Happy to Be Here

In the lobby of this hotel a non-royal bride came and sat next to my on one of the loveseats, her wedding gown beside her in that special white body-bag they use for such garments. She had the bag unzipped too so you could just see the bust all puffed out with tissue paper to make it look as it would when filled with a live girl.

I longed to take a picture but how could I when the rule in New York is to pretend nothing is surprising or novel? A man could walk past with a mastodon on a leash and people waiting for the bus would yawn and go back to tapping the new Morse code onto their cell phones.

I came to this nice fusty old place for the annual conference the decidedly NON-fusty American Society of Journalist and Authors. The elevators are humid and slightly overheated and help us all remember that our fate is indeed linked to the fates of others riding.  I;m all for such reminders so I like the elevators. I also like the pendant crystal drops of the chandelier with its flags draping gracefully down from the balcony.

It’s true that the tiles in my bathroom could use re-grouting and some unknown fool seems to have burned a corner of the comforter with the in-room iron provided for our convenience. And I did look down at the carpet Friday night and think “maybe I’ll keep my socks ON.”

But the sheets are all-cotton  and the mattress is a fine firm chariot to carry me back and back through space and time to that furry cave of slumber. 

I have more conference sessions ahead before the five hour trip back to that other place where the bathroom tiles need re-grouting and where we all know exactly which fool it was that burned a hole in the comforter with her little iron. 

In the meantime I’m happy to be here in this room safe and tucked away with the view of an office building beside me. Looks like in spring the sun can shine on just about anything and make it pretty.


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A Guest at the Wedding

If you’re going to the royal wedding even in your mind. it’s not enough to make the appropriate gestures. I tried the royal wave but it just looked like I was hailing a cab.

Also you can’t just smile your same goofy smile  like some camp counselor so I got that wrong too, see?

What you have to do really  is sit up straight,

suck in your stomach,

then sit up even straighter.  

Really though?  Really it’s all about the hat.:-)

My Friend the Internet

I’ve had some great insomnia suggestions from the Facebook crowd. Somebody said take Benadryl (but doesn’t the suck the moisture out of your whole skull so your nostrils stick shut and your tongue turns into snakeskin?)  Somebody said take melatonin right before bed, “it works every time.” (But for me it work hardly at all and my doc said better to take an over the counter sleep-aid than  overuse the melatonin which is a hormone after all. “Let’s not mess with your hormones,” she went on to which I say “Uh can you write GOD a letter to that effect for me?”)

People are so jaunty and helpful when you reach out for help on the web.

Once I wrote a column about the leg and foot cramps I was getting  where I found myself yelling “Somebody get me a hacksaw, whiskey and a bullet to bite on! I am amputating this thing!” The suggestions that time came in email and letter form. They were:

  • Take quinine
  • Take calcium
  • Take zinc
  • Take all three together
  • Lean  into a wall, heels pressed to the floor, and…
  • Place an unwrapped bar soap just under your bottom sheet.  

Two separate people actually suggested this last, one person adding that Irish Spring was the soap to use and the other testifying to the fact that an area physician had named this same tactic in a can’t-hurt-to-try-it feature he writes in her local paper. 

So see? You’re only alone till you reach out on this frisky world wide web that God gave us instead of toys. Then stand back because here comes a whole cavalry of help!


At Gravity’s Mercy

NOW I remember why I kept thinking of the word ‘chute’ Monday night as I lay sleepless in my bed. I was dreaming in French, not a usual occurrence I assure you. The word ‘chute’ means ‘fall’ as in ‘take a fall’ and what I was fixed on in my semi-dreaming state was  falling, and specifically falling off ladders.

On the weekend, David and I had been recalling the time an old ladder of he was on just cracked and fell apart under his weight, slamming him down hard on the ground from just six feet in the air but my, it hurt, he said. He got slammed on the ground a lot in earlier days – he played schoolboy football and has the scars to  prove  it– but this time he was surprised to find himself flat out; surprised to see that somewhere along the line he had lost that goatlike ability to make the quick lateral leap and land right-side-up. (How do young skateboarders DO it? How do they take those risky jumps and land on their backs or heads or elbows, then spring right up to collect commiserating high-fives from their pals?

I heard about a worse fall last week, when a new friend told me about the spill she took using a ladder to get at the light fixture nestled into the high faraway ceiling of her old house’s front porch. She slipped in the reaching for it and one leg hurtled  down, carrying her body with it – while the other leg remained caught in the ladder’s rungs, splitting her in two almost, nearly snapping her like a wishbone. A full week after the fall her muscles were still in a state of spasm and the skin on the whole lateral side of one leg looked like tie-dye.

We’re frail creatures all right. We can’t swim for more than a minute or two under water and we sure can’t fly, even when our lives depend on it. We’re baby birds, blind in the nest.

Now this little-known video of the young Emmy Lou Harris doing that great other Defying Gravity song written by Jimmy Dale Gilmore and made mega-famous by Jimmy Buffet. It’s a love song, to a person and a planet. Give it a listen and – hold on tight to the branch.

Sleep Aid My Foot

I hate taking a drug to help me sleep. For me the Excedrin PMs and the Tylenol PMs are a total bust. They don’t work at all for like three whole hours and when they do they work they hold me under, against my will almost, like a bully holds some poor little kid under in a swimming pool.

I do have a prescription for Trazadone but that stuff holds me under too – plus it makes my mouth feel like it’s been wet-vac’d. 

I have a prescription for Ambien even but I totally hate that stuff. It makes me feel like I’m having other people’s dreams and what do I want with that? I like having my own dreams during which my subconscious mind delivers to me cruel and searing truths about my own sorry self. (Example: The other night I dreamed I had a houseful of people over for some giant day-long event and there I was, car keys in hand, telling them all I had to go out on this crucial errand – and there they were looking at me with these baleful cow eyes. Even my clueless sleeping self knew there was a message in there for me all right all right.)

No, sleep is like love making: it’s best begun upon with a clear head.

Of course sometimes with insomnia your head is just TOO clear, like last night when I kept having thoughts about this one subject which I can’t quite recall now though the word ‘chute’ keeps coming to mind. Hmmmm. Was I having thoughts about stuffing things down a laundry chute? Could it have been about Chutes and Ladders the only board game I have ever been any good at? 

Maybe if I get back in the bed it will come to me but oh no wait it’s a weekday and I have all this stupid work to do never mind that trip to the darn YMCA with its zillion treadmills and ellipticals and wave machines all waiting for me to get over there and pump some blood through the  small splashing creature that lives in my chest; through that little pulsing fist that works day and night whether I’m out cold and doing dream therapy or lying awake like I was for hours last night, talking ragtime to the moon.


How Boundaries Saved Me

A long time ago, I gave money to a young friend who said he needed it to buy tires. Then, some five years into his recovery from what turned out to be an addiction to cocaine, he told me the truth: “Remember that $80 you gave me for tires? It went right up my nose. You’re the adult child of an alcoholic, aren’t you? You should get to a 12-step meeting yourself. You  really need work on your boundaries.”

He was right. As a girl was always getting kissed by people I didn’t even like. Even as a grown woman I could sit through a three-hour bus ride while some bigot seated beside me spouted hateful talk without ever requesting that he stop. I hadn’t the faintest idea of what boundaries even were.

So, I had to read up on them, watch people who seemed to have good boundaries, even role-play situations where they come into play before I developed even the weakest grasp of how to patrol my own borders. Because that’s what boundaries are, really. They’re borders that help us keep what’s important in and what’s harmful out.

Yet, since old habits die hard, I have sometimes fallen back into old ways.

I did this last spring when a woman I have never met called me on the phone.

She said she wanted to surprise her boyfriend on his birthday by bringing him for a long weekend to my family’s summer place. Along with his kids, she said. And oh, her kids too.

Now it’s true that this ‘boyfriend’ was once close to our family, which I guess is why I found myself saying a tentative yes. “But could you come mid-week instead of on a busy summer weekend?” I heard myself asking, because they would need a lot of beds. “And could you maybe … help with the cooking?”

“Oh sure,” she said. Then she gave me email address and said she would call the following week, to nail things down.

She hung up. And it was only then that I realized how, in a single instant, I had forgotten every last thing I had ever learned about boundaries. Because ff she and her party did come to our summer cottage I would have to (a) drive the 200 miles there, (b) arrange to work remotely, (c) miss a week of crucial back exercises at the Y, (d) leave my husband and 90-year-old uncle, both of whom count on me for food and companionship and (e) closely monitor the waterfront activities of the group, five of them total strangers and the sixth a person who has not once in 20 years’ time picked up the phone to ask how any of us are doing.

My friend the former addict is now many years sober and I know he’d be proud to see how I handled the situation, though I am not proud of it particularly: I wrote the woman an email explaining that it was wrong of me to assume I could just sweep past the potential plans of my family who wait all year to use this place during our short northern summers, so I was sorry but it wasn’t going to work.

I also mentioned the 20 years, which I should not have done.

But if you didn’t grow up with good boundaries you sometimes panic as you try to set one and forget to put kindness first. Anyway, I never heard from her again.

I still have a long way to go, but like my friend in his longtime sobriety, I try again every day. And like him I too now take things one day at a time.

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New Day

I’m up north writing this. On Friday I sat on the deck here in 60-degree warmth, basking in sunlight. Then, an hour before sunset a big wind came along and tickled the treetops till they bent over laughing. It was a day like the painted landscapes inside one of those peek-a-boo Easter eggs: beautiful.  

Then… we woke to a six-hour snowstorm. We think we know what a day will bring us, but we never do really. Example; this picture I just took with spring and winter together …. Where are those footsteps leading, forward into spring or back into winter?

Anyway, that was yesterday. I post this today at 6am, hopeful of a return to the warmth. Today at the family celebration I will wear ivory colored slacks and a pale green sweater and will hope to look a little less like the grizzly bear I resembled yesterday in my furry brown jacket.

This year I didn’t dye Easter eggs, what with our little people away in Florida. Nor did I try making the family bunny cake recipe, which is just as well since it always looks to me more like a bunny corpse, covered for decency with a white sheet of coconut. And thank God I didn’t have to go to the Mall, that industrial-strength crowd-magnet. Instead, I worked on my refinishing project and read my book and talked with David about how badly you can hurt yourself even just falling off a small step ladder if you don’t keep those quick-reacting stabilizer muscles active. We talk that way to each other for courage.

The sun is just coming up now, see how lovely? A new day for us all; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

and now, with the sun so strong already, a last coat of finish on that just-stripped table