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April Showers Bring May Showers

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This month has been a meteorological cat fight in Rhode Island. Rain and more rain. Hot humid scorcher of a day where you show those pale legs because who cares in this heat, followed by why did I put all the sweaters away, followed by a shit load of grey rainy dreary damp my-whole-body-aches days.

And for someone who already hates the spring (don’t judge), this weather is reeking havoc. The smell of wet grass and things growing and the sound of birds crazily chirping and neighbors hammering and mowing and greeting one another and the density of it all. The thick labor of coming back to life then retreating then coming back again. I’m exhausted.

April is supposed to be the cruelest month but May’s been vicious as far as I’m concerned. I feel slow and fat and foggy and nervous and hesitant and insecure and just not up for it all. Coming out of the cave. Jumping through metamorphic hoops to face sunlight and cookouts and mosquitos and overgrown tomatoes that burst on the vine and tics on the dogs and my ugly bare toes and vacations I never take.

And then there are days when I catch a whiff of childhood so strong it takes my breath away. And there’s Mother’s Day, and my mother’s birthday, and the fuchsia rhododendron blooming in my yard that I know she would love. She loved spring. She loved planting and pruning and coaxing the dead back to unruly brilliant life.

May will always be my mother’s month, and while some will be rainier or hit me harder than others, I know I will get through it. I know May will end and June will begin and I will start over, planting, pruning, coaxing, in this blog or a notebook or some ratty old short story, tweaking and cutting and adding words. We didn’t always have a lot in common, but we both needed something to quell the demons, self-made and otherwise.

There are only a few days left – it’s Memorial Day weekend and that has certainly taken on new meaning for me. They are promising sun and warmer weather. They are promising that this too shall pass. Am I ready? Never. But it’s okay because I face it anyway. Come. Get me. Spring.

“In the motion of the very leaves of spring in the blue air there is then found a secret correspondence with our heart.”  -Taken from Mary Oliver’s Upstream who took it from Shelly’s On Love

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Infused

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End of the work day and off to the spa. Today the snack is peanut butter crackers, four in a pack. They bring me water in a Dixie Cup and Rachel Ray is on TV, but only for a few minutes because someone asks for Dr. Phil. This time the needle goes in after only two tries with minimal wiggling to find the vein. I think the bruise will be smaller, more yellow than purple.

I sit in the same chair, my chair, at the end of the row closest to the door. For more air? For the possibility of escape? Maybe just habit. I negotiate a book between one arm hooked up to the I. V. and the other attached to the blood pressure cuff that periodically puffs up like an inner tube, checking on my status. Then I use my superpower. I tune out the chatter of the nurses, the bleating of Dr. Phil, the drip of chemicals, the flush of a toilet, the snoring of the man next to me. I read. I read and read and read. Nothing else matters. I am in a place I’ve been going to since childhood, a place of dreams and good vs evil and second chances and laughter and tears. A foreign place I immediately recognize. I am home.

This is my RA treatment. It happens once a month and while I know the drill I’m still uncomfortable every time. I’m usually the youngest person in the room. I want to put my legs up in my chair, the hospital version of La-Z-Boy, but I’m too self-conscious. I don’t want to appear overfamiliar. Like going into a friend’s refrigerator without asking. I am so rule-bound, even here. God forbid I have poor manners.

Rheumatoid Arthritis isn’t the worst. Not as bad as cancer or a brain tumor. Not as bad as really bad MS. It’s treatable, it can be slowed down, it has a long shelf life. I know there are people who suffer terribly with RA. I know that day could come for me. But right now a monthly infusion at the spa, a shot in my stomach that I give myself once a week, these are manageable things and it only takes a little work to not feel sorry for myself.

Because I can read, and write, and read writers’ writing about writing. Like Colum McCann’s Letters to A Young Writer. Ho no, I am not Young, and in fact I’m bordering on Old, but I still count. I can be brave now and then. I can carry a notebook and care about language and think someday I’ll be something.

And surprisingly enough, I can still blog. I can just open up my laptop after getting lost in the dessert for 6 months (was it longer? shorter?). I can say stuff and hope it lands somewhere. I can love you guys. Because you read.

What are you reading these days?

 

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The Winter of Our Discontent

images-2It’s been bad. Maybe not everywhere but almost, and us New Englanders have had one WTF day after another. The travel conditions and gray skies were overwhelming by themselves but on top of that we had leaky roofs, window condensation, broken doors, broken bones, influenza, ice dams, pot holes, salt and slush and filthy mountains of snow obstructing views at every intersection.

Everyone you talk to says, “I am so done with this.” Every single person says this. “I am so done.” It has created a certain zeitgeist, a cultural temperament. We are the sound of a thousand whoopee cushions. We care about nothing. We can barely open a bag of potato chips for dinner. We have so much longing we don’t even recognize it anymore.

This winter let us have it, under no uncertain terms. We watched the weather report like Czech villagers waiting for the curfew to lift, the bombs to stop dropping. We are ragged, pale and snippy. We are so done.

April may be the cruelest month but March is no picnic. The thaw has started bringing water, fog, swollen doors and jagged slivers of hope.

But will spring redeem us?

I’m not sure, but I am feeling the itch to blog again, and that must be something. That must mean I am not quite done.

What about you?

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Ifyoucantsleepblog

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Woke up at 3 AM, got up to pee, staggered to and from the bathroom, crawled back into bed, fought with my pillow for 45 minutes and lost. Wound up in front of my computer too dazed and confused to face the World Wide Web, so I decided to blog. It’s been awhile since I’ve been here, and it feels strange, like I’m a contestant on Dancing With the Stars only I’m not a star and I can’t dance (oh wait, that’s actually everyone on Dancing With the Stars). It feels especially strange in the middle of the night with only the hum of my computer and an Edger Allen Poe ticking sound emanating from the house somewhere. And I’ve been away so long something has happened to the Word Press formatting so I’m typing in plain text with random code popping up when I try to italicize. What’s up with that?

Usually I’m pretty good with the sleep thing. Truth is, I kind of love to sleep. Thick, dreamy, bottomless sleep. For someone whose primary coping mechanism is escape, what’s not to love? I hate missing sleep. I feel cheated out of something that I can never get back. It’s not the same to tack on a few hours the next night or to take a nap. It’s like missing the middle of a movie – if you watch that part the next day you experience the movie in a completely different way than if you watched it from start to finish.

You hear a lot about our relationship with food. How we nourish or abuse or fret or sabotage or indulge or languish over food. Magazine articles, books, talk shows, and therapists tell us how to work on our relationship with food in the same way we work on our relationship with lovers or parents or children or co-workers. But rarely do we hear about our relationship with sleep. Sleep is our mistress. Oh, she gets some attention from the health gurus and the mattress salesmen. But she definitely takes a backseat to food. Personally I would like to break up with food and start seeing sleep. Start talking about her with my friends and family. Buy her sexy lingerie and take her away for the weekend. Marry her, make her mine, grow old with her by my side and die before she does. Yep, I want the whole enchilada (oh wait, that’s my relationship with food creeping in).

It’s 5 AM. The alarm is set for 6. I have to either shower and get on with the day or go back for a few stolen moments with sleep. What would you do?

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This Is My Brain On Cheese

It started Friday evening with a grilled cheese sandwich on whole wheat and ended last night with a Twix bar in bed watching The Good Wife. Yup. I fell off the no-dairy wagon. I fell mightily.

I’d been off of dairy and eggs for a little over 2 months. The first few weeks were rough, I hadn’t been “clean” in a while, but after that it wasn’t bad. I bought a new cookbook and experimented with a few new things like seitan (pronounced like Paula Dean might say Satan). I was feeling pretty good, getting in the groove, and then about a week ago I started craving cheese. Mainly pizza, but other forms too. So Friday night, after everyone else in the house had a grilled cheese sandwich, I broke down and made myself one–with real cheese.

It went from bad to worse. I wound up sitting at a Panera Bread for a 4 hour stretch on Saturday (long story). During this time I wrote, read, surfed the web, eavesdropped and had a large helping of their macaroni and cheese. I swear they put crack in that shit. It is friggin’ amazing. My taste buds went insane. I wanted more. I pictured myself selling everything I had on me, my netbook, my cell phone, my 16-year-old’s paperback copy of The Language of Flowers, my BJ’s membership card, my Lamy fountain pen, my wedding ring, my contact lens solution. I might have written the term paper for the college kid I was near or let the creepy guy spilling coffee and talking to himself sit next to me and cop a feel. I’d wind up sitting in the middle of the mall, mac and cheese smeared across my face, empty Panera containers piled around me like bedding, eyes glazed, hands shaking, saying things like, please Dude, and com’ on Man.

Once you’ve had cheese, why not other things with milk? That’s right, like Halloween candy. Now there’s a bottomless pit of an addiction if ever there was one. A few Lindt balls here, a Kit Kat there. Oh yeah. Mama’s back.

They say if you do something for 21 days it’s a habit and you won’t want to break it. That’s what this guy says anyway–and he teaches at Harvard so he must know what he’s talking about. His name is Shawn Anchor and I saw him on PBS in the midst of my setback. I think he had some really interesting things to say and I am secretly (actually not so secretly) fascinated by neuropsychology. After listening to him I can say with certainty that he’s never had to battle a cheese craving. However, he talked about seven little tricks he’s devised through his research to get you to happy. I liked the one that encourages you to take 2 minutes every day and write a few sentences to someone in your social network. You do this for 21 days (of course) and it helps you feel more connected and I suppose ultimately, more happy. You can’t just do a Facebook post about visiting a pet store or drinking martinis with your ex. You have to make it personal, to someone you care about. You have to individualize it, let it take you back to that place that connects you and this friend in the first place.

I miss a lot of friends. I wish we could have tea together, take a walk, listen to street musicians in Harvard Square, watch an old movie, gossip, grab a bite at Flour or La Paloma or Nick’s, solve the world’s problems, talk about writing and books, laugh until it hurts.

I’m one day dairy free. I’m working on connection. I’m blogging because I need to. Maybe it will keep me out of the mall.  Maybe it will get a few neurons firing in the direction of my novel. Maybe it will connect me to some new friends. Maybe it’ll make somebody smile, which this guy Shawn says, eventually, will make somebody happy.

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Friends With Benefits

This is so damn hard. It’s embarrassing to be here again, like some shmuck constantly apologizing for forgetting your birthday. I suppose there are people who can just come back to a blog after a month or more and write like nothing happened. Like it’s ok that they were away from the blog, farting around, playing the stock market, tweeting, flossing, betting on Roller Derby, designing new lawn furniture from the recycled bones of KFC family meals, Whatever man. But I’m too self-conscious for that. I can’t just blog you and leave without at least making you coffee.

I feel like I’ve abandoned you. I feel like it’s a problem I’ve always had that needs deep exploration with a Jungian analyst. I feel like you will never forgive me, or you will think differently of me. You will think, there goes a woman who can’t wear lime green. Or, look at her roots, ugh. Or, I bet her children don’t have a bedtime.

Or, she is a chicken shit writer.

Well I am. I’m a chicken shit writer.

The other day I tried to write in a coffee shop. Across from me sat two women writing. They were friends, writing buddies. Their nails were painted black their hair long and beautifully unkept. Fabulous scarves were tied around their necks like Gordian Knots. They had journals and Apples and iPhones and tablets and clanky bracelets and lattes in oversized green tea cups.

I had a spiral notebook and cold black decaf in a paper cup. And let’s not even talk about my clothes.

I got nowhere. I got nothing. I thought, why am I even trying?

Because it’s what I do. It’s what I keep dragging my sorry ass back to. It’s the only way I get to feel that bit of warmth still there from an ember of a dream.  And even if it’s a really really small ember, it’s my ember nonetheless. I’ve carried it around since high school. Through college and rocky relationships and childbirth and day jobs and fibromyalgia and loosing my mom and debt and cooking show addictions and flat tires and floods in the basement and fabulous sex and wrinkles and pain and hilarity and ingrown toenails and bad perms and silk pajamas and elastic pants.

I have had this dream for such a long time that I totally take it for granted. And just when I think it will leave me, just when I’m sure it will die out forever, the ember sputters and sparks. It flames up again like that phoenix and I am back at it. I am swimming and stewing and singing and swaying with stories. Words start following me around like paparazzi. I am scribbling things down, thinking where can I use this? I sign up for a workshop. I make it to a writers group. I put my tail between my legs and give up my best puppy dog eyes and plead with anyone who ever read this silly blog to take me back. To understand. To judge me only slightly, with humor and warmth and good spirit. I am your friend, your writing buddy. It may feel like I left you. but I will always come back.

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I Stand Here Freshly Pressed

I never thought it would happen. You bloggers out there know what I’m talking about. That startling moment when you are recognized. When your tiny corner of the virtual world gets someone’s attention. When your Stats page shows a bar chart on steroids and a wave of glorious comments pop up out of nowhere for your approval. If you’re a Word Press blogger, you know it’s all about the F word. That’s right. When you’re Fresh, baby. When the Word Press powers that be reach out and pluck you out of the gazillion posts that get served up every day and stick you on their Freshly Pressed landing page.

When it happened to me I was so excited that I screamed for my other half and she thought something happened to one of the dogs (not one of the kids of course but that’s fodder for another post). I thought something was wrong at first. That I’d been hacked. Suddenly I had over 600 views in one day. Over 900 the next. The most I ever had prior to this was 79 (but who’s counting?). Then it dawned on me. I’d been Pressed. I went to that ever sweet mecca of chosen blog posts and there I was, peanuts and all.

A few days have passed, the glory has faded, and I thought I should share a few things from the experience. Here goes:

1) First, it was incredibly exciting–ridiculously so, like I just sold a novel or got a phone call from Ellen to do her show. I have no life.

2) I thought, crap, why didn’t I redesign this blog ages ago? Peanuts? What’s that about? And the font, tiny and boring and my God I rarely include any original big shiny colorful photos of food or cool places or nature. I’m so embarrassed. It was like having half the neighborhood stop by without warning and your house is so dirty the kids can play ball with the dust bunnies or the t-shirt you’re wearing is from a Barry Manilow concert.

3) I was humbled. I received so many beautiful comments and I’ve tried really hard to reply to them all but I haven’t gotten to everyone. Please excuse my lousy blogging ways but know that if you read the post and commented, every word of encouragement sent me soaring. Every story about someone’s loss choked me up. People out there are amazing. It made me think about readers and what an incredible group of people they are and that if you write you have to think about them. You have to do this in part for them. And you kinda love them. It’s bizarre!

4) It was the first time I ever put any of my writing out there–I mean my writing that I hope gets finished and published somewhere someday. So it was an especially exciting/humbling/scary thing to have happen. It made me feel this tiny bit of possibility.

5) I hate not knowing who Freshly Pressed me! How the heck does it even happen? I probably should know the answer to that but like I said, I’m a lousy blogger. Is it one person? By vote? A random spin of the wheel? If you FPed me, let me know! I’ll bake you vegan cookies and name my next pet after you.

6) It was short-lived. Fame is fleeting after all. But I want to thank anyone who stopped by, anyone who took the time to read the post, or looked around a bit at past posts. It is amazing that you are out there. Reading, writing, high-fiving and hugging other bloggers. Making things real, and fun, and especially, fresh.

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