Southern Charms

I don’t think Southerners are aware, but outside of the South, no one really cares about the Civil War or its monuments. The world has moved on, the country has changed. It’s on to bigger and better things. It has forgotten about the battered and wounded Confederate soldier, the burned and desecrated white plantations. It […]

via Southern Charms — THE SHINBONE STAR

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Sunflower Power

133535Everyday for the past 3 weeks, I have driven the 35 miles to work and watched this little patch of sunflowers grow on the side of Interstate 40.  I am enough of a narcissist to think that the little patch of flowers is meant just for me.  I know it is the work of a road crew that plants seasonal flower seeds on the sides of the interstate in North Carolina.  It’s probably some government mandated beautification project.  It matters not.  Those were placed for me.  They make me smile even when I don’t want to.  Those are my sunflowers.

The minute I turned 18, I got my first (and only) tattoo.  I didn’t know exactly what I wanted, I just knew I wanted one.  My mother gave me the money as a birthday present.  My dad had no idea what we were up to.  I don’t think he would have cared, but there is an awkwardness to growing up when you are a girl.  You tend to keep your dad in the dark for as long as possible.  He seems the most vulnerable and damaged by the relentless onslaught of womanhood that envelopes his little girl.

My boyfriend researched the place and took me to Tatt’s Taylors in Fort Lauderdale.  He said it was the best.  I looked through books and the endless pictures on the wall and I fell onto a lovely little image of a black and white sunflower.  That was it!  I wanted that one!  The tattoo artist took some liberties with the simple image on my right ankle and colored it with yellows and browns and purple highlights.  It wouldn’t be long until I was off to college with my sunflower tattoo in tow, like a kind of talisman of freedom.

Over 20 years later, it’s amazing how faded the tattoo now appears, the purple and yellows barely perceptible, but the spirit of the image remains.  I often think that someday I need to get it touched up.

On my drives to and from work on the interstate, I watch the way the sunflowers move to face the sun.  What a brave flower it is!  It faces the sun!  It finds the greatest source of light and follows it as it moves across the sky.  It doesn’t know that most of us shrink from the sun; it is too bright, too hot, too intense.  But this flower doesn’t wither.  The fierceness of the sun only compels it.

I once interviewed for a residency position in Asheville, NC.  If you have any experience with Asheville, you would know that it is kind of weird.  Not to be outdone, the residency interview in Asheville was weird, too.  From what I remember, there was a point in the interview where a group of us interview-ees came together in one room.  We were given paper and pencils, markers, etc and asked to draw something that represented us.  Then we had to share it with the group and explain what our art project meant.  In some ways, this tactic is brilliant.  It forces typical left-brained med students to flex their right-brained artistic side.  I had repressed my right brain so completely by now that I absolutely floundered.  I drew a sunflower and I remember talking about how it followed the sun, about how it was fearless.

Other people drew pictures of themselves helping children in third world countries during their summer break.  I wasn’t so worldly or selfless.  Maybe I just wasn’t quite weird enough.  Needless to say, I didn’t get an acceptance letter from Asheville.

Today, as I drove past the same flowers, now standing tall against the 92 degree heat, they seemed a little more wilted than usual.  The heat appeared to evaporate the life out of the bright green leaves.  The flowers, however, still looked bright and yellow, staunch and proud.  I wonder how much longer my lovely flowers will greet me.  How much longer can they resist the oppressive summer sun before they start to wilt and become brown?  What will it be like to see them fallen over, each leaning against the other trying to be supportive in their last days?  Do they know their time is coming to an end?

I, too, am like the sunflower.  I stand proudly, thinking I’m strong, not realizing my helplessness.  I do not know my vulnerability to the blazing powers that sustain me.  I am oblivious.  Does it really matter that the radiation and heat will burn me from the outside in, as long as I stand my ground, relentlessly resisting until my resistance relents?  It’s the stand that matters.  Taking a stand.  Come what may.

 

 

 

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A Call to Arms

140618113400-12-iconic-vietnam-war-restricted-horizontal-large-galleryI have never been a fan of 45.  The reason is simple, the origin of my dislike is clear.  He takes the thing that I value most, the thing that speaks my innermost secrets, conveys life and death, healing and forgiveness, and he spits it out like rotten caviar.  He has no regard for the power of words.

Words require thought.  One must carefully choose the little gems, rolling them over, chipping away at the rough parts to reveal the beauty before they are thrust into the world.  His words are not vetted in such a way.  They are hurled and spat, leaving bits of white spittle in the corners of the mouth as they leave their remnants hastily behind.

Words bring life.  Words can also bring death.

Proverbs 12: 18-19 The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.  Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.

Mere words can thrust nations into battle, the lives of millions in the balance.  For some, his words feel like freedom.  He speaks his mind.  He says pussy and fuck and the Christian brothers and sisters don’t bat an eye.  If I say pussy or fuck, my Christian friends will ghost me and pray for me and politely turn their children’s gaze away from me.  For some, his words speak their innermost desires.  To make America great again.  To make America whiter, prouder, richer.  No more living off the government you good-for-nothings.  While the social security and disability checks of the great white masses are being cashed to buy funny red hats and Confederate flags.

Even my words are affecting some.  Some people are becoming angry, some are nodding in agreement.  There is power in that, but imagine the power when your words are heard by the entirety of the world.  When every human within the range of a broadcast can hear the words “fire and fury like the world has never seen.”  To yell “fire” in a crowded movie theatre when there is no fire will get me arrested.  To yell “fire” to the entirety of the world will plummet us into a nuclear war the likes of which, he is right, the world has never seen.

Revelation 20:9 And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them.

For some his words lit a fire inside of them, a call to arms, to lift up the bayonets of the past revolutionaries to battle the evil tyrant oppressors of the world.  To some his words unleashed the cries of a million grieving mothers, holding the American flag wrapped up in a triangle, a sad, barren replacement for the lives of their beloved children.

For me his words filled my soul with sorrow.  His words do not reflect mine.  His words are harsh and mean, careless and cruel.  His words do not promote life.  They promote fear.  Upon hearing his words, I felt myself cower inside.  War is coming.

 

 

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No Good Deed…

IMG_0337I like reading stories about people doing good deeds.  I am greatly annoyed by stories that people post about themselves doing good deeds.  That defeats the purpose!  You don’t take pictures of yourself giving a sandwich to a homeless person and then post it on social media saying how awesome you are for giving a homeless person a sandwich, you narcissistic lunatic!  A few weeks a ago, or maybe it was a few days ago, I don’t know, time flies, Donnie Wahlberg posted a pic of himself with the staff at a Waffle House.  He wrote about how great they were and how he left them a tip.  A $2000 tip.  OK, that’s nice, but you are not supposed to announce that yourself, dumbass.  You aren’t supposed to take credit.  Just leave the tip and go on.  No pictures, no credit.

He basically got a deal, though.  He spent $2000 for people on social media to share his good deed and get himself a little positive publicity.  So Hollywood.

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It made me think of my staff and the hundreds of good deeds they perform all the time that no one ever notices.  They don’t announce their good deed, they don’t boast, and they certainly don’t get any credit.  A patient’s late power and water bills getting anonymously paid.   Medicine showing up on someone’s doorstep.  Phone calls, cards, and Facebook messages to our patients that encourage those that are struggling.  Heartfelt prayer requests about a patient that shows up in a group message.  My staff genuinely cares for the patients that they serve.  They live and breathe to help others.  It has never been about a paycheck because if it were, they would have left a long time ago.

It was just last week that I witnessed them in action.  It was like a major league football team going through a play.  A patient needed to be seen.  She had a fever, cough, and she felt weak.  Her family was out of town.  Her husband passed away a few years ago, and she hasn’t driven since.  She had no way to get to the office.  The staff got into a huddle.  Muffled voices and hand gestures ensued.  They broke from formation.  One of the nurses would leave, the others would cover for her, and she would go pick the patient up at her home.  She would bring her to the visit and then drive her back home afterward.

Later, there was a complication.  She would need an X-ray at the hospital.  That was not in the playbook.  They got into a huddle again.  This time the patient was involved.  Who were her neighbors?  Who did she go to church with?  A name was decided on.  He was a patient, too.  They found his number, called him.  He would meet the nurse and patient at the patient’s home, pick her up and take her for the X-ray.  The pass was complete.  Touchdown.

I was done seeing patients, and ready to go home, but I stood around just to watch their handiwork.  I wanted to bask in their unyielding kindness and empathy.  It was a wonder to behold.  By the way, unlike Donnie, I had absolutely nothing to do with this, I can’t take any credit, she wasn’t even my patient.  I was just there to bear witness to humans doing good things for other humans because that’s what they do.  No recognition, no reward, no financial gain, no obvious benefit to the doer.

There are just some people that see a need and fill it.  There are some people who can’t stand to see someone suffer.  There are some people who spend their entire lives doing good for others because to do anything else would be a tragic waste of a life.  I count myself lucky to be in the company of such people.  Their willingness to give, to help, to be a source of encouragement, inspires me daily.  They are extraordinary.

 

 

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Hair-esy

IMG_0323I’ve written about my favorite razors before and about how they are getting harder and harder to find.

Razor Burn

Well, now it has reached critical mass.  I ordered them through Amazon Prime weeks ago and they still haven’t arrived.  My husband found a dealer on eBay, but how long will that last until they run out, too?  It’s inevitable.  I am going to have to find some other means of hair removal.  I have tried other razors:  cheap ones, expensive ones, ergonomically correct ones.  Only my razors seem to do the best job, with little collateral damage.  I never thought of my skin as sensitive, but apparently it is.  Any other razors leave me in a state of blotchy irritation that is not only unsightly, but painful!

I took to Google.  What are my options?  Another kind of razor.  Waxing.  Laser.  Epilator.  Depilatories.  Or just let that shit grow.  In my struggle, I had chosen the latter, at least until my favorite razors arrive from eBay.

But I couldn’t wait any longer.  The hair length is reaching critical mass and today is my birthday so I decided to treat myself to a handheld torture device called an epilator.  I also bought some topical Lidocaine to minimize the pain.

What is an epilator, you ask?  It looks like an electric razor except it has these tiny tweezers and metal bits that latch on to the little hairs and pull them out by the roots.  It all rotates with gnashing teeth and groaning gears against the skin grabbing and pulling at everything in site.

I prepared myself, taking a deep cleansing breath before starting.  There are no words for the amount of pain that this little handheld device causes, but once you get started, you might as well suck it up and finish.  I winced and grimaced, then held my breath, except when little gasps of pain escaped from between my gritted teeth.  I finished both legs and am currently left with what can only be described as a total mess.

Irritated and blotchy would be an understatement.  Running my hands across my legs reveals that despite my best efforts, my legs aren’t smooth at all.  I missed about a thousand hairs.  How can that be?  That means I am going to have to try this thing again. Like tomorrow.  The box says you can go 4 weeks between episodes.  It also says it gets less painful with time.  It also says you can use this thing on your nether regions and your face and your armpits.  Ouch.

Hair is such a complicated thing.  Some of it we want and some we don’t.  Our bodies put so much effort into its formation, yet I have no appreciation for its beauty, especially when it’s in places I don’t want.  It keeps our skin protected and warm.  Yet its presence in certain places is absolutely repulsive. Like on my chin or those crazy looking ones on the top of my big toe.  Eww.

I don’t know why it matters, but it does.  Men don’t seem to care about this stuff.  Hair on a man is welcome, it is celebrated.  That first chin hair, that little fuzz above the lip that barley constitutes a mustache, it is lovingly manicured and groomed.  Those little hairs would never be ripped out from the root and discarded like such rubbish.

I mechanically ripped those little hairs out today and you know what, those little hairs needed to go.  By any means necessary.

 

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Antiquated

w8185f-1Today was a good day.  There were only a few things on the agenda that needed to get done.  The first was to get the car inspected, but unfortunately, my place was closed due to a funeral, such is the life in a small town.  Oh, there were other car inspection places that I could go, but this was the place I liked, they knew me, and I didn’t want to go anywhere else.  It’s OK, I can wait.  I’m not driving around illegally yet.  I’ve got until the end of the month.

The second thing on the list was to get groceries.  That required a trip to Publix, which really is a pleasure.  If you don’t have a Publix, well, I feel sorry for you.  It only took 14 years for me to get one here and I’m never going anywhere else ever again unless out of utter desperation.  Publix is the grocery store of my childhood.  They still give kids free cookies so I suspect my children will love them henceforth, too.

The Publix of my childhood had a really interesting feature which I never gave much thought to until now.  It had a giant antique scale when you first walked in the door.  It was really tall, at least to my child-sized self.  I had to bend my neck back as far as I could to read the numbers on the scale when I stood on it.  This scale was kind of a giant version of a vegetable scale in the produce department, with that bouncy arrow to show whether you should indulge in said cookie or not.

Every time my mother took me shopping, I had to get on that scale.  I wonder if it was an annoyance to her?  She probably just needed to grab a gallon of milk and get home to prepare dinner, but I was making it take twice as long.  At least, that’s what happens anytime I take my children anywhere.  My mother rarely showed any annoyance and I try to emulate that for my kids, even though inside I’m performing the emotional version of pulling my hair out.  I’d encourage my mom to get on the scale, too, and that’s when the annoyance would show.  She was not getting on.  No matter what.  Now let’s go.

I took for granted that the scale was a normal part of the grocery shopping experience because it isn’t.  I’ve never seen a scale in another grocery store ever before or since.  It was just at my Publix in my hometown.  I wonder who put it there?  Why?  Where did it come from?  The only other places that have a scale as part of the routine experience are gyms and doctor’s offices and people hate going to both places.  In some weird way, though it made sense.  Should you buy that half gallon of ice cream on sale this week?  Well, let me get on that scale and see.

And in other ways, it’s a terrible idea, especially for a grocery store who wants you to buy that ice cream on sale.  They don’t want you to think that you should not indulge because that might hurt their bottom line.  It seems that the bottom line is all that really matters anymore.

Maybe we need more scales in grocery stores, and pharmacies that can make you a milkshake, and healthcare that doesn’t bankrupt a family.  We need more businesses that close for a funeral even if it means I didn’t get my car inspected when I wanted to.  We need businesses that aren’t just in the business to make a buck, but to provide a service and an experience to the customer and to their employees.  We need businesses that put scales in the foyer even if it doesn’t make any sense, even if it costs them a sale on that ice cream on sale.

 

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Home

IMG_0437As I stand in the place where the ocean and land meet, I have the overwhelming desire to go home.  Myrtle Beach is just not the same.  The sand isn’t right.  The color of the ocean is all wrong.  Where are the little birds that peck at the creatures hidden in the sand, the ones that run forward when the waves recede and back again when the waves roll in?  The ones that I used to chase at home?  Finding that sweet spot where their meals are most exposed between the waves, rejoicing with their high-pitched squawks.  Or maybe they were just mad at me for interfering.

It doesn’t escape me that the ocean is where I long to go to for escape.  The ocean is home, but not just any ocean will do, it seems, because I’m here, feet being soothed by the waves like warm blood flowing back into veins and arteries.  Heartbeat.  Lifeblood.  The ocean. Only I just want to go home and it’s not here.

It doesn’t escape me that I was here almost a year ago, standing the same way, in almost the exact same spot after my mother died.  Just weeks before, I tried to bring her back, but I couldn’t.  I tried desperately to breathe life into her, watching her blue eyes turn grey, like the ocean at sunset, becoming dimmer and unfocused, blurring the lines between life and death, day and night.

My ocean lies in a town sandwiched between the uber wealthy and the uber fabulous, Fort Lauderdale on one side and West Palm Beach on the other.  My hometown is like an awkward middle child, a little left out, a little forgotten, a little underestimated.

The sand here, where I am standing, is like fine powder, it sticks to everything, but the sand on my beach isn’t really sand at all.  If you look closely, it is a billion broken seashells, the edges rubbed smooth by the brutal forces of the sea.  The pieces of shells are bigger than sand, heartier, more substantial.  The ocean itself is bluer, warmer, and teeming with life.  That is my home.  It’s rhythmic waves my heartbeat, it’s salty sea my lifeblood.

Home is permanent sandal tan lines.  Sun-kissed blond highlights in wind-whipped hair. Bike rides to the beach with a mini pink boombox hanging from the handlebars playing Bon Jovi on the tape deck.  Buying cigarettes from the rusty vending machine with pull handles.  Watching the shirtless tanned boy with long hair playing football with his rowdy friends from afar, Faith looking at me and saying, “I want that one,” and me replying, “No, that one’s mine.”

And he was for a while, until he wasn’t anymore.

But that was a long time ago and I haven’t been home in ages.  No reason to go back now. There’s nothing there for me.

I left because of my work.  My residency took me to North Carolina.  I wanted to go.  I wanted to leave home.  And I did.  I left everyone and everything.  Even the tan boy with long hair.  Who was now a man, with a clean cut, and a job, who didn’t want to go along for the ride.

My work.  Oh how I struggle with my choices.  I stare at the ocean.  Please, God, give me the answers.  The ocean and God don’t seem to be listening to me, but I’ll wait.

The day that my mother died was my day off.  I didn’t spend it with her.  I spent it at the corporate hive finding out why they thought I wasn’t doing my charts right.  It took months to get an answer.  Back and forth.  Back and forth.  Cancelled meetings, rescheduled, my apologies, can’t make it this week, until finally, I said, “I’ll drive the 2 hours to you.”  I needed to face my accusers.  In the end, it was silly.  Pointless.  My “mistakes” meaningless to me or the patient, but cost the corporation, apparently.  I didn’t write enough.  I didn’t charge enough.  I needed to do more.  Because doing more gets them paid more.

That night my mother died.  And the corporation never sent me a card or an arrangement.

In the beginning, my motives were simple.  I wanted to help people.  Not just anyone, either, but people who really needed it.  The people that maybe weren’t the wealthy and fabulous, but somewhere sandwiched in between, forgotten.  I left the boy, the dog, the house, the family, the sea, and I went.  It was idyllic at first, but after a while, we got gobbled up, like the little sea creatures being plucked out from between the tides by those birds.  I guess I gave up chasing them away a long time ago.

Home.  The sea resides within me.  I take it wherever I go, it’s molecules intertwined in my DNA.  I never really left it and it never left me.  The broken sea shells tossed about and worn smooth, the deep blue hues, the life beneath the surface, the warmth of the sun on brown skin, this is my home, this is my heart, this is who I am, I haven’t been beaten.  The tide always rolls back again.

 

 

 

 

 

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