Sunday, November 22, 2009

Maserati Man

There's much to be said for looking into our past, not as a means to blame anyone, but to be clear that what happened ought not to have happened, then to escort each and every issue out the door and say goodbye.

It wasn't until I had dealt with all the abuse and soul murdering, the penchant parents had for knocking me flat, that I was able to climb out from underneath that blue black boulder of ignorance and shame and walk head held high into the bright light of day. But....

....this required some doing. Therapy and reading all the good books I could get my hands on required down time, a time to go within and find that place that needed to be nurtured and filled up with good things. Time was what I wanted and was given, solitude, reflection and quiet, all the things I was used to running away from.

I got good at reality testing and, no longer at mach one speed, all the healing I could wrap up in. Many years later, when I was invited to go to a movie and have a cup of coffee afterward, I slumped back into my couch, wanting to stay home. I'd gotten so used to never going out and always being alone that to do something fun felt like work. That's when I decided to get off my lockdown couch and dress up with an attitude of really wanting to do this, be with friends, discuss the movie, eat, hug and bond, sharing delicate intimacies.

I could get used to this I thought as I walked in the door at mignight. I realized the social person I was had been forced underground far too long, but not by anyone but me and that same me could simply get up off the cushy, tomato red couch and come back to life, whole and invigorated with ideas for adventure, new horizons, all of it peopled with those like me. It wasn't voodoo. I had already thrown it out there to the Universe that I wanted to have people over and to go to the symphony with, people whose friendship was substantive.

All the years behind me had to happen and in exactly the way they happened. Even the last relationship which had me edging closer to the cliff had to happen. How do you know what you want until you see what you don't want. I knew that I didn't want a lying, cheating, upright. I wanted him. Maserati Man...

Maserati Man drove north on Federal Highway with darkened windows, dark Maserati sunglasses and a Maserati cap. He drove along side of me for awhile and I looked over at him and sang a song about him and his Maserati keys and Maserati sunglasses and Maserati hat. Oh, Mr. Maserati Man, come take me away to Maserati Land, where we dine on Maserati cuisine, where we live happily ever after in our Maserati town and love each other in our Maserati way...with our Maserati Master Card offering a Maserati ring. And on and on my little song went, unrhymed and not all that clever.

But Maserati Man was not the actual man driving north on Federal Highway. My real Maserati Man was symbolic of a man with a certain je n'cest quois. My Maserati Man would take me by the arm and tell me his truth about all things. Maserati Man would not necessarily be wealthy, although more than likely he would be. But his ideas, his courage, wit and grace would be strong and rich.

Maserati Man wouldn't care if I didn't look perfect, or if I sometimes misspoke. He would encourage me and support all my efforts at becoming a better human being. He wouldn't falter on this. My Maserati Man would buy me that ring and on the inside have MM engraved.

I'm glad I went through those unholy wars, prostrating myself before God, keening for the unbearable losses, my childhood, my son and later the pilot. I knew back then, that there was something in all of it for me. I don't sign up for things that aren't. I knew I would come full circle to a life ripening with joy, with fun and most of all the freedom I yearned for.

But being free and feeling free were twins separated at birth. I always felt free, but instead of being free, I bowed down to the cliches society passed on. One Wednesday night when my second husband and I were driving to eat Chinese food - as we did each and every Wednesday night - I realized I wasn't exactly all that free. I felt trapped in a conformed version of marriage. He wasn't Maserati Man. And I wasn't Maserati Woman. So we had our Miserable Maserati Divorce.

And that's when all the fun began.

...to be continued..

Saturday, November 21, 2009

My Life With Lizards and Inappropriate Mammals

I'm allergic to bad boys, players, con men, artful liars, cheaters and boogeymen. What happens to my body is akin to what happens when I'm in range of coconut cake and ice cream with sprinkles - a meltdown and surrender to the tantalizing dessert before me, and a weakening of all resolve. Months later, I've added four dress sizes and another dark circle under my eyes. The only difference between the cake and bad boy is that with the upright I become homicidal.

Just as a bully finds his victim, I, cast in the role of victim, surely know what to do: Become shy and coquettish and say a quiet "no" while waving him in like a 747.

This morning after singing the Bad Boy Song - "Bad Boy, Bad Boy, whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do when they come for you" - I made a decision to create a new holiday. Henceforth, November 21 will be No More Living With Lizards Day requiring women who have had enough to wear their own version of the vibrant throat fan used by lizards everywhere. Only this symbolic purple will send a message to all upright lizards that IT'S OVER. TAKE YOUR THROAT FAN AND LEAVE.

Practiced in being attracted to and dealing with the tantalizing, slimy lizards, I found myself near death's door with my last one, swearing to never ever- forever and ever I promised my sad self - open my door and let one in again. Ever. Finito! Basta! Kein Bad Boy mehr!

Give me a drug addicted, alcoholic schizophrenic with a prison record and my pulse quickens. But put a healthy, normal upright in front of me and I'm lost in the wilderness without a compass. That, and where the bad boy waits outside my doorway with two dozen roses and a crocodile smile, the healthy, happy normie is running as fast as he can toward the cliff.

This morning as I sat down to write, I saw something slithering across the ceiling. I looked up. He looked down. I got the broom and opened the front door. Not wanting to scare the lizard, I slowly edged the bristles closer to him. I looked at him and softly, sweetly said, "It isn't right for you to be here. You need to leave." He turned his head for one long, last look and started inching his way toward the door, then jumped down and ran off into the tropics of my garden.

Like the scary dinosaurs that once stalked their prey, intimidating everything in sight, the now miniature versions run away scared. Their numbers are quickly diminishing. I don't see too many anymore.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Black and White Photography by Chris Crawford

Chris Crawford has been carrying around a camera since he was a boy, taking thousands of photos ranging from people to landscapes and old buildings in the final stages of decay. He is an artist who has eyes that see things most of us don't. And so, like a cat bringing home the delicacy of a small creature, he brings it to us. "Look what I found. You can't imagine windmills like these." Chris brings us pieces of humanity, nature and the odd assortment of the bizarre, treasures all.

For a few days now, I've been thinking about his black and white photography and what it means to me and why. I wasn't sure if the intense feelings his photos of Indiana stirred up in me were caused by memories of my time up in Indiana, or whether the beauty of the photographs, the sublime simplicity, was the deeper cause. No matter, I felt his work viscerally. This has happened to me before as in Munich when I went to Das Alte Pinakothek, a small museum housing an incredible collection of Renaissance paintings, as in the incredible symphonies of Mahler, as in the dance routines on America's Best Dance Crew.

Here are some more thoughts I had last night about his work: I wrote him I wanted to buy his book if he had one (he doesn't.....yet) and I wondered later why I had that need. A book often stays closed, as my photo books do. What I really want is to own the photography. I want to own the feeling of place because of what it evokes in me, be it a face, a tree, a building or the sky. I want to possess that beauty and that moment. Of course, that's magical thinking.

So what is it really? Can the photographer actually capture that light for eternity, then pass it on to us? In Chris' case, he can. He does. His images are for all time and matchless in tone, texture and substance. It's really a partnership between soul and nature, so the buyer is getting both, the man's eye and feelings and the beauty itself.

On some days, I wish I could eat the sky and often do with my eyes - one reason I live in south Florida is for that predawn Light. I feel it organically and wish that time would stand still. That may explain why I loved flying. I was swimming up there in the middle of it for seven years.

The other thought I had was that Chris's work is simple, approachable, intimate. On the other hand Clyde Butcher's work is large, powerful, spectacular, entertaining and glossy. Both are lovely. But the two disparate works attract different viewers. Only a small fraction of us like the large, beautiful, entertaining and glossy photography. Many more of us are frugal, simple, real and approachable. The latter will stand for hours gazing at Chris' work because in its power and incandescence, it moves us to tears.

For long hours of enjoyment log on to: http://www.chriscrawfordphoto.com/

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Love Letters

Yesterday, I grabbed the small plastic bag that contained all the letters my son wrote to me and found among them four letters written to me by his father, Klaus. I was shocked at what I found in them and felt as though I were reading them for the first time.

Klaus had been a writer and teacher of creative writing at several colleges. He had written a book in graduate school, but the book was far too esoteric and made no sense to me. I don't know if it was successful or not. But the letters were personal, lyrical and heartfelt.

I had to blink away the tears as I read them. When he sent them to me, I didn't have the same reaction. I found the letters to be silly and overly dramatic. Our marriage ended in 1972. It was time he get on with his life. But he continued writing and telling me how much he loved me and longed to see me again. Yesterday, I felt his words viscerally and couldn't get over the feeling of sadness that we didn't make it as a couple.

The war years had taken their toll on him as a child. Later, an abusive stepfather and a mother who liked her wine a little too much were the last stroke of the brush. He became addicted to various substances himself and very nearly died until he got sober.

I include the letters in the book to complete the story since Klaus died in September 2004. His creativity and sensitivities were never appreciated by me. His son, however, understood him and encouraged him. It surprised me that yesterday, after forty five years, I would read and hear his voice for the first time. It felt as though he had just written the words down and walked in the room to hand deliver them.

The following is the first letter written inside a greeting card shortly after Christmas, 1984.

Dear Jeanie,
Thank you for your Christmas card: thank you, indeed. It was certainly one of the reasons why this Christmas was the most joyous one in years.

When I read that you joined ALMA, just in case our son might be looking for you, I was deeply moved. If there is one wish granted me on this earth, it is for you to find your child.

It's good to hear that life is kinder to you now, and more peace is with you.

Till some other day, perhaps, when I write again, I say "Servus, Spotzl!" Love, Klaus.


The next one was mailed August 5, 1992:

Dear Jeanie,
After you left, I tried to bury my love for you as deep as I could. Every now and then, of course, fragments come to the surface. - I live, you know.

But at the moment of my death - if I have the time - I will blank out every part of my life except seeing you for the first time at Hoflinger, at the table one step down, diagonally to the left,* the moment that shaped my life and consumed it. If I'm lucky, I'll die a happy man.

Tschuss!

*Obviously, I'm not sure. But it's the moment itself that is with me.

The last letter, written on November 21, 1998, was sent via email:

Dear Jeanie,
If I could a write a symphony, I would write you a symphony. But I only have words, the most unreliable and treacherous signs of them all, and I'm not a good composer.

I just watched Bird on a Wire; Goldie Hawn and Mel Gibson. Yes, I am a romantic. I smiled, I chuckled, I felt sad. There is a sadness in me that goes way back, but I don't know how far. And to live dangerously has always been my motto. I've risked all and I've lost all. I hurt and I cried; but the risk was worth the price. Cliches. Perhaps. Life needs to be lived; all our passions need to be expended. I knew that when I met you, and I still know it now.

Last weekend I walked next to a young man of thirty-two who is the result of the most passionate moments of my life, moments with you. His wife is pregnant. There is then, a third generation that goes back to a moment of passion. Passion. What else is there? I still would like to kiss you all day long. And I still hope to hear you say into my ear, "I love you." And I still want to tell you that things worked out for the best in a weird way, after all. When I look at the trajectory of my life, how can I not be a romantic? After all, I was talking to you on the telephone just the other day, thirty-four years after I first saw you in Hoflinger. You were twenty then. I was twenty-four. Now I'm fifty-eight.

I would love to see you. I'm not well-to-do (what else is new?), but I could charge a round trip ticket to Tucson. When could you come? Any time would be fine by me, except Dec 4/5 when I'm planning to check out Seattle.

Of course, I should work on my dissertation. Alex suggested that I, for starters, clean up my table/desk. Well, I still haven't cleaned it up. Tomorrow. Tonight I am dreaming up another ending to the story of my life...

I'm sorry that much of my letter consists of "I," "I," "I," What is your life really like? Do you still have dreams? What are they? Talk to me.

Klaus

P.S. The last girlfriend I had was in June. I'm totally unattached.






Monday, October 26, 2009

Gentlemen and Stuffed Animals

Not quite sure why I wrote down this title. I have a book filled with such titles. If I hear a phrase and I like the rhythm and ring of the words I write them down. Thus far few books or articles have adjoined themselves to my titles. But Gentleman and Stuffed Animals came across my desk this morning and I thought about it for a book title.

It would actually make a good story about a woman down on her luck who seeks the comfort of gentleman who are generous with their money and for whom she does certain favors. Men bring her stuffed animals and she is treated like the little girl who never got treated like a child when young. As the story broadens into her young life and the life of a young woman, we see her morphing into someone who likes the company of older men along with their attention, their money and the gifts they bring. The oldest profession in dated history. Or is it?

To be continued.........

Monday, October 19, 2009

Faxespagerscopierstextmessagescellphonestimersforthelaundryerrandsshoppingspinningoutofcontrolandotherinsanewaystolivelife

Sometimes I just want to turn off the machine that spins me around all day long. The faxes, the pagers, the oh-so-urgent-has-to-get-done-right-now items on my list, the doctor who has to be called because the prescription he sent in was written wrong and the pharmacist couldn't fill it. All the surprise errands that slip themselves between the normal daily tasks make me irritable and wanting to return to those halcyon days when I was playing in the woods on Mercer Island, outside of Seattle. Magic happened in those woods. I got to be quiet and relax and not have twelve dozen chores to do. Back then Nature was as healing as it is today. And I was never sick or tired because I had those woods. Each day I would run away and no one ever knew where I was. It was respite although I'm quite sure I didn't call it that.

Life hands us this stuff and we choose how to deal with it. Slow motion gets you there faster, Hoagy Carmichael once wrote. But there are those days when slow won't cut it. And you start feeling dizzy and tired, then sick and sicker. Then you get sick and tired of being sick and tired. And you want that machine to turn itself off.

Over the past several weeks, I haven't used the word, "No." I've said yes to some things I knew I had to say yes to and forgot to pace myself and say no to people who could easily find someone else. I finally had to resort to not answering my phone. That helped, but it was hard to do. I answer the phone at work all day long and love the refreshment of not hearing it ring at home.

While writing a book, working 40 hours a week and fixing and repairing things that need
to be fixed, I find myself slowly deteriorating. I don't eat healthy foods. I don't exercise and I end up looking like one of those Ruben paintings of a corpulent woman lounging in the altogether. So while slow is better, I need to choose my battles and errands and put off today what can be done tomorrow or next week.

I crave simplicity, peace and serenity. When they fly out the window, I get pissy. So I'm going to use the word "No" and choose those things I really want to do, like exercise and go to Whole Foods, like dating some spectacular men and surrounding myself with all things beautiful and serene. They're out there in abundance, those people, those architecturally perfect buildings, those symphonies, that art, the symmetry of life, all within a short distance of my own backyard. I want those beautiful friends and family members and places and adventures to bring back that childhood magic, the days when all there was was play and joy. No agenda, no lists, nothing to do other than have fun and create new worlds in my mind.

In a letter to my mother, my father once wrote: "We are noticing how magical Jean is. I even believe she is a genius." I understand that, because when I was a child, I was busy creating and writing music and poetry; and I was dancing, always dancing. Back then I was happy, playful and having fun. It should never end. We should all become as little children, even if it means we have to turn off the machine that spins us around.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

BUSI-NESS

Everyone I know keeps running, not toward something, but away from something. I've done it, muscled my way into one distraction after another, especially when I could see way off in the distance a familiar sight, my feelings racing toward me.

Loosed from others' opinion of me, I can now allow the spigot to flow. At the same time, I do use discernment - as I did at yesterday's memorial service - when the ocassion warrants it.

But society is still driving that steamroller: texting, emailing, paging, faxing, phoning, driving, ironing, exercising, housekeeping, shopping, eating, smoking, drinking, or drugging - all in an effort to keep the baby boomer tears away.

During a recent review, the supervisor at work tapped his leg in staccato rhythm, avoiding my eyes, answering emails and checking stats on the computer. I wondered what song he was listening to.

My tears cleanse me when the loss, the memory, or rigidity of control bubbles up to the surface. The release of long pent up feelings and tears not only clears the way, but also brings the loss or memory into neutral. Eventually, I can laugh. And when that happens, I am done and no longer have to run from myself or my tears.

We, sweet little human beings that we are, are recognized not by our ethics, values or physical attributes, but by our pathos, our ability to recognize the connection of shared emotions. Without this common thread, we are lost and alone. Physical pain we can handle. It's the emotions we don't want to deal with.

Running may be great for the physical body, but not when it means we are afraid of something. When our spirit beckons us to feel, it's an invitation to let our spirit catch up with our bodies, an opportunity to feel good, become whole, and finally come home.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Preaching Nature Like An Apostle

John Muir spoke the words in this title. He was a writer and ardent naturalist. Moved to tears and enticed to write of the inspired beauty, Muir made inroads like no other naturalist.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Dance with Solitude

Not sure what mating call it was that lured me to LaGrange; what freak act of kismet brought me to the backwater of west central Georgia, but whatever latter day Scylla and Charybdis, I was summoned, landing smack in the middle of a pasture full of weeds. These weeds of ignorance and decay, of discrimination and entropy were not a welcoming sight. But the landlords of this pasture were welcoming, if only superficially. And so I journeyed here.

Living among the weeds meant that everybody left me alone. While some tried to get rid of me, for the most part I was ignored. When your feeding tube is dependent on friendships, this makes life hard. Friends were impossible to come by in this land full of thriving, happy families. A single woman was regarded as suspect and thus unwelcomed. I noticed even single men had a hard time making connections.

But while I was bereft of the nourishment of friendship, I was not bereft of language, nor of the ability to dig deep down for the substantive emotion informing my heart. I also had an abundance of solitude which, for better or worse, enabled me to create joy and imagine worlds. Best of all, I had the good fortune to enjoy one hell of a romance with one good and intelligent man.

A homeless Navajo woman I once knew in Tucson told me, when my chin was pressed up against poverty and homelessness, that I needn't worry. She said, "All you need is the sky."

For me, the deep blue bowl above my head would have to do.


From: The Back Porch of Heaven

The News

The day rounds itself into noon. A bird perched atop a light pole sings its melody in excruciating twills, the synchopation in counterpoint to a Mendelsohn adagio.

The radio announces that at 82 Frank Sinatra is dead. In 1942 he became a solo singer. As a teen he liked to hang around musicians.

Rioters in Jakarta burn buildings at shopping malls killing 120.

Vidalia growers in Georgia may lose their crops this year due to an immigration service raid on illegal farm workers.

One million dollars will be spent in the next three years on educational testing.

The mockingbird is gone and so is Mendolsohn. I'm alone and it's quiet. The day completes its course, slipping past me with wet heat into obscurity.

From The Back Porch of Heaven 5/15/98

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Florida Keys


Sometimes beauty defies language. In an earlier blog I wrote that I wanted to surround my life with beauty in all its forms. This morning I opened my email and found this photograph in an email sent by Randy.
The photo reminds me of Marathon in the Middle Keys and I've been savoring the thought of moving down there.
There is so much I love about it there. It is quiet and the sky is so amazing, outdone only by the ocean. Seabirds, like Frigates, abound and so does the delicious seafood. I feel so at home there and look forward to the day I can pack up my things and move there. It has the meetings I go to, the stores I like and the proximity to shopping in Miami that appeals.
But it isn't a place for everyone. The Keys are about tranquility and serenity, about living a life of leisure and abandon, not the nano second, multi-tasking boisterous world of it's northern siblings. Boating, swimming, fishing and a room of one's own to write books and my mission would be well on its way.
In October I'll be traveling to Marathon, to show it off to my darling friend Nancy and to do my own research about the meetings as well as investigating the Dolphin Research Center in Marathon.
Ahhh, such beauty. I can just see the sunset and taste the loquats, bananas and Mahi-Mahi covered in a mango salsa. 

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Summer


In the Summer of 1955, I drove with an uncle and cousins to Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. At nine, I was beginning to see things through a new lens. With no filters on the brain, my senses were on hyper alert and activated ten miles away from the shore.

Our windows were down as we drove east and the smell of salt was already thick. I wanted Uncle Milton to hurry and drive faster so I could run into the waves and return to my favorite spot on earth, the sea. In retrospect I was taking notes back then, memorizing every wave, every heartbeat, every suspense filled ghost story. The sea and I were old friends and I knew I belonged to it.

When we parked the car under the house on stilts, we were given the tour: Sand shower. Steps to the beach. Stairs going up to the house. In mere minutes, bags were unpacked and swimsuits were on when I saw something I will never forget. I looked up and someone had opened a door to a small balcony off my bedroom, the ocean waves and wide sand beach were before me, a picture perfect painting that would never leave me. The gentle breeze coming in the small room, the overhead fan clicking like a metronome and the sound of breaking waves took my breath away. The beach house was fragrant with the smell of tanning oils and summer's salty humidity.

I raced out to the water and it welcomed me like a long lost child. I felt a freedom take hold and knew I would always love this place, this Eden.

I spent a week there, walking up and down the beach with my cousins, drinking coke-colas and eating sno-cones. Nothing would ever replace that time. I was melded to the beach.

Since that time some fifty four years ago, I've been to beaches all over the world, but no beach would ever come as close to paradise as that one. No picture would ever replace the one in my memory of my small room's doorway.

Since that time, I haven't smelled salty air nor heard the rush of waves crashing so loudly even a mile from the beach. Could it be we have polluted our air to such an extent our senses can no longer pick up those waves or smell the ocean air? Am I left with only a memory to remind me of those sounds and smells?

I cannot be sure of many things. But if we have lost our sense of smell and of hearing, if we have polluted our air so that salty breezes leave no trace, we have lost the best parts of the planet's body; we have edged her sights and rhythms out of existence leaving us terribly alone. It is the sadness of homelessness, the longing for home once more.

Friday, August 21, 2009

First Thoughts

On August 21, 1968, the day Russian tanks rolled into Prague and took over, I married my first husband, Klaus, in Munich at the courthouse in Schwabing. I was as intent as a Russian tank in marrying him as he was in subduing my spirit.

Today, forty one years later, I woke up to my usual halcyon first thoughts and noticed my ex boyfriend was not among them. I tried dislodging other first thoughts to restore his number one position, but it wasn't working.

In a final attempt at restoring my relationship with Rex I called him. He was pleasant, but noncommittal. He assured me he was not coming to visit until he bought his red cadillac. I remained calm and made no attempts to beg or reconcile. He simply wanted nothing to do with me and I simply didn't want a man who felt that way.

I decided it was probably time to mail the eighty pound 1952 blender he gave me back to him - C.O.D.

This came on the heels of a paradigm shift for me. I had been telling myself that "I would never find the kind of man I wanted. They were all like Rex and others." And of course that is exactly what I got. What I really wanted was someone who was healthy, one who mirrored me in thought, action and demeanor. I decided to reconfigure my thinking. The new thoughts were, 'He's out there right now, looking for someone just like me.' 'I'm exactly what he's been looking for.' And, 'I believe there are more healthy men than unhealthy men out there.'

Two days earlier after a two hour trip to Barnes and Noble, I came home to find the door to my apartment was left WIDE open with no plausible explanation. I zeroed in on the overused metaphor. When God shuts one door, he opens another.
The door to my relationship with Rex slammed shut August 11th when the phone call broke the remaining thread between us. The metaphorical new door opened August 19th.


Today I feel good because there are no armored tanks in sight and I am no longer under siege. I have a pearly feeling that all is well. These are the only remains of the day.







Friday, August 7, 2009

How to Catch a Cab

This is a story that explains things, things that women - and a few men - have been pondering for millenia. Catching a cab may not be the answer to all things, but goes far in the creation of a new paradigm for relating to others.

By example, my eight year old granddaughter was upset about a schoolmate who wouldn't play with her. She brought it home with her, pouting at dinner and escaping into her bedroom. As she wasn't acting her normally vibrant self, my son asked her what was going on.

"So, my little princess, what's the matter? You look pretty sad these days."

"Oh, I'm okay."

"You don't look okay to me. Anything happening that Daddy should know about?"

"Not really. I just don't like this one girl. I've tried over and over again to make friends with her and she doesn't want to be my friend. We were once friends."

"Well, I'll tell you what I do when that happens."

"What?"

"I just go out and get another one."

"You mean, go out and get another friend?"

"Sure. You'll see, it works really well."

Her answer was sealed with a kiss good night.

During my morning shower, which is every bit a wet meditation in which all knowledge of all things in the Universe occur to me, I got that how one catches a cab is how one does all things.

It's accomplished by doing precisely what my son told my granddaughter to do, what most men everywhere know how to do: Go out and get another one.

In the recent 1.5 million years, male hunter/gatherers have known about this paradigm. Women on the other hand, are more tenuous about going out and getting another one...unless it's shoes. Many women would rather stay in the friendship, love relationship, marriage or job even when there's nothing in it that serves them.

Assuredly, women want to know how to go out and get another one. But all too often, men are the only ones that have been socialized to do this. They will tell you they have the patent on it.

So how does one catch a cab?

First, stop doing it the old way. Give yourself permission to do things differently. If you can walk, talk and feed yourself, you can go out and get another one. Men do this all the time. That's why men after a divorce waste no time in going out and getting another one within a much shorter time span than women do.

Women mourn the relationship for years. Men mourn for 48 hours, tops 72, then go right on out there and get another one. Like catching a cab, they know another one is on its way and stand there thumbs up looking ever so sexy in their Versace suit. It isn't a marathon or a decathalon and, contrary to popular opinion, they aren't afraid of the process, because what's built into their system is to go out and catch another one.

If this sounds oversimplified, try it. Catch a cab and notice when the cab drives past how you feel about it. Angry they didn't stop for you? Pissy that you were ignored? Of course not. It's actually as simple as it sounds. Just stand there and wait a few minutes. Before you know it, another one comes along. A better one. A MUCH better one.

How to catch a cab is like what you do when you learn a new recipe. When the Coquille St. Jacques tastes like Elmer's glue, you get another recipe, a better one. Same for all things under the sun. This time it didn't work, the next time it will. If the next friendship, the next recipe, the next cab doesn't work out, go out and get another one.

It is that simple, except for one thing....remember you have choices. You can stay single forever - or something shorter than forever - or you can catch a cab.




Saturday, July 18, 2009

Coming Home

Today Saharan sand is blowing in from Africa. I know this because the weatherman gave the forecast last night. He said winds aloft would carry that sand all the way over here. Guess we could use some more since our beaches are eroding. The sky is hazy and it's warm, reaching 95 degrees today. But we've had some beautiful weather for the last week or so. Hot and windy, much like the Sahara.

I moved to South Florida for the tropical moisture, the rains that come in every afternoon as they did in Panama when I was a child. That moisture builds up over the Everglades and the clouds carry it eastward toward the ocean. Once a day until November we get drenched. Then things taper off. November is cooler and sunnier. Ideal for the plants and our skin, the humidity in the air functions like a natural moisturizer so we all look younger and healthier, unless we go out in the sun and end up looking like cowhide.

At the age of 13 I few to Panama with a stopover in Miami. It was arranged that I stay with friends of my parents. George, the father, was, like my stepdad, also in the airline industry and his wife was away visiting relatives in Lebanon. George picked me up from the airport.

"Jeanie, be careful because I have two boys. I'm worried about you."

I wasn't exactly sure what he meant but ventured a guess.

"Oh I'm sure they'll be gentleman."

"No, no, it's not them I'm concerned about. It's you."

I laughed. I was only thirteen. I was to learn later, that both boys had a crush on me. Recently, one of the boys, Jeff, called me fifty years after our brief acquaintance. A mutual friend had given him my number.

I told him how fondly I remembered his Dad and my visit. How well I remembered going to a yacht club for dinner and walking out onto the dock to look at the boats. Jeff was a few years older than me.

During the three day visit waiting for my connection to Panama, Jeff and I became friends and our walks in the rain changed me. The daily deluge, the realization that someone thought I was pretty, the sensuous layers that puberty brought to the table, the humidity and my first lipstick, Revlon's Persion Melon all captured my heightened senses. Jeff told me on the phone I was the first girl he had ever kissed.

But Panama was the icing on the cake. Luscious lagoons, mountains and the fragrance of mango trees did me in. Soon, my time in Panama was up and I was to move back to live with my father. But I wasn't going to be satisfied until I got back to the tropics. Twelve years later, I flew to Miami for training at the Pan Am training school on 36th Street in Miami Springs, the building and grounds known as the Taj Mahal. After one short year based out of Dulles airport, I was flying out of Miami to South and Central America and the Caribbean. That would last two years. Eight years later, I would come back to South Florida.

I would leave one more time from 1992 until 2005 when I came back for the last time like exiled royalty feeling the same homecoming I always felt. Best of all, the man I fell in love with while flying to Panama, found me again in 2006 and rekindled what I had always known.

To be continued.........


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Locally Grown, Organic and Mouse-Friendly


I'm sitting in a cooking class with Yvonne, watching as Chef Lynn prepares Toasted Crostini, Marinated Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella Salad, Sauteed Vegetables and Mojo Criollo Shrimp. It's all organic, fresh and bought from local farmers. We are sitting on comfortable barstools at Whole Foods' Lifestyle store where other classes like yoga and Samba lessons are taught.

Chef Lynn, a young and healthy looking native Floridian starts the evening by asking if we know why we should buy locally grown food. Our group of six gourmands respond with the right answers: It's healthier and cheaper because there are no transportation costs and leaves no environmental footprint. It's also much more delicious because it's fresh and it supports local farmers. We munch on the crostini as she continues to tell us that all of Florida is considered local.

This is my first cooking class and I'm amazed that she prepares everything so simply. Nothing is prepared with salt or pepper, but they are available on the bar. Everything is served with seltzer water or plain mineral water. We dive into each dish and I am full in short order. The flavors of each dish are detectable and delectable. After the class, Chef Lynn tells us she'll take us next door to the store to show us the label used for all the foods that are locally grown. I'm amazed that prices are lower than at other non-organic stores I shop in. I pay my $10 which includes the class and the meal then purchase grapes and strawberries.

We sit at tables outside eating the grapes and strawberries grown in California. Next to us, I notice some life form darting in and out of the bushes. This thicket of bushes is between the sidewalk we are sitting on and the parking lot with lots of cars. No one but me notices the little shape. I tell Yvonne to slowly turn her head and she sees it. It isn't a lizard, it's a very tiny mouse. It's eating something in the sand, but it doesn't look like much is in the ground. I look at my grapes and strawberries and look back at Yvonne. 

"What do you think?"

"Go for it."

As soon as I get to the spot near the doorway to its little house, Mousie runs away. I take three red and three green grapes and throw them directly on the small space where the mouse had been before, wondering if it was even going to want to eat grapes.

I sit back down and we both wait. Mousie is not coming out to investigate. Ten minutes later, the little shape appears slowly and runs off with one of the grapes. We wait. And wait. And wait. Is the grape too big to eat? Does Mousie not like it? Does she recognize it isn't locally grown? Afterall, Mousie is a Whole Foods mouse. Her plush and comfortable apartment lies directly in front of tables where food is left at day's end, and a rather large smorgasbord of delicious, organic and healthy food at that. Best of all, Mousie has customers who like mice. Mousie is working it. This part of Fort Lauderdale is her home. 

Suddenly there's movement across the sidewalk. Mousie is back for another one. The grape is not huge, but big enough to cause trouble in transporting it back to the den.

We wait.

But soon it's time to leave. I'm tempted to leave a bunch of grapes to last for awhile, but consider if Mousie is anything like me, she doesn't know when to stop. I'll be stopping by now and then to see how she's doing and keep everyone posted. Might even start another blog dedicated to Mousie. But since I don't like tragedies, if anything bad happens I won't be writing about it.


Thursday, July 2, 2009

Murder She Didn't Write

In the summer of 2008, I met my friend, Yvonne at Barnes and Noble. It was around 8:00p.m. and we sat and talked until the bookstore closed. Yvonne, told me about a great place called Lifestyle directly across the street and next door to Whole Foods. It was owned by Whole Foods and they offered cooking, yoga, and salsa dance classes. I told her I'd check it out on my way home.

By 9:30 we were all talked out and left. I drove across the street and parked my car directly in front of the entrance to Whole Foods. I noticed the parking lot was empty but for two or three cars. I checked out the calendar of events hanging on the window of Lifestyle then walked over to Whole Foods. I tried the door and could see people inside, but the door didn't open. I looked at my watch and it was 10:00 p.m.

I walked back to my car and as I was getting in, I noticed a young man from across the other side of the parking lot running toward my car. I shut my door and put the key in the ignition. He was flailing his arms and hands as though he were in some kind of trouble. Because the parking lot was well lit, I was able to notice some distinguishing characteristics about him. He didn't look homeless, he had on light blue jeans and a long sleeved white shirt rolled up to his elbows. But it was his receding hairline that got my attention. He also had unusually long arms. He was well-groomed and in obvious discomfort. His black hair was close cropped and he looked to be around 30 years old. He was very lean and around 6 feet tall.

Suddenly, the man was standing next to my driver side window, talking loud. But I had turned on my radio and couldn't hear him. I could see him now only peripherally and kept my head looking forward. I was intent on driving away. Oddly, I felt nothing, no fear, no panic and no concern about him at all.

As I backed out, he kept astride of the car. When I turned the car to head out, I looked in the rear view mirror and he was ambling toward my car in no apparent hurry. He had a bag in his hands and was looking down at it. I kept driving and suddenly in three seconds, he was standing directly in front of the car, inches from the hood. That's when I felt anger. I pushed the pedal down hard and had no concern for his safety.

He jumped out of the way as I sped passed him. I considered calling the police, but didn't. I considered driving down to the police station, in case he might follow my car. But I didn't. All I wanted to do was drive home and go to sleep. I was calm, but tired.

The next day at work I mentioned this to two of my coworkers. One told me about a man who just the Christmas before had carjacked a woman and her son in Boca Raton. He had tied them up and killed them both, then threw their bodies out on the street. It was on the news and America's Most Wanted.

I went onto AMW's website and there was a photo of the same man who had tried to carjack me. The photo was taken from a surveillance camera at the Boca Raton Town Center Mall. Because he had made the woman take him to her bank and give him cash, I made the connection that he was hanging around the pricier malls and stores, knowing the people there probably had money. He had made another attempt on another woman with a child in the car and this woman remained calm because she didn't want her son to be afraid. In her case, nothing happened. She did everything he told her, including going to the bank and then back to the mall to go shopping again. When he got out of her car, she gunned it and left.

I don't have a cell phone. And that night I didn't have my car door locked. I was calm and uninterested in helping some man who was obviously out to do harm. Why did nothing happen to me. He had lots of opportunities. Many women act nice and want to be helpful. But that's exactly what not to do. Perpetrators recognize a vulnerable woman. This vulnerability is a way of behaving that mesmerizes and locks the perpetrator onto the victim. I was calm. I had no intention of "being nice." I was not clueless to my surroundings and I was aware that I should not look at him because looking directly into the eyes automatically translates into the recognition of "I see you." That's when things go south. Ignoring the person, while still using peripheral vision to know what he's doing without looking directly at him, is a way to save your life. But it still might not. I was completely certain that I would not allow this man to carjack me, even at the cost of his life. It was that simple.

Later, that afternoon, after looking at AMW's website, I called the detective at the Boca Raton Police Department. He wasn't in so I left a message. He called me back the next morning. I told him the story and he thanked me. I suggested he might investigate if Whole Foods had a surveillance camera to capture him and his car if he had one and he said, "We know what we're doing. We'll be looking into all of that." I don't think he ever did.

I've been married so that qualifies me for detective work. I noted that he was carrying something. When he made his attempt to kill the second woman and her son, he carried a plastic bag. The surveillance camera also showed him carrying something. If a man has car problems, he will usually call a friend on his cell phone and get them to come get him. He wouldn't look for a woman to come to his aid. And everyone, except me, has a cell phone. His clothing was appropriate. He was not homeless and he wasn't a drunk or someone down on his luck. Those cues, coupled with my own lack of vulnerability and calm demeanor, meant I was not easy prey.

Too many women fall prey to such crimes. But there are ways to arm yourself, not with the usual guns and pepper spray. One of the best ways is for women to deal with issues that keep women in victim roles. Remaining calm and not looking at the perpetrator helps. Most of all, self awareness and common sense will go a long way in keeping one alert and safe.

I did ask the people at Whole Foods if they had a surveillance camera and they said no. They asked me to fill out a report which I did. There was little else I could do.



Favorite Quotes

I got struck by lightening yesterday. Now I can hear what men are thinking.
~ Jeanie Henderson

"You can say things like, "As I look at successful people, and by that I mean rich people, yes, and I mean happy people, and sometimes they're rich and happy." But when I'm talking about the successful ones, what I really mean is the really happy people. People that are really joyful, that want to get up every day, that are eager to get into their day. Almost without exception, they had a pretty rough beginning, which turned them into a powerful rebel initially. And then they found a way to relax into their natural birthright of Well-Being." ~Abraham - Hicks

"We would like to leave you with this very clear knowing that we hold: You are just a few laughs away from letting a whole lot of good stuff in. You are just a few kisses away from letting a whole lot of good stuff in. You are just a little bit of relief from letting a whole lot of good stuff in." ~Abraham - Hicks

"Anything worth having is worth having fun getting." ~ Jeanie Henderson

Remember the waterfront shack with the sign - FRESH FISH SOLD HERE.

Of course it's fresh, we're on the ocean. Of course it's for sale, we're not giving it away. Of course it's here, otherwise the sign would be somewhere else. The final sign: FISH. ~ Peggy Noonan

"Only good things will come." Anonymous

"God is an afternoon shower
A morning Rain
An evening of despair
A direction in which to go
An infamous person attaining all knowledge to himself
Pouring out tears of discovery
God is a Bowl of Light" ~ Terry Canady

The following quotes are excerpted from The Amelia Island Notebook by Jeanie Henderson

"Everything is all right. Everything is really always all right. It didn't seem that way last week or last year and probably won't seem that way in a month or five years, but it is always all right. Just it ride it out, like surfing the big one."

"When you recognize that we are all in this together, all hurting, struggling to make sense, searching, then there is only the tender reaching out of a hand, and in that instant, that Holy instant, there is no longer separateness, only the powerful, unifying conflagration of love. J'aime."

"I got head slammed by a Siamese cat last night. I'm so glad he thinks so highly of me."

"Original innocence is everyone's heritage. Our forebearers just forgot to mention that."

"Life doesn't begin at 40. It begins the minute you've had enough of compromise."

"A female Cardinal, a Painted Bunting and a Hummingbird visited as I sat on the porch overlooking the marsh. Beyond the marsh, beyond the towers of Pleistocene grasses, two enormous cabin cruisers motored south, their engines cutting through the still, quiet morning in defiance of Mother Nature's code. The birds were not disturbed. I was the only creature annoyed by man's folly. Baby Bunting came back, sat on a palm tree stump and warbled her little heart out."

"In writing, it is important to delete, that is, to create spaces, so your reader can fill in the blanks. In the spaces is everything. Look at the letters you write. In the hollows are quiet beats, rhythms barely audible, but so potent they can break the sound barrier."

"You gotta get down to basics, bubbles, the fluttering of an eyelash, a smile. Begin with these and go out from there. Then you will fly holding the very hands of angels. Everyone, every single being wants to fly." (written aboard a Boeing 767 enroute to Amelia Island)

"This moment, enshrined in my memory, is perfect. A painted bunting munching on seeds, a soft willowy breeze, acres of marsh and behind doors, the sleep-encrusted bodies of my sweet family. Lapsang Souchong jumpstarts my morning." "Alles Paletti!"

"The best restaurant I ever ate in was 35,000 feet above sea level. Pan Am's Flight 106 from Washington's Dulles to London's Heathrow. Seven courses and several glasses of champagne later, I fell into a drugged stupor, full and satiated with my life."

"The loveliest music I ever heard was rain."





Sunday, June 28, 2009

How To Marry a Mermaid


Once upon a time there lived a mermaid. She was a rather strange looking mermaid because she did not live in the sea. Well, let me explain. She did live in a sea of sorts. But it was a well-known sea called the Sea of Humanity.

She was rather the well-turned out mermaid and heads turned as she swam by. By no stretch of her long beautiful flowing golden hair did she think that she was any better than any of the others in the Sea of Humanity. She was merely an observer and would sit by her rock and set her gaze far and wide.

She was peculiar in a way in that she did not live in the past or the future and she liked it that way. The daily happenings around her would rise to the surface and come marching by on their way to somewhere else. And these happenings would often include her in their dramas if she chose to join. These happenings included people from many diverse backgrounds, rich, poor, pretty, short, tall, gambling ladies and onlookers like herself to name a few.

One day she happened to go on an errand, our Mermaid did, and she swam over to the Dollar General Store somewhere near her rock. Swimming for three miles is not unheard of in Oakland Park, Florida during the rainy season and is completely safe for mermaids. It was after work and she wanted to get some things like a calling card and some more water. Mermaids drink lots of water.

Before Mermaid walked inside, she noticed a man in the parking lot who it appeared noticed her. He was young and handsome and alerted to her beauty. Mermaids almost all the time are rather fetching. He stared at her and then went into the store following close to her.

She got her phone card and bottles of water and walked smartly over to the check out counter where she placed the water because it was heavy. It was there she heard someone say, “one beautiful mermaid.” She turned her head to the right and no one was there…she turned her head to the left and the young man was a few feet away.

She said, “What?”

The young man walked up behind her and then stood next to her and said boldly, “You are a beautiful mermaid.”

She was shocked and stood there like a statue, but managed to say quietly, “Thank you.”

When he turned to leave, she paid for everything and walked out.

She had seen many things, being an observer of life, but she had never had such an experience like the one that had just happened. And it seemed to take hold of her mermaid spirit and turned her around into something more. What exactly, she could not be certain.

She swam home and decided to nap. It usually takes a long time for mermaids to lie down. Soon, thoughts came swirling around her pretty mermaid head. This young man was so polite and handsome and had effectively turned her mermaid self into something - wonderful. She knew then she had to speak to him again. She remembered what he looked like and she remembered the beautiful colored shirt he wore. It was turquoise, the color of the sea, her beautiful, beloved sea that she adored so much and spent so much time in.

It wasn’t that the man wanted something from her. And it was not a line to start a conversation so they could go out on a date. Although they were lovely words, it was his intention behind them the mermaid felt. The purity of his words went like a missile, directly to her mermaid heart. And she knew all of this because being a mermaid, she didn’t exactly have a perfect shape. Her shape was round in places and scaly in others and while she had drop dead gorgeous hair that shone in the sunlight like spun gold, she knew his words had nothing to do with her looks. She knew he looked beyond all that. She was after all a princess of mythic proportions and very much an old spirit.

And so the arrow, aimed at her heart, lodged there for days and weeks and months. So long it was with her, she decided to do something about it. She decided to go back to the store at the exact time of day and the same day of the week in hopes that he would be there. But alas, he was not there.


A few days later, she decided to place a note on a website in search of him. And what started as a genuine interest in telling the young man a genuine thank you and how much his words meant, ended up being a record number of emails from other men in search of the perfect mermaid. Many were kind and thoughtful… and hopeful….saying things like “I wish I had been him, I’d say more than that.” Others wanted other things…like, “I lost my keys in the ocean, could you go out there and retrieve them?”

But Mermaid didn’t mind that. She found it all amusing. Amused though she was, she also kept up her search. She had heard of a princess and a glass slipper, but this was different. She was a mermaid and she was looking for the man with the golden words.

She didn’t want to marry him. She didn’t want to date him. She didn’t want anything more than to say how sorry she was that she didn’t turn in his direction and give him a proper thank you. She wanted to extend herself more than one millimeter. That....and maybe she did want to hear the words that felt like a warm embrace just one more time.

Eventually he showed up. It wasn’t the same day of the week or the same time. And she didn’t go there expecting to see him again because she usually never has expectations. But on this particular day, he was there. And here is where the plot does a trick. He handed her a note. In his note were all the emails he had sent her using different names and email addresses. It could happen. And because she turned down the men who emailed her and asked her out, or wanted a relationship with benefits…………….

……………just how THAT would happen will have to be in another story…...

…..or who wanted to see her or call her…Because she turned them all down, because she wanted only to see him once more…he told her he wanted her all to himself and would she come to his glass bottom boat where he lived near the Intracoastal Waterway in Hollywood, Florida where he would support her forever. FOREVER.

Today, if you pass by their big glass bottom boat, you will see the two, the mermaid and her young man….sailing in the early morning. And if you run and get your binoculars, you might just see a great big splash. A REALLY BIG SPLASH.

Meanwhile, back at the Dollar General, things are the same. Of the people who were hopefuls but didn’t have the courage to write or send her an email, some still hang around the parking lot on Fridays, praying like they were driving to New Jersey that Mermaid might just come swimming by.

For now, Mermaid and her young man are settled in their lazy boys on board the “Maiden Voyage” and when they start up the engines and sail out the inlet, Mermaid gets her early morning swim in and she laughs and she sings and she’s happy as is the man in the turquoise shirt with black hair. And now the young man and Mermaid are living happily ever after.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Samurai Leasing Agent

Years ago, I was working as a leasing agent in a large apartment complex earning $7 per hour. While busy at work, I had the good fortune to entertain the maintenance department who stood over the counter blowing cigarette smoke in my face and, in a display of machismo on my first day of work, a Baptist preacher, the manager’s husband, asked if I had made Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior. When he whipped out his 357 Magnum to shine it up, I said, why, yes, of course I had.

I couldn’t understand many of the potential renters because of the colloquial language, abridged sentences and three syllable words narrowed down to one. But Samurai Leasing Agent was agreeable to a fault and often able to convince the prospect that the 25 year old apartments featuring gold shag carpeting came equipped with such modern conveniences as stove, fridge, garbage disposal and even a dishwasher. It was 50s television at its best.

That was 1997. Today I sit in my own office temping for a few days and editing and proofreading copy for the marketing department of a credit union in palm-drenched Boca Raton. Easy jazz is the only noise. No one within a 100-mile radius is allowed to smoke. And everyone acts like a grown-up. The kitchen offers food, sodas, tea and coffee and I earn double what I earned up in Georgia.

Last night, my friend, Linda, called to tell me how sad she was because it was Valentine’s day and it was over a year since she broke up with her soul-mate. I told her that two years ago while still living in Georgia, I broke up with a man I loved dearly. It had been a five-year relationship. I said, “You know, he was never great at gift giving, but he’d always call and wish me a Happy Valentine’s day; then he’d say, “Why don’t you come down to see me at the jail?” Or sometimes he’d ask me to drive to Columbus to celebrate Valentine’s day with him at the state mental institution.

“Oh,” she said, “that’s so sad.”

“Not at all. All my exes were cons.”


Now I’m lapping up the luscious words – no one standing over me blowing smoke in my face or ordering me to make Jesus my Lord and Savior. Here an elegant preppie is asking me to read documents for clarity, style and typos. Here, I am no man’s chattel, making me eager to do more. I couldn’t wait to get out of bed this morning. I felt like the young girl I was in 1965 walking along Leopoldstrasse in Munich, all dressed up with a wide smile. When you do what you love and get to be who you are, you own yourself. You own your life.

Declarations of Independence

I make a soft landing on the sixth floor of the Stiles Office Building in downtown Fort Lauderdale where I am housed for four days as a temporary receptionist. It’s cushy and the atmosphere is friendly. I meow all over everyone wanting to be taken in like some wily alley cat. Instead of brushing up against everyone, I inject humor into every conversation, but with subtlety; two coworkers are still laughing. I’m counting how many more I have to nail before the offer will be made. A week of this and I may have them convinced I'm their new receptionist phenome. Then, like other felines, I’ll nest with my teacup and curl up around the computer to write.

Being downtown reminds me of Munich in the spring of 1965. Then the air was clear like fine wine and walking down Leopoldstrasse in Schwabing, I felt like a model in my new suit. 40 years later, I am at the intersection of Andrews Avenue and 2nd Street in Fort Lauderdale and get a whiff of diesel fuel from buses and trucks, the memory stretching me back to Marienplatz and my life as a free agent. From the point of marriage until now, I have been anything but.

So it isn’t lost on me that my return home to South Florida and my flock, picks up where I left off and gathers nostalgic feelings, matching those of 40 years ago. It feels like a circle wrapping itself around me.

And I? I have just begun to declare my independence. But this does not mean I am impervious to the flashy smiles, nor am I a formidable opponent. My leggy accessibility and sensibilities have matured and I welcome this newly formed government of one.

When I go home tonight, I will peel back the unnecessary layers in my mind and jot down the particulars of my own bill of rights. Unlike national governments, the procedures and rules, the politics of dependent governance will not play out. The system will be simple; true independence demands it.

Meanwhile, I walk back from the office kitchen with my tea and pass by The Magnolia Room, where a conference is taking place. Just as I pass by the frosted glass windows, I hear a round of applause.

“Oh, it’s really nothing,” I say shamelessly.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Indifference


Nothing kills a relationship like indifference. I seldom feel that way because I'm either at one end of the continuum or the other. Love on one side, hate on the other, and the meat and pickles between them, indifference. Yesterday I experienced the meat of the sandwich.

It was a forwarded email from my ex-boyfriend sent to him by the woman he was seeing while staying with me over a year and a half ago. The email was a digusting, vulgur story disguised as a joke. Anything but funny, it was vile bathroom humor. But the contents of the email were less important than what I felt when I read it.

The email showed a disdain for women and the vulgar behavior men use around other men, men who are arrogant and grandiose. She actually had the nerve to send this to a man. And that's what made my day. As I sat there feeling pearly all over, I realized my ex had hooked up with someone of his ilk, someone who has a disdain for men and probably won't make it to his list of characteristics he wants in a partner, namely, someone who is extremely smart and fun and has a spiritual grounding in faith.

Moreover, I found it odd that he would stoop to send me this email. But I quickly realized he did this so that I'd see her name. Why would someone I once loved and who loved me equally want to do this a year and a half later? The only explanation was that he was still hurt. But he was the one pursuing another woman and using my home as base camp. I didn't buy that. He was hurt because he couldn't measure up to my standards of conduct or character. He was not a valiant knight of the round table, but a mere wannabe.

That's when I felt a storm of compassion for him. I was sad his life had come to this, that he was seeking someone so far from what he wanted and that he wanted to hurt me. The only thing I could do was pray God would send him a messenger and a miracle.

That feeling of compassion did not mean I was hurting nor did it mean I still wanted to revive the relationship. What I felt was indifference. I have not called, emailed or mailed letters. There has been nothing from me. Nothing, that is until yesterday when a side of me pushed away old resentments and replaced them with compassion. It is a side of me I have never known. And I never slept better than last night.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Woman of a Certain Age

I was told recently that because I am a woman of a certain age, I would have to do something I could do at my age. Acting would be out of the question. The quote was, "You just don't have as many choices anymore." The man telling me that is 40. I think he was talking about his fears.

I responded that my options were greater now than they had ever been. I had more to choose from because I could. I did not have parents dictating my career choices and no husband wanting me to stay home. A woman of a certain age, I could pick men of any age and race I chose. I didn't have to marry a rich white man in the same age range as mine. I had also proven to myself that I could do almost anything, having worked in law, health, education, finance, travel, publishing and entertainment. Life had handed me a tapestry of many colors. Learning how to do so many different things satisfied my need for change and adaptation. With rare exception, it was a life filled with adventure and adrenaline. These adventures took me all over the world and I felt at home no matter where I landed.

One of the choices a woman of a certain age has is looking at life differently. Another choice is to stay at home and not travel except for occasional trips to visit family and friends. I no longer have that tug of ambition that I had between 20 and 60. Though I feel secure at most any task, I no longer feel compelled to work a 40 hour job the way I used to unless I want to. I choose to work at what I love, and to have play involved in that. If fun and play are not part of the equation, then I'm not interested. I've turned down all but one employer over several years and that one does not harness me to a post and act silly. I feel refreshment when I go to work and feel that way when I come home. The work day is filled with laughter, work and ease. Relaxed at the end of the day means the creative juices can still flow.

I don't worry about the future and I don't have or want a 401K. I'll write until I no longer have anything to say. So the option to write stories that keep coming to mind will suffice for this woman of a certain age. And unless another idea comes along, I will continue doing what makes me happy.





Sunday, June 21, 2009

Anniversary

A year has passed since Rex drove out of my life. Yesterday, I woke with a bad cough and headaches and felt sick all day at work. By nightfall I had a fever and chills. I could barely walk and my skin, muscles and bones hurt. I never get sick. The last time I was sick was in 1984. So what went wrong.

Anniversary dates of a death or an ending to a relationship can take on physical symptoms. While emotions are busy churning up tears, all the organs are under siege by stress hormones. Vision becomes blurred, thinking is unclear and the final stage is to get flu-like symptoms or a really nasty cold that bites. This is the body’s indelicate way of discharging all of the emotions. So today on this anniversary, I am in an intensive care unit of my own making, still wishing I were dead. I’m just not that lucky.

For the entire year, I’ve been taking an inventory of all the things he did to me. You can take that to mean this inventory needed the entire year to accomplish such a list. I did this not to marinate in resentment, but to break down my own denial system. Locking into how he treated me and others brought so much more clarity about the content of his character. Strangely, while I got the big picture, rage and love were still cuddling up next to each other. The flu may be an ending to all of this.

I feel weak and injured and will do anything to feel good again – what could I eat? Drink? Should I sit up, or grab my microwavable bed buddy and lie down? I want to feel good. Everything hurts. Back, head, skin, and stomach are all compromised. I find something that does the trick. I heat milk, sugar and vanilla and sip it. I turn on the TV and watch Gary Sinese who looks like Rex did forty years ago. I see an actor who does what he loves, loves his family, is gifted, handsome, sexy and at 53 looks 33. Since clarity has not set in yet, all I know is that I “feel” better – so the cortisol and insulin levels must be dropping.

Now I begin thinking about how to change my life and I start with looking for things that make me feel good – all the time. This means saying no to those people, places, circumstances and jobs that don't make me feel good. This sickness of heart, mind and body is showing me how.

I miss him and I miss my dog who died five months ago. I miss things I never knew. I miss the whole megillah. But how can you miss what you never had? What was never there? The dog was glued to my heart and mind. For 18 years, he was there, in mind, spirit and body, a constancy born of unconditional love. He was always there waiting for me to come home so we could go out together and visit friends, walk, eat, dance and play together. He was nineteen when he died of natural causes. He didn’t one day decide to wander off with several other lady friends. I miss my dog terribly. But not the way I miss Rex. I miss Rex the way you miss a heart attack, or a nuclear attack. I miss him the way boxers miss the final blow. It hurts and stings. But by the final round, you’re glad it’s over.

Meanwhile, platitudes make my eyes cross. And anger comes out sideways, not at Rex, but directed toward the President of the United States or the mail clerk at the post office who takes her time chatting with each customer WHILE I’M ON MY LUNCH BREAK. Anyone and everyone but Rex.

I feel challenged beyond belief, so last night when I discovered I could find comfort in a cup of milk and Gary Sinese, I realized I was finding things to make me feel good. One of them was choosing to stay home today. The medieval and ill-founded British way of toughing it out no longer serves.

In future, I will be searching for more ways to feel good that will produce those good feelings. For today, I’m housed in a cocoon of comfort and warm milk, behind a sign that reads: NO VISITORS ALLOWED.

I Live In a Neil Simon Comedy


The neighbors, all twenty and thirty somethings, are ridiculous in showing off their stunted growth. Two women who live adjacent to me talk right outside my door. But talking is something normal people do at decibels in the normal range. These two shout at each other standing only three feet away. This noise is strident and irritating and my 1959 steel framed jalousied front door and window make the sound twice as loud.

One of them lives with a cat named Romeo. Romeo is known for being a killer. Anything his size or smaller is prey. This annoys other cat owners who, armed with a sprayer of water, are on watch for the killer. Romeo’s owner is a 30 something woman who uses language much like that of a young child who has a speech impediment and hasn’t quite gotten language down yet. She coos not only with her cat, but also with the rest of the neighbors. At times, I look out to see what small child has come in the gate and see her in the middle of a regression. Regression, as I recall, is a return to an earlier mental or behavioral state, often at the point when emotional maturation has been stopped, in her case, dead in its tracks.

There’s the adorable couple that live three doors down who recently married. She’s from Sweden and is an alcoholic with a flair for loud late night arguments. When her brother arrives to visit, he assumes that we are clothing optional. Her husband is a very nice reformed gambler who did twelve years in prison for several bank robberies to pay off the Mafia he owed a lot of money.

An earlier victim of the two-year old’s tirades tried to warn me with his “Watch out for her.” For three years, I could hear someone call out “CUNT” when she walked by. In turn, she would volley back “FUCK YOU,” inches from my window. This began shortly after I moved in so I suspected this might be a group home for sufferers of Tourettes syndrome.

There’s another gem five doors down who prances around in his shorts and shows off an enormous gut and breasts. Just this morning, I heard a loud, “OH, NO!” right outside my back door. As I opened the door to see what happened, he delivered a loud belch, mere inches from me.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“It’s full of suds. Someone put too much detergent in the machine.”

I slammed my back door and turned on both window air conditioners and fans to drown out my life.

I walked into the living room and sat down to write, but the music from the two-year old’s apartment was so loud I couldn’t concentrate.

If there’s a good side to what goes on here, it’s this: I live in 400 square feet which makes cleaning a snap.

As I'm writing this, I look up from the couch and see the two-year old walking past my window. She's pointing a long, bony middle digit skyward several inches from me. Am I to understand she doesn’t like me?

If it isn’t a Neil Simon play, then it’s Melrose Place. And maybe I’m the one who is regressing.

I close my blinds and my eyes and dream of my own home on an island somewhere south of here.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Slow Down - You Move Too Fast













I'm determined to live my life fully and consciously. But moving at Mach 1 speed in a nano-second world with all the superglut of information speeding along the sensory highway, I end up at day's end crashing with no recollection of anything that transpired.

I don't know where this comes from. It could be that I'm a Gemini and ruled by Mercury. Or it could be that I just do everthing fast. This fast pace may have its roots in being the eldest of four children busy with all the housework, cooking, shopping, bathing and clothing my siblings, then fitting in my own schoolwork and piano practice. Playing was never an option.

Recently, I was given an assignment by a mentor to stop doing and start being. I wasn't quite sure what that meant, but she proceeded to give me various slow-down tasks, using such words as leisure and relaxing and something she called fun. I zoned out until she insisted I drive 15 mph below the speed limit for a week. The following week I was to leave dishes in the sink and not race to clean anything. The next week I was not to make my bed and instead actually read a magazine from front to back slowly enjoying the entire magazine. Then the clincher: she said to get rid of my lists and do just one thing a day.

One thing a day? Get rid of my lists?

This was heresy. I hated it. But I did it. And I hated it.

On my own, I started to sit and read a daily affirmation booklet each morning which led to the practice of meditation and that really slowed me down. It not only slowed me down, I became more conscious and my day went by smoothly - with no rushing. There were also ancillary benefits. My blood pressure went down and I stopped using any medications.

Now that I'm not breaking any sound barriers, it's been a lot easier to navigate my world. I continue to slow down and say no to too much stuff, be it too many errands, too many complications, too much of too much. I no longer muscle my way into distractions or take hostages to fill up my day keeping the illusory boogeyman away. This does not mean I neglect myself or the things I need and want to do. It means that there is more time for the things I really want and need to do. Each beat of the day is filled not to capacity, but with equal measure. Life has become simple and quiet and beautifully orchestrated. The best part is that slowing down is portable. Wherever I go, slow motion gets me there faster.

Slow down you move too fast....you've got to make the morning last. Just skipping down the cobblestones, looking for fun and feelin' groovy.