Post Eviction – Week 1

I really did mean to do this a day or so after surgery – but this experience has taught me that sometimes it is okay for things to happen at the pace they occur and no faster.

Days 1-3 – Winning
I felt pretty amazing!! Okay, so there was a little surgical discomfort but everything was manageable. I have 6 incisions, and was informed that surgery took a little longer than planned because I had substantial bowel adhesion from my appendectomy. All in all, I felt great. Pain was easily controlled with ibuprophen every six hours. I take a fantastic cocktail of laxative, flax seed oil, and probiotics – henceforth to be referred to as pro-flax-lax. {Back story: After the appendectomy my digestive tract didn’t ‘wake up’ for a while and I discovered that flax seed oil is a very persuasive intestinal lubricant. (Hey – not over-sharing. There IS a woman out there who NEEDS this information!)} The only time I took the ‘hard stuff’ for pain was at bed time, mainly so I would sleep deeply and not be woken up by my bed-mate’s snoring. I had surpassed all the mile markers, moving well, figuring out how to use my arms and legs to get up and down, instead of those core muscles we train ourselves to utilize. Walking, eating gut healthy foods, and no naps. I had it all under control. I was warned by a number of well meaning friends, that I would feel an emotional void where my womb was. That there would be a period of separation or mourning my womanhood. For my circumstance that turned out to be a bunch of well meaning blah blah. I’m sorry if they felt that loss. I, however, did not. This surgery was, for me, the end of a 30 year bodily stand off between me and my girl parts. It was a hostage situation and my doc was the hit man (woman). I win!

Days 4-5 – The Wall
I met that metaphorical ‘wall’. Two days of being home a lone. No one to entertain. No one to tell me to get out of bed – so I didn’t. I woke up long enough to feed/water the dogs and cats, let the dogs out the back door, feed and medicate myself, potty, then back to bed. For two days.
Day 6 I woke up to my momma calling to see if I wanted to go to the bulk food store a few miles away. Okay. I need to shower and do something other than sleep. We were only gone about an hour. While we were away, the elderly dogs got into the recycling AND trash. I couldn’t fix it. My 70 year old mother had to sweep and clean up that mess. Apparently, and not discovered until much later, the cats flipped their litter box, peed in the mess (and the dogs grazed in it)…and again, I couldn’t fix it. Somewhere in the middle of day 6 (after I had returned to my one woman pity party nap time) I noticed that the supply line for the toilet had a little leak. I couldn’t fix it. I couldn’t fix a damned thing!! I became very frustrated – very very frustrated.
The fella came home from a 12 hour day in food service to a drippy toilet, cat litter all over the floor of the mud room (sans poop because the dogs had done their part to help), laundry from the day before, and me standing over the laundry he brought up, crying because I couldn’t do anything else than fold the damned laundry – and OH MY GEEZ!! Is it hot in here??
So apparently estrogen rules the world – or at least makes it a more bearable place. Six days out of surgery and I finally ran out of estrogen to become that sad, angry, bat-shit crazy woman you see in the sitcoms. With absolutely no hesitation, and because I value my relationship and my own sanity, I quietly stepped into the bathroom and applied my first estrogen patch. I am not ashamed. I have a far better understanding of why my menopause aged customers were scary mean and able to drop horrible berating comments without pause. I have walked the edge of that abyss. I have seen the dark side….and there were no cookies. Two hours later I felt like I was myself in my skin again. I know this person and I’m okay with her.

Day 7 – Redemption day
Today made up for the last few. I woke up at 9. Ate. Took my ibuprophen, and pro-flax-lax (because it works!!), went out with the dogs, tidied up the kitchen a bit (because today I don’t feel totally useless!), took a 1/2 mile walk up the road and around the church TWICE! I watched an entire movie without falling asleep. The fella and I went to the park and walked a nice (flat-ish) trail by the river. We came home, made supper, and watched The Walking Dead like a normal couple. Today wins! Today is what tomorrow will be like – and many more tomorrows, because I am fortunate. I am fortunate to have a patient and persistent support system. I, however, am a stubborn, hard-headed, and proudly self reliant woman who HATES asking for help.

The websites and brochures tell you what to expect. How to prepare. What to do the day before/day of/and days after surgery. What constitutes an emergency. What they don’t prepare you for is how to get over yourself. Not a single article or blog that I read prepared me for how to let go and let someone else. Nothing tells you how to ask someone to go to the bathroom with you the first day, just in case you have a hard time getting back up from the toilet…or in the event that you use the last square of toilet paper. (Yeah, that may have happened.) Not a single blog prepares you for the fact that leggings are comfortable (and the light compression is nice), but they are really hard to get from ankle to knee with six incisions in your belly…but damn it! I’m doing this! Blogs didn’t prepare me for hearing my fella, the nervous caretaker, ask if I need a new pad.

The hardest part of this experience has been getting over my own pride. This life lesson: humility. Being a hard headed, proud, self sufficient woman is a beautiful thing. Having someone – or if you are fortunate – more than one someone who can help you, will help you, who does help you with no hesitation or parsimony…that is a beautiful thing.

Week 1 – Humility and Gratitude


Planning an eviction

If I search long enough, I can find it in my heart to appreciate the attempted kind sentiment, but please, stop telling me you’re sorry.

Please stop telling me you’re sorry I don’t have kids. Please stop asking me who is going to take care of me when I’m old. Please stop telling me you think I’ll change my mind or have regrets when suddenly I wake up and want all the babies that I prevented from entering the world when I agreed with my doctor that I need a hysterectomy. Please just keep all that to yourselves and hear me when I say, “Not your body. Not your choice.”

I have been on birth control for more than half of my life. Don’t mistake that as half of my ‘adult’ life. No, half of the time my heart has beaten on this earth I have been chemically maintained. Twenty-two years exactly – 22 years of chemical regulation because my body just won’t cooperate with the textbook idea of what is ‘supposed’ to happen. I’ve had cysts, uterine fibroids, breast fibroids, periods of ungodly proportion that resulted in numerous ruined clothes and public humiliation. I’ve had stabbing abdominal pain that dropped me to my knees wearing chest waders in a wetland. I’ve had night sweats and cramps, and all of this leaves you feeling quite unsexy. Most recently my body developed an affinity for violently fast aura migraines…which while on birth control is substantially NOT okay.

My doc agrees it’s time. I’ve been nudging him about it for years, and this week he unanimously agreed. We are planning an eviction.

“Are you going to be upset at the prospect of not having your own genetic..” Before he could get the entire question out of his mouth I cringed and said, “Absolutely not.” We laughed. I’ve never wanted kids. I never thought the world would be a better place for having more of my genetics in it.

So now the decision has to be made. What do we take? What do we leave? And they’re being remarkably open about including me in that decision. My gyno referred me to a surgeon in the practice. She specializes in ‘minimally invasive’ robot assisted laparoscopy. She says uterus is on notice, but it’s up to me about the ovaries. This is not an easy decision.

Part of me says ‘all or nothing’. You can’t plan an eviction and allow them to leave two cars in the garage, right? The surgeon emphasizes that this option increases the risk of bone demineralization and heart disease, and decreases life span…but we all have to die from something I guess.

Absolutely no part of me says let the ova-twins stay. It is quite likely that the headaches are largely hormonal, and in fact hormonal enough to demonstrate themselves around the edges of my birth control…but research says it’s ‘best’ because it allows natural decrease of hormones and onset of menopause….blah blah blah.

What about one?? A person can live perfectly well with one arm, leg, lung, or kidney…and all of those things are generally WAY more necessary than an ovary. This is my current solution. Leave one. Leave me one little beastie that can pull the load, making enough hormones to keep me sane and ‘normal’, but more importantly allow me to keep my mind intact.

I can rationalize my way to an answer in favor of any of these using research articles. Perks of a nerd brain. However, one word awoke my moment of clarity. “Dementia”. According to The Mayo Clinic, women with ovaries removed before natural menopause have a substantially higher rate of early onset dementia. I fear few things as strongly as not being fully in my mind. I don’t mind living less time if I live it well. If I’m going to be alone in my old age I need to know that I’ll still have the good company of my own mind. This is my non-negotiable factor.

If you’re reading this, and you are pondering this decision, read the science. Read the blogs from people – active people who WANT to feel better. Take notes. Know what to ask. Know what to expect. Have realistic expectations. Figure out your non-negotiable factor. Make the decision that fits YOU and NEVER feel sorry for your choice. I’m happy for me. I’m happy for you. I hope we both receive the solution we need, and see the improvements we have waited so long for. Most importantly, tell your story to other women. We gain nothing from Puritanical silence about our anatomy. Share the knowledge.

The Ornament

I can’t even explain it, but Christmas tree day is always melancholy.

It’s a very deliberate process, the excavating, assembling, and decorating of the feeble old pencil tree.  No lie, every year when I pull the tree box out of the attic crawl space I am certain a living creature is going to leap out of the box and start gnawing on my face. It’s the 20th year I have opened the tree box without incident.  That’s the beginning…opening the box.  Pulling out the stand…fluffing those God-awful scratchy branches…and ever so carefully, oh so gently, unwrapping all of the ornaments.

It’s a very deliberate process. Every ornament has a story.  Some are from my childhood, picked out by my momma.  There’s the red and gold drummer, commemorating my time in high school drumline.  The wooden building block has my initials on it.  There are photo ornaments of me and the not-husband, and one for each of our dogs.  I have the ornament my parents bought for my first Christmas, and ornaments that were given to me by family friends who are long since deceased.  The blown glass fish, pig, pickle, mushroom, chameleon, and skulls.  The green glitter bats.  Each of them commemorate a place and time.  There is one ornament though…one that is amongst my most valued possessions.  It is the first ornament out of the box and on the tree – front and center – every year….until this year.

I made this particular ornament when I was in 5th grade.  The mother of a classmate let us pick a ceramic ornament to paint.  I picked a Madonna and Child.  I painted her in blue, holding her swaddled child in an earth colored wrap.  With the tiniest brush she had, I painted the closed eyes of the sleeping Christ child, and the down-gazing eyes of his adoring mother.  I can still smell the paint, and remember how my hands shook a bit because I was so nervous I would mess it up…but I didn’t.  It was beautiful, and that Christmas I gave it to my Grandma.  I remember she unfolded a paper clip to hang it on her small tree.  When the tree came down, the ornament wasn’t put away.  She kept it near her in the china cabinet right behind her chair.  I was so proud I had given her something special.

She passed away while I was in undergrad.  One of the few belongings of hers that I have is that ornament, which still hangs by the same paperclip that her hands unfolded to hang the ornament the day she received it.  Every year.  Every single year.  Every December I carefully unwrap the cloth from around it, hold it gently between my fingers and remember the best Christmases of my youth.  If I close my eyes I can smell the familiar smell of her house, taste the homemade Chex mix, and hear the football game in the background.  There is an intangible sense of familiarity, warmth, and security that will never be recaptured as in that snapshot of sensory memory.

Today was the day.  I always put up the tree and ride the emotional rollercoaster while I’m home alone.  It’s ritualistic.  Make some good coffee, play some non-holiday music, and start unpacking.  It’s the same every year…except this year I couldn’t find the ornament.  It was supposed to be on the top of the box…wrapped and placed right on top…but it wasn’t.  *insert mini panic attack*  I’m the only one who touches any of this stuff.  No one helps me.  It’s here….so I put up the lights (and found two broken bulbs – maybe I’m not the only one??).  I put up the *broken* lights and started editing ornaments.  We have a kitten, nothing is sacred.  No blown glass.  No bells.  Nothing breakable on the bottom three feet.  Eventually my mind let go of the nagging question.  The tree was progressing, and viola! There it was.

Logic dictates it was my own doing, but I have no idea how Grandma’s ornament ended up where it was.  Perhaps she was providing me a lesson.  Perhaps she was nudging me to stop anticipating sadness, to stop being so rigid in my routine…and to live in and embrace the moment because it will all turn out alright.  The not-husband brought me replacement bulbs.  The Star Wars ornaments are all hanging.  The family pictures ornaments are all there.  I made some little flowers out of felt and saturated them with lemongrass and cinnamon oils to keep the cats out of the tree….and I placed Grandma’s ornament front and center, right where it belongs.  All is right with the world,  All is as it should be.  Now I will work on embracing and engaging in the rest of the holiday.  It’s not an easy time of year when you want it to be what it was.  I’m learning to enjoy what it IS.

Non-partisan panty wandering??

Pull up a chair kiddies, Auntie is gonna tell you a story.

It was 1997.  I was 20 years old. A young lady.  State University and learning about how the world works.

I’d been on three dates with a guy named Ray.  He was handsome, had a nice car, a nice condo, and a worldly last name.  What’s not to like, right?  It didn’t take long though, to realize that something was off.  Insistent, assertive, and hyper-masculine…he seemed to know what he wanted, and would bull-doze anyone who impeded him.   I was uncomfortable with him, and we were never ‘in a relationship’ so I thought it easiest to simply become too busy to date…so that’s what I did.  Eventually he quit calling.

I lived in the dorms.  My roommate, forever losing her key, would shove her key card in her bra and take off, leaving our door unlocked.  It was never a problem.  There were two additional sets of locks between us and the world.  After a late night, processing film in the dark room, I returned to my room, showered and crawled in bed.  I don’t really know how long I’d been asleep…minutes…hours…I honestly don’t have a time reference for the next span of time.  He was on top of me.  He was trying to…well…you can imagine….and I fought.  I fought him as hard as is humanly possible.  He had his hands on me.  Groping…trying to find the edges of my clothes.  I can tell you I remember the screaming in my head, although I’m not sure that it came out of my mouth.  I fought…Out of my bed.  Standing…throwing things at him.  Hitting him…being hit back…pushing him out my door, down my hall….down the steps, fighting, being dragged. Pushing back.  I shoved him out…out of the building…out of my life again.  He turned and shoved the heavy security door closed on me, cursing me with every breath.  The door clicked shut.  The screaming stopped.  It was quiet.

I returned to my room to find blood, hair, and an unholy mess.  I had scrapes, bumps, and the beginnings of some glorious bruises, a dislocated shoulder and x-rays found stress fractures in my foot…but none of the blood in the room was mine.  Although shaken, I felt a little badass…and a lot lucky.

Around 6am, back from the emergency room, I reported the incident to my residence director and campus police.  She seemed offended, and immediately began to back-peddle about where the fault lay.  See, the security door, the one with the combination lock on it, was broken.  None of the residents knew.  We all punched the code, turned the knob, and walked through.  Turns out you didn’t need a code.  Ray had followed a resident through the card swipe door, walked through the combination door, and right into my (unlocked) room.  The university police and the RD promptly began interrogating me.  Turned the tables entirely.  Why hadn’t I called security?  Why hadn’t I reported the incident last night?  Why didn’t I sign in my guest?  MY GUEST??  The absurdity of these questions is plain to me all these years later.  Then, however, I was just floored.  The displacement of responsibility….that’s the real ass chapper.  I didn’t talk about it for years.  It’s as if it never happened, except that I slept with a knife under my pillow and my arm draped over my neck.  I didn’t sleep well for years.  The university accepted no responsibility, suffered no ill from the situation, and even though I gave them Ray’s full name, address, and phone number, NOTHING was done.  I was told that f I wanted to graduate I’d keep it quiet. I was young, easily intimidated, and scared of whatever repercussions the university might come up with.  All these years later I still rarely speak of it because of the shame that was given to me.  THIS is the problem. These incidents are real. They aren’t always violent, but they are REAL.

The recent public proclamations of abuse, aggression, assault, and inappropriate behavior by people in power has brought my anger and frustration back to the surface.  It is horrible to be a victim, and though there are certainly some shameless individuals who may attempt to capitalize from false slander, let me assure you that they are the minority.  It takes courage to come forward and tell your story.  It isn’t fun to relive those emotions, especially when the system has already let you down.  For decades there has been a quiet knowledge that women have been stifled from honestly addressing and pursuing their offender.  The shame and degradation dispatched to victims is appalling…but lately there has been a shift.  The energy and empowerment of the January women’s march lit a fire. Women began to speak their truths…quiet rumbling became incensed purging of decades of sublimation….we speak…yet there are those who still wish to subjugate.

What have we become?  What is SO wrong with this country??  How have we deteriorated in moral composition, in ethical barometer, in what we deem excusable behavior?  Sometimes it feels as if we have enabled a power structure of patriarchy from which, no matter how loudly we speak will never be heard?  Have we reached a level of voyeuristic depravity that we would rather ogle the accusations made against people in power than to consider the implications on the lives of the accusers?  We sit on our sofa watching the chaos unfold…and watching reactions that remind me of how I was treated by the university that was supposed to house me safely.

There is a group of people, men and women, who would rather allow and protect blatantly inappropriate treatment of women and girls…and young men as we lately have discovered.  They would rather stand by a person with a known reputation of misbehavior than concede a loss to their ‘team’.  The excuses are mind blowing, blaming young girls for the behavior of a man (I believe it was something to the effect of “14 year old girls don’t always make good decisions.”), “It was ‘over the panties.”, shrugging off statements about ‘grabbing them by their *lady parts*’ as hyperbole….These things are not okay…EVER.  Male, female, transgender, gender neutral, it doesn’t matter.  No one gets to panty wander without consent.  I guarantee that if it were YOUR 14 year old, your wife, your sister, or your friend, it would be a problem.

We must act.  We must speak and not stop speaking.  We must stand up for our sisters and brothers.  Embrace them in their pain and shield them from humiliation.  We must educated, demonstrate, and show those who acquiesce to these behaviors.  We, as a country, are better than this.  We must not be afraid.  I am not afraid….I’ll never be afraid again.  No matter how long it has been, those moments will still echo in my head…but I’ll never be afraid of a man again…and I will NOT stand by while slander and carnal debasement is dispatched to people whose lives were forever effected by the actions of someone who took their power.   Speak your truth.  Stand with people speaking theirs.  There is NO excuse worthy of allowing it to continue. Lastly (Sorry to my teacher.)  Vote your ethics, not your party.  If your party is excusing, exempting, or otherwise allowing sexual misconduct by your leadership, perhaps it’s time for you to take back your party.

Between your heart and head…your pride.

Deep in my heart I don’t believe there’s a soul on this earth I genuinely hate.  There are plenty of people who frustrate or infuriate me, but I genuinely can’t think of a person I hate.  My heart is too full to hate.  It’s full of all the things I am blessed with, the people I love, and more gratitude than I can start to express.  It might feel full, but it seems there’s always room for one more.  It’s like a clown car….just when you think it’s full, you’re wrong.

My head is quite different.  My head is full of the logic, sarcasm, and snark.  In my head I know I am capable.  In my head I know I can read the owners manual, use the tools, and learn what I need to do.  My head filters all the disgust, hostility, and anger in my little world.  In my head I think the things I don’t allow my heart to harbor, because things live in your heart forever, and fly in and out of your head…except some of the more troublesome things that bubble up from that place in between your head and heart….your pride.

Between your head and your heart lives the pride.  Sometimes it’s that outward pressure of full pride.  Sometimes it’s a void where some pride should be.  It’s the voice that tells you that you either are or are not good enough.  That you are or are not smart enough.  That you are or are not worthy enough.  It’s the voice that you either speak too loudly or hold in silence – when often you should do the opposite.  In either case it can get the better of you.  A healthy amount of pride means you care enough about yourself to have dignity and self respect.  Too much pride is the splinter that festers to a boil.  It becomes toxic to everything around it and usually bursts in a very unpleasant and humbling way.

As I write, I am experiencing some elements of each of these.  My heart is full of gratitude for the experiences that brought me to this point, and the opportunities that are ahead of me.  My head is reminding me how far I have to go, and how much I have to learn.  My head frequently overrides my heart.  Right in the middle….my pride knows I was good enough to be chosen, but waivers on whether or not I can keep up.  It is a sort of tight rope walk between emotion and logic, reality and feeling.  I must remind myself almost hourly of the checks and balances between where I feel like I am in my growth, where I really am in my growth, and where I am growing.  Change is tough.  New jobs are tough.  Balancing the head/heart tightrope can’t be done without constant testing of your pride.  Chin up and one foot in front of the other.

Men Behaving Badly (PG13)

When a former teacher suggested I turn my random Facebook snark into a blog, her only request was that I “not get political”.  I hope this does not come as a disappointment to her, but I feel this needs to be said.

Our current administration has spawned an outbreak of grown men behaving badly.

Through my employment, I get to observe people professionally.  In my experience, there is a clean cut date and time when my (and most likely other retailers) experience shifted from the occasional disgruntled middle age female “I’d like to see your manager – haircut” (No joke.  It’s a thing.  Look it up.) to the angry, acting out, grown man.  “Men Behaving Badly”.

Our current administration warmed America up with salacious behavior.  Scandalous claims of the treatment of women.  Hostility to those of immigrant heritage.  Making fun of the disabled.  General dislike for those considered lower then themselves. Denigration of intelligence as something elitist or pompous.    On the date of inauguration, a number of men (who likely held those desires and beliefs already) took on those reigns with a fervor.  The President’s mindset, his behavior, made it acceptable for those men to wear the asshat.

In addition to being spat on, cursed, threatened, and generally berated as a ‘stupid woman’, I have had men ask for a male manager and suggest that I must have earned my job through sexual favors.  “Are you a manager?  Who’d you blow to get that job?”  I wish I was joking.

Not only have my female staff been treated more harshly, my female customers have experienced mistreatment from older male customers.  A few months ago an older man cut line one evening.  The lady he stepped in front of (with her child) told him there was a line.  He turned and yelled “Then I guess you won’t mind waiting in it, bitch.”  He proceeded to yell, curse, berate, and generally behave badly.  She, the young lady, was a combat wounded veteran.  He was a man with no respect for a woman.

A man asked me about a product.  I indicated that, although I wish we could help, the product he wanted to use was not chemically appropriate for the situation he wanted to use it for.  He snarled, “You think you know something about something.”

Another manager in my store declined a man’s return.  He had no receipt.  It was high dollar.  She was abiding by the return policy we have in place.  He waited in his car until she went outside, then he jumped out and charged at her.  Thankfully he chose to use his body, not his car.  Thankfully two much younger men were near by.  They took him down forcefully and the police were called.

There are more examples, including inappropriate physical grabs and swats.  I could go on and on…but that doesn’t change any of it.

This type of stuff didn’t happen 2 years ago.  Yes, people would get frustrated.  Someone might raise their voice or use the occasional profanity.  Someone might actually call customer service to complain.  No one acted out physically.  No one picked a fight with another customer.  Times have certainly changed…Maybe it’s not his fault.  Maybe this behavior was always latent.  Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but it seems incredibly coincidental.

Leadership is the example for the masses…and so it seems to be.

Drive-by Zucchini-ing

It’s the time of year when the labor of love (that made my neighbors think I was growing weed in the basement) comes to literal fruition.  Fresh green beans for dinner every night.  Cucumbers, still warm from picking, with a dash of salt.  Peppers and lettuces in any color you can imagine.  Tomatoes for days…canned with the same tools our grandmothers used…..and zucchini.

Zucchini…the gift that just keeps giving.  Drought, violent storms, flood, meteor showers…and more zucchini.  The ‘not husband’ likes his zukes sauteed, fried, with noodles, on pizza, even pickled in relish.  The only use I find for it is bread. (A mightily delicious recipe that I will include at the end with all the culinary perversions I have attempted with it.)

Every waxy green zuke I cut from it’s prickly stem brings me a giggle.  My family, you see, had one very zucchini year.  (Zucchini as an adjective – indeed.)  There were three of us kids.  I was around ten and the twins were around five.  Someone at church gave us some seeds, telling us they were cucumbers.  We were so excited that we talked momma into giving us one entire row of the garden.  We would have fresh cucumbers, and all the pickles we could eat.  Carefully we planted the mounds and waited patiently….leaves emerged, followed by flowers…and something that was NOT a cucumber.  Quite quickly we were inundated with zucchini that none of us ate, so we gave it away.  We took boxes to church.  We gave bags to neighbors.  We did drive by zucchini-ing, leaving bags on porches.  We had so many zucchini that we started leaving them in people’s cars at church…until people started locking their car doors.  It seems that even when it’s free, there’s only so much zucchini a person (or several dozen people) can tolerate.  Finally defeated, we chopped them and fed them to the cows.  By the end of the summer the cows would follow me for the entire fenced length of my parents’ yard.

Lesson learned.  Cucumber seeds are either purchased in bags that say ‘cucumber’ or they are saved from cucumbers you grow, but never trust a zucchini fairy in disguise.

As promised, here’s the bread recipe.  You may as well plan on doubling or even tripling it because really, who just has 1 cup of zucchini??

Lemon Glazed  Lemon-Zucchini Bread
2 cups flour (I use 1/2 plain white and half whatever else -including coconut or oatmeal flours)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 cup oil (olive, canola, vegetable, avocado, etc)
1.5 cups sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice (pulp and all – fresh is best)
1/2 cup milk (coconut, soy, or almond milk works fine)
zest of 1 lemon
1 cup grated zucchini (cheese shredder gets it done, peels and all)

For fun – toss in some blueberries or strawberries.  Cooking is fun.  Bwahaha!!

1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice (throw in some zest too)
1 tablespoon milk (I just use more lemon juice)
Okay let’s get crazy…add cream cheese to this and make this bad boy some icing!!)

Mix unceremoniously (the recipe actually states an order but psh!!) and pour into a bread or cake pan.  Bake 35 min (cake pan) to 45 min (bread pan) at 350 or until a knife comes out clean

When memory fails…

An elderly lady walked into the store this morning.   She asked if we have a phone book. I inquired who she needed to call, certain that I could look it up on my phone faster than I could locate that pesky phone book. She looked at me as if she was about to cry, and in a clear delicate voice, said “I don’t know. I have memory problems and don’t remember where I was going.” She turned around and walked out with a pained shuffle.  Taken completely off guard by the situation, I let the other manager on duty know that I was going to go out to her car, make sure she was safe, and get her any help I could.

As I approached the window it was evident that she was crying.  “Excuse me ma’am.  What can I do to help you?  Can I call your family?” Again, she didn’t know. She said she remembered that she was supposed to be going to an appointment but had no idea where.  Wiping her tears, she said she had been calling the last number on her phone, but kept getting their answering machine.  She handed me the phone and it was the automated pick a number menu at the start of most office calls. When in doubt select 0.

What do you say when you don’t know either party in an awkward three part conversation??  What do you say when you don’t want to further disgrace the elderly lady who is clearly already humiliated by her lapse of lucidity??  It went like this:
“Hi. My name is ____ and I’m calling from _____.  I’m in the parking lot with Mrs._____ who is likely supposed to be at your office, or may already be late.”  The receptionist recognized her name.  “Mrs._____ is a bit confused on your location and what service you provide.”
The receptionist immediately understood.

I repeated the office location, and as soon as I said Food City Mrs. says “I know Food City.  My doctor’s office is near there.”  With the receptionist’s help, we got her back on track.  The office called me back to let me know she had arrived.  Had I not heard from the office, the next call would have been the police with a BOL for her vehicle between my location and the doctor (2 miles away).  Throughout the day I considered the balance between the dignity of self sufficiency and acceptance of deficiency as it effects personal safety.  As much as it hurts my heart, I hope that this is a wake up call for her and for whomever might care for her.  Sweet Mrs. probably should not be unescorted in a moderately sized city, albeit one that is safer than many.   This is how Grand-pa ends up in Minnesota with no recollection of how he got there.  This is how people are taken advantage of, and the reason there is now a national Silver Alert for missing and endangered elders.

How hard is that day going to be?  Will I feel my heart and will break?  Or will I know when the day has arrived that I’m a danger to myself and others?  I’d never seen it up close.  Watching her frustration as her mind failed her, and yet was still present enough that she knew it was failing….that might be my new greatest fear.

Ephemeral strings…a tribute

I’m not sure I have the words….

Though I am shocked and incredibly saddened, this is not my poignant heartbreak to mourn.

Last night we received news of the entirely unexpected passing of a friend.  I call him friend, though I knew him less than two weeks.  As a childhood friend of the person I consider to be my best friend, he was welcomed to our home.  We shared food, laughter, and stories by the fire during his (albeit brief) visit to our area.  He was a huge personality.  He had heart-felt resonant laugh that could be felt as it boomed from his wide genuine smile.

On first meeting, it was clear that he was a kind soul who had LIVED his brief life.  A passion for experience and knowledge was palpable, as was an underlying sense that his life hadn’t always been easy.   Though I have NO idea what his up-bringing was, there was little doubt that perseverance and positivity had brought him to his successes and relationships and (his words as I recall them) “the family you choose”….and today he is no longer walking among us.  With no why or how, he simply evaporated from our sphere.

As I consider what, when weighed against my 39 years, was such a brief encounter, I’m in awe at the ephemeral strings we attach to each other through our lives.   I can’t begin to count the number of people I’ve shared conversation, education, meals, laughs, or tears with.  How am I to know what weight I’ve left in someone else’s life.  Have I left light or laughter?  Have I left hurt or harsh thoughts?  When my time comes, will someone ponder that time that we shared a fire, good stories, and lots of laughter??  We are all deeply connected in ways we may never anticipate.  Time is fleeting and it is far to easy to forget each other in our busy day to day.  I challenge you…because I am challenging myself…reach out to someone every day.  Remind someone that you are thinking of them.  Remind someone that you appreciate them.  Remind someone that you care and are present in their life TODAY –  because tomorrows are no guarantee.

Though I knew you only a flicker of your life, I wish you peace in your journey Richie.  May your LIFE continue to inspire, that those you left behind may find our own peace in your absence.

Making America ‘great’ again…

Full disclosure:  I originally wrote this in early November, before the election, and it’s been hovering near the trash can in my draft folder since then.  Tonight however, on re-reading, it seems way less bitter than when I originally typed it.  Tonight it seems far more anxious and frustrated at the recent days’ events…many of which -according to some- have been done in the name of our American faith.

Be forewarned, some of you aren’t going to like this.  That’s okay.  (As referenced by previous works, offence is something that I understand to be your privilege.)  All I ask is that you consider, as you read, your role in the topic.  Don’t immediately jump to  why either of us are right or wrong, just consider….

Halloween night I was invited to participate in trick or treat with some friends.  They live in a nice suburban neighborhood, middle to upper class, primarily white, ‘average’ Americans.  After the trick-or-treating dwindled, we retreated to the back porch for some beverages and conversation.  I didn’t know anyone other than the friends who had invited me, but have never found any of their acquaintances to be less than entertaining, so I stayed around.  As the night grew later, kids went to bed and folks started going home, till there were just the five of us: my hosts, myself, and another couple – their neighbors….and then the conversation changed.  It turned to religion. More specifically, it turned to his particular Christian viewpoints – including but not limited to the ‘fact’ that Christianity is the oldest of religions according to his scholarly studies.

Let me preface the next segment by saying that I’m not a regular participant in any organized religion, and I’m particularly put off by aggressive proselytizing.  I understand and appreciate, and do not belittle religion’s function and importance in the lives of so many, but it has not been a major part of my life for around 10-15 years now.  I don’t want to belong to a congregation that spews hate speech, politics, and antiquated gender beliefs.  I don’t want to participate in a community that has shown itself to be so two faced when it comes to helping other and being Christ-like……- so here goes…..

After a brief, yet all too lengthy one sided discussion he says  “You should come to my church.  It’s different.”  I chuckle and tell him that I really don’t think they’d be as welcoming of me as he might think.  See, I’ve already been told I’m going to hell by at least a hand full of people, including one Baptist minister.  I don’t believe that my role as a woman is solely to have children.  I was baptized ‘incorrectly’ as a child – which is apparently worthy of the flames.  I think ALL people deserve to be treated with respect and basic human rights regardless of their gender, nationality, color, or sexual orientation.  Oh, and I’ve been living in sin with the same man for almost 12 years….with no real plan on entering that sanctified thing you call marriage.  According to most popular local denominations, I’m already doomed.

I wasn’t trying to win a fight.  I simply don’t enjoy feeling bullied over my viewpoint on the subject, my life choices, the lives and lifestyles of people I care deeply about, or the fact that no matter IF I had been given a chance to explain my particular version of faith, I would have been wrong.  As I drove to work today, I reflected on the incident.  NPR was deliberating election news and I wondered if that man considered his beliefs would be the ones to “Make America great again.”  It’s fairly certain that he does, after all, why would a person be so fervent about something they didn’t consider to be of global benefit?  This leads me to my hypothesis.

In many ways Christianity is the America of religions.

1) In the grand scheme of things, America hasn’t really been around that long.  Regardless of our youth, we consider ourselves to be the deciding factor in the success or failure of people around the world.  In the name of God, we’ve removed native people, waged wars, invaded countries….If we deem it wrong, it must be so….because we are right – much like the judgmental elements of the church, and people who make decisions about each other that should be left to their God to decide. {The remainder of this section was added after the original text}
When individual actions are boiled down, be it abortion, petty theft, lack of empathy for those in need, or voting to tax America’s poorest and sickest into eternal debt and death, each person’s decisions are ultimately between them and whatever creator they choose to believe in.  It is ultimately their karma, their conscience, and their soul.  It does not fall to me to decide what you do with your soul.

2) The engraving on the Statue of Liberty suggests America accepts the tired, hungry struggling masses yearning to breathe free, yet here we are.  We are a country turning away those seeking to flee their ancestral homes due to war, poverty, persecution, and exploitation.  Though we have a mandated separation of church and state, one faith is consistently brought back into everything from the election to what should be included in school textbooks.  Christianity is faith based on the idea of embodying Christ; helping others, feeding the poor, clothing the needy, and making humanity better – but don’t put the methadone clinic in MY community.   Quick.  Lock the car doors or that homeless man might try to jump in the car.  Turn away that boat of Jews trying to flee Germany during WWII, and this week the Syrian refugees that have already been vetted.  There isn’t an actual desire to help – only to produce.  Increase numbers.  Increase tithe.  Build a bigger building.  Bottom line – money.  Money and pride.

{Added secondary} I am fortunate to know MANY amazing people.  Generous loving people who truly embody what it is to be Christ-like.  Some of them are even Christians.  Until we, as a nation, fully embody what that means – what it means to give without expecting reciprocation, to love unconditionally, to feed and clothe the less fortunate, to listen (truly listen) and help, to try to find the good and the God in others, to stop spewing hate, and to BE BETTER HUMAN BEINGS…we as a nation, and especially our leaders, cannot call ourselves Christian.  We must call ourselves flawed human. We must call ourselves lambs led by wolves.  We must call ourselves the self catering and the hard hearted.   In these days, regardless of your faith or lack thereof, I only ask you one thing.  Please, look at your fellow flawed human with respect and treat them with humanity.  Perhaps our humanity will grow and spread.  Perhaps it will move like unvaccinated contagion, infecting us all, until we finally achieve what we like to claim we are.