Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me...

Today is my birthday.


I think. I asked my mother on my 40th birthday to forever more remember me as 32. She always did.

I woke up today after night sweats and hot flashes, to the beautiful coast of Maine. And then drove 6 hours to get home.

Last night? I was the luckiest woman alive. I ate fresh lobsters. Laughed with the kids at dinner, which we actually could eat out on the porch because it was so warm. Had strawberry shortcake for dessert and watched the fire burn.

Someone else did the dishes. Honestly? That's all I want. Someone else to do the dishes.

Tomorrow marks the first day of the month long sprint that is June, the end of school, and all that the kids do.

All that really matters to me are my kids. Honestly. After spending some time alone in Maine, I know that.


I'm 47 today. Not a day over 32. Although Ben told me today I qualified for botox.

You know what? I love every line. Every extra fold. It is who I am today. I'm tired of fighting. I'm just going to enjoy. My beauty is not in my skin or my body- it is in my mind.

Ok, that might be slipping some but... Happy Birthday to Me!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Mary Cheney: Look in the Mirror, Sister

The news today is all good- my sister's numbers came back great, she's feeling much better, the sun is out, and I'm still keeping an eye on this pesky ocean, making sure it doesn't go anywhere.

I read today that Mary Cheney is helping a homophobic candidate in Florida, Bill McCollum. He opposes same sex couples adopting. She sits on a board of an organization that has bought a bunch of ads for the Republican Attorney General who is running for governor.

Makes me wonder what kind of conversations are being had at that house over dinner. I mean, how is she ever going to explain that to her kids?

I have always tried to be consistent with my kids, whether it be about bedtime, consumption of large amounts of sugar, or watching R rated movies. Sure, there are a lot of gray areas in life. But to have had a baby with your lesbian partner and support someone who would not give her the right to adopt... I can't quite wrap my head around it.

I can understand the Republican belief that there should be smaller government, less taxes and privatization of pretty much everything. I don't agree, but I can understand it. But to go so far as to support someone who thinks you are immoral and shouldn't have the child you do?

Don't mess with my babies. I couldn't stand to be in a room with the man, let alone funnel money to his campaign.

Does she not understand that some people cannot afford to move to another state where there are LGBT positive laws? Not everyone can move addresses for when the baby comes. Besides, if all the queers left Florida, the economy would collapse.

At least South Beach and Ft. Lauderdale's.

It's one thing to have somehow rationalized it to yourself, but kids aren't stupid. They smell ambivalence like blood hounds going after a fox.

Maybe she really does hate herself. Maybe she is ashamed and has no voice on the board to make any real change. I almost feel sorry for her.

But I don't. She's wealthy, privileged and has a responsibility to live honestly. She benefits from the laws people in the community have fought so hard for. And in turn, tries to take them away.

How can she look in the mirror? How can she look at her child?

I can deal with Republicans. But not with someone who has sold her soul.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Babies are Coming

Oh, my babies are coming today! In a few hours, they'll be here, all cranky from the ride, with the need to run about and see all they haven't seen since last fall.

My beautiful wife will be here. I love it when she comes up- she doesn't much care for the intense rustic experience but after the events earlier this week, she said, dammit, we're all going up.

She loves me.

Last night, I went to Donald's house and he made a fabulous Pad Thai. He invited his neighbors to come play eucher. They are two wonderful people who have been married 47 years, and without an ounce of pretension in them. I wouldn't call them the salt of the earth because Mary's colorful language is way saltier than the earth. They are simply real.

When I say I laughed last night, I mean I LAUGHED. There were no deep discussions about life, pain, death, or even great love. Just fun stories about folks around here, and a statement about being "tough as tripe," which I found so hysterical I had to write it down.

Not really sure why today, but it was funny last night.

There was a particularly good story told about how, when the drug runner who previously owned Donald's house, invited them down to taste wine. It was clear this guy had a serious collection. He poured and asked, and after a bunch of wine, what do you think? Obviously eager to hear some great accolades about the fruit, tannins, and how rain makes such a difference, Mary said, You got any raspberry ripple? I do love raspberry ripple.

I almost wet my pants.

By this morning, I realized everything has fallen off my shoulders. I don't feel like a bad person anymore.

I'm going to take a nice, hot shower and start cooking some dinner for the crew. I can't wait to see them all.

Tomorrow? I'm gonna find some raspberry ripple to leave at Mary's door.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Refueling on Presence

You know when you are in Downeast Maine when you stop at a convenience store and next to the butter is live bait.

I'm here. I cannot begin to explain how important it is for me to be here, but I'm going to try.

The last few days have been impossibly hard for me. My sibling, who shall not be named or identified, has decided to step in and know what's best for my sister.

I don't take care of her well enough.

Mind you, this person and I have a history that is jagged and raw. Nothing good ever comes from contact. My twelve year old girl, with impossibly skinny legs and stringy hair takes over.

She's fighting for her life.

I don't have to.

For thirty years, my sister and I have been close. When my mother threw her out of the house, I finally had a place to go meet her, be with her, and not suffer my mother's wrath.

I have to tell you, for thirty years, no one has ever been able to make me laugh the way my sister can.

I've been there for all the moves, all the boyfriends, the one husband, the divorce, the different businesses, the travels... I have always supported her.

I always will.

Sibling asked me yesterday if I ever asked Cathy what she wants... what she needs to be happy. It made me laugh out loud. Kidding, right? But then, sibling has had no relationship for thirty years with her.

It was clearly an attempt to get under my skin. Poke at old buttons, to bring up my mother's voice telling me I'm selfish, self centered, no good.

Nice try. Almost worked. But then, as I was driving along on the highway, I passed a horse trailer. Now, I've seen horse trailers for so many years I cannot begin to count how many, but this one stood out. Four horses, with windows along the side, with one horse actually sticking it's head out. I've never known a horse that likes to travel. Ever. but this horse had it's head out, eyes fluttering and lips flapping in the wind.

A look of pure joy.

That, I decided, is what I need to keep in my head. Keep the lips flapping.

I will not play tug of war with my sister. I can let go. I know what relationship I have with her, I know what I mean to her. I know what she means to me. It is amusing to think anyone could ever pull us apart.

I treat her like she is living, not like she's dying. It's not out of denial- but a belief that being mindfully present in today is far more helpful than running down the road.

Which is what I do best here, on the ocean. Donald and I sat, had a cocktail and watched the tide rush in last night. Hard work, I said to him. I could feel my shoulders lift.

No more fighting. I won't engage. No tug of war, there is simply no need. Of course I'll support my sister.

Always have.

The tide is coming in again. Time to get the kayak out and go visit the seals. I need to soak all this in, refuel on presence. Keep an eye on the tide and fog bank.

Be here. Now. Nothing more, nothing less.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Back to the Hospital

Back to the hospital.

I hate hospitals.

My sister hates them more. I tease her that she's a baby but I'm the baby. I have no right to complain.

And then she had the audacity to make me laugh while we were sitting in the ER.

Probably nothing more than a reaction to the chemo. Her kidneys are having a hard time. Not unusual but enough to send her in overnight. Hopefully, that's all.

It's going to be alright. There will be days when she feels better. This is a chemistry game, one where there will be ups and downs. I have complete confidence in the doctors, which is nice because I really had no confidence in the yahoos down in Georgia.

I keep telling myself that. I mean, I sincerely believe this will all work out, she'll be in downeast with me next weekend, and we'll watch the waves roll in together.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

No Running Away

The chemo was hard, very hard for my sister. It's hard to accept such poison is actually going to help her in the long run.

A very long run, as in marathon, not 5k.

We talked last night about how to be positive, how to stay in the moment. It's not easy. My mind races to what ifs, when... of course her mind is doing the same. It's normal to be scared.

I was in Chicago over the weekend for a conference. It was easy to be there and totally forget all that is going on.

Or so I thought. I know I was running away from reality. On the plane yesterday, sitting on the runway for a mere two hours waiting for something to be fixed, the recycled, stale air brought me back to the real world.

My sister is dying. Not today, not tomorrow, or even this year. There are more treatment options after the chemo and she'll do anything to feel better.

It reminded me of when my mother was dying. Slowly, for years, but in the last few months, I was painfully aware this time would be it. No fabulous, remarkable recovery was going to happen.

My mother was so mean to me, it was easier to let go. Her body wracked with pain, it was a relief when she finally slipped into a coma and shortly after died.

It won't be like that with my sister. I love her too much.

I started to cry. It's odd to be sitting on a plane, surrounded by strangers, having such an intense moment of recognition.

Worse when they hear you snoring, though. I did that later.

I stopped myself. Here I am, racing down the road of writing the story before it happens. Stop it. Be here. Now. We have five more months of treatment before we even have a clue to it's effectiveness. Calm down.

Being thoughtfully in the moment is the biggest gift I can give my sister. I know that. It doesn't mean not having discussions about how she wants the rest of her life to look.

It means not being afraid of the future. Not acting impulsively- which is a huge challenge for me. I want to take care of, fix, make better... I can't.

When I got home, I raced out to Ben's track meet. Jeanine was there with Jake and Zachary. I walked up and they were wrestling away, as always. I felt my heart come home. And then, the magical song of the ice cream man played and those two stopped mid-wrestle as if in a cartoon. They came running over- ice cream man! ice cream man!

That is my life today. It is about the ice cream man, track meets, and family dinner. It is about meeting with the MA Senate president tomorrow and telling her trans rights bill or no support from me. It is about my friends, going shopping for fabulous flowers, talking about politics, parenting and the wonder of how socks go missing in the laundry.

It is about holding my beautiful wife at night, being grateful for how much love I have.

And it is about my sister's journey.

A good friend told me to buck up. Stay present. Focus on you and what you can do.

I'm trying.

No story writing, just an even pace. Lots of love, compassion and kindness.

No running away. This is a marathon of holding, staying in place.

Like I said, I'm trying.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Bad News

Sorry, but I have bad news. I hate bad news. But you know, when I'm gone for a while, it usually means bad news.

My sister starts chemo this week. It is hard to be hopeful, but hopeful is what we have to be. She's been slowly feeling worse and worse over the last month. Now we know why. It was much easier to think she had caught germs from one of the kids but that was wishful thinking.

I want to be confident she will be fine, that this is a minor bump in the road and there is much road to travel still. The house directly behind us is for sale and we looked at it together a couple weekend ago- for a brief moment, I saw her in it, the kids running back and forth between the houses, a happy moment for all.

That's not going to happen. (Mostly because the people selling it are nuts and asking about 200K more than it's worth) House hunting needs to be on hold for a while.

I wish I could know, just know, what was going to happen. I honestly can deal with whatever comes our way, but a little heads up would be nice. Because instead, I start to write the whole story in my head, and I'm not what you would call an optimist.

How much do I tell the kids? The word "chemo" makes no sense to Jake, but the other two know exactly what it is. How do I frame it so they don't get scared- or is it ok for them to be scared?

How do I best support my sister? Do I play Suzy Sunshine? As if she wouldn't see through that in about half a second. Sometimes she wants answers, sometimes she does not. I want to be a good advocate for her and not push her to a place she doesn't want to go.

I have no answers. Just a lot of questions. She starts tomorrow so please send all the best loving, positive thoughts her way. She's a Jesus/God/Religion person- prayers are welcome, too.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

The Oil Pumps On

I'm heading up to Downeast soon. I can't wait. A birthday treat for me- a week alone, then my family will join me for lobsters, steamers and beautiful ocean views.

I keep reading about the oil spill in the Gulf. Eventually, there will be impact all over the world from this spill- it is simply too large and the ocean too connected.

What will happen to the ecosystem up there? Will there be more pressure to fish more aggressively there, as so much of the Gulf will be shut down?

When sitting on the porch, judging the next time the tide will be low enough to pull off some mussels, I hope I take that extra moment to be thankful. The water there is icy cold, pristine. There are no jelly fish, or sea lice jumping at the sandy shores.

Cold and clear.

Oil is still pumping into the Gulf. They have made progress but it is not done. We are all watching the news, focused on a man with a poorly made bomb.

And the oil pumps on.

Twenty years after the Exxon Valdez, there is still damage from the 11 million gallons of oil. Twenty years.

That was 11 million gallons. In shallow waters. "The Coast Guard and BP have said it's nearly impossible to know exactly how much oil has gushed since the blast, though it has been roughly estimated to be at least 200,000 gallons a day."

It's still gushing.

Sure, I'm concerned about terrorism. But when I think about what happened in Alaska, and what still exists, realizing the devastating effects of this current spill... I have to wonder.

I wonder where all those chicken shit politicians that twisted arms to get offshore drilling approved are right now and hope that their election opponents are ready to use this when it comes time to cast votes.

I wonder what all the "green" investors who spoke so highly of BP are saying now?


I wonder how much of the coral reefs will be left? "Florida has 84% of U.S. coral reef ecosystems." As the water churns, winds blow, it is likely much will be effected.

It occurs to me, we had the chance to see some of those reefs, in Key West, just before the spill. The water was so clear, you didn't even need to jump in to snorkel to see the fish. I'm afraid it may not ever exist in the same way again in my lifetime.

This time, when I go to Downeast, I will take in all the beauty around me. Watch the eagles and the seals a little more closely. Savor the mussels, lobster and steamers.

You just never know when it may be the last time.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Stopped Dead in My Tracks

In a moment, sometimes, you're whole life can change. A friend of mine had her whole life change in an instant last Friday with a call from the doctor- cancer.

It was caught early, it is a fairly curable cancer and I have faith that she will be fine. I also know that she will be going through treatment, probably surgery, and that the toll on her, and her family, will be mind blowing.

It makes you stop dead in your tracks.

It feels trite to say you just never know but... you just never know. I'm approaching 50, and my friends are starting to get sick. We live in such a toxic atmosphere, it is inevitable.

Another woman I know is taking a life long dreamed of hike of the entire Appalachian trail, from Georgia to Maine. It will take close to seven months. She is fortunate to have been given the time off from her job to pursue this dream. She's no youngster and she wanted to be sure to do this before she could no longer could.

It is so easy to get sucked into going through life, day by day, step by step, and not see the bigger picture. Meetings, work, bills... all immediately grab your attention. What "must" be done, the next chore, fills our heads.

How do we hold our dreams in the moment? How do we live thoughtful of the whole picture, not simply the next task?

What are my dreams? What would I do if I let go of all the responsibilities I've gathered over the years? What mountain would I scale? I honestly don't know.

It's been a while since Jeanine and I sat down and thought about what the next ten years will be. Right now, I'm thinking we need to sit down and decide what today should look like. We are fortunate to have so many options- and yet we go through each day, one foot in front of the other.

The term mindfully awake keeps running through my head. Not being so feels disrespectful to those in my life who are struggling. I have been given many gifts- it is time to celebrate them all.

I have faith in the universe my friend will be okay. And that in this moment, there is something for me to learn.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Times Square Bombing: 100% Homegrown American?

An attempt at a car bombing was made Saturday night, in Times Square. Quickly, there have already been claims whispered of the Taliban sneaking about in our midst by the New York Times:

"No motive had been determined in the attempted bombing, and federal and local officials said there was no evidence to support a claim of responsibility issued Sunday by a Pakistani Taliban group that has a reputation for making far-fetched attempts to take credit for attacks."

A few paragraphs later, again a hint of outside terrorists:

"Investigators were reviewing similarities between the incident in Times Square and coordinated attacks in the summer of 2007 at a Glasgow airport and a London neighborhood of nightclubs and theaters. Both attacks involved cars containing propane and gasoline that did not explode. Those attacks, the authorities believed, had their roots in Iraq."

Um, call me crazy, but didn't Tim McVeigh use a car bomb in Oklahoma City? Wasn't that domestic terrorism? Crazy right wing nut cases who wanted to take over the government?

Homegrown? Nothing to do with Iraq or Iran or Pakistan?

Am I the only one who is making this very direct connection? Why does it feel like the media is pumping up a frenzy of hate against Middle Easterners?

The Teabaggers carry guns to their demonstrations. Guns. I have to say, I've been to many a demonstration in my time but never saw anyone- aside from the police- with a gun. The rhetoric has become increasingly more and more violent- people openly calling for the death of the President on facebook, for instance.

I'd bet having to take my pants off through airport security (god knows we are headed there anyway), that this is a 100% American effort.

We need to start looking at ourselves, at our media, and at the messages rained on us a little more closely. Who buys all those guns in this country? You know, the semi-automatics, machine guns- the stuff that no one in the world hunts deer or quail with.

There are a lot of angry, white people out there. white. Not Black, not Latino, but White. People who are feeling their power erode away.

I sincerely hope the police, FBI and Homeland security are a lot smarter than the media. I also hope it was one, warped lunatic who failed.

But something tells me, it's not.