Monday, October 23, 2006

Autumn's Admonition

Its no secret that Autumn is by far the season I adore most. She wraps the world in a warm and vibrant quilt of color that simultaneously soothes and stimulates. And like all things extraordinary, she seems to pass too quickly. Today ,she was simply at her best.
Late this afternoon, I wandered off on my bike in search of a little exercise and escape. The familiar mellow ache of my muscles begining to heat urged me forward. Soon, my thoughts begin churning as rapidly as my legs.....a raging storm of emotions suddenly funneled up through my being and unexpected tears rained down my face. I pedaled and sobbed until utterly drained. When I could go no further, I abandoned my bike and collapsed on the curb.
Now, its true I am easily moved to tears. I have been known to cry at commercials advertising local grocery stores, people. But this was the kind of weeping that dehydrates you to your toenails. The past few days I have watched some dear friends lose people they love and stood helplessly on the sidelines not knowing how to comfort. And of course, these events have conjured thoughts of how quickly Life escapes us all and that Tommorow is promised to no one. I suppose with things having been bottled too tightly and for too long an eruption was inevitable.
I rode home slowly, the fading sun drying the dampness on my cheeks. I thought of all the people in my life I am wildy lucky to know.....and the urgency to make sure they realize their importance. I'm going to make it a priority to not only love stronger, but to love SMARTER. So Life, deal the cards and ante up.....I'm ALL IN.

Ain't No Mountain High Enough

The alarm clock sounded, piercing the pre-dawn silence. My mind fought to swim to the surface of reality from the murky depths of intense r.e.m.
I drug myself from the bed and into multiple layers of clothing all the while wondering WHAT I was thinking to be vertical at such an ungodly hour and on a Saturday no less. To all of you "morning people" out there, let me just say a collective: "Bite Me". I don't trust anyone that springs from bed instantly personable without the aid of caffeine or Kellogg's. Seriously.
I staggered into the living room and grunted something resembling "Good Morning" to Nikki, who in return squawked back that it was time to load our gear and depart. At this point, we are single-minded in our mission: Coffee.
A few miles and a half a cup later, I begin to feel human once again. Dawn's rosy fingers were just beginning to brush the skyline, painting the clouds my favorite shade of pink. I hum along to the radio, driving north to the mountains and leaving all traces of the city behind. Rounding a bend, I am startled to see a lone hot air balloon drifting across the horizon giving me the irresistible urge to grin.
The further we traveled the more primitive things became, testing the fortitude of my little economy car to the uttermost. After a solid, teeth-jarring hour traversing what the US Forest Service has the nerve to call a "road", we arrive. Not so much at a destination, but rather at the beginning of the real journey.
Backpack? Check.
Hydration system? Check.
Pocket Knife? Check.
Chapstick? Check.
After a thorough survey to assure all systems were GO and a few squeals of "We're finally doing it!" we pushed thru the underbrush and took our first steps as hikers on the notorious Appalachian Trail. I believe we actually skipped along the first few yards, the excitement was so palpable.
I'm a planner, people. And this excursion was no exception. The combined amount of research performed by myself and my cohort would rival that of a large scale military operation. Hours spent scanning the internet, books and local outdoors stores had escalated to almost obsessive level. We'd discussed gear and strategy ad nauseum and so to FINNALLY be out there doing it seemed almost surreal.
The first mile of the hike was practically vertical, and I begin to wonder if the 10 mile goal we had set would prove to be unattainable. How would I ever accomplish trekking the entire 2,140 mile route at THIS pace? But, as the day wore on, I found my body settling into the rhythm of the trail and I became absorbed in the staggering beauty of the environment around me. I lost focus on the target destination and surrendered to the experience. Apparently, Nikki did the same for when we stopped for an afternoon snack and to scan the guide book, we were STUNNED to realize the distance we had traveled. That 10 mile objective - we obliterated it. Try 32. I am still staggered by that number, but with each step today, my body is reminding me that it was certainly not a dream.
Everyone seems to be plaguing me with one question: WHY?? The truth is, until yesterday, I wasn't exactly sure myself. But, standing atop Springer Mountain, suddenly all the unnamed swirling forces that had driven me to that point seem to crystallize. Certainly, I hope to challenge my physical stamina and endurance. But, on a deeper level, I am in search of a change of perspective. For nearly 30 years, I have viewed life from a certain angle, and admittedly, it's not been a half-bad view. But, life is equally as fleeting as it is exquisite, and I wouldn't want to miss something spectacular because I wasn't facing the right direction. I wish to move forward exposing myself to unknown outward landscapes, and perhaps in doing so, I will find a new way of looking at things on the inside too.

"The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single footstep.".....Confucius

Batman Befriends

I had a visit today with one of my new most favorite people. He stands all of 3 feet tall and smells pleasantly of an interesting mixture of maple syrup, damp wood, and fruit roll ups. The peculiar little man of which i speak, is the grandson of one of my patients. He often tags along with "Pop" on days his mother is busy with work.
He always arrives wearing an adorable lopsided grin and some curious outfit as Pop allows him to exercise his imagination via a unique wardrobe. Some days he opts for a Batman theme others he's decked out in full-on safari gear. Today it was red rubber rain boots and a fishing hat, capped off with tinfoil wrist bands.
I usually conclude each visit with a brief game of some sort which he ALWAYS wins and for which he always gets a lolli-pop.
"What's it gonna be today, big guy? Thumb wrestle? Rock Paper Scissors?"
He pauses briefly, twitches his nose and squints. "Arm Wrestle!" he declares, and so we set about getting positioned. He giggles at the sound his homemade "laser blasters" make as they crinkle between our forarms. I pretend the "lasers" are shocking me therefore making my leg twitch. Giggles inflate into full blown laughter revealing evidence of multiple visits from the Tooth Fairy. With furrowed brow, he bites his lower lip and hunkers down.
"Go!" Pop yells!
I squeal and play the part of the dissappointed as he pins my hand to the table. He does the victory dance while i retrieve the sugary spoils of war. I drop to my knees for the best part of his visits, the candy/hug exchange.

He swaggers off with Pop with a smile and wave, promising to return soon. Suddenly, he lets go of Pop's hand and bolts back across the parking lot towards me. Out of breath, he crooks his finger signaling me to lean in.
"You're stronger than you think," he whispers. And then in a flurry of red rubber and aluminium he's gone.

As I turned towards the door, the gravity of his words filter in. And ya know what? He's right.

"The world breaks everyone and afterward many are stronger at the broken places."........ Ernest Hemingway

Oh wont you be my......

I am becoming more convinced that no matter where I may roam in this life there is one inescapable sovereign truth about whatever patch of Earth I decide to call home..there will always be a Crazy Neighbor Lady just around the corner. CNLs seem to be drawn to me like Anna Nicole Smith is drawn to Vicodin and liver numbing amounts of alcohol.
My former CNL was more of the PEEPER persuasion. Often all that could be seen were her helmet hair and granny glasses as she peered across the fence line. Upon occasion she would vocally remind me she had her eye on me and was pretty sure I was up to no good. I provided her with interesting observational hours and she furnished me with a plethora of humorous dinner party anecdotes. Surprisingly, I find myself occasionally wondering if she still stands guard in her polyester high waters and fur trimmed house shoes. (Did I mention she is a snazzy dresser?)
But its my current CNL that beats all. She must have a stronger radar than most, as she pinned me down less than 12 hours after the initial unloading of the Uhaul. And lucky me, this one is a TALKER. No subject matter seems to be off limits and advice is given with complete disregard to all social etiquette. Her insights are about as useful as they are inexhaustible. Seriously, if you could harness the kinetic output generated from one conversation with this woman, we could solve the world energy crisis.
Her current crusade? Ridding the world of the incredibly dangerous, life threatening critters known as yellow jackets. I have received her numerous notes and voicemails full of warning concerning the possible infestation of said creatures around the area of our adjoining back porches. But, I had no idea how serious her campaign until I arrived home today to find her decked out in a shower cap, oven mitts and yes, (I kid you not) gas mask. War was waged and in the end one can of aerosol was traded for the souls of 4 medium sized carcasses. Not a buzz can be heard for miles, but she wont be satisfied until there is greater carnage. She went off in search of bug bombs and industrial strength insecticides. Its like Chernobyl out there, people. I will be lucky if the porch isnt reduced to a pile of sawdust and any foliage survives within a 3 miles radius. (Note to self: Save HAZMAT number to speed dial) Seriously, cuckoo conversation and carcinogens..its divine. THIS CNL may just be the death of me..

An Affair To Remember

Until very recently, I didnt think there was much north of the Mason Dixon worth a heap of beans. Aside from a few places that boast some lovely scenery and a few scattered friends who stubbornly refuse to relocate to warmer climates, it held no appeal.As of this past Thursday, I now whole-heartedly recant those sentiments. All it took was a 2 hour flight and one cab ride and I fell in love with my first Yankee....New York City.

Yes, I mean love, and yes at first site.The skyline alone pushes heavens gates and left me breathless with wonder.I would never have guessed I was the type of gal who could fall for concrete and steele but i was a goner before i even returned my tray table to its upright position for landing.

Of course, I did all the cliche things one might expect for a virgin trip to the Big Apple....Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, Grand Central Station, Rockafeller Center, Radio City Music Hall, Madison Square Garden, Chrysler Building, New York Public Library, Sax 5th Avenue, Central Park....and the list goes on. And i did it all in only 2 1/2 days time. The city never sleeps and I hardly did, covering most of Manhattan on foot or via Metro.

A trip to Tiffany's only deepened my eternal devotion, as i gazed upon display after display of heart-stopping beauty. It didnt matter that some pieces cost more than i will make in a lifetime, the sales staff was lovely and even offered to let me try things on.
But, i officially lost my heart to the place, when i walked into the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was utterly inspiring. It was my first-ever encounter with timeless artists like VanGoh, Monet, Renoir, and Picasso. I was so moved by some pieces, my heart felt liquid with emotion and I truely gained an understanding of why they are so renowned for their work.

I topped it all off with a Broadway show that left me laughing till my sides ached. Should you ever have the opportunity, I highly recommend you see "Spamelot"....if you have any sense of humor at all, you wont be dissappointed. David Hyde Pierce and Hank Azaria starred in the show and afterwards they kindly signed autographs and posed for photos.

Breakfast in Greenwich Villiage, lunch on the Upper East Side, Dinner In Chinatown with a shoppin trip to SoHo thrown in for good measure....every last second was filled with excitement and memories to last a lifetime.

We've only just begun, NYC and me.....I return in April, and feel certain my love will grow daily until then....

Operator Please Connect Me

Last night, I put in a phone call to my Gram. Let me tell you, there isnt much that offers more of a challenge than telecommunication with a hearing impaired senior citizen. Round 1 and 2 she hung up on me because she couldnt hear me when I said "hello"....Round 3 she informed me she "did not order any pizza" and would i please stop calling.....Round 4 was an accidental discconnect due to Parkinson's tremors but Round 5 we hit solid gold.
I settled in to listen to the latest installments...."Lost and Found-The Story of Black Slippers Gone Missing in the Night"......"What's New On the Menu-Mechanically Softened Chicken Vol.2"......and my personal favorite, "The Day I Put My Pants On Inside Out And Then Laughed Until I Wet Them".
I tossed in the ocassional "Uh-Huh" or "You dont say!" when need be, but mostly i sat still and let the sound of her voice wash over me. Even in the worst of times, it always seems to soothe. And lately, there are some areas of my life that seem to have fallen into the "Worst of Times" category. Ive always been an overachiever in the Worry and Stress departments....Im tellin you, if they gave out Golden Globes for such things, Id have more statues than Meryl Streep. Lately, I have kicked into overdrive losing all sense of life without sleep deprivation and seriously starting to forget what its like to NOT involuntarily vomit every day. My mind a swirling vortex of emotions that funnels thru me like a raging tornado leaving no organ system untouched in its wake. My new best friends are Ginger Ale and whatever is on late night tv.
I imagine all the change my life has undergone in the last 6 months is the catalyst.....after all, things buried beneath the surface will rise when the water is shifted round.
But, as i reclined there on my couch listening to "As The Nursing Home Turns", I was comforted. Its not so much her WORDS anymore for she can barely string together consecutive thoughts.....but somehow her HEART still comes thru low and clear in that soft, familiar cadence drifting in my ear.I am reminded of days spent with her barefoot in the garden or in the kitchen makin jam....when life stretched out before me with countless chapters to be written and bends in the road to follow. And somehow I see thru childhood eyes, the grown up ME that has so much to still look forward to.
As we prepared to say our good-byes, she reminds me "Remember Little Bit, there aint nowhere my love cant reach you" ....I shout back my own "I love You's" and promise to call again soon for the unabridged version of "What Fruit We Had For Lunch Today" and other assorted tales. I look forward to it.....more than she will ever know.

["Oh my love with fly to you each night on angels' wings....godspeed, sweet dreams."]

Protect and Serve? Not likely.

Gather round children, and i shall tell you a story about a girl, the goverment, and a wild goose chase. It's full of drama and there are colorful characters at every turn. Its entitled, "All Cops Are Wankers and The Government Blows."So, i was driving home from a long day of work on Tuesday evening. So tired was I, that i decided to forgo anything resembling a healthy dinner in exchange for a quick bite and a long soak in my gigunda bathub. Little did I know that the blue lights which suddenly began flashing in my rearview, meant the end to those little plans as well as life as i currently knew it.A respectful citizen, i waited patiently for Mr. PoPo to come to my window. I knew this would be slightly complicated as i just purchased my car recently and still had temporary tags and insurance cards. I provided all the required info and after checking that in fact the car was registered to me and tags were on their way, and after speaking with my insurance agent over the phone and verifying my coverage, the policeman was about to let me go. He went to quickly run my driver's liscense so i could be on my way. Moments later, he saunters back to the window and grinningly informs me my liscense was suspended. Ha ha. Very funny....then i notice he is not joking. I asked for what reason and he said he would be unable to supply one as i was carrying a TN liscence and he was a GA police officer. He told me i had to exit my vehicle, and collect all my belongings from it. He was confiscating my liscense and impouding my car. You are kidding me, right.??? He most certainly was not. If i chose to get beligerent about it, he would exorcise his right to take me "downtown". Spending ANY amount of time in a jail cell was not an option for this girl, so i did as directed. I dont look good in organge, people. Not to mention those ugly slipper shoes.The tow truck promptly arrived and they departed, leaving me sitting on the curb with my belongings and a big fat ticket.I tearfully called my good friend Stacy who has now rescued me from the Atlanta roadside not once but TWICE.She is one of those people that excells in a crisis situation....taking the reigns when you are too dazed to think independently. She activated the Emergency Phone Tree and in short order i was picked up and carried home where there was a team already assembled and working on the rescue of kidnapped vehicle and liscense. After much searching, we were able to ascertain that there was some form of citation against me....but it was impossible to determine for what or how much. In order to retreive my car from the impound lot, I had to provide the men in blue with a VALID drivers liscence. Since i am still a TN resident, that meant, a road trip.Bags were packed and custody of myself was transferred to Dollah (aka Nikki) who arrived to take over as my parole officer. At just after 10pm we set off to Cleveland.Bright and early the next morning, we went to our hometown courthouse. No one there seemed to be able to tell me WHY i had a citation, WHAT it was for, or WHOM had given it to me.....but they were certain it was in September of 2003.....we spent the next several hours going from Courthouse to Municipal building, to Justice Center and back. Eventually, i was told they had determined the citation was for $95 and had something to do with registration. I had no choice but to pay the fine even though i had NO IDEA what it was for and from whom it came. Next stop, the DMV....on any given day going to that place is a real pisser, but under heightened stress and a deadline, it was a BITCH. Waiting in long lines and filling out forms, all to be told that i would need to provide my ACTUAL birth certificate due to new HOMELAND SECURITY policy....this meant a trip to the local Health Department (my mom has the only copy and she lives hours away so I had to apply for an offical copy)...more lines, more forms, this time waiting in a germ infested room full of sickly children and Meth mothers. Back to the DMV...more lines, more waiting....this time only to find that my Social Security info is incorrect in their system. After some begging and pleading, they overode the system and got me a liscense. Needless to say my picture is less than attractive.(I was begining to resemble one of the aformentioned Meth mothers) Good thing it doesnt expire till 2011. 5 years of this picture. Awesome.A mad rush was made back to Atlanta where at the police department i met the worlds most impolite human....i swear i think he had all forms of personality surgically removed. A true GEM this guy.....Another long drive, more forms, more money and I encountered the worlds second most rude man in the form of the impound personel....he forced me to walk a half mile to my car ALONE thru a pitch black parking lot fill with junked out cars.A complete 24 hours later i was sitting back in my car headed home to my big bathtub.The moral of the story is: For a $95 charge about which they can give you NO information, our beloved government has the right to seize your vehicle, you identification, AND your sanity. God Bless the US of A.

Special thanks to Nikki for driving me ALL over tarnation in pursuit of the dream that is an official liscense to operate a personal vehicle. And to all those who offered comfort and sent loving thoughts my way....and to those of you dealing with your own personal dramas who STILL took the time to let me know you cared, I REALLY am grateful.

Of Mice and Men

The Indigo Girls, of whom I am an adoring fan, have a song with the line "....nothing turned out as I planned..." This is turning out to be more than a theme, but rather an inescapeable truth in my life. And for someone as PLAN oriented as myself, this is often quite daunting.

I'm that girl you hate....the one who irons and lays her clothes out the night before....the one who keeps kicky little notebooks with me at all times to record ideas and To Do lists....the one who orders flowers months before the anniversary and who is guenuinly anal about keeping the toilet paper roll replaced. I love anything involving organization, efficiency, and neatness. I get downright giddy in the "rubbermaid storage" isle at the Walmart, people.
Lately, our fickel friend Fate has taken to reminding me that SHE holds the reigns to the horses and I'm lucky to just be ridin behind in the wagon. When lookin down the road a year ago, my current job, car, house and city of residence were NOT in my extended forcast. Yet, here I am..... a small town country girl- big city livin...learning to eat sushi and cuss like a sailor while on the 12 lane interstate.
I never PLANNED to have my heart shattered at 20.... I never PLANNED to have 13 car accidents by the age of 27...I never PLANNED to deliver a woman's baby on a dirt road in Mexico.... ....In fact, looking back, my life has been mostly about things I DIDNT PLAN.....people i never planned to fall for and people i never planned to fall out of love with....vacations i planned that never happened and spontaneous road trips i went on that i never saw coming....jobs I planned on getting and jobs i never planned on losing....
So, since it seems to be pointless anyway, i am challenging myself to NOT plan......put that energy into something productive like learning the art of Oragamy or becoming the world's best Crash Car Derby Driver. (Hey, after 13 car accidents, I aughta be pretty damn good.) After all, in the end, its the unplanned road that holds the best suprises.