Why I March

This Saturday, people will take to to march and create a visible symbol of the power of women.  I will be part of that march.

I became acquainted with feminism in my early twenties.  I was in a very oppressive relationship although I didn’t recognize it at the time. The brother of my boyfriend gave me a book titled “Fire with Fire:The New Female Power and How to Use It” by Naomi Wolf. Wolf explained how women make up 51% of the population- a majority at the time equal to seven million additional votes.    Wolf wrote “If there is to be a gender war in politics, a 2 percent advantage, nationally, and a bonus of seven million votes, means that the side that best represented the spectrum of women’s wishes would win” (p. 14).

I was CHARGED by this number.  I still am when I think about it in a raw, numbers-only scenario.  How is it that with that POWER we are still having to stage marches to make our voices heard?

At first, I was not going to march.  I came out of this election cycle completely disillusioned with the political system.  I’m sorry to say that has not changed.  I can’t even really follow the news right now because it just makes me so disheartened when I see the latest round of bullshit promoted as progress.  But this is not about Trump or Hillary for me.  I may not have faith in politics, but I do believe in the goodness of people.

When I finally decided I was going, just yesterday, I was all in.  If I was marching, I was going to rally friends to walk with me, make a sign, the whole works.  When I contacted friends to join, I was met with a lot of hesitation.  One friend told me something along the lines of, “I’m not much of a marcher.  They are usually a lot of work and don’t really offer much pay off.”

I couldn’t argue with her.  Just figuring out where to park for the march is turning out to be a nightmare.  Trump will be officially inaugurated the day before the Women’s March.  I don’t hold out a lot of hope for the leader of our country looking out for women when he says things like “grab them by the pussy.”  Am I just wasting a perfectly good Saturday by attending this rally?

No.  Resounding NO!  Not that I fault my friends who opt not to go because we all have limited free time and have a right to spend it doing the things we deem most important.  But there are two things that reaffirmed the choice for me.

First, I read an article from my favorite magazine, BUST, talking about how marches will occur in 600+ cities around the world.

http://bust.com/blog/18893-womens-march-global-sister-marches.html

600+ cities around the world!!!!  That means on a global level, people are coming together to say women matter! I will not consider my Saturday wasted to be a part of that.

I can’t imagine being within a group that is coming together to seek change, to support each other, to acknowledge our power will leave me feeling anything less than inspired.I don’t know about you, but my life could use a little inspiration.

I found the second item when I was searching for a message for a sign.  I looked up some posters people had already made.  I searched for famous quotes on feminism and hope, but I just couldn’t find the thing that spoke to me.  I wanted my sign to be personal.

I’ve been painting scenes on rocks from famous children’s stories.  Lately, I’ve been obsessed with Ramona Quimby as she was my childhood hero.  On a whim, I googled Ramona quotes.  I came across this picture and quote and found my perfect sign inspiration:

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“Say it loud, make them hear you.”

What better way to say it loud, to make them hear us, than to shout from more than 600 cities across the globe.

Even if nothing comes from this other than me connecting with other women who feel passionate about speaking up for ourselves, that’s considered a win in my book.

To leave you with another quote, “We can not all succeed when half of us are held back,” Malala Yousafzai.

Women still do not earn the same wage for the same work as men.  We still have to fight to make choices about our own bodies.  Across the globe, girls are still not being educated alongside boys.  The list goes on and on.  I march to show these issues matter to me, a visible symbol of my alliance.

Whether you march or not, do not be afraid to speak.  We still live in an age where polite people don’t talk about politics. Where good girls don’t cause trouble. I’m sorry, but fuck that.

Say it loud, make them hear you.

 

 

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It Came Just the Same- More Adventures in Whole 30

These lines have been running through my head all week:

“He HADN’T stopped Christmas from coming!

IT CAME!

Somehow or other, it came just the same!”

No, I wasn’t extending the holidays.  I’m talking about the dreaded week every month when normal Kat goes on vacation, only to be replaced by her irritable, overly sensitive, dramatic doppelganger.  I had hoped with all this clean living and over the top optimism, somehow my moodiness would fade into the background.  But no.  It came.  It came just the same.

Ok, not quite the same.  I would say overall, the hormonal crabbiness was better this month.  Instead of full days of breathing fire, my irritability was relegated to a few specific moments.  Improvement is good.  But after feeling SO GOOD they first two weeks on Whole 30, I guess I had bright-eyed dreams of just skipping over that danger zone week entirely.  Yes, it was a far fetched idea, but I prefer to think big.

I’ve talked with other friends around my same age (I am 42) and was surprised to find similarities in our experience.  It seemed as soon as we entered our 40’s what used to be a manageable part of life became this crazed monster.  Crying.  Flying off the handle.  Being in a bad mood.  No patience.  One week every month where outsiders might want to keep their distance.

I was flooded with relief when I did some reading and discovered, no, we’re not just getting bitchy in our old age.  It’s perimenopause.  It’s an actual thing.  Increased irritability and risk of depression.  Weight gain, particularly in the abdomen.  Sleep problems.  Dry who-ha’s, and incontinence problems.  This all sounds so awesome!  And it can come on a full ten years before you go through actual menopause.  Yeah! Another win for the ladies!

The irritability was one of the major reasons for me to try Whole 30.  A week every month of just not feeling good is a lot.  If somehow my diet could improve that week, I wanted in.  And it did improve.  But Whole 30 is not a magic wand.

What I noticed is that instead of being straight up grouchy, I was more sensitive this month.  Let me be careful to say, I don’t know if it is diet related.  I need more time in this lifestyle to affirm that.  I am simply describing changes I saw this month.  I noticed instead of flying off the handle, yelling, etc, I was more likely to feel hurt when people did something to me I deemed insensitive.  Things that would have normally rolled off my back adhered.  There were less of those instances, and I felt more patient in handling them, but they were there.

I thought the food would be the difficult part of the Whole 30, but I am finding social interactions are one of the more challenging aspects.  The food continues to be delicious, provided I make time to shop and prepare.  But eating differently than your friends makes them feel uncomfortable.  I don’t know quite how to word it.  They seem to take on guilt for the shortcomings they feel in their own diets, even if their diets are fine and I have not implied otherwise.  And they seem to feel almost angry for my lifestyle change, at the very least annoyed.  I think they miss party girl Kat (I miss her too sometimes), as my motto has always been eat, drink and be merry.  Maybe they feel like they don’t know me as this person?

I went out to dinner with some girlfriends last week.  I chose a specific restaurant where I knew it would be easy for me to find something on the menu, but it was a place we normally dine at.  At first, it was just me and one other gal perusing the menu.  Another friend arrived a few minutes late.  The first friend’s face relaxed in relief as she said “Thank god you showed up.  I really wanted to have a drink but didn’t feel like I could,” as she jokingly motioned toward me.  I guess she felt like if it was just her and me, she needed to mimic my eating habits.  But with another friend, she had the strength in numbers to eat and drink how she wanted.

I have noticed people do not feel like they can drink around me, eat certain things around me, as if I am going to turn into some raging carboholic who rips the bottle from their hands while jamming brownies chubby-bunny-style into my mouth.  Some of this I know is people trying to be respectful and supportive of my change, and I appreciate that.  But when it creates distance within my relationships, it isn’t really helpful.

One of my friends said “I wish you were struggling with it.”  Internally I thought thanks for the support!  But as I talked to her more, I got to the heart of the matter.  She saw me making changes, and it made her feel like she should be changing too, but she didn’t believe she could.  That is something I understand.  But everyone comes to things in their own time.  And as much as I hate to admit it, if I looked like her, no matter how horribly I felt, I probably would not be trying to make these changes.  She is thin and toned without trying and it makes me jealous. I tried the Whole 30 because I just didn’t feel good.  But as the weeks go on, I find myself being tempted at the idea of losing weight, and I HATE those thoughts entering my mind.  I hate that I have not overcome that type of thinking for myself.  It is strange how much of our identity is tied to how we look and what we eat.

Even when it is not outwardly projected by friends, there are social challenges I present to myself. My husband and I had a date night this past weekend.  The date illustrated perfectly how much of our lives revolve around eating and drinking.  Normally we would visit a new brewery to sample beers, or meet up with friends for happy hour.  How were we going to have a date with no booze involved?

We opted to stay home, play Scrabble and cook- all things we really enjoy.  The food continues to be fantastic.  Here is this week’s obligatory food pic, spaghetti squash noodles with pesto (no Parmesan), grilled chicken, and salad with tangelos, pomegranate seeds and balsamic vinaigrette:

 

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Over dinner, we discussed our “after plan” for when our 30 days is completed.  Because even though I have enjoyed the Whole 30 plan, there are things I miss and would like to enjoy.  But figuring that out is hard.  It is weird to think that denying everything (sugar, grains, booze, etc) is easier than having those things in appropriate amounts.  I’d love to have a couple of beers a week, a treat every now and then, but I have a hard time saying no after one.  Eat one cookie, eat a dozen cookies.  Hoping that this stint on Whole 30 will build confidence in me that I can say no and set limits.  Ideally, I’d love to follow an 80/20 plan- eat whole and healthy 80% of the time, allow 20% of the time to eat exactly what I want.  Seems like a good compromise.

This week, time got away from me one evening, and it was 5:45pm before I even thought about cooking.  I was too drained from the day and ordered a pizza.  No, I did not eat the pizza.  I ate one of my frozen meals while I watched my sons tear into a delicious cheesy heavenly smelling pizza with bacon on top.  And I felt very deprived.  For a few minutes.  Then I remembered its 30 days.  I will eat pizza again.  Its not the end of the world.  In fact, it’s just plain silly.

Hoping this irritability, hyper-sensitivity thing is on its way out the door, and return of the uber annoying good mood is just around the corner.  Happy eating!

 

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The Not Quite Whole 30

I have become one of those annoying happy people.  The kind that says “Good Morning” instead of looking at the floor with my headphones firmly in place so as to block all chances of conversational interaction.  I know, I can’t believe it either.  Traitor.

I am in a good mood.  Not just good, but like animated birds landing on my shoulder to sing duets.  Possibilities of breaking out into a dance routine on the streets.  Yup, that good.

So, what happened?

I started the Whole 30.  In case you were wondering, yes, you will hate me by the end of this post.

If you are not familiar with the Whole 30, it is basically an elimination diet.  For 30 days, I have pledged to abstain from grains, dairy, sugar, legumes, alcohol, soy and processed food.  Instead, I eat lean meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.  After 30 days, I am to slowly introduce those foods back into my diet to monitor for intolerance.  The idea is to give my body 30 days to heal from all the junk I’ve been pouring into it, reset, and then find a path to a healthier lifestyle that works for me.

I first heard about the Whole 30 two years ago, and my initial reaction was No Fucking Way!  Beer.  Cheese.  Cupcakes.  These are dietary staples for me.  I couldn’t conceive of giving them up for 30 hours, let alone 30 days.

Most of the people I know who have done Whole 30 are already very healthy people.  I don’t know if they eat Whole 30 just to be assholes doing the nutritional equivalent of making you feel their bicep, or if they have some sort of legitimate reason for  taking it to the next level.  But I do know Taco Bell is probably not considered their office (yes, that is what I call it), and they don’t finish a run and re-hydrate by popping open a beer.  Can a die-hard beer drinking, carb loving, chubby gal like myself hack the Whole 30?

I want to punch myself for admitting this, but so far, I really like it.  I have not felt deprived at all.  I love that there is no calorie counting, no points, no numbers.  As long as I’m eating the foods from the program, I can eat as much as I want, as often as I want.

If anything, I’ve been eating much better food than I normally eat. Generally if I am trying to be healthier, I opt for salads or yogurt for lunch.  The thing, is, I don’t really enjoy salads or yogurt all that much.  I kind of choke them down because that’s what I think I’m supposed to do.  But with the Whole 30 I’m cooking a lot of super delicious stuff.  I make food I can’t wait to eat.  I sit around thinking about when it will be lunch time so I can finally gobble it down.

It reminds me of when my kids first started solid foods.  I made at least 80% of their baby food, wanting their first bites to be fresh, delicious, and full of nutrients.  For the first time in many years, it feels like I am taking care of me and being that nurturing parent to myself.

People keep asking me what I eat.  I think they envision me sadly nibbling a piece of lettuce while smelling the discarded wrapper of a candy bar.  Basically, I went on-line and found a lot of recipes that I would want to eat that just happen to fit into this program.  A couple of nights ago I made chicken curry and roasted cauliflower- both foods I REALLY enjoy.  I love spaghetti and meatballs.  On my first day of Whole 30, I made a HUGE batch of meatballs and homemade tomato sauce.  Sometimes I eat them just like that, others I add spaghetti squash noodles.  On mornings when I have time, I fry a couple of over easy eggs and a piece or two of prosciutto (minimally processed, Whole 30 compliant prosiutto- because not all foods are created equally. I’m getting very good at reading labels).  I slice an avocado and squeeze some fresh tangelo juice from my tree.  Who wouldn’t want that for breakfast?

Don’t get it twisted.  It is a huge commitment of time and money.  The last two Sundays, I have spent a good portion of the day shopping and cooking.  I try to cook 2-3 meals on Sunday so that I can freeze entrees and have food ready to eat for the next week.  I don’t feel deprived because I am willing to plan ahead.  I am curious to see if I can keep that up and make it routine, or if at some point I tire from the extra preparation.  I can see it going either way.

Before we go any further, I’ve got some disclosures to make.  First, I am 11 days in.  According to my cycle, this is about the time each month when my mood shifts to off-the-charts bitchy, and I want to jam every food in sight into my mouth.  So by this time next week, you might see a photo of my face down in a pie with my children ugly face sobbing in the background because mommy has completely lost her shit.  We are entering the witching hour.  The faint of heart should retreat.

Second, I planned a specific cheat on the Whole 30- a big no no.  The program advises that you do not even fathom the possibility of a slip up.  It’s only 30 days, and for that month, you should commit without failure.  But pre-Whole 30, my friend bought me a ticket for an event called “Spirits with the Spirits”- a cocktail party with a medium serving as the entertainment.  I saw her crestfallen face when I said I was going to be doing the Whole 30.  That was all the motivation I needed to decent.  I had one evening of decadence and it was delicious.

To my surprise, I hopped right back on the Whole 30 wagon.  I am currently debating whether I have to start over from that point, or just keep going as if it never happened.  The fact that I’m even conflicted about it speaks to how much I am liking the program.  I actually feel like I could do that extra week and have it not be a big deal.  Who am I?

My battle with Whole 30 has nothing to do with the food, but with my head.  It is forcing me to examine my relationship with food and my body- a topic I would be glad to avoid.

I find a lot of strength in the Body Positive community.  My FB feed is filled with posts about every body being a good body, regardless of size, shape, color, etc.  As a person who has resorted to unhealthy behaviors to fit a specific mold, I need that message.  With the turn of the New Year, many of these sites began to point out the shame and self loathing behind the idea of “New Year- New You” diet plans.  Their point being that the “you” that you are right now is good enough and worthy simply because you are a human being.  Instead of focusing on depriving yourself of things you love, why not focus on filling your life with practices to enrich it- taking a dance class you’ve always wanted to try or learning to paint.  Am I cheating on this movement by engaging in not just a restrictive diet, but THE restrictive diet?

I found one answer that exists in both the Body Positive and the Whole 30 communities- I do not have to justify my eating choices to anyone.  I know it sounds simple, but it is a big idea for me.  My choices are mine.  If they serve me in a way that makes ME happy, that is all the confirmation I need.

Yes, the Whole 30 is restrictive and at first, I couldn’t understand why.  Does it really matter if I cheat and put a little milk in my coffee?  On the small scale, no, I doubt it.  But by putting those restrictions on, and by making a commitment to not falter in the program, it is forcing me to think differently.  I am discovering options I really enjoy that I would never have known about had I not taken up the program.  I kind of like black coffee now.  Last night, I made tacos for my family.  As I looked over the cheese, sour cream and tortillas, I wondered what I could do to replicate those flavors and textures in a Whole 30 meal.  I opted to roast some potatoes for my carb, mix with the taco meat, and top with avocado (for the creaminess), salsa and purple cabbage.  I loved it so much, I ate the leftovers for breakfast with a fried egg on top.  Here is an obligatory food photo:

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I keep coming back to why I started the program, and it has nothing to do with not liking my body or wanting to lose weight.  I am trying Whole 30 because I just did not feel good.

I am a person that enjoys exercise and could not find the energy to exercise.  My irritability is off the charts at specific times in my cycle.  On those days, I feel like I need to post a sign warning people not to interact with me.  My antidepressants did not seem to be working.  My allergies are out of control.  Getting to sleep is a constant battle.

I started reading up on perimenopause, and many of those things are normal.  But they can also last for up to ten years!  I do not want to be a raging, tired bitch for ten years.  I also went back to work this fall, and I know that plays a part in this.  But that is not going to change, so I have to come up with a game plan to combat these challenges.

My initial thought was change your antidepressant.  And that’s not a bad thought.  Antidepressants help millions of people, including me.  But I also feel like I should be doing everything I can before relying on meds.  I needed to examine my life and figure out what things are bringing me joy and what things are bringing me down.

If I am honest, the possibility of losing weight is enticing.  I find myself fantasizing about being a thinner me- what clothes I could wear that I haven’t been able to fit into, the possibility of not having to strategically pose in photographs.  I am constantly being beckoned to the dark side and have to remind myself if this is not about weight.  The Whole 30 advises you to weigh yourself only on the first day and last day of the program and to take before and after photos.  I worry all the time about how I will feel if I get to day 30 and haven’t lost any weight and don’t look any different.  Will I consider myself a failure?

I hope I can get past that.  Because the results are real and should count for more than any number on a scale.  I FEEL GREAT.  Friends are remarking on the change  in my mood.  One of the biggest indicators came from the kids at the preschool where I work.  Kids want to be around happy people.  Last week, I looked around and noticed that out of sixteen kids, twelve were in my area.  I was having a blast, and so were the kids around me- children were getting sucked into the gravitational pull of fun.

On Sunday, I took my kids to a park with some friends.  I excused myself to use the restroom.  As I washed my hands in the sink, I noticed some writing on the wall next to me.  The author had penned in Sharpie the words “How do I stop myself from cutting? Help!”  Next to it, someone wrote “Use a rubber band.”  Another person offered the advice “You find something better.”

As I walked back to the playground, I thought about those words.  At first, I was struck by the advice of using a rubber band- seemed like a decent, practical, surface solution.  I wouldn’t have thought of that.  But I couldn’t stop thinking of the original question.  How undeniably sad to be so desperate and alone to seek help by writing on a bathroom wall.  I felt pain for the person who wrote it.  I came back to the thought of not needing to justify my choices for anyone else.  We all have the right to find happiness however we choose.  Joy is something to be grateful for.  It can disappear in an instant.  If I am finding joy in this program, relish it.  If and when it disappears, find something else.  That’s how life works.

It remains to be seen if I can actually complete a Whole 30.  But today, I am happy.  I am thankful for this body.  I want to continue doing a better job taking care of it and considering its needs a priority.  On that note, this body wants to go for a bike ride.  Quit typing bitch and go outside!

May joy find you today wherever you are!

 

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The Long List of RIPs

When I heard of Carrie Fisher passing, I didn’t feel much.  Which is maybe not so strange.  I didn’t know her. I wasn’t a friend or family member.  I glanced over the many tributes on Facebook and various webpages, and oscillated between bummed and slight annoyance.  I know that sentence makes me sound like an asshole, and I have never denied the title.  But let me explain.

Had she passed a couple of years ago, I would have been the first person changing my profile pic to my favorite portrait of the star.  I love Star Wars.  I mean LOVE.  My husband and I opted for Princess Leia and Captain Kirk action figures atop our wedding cake, a nod to a long waging Star Wars vs. Star Trek debate.  But I am not just a Star Wars junkie.  I am a fan of Fisher.  I’ve read all of her books and admired her skill for intertwining raw emotion with comedic levity.  As a person who battles chronic depression, I am grateful for her efforts to normalize mental illness.  Her daughter wrote that “She was loved by the world and will be missed profoundly.”  I wholeheartedly agree.

I guess it started after David Bowie died.  A friend asked me how I felt, knowing I enjoyed his music.  I told her it was too soon after Chris’s death, and I had no grief to offer anyone else, including celebrities.  Which she understood, and I think most people could comprehend.  At that point, I was overrun with grief.

When Prince died, my mood changed from despair over my brother to borderline anger. I read post after post on social media by people proclaiming they simply couldn’t go on.  My inner skeptic immediately questioned the viability of these emotions.  I understood the enhanced drama from simply typing a few words.  I didn’t expect them to go into full mourning over Prince.  But had these people purchased an album since “Diamonds and Pearls?”  If not, I felt their relationship to Prince was much the same as it was the day prior.  I was fed up with people being upset over celebrities when their were real people dying.  Namely, my brother.  As if I had a monopoly on grief.  How dare you feel saddened when Chris is gone.

Last week, Zsa Zsa Gabor passed.  I saw a post from someone saying “2016-enough already!” in relation to her death.  My annoyance was reignited.  Zsa Zsa was 99.  We all have to die sometime.  As I repeated this story for the third time, I realized, first, I sounded like a real bitch.  Second, grief was making me cold.

George Michael died on Christmas.  My husband mentioned it as we prepared dinner, and to my surprise, I gasped.  George Michael?  But he’s so young!  I felt something.  Not for long.  But something.

Later, I read a post from a friend, who described being a young teen and having a huge crush on Michael.  She mentioned posters on her wall and listening to his music over and over.  It seems to easy to comprehend, but it took me time to remember that celebrity deaths really have little to do with the celebrity- they are about connecting us to another time in our lives.  If I found out a high school boyfriend had passed, I would most likely have a few moments of reflection, even if I hadn’t spoken to him in decades.  Was that really so different?

One of the things I am challenged by in this process of grief, but also in just being human, is that emotions from other people can be completely different from my own, and yet just as valid.  I remember my sister-in-law once remarking on a boyfriend.  They would go wine tasting, and if his palate didn’t match up with hers, he felt a bit like a failure.  I hear phrases thrown around in conversation like “undeveloped palate” or “acquired taste,” and I understand why he might feel that way.

When my SIL told me this story, she couldn’t really understand it- a palate simply had to do with the genetic hand you were dealt.  What he liked might not be what she liked, and that was fine.  But I totally got it. When someone reacts to a situation differently than I do, it means my reaction is wrong.  There is something defective in me.  I can’t take that, so I become determined to see my reaction as the one and only correct emotion to have.  Like many people, my lack of esteem is manifested in the outward appearance of an overbearing ego.

I’ve read several memoirs on death in the past couple of weeks.  I was particularly struck by one titled Half a Life by Darin Strauss.  When Strauss was a senior in high school, his car hit a girl on a bicycle who happened to be a fellow student.  He killed her, and coming to terms with that experience has colored most of the other aspects of his life, even decades later.  What I loved about his writing was how he perfectly described  the confusion of the onslaught of emotions surrounding death.  Our society likes things in neat, easily comprehended packages.  But death is messy.  Its a multitude of emotions and no easy way to decipher them.  He described holding his head in his hands, acting out the motions of grief, because as an 18 year old, he thought that was what he was supposed to do.  But he didn’t realize the real work that would await him for the rest of his life.  How much was he supposed to think about this girl he killed?  If he thought about her too much, it affected every moment of his day.  Not enough, he felt guilt.  Was it fair to think of the experience as something that happened to him knowing that she had no life left to experience anything?

Last night, in a fit of boredom, I began to read a few of the tributes to Fisher, and to my surprise, I felt something.  I teared up, and once again felt that conflict of emotions- thankful to feel what the rest of the world seems to be feeling, but also feeling like I was being disrespectful to Chris for wasting one moment of mourning on what amounts to, a complete stranger.

But as I read, I was reminded of what it felt like as a little girl, so see a female that was a hero.  I didn’t associate the metal bikini with the sexuality of Princess Leia.  I remembered her being the bad ass that killed Jabba the Hutt.  That image had an impact on me.  To be strong, to be powerful, to be female.  More than that, I was connected to seeing “Return of the Jedi” in the movie theater with my siblings- a rarity for our family.  I thought back to countless times of acting out Star Wars with Chris and I as the key players, Luke and Leia.

I read another memoir recently titled When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.  Kalanithi started college as an English major, with a strong focus on philosophy.  Fascinated with words, he wanted to learn what gives man the ability not only to function but to create art, to not just live but to have a soul.  This quest led him to the study of the brain, and he eventually became a neurosurgeon.  Many creatures have brains, but do they also have souls?  He ventured into medicine hoping to find those answers.  At thirty six, he was diagnosed with cancer and lost his battle within a couple of years.  He left behind a wife and daughter who was not even a year old.

Reading about Kalanithi’s love of words inspired me to read poetry again, perhaps another step on the quest to find my own soul.  I’ve started with Leaves of Grass, a favorite of Kalanithi’s, reading a page or two every day.  I try to savor the words, letting their meaning coat my mind and heart.  Today, I read this:

I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men and women,

And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring taken soon out of their laps.

What do you think has become of the young and old men?

And what do you think has become of the women and children?

They are alive and well somewhere;

The smallest sprout shows there really is no death,

And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it,

And ceased the moment life appeared.

All goes onward and outward….and nothing collapses,

And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.

Has any one supposed it lucky to be born?

I hasten to inform him or her it is just as lucky to die, and I know it.

 

RIP Carrie Fisher.  I did not know you.  I was not a friend.  But your life did impact me.  You were indeed loved by the world, and you will be profoundly missed.  And if in some distant galaxy far far away you happen to run into a long haired, tattooed guy with a frog voice and a quick wit, tell him I love him and think of him every stinking day.

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Cheating Every Which Way on the Overwhelming Day

I heard the steps of my oldest son running down the hall to locate his brother.  Within minutes they were sharing secrets and suppressing giggles, trying not to wake the adults.  I rolled over and snuggled my husband, feeling content, not quite dreading having to remove myself from the warm covers to get up with the boys.  As I started to rise, my husband said “I’ll get up.”  I smiled as my head hit the pillow, luxuriating in my return to slumber.

A few hours later, I opened my eyes to the clock in disbelief.  9am.  I never sleep to 9am.  But the extra hours were not restful.  I woke multiple times from a dream.  Not the same dream.  Each time I dozed off, the story continued fresh, as if the only escape was simply to wake and enter reality.

In the dream, someone calls me on the phone to tell me my brother’s body has arrived at my mother’s house, and I need to come to bury it.  I arrive to find a black, man-sized box taped shut and leaning against the wall.  My children are playing around it, inquiring as to what sort of present could be in such a huge package. I panic and herd them out of the house.  A few minutes later, I receive another call.

“Chris is alive!  You have to come back.  He’s not dead.  He’s walking and talking, but he’s not right.  You have to come.”

I walk back to the house, but it is not Chris.  It is my father-in-law.  Something is wrong.  He can’t quite form sentences.  He’s scared and delirious.  I listen to him with intent, trying to decode what he needs.  Somehow, I decipher that he wants a banana.  I am ecstatic to relay this message to my mother-in-law and husband.  He wants a banana!  But my mother-in-law coldly replies that he doesn’t really want a banana.  She’s handed one to him multiple times and he has no idea what to do with it.  I have a moment of lucidity, where I wonder why my mother-in-law is behaving with such frigidity, since she is a very warm person.  My mind wanders back into the dream.

I retrieve a banana for my father-in-law, who knows exactly what to do- he peels it and begins eating it.  My heart swells with hope, maybe whatever ails him is subsiding.  But then he becomes deliriously entranced with a football game on the television and my hope is dashed.  I leave and head out for school, not as part of the staff, but as a student.

I am swinging on a swing set when I get another call.  Once again, the caller tells me Chris is alive and I need to come.  When I get to the house, Chris dashes out the door.  I chase him, but can never keep up.

I wake and intuit what the dream means.  I miss my brother.  I feel a bit peculiar, but not completely off kilter.  I put on a sweater and head out of the bedroom to greet my family.

As soon as I see Ben’s face, my eyes well up.  I tell him I had a really strange dream about Chris and that it has me feeling strange in turn.  He asks what the dream was about and sees I am struggling to maintain composure.  He rethinks his question and offers that I do not have to share.  I nod and walk away to pour a cup of coffee.  As I stare down into the swirls of cream mixing with coffee, the tears begin to flow. I am powerless to hold them back.

The tears are both a release and an accusation.  I have just returned from taking my boys to visit my family for Christmas.  We had an amazing time.  Every morning over breakfast, my brother fabricated tall tales that made my children roar with laughter.  My mother brought plates of food to the table, a smile on her face as she took in the scene.  I know she is in her element- the matriarch to a loud, boisterous family, cooking huge meals, making sure everyone is taken care of.  I feel good to bring that to her.  I feel good to provide it for myself.

The week is a series of great days- taking my sons and nieces to an outdoor ice skating rink; a huge family Christmas dinner; my mom making cocoa for my boys after they come back from sledding; laughing about my grandfather’s old jokes.

But every moment contains a hint of sadness.  When I watch my sons laugh at their Uncle Casey, I am reminded about their other uncle they will never know.  We drive through town, and pass the place where Chris worked sound.  One of their only memories of Chris is going to “The Black Sheep” and having him set up microphones and drums so they could rock out on stage to their favorite songs.  As we come up on the marquee, I wonder if my kids will read the sign and want to stop by.  I feel both relief and pain as we drive by without anyone uttering a word.

I can’t get over the feeling that I am cheating, purposely opposing and hurting someone with my emotions.  I had a beautiful week, a healing week.  Why am I ruining it my conjuring up memories of Chris?  Why am I able to have a beautiful week without Chris being there?  Why am I writing about this, betraying my family who did nothing but provide me with a lovely holiday?  Why can’t I seem to not write about it?  Is the narcissist in me seeking attention, or am I somehow hoping to find some sort of clarity in the continued chronicle of this experience of death?

Mostly, I think I just have to get it out, get past it.  I spent the day not focused on it, not every second.  But I snapped at my kids.  I had little patience.  The second they were in bed, I folded a load of laundry and cried.

I guess I must resign myself to even the happiest of moments being just a little bit tainted from now until my own demise.  I can’t imagine I’m ever going to not feel like he should be there.  I used to joke that I lived a charmed life because I had never been stung by a bee or broken a bone.  But real life has little to do with insect stings and the absence of casts.  We lose people we love. Then we lose people who matter, whose mere existence is impossible to separate from our own.  Life can never be the same.

It is late and I must get some sleep.  Tonight I wish for pleasant dreams.  Maybe happier ones where I get to visit with Chris, or maybe ones without Chris at all.  I hope to wake tomorrow to feeling nothing but grateful for my many beloved memories, and blessed to part of loud, boisterous family.

Because deep down, that is the absolute truth.  I am lucky to be one of six children.  To have been and still be surrounded by love.  But there is no denying the twinge.  It would be a disservice to pretend there is no void created by his absence.

Sorry, no clever closing lines.  Just a tired lady who really misses her brother.

Sweet dreams to all.

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Dear World- Thank You For the Hour of Me Time

Every Thanksgiving, I run the same four and a half mile loop.  There are a few reasons this has become my tradition.  Since I have the day off, I have the time to indulge in a run beyond my normal three miles.  Most everyone is off of work, so there isn’t as much traffic.  I can jog on the sidewalk without feeling self conscious of all the cars passing by.  Most important, I can feel justified when I enjoy my dinner later in the day.  In the words of Doug Stanhope’s late mother, “There are times to be dainty and there are times to be a pig.”  I am a person that responds “yes” to the question “apple or pumpkin?”.  I am a pig on Thanksgiving.  Bring on the food.

It seemed appropriate to spend my run contemplating all that I am thankful for.  I am fortunate to have a partner who takes the kids to the park so I can have time to exercise.  I feel blessed to have a body that is in good health and has the fitness to enjoy a run.  My in-laws do the heavy lifting in the cooking department, so I don’t have to spend all day in the kitchen.

Last Sunday, I listened to a sermon where my pastor said something along the lines of “When you sit down to Thanksgiving dinner, think of all the hands your food had to pass through to get to your table. People of different backgrounds, beliefs, social classes.  All of these different people making your dinner possible.”  This resonated with me.  Today, I tried to stretch my mind and think of all the people who made my run possible, all the reasons I am grateful.

Before running, I spent a few minutes downloading new music to listen to.  I messaged a few friends about songs I was really into at the moment, thinking about the thousands upon thousands of these conversations I have had in the past.  How all of those conversations influenced the present moment, turning me on to new artists, refining my tastes.  Countless hours spent in cars, listening to songs and laughing- drives in my dad’s truck, listening to his country and western 8 tracks; driving too fast on back roads in my first car, a Ford Granada, belting out Pearl Jam with my closest girlfriends; cruising in my guru’s giant Lincoln becoming acquainted with jazz and hip hop; road trips across the country noting songs I loved on a small pad- listening to music all along the way only to get to a party to watch musicians make more music; driving on weekends to the town I grew up in to make music of my own.

I still make notations of songs I like, so I can make sure to download them later.

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Today, that whole process seemed pretty remarkable.  I live in a time where new music is literally at my fingertips.  I can have any song I want, at any time I want.  More than the music, I was struck by the act of reading my writing.  I grew up in a country where reading and writing are not only valued but expected.  I recalled a tour of duty my brother did in Afghanistan.  Before going into the cities and towns, he would load his pockets with pens to give to the local children.  Simply having a pen was a sign of literacy, a status symbol in country where education was not a given right.

That same brother and I butted heads a bit during the past election.  The morning after Trump was elected, he sent me a video joking about how he would never vote for Clinton.  My blood boiled for a minute.  Then I texted him back and told him a big middle finger was coming his way.  We both knew the other was joking.  We exchanged “I love you” texts, and that was that.  As I thought about him on that tour today, I also pondered how lucky we are to be able to have differing opinions and still be a family.  We can openly debate our preferences without fear of retaliation.

I got dressed, put on my shoes, and grabbed some water.  Readily accessible clean water and shoes.  Those things speak for themselves.

I hadn’t been running in over a week, recovering from a bought of strep.  At this time last week, I had the worst sore throat I had ever had in my life.  A quick trip to the doctor and a few antibiotics later, and I’m back to running.  Good health care, skilled doctors, medicine.  They are my norm.

Last week, my kids asked me what taxes were.  I explained how our cities need money to pay for things that all the people in the community use. I gave them the examples of roads and sidewalks and schools, and how these things are paid for with taxes.  I ran along an impeccable sidewalk today, lined with trees and manicured bushes.  I thought of people in houses with dirt floors, built from scraps and items others would deem trash.

The running app on my phone notified me when I hit the two mile mark, and I could not help but think back to my days on the track and field team.  I was not a natural athlete, but I really wanted to be.  To earn a letter for my letterman’s jacket, I had to accumulate a specific number of points.  Points were earned by placing in meets.  The easiest event to place in was the two mile because nobody wanted to run that distance.  It was usually me and about three other fools lapping around the track.

The first time I ran the two mile, I wasn’t sure I could do it.  One of my teammates, Carrie Glover, ran it with me.   She was a gifted athlete.  She had no reason to run the two mile, other than she knew how badly I wanted to earn that letter and went out of her way to support me. She told me jokes the whole way and even got me to sprint the last hundred yards or so.  As any track and fielder knows, its important to “finish strong.”  When I thought about Carrie today, I realized I have only seen her one time since high school- she came to my brother’s memorial.  It was pretty amazing to see how many people from my old town came out for that service.  I feel blessed to have grown up in a small, country town.  When you grow up literally knowing every single person in your community, something special happens.  Good, bad, you are bonded for life.  As coincidence would have it, I now have the last name Glover, just like Carrie.  I thought about all the different families we have- some we are born into, some we find through experience.

I thought of my father who tried so hard to make me into an athlete.  He spent countless hours after work, shooting baskets with me, running me to gymnastics lessons, timing me as I practiced hurdles.  And I was terrible at all of it, just terrible.  Did he see me on my run today?  Wherever he is, was he proud?  Because I may not be agile or quick witted, but I have endurance.  This body can carry me for four miles or more without problem.  I may not be fast, but I am strong.  My dad did raise an athlete, it just took me awhile to get there.

I passed a palm tree and for whatever reason stopped to take a picture.

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As a kid, I thought the only place in the world that had palm trees was Hawaii.  I dreamed of going there, imagining it as picture of paradise.  I’ve now been to Hawaii, twice.  My brother Casey visited me in Arizona last month, and remarked how he loved seeing the palm trees.  If I am to believe my eight year old logic, I now live in paradise.

My kids just walked through the door from the park.  It is my husband’s turn to get some exercise, so I guess I need to wrap this up.  But on this day of thanks, I am grateful for my hour of “me” time, and to magnitude of folks who made it possible.

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Listen Before Fix

Ever have one of those conversations where you know, KNOW, you are right, only to think about it a few days later and realize you were being an asshole?  I wonder if that is how the leaders of the Democratic party are feeling right now.

For the past couple of weeks, a friend of mine has been struggling with a bought of depression.  I believe I listened to her concerns and have tried to be a good friend in a tough time, the way she is there for me when I need it.  But I also offered some somewhat unsolicited advice.

“What about looking for a part time job? Or trying a new hobby?  I really feel like you need something new in your life.”

Was the advice helpful?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Maybe something new would give her excitement to pull out of her spiral.  Or maybe it felt like another suggestion that is out of reach.  Maybe it felt like instead of listening I was trying to fix her.

I was reminded of this conversation with my friend today, in the midst of another conversation about politics.  Many of us keep scratching our heads after this election, wondering what went wrong.  Perhaps our Democratic party leaders were trying to fix before listening.

I have always voted Democrat.  I am a party member.  I voted in the primary.

During the primary, I voted for Bernie Sanders.  Like many people who ended up voting for Trump, I am tired of political insiders.  Many thought Bernie’s ideas were too radical, too liberal.  For me, they were music to my ears.  Someone willing to take tough, unpopular stances because they were the right thing to do? Yes!

When it came to light that the Democratic Party maintained no neutrality in choosing it’s candidate, I felt duped.  It was as if the party was saying “We’re going to pretend to listen to you.  We’re going to maintain the illusion that your voice is heard.  But in the end, WE know what you need better than you do.”  Aren’t elected representatives supposed to do the will of the people they represent? I understand those waters can be murky, but it would seem pretty easy to simply let people vote for who they want to represent them, and then let that person be the choice. (This could also apply to the whole electoral college thing, but I digress).  I have no idea if Bernie would have won the nomination.  I have no idea if he could have beaten Trump.  I have no idea if he could have made good on the ideas he talked about.  But I can say, I would have liked to find out.  I would have liked for my party to listen to me.  I would have liked a fair fight.

As we know now, these decisions came back to bite the party on the ass.  The greatest message that came out of this election is that people are frustrated with politics as usual.  Many are willing to bet on a mad man rather than deal with the momentum of the political machine.

It took me a long time to come around to voting for Hillary for just these reasons.  I felt betrayed by my party.  I, too, was sick of politics as usual.  But I came around for two reasons.  I sincerely believe that Trump is a dangerous choice.  And I wanted to send a message by shattering that ultimate glass ceiling.  I wanted to get past that obstacle so that perhaps we could start considering candidates who might not have been given a second thought in the past.  I wanted my kids to grow up in a world where they could believe that everyone truly does have that same opportunities.  I am crushed not because Hillary did not get elected, but because that greater ideal was not realized.

My hope is that this election, with its bitter disappointment and heartbreak, will be the catalyst we need to get back to the idea that elected officials serve the will of the people.  I want our voices to matter.  I NEED my vote to count.

Listen before fix.  Let’s take that to heart.

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