Friday, August 29, 2014

Of All the Hair Salons in the World, I Walk Into Hers

I am very unfussy about my hair. I wash it. I don't own a blow dryer. I don't even own a hair brush. A comb seems to do the trick. I don't color it. I don't style it. I might be delusional, but mostly, I think it looks fine.

I used to set it on giant pink plastic rollers when I was in high school so it would be smooth and straight-ish. By the end of my freshman year of college, I began to let it do its own weird and wavy thing. Oh, and after I went gray in my early 40s, I had it colored for years. A base color, highlights, and eventually an intensely detailed weave so I was more blond than gray. When The Someone dumped me for a woman 20 years younger, I gave it up.

Nowadays, I prefer to think of it as silver rather than gray, but lately something's been going haywire (that IS the perfect word) with the texture. While I do confess to cultivating my beach crone look,  the witchy texture was too much, so yesterday I went to a salon on the spur of the moment and got worked in for a gloss job. I knew there was such a thing as lip gloss, of course, but now my hair has a coating of gloss, too. I do think it's shinier and less witchy.

BUT, here's the amazing thing--even more amazing than shiny hair. The stylist is somewhere around my age (or something close--or a little younger, probably) and her fiancé died rather suddenly a year and a half ago. I'm not even sure how this came up, but you know, when you go to a salon, you just end up making conversation. There were many similarlities in our lives and in our losses. We connected in so many ways. So, I have shiny hair, and my heart feels a little shinier too.

She says that just recently she feels herself coming out of the fog. Like she's been on a raft in the middle of the ocean, lost. And now she's spotted land. She's not there yet, she says, but she's paddling toward it. I can't quite imagine it. But because she told me about it,  I believe it's possible.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

How Poetry Saves My Life ( again) or Seratonin and Not-Seratonin

Somewhere just inside my forehead a neon sign has been blinking all week. I am lost I am lost I am lost, it says. It's hard to get much done. Hard to sleep when you have neon in your brain. It's The Grief. Hello, Grief. You have to go with it, I say. Go ahead, just Google "How to get a person to come back from the dead." It's all right. After a little reading, you settle down. You drink a little wine. Or a little tea. You splash back into reality. You watch another episode of Orange is the New Black, and you totally dig how Piper doesn't smile the way she used to. How there's someone new behind her eyes.

I listen to podcasts now instead of talking to Dan on the phone when I walk in the evening. I'm not sure how I ever survived without Curtis Fox and Poetry Off the Shelf from the Poetry Foundation. These podcasts got me through the Divorce Anxiety too. Poem by poem. No long stories. I love you, David Sedaris, and I love you Moth, and I love you Radio Lab, but sometimes I just don't have what it takes to hang on to the ledge that long. Just give me a poem. Talk to me about it. Then read it again.

Tonight there was this: (apologies re the weird formatting)

The Drama of the Gifted Hansel

Shit are we lost?
Should I tell her we’re lost?
If we had some pot, we could sleep—
and worry in the morning...I’m sure
tomorrow my friends will find us.
If I tell her, she’ll cry;
women are
so weak. I
thought we had a plan
when I lay down that bread.
Fucking birds.
Should’ve used stones.
Wish we were stoned, because
she’ll panic if we’re lost.
She’ll say, “I told you so”
about the crumbs.
Then she’ll scream or faint
or start in about witches. Shit. I mean,
no one needs to live
inside that kind of anxiety.
It’s obsolete. Take me.
Things hurt, but not really
once you understand
everything is chemical
if you let it be what it is—
a matter of seratonin and not-seratonin,
control and not-in-control.
At least she knows what it’s like.
Man, I’m such an asshole. I’m
such an asshole. I’m such
an asshole. Or am I? Anxiety
is just a matter of thinking
for too long
about yourself.
I wonder if we’re lost.

—Debora Lidov

Also saved by this:  The Ultimate Freedom Yoga.

And this:

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

"I'm in it for the endolphin rush" --quote from Postcards from the Edge

Dolphins are too hard too hard to photograph. So here's a pair of terns. It looked like an argument.  
The beach this morning walk yielded many dolphins (many of them babies) twirling out of the waves, and a pair of body surfing sea lions. Somehow that wasn't enough for me. The day devolved into anxiety, and I suppose it was a good reminder of how I used to be about 97.6 per cent of the time in those early years post divorce. 

It rarely happens now, and when it does, I ask why instead of thinking, well shit, this is the way it is. This is the way I am.  It might be that I have some pre-flying anxiety  since my mom and I will be going to the east coast soon for her annual trip, and after I leave her at my brother's place I will be flying around here and there. I can handle that. It might be because last night I dove into the inner depths of Dan's iPad and found beginnings of songs he'd started but never finished. So I emailed them to myself. Like this:

How I long for your crazy sadness,
Enlightening gladness
Inexplicable madness

And then this morning when I woke before six and turned on my computer, wow--for a split second, Dan was alive because there was email from him in my inbox!--and I suppose that started my day in an unbalanced fashion. I could not concentrate on writing at all today, but did manage to read, so that's something. 

I drank two glasses of wine with dinner while my mom and I talked about the birds that will be showing up this winter. The buffleheads. The grebes. It was your basic "Tell me about the rabbits, George" conversation.We're waiting for those winter birds. And we're hoping for pelicans. The first winter they were diving into the marina non-stop, the next winter not so much. Who knows how it will be this winter. Who knows.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Bright Spot

Gray day at the beach with a bright spot.

Love is always the bright spot, isn't it?

Only sometimes I get confused and think it's wine. I've gone through long stretches of just having water at dinner since Dan died. Alcohol is a depressant, right? It would be wise not to drink, right? Of course. 

But there I am at the dinner table, and my mom is doing her weird sashay between this world and some other world. "Where did you take that casserole?" She asked me the other night as she awakened from her dinner table doze. She'd dreamed I'd made a casserole and taken it somewhere to a pot luck. Last night she began feeling around on the table, eyes closed, touching her napkin, the silverware, thin air. When she began tugging on the edge of her placemat, I asked her what she was looking for. "The shooters," she said, opening her eyes. "You know, the things for leaving something on the table." Or something like that. It didn't really make sense. But she was dreaming and whose dreams do make sense? Me, I dream about bears. A lot. Does that make sense? She woke up. "Oh, never mind," she said. She knew she'd been dreaming and that it didn't make any sense. She knew what was what.

The night before last I was at the cooktop when I heard the martini glass topple and felt a splash on my heels. The glass had only tipped to the countertop and miraculously didn't break even though its contents flew through the air. It's like she's a poltergeist. You think she's just your mom reading the newspaper on the iPad, then she closes her eyes while her hands cast spells and the next thing you know things are crashing around you. I went for the wine that night. And took a walk. Maybe I'll walk with wine. A nice travel mug. Me and the sunset. Wine and a podcast. That's about as perfect as it's gonna get for now. 

But speaking of love and bright spots, where's your bright spot these days?

A good book is always a bright spot. I just finished Kate Atkinson's "Life after Life." It's going to churn around inside my head for a while. You can read about it HERE if you want.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

I'm on BlogHer!

Syndicated on

Yes, indeed. I have a syndicated post over at BlogHer today.
Click on the badge above.
It's under the heading Work/Life.
Title: "Climbing Out of Grief"
Thank you for reading.
There's lots of other good stuff over there too.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Report from Pillville: the pulmonologist, the vascular surgeon, the ultrasound, the foot doctor, and it takes a village...

See these birds? They hang out in a flock. Genius.
My mom's pulmonologist fired her today. That's right. When she arrived here two years ago she was still smoking, still taking breathing treatments that were required after a bout of pneumonia or something, still sleeping with a C-Pap, skinny as could be despite all the good food at my brother's house, and she was still somewhat frail from her lung cancer surgery that had occurred three years earlier. A year and half off cigarettes, she sleeps with oxygen, but that's it. She no longer needs a pulmonologist.

And that wasn't even the best part of the day. When we got home from the doctor, my friend Paula was making carrot ginger soup. That's right, I came in the door, and the kitchen had someone else in it making food, and my house smelled delicious. (And right now, this very minute, she's pouring us wine and bringing me chocolate.)

Tomorrow might go less well. My mom is having some leg pain, so the vascular surgeon is working her in. Later in the week, there will be an ultrasound of her neck because of her coughing fits which originate from a mysterious tickle in her throat, not her lungs. The ENT doc is stumped. Then next week, it's the foot doctor. Keep in mind, it's foot doctor number 3, and she doesn't particularly like him either. No matter how it goes, we won't come home to the smell of soup, and I will be pouring my own wine, so it can't possibly be as good as today.

I would like to belong to a flock. A village. A cooperative of old women taking care of their even older mothers. Or maybe I'd like to be a bird.

Secrets and Lies

You can read all about it if you paddle over HERE.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

By-the-Wind Sailors and Fair Weather Friends

Blown to our shores by a shift in the winds, the beaches are now covered with a mass die-off of these pretty creatures.

I think of the phrase fair weather friends when I see them for some reason. I am lucky to have friends who are sticking by me through the foulest of "weather." I could not be more blessed in this regard.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Wednesday Beach Report

Mussel shells, I thought at first. Nope.

They're blue! And squishy! And there's a little cellophane thing poking up!
"Velella is a cosmopolitan genus of free-floating hydrozoans that live on the surface of the open ocean. There is only one known species, Velella velella, in the genus."  

From wikipedia

"And although they look a little like jellyfish, California Academy of Sciences scientist Rich Mooi says, they’re not closely related and aren’t even single organisms as jellyfish are.
Velella is, in spite of its remarkable appearance as a working individual, actually a COLONY of individuals all of which work together to make up a kind of ‘superorganism,’” he wrote in an email to the Ocean Beach Bulletin."
From the Ocean Beach Bulletin
I'm not kidding when I say that every day on the beach is different. If I decided to take a walk this evening and there was a Spanish Galleon the sand, I'd say, "Wow, a Spanish galleon, how about that!" But I'd believe it. 
And do you want to know what the common name for these creatures is? By-the-wind sailors. Seriously.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Report from Pillville: Super(fluous) Moon, Super(collider) Mom, Super(annuating) Me

Super Moon at rest in a bed of clouds
I show my mom the moon, holding onto her as she shuffles out the front door and down our front walk so we can see around our neighbor's house. I know she's going to let out a little shriek so I prepare myself. Yesterday's shriek meant she was on the floor, tipped over with a bump on her head after trying to retrieve something from under her bed. Honestly, I think my adrenaline levels are past any possibility of ever returning to normal, and that's probably the way it's going to be. I do the best I can. Add another yoga class. An extra walk. A little more T'ai Chi Chih. Breathe in. Breathe out. I'm as okay as I'm going to get, I think, for someone who feels threadbare. I'm okay with that. Or as okay as I'm going to get.

The moon is nice when you look at it with your mom who loves the moon. The moon is something different when it shines in your window and onto your bed when you're there with a lover.

Your mom is fabulous when she's the fun mom. When your friends want to come to your house. Your mom is your savior when you're pregnant and she doesn't shame you. She's all you've got when you're in a hospital flat on your back for a month 300 miles from home--and she's there because she's gotten herself a room in a rooming house and she's all you need. She is something different when she's old and she can't hear and you can't hear her because she mumbles and her teeth are loose and her throat is full of phlegm. She's something difficult and dangerous when she can't remember that she's not supposed to pick things up off the floor. But your mom is still your mom and she's superhuman, or so it seems. When you take her out in her pretty earrings, people flock around her like she's a baby in a carriage. They smile and talk and she nods while she looks to you to answer all the questions.

The yacht club across the water had an open house today, and so we drove the less than 1/10th of a mile to get there, made a grand entrance gliding down the handicapped ramp while all the nice yacht club ladies scurried around inside to find the right chair, clear a path to the buffet. "I'm the oldest person here," my mom announced. "Join," the woman who sat down at our table said to me, "You need to get out of the house." My mom swears she will go out to eat with me once a month if I do. There are no monthly dues. Just a minimum to spend. "We can eat and drink that in one night," my mom exclaimed. "Bring her once a month," the woman said. "You come more often."

Yacht. I don't have one. I don't need one, but I might need a yacht club right across the water. Yacht. Every time I hear that word, I think of some article I read ages ago about inner city poor kids and standardized tests. It was one of the words very few of them knew, the article said, citing this as proof of an inherent bias. Since then I've wondered if very rich urban kids could use the word combine as a noun. My mom could use both those words in a sentence. That seems like a marvel to me right now.

AND this morning I have a new post up at Birthmother. Click the link below and to the left if you'd like to read it.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Talking with the Dead

Charon and Psyche crossing the River Styx

I was on the phone--a land line--sitting on the bed in a hotel room. I was talking to a friend I hadn't seen in years, and we were making arrangements to get together. She invited me to dinner. "Oh, not that night, I said, Mr. Ex will be staying with me and I don't want to bring him along." There was some awkward conversation then wherein I explained that the ex and I hadn't gotten back together and that, in fact, we weren't even friends, but he really needed a place to stay, so I had obliged. 

"Just because he's staying with you, you don't need to bring him," she said. I was about to thank her profusely for that insight, when Dan's voice came on the line. 

"Hi, baby," he said. There was a whirring noise in the background as my friend's voice receded. I could hear Dan clearly, but for a moment I was confused, thinking I'd accidentally hit the voicemail button on my cellphone and was listening to a saved voicemail. But no, this was a land line that I was talking on. I pulled the phone away from my ear and looked at it to be sure. "I just want you to know I'm good," he said. He sounded happy, as if he was at a party, entertained by something that was going on there. "I wish I could see you though," he said. 

About this time my conscious brain sprung to life. I'm talking to him, I'm talking to him, I'm talking to him, and I have to remember. I have to remember. The dream began to dissolve then, but I think he told me one last thing---that he loved me.

Can I tell you that I conjured this? (I'm fine. I swear.) A wave of desperation had swept over me as I got ready for bed. I have to see you. I have to talk to you, I said to the emptiness. I put on the Iris Dement CD that he gave me for my birthday last year, and sat reading the lyrics while her voice filled the room. I've listened to this album so many times since receiving it, but somehow the lyrics (in the photos below) never sank in. I'd had a couple of glasses of wine, and I wasn't sure I could believe what I was reading, but I thought maybe these songs were a clue that might lead me to him, a portal of sorts. I listened to the first two songs again, then took out that CD, and put in a CD of Dan's that was a radio interview he'd done (long before I knew him) about World T'ai Chi Day. I'd already rubbed a dab of his shaving cream into my palms and the scent lingered as I lay down on his side of his bed, listening to his voice until I fell asleep.


The friend in the dream--she was at the birth of my younger daughter, and I'd seen her very frequently during that pregnancy. So now in this dream I spoke with her on the phone while I connected with the afterlife.

And Mr. Ex, what the hell was he doing there? Oh, and I forgot, just as the phone call was wrapping up, my trusty financial guy came through the door. I hung up the phone and threw myself into his arms, crying, "I talked to Dan. I talked to Dan."

What the hell?
But hey, I talked to Dan, everybody. He said he was good.

P.S. And do you know what else? My mom talks to her dead twin sister every night. It starts as she stands in the kitchen after dessert as she's finishing her final martini, staring out at the water. She starts to doze, and the next thing you know, she's there on her feet, half asleep, talking to the dead. I usually stay up an hour or so after she goes to bed. I sit on the couch in the dark, reading and writing, and I hear her voice rising out of sleep. And even before her twin died, she talked to other dead people. My dad, her other siblings. A conversation we had about that years ago and a dream she told me about a parrot led to THIS STORY. 

Life. Stranger than fiction, right?
Right. Because in my family, we talk to the dead.

Some lyrics from an Iris Dement song
More Iris Dement lyrics

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Local Author Moderates Discussion at Book Club

Artist: Belinda Jack
Yeah. I did.
Chocolate. Cheese. Divine wine served in exquisite antique goblets.
Oh, and did I mention the razor smart women?

When the subject of sealed birth certificates came up, not everyone knew how that worked. Go HERE. You might be surprised too.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Tuesday Afternoon Beach Report

It's August at the seashore and it's all Baywatch around here. Life guards have returned to their abandoned towers, sunbathers are hunkering down on the sand or dashing into the waves, probably thinking that this is the coldest beach vacation of their lives. The water is full of boogie boarders (in rented wet suits?) and I'm pretty sure I'll be adding to my collection of found sand toys as August progresses.

I walked for about an hour today at almost high noon, zipped into a fleecy sweatshirt, listening to two teenage bathing beauties approaching the water. "Did you put on sunscreen under your tanning oil?" one asked the other.

"Of course, I did," the other one said. "I don't want to look like a lobster." Really? That's what people do? Put on sunscreen and then tanning oil?  Sometimes I think I know absolutely nothing.

One thing I don't know is what I need most right now. I keep pondering what I should do for myself. I keep telling myself I need to get out more. Telling myself I need a support group. But I can't decide if I want a caregiver support group, a grief support group, or maybe I even need to touch base with my favorite birth mother support group, CUB, since all of the birth mother stuff is swirling around in my head post-publication of  my book.

I've figured one thing out though. At night after dinner when I take my walk through the neighborhood, since I can't talk to Dan anymore, I listen to This American Life or the Moth podcasts.  People have stories. Big stories.  I love it when they tell those stories. I firmly believe that the telling of our stories unites us.