Seriously. It Tastes Like Chicken

“It tastes like chicken.”

What a lie.

Or not, really.  It tasted like chicken because it was, well, chicken.  But here’s the thing.  I was just joking and now I have to perpetuate the lie until the child is 18 so he won’t be mad at me……

A few weeks back Mark, Mom, #1 and Mr. Smooshy Kissy Cheeks and I went to lunch at Cracker Barrel.  Which, honestly, is a place I try to stay out of.  I love the kitsch.  I just dislike the food.  Or, anyway, can’t eat anything there that I’d like the taste of so it hardly makes it worth the look a person gets when they ask if there’s anything wheat-free.  I don’t think they even understand what that is.  So I resort to saying gluten-free because everyone at least gets that that’s a thing.  Then you get the look.  Like they think you think you’re the queen of Hollywood and you want to say, seriously, it just gives me an un-freaking-believable stomach ache.  So to avoid all that angst you simply ask for the “salad” realizing fully that you will have to pick the onions, croutons and half pound of cheese off yourself but at least it comes with grilled chicken.  

Mr. Smooshy-Kissy Cheeks aka Kache ordered a large chocolate milk and a yogurt and granola parfait and though I like to return him to his mother all sugared up, I knew he’d be hanging with me for another 5 hours and would be cranky as hell if there wasn’t some protein mixed in for good measure.  I offered to share my salad and he said no, thank you until I pointed to the grilled meat on top.

“Come on,” I said.  “Try some of my rattlesnake.”

He looked at me like I was crazy and I truly thought he knew I was joking.  He’d heard me order.

“It tastes like chicken,” I continued.

“Really, Mimi?”

“Yeah.”

He took a bite and his eyes got big and he nodded his little head.

“It’s good,” he said, taking another bite.  “Is it really rattlesnake?”

“Sure.”  I winked at him.

Apparently Kache missed the wink.  Or thought it was one of my tics.  I thought he was just being a good sport as he helped me finish the rest of my rattlesnake chicken.  However, when he and I were perusing the vintage style candy aisle after lunch, choosing a cinnamon stick for him and sugared orange slices (they remind me of my dad) for me I found out different.

“I wouldn’t believe rattlesnake tasted so good Mimi.”

“Yep.”

I still didn’t get it.

“I’ll eat it again some time,” he said, looking up at me with a delighted expression on his face.

I smiled.

“You are so cute,” I said.

Still didn’t get it.  I mean my gramps told us the gravy Grama poured on our mashed potatoes when she made liver and onions was bear gravy and I knew he was full of shit by the time I was five.  My brother believed him and he ate the gravy.  I just shook my head at Mike, sincerely worried about his ability to cope with life as he grew up and I couldn’t watch out for him anymore.  Four-year-olds are so dumb……

We went to Bass Pro Shop after lunch at CB and walked around looking at everything from enormous cat fish to taxidermied javelina and other assorted animals to boats bigger than my house.  It was fun watching Kache with his Papa and Uncle Bubba, checking out camping equipment and dropping quarters into the slots at the target shooting range (Brandon – #1/Uncle Bubba – is the best shot).  At one point we were looking at a backpacking cooker/thing and Kache wondered out loud whether or not we could cook rattlesnake over the small flame.  

I started to get it.  

Later, after he’d filled his mom in on our day, Kache sat with Loran and I while we planned a menu for Mother’s Day picnic at the river.

“Why don’t we just have rattlesnake,” he asked.

“Oh,” Loran said, shooting me a look.  “I’m not sure where we’d even buy that.”

“We can just go to Cracker Barrel and get it already cooked,” he said.

“Well,” I said.  “Good suggestion but we’re probably just going to have burgers.”

I looked back at Loran in complete shock because, finally, I got it.  Little Mr. Sophisticated believed every word I said!

“Of course he did,” Loran said when he was out of earshot.  “He’s eight.

I know that……..

The upshot – after hearing him talk about eating rattlesnake for the next four days, I swore EVERYONE to secrecy until Kache is 18 and can safely hear that his mimi was less than, you know, truthful.  Honestly, though, my dad told my kids all kinds of crap and they – okay they probably believed him, but I really thought Kache knew I was full of baloney…….  Turns out he trusts me.  <sigh>

Which leads me to my point.  What is honesty?  What is truth?  I’ve always held that one person’s truth does not invalidate that of another.  Unless you’re Kache and we’re at the park and some kids think I’m his mother and he decides that the actual truth is mui important to get across, and it was fine that he wanted to set them straight but did he have to disabuse me of my emotional truth that I’m hovering around 23?

SHE’S MY GRANDMOTHER!”  Literally could not have said it any louder with a megaphone.  “TELL THEM MIMI!”

I’m pretty sure you just did, buddy.”  

“SHE’S WELL INTO HER 50’S!”  

Seriously?

I thanked my only grandchild for setting everyone in the park straight about my age, to a chorus of wow, she’s old, from the rest of the under four feet crowd.  Kache turned to me and grinned because he’d known the “truth” and now so did everyone else.

“I will sell you on the way home,” I told him.  “Cheap.”

I believed in the Catholic Christian God when I was small.  As I became aware of my non-Catholic friends and relatives – you know, including my father and bestfriendcousinsister Mindy – I began to wonder how they would get themselves into Heaven and if they could save us all a lot of time and energy and just start going to my church.  I wasn’t too worried about my Grama Reenie because she already told all the Jehovah’s Witness and Mormon missionaries who came to her door that she was Catholic and, “it chases them right out the door.”  I repeated this conversation to my mother verbatim and her facial expression told me she wanted to say one thing but decided instead to advise me against asking any of my family and/or friends to give up their religion in favor of ours.

“Don’t you want them to get to Heaven,” I asked.

“They’ll be fine,” Mom said.  “They don’t need to be Catholic to get to Heaven.”

“Are you sure,” I asked.  “That’s not what the nun said in church school.”

“Don’t call her the nun,” Mom said.  “She has a name.”

“Her name is Sister Timothy Bartholomew,” I said.  “Which is silly.  She’s a girl.  And she said you have to be Catholic to go to Heaven.”

“I’m sure that’s not what she said.”

But it was and, yes, I argued the point with Mom until she gave me one of the stock adult lines about how I was a kid and she wasn’t and I should quit while I was ahead instead of in my room for the afternoon.  We did revisit the subject later and it’s where I had my first lesson in being a Cafeteria Catholic.  In short, though the Church says true salvation can only come through a personal relationship with Christ and the Eucharist, those who, through no fault of their own, don’t know Him but still sincerely seek God in thought word, and deed can still slide through the pearly gates.  I don’t know how that message translated for Mom, but it eventually came down to it’s a free-for-all to me.  It took 30 years for me to, while perusing the selections in the Catholic Cafeteria line, set my plate down and say no thank-you to all of it and seek my own truth.  In that time I observed a lot of truths.  Some I agree(d) with some not so much.  I’ll bet one of my mom’s truths is she wonders, had she steered our conversation in a different direction the first time I brought up other religions, would I be less of a heathen now.

Seriously, though, how would she have done that and remained in her truth?

The truth is we’re all searching and discovering every day.

Mom said to me once that she sometimes doesn’t recognize who I am as she didn’t raise me to be how I am.  This was said without malice or disappointment, by the way.  She was just curious. 

“I am exactly who you raised me to be,” I told her.  With an evil grin.  Revenge can be so sweet.

Just kidding.  I told her with gratitude for her beautiful example of following one’s own truth.

When #1 was born I informed my parents that we would not be perpetuating the myth of Santa Claus.  I felt like it would be a lie because, you know, it is.  Mom, in her typical respectful way, knowing I had a few years to decide as #1 was only three weeks old on his first Christmas, said okay.  Dad?  Had a conniption.  I caved quickly and “perpetuated the myth” with all five of my progeny.  And I don’t think anyone was traumatized when they found out the truth of the matter.  I wasn’t traumatized when I found out.  Maybe a little pissed because I thought Jeannie Tucker was a damn liar, standing there in the elementary school hall with me, waiting to go to the cafeteria.

“What did Santa bring you,” I asked her.

“Nothing,” said the youngest child of older parents who had several much older siblings who spoiled it all for me that fateful day when I was barely eight years old – but I’m not still bitter.  

“Nothing?”  Holy crap!  So he really does demand that you be good.  “What did you do?”

“Nothing,” she said again and in an are you stupid tone of voice.  “There’s no such thing as Santa Claus.  Your mom and dad buy the presents.”

I don’t remember what happened immediately after that defining moment.  I may have blacked out.  The following Sunday, however, I sat my mother down at the dining table at Grama and Grampa’s house and asked her if what Jeannie had said was true.  She looked around at Dad, Mike (only seven) and my grandparents but apparently nobody had any brilliant ideas on how to salvage not only my childhood but that of my younger brother.  Well, and Dad’s.  My dad looooooved Christmas.

“Yes,” Mom said in a very gentle, kind of sad voice.  “It’s true.”  

I started to cry and I heard my dad ask Mom why she told me.

“What was I supposed to do,” she said.  “I couldn’t lie to her.”  She sat me on her lap and hugged me.

“Will I still get presents,” I sobbed out after a minute.

“Of course,” she said.  

I heard a chorus of adult voices assuring me of the same.  I sucked in several shaky breaths, then abruptly decided to cut my losses.  

“Okay,” I said, on my last wail, before starting to calm down.

I recovered quickly as did Mike but Dad never recovered.  The man loved Christmas.  And Thanksgiving and Halloween.  He loved perusing the candy aisles in October and picking out which kinds to buy, which kinds would be hoarded and which morsels would actually make it into the baskets of the trick-or-treaters.  This childlike sense of wonder took him all the way through the holidays and in spite of the fact that there is no Santa (and he knew it) was his truth.
I’ll never regret the years spent living the mystery of Santa myself nor those spent planning and executing the surprised on Christmas if for no other reason than it brought joy to him – to all of us.

One person’s truth does not invalidate that of another.  I believe this and I have been told, by several people that I’m wrong and that it’s too bad because I’ll have plenty of time to think about it while I’m laboring alone under my spiritual delusions or, you know, burning slowly in hell, depending to whom I am speaking.  I don’t worry any longer, however.  I don’t try to convince people I’m right because there’s really, really no point.  Their truth is theirs and it’s valid.  As for mine, well it’s my story and I’m sticking to the same.

You know. 

It tastes like chicken.  

 

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Crystal Clear Intention

We spent Mother’s Day at the Salt River playing and relaxing.  #’s 1 and 3, grandchild numero uno (infinnery an dion) and I spent quite a bit of time adventuring up and down the river, traversing the rapids, if I’m honest, only about 100 yards down, then back up to where the more sane adults were parked in chairs, throwing back Coronas.  Considering the fact that I’m still healing from some recent physical issues, I did well.  Walking on mossy river rock in a rapidly moving river is no joke, people.  I did stumble a few times but managed to regain my balance before any appendages were damaged. 

“You are pretty gangly out here Mom,” Loran said.  “How is it you’re so graceful in your yoga practice and have such a hard time with this.”

It was a fair question and I chose to take the compliment and totally ignore the fact that she’d just called me a klutz because, well, I kind of am.  Yoga is different.  It’s a progressive practice and certainly nothing that will ever be perfected but I’ve been doing it for 20 years.  I should be at least nominally good at it sometimes.

“Yoga is very intentional for me,” I answered.  “It’s the one place I remember to respect and honor myself and wherever I happen to be on a given day.  That’s the integrity of it.”

Loran tilted her head to one side.

“So, walking is not intentional?”

Smart ass.

But, yeah.  Right?

It was a mini-epiphany – or perhaps, considering the injuries I’ve incurred lately – not so mini.

I thought about how I was moving about in that river.  I was running and sort of hopping, trying to, oh my god, I don’t know, outrun the rapids?  It’s a bloody wonder I didn’t break my neck.  All I had to do was plant one foot firmly before I lifted the other one to go forward.  Be methodical.  If you ask the guys who’ve worked for me what will be written on my tombstone they will tell you, methodical.  It’s how I get through every day.  One thing at a time.  I don’t rush because it’s better to work steady.  Anyway, once I figured out that paying attention to how I was moving and doing so with the intention to stay upright made me less disaster prone, the rest of the day at the river was much easier.  Of course that was 10 minutes before we packed it in to go home.

The words intentional and with integrity stayed with me.

When I’m practicing yoga and I take a step forward with my right leg, I know where my left one is.  My back is straight and my pelvis is tucked.  When I put all my weight on my right leg to lift the left, my core is pulled in and I lift up out of my hips and my waist so that my upper body is sort of floating – as opposed to allowing it to sink into my right hip and glute – and I am breathing slowly and deeply in and out through my nose while focusing my vision with a drishti (focused gaze) in order to concentrate and send strength and balance where it’s needed while I lift my arms into prayer pose at heart center.  Sometimes I look like a ballerina when I do this.  Sometimes I cannot balance to save my life and I look more like – well, not a ballerina.  Either is acceptable as is anywhere in between because I am intentionally stretching the boundaries of who I am and honoring the integrity of the pose.

It’s the same in life.  When I remember to be intentional in my interactions with others, progress is made.  Of course, that also depends on what the intention is.

I read a discussion one time where a spiritual teacher said, Love is the only reason to do anything.  It’s not always the intention, but it should be.  No matter what.

A bit further into the discussion she was asked, Is indiscriminate sex okay?  Is it a sin?  The answer had a huge impact on me for many reasons, not the least of which was that I’ve always thought indiscriminate sex was fine as long as one has a care for themselves and those with whom they are – you know.  Who is to judge what “indiscriminate” is.  And just for the record, I am not looking for a debate on the merits or lack thereof regarding the subject.  It is simply being used for the purposes of making a point.  I was raised Catholic and taught that sex is between a man and a woman in marriage for the purpose of procreating.  Period.  This lesson was hammered in by the nuns during Catechism and supported by my trying-to-keep-me-a-virgin-till-30 parents.  It-did-not-work.  It did, however give me a somewhat skewed view of my own sexuality.  I mean, I still had sex and not for the purpose of procreation and not with someone  to whom I was married.  But I said I was sorry on Sunday.  In fact, I can remember several times when on my way out Saturday night asking God to forgive me, in advance, for the drinking I was definitely going to do and the sex I intended to have, just in case I was in a car wreck and died before I got to Mass the next morning because I wanted to go to Heaven.  

I got tired of that, though.  I kept wondering why I had to apologize and feel bad about something that made me feel so good.  If God loved me for who I was and who I was wanted to do what came naturally, why was it supposedly so damn bad?

Aaaaaaaaaanyway…….Fast forward to the book I mentioned, where the question was, Is indiscriminate sex okay?  The answer was, It’s fine as long as it serves who you are and who you are trying to become.  The next question was, Huh?  The next answer was, Whatever you do, do it with love.  Literally, everything.  What is the point of eating spaghetti and meatballs if eating spaghetti and meatballs does not serve you?  If you don’t love it, eat something else. 

It made – makes – perfect sense to me pertaining to everything I do.  Which is not to say that everything has to be studied and picked apart for the intent, but I do set an intention at the beginning of the day – and as many times during the day as is needed.  When I do so my question to myself is generally the same – is love involved here?  For example, if I’m at work and hating my life as a result, I have to ask why am I here.  I then answer, because I love to eat and have a roof over my head………..  And go clothes shopping, and on vacation, and out to dinner and to the movies……  Which strikes me as funny and I’m usually able to pull my head out of my – uh – complaint and review what is most important and prioritize and find gratitude for said job.  It also allows me to be nice to the people who walk in with the intention of buying what I am selling, which keeps my boss happy and keeps me employed, making that part of my world go round.

Our lives are always made up of our intentions.  Therefore it’s simply better if our intent is, you  know, intentional.  It’s not as if doing things on purpose will eliminate spontaneity.  After all, no matter how full of intention one is when taking that step into the rapids, there is still the matter of the moss on the rocks and the rapid flow of the water.

What is your intention for today?

 

 

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Remembrance of a Summer Day

I began writing in earnest in the late 1990’s as a release for overwrought emotions in the wake of what seemed like a completely out of control world.  I wrote about my childhood through early adult years.  In the coming months I’ll be re-working some of those passages and blogging them – probably not in any particular order.  While I try to be disciplined to write, I like to free form a lot and just see where the story leads me.  That’s how I’ll be relating the stories to you.  

Some of my favorite stories to write start with the thought, I am that girl.  In part – not gonna lie – because I like referring to myself as a girl….… just like all old women I’ve ever met……  Mostly, though, because it conjures up the cartoon image I’ve always had in my head of what I look like.  My grandmother used to laugh and tell me when I walked I looked like a farmer coming out of a barn.

“Grama,” I’d say very matter of factl-ly.  “It’s the only way I know how to walk.”  

And, honestly, when I see my arms and legs in action, I look more like a colt coming out of a barn.  Which is not to say anything negative about how I look – I’m fine with it.  I just wish I’d learned to sort of control said arms and legs a little better.  I illustrated the difficulty in my last blog, talking about the various injuries with which I’m currently dealing.  All are healing, by the way, including the new one I inflicted on my left palm while at the playground with Kache and Loran.  I’d tell you how I did it but I’m not completely sure because it was dark and – oh!  You’re not supposed to be at the playground in the dark?  

Yeah.

Nothing serious.  Just an enormous bruise that covers half my hand and makes it look like I knocked the hell out of something.  At that point in the injury making I didn’t even get much sympathy.  I’m thinking people are getting tired of saying, Oh Mom!  Are you all right?  Because all I got from #3 was typical Mom at the playground.  She injures herself…..  She was referring to the time, decades ago, when Mark and I had #’s 1-4 at a playground in Dallas.  Coolest thing ever.  Made entirely of wood to look more like a fortress from Robinhood than a kids’ play area.  I was running around playing tag with my progeny, jumped from a platform to the ground, caught my right heel on the platform and twisted the shit out of my ankle.  Inconvenient to say the least.  I landed on my back and blacked out for a few seconds.  Coming around I found four familiar faces hovering over me, in various levels of panic, yelling my name.

“get.daddy.” I sort of rasped out as I tried to pull air back into my lungs.

They kept yelling and I kept trying to talk at a volume that could be heard above the din.  Did I mention I landed on my back and knocked the wind out?

Long story short:  Ankle severely sprained.  Doctor visit.  Ice.  Trauma for children.  

#apparentlytheyneverforget

And now…… as long as there are no broken bones or even skin, the level of sympathy is only extended to hey, put ice on that when we get home.  That thing is gonna hurt.

Love my kids.

I digress…….

Sort of…..

This first story illustrates the beginning of the I am that girl…. series.  I hope you like it. 

Chapter One

Remembrance of a Summer Day

When I was a kid, we hiked for miles through the woods on most any given day.  I grew up in the country, outside a small town in western New York State.  Yes, I was a hillbilly, though let’s make this clear.  I have all my teeth and my family tree forks.  A lot.   We hiked because, frankly, it was the only thing we had to do with any consistency all year long.  Rain, snow, hail, humidity and even hunting season – I don’t know what the parental units were thinking – we slogged through them all to get wherever it was we imagined we were going.  

One summer day we were walking through the pasture behind my cousin Missy’s house, down toward the creek.  I was blindfolded and being guided by Missy and our friend Devon so I  “wouldn’t fall.”  An experimental idea from school designed to inspire compassion, empathy and trust, it went horribly wrong in the hands of my twisted companions who lead me through a couple of piles of cow shit, then watched me stumble over something in the overgrowth and land face first in a pile of wet, mulchy leaves.  I sat up spitting and wondering out loud whose idea this had been, why I always fell for this crap and which of my friends’ asses I was gonna kick first.  Being all show and no go at the age of ten, nobody got anything kicked.  I was persuaded to look on the comical side and remember, A.  I was often on the instigating end of these escapades and B. if we fought and went home, there were lots of chores to be done.  Laziness was a major motivator back then.  We walked on.

Down toward the creek the hot air cooled.  It was one of the smaller tributaries that fed into the Genesee river and just deep enough to satisfy the adventurous spirit of three pre-adolescent girls but not so deep or swift that our mothers needed to worry about us being carried off by the current.  

Here we were safe from little brothers and sisters, free to live out the stories in our heads and discuss our dreams without the censure of these same mothers, whose main ambition in life was to spoil every ounce of fun we managed to dredge up, even if we weren’t lighting anything on fire.  We played at being everything from mermaids to Tarzan, swinging on a rope we’d slung over a low hanging branch of an ancient, gigantic oak tree.  Dressed in old shorts and t-shirts, with dirty canvas sneakers protecting our feet from anything that might pinch or bite, we explored.

One day we decided to keep walking up our mountain (it was on the other side of “our” creek and more like a big hill) long after the point at which we usually turned back.  We saw the roof top of what turned out to be an old barn in the distance and hiked toward it as the long shadows of late afternoon began to creep toward us.  

Having been born afraid, I begged to turn back as soon as we crossed the creek, but Missy and Devon insisted we continue.  We walked further into the woods as the shadows deepened.  I began to feel panicked, thinking about the stories Devon’s grandmother told us of the wild cats that still walked these hills.  Missy’s mom dismissed the stories as the ramblings of an eccentric older lady, but we believed the grandmother.  We’d walked there too.  Though we’d never seen the panthers she described, we felt them.  Call it imagination or – maybe intuition.  We knew we’d been observed before.  The fact of it had stopped us in the middle of our play near the creek and sent us running home on more than one occasion.  We’d get to within sight of Missy’s house and knowing we were near safety, stop, gasp for air and swear never to go back to the creek or woods.  

Of course we did go back and here we were.  As we walked along, I kept looking up through the web of trees to the sky.  It was a bright blue, which meant we still had a good two hours before nightfall.  The angle of the shadows, though, told me we’d probably missed supper and Missy’s mom would be good and mad.  I mentioned this and as it was about my 43rd complaint, Devon had had enough.

Look, Lorie,” she began in a thoroughly exasperated tone.  “If you wanna go home, go home!  Missy and I are going to the barn.” 

I rolled my eyes at the stupid idea of me traipsing back through the woods alone and kept following.  It was as if she didn’t know me at all.  I sulked and kicked at leaves on the path, having a pretty scathing argument with Devon in my head and so preoccupied that it took me a moment to realize we’d come out of said woods and were at the edge of the clearing where the barn sat.  

It looked even creepier up close and I would have done anything not to go in.  Well, almost anything as long as I didn’t have to do it alone and in these woods, which, by the way, I was never going into again.  We moved closer and closer toward what I was sure was the gate to the entrance of hell.  When I could stand it no longer, I made Missy and Devon walk on either side of me, holding my hands and guiding me so I could close my eyes.  The cow shit incident crossed my mind but I was forgiving and trusting, not to mention completely frigging terrified.  At that moment all I could think of was being protected from the panther attack I knew was coming the moment we stepped through the barn door.  My friends made exaggerated disgusted noises but let me walk between them.  I knew my image was suffering from this show of cowardice but didn’t care.  All that mattered was protection.  They could dish out all the grief they wanted when we got home, if we made it back alive.  A tear leaked out the corner of my eye as I envisioned my parents waiting in vain for my return.  Devon sighed as we traipsed through the tall grass toward the barn, muttering something about what a baby I was and that she only hoped I could run fast enough when whatever was in there came after us as it inevitably would.  

We came to a stop and I opened one of my eyes just enough to see we were at the open door of the old building.  We stood there on the threshold and as the seconds passed I gathered the courage to look around, still holding onto my friends’ hands.  The hay was piled high on one side in bales, old, wet and moldy.  The other side held ancient, broken down farm equipment, rusty from the rain that had leaked through holes in the roof.

“Wow,” Missy said, releasing my hand to walk further into the building.  Wow?  Whatever.  This is what had scared us so badly?

“Scared who,” Devon asked, disbelief in her voice.  I wasn’t scared!  I didn’t beg me and Missy to hold my little hand.”  

Oh, gee had I said that out loud?  It was a childhood handicap, thinking I was thinking when really my mouth was running.  I was getting sick of Devon’s crap, though.  So I was scared, so what?  

Yeah, that was pretty much all I had.  

Nothing clever, nothing that would shatter the self-confident scorn written on her face.  I looked to Missy for help, figuring that when push came to shove, we were blood.  She couldn’t have been less interested if I was one of her creepy, smelly little brothers. I turned back to Devon and having nothing else, I made a face at her.  

“I’m not always afraid,” I said.  Clearly a lie.  I was constantly terrified by our adventures.  It was half the fun for me. 

“What about the time the bull chased us,” I continued.  “Who was afraid then?”  

That would have been all of us, of course, and it would have been dead all of us if not for the fact that Devon grew super powers.  She somehow managed to throw – and I mean throw Missy and me up onto the roof of a small hay shed out in the pasture we had no damn business being in, then hoist herself up and out of harm’s way, before El Toro could take a chunk out of our trespassing little rear ends.  But I’d seen him coming first.  It was my horrified look and squeaky attempt at a scream that had first alerted Wonder Woman.  I should get some credit, right?  

This and other assorted bullshit I spewed quickly, hoping to confuse my friends into believing what they already knew wasn’t true.  Thinking fast on my feet was not, at that point in my life a strong suit.  

Devon glared at me, hands on her hips.  She opened her mouth to really let loose and froze.  I leaned toward her a little, mirroring her battle stance, waiting.  Missy followed the line of Devon’s vision and let out a scream.  Devon screamed as well and ran out of that barn like her ass was on fire.  I turned toward Missy but she was already gone.  

They’d left me!  I made a sound half way between a yell and a sob and sprinted to join them.  I made it one step.  The shoelaces on my ancient sneakers had come untied and I tripped on them, falling flat on my face.  It hurt – bad.  I struggled to breathe but had knocked the wind out of myself and lay there helpless, in pain and panic.  I don’t remember, before or since, being as consumed with incoherent fear.  I was sure the panther was just inches away, waiting to have me for supper and I could do nothing to save myself.  I could hear my friends calling my name from outside the barn.

“Damn cowards,” I thought.  I could hear the fear in their voices as they realized they were responsible for my untimely passing in the claws of a deadly wild cat.  They would answer to my mother for this.  

While thoughts flew through my mind, the seconds were ticking by.  Soon, I was able to take a breath.  I lay still, though, trying to assess my situation.  I heard no growling, no breathing save my own.  I raised my head slowly and looked around, trying not to attract attention in case something of the feline persuasion was watching and planning its evening meal.  

Nothing.  I pulled myself up into a sitting position, with my back toward the open door.  That was the brightest part of the barn and I could see that nothing lay in wait for me there.  I stood up and looked around.  Turning slowly, my eyes combed the place, up toward the top of the hay bales, across the beams and along the back wall behind the old plow.  There was nothing.  What had they seen?  

I shrugged and began walking toward the door, bleeding profusely from several appendages.  Both knees and an elbow were scraped raw.  My wrist throbbed and there was a lovely goose egg growing on my forehead.  I smiled an evil little smile, knowing I could use this.  They couldn’t call me chicken when they had run and I had stayed and been injured.  Things could work out after all.  

I added a limp for good measure and was nearly to the door when I saw it.  It was a cat alright and a big one.  Not a panther but a bob cat.  It was creepy but I didn’t run.  I stood there, alone, and stared into its eyes.  Or, where its eyes should have been.  Oh, this was gross.  The cat, what was left of him, was as stiff as a board and had been hung on the wall like a picture frame.  Who would do something like this?  I felt violated and gave an exaggerated shudder of revulsion, working my way into a pretty good state of disgust when I noticed Devon and Missy standing, shame faced in the doorway.  Missy had been crying and Devon was blushing like she always did when any kind of emotion was about to overtake her.

“Is that why you ran,” I asked, pointing at the animal skin.  

Devon nodded, hanging her head.

“Yes,” Missy said.  “Are you okay?”

“A lot you guys care,” I snapped.  “Look at me.”

“I’m sorry Lor,” Missy said.  

I smiled, bestowing my forgiveness.  I had her.  I could see how guilty she felt and this knowledge resulted in my kind benevolence.  Devon was not so easy to reel in.  She apologized but her heart wasn’t exactly in it.  She was probably thinking what a scaredy-cat-pain-in-the-butt I’d been all the way up here and, once inside, how I spoiled the fun of complete terror by falling and stealing all the glory.  I could salvage it, though.  Pull the adventure out of the dumper, so to speak.

“Do you suppose,” I began, weaving a scenario in their minds.  “The ghost of this cat lives here?  Maybe it’s what we hear when we’re by the creek.” 

 We looked at each other and noticed for the first time, how long the shadows had grown outside.  The hair on the back of my neck seemed to stand up and I shivered.

“Maybe,” Missy said.  “Or maybe what we hear is this cat’s mate, crying because its partner was slaughtered.”  

Devon grimaced.  Very soulful, Miss, I thought.  She was always into love and stuff like that.  Definitely the Rosemary Rogers of our ten and under set.  For me, boys were pretty much for kicking around and hating.  

We were silent for a minute and an evening breeze rustled the grass, tickling our legs.  We came out of an adventure induced trance then, realizing that a human being had butchered this cat and therefore, the barn might not be as uninhabited as we believed.  We stared at each other, unable to move.

“Let’s get outta here,” Missy whispered, as if somebody might be listening to our conversation.  We walked to the open barn door, afraid to move too quickly and repeat my performance of a few minutes earlier.  Had it been only a few minutes?

Once out into the field, we began to walk faster.  I remembered, belatedly that my shoes were still untied but there was no way to stop now.  The sun was beating a fast retreat into the good night and though the woods looked dark and dangerous, they were our only way out.  

Somewhere, in the middle of the field we began to run.  We hit those woods full speed, dodging branches and bushes, jumping over logs and underbrush, praying nothing was chasing us.  Blood pounded in my ears making it impossible to hear any other sound and before long my sides began to ache from the exertion.  I longed to stop and rest but was convinced, along with my bosom pals that something ominous was just behind us and lingering could spell the end of our young lives.  

We ran on, Devon in the lead, Missy in the middle and me bringing up the rear.  I don’t even know how that happened.  I never brought up the rear.  The last in line or the goofy, hysterical one always bought it first in the movies and on Scooby Doo.  I knew damn well I qualified as both.  Fear pushed me on and I picked up the pace till I was even with my cousin.  I figured I stood a better chance if whatever we imagined might be chasing us had to choose.  I outweighed Missy by a good ten pounds.  She’d definitely appear to be the weakest and least likely to fight back.  She glanced over at me, suspicion written on her face but I just kept going.  

At last, we heard rushing water and knew the creek was just below.  We slid down the embankment and landed, butt-first, in the water.  Across the creek and up the other side we ran, still.  Through the lower field belonging to Devon’s grandmother and over the barbed wire fence onto Missy’s parents’ property we went – thank God the electric wasn’t on – before coming to a halt.  The three of us collapsed onto the ground, holding our sides and gasping for breath.  Eventually we sat up and looked at each other.  

Missy grinned.

“Lorie,” she said, laughing.  “You are a mess.”

We all lay there in the field, then, watching the stars come out.  The evening breeze blew the tall grass around us as we reflected on our day.  All animosity was gone, dissolved into nothingness by our wild flight for life.  We were a team again.

“Was this a cool day or what,” Devon asked nobody in particular.  Missy and I nodded in agreement.

“We better get home, Missy,” I said with a sigh.  “Your mom is going to kill you.”  Missy’s mom never yelled at me even if what we did was all my fault.  I liked that about her.  

Strolling slowly toward the houses in the distance, each of us contemplated her version of the day’s events.  What fun it had been.  I never had as much fun with anybody else as I did with these two.  We’d be friends forever, of that I was certain.  We discussed this for a minute or two as we walked, safe in the knowledge that we understood each other so well and would always be there when one needed another.

Over the mountain behind us the moon began to rise, nearly full that night.  We looked back in wonder at its beauty, reveling in the memory of our adventure and the surety of our bond.  Then it came.  

On the night wind it came, ghostly and wild.  Almost human, but not quite.  The scream of the cat.  The lonely panther whose existence we doubted by day and dreaded in our dreams.

And we ran.

 

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Things are good…..

I have a pinched nerve.  Sciatic, I believe.  Literal pain in the ass, as well as all the way down my leg and into my foot and up and across my lower back, depending on the day.  No, it’s not age-related – shut your dirty mouth.  

Full disclosure.

I was dancing.

Like I hadn’t done in years.

There’s this song I love, Stay a Little Longer, by a country duo called The Brothers Osborne.  I  downloaded it and was working out to it when something came over me and I thought – I don’t know – I was 17 again……I’d been chosen randomly for  Dancing With The Stars.  Normal stuff.  It just felt so damn good to be able to move my body like that.  Uninhibited, free, flexible, abundant.  However, at the time I hadn’t felt up to par in a few days and was fighting whatever had infiltrated my system with a ton of water, vitamin C and powering the hell through it.  I was achey and my right hip and glute were stiff and if I moved wrong I’d produce a sharp pain in one or the other.  I kept telling Mark it felt like when my great-grandmother would say she had a cold that had settled into her hip.  Which of course freaked me out because of who said it and how ancient she was at the time, which made me think I had to prove myself to The Universe in an age will never get me down sort of way because I’m slightly stupid.  

So, I was working out and the endorphins were flowing and I felt like I could dance all night or at least four minutes until the song ended.  I called it good at that point because I was done with yoga anyway and that dance off with the guys on the Bandstand wore me the hell out.  I noticed a few hours later that my hip was acting up.  I popped a couple Advil and figured it’d be okay by morning.  It was worse, but moving around helped until I got to work and had to open the gate at the front of the store.  It’s metal, it’s 30 years old and weighs approximately ten hundred million pounds.  Something twisted, something popped and I was done.

Three chiropractor appointments, two massages, countless salt baths, more ibuprofen than my kidneys care to count and ten days later I’m still in rough shape but it’s getting better.  Along the way I aggravated my left elbow that has somehow developed a tennis affliction in spite of the fact that I don’t play.  I was able to take a couple days off work and that helped.  I’m no longer dying.  The pain is sort of chronic and subsiding a little at a time but it’s not fatal…..

Saturday I left work a little early so I could get a jump start on resting/recovering as I had Sunday off.  On the way home I had what I refer to as a “stomach attack.”  I’ve had them sporadically for years and have been under a doctor’s care, trying to figure out what is causing them and what I can do to prevent them.  I’ve only experienced one thing that hurts as badly as these episodes and that’s full on, bring me all the drugs you’ve got, labor contractions.  I thought, on Saturday, I could make it home so kept driving.  <insert eye roll here>  About half a mile from my house I pulled over because all the strength left my arms and legs.  As soon as I had the car in park I blacked out.  <insert second eye roll here> “Luckily” the pain brought me around fast and I managed to call Mark.  He and #3 came and got me and brought me home, where I finished that round of pain in a record 2 hours.  I was exhausted after, as usual, and pretty much slept for the rest of the day.

On Sunday I limped around, feeling pretty good in spite of my intestines and appendages and decided to hose down the patio furniture that had taken quite a beating during recent dust storms.  An hour later I noticed pain in my right lower leg to the right of the shin bone.  There was a huge rash from fire ants that my bug man is going to answer for as soon as I get hold of him.  Those little bastards bite quickly and the rash is painful and goes away slowly.  Just like me.  As my bug man will tell you after I’m done speaking with him today. 

To recap:  I have a pinched nerve, am terrified to eat anything but applesauce and gluten-free crackers, have a bum elbow and a rash on my shin that makes people back up a step and say ‘ew.’  I smell like Icy Hot and Benadryl topical ointment and it hurts to sit, stand, walk and lay down.  I have an appointment with my doctor on Monday for a complete physical because she said she won’t “put people down,” as the medical community frowns upon it.  One daughter wants me to try The Whole 30 – a cleansing diet that sounds more like The Hell 30.  Another daughter is encouraging me to let go of stuff and do more energy clearing and healing.  Both are valid approaches and I’ll get to them when I can stay awake long enough to get started.  Chronic pain is exhausting.   

Mark has been living with this for two years due to plantar fasciitis.  I’m gonna be honest here.  There were times I may not have been entirely supportive or empathetic.  More than once I thought, seriously, it can’t be that bad.  I was wrong.  You have to deal with all the usual stuff in a day on top of the fact that you always feel unwell.  “Unwell,” is a mild term for fucking miserable and don’t talk to me or even look at me hard because I’ll throat punch you – that’s how ‘unwell’ I feel.

Though perhaps others handle it better than I.

The good news is, though my husband and I are in a bit of train wreck mode physically, we’re on our way up.  Cause we aint doin’ this shit for long.  Which is French for,  fine, we’ll do the Whole 30……….if nothing else that doesn’t involve giving up EVERY GOOD THING TO EAT AND ALCOHOL doesn’t present itself first.  Also Mark has been less grouchy because, in his words, as he watched me in pain for ten days he had to face the fact that it was like a movie of him and he wondered, out loud, to me, if he “has been that much of a pain in the a$$.”  I got the connection immediately and sort of snickered, thinking of Karma and knowing I wasn’t the only one whose butt it had been kicking.  Then acted hurt because he’d called me a pain and let him know that, yes, he’d been that big a jerk.  It’s lovely when couples can learn things together.

…….It’s a few days later now.  I’m still in pain but not as much.  The leg and back are uncomfortable but I don’t have to spend every spare moment strapped to an ice block or heating pad and I’ve cut my ibuprofen consumption down so that the kidneys will remain operative and healthy.  The fire ant rash?  No joke, folks.  It’s been over a week since those tiny little creatures feasted on my leg (and a few days since they met their maker) and while it’s healing, the skin is still inflamed and sore as heck.  I’ve had no repeat of the stomach/intestinal/gallbladder/WTF-ever related issue.  In fact, I got out of bed today remembering I have the day off, feeling free and relieved. 

Then remembered I promised everyone I’d follow through with my doctor appointment.  It’s at 2:00.  I don’t want to say I’m stubborn about minimal contact with medical professionals but as it’s my habit to cancel said appointments……..Mark made me promise I’d pick him up from work so he could go with me.

……And I’m fine.  She said so.  We ordered every test pertinent to the stomach thing.  I went back in yesterday for blood work.  You have to fast for eight hours prior, of course, so going in the morning makes sense.  I was cranky as ass by the time I got to the doctor’s office.

“Good morning!”  It was the same really sweet 20-something woman who’d greeted me the other day at 2:00pm.  How was she happy at this hour.  Duh.  Coffee.  Food.  Both of which I’d had to forego.

“I’m here for blood work.”  I wasn’t necessarily impolite, just to the point.  My mental state looked very much like neanderthal man searching for food.  Lots of grunts and points and a brow so furrowed it needed a plow.  I was in and out quickly though and if I wasn’t smiling when I left, at least I wasn’t dragging a club any longer.  There was cold brew coffee waiting for me in the car, along with a small piece of bacon Mark had wrapped up.  I’m not supposed to have a lot of bacon – pork, period (nobody is, really but I digress) – but this was really good stuff and the promise of just that little, tiny bit of fatty pleasure was worth the needles and losing a gallon of blood.

I’m just really not good at this stuff.  Is anyone?  I have been blessed with good health my entire life and have taken measures to make sure I stay well.  Does it surprise everyone when their body does something that seems like a direct betrayal?  It’s as if my body is a naughty child telling its mother to fu – uh – jump in a lake.  Like a mom I’m tempted to jump, instead, into a lecture that starts out something like, after all I’ve done for you…….

For the moment I’m good.  Everything is healing.  The rash is just a series of scabs that fascinate me because I am ten years old.  The hip/back/leg are back at the gym with me, doing “gentle” things.  I’ve started to eat again, gradually adding things back in lest I hit a wall and it knocks me down, so to mix metaphors.  

I guess, even if the issues I’ve experienced aren’t age related – I mean, anyone can get bit by fire ants – odds are, if one sticks around long enough, one will have to deal with a malady.  I’d like to think what I’m going through will make me more empathetic, more open to others who are suffering time related ailments.  So far all it’s done is make me tired and less tolerant.  My window of goodness has always been mid-morning to about 8:30 at night.   A good 12 hours peaking around noon.  Now I start to wake up, mentally, about lunch time and crash, with or without alcoholic beverage related help, at seven.  

And I know this is temporary!  Things get better every day and I’m so relieved.  I’m just trying to come out of this somewhere on the up side of well I guess it’s downhill from here without jumping on the botox train headed for a plastic surgeon’s office.

<sigh>

I was sort of in the middle of the above struggle while limping through the house with a basket of laundry to put away.  I stopped in the kitchen to water plants and feed Fade the fish when I noticed my little calendar of inspiration needed to be updated to the current day.  I changed it and read, “If you are looking for happiness and you can’t find any, maybe you are suffering from too much ‘I strain.’”

It was immediately grounding and uplifting, so, of course I told the inanimate object to fuck off.  But it was said with a grin.  My heart lifted and I felt relief as I began mentally listing all my blessings.  

Until I grabbed the basket of clothes, turned too fast and a sharp pain in my hip took me right down.  I dropped the laundry, grabbed an ice pack and crawled to the office  to sit at my desk and scroll social media till it was time to heat.  Unfortunately, for my grouchy cynicism, on the wall in front of my desk was another damn quote that would have none of my shenanigans.

It’s not about perfect.  It’s about effort.  And when you implement that effort into your life… Every single day, that’s where transformation happens.  That’s how change occurs.  Keep going.  Remember why you started.  

…..and there it is.  Transformation.  Change.  We are in this life to do just one thing.  Transform.  Willingly or unwillingly, that is what we do each and every day.  And really that is all we have.  Just that day.  Just that moment.  Nobody has to go from A to Z.  Just A to B or A to A.1, etc.  When I manage to keep that in mind I’m much less likely to lose the same.

Am I growing old?  Not yet, but I suppose as long as I’m growing, things are good.  

And things are good.

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Life – According to Lucy

What is unconditional love? Is there such a thing?

That is the Universal standard, no? God’s standard?

I mean, by that standard any asshole can be, well, an asshole all the time and still be loved.

Number 1 was asking me about someone from my childhood with whom I’m friends on Facebook.
What is she really like? Is she like she seems? If so, why are you friends with her?
‘I don’t know,’ I said. ‘I think so – I mean, she always was the way she seems now and – it’s friendship at a distance. I can filter it, so to speak.’
But why?
‘She has redeeming qualities. And there are no surprises. I don’t expect things from her I know aren’t available.’
Like what?
‘Like anything beyond casual chat.’
You don’t do casual chat.
‘Sure I do.’
Okay.
‘Don’t patronize me.’
Relax Mom. You’re just a little – intense.

Note the emphasis on ‘tense.’

‘I am so easy going. I am so laid back I’m nearly horizontal.’

Number 1 was staring straight ahead at this point and I spent a second imagining the conflict in his brain where it’s more logical and he was probably wondering what he could say at this point to lead our talk back to something less subjective than my state of being at any given moment.

‘Sorry,’ I said.
No worries.
‘My friend and I share history. Some good, some bad but she seems to accept me the way I am and I can do that for her as well. Her perspective has always been valuable to me. Does that make sense?’
He nodded the way he always does when I’m winding up to speak in paragraphs.
‘I mean, we didn’t get along much when we were kids. Her sister and I were better friends but – there was something about her that I didn’t want to let go of. I did think she was just misunderstood, or vulnerable or something like that. Like someone needed to really, really reach her. I thought I was the one who could. It’s almost funny now. I couldn’t, no matter what I tried.’
Why, do you think?
‘She’s an asshole. There’s that.’

Is the fact that I am only a certain kind of friend to this person evidence that conditional love is okay? Or does everybody just love parts of people? The truth is we love, much of the time in spite of one thing or another. I happen to know for a fact that not everything about me is lovable.

No. Please. Don’t argue.

While we need not deal with a litany of what needs improvement in my personality and habits, suffice it to say I skate by on credit sometimes. You know, she was always so sweet, sort of thing. Which is bullshit, to be honest. I’m not sweet. I’m empathetic and try to be kind. It’s from the heart and it’s part how I was born and part how I was formed. But sweet? No.

I give those I love credit a lot as well. I – we all let things slide. You have to if you’re going to have relationships. However, lines have to be drawn. Not, I suppose on your love. Just – you know – the really important stuff. How much time you give. How much of yourself you put out there and on the line before you say ‘enough.’

How does one know, then, when love turns to, say, abuse? How do you know that someone is using you? How do you know when to turn and say enough? I’ve had enough. You are damaging me, us. This needs to stop. You’re out of line. How do you draw those lines without losing?

I think it’s all about what you’re gaining.

When you draw a line like that you gain yourself.

Of course, if you’re me, you are wracked with guilt for doing so, but you deal and push through.

What does that mean, you ask.

For me it means I come to terms with the fact that someone else’s truth does not diminish mine and vice versa. I’ve told this story before…….. While at a family reunion some years back, my cousin – three years my senior – apologized for treating me badly as a child. It wasn’t a purge on her part. I’m pretty sure her treatment of me hadn’t kept her up at night, though it took its toll on me. I’m not even sure it crossed her mind until that very moment. My cousin, my aunt (also three years my senior) and I were sharing memories of our childhood. There were some good ones – then there was that very large pachyderm in the room when all of us recalled the not so good ones and Sadie (cousin) said, “We didn’t treat you very well when we were kids and I’m sorry.” Her words were clearly a revelation to her. You could see it in her face.

“Thank you,” I said. “I appreciate that.”

That was it. Except, of course, that the aunt threw in a whatever because she never saw treating me badly as doing anything wrong. She still doesn’t, and that’s her truth and I’d say another story but it was actually the beginning of the end of another story.

What Sadie said healed and inspired me. Remember when I said I’m not “perfect?” I had (have) apologies to make and where possible, I made (still make) them. It was probably more important to me than the persons to whom I apologized. I sat down to write one particular note, thinking This man has grown up, become a lawyer, married, had children – all around successful and happy. What could he possibly gain from my apology?

I apologized anyway:

Dear Joe:

I’m writing to apologize for treating you badly when we were children. I realize you’ve lived well and successfully without my words, but it’s come to my attention recently how healing it can be to hear that someone realizes they hurt you once upon a time and regrets the pain they caused. I am sorry.

He wrote back:

Dear Lorie:

Thank you. Your words meant a great deal. Truly, no apology was necessary – kids will be kids – but I appreciate it. I too know the redemptive power of reconciliation and forgiveness.

The kids will be kids thing was magnanimous of him because, let me tell you, I – along with my brother and several other kids – was a little asshole to this guy. He and I don’t have an ongoing relationship now because we never did, but we are positive energy in each other’s collective consciousness. Working toward good.

How, I’ve wondered over the years, do I get to that place with others? Words haven’t worked. With some communication was nonexistent. Not everyone likes to say everything that’s in their head. Go figure. Not everyone can face the top frigging layer of what’s in their heart and mind, let alone get in there deeper, no matter how many times and ways I tried to peal that onion.

I let many of these people go. Not with harsh words and not without feelings of loss. I am talking, after all, about people I love and who supposedly love me. There are ties, both emotional and genetic – neither to be sneezed at – but it eventually came down to survival. It came down to a question of whether or not I wanted to thrive. Did – do – I want to live or do I just want to exist? In the end – or in the beginning – it turned out to be easier than I thought. I mean – it was hard and it hurt – but when I stopped trying to control them and took possession of the fact that I had a choice in the matter there was clarity. I took myself out of the equation. Only in one case did I actually say the words “I’m letting you go with love.” It was a choice I made because the words needed to be said. They were not met with hearts and flowers and phrases like can we please make this work. It was more like middle fingers and kiss my ass.

Which was not unexpected.

You don’t walk out of someone’s life – you don’t tell your truth – without repercussions sometimes. The bottom line is, however, this is MY truth. It doesn’t diminish anyone else’s. It’s mine, though and I had to choose whether or not I was going to live it.

Do I feel happy, good, celebratory, enthusiastic about having walked away from some of the people who were very important to me?

I don’t look at it like that. To be clear, I didn’t give anyone a middle finger even when I wanted to the very, very most and when one considers how much I like the “F Word,” in all its forms, that’s saying something. I let them go. With as much love and peace as I was capable. It still hurts sometimes that we are not in each others’ lives and I have no idea if they miss me as well. Perhaps we’ll somehow circle back around to each other. The most important thing here is that I chose truth. I chose to thrive. I chose finding myself and filling my plate well over living off the scraps from someone else’s table.

I do love to mix metaphors.

We, all of us here on this planet are, as individuals and a collective consciousness, working toward something. When I let go of people (and things and places) it’s an exercise in freedom. When a relationship is becoming or continuing to be toxic it’s a huge drag on anything positive. I can’t move toward the light if part of me insists darkness is okay. My ego wanted so badly to hang in there with these relationships in order to fix what was wrong. Isn’t that my job? To bring light and love to everyone I encounter?

It’s like this – and I love this analogy. If your friend (or sibling or cousin or mother or uncle or spouse, et al) has pneumonia will it help them get better if you get sick too?

(The correct answer is no)

I mean – duh. Seriously.

I walked away for me. Not gonna lie about that. I had spent years – decades – trying to build relationships with people because we were tied by blood and I loved them and we were supposed to be close. Those relationships were the proverbial castles in the sand and I watched as they washed away again and again, only to try and rebuild them because we – well, what I just said. Finally. I stopped.

For me.

The funny thing is that my ego was okay with it. Turns out it’s not as big as I thought. Or it, like the rest of me, was tired of having the shit beat out of it. It checks in every now and then when we stalk someone’s Facebook page to see if they are showing signs of missing me, but mostly we (me, myself and our ego) just move forward with a shrug and love.

Are the people with pneumonia getting better since I stopped trying to be their doctor? If they are it’s not something they’re putting on social media. Again, that’s good because it keeps me free to be free.

I need a lot of checks and balances. Or a keeper, depending on the day.

In answer to my original question about unconditional love. Yes, it exists and I think it can be given but it has to start with unconditional love of self – which is only practical. You cannot give what you don’t have. You must form an acceptance, peace and affection for yourself before you are able to distribute those feelings to anyone else in any real, tangible sense.

I’ll leave you with a couple of my favorite quotes.

Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” Lucille Ball

Love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 21:31

 

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I’m Adventure Girl. Just call me Lorie.

We hiked and camped Havasupai Falls. It was a big deal and it wasn’t. I mean, it was a gritty, dirty, mentally and physically exhausting ordeal that I briefly (for like a couple of hours) thought would kill me. So, yeah. Big Deal. Then, when we got there and my body stopped threatening to quit functioning (thank you Shasta cola),  I looked around and saw that I was practically in Heaven. Still a Big Deal.

What’s not a big deal? My whining and stuff.

I felt so stupid for not being prepared for what this adventure required. I mean, I’ve known we were going to do it since February. I upped my work outs six weeks or so beforehand and I’m in good shape. However there is a s-l-i-g-h-t difference between being “in shape” and what it takes to make it in and out of the Grand Canyon. Twelve miles of rugged terrain with at 40 pound pack on your back? I couldn’t imagine it. Who could?

Turns out my husband had a bit of a clue. Mark kept saying to take a pack to the gym, put weights in it and get on the treadmill or the stepper.

“I do the rower,” I told him. Because that makes perfect sense.
“If you were kayaking the canyon perhaps that would help,” he replied. “You need to work your shoulders more. Skinny chickens have fewer bones than you do on your shoulders.”
“I have broad shoulders,” I said.  To which he replied with what I considered a very sarcastic okay.  “And I do that overhead thingy where you pull it down to your chest and I use 70 pounds. Plus yoga and my circuits on the other machines.”
“I just don’t want you to be surprised.”

I was. Surprised. Shell shocked. To the core of my being and the floor of the canyon. I started out well but only four miles in was fading fast and in spite of being well hydrated, I couldn’t recover from feeling nauseous and weak. Energy chews, hydration tabs, dried fruit and an orange had zero effect. Actual food would have helped but I couldn’t even look at the sandwiches we brought. Kimmy was adamant that we keep moving, though she knew I was in trouble.

“You have to keep going, Mom,” she said. “They will walk right by you on the trail. They rescue nobody out here because so many have just up and quit.”
“I know,” I told her. “And I don’t want to quit.” I leaned over to the right, puked up my orange and we went on.

Three and a half miles further I came upon Kimmy and Monique off to the side. (Monique is a long time friend of Kimmy’s whom we’ve all adopted. She accepted our invitation to join Loran, Kimmy and me on our trip when Olivia was unable to go.) They hiked ahead because I couldn’t keep up and their concern was making me nuts.

“If I hear ‘are you okay’ one more time I’ll summon what strength I have left and belt someone. I’ll get there – just not as fast as you.”

This is, by the way, how the old and the weak were eliminated back in the day, and in this day I counted as both.

I collapsed onto a rock and unbuckled my pack.
“This is the last place you’ll have privacy to pee for a while,” Kimmy said.
Pee? I couldn’t even feel my body anymore. If my bladder was full it would have to phone it in. I was done. Cooked.
“Are you okay,” she asked.
I shook my head.
“I don’t know what to do,” I said. “I know we have to keep going but I’m spent.”
Apparently it showed in my face because both Kimmy and Monique looked worried.
“Where’s Loran,” I asked.
“She went ahead,” Kimmy said. “She had to keep moving or wouldn’t make it she said.”
I nodded. I understood and my brain felt the same way. The problem was it wasn’t completely attached to my body any longer. My brain said to do something and my body told it to fuck off.  A lot.
“Let’s go,” I said. Again – mouth attached to brain – body not listening.
“Can you walk without your pack,” Kimmy asked.
I shrugged then nodded, wondering where she was going with this.
“I’m gonna carry your pack.”
“What?”
“Monique, help me get it on the front of me. Mom, let’s go. Just keep moving. We’re only about two miles from the village.”
So the littlest of my littles had her 46 pound pack on her back and my 40.2 pound pack on her front. That’s where she was going. I was consumed by guilt that could not manifest itself beyond a nagging feeling in the back of my mom brain as we made our way to the little village of Supai. Loran was there waiting and while Kimmy checked us in, ran to a shop and brought me the cola I spoke of earlier. Within minutes of consuming it I felt fine…..ish. I was able to continue and even managed to carry my pack when we got to the falls. It was on a sharp descent for about two tenths of the last freaking mile. Kimmy insisted she could do it but all I could see was her slipping and rolling all the way down the hill, end over end. She is my daughter after all.

When we finally reached the campsite we hung up hammocks, threw in sleeping bags, had a snack and collapsed into an awesome damn sleep. When we woke I was sure it had to be like 8:00 at night. It was 2:00 in the afternoon and the beginning of time not being an issue for three whole days. Phones didn’t matter. Work didn’t matter. Responsibility didn’t matter. Hiking mattered. Swimming in 65 degree pools of ancient blue water mattered. Wine and tequila and jerky and staying hydrated mattered. Jokes and stories and blisters and looking up at the stars every night while I fell asleep mattered. I didn’t fit well into my hammock. We couldn’t figure out why because it was the same one Kimmy had and hers cocooned around her. I guess that extra half a foot of legs and my linebacker shoulders made the difference. It wasn’t as comfortable as it might have been had I purchased a hammock in the ‘Tall’ section of REI but I managed in an I Love Lucy Goes Camping sort of way.  My piece of night sky made it worth every adjustment and readjustment.

I lay there the first night missing Mark like crazy, wondering what in the world I thought I was doing in the wilderness without him. I should mention here that we went to sleep just after dark. In spite of our nap, the lack of sleep the night before and a 12 mile hike (plus wine for the others, tequila for me) drove us back into our hammocks right after supper. We’d walked back to Havasupai falls for happy hour and jumped into the pool just below for the first time. I was hoping for some sort of religious experience out of this trip and decided the fact that I survived the hike, then jumping into freezing cold water didn’t kill me either would suffice for the first day.  Looking up at the stars, thinking I’d never be able to fall asleep, I decided to just be grateful for the amazing experience thus far. What my body had been through, what I’d been able to power through, what I witnessed my daughter power through – I truly had no words. Except thank you. I sent them out to the Universe – to my God, however uncertain I am of what and who that is – and literally, before I knew it, it was the next morning.

We spent the next two days exploring, hiking, while I stretched muscles that were screaming at me to sit the hell down. Kimmy, Loran and Monique were fine once they got a little sleep. Loran hurt her foot on the hike in, so she had to nurse that, but otherwise they behaved like people in their 20’s.

Bitches.

We played card games and Loran won, of course, because she’s like that. We played other word and sight games and talked about stuff and because Monique likes to speak with a Syracuse NY accent, we all did (difficult habit to break, btw) and that’s about as specific as I can be because I understand the rule now. What happens in camp stays in camp. There was nothing bad or crazy or earth shattering. It was simply private and for me, because these are my girls, precious. I felt a twinge now and then because Olivia wasn’t there, but Monique was and it all felt very meant to be. We will do this again and my baby and our Monique (she adopted us too) will both be with us.

We talked about the women who came west in the 1800’s, doing what we were doing and decided they were complete idiots. I mean, we walked a few miles in a well ordered and populated area, dressed in leggings and tank tops, having driven to the canyon in Kimmy’s brand new SUV.  They traversed all kinds of landscape, grief stricken at having literally walked away from their families and everything they’d ever known, attired in dresses and undergarments that weighed 10 to 15 pounds all by themselves, knowing nothing about what awaited them at the end of each day, let alone for the rest of their lives.

Who does that?

There was no feminist uprising but it was definitely a feminine-centric four days where we were free to talk about anything we wanted and many times simply chose silence. We all have lives. We all have secrets that we don’t and really feel no compulsion to share. There were the moments on the various trails we took where looking around and taking in – well – everything was all we could do. I was and am humbled by the beauty of our earth. I was also forced to see the changing earth and am deeply troubled by it.

The whole experience was, more than anything, about allowing the thoughts that came into my mind to do so and then leave. In the creek by our campsite sat a partially submerged picnic table. I waded out to it daily and sat with my lower extremities in the cold ass water, just staring. There was nothing to do. I had nothing to do. Nowhere to be. No work to be done. No distraction needed. The universe – and my constantly overly stimulated cranium contents gave me permission to be.

To be.

And the thoughts rolled. Same old thoughts, some good, some troubling, just – the stuff. But I was sitting in ancient water, turned blue/green by several sciencey things that I’ve heard and don’t remember, so the thoughts were less animated than usual. Less threatening.  Not to mention that dealing with anything out of the canyon involved hauling my ass out of it and I thought it best not to dwell on the exit hike. I just sat in the water and promised my calves, quads and hamstrings they would feel better and the rumor that we were going to have to walk an additional 12 miles in a few days was a dirty lie. Funny enough, they believed every word I said.

Just like Olivia when she was four and I convinced her that Fred was her real name.

Can I talk about the camp food? It was pretty great, actually. Kimmy did an amazing job organizing and then cooking. As a novice I got to pretty much watch this time. I may have milked the “this is my first backpacking trip” thing to an extreme, but seriously – I gave her life.

My favorite things were the snacks. Jerky and dried mango slices. Pretty sure I could have survived on those alone. Did you know there’s such a thing as organic, nitrate-free, gluten-free jerky that tastes amazing? I have loved jerky since childhood when taking Saturday outings with my dad to music stores and car repair places. One of the stores we’d hit was in Cuba, NY and owned by Dad’s bass player Ivan. I don’t remember Ivan’s last name but he was kind and he gave Mike and me candy and soda and beef jerky. Then I grew up and that shit was bad for you. Full disclosure, it’s still chock full of sodium, but the cancer causing chemicals have been removed so I’m down. I ate a goodly amount of the stuff at Havasupai and I’m not sure if it was the actual jerky or the memory of Saturdays with Dad and Ivan and Mike that had me smiling like a six-year-old at Christmas every time we opened a package of it.

It’s so much easier to make me happy in the wilderness.

What can I say about the hike out? First of all I’ll say our backpacks went out on the mules. Super important factor there. I’m sure it saved my life because, loved one or not, during the last two miles where you’re walking up a steady grade to climb out of the canyon, the only thing keeping a person going is the promise of pizza and beer at an incredible spot in Flagstaff. Someone slowing you down to a crawl might be someone who is left to make her own way home, even if, as she reminds you, she did spend 17 hours in labor to – what did I say earlier? Oh. Yes. Give you life.

Even without the packs it was no picnic. My legs felt like pieces of wood. I kept thinking, What the hell Gepetto, you told me I was a real boy.

And I never hit my stride. That was the thing I wasn’t prepared for. Looking back at all the mistakes I made for the hike in, I understood why it didn’t happen. I was sure it would be different on the way out and it was, of course, to a certain extent. I didn’t throw up thanks to the Coke we bought the day before and nothing seized up thanks to the bottles of Gatorade and the electrolyte tablets. But that place during a run or a hike in the Superstitions when my physical and mental seem to come together and all thought drops away, simply wouldn’t come. For a while I blamed on the Chatty Cathy hiking behind me, you know, chatting.  Jesus.  For miles.  Please, God, make her get a cramp or something. She’s driving me nuts. I finally stopped to “tie my shoe” and let her and her very quiet companion go by because I just couldn’t give a crap about her roommate’s cousin’s wedding where she met this guy and spent the weekend at the beach and what was in his head that he didn’t call back.  I’d have tripped her just for fun but then she’d have had to stop and recover and would have been behind me again.

Meanwhile back on the trail I concentrated on breathing and the purging of thoughts. They come in, they go out. No judgement, just flow. Very yogic, very zen. Waiting for my stride to kick in. It’s almost here.  Here it – nope.  Not yet.  Okay.  Just keep going.  Just keep going.  Keep going.  Keep.  Going.

Nothin’.

I caught up with the girls – or rather, they stopped to wait for me. Yay. We can take a br-

“Wait! Where are you going?”
“Break’s over,” Kimmy said. “Let’s keep moving.”
“But I – ”
“Yeah, don’t even try, Mom.” Loran stayed with me as we watched Kimmy and Monique move off down the trail. “Attila the Hun walked slower than sister.” She was joking and I wanted to laugh but my laughing muscles hurt.
“I don’t understand why we have to walk so fast,” I whined. I had no desire or intention of trash talking my daughter as her not-hurting-at-all body walked away on her used-to-this legs, but it was hard. My brain was suddenly a mean stranger and if I wasn’t going to find and hit my stride and it was no longer Chatty Cathy’s fault, somebody had to pay.
“It’s all right,” Loran said. “Catch your breath and we’ll go in a minute. Remember, though, you do have to power through. If we stop every few minutes we’ll never make it out of here.”
“Right,” I said. “Power through.”

Power through.

And there it was.

Not my stride – that never did show up. It was the religious experience I’d been waiting for. There were no rainbows, no angels singing, no sudden and amazing peace. There was sand and rocks and cacti and my swollen feet, and sweat and about half way up the canyon, after I’d sent the girls on ahead for the last leg of this shit, tears of frustration, swear words, requests for spiritual help and fortitude sent out to every last dead person who “owed” me (things got a little fuzzy) and several disjointed Hail Mary’s. Half a mile or so from the top a young couple passed me and encouraged me to hang in there.

“You’re almost to the top,” the girl said.
“Ffffff.” I stopped myself. I couldn’t tell their perkiness to eff off.

Power through, Lorie. You got this. It was nothing I hadn’t said to myself a thousand times in the last few hours but this time I believed me at least a little.

“Listen,” I said to the couple as they stood there munching on their energy bars and not sweating like goats.  “When you get to the top you’ll find three women waiting for me and possibly looking a bit anxious in case they really did abandon their giver of life and she’s laying dead on the trail. Tell them they’re out of the will.”

The couple laughed, which had the desired effect on me. I love it when people get my jokes. I looked behind me for the hundredth time that day because as delusional as the physical exertion was making me, seeing where I’d been was an amazing thing. I’d walked that. As I was taking in the moment I heard someone yell “Mule!”

Shit.

The goddamned mule train was less than a quarter of a mile behind me and I knew those guys moved at a pace even Kimmy couldn’t maintain. I was not going to let my pack beat me out of the canyon when it had started the journey a good two hours behind. I limped on.

Here is where the “spirit is willing but the flesh is weak,” b.s. really came into play. In my head I was already at the top, jumping up and down, high-fiving the girls, throwing our crap in the car and heading to Flagstaff for the best tasting beer ev-er. My body though?

Had………..no………..more…………breath……..

So the mules caught me. On one of the narrowest parts of the damn trail. I jumped up on a stone wall and pinned myself to the side of the canyon with amazing dexterity for one so lame and exhausted. My will to live had apparently returned. After the animals and their tail wind moved on I finished my journey. I walked with slow small steps that were all my legs and hips would allow. Sweat had saturated my clothes and I’m pretty sure I’d never been quite so dirty. Discomfort was my only emotion and every brain cell was fixated on the very second I’d get to take those goddamned hiking boots off and – what’s that? I heard cheering.

“Whoo-hoo! Mom! You made it! You did it! You’re amazing!”

Aw, it was nothing.

I looked up and there were my three best friends that anyone could have. We high-fived and hugged and took pictures and told each other how awesome we were and how bad we smelled. At the car we changed into dry, clean clothes in front of God and everyone. Kimmy told me to at least turn away from the road as I changed bras – does anyone see the irony here? I just shrugged – way too tired to care what anyone saw or might have been frightened by.

It was over. But I felt a new freedom – reference the nudity mentioned above – and accomplishment that’s hard to put into words. Oh. Here’s one.

Pain.

We drove home on heated seats. Thank God and Subaru for those. Having pretty severely injured both my hamstrings years ago, it’s difficult for me to sit for any length of time on a given day. Driving and riding long distance takes some creative planning, stretching and sometimes contortionist movements so we don’t have to stop every 15 minutes. I’d have never made it the five hours it took to drive home, even with the stop in Flagstaff, if not for those heated seats. And can I say it seemed like the height of pleasurable indulgence to have the air conditioning on so we could all enjoy the warmth on our tushies.

Since we got home I’ve hugged that experience to me. Havasupai was a sort of rebirth. It’s here, I thought to myself. It’s time. My time. I found a little bit of myself I figured time had erased and at first I called her Adventure Girl. Adventure Girl has no (well not very much) fear and she’s weaved her way back into my brain and life in ways that have allowed me to do what I do with a larger sense of purpose and an ability to focus on the larger part of that phrase. In other words I’m living in gratitude more often than despair. I don’t have to keep fear at bay because gratitude and faith allow me to power through things that used to stop me in my tracks. I’ve reclaimed – myself, my responsibility, my privilege, my life. I am the journey and every day is an adventure.

I am Adventure Girl. But I just call me Lorie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We Have Nowhere Else To Go

As I sit here staring at my computer screen, trying to come up with just the right words to say in as concise a way as possible, the actual truth of what is going on in our country regarding racism/misogyny/classism/homophobia/hatred, our president, global warming, the possibility of nuclear conflict with a country run by a guy who resembles and speaks like the kid who was continuously shoved in a locker in 7th grade and a media who vacillates between responsible reporting and egging everyone on, I find – I got nothin.

Okay. That’s not true and all 23 of us know it. (Readership for the last few blogs has gone up. Thank you.)

I have a lot to say but it’s not concise, it’s not going to please everyone and it is going to be punctuated liberally with the F Word. You’ve been warned.

I can give you the bottom line.

We have nowhere else to go.

So, yeah, we better figure this out.

Let’s start with the white issue as it’s the Big One at the moment.

Dear Every White Man Who Cares About This:

I do not want your shit. I do not want to replace you. You have owned something called ‘having the automatic advantage in every situation known to humankind since God knows when by simple virtue of the color of your skin and the gender with which you entered the world.’ I have no desire to take it from you. I simply want you to share said something. The really good thing about it all is there is enough for everybody. You’ve read the saying that states, roughly, sharing basic human rights with everybody doesn’t mean you get less. It’s not pie? What that means is, sharing basic human rights with everybody doesn’t mean you get less. It’s not pie.

Love,
Women, People of every imaginable color, LGBTQ Community, People of other countries, those with British accents, Serbian accents, those with moles, Baptists, Catholics, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Canadians, athiests, Indigenous Peoples, those who meditate, those who mediate, those with disabilities, those with alternate abilities, et al.

I watched the men and women – there were women present in Charlottesville marching with the white supremacists – as they chanted things like “Jews will not replace us.”

As what? What does that even mean? Honestly, I asked the white guys I know and am close to and they have no fucking idea. Mostly they just shake their heads and wonder, as do I, why we can’t all just work hard and play harder.

And just for all y’all history buffs who consider the tearing down of statues of Confederate soldiers and Confederate flags an affront to either the “truth” of American history or an insult to “southern culture,” come the hell on.

Robert E. Lee and all whom he commanded committed treason against the United States of America. They fought for a system of government that supported and defended enslaving human beings based on the color of their skin. That enslavement included the buying and selling of people as if they were horses or cows or plows. Husbands and wives were separated, mothers and fathers were sold away from children too young to comprehend what slavery was. Women were bred like farm animals, raped and abused by their “owners” because it was the “owners’” “right” to do what he liked to those held in bondage. Men, women and children were forbidden to learn to read and write and could be and were beaten within an inch of their lives for defying this or any other order given by their white “masters.” They were forced to practice Christianity and had to give up the culture and religious practices handed down from their forebears. This went on for 200 years!

Read the above paragraph again. Now tell me you want one statue commemorating that crap, let alone hundreds.  To be clear and factual, the majority of those statues were erected during the Jim Crow era that started in the late 19th century and the Civil Rights era in the 1960’s.  Funded by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the statues were part of an intimidation program that stated loud and clear on local and state levels that in spite of what the federal laws were, African Americans were still considered less than white people to those in power in the south.

Someone posted, “No white person alive today owned a slave. No black person alive today was a slave. We can’t move forward if people want to keep living in the past.”

Though I know the person who posted the meme wasn’t doing so in the name of the “alt-left” (whatever that is) I couldn’t agree more. Let’s live in the now. Let’s take down the monuments to a way of life that was so abhorrent it inspires actual, physical nausea more than 150 years after it ended.

Jesus, how in the world are we not further along the road of equality one and a half centuries later? How have history books not been rewritten to reflect the truth of what happened to Native Americans, African Americans and women? In the late 90’s I saw the movie “Snow Falling on Cedars.” Until then I didn’t realize that during WWII Japanese American families (many of whom had members fighting for our country) were interned in camps all over the United States. Incarcerated because of their ethnic and genetic heritage. You know, the same war that segregated African Americans and Native Americans from those with white skin even though they were all fighting for the same side?

But we’ve come so far.

Right?

It’s common sense, really. It’s The Golden Rule.

Did you ever notice that when speaking of said Rule, the T in “The” is capitalized? Because this isn’t just any old rule. It’s THE Rule. THE ONE.

“Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.” Some form of the same is principal in every religion from Christianity, Judaism, Islam to Bahai faith to Confucianism and Wicca. It’s part of Humanism and Existentialism and can be found in the history of almost every ancient culture.

Treat others as you’d have them treat you. Love your neighbor as yourself.

What goes around comes around. Karma is a bitch.

Do you see how these are connected?

It does beg the question, if we treat our neighbors badly, if we don’t love our neighbors, yet we say we believe in The above Rule, what, exactly, do we think of ourselves? Now, there’s a perspective, huh? Which, you’re welcome, I don’t have the energy for today.

Listen, it’s not complicated. Be nice. Be kind. Be fair. Do everything, absolutely everything in the name of love. Love of self, love of others. Love of God, Buddha, The Universe or a frigging dining room chair. I don’t care. Just. Love.

And……

Keep things in perspective.

There is much good in this world – in this country. While there is division there is also unity, though they won’t show you much of that on the evening news – or the morning news for that matter and certainly not on your Facebook feed. I don’t know what the exact ratio is, but I’ll estimate that for every 15 negative stories there will be a story of hope or faith or goodness or just something funny broadcasted. Additionally, humans are programmed by nature to look for the bad stuff. It’s our survival instinct. If we know what we’re facing we can protect ourselves. Thankfully we can also protect ourselves by knowing what’s positive, by being positive. This, of course, doesn’t mean hiding our heads in the sand and ignoring what needs to be done, but remember, what we focus on flourishes. I have friends who calls themselves resistors. That’s what they do and I find it completely exhausting and an ultimate way to fail at everything because they are focused on telling people how wrong they are. They’re not focused on an issue.  They’re focused on resisting so that’s what they get to do. I much prefer Mother Teresa’s approach. She said she wouldn’t march against war but if someone told her where to show up and march for peace, she’d be there. Every time. There’s an important difference.

What are you for?

I have a feeling what we’re all for is a lot closer than it seems. As we all move forward, toward that which means the most to us all as individuals and as a society, remember,

One: The Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Two: As I stated at the beginning of this and as I used to tell my daughters when they were in the middle of a knock down, drag out, fist-doubled, phone throwing fight – we might as well figure this out because we, very literally, have nowhere else to go.

 

 

 

 

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