Monday, December 16, 2013

Full Moon Christmas Wishes

I’ve been working since the end of September; almost three full months.  Happily, I seem to have found my groove and don’t feel quite as exhausted.   Just in time for the holidays, too.  I had to consciously strip away some of my extracurricular activities to do so, however, so things like Art Guild events, holiday bazaars, and my actual art have been put on the back burner.  I had a table booked at Pacifica’s ELF Market that I ended up forfeiting, too.   I needed and still need to focus on my family, the house, and the holidays.  That’s ALL I want to focus on now.

When the muse speaks again, I’ll hear her. 

I’m so looking forward to this Christmas.  Our lovely little tree is up, and wrapped packages are already appearing beneath it.  Elizabeth will be thrilled with her Christmas booty!  I struggled with some left over anxiety from last year, but having shaken it, I feel more in the Christmas spirit in a sort of stronger, more confident way.  It’s kind of nice.

If I had to put one word to 2013 it would be “bummer”, because 2013 sucked big-time.  I’ll be thrilled to see it behind us, as in, “don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.”  I struggled most of the year with financial worries, Leslie had multiple bouts with cellulitis that were serious enough to land her in the emergency room more than once and then in the hospital for four days consecutively.  Immediately thereafter, she got the gout, which was a real hayride.

Leslie also had a rough run with her sister, after spending almost a year trying tentatively to reconcile.  Things went well for a while as old wounds were successfully addressed.  But, as soon as it looked like Leslie had more M&M’s than her sister (if you know what I mean), as soon as Leslie’s weight loss surgery was scheduled and I got a full-time job; Jealousy, the old green monster, reared its ugly head once again.  Something, and some people, never change.

Lots of good things happened in 2013, too.  Leslie had her weight loss surgery, and her health improves more every day.  I continue to loose weight, as well, ever respectful of the body’s requirements in this intense process.   Our experience was vastly different, which I find fascinating, even though we had the same procedure done by the same doctor.

Elizabeth found her passion in the high school’s Drama Department, the irony of which still blows my mind.  At her age, I was passionate about theater, too, but I did it to be noticed and she does it for love … of the craft, that is.  I didn’t have a fraction of the self-discipline she has.  She been watching her weight intensely, is down to a medium from a large, is working hard at voice lessons, and is working out regularly. What’s more, she’s kept her grades (all Honors and College Prep classes) at an “A” consistently.  She’s got her eye on the part of “Audrey” in the Drama Department’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors” coming up this Spring, and to that end, seems to fully grasp the phrase “God helps those who help themselves”.

So, I guess 2013 wasn’t all horrible.  Still, I won’t be sorry to let it go along with all the baggage that was in it.   I’m looking forward to 2014, and will focus on losing more weight, and learning everything I need to learn in the new job.  Maybe artistic inspiration will make an appearance, too.

On this full moon, I wish all of you a wonderful Christmas!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Things are better now than they have been in more than three years. I’m working full time, most of the bills are caught up, and we’ll have a nice Christmas.  I feel anxious, though, and I can’t figure out why.

Last year at this time, I was working at Sanchez Art Center, doing remote work for a university, and stressing over the upcoming holiday. We had very little money to spare, but I've also got small scale “holiday trauma” leftover from when I was a kid and my parents decided to become Jehovah’s Witnesses.  There is nothing quite like being banished to the school library at 7 years old when the rest of your class is having a Christmas party.  Shelving Christmas for any reason was out of the question.  I stressed over it instead.

So, I spent last year’s holiday stressing over the possibility of letting my family down.  Of course, they didn't feel that way.

I pulled a halfway decent holiday out of my ass, but I paid a price for it in stress.  A number of art commissions just in the nick of time financed much of it.  I am grateful for the folks who asked for my work, but I resented having to fence my art in to make a buck. Now, art is the last thing on my mind, as though doing it under pressure has ruined the experience forever.

I’m grateful to be working, but I resent the time spent doing it.  I've got this pre-menopausal thing going on, too, and lately I’m moody, fatigued, or aggravated a lot. I've got all this icky resentment sort of oozing out of my body language and words all the time, and I know Leslie’s just about had enough of it.   

I wasn't happy when I was unemployed, and I’m cranky now. 

So, what’s my problem?

Maybe I’m just tired.

This morning, I bumped into a three page article on Mata Amritanandamayi aka Ammachi in Oprah’s magazine, and I remember Her (Ammachi) saying that oceans of seekers would be toward Her coming soon.   They will now, no doubt.

Maybe I just need a hug.

I hope writing this will help purge the resentment from my system.  There’s a bunch of Christmas spirit out there waiting to be let in.

I can feel it.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Fast Forward to Zombies

It is a glorious day in Pacifica.  The weather back here in the valley is always different than the rest of the town.  While we benefit from the insulating coolness of a morning marine layer, we’re also just one mountain away from Millbrae, which is 20 degrees hotter than the rest of the Peninsula.  It’s a lazy Saturday, too, almost 4 p.m. as I write this, and no one is dressed.  We really need the downtime.  Since I’ve started a 40 hour work week, it feels like someone pushed the fast forward on my life.

Putting the Bart strike aside, it’s been good.  Despite being tired, we’re relaxing in a way that only financial security can provide.

Elizabeth’s schedule is crazy and demanding, and has been all junior year. She has college prep and honors classes, and college prep and honors homework, as well as rehearsals for the Fall play she’s in at school.  She has voice lessons on Tuesdays, and rehearsals on Monday, Wednesday and Friday until 6 p.m.  When she gets home in the early evening, she’s starving, and has two hours of homework that she can’t even look at until she’s had dinner. 

Elizabeth’s girlfriend called last night wanting to go to a football game.  Elizabeth finds them intensely boring and hasn’t been to one since her first as a freshman. She asked, “What do you do when you’re there?” to which her friend replied, “Oh just walk around and talk to people.”  When Elizabeth got off the phone, her secret answer, the one she shared with us was, “Why does she want to talk to a bunch of people she doesn’t care about?”

Leslie is doing well after weight loss surgery in September.  She had the same procedure I did by the same surgeon, and she’s doing much better than I ever did.  She takes in more than enough water, eats a wide variety of foods, and is more active than I was.  She finds the new schedule difficult, but no more than I do, and only because she’s in that awkward fatigued stage that comes right after surgery. Her body is adjusting to radically less calories (read about my experience here).  Still, she gets up early every morning to drive us to our destination.

My own perfect zombies!
Lately, the three of us spend much anticipated Friday evenings and other available evening time glued to the television and “The Walking Dead”. We didn’t know it existed until Elizabeth discovered a latent love for zombies watching “Warm Bodies” on Pay-per-View.  By then, however, “The Walking Dead” was three seasons in, much too far for us to catch up.  Suddenly, as a build-up to season four, there was a zombiepocalypse-a-thon, and I could tape all three seasons. 

“The Walking Dead” is a lot like “Downton Abbey”.  It’s one big soap opera gloriously punctuated by cleaved in and/or crushed skulls, severed limbs, gnashing teeth, and black oozing and suppurating undead brains.  We talk through most of it, express our disdain for certain characters, shriek our hope that the right person will be gruesomely assassinated, and holler “Eeeeewwww” as a steel bar or hunting knife is pushed through a walker’s forehead.  Leslie doesn’t typically watch any kind of horror of science fiction, but once she got beyond the gross parts, the drama pulled her right in.

“The Walking Dead” is perfectly disgusting, and we love it.  But, the best part is that Elizabeth doesn’t want us watching it without her.  After an exhausting 40 hour work week, getting up super early every day, and dealing with a ridiculously demanding junior year schedule, zombies are a soothing balm.

Watching them together, however, is the perfect prescription.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Chubby Commuter

Fatty, fatty, two by four, couldn't get through the bathroom door.

Okay, so I never really heard this when I was heavy.  Not literally.  I am, however, surprised by the subtle ways I was discriminated against when I was heavy.  I didn’t fully appreciate it until I got on a BART train headed for my new job downtown at over 100 pounds thinner than I was the last time.

It is physically much easier to sit on the seats in BART, and I don’t have to worry about sitting next to someone as large as I was.  What really caught me off guard was how people aren’t hesitant to sit next to me.  When they do, our hips don’t touch, which is a huge personal relief.  I don’t feel the barely concealed sneers and judgments I used to feel.  Men look at me.  I suppose if I found that important, I’d be happy about it.  Now, it just feels like a weird sociological measuring device that I could easily do without.  I surprised myself most recently by hiking up BART stairs because of escalator repair and not having to rest at the top.

I was at my heaviest when we lived in Connecticut between 2006 and 2008.  I got up to 340 pounds, and back then I applied and interviewed for more than four good jobs in New York City, which is where you had to go to get decent pay.  I came very close on several of them.  Leslie is convinced my weight was a barrier, a thought I didn’t want to consider too seriously then for obvious reasons. Beyond that, had I been hired, my weight would have made commuting to the city extremely difficult. 

I’m convinced I wouldn’t have this job if I was heavy.  My client contact is a nice enough guy, but he is nervous, too.  He’s the kind of fellow who would be uncomfortable with a very heavy woman no matter how experienced she was.  In my interview, it took him less than five minutes to announce he loved me, a decision he made based on first impression. 

If I was fat?

I am working very hard to get used to working full time again.  I’m tired much of the time.  How much harder would this be if I was heavy?

Sure, it’s a person’s right to be fat. I felt that way when I was.  But back then I didn’t feel I had a choice.  Having a choice, and making a decision toward better health has made a positive impact in my life. 

I see that quite clearly.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Waters Parted and I Came Up for Air

It happened again.

Just as we seemed somewhat secure with our finances for the autumn season, one of my part time jobs suddenly dissolved.  That’s the sort of thing that happens in this economy.  It thrust me back in the job hunt with renewed intensity, and the knowledge that I had a month to get a job, any job, before the bottom fell out of our precarious little boat.  It also meant the possibility of leaving my job at the gallery, which I loved.

As readily as we found ourselves in financial distress repeatedly over the last two years, the waters parted, and a job found me.  My resume was discovered on Monster, although I don’t remember leaving it there, and I received a call and an invitation to interview.  In contrast to the many interviews that were awkward or a bad fit, this one went exceedingly well.  I was perfect for the job, down to earth, had the right skill set and knowledge … all the right things. 

I got hired.

Yesterday, I walked through San Francisco, the third day on the job, and it felt as though I’d never left.  Traffic is worse than it was two years ago, and there are just as many people on the street in the city.   I’m 140 pounds lighter than I was two years ago and more confident, and considerably lighter in spirit; yet it feels odd.  I'm certain San Francisco’s young and beautiful patronized that oyster bar at the Ferry Building whether I was working or not. 

No matter. 

I am astonished by the magic that kept us afloat, and the angels that gave us critical gifts.  I'm surprised I don't regret having to let go of some of my plans, like my tap class. All things in good time, I guess.  I am still hounded by things left undone, things I must finish, and by other things I've committed to do.  But I find myself with less time than ever. This is the trade off for financial security, I guess.  Even if it is only as secure as the current job allows. I haven't felt this tired in, well ... two and a half years.  What's more, I find myself truly missing that little gallery and the people there.  Maybe it’s because it was there for me when I needed a job.  Maybe it’s because the people I worked with are undoubtedly human and helped me get back to myself by replacing the little pieces of professional and personal confidence slowly picked away by the last full-time position I had.  

The gallery was a safe haven.

Like personal tragedy, unemployment is a dark hole that you don’t appreciate and couldn't possibly understand unless you are thrust down it.  Even under the most encouraging circumstances it does subtle and not-so-subtle things to your head. 

When it’s done, once the waters have parted, it’s like coming up for air.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Tap Dance in Pacifica

I loved dancing school when I was a kid.  It was more than dancing school.  It was the foundation for whatever paltry confidence I dragged with me into adulthood, and it kept me out of trouble in more ways than I can count. 

I suffered through ballet class.  We all did. The bar work, no matter how it toned my body in a way I didn't appreciate at the time, was grueling. Connie had us bending and twist and holding, and it was difficult and painful.  The tap dance, however, was thoroughly enjoyable. Nobody taught like Connie did.  She was striking, demanding, and talented, and she endowed my feet with 15 years’ worth of tap routines that are forever emblazoned in my muscle memory (a term she used frequently).  Waltz clogs, time steps (single, double, and triple), shuffle off to Buffalo, Fred Astaire breaks, chugs, flaps, slaps and travelling steps are all accessible to me now.

Before my weight loss surgery a year ago, tap dance was one of the things that motivated and excited me.  Elizabeth’s sophomore year high school musical and dance recital fired me up even more.  Now, I’m pursing it.

I've listed two classes in Pacifica’s Park & Rec Fall Play book.  Beginners Adult Tap Dance is offered twice with a series of six classes in September/October, and six classes in October/November; two sessions back to back.  I’m holding the classes in the little dance studio at the Pacifica Community Center.  It’s got bars, mirrors and everything.

I am poised to launch an intensive local marketing campaign with flyers, postcards, ads in the paper and on Pacifica’s public access channel, and a website dedicated exclusively to tap dance.  I think I’ll call it “Pacifica Tap”.  I want to apply what I've learned about press at Sanchez Art Center to this.

There is a tiny possibility that I might be able to teach a class at Spindrift, too, but we’ll see if it works out.  It doesn't matter to me one way or the other.  What matters to me is my health and readiness.

I better get ready.

Don’tcha think?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Thoughts on a Road Trip

We went on a road trip Sunday.  Didn't have much money in our pockets, but we had a full tank of gas and an itch to be on the road.  Our destination was somewhere up north, as far as we could get before we’d turn around and return the same day.

It's 17.2 miles from our house to the Golden Gate Bridge, and then it's all freeways. The Golden Gate has always represented a portal to freedom to me. Once I get there, I know I’m going somewhere special, somewhere outside our usual stomping grounds. It was encased in fog, but there were plenty of walkers getting blown about like leaves.

On the freeway, there was a moment when we wished for a laser gun to use on the person in the red Ferrari ahead of us. He was in desperate need of absolute disintegration, talking on his cell phone, oblivious to the travelers around him, and driving a good 15 miles slower than the rest of traffic. Once Leslie's coffee kicked in, she started navigating traffic like the professional she was and still is. We left him in our smoke to pick up coastal Highway One at Mill Valley. 

Before too long, we noticed there were many buses, tour buses. Then, it occurred to us we were close to the Muir Woods.  By the time we drove the twisty-turny hairpin turns that took us up the mountain to the Muir Woods Overlook, Elizabeth was horribly and unexpectedly car sick. How could we forget about her car sickness? She moved to the front seat, but it didn’t help. 

The poor baby was green around the gills, so we hung out at the Overlook deciding what to do.

I hiked around for a bit and took a few pictures.  It was windy, much like the Golden Gate Bridge. Mist hung on everything.  People still stopped to take in the vistas, though, even those wearing a towel wrapped around a bathing suit.  It was very chilly.

Given that the next cross over to Highway 101 was a good 100 miles of north bound twisting and turning, we decided to head backward toward home and call it a day. Elizabeth was sick enough.  The drive back down the hill was slow and careful. The stress of high school is gone right now, so she let Leslie mother her through the car sickness, rubbing her back, and offering bi-carb so she’d feel better. I sat in the back seat listening to Leslie and Elizabeth converse, struck by the subtle differences in our parenting styles and how we communicate with her, but always in awe of Leslie’s tenderness and caring. I got a clear and increasingly rare glimpse of how much our daughter relies on and shares with us as she balances the tightrope that runs between childhood and adulthood.

Once we got past the Bridge and into the City, Elizabeth was herself again, talking and laughing. We discussed topics revolving around school, social interaction, and her friends. She’s not afraid of things like teen suicide, which she runs up against at least once a year, or discussing the kids we know who’ve tried to kill themselves. She has a logical way of rationalizing and understanding it without passing judgment. She is more reserved, for example, if she needs to tell us she got a C on a test, but if it’s about her feelings getting hurt or some sort of problem at school, with a little prodding, she’s up front with it. Leslie knows when something is amiss, for example, and will gently ask repeatedly if everything is okay until finally Elizabeth tells her what’s going on. We are very fortunate that Elizabeth is as well-adjusted as she is, and that’s she’s not afraid to talk to us.  And we’re also fortunate she can navigate her way through high school without getting lost. 

We also talked about silly topics like the boy group, One Direction, and Elizabeth’s frustration when we can’t identify which one is singing. My short fall, I’m sorry to say, as Leslie seems to nail it every time. When I look at Elizabeth with that blue hair, I still can’t believe she came out of my belly. We know some parents would have a problem with a head full of Manic Panic Blue, even if it is a perfectly harmless way for a teenager to express herself. We feel quite strongly, however, that there will be no piercings or tattoos, thank you very much. We figured out long ago that a parent must carefully pick where to put a foot down.  A heavy hand or judgmental tone can easily alienate a growing teen.  And then what do you have?

We had a wonderful family day in spite of the unexpected problems.  After all, that was the point right from the start.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day Musings

Memorial Day 2013

Time accelerates as you grow older.  The years whiz by.  Just yesterday, Elizabeth was standing first in line outside her new fifth grade classroom, excited to meet her new teacher, wearing an outfit Leslie picked out for her. That’s changed because fashion, as she states adamantly, is an important part of who she is.  She takes up to 45 minutes at night figuring out what to wear the next day. Now, Elizabeth has completed her sophomore year of high school.  Sophomore year! And today was the very first day we didn’t have to be anywhere, go anywhere, or do anything. We all slept in and it was heavenly. In fact, just having Elizabeth home with no plans and no stress felt really, really good.  It’s as though time slowed down just for this weekend.

The last few months have been hard. Elizabeth’s schedule was off the charts with rehearsals, the high school musical “Grease”, a dance recital, homework, finals, and the pressure and angst that go with it.  She found her niche with the Drama Department, and even after the show, the kids are making a strong effort to stay together. A few weeks ago, they went to House of Air in San Francisco, which was a hoot (see video), then spent time at the new Round Table Pizza in town, which is clean and delicious. Saturday night, they were at Mary’s until midnight swimming, re-viewing their performance of “Grease”, and then descending on Ross in onesies. At sixteen, Elizabeth is reluctantly caught between being a child and being a young adult.  She expresses her independence in different ways, and now her hair, all of her hair, is a bright, Manic Panic blue.  We can easily pick her out of a crowd of 50,000.  Still, she and her friends seek out opportunities to be silly.  Soon enough, she’ll grow more serious as she paves a path to adulthood.

Leslie’s health is finally improving.  What started out as a singular case of cellulitis in her right foot in mid-March, turned into nine weeks of hell made tolerable only by the uncanny way our Boston Bull, Daizy, NEVER left Leslie’s side, and ministered to her literally whenever she got upset. It was really something to see.  Leslie spent four days in the hospital, but after the oral antibiotics left her system, the cellulitis rebounded with a vengeance. Elizabeth’s show “Grease”, and her dance recital, for that matter, occurred in the middle of all this. Sitting through a performance was painful as Leslie’s foot swelled like a blowfish. And she had to reschedule the trip she planned to see her sister in Iowa, which was very disappointing.

Two trips to the emergency room and plenty of IV antibiotics later, the cellulitis cleared up in time for the left foot to start in. No lie. At this point, Leslie was extremely frustrated with her lack of mobility, tired of taking so much medication, and getting worried it would never end.  Even a trip to the bathroom was difficult.

The left foot turned out to be the gout.  It wasn’t a stress fracture from hopping around with cellulitis, and it wasn’t a blood clot. We checked. No, her uric acid levels were super high.  It was no doubt the gout. The gout. How horrible does that sound?  When I was a kid, the gout was discussed in tones of disgust. Connie talked about it like it was leprosy.  “It hurt so bad,” she barked, “I told them to take my leg off!”  Leslie’s pain was an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10 even though we caught it early. The first round of medication was prednisone (steroids), and it did nothing but hide the symptoms for a short time and make her feel terrible.  A week later, two more medications, and daily doses of concentrated cherry juice, and the gout began to recede.  The pain, however, seemed to go on forever. The osteoarthritis was extremely irritated by all this, too.  What's more, she had to cancel her rescheduled trip to Iowa once again, as if the universe just didn't want her to go there!  

Today was the first day Leslie got out her walking sticks and walked tentatively down the street. It was a brief walk, although more than I expected, and it was an effort toward regaining her strength, which she feels intensely motivated to do.

Adjunct to this, and I’m climbing on my soapbox here, all of Leslie’s health issues were either caused by or exacerbated by her weight, which, for the record, isn’t that horrible.  She was much, much heavier ten years ago before her total knee replacement in 2002 and has been conscientious ever since.  When you’re at a point where moving or exercising is painful, and you’re plagued with muscles that tweak and joints that scream at the end of the day, it’s time to take the situation in hand. Bones aren’t made to carry extra weight, and aging bones will object vehemently. That’s what I had to do, and why I sound like I’m preaching (there’s nothing more annoying than a reformed fat person).  Despite still having issues I must work on, at the very least I’m not lugging an extra 120 pounds when I climb the stairs.  My thoughts are this: If you’re a large woman, a thick madam, of 50 or thereabouts, and frightened of disability or immobility, don’t be afraid to do something about it. The glitches have been worked out of weight loss surgery, and we’re lucky enough to have a pioneer in the field right here at Mills Peninsula. There’s no reason to remain caged by your body.  End of soapbox.

Next week, Leslie goes to see Dr. Wetter, the surgeon who did my weight loss surgery.  The appointment can’t come soon enough as far as she’s concerned.

The summer will be a chance to be together as a family and strengthen the bonds stressed by illness and crazy schedules.  I knew May was going to be a financial challenge, so we spent a lot of time doing yard sales and chasing bills.  It was the month stuck between transitions around income.  I’m glad to see May come to a close.  Leslie will teach Elizabeth how to drive (another rite of passage that blows my mind).  Elizabeth will undoubtedly spend a lot of time with her brand new acoustic guitar which she taught herself how to play. And she’ll do a month long musical theater summer camp in July at Spindrift right here in town.  Rehearsals are Monday through Friday from noon to 7 pm.  Awesome!  Leslie’s focus will be on nailing down the various mandatory tests and appointments prior to her weight loss surgery.

I want to spend the summer transitioning into my new responsibilities at Sanchez Art Center, which I’m excited about, working with Tracey on an art commission (which I’m exceedingly grateful for), and doing lots of art and writing (the inspiration for which is banging in my head).  I’ve got an art exhibition happening at Pacifica’s Community Center in July, and there are a few pieces I’d like to complete for that.  My fiction manuscript, which I’m more than halfway through, is pulling at me again.  If I get into the 50/50 at Sanchez, that means 50 pieces of small art (6x6) over 50 days which will be a challenge and an opportunity to complete my pop-culture tarot deck.

My spiritual mother, Sri Karunamayi or Amma, was in town just as Leslie’s cellulitis was at its worst, so I missed the Bay Area programs.  Then, in an unusual scheduling move, she came back a month later, just as Leslie’s gout was at its peak. I was very disappointed even as I knew for certain that my family comes before everything, even my spirituality.

If I’ve learned anything from the last several months, it’s this:  There are some things we can change and many things we cannot, but time marches on regardless and whether or not we change what we dislike about ourselves.  Change is self-motivated.  It can also be frightening. But it beats sitting on the couch because you’re too fatigued to do anything else, waiting for the next time your back goes out.  One day you may turn around, 150 pounds heavier than when you were 16, and staring down the barrel at 50 years of age.  That's not going to be me. 

Having the time to be with my family and to do my art and writing is a blessing. But, of course, it’s balanced by a need for greater financial security.  Someday soon, this time will come to an end.  I plan to enjoy it while it lasts.  I also know without a doubt, that my greatest wish is for Leslie and I to be present and healthy if and when Elizabeth has children. We're taking steps to make that happen.

Soon enough, Elizabeth will be off to college, Leslie will be 150 pounds lighter, and I really will be 50 years old!

Time really does fly.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

"Pippin", "Grease", and the Benefit of High School Musicals to the Growing Teen

Grease is the word.

It is in this house, anyway.  Our daughter, Elizabeth, plays “Frenchie” in her high school’s musical “Grease”, and I can’t tell you how it tickles me.  I snuck back stage during rehearsals a few times when I picked her up, and doing so brought it all back.

The one thing that kept me sane when I was a teenager was children’s theatre at Constance Moore’s “Children’s Theater Workshop”.  Miss Connie, as we called her, had about 300 students and each year incorporated them and their dancing lessons into a musical.  We, the bigger kids, got to audition for the musical roles in each show.  Let’s see ... we did “Gypsy”, “Hello Dolly”, “Babes in Toyland”, “Music Man”, among others. The year we did "42nd Street", I was the character lead and the stage manager. I knew every single cue in that script. I was 16.  During the summers, we were occupied with community theater where we did “Oklahoma”, “Mame”, “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” and “Pippin”.  I was Fastrada in Pippin, and I tell you, it was one of the best times I’ve ever had.  Jody was Pippin, I was his stepmother, and Gina was Pippin’s grandmother, Berthe.  There was a scene where Gina sang to Jody. She sang “No Time at All” in a long flowing gown, her head wrapped in veils, and during one performance, she had Jody absolutely mesmerized to the point where he forgot his lines.  Those were such wonderful times.  Wonderful memories, too.

I went to the local high school’s brand new, state of the art theater to pick Elizabeth up tonight.  Typically, I have to go back stage to drag her out of there.  “I’m so stressed out,” she said to me. Then, her director decided to go over another number, and lickety split she was on the stage with a gaggle of other kids, and they were ecstatic.  No more stress, just joy.  That was an hour ago, and now it’s after 8:00 p.m.  They’ve been at rehearsal since 3:00 p.m.

For years, Leslie and I tried to get Elizabeth involved in one thing or another.  She didn’t like sports, didn’t want to ice skate, and had no interest in Brownies or even dancing school.  But this high school musical and the drama department has her hooked.

It had me hooked when I was a kid, too.

It feeds confidence.  It feeds the spirit. 

It's wonderful.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Question the Universe

I used to have great faith in the powers of the universe. I’m not religious and never have been, so I don’t put my faith in god, and I don’t walk around thanking the Goddess for everything. Not out loud, anyway. So, it was all about the universe for me back then.

Now, I think the phrase is grossly overused. Every other person I bump into on Facebook thanks for universe for one thing or another. I’ve noticed the phrase is also used a lot by younger people, people with few real problems, and people who know they’ll have enough money for the rent because they have little responsibility and plenty of excess cash.  These people also see magic in everything. Seeing magic isn’t a bad thing, but in all things? Granted, I acknowledge magic in many things. I know that coincidences are rarely coincidences, and I believe in animal symbols and synchronicity.  I even believe in magic. I just don’t see it absolutely everywhere.

That used to be me. It was easy to see magic everywhere from my office in downtown San Francisco. I mean, the view there was spectacular. It was easy to acknowledge the power of the universe through the lens of $100K plus per year. Now, I have a non-profit job that I love.  I march to work in a baseball cap and t-shirt with my favorite comic book character on it, size large since I've lost over a hundred pounds, and the view sees me much happier. It might be easier to see through a $100K per year lens, but it doesn't make me as happy as this does, highlighting the enormous difference between "easy" and "happy".

My past certainty is replaced by unanswered questions, lots of unanswered questions. Like, why is it possible for bacteria to take down a robust 60 year old woman? Why is it so hard for me to find a well-paying job that has benefits?  Why is Daizy peeing in the bedroom upstairs at night all of a sudden instead of outside like she has without fail for the last 7 years?  Why is good fortune often accompanied by equally bad fortune, as if some kind of balance must be maintained, and how does one enjoy that good fortune without guilt?

Truthfully, I spend considerable time feeling tossed about like a leaf in the wind.  I always try to see the bright side of things because most of the time I have no idea how things work.  I can’t simply throw a blanket explanation on it.  Like, I don’t know for certain if we pick our lifetime before we’re born, and I don’t know that we all travel in soul groups. I can’t say with certainty that bad things happen to us so our souls can learn some specific lesson from it.  I like to believe there is a bigger picture because I don’t believe anything out of a book or religion without question, and because the alternative, the possibility that there is no purpose to life and our experiences at all, is simply to grim an alternative to entertain.

I do believe in a higher power.  It doesn't matter to me if it’s God or Goddess or the universe. What matters is the knowledge that God/Goddess helps those who help themselves.  Certainly, it’s the higher power that can deal you an Ace over a Queen in Black Jack.  But you have to understand what’s in your hand and take the initiative to ask for a card.

I guess what I’m saying is that at almost 50, I see less and less of those magic moments.  And when I do, I know they happen because I helped make them happen.

Donna L. Faber
April 5, 2013

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Infections, Pain Management and Bad Nurses

It happened again.

About two weeks ago, Leslie started complaining about a sore ankle. It wasn’t horribly sore, just sore enough to be a nuisance.  That was Tuesday and Wednesday, week before last.  Friday morning she woke up and it had begun to swell, really swell.

Oh boy.

We’d been through this before.  It was about three weeks before my weight loss surgery last July.  I was worried then because her recovery took a long time, and my surgery was coming up quickly. But then, oral antibiotics did the trick, and this time they didn’t.

That Friday afternoon, a week ago last Friday, Leslie went to her ortho doctor, who confirmed it was a bacterial infection. He gave her Keflex, an antibiotic that targets bacteria specifically. All weekend Leslie was in excruciating pain. She kept the foot up and iced it, but as the weekend pressed on, her foot got worse, and so did the pain.

On Monday, the doctor gave Leslie a different antibiotic, this time Septra DS, with an order to halt the other one.  We had high hopes for success, but Tuesday morning, upon waking, the foot had gotten worse, and the infection was spreading. She had a doctor’s appointment that morning. Exercising good judgment, we went straight to the emergency room at Mills Peninsula in Millbrae.

It wasn’t busy that morning, and we didn’t have to wait long. The emergency doctor took one look at Leslie’s foot, announced they’d have to admit her, and started her on IV antibiotics right away. They took blood, and filled up six culture jars. They also took an x-ray to be sure nothing was broken. Despite the way it looked to be spreading, the doctor seemed confident it wasn’t in her joints, which would have been very, very bad. It wasn’t in her blood either, which was even better.  Still, it was Tuesday, and she’d be in the hospital until at least Friday.

I stayed with Leslie for the next few hours, as she got settled in her room and answered a million questions more than once.  They finally got her pain under control. There was a new nurse’s assistant there, a student, and he was a nervous wreck. When he went to move Leslie’s bad foot like it was a bowling ball, I asked that he not return.  He didn’t.

The next four days were about going back and forth between Millbrae and Pacifica, being there for Leslie, gathering up Elizabeth when it was time, cooking, and then fitting in my part-time hours at the art center. I’m so glad my boss is flexible and understanding. I rarely drive, so it was exhausting.  Being on the busy freeway was utterly nerve-wracking. I was running on nervous energy Tuesday and Wednesday, but I crashed on Thursday.  Friday, Leslie was to return home.

Leslie was having a less than wonderful time in the hospital. There’s always a new nurse to deal with, and some are better than others. For the most part they’re good, compassionate, and willing to go the extra mile. The bad ones are terrible. Leslie had one such bad nurse. She didn’t read anything in Leslie's computer file, screwed up medication, and then got super bitchy about it when Leslie corrected her. Then, she got paranoid when Leslie got stern with her.  Apparently, she was worried about being reported, and rather than help Leslie and redeem herself, she avoided her completely. They're all worried about being reported. Also, it occurs to me that perhaps the bad nurse thought Leslie was just another infirm old person (big, big mistake), and it made me feel bad for seniors that are infirm and hospitalized. What bad behaviors must they tolerate when they’re sick and confused?  The hospital bed was uncomfortable, the pain was hard to control, and Leslie hates to be alone. No one was there to fix the pillows under her leg the way she wanted it or to make a dinner she’d really like (although to my credit, my cooking isn’t half bad nowadays).  What’s worse, guarding her foot put incredible strain on the rest of her body, aggravating both the osteo arthritis and the fibromyalgia.

On Thursday, there was talk about whether Leslie could return home and be safe. The words “skilled nursing facility” or SNF (pronounced “sniff”) were kicked around. This made Leslie blanch. There was no need for a SNF, but still the mere mention was scary. Leslie’s mother had spent time in a SNF when she had cancer.  It was affiliated with CPMC in San Francisco, and for whatever reason, it was a dump.  We ended up pulling her out, of course. I know this was running through Leslie’s mind. That and how easy it is to be taken down by a completely random and arbitrary bacteria. Without the right support, someone to help you at home and run defense for you in the hospital, something like that can turn a robust 60 year old into a frail citizen overnight.  So, that Friday, the day Leslie was to come home, a physical therapist paid her a visit to assess how capable she was physically. She brought a small flight of stairs with her.  Leslie climbed up and down those stairs, despite the sweat and the pain, and got a green light to come home.

In Leslie's absence, the house felt really weird.  The dogs were out of sorts. Daizy seemed concerned but knew Leslie’s voice on the phone when she heard it. In fact, before the hospital, Daizy was extremely attentive to Leslie, particularly when she was in pain. Teddy was a nervous wreck. He’s very attached to Leslie. Any time of day or night, if the house got too loud, Teddy escaped immediately upstairs. Elizabeth is a real trooper, and was strong through the entire event. But little things, words and actions, revealed her worry and the way she felt. Such is the way of kids. Being busy with school and rehearsals was good.  I couldn't paint at all in Leslie’s absence. I was too distracted.

Leslie’s foot is getting better every day, but each night the pain gets very bad.  She climbed a full flight of stairs Friday night to sleep in her own bed, and it was work for sure.  

Trust me. The next time it looks like this is happening, if there is a next time, we won’t waste a moment with doctors or oral antibiotics.

Yesterday on Saturday, we all slept in until noon, which is unheard of for Leslie and I.  Elizabeth woke up with a sore throat, so skipped rehearsal.  My work as Florence Nightingale continues.

We needed the time together, all three of us.  No.  All five of us. 

We really needed it.

Read about the first time this happened to Leslie almost a year ago right here.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Bean Hollow

On February 9, 2011, we took a drive down Hwy One.  Suddenly, almost 15 miles outside of Pescadero, we smelled burning breaks, so Leslie turned off the road onto what turned out to be the Bean Hollow rest area and Beach.  The right back tire and hub cab had smoke pouring out of it, and it was so hot you couldn't touch it.  Both Leslie and I saw sparks behind the tire, as well.

Leslie got on the phone with AAA, and the representative she spoke to initially couldn't find us on the map. "What do you MEAN you can't find us?"  Leslie wasn't happy.  They also gave the tow truck the wrong address citing Bean Hollow Road as opposed to the Bean Hollow exit, not understanding how these things work off Hwy One.  So, even though Leslie managed to connect with a decent AAA rep, we sat in the car, worrying, and watched the tow truck haul ass at 70 miles per hour on the highway right on by us.  Leslie called back and despite being righteously stressed out, she managed to straighten it out.  Finally a guy named Frank showed up.  He was from a towing company in Pescadero, and he was kind enough to pull the tire so we could see what was going on behind it.  When he jacked the car up, Elizabeth and I had to get out of the car.  It was 46 degrees and dropping as the sun set, and of course no one had a jacket.  All three of us were absolutely freezing.  The two dogs were in the car, too, naturally, so we were worried about getting home.  The tow truck had room for only one person in the cab, and taxi's don't generally appreciate taking dogs.

We couldn't find any evidence of a problem.  No dust, no darkness, no evidence of burning.  It was quite strange.  So, Leslie and Frank decided we'd drive the 14 miles North back to Pescadero, and if nothing happened, we'd go on toward Half Moon Bay and then Pacifica, which at that point was just over the hill.

We made the trip with no issues.  Absolutely no trouble whatsoever.  But my, we were glad to be home when we got there!  There is nothing quite like your cozy house after a stressful and absolutely freezing afternoon.

Leslie took the van to the dealer on Monday, and they pulled the back wheel and breaks apart looking for a problem.  They found nothing.  Near as we can figure, something got stuck in there.  Something metal enough to cause scraping and sparks, and something tough enough to withstand all that road time.

We chalk it up as another mystery in an already mysterious world.

View the rest of the pictures taken at Bean Hollow on Flicker right here.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Lesson Learned the Hard Way

Yesterday I learned a valuable lesson the hard way.

Day before yesterday, I was in the zone cleaning the house.  It felt so good to work with the energy in our home and take care of things I either didn’t have the energy or desire to do previously. 

What I didn’t do all day is take enough water.

I woke up at 6 a.m. yesterday, which is the usual time, to encourage Elizabeth out of bed.  Then, I went back to bed until 7, when Elizabeth is ready to go downstairs.

I woke up at 7 and was absolutely freezing.  My body has hot and cold swings since the vertical gastrectomy (weight loss surgery), and it’s primarily because I’ve lost weight quickly.  But yesterday morning, my coldness was off the charts, even worse when my hormones were rearranging after I had Elizabeth in 1997.  I was chattering so intensely, I couldn’t move.  Finally, after a good 10 minutes of trying, I managed to get up, get downstairs, and put myself on the big chair in the living room. I was exhausted and thought I had a relapse of the flu.

I spent the morning sleeping on and off, but what I couldn’t comprehend was that I wasn’t making sense all the time.  Leslie would ask me a question, and I mumbled the answer.  Not normal.  I was also running a fever of 103 degrees, which Tylenol couldn’t seem to bring down efficiently, and as you know, I can’t take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. 

Leslie got that urgent look in her eyes, and took over the situation.  We called the doctor, and a nurse told Leslie to get me to the emergency room. I argued with Leslie, but she was adamant. So I put myself together and off we went.

While in the waiting area at Mills Peninsula, I actually passed out.  First my ears began ringing, and then I had to go to the bathroom.  They put me on a wheel chair, but once I got to the restroom, I was lolling about like a rag doll.  I actually lost consciousness. Scary for me, but it was really scary for Leslie, who yelled for help.

We were put in a room finally and waited forty minutes for a doctor.  I wasn't aware of the time, however, because I slept most of the time.  It’s like I was in a trance. They took my blood (I was acutely aware of this), and tested me for influenza (which was a q-tip shoved so far up my nose, it was ridiculous, creepy, and felt dreadful), and they hooked me up to an IV.  I argued about that, too, but Leslie insisted, thank God.  The lady from the lab remembered me from when I had my surgery and refused to have my blood drawn.  Everyone got a chuckle out of that.

Once my body had the fluids it needed, I began to sharpen up.

The lab results showed that I’m still slightly anemic which means I have to take that god awful iron elixir every day again.  My white blood cells were also elevated indicating there’s a mild infection somewhere. However, what was absolutely clear was that I allowed myself to get dehydrated, hence the altered state of consciousness and the intense sleeping.

You know, I had a clue about this about a month ago.  I was in the mall with my family.  Elizabeth was spending her Christmas money.  I began to feel very dizzy.  I didn’t take enough water then either.

The lesson here is that I can’t take my body for granted like I could when I was a kid.  I must ensure I take enough water every day, even when I’m “in the zone”.  And I must take my iron and all my vitamins religiously. 

A person can’t lose weight this quickly and ignore the body’s needs.

If you do, the body will protest.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Amma Must Be Due, Because I'm a Mess

Life has been moving 90 miles an hour since my unemployment ran out unexpectedly in September (yes, I’m still tripping on that).  That’s not to assume no good things have happened, because they have.  My weight loss is steady since weight loss surgery in June (84 pounds down), I've been published with a by-line more than once in the local paper, Elizabeth is doing well in school, and Leslie is still cooking up a storm.  Despite various stress related twitches, we’re all more or less healthy.  Yet, keeping on top of home finances without busting a vein has been a challenge.

Initially, I was focused on finding work, and of course, I wanted full time work.  It wasn't happening, particularly that close to the holidays.  Thanks to previously blogged guardian angels, I got two part time jobs that I continue to be very grateful for.  They are both temporary positions I expect to wrap up by the end of March, although there has always been uncertainty around one of them. 

I was determined to get through Christmas on a good note because it’s important to me.  Not because I’m religious in the conventional sense, but for other more personal reasons.  I needed to provide my family with a decent holiday, and I was anxious about it. It wasn't a materialistic one, but it was meaningful.  Both Elizabeth and Leslie were happy and appreciative, and our little tree was the most beautiful we've had in years. I totally fell in love with it.

I've done a lot of worrying over the last four months, which isn't me.  I'm not the worrier in the family.  I'm usually confident it'll turn out alright (whatever it is) and cool with waiting to see what happens.

Lately I've been unable to see that far, if you know what I mean.

Leslie, Elizabeth and I were out last Sunday evening, and, as I was walking around, I felt normal one moment and super funky, I mean really down low, the next.  I thought my hormones were acting up, as though perhaps it was “that time in a woman’s life” (and, by the way, it more or less is, although I like to think I’m being graceful about it).  The melt-down I had the end of the night was inevitable because I tried to push through it, when I should have rested.

The next morning I woke up with my muscles stuck to the mattress, sick as a dog. The whole day was about staying hydrated so I wouldn't end up in the hospital.

Yesterday, I felt much better, but not well enough to go to work.  Still, I tagged along with Leslie on an appointment to get some fresh air. I waited for her in the car. It was the first time in months I've had a quiet hour to myself.  So there I was in the van, jotting down my thoughts on a pad and watching the people go by.  

Finally, I was able to think.

All this worry I'm doing challenges me on a basic and personal level. My last experience with corporate wasn't a good one. It was more like the polar opposite of good, or like getting a root canal that lasts a year. However, despite the personal cost and the anxiety, it gave me a way to take care of my family.  Now, as it becomes increasingly difficult to live on part-time jobs, I find myself longing for the consistency of regular full-time corporate employment.  The alternative, be it writing or another part-time job, just isn't coming through, and that isn't acceptable. 

As Leslie says, "You need to jump back into it." 

How's that for ironic.

My spiritual mother, Sri Karunamayi, is due in the Bay Area in mid-March, the same general time my temporary jobs are supposed to wrap up.  I'm convinced it’s no coincidence that these insecurities around being a provider and corporate work break out of their little cages just as Amma’s visit approaches.  It’s happened this way before.  The spiritually minded believe these things happen the way they do to highlight what we most need to work on in the presence of the masters. 

Well, I definitely get the message.  

Amma must be due, because I'm a big, nervous, worried mess.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Will writing save us again?

I woke up with anxiety today, and I’m not used to this outside of Corporate. I think all the economic nonsense we’ve been through is making me gun shy. I’m still at the gallery, but the gal I’m covering for could be back in a month. And there is only one more semester of college papers before school is out.

Then what?

I called my old boss right after Christmas because I didn’t have her address and couldn’t send her a card.  I wanted to see how she was. She was let go before I was, and then in the following months her husband was laid off of his job, as well, leaving them with one quarter of their previous income.  In our conversation, she mentioned her husband went to a seminar wherein a speaker described the working landscape in Europe as being full of contractors.  People there take a succession of temporary or part-time jobs.  This, of course, eliminates both on-boarding and benefits costs to companies. 

I wonder what it’s done to the workforce.  I know what's it's doing to me.

How do you avoid worrying about where the next job will come from?

I keep hoping, wishing and hoping, that all this writing I’m doing will amount to something. My last press release was published in the Pacifica Tribune with a by-line. That’s my second by-line for the Trib. I’ve got another article coming up this week, too.  And the work I’m doing for the AGP blog gets compliments from everyone.  I’m knee deep in my novel, too, although I’ve done numerous re-writes and changed the title.  Soon, I’ll be ready for Book 2.

I love to do art, and I have a really cool idea for the next AGP exhibition, but my writing is what saves me, I think.

Wouldn’t it be nice if it saved us this time?
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