The Christmas Crescendo

FRG-01-RK0076-01PThe crescendo of the day is complete.  The joyous ruckus of children whipped into a frenzy over the satisfaction of wholly met desires.  It’s what I always wanted!!  Thank you!! You’re the best mom, ever!  Oh yes.  I am.  For now.  And that’s OK.  I felt the same way about my own mother.  Absolutely head over heals indebted and in love one minute, then plotting my escape for all eternity the next.  It’s the way it works.  Family.  Love them.  Hate them.  Never really escape them.

There is a delightful calm that hovers over my home right now.  The children are busily playing with their toys, my husband is at work, and I sit pecking at some keys trying to capture the feelings of the past few weeks.  For so many of us, the holidays are endured.  They are hectic and tough.  They are relentless and cruel.  People have a sense of desperation, rushing about, worried they are going to miss out, worried that they aren’t going to have enough, or be enough.

From where I sit, I can see our nativity scene.  My son took my favorite Sheldon ornament (from Big Bang Theory) and added him to the scene.  Perhaps Jesus can appreciate the humor of another “wise man” crashing the party, a man that doesn’t seem to believe, but still being present to witness the miracle of miracles.  God willing, Sheldon, the man of science and fact will be converted, too, just like I was so many years ago.

The sweet little scene sits amongst all the red balls, Christmas carols, white twinkling lights, smells of ham in the oven, shiny Christmas garland, and colorful presents piled high.  It’s as if the manger were plopped down in the middle of Las Vegas.  Bright lights, pageantry, glitz, and glamour.  What a contradiction!

Could there be anything farther than the experience that Mary and Joseph had on that night so long ago?  To be without a home, food, comfort.  To be a new mother on that cold wintry night in a manger.  To be surrounded by the smells of the animals.  To be without light.  My little manger, captured for eternity in that moment, but yet so far away from this moment, this Christmas.

Imagine the cold, the fear, the doubts, the darkness.  And then He was born and it all changed.  Nothing was ever the same again.

There are moments like that so often in our lives.  Mostly we can look back and see them in hindsight.  One moment the world is a certain way and then the next, an accident, a death, a cancer diagnosis, and then it all changes.  It’s never the same.  I had a moment like that as I sat in the ER awaiting the results of the CT scan.  Doctors get sick, too, you know.  It feels like some kind of betrayal, though.  I’m supposed to have superior knowledge to avoid such things, but alas, my body functions just like yours and mine decided to become unbearably swollen right around my neck.  Painful and tight.  Swallowing was getting harder.  Plus I looked like a bull frog.

I wasn’t afraid.  The results really didn’t matter.  I was alone. I was getting hungry.  It was dark and cold, but I wasn’t scared.  My comfort comes from somewhere beyond.  It comes from knowing that even in the worst scenario, like being homeless, hated, hungry, lost, afraid, lonely, or sick, even in the deepest darkest moments of our existence, hope endures.  Light shines through.  Love remains.

I almost wish all the Christmas decorations in all the world would disappear.  The ugly Christmas sweaters, the elves on the shelves, the Santas and his reindeers, the tinsel, garland, bright lights, ornaments, stockings, gingerbread men and women -can all just disappear!  The only thing that will remain is the nativity scene.  The one bright shining light of the season.  Hope.  Quiet relentless hope in the face of despair.  May we all know the peace that comes from our hopes realized even when they are not.  May we still know peace in the turmoils of our lives.  Peace like in a manger on a night so long ago.

It turns out the cold that I had been nursing for the past several weeks decided to lodge in the glands in my neck and have their own kind of Christmas party.  I was sick, but I would survive.  Two days of antibiotics later and I still look like a bullfrog, but one that has since gone on a diet.  I’m getting better and life got a little simpler.  In the midst of trying to help others, I needed to seek help.  God finds us in those moments, quiet and alone.  He speaks to us.  His voice is small.  Sometimes, you just got to turn down the noise of Christmas to hear it.

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I take a trip to see the dick doctor

I didn’t see the dick doctor, but my friend, Glenn did.  Check out his hilarious and poignant take on a cancer scare that not many talk about.  His blog is called Roamin’ Gnomials and when he is isn’t correcting our grammar and poor sentence structure at The Shinbone Star, he’s giving us the chuckles and feels over there.

After almost six months without a post here on Roamin’ Gnomials, I knew I’d need some momentous occasion if I was going to come back with a splash. My trip to the dick doctor just might have provided it. I kept it a secret from almost everyone, but for some weeks I’d been having a […]

via I take a trip to see the dick doctor — ROAMIN’ GNOMIALS

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Fact or Fashion? It’s Time to Choose

When I get dressed for work I have a certain uniform. Shirt, pants, cardigan, ballerina slippers. Simple and effective, but obviously not a lot of thought put into my look. My weekend and evening wear consists of some kind of throwback to the 90s. Jeans. T-shirt. Cons. Flannel. I don’t know how I got stuck in […]

via Fact or fashion? It’s time to choose — THE SHINBONE STAR

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Addiction and Redemption

Stone-Cold-Steve-Austin-Finger-wwestalkerI once went through a very unfortunate and embarrassing phase.  I’m not exactly proud to admit it.  In fact, it might be one of my more shameful secrets.  I can’t explain why I did it.  I guess I’ve always blamed it on being young, naive, and having raging hormones.  I do have my excuses.  It was the time.  Everyone was doing it.  It was entertaining.

It started innocently enough, hell, I even got my mom involved.  I did it once on a fluke, boredom mostly.  I instantly found myself hooked and I kept doing it over and over again.  The story never changes, the players are always the same, but you can’t find your way out.  You are in too deep.  In the end, I just had to walk away.  Cold turkey.  Quit.  I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.  I was done.

I remember the night I quit, too.  It was during the Wrestle-mania Pay Per View Special in 1999.

This addiction was all consuming.  The Rock.  Stone Cold Steve Austin.  Mankind.   Triple H.  The Undertaker.  The Hardy Boys, with their rocker acrobatic stylings!  I could really smell what The Rock was cooking and it was like turkey roasting all day on Thanksgiving.  Juicy and savory.  Mouthwatering.   Wrestle-mania was like the Super Bowl for us.  We had been anticipating this day for months.  The matches were set, who would win?  Who would lose?  What crazy shit is going to happen?

Every week, my mom and I would gather around the set to watch wrestling.  We would jump up and down, yell at the screen, roll around on the floor in misery or glee depending on the turn of the match.  The Rock was her favorite.  Stone Cold Steve Austin was mine.  They would spar inside and outside the ring, hurling insults, Stone Cold hurling his beer.  What a contradiction he was!  Biblical quote on his clothing line and a beer in each hand, all awhile calling people assholes!  Oh yes!  He was my spirit animal and dare I say, soulmate?

One night, while watching wrestling, a new wrestler was announced, her name was Lita.  As she walked out in the spotlight, all machismo and strength, I squinted at the screen, ran up to it, turned to my mom, and said, “Isn’t that Amy???”  I hadn’t seen her in years, so it was really hard to tell.  Of course, we debated back and forth, neither one of us entirely sure.  A short time later, my mom bought a wrestling magazine with an article about Lita and sure enough, Lita was Amy, my childhood friend that lived around the block while growing up.  Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, and WTF.

Not only were we watching our favorite manly men, but now we had Amy/Lita, who once played Richie Sambora to my David Bryan in the middle school talent show.  Our version of Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” won first place that year mostly because we used lots of Aqua Net and lip-synced while using real instruments.  She had moved away to Atlanta just before high school.  I visited her there once.  I flew all by myself.  I was probably in the 9th grade,  When I walked off the plane, a strange look of disappointment flashed across her face.  You see, she had gotten really cool and I hadn’t and it was obvious.  I always knew she’d be a rock star, looks like she got damn close.

A couple of things happened that really started to undermine my love of wrestling and turn the tide of my addiction.

My mom had a check up one morning following a particularly exciting evening of wrestling.  The doctor, looking at her in shock, asked, “What have you been doing?  Your blood pressure is through the roof!”  She even threatened to put her in the hospital.  My mom admitted that she had been watching wrestling the night before.  The doctor told her to stop.  It was starting to affect her health.

I was affected by the controversies regarding owners refusing drug-testing of the wrestlers for steroids, rumors of rampant narcotic abuse, indentured slave-like contracts for the talent, wrestlers being placed in serious harm and even dying from their dangerous stunts, but even being aware of all of these issues didn’t make me hit my rock bottom.

It was a bathing suit contest during Wrestle-mania circa 1999 featuring 80 year old Mae Young that pushed me over the edge.  From my aging memory, I recall Mae Young going all out to win the contest by removing her bathing suit top and revealing her naked 80 year old breasts.  I’m not saying there is anything wrong with naked 80 year olds, but from my recollection, my 20 something boobs felt like they were visited by the ghost of Christmas future.  No where in my brain did I conceive that my boobs could eventually morph into what appeared before me.  Pendulous.  Elongated.  Stretched before her like childhood silly putty.  It was like my wrestling high instantaneously dissolved, I was left with tremors, a twitch, and the need to hurl.  This was the brush with reality that I needed.  It was as if her breasts swung out from the screen and knocked me across the face.

It was a bad trip and now I was woke.  There was no turning back.  I walked away from wrestling that night.  And I’ve never looked back.

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In the Shadows

fullsizeoutput_2596I’m not ready for October to end.  I am one of those annoying people who happen to love Halloween.  I love the decorations, the costumes, the candy, the darkness.  Some may think that to love Halloween is morbid, but I like scary things.  For me, they really aren’t that scary at all.  Demons, devils, skeletons, witches, zombies, spiders, and clowns -those things that make up our nightmares -those things that lurk in the darkness, at the edges, in the shadows.

Now that Halloween is over, the overly joyful, cheerful types start to take over.  They joke about playing Christmas music and putting up their Christmas trees.  They string lights, as if being in the light is just not bright enough.  They start their holiday shopping, make their lists, cook their turkeys, and bake their pies.  I don’t like those people.  It’s like they live in some kind of alternate reality.  They bask in the light of day as if nothing lingers in the shadows.

The whitest white can still hide the blackest heart.  Those are the ones to fear.  The ones that never show their true nature.  They live in the light, but beneath their skin seethes something darker.  The ones that can defend a predator president, grope someone without consent, to take what does not belong to them, to feel like they are owed something, to turn away from someone in need.  The ones that turn their backs on the truth.

I prefer the things that reveal themselves in the darkness.  They do not hide or pretend they are something they are not.  How much more trustworthy are they!

The darkness gives the light its meaning.  The light shines more brightly when it is enshrouded in darkness.  A tiny ember adrift on the wind would all but disappear before the sun, but that same ember at night, would dance and weave a miniature light show before your eyes.  The darkness is nothing without the light and the light is nothing without the darkness.  Plants need light to survive, but they grow most in the dark.  We are the same.  During our darkest times in life, that is when we grow the most.  The storms that we weather make us become more of what we are meant to be.  We can only do that in the darkness.

Am I morbid?  Maybe.  I choose to embrace the darkness.  It is not my enemy, but neither is the light.  In the end, when all of the good and bad are tallied up, I am sure there will be a perfect balance.  Good and bad.  Light and dark.  Neither one more important than the other.  God never protecting us fully from the bad, nor overindulging us in the good.  He knows that both are necessary.  He made it that way.

I know that in life, there will be bad times.  I know that in those times, I am becoming more resilient, more honorable, more knowledgeable, more wise.  There will be pain.  There will be tears.  There will be fear.  I will persevere.  It will make me appreciate the times in the light even more, but also understand that it is all so fleeting.

This season is a reminder to me and a way to celebrate the ways in which the darkness has made me who I am today.  The deepest, saddest parts of me are not to be shunned and left in the darkness, but embraced.  They make up the sum total of who I am.  Good and bad.  Light and dark.

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Me Too?

_DSC0351I have been in deep reflection over this “Me too” phenomenon.  I have been giving it careful consideration trying to tally those moments that would allow me to say, ah yes, it has happened to me, too.  It turns out, I don’t think I can say, “me too” quite that easily.

There was this one time when I was a teenager.  I was waiting at a bus stop when a creepy guy in a wheelchair wheeled himself right up next to me and grabbed my knee.  He was easy to escape.  I just got up and walked away.  I turned back to make sure he wasn’t hot on my heels and noticed that he was missing the same exact knee that he touched on me.  Maybe he was just feeling nostalgic for things passed.  Maybe he was just copping a feel.  Either way, I jumped onto the first bus that arrived oblivious whether it was the right one to get me home.  Thankfully, it was and the creepy wheelchair guy with his missing leg shrunk into the distance.

As a freshman in college, my rag tag friends and I decided to spontaneously drive to New Orleans from Tallahassee for Mardi Gras.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have a car between us.  I remembered Drew from philosophy.  He had a car.  We convinced him to join the fun and without any idea where we were going, where we’d be staying, we all piled in his car and took off for the Big Easy.  In this story, Drew was a perfect gentlemen.  It’s the crowds that were the aggressor.

I just remember the massive, oppressive, stifling crowds that could so easily just sweep you up and carry you off, grabbing and groping tits and ass along the way (never pussy, that’s just wrong, but really isn’t it all wrong??).  The hands came out of no where and everywhere.  I had to get out of that fucking crowd.  There were no faces so you couldn’t admonish the attackers.  After a few hurricanes, it didn’t matter quite as much.  I also remember sitting on the side of the street watching the parades, catching beads while sitting next to the actress that played Punky Brewster.  We got plenty of beads and the funny thing is neither of us ever lifted our shirts.

What I do know is that as a female I have had to quiet myself.  I have had to subdue my shine. I have had to lower my head, avoid eye contact, as to not welcome an attack.

When I was in residency, one of my attendings had my creep meter resounding at full blast.  I wasn’t the only one, our whole group noticed and met with the administration to voice our concerns.  I didn’t instigate this effort, but after that meeting he somehow turned his focus on me. He also went to administration and complained about my attitude.  They recommended that I seek counseling.  I didn’t have to, but I obliged.  The Psychiatrist said he wasn’t sure why they made me come, told me to just put my head down and get through it.  Don’t make waves.  Don’t say anything.  Just finish.  Graduate.  And get the fuck out of there.  He said it just like that.  So I did.  I quieted myself.  I dulled my shine.  I endured.  And I hated myself for it.

Years later, I ran into another former resident.  She told me to look up that attending from years before.  She wouldn’t tell me why, just said check him out.  Turns out that asshole had lost his license to practice medicine because of inappropriate behaviors and prescribing practices.  This is not so easy to do.  Doctors almost never have to give up their licenses.

There have been numerous instances over my years of study where I had to make myself small.  Quiet.  Unheard.  Dim my shine.  To be fully me would be to overpower, subdue, not physically, but mentally the men in my vicinity.  I learned that early on.  Maybe even from my father.  When my mother stepped out of line, he made sure she got right back in.

For some odd reason, I chose a career dominated by men.  Men who are often quite brilliant and quite insecure.  There were many times that I was embraced (and not in a pervy way).  They saw my shine and encouraged it.  Both men and women.  Because women aren’t completely innocent. When a woman sees another woman step out of line, she knows it brings attention to us all.  It puts us all in the crosshairs.  Instead it was those people that encouraged me that I chose to emulate.  My shine recognizes the shine in you and I want to encourage it. That’s why I do this job.  The funny thing is when someone is bright and shiny, it doesn’t diminish those around them.  We combine our brilliance.  We become bigger and brighter together.

Me too.  I have responded to the fear that those in authority have tried to use to control me.  I have let the fear win.  I won’t do it again.  Nothing, no one, is worth diminishing your shine.

 

 

 

 

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How to Start the Perfect Campfire

_DSC0393Unfortunately, for you -the reader, the title of this blogpost may be a little misleading.  You see, I really don’t know how one starts the perfect campfire.  I didn’t grow up camping.  I never learned to start a fire with a flint, stoke that fire, or cook an edible meal over an open flame.  I lived in the city.  I found camping later in life, a comfortable kind of camping where you get in your RV and drive your living room and bathroom facilities with you, park it in a desirable location, and essentially camp in complete and total comfort.

Even though I lived in the city, I always enjoyed visiting the wilderness.  I enjoyed spending the day hiking through the woods, sitting by a crackling fire, swimming in the lakes, and picnicking under ancient trees.  I also liked leaving, sleeping in my own bed, where there are no bugs, in the coolness of air-conditioning.  That’s why camping in an RV is so appealing.  In an RV, one can visit beautiful and remote places while finding respite in the comforts of home.

I once spent the night in a tent.  This was likely one of the worst nights of my entire life.  When I was about 17, my cousin and uncle invited me to hike part of the Appalachian Trail.  Even though I had not grown up hiking and camping, I had always dreamed of being the kind of person that hiked and camped.  There is something both brave and adventurous that I associate with a person who can easily use the restroom behind a tree.  I wanted to be that kind of person.

Our plan was to spend a week on the trail, carrying all the gear we needed for survival on our backs, and sleeping under the stars each night.  When I arrived and we began the trek, it was quickly apparent that my cousin and uncle were not in hiking shape.  After only a few hours on the trail, my uncle looked like he was going to have a heart attack and my teenage male cousin only cared about finding a stream to wash his hair.  It wasn’t even time for lunch yet, but his sweaty hair was already unacceptable.  We only lasted one night.

I must admit that although I always dreamed of being the kind of person that could hike the Appalachian Trail, I was relieved when we plodded our way back to the Honda Accord which was surprisingly close to where we camped (we hadn’t gotten far), packed our gear in the back, and took off for the comforts of civilization.  I was happy to leave because I had spent the entire night trying to find and remove a rock that was poking me in the back through the floor of the tent and listening to my cousin lament the loss of clean hair.  The thought of an entire week of such discomfort was more than I could bare (If only one could sleep in an RV along the trail what a better experience it would have been!).

One of the highlights of the entire 24-hour trip was the nighttime campfire.  After a day of hiking, we found an adequate campsite and set up our tents.  My uncle wanted to start the campfire to cook supper.  He told me the kind of wood to collect for the perfect campfire.  It wasn’t hard.  He needed some sticks, some dry brush, and some larger dry logs.  I collected the items on the list and my uncle layered them according to size, the larger logs on the bottom.  Before long, we had a lovely raging fire and a pot of boiling water for Ramen noodles.  As the shadows grew long, our bellies fool of cheap college food, we settled in around the fire watching the flames frolic and dance.  The fire was a lone beacon of light in the vast darkness of the wilderness, a kind of an analogy for our place in the world, small, bright, and fierce with all the potential to burn down the forest but contained by the boundaries of its kindling.  The campfire beckons.  It calls us home to a place beyond our understanding, somewhere in the subconscious that understands how the ghosts of our ancestors used its power for survival and to forge the foundation of our civilization.

The quest to build the perfect campfire is easily obtained.  Any way will do.  You don’t need me to tell you that.  The campfire itself is the goal.  The fire will find its way no matter how you stack the logs.  The prefect campfire is the one that you start and tend.  The one that you pursue in the wilderness.  The one that you and your family sit around, eating and laughing and telling stories, making memories.  The perfect campfire happens every time our family hits the road in the RV, sets up camp and pulls out the fixings for s’mores.  It is perfect every time.

The fire illuminates the past.  It connects us to the beginning.  It is a reminder that even with all the comforts of our century, like internet, air conditioning and sleeping in the comfy bed of an RV, we are lost without the foundations of nature, the firelight in the darkness that calls us home.   Being in nature, no matter how we go about it, whether in a tent or in an RV, brings us back to the source.

 

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