Friday, October 31, 2008

I'd be surprised if anyone in the history of the world ever wished more fervently to believe in prayers of petition than I do at this moment.

I believe in prayer, in the power of prayer. I do not believe in God-as-Gepetto, in One who will pull the right strings to provide what I request.

If only I did, I would pray for my daughter to be safe from all harm. Then I would pray for her to love me best, want me only, be close to my heart forever. (Very mature, no?)

Katie found her birth mother. They are probably on the phone together at this very moment.

And, wonder of wonders, she lives in the Kansas City area. Moved here within months of the time I did.

And so my prayers are this: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Guide my tongue and my actions. Lead my heart in the ways I should go. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Miracles of Modern Dentistry

Stayed at my folks house last night so they could take me to the dentist early this morning.

9:00 pm: take one Valium. Wait for calm to settle in. Set phone alarm for morning. Check for arrival of calm. Sleep an hour. Look for calm. Sleep another hour. Check again. Repeat until morning.

6:00 am: take a lorazapam and two pills with unrecognizable names. Fall asleep for an hour.

8:00 am: arrive at dentist's office. A woman is spralled on sofa, snoring. She got better drugs. I am alarmingly alert.

8:05 am: Dental assistant slides a nosepiece and cozy earphones onto my head. Air rushes into my nose and Norah Jones croons, "Come away with me in the night." I close my eyes and nestle into the darkness behind their lids.

8:10 am: "A little sting here" the dentist says. I feel the needle enter my gums but do not care. It's so pleasant in my world, here in the dark with Norah. We float above the hated chair, in the scene but not of it. We are beyond needles, beyond pain, beyond concern about petty things like dental drills and silver picks.

Who Cares am: The dentist asks me to bite down and tap. I do. And again. His instructions travel down a long string, emerging into a tin can covering my ear. I understand their meaning and comply. I do not open my eyes, don't even think about leaving the cozy space Norah and I have built in back of my brain.

Half Past Who Gives a Damn am: Dentist's voice travels down the string again. "You still with us? We're finished."

Half my face is numb; the size of my tongue makes Jewish grandmothers think of sandwiches; Mom pushes me to the car in a wheelchair.

When next I attend to the world, I am in bed at my mom's house, wrapped in a favorite quilt. The world calls, but I don't answer. The deed is done, the cavities filled. All I have to do now is rest in the dark. The headphones may be gone, but Norah remains. We roll through a starry sky together. And our teeth feel good.

If you have problems with dentists, Sedation Dentistry is the way to go.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Heart On Stony Ground

Writing to a very talented young writer this morning, I typed, "Believe in yourself as I believe in you," and stopped with a gasp.

It felt like the voice of God was speaking to me as well as to my friend. God believes in us and wants us to believe in ourselves: without judgement but not without awareness; without limits but not without boundaries; without fear. Without. Fear.

I took this picture in the stream bed of the Buffalo River Sunday afternoon. Seems the world is filled cairns like this if we look for them. This morning I found the meaning I'm assigning to it. "Believe in yourself as I believe in you."

That's for you, Katherine. And it's for me. And for everyone else who needs to hear it.

Monday, October 27, 2008

No harm done?

The people of the Ozarks can be as gracious as the rise and fall of those old mountains.

Two middle-aged couples set up chairs near the finish line of the Outhouse Races and went to buy lemonade. When they returned, two older women and two young women were sitting in their chairs. The younger women stood and walked away and the middle-aged women sat down. The older women started to rise, and one of the men called out, "Tell her to sit down."

One older woman stood and turned to face him, "I only wanted to rest a minute," she said. "I didn't mean no harm."

"None done," he replied. "You sit yourself down. I'm fine where I am." He turned to his companion and said, "I'd crawl across this square naked before I'd ask an old lady to stand up so I could sit down."

They also can be as unyielding as the rock that forms the mountains.

"The hay bales are there for your protection," the announcer blared from his position on a flatbed truck parked at the edge of the raceway, dead center of a blocked-off street. "These outhouses don't have no brakes and some of the drivers are of the female persuasion. Do not sit on the hay bales."


"Young woman in the orange, I'm talking specifically to you. Get off that hay bale."

9,999 people turned to see who was defying the big voice from the sky.

"What's a matter? Don't you speak A-merican?" he blasted.

The girl, 10 or 12 I'd guess, rose slowly. Her father picked up the purple plastic stool she was sitting on and waved it toward the announcer and then around at the crowd. He put it back on the ground and the scarlet-faced girl sat back down— behind the hay bale—where she'd been all along. From half a block away, I could see the glisten of tears on her cheeks. She mopped them up with her long, blonde ponytail.

Silence from the big man on the back of the big black truck. No acknowledgment. No apology. Just on to the next order of business.

One of the outhouses had a political theme, "The Race to the White Out House." In the parade, it was pushed by a man wearing a rubber John McCain mask and another wearing an Obama mask. The rubber Obama face was the only black face in the entire town and it did not match the white hands extending from the suit sleeves.

Come race time, "Obama" was driving the outhouse, which suddenly had a flat tire. The pushers did not even run, and it lost its heat by half the length of the raceway to the loudest applause of the day.

Politics aside, it was a great day and a grand adventure. More (and prettier) stories to come.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Oh, Dear

I do so wish I'd learn to ask questions before making a plan.

When I came to Arkansas over Labor Day, I was ever so slightly uncomfortable at the hotel where I stayed. When I first went to my room, the door (which opened to the outside rather than a hallway) was ajar. It was rather late at night and it didn't seem like a good idea to walk into an unlocked room alone. I recruited a manager, who accompanied me. We both felt sure the cleaning staff had simply not closed the door all the way, but I ended up dozing through the night with one ear tuned to the metal steps outside my door.

I did not want to stay in the same place on this trip. In my infinite wisdom, I decided to stay in a B&B. You know: hosts, a small number of other guests, kind of homey. Comfortable circumstances for a woman traveling alone.

When I arrived this afternoon, one of the owners was here, a lovely woman named Sandy. She showed me the house with great pride and satisfaction in the work she and her husband have done to it. So far, so good. Until she mentioned that I'm the only guest tonight AND she and her husband do not live here.

Next I walked around the tiny town a little and discovered it's practically empty. Boarded up. Shuttered. Out of several dozen buildings, only the bank, two cafes and a small grocery store are occupied.

Having dinner at the cafe later, I was uncomfortably aware that everyone in the place took note of the stranger eating alone. One wild eyed, wild haired, wild bearded man watched every trip of fork to mouth. He looked like someone with a story and I really wanted to strike up a conversation with him, but something about his seriously dirty face, hair, and clothing stopped me.

Now I'm alone in a two-story, hundred-year-old, unfamiliar house. Boards creak and groan. Windows rattle in the wind. The heat cries as it wanders through the old pipes.

Walking up the stairs I bumped into a wall and my little digital voice recorder turned on somehow. Nearly jumped out of my skin until I realized that the strange fuzzy noise was coming from my purse.

If this were a scary movie, I'd be screaming at the screen, "Run, you idiot. Get out of there now!"

But this is not a movie. It's my life. And I'm sure I'll be fine. I'm also sure that the next time I get the itch to go adventuring, I'll do something equally foolish.

Right now, I just want to get the chance.

EDITED TO ADD: alive and well this morning. Off to the Races. Stories later. OH, the stories for later.!

Off on Adventure

Packing up to go to Arkansas this morning. Will take lots of pictures and post them when I catch a signal.

Happy weekend to you all.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Home Again

Listened to Away by Amy Bloom as I drove home yesterday. It's an incredible tale told incredibly well. I'm looking forward to the drive to Arkansas tomorrow so I can hear the end.

This is now the second book I've listened to that I simply must also read. Not for the story, of course, I've heard that. But to roll around in her language and see how she put those marvelous sentences together. Her voice is so strong, so distinct that I want to see it on the page. Odd, but to properly appreciate a writer's voice, I've got to see rather than hear it.

Could be I read more than I listen. Wow. That's something to think about, isn't it?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


I did talk with J. He told me some of the details of the way things unfolded. Simply incredible.

She did get help. I'd say more but don't feel that's my story to tell, as it doesn't involve me. I lived the whole "lying about MS" chapter, so I don't feel quite as reticent about it.

Anyway, I'm taking my little act on the road again. Headed to KC this morning. It's gray and gloomy, but I have a new audiobook (Away by Amy Bloom), so it should be an easy trip.

See you on the other side!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Unexpected Encounter

Another coffee shop morning while Katie sleeps. But today, I ran into a central character from one of the stranger chapters in my (admittedly) strange life. J was once married to D, who was once one of my closest friends.

D coached my Katie's soccer team. She was bright and funny and tremendous fun to be around. We became good friends when I called to apologize for a hurtful thing my former husband had said about her in the hearing of her daughter. She laughed and said, "Honey, you're divorced. You're not in the business of apologizing for that ass anymore."

We were friends from that moment on. When she told me she'd been diagnosed with MS, I dived right in to help in anyway possible. For five years, I cooked and cleaned and chauffered her kids. I hung Christmas lights on her house. I sat in her car at soccer games when it was too hot for her to be outside. I drove her to doctor's appointments.

Her speech was sometimes slurred. She was sometimes unsteady on her feet. She sometimes drifted off to sleep at inappropriate moments.

After five years, I discovered she did not have MS. It was an elaborate cover for the fact that she abused prescription drugs. Her family and I found out at the same time through situations involving huge drama, including an overdose that the hospital deemed an attempted suicide.

D landed in a treatment facility. When she completed the program, she called me to come pick her up. I told her I couldn't step back into the role of caretaker without having some questions answered, and she hung up on me.

We never spoke again. Did not even know for sure what happened to her until this morning, more than five years later, when her (now former) husband walked into coffee shop where I was sitting.

What a morning it has been.

Monday, October 20, 2008

To Infinity and Beyond

Sitting in a Minneapolis coffee shop two blocks from Katie's apartment right now, happy as a clam. Drove here yesterday and expect to stay until Wednesday.

My first appointment with the sedation dentist is Thursday. All he's going to do is talk to me about the whole "knock you senseless" thing and make the REAL appointment. Feel pretty sure I can handle that.

And THEN, on Friday, I'm heading to Mountain View, Arkansas, to attend the Outhouse Races and Bean Festival.

This is what it looks like down there:
I have reservations in a lovely B&B in a little town called Leslie. My goal for the weekend is to soak myself in color. I'm taking my paints and pastels, my canvases and Conte crayons. Also taking prints of some gorgeous photos Prema introduced us to a couple weeks ago, some Rigid Wrap and some Plaster of Paris. The good Lord only knows what I'll come home with, but it will be colorful. Of that I am sure.

Sure of a couple other things, too: Paula's top will be down and my spirits will be up.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Crying for Color

Felt the need to cry yesterday, so I went to see Nights in Rodanthe.

I know. I know. But one thing you can count on from Nicholas Sparks is the jerking of tears, and I needed to spill a few over something and someone not related to my own life.

I watched. I cried. I laughed at myself. But most of all, I realized how deeply I've been longing for color. The movie is shot mostly inside an incredible old house on the Carolina shore. Azures and reds and mustards and greens. Strong, deep colors that pull you into their presence, into beauty.

Left the movie and went straight to the fabric store. Bought yards and yards of fabric in the colors that spoke to me so loudly from the movie. I was already working on a quilt about "yes," but its colors were so "maybe." Changed my plans a bit, and now it's heading toward bold and vibrant and daring.

The quilt is based on these words from Haven Kimmel's The Solace of Leaving Early:

"We are lured toward truth, beauty, and goodness. . .the lure is pulling at our hearts like some lucid joy inside every actual occasion and all we have to do is…

Say yes."

I'm saying yes. Do you hear me, Universe? I'm saying yes. Sewing yes, too.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

She Got Up Off the Chair*

I went to the dentist.

I did not stay.

Settled into the chair. They strapped on the black rubber pig nose for nitrus and brought out the instruments. As the dentist and his assistant gathered round me and prepared to shove their hands into my mouth, I panicked. At first, I asked for a moment to gather myself, and then I knew. I knew I could not stay there.

The dentist was kind. He said sedation dentistry exists for a reason and referred me to someone who will knock me insensate before invading my personal space with power tools. I took that out and ran with it.

I felt like a prize-winning, blue-ribbon-at-the-state-fair, tickertape-parade-earning idiot. But I also felt that treating myself kindly, being patient with my weaknesses for once, might not be the end of the world.

I cried. I shook. I got up off the chair and went home.

Next stop in the dental saga: total oblivion. That, I think I can handle. Details to follow.

*If you haven't read Haven Kimmel's She Got Up Off the Couch, treat yourself to it. It's simply terrific.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Dentist Day

We who are about to cry salute you.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Through a Glass Darkly

I have lived alone for one thousand, two hundred and twelve days now, but I am only beginning to recognize the fact of that aloneness.

Lately, it feels as if two realities are at play, and every once in a while I get a glimpse through the veil. On one side of the nylon netting, I live in a darling little house facing a pond. There is me. There is my dog. We are alone here (if you don't count the occasional invasion of mice) but do not often recognize a void in that state of being.

On the other side of a gossamer dream lies a great waiting, an opening that wants to be filled. It's hard to explain, but I just walked from the laundry room back to my bedroom and found myself surprised no one was there. Not as though I actually expected a person to be present, but as though I'd somehow accidentally seen the hole where someone could be, over there between the bookshelves and the big wooden chair.

Always just a flash. I blink it away the way a man might glimpse the top of a woman's silk stocking and then convince himself he's imagining things because women don't wear silk stockings and garters anymore. Although I am not given to referencing the Bible, with every one of these flashes, this verse from 1 Corinthians hangs in the air:

"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."

There is nothing I want more than to know and be known. I do so hope these flashes are pointing the way.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Life Lesson

If you discover two new tubes of oil paint (let's say Windsor & Newton Vandyke Brown and Burnt Sienna) in your purse as you're getting ready to run out the door, do not throw them on the bathroom counter to be dealt with later. No, not even if you're really in a hurry.

If you do make such a dreadful, dreadful error in judgement, be sure the tubes do not land upside down, so the part that shows is mostly white.

If you manage to ignore this sage advice, at least make absolutely certain the tubes of brown oil paint do not land next to a tube of ROC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Daily Moisturizer, which is of a similar size and also white.

Finally—for the love of all things holy—if you do not heed my warnings, please turn on the damn light when you're getting ready for bed. No, Lovey, the light from the adjacent bedroom will not do.

Is this what they call getting shit-faced?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Clean Teeth and Pig Noses

I am phobic—completely, totally, and absolutely AFRAID—of dentists. Periodically, my fear of losing my teeth dukes it out with my fear of the dentist and wins by a TKO.

I TiVO "The View" nearly every day. (Their political debates are great comedy/high drama.) Not long ago, Whoopi G. said she'd put off going to the dentist so long she had to have a root canal and is losing her two front teeth.

I'd been obsessing about my front teeth for weeks. Months, maybe. Every night when I settled down to sleep, the first five or ten minutes were a jumble of being aware of my front teeth in some strange, I-can-feel-them-and-you-shouldn't-feel-your-teeth way. Then my tooth/dentist fears sparred while I studied faces in the crowd.

So, when Whoopi looked into the camera and told me to get my chicken butt into that chair ASAP (maybe not her exact words), I did. Literally got up and drove to the dentist right that very moment. They gave me an appointment the next day.

Letting them clean my teeth required nitrus. I kid you not. And even that required serious survival meditation. After I explained my terror, they suggested the nitrus. I thought I'd try without but the first time the hygienist poked me with her little silver pick, I raised my hand like a kindergartner needing to pee.

"Can I have the drugs now, please?"

The dentist himself was summoned. (Only he is allowed to dispense courage in its gaseous form.) He strapped a large black rubber pig nose onto my face and disappeared into another torture chamber treatment room.

What with my pneumonia and all, breathing through the huge rubber pig nose was almost worse than doing the dentist naked a bit strange. I raised my hand again to protest but scratched my ear instead. Simply could not be the girl who's terrified of harmless hygienists AND black rubber pig noses.

By concentrating on slow, even breaths, I managed to deal. Pretty soon I didn't care about the enormous metal shiv she was sticking into my brain pain.

Turns out my front teeth are just fine but I have two cavities, my first since I was 15 years old. Going back next week for fillings.

Have mercy.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Lost and Found

It's October now, so my hair should stop falling out soon. Every September my hair follicles break up with my head. No hanging around mourning lost love for them. No, they fall to the bathroom floor faster than Elizabeth Gilbert, but without the prayers or the crying. Or the New York Times Best-seller List.

So, I'm driving to the salon (for one of the last times!!!!) with Paula's top down this morning. I brush my bangs from my eyes and find half a dozen hairs in my fingers. I flutter my fingers over the window and watch the hairs blast into the past.

And there it is. I'm pretty sure we're all like hairs on the head of the Universe. Some of us fall away. More arrive. We're part of all that is.

Had a discussion with my friend Bryan, who's been thinking deep Buddhist-like thoughts again. He wrote a brilliant piece about the five skandas: form, feeling, perception, intellect, and consciousness. He talks about whether form is separate from spaciousness.

Me? Not so much with the skandas.

My way of looking at it is much more simplistic, related to "Everything's connected." B takes exception with the word "connected," because—to him—the idea of connected implies the possibility of separate.

Again with the not so much.

I don't know from skandas, but I know about loss. And I know that everything lost is also found. 

I lost another handful of hair this morning. Some other critter found a bit of insulation for its refuge against the coming winter. And soft, lovely insulation it was, too. 

The softer to fall upon, my dear.

PS: Just in case I wasn't clear—I admire the hell out of Bryan's ability to study and elaborate on these ideas, I just don't share it. He is, quite simply, much smarter than I am. Hell, he's smarter than anyone I know or every have known. And yet, we're friends. That remains one of the enduring graces of my life.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Happy Day

Hang on to your hats, girls and boys. I've got some big news.

We sold the salon!!!!!

It's basically a miracle. After all that time looking for an exit strategy, someone simply showed up at the door and asked to buy it. My sister and I agreed, and we'll be done on the 15th of this month.

 I quit fighting for what I thought was right for the business a long time ago. What I wanted more than anything else was to maintain a relationship with my sister. The money, the disagreements over how to run things, the orange everything--none of it mattered as much as remaining on good--okay, decent--terms with my sister.

I wish things had been different, but they weren't. Given the realities of life, we could not have hoped for a better outcome. 

Here's a great big thank you to the Universe, for its infinite wisdom, for its mercy, for its love.

Change is afoot, folks. Can't wait to see what happens next.

Saturday, October 04, 2008


I'm sick and got a temperature.

Most of you are too young to remember that commercial. Too bad. It was one of the cutest ever.

I'll be back soon, thanks to the miracles of modern medicine. Til then, may blossoms of blessings fall on each one of you.