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The New Year is now a distant memory for most of us. I know that MKL and I played pool, drank martinis, ate something yummy, watched tropical visions on Hawaii 5-0 on Netflix, and fell asleep before midnight. But many of you in the blogosphere may have noticed the “One Word Challenge.” I was late to that party, but the idea is that you pick one word to which you dedicate your actions and goals for the year. It’s simpler than your standard New Year’s resolutions, which are generally abandoned by the time you get the Christmas Tree off to the recycle center.

I’m not generally a big fan of this sort of thing (or of large parties), but this struck some chord within me. MKL and I do have a goal of combining households and actually living like a married couple in 2016, which led me to think that my word was “home.” But that is a very, very complex word for me (although MKL has made it simpler, as I feel as if my home is where he is). So I don’t think “home” is quite my word. I think my word is for 2016 is “bravery.”

BRAVERY.

The things that feed my soul that I fear pursuing because of rejection or failure need to be brought out to the show windows this year, reactions be damned. Maybe not quite like bravery in terms of Braveheart where Mel Gibson gets his intestines pulled out on a roller, but bravery in terms of going after what I want (no one else can do it for me) and taking risks around changes in my life, seeing new places, challenging myself. I haven’t done anything particularly brave in five years, when I was forced to reshape my roadkill of a life. So it’s time. Wish me luck. No, wish me courage.

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Eastern Colorado.

Quote of the day: “Scared is what you’re feeling. Brave is what you’re doing.” — Emma Donoghue

Daily gratitudes:
My MRI technician
Shamanic journeys
Meeting deadlines
Melting snow
Love

 

 

My blog friend over at Half Girl Half Teacup posted today about a common concern of bloggers, best summarized by “Who’s reading this stuff anyway?” We want people to read our words. We’ve put a little piece of our soul into each post. Sometimes, we want to share some pretty deep and intense thoughts or recollections, and when moved by that spirit, we can sometimes feel stifled by the fact that our family, friends, in-laws and co-workers might be reading these words. I’ve shared some personal things about depression, family, parenthood, divorce, loss, and love. I’ve shared pain and poetry. I’ve shared some of my skeletons.

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Weld County, Colorado.

There’s more I want to share, and sometimes I hesitate. I hesitate because I fear the judgement of people who know me. If they really know me, they know that what I share, what I have experienced has helped me become who I am. We are not who we were in our pasts; we are shaped by our past experiences, and by our past choices, wise or otherwise. In blogs, we hang our skeletons on fenceposts, and let whoever drives by see, stop, ponder. That road is public – it might be our own driveway, or it might be an inaccessible trail at the back of beyond. Anyone who finds it can see those bones. As I commented on Jess’ post, there is no shame in my life, my past (remarkable and regretful as some of it is), or my thoughts – no shame in me. So there’s no reason for anyone NOT to see my words, to see those bones. If they judge in some negative fashion, that speaks about them, not about me. My bones are out there, brightening in the sun.

Quote of the day: “Every heart has its own skeletons.” —  Leo Tolstoy

Daily gratitudes:
The graphics on the 1st Bank display downtown
A stubborn cricket outside the back door
MKL
The promise of bacon
An orange glow at sunset

I’m sorry if I’m writing a lot about the Flood. It’s been really traumatic – combine the empath-me with the flood-damaged-homeowner-me, and you have the unbearable-anxiety-riddled-me – who is trying to work and be a mom and stay in some kind of balance. It’s not working very well. I’m not used to feeling like this. Depression, I understand – anxiety, not so much.

The water is receding, though we still have hundreds of people unaccounted for. Hopefully, that number will go down as people who have no power get access to communications again. Kudos to Xcel Energy for working so very hard to keep the lights on. Even though my half-house has a lot of damage, it never lost power.  The flood insurance adjuster came today, took about 100 pictures, and will hopefully file a good claim on our behalf, or however that works. Turns out we’re insured by Lloyd’s of London, which makes me feel a little hoity-toity. We’ll see how they measure up in terms of fairness. I don’t have a lot of faith in insurance companies, but I’m trying to stay positive, beneath my strung-so-tight nerves and flesh and bone under this fragile layer of skin that covers them.

I hope that soon, I don’t get that frisson of fear when I see a rain cloud over the mountains. That soon, I will stop trying to take roads that are closed. Soon, I will be able to walk the mountains without fear of the earth collapsing beneath my feet. Soon.

And now, here’s a chicken.

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Denver, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.” — Max Ehrmann

Daily gratitudes:
Not hitting a bird with my truck this morning
My new green chile-ground beef dish
Sunbeams at sunset tonight
MKL’s supportivenss (and hugs)
Wearing my softest T-shirt tonight

And a special shout-out to the lady in the grocery store who told me that “That color looks great on you!” You have no idea how much I needed to hear that at just that moment.

 

I am on the bus this morning, and I get the following text from Kelsea:

“So they think our school is gonna blow up.”

The world stops for one split second.

I call her.

She doesn’t answer.

The bus is speeding away down Highway 36 and I am thinking how I have to get off and get to her, to her school. Totally impractical. What am I going to do, run there? I’m twenty miles away.

I call my ex to ask him what’s going on, and he looks online and finds that a suspicious device  – pipes, wires, and a battery – was discovered on a bus and brought into the school by the bus driver. The school staff took it back outside and called police. The students have been moved into the auditorium and the gymnasium.  I tell him to go to the school. He tells me not to worry and goes bowling.

I am sitting on the bus holding the top of my head to keep it from flying off. Moving the students into the auditorium and the gymnasium puts the entire school in two places, so that if someone truly is evil, they can just blow up those two places where they know students will be sent in the event of just such an emergency. My imagination is colliding with thoughts of Columbine and New Town.

Kelsea calls me from the auditorium. She is fine. She is seeing her friends. She is overjoyed that she won’t have to take her algebra final this morning, because she wasn’t ready for it. She too wonders why they’ve just put everyone in two places instead of evacuating them all. She says she will stay in touch. I tell her I love her.

I know my daughter. She will do anything to save others before she saves herself. She has always been this way. Her future career choices reflect his attitude. It is something that, as a mother, I just have to live with.

But I do not want to be one of those parents whose child does not come out.

I sit on the bus and try not to panic. I have never really felt this way before.  All these feels are swirling around inside of me: fear, panic, anger, anxiety, that feeling that I will do anything to get to her, and do anything to someone who hurts her. I feel a desperate helplessness as this bus takes me farther and farther away from my baby girl. Tears well up and I try to stifle them. Yes, helpless. I have always known how much I love my daughter, and how I am so blessed by having had her in my life for any time that the Great Spirit chooses to grace me with. But I never really had a glimpse of losing her. Not even a glimpse.

One of my friends at work calls this “catastrophic thinking.” I know I have this unfortunate tendency, inherited from my father. It’s a hard one to control, especially as a mother.

Half an hour later, I get a text from her.

“So it was a science fair project. Awkward.”

I spend the rest of the morning feeling like I am coming out from being underwater, trying to ease the tension in my neck, trying to return to a sense of normal.

I hope that kid who misplaced his science project gets an A. He certainly taught me something about myself today.

Surreality

The shadows surround each parked car,
glooming up,
swallowing hoods and fenders,
lurking in front of darkened headlights,
stealing away as my eye
catches their evil.

Innocent bunnies
bare fangs
and have a Mexican stand-off
in the middle of the street,
dashing off angrily in opposite directions
when I approach.

A dog barks deeply
the sound lingering
in my backyard,
spreading out thickly through the
cool, damp, air.

I do not have a dog.

It is snowing in May.

I tremble from exhaustion,
fumble with the light switches
curl up in a soft bed
and live inside my dreams.

MKL and Thunder Cat have a love/love relationship – even though MKL has never been a cat fan.  Thunder Cat is such a fan of HIM, however, that he couldn’t resist her furry charms. Still, his skepticism lingers, and he often comments that if she gets hungry enough, she will kill and eat one of us, perhaps starting with the eyeballs.

Somehow or other, as we were falling asleep last night, our conversation turned into this:

Me: If we’re ever lost somewhere, and I starve to death, you can eat my eyeballs.

MKL: I wouldn’t do that.

Me: But I’d want you to. I love you and I’d want for you to go on.

MKL: I would not eat your eyeballs.

Me: Well then, what part of ME would you eat if I was dead? And you were starving?

MKL: I wouldn’t eat ANY of you if you were dead.

Me: That’s just silly. Why let me go to waste?

MKL: I’d find something else to eat.

Me: But if you’d been able to find something else to eat, then I wouldn’t be dead.

MKL: That’s my point.

And he fell asleep.

I don’t think his point made any sense at all. But I guess it’s nice that there’s one less thing I have to worry about. At least from him.

Dear Unknown Lady,

I don’t know who you are, but I know you’re an angel.

At the height of rush hour heading towards Denver, just past the Church Ranch exit, there was a beautiful dog in the road.  I don’t know if he was your dog, but I know he was someone’s dog.  He was silvery and fluffy and looked like he had some husky and maybe some shepherd in him.  And he was trapped against the center median, with cars speeding by at 65 mph, no doubt missing him by only a hair or a miracle.

Other cars had stopped.  But you did it.  You pulled your truck over on the shoulder, and got out.  You called to him with happiness and enthusiasm, in just such a way that he wouldn’t panic any more than he already no doubt was.  The cars at the critical point decided that this dog’s life was more important than getting someplace two minutes sooner, and stopped, allowing him to gallop across the road to you. He looked absolutely joyful.  And you clapped and encouraged and praised him and he leapt easily into your truck.

And he lived.  Uninjured.

Maybe he had been in your truck and had jumped out somehow.  Maybe he was left behind by someone.  Maybe he was someone’s darling who got loose, like our Champ did once – he miraculously made it to the other side of the highway that time too, and another angel lady helped him.  (Those husky mixes can really be escape artists.)

Champ as a puppy.

But that doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that you took the time to save a beautiful dog.  One beautiful soul rescuing another.

It made my day.  I thank you.  And your fuzzy buddy thanks you.

I have an unusual divorce. In many ways, it is good. Ex-Pat and I get along pretty well most of the time, as we are committed to our 15-year old daughter. The first year was tough – he was angry, I was sad, it was awful at times. But now, when it gets awful, I can leave, or hang up, or whatever. I don’t have to put up with being berated or belittled. And we do help each other out with things from time to time. We’re better unmarried than married.

He has not moved forward in his life. I have. He is very supportive of my relationship with MKL. He wants me to be happy. But he has done nothing in his life. He hasn’t learned anything from our divorce, hasn’t grown, pursued another relationship, devoted himself to a job or a dream. He has just bowled and spent money and alienated nearly every one of his friends. His support system – on which he calls rarely – consists of me and Kelsea. That’s not good.

He got a sore neck about 45 days ago. It became excruciating. He had horrible back pain. He could barely move. He was miserable, and miserable to be around. He went to the doctor at th VA twice, and they didn’t diagnose him, just gave him painkillers, which didn’t help much. I finally insisted he go to the doctor again, and that I go with him to advocate for him. I couldn’t stand how he was being around Kelsea and I was worried. He’d lost 15 pounds in a month, and reminded me of how my mother suddenly lost a lot of weight before her final cancer diagnosis.

So on Friday morning, we went to the VA. And while I’m glad it’s there to help veterans, it was about the most depressing place I’ve ever seen. To give you an idea of how poorly Ex-Pat was doing, a fellow veteran in the waiting room mistook him for a World War II veteran, which gave me quite a giggle.

The appointment with the doctor was okay. I insisted that he come clean about his excessive drinking, and the amount of over-the-counter painkillers he was taking.The doctors listened, looked at x-rays previously taken, and said he had some arthritis in his neck that might have just finally started causing the pain. Hmmm. I was suspicious, but the doctors agreed to get him to a primary care doctor for more visits, and to schedule an MRI to see if there is any soft-tissue issue.

But as we were wrapping things up, Ex-Pat got woozy. He thought he was going to faint. They took his blood pressure: 87 over 51. And off we went to the Emergency Room. That was Friday. They decided to keep him overnight because his blood pressure wasn’t coming up. They said he either wasn’t producing blood or he was bleeding “somewhere”. Overnight, he spiked a fever. They ruled out leukemia. On Saturday, his fever was down, but his blood pressure was way high. They kept him in another night. He had an MRI, which was fairly normal. But they discovered  bacteria in his blood, so he went onto massive antibiotics. This morning when I talked to him, he said they were keeping him another day. Now I can’t remember why, but I think they’re trying to figure out if it’s related to his long-term mitral valve prolapse. He’s on fab painkillers, so he’s happier. But they still won’t let him go.

So I’m at his house, to tend to the animals. (Roscoe is back to his old self, by the way.) I can’t sleep in our old bed, because it’s covered with laundry. There’s no food in the house, and a counter full of dirty dishes. And I’m in tender shape. I help people who need help. It’s who I am and what I do But I feel like we are crossing boundaries that our divorce should have solidified. It is disturbing to me. It is disturbing to MKL, and I can understand that. I am still half owner of this house (that he has let fall into as much disrepair as he has let himself fall)  and the animals, and Ex-Pat is still my daughter’s father. (She, by the way, is in the mountains with a friend for spring break.)

And it is upsetting. When they mentioned cancer during his exam, I got nauseated. Seeing him degenerate like this has brought back all those feelings about when my Mom got sick, and I cared for her, and she died. And when the Captain got sick, and I lost him. Which were both around the same time. I find myself holding back tears and saying out loud to myself, “You’re all right. You’re ok.” And this makes me feel stupid. None of this is happening to me. It’s happening to Ex-Pat. I am fine. Inconvenienced. Worried. But fine.

Aren’t I?

I guess I still have some work to do.

Denver VA Hospital (image from http://www.ucdenver.edu)

There are times in every person’s life that are transforming.  They can be triggered by emotions, events, or age-related milestones – read, desperation, death of a loved one, or turning 18, for example. When these milestones appear in our lives – or we draw them to us – we have a lot of choices.

We can choose to cave in and cower.  We can choose to run away.  We can choose to adopt a victim mentality that may well define the rest of our lives. We can choose to make dramatic changes in our lives in terms of our location, relationships, and direction; sometimes those changes are well considered and sometimes they are knee-jerk reactions. I think regardless of how we approach those changes, they are essential to the process of completing whatever transformation we are undergoing.

Most of the time, we do not experience this transformation in some sort of isolation chamber.  As we are struggling through it, and gasping for air, our inner panic (or lack of peace), and flailing through life will impact those around us. We may hurt people we love by whacking them with our wildly revolving selves.  It’s not intentional, but yes, it happens.

And here’s where we can still have conscious choices, no matter where we are in the transformation process.  When we hurt someone, they have every right to say something about it, even if they understand what we are going through.  They may even say something that hurts us in return – not because they want to hurt us, because remember, they love us, but because they are speaking their pain.  If we care for that person, we listen. We have a dialogue. We do not just turn and say, “How could you say that?  Don’t ever speak to me again.” In short, we do not burn our bridges. That is, if we are seeking the path of wisdom, which I am.  Which many of us are.  We do not turn away from those who have long shown their humanness and devotion, from those who have shown themselves worthy of being a part of our lives, standing by us through thick and thin and all the meat-slicer settings in between.

As part of the path to wisdom, we apologize.  We explain. We ask for patience. We take off our own blinders of pain and shame and guilt and anger at who-knows-what, and know that when we do so, our true friends will be right in front of us, arms extended, there for support, because we are not alone in this journey.  Even though in some ways, we always are, and in other ways, we must be. 

Again, it’s a choice. Leave the blinders on. Put the old life in a trunk, wrap it in chains, and send it to the bottom of the sea.  Start over pretending you have a clean slate.  I’ll wish you the best of luck, because you’ll need it.  Or leave the doors open.  Be gentle with yourself and others, because we’re all human. Take breaths and realize who is true to you and worth your spirit.  Go back to the rules of kindergarten.  I think one of those was “Don’t play with matches.” The adult version is, “For god’s sake, don’t set anything on fire.”

Transform, yes.  But not by the light of the bridges you burn.

I’m not a morning person and I’m not a good sleeper.  This is not news – no need to alert the media, unless we’d like for it to become an issue for the teabaggers – oops, I mean tea-partiers.  But last night was unusually rough.

Yes, I know, I didn’t go to bed at an early hour, even though I worked 12 hours and was terribly tired.  I got entranced with The Civil War after I got home (see yesterday’s post) and stayed up too late.  I offer myself a Mea Culpa for that.

However…

When I did go to bed, I turned off the light, like a good dog, and went straight to sleep.  For about 3 hours.  At which time, the coyotes who frequently roam the empty field by the Cottage struck a little too close to home.  Like right beside my slightly cracked bedroom window.  I don’t know what they were tussling with, but there were snarls and squeals and growls and excited paw movements that woke me suddenly, leaving me bolt upright and wide-eyed, staring at the black until they ran off towards the Big House.

Of course, that had my heart pumping.  I remember once, when I was little, there was a dogfight outside my bedroom window in the middle of the night.  I will never forget my terror at the idea of two huge fighting dogs plunging through the glass and into my bedroom.  That didn’t happen, but the fear of the fantasy remains.

Since the house next door was broken into and robbed last week, I have been, I think understandably, a little edgy.  I’m glad no one was hurt.  But it brought into sharp focus how isolated I am in the Cottage.  No one can hear me here.  No one can see me here.  So, in the middle of night, the hamster of thievery came to romp in my brain.  And that’s just not a good sleep aid.

But I did not give up.  I was still hopeful that Morpheus would come to cradle me until morning.  I got up to get some water and noticed my forehead hurt.  Odd.  Blinding myself with the bathroom light, I faced the mirror.  And there it was.  True injustice to a woman experiencing sirocco-like hot flashes.  A giant pimple erupting directly in the center of my forehead.

Sigh.  What can you do?  Curse.  Go back to bed.  Speculate on why it hurts like a broken skull.  Imagine that, instead of a pimple, it is actually a horn about to emerge from the bones beneath my skin. 

Don’t laugh.  It happens.  See?

And with that thought I drifted back to sleep for an hour.

August 2018
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