Saturday, November 13, 2010


We went to Nebraska last week for my Aunt Maggi's 90th birthday party. All my cousins came in from Illinois and my sisters were both there from out of state. It was good to see everybody.

On the way up, I listened to a lot of Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth and was feeling all Zenned up by the time I got to Lincoln.

It took about 2 hours to be catapulted back into age 10. The older the both of us get, the more capable my mother is of making me feel inappropriate. Maybe I am gaining some enlightenment by virtue of the fact that I can see what's going on, for a change. I dunno but I handed my personal remote control to each of the family members, respectively, to allow them to push however many buttons they desired. And I reacted. Only, not really. I restrained myself.

At one point, I looked across the room and Freddy was staring back at me, wide-eyed like he was fixing to see a shanking when my mother hissed an admonishment regarding her "good china". I had simply pointed out that she had, mistakenly I assumed, placed the "good dishes" under the plants she'd brought in off the porch and which now sat on the livingroom floor. Each with a good plate underneath the pot.

"Those aren't 'good dishes'," she spat. "I'm putting them through the dishwasher as often as I can to get the gold to come off them so I can use them in the microwave." And then, in case I didn't get the point, "I was mad at your Dad when he brought them home in the first place."

And you have to know me to understand the effect these words had on me. I adore old things. I can't afford good antiques but I frequent "junk" stores whenever possible. Last year after the tornado hit our town (and our house) I made a trip to Nebraska early that summer, stopping at jillions of antique stores. I know now that I was in a grief reaction, reacting to the loss of so many old houses and huge trees in our town, but I loaded my car with antiques that trip. It started when I went to local junk stores in search of a stained glass window to replace the one destroyed in our bathroom. I discovered I felt safe surrounded by all that old stuff that'd survived for so many years and felt that maybe everything wasn't gone, after all.

Interestingly, that summer in Nebraska, I didn't buy just old things but old kitchen things, things that looked like the ones we'd had when I was a kid. The meaning of that isn't lost on me. A tin flour scoop like my Grandma used when baking. A set of brushed aluminum canisters. A pair of heavy kitchen shears like my Grandma's. A pink, metal cake carrier that I took an ass chewing from my mother about even then. The stuff made me feel safe. And like I had some control over my life. Which of course I wasn't and didn't. But it was worth a hundred bucks or so to get some relief for a short time.

So to disrespect family glassware to me is to spit in my face. And crazy or not on my part, my mom knows that when she does it. And that's why she does it. And that breaks my heart. I know she's old and I'm lucky to have her around to irritate me but it still hurts.

So lots of stuff like that on this trip, old family dysfunction, and I feel a little beat up right now. And not anxious to go back anytime soon. And I think I'm gonna quit inviting my mom to come live with us. I may have to face the fact that she and I are not compatible and leave her to my sister or brother to take care of her. As much as I'd like to be the kind of selfless person who takes care of their aging parents, I may have to throw the flag on having her under my roof.

Still, it's nice to be back in the midwest where church people go to eat at the taverns in little towns after church on Sundays.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Otter Memories

My experience with drumming started in 1997 when I attended a retreat at the home of a friend's. She asked myself and another woman to come and do a segment talking about our experience in 12-step groups. I wasn't into what I then referred to as the New Age bullshit my friend was all about but we went and spoke. After we spoke, another woman did a segment on Native American spirituality. She did a guided meditation that she called a "journey" in which we traveled to the top of a mountain and met an animal who brought us a lesson. She told us stories and

I can't remember what we did first but at one point we "drummed". They had several handheld drums there for those without a drum of their own. And in the dimly lit livingroom of that big, rough-cut lumber house in the woods in Arkansas, that group of women drummed together. It was just a simple rhythm but all in unison and as I drummed along with them something profound happened to me. I still don't really know what it was. The power of being in rhythm with all of those other women. The same heartbeat, as I later learned the drum beat signifies. I don't know what it was but I was totally hooked. In a time, that woman, Lyn, and a couple other women and myself began to meet once a month at Lyn's house in the woods nearby. But first I gotta tell you about Lyn.

Lyn is larger than life. A female John Wayne. She is tall but it's not that that makes her stand out. She has long, thick, beautiful, now gray hair worn in the traditional butt cut so favored by us older gals. Her eyes are a peircing gray-blue color. I'm not sure of her heritage. She claims Irish and Native American though she looks as Irish as Mickey Rooney (he is Irish, right?). But she has a presence. Just something that takes your breath away when you see her. Her spirit, I guess it is.

She lived, as I said, in the woods in a log house her husband and she built themselves as in, cut the trees down and skidded them out of the woods and skinned the logs, etc. They take off work every year for the entire month of November to hunt and it is during this time that they stock up all the meat they'll use the coming year. On their property, they had a combination art studio and woodworking shop out of which came the most beautiful creations. They could do anything. There wasn't a thing those two couldn't do. One time at another get together, one of the gals in the drumming group asked if anybody had heard from Lyn. Another gal spoke up, "Yeah, I called her today. She was skinning a bear."

She was my hero. And I wasn't alone. The group slowly grew. Women were drawn from all different directions and stations in life. And everyone who was suppose to be there, was there. I never missed it except once in October when the moon was full and the sky was incredible and I was on frigging vacation somewhere. I swore I'd never again miss one. Just to know people like that existed was a privelege. I adored them. We'd have a huge potluck before the drummings and she'd always cook something scrumptuous like beans only they weren't like any beans you ever ate before. Or elk or deer or black-eyed pea cornbread that made you wanna slap your mama. We'd all cut up and laugh and tell smart-ass jokes and then we went to the livingroom in front of the fireplace or, and this was my absolute favorite, outside to the fire pit.

Someone would smudge us, usually the one who cried so much. "Woman Who Cries", we called her for fun. She would light a bundle of ceremonial white sage and then blow it out, keeping it smoldering and, one by one using a fan of turkey feathers, she fanned the smoke over our bodies from head to toe, back to front to cleanse us and prepare us for communion with God which we called "Grandfather". And once the smudging began, no more fooling around. We fell silent because it was sacred time. Sometimes Lyn would lightly beat a rhythm on her large, Buffalo drum while we waited for the rest to prepare themselves.

Then, all smudged and sitting around a circle one by one we voiced our prayers and whose ever turn it was, would begin the drumming. We all used the same rhythm except once in a while a new person would come and do something different. But whatever the rhythm, the rest would join in and drum along with them, carrying our prayers to heaven on the sage smoke. We moved around the circle, continuing until everybody had said all the prayers they had and then we quit. Most times, and again this was my absolutely favorite thing in the world, at some point in the night Lyn would say, "Okay ladies, get comfortable" and that meant to grab a pillow or something to use to lie on the floor with your eyes closed because she was getting ready to do a lesson. It was always an Indian story about the roots of a pine tree versus an oak tree or about the directions or some woodland animal and they all carried lesson. I found out later, despite the fact that the lessons were structured and organized, she rarely knew what she was going to say until the words came out of her mouth.

Of course, Lyn had made her own drum beater. The stick was wrapped in leather that was cut into long fringes. At the ends of each fringe she'd attached little hollow metal balls and when she referred to the rain or a storm in a story, she'd rattle those fringes over the drum and it sounded like rain hitting something. It was absolutely magical.

Sometimes I'd bring my guitar and sing songs that seemed to me to fall far short of the mark but that everyone at least pretended to enjoy. Woman Who Cries started leaving early when I got my guitar out and I developed a little paranoia about that and quit bringing it but it was nice for me when I did.

The evolving group had many different souls and belief systems and all were welcomed. Each month someone could, if they wished, do a presentation to teach about their spiritual beliefs. One gal did a lesson on Buddism explaining what it was and how she applied it to her life, etc. Another did Judism. I shared about AA.

Sometimes Lyn had communion. Most nights, we'd ask if anyone wanted to "sit in the middle" which meant to sit in a chair in the middle of the circle and have us pray over them. In my head I called it "laying on of hands" because some of us touched the subject as they sat in the chair. Some nights we'd do two or three women. It was a beautiful time.

Every square inch of her home was decorated with something beautifully Lyn. The whole place reeked of she and her husband's talent and respect for the land and for God. Just being on the place felt like going back in time. I honestly felt like I had a glimpse into another place and time. When they killed a deer, she took tobacco out of a leather pouch she carried around her neck and did a blessing and thanked Grandfather and the spirit of the deer, for the sacrifice made for them.

Lyn's belief in God was palpable. She was one of those people who don't ever seem to have any doubts. She just lived and breathed belief. And so did I, back then. It was so easy to believe when you looked into those big, blue eyes. The earnestness. The integrity. And somehow, she gave me and all of us hope. Somehow. That's why we all love her so damn much.

We patterned ourselves after a group of Native American women Lyn told us about who lived around the turn of the century called The Otter Society. They gathered together to pray for each other and the country and leaders and, like us, anything and everything. And they did healings. So we called ourselves The Otter Sisters.

Occasionally, we'd meet somewhere else. Once we met at a nearby falls in a recreation area and drummed. We often met for a sunrise "service" on Easter morning or the day before, and we'd drum in the sunrise together up on some mountain in the cold mist, usually.

I don't know what happened. Things changed. The group got really big for a short time and there were lots of new people. Some of them, I didn't like and I don't think I was alone. But when a group gets big like that, it can't be all things to all people.

All I can say is that we all went in a little different directions. Or maybe it was just me. And I wish it was different. I miss those times so much.

Sometimes in the middle of a drumming, Lyn would walk by and throw a big handful of white sage into the campfire and I can't begin to tell you what that smell does to you. It just shoots you off on a rocket to the 1800s, or something. I still carry a little smudge stick of white sage in my vehicle and often light it while driving in the woods. The smell takes me back to that log house in the woods and that campfire and those women beating those drums under the moon and more stars than you've ever seen in your life.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Sucks to Be Me

I'm sort of ambling around, aimlessly today. Yesterday was my last day of work at my job. I was surprised how hard it was to leave. The people I worked with in our local office, as well as our regional supervisor, are phenomenal. I don't think I've ever worked with a better bunch of gals. And nobody irritated me, not one of them.

Four weeks of notice is too long. I can change my mind 90 times in four weeks. When I got up yesterday I wasn't sure I wouldn't call my supervisor sometime during the day and tell her I'd changed my mind and wanted to stay. And even now, I get a funny, panicky feeling when I realize I no longer have a key to the office and can't drop in up there to make a copy or fax something anytime I want to. Weird.

There seems to be a thing in my brain that makes me focus, not on what is possible in the current situation, but whatever is no longer possible. A glass half empty sort of glitch in my psychic wiring. I've always been like this. So instead of the euphoria I'd anticipated at the ending of the commitment to a full-time job that felt tremendously meaningless while performing it, I now wander around the house wondering what to do with myself.

I didn't sleep well last night. I recall waking up once with the image of one of my co-workers in my head, followed by an overwhelming sense of loss at the realization that I won't be working with her, any longer. I won't be walking over to that desk to visit with her on Monday. I wish I was different, I really do. And yet, maybe this is a normal grief reaction. I'm not confused about missing the work I did. Or of being a part of the organization I worked for. But there's a kind of Steel Magnolias-type of commaraderie inherent with a group of women in an office. And I miss that when it's not a part of my life.

So, as usual, I have no idea who, what or where I actually want to be in this life. Back in July when planning all of this, I vowed to be ready when October rolled around. I would have a solid business plan backed financially by a sizable savings account. And oddly enough, it's not the money I'm worried about. I'll easily make a living and I do have a little savings. But it's a Catch-22. When I'm in a full-time position, I want to be dead. I honestly start thinking about how nice it might be to be struck down in the street by a FedEx truck (they're bound to have good insurance) rendered disabled and forced to stay home and blog all day. And I know my true path lies in some such vocation. But the second I'm released from this commitment of mainstream employment and free to pursue my "dream life", I turn into a tearful, needy, lost soul, longing for socialization. I didn't expect this, I don't know, depression? I expected euphoria.

I've probably picked the wrong day to quit eating sugar.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


I made it through my last supervisor's meeting and board of director's meeting. It's all down hill from here. I have tomorrow and 3 more weeks after that until the divorce is final on me and full-time employment. Tomorrow is casual Friday and I'm off on Monday. I'm gonna rock this.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


God, I'm tired. I'm so tired, I dreaded taking a shower and washing my hair tonight. I had 5 hours of sleep last night and the boss was in the office all day long, today. I do like her, though. She's like me, only smarter. I took 3 Valerian and a Melatonin before my shower and now I need to go to bed. The supervisor's meeting is tomorrow. Just shoot me, fuck it.

Is Anybody Out There?

I don't believe in God the way I used to. It wasn't a conscious decision, it just sort of evolved. I used to be very sure what I thought in that area and now I'm not sure, anymore. More on that in a later post but for now, just know that He (She? The Universe?) came through for me, yesterday.

As I said before, I quit my job Monday. I put in my 2 weeks notice and then found out I had to give 4 weeks because I'm such a big deal in the office, so that's what I did. I love to quit jobs. It's my favorite thing about work. But I still second guess myself a little, no matter how bad I hate the job I happen to be quitting at the time.

So yesterday I'm driving to work and I start praying. I say, "God, please show me if I'm doing the right thing". It's a weird thing about sort of brushing the edge of agnosticism, in my case anyway. I just decide that I can allow myself to consider the fact that I might not believe in God anymore because I have so many doubts and see so many conflicts in that whole arena, and the next thing I know, I'm praying. It should also be mentioned that it's then, that moment I allow myself to consider not believing anymore, that I feel a warm Presence right next to me. I mean really feel it. Not on my skin but a strong sense of it's presence. Like maybe my own having to understand it all is distancing me from Him. So I still pray and I did so yesterday on the way to work.

About 10 minutes before noon, my boss calls me and says she's headed down (our corporate office is 85 miles away) and to have Nurse X in the office when she gets there. Nurse X is a model employee. She's been there for 20 years full-time, longer if you count her part-time years. Never a hint of a problem out of her. Builds up huge banks of paid time off and loses it every year rather than take it and go on a vacation. Does anything you ask her to do. Never a write up in 20+ years. Always hands in her paperwork on time without being asked. I couldn't figure out what was going on, and neither could anyone else.

My boss arrived at 1pm accompanied by the HR person. They called Nurse X into my office and fired her. They had a "disciplinary action" form with some off-the-wall, straw grabbing bullshit cited on it, made her sign it and walked her out to her desk to pack her belongings. No warning.

I have my theories what it was about and none of them have anything to do with her. Corporate bullshit's what it boils down to. Economics. My boss and HR knew it, too. They looked like they were about to throw up. I sat there and cried while they did it. The whole thing took about 30 minutes. When I walked her out to her vehicle I told her to get a lawyer. She asked me what can a lawyer could do. I said, "Just get one. He'll tell you."

You can imagine what the office was like the rest of the day. After my boss left, we all sat around in a daze and tried to figure out what to do with it in our heads. Tried to figure out who's going to do her work. Wondering what has happened to fairness and just-ness.

Guess that answered that question.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cephalalgia Sentiments

I'm having headaches almost every day. It's gone on for about 2 1/2 months and I'm beginning to decompensate. I've quit taking my hormones in case they were contributing. Then I quit my St. John's Wort. Then the suicidal ideation began. Just a little, I mean. Is it wrong to hope it's a brain tumor?

I went to a headache clinic last week. It was sort of my worst nightmare in terms of western medicine in that the doctor was clearly not an advocate of alternative medicine nor a student of nutrition. We're gonna do these tests and give you this medication and you may forget what to call a ballpoint pen but you'll still know what it is, so don't worry.

Um, no thanks.

I'm gonna quit my job tomorrow, instead. I've been thinking about it for a long time. I had a concrete plan and then tried to talk myself out of it. All these jobs are like my ex-husband. If he had been all bad, it would've been so easy. Same thing here. I'm hoping the headaches will quit when I do.

The other day at work I thought about getting my purse and keys and leaving and driving to Walmart and buying a bunch of real basic clothes, jeans, t-shirts, cotton underwear, socks and boots, some drinking water and food and driving out to our cabin, throwing my cell phone(s) out the window on the way and just staying forever. I figured Freddy would eventually find me and when he did I'd tell him I'm staying there and whatever he wanted to do would be fine. Stay, go, sell the house and cars, declare bankruptcy, I don't care, but I wasn't leaving. I have a wringer washer and tubs out there. Mental note: add clothesline to the Walmart list.

I get a little excited sometimes when I hear about someone committing suicide because I think, if they had stopped just short of kicking the stool out from under their feet or pulling the trigger or swallowing the pills and had, instead, taken that desperation and applied it to something else, what might have happened? How magical could their lives have turned out? I think we paint ourselves into a corner, thinking we have to be a certain way and when we aren't, we refuse to consider alternatives because they don't fit our idea of what life was suppose to be like. So we redouble our efforts and fight against our inner voice and sometimes, we kill ourselves. Or we drink. Or take Vicodin enemas. Or we have migraine headaches. It's not that I don't know what's going on here.

So what is my alternative on the way to climbing up onto the stool with the cord around my neck? What do I do, instead? I guess I quit the best job I've ever had because even it doesn't please me. I'm telling you the truth, if I lived in a big city where nobody knew me, I'd apply for a job as a dishwasher and when I got sick of it I'd go get another one. Or I'd clean houses for a living. I used to do that and I miss it a lot. I was really good at it, like massage therapy. So far, those seem to be my gifts. And what if they are? What if that's it? Would pissing away my nursing license in favor of cleaning houses and doing massages for the rest of my life really be that much worse than working in a good paying, respectable job wondering how much longer I was gonna be able to fight the urge to cut my throat?

In 2002 I was working two ER nursing jobs and drowning in credit card debt. I felt like I was running as fast as I could and could still feel myself losing ground. I knew I wasn't going to be able to keep up the pace and I didn't know how I was going to pay off my debts without losing my house as a result. I started waking up in the middle of the night scared to death thinking about it. In the Spring, I got bronchitis and had to be off work for a week. I was very ill sleeping 20 hours a day. It was during that week, finally getting some rest and being able to think for a change, that I figured out what to do: quit my full-time, lowest paying job of the two and increase my hours at the part-time, higher paying one. It was simple but I couldn't figure it out until I was forced out of the game for a week. They call pneumonia the old man's friend. Bronchitis is sorta like that for me.

It's a frightening prospect, following your heart. It's not like there's any evidence it's gonna turn out okay. It's more like stepping out of a 6th story window and trusting you'll figure something out on the way down.