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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Do You Hear What I Hear?

“Father God, may the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight.”

Look at these two pictures and I’ll tell you a story.

The first picture was one of the thirty-one trees in the home of Terry and Sandy Deforge-MacKean in Lively, Ontario.  If you click on their names, you’ll see childhood and love in motion.

And yes -- that IS a pride tree.

The second picture was from the house next to the one that had the second party I attended tonight -- and that was Mike and Kim's in Copper Cliff, Ontario.

At Mike and Kim’s house – we ate good food, sang hymns and carols, discussed repentance, deliverance and speaking in tongues at the grocery store.  We laughed, we cried… we were fed physically and spiritually and all of it – all of it – in, under, over and around the name of Jesus Christ.

Why is it, do you suppose that both of these pictures, both of these “signs” cannot co-exist in the same house of worship?  Let me correct that, because there are congregations now where they do exist in the same house of worship.  Why can’t they co-exist in all houses of worship? 

I’m having great difficulty returning to the church; I really am.  It’s either that my foot has grown too big for the shoe, or the shoe has grown too small for my foot.  I miss hymns.  I miss the fellowship of song and praise.  And yes – I admit it in my steely little heart – I miss Jesus.  That being said, every single time I darken the door of a church lately, I feel like I don’t belong there anymore. Why?  For several reasons, actually… the first one being that I do not believe and can’t believe that Jesus is the only way to God.  I cannot believe that God would have a selected list of people who have prayed the sinner’s prayer in a pique point of emotionalism (and then lived the rest of their lives tripping over their brethren in the street) trump an atheist ladling out mashed potatoes in a soup kitchen.  That makes no logical sense whatsoever.  I cannot believe in a God that does not celebrate the love of two married men or women who have the world of children and wonder lit up throughout their home – as much as He would the celebrate the live Nativity Scene at Science North.  Now there’s a dichotomy.

I want to be a minister in a church where everyone is welcome.  I want to be a chaplain of a faith that excludes no one.  Please God, show me that church and I will fall at the altar weeping tears of joy and I will serve You until I cease to draw breath (and for however many lifetimes after that).  Well, actually, I’ll serve You regardless – payback, you know… but it sure would be nice to have someplace where my belief system actually fit in with, oh… I don’t know… 10 other people.  I want just a dash of reincarnation, a sprinkling of the love of trees and nature.  Perhaps a dollop of do no harm – that would be nice.  I want people to be married in the church because of how they commit their lives and love to the people they love.  I want a place where we can lift our voices in song and praise to a God that loves us back.  And if the Old Testament really was You at some point in history, I really like the theology that You knocked up a virgin, had a kid and got a grip on your anger issues.  Everyone – every – one… is redeemable.  I mean, You saved me.

My prayer this Christmas, Sir… is that these two pictures – with 10,000 more to follow in varying light and color displays of the EXACT SAME STORY – could become one. 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Hunter and His Habit

Writer inserting internal dialogue of her favorite canine:  "Hi, my name is Hunter.  I am a garbage-aholic."  SQUIRREL!

There you have it, I've outed him -- broken his anonymity.  I am a bad, bad pet owner.  See, here's the deal.  Hunter is a pound puppy.  When Sarah and I first met him he was behind a wall of glass marked "quarantine" and he had his back to the nice people knocking on the window. Occasionally, he would throw a look over his shoulder in disdain.  Not open malice, or teeth-baring fear... just "really... I've got better things to do than listen to you tap tap tap and make googly eyes at me."  He was disenchanted with the human race.  Possibly this could have happened because his prior "owner" -- master, lover, companion, friend, pet-addict, lonely person type "A" -- whatever moniker you prefer, was a homeless man.  I'm guessing that they practiced dumpster diving as an art form.

We took him home.  He does not like Science Diet.  He does not like Kibbles and Bits; although he does like the generic Nibbles and Kibbles.  Mostly, Hunter likes garbage and when he can get it, used chewing gum.  Bubbalicious.  If nothing else in this world -- you know, I'm a half-decent mother.  I really am.  It's taken me a lifetime to get up the courage to say that and even now I'm quaking in my boots.  So -- I tell this dog, "Listen, bub... that stuff isn't good for you.  I promise to cook you an egg every Sunday for the rest of your furry life -- whether we are eating eggs or not -- if you would simply refrain from the garbage."  He eats his egg, enthusiastically promising to choose a new path.

He burps and lies down like a good dog.  All of us breathe a sigh of relief because we can go to bed tonight knowing that he can't get into the kitchen garbage can with the gray clasps that lock the lid on.  He's in  his house, surrounded by people he loves.  We wake up the next morning, there's dog shit behind the living room couch and what's left of the garbage is strewn from the kitchen to the bathroom.  Or maybe he's been considerate and kept the rancid sour cream lid as his personal welcome mat at the front door.  "No, no, buddy..." becomes "Are you out of your (expletive inserted here) doggy brain?!?"

We are sleep-deprived, exhausted pet owners.  We have hidden the garbage can in the bathroom.  We have kenneled him.  We have shut the bedroom door and missed the cool, Fall breeze (that simultaneously airs out old dog farts).  Basically, we have tried the "perhaps He'll find a higher power, get a sponsor, work the steps" route.  We were perfectly willing to hire the Dog Whisperer -- but he was booked through 2020 and I have a wedding coming up.  I'm thinking about joining a support group for family members of garbage-aholics.  But you know what they say, "Can't teach an old dog new tricks."  Especially when he continues to choose garbage over food.

Hunter, I love you... STOP THAT!!!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Character Recipe - Frank or David?

Okay, here it is.  I do not know anything about how to develop a character because I've never written fiction.  I do know how to explain the character of a living human being I've encountered.  It starts with the fact that my reader doesn't know them at all.  With that in mind, how will I create a character that doesn't exist except in my imagination?  How will I keep him consistent and believable?

This has been playing on my mind for the last three days and I happened upon a blog hop on a new page I liked recently called "Fellow Writers" on Facebook.  (Thank you Jessica L. Degarmo for leading me there.)  I am excited because I have made a few friends on Authonomy, feebly attempted to edit my own book, and have had venereal writer's block, also known as the Clunk, since September of 2010.

Frank or David is the question.  The main character in my first attempt at fiction needs a name.  I figure if I name him first then I can create a visual in my mind.  People-watching is great recreation.  Frank has the name because he would be a play on honesty. 

I know a Frank from my childhood memories.  He was my father's assistant in the pharmacy and he was a hippie that drove a VW bug.  This character is a carny.  He's the mechanic in charge of taking care of a metaphysical carousel.  So, I live on the main street of my city and we affectionately call it "the drunk walk."  There are plenty of Franks out there wandering home.

David?  David is a poet (yes, the same Psalmist or a variation on theme).  Problem is that David, to me, is a blond-haired, blue-eyed sweet boy.  I don't know why but that's what I see in my mind.  I have an inkling of where I want my main character to go because I thought about the story before I went for any characters.

Hell, I never was any good at recipes (much less following directions)...let me try this another way.

1 cup of Steampunk (nuts and bolts included)
1/2 tsp. of curiosity bordering on fascination
2 heaping tbsps. of cynicism and hard living
Dash of hope
Blend well with biker charm school and served without Chianti (he's sober)

I have a feeling the newbie is in for a whole lot of learning and I'm excited to give this blog hop a try.  Hope I did okay.

Friday, July 22, 2011


I think the junior high assignment used to be, “What Did I Do This Summer” or “Where Did I Go This Summer.” Some such, that opened up the gates for the new school of learning to begin.

At the end of May, my husband departed for a two month military training course in Gagetown, New Brunswick. All of my married life – for both marriages – I fought against any type of lengthy separation largely because I was raised by a single parent and spent a lot of my time wishing I wasn’t alone. I hated being alone. When I was alone bad things happened either with my mother or simply by myself. In my layers of memory that fear still lived and breathed. Added to that was what kind of parent would I be to Sarah without the balancing force of Christopher when my anger reared its ugly head.

So I prayed. I walked and I prayed... had long conversations with God about why I was afraid. Most of them were completely unspoken in my head or out of it, but I think that He knew what I was saying in the deepest parts of me that have no language. Please, don’t let me be like my mother. Please don’t let me be like myself, let me be better.

I was better. It wasn’t that I didn’t get angry, I did. Sarah is at the tender age of “me, myself and I.” We all visited that age and some days I still live there. It makes for great memoir writing. Hunter, our dog, managed to catch several glimpses of the anger that lives inside of SueAnn – especially when he chewed up the second pair of flip flops. He sat, ears lowered under the kitchen table avoiding the sweep of my broom. “In the box!” I yelled. The box being his safe spot, his kennel.

To my credit, Hunter spent a lot of time being a beagle. He gets a scent and drags me around the block, down the hill, up the hill – at one point turning my 200 pound frame halfway around with my feet struggling to catch up with my body as he lunged at yet another bicycle rider, growling with his hackles raised. He really does not like many people and finds that he has to be territorial right up until the time that Apollo, the pit bull and something much larger mix chases Hunter up the hill, down the hill and around the track again. Nearly every morning we were greeted by Buddy, the white schnauzer/poodle mix. Buddy’s mom and Hunter’s mom would have them sit to get rid of the leash and they would advance, stop... stare... advance, stop, stare...until one of them (usually Buddy) took off galloping at breakneck speed toward the other one meeting one another in a jump, a circle... a run. You know, I don’t know Buddy’s mom’s name. I just know her as the nice woman who waited for me from 5:30-ish until I got there at 6 and we would walk a couple of laps with the dogs and I would need to go back to get Sarah out of the shower. I had all these grandiose plans about contemplative walking meditation and prayer. Those were supplanted by two dogs and two moms meeting one another in joy. The last day before we went on our vacation, there was a woman sleeping in the park. She was huddled under her sleeping bag and three dogs, off leash, greeted her with curious growls and yips. It seems there are more and more homeless people in our neighbourhood and it worries me for Sarah – and it worries me for them. She looked up at me and declared, “I am not homeless, I am having a hard time.” I said, “Well, I was homeless and it wasn’t safe for me. Get off these streets as soon as you can. For men, it’s one thing – for women, quite another.”

The days ticked on by and Christopher and I texted each other on our cell phones sometimes six or eight times in a day. I don’t think one day went by that we didn’t talk at some point on the phone and life just continued. There were bills to be paid, dishes to be done, laundry on Wednesdays. I entertained myself with lunches out with my cousin-in-law, Bill and my mum-in-law, Barb. My friend Gaetan would meet me with her dog, Gizmo (a Yorkie) and we would walk together and talk. Gaetan belongs, very much, to the grouping of Margo, Dani, Kay, Yancie, Krista, to the human beings I have chosen to call my family. I think I might have found a friend up here, maybe. I am reluctant – at best – to form face to face human friendships because I am solitary and lazy when it comes to relationships. But I found that this does not make for a healthy SueAnn when my best friend is in New Brunswick; it is something that needs work. I depend upon my husband far too much to be everything for me and need to grow past that.
And so I did.

Our vacation is another blog, it was magical and this is our last full day of fun in the sun... Wendy is coming after lunch and we’re going to talk about the history of Stone Cottage and her family. She’s an artist, a painter and a potter. We both have kids in their 20’s and are constantly amazed by the twists and turns of that age. It’s time to stop writing and go outside. Sarah’s already gotten smacked in the mouth by the ball, been in to the plastic baggie full of ice and her father’s lap. Then there is the beach to explore...

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Blue Valentine

“I’m interested in family dramas because, you know, because I feel like in a family, you really get to know who a person is. You get to know the contrast of a person, the light and the dark inside of a person.” – Derek Cianfrance

I watched a movie last night called Blue Valentine. The cinematography spoke when the characters were not provided words and it seemed to me that the writer wasn’t sorting out his parents’ marriage or juxtapositioned questions of self. Cianfrance had made this movie speak to a much larger population. In the interviews, it’s mentioned that he re-wrote the script 75 times, that the film took 12 years to make and that the actors lived together as a married couple… creating budgets, grocery shopping and having Christmas. In the world of digital manipulation, I found it intriguing that Michelle Williams had signed up and sat with this script for 6 years and Ryan Gosling had it for 4 before the story came into its own.

Sorted in with the on-line reviews was Jackie Cooper’s: “Gosling and Williams are terrific but the movie is a downer from start to finish. Not just ‘Blue,’ this is a ripped, torn and shredded Valentine.” Why do people think that looking inside the why’s of what we do as human beings is a bummer? It’s the journey. If life has a sign up sheet of “okay, check off this lesson and learn it” then this film would be a term paper on romance, on marriage, on how we love one another and harm one another. It would be a very clear reminder to all of us to embrace the reasons we fell in love to begin with and to hold onto them like a preserver when the tides get rough…and boringly normal.

Gosling commented that if he had to shoot the movie again, he couldn’t because he had put everything he had out there and, afterward, had to do a comedy with Steve Carrell just to shake it off. Williams said that as the script was being written, and re-written, her life’s perceptions had changed and she brought to it this agonizing restless ambition, the drive to have the two cars, the picket fence, all of the “things” we are supposed to have. Both characters lost sight of what they had, him in the quiet desperation of how do I please thee let me count the ways and she in how do I change thee and make us both so much better. How many relationships endure that?

The last scenes as the credits roll are pictures of the two of them from different times in the film, snapshots burning in July’s fireworks. Gosling said that he watched one of the pictures burning, crisping into a heart shape from the outside where the only remainder was their lips touching. I would imagine as the house lights came up, the married couples were reaching for one another’s hands.

It was a Blue Valentine.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Birds of Paradise

In the month of June, Relay for Life events pop up like dandelions; they are everywhere. Rita and I were talking with one another at work, she is from our Sault Ste. Marie office and I am located in Sudbury. I had divulged to her that my best friend had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and I felt badly because I couldn’t go to Texas to be there for her when she went for her mastectomy. Rita suggested that was there was something I could do – I could walk in her honour. She said that she had a list of 37 people she was walking for and I knew that one of those people was…Rita. She is a survivor of breast cancer.

Sarah and I headed for the Sault at 8:00 on Friday night. She had been on a field trip that day and spent six hours on a bus. We were getting ready to spend three and one-half more and that day, everything tried to get in my way of going. First it was that the person that was going to take Sarah for the weekend bailed and I couldn’t go until later. Then we headed out and I had forgotten to fill the car up. That’s a big mistake in North Ontario. You don’t head anywhere out of Sudbury without a full tank. So, we were 30 kilometres down the road and had to turn around because I didn’t know where the next gas station was. It seems like I wasn’t supposed to go. Then I thought about my best friend. About how she taught me to go to any lengths and she didn’t stop and wait for a good time; she trudged ahead in spite of common sense and took me in anyway.

We arrived in the Sault at midnight-ish and there were still people on the track. Thank God that the Relays for Life go all night long because I would have missed it. I called Rita from the parking lot and Sarah and I snapped a picture.

I’m here to tell you that Sarah looked I felt. Rita greeted us at the gate and off we went. People were all over the place. She said that it had thinned quite a bit from the beginning of the night because there wasn’t room to pass another person on the track when she started. People were walking six lanes across in clumps. There were the signature candle tributes to people who had passed, who were in treatment, who were just diagnosed – who survived cancer. I remembered from the first RFL event I attended and I asked where the word “Hope” was located. This group had added additional instructions.

We stopped to read the tributes and I found myself biting the insides of my cheeks because there were children’s faces shining back at me.

Rita told me her story as we walked around the track; of her initial diagnosis, of the lumpectomy and of the chemo afterward. She told me about her hair growing back and the divine discovery of a Julia Roberts’-like blonde wig from “Pretty Woman.” What I saw on Rita’s face was sheer determination. She had seen her worst fears realized and walked through them – and past them.

The next morning I woke at the ungodly hour of 10:00 a.m. I don’t think I’ve slept until 10 (seriously) for five or six years, maybe longer. Something was answered for me that night and I slept without dreaming. Rita was already up and in the kitchen making coffee. Sarah was in the shower and we had about fifteen minutes to trade the opening exchanges of spirit that women do. I read her my favourite passage out of Richard Bach’s “Illusions” and she showed me two recent purchases…birds of paradise. Rita loves birds. She writes children’s books. One that she allowed me to see early on was about hummingbirds. Whereas my writing would send children into therapy for years; Rita has a way that she educates while she is providing warm instruction. She is a Mommy to her toes.

Ruth is Rita’s sister and I believe they have one sister in between them, Helga. The baby is Karin. Ruth arrived for coffee and we sat on the back patio in comfy chairs greeting the morning chattering louder (with more laughter) than the birds. Ruth looked over at Rita and said, “You have something on your cheek, here…” and she reached over and brushed whatever it was away. Then Rita said, “You’re really looking good. Getting ready for your daughter’s wedding?” I watched them together and the casual way that they took care of one another without forethought or embarrassment – sisters. I find that when women are gathered together we discuss the things that make everyone uncomfortable – the squishy, emotional things, the secrets. To me, that is a chief strength in women – our stories, our ability to give the knowledge away that we’ve earned and stumbled upon. When Ruth made to leave, I asked if I could take a picture or two of them. The first one was beautiful.

That’s Ruth on the left and Rita on the right. The second one was unexpected and it was more beautiful.

Ladies – this is what we do for one another. We are the birds of paradise.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Chris is away for seven weeks in New Brunswick. For the last eleven years, twelve in June, he is has been my constant companion. Constant through even fistfuls of fear pushing at him, constant through sludging through the past looking for seashells, constant through job loss, money woes, all of those things that make marriage a truly grand place to be. Before he left he asked me why I push him away when I am afraid. I'm working on that answer.

You know, I think frequently about the absolute silence I receive when I write and I wonder if my words are too self-pitying, or angry... or how is it that they make others so very silent. I've always wanted to be popular, hence the whole sit on Oprah's couch goal; but I remain awkward. I am alone in a room full of people. I am alone with people reaching out to shake my hand. I am alone in my writing, I can only hear my own thoughts. I'm quite certain the only fiction I'll ever write is self-delusion.

Why is that ok? For my entire existence I've sought the approval of other human beings. I can't even say that I think we all do, because I don't know that. I only know me. I think I've been afraid -- stark terror afraid -- of being alone because I am alone with me.

The veil of depression is that I never know when the veil is on and when it is off. I can sense frustration, anger, all of the symptoms of the disease of doubt. Is it really depression or is it that my husband is away for six more weeks and I don't know how to be alone?

I have a new friend. She has been extending her hand and I'm afraid to take it. I pass her by in the car and wave. I motion that I'm in a hurry. I can't go to meet tonight, Sarah needs me. I can't meet tonight I have to grocery shop. Gotta run -- I'm late, I'm late for a very important -- you finish the rest. I've justified in my mind that I am on retreat. The dog walks in front of me and runs circles around my legs; all I can hear is the sound of the sand crunching on the track and the prayers I am saying out loud.

"...release me from the bondage of self so that I might better know thy will..."

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Truth About Fried Things with Cheese

I realize that the things that I write make people uncomfortable. There have been many days when I questioned myself about the foolishness of letting the general public inside my head. Something about future employers and grandchildren sent up warning flags. Yeah, well, that’s nice.

Last Wednesday I went to lunch with my coworkers, gobbled down raw carrots and ate my Healthy-Choice steamer bowl of sodium with broccoli thrown in for colour and went back to my office to eat more stress. I stood up from my desk and I thought, initially, I had a carrot twisted sideways behind my breastbone, just below it. I pushed on the top of my abdomen like I had an infant foot lodged in my ribs (thank you Sarah for that reference). Nope, tubes are tied. My stomach had been swollen for months but I attributed it to discovering I actually had a bulging stomach after my breast reduction last January. My surgeon retorted, “Yeah, I’ve heard that one before.”

Audible grunting is not usually a good thing at work, so I walked into my bosses’ office and said, very abruptly, “I think I swallowed a carrot wrong, I have to go now. I’ve called Chris and he’s on this way.” God bless my employers – they are patient people. Then I stood outside on the front porch of my workplace and paced like a panther back and forth, back and forth, rubbing my belly.

I was certain I was having a heart attack.

“You have pain behind the breastbone, radiating toward the back?” the triage nurse eyed me and smiled. “Your blood pressure is pretty good. Do you feel like if you just threw up you’d feel better? How about if you took your bra off, do you feel like you are in a bear hug?” All of the answers were yes. “Yeah, it’s classic gallbladder.” Hallelujah! Ok, now make it stop hurting. I looked at the clock and it was 1:30 p.m. They performed an ECG to make sure that it wasn’t my heart but the pain was so intense they had to do another one because the nurse deemed the first one consisted of scribbles of an unreadable nature. The technician was massaging my arm, “Calm down, think of rivers and streams.” Look lady, I feel like I’ve got a sledgehammer hitting me repeatedly in the gut – YOU think of rivers and streams. Mumbling, “Rivers and streams, beachfront property... Glen Rose... calm, be calm, be calm.”

I thought to myself, “Ok, you’re crazy. You are not having a heart attack. You can’t even do an ECG right and they’re going to look inside you and find out that you’re lying.” My own voice makes my father’s worst days as my critic look genteel in nature. My book’s largest discovery was that I was my biggest abuser and the lesson was unfurling, again, before me.

4:30 p.m. and it’s time for Chris to go get Sarah from school. We’ve sat together in the waiting room. The attack or whatever it has subsided, the nurse asked me what the pain level was between one and ten. “It’s a three,” I countered. Ok, well, that’s it. I’m crazy, the pain is going away, I want to go home now. If I go home then I’ll go back to work and they’ll know I’m crazy. As if that isn’t already up for debate, right?

At around 6 p.m. there’s a cattle call and seven of the lucky contestants get to go to the next waiting room. I’m one of them. I stand up very quickly and realize that I am not doubled over but standing up straight. Maybe I’ll just go now. Twinge. I rubbed my gut, absently, thinking about the email at work that would be piling.

My kingdom for something to read. The nurse handed me a “William and Kate: The Love Story” magazine and I want to tell you that did absolutely nothing for the nausea. Chris had kindly bought me a People magazine but I ate it in ten seconds flat and completed the crossword puzzle shaking my head at probably grade seven complexities. I don’t really care if Catherine Zeta-Jones is bipolar. In fact, I’m sick to death of that word. Is everyone either bipolar or has Aspberger’s?

9:00 p.m. and the rumble begins. I’m now in a room waiting for the doctor to see me and I lean over a bit. This isn’t even a wave. This is an onslaught. “Nurse? Can I get something for the pain?” “Just a little while and he’ll be with you,” she retorts, resuming her conversation on the phone. She’s smiling.

10:30-ish and I’m grunting. I can hear myself sobbing and I feel like I’m four years old. My husband is at home because I’m too proud to tell him I’m frightened and it’s game seven of the NHL playoffs. He’s a Habs fan. “3-2b,” the text message reads. Okay... Habs at 3 and who the hell is “b?” Bruins? “OW son-of-a-bitch” and every expletive I know is chorusing out of my mouth. I’m not shouting, I’m whispering them. Above all else, do not show pain. DO NOT show pain. Ok, heaving and nothing is coming out.

What are these people thinking? I’ve been here since 1:30 this afternoon and I’m in pain. I’m not playing. I’m not looking for drugs. I don’t give a fat rat’s ass about diagnostic process, this hurts! These are the people who are supposed to fix it. SO FIX IT. “Chris? I’ve put my clothes on and we’re going to North Bay or Toronto or somewhere that they can help me. Can you come pick me up before I walk out?” My husband is on his way. The charge nurse is in my room at my request explaining to me that this “is emergency medicine in Canada these days and that there’s an 87 year old woman out in the waiting room...” His mouth is moving, but all I can hear is “Too bad, no soup for you.” He wants to know if I’ll put my gown back on. I’m eyeballing the IV pole in the corner and wondering if I heave it out the door if they’ll stick me with Ativan. I hear myself saying, “I couldn’t pick it up if I wanted to.”

Oh thank God, Chris is here. I’m yelling at my husband and cursing like a woman in labour who has clearly lost control of her senses. “THIS IS YOUR HEALTHCARE SYSTEM?” THIS? I might pay for it out the ass but in the States I wouldn’t be standing here ten hours later sobbing. (Of course, the States cost us our home in medical bills but in the middle of that particular night the fact escaped my logic.)

“Please go tell them I can’t do this,” I’m begging my husband; confirming my four-year-old behavioural technique is in progress. Chris goes out and fifteen minutes more of ranting later the doctor appears. He’s asking me about my symptoms. Do you even have a chart? The pain is no longer rational. My mind is no longer rational – it’s just red. I can see the fuzzy edges I used to see long, long ago. Rage. “Well, we’ll send you for some diagnostic testing and...”

After I finished whatever I said to him (and I have to admit to you that I didn’t say it anywhere near what my thoughts were exclaiming); he sent the nurse back with pain meds. Torodol. The nurse rooted around in my right arm looking for a vein and I found that when you are in that much pain IV's no longer hurt. Your body just kind of creates this numbness. It was nice, actually. Switch arms, honey. Then the Torodol pushed me back into the gurney and I became a reasonable, if somewhat dishevelled, human being again.

So what’s the point? I was laying on my back on that gurney and sobbing as she looked for a vein. I realized that the tears weren’t going to stop no matter how hard I tried to hide them. And the tears were humiliation. It wasn’t pain. It was having to beg to be relieved of the pain. Greg’s voice echoed in my memory, “Ben, you never have to tell a fat person they are fat. They carry the weight with them every single day.” I couldn’t tell them I wasn’t a drug addict in search of pain medication. I was a drug addict, twenty-four years ago. What I wanted to scream at them was, “I’m a sober member of a twelve-step program that has spent the last twenty-four years of my waking life facing pain that I caused myself and others. When I come into an ER and I’m grunting – don’t play with me. Don’t shame me. Listen to me because I’ve come about as close to death as I want to and I’m pretty much incapable of harming anyone else but myself. I’m not crazy, I’m a human being.”

It was my gallbladder. Two stones later and four incisions – I’m going back to that ER with this story in hand and stapling it to a wall somewhere. If I still had the organ I would hand it to that nurse.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Made a Decision

I'm up at 1:59 a.m. and I have the kid upstairs to thank for it. I never realized that not getting my sleep was so disturbing to me -- until I wasn't getting it. Funny how perceptions change, isn't it? At 19 years old or 20... being up at 2:00 in the morning meant a really good party was going on. At 23 years old, it meant that Ben wanted his bottle and at 25 years old it meant that Katie wanted hers. I slept pretty well through until age 35 when Sarah came along and then I promptly turned her and her bottle over to her father. At 44 I walked into my employer's office rubbing my eyes going, "what the hell is this?" Turns out a lot of women in their mid-40's aren't sleeping, don't sleep...and they don't die from it either. Who knew?

So, at 45 -- I've made a decision. I'm going to use these sleepless hours to write. Warning: I might write things that make absolutely no sense to anyone but me. Well, hell, isn't that what blogs are for?

I've been reading this book by Iyanla Vanzant called "Peace from Broken Pieces" and when I wrote The Truth About Whales I really thought that my experience would help someone, anyone. When I didn't get the responses that I thought I should, I wondered what the purpose was in the writing, at all. Self-promotion was exhausting and unfulfilling, at best. Finally, I resigned myself to the fact that I wrote the book for the one person who needed it the most -- me. This is what I am understanding from Ms. Vanzant's experience. All of the "victimhood" in my life to date has been voluntary and oh my God, if you only knew how shocked I am to have written those words.

In my spiritual journey for this lifetime I have chosen the victim role many times in my living. Sometimes I didn't have much in the way of choice -- until I was 10 or 20 years down the path still reliving what happened. That was my choice.

The greatest, kindest, most difficult and heartbreaking thing my son taught me was that I have no control whatsoever about what happens to another human being. I can be a part of their path, their living, their time here -- but it isn't my business to fix them. That belongs to them -- and in my belief, to God.

No one could have helped me if I hadn't sought it. Even in a stupor I was seeking. Twelve step recovery programs talk a lot about sobriety being a gift. I think that the grace I was given to be breathing up until the minute I found AA was the gift. What happened from 1986 until March 22, 2011 has been about choice. Today, this is what I have learned.

My husband just arrived and told me to go to bed. :)

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Walk

I have the stomach flu and I am irritable and grumpier than usual. I stayed home from work yesterday and slept all day long – it was wonderful and I needed it. This morning I got up, got my clothes out for work, opened the refrigerator door and just about heaved. Picked up the phone and called in sick again.

For those of you who don’t live in Canada, we have walk-in clinics that you can go to if you aren’t feeling well. They’re very convenient, but sometimes you might sit for two hours or more to be able to see the doctor. I just wanted to know if what I had wasn’t an ulcer. So I brought my book and picked up #89, waiting to be called like I was there for take-out.

People watching is my hobby because I believe that there are countless stories in conversations, in the way people sit, in how their bodies move. I watch them all the time and stories swirl in my brain. It’s great entertainment if you don’t have the stomach flu.

I should physically describe myself. I’m 5’1” and I weigh about 220 pounds. On top of that, my hair is spiked, I’ve got black circles under my eyes and when my face has no expression at all, I look surly. People often think I’m angry when I’m not even mildly peeved. It’s kind of embarrassing really because, inside, I’m a ball of emotion and I cry at the drop of a hat...or at least a good GE commercial, anyway.

Sitting in the chair as far away from the door as possible, away from any infants, with my back to the wall – I settled in with my book and was all snugly inside my blanket-coat. Before Christmas, my husband took me coat shopping at the French River Trading Post and I finally got the rainbow-colored sweater coat that I had eyeballed for two years. It’s particularly warm and cozy; and it is so thick that the coat requires its own seat at the movies. Reading, I heard this little boy. He was babbling and singing; fidgeting in his chair and generally being all of 3 or maybe 4 years old. I looked up from my book and smiled in his direction, letting everyone around me know that the surly woman in the gay pride coat was thinking that the little monster was cute. Smile!

Creeping silently back into my book, I tried to concentrate on a paragraph and I heard his mother say, “Stop being so bad! Stop talking to me like that!” He was standing in front of her and she had her hand around his wrist. The younger woman she had with her was trying to circumvent whatever was happening and pulled the boy away to put him on her lap. Then she placed him back on the chair and they played rock, paper, scissors until both of them lost interest. I went back to my book.

“STOP playing with those blinds! I told you to behave...” the mother leaned over him and was face to face, scowling. She didn’t even have the temerity to whisper. Personally, I always used to say to my kids – in a whisper – “If you haven’t realized it yet – you keep behaving that way and sooner or later we’re going to be alone.” Generally, that got their attention right away. The next question in your mind, did I make good on my threat? Stupidly, the answer is yes. More than I would ever care to admit, I promise you.

Ok, so now I’m talking to myself in my head and I’m saying, “SueAnn, this is none of your business. Yes, she grabbed his wrist, yes she twisted it. Yes, she got right in his face...” and I could feel my heart thumping in my chest. It was the old fight or flight feeling of “I have to say something. I have to protect him. I have to stand up and deck her properly.” So I continued talking in very stern tones to myself, “You are a grown up. If you deck her it’s called assault. This is socially unacceptable behaviour. And besides, you are that brash American Yank living in Canada where the people are polite and don’t go up and deck bad mommies.” Back to the book... my stomach was doing belly flops in stress acid.

I could feel it. I could feel the little girl in me going, “Be good. Be good and she’ll be nice to you.” Well, yeah, that’s me, and it happened a long, long time ago. And I wrote a book and outted my bad mommy. That isn’t this woman, it’s not today. It’s a memory.

“If you don’t stop what you are doing, I’m going to take you for a walk.” She’s got him by the wrist again and he’s kicking his snow boots at her, not a full out tantrum but he’s scared and not willing to back down. Other people are coughing politely into their hands and looking away. I get up half out of my chair and then sit back down. I’m too angry to do what I want to do. So I sit and watch. I’ve put my book down and I’m looking right at her. I won’t break my stare. I smile. She has no idea what is smiling at her.

Finally, after what seems to be hours, they are called into the office and he walks past me. I want to grab him and say, “Listen – you talk about those walks, ok? You tell everybody within earshot about what happens on those walks. Ok?” And I don’t. I duck my head into my book and lament that I had my chance to say something and it has passed. Admittedly, I feel relief.

The woman, her friend, and that little boy walk out the door. I go into see the doctor and they’re gone from the lobby when I get out. So I’m walking toward the doors between the clinic and the pharmacy and here comes that mother – and she’s alone. I’ve got her now.

“Excuse me? Ma’am? “ My Texas is coming out. “Excuse me?” She turns to look at me and stops, even though she’s in a hurry. She’s young. Her eyes are light green... almost sea green. She has braces. “Erm... well, I couldn’t help but hear what was going on in there and I want you to know that you have a smart little boy. He knows how to push your buttons.” She smiled, “Yes, he’s a handful, he really does.” “Well, ma’am... boys like that will push every button you have if you let them know what they are...and he’s a smart little boy.” She nodded, still smiling, and my heart was calming. I smiled at her again. “But ma’am, one more thing, I have a suggestion. The next time he acts up like that – YOU take the walk by yourself, ok? He doesn’t need any more walks.” She stopped smiling and got the message.

You just never know who is listening in the clinic. You might just end up on YouTube... or at the end of the arm of a 220 pound woman who is walking down memory lane.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Who Knew

You know, we cry less now. And I'm not saying that to make you feel guilty in Heaven. I don't think guilt exists in Heaven, anyway. It's a hallmark that joy comes more frequently than the sorrow -- or even just a day, a plain old day. Plain old days come before the gut-twistng "why's," now, or the dull ache of just not wanting to feel anything at all. Those days are over. Thank God.

When the grief of your loss visits me, I know it isn't you. I used to wonder if you were settling your soul upon my body so I could taste what you felt that day; so that my questions would be answered bit by bit. I say taste because at those times I would feel this bitterness well up in me and it would come out of every opening on my face. It would wash and wash through me and out me until I could physically taste the grief.

Grief is such a polite word. That wasn't grief. It was anguish, it was torture, it was C.S. Lewis' "the eternal vivisector." NOW I understand what he meant! It's regret. I think I'm going to make regret a swear word in our house, just like we did with hate. You can drop the f-bomb in the house and get away with it. Say hate, and all three of my kids could say it in chorus, "Don't say hate, say 'dislike intensely.'"

Pink wrote a song called "Who Knew" and in the video they make it about a romance, about a boy/girl break-up. The lyrics speak too plainly and I'll let them finish what I have to say here. I was walking the dog this morning and the song came on. I jokingly told Chris that I sobbed in the jail parking lot, I snuffled on Applegrove Street. I horked up a big old ball of snot on Alder Street and by the time I got to our door it had almost passed. I sat on the steps in the hallway, took off my boots and the dog dried me off instead of me drying him off. You'd really like him, Ben.

I'm sending you a note to Heaven to tell you that you haven't been forgotten and you will never be forgotten. You are loved... imperfectly, sloppily and with lots of tissues, loved.


Who Knew <~~~~ click please