidity anyway so you can almost get away with telling the "I don't sweat, I glisten" whopper!

Even the rain is afraid of the heat. We have two types of rain during the summer here in the south - sprinkles and gully-washers. Sprinkles are just that, little drops of water that leave polka dots on the pollen covering your car and hit the pavement with a sizzle, causing the steam to rise. Gully-washers are exactly what the name describes - torrential downpours that flood the ditches and swoosh violently through the gullies, creating their own, new gullies as the parched earth is unable to soak up the sudden deluge that most often comes when a hurricane passes through or a severe thunderstorm springs up in a cloudless sky. Your only warning that a storm is approaching is the leaves of the trees. When they suddenly look silver, the wind exposing the bottom sides of the leaves, take cover, a storm is coming, even if the sky is bright blue as far as you can see.

I should also point out that whenever any amount of rain falls in the rural south, the air is suddenly filled with the aroma of cow shit. Don't ask me why.

Winters in the south would most likely be considered fall in other parts of the country. They are mild and wet. Unlike the summer where you may go three months without seeing so much as a sprinkle, winters generally bring a number of gully-washers, which frequently lapses into what seems like a 40 day flood. Every so often the sky will spit out a dusting of snow, but most likely you will go to bed to the sounds of a gully-washer and awake to the cracking of limbs as the weight of ice pulls them down, taking the power lines with them.

Displaced yankees laugh when we close down the world over an inch of snow, but it doesn't take long for them to realize why. 1) The snow is always hiding an inch of ice glazing the road surface. Go ahead and scrape it away to expose the glass-like slip and slide! 2) It really is true what they say, southerners can't drive on that shit! Oh, don't get me wrong, we can tear down a backwoods, dirt farm road at 70 mph without knocking a berry off a bush or spilling a drop of beer, but we can't go thirty feet on the white stuff without ending up in a ditch!

the problem with tadpoles

There's a friggin' tree frog living in my gutters!!

You would think this wouldn't really be much of a problem, but apparently it's tree frog mating season or something cause that damn thing is loud!!

And no, tree frogs don't go "ribbitt. Ever hear a cat try really really hard to get up a particularly stubborn hairball? THAT is the rhythmic song of the tree frog!!

This is the thanks I get for refusing to dump out water that has tadpoles in it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

contradictions

It dawned on me earlier today that most of my friends seem to fall into one of four categories: stoners, cops, the continually cheerful and the perpetually depressed.

No wonder I've never hosted a party.

Monday, July 14, 2008

meanwhile...

I haven't been working. Well, that's not entirely true. I've been doing a bit of freelance work for a daily paper nearby, but I'm not on anyone's payroll.

A large-scale, permanent freelance opportunity has been looming on the horizon, but hasn't quite materialized yet, making it very difficult for me to make my post-surgery plans.

I had intended on going to school, but if this project doesn't come through, I'll have to buckle down and find a "real" job. The guy in charge of the project hasn't fully made up his mind whether or not he wants to go forward with it and I'm left on hold.

The only thing worse than trying on bathing suits is looking for a job! It is so discouraging. I see plenty of jobs I can do, jobs I could do well, but without a college degree my options are quite limited. Know that I've been paid to do something I love, I simply dread the idea of having to spend 8 hours a day behind a desk answering telephones. I think I'd rather go back to waiting tables before I do that.

deep breath

I have no excuse for my absence from blogging lately, other than slipping off into that vortex that sometimes sucks me down, away from the rest of the world.

I'm in the process of seeing surgeons and waiting for them to schedule an early August appearance in the operating room. I had said I wouldn't have another invasive surgery done, but I had also once promised my family that if the treatment after the first surgery didn't work, I'd concede to one more surgery. So, that's what I'm doing. One more surgery, keeping my fingers crossed that this one will keep the cancer at bay for longer than a couple of months.

I lucked up this go around. I still have to meet with the second surgeon on the 22nd, but the first surgeon, seems pretty confident that, while I'll be miserable for a few weeks afterward, I shouldn't have any long term complications. That's right, I'm special, I get to have two surgeons going at me this time around! I'm not too horribly worried about the second surgeon's prognosis. She's the one who did the last surgeon so i know she's good at what she does and since I've been here before, I have a pretty decent understanding of what's involved. I'll be laid up for a few weeks, but I should come away with all the important muscles & functions in tact.

Now I just have to steel myself for the pain.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

sinful minister

Counseling. That's what I told my daddy I wanted to do. But that's not entirely accurate.

I suppose ministering would be a more appropriate word to use. I want to minister to people. I know that I cannot shelter them from the storm, but I can at least huddle with them through the worst of it, simply so they are not alone. I want to help ease their fears, offer them comfort, a warm dry blanket in the middle of the downpour.

Daddy says that you can't fix people, they either deal with it or they don't.

But wouldn't it help if you simply had a sounding board, someone you could talk to, someone who didn't cast blame or claim to have all the answers?

Daddy says that not everyone wants help.

That's fine, if they don't want it, they don't have to have it, but it's there if they need it.

As odd as it sounds, especially to those who know me, I have before thought of studying theology and entering the clergy for that very reason, but I have little faith in man's interpretation of God and am not at all certain my heart is pure enough to reflect God's love.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

always playing catch-up

The local American Cancer Society's Relay for Life was held a couple of weeks ago.

I went again this year, just as I have gone for the previous five years.

I gave Relay heavy coverage in the paper and shared the courageous stories of the survivors. Two years ago I received my cancer diagnosis a few days before the big event. My surgery followed a few weeks later.

It was hot and steamy all afternoon during that Relay. The enormity of it all hung sticky in the air, clinging to me, making my limbs heavy. Every motion, every emotion, every reaction was a great effort.

I was solemn that night as I walked around the track, lined with luminaries lit in honor of a survivor or in memory of someone who had "lost the fight."

I mourned for those who'd passed and I celebrated those who still lived. And I thought it odd so few of us, healthy or cancerous, could never set ourselves apart enough to realize that we are all dying from the moment we are born.

I was afraid, mostly at how much it would hurt (and cost) to take care of this cancer problem.

I thought often of the number of survivors I had interviewed over the years, including those who, soon after, lost their fight with cancer. Every one of them was me. Or at least could be. I had always thought that way, even long before my diagnosis. I'm cursed with a strong empathy that allows me to put myself in almost anyone's shoes and try on their life for a bit. I guess that's why I was always able to tell their stories.

During the time surrounding the Relay a year ago, I had recovered from the surgery, which had been quite a shock to my psyche, my marriage was drowning and I had learned that more invasive surgery was needed to fix the problem. But oh yea, that might not work either.

So anyway, I went again this year, having decided not to have any more invasive surgery (invasive meaning where they remove parts of me) until such time as is absolutely necessary. It's a quality of life thing. (I could also say the fact that I'm still smoking is a quality of life thing too, but simple fact is, I'm addicted and weak.)

A friend asked how I was doing to which I replied, "oh just fine. I feel great as long as I'm not going to doctors."

She immediately began morphing into her "mom" zone and asked when I had last been to the doctor.

"I had a sinus infection about a month ago...oh you mean the oncologist?" I blushed, sufficiently ashamed and admitted that I had no idea. "I've pretty much just been ignoring it and it's not really bothering me."

She clucked my name and gave me the stern "mom" look that made me duck my head and promise to follow up with someone.

That's the shitty thing about having cancer. No one will ever let you ignore the fact that you're going to die. Well duh! We're all going to die. And quite frankly I have no desire to butcher myself (and go broke) in order to live.

But, I suppose if most days I choose to ignore the fact I have cancer, I really should at least be responsible in my ignorance and let a professional check me out to make sure there's no need to ring the alarm bells and summon the surgeon.

10 not so fascinating random thoughts

A friend of mine tagged me to compile a "random, ten interesting things about me" list...since too many thoughts have been racing through my mind to capture them here, I decided to post that list here.

1) I can't wait to play the You Tube video of the baby my best friend just posted, but I know it's going to make me giggle and my husband is sleeping on the other side of the curtain.

2) I think it's very difficult to think of ten interesting things about myself, my views, or my state of mind. I shudder when I realize I'm only on number 2.

3) I am a forever love kind of girl. Once I love you, I will always love you, even if I never see you again or if you are complete fuckin' ass.

4) Despite 3, I also refuse to allow myself to be hurt and mistreated by those I love (not for very long anyway, don't even say it.)

5) I have discovered that as I get older, I have more pain in various joints. I think that's why I started drinking more milk.

6) I wish I liked pain enough to wax my legs. I absolutely HATE shaving my legs. I wouldn't mind, 'cept I get so stubbly so soon after. Which is why I want to wax my legs. But I'm certain that shit hurts to some degree and I see no reason whatsoever in inflicting pain upon myself in an effort to keep silky smooth legs.

7) I have really done nothing other than read for the past two days and loved every minute of it. I haven't had much time to read the past few years, my mind crammed way too full of other things. I'd forgotten how much I love to read. I checked out three novels from the library yesterday and have already finished two of them. My son was amazed. I don't know why. He does the same thing when he really wants to read a book and is enjoying it.

8) I ramble, duh! Not very interesting huh?

9) Bernie Taupin, who wrote many lyrics for Elton John, was my poetic mentor. It was his songs that inspired my poetic side. (Which I seem to have abandoned for some long years.)

10) I hate talking on the phone. (I'm sure my husband would never believe that, as much time as I spend on the phone.) Yes, I truly hate talking on the phone. Half the time if I haven't gotten something done, or have lost touch with someone it's because it involved me making a phone call.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

opportunity or obstacle?

Ever have a a hard time determining whether something placed in your path is an opportunity or an obstacle?

I'm there now.

Part of me is excited about an opportunity that has presented itself, but at the same time, another part of me is annoyed that my other plans are being thwarted.

When I left the newspaper a few months ago, it was for a number of reasons, primarily because the company that owned the paper was absolutely horrid. However there were other reasons as well, not the least of which being that I had utterly ceased to exist beyond the role of "newspaper lady." The community constantly demanded more and more of my time. More time that I should have been spending with my family.

I left the paper, taking a position as a political consultant. Recent events brought an abrupt end to that line of work and I found myself virtually unemployed, with a permanent part-time freelance project to help carry the financial burden.

My husband shocked me by announcing that perhaps it was time for me to write that book. He also reminded me that it would be a great time for me to go to school, so that I could begin working towards the career in counseling I've always wanted.

That was before he began seeing dollar signs.

The idea of my spending my time writing, for me, and going to school has been completely forgotten. Instead, I've been asked to start a new source for local news. It began innocently enough. Since I left the local paper has really been dropping the ball on some major stories, not reporting them at all, or horribly misrepresenting the facts. Members of the community have begged me to come back and tell them what's going on. I toyed with the idea of starting a blog or a website to cover local government. That's it, just local government. After my husband spent a few minutes with the calculator, it suddenly grew into a huge monster of a project, involving multiple layers of news coverage, including sports and schools which is impossible for one person to cover, and a print edition, with the help of a partner.

Problem is, I'm nor sure I see the difference between getting stuck at the newspaper and getting stuck at this new site, paper, whatever the hell you want to call it.

The project requires a level of commitment that I'm not sure I'm ready to offer again so quickly. Whatever happened to it finally being my turn?

Friday, May 30, 2008

old is new again

In recent days I have been searching for a ramble, which I clearly remember writing down, yet cannot now locate.

In my search, I read through the posts of a nearly forgotten, now defunct, experiment with blogging.

I have decided to repost them here, in an effort to begin tidying up all I have found hiding in the recesses of my mind.

Emerging from the Darkness from 3/18/07

I have stood before God and His judgment and have been found to be lacking.

I can clearly see in myself the sins of man and kneel before Him in shame, praying for forgiveness and for deliverance.

I realize now what I suppose I've always known — I am not the Master of my Fate, nor am I the Captain of my Soul.

Question from 9/20/06

At some point or another we all ask what we would do if we were dying.

What a shame.
We are all dying from the moment we are born.
So often we insist on facing death before we accept that fact.
And only then do we ask ourselves how we wished to live.

How often have we been told, by many far wiser, to follow our hearts?
Yet we continue to struggle with the dilemmas our minds offer.

Is it truly the heart to which God speaks?
Can living your life for Him simply be a matter of following your heart?

A Child of God from 7/23/06

“Dear Lord, how can my faith remain steadfast when I see the suffering you allow? Help me to understand,” I have pleaded since finding God.

“Dear Lord, surrendering myself is one thing, but how can I faithfully surrender my son to your will when I see the suffering you allow? Help me to understand,” I have pleaded since I conceived my son nearly eleven years ago.

God has recently seen fit to answer those prayers.

And that answer came in the form of words spoken by a ten-year-old little boy who is certain of two things in life; that his mother loves and protects him and that God and Christ love and protect him even more so.

“Momma,” my son said from the back seat of my car one afternoon. “I know I shouldn’t be worried about it but I’ve been thinking about what it’s going to be like when the world ends.”

So began the conversation that would end the greatest spiritual struggle of my life.
We talked about accepting Christ as your Savior, what that meant and what that would mean when the world came to an end. We talked about Heaven and faith.

Inevitably the conversation turned to the love God had for us all. I reminded my son that not even my love for him began to compare with the love God and Christ had for him.

“Hmph,” was the answer from the back seat.

“I know. It can be hard for us to remember that when bad things are happening huh,” I responded understandingly.

Then my son asked me why God allowed such bad things to happen if He loved us so much.

Not knowing what else to say, having never reached that understanding myself, I told him simply that I didn’t really know, that I knew there was a reason for it but I wasn’t quite sure as to what that reason was.

“Well I’ve been thinking about it and I’ve got a theory,” my son offered. "The way I look at it, God knows that when we get to Heaven, we're going to be just fine. We'll be happier than we've ever been, we'll never need anything and we'll never suffer again. BUT, I think God wants us to experience everything while we're here because otherwise we'll never appreciate Heaven. Besides, if we never have bad things happen, we'll never be able to understand what Jesus had to go through."

I was speechless, my knuckles white on the steering wheel, feeling as awestruck as if Moses himself had appeared in the backseat of my car.

“Momma, do you think I’m right,” he asked after a few minutes of silence.

“Son,” I responded, still processing what he had told me. “I have asked that same question of preachers, Sunday school teachers and Bible-toting little old ladies, but I have never had anyone give me an answer that made that much sense. I believe you are 100% right.”

That’s been over a week ago and still the child’s words that afternoon echo in my heart.

The day after he shared his theory with me, I had to explain to him that he had a seizure disorder. After we had talked about it for a couple of hours, I asked him if he was scared.

“No, I know you’re not going to let anything happen to me,” he answered with an innocent faith I sometimes believe only children can know.

He must have heard my heart fall to my stomach in reaction to his confidence in my ability to protect him because he suddenly turned and flashed me a brilliant smile, saying, “Besides, God’s protecting me.”

I believe him 100%.

That night, I said a prayer of thanks to God for blessing my child with such understanding. No longer any doubt in my mind as to God’s love for us, I gave myself and my son over to God’s care with an unwavering faith He would protect us both.

Ruling out Punishment from 6/15/06

I guess we all struggle to understand how a God that is kind and loving and just can allow such suffering. Some say suffering is the result of, or punishment for, sin. But how often have we seen even the saintly suffer? There must be a purpose for it. Why else would He allow it?

Are we just assuming that God is kind and loving and just? At some point everyone wonders if maybe He's really an asshole. Then we are scared that He’s going to send us straight to hell for even thinking that.

I don’t think God minds you calling Him an asshole.

But I do think it pisses Him off when you stop talking to Him, when you stop believing. Or maybe it just hurts His feelings. That was the impression I was given by my great grandmother.

At some point we all feel as though God has abandoned us. In The Inner Loneliness, Sebastian Moore speaks of the homesick feeling that we all harbor deep within, no matter how satisfied we are with our lives, we always long for a little something more, something just a little farther out of reach.

A nagging, longing sense of knowing “I do not belong here, I am not of this world.” For I am of God and that is where I belong, and until I dwell in the house of the Lord, I will forever long for home.

Adam and Eve were banished. As we feel so often in our lives. We are told that it is during these times, when we do not feel the presence of God, when we are lost in despair and suffering, that He is carrying us.

But what is the purpose of having us suffer?

Wait.

Is it wise for us to be assuming that God is kind and loving and just? Do the New or Old Testaments tell us that? Does the suffering that we see everyday in the world tell us that? Why is it we believe Him to be kind and loving and just? Is it because that is how He expects us to be? The New Testament tells us of that expectation.

And why does He expect us to be kind and loving and just? Is it because He expects as to be Godly, because we were made in His image? Or is it because like a father, He expects us to be a little something more?

We are told not to be vengeful and yet is the God of the Old Testament not vengeful? We are told not to be jealous but is ours not a God who refuses to allow us to worship another as well? We are told not to inflict pain and suffering upon one another and yet He allows us to be afflicted.

The innocent are no more protected from earthly suffering than the sinful.

So the purpose of suffering must not be to punish.

And so we begin the process of elimination.

Comments from original post:

At 7/23/2006 10:06:00 PM, Blogger b. said...

Hello....I don't know you......you don't know me. I stumbled across your blog when I clicked on "next blog" at the top of my page. I wanted to thank you for your words, though not written for me, they are an answer to prayer.