Monday, August 31, 2015

No rest for the weary

Taking a break. See you when the fog clears.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

To everything there is a season

And I suppose this is ours. I used to embrace change. I was one of those people who enjoyed a good change.

Now that I am elderly older, I find that change is hard for me. I like my ruts. Like being stuck in my ruts with my posse, my people.

But, big changes are afoot.

I have decided to retire from my job as of September 15th. I will begin radiation shortly after that and have to go in every day for treatment for nearly two months, so it will be good to not have to balance everything, try to get from one end of the city to the other for this. And you know what? WHY THE HELL are there not radiation centers that are open nights and weekends? This seems illogical to me. So many of us work and radiation is like a big mess that we have to skirt around. The doctor wants me there at 10:15 every day. This means that I would have to leave work at 9:30 just to get there and then....what if they're running late? And they always seem to be, no matter where I go. So, I get my radiation and am out of my gown by 10:45. Dressed by 11:00. Back to work around noon with traffic. That is a huge chunk of a day to miss EVERY WEEK DAY for two months.

This is all complicated by the fact that I am part owner of my clinic. I co-own it with two others. Now, they need to buy me out. Which they can do by September 15th.

And then I will be jobless. Bing tells me that I should try for disability. That I have two of the biggest disabilities there are: cancer and rheumatoid arthritis. Then, well....there will be some money coming in and I can volunteer when I am up to it.

Right now, being "up to it" seems like a far away goal. I have been so sick for so long that I can't imagine what a good day feels like anymore. Pain is always right there, in my wrists, my fingers, my arms, my neck, back and legs. In my toes. And the fatigue, too. I can't remember a time when I didn't ache for my bed. I have bed hunger like nobody's business. I sink into it every night by 7:30 or 8:00. I try to remain upright to eat dinner with the family and talk to Liv, share her day. And then I tell myself that I can go to sleep.

And I rush towards it like a drug addict. I'm a sleep addict. Sometimes my garden can lure me away. Sometimes not. And never for more than a half hour before I tucker out.

I spend a lot of time sighing. Feeling like I'm 80. My doctor tells me that once I'm retired and sleeping much more, I will feel better. That it will take a good year or so before I start to feel more like myself.

So, I walk around in this weird, but not really. I am always falling asleep in chairs. And waking up with drool on my face. It is not a lovely way to wake up.

Bing, who loves me, says not a word. She is often the one who wakes me up and hers is the face that I peer into wearily as she shakes me to help me up the stairs to bed.

And Bing is going through some changes herself.

She is changing jobs on September 3rd. I may have mentioned that she wasn't really happy with her corporate job. Felt that it was a whole lot of money for a whole nothing of work. She, a lifelong do-gooder, is not comfortable it seems with earning money and not feeling like she is earning it.

She was offered a job a couple of weeks ago for a non-profit that is a lovely place for boys from 5th to 9th grade to go for after school help. They are bussed from their schools and end up at this place. They are coached to do homework until dinner time and then the staff and boys all sit down to dinner together. After dinner, they can do activities. They can play sports, play games in the tech lab or read in the library. She was offered the job of head of staff at this facility. It has already gained national recognition for helping to keep these boys away from gangs. And she is crazy about the director of the facility, another do-gooder like she is. A man who had this vision for years and finally fundraised his way into it, a sort of if you build it, they will come place. And now, it is real. And it is working. Parents love it because their sons are off the streets after school, getting their home work done and eating a good meal. AND having fun. But. ONLY having fun if their homework is done.

This is right up Bing's alley. The hours suck and there is a pay cut from where she works now. She would work from 11-8 every day. And get paid about 5 thousand less per year.

We talked about it. She wasn't going to take it, felt that she needed to be here for me in the evenings. To have dinner with Liv and me. To help me with my shower. I pointed out that, once I retired, we would have some lovely morning time together. And that Liv and I would be FINE eating on our own. And that I could take a shower on my own, I was just very slow.

But, most important....I have watched Bing sloop all Summer at her corporate job. I have watched her present ideas to her boss and have them shut down because they didn't fit in with what the corporation wanted her to do: write grants. I know my wife. She needs to feel useful, to feel as if she is making a difference. She was not feeling this and was not fulfilled.

I want my wife to be happy. We talked. She will take the job. I will retire.

We will start a new journey of big changes in our lives. No longer is she the crazy busy high school teacher who teaches at that ghetto school that no one else wants. No longer will I be spending my days working with autistic children. I will be resting. Healing. Bing will be working at a place where she knows she is making a difference in kid's lives. We can both find happiness on these very different journeys.

And have our weekends. Things will slow down a lot for me. I will have time to sleep and then maybe feel well enough to go to Liv's Fall softball games. And work to take in the last offerings from my garden. And then maybe can and freeze and turn over the soil in my garden to prepare for Winter.

Life will look different. But, maybe it will be better. I think it will be. I've heard it said that a change is as good as a rest.

Maybe it's time to see if this is true, yes?

Monday, August 24, 2015

Sweetie, sometimes it's just time.

It was a hard day. Friday. I tried so hard but could barely get out of bed. I'd had chemo the previous Tuesday and true to form, had what we call in chemo as hitting the wall on Friday. It usually takes 3 days. For the first few days after chemo, you are still on massive steroids, so you feel like you could probably paint the house if you had to. And then...that wall.

I had a tendency to hit on Friday mornings after Tuesday chemo, so it was not unexpected. But, it was. I have no idea why, but I'm always a little surprised, like maybe THIS time I can skip it.

Except I couldn't. I drug myself out of bed, had already only planned for a half day with a scheduled bag at 1:00 to get re-hydrated from all the throwing up/ diarrhea of the night before. But, this felt like torture at work. I struggled mightily to get from the car to my office, and watched myself walking towards the building in the shadow from the doors.

I looked like a very drunk person trying to stay upright. I felt like shit.

And I was not at the end yet. I was nearing the end of chemo, but heading into the beginning of radiation. Two months of it. Jesus. How would I do this, I wondered?

That night, I wept in Bing's arms.

"It's just so hard," I whimpered, embarrassed that my Viking woman had not taken control.

"I don't know if I can keep this up," I finally admitted. "I just feel so weak. All over. I've lost so much weight that my clothes are hanging off of me. I'm so tired. ALL. THE. TIME. I feel like I'm not doing my job well. Like I'm just...hanging on by a thread. And all the doctors tell me that recovery will be very slow for someone like me. I'm just not bouncing back, not the way I want to. And I can't fake it much longer."

Bing sat back. Held me by my shoulders.

"Sweetie," she said, tenderly. "Sometimes, it's just time."

I glared at her. "Time for WHAT?"

"Time to retire. You're 58 years old. You can retire. We have the money. We can do this. And you could spend the next two years healing. Getting back to you. You are so weak, honey. It kills me to see you this way. Retire. And write. Be Liv's Mom. Be able to go to her games. Volunteer at the Literacy Council or be a volunteer shrink. Sometimes it is just TIME, Maria."

I sucked it up again and went to work today. And now, I am sitting here aching like nobody's business. Sick to my stomach. Tomorrow are more labs. I planned on taking the morning off. Maybe, I should take the day. Or the week. Or the rest of my life.

I think I may have hit my final wall.

I never planned to retire at 58. But, I never planned to hurt this much, either.

So, whaddya think? Should I go for it? Retire? Or....try to keep on keeping on.

Opinions? What say you?

Monday, August 17, 2015

The plant whisperer tells me a secret

Our neighbors down the street are from Macedonia. An older man and woman. Brin and Nan. Bing, who knows EVERYONE in our neighborhood learned that Nan's mother was coming to visit on a visa that was good for several months. I didn't meet her. Bing did. She is close to 90 and speaks enough English to get by. Bing says that she seems unhappy to be here, refers to Americans as "silly babies." So, I wasn't in a hurry to meet her. I somehow had managed to NOT meet her even though she has no idea of boundaries and walks daily through and around everyone's garden. Once, I heard our back faucet go on and looked out the kitchen window to see her taking a long drink out of our hose that we use to water the gardens in the back yard. I thought about going out to talk to her but it was a bad chemo day, so I didn't. And luckily, Bing came home shortly after and spoke to her, eventually walking her back home.

And then several days ago, I was out in my garden. I've been dismayed by my garden this year. It isn't that it isn't growing, it's just....paltry. It is only producing about a fourth of what it usually does. So, I will have enough to can for Winter but none to share with my neighbors, my workplace, my 208 doctors and the Lydia House for Women. My garden is my tithe. I don't have a religion, am uncertain if I even believe in a God, so...instead...I grow an abundant garden every Summer and share with those around me, especially those women who have left abusive husbands and are destitute. I like to think of them eating my fresh produce. It is my way of giving back. I tell Liv that this important in life, that we must give back. I'm not about to give money to our parish church even though I was born and bred Catholic. I refuse to see my money go to anti-abortion or anti-gay causes. It's just a small thing. It pains me that I will not be able to do it this year. We barely have enough to can and freeze to get ourselves through the upcoming Winter.

So, there I was, in the garden, sitting with those god-awful gardening gloves which I detest because I can't FEEL my plants with them on. But, my oncologist insisted that I wear them for my protection.

I nearly jumped out of my skin when I saw two bare feet standing about a foot away from me. I looked up into the face of Honey, the 90 year old with the visa visiting from Macedonia. She had a huge gardening hat on, bigger than my own and mine is big.

She pointed to the tomatoes that I was re-staking.

"Sad fruit," she said. I nodded, glumly, agreeing. Indeed. Sad fruit. Honey put her hand on my shoulder. "Good with dirt," she said. Again, I agreed. I am good with the dirt. I just can't FEEL it anymore. And then, she took my hand and whipped my glove off.

"Fruit needs to feel their Mama," she said. And threw my glove down next to me. "If no? Sad fruit." And that was that. She walked off.

I sat back on my heels. Thought. I agreed with her but there were so many obstacles here. What if I hurt my garden with my chemo hands? I must be inundated with poison. That can't be good for them. And what if I catch something out in this garden, full of our mulch of old banana skins, orange peels, egg shells and whatnot from our mulch pit? What if I cut my hands? I may get an infection and I have no way of healing with basically no white blood cells at my disposal.

I looked at my plants and made the decision. From now on, I would work in my garden without gloves. Time to live dangerously, take a chance. Take the chance that I would be just fine.

The next day, I weeded and watered, pinched off dead heads and tenderly touched the various vines and roots without gloves. I didn't know about the garden, but I felt MUCH better. It was heaven to feel their life force (you really CAN feel it...) in their stems, to lean down and kiss them softly, with tenderness. I did this with my vegetable garden, my herb garden and all of my flowers, even my roses which were thick with thorns. Not one cut. And was it my imagination or were those rose sending out a scent that was so heavy and thick with gorgeousness that I could hardly stand it?

I went out early before the drenching rain was to start yesterday and set out to mulch and tend the gardens. Glove-less. I heard a snap and looked up. There was Honey in her big hat again. She had taken my photo on her camera with her phone. I frowned. This was not okay.

And then, before I could speak, she showed me the photo. "Look how they lean to you," she said. I looked and gasped.

The tomatoes that I had been tending, my tender heirloom cherokee purples, jaune flammes and tiny coyotes...their vines were visibly leaning into me. Reaching for me. A green leaf on the jaunne flamme was resting sweetly against my cheek as if caressing me. And they did look more robust. Plus small yellow blooms were bursting from the tops. I looked over at the beans up on their poles. One vine was literally in the air, reaching out to me. The zucchini stems didn't look any different but they had grown larger, seemingly overnight.

I am not a fantastical person. Ok, that might be a lie. I am sort of fantastical. I am the kind of person who does not believe that Jesus appears in pieces of blackened toast but I was raised to believe in garden sprites, faeries and all kinds of Irish mystical beings. So, could I make that leap and believe that my garden merely needed to feel my hands, even if they were tainted with chemo poisons? Yes, siree bob. Boy howdy, I am a practical prairie woman, but my Da was an Irish dreamer. A believer. I could make this leap. And there was proof in the pudding. My garden was beginning to thrive. It may be too late. It is mid August and our growing season will not last but another month. Two months if we are extremely lucky and have a mild Autumn. I generally can and freeze in early September. I may try to wait until early October, if I can. If the weather holds. Give my garden some time to show me what it has. And give myself time to bury my hands in the dirt, lovingly tend to it. It may be just what we both need.

I smile to myself, I do believe in faeries....I do.

Physician, heal thyself

I am really fucking mad.

And Bing thinks it is funny. I had to take today off because I have such a huge medical day:

8:00 Appt with rheumatologist.
10:00 Appt with pain management specialist.
1:30 Appt to get knee ex-ray
2:30 Appt to get bone marrow scan
4:00 Appt for bloodwork to make sure that I am strong enough for chemo tomorrow.

I have become that person. The one who basically hates doctors. Which Bing thinks is funny, because...technically....I am a member of that tribe. But...I don't see it that way. Yes, I do have appts in my practice. The difference is that I pretty much NEVER run late. Because my appts are with children with autism. And they each get one hour with me where I observe and work with them. If THEY arrive late, that's just tough. They still only get that one hour time slot. I have my secretary only schedule me for times that I am certain that I can be there and bc (before cancer/chemo), I rarely re-scheduled. Now, I have only had to re-schedule four times because it was either that or vomit in front of a child, which would not be good. That's still a pretty good track record, I think.

I was furious this morning at my appt with my rheumatologist. I have never really liked this guy. I think he's arrogant and a snot. But, he is talented at treating RA, so I put up with his I am the doctor, the specialist here and not really interested in your opinions or any research you've done attitude. He regards my practice ( child psychology) as "flimsy" and I think he believes that I have one of the easier medical journeys. But, he has made it possible for me to work with rheumatoid arthritis and so I have to listen to him. It doesn't mean that I have to like him. Which I do not. Today, I asked him how long I had to wait until I could get back on my RA meds (I had to go off all of them to get on chemo and folks, it has not been pretty....) and he sort of chuckled like I was being obtuse and said, "Well, that all depends on your blood work. I'll keep tabs on it and call you when it is safe to go back on your RA meds." Well, now. Another thing I know about this guy. He will FORGET to have his nurse call me and so I will be in the position of having to call him and bug him about it, which makes me feel like a nag. I realize that he is busy and it is tough juggling a bunch of patients with aching joints. But, I, too am a medical professional and I, too, juggle my patients. PLUS, I do it while I am in treatment for breast cancer. Trump that, Dr. Snotface.

Then, my next appt was with my pain management specialist. Another Doctor. Another one that I don't really like but I have bounced around to several of these specialists and they all seem to be the same guy with a different name with the exception of one female doctor who insulted me over and over again by calling me "sweetie" or "honeypie" instead of using my name. I am a 57 year old grown woman and I requested that she please use my name and she STILL couldn't do so. I might have let this slide if she was a really good pain management specialist, but she was not. She talked to me in baby talk and insisted on patting me all the time. I do not like to be patted, called "honeypie" or to be spoken to in a cupie doll voice. So, she went off my list. So, I see Dr. H. He has the same syndrome as my rheumatologist. A know-it-all who acts as if I have no say in what is happening in my own body. Instead of utilizing my knowledge of what is happening in my own house as say....a plumber would if he arrived and I could tell him that our shower wouldn't stop dripping. He would KNOW that because I lived in the house, I was a good reporter of what was happening in there. So should doctors who treat patients. We LIVE in these containers. We are the BEST reporters of what is going on in there. I have to see Dr. H every 4 months because I have a scrip for oxycodone and he wants to make sure that I am not selling them on the street, I suppose. So, I went in today and he was late. Not just a few minutes late, but an HOUR AND 20 MINUTES late. GOD. And then he didn't apologize or even have the decency to look sheepish. And then his first sentence to me was so collassaly stupid that I almost laughed:

"So, how is your breast cancer doing?"

I mean, how do I answer that?

Instead, I told him that I was nearing the end of my chemotherapy and would then start radiation. I said that my pain level was very high because I had to go off all my RA drugs to go on chemo but that I was enduring it as best I could.

He nodded once, quickly and then I read the look on his face: I'm running late, Maria is an easy five minutes, just get her out of here fast.

Fine, Dr. H....don't let it bother you that you made me wait for you for AN HOUR AND TWENTY MINUTES. A chemo patient who is very, very tired. Fuck you, by the way.

Of course, I didn't say this. I let him listen to my heart and remark as he always does that my blood pressure is a little low. That my left knee and left ankle are swollen. And then, a tap on my knee and he says, "When you get off chemotherapy, let's hope you won't need to take the oxycodone twice a day, let's get back to once a day and we'll see you in 4 months, ok? OK! BYE! Stay well! I'll have a nurse come in and set up your next appt. "

What a fuckhead. 3 minutes. He spent 3 minutes with me. And told me nothing I didn't know. And stay well? I am NOT well, dumbass. Look at me. Look at my chart. Make a correlation. I would NEVER try to treat one of my patients without connecting with them personally.

I sat for about five minutes and decided that I was not going to wait for the nurse. They were so busy anyway. And I could always call in a few days and set it up. So, I just got up and walked out.

And just a word about nurses: they are the unsung heroes in ALL of my doctor's offices and chemo appts. They do the hard work, catch mistakes, listen to me and take NOTES and basically do everything that the doctors do except they get paid a lot less. They are the front lines of medical care and deserve most of the credit. I have seldom met a nurse who wasn't worth her weight in gold. I have met many, many doctors who weren't worth their weight in goose feathers.

Now, that is not to say that I hate on ALL doctors. We have a brilliant family doctor who knows Bing, me and Liv like the back of his hand. I didn't even bother with a pediatrician when Liv was little, he was fully capable of caring for her and he listens to what we say. I also have a great ear specialist who only needs to see me once a year and if I call him with a flare up of my Meniere's, he doesn't insist on seeing me, will just call my meds in to my pharmacy. He trusts that I can tell the difference between a Meniere's flare up and a cold. I also ADORE my oncologist, the man in the pink suit from the video that I posted on here. He is brilliant, funny and once when I broke down in his office, he didn't hug me or anything, just gently handed me tissues. He knew me well enough to know that breaking down was humiliating for me and that hugging me would have just made it worse. After I stopped, he sat with me and told me that I was one of the strongest people that he had ever met, that while I seemed to have a very frail container, I made up for it with a strong spirit and that it was completely natural to fall apart now and then. I was fighting cancer, not rush hour traffic! This was a BIG FUCKING DEAL. And yes, he said "fucking." Another reason why I love this guy. And then, later, when I was sitting in the chemo room getting poison pumped into my veins, he came in with this viking warrior headpiece, complete with horns and gently set it on my head. He said, "I am quite certain that you have Viking blood. I know that your people are from Ireland, but you know the Vikings invaded Ireland. Maybe some Viking warrior had a dalliance with a mouthy little Irish peasant girl and that is your bloodline....." He made me laugh. Unfortunately, I couldn't keep the headpiece. He told me that he had paid a pretty penny for it in Denmark and while he liked me, he didn't like me THAT much to let me keep a thousand dollar headpiece. I handed it back to him and called him a tease and we both laughed. How can one NOT love this man?

So, not all doctors suck. I don't. But, I am discovering that a great many of them do and this alarms me. I deal with my not-so-great doctors by being their problem patient and not feeling one bit guilty about it. I call them on it when they are acting like Gods and if I need something, I call them. Unfortunately, I often have to bug a nurse to get to them, but I am unfailingly nice to the nurse and tell her that I think the doctor is acting like a dick. This almost always makes them laugh because I am usually saying EXACTLY what they are thinking and cannot say.

And now I want to hear your stories. How do you like your doctor(s)? Do you have a funny story? A sad one? A maddening one? An uplifting one?


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Tunnel of love

I've received lots of comments on how I must have the perfect marriage. I am guessing this is coming from the previous post.

Guess again.

I have a marriage. It is pretty good, I think, as marriages go. But, it is nowhere near perfect or even one of the best that I have seen. There are two people in this marriage and both of us are flawed, one (me) more than the other, but flawed.

I never wanted to get married. EVER. I don't ever remember dreaming of having a family when I was sitting by my bedroom window during high school, smoking and blowing the smoke out into the frigid (or humid and hot, depending on the season....) prairie air. I just wanted out of that little town. I wanted to have a lot of fun experiences. I wanted to see what there was to see out there.

I pretty much did that. I worked hard. Studied hard. Earned my career. Carried it around with me on my back. I think I tried every drug available. Had a few adventures where I nearly got myself killed. Had a few where I just had a jolly good time. I read like a fiend. Made some excellent friends and some not-so-excellent ones. I lived my life.

And then when I was in my late thirties, I decided that while I was still not ready to get married, I wanted to be a Mother. So, I did that. I am sort of snorting because that sentence makes it sound so easy, when in reality, it was very, very difficult. But, I did it. I got there. And if there was any one thing that ever changed my life profoundly, it was becoming Liv's Mother. It rocked me to my core. It still does. And it made me become a much better person. I had to. It wasn't as if I had a choice. I was suddenly this role model and I did NOT want to fuck it up. I can't tell you how badly I still don't want to fuck it up.

Bing, whom I met my freshman year in college as my dorm mate, was always there for the ride. She was my best friend, my most trusted ally and the one who knew me better than I knew myself. And then, when Liv was about 6, I fell in love with her. And we began to co-habit because, in our state, we could not get married. Finally, in 2013, we said fuck this shit and got married in the next state over which DID allow gay marriage.

So, after essentially being together for the last 30 years, we are officially married now.

Bing counts as together since college. She swears that I always knew inside that she was the one, I just had to let my brain catch up to my heart. She might be right. Technically, though, we've been together for about a decade. And while marriage has not changed me as fundamentally as being a parent has, it has changed me. For the better. I am held accountable now for most of my actions. Because there is this other person sitting at the wheel with me, helping me drive this convoluted vehicle called marriage. We are just that: a WE. She is expected to hold up her end and I am expected to hold up mine.

Honestly? She is much better at this shit than I am. She tries harder. Works at it. Plays at it. Molds us into something that works. I usually ride shotgun. Once in a while, I take the wheel, but seriously, dudes, I am far more likely to fall asleep at the wheel than she is and I am more inclined to see something interesting at the side of the road and almost kill us both by running into a tree.

But, I do show up. I look busy. And I am profoundly grateful that she makes us look so easy. She is almost always the first to apologize whether she is wrong or not. If I feel that I am right, I will stand my ground so hard and so adamantly that I begin to look foolish after a bit. I mean Scarlett O'Hara can only shake her fist at the sky and shriek about never being hungry again for so long and then, well...she has to start picking those damn peas and getting those eggs to lay and tilling the ground.

Bing is a good partner. I am a so-so one. She will tell you otherwise. She will swear up and down and sideways that I am worth my weight in gold and that she would rather be alone than not have me. This always sort of astounds me. That someone loves me THAT MUCH. How the fuck did that happen? Because, my face can't launch a thousand ships. And I am not a saint. But for some odd reason, she looks at me and sees.....her person. The one.

It's easier for me. She is like the Jennifer Garner to my Ben Affleck. You know how you kinda sorta know that he really fucked up and she was the one that kept that marriage together? That is us. If something is going to be messed up, I'm the one who is going to have the dirt all over my hands.

Miraculously, I haven't made any huge mistakes and she stays with me. Not only does she stay but she laughs with me and thinks I'm really really clever and smart and interesting. And alluring. I am not exaggerating when I say that I sort of thank my lucky stars daily that she is so delusional because, trust me, I am really not that big of a catch.

I am crabby ALL THE TIME in the morning. I wake up crabby and until I have two cups of coffee and it is after 10 a.m., I am not a good conversationalist. Don't get me wrong, I can charm your pants  off after 2 p.m. But, I am not a morning person.

I am honest but I am not that good. I would never steal from someone but I would say something snotty about them if they were kind of a jerk. Bing is just plain honest AND good. She wouldn't steal OR say anything snotty about anyone unless they really, really were like Donald Trump jerky. 

Bing likes being married. She says that people are meant to move through the world in pairs. I don't know if I buy that. I do like being married to HER, but I don't think I'd want to be married to anyone else. This marriage shit is work. And I have not met anyone else who is worth it to me except her.

And I often surprise even myself at how mean I can be in my head. Sometimes when she is going on and on about something, I picture the adults in a Charlie Brown show in my know the ones...the ones who say WAH WAH WAH WAH WAH over and over again. I don't think she ever entertains herself that way about me. She seldom, if ever, acts disinterested. Me, on the other hand, I sometimes look disinterested and she will stop mid-sentence and just walk away and there I am running after her, apologizing for being a jerk.

And we do fight. But, she is a better fighter. A more fair one. I have a tendency to fight every battle as if it is a death match. I want to win, motherfucker! And I WILL win, if it kills us both. Bing knows when to call it a night and say, "Let's get some shut eye and re-visit this in the morning, kiddo." And there I am, eyes blazing, pissed off and WANTING TO WIN. As in NOW. But, when I reluctantly follow her cue and do go to sleep on it, I feel better in the morning and not as inclined to go for the jugular.

And by the way, the insipid fools who tell you never to go to bed mad are liars and idiots. It is FINE to go to bed mad once in a while. In fact, things DO look better in the morning. And sometimes in the morning, you wake up and think why were we so upset about where to go on vacation next Summer? This can wait!

Bing and I have different arguing stances and this has caused us a few problems. She was raised in a Southern family who just let it all out and then went for a walk and cooled off. I come from a family of prairie people who shut down when they are angry, who hold their lips tightly together and just endure it and then end up biting their lips so hard that they bleed. We have had to learn to adjust to each other's tendencies. Bing no longer has a yelling fit and then leaves and comes back a half hour later with ice cream. And I have learned to try and use my words. We talk it out, trying not to yell and if that doesn't work, we leave it for a few days to re-visit. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn't. When it doesn't, one of us has to give. Guess who that is?

If all else fails, we just go and get ice cream and find some common ground. Like how stupid Republicans are.

But, every couple has triggers. We have two triggers: money and child rearing. Bing is of the wring-every-ounce-out-of-every-nickel persuasion. I am a good saver, but I am also a good spender. It is because of her that we will have a good retirement. It is because of me that we were world travelers before we were too old to get around. Bing is of the be-very-strict-with-children-they-want-a-wall type. I am a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants parent. I do provide balance but I feel it is important to make decisions regarding my child by reacting to the situation not a tried and true rule book. Liv was allowed to date before she was 16. Bing did not take kindly to that. Liv has a midnight curfew instead of an eleven o'clock one. I point to Liv as my end game. Hey, she is doing fine. She isn't out robbing Walmarts to support her drug habit. And we just heard from her school that she is at the TOP of her class. Not the top ten, mind you. She is NUMBER ONE in her class, academically.

See? I must be doing something right. Or else, I am just one lucky person because actually Liv was a pretty easy child to raise. She is opinionated and questions authority but that is how I planned it. She is also respectful (usually....c'mon...she is 16...she can get a bit myopic from time to time...) and I planned that, too.

So. I think what I will just end this with is that marriage is very, very hard and very, very easy at the same time. This will make Bing snort and say that this sounds EXACTLY like something I would say. But, it is true. It is hard in the way anything worthwhile is hard. It is easy because there is love involved and love makes just about everything effortless. It is very hard to unlove someone once you've fallen into their eyes. Try it sometime.

I'm curious, though. What do YOU think about marriage? Yours, if you have one or had one and marriage in general.....

Share pretty please.

To me, this is kind of how marriage is....

Friday, August 07, 2015

Making love with you is like sailing

I've only been sailing twice in my life.

And both times were like nirvana to me. I remember the deep breaths of salt air, the greenish smell of the ocean. Being a prairie girl, I have seen those amber waves of grain and they are like a different kind of sea. And it has been enough. But, sailing on the sea brought me to tears both times. It was foreign and silky and gritty and so full of life that I could hardly stand it. One time the sun was brightly shining, the other the clouds made the sky a silty grey. Both times my heart sang.

And now, lying here with you, it occurs to me that making love with you is like sailing.

The incredible beauty, playfulness, deep solemnity and sheer aliveness of two bodies swirling and twirling and racing and skidding and then slowing and roaming and speeding up to a near frenzy only to fall back like a huge wave and then......the looking at each other with the happy laughing.

So good to feel that again. The look across the room. Feeling my oats. Feeling my power over you undiminished by cancer, a bald head, head in the toilet throwing up with you standing next to me with an icy cold wash cloth in your hand.

I looked up and you, playing guitar, were sitting across from me, staring. Love filling your eyes. Not pity love or married love or we're in this together love. Just raw love. And how you slowly put down your guitar and moved to stand and then walked towards me, eyes never leaving mine.

Whispering, "Let's go upstairs. Liv is gone til tomorrow. We have ALL NIGHT!"

The hurried blowing out of the downstairs candles, the deadbolting the front door, the last minute stop, bodies moving together, kissing over and over until we reached the fridge. Reaching in for water bottle.

And then the stumble up the stairs, laughing, socks falling on the steps to be retrieved happily by Socks hours later.

Reaching behind me to loosen up the covers and then the slight shivering as we undress each other, touching, clutching, searching as if we haven't had a taste of each other in months instead of weeks.

And then the slow movie-like fall on the bed, naked and happy. The air conditioner finally shut off after weeks of scorching heat, now the windows open with twilight and a soft Summer breeze sliding in.

And then....the sailing.

Feeling my cluttered mind empty of everything except how incredibly exquisite your mouth is.  Falling backwards into your soft brown eyes, hearing you murmur something about the freckles on my nose. Nipping at my belly button. Feeling you up above me coming down for this kiss, that kiss and then more kisses while our hands wander over familiar terrain, measuring skin with intrepid fingers.

Smiling, breathing deeply, loving the scorching sun of us and then the cool cloudiness of just being lost in Neverland. Not caring. Bright colors seaming over my eyelids as I close my eyes and turn my head, emotions too strong for words so I have to hope you understand the language of my sighs.

Sailing with you. Only and forever you. My person, my woman. The one who wouldn't let me go no matter how hard I argued that I was not a pot that needed a lid.

Trusting us. The peace and joy and sheer magnitude of the power of two, of the two of us. In this prairie bed, sailing across the sea.

I have never loved another like this. Never will again. Lucky, so lucky.

Afterwards, exhausted, I mutter something about needing a life jacket. Your hair is tousled beautifully from my pulling fingers. You look up, a bit of confusion on your face and then you smile and shake it off. Knowing that I always talk gibberish....After.

And lean across me to open the bottle of water for us.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

My daughter's best friend

My daughter recently turned 16. Her best friend, Constance gave her a gift that brought Bing, myself and her Father to tears. Even Liv looked a little misty. It was a large picture frame filled with four separate photos. In her card, Constance wrote: To the girl I met in Montessori pre-school who has been a part of nearly every adventure I have undergone. To L money, my partner in crime, my fellow tree climber, cinnamon snorter (I dare you! No, I dare YOU!), shoulder when that creep broke up with me, laugher at dumb ass videos on you tube (lady on toilet....) and mostly, my rabbit keeper of all my secrets. We don't go to the same school anymore or even see each other regularly but you are always and forever on speed dial. I have nearly gotten killed with you and lived life so fully with you as my blonde sidekick. You, who cannot remember a punch line to save your life, who can run faster than lightning and shoot a basket from mid court. Me, who tells the best jokes and runs like a shackled inmate and can't shoot a basket even if I was right under it. We will always be soul sisters. I love you! Constance.

And there, in the frame, are a black and white photo of them from the Summer before Kindergarten. They are both soaking wet from playing in our outside plastic pool and both laughing hard.  Constance has already lost her front tooth. I don't remember taking that photo. Maybe Constance's Dad did. He takes the best ones. The next photo is colored, and they are sitting at an outside restaurant, smiling up at the camera. Liv has accessorized her pale blue dress with a man's tie and Constance looks like she has probably teased her about that. I do remember taking that photo. They were just finishing up 5th grade. The next one is from their 8th grade graduation from a Catholic Academy. They are both in dresses that they detested, picked out by their Mothers. They both look as if someone told them to smile. I didn't take that photo. But, I remember the circumstances. The last one was taken just a few days ago when they decided to celebrate Liv's birthday by driving down to a pasta joint in the Old Market. They look exactly like who they are at this stage of their lives: Liv is wearing a jean skirt and a sleeveless plain dark blue blouse. She is tanned deeply, as she always is this time of year. Her hair is straight. She wears no makeup, except for her grapefruit lip gloss. Constance is wearing a wide bright red pixie skirt with a huge flounce and a white plain boy's button down shirt, tucked into that skirt. Her brown hair has store bought blonde streaks and is cut short, chin length but thick and curly. She has lots of mascara on her curly eyelashes and sports bright red lipstick. Liv's smile is placid and calm. Constance looks like she is ready to rush on stage and sing about the hills being alive with the sound of music. Liv is the smart athlete. Constance is the drama major who writes poetry. They have their arms around each other unabashedly. They adore each other in the way that lifelong friends will. The way that my bestie, Harriet and I, adore each other.

Constance is a part of our family. She and Liv go to different high schools and are radically different from each other in so many ways. They've been best friends since Montessori pre-school. Constance was the one who ran up to Liv on her first day and bluntly asked her if she was the kid who threw up in the teacher's hands the year before. (Liv was...I had tried to send her to pre-school too early, when she was three and she hadn't lasted the day.)  Instead of recoiling in embarrassment, Liv looked at her with admiration and said that yes, she was. Constance held out her hand.

"Well, don't do THAT again," she said. "Come play!"

And Liv did. She and Constance were best friends until their graduation from 8th grade. After that, Constance drifted away for a while. Constance had a huge thing for One Direction and all boys, in general at that time. Liv was far behind. In 8th grade, Liv was still riding her bike and playing street stick ball with the boys in the neighborhood.

Within a years time, they had gravitated back to each other. Constance had lost her boy madness and replaced it with a love of 80's grunge bands. (She and I still hold trivia contests regarding anything Nirvana or Kurt Cobain.) Liv had discovered that while boys liked her, she was still not sure if she liked them. But, she had learned the power of a smile and like her Mother before her, knew exactly how to use that to her best advantage. They still refer to each other as their best friend and are never far away by text or speed dial. Liv has nursed Constance over 4 boyfriends. Constance has rolled her eyes at Liv's lack of boyfriend. ("GOD, they will practically fall prostrate on the ground in front of you! Do you have any idea how RARE that is? I want your hair SO BAD!") Constance once spent several weeks at our house when her parents were having a rough go round and the only thing that made her go back was her little brother's begging to come back home.  I'm pretty sure that if Liv has shed any tears over my cancer, it has probably been in Constance's arms.

I love looking at that last photo of them. It says so much. It says We are so different, but we love each other. If the doorbell rang at 2 a.m. and it was Constance, that door would be opened wide. And I know it is the same for Liv at Constance's house. I am semi friends with Constance's mother, Amelia and we both smile at our daughter's friendship. Amelia tells me that she wishes that Constance had Liv's cool presence, her calm spirit. I tell Amelia that I would MUCH prefer going to a play that Liv is in than to her many sports games. But, truthfully, we would never want to trade our daughters for anything.

Our daughters have made a video together based on a Cursive song. If you hunt on youtube, you just may find it. Our daughters have baked hundreds of pans of brownies together and then ate THE WHOLE PAN in one night. Our daughters have caught fireflies in jars together on countless long Summer nights. Constance has sang to our garden with us and helped put it in more than once. Liv has taught Constance's little brother to do the chicken dance, a dance that is performed by our family at EVERY single get-together. And she has also taught him how to do a male Lakota Sun dance. And I know that Liv has won more than one game of chicken with Constance's family. (They are a family of drama people, not basketball players...) I also know that when Constance's Mother makes her famous chili, Liv is often over there for dinner instead of home.

I think they will be friends forever. I hope so anyway. That sort of understanding and love in a friendship doesn't come a long every day and I want Liv to know to cherish it.

I think she does without my pointing it out, though. The photograph and card from Constance sit on her desk in her bedroom where she can easily see them daily.

What is interesting to me is that Liv told me once that Constance reminds her so much of me. And Amelia told me once that Constance's grandmother has commented that Liv reminds her of Amelia. I wonder if we are attracted to certain types of people or if it is all just a coincidence. I DID once star as Eliza Doolittle in my high school production of My Fair Lady. and Amelia tells me that she once set her high school record for the long jump......

Whatever. Constance and Liv. Liv and Constance. Somehow, I see them in ten years still talking. Except this time it will be about Constance's acting career or law career or ? She says she wants to go into teaching. She wants to teach high school English. Or maybe they'll be discussing breast feeding or what to do when their son has colic. Or Liv's career in Environmental Engineering. Liv will be calling from Chicago or California or Constance from England or New York or Phoenix. And they'll talk about me and Bing living out our retirement in New Orleans or Constance's parents finally traveling around on those cruises.

But, they'll still be on speed dial.