Thursday, October 15, 2009

Tale of Two Cities

Okay, I'm reclining on the queen-size bed in the back of this RV in Long Island. It use to be our's, the RV, and now it belongs to Freddy's son and his wife and sits in their yard in East Northport, New York (the above picture is from a previous trip...a gas station in the Pocanos). They took over the payments. We asked to stay in it during this trip...the youngest son, Brooke's wedding is this weekend...and they said we could. So we arrived here, yesterday. Went to their restaurant and had lobster.

I'm not gonna do that, again. It was my first actual whole lobster experience and not one bit like what I got in a platter of lobster (something and pasta) at Di Nico's in Little Italy last trip.

Those were just unidentifiable peices, some even shelled and mixed with scallops and shrimp and things in cream sauce over angel hair. Only the claws were whole but that doesn't seem like an animal, somehow, nor do tails that aren't connected to bodies with eyes. This last night was different.
There's not a live lobster back there that they're going to have to kill for this, is there?

No. No
I'm sure he was lying.

When it came out, I had no idea how to eat it. Freddy turned it over and handed me a little fork and nutcracker and nods at me as if to say, There, go ahead, assuming I had the slightest idea how to proceed.

I sat looking down at the spiny underside, little curled-up legs undoubtedly drawn in an attempt to protect the crustacean's beneath parts from the onslaught of boiling water and probably just a few minutes ago, too. I looked away and began applying large quantities of butter and sour cream to my baked potato, a more familiar fare not associated with a violent death. Freddy, whose job it is to make my life perfect, plucked the red shelled monster from my plate and went to work on it.

I did eat it and it was good, I suppose. But I won't do it again. I'll have crab cakes or carbonara next time. And I don't want to think about an entire lobster's life sacrificed for a scant few mouths full of meat, again. Shame on me. Damn my very soul to firey hell.

I got my hair fixed before I left Arkansas. I never do that. Resistent to change, I. And I never spend money on my hair which would set you into a fit of hysteria to hear me say if you knew what my hair usually looks like.

The very thought that I'd have to tell you I don't spend money on my hair. Except once a year, or so, when I get a perm. And then it's a spiral, despite concerned glances from my hairdresser. Just do it and I'll pay you, so she does, but it's not in my best interest. She knows it and I sense it.

So I made an appointment and she cut it and colored and highlighted it and then showed me how to blow dry it straight. It was flattering.

I looked like Jessica Rabbit and I received lots of complements on it...until it had to be washed again. I simply can't reproduce it. I try but I just can't.

It's okay though because Saturday before the wedding, we're all going to a salon and get our hair done. "We", being my husband's ex-wife, his two daughter's-in-law and their two daughters, my granddaughters I should get used to saying.

And tomorrow is nails. I've never done that, either. I've gone to the beauty college for pedicures a couple of times but never an out and out manicure at a regular salon and certainly never, ever in New York. Apparently, I don't have to remove the nail polish before we go. They'll take it off at the salon, according to one of the Carols (approximately 48% of our female friends and relatives are named Carol, for some reason, including Freddy's ex-wife). So I'm going to walk into the hotsy-totsy New York salon with my cheap ass Walmart nail polish, what's left of it, clinging to my raggedy nails and I'm going to have them...well...whatever they do to them, filed I suppose and painted, right?

I miss this RV, especially right now still on the bed in the back, listening to the rain hit the metal roof and drinking coffee from a 7-Eleven cup. The payments are $500 a month. Add to that, insurance and taxes and we're looking at around $700 a month BEFORE you buy gas and take off work to go anywhere. That's why it's up in New York in the yard of our son who owns a thriving seafood restaurant instead of in our RV barn being eaten up by the pack rat who destroyed the vacuum lines and something else three times for about $300 per incident. Not practical but I've never been accused of being practical. What I have been accused of is spending more money than I make so the RV stays here unless I get a lucky LOTTO ticket which I'm thinking might be worth doing. Buying a ticket, I mean. Who knows? I could win and if I do, we're going to pay off the RV and buy a trailer for my Mercury and drive this big bitch on back to Arkansas. Word.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Reflections on Intercourse

We spent the night in Lancaster County Pennsylvania night before last. First we ate at an old farmhouse, turned restaurant (and obligatory gift shop, of course) where they seated several couples or families at large, farm tables together. This was clearly my husband's idea. I lack the people-person gene but I went along. Probably a result of all that submissive female Amish air up there.

The food came out in courses and was served family-style in bowls which were passed around amongst the diners. As it turns out, eating with strangers can be added to the list of things my husband knows best about and it was a delightful experience. With lots of food (there are no delightful experiences that don't include lots of food, you know). Meatloaf, fried chicken, ham, mashed potatoes touted as "real", green beans that looked like they just came in from a farm next door, gravy, stuffing (made with white bread and not so great as it turns out), corn with brown butter (?), coleslaw, cottage cheese, chow chow, homemade bread cut in thick slices served with butter and apple butter. There was more but I can't remember it all. And the whole orgy culminated with 5 desserts: Shoo Fly Pie, red jello cut in large cubes which were made by substituting applesauce for water in the recipe, coconut cream pudding, homemade chocolate or vanilla ice cream and orange sherbert. Is there suppose to be an "r" in that word? I mean, I always pronounce it "sherbert" but should I? I'm thinking probably not. But we ate it like hungry, little pigs and then set out into the night for this motel.

We stayed here once before when we passed through Intercourse, Pennsylvania and had what I remember to be a restful and rejuvenating stay which included pumpernickle dinner rolls at a nearby German restaurant.

In the morning, we headed out and saw this...

and this...

and this punkin' field...

and this farm complete with horse dookie in the lane...

It's always refreshing to visit that area. A part of me, and that of a throng of embroidered sweatshirt-wearing old women, rejoices in the knowledge that people actually live like the Amish. No electricity, growing their own food, helping each other in activities of daily living, dressing's reassuring, somehow. And we think we'd like to do it, but I'm a little too stressed right now to make any life changes because my laptop screen is cracked and I need to wait till it comes back from Dell. But maybe after that.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Visiting Virginia

I've done something for most of my adult life. Whenever I visit somewhere cool, I start planning to move there. And every time I come through Virginia or West Virginia, the area where my father was born, I start making plans. Today I even convinced my husband...almost.

We stopped off at Staunton, Virginia for breakfast on our way to New York for my step-son's wedding. My Dad was born about 40 miles from Staunton in the tiny hamlet of Blue Grass. Every summer of my childhood, we visited this area for a two-week vacation. His family still lives here, though those I knew are mostly all dead.

So, it was innocent enough. I just said, "Let's stop in Staunton real quick for breakfast" and he took the exit. Soon enough he found the Beverly Restaurant in the historic downtown district and we went in and had a nice breakfast. We'd been there before on a previous trip.

The cook was a black man, quite funny, who sang and the waitress began dancing which sent the cook into a fit of laughter that he had to go outside to stop. We watched him through the tall front windows.

I started noticing some very interesting, characters: People walking down the street who were just obviously open-minded, you know? You can tell. A tall guy with a faded, blue do-rag on his head. Two 30-ish business men who smiled at me through the window as they passed because I happened to be smiling at something Freddy had just said. A mother with three kids dressed in a style I admire (I even took their picture).

You have to understand something, first. I'm stifled. I live in a small-minded little town in Arkansas where everybody loves guns and drives 4-wheelers and hates Obama. And, though I dearly love some of them, and I mean really and truly love them as much as I love my family, I feel like I'm drowning in...conservatism (is that a word? Somehow it looks really weird, right now.)

So we leave the restaurant and walk down the street and we see art galleries and a vintage clothing store and Fair Trade Coffee shops and places like this...

...and this:

And I stop in a health food store to look for one of those free papers that list the local happenings and which give you a feel for the grassroots of a place and I start talking to the owner, a friendly, red-headed guy with a baby on his shoulder. And then a trio of young people follow me out to the street to tell me where the Shakespeare Center is and other attractions. One girl, rather butchy, had a myriad of tattoos and one huge, quite exquisite one of Jesus on the left side of her neck. You don't see people like that where I live. And you don't see any black people, or not many. And I'm getting older and I'm tired and I've been through a tornado now and I just want to get on with my life. I did this and I'm ready to do some new stuff. Only, that's probably not gonna happen because my husband only stayed convinced to move to Staunton for about 45 minutes, and then he began to crawdad on me.

He did say he could live in Eureka Springs, though........

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tomato Preserves or What To Do on a Cloudy Day in September

I grew up in the midwest, Nebraska. I didn't realize until later, having moved to the south, that the whole world didn't know about tomato preserves. Most people I know, now, never heard of them. Back in Nebraska, we learned how to make them in home ec just in case our mothers didn't teach us how to make them, which mine probably didn't but I saw the process numerous times in the kitchen of our farmhouse. My parents and my grandmother, who lived with us, raised a large garden and what they didn't raise, my father brought home in bushel baskets from outside the home because, as my mother said, he believed "a busy wife is a happy wife". It wasn't until years later, living in Arkansas, that I remembered tomato preserves even existed and realized that I had no idea how to reproduce them, having forgotten my home ec lesson and the home demonstrations. So I called my Mom and asked her for the recipe. This is how that went:

"How do you make tomato preserves?"
"Oh...well...cut up a bunch of tomatoes and add a bunch of sugar and cook it for a long time"
"How much sugar and how many tomatoes?"
"A whole bunch."
"A whole bunch of what?"
"A whole bunch of both."
"How much is that?"
"Oh, quite a bit."
"Is that all you do?"
"Aren't there lemon slices in it?"
"Oh yeah. And some lemon."
"How much?"
"Oh, just some. However much you want."
"And then what do I do?"
"You cook it for a long time."
"How long?"
"Til it's gooey."
"Til it's gooey?"
"How long does that take?"
"Is that all there is to it? Just mix up a bunch of tomatoes and sugar and some lemon slices and cook it?"

So, I finally got up my nerve and tried it last year. And then again today. Here's how you do it:

Dig some of these out of your garage or out from under the bed in your spare room and wash them.

And find some of these. Note the word "find" not "grow". I haven't grown a decent tomato in 5 years. Go to the Farmer's Market or buy them from the guy who parks on the corner across from James' Food Mart. Do whatever you have to do but get some, and as many as you can get your hands on.

Buy some of these:

And do this to them, take out the seeds and put the seeds into the compost:

Blanche the tomatoes and then put them in ice water to loosen the skins.

Remove the skins and core them and cut them up like this:

Put them together with the lemon slices and start looking for a heavy pot...

Put them all in a pot and add a bunch of this:

Cook it all together...

...til it looks like this:

This is gonna take hours on low heat and in the meantime you're probably gonna want to go play with this guy, or somebody like him. He's trying out his Halloween costume, here:

Later on, after the lion goes home, you'll wanna do this with the preserves and clean up the mess in the kitchen and go somewhere and sit down and watch Wife Swap or Split Ends or post something on Facebook.

In the morning, you can turn the jars right side up and they should be sealed. Use the one that's only half full first. It's the one you didn't have enough to fill all the way up. It never works out that you fill them all up. You're gonna wanna try some on homemade bread, toasted, and buttered with real, salted butter. Forget about your cholesterol. This isn't the time. Maybe you're gonna want to add some peanut butter.

And one more thing; don't share these with anybody else or you'll be hassled for the rest of your life by people wanting more. Keep them all for yourself. Don't even share them with your mother.

She's too old to want to mess with making them herself and she's gonna put a guilt trip on you to share them if she knows you've got them. Take my advise, put them on the back shelf and keep your mouth shut. Remember, she didn't give you one ounce of help in terms of a recipe so don't weaken. The only exception to this rule is if she gave you some of her homegrown tomatoes. If so, maybe you can work out a deal.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Of Roaches and Bad Acting

Just before I got off work tonight the triage bell went off. That's a doorbell the admission clerks ring that sounds in the main ER alerting us to a patient in the waiting area. I've heard that same bell in other places out in public and it elicits in me a Pavlovian sense of impending doom.

It is September 11th, 2009, a Friday night and it was 11:45pm, exactly fifteen minutes before my shift ended. This late in one's shift it is perfectly acceptable to ignore the sound of the triage bell, electing instead to stare blankly at the computer screen at a game of Spider Solitaire, letting the other nurses do the work. You're as good as gone, anyway, and nobody really cares. But, because I'm trying really hard to get my full 12 hours in every day I work spurred on by having balanced my checkbook yesterday, I elected to stay long enough to triage the, for me, last patient of the night. I'm kinda glad I didn't miss this one.

I called the patient's name after opening the triage door, prompting a trio of neurologically challenged backwoodsians to stand and begin their painfully slow approach to the triage area among them, an older woman, and a man and younger woman who looked exactly alike. They were like one of those child's games where you take a face and add different hairstyles and glasses, hats, etc to change its appearance but the face never changes. The man carried a metal box which I correctly assumed held the patient's medications. With his other arm, he guided the patient, the younger woman, toward the triage area as if she would collapse and her hand on his arm would somehow prevent that.

ER patients think that their level of perceived acuity is directly related to how slow they walk and talk. It's not unusual to have a patient speak in broken sentances which they mistakenly believe convinces medical personnel of the validity of their ailments. These poor actors, when questioned about their conditions, respond with a breathy, "...can't eat....I'm.....weak...." reminding me of the cartoon series I use to watch on tv when I was a kid. Space Ghost, when stripped of the garments from which he gleaned his superhuman powers would gasp, "....can'"

The three eventually made it into the triage room and the patient and her mother were seated in the only two seats and I began a brief triage assessment. When I first speak to a patient who presents as this woman did tonight, it's not uncommon for the patient to look at one of the family members, cueing them to begin answering questions for them further illustrating the degree of debilitation they've experienced as a result of their devastating illness. I've even had women tell me a number when I ask their husbands to rate their pain on a scale of 0 to 10. Tonight I dared that family to start answering questions for this woman and, as if they sensed it, they didn't. When I asked her, the patient told me she'd been sick for two weeks.

ER nurses pose seemingly innocent questions to patients which are designed to teach them lessons. My next was one of those questions.

"What happened tonight to bring you to the emergency room?" translates to: "Are you out of your fucking mind? This is an EMERGENCY room. It's called that because you're only suppose to be here if you have an EMERGENCY. Being sick for two weeks does not fall into that catagory. What in the name of all things holy was going through your mind to get your family out at nearly midnight and crawl to town in the middle of the night? What about this date made you decide that today was the day you were finally going to seek medical treatment for something you've been experiencing for two weeks? Is it something about the twin towers? What?"

Turns out, they'd taken the girl to several different clinics and ERs over the two week course of her illness and "nobody would help her". That was my cue to say something like, "Gee, I wonder why everybody is so mean? It's clear to see you've been terribly mistreated. Here honey, you come in our ER. We can see you're sick. You're sick as hell and we're gonna rush you in here and pamper you for as long as you want us to. And if somebody comes in having a heart attack, well, fuck 'em. They can wait while we fluff your pillow." That's what they expect us to say. Really.

I continued my assessment and then did vital signs and documented them and then I looked in the med box. As I was taking one bottle of medication at a time out of the box and writing it on the medication sheet in the chart, I looked down and saw it. A shiny, brown roach crawling amongst the clutter in the bottom of the box. It was about the same time that I decided I had compiled a sufficient list of medications and shut the lid, handing the box back to the male family member, whatever he was; Dad, husband or both.

I then left the room and while the doctor was looking over the chart, I formed a plan. I would tell the man to take the medications out and put them in the car, thereby preventing the escape of the roach into the general population of the ER. When I went back in, I handed the chart to the woman and turned to the man who was, once more, holding the box in one hand and had begun to guide the woman back out into the waiting area with the other.

"If I were you," I said, looking as somber as I could in an attempt to convey some hidden threat of theives, etc, "I'd take those medications out and lock them up in the car."

He remained silent for a second and then said as he turned out the door toward the admissions desk, "I'll just hold onto them. They won't get them away from me."

I clocked out and left before they checked in and came back to a treatment room.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Life is Sweet

Why do I feel so lazy? How is it possible to feel worked to death one minute and like a lazy piece of shit, the next? I did pretty much nothing, today. I didn't call people back who left messages to book massages. I just ignored the whole thing. I don't want to deal with them. Or it ("it" being the business"). This is typical for me, being completely done with a thing once I decide to ease out of it. Just completely lose interest.

I was suppose to go to the doctor in Little Rock today but I canceled my appointment. I just couldn't imagine leaving my house. I'm very tempted to do the same with my annual checkup tomorrow with my local physician but they called to confirm today and I said I'd be there. I probably need to be going to somebody I don't know for this. Pap smear. I need to not go to a doctor I work with in the hospital but I'm too fucking lazy to find somebody out of town. So I'll go tomorrow and then look at the floor whenever I meet him in the hallway at work.

I wish I could just allow myself to be lazy when I feel lazy. It's not enough I'll have done five 12-hour shifts in the ER this week? Today and tomorrow off (is it really a day off if you do an hour massage in the afternoon?) and that's it. Every other day I'll work 12 hours. So the one day I sit on my ass I feel guilty. Haven't I been through enough therapy to be over that by now? Feeling guilty, I mean? That's part of the big fascination with going back to a full-time position. Being "on" for three days a week and "off" the other 4. That's why I'm getting out of massage, for the most part. So I don't have to feel so fucking guilty every single day for not being willing to drop whatever I'm doing to go rub somebody else's body.

I've been thinking a lot about death, lately. I suppose I'm working through some developmental task that 50-year-old women go through facing their own mortality. I have the sensation of people around me dropping like flies. And I think having lived through a tornado ripping your town a new ass probably has a part in it. The realization that life is fragile and bad things really do happen. And along with all of that, a very clear sense that the label "bad things" may not be so accurate as we think. Maybe the tornado wasn't really bad. Maybe it brought us what we needed on some level. All of us. And maybe death isn't so bad, is what I'm thinking. I don't necessarily want to do it right now but if I do, I figure it won't be so bad. For me, anyway. My kids and family would be devastated and I would regret that, if I was even aware of it from my position in paradise. I suppose the more real life you encounter, the more "paradise" has the potential to offer you. It is attractive.

And my life is good. Even I think so. I'm enjoying it, though I suppose I'm really tired. But I've pretty much got the bull by the proverbial dick at this point in my life. Nothing fancy but lots of nice little luxuries and beauty and companionship. Lot's of great people in my life, right now, as it's pretty much always been for me. I've been lucky but that doesn't mean being dead doesn't have it's allure. My daughter recently expressed her feelings on the subject. I suspect her's may be from that deeper sense of disillusionment that naturally follows in one's 30's. That, coupled with some pretty shitty losses she's had to endure. Stuff nobody should have to go through. Doesn't take too many of those to make you maybe a little more willing to cross over than is healthy for you. I haven't commented on it because I suspect I'll sound like my mother did to me once, about 10 years ago.

I was in the absolute throes of depression. Situational as hell, though I didn't realize it at the time. I thought it was entirely chemical imbalance. I needed therapy, which I got and it's better now. But I was fucking miserable back then as I was a lot of my adult life. It was Easter time and my Mom and brother came to visit. I remember being so depressed, I couldn't wait for a respectable length of time after eating lunch to ask if they minded me taking a nap. The truth was, I simply couldn't wait another second to curl up in the fetal position and sob. I could pull that off alone, in the bedroom, my sobs muffled by my pillow.

My brother had brought his Harley down on a trailer and we rode. My brother offered me a helmet but I grinned and declined. Later, driving up on the mountain in his Suburban, my mother and kids in the back seat, I confided in him that I didn't take the helmet because I'd thought to myself, "I wouldn't kill myself, I'm not going to do that but if I have a wreck and have a chance to have my brain scattered over the pavement and be out of this hell I'm in, I'm not gonna do anything to prevent that." As soon as I said it I mentally chastised myself for sharing such a macabre thought in front of my poor mother who would, of course, be devastated to even imagine me thinking such a thing. We got out of the car at our destination about the same time and my Mom came up to me, smiling.

"I know just how you feel," she said, grinning as if we shared a delicious secret. I was sort of surprised but the older I get, the more I understand.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Next Chapter

I'm loving my job, these days. As soon as I started back in the ER I decided to let (most of) my massage business go the way of the wind.

I'm tired. Of a lot of things. I'm tired of the sense of impending financial doom I've felt for some time. I'm tired of feeling pressured to be...personable, likable, an attempt to stay in a favorable position with the public who I hoped would, in turn, provide me a proper living by booking massages on a regular basis. I'm tired of the crackhead neighbors who live in the "units" surrounding my office space on main street. I'm tired of the fucking twisted metal roofing still hung in the tree in front of my office despite numerous pleading calls to the overworked and underpaid landlord to remove it. I heart you, Orvin, but I'm tired.

I'm tired of feeling like I'm not doing enough. Always letting people down. Letting the people at the hospital down by not working many hours. Letting my massage clients down by not being available to them 7 days a week. For going to Nebraska and Little Rock and Hot Springs on a regular basis and not being in the office when they want to book a massage. Letting my husband down by sticking him with the brunt of financial responsibility for our family. Letting my grandchildren down by not having energy for them after nursing and doing massage. Letting myself down by not having time to write or read or vacuum the dead flies off the windowsill. I'm tired.

So I let go.

I have people calling now for massages and I have to turn them down, or worse. I turn them over to another therapist. And that's really hard. There's another therapist working in my space with me. Or instead of me. She shares the rent. And that's really hard. Not a team player, I. Not a partner.

My new "studio" is going up next to my house. I look for completion by November. And I may fold up shop October 1st, leaving a message on my office phone that I'll reopen on a much smaller scale in a new location later in the year and to leave a number if you have a gift certificate. Hell, I'll pay Trisha to do them, if I have to, but I'll honor them.

And I'll let go.

And while it's hard, it's not really sad. For once, a "letting go" that's not sad to me. Instead, it's a new chapter. It's the "other stuff" I've wanted to do.

As soon as I decided to let go of the business, the morning I called and asked Trisha to share my office space, the very next second, I decided to write a book about the tornado. It's a format I've wanted to use for years and as soon as I made space in my life, I knew it was the perfect time to do it. I immediately began making appointments for interviews which I plan to transcribe essentially verbatum into a volume I intend to self-publish and sell, locally, in time for the first anniversary of the tornado. I began interviews a couple weeks ago and after this week I'll go at it full throttle, having my five 12-hour shifts out of the way.

There's a lot to the concept of "intention" and attraction but there's also a lot to be said for letting go and allowing the right way to unfold, naturally and as it wishes in its own time.

I'm turning over my work in the clinic to Trisha, for the most part and I go now to begin the next chapter.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Visions and The Law of Attraction

Okay, I'm just putting this out there. Not sure what to make of it, myself, but it's something to think about.

In my last post, I alluded to having read the Law of Attraction and using the tool of visualization for some time, now. And I've grown to believe in this. I've seen stuff materialize too many times not to.

For instance. I have always wanted a two-story house. Over the years, I've contemplated moving into a huge, two-story house like the ones so plentiful back home in Nebraska. Not so much here in Arkansas. Those mammoth, white monstrosities are few and far between here and almost never found in the country, which is where I'd want to move if I moved again. Unless it were to Eureka Springs and then I'd live on the Historic Loop, but I digress.

We've had so much work done to our current home, getting it just exactly like we wanted it (sans a 2nd story) I now realize we'll never move from here while my husband is alive. His heels are permanently dug into the rocky soil of our 3 1/2 acres here in our rural, southern town and there's nothing to be done about it. So for a while I've been fantasizing about having a second story added to our house. And it's possible to do but would require, in the case of this particular house, a new foundation. Foundations sound like big money, especially on houses that are already standing. And even that's not the end of the world or necessarily of the vision, but it suddenly occurred to me that in the event of storms, my house's integrity may be compromised by the addition of a 2nd story. As it was explained to me by the contractor who added on our back bedroom and built the new roof over the new and part of the existing house in 1996, the lumber that is produced (grown) nowdays is inferior to the lumber in the past, another contribution by corporate America. The trees now grown for lumber are faster growing pines as opposed to those, slower growing varieties from years gone by, such as the lumber from which the original part of my house was built. That coupled with the ever-growing intensity and frequency of storms in the past 10 years made me second-guess my desire for another floor added to our house.

So I'd been leaning toward the idea of tearing down the building that existed next to our house, the only original old outbuilding left on our property, and building in it's place a nice 22ftx24ft massage studio/art studio/ guest house/ exercise room/ writer's studio (and added to that now a summer kitchen). I toyed with both ideas and visualized them both at different times in my imagery exercises. The only problem with having either one of those options was, as usual, finding the money to build them with, the building being the lesser expense and probably the safest of the two.

In addition, I visualized myself spending my days working outside, doing physical labor and getting suntanned as well as building muscle and cardiovascular strength. I longed to cook and work around my place all day long, daylight to dusk as it had been when I first moved to Arkansas in 1979 and built a house along with my first husband and then, baby, Amanda.

Okay, back to now or a just little before now. In April of this year, a tornado hit our house, along with 600 others in our community. The back half of our house was blown away. The roof and a couple of walls, that is. My massage clinic, itself, was not harmed but the surrounding area looked like a bomb had been dropped. And the main breaker out at the meter kept tripping. Something was wrong. And I lacked the emotional energy to deal with it. So I stayed home and cooked meals for the volunteers and other workers involved with the cleaning up and rebuilding of our house and surrounding area. Days and days were spent packing up our belongings and moving them to storage. I worked outside searching for and retrieving our belongings in peices and sometimes intact from brush piles and from the woods across the street. I rummaged through piles of lumber in an attempt to salvage usable peices for small building projects.

And my beloved old shed had to be torn down, what remained of it. Monetarily, it was no great loss. Before the tornado, the building had slipped slowly off it's so-called foundation consisting of a pile of rocks which had, miraculously worked for many years. It began to lean and I knew it would require extensive work to save it, at the same time, laboring over the idea of allowing it to be torn down to make way for the new building to house my business and other pursuits. But I couldn't make the decision, not then any better than during the years the remodling was going on and the contractor wanted so badly to tear it down that his mouth watered. Still it stood until April 9th, 2009. And even then, it only moved a half a foot from where it'd stood only this time it sported a huge, gaping abyss where it's side had once been. This time it had to go and we all knew it.

The day they tore down my shed was one of the saddest days for me surrounding the tornado. My smashed McCoy Pot Belly Stove Cookie jar didn't faze me. Likewise, picking up peices of my jewlery out of the dirt and mud in what used to be our yard. But I grieved the passing of that old shed, and still do. And it was that grief that insisted on keeping the back, lean-to portion of the shed to be moved to the back pasture and used as a future goat shed (though we own no goats at present).

The first few weeks after the tornado I spent in filth, freezing, wet from rain one minute and sweat the next, cut hands and feet and arms, constantly burned from cooking in an unfamiliar environment with a hodgepodge of cooking implements. We were heating our house with only the fireplace for at first we had no electricity and even when the meter was restored, we had no venting for the furnace so it had to be left off. Both our vehicles had the glass blown out of them and my husband's, having had full-coverage insurance, was in the shop to be repaired....for 9 weeks (long story). Mine, on the other hand, resembled something I'd seen on Mad Max, an apocalyptic improvisation providing a semblance of mobility in unconventional circumstances. The back hatch glass of my Explorer, long broken, now sported just the coils of wire once connected to the defroster. They blew, bouncing in the breeze as I drove down the littered streets which, when catching my eye in my rearview mirror (yes, that survived), stuck me as extremely amusing for some reason. I must have been some sight as I sped around the countryside, dirty hair blowing through jagged-edged open holes where windows once lived, laughing hysterically at those wires.

It was during this time, sitting around the livingroom one afternoon talking with my husband and my friend Bobbi that I realized I was doing exactly what I'd envisioned. Did I cause this? Was this a type of witchcraft in which I conjured this calamity upon my neighbors and my family? We laughed about it but I wondered and I still do.

I recall, during that time, in spite of the chaos and loss and relief, an overwhelming sense of a sort of humming of the spheres, if you will. Like everything was as it was meant to be, even, no, especially then. I felt a sense of possibly having recieved the exact, mathematically calculated amount of catastrophe to move things along as they were designed. Words fail me as I attempt an explanation of this. I've made a mental note to explore the existance of similar experiences among other people involved in disasters. Or not. I've actually felt the same thing when in a particularly accepting period in my life. Like when I first got sober, etc. And while I cannot speak for the man who lost his wife, nor the family whose father was crushed beneath their pre-civil war home or the family of the elderly piano player, I view the tornado, on my good days, as more under the umbrella of blessing rather than curse.

Materially, we lost very little that hasn't been replaced. Our house is almost completed, the blow away parts replaced by better built parts. We got to change a few things we'd regretted during the first and second remodelings. And after everything is paid for, it looks like we'll have enough money to build the building next to the house that I'd envisioned and all paid for by the insurance money we have leftover. All that and the possibility that we may actually be able to pay off my husband's pickup.

And yet, that's not all. We got a spiritual shock treatment. We'd become skeptical, cynical and judgmental in our views of the human race (all of that probably expediated by working in ERs for many years) but I wasn't entirely comfortable with the degree of cynacism I possessed, either. The tornado changed some of that at the root level. People I had previously loved to hate, turned into our biggest heroes during that time. Church people, for one. Once believing them all a bunch of pompous, judgemental asses without an inkling of the definition of charity, we were, after the tornado, bombarded with offers for food and drinks and tarps and anything else we could possibly need. And it was that way with a whole array of people and of institutions we had previously long since written off as the spawns of Satan. It was a wake up call to the human condition in which we are all partners. Parts of the Whole I claim to believe in so strongly. I needed it and so did Freddy. We stand humbly corrected.

And so, if I did "conjure up" such a disaster as our tornado, perhaps it is as it should be, at least for us. And as I won't deliberately do it again, I'll probably continue to visualize, my intent being for the good of all involved and leaving it as always, open-ended. Do no harm, and all of that.

ER, Again?

I can't believe I'm saying this but I'm seriously considering taking another full-time job in the ER. I've been doing prn since quitting my previous full-time ER day job last September, opting instead to put my energy into my massage business. Only to discover I have very little energy for much of anything, at this point in my life. When left to my own devices, I tend to do gravitate to sitting on my ass, writing and surfing the internet. So shoot me.

I really thought I was through with nursing in general and ER in particular. I dreamed of the day I could tell HR to remove my name from the calling list and bid her have a nice life. I've thought and journaled and lamented about nothing else for years, at least 5. My family and friends are sick of hearing about it, already. And yet, while basking in the serenity of my new life I found my creativity stunted. Rather than blossoming out into the creative rebirth I anticipated, my 10 month semi-sabbatical from the ER has proven to be more of just a convalescence. A "resting up" period during which I reorganized my priorities and recuperated from the soul-deprecating effects of 20 years of nursing.

I thought I would write volumes, but volumes never materialized. I found in their stead, an empty, albeit calm and comfortable, center where I reposed for weeks on end never inspired to write more than a sentance or two. A chilling thought now shadows over me. Could it be that I somehow need the harried life of the ER not only as a source of writing fodder, but for a well-rounded life of any kind? Could it be that, perverted by nursing school, my life has deteriorated to the point of needing the ER like a junkie needs heroin?

This is not what I had envisioned. I planned to build my massage business, branching out into other holistic modalities, until I was able to one day ease out of the arena of nursing, entirely. I would then, as my mind movie progressed, begin to write in my spare time until the day I would become a financially independent writer of books and essays. My life would then consist of days spent in the following manner:

I would get up at my leisure. Pad up the carpeted stairs to my office (we live in a single-story dwelling) where I would drink coffee in a soft, overstuffed chair upholstered in light, floral patterned fabric. The 2 or 3 windows in my office would be covered with white Venetian blinds, you know, the ones with wide slats. On the back wall would be a huge, built-in book shelves where I would keep the majority of my myriad books. ("Mine" in the sense that I own them not necessarily that I wrote them after all, even I recognize my limits even in the realm of creative imagery).

It would be there that I spend the first hour of so of my day, followed by a healthy lunch, an hour on my EFX machine which would be located in the exercise room to the left of the now nonexistant staircase. Mid afternoon would find me soaking in my jacuzzi tub followed by a nap. This on the day I don't have an appointment at Turtle Cove Spa on Lake Ouachita for my weekly mud wrap and 90 minute massage. Upon awakening, I would prepare a healthy, gourmet meal for my husband and myself before returning to the office to write until late in the night.

Cold winter nights would be spent before the fireplace downstairs, dressed in leggings, an oversized organic cotton knitted sweater and thick, white, cotton socks, my dogs at my feet as I sipped herbal tea into which I'd squeezed a couple of tablespoons of Agave Nectar. I would, as a matter of course be writing in a notebook while listening to the wind howl beyond the orangey light of our livingroom lamps. Apparently my husband will have decided he no longer wishes to watch television with the volume at his current, deafening level of preference as this would never be possible otherwise.

When involved in a big book deal, we would take to the road in our new RV that I would buy for us with my first (in a series of many) book deals. He would drive while I slept or ate and at night, he'd read or watch tv wearing a good set of headphones while I reclined in the back bed and wrote. Our RV would be equipt with fax, copier and WiFi, of course, allowing me the necessary constant communication with my editor. We would travel to New York in the RV as we use to do before the rat ate the lines under the hood of our old one, only this time we'd frequent the publishing house working book deals and negotiating advances and film rights.

On our trips home, hefty checks in our bank bag made out to me, we'd amble around the countryside, West Virginia where my father's family still lives, Tennessee, Georgia to visit my sister, buying antiques which we'd have shipped back home and eating gourmet meals. We'd eventually come home and start the whole grueling process over again.

That's what I had envisioned. And I'm serious about the word vision. I read The Law of Attraction and I know how to do it (more on that, later). I've been working on this one for years. So what's with this pull to return to the ER? Well, maybe the road to my dream life isn't via living the slow-paced ethereal life of a holistic nurse/massage therapist like I thought. Maybe I need to work like a dog and be abused by ridiculas patients, doctors and family members 3 days a week as a type of catalyst to my creative process. What's more, earning my living in 3 days in the ER as opposed to the basically 7 days a week required by my current combination of massage and prn ICU nursing, will allow me sufficient "moodling" time, as Brenda Euland calls it. Maybe I can write better during my recovery period of 4 days off each week. I don't know. All I know is, damn me, I don't seem to be able to quit ER nursing.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Life As We Knew It

I haven't posted about the tornado, yet. One night I sat down with my laptop in the dark, spare room where my husband and I now sleep, and wrote for 3 hours and only got the first 10% of the story told. I realized nobody would read that much in a blog. My usual flaw, too wordy. And now it's almost 2 months since the night of the tornado and I don't know where to start, again. So I'll just let the pictures speak for me.
This is my life before and after April 9, 2009.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Catholic Guilt

It's obvious I need to blog more frequently. It's been over a month since I blogged here. Part of that is because I gave up the internet, save 30 minutes a day, for Lent. One has to have at least 30 minutes to check email, order books, etc. What I found out was:

  • I got a lot more real, read "creative", writing done
  • I tend to engage in more impulse buying at when I only have 30 minutes to shop
  • As a Catholic candidate, I suck.
I did really well for the first 3 weeks. Got a lot of writing done. Well, not done but I wrote a lot and not just journaling but beginnings of stories that I've thought about writing for a long time. I was way more creative. But then, I don't know what happened, I just stayed online longer. I started bargaining. Like I'd look stuff up for other people but sneak some of my own "surfing" in there. Now I'm back to being a blatant internet junkie and Lent abuser. I really do suck.

I suddenly feel very guilty so I'm going to log off and go do my chi machine.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Carefree Highway

I went back to Nebraska this week for my grandson's 5th birthday. I have a love/hate relationship with Nebraska. I'm from there, grew up there so, naturally, there is a lot of pain involved with it for me. And I don't mean I had a bad childhood, just that most days I'm just busy being me and that's a full-time job, as my brother used to say about his ex-wife. I'll just say that I'm sensitive and come from a family where emotions, unless they're these particular ones: Happy, enthusiastic, cheerful, etc. were sort of frowned upon. The frowners would debate this but I'm telling you they're full of shit. They aways looked down upon people who were....sentimental, we'll say. For instance, people who express distress about other family members who have, let's say, metastatic cancer, for instance, are criticized for being "dramatic" And here I always thought cancer was dramatic. Who knew?

So it's that kind of thing that I gnash my teeth over while I'm there. That, and other stuff. Stuff like the message that everybody's feelings and perceptions are more valid than any of our's, including street people who come to my mother's home on a regular basis for her to give them, what my sister, Janet calls their "allowance". It's a long story that I'm not sure I know all of. Nor do I particularly care to know any more.

And then there are the trashcans. My mother doesn't believe in trash bags. God love her, her heart is in the right place. She says she doesn't use trash bags because they stay in the landfill too long. But apparently she also doesn't believe in lining the trash cans with newspaper (the newspaper that's piled high in her office) to keep the stuff, you know what kind of stuff I mean, off the sides of the inside of the trash can. That stuff on the sides, she says, is a result of improper catagorizing of the trash by her grandchildren (of which my daughter and her two kids were....three). She says, they shouldn't be putting "wet" things in the trash but into the compost and it is, that wet stuff that causes the mess on the inside of the can. Mother of God. I can scarcely stand it.

So just when I think my head is going to start rotating on my shoulders I go for a ride somewhere. This time it was the second day I was there and I went to look for a piece of exercise equipment that I've been wanting. And I found it. And bought it. And then I went to see my cousin and her husband who are both bus drivers. My cousin is the union shop steward at the bus station in that town and I'm proud of her. It's so nice to be around Democrats. Then I went to Open Harvest which is a great health food store where my sister-in-law works. That was balm to my wounds. Smelling the spices and herbs and seeing the people in there. All but one woman who liked to draw attention to herself by doing things like touching people from behind as she came upon them and saying, "I'm sorry, I need to get by you". Typical pain in the ass and just when I was thinking how nice it would be to work somewhere like that. But anyway, they have this perfume I absolutely love. It's called Sacred Fire and had I not just spent $900 on a Precor EFX 544 Elliptical trainer I would have that bottle, now. That wasn't the first time I've carried that bottle around the store and then talked myself out of it. But I need that shit and I'm going to go back and buy it the next time I'm up there.

After that, and drinking a really big caffeinated latte with sugar-free chocolate macadameia nut syrup, I sat in the parking lot and wrote in my journal. I drew a quick sketch of a girl in a short coat with tights and boots putting her groceries in her trunk. She was so damn cute. I need to get some different clothes. The last time I tried to buy funky little (if you can call size 14 little) clothes in a university town I ended up buying too much tie dye that just won't work here very easily. I'd feel too out of place to wear that stuff, for the most part, I'm afraid. But some natural fibers, knitted caps, cool boots, some of that stuff I saw in that parking lot, well. I need it.

And that little outing saved my mind. For a little while, anyway. When I got home, I backed the truck into my mother's driveway so my daughter could load her belongings into it for us to bring back to Arkansas with us on the trip back home the next day. I used my daughter's car to take my mother to a small town south of Lincoln named "Firth" where my cousin, Elaine, is in a nursing home. She had a stroke during aneurysm surgery close to 30 years ago. But you'd have to know my daughter's car for this to make sense.

She has cleaned it twice in the 6 years she's owned it. The windshield is a roadmap of cracks, including some forming perfect circles which I fear will pop out driving down the road, some day. Of course there was no gas in the car and I told Mom I might as well fill it up as I'd be doing so all the way to Arkansas, the next day, anyway. (Which, by the way wasn't true, after all).

The car is so filthy one cannot allow oneself to think about it focusing instead on the road before them, if that is even possible while being repeatedly stabbed in the forehead by the broken sun visor hanging down to about my hairline. How do you break a sun visor? Has anybody ever actually done that before?

She had the windows tinted and the ever present dirt on them caused great scratches down both front seat windows which make seeing out of them a challenge. All of that coupled with the fact that we were about 25 miles out of town, it was evening and getting colder, the wind was blowing, as usual, and it was already like 22 degrees. Oh, and there was no cell phone service. How does that work on the plains? I mean, what is there to interfere with the signal? I can see in the mountains like here, but...

So we come to an intersection and being the anally fixated individual I am, I sort of wanted to see if there were any cars coming before I turned onto the road. So I rolled both windows down. After I pulled out, I rolled the windows back up only my window didn't go up. I thought maybe only one switch works at a time so I tried mine again after putting up my mother's side but it didn't work and then I remembered. The driver's side window won't go back up if you put it down. How could I have forgotten? Oh damn me, damn me right to hell. I had done that same thing once before. Oddly, it was also at my grandson's birthday party in the parking lot of Chuck E. Cheese's during a dark, rainy and cold as hell night in Arkansas, that time. About 2 years ago and it stayed down until May. She drove with two kids in the car and that window down all the rest of that winter.

I seemed to recall that someone, a man, of course, got the window to go up once by playing with the switch until it finally caught somehow and rolled the window up. I immediately started doing that. I saw my mother out of the corner of my eye buttoning up her coat and pulling her collar closer around her face which made me feel more incompetent and guilty now for freezing my poor 82-year-old mother as a result of my stupidity. Seeing my mother bundle up only further strengthened my resolve to manipulate that switch into submission and it was with great relief that I heard a new, dinging sort of noise which I interpreted as an encouraging sign that I was making some sort of progress until I realized that the dinging was not related to the window switch at all but was, instead, the low fuel alert noise. I'd forgotten to stop and buy gas and now there we were with no town in sight and we didn't know for sure if there were any gas stations in this small town to which we were headed. And if there were any, were they open after 5pm which was almost upon us, we wondered? I began to look around the car for a sedative, at that point.

In a time we did find the town of Firth and there was a gas station on a corner. I got out and began to try to pump gas but nothing happened and I feared they were closed but the meter on the pump began to register and the gas began to fill the tank, at last. I went in to buy some hot coffee and inquired about a mechanic but the young girl said they were all gone at five (it was now about 10 after). I was just so happy to have gas and now coffee that I didn't care and praddled on giddily while the little girl counted out my change. After fueling, I saw a place with something about "auto body repair" on the sign and drove over there to catch the man behind the counter finishing business with another customer. I told him what happened and that we had to leave for Arkansas in the morning and that my 82-year-old mother was freezing out there and that we were 25 miles from her house. He explained that the door panel would have to be taken off (didn't sound too hard for an auto body place). I asked him if he could do it but he said, "Not right now" as in "I'm going home now and don't give two shits about you or your 82-year-old mother".

So we went on to see my cousin and drove home in the cold, stopping for more coffee before going to my brother's for him to only hit the door with his fist and roll the window up in about 15 seconds. Thank God for men, is all I can say. Sometimes things just have to have a man touch them, as our friend Marty says. And I believe it's true.

I have more to say but it'll have to wait. It's complicated and probably won't make much sense, anyway.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Devil's Den Week

Every January, Freddy & I go to Devil's Den State Park in the Ozarks south of Fayetteville. It's a special place to us ever since our first visit during my family reunion in July, 2002 when Freddy & I had just started seeing each other. We made a reservation that time for the following January. When we checked out that time, we made another reservation for the following year, etc. This was our 8th visit. In between times, we carry Devil's Den around with us in our pockets like a delicious secret. During the rest of the year, we smile wryly as we drive past the exit sign on our way to Springdale or Nebraska, counting the months until we'll be checking in there, again.

There are rules for our stay in the cabin. These are them:
  • No tv
  • No phones
  • No computers
  • Fire in the fireplace, constantly
  • Be as close to nature as possible which involves the windows and doors being open whenever possible. (this one is my rule)
As for the tv, they didn't use to have tvs in the cabins but about 2 years ago, they got them. It's not a thing for me because I just don't turn it on but it's quite a temptation for Freddy who drapes his jacket over the tv to keep it from speaking to him.

Usually, the cell phones don't come in up there but this time, they did. A little. I could stand out by the truck in the driveway to the cabin and get a few bars. I'd check the answering machine at the clinic, primarily because I'm waiting on pins and needles for a go-ahead on a new massage gig with a pretty good potential. I'm about to run out of money to tide me over and keep me out of a full-time job back in the ER (which is the only place I'd work, although I'd bitch about it, unceasingly). This year they have phones installed in the cabins but our's didn't ring and we didn't use it. Simple.

Same with computers. We didn't bring one.

The fire rule is the way we are able to abide by the doors and windows open rule. They go together. Here's what we do. The first night, we check in, unpack, bring in arm loads of firewood. Then we go to Fayetteville and eat. Sometimes we eat in really nice places. This time we ate at Formosa Garden which was pretty darn good oriental food (I don't know the difference between Chinese, Japanese, Korean or Thai but I think it was Chinese). Then we go buy groceries. Well, because one of us stayed up way too late on the internet the night before we left home and only getting 4 hours of sleep, we (I) was too tired to shop after we ate so we just picked up a few things and went home. Then Freddy builds a fire, takes his place at the table and reads for 4 days. I open the window in the living room, fold the futon into a bed, pile onto it my books, magazines and art supplies, get two pillows off the bed for my back and one for my lap and wrap up in a blanket and start reading, writing or painting/drawing in front of the fire. And that's how we spend our week at Devil's Den every January. Oh, and the puzzle. I almost forgot the puzzle. That's the best part. The first January visit to the cabins I brought a jigsaw puzzle. How often do you have the time to do a puzzle, for Christ's sake? Well, I did one and I was hooked. I've brought a puzzle every year, since. For some reason last year I didn't work on the one I brought but I was back at my game this time. God, what a luxury to put together a jigsaw puzzle. I can't get over how much I love that. Try it. It's better than Zoloft.
I sit on the log chair outside on the rocky area beside the cabin. I wrap up in a blanket, take a mug of coffee with me and write, read or just watch birds. I stay until it gets dark and I stay latest on the last night because I don't want it to be over.
You can see the top of the cabin my mother and sister, Janet, stayed in during our family reunion. Seven years later, I still expect to see them in there when we drive past. It makes me miss them all.

I've been in this weird faerie-drawing mood, lately, that I'm not sure what's about. So while hiking on one of the Devil's Den trails, I took 191 pictures of cool places that looked like good backgrounds for faerie paintings or drawings. Little rocky out-croppings and mossy covered rocks with holes in them and hollow logs. What inspiration there. I hiked every day we were there.

I attempted a watercolor of the above photo. Wow. It's not as easy as you'd think. I did some art, what little I did, because Bobbi said, "Do some art while you're there," when we left and she's been especially sad lately and I wanted to please her. This painting won't, though.

These are some of my favorite pictures of the trail. There was a waterfall and ice all around that, on the trail making for some monumental puckering but breathtaking scenery. Freddy went with me the first day and after that I was on my own. One day as I was walking to the trail from the cabin, I came across an armadillo bumbling around in the leaves. I was able to get up close to him and every once in a while he'd look around and get startled when he saw me. He'd take about 3 fast steps and go back to rooting around in the leaves. Crazy thing. As if he'd outrun me in 3 crummy armadillo strides.

A park employee stopped when she saw me taking like 9 pictures of this armadillo and must've felt sorry for me. So she told me about this guy on the right. She said he'd be down by the lake between 8:30 and 9am. So the next morning I got up and went down to see and there he was. What a sight. I couldn't get very close and this picture is horribly zoomed and blurry but what an incredible sight. When I tried to get closer, he flew away and I wanted to flog myself. Next morning he was back, as was I and minding my manners better that day. I watched him as long as I could, there in the bitter cold and then I left him for somebody else to look at and I went back to the cabin to pack.

On the way home (not exactly. We live south of the park and Amanda lives north, but, anyway) we stopped to see the boys, oh yeah and Amanda.
They're short-timers now and I'm gonna miss them a lot when they move to Nebraska. (Waaaaa!)

An old friend, Elizabeth, was visiting while we were there. It's easy to see that married life agrees with her! She looks wonderful. Doesn't she know you're suppose to gain weight when you get married?
It only took the boys 2 hours to completely knock out any existing energy we had and we went home pretty early.

It was a wonderful trip, as usual. Is it not January 2010, yet?