Choices, Knitting, Read, writing

Essentials.

What I am reading: The Empathy Exams, Leslie Jamison —  The Tao of Raven: An Alaska  Native Memoir, Ernestine Hayes —  Dancing Bears, Witold Szablowski.

What I just finished : The School of Essential Ingredients, Erica Bauermeister — Devotions, Mary Oliver — Songs of Willow Frost, Jamie Ford.

What I am knitting: A vest out of maize-colored Rowan Felted Tweed. A Churchmouse Yarn cowl pattern, wildly adapted to what I had in my yarn bag. An orchid-colored Alexandra’s Airplane scarf out of Rowan Kid Silk Haze and beaded with pink iridescent micro-beads.

What I am writing: Draft #20 of a personal essay piece, about to be submitted.

You get the picture: books, yarn, needles, paper. Last weekend my cousin and I went to an estate sale, early in the morning while the dew was still shivering on the cherry blossoms. We parked by a stone archway and stepped into a long room anchored by a walk-in fireplace, fully ablaze. I wandered this old farmhouse, stripped bare and crackling with story. When I returned to the front room the owner was saying “It just got away from us.” I fingered a chipped bowl full of scissors. My heart broke around the edges.

There is letting go and there is not keeping up. I want to be the former, smart and brave and realistic when the time comes. Recently the time has come for certain things: clothes I will never wear, shoes I cannot walk in anymore. And books. And furniture.

I sense I am in a race with myself, a new look at the future —  to not be caught short of sense and burdened by stuff. Last year’s health scares just simply brought home that  there is not an endless stretch ahead. So what do I really need each day?

Books, yarn, needles, paper works every corner of my brain, now that I have it back inside my head. Everything is portable and can be pulled from the same bag. Perhaps a toothbrush would be good.

And the people that love me, that are on this journey with me? I will have toothbrushes for all of you, too.

Ten months and counting from that double-whammy last year. I am learning to pack a bag of the essential ingredients and let the rest go.

 

Bainbridge Island, March 18th, 2018 Camelia

Bainbridge Island, March 18, 2018. Camellia blossom: essential spring.

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#NEDAweek2018, fat girl, NEDA, self image, Women

Yo. Fat Girl.

 

How appropriate that this is NEDA week — National Eating Disorder Awareness week.  February in Seattle has me brushing hail off the jonquils and bundled in sweaters, prevented from long walks and sunshine infusions by an unrelenting steel gray and dripping sky. Premier weather for writing. And being depressed. And therefore, eating.

I crave mac&cheese and chocolates for breakfast and bread, bread, bread. So a few gal cousins and I began a sugar and alcohol cleanse the day after Valentine’s day (trust me, this weather has called for a lot of Bourbon). The headaches we endured the first week reminded us that sugar begets the craving for more sugar. This has been a good idea, though painful. But it also reminded me of the old days, the extreme dieting, the endless carb-starves and calorie counting.

I have made references along the way in my writing and on this blog that my body weight and self image took a hit for most of my life. I believe that my degree of eating disorder was instilled in me very early on because of how others thought I should look. And even when I initially shed some of the weight in eighth grade by growing five inches, the person in the mirror will always be fat. That is what happens when family, friends and peers — not to mention the media — sets standards that the average young girl cannot meet.

Every time I think I have gotten beyond this self-image issue the fat girl stands up: I had a series of abdominal surgeries ten months ago, right before my oldest daughter’s wedding. The dress I had purchased barely zipped on her wedding day. Spanx (never actually wear them) were out of the question due to my incision areas. I felt sick for days in anticipation of what those pictures would look like. The fat girl wanted to hide in the bathroom when the dress went over my head. She never leaves me, logically or illogically.

Today I seek transparency, like the warrior survivor #positively.kate who writes the most amazing truth every day on her blog and instagram. The NEDA website is an incredible resource for support or information: I took the quiz, and learned I could use some help. I know. I always will. But I also know after fifty-nine years that I am spectacular in many ways and eating disorders do not define me anymore. Hey, I was tumor-free for the wedding and I WAS THERE, saggy stomach and all.

Once that girl lives in you, you just have to call her out. I looked in the bathroom mirror, my daughter waiting on the other side of the door in her wedding dress and said,

“Yo, Fat Girl. I love you.”

Olive2:18Seattle

Olive, February, 2018. Seattle, WA.

 

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#CRU11TOUR, Golf Fights Cancer, Healing, Make it count., More Beautiful Than Before

February 6th, 2018.

Last week at Powell’s bookstore in Portland, Oregon, I approached the information desk to ask about a book a very wise friend recommended.

The young gal in charge, Portland requisite cap and tats, typed furiously on her keyboard.
“Hmmm” she said, moving closer to the computer screen. “Looks like we just got a copy in today. I will have them find it for you.”

Ten minutes later, she placed it reverently in my hands. “I hear this is a good one,” she nodded. Karma.

I pushed it into my bag. I didn’t really want them to find it.

One year ago to the day, two young men I knew lost their lives. One would have done anything to stay. One made the most extreme effort to leave. As family and friends navigated the past twelve months a question keeps presenting itself with every book, blog and helpful friend: Do words help?

More Beautiful Than Before, by Rabbi Steve Leder, a small, unassuming book that I can palm with one hand, navigates grief and survival and the subsequent reincarnation of the self. I don’t read it. Instead, I write my son and tell him I love him on the anniversary of his best friend’s death. I write my girlfriend a text early this morning, I say “I LOVE YOU,” hoping my love, in capitals, can soothe this day a little more. I think my words help.

I still can’t open the book.

How Suffering Transforms Us reads the subtitle. The book lies next to my laptop. I think, in my snarky inner voice, I can answer that, so can my friend, my son, my family, their families. Look at us!

I read the first paragraph of the introduction. But, Leder spars back, can you make that count?

I write my son a second text. I tell him he has changed me and the world around him by his profound love and actions since his best friend died. I write my girlfriend again, and tell her that she has changed me with her unflinching honesty and love of her son. They transformed their suffering into fundraising for cancer research and education on suicide awareness, even while consumed with grief. They have made this year count. Despite.

On an anniversary day that leaves me a little breathless I honor these friends and family.  I honor those boys that we loved.

May I be blessed with the wisdom to transform this next year, to find the words to make it all count.

 

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Budding Quince, January, Green Lake, Seattle, 2018

 

 

 

 

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Be Brave., Carcinoid tumor, Coping, Friendship, Good, Kindness, Support, Whoop!, writing

Short and Sweet: We Survived It.

This day, this morning, December 31st — the absolute last gasp of 2017 —  a choice presents itself. Shall I whinge? Shall I whoop?

What I leave behind in 2017: my 50’s, my ovaries, appendix and assumption of immortality. On politics? I gladly leave behind any further fury or speculation. On writing: I leave the year with barely any pages in my files. A new woman looks back at me in the mirror. I lost the other one in April.

But. The gains!

So so many acquaintances and friends gave me unexpected love, stepped forward and shepherded me through the two surgeries and recoveries, ones I didn’t even know had my phone number. I reconnected with far-away family. Writer friends patiently read my work over and over as I got my anesthesia brain cleared, never judged, their patience putting momentum into me once again. Friends and family and strangers pulled off a wedding in a hurricane. A young woman preached self care to me daily and gave me courage.

A son-in-law. My children achieved success. 4,500 people read my blog posts. A tumor shrunk. A new belly button. The Nest awaits me.

In an hour I will take a bubble bath and put on my Gronk socks, wrestle the pot of chili next door, listen to football f-bombs and laugh. It is what it is on this last day of 2017. Importantly, I also know what I want it to be in 2018 and what I believe I can do. Despite.

A friend said to me in April, “You have to be brave.” But I also would say, “So many people will help you do that. Let them.”

The WHOOP won. Welcome, New Year. Thank you, readers, critics, friends and strangers for all you have given me. It far outweighs the other. We survived it.

Let me make this short and sweet so you can get back to your bubbly.

Kicking your butt out the door, 2017.

See you in 2018.

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Good, Halloween, pay it forward, sexual predators, Social Media, Support

May They All Fall Down

 

I am nostalgic for simple things today — tiny costumes, frost, crisp leaves and the Halloween of days past when I safety-pinned tails and veils and walked door to door at dusk arms full of coats and extra tissues. But delusion, that life is simple, is on the auction block this week.

Sexual predators and manipulators in the form of celebrities, chefs and politicians have been steadily outed this month. Dropped by the media, the public and sponsors does not begin to rectify the enormous damage, to both women and men, that denial has fostered. Yet this feels like a slow roll towards something: illumination, education, vindication? The news just came through of truck carnage in NYC.  I find it hard to catch my breath.

What is good.

I need to reward the good people around me more. Thank them often, send them notes, praise their accomplishments, foster kindness and respect. I cannot expect them to just know that they have touched me with their goodness but I can show them in simple ways. We should all start fixing and polishing what is around us one word, one gesture, one act at a time. I choose to believe this will pay forward towards a better culture. Who does not feel better, more powerful, more motivated after praise?

After the news broke in NYC today, I went outside and nailed up a plastic illuminated spiderweb at the bottom of my stairs. Threaded down a 40-foot extension cord so the spider’s eyes could glow. My pockets are full of tissue for my own cold. The children next door make an effort to come up my stairs and get candy at some point every Halloween, even though the neighbors give out full-sized candy (come on, no contest, I agree). But they support me and my presence.

In return, I will dump the contents of my plastic pumpkin into their bags and spike their end of the night candy count quite nicely. I will cheer them as they tackle the stairs to my door, trains and swords and light lasers in hand.

May the people that harmed all fall down. May the goodness in others, and you, get rewarded, over and over. It is the only way to stand up strong.

Tonight, may your candy count be amazing.

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#metoo, keeping silent, Me, Too, Social Media, Support, Women

Me + You

Me, Too.

Two little words. Every one of these posts, raining down on Facebook and Twitter from my women friends, colleagues and family feels like the moment the ice bucket challenge water hit the top of my head. The goosebumps just keep rising and won’t go away.

Just like when I was groped, at fifteen, in a movie theater. Just like when the pant-less man jumped out at me on Anderson Street. Just like when the passenger standing over me on the train parted his raincoat (seriously, how cliché) and showed me his penis. Just like the lewd emails I received from a male writer after a conference. Just like the tainted martini. I felt sick. I fell silent.

Do I look like an idiot? No, I look like a woman. And what did I do? Moved seats, crossed the road, sat still and hoped it would go away, deleted the emails, tried to forget. Never told my daughters. In other words, acted like a woman taught to keep her mouth shut, not stir up trouble, smile and pretend.

Those of you that know me might just have snorted. But that reaction has been ingrained. Period. In every instance, through my entire fifty-nine years, my response has been I am powerless against this man. Nothing I do will change what happened. Not worth making a fuss.

But these two words, posted again and again by women I love and admire, makes my heart skitter. We are confessing, yes; Me. But together we are building powerful, irreversible awareness with the second word; Too. 

I suspect every finger hesitated, every woman wondered, “should I do this publicly?” The answer is yes.

Because if you are nervous about going public consider something: each generation reaches higher standing on the shoulders and accomplishments of the women before them. But how staggering that women of ALL ages are posting these two words Me, Too and #metoo.  This is power. This is momentum. This is all of us, together.

Solidarity breaks things. Silence. Ignorance. Powerlessness. Domination. Wrong.

Wow and Wow. I admire each and everyone of you.

We are women. Not,

Blog10.17.17

 

 

 

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Begin anew, Carcinoid tumor, Coping, Healing

What Comes Next.

Sitting under a Pacific Northwest sunset, freshly shucked oysters in hand, a friend asked me last night, “what are the top take-aways you have from the last three months and what you have been through.”

The first thought that came to mind? I can heal. No matter how much I thought my body was broken. I have never been health challenged before. I did not know what came next.

The second thought? I was wearing a long, white linen skirt. I twirled it a little. Then said, “I realized saving this was ridiculous and have worn it almost every day.”

What came next for me, when I woke up one morning and realized I could make tea and walk the dog and make it past nine o’clock at night, was a sense of magic and wonder. Every day is a good day. Even if I feel crummy and sit curled up on the couch, resting. Here I am.

If I focus on the what if of that now-removed but large carcinoid tumor I will never get out of bed, or get dressed at all. So that feels like a waste of all my body has been through. I am breathing, right?

Now that I have thought about this, I like the image: Drag the broken body out into the sunset. Decorate it with a long, impractical but divine white linen skirt. Twirl in the sparkle of the setting sun. Pat the stomach pains and remind self: I got this today.

What came next was an understanding: The sun will come up and go down, despite. Every day. I want to watch it, eyes wide open. Surrounded by friends and family, preferably wearing that impractical skirt.

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Mt. Rainier, Restoration Point sunset, July 2017.

 

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