Wisdom Comes Suddenly

Beluga, March-May 2017

July 1st, 2017 · Comments Off on Beluga, March-May 2017

Beluga “Despereaux” Hamster crossed the Rainbow Bridge on Monday, May 22nd, 2017. Born in March of 2017, his short life was marked with both tragedy and triumph. He was the youngest of 3 brothers, and stated that his adoption day was the happiest day of his life, speaking to the innocence of the time period…albeit long, long ago.

He was adopted by Kelly and placed equally under the care of Sara, along with his brothers Sweet Cheeks and Hope. They took up residence inside 2 ample cages, replete with snacks and exercise rooms. The first week was tranquil, filled with warmth and cuddles, both human and rodent alike.

Photo courtesy of Olan Mills, shown top to bottom as Beluga, Sweet Cheeks, and Hope…or Sweet Cheeks, Beluga, and Hope….or Hope, Sweet Cheeks, Beluga…screw it. No one can actually tell hamsters apart.

Upon reaching adolescence at Day #8, life took an unfortunate turn when Beluga was accepted into Carnegie Mellon’s School of Music and Sweet Cheeks and Hope failed to matriculate into the halls of higher education. The roots of jealousy were sown, and the elder brothers joined the Hamster Mafia, changing their names to Bugsy Barbosa and Fats “The Cheeseman” Mangano. They started small by knocking over Mom & Pop lettuce stands, but quickly moved into trucking, heisting entire shipments of sunflower seeds.

Meanwhile, Beluga’s musical career took flight at a speed previously unknown in the world of Winter White Dwarf Hamsters. His folksy-bluesy style charmed both audiences and critics alike, and he signed with Hamtone Records on his 14th day of life.

His first big hit, “This Maze Is My Maze, This Maze Is Your Maze” won both a Hammy-Grammy and a Radio Disney Music Award. However, fame and the pressures that come with it only served to further alienate him from his brothers.

During a college break, he was viciously attacked and nearly lost an eye at the hands of his own family. It was a dark time for him, which he poured into song on his second album, “Never Break The First Rule of Fight Club”. The first single off that album went Pumpkin Seed-Gold, but even the worldwide success of “My Brothers are Assholes” could not heal his emotional wounds.

On his first US tour, “The Perfidy Tour”, he took on the stage name “Despereaux”, changing his normal glitzy costuming down to a single, red thread. It was then his entourage noticed a marked change in his appearance and behavior.

The previously jovial and social hamster stayed mostly to himself, biting anyone who came near him. His stage hands had to wear protective gloves just to complete a simple mic check. His closest handlers dared not whisper their true fears, but secretly they all suspected that the artist formerly known as Beluga was descending into madness.

His Mother was flown to be by his side and cozy pouches were sewn. Treats and toothbrush massages were begun in earnest. But even the love of the world’s softest human could not turn the crazy tide. He lost weight, and an apple chunk addiction was suspected.

Around-the-clock vigils were started, and while there will always be skeptics, some think his greatest poetry was written during this feverish time in his life. “Sara Forgot She Left Me In A Translucent Ball” and “The Wheel Going Nowhere” saw modest, but respectable placement on the music billboard charts. Later works such as “Stalked By Gigantic Meowing Hamsters” and “This Stubby Tail Makes No Sense From An Evolutionary Perspective” made it clear to his fan-base that the end was near.

In his final days, he forgave his brothers for their treachery, but it was not enough to save them from their own fate. They are currently serving life sentences in the Hamcatraz Prison, under the tyrannous watch of the infamous warden “Big Red”.

After being discovered legs-up with an itsy-bitsy bottle of booze at his side, Beluga was laid to rest in a tiny coffin under a rose bush. The coroner ruled his cause of death as “Failure to Thrive”, but we know he died from a broken heart. The rain fell dark and gently, and his grave was bravely dug by his own Mother, at her insistence. Words of love were spoken, along with laughter at his many escapades. “We Love You BLUE…ga!” was chanted by fans as chopped up grapes were thrown over his grave.

We will never forget you Beluga, and your weird, squeaky music will ring in our hearts forever.

Comments Off on Beluga, March-May 2017Tags: The Girls

Wisdom Comes Suddenly, “The Summers” Edition

June 27th, 2017 · Comments Off on Wisdom Comes Suddenly, “The Summers” Edition

About a thousand summers ago (or 9, if you are math-y), I quit my job. It was late May, and the warm, wet Indiana summer stretching before us seemed endless, just full of possibility. I was going to molt into an amalgam of Carol Brady/Betty Crocker/Farmer Ted, rising into a superpower by fall harvest. Heck, by fall, I was certain I would own an orchard and make a fortune selling apple butter. Had I ever made apple butter? Of course not! Had I ever GROWN a tree of any kind, let alone an apple tree? No need! I was RAISED by Momma Walton AND Caroline Ingalls! I read ALL the successory-esque Fortune 100 books, and I KNEW if I wasn’t living on the edge, I wasn’t trying hard enough.  Surely anyone who could turn good into great could also turn apple into butter. If you don’t like apples, I can also offer cheese, as no one has ever moved my cheese. I’ll stop before I discover all of my strengths in this one paragraph.

By mid-morning of that first day, I realized I’d made a gigantic mistake. I was not cut-out to be a SAHM: I was lacking 80% of the motivation needed to be my own boss, 50% of the work ethic, 100% of the humility required, and 200% of the patience.

In short, by 1:30 pm, the first “I’m totally screwed” tears began to fall. There is a book for the habits of highly effective families, and I read it QUICKLY.  It’s best use was as a drink coaster, along with the library of other parenting books I read that year. You cannot read your way out of parenthood. Family life is just a lifelong blooper my friends, and Summer #1 was NOT my best performance.

 

The last 2 pictures were taken ON Day #1. I think my hands were shaking with fear.

But if the above math indicates anything, you’ll calculate a stubborn streak. Not the good kind that helps you stick with hard projects; the ugly kind, that convinced Napoleon to keep fighting, ending in the deaths of 916,000 of his own men. While I may not reach the level of tyrant, I also did NOT spend months scribbling pro/con lists followed by months signing scientific leave of absence papers just to QUIT summer #1. In addition, quitting would involve an admission of wrongittudeness, and admitting I’m wrong is was against my religion.

Summer #1 was beyond humbling. My pride was pummeled with waves of laundry, dishes, diapers, and tantrums. By the time Sara started preschool, I had new insight into the Brady Backstory: There’s a reason the youngest child was almost to grade school. NO ONE wants to watch a show about 6 kids in diapers. It’s like watching a car wreck where the carnage is a rainbow of bodily fluids coated with unreasonable arguments about who gets the blue cup.

Parent: WHO CARES WHO GETS THE BLUE CUP?! Can’t you see our entire house has imploded into a pile of dirty towels and ugly plastic toys?! THIS SHIP IS GOING DOWN!! DO YOU NOT SEE IT?!

Toddler: BRUE CUP! TAM…I…HAB….IT….PWEEEAASSEE?! I NEEEED IP!

Baby: AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!! (Translation: Lunch is 15 minutes late and we’re already past my nap window which means NO NAP, and your day will be a hellstorm from here. JUMP SHIP!)

But every once in a while, we’d drive to the library and pass my old office and daycare. Sara would undoubtedly sing:

“We not go dere no mo. Stay home! Stay home! Yeah, yeah, home wip Momma! Noooo mo WOUD (loud)!”

I still find it humorous Sara’s lack of tolerance for all decibels save her own.

Summer #2 I regrouped and begged to care for my niece. Because if I failed to thrive at taking care of 2 toddlers, surely I’d be better at caring of THREE. If you are the math-y type mentioned in Sentence #1, you may wish to look away at this point.

I’m pretty sure this picture represents a failed attempt at “quiet” time after a failed “nap” time.

Summer #2 was WILD followed by WILDER. Every day, the wildest-ing-ness increased until it was like living in the middle of a toddler tornado. I got a sinus infection by the second day that lasted for 6 months. If I thought 2 kids were hard, there is no calculating the hard of 3. It’s 6x the noise, 10x the mess, and 100x the drama. It’s like you were playing as a back up in the minors, and suddenly you’re the starting pitcher for the Yankees the year the entire East Coast is certain they’ll take the Series. Wait, that’s every year. OK…so you’re just pitching an average year for the Yankees when half the country thinks they’re cheaters and the other half wears their hats. Basically, my point is, as Cowan Elementary’s Peanut League’s Worst Catcher In All Of History and Time Ever-Lasting, the odds were not in my favor. [They gave me a certificate to prove my utter inability at catching or throwing anything spherical, in case you want to fact-check my work.]

But the strangest thing happened on Summer Day #30,256 (kidding…I meant “the last day”): I shed a pond of tears. Tears of utter, bottomless sadness. As Kelly napped at home with Grandma, I took Sara and Avery to the Art Museum to use the pencil holders which took us ALL summer to make. And in the quiet of the marble halls, I saw it: I was IN their lives; I was shaping their stories, and they were shaping mine. It was far prettier than I had been able view through a haze of exhaustion and sticky orange juice rings. It was faint, but it was there. Best.feeling.ever.

By Summer #3 my niece got a nanny and I got cancer. Not the bad kind, but the pesky, painful kind. Even so, there was sun and birthdays and with the help of friends and family, we crawled to the finish line and got Kelly to her first day of Preschool.

So there you have it! My finish line! I had 1 in Kindergarten and 1 in preschool in the same hallway at the same school. DONE! BACK TO WORK!! We’ll figure out the commute and the sick days and the vacation days and the….

What? Sara needs Occupational Therapy?

OK. We can work that in.

And Visual Therapy?

I’d better go back to work to pay for that. But the driving to the appointments…um…??

And…Dyscalculia. Oh yes…and her bladder isn’t working. Add in the Urology team. We’re not done. Dermatology. Migraines. ADHD.

OH LAWDY. This list doesn’t need an expert. It needs a MOMMA. I’m not going ANYWHERE.

This decision put us at full speed through SAHM Summers #4-7, which in child years, is an eternity. That’s ALL the “Kid Years”, the magical-good ones. You don’t want to miss the elementary years. THOSE are sweet; those are the years you worked for.

Sometimes my niece stayed with us. Sometimes she didn’t. Sometimes I battled the pesky basal cell carcinoma. Sometimes I didn’t. Sometimes we roared into summer with a book of plans, and sometimes we let it greet us gently, taking it one step at a time. We tried camps, but summer after summer, “Camp Mommy” was voted everyone’s favorite activity. When you put it that way, I couldn’t go out while I was ON TOP! VOTED #1 SUMMER CAMP in a survey of 3 campers! Talk about winning friends and influencing people.

 

At the end of every August, I’d drop them off on the first day of school and jump for joy. I survived yet another busy season! We’d done it all! We picked the fruit, we did the math tutoring, we read the books, we swam like feeeshhies, we made all the things!!! We got bit by all the bugs! Then I got into my Superfund Site (aka “The Minivan”), and wept. How dare they go back to their “regular lives”, and leave me behind? Who is going to meltdown in the grocery store checkout line now? OH…it’s just me?! I CAN DO IT! I CAN MAKE A SCENE! But it’s just not the same without kids, and sometimes the security guys call 911. Apparently the Produce Manager at my local unnamed grocery does NOT agree they are having a “basil situation” and calling him a “no talent ass clown who doesn’t know the difference between kale and arugula” is not going to make anything “better”. They are currently going out of business, just to prove my point, and if you think an entire grocery chain can’t go down on black basil….WELL…THINK AGAIN….but I digress.

Summer can’t stay, anymore than kids can stay little. So shortly before Summer #8, I did the unthinkable: I went back to work. Just for a short-term gig, but it was time. I had done all the PTA’ing and Chaperoning one Mom can do. I simply could not clean up one more science experiment. I saw our summers morphing: They were less about “us” and more about “when can our friends sleep over?”. Maybe it was high-time I go back to “my old life”. Pre-endless-summers. Pre-perpetual-wet-towels. Pre-board-games-that-last-for-years. (Hint: If Sara challenges you to Monopoly, bring your A-game. I’ve beaten her exactly one time. After 2 hours and my ownership of 21 properties, I finally bankrupted the little miser. She is a financial wizard, which she absolutely did not inherit from me.)

Working was GOOD. It was very, very good. Outside of dressing up, discovering adults still populated the earth, and making money, I did miss out on a few things. Field trips and the school carnival. Actually, the school everything. I couldn’t keep up with even half the school emails, let alone church and sports. My entire life as I knew it just STOPPED. I found I could not quickly readjust our lives to accommodate my new schedule. Working was so super-cool, but my home life became a gigantic blur. And just as I had cried on the driveway into my wine that first summer home, I cried just as many tears that spring I tried to leave my SAHM career (if by career you mean no pay and zero benefits outside of my annual ROCKIN’ office Christmas party when I split the champagne with NO ONE. I drink work alone!).

Job that required a visit to the Governor. That was awesome.

Oh, you wanted me to MEET the Vice President of the USA? OK, I can do that too.

And I have to escort the Princess Float through the 3rd largest parade in the country? Yep, that sounds fun. You can pay me to do that.

The job requires me attending the single largest one-day sporting event in history? WELL…OKAY…I suppose if I MUST…

I loved working, but my heart could not manage the strain. MOST of my friends work, and I see them balance it. I see them soar in their careers and their kids are doing GREAT. But my spirit wasn’t built for 2 stories at once, and that’s all there is to it. When the job ended and Summer #8 appeared, I DOVE headfirst into it. I was going to smell it, eat it, swim in it, and get super sticky in that summer. I didn’t miss a single second of it. When late August rolled around, I was thrilled, and the girls were appropriately exhausted. Camp Mommy took them to the EDGE! I’m fairly certain Summer #8 will never be topped.

 

We are now solidly in Week #4 of Summer #9, and it’s been predictably trying. Every summer has been challenging for different reasons. In 9 years, I’ve navigated everything from cranky toddlers to pre-teen hormone spikes (which aren’t actually different challenges; the sounds they make are eerily similar, and you will equally have no idea what upset them or how to calm them down).

This morning after not-so-patiently instructing Kelly on “why I wasn’t being LITERAL when I said to throw the dishes in the dishwasher”, I turned around to find Sara swinging on the pantry door handles. Back-and-forth, back-and-forth, just taking her time looking for a snack while not at all noticing she was practically ripping the handles right off the doors. The kitchen is covered in their cupcake-making session, and there are wet towels covering the newly mopped laundry room floor. We still have a math tutor. We still read books. I still let them watch way too much TV because my summer math tutor was the “Price Is Right” and my summer spelling was “The Wheel of Fortune”, and I turned out JUST FINE.

I’m still 200% short on patience. I’m still waiting for Amazon to deliver the rest of my humility, which I ordered at the same time as additional work ethic. I never turned into Carol Brady or Betty Crocker, but I probably weigh as much as the two of them put together (kidding…sort of…there are parts of mid-40’s the Universe can stick up its…). I don’t have any apple trees, but I’ve grown 8 roses and killed 6 hostas. Life is weird. So if you add that together, what did I get out of 9 summers raising these squirts (who are probably sneaking into the candy whose wrappers they’ll forget to toss, inevitably getting them busted)?

I got exactly what I bargained for: no regrets. Not a single one.

We started here a million summers ago:

And in the milli-second flash that is childhood, we landed here:

What can I say? They taught me everything I know.

Wisdom Comes Suddenly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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30 Years A Pirate

March 26th, 2017 · Comments Off on 30 Years A Pirate

[James Jean, but for the life of me I cannot recall nor locate the name of this piece. It’s one of my top-5 favorite pieces of art, but oddly, I find most of his work disturbing (personal opinion only).]

When my ophthalmic artery stroked to darkness in the Fall of 1986, my vision became a very “before/after” experience. HOWEVER, I didn’t know it at the time; perhaps a better phrasing would be to say I could not articulate the experience until now.

8 months following the initial injury, I was declared healed. Not by any medications or surgeries, because in 1986, there weren’t any options other than to sit still and wait for the hemorrhaging to stop. Literally…sit very, very still. When I could see again, something had definitely changed, but I didn’t know what. Better phrasing? I simply could not remember what I saw before. After all, when I healed, I COULD see. I still needed the same glasses, no stronger, no weaker. Other than a small section in my left eye, I had all of my peripheral vision.

[1986: The one-eyed year. I loved these teal Converse high-tops, which I thought were a washed out green. Now I know why my sister didn’t want a pair.]

My immediate family knew something had changed, but much like me, they could not say how. So, for 30 years, that which was lost remained lost. Technology, while a wonderment, cannot fully analyze the subjective experience of seeing. What we all see is a very personal experience, wherein our brain constructs images based on comparisons to prior knowledge, incorporating billions of bits of information we take in every second. There is a life-changing talk on vision and how it is personal here. Seriously. This talk changed my life.

For 30 years, we’ve known with glasses I have 20/20 vision, and outside of the occasional retinal migraine, I have full peripheral vision. We know my left eye is weak in that I don’t choose to use it, but with both eyes open, any optometrist will tell you I “see”.

But I knew things were somehow dimmer. I know I drive Greg crazy by turning on lights all over the house. I know I’m happier in a house covered in windows. I know color is slightly different to me, but I could never say how. My sister and father who work in interior design both know I see color as variants of the truth, but even they could not articulate it. I know I run into doors which are left partially open.

This change in vision has always bothered me. It’s put me on a 30 year perpetual edge of never understanding why my arteries hemorrhaged and why no eye exam on earth could help me understand what I knew to be true: SOMETHING is DIFFERENT in how I see. The ambiguous anxiety has simply become part of the fabric of who I am.

As I’ve shared, I’m working with a “Soul Song Minister”, Stephanie, as part of my personal care plan to handle the stress of unstable glaucoma (still not stable…still embracing eye appointments…still trying to get pressures improved enough so I can hope for a successful surgical outcome…ever heard of anyone too sick for surgery? I am one exhausted eyeball. I meant…oddball). Stephanie figured out what so, so many have missed: One eye healed in 2 weeks, and the other in 8 months; therefore, I stopped using my left eye, and began a life of using only the right (after all, it actually WORKED), and after 8 months, they un-teamed. I cannot use them at the same time.

I’ve been told by MANY eye doctors, “Lori, use your left eye. You never use your left eye. It works. USE IT!” But no one told me HOW. My body forgot and I could not find the way back. Whenever I try to use my left eye, I find no benefit, I tire, and I get irritable. It’s really no different than being hand dominant. If you’re right-handed, writing all day with your left hand would be frustrating.

As it turns out, we’re built to be hand-dominant. We are NOT built to be eye-dominant.

[When I can’t drive myself to eye appointments, I try to have a sense of humor. My sister is the eternal sport about my eyes. I think my new Glaucoma Specialist is warming up to me. Maybe. My Neuro-Opthamologist never did, but to be fair, I was one.pissed.off.teen when she met me.  And 30 years of me is a lot to take (ask my parents). My Optometrist TOTALLY gets me. He gets to go to heaven after 20 years of Lori. My Retinal Specialist died in a plane crash. BOO. I really liked him. I almost punched my second Retinal Doc, which he did not deserve. No, really. Recovered teen jerk, right here folks.]

I learned the eye-dominance fact the hard way, and in ways I simply do not discuss. When I’m in conversation, my head always tilts to the right. Over time, not taking in information has resulted in some weird physical attributes: I can stare directly at a kickball rolling towards me slowly, attempt to kick it, and MISS. I cannot play pool. I pull the cue back, I push it forward, and I miss the ball almost every time. AS I’M STARING RIGHT AT IT. I’ve grown to hate gyms and sports of all kinds, which has exacted a toll. My left foot drops when I’m walking, something I’ve said out loud exactly one time. It doesn’t happen often, but it started so long ago, I realized it wasn’t a brain tumor, so I just let it be. However, I trip when I run, which has caused me to fall off more than one treadmill. About a year ago, my left hand started to curl tightly when I sleep so I now sleep with it flattened under my head. And there are the things my family knows that we do not discuss: Driving long distances has become too exhausting. In 14 years of marriage, I’ve driven our car to Greg’s hometown (10 hours) only once. It was quite a wake up call to a woman who once covered this country alone in her car. I rarely drive at night, and I never drive at night in the rain. But even worse than driving is that I’ve stopped reading books. With un-teamed vision, my eyes are tired just getting through a normal day, let alone adding the stress of reading a book.

[I was in rehearsals to star in Neil Simon’s “Barefoot in the Park” when I lost my vision. This was taken on my return to rehearsals, but I could only see out of my right eye. As you can see, my head is already tilting. During that year I had a habit of holding onto things with my left hand, as a way of feeling safer about what I could not see. It was like, “You thing there! You…WALL! STAY.”]

And now I know why: By not taking in information, the left side of me is just…going to sleep. So use the left eye! Simple, right? Nope…I can’t use JUST that eye. I have to learn to use both of them together. Visual therapy is a pretty new sport, and Sara successfully did it for over a year. IT WAS AWFUL. I would not choose it for myself, except that I got a glimpse of what I lost a few weeks ago.

Most of my work with Stephanie has been the work of remembering. Remembering who I was “before”, and how I saw. For just a few days, we captured it. It was…unreal. She got my eyes to team, and I suddenly, in that moment, KNEW EXACTLY WHAT I LOST.

I realized I had simply stopped taking in as much information as I had before. Use one eye, get half the info…makes sense. My sister always says, “Lori, you see exactly what you choose to see, but you don’t see everything. I don’t know how you do it, but you filter with your eyes.” In the hours after learning how to use my eyes together, I understood the filter: I take in information as still shots, and my brain turns them into moving pictures. This happens at lightening speed, but I do not take in moving images. I know for certain I do not, because in the hours after I used both eyes, I could barely drive my car. TOO MUCH INFORMATION was flying at me to filter and operate a car. It felt like someone hit a play button.

Let me clarify, I am a very good driver. I CAN see. But I drive slowly. Most of my friends and family say they feel very safe in my car, but they wonder if they’ll ever get to their destination. 2 speeding tickets in almost 30 years of driving; I thought I was just conscientious. In truth, I must slow it down as I take it in. I haven’t been in an accident since 1999, but it’s probably not a coincidence that at the angle and speed that car flew through the red light, I never saw it. I now know it was the perfect storm. I do a better job of scanning with my eyes when I drive now!

So, to summarize what I could now write a book about: I can see what you see, but I make the picture with half of the information. It means I subconsciously leave some things out. I can see what you see when I sit still and really stare at something, but by and large, I go through life making many assumptions. If I must see it, I use as much as I can. If it’s optional, I simple filter it out. Until I trip over it.

[After trying on wedding dresses ALL day, I finally found “the one”. My Mother asked, “Of the countless dresses your tried on today, why this one?” I had no idea. My sister piped up, “Because she can SEE this one. It has sparkles all over it, including all the way down the train. These white dresses are meaningless to Lori. They are just…all…white to her.” Add in a sparkle tiara (which I loved as much as that dress) and sparkle necklace, and I was SET you’all.]

In the moments after I received “the full story” I took a walk down a unremarkable hallway. Doors which had been a red-brown were now full magenta. I could see the stain on the ceiling in the exact second I saw the walls. Everything in my periphery was equal and somehow…large. Round. My world went from flat to…full. It was COOL.

But tiring. And in a few days, my eyes resorted right back to their comfortable 50%. 50% is easier. It’s boring, but peaceful compared to your bright world. In your world, the Dunkin’ Donuts sign isn’t just hot pink. It’s HOT pink. I had no idea that sign screams at you with all that pink and orange. The pretty blue gray house at the end of my neighborhood is actually a robin’s egg blue. In your world, I wear way too much makeup and my glittery earrings are gigantic. In my world there is only one kind of hot pink, I like gray-blue, and I love my makeup and my sparkly earrings.

But I trip on things left on the floor. And honestly, I do LIKE the bright, round, moving world I visited. It was spectacular. I read a book! I decided to go back.

I’ve started the long process of visual training. The exercises are HARD, and they make me bunchy inside. I can use my eyes together for about 5 seconds before one takes over. I feel the sides of my body battling with each other. I don’t want to discuss the insomnia this is causing. I am tired in a really weird, restless way. I do have the girls to keep my spirits bright. In a moment of wasteful pity, Kelly left me a sticky note which read: “Although it’s been tough, there have been many moments of hystericalness in my timeline of being…well? A pirate.”

[I LOVE this old, worn picture from the applause after the play. At this point, I had a sliver of eyesight out of the top of my left eye, and I was full of hope for a full recovery. I was dating the now best-selling author on my right (my first boyfriend…I thought I was a movie star), and the young man to my left is a lifelong friend. He is now a world-renowned Hospitalist, doing amazing research out of Mayo. By my expression, you can tell I’m staring right at my Grandmother, who stood up and yelled my name.]

NOW…you might think I am sad to have lost 30 years. Actually, quite the opposite. My 30 years as a one-eyed pirate came with gifts. You know the saying if you lose one sense, you will gain it in another? That is quite true. I use a thermometer when I cook, but I can smell temperature. I can smell EVERYTHING, which is why our litter boxes are in the garage. My Mother calls me the bloodhound. The joy I feel when I smell herbs and lemons and nuts and…I can’t describe it.

This is a gift. I may not have developed my love of cooking without this gift. That’s some priceless stuff, my friends.

In seeing the world differently…well…I see the world differently. I see people differently. I take in information about people differently. Things which stand out to some perhaps don’t register with me. I hear more and see less. That’s not to say I’m a superb listener (wish I were!), but I know my friends sense a non-judgemental love in my presence. I would pick up on you having a bad day before having a bad hair day 100% of the time. I see people’s spirit by taking in their posture and their tone, and a billion other pieces of info based on things I feel, not see.

This is a gift. I would not wish to change this facet of myself for all the eyesight in the world.

I’ve been forced to accept there are some things I cannot change, and in the big picture, I’m not in charge. Herein has been my life’s challenge: accepting I am not in control of my vision in a larger sense. Because I left 50% of what I saw in the hands of God 30 years ago, I am kinder. I was not kind as a child. I am more apt to ask questions I would not have before. If you think I’m a know it all now, you should have met me at 14. My life has to be about more than aesthetics and speedy living. I simply have no choice.

And when you see it in the long view, God gave me THIRTY YEARS to figure this all out. And he gave me good VISION in that time. That’s more patience and grace than I deserve.

This is all a gift so profound in its impact, I would never choose a life that had taken a different course.

[I don’t love sparkly things LESS. I love them MORE! Mom gave me this for my birthday. A brooch only a half-vision pirate could love. In my world, this matches EVERYTHING.]

So what’s next? I don’t know. Remember, I’m not in charge here. I can use both eyes for about 5 seconds at a time, and sporadically they team a couple of times per day. However, I’m now taking eye drops I’m technically allergic too (again, in an attempt to increase my odds of a successful surgery), and it’s making for some long days. I’m trying to stick with my exercises, but honestly, they piss me off. They’re supposed to. Physical therapy causes things to grow that weren’t there before, and it’s hard. Ask athletes, stroke victims, and kids with learning disabilities. It’s irritating to MAKE your body GROW. Good news: I gave up beer in a vain hope ANYTHING would help. So if my eyes are growing, my waistline is not.

And truth be told, I might do all of these things and still lose my vision. That is not my story to write. I know I’m OK in the part I am writing. I’m treasuring the gorgeous nearness of God I feel all day, every day. I no longer hyperventilate at the Eye Institute. I love this act of remembering the good stuff from 30 years ago. I love how my life no longer feels fragmented, and questions which have tormented me for decades are now answered.

A pirate’s life or not, I’m really OK. I lead a blessed life, a perspective some only get when they see the whole picture; the good and the bad. I am one of those people.

Wisdom does not come easily, or without some serious sweat-equity.

Wisdom Comes Suddenly.

 

 

 

 

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Winter Recipes

March 11th, 2017 · Comments Off on Winter Recipes

While I haven’t been posting what I’m cooking, I HAVE BEEN COOKING. Per my usual, I struggle to repeat recipes more than a few times (if that). It makes me sad, because sometimes I’ll run across something I made long ago, and think, “That was delicious! Why didn’t that enter the rotation?”

Answer: Because there is no rotation here. My family basically lives in an experiment kitchen. I have no idea why they put up with me.

However, I do keep a stack of things I have not shared with you yet, and I am starting to work through that STACK OF YUM. For your eating pleasure:

Sweet Potato & Sausage Bites

Spinach & Ricotta Calzones

Mushroom, Leeks, and Tortellini Soup

Herb Roasted Turkey Legs

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

 

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Hitting The Nantucket Pause Button

March 1st, 2017 · Comments Off on Hitting The Nantucket Pause Button

 

1998? Somewhere near Coatue Beach, Nantucket.

Every time I say the word “Nantucket”, my family screams, “UGH! NO MORE!!! Stop with the NANTUCKET!”

After all, we live in a Nantucket-inspired cottage I begged us to build. I covered the front of it in climbing rose bushes. It’s possible there is something “Nantuckety” in every room of my house. And from their perspective: A) They’ve never been to Nantucket, and B) It’s just this place I lived that one time, and enough of “my life on the island” stories already.

Even Greg will tell you if there’s a movie set anywhere in New England starring actors with Boston accents…I own it.

But as I’ve had some time to reflect on what fuels my passions/brings me peace (and thank you to Stephanie Smart who helps entrepreneurs/individuals tap into their “soul song” and make focused choices regarding their lives), I’ve realized that Nantucket is not a place. It’s a state of being for me.

I moved to Nantucket after a MASSIVE failure in my 20’s. As in the ugly, crocodile tear kind of failure when you realize you’re starting your life over from scratch. My parents had divorced and recently remarried, my sister had recently married, I had managed to spend 3 years in an emotionally abusive relationship with very intense politician-hopeful (the man who beat him for office is now the Vice President of the United States, so his career never went beyond “hope”), and I failed to gain admittance into Medical School. 3 years of working night shift as a Critical Care RN, slogging through science classes during the day, sleeping in my car between shifts and O-Chem labs, going into massive educational debt…UGH. Just thinking about it makes me cringe.

30 miles out to sea, off the coast of Cape Cod lies Nantucket. About 3 miles wide and 13 miles long, with most of the land under preservation protections.

So there I was: Parents and only sibling onto new stories and new geographies, failing miserably at my job (I was a great nurse, but with my personal life in shambles, I was a horrible employee), buried in a destructive relationship, and no grad school plans on the horizon. OH YEAH, and I was LESS THAN BROKE. Forget soul-searching, I was straight up soul-bankrupt.

On a 3am coffee break at work, I snuck into the Med School library, and picked up a Nursing Journal to pass the time. I found a colorful, half-page ad for travel nursing. I’d never heard of it. Travel nursing isn’t covered in school because you must be an experienced nurse to successfully float hospitals and geographies. Even with finishing my pre-med, I had managed to accumulate a few good years of nursing experience at a large hospital. This was now a viable option. You have to be able to move every 3 months. You have to be unattached to all things material, and many nurses who choose this career path leave relationships behind.

WHERE DO I SIGN UP?

I called the phone number from the ad the next day (this call was pre-internet, so I literally knew nothing more than the name of the company and the phone number), and I swear on my life, this was the entire conversation:

Me: I’m a proficient critical care nurse in between Grad School plans. I’d like to leave the Midwest.

Travel Company: Where would you like to go?

Me: I’ve always liked movies set in New England. So maybe near Boston?

Travel Company: We could really use someone with your experience in Nantucket this summer. Actually, if you are in fact a critical care RN, we’ll take you as soon as you can get out to the island.

Nantucket? Isn’t that just a place in storybooks? Honest-to-God, I didn’t even know it was an actual place. Is it an island? A town? A county? (In fact, it is all three; droppin’ some knowledge on you today!)

“I’ll call you back in an hour.”

I rode my bike to the bookstore, because I had no money for gas. Luckily it was spring, so I was rollerblading to work to afford rent. I found a travel guide for Nantucket, and the picture on the front showed a bike leaning up against a fence on a beach. HEY. I HAVE A BIKE!

“I’ll take the job. Immediately.”

I quietly resigned from my job, sold as much as I could to get enough money to drive to Hyannisport and afford a ferry ticket, and put my clothes in my car. Luckily my Dad was in the middle of a move and staying at my apartment, so I handed him a key to a storage unit and told him when he was done, just throw my life into it. I then walked into that not-so-great boyfriend’s favorite restaurant, found him at the bar, and shook his hand goodbye.

“Wait. You’re breaking up with me and moving? WHEN?”

“Now. Good luck with your life.”

“Will you at least come back to my house so we can talk?”

“Nope.”

And with that, I left the small town where I’d spent the first 27 years of my life, and with my sister’s companionship on the drive, I moved to Nantucket. That was some pretty great sister-stuff, if I do say so myself.

Me: Jenny, I’m going to dump him and move to Nantucket.

Jenny: YES!!! WHEN?!

Me: Now.

Jenny: Let me call the office and pack my suitcase. I’ll help you get settled and fly back.

Because my sister is wicked awesome and all things loyal and fabulous. Look it up.

My first morning on the island, I had a mini-panic attack. Where am I? Why do I live 30 miles out in the ocean? Where are the Targets?! WHERE IS THE MALL?! My sister grabbed a map, and insisted we walk the island until we felt familiar with the lay of the land. By lunch, she wanted to move to Nantucket too.

These are the types of crazy stunts one should pull in their 20’s. By your 30’s, you have things like “mortgages” and “promises to keep”. Last week I commented to someone frustrated with a 20-something, “Oh heavens, she’s mid-20’s. What does anyone know in their mid-20’s?”

“I had a home, a full-time job, and a marriage!”

Oh. I had…um…a car and a bike. God, I really loved that bike.

While I was “on-island” I committed myself to a boyfriend-free existence. I wanted to walk off the bad taste from my past relationships, and reinvent the story of who I wished to be. I wanted to reignite my love for nursing, and figure out how I got so off-track in the first place. I wanted to work night and day to dig my way out of debt.

But mostly, I wanted to hit the big ‘ole PAUSE button on my life. STOP! EVERYTHING JUST STOP! What the HELL did I just let happen?!

It took months, but I walked on those beaches with a beat-up CD walkman until my feet turned into sand. I have returned again and again, after reaching crossroads which felt more like dead ends, and I have granted myself forgiveness for the act of living. The peaceful, wind-whipped island always greets me with fog and serenity, and a silence that allows me space to breathe.

For almost 2 decades I’ve believed I could only find this pause button while on the island. Recently, it hit me the pause button is actually inside of me. When my eye doc informed me that my eye diseases were going to need additional care, I didn’t know I needed a Nantucket state of mind…I FELT IT.

PAUSE. LORI…listen to yourself! HIT THE PAUSE BUTTON. I knew I had to stop my life. Glaucoma is not overly symptomatic (but the daily headaches with my pressures above 30 are wearisome), and my old eye strokes are holding steady per their usual number of retinal “bad days”, so my life could have chugged forward per its normal schedule. But it did not matter…I knew I had to stop the train. Immediately.

In the last 6 weeks, I have turned down 2 job offers, 4 deacon requests, and countless volunteer requests from school. I missed the school’s social event of the year. I don’t run needless errands. I cut my alcohol intake by about 95% (working my way to 100%…but that’s a process!). I took my calendar and blew a crater in it, hoping if I could slow down enough, I’d receive some direction I could not have heard otherwise.

Clearing a calendar like mine takes weeks. It takes courage. It takes persistence. And this morning I realized, it takes the same kind of bravery I exercised 19 years ago when I threw my bike on my car and headed east.

Driving away from the storage unit as I tossed in my last load. I think the shirt tucked into the high-waisted plaid Gap shorts really pulls this picture all together.

Every single day, I am presented with the opportunity to choose this space in time over other commitments. It’s not easy. Certainly my family’s lives keep churning forward, and I remain their constant companion. But my quiet days here at home have become my own, dotted with doctor appointments and dirty floors…but mostly just me…not trying to achieve, or win, or influence, or contribute. I’m finding contentment in just being.

I’m breathing again, recalling that every time I’ve been referred back to the Eye Institute, it was at a time when my life needed a major directional shift. My eyes are more than my windows; they are my guideposts. My sister has said many times, “I wish I could spend one day with your eyes, just to know what you see, and how you see it.”

Right now, these eyes are in the waiting space. The waves and fog are rolling in, but the answers aren’t there yet. It takes time for guideposts to appear when you’re surrounded by fog. Pausing requires a ton of patience, and I find sand helps. Not a lot of sand in Indiana, but it’s grey and windy outside. That’ll do.

Godspeed, my friends. To everyone trying to find their own guideposts, or just a chance to pause, Godspeed.

A Much-Loved Afterword:

A beautiful Grey Lady Chicken Box thank you to my housemates from Nantucket. They meet me there when it’s time to go, and while our addresses are spread across the eastern half of the US, they just seem to know how to love me. “Nantucket” means the same thing to Ruthie & Mia as it does to me, making us lifelong soul sisters. I say this time and time again, but I am never alone in my story; a grace of God for sho’.

The Chicken Box Gang at the actual Chicken Box in 1998. Do you see that gorgeous tan on my chest? Yeaaahhh…that’s CANCER. In 1998 it was club-worthy, but by 2009, that was ALL CANCER. Oh…sweet, sweet youth.

The Chicken Box Gang reunites in NYC in 2015.

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Healthcare Bridge-o-Beliefs

February 23rd, 2017 · Comments Off on Healthcare Bridge-o-Beliefs

 

I spent last week at the beach with my family, searching for a little “closer to fine”. I found it.

It’s possible I have a unique viewpoint when it comes to the interplay between traditional and alternative medicine. Having been raised by parents fully devoted to these often opposing camps, I was raised at each end of the spectrum:

(1) My Mother once took me to a vascular surgeon because she thought my cervical spine was too “pointy”. I’m pretty certain she carries strep kits in her purse, just in case.

(2) My sister and I CARRIED our Father, against his will, to the ER, as he suffered from pneumonia so severe, his O2 saturation was below 80 (he was straight-up blue). The conversation went something like this:

Jenny: Lori, I need you to get up to Lafayette. Dad is blue-ish. And he smells like…herbs?

Me: I think he has pneumonia, and I can only assume he’s using natural remedies.

Jenny: He won’t go to the ER and you’re the ICU nurse, so I need your help convincing him.

Me: LOOK, these are HIS beliefs. If he wants to die covered in herbs, probably causing him to crave Italian food, that’s his prerogative.

Jenny: GET.IN.YOUR.CAR.

Me: I’m on my way.

While I did not fully appreciate the benefits of being raised by polar opposites at the time, it did give me a rather open mind when it comes to healthcare virtues. When it comes to my own health, I do consider their opinions (on occasion, while drinking heavily, and trying to earn favor with the Universe). [Insert my best friend Amie quoting the Old Testament and telling me in a southern accent about the heat in hell. In fact, just sprinkle that around this entire post, because she may have a point.]

When discussing my motley care plans with friends, I try to take into account that we all have different “hippy-dippy barometers”.  My radar goes off somewhere around “anything I have to ingest” and “anything I find overtly embarrassing”. Basically, I’m not drinking essential oils while getting a “cleanse”, if you know what I mean. But I do sleep with a grounding sheet around my neck right after I put in my very expensive glaucoma eye drops.

I had a fun discussion with a friend yesterday about how we each cross our personal bridges between the sterile doctor’s office to the spiritual advisors lounge (and vice-versa), and how do we comfortably go back and forth? What would inspire my Mother to try probiotics (pre-mainstream, as there was a time when those innocuous pills were voodoo), and what would force my Dad to get his blood sugar checked? (Kidding…he’ll never do anything that CONVENTIONAL!)

We came up with two main entry points to these bridges:

(1) You have come to the end of yourself, which honestly, is the basis for so many ethos choices. God, Jesus, Buddha, counseling, situational-based alcoholism, joining a murderous gang, binge-watching “Odd Mom Out”…we all hit walls where we SEE and FEEL the limits to our humanity. That’s not to say all humans willingly admit they have “ends”, or are willing to leave their comfort zones and visit a sweat lodge (or just a family practice physician, depending on which side of the bridge you call home)…but despite our delusions of grandeur, we are extremely limited animals. Oh sure, we have dominion over the entire earth, but what are we doing with this power? Eating ourselves to death. Brilliant.

(2) The extent to which you feel connected to the earth/nature. When I consider the differences between traditional medicine and alternative medicine, the separations seem to be man-made interventions vs. interventions based-in-nature. This bell curve ranges from my Mother, who would live INSIDE a doctor’s office if they’d rent her space, to my Father, who is trying to reverse his carbon footprint and spends his free time growing his own food and speaking to groups about energy consumption.

*At this point in our day, I feel it’s germane to point out my parents are married, just not to EACH OTHER. Obviously. But they are hilariously good friends, holding conversations I can only define as “slightly schizophrenic, yet highly respectful”.

Mom: So I heard you’re giving a sermon at the UU on the evils of the overuse of antibiotics? THAT must be interesting!

Dad: The girls told me you finally earned that complimentary toaster after your 1 bayillionth mole removal. Congrats!

So why do I bring this topic up? Because with my keen powers of observation (so keen; ask my husband who caught me leaving the house today in a cream sweater covered in spaghetti stains), I’ve noticed many folks BELIEVE you must STAY ON ONE SIDE OF THE BRIDGE.

“Thou shalt not cross the bridge without rejecting all beliefs from the side you have left behind!”

Why? Why can’t we just comfortably walk back and forth across the bridge, without feeling our collective communities are somehow punching a ticket of disapproval and disdain? Again, I found 2 main entry points to the bridge:

(1) We live in a world where some choices are absolute. It’s difficult to be both Christian and Jewish. You’d be hard-pressed to find a citizen who is a pro-democracy-Communist. You can only vote for ONE President. And up until recently, you had to choose between being a boy or a girl. Now you can live on the middle of that bridge, which, if you follow American media, you’ll discover is mostly about public bathrooms. Lifelong psychological issues be damned: America needs you decide WHERE YOU PEE. We’re living in crisis times with refugees abandoned around the world and immigrants hiding in churches while our schools beg for funding…so guess what Elected Officials?! I DO NOT CARE ABOUT TRANSGENDER BATHROOM HABITS!! LOOK AROUND! There are parents at my school PARKING in the carpool lane during DROP OFF TIMES and WALKING AWAY from their cars! (Insert my indignant shock and dismay. Repeat. You think I’m kidding? That carpool line is mayhem and madness you’all.)

This “either/or” dynamic has created some internal need to decide if we made a choice, the other must be the enemy. If a blue aragonite stone enhances your ability to feel empathy, there is no way you’d take chemo if you had cancer. Hilarious jump in logic? Not really. After all, we live in a culture that demonizes other countries as barbaric while we condone chicken processing plants. Ever been to one? Better yet…have you ever SMELLED one?

Simply put, by our cultural standards, you cannot LIVE in the middle of the healthcare bridge. You either light the odd hempy-incense or you buy the Yankee candle.

“Thou shalt NOT be both hippy and preppy. YOU MUST CHOOSE.” -American marketing teams.

(My apologies to the incense makers, but I’ve very sensitive to smell, and those things all smell funky to me. Don’t take offense…I won’t light Yankee candles either. SO MUCH SMELL. Remember when we were OK with just smelling…air?)

(2) Finally, I’ve found there seems to be some confusion between finding healing energy in the earth and some idea that doing so is anti-God.

“Thou shalt receive all healing in a hospital of man’s making, but allowing a Shaman to analyze your energy field is the work of the devil. HOWEVER, thouest may partake of the waters at Lourdes. That is Jesus’ magic water. Drink on.”

SO, if God made the earth, and I’m on this earth, and my entire earthly existence is spent interacting with some part of the earth…how am I still separate from it? And if God made man, and gave man the gifts to create modern healthcare, how can it be evil?

I believe both are GOOD/OK/WORTH TRYING, which is why I’ll leave a spiritual advisor’s office and drive over to my glaucoma specialist, and then go out for a nice lunch of healthy veggies. And then eat a cheeseburger for dinner. And maybe some pie. NO ONE finds pie controversial! Praise the Lord! And Mother Earth! After some pie, I’m going to step out the beach and make a mandala. Maybe you’ll run around a rosary. Either way, both are meditative spiritual practices using a physical object to aid you while focusing. You didn’t see that coming, did you? I just intersected Catholicism with an ancient Hindu practice. Why is this distinction important? BECAUSE IT’S ALL THE SAME BRIDGE.

Both sides of the bridge take you to the same place, my friends. We’re all on the same bridge, and despite what our limited earthly eyes show us, we’re probably traveling in the same direction.

Wisdom Comes Suddenly.

In these mangrove trees on the edge of a beach I may never see again, I made my first mandala. It spiraled out with shells and driftwood, and said so much to me in a short span of time. Then I walked away, leaving it to nature, showcasing my lack of control over the future and the people I love. I left this story for God to finish. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Even If

February 10th, 2017 · Comments Off on Even If

DUDES! 2017 is not AT ALL what I had planned.

First THIS happened.

And then THIS happened.

And NOW THIS HAPPENED:

We’ve spent 6 weeks trying to find a more suitable home for our beloved Penny. Penny is my little all-day shadow, and perhaps I was slow to admit it was due to her anxiety. We consulted 2 different Vets, tried Prozac (which did buy us a good year), and attempted all sorts of tricks and games with litter boxes. But in the end, Penny loves humans over cats. This house is an equal balance of both, and therefore a bad balance for Penny.

Penny is now trying her hand at being a companion cat not with a lovely gentleman from our church. I pass her new home 4x/day, and usually manage to dissolve into tears on only 2 commutes. So…not bad?

Luckily this week, a dear friend recommended I try this:

This book is a fictional tale about the life of John the Baptist, and people, I LOVE me some John the Baptist. What could be cooler than Jesus having a cousin, and ALSO getting baptized by his cousin? But I digress. “The Prisoner in the Third Cell” is about a pretty scary topic: Why doesn’t God heal everyone? Why, after an entire life of 100% devotion, did God allow John to be beheaded? When John asked Jesus for a hint, he didn’t get one. Exactly.

God said only one thing (paraphrasing): Will you love/follow/trust me John, even if I don’t meet your expectations?

Wow. Now that’s convicting, isn’t it?

Because trust me, if there is anything I do well, it’s get mad at God. Not my proudest admission, but truthful nonetheless. If God didn’t meet John’s expectations, and John stayed faithful, I assume this was meant to be an example to all of mankind. THANKS JOHN. Making us all look bad...(as IF I could pray in the desert for 30 years eating locusts…come ON J.B.!)

OK, so I’m not into wearing rags, desert heat and bugs, but God, what if I pray REALLY hard about the mess-o-2017?

No?

LIKE…what if I pray REALLY, REALLY hard?

No Lori. That’s not how this works. (Kelly calls these “2-ways prays”. She just figured out that when you get deep into prayer, God talks back to you. Sometimes prayers are a quick “1-way”, but the good ones are the prayers that go in both directions.)

When I came home from my 1 bajillionth eye appointment and told Greg, “I’m tired. My eyes are tired. I don’t know how much more of this I can take, but going blind scares me more than my tired,” and he replied,

“It’s not about whether or not you go blind.” ….WELL. You can imagine my reply:

HELL YES it’s about whether or not I go blind!!!! Is there anything else on earth that’s more important?! IT IS ALL THERE IS. (I actually said that. Ugh. I can see John the Baptist shaking his head at me from heaven.)

But every single time I tried to pray for my eyes, no words would come out. My fear was ruling my every breath.

When I looked for God and his wisdom, at the church, during sermons, inside songs, while in prayer…I heard only one thing:

“God is in control. Let him lead. GET BEHIND HIM.”

 

Pretty amazing all the cool places this meme works. It’s my uni-meme for 2017.

OK. Let God lead. I tried meditating on this. Praying. God in front, me marching behind in those desert sandals you see in Jesus-movies. Envisioning Jesus on a motorcycle and me in the sidecar (I’m not even joking…I used this one to get to sleep at night). Then I envisioned myself in an arm wrestling match with God, and of course, I lost.

OH, Come ‘on God, give me a hint. Can I keep my eyesight?

“I GOT THIS LORI. I’m sovereign in your life or I am not. There is no halfway.”

Kind of reminds me of a cat that just wouldn’t give up the alpha-fight. Huh. Maybe Penny and I had something in common outside of uncontrollable anxiety.

So I reached out to a dear old pal who had lost everything to an illness and asked him how he kept going, despite losing control over his health and possibly his future. What I got in response was quite sobering, and luckily put my fear in-check:

“While I hope you keep your vision, it was never about your eyes. It’s about you and God and whether you can turn inward, and turn over your will to Him. The answer is inside of you, not outside.”

 

Those were some words to digest. Literally and figuratively, so I turned to my happy place: my kitchen. I can fix nearly anything, literally and figuratively, while cooking. Funny how much my physical and spiritual world are swirling together these days.

I’m fixing such complicated dishes, I have to shop with Amazon open on my phone, just to get the ingredients I need. In my kitchen, I can breath. I can think. I am comforted.

And somewhere along this path (probably in my 2nd hour of rolling gnocchi, which is the most mind-numbing task EVER), my heart and my mind agreed: God has a plan, and it’s not about my eyes. If I could stay FOCUSED (pun intended) on GOD, and GOD ALONE, those eyes would become 2nd fiddle in my day.

Thanks to the wonderful Kara Tippetts, I was reminded to stay focused on today’s allotment of grace while attempting this wild feat. Would I be so brave as to allow God to pry open my hands and take a hold of my dreams? Could I embrace this hard, and my loss of control over my future?

OK. Today’s grace. Each day. LOOK FOR IT. Paella. Science Fairs. Chicken Gnocchi Soup. A gold medal at the flute competition. Sausage with leeks and mushrooms in a tortellini soup. Girls piling into my minivan with ridiculous stories of kids making deals for candy (a certain boy may have worn a tutu to school this week in trade for a candy bar). Dried Apricot and roasted hazelnut chicken salad. Late night Limoncellos with my dear friend Ana Paula. Sweet potato and chorizo bites. Lots and LOTS of complaining about schoolwork (this becomes grace when you fear you’ll lose it).

Every day, day after day, there has been grace. There has been enough, and some days there has been grace overflowing to the point I even had some to share.

Along for the ride have been 2 questions rolling around in my head:

(1) EVEN IF, is my story with God still good?

(2) EVEN IF, will I love God if he doesn’t meet my expectations (i.e. answer my prayers)?

For all the “no’s” 2017 has brought, these 2 questions, thus far, have gotten the yes. Not solid yes’s. Not easy yes’s. Not a thumbs-up which has me jumping for joy…but I’m trying. I’m not John the Baptist desert praying in lieu of a family or a life…but if I’m awake, chances are you’ll find my mind and heart singularly on this trying.

So in this focusing on daily grace, I went to my hometown last weekend to say goodbye to Matt’s house. Matt, my “Even If” of 2016. “Even if” he survives the surgery. Even if he survives the lengthy physical rehab. Even if he gets home, and dies unexpectedly.

As I drove away and looked back at the bright “SOLD” sign, and on some of my favorite high school memories, there was Matt’s sunbeam, reminding me to “follow the Son”.

FOLLOW the Son: THIS is the wisdom I seek right now, along with patience while I await whatever comes next.* Even if it’s not what I expect. Even if it’s not a chapter I wrote.

Even if.

Godspeed my friends. As always, Godspeed.

*To clarify confusion from last week re: glaucoma and my eye condition: Glaucoma is a highly treatable illness which if treated diligently, will NOT cause blindness. Many well-meaning friends have contacted me to tell about family members whom have had successful glaucoma surgeries. I have prior optic nerve damage along with a 3 decade sequelae, PLUS unstable glaucoma. I don’t fear glaucoma as much as this scale finally tipping. But I’m glad everyone’s 80 year old grandmothers are alive and well with glaucoma, and sighted. It truly is a miracle of modern medicine of which I hope to benefit in the very near future. 

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“I Went To The Mountains, I Drank From The Fountain…”

February 2nd, 2017 · 3 Comments

 

OK gang, we’re about to get our hippy-dippy on. Hip-to-the-dip. As in, if you’re not comfortable talking about your spirit/soul/inner-being, walk away. Or to quote 2 year old Sara talking to her infant sister who was trying to attack our cat, “Walk ee-way Kel-Kel. Walk ee-way.”

Long story short: I went temporarily blind at 14 years of age. There is just no way to cushion this sentence, and I can register your shock from here. This does NOT come up in conversation regularly. It was an 8 month slog back to vision, and it’s been a 30 year SLOG since. S.L.O.G. SSSSLLLOOOOGGG. SUH-AHHH-LOG. If you’re ever offered a stroke in your teens with no apparent cause, I do NOT recommend it. However, you will meet cool doctors with wild titles like “Neuro-Opthamologist”, and “Vitreo-Retinal Specialist”, and “Shamanic Healer”. Wait. Hang in there with me.

 

I feel compelled to share this story as (1) It explains why I live my life so all-in. Blindness, melanoma, HELLP Syndrome…I live with an altered sense of time relative to most people. People remark on my…intensity?…commitment to making every day count? It’s not DNA, it’s circumstance. (2) I’ve tried many, many things to heal my eyes. I recommend all of them. In fact, if you have a recommendation, I’ll likely try it. If you tell me to rub oregano on my feet and sing to the moon…check. Don’t laugh, pretty sure that one came from my Dad.

Perhaps you’d like to read about unconventional ways to heal; perhaps like me, you suspect there is a connection between your spiritual health and your physical health, and you wonder how to heal them together. If so, let’s begin.

 

(1) Shamanic Healing/Soul Retrieval

Have you ever uttered the words, “It’s as if a part of me died”? Most of us have said this phrase at some point in our lives. When my Mother had a nervous breakdown, when my Grandmother died unexpectedly, when my parents divorced. These words are reserved for the moments which create a chasm in our personal time-space continuum: All that came before, and all that came after that singular event. A Shamanic Healer would tell you the words you spoke had a deeper truth: A part of you did not die, but rather, it fled. It shut down. It ran away. And unfortunately for you, it took some good stuff with it. “Soul Retrieval” is an attempt to regain what was lost during that tragedy.

While practitioners of these methods probably work in a variety of ways (and this is just ONE thing practiced by Shamanic Healers and in no way encompasses all they do with clients), I can speak to my experience. I laid in a comfortable position for about an hour with my eyes closed, listening to soothing music. The Healer saw whatever it is she saw in my spirit (I was comfortably cozy under the world’s softest blanket), and I too, experienced what I would call dreams. We shared our stories at the end, and I can no longer remember what was my version and what was hers, but they indeed overlapped and coordinated in theme.

She saw the points in my life when my Mother was most ill, and I had thrown away my eyes. “If I can’t see my own Mother, I won’t see anything at all.” The story goes far deeper as she found my “spiritual eyes” and my soul pieces and parts (Missed you!), returned them to me, and then made agreements to create a “whole me” again. I’ll summarize and say…it was “EYE-OPENING”, both literally and figuratively.

 

“Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.” -Kurt Vonnegut (a mighty fine Hoosier)

In closing, she spun and aligned my chakras. If you don’t do this, I highly recommend it. Imagine a quick meditation that resets and realigns the energy/spiritual channels in your body. Whether we like it or not, we are electrical beings, and our personalities did not arise from thin air. You have a soul. You have a spirit. They can break, not unlike any other part of you. If you can heal a broken leg, you can heal a broken spirit. It’s just math.

And here’s some more math: My eye pressures dipped below the average glaucoma threshold for the first time in 2 years of elevation. They remained clinically insignificant for 3 additional years. I walked away with an entirely different perspective on my back story, and ALL SORTS of me began to heal. Relationships, eyes, moods…it spiraled out of me like a quiet breeze, making everything better. Of course, at that time, I did not know it was a spiral. That came later….

Interviewing seeing eye dogs wasn’t going well, as I don’t easily warm to dogs. Tigers however…

(2) Ortho-Bionomy

This practice is pretty new to me, so I hope I get close: imagine a type of very gentle massage/manipulation with the aim of getting your body back to an aligned state where it can heal. It does not hurt at all, and it’s been around as a practice for a long, long time. I work with someone who pairs this practice with a spiritual element, trying to figure out how you got so whopper-jawed in the first place.

Again, I laid comfortably and warm for about an hour, this time on a massage table. Because my eyes are our main focus, my cranium was the point of work. As it turns out, your skull isn’t as concrete and immovable as we may imagine. Your skull plates fuse in toddlerhood, but there is, while minor, some give to your head. There is certainly give at the base where your spinal cord exits your brain. Your spinal cord is VITALLY important to your overall health, as it’s the messenger from the brain to the rest of your body. If those two aren’t speaking…well? You’re screwed.

My practitioner surmised, having known me personally for a while, that I have a very expansive spiritual vision. Not psychic…let’s be clear. What she means, and what I’ve heard throughout my life, is that I do not use my eyes for anything other than basic, functional seeing. I see people and circumstances far beyond their physical presence. I may have always been this way, but in truth, I cannot remember when I began seeing people for who they are, and not even noticing how they looked. I’m especially good at seeing joy in people, which is pretty easy when you aren’t held up by things like hairstyle or facial expressions.

I walked away with a little homework and some exercises which I find quite relaxing. I also learned about my spirit spiraling in connection with my DNA, and I now have a working picture in my mind as to where and how these two things intersect.

DID YOU SEE WHAT I DID RIGHT THERE?! Your spirit and your physical health MEET and interact! This is important stuff people. If you don’t believe your spirit and your body have anything to do with each other, than you’ve never had a stress headache or worried yourself into stomach pain. Bravo. I’ve done both of these things within the last 48 hours.

 

(3) Regular ‘ole Chit Chat Therapy

My name for “counseling”. Getting tools to deal with serious illness, life changes, mental illness…you name it. A good Chit Chat Doctor is key for me. I wasn’t born knowing how to handle a child with Special Needs while juggling her doctor appointments and my body’s constant desire to fight me. I had to build a coping tool chest, and that’s the output of a good counselor. It’s harder than a regular doctor’s appointment because your eyeballs might sweat, but it’s GOOD.

I’ve also taken medications to assist in my struggles with anxiety, until last Fall when I decided I had “memorized” how to feel calm. HA!!! Pretty sure I had some lunch dates with girlfriends when they tried to secretly sneak those meds into my iced tea. Trying life free of medications was educational, and not for me.

 

(4) Finding my Core

Not the one they talk about in Pilates, although I suppose that’s important too. I’ve had more than one healer tell me I’m entirely missing “my core”. Think of that as a home based in your middle torso somewhere that either houses your spirit when it’s not in your brain or otherwise houses you identity. Pretty elementary explanation, but seeing as I don’t have one, it’s the best I can do. I’m technically missing my root chakra as well, so I figure I’m doing pretty well for missing entire body parts.

Why does this matter NOW, at 44? I’m happy, and I have a fulfilling existence. It matters because it may all change. My glaucoma is unstable and non-responsive to a year of treatment. I am, once again, facing the very real tenuous nature of my vision. Last week, I was in a dark place where sunlight and hope came to die. It was some ugly. Luckily, God had his hands on me and sent helpers. He sent the Good Word. He sent grace, day by day, hour by hour.

And I came to this conclusion: Blindness changes what I do, not who I AM. Therein lies my panic attack; the “I AM” of me has always been an extremely fluid construct. This year “I AM” a meeting planner. Last year “I WAS” a Princess Coordinator. I’ve been an RN, a Neuroscience Researcher, a Stand Up Comedian, a Quilter, a Writer…folks, I don’t mean I can’t keep a job. I mean I can’t keep an IDENTITY.

 

Being a chameleon served me quite well in my childhood and adolescence. My life was unpredictable, so in order to survive, I became someone who could adapt and change. It’s a cool skill set until you wake up one day and have no real grasp on what makes you…”you”. If I have to spend the rest of my life living inside my brain, I might want that core after all. I might want to feel there is a home to my spirit. I might want my life to be about more than how much I can juggle in a day. I can no longer focus on doing. I must start to focus on being.

Easier said than done.

 

If I can’t solidify an identity, I’ll just be Idina Menzel. I can’t sing AT ALL, but…HAIR. Need I say more?

I’m taking a Soul-Mapping workshop for starters, and my core has definitely made an appearance after my last session of Ortho-Bionomy. It’s empty, to be honest. I’m filled with all sorts of wonderful things, but they haven’t moved into that space yet. It’s cool…I’ve got a little time. I’m allowing it to just exist for now, as I adjust to finally feeling at home in my own mind. My mind is a colorful, fanciful-fun joint, but it does lack a baseline.

So for now, here are my “I Am’s”:

I am Lori.

I am endowed with unusual visual capacities, both spiritual and physical.

I see the world differently, and I am therefore different within the world.

I am grateful to be on this journey with so many brilliant people whom have bravely shared their gifts with me.

I am relieved Jesus sticks with me, even when I’m surly and scared.

I am going to be OK, even if some parts of the next few months really suck. Either way, there is OK’ness in store for me.

I am confident my team of physicians will choose helpful interventions that will save my eyesight for the maximum time possible.

I am not alone, nor have I ever been. The support spiraling out from me is the prettiest thing I’ve ever witnessed, and with or without vision, that scene is mine to keep.

I am not wise, but I am certainly seeking it.

Godspeed, my friends. As always, Godspeed.

(Reference to title, “Closer to Fine” by the Indigo Girls)

“I go to the doctor, we go to the mountains.
We look to the children, we drink from the fountain.
We go to the Bible, we go through the work out.
We read up on revival, we stand up for the lookout.
There’s more than one answer to these questions
pointing me in a crooked line.
And the less I seek my source for some definitive, the closer I am to fine.”

 

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Holiday Memories (Teacher Gifts 2016)

January 15th, 2017 · Comments Off on Holiday Memories (Teacher Gifts 2016)

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Kelly’s Pumpkin Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Icing. The 9 year old shooed me away from this cake all day. “Mommy! Stop trying to help! I have a PLAN!”

(Thanksgiving)

Outside of building my family, I am most proud of being a part of a thriving community. I’m the kind of gal who rarely lets go of her friends; space and time are meaningless to me. Those fab ladies I lived with in 1998 in Nantucket? Like sisters. College roomies? Would give them a kidney (but after college, the 6 of us might need new livers). Sorority sisters, childhood neighbors, extended family across the country, kids from my Middle School youth group, nursing colleagues, Lilly colleagues…

Some people collect stamps…I collect PEOPLE.

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No idea why I wanted cozy utensils, but I made a boatload of these.

(Thanksgiving)

And while only a tiny few knew of this autumn’s challenges, those who did rallied around me BIG last week. BIIIGGG. Offers to take the kids, pulling me out of bed, covering me with makeup and taking me to a fancy lunch with an invitation to cry into my bagels and lox, and hours spent at Nordstrom Rack where I covered myself in perfume and tried on dresses I’ll never buy. What can I say? Trying on dresses makes me happy. My community offered me the perfect balance of hugs, the space to cry, and distractions. It made all the difference.

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Kelly wanted to be a “Half-Good/Half-Bad Witch”, featuring her cat Penny. Her instructions were PLENTIFUL, but my favorite was “Stand-up collar NOT optional”.

(Halloween)

Looking back over the past few months, they really were filled with blessings and precious memories. I found my creative spark around Halloween, and started “making things” again. When I first starting helping “other people’s children”, I was pretty blue. But as it became a normal part of my routine, I woke up to the holidays, and began to find hope within the hopelessness. Thank God this year’s story happened within the season, because I think the added busy carried me along like a tidal wave.

 

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Handed some random flowers and items to my Mother-in-Law, who deftly turned them into award-worthy centerpieces.

(Thanksgiving)

And as many of you know, I take a great deal of joy in making what is known as “The Teacher’s Gifts”. You can view past years here, and here, and over here.

I usually have a solid plan by Halloween, but this year I was teetering on gift cards and calling it a day. On Thanksgiving night, I admitted defeat: I got nothin’. But when I awoke the next day, I found myself scrolling through Pinterest, looking for inspiration. I stumbled upon a picture described in a language I couldn’t begin to identify, when Sara peeked over my shoulder and said, “NO WAY.” Kelly jumped over and said, “Double no way. That can’t be done.” Oooh. I smell a perfect distraction from my worries.

SO, in THAT CASE…let’s head to the craft store so I can prove you wrong. Or right. Either way, we’re going to need more hot glue.

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Totally boring beginning, but you gotta start somewhere.

(Christmas)

I convinced the manager at Michael’s to extend the Black Friday deal on these large Mason jars and sell them to me for $1 each. “It’s for the TEACHERS!”

(A) That was not a lie, and (B) That phrase, when used truthfully and properly, will get you discounts everywhere.

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Styrofoam, hot clue, and what-nots. 3D, height…now we’re getting somewhere!

(Christmas)

In the end, I decided to create winter-themed jar tops to seal jars filled with bark cookies. How hard could it be to make this? Not hard! How hard could it be to make SEVENTEEN of them? UM?…well??? That was a little harder.

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Sara in the background, having her annual laugh at my expense. Well-deserved.

By early December, stationary objects within my home starting to quake with fear, because if sat still, it was getting hot-glued to a jar. Buttons, cricut paper, everything inside the craft closet, possibly things I found in my yard…(kidding…sort of)…

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Next phase, spray them ALL WHITE. Wintery. I had to spray them inside, because it was -20 below in my garage. I might have lost a few brain cells (as in, I can no longer recall my middle name), but totally worth it. Lesson learned: You CANNOT spray-paint styrofoam; it will melt. NOW YOU KNOW. I used a styrofoam primer paint first. It worked pretty well! I probably won’t spray paint styrofoam again, because it never looks “filled”, but it was good to learn these lessons.

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Not loving the styrofoam look, what if I made it SNOW on my jar tops? That’s wintery! I went to 3 stores, all out of spray snow. (Seriously Indiana, what ARE YOU DOING with so much spray snow? We have ACTUAL snow here, you know.)

I gave up and bought “Snow Tex”. That’s 8 hours of my life I won’t get back, but the craft Gods can keep them…I LOVED playing with this stuff.

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It’s like working with a slightly wet sand that dries pretty quickly once you put it on a surface. I used stiff paintbrushes, both ends, to drape the snow across the tops, imagining the physics of how snow falls and accumulates on surfaces.

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I tried to do a final spray with an iridescent-opal paint, but with all this going on, it didn’t really show up.

Not done…keep going…make a few hundred bark cookies…

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Filling them was no big deal, but transporting them was HIGH-LARE-EE-OUS. I’d give you an instructional as to how I got these safely to school, but I blacked out at some point and woke up on Christmas Eve, covered in spray paint, fake-clay-snow and chocolate.

I think my favorite memory of this craft was the variety in each one. All 17 were quite different.

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The girls were SO excited to hand these out! They gathered friends as they went, eventually collecting a gang of gals, giggling about the holidays and maybe a little high from the paint fumes. Kidding! (I hope. This took A LOT of paint.)

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New Year’s Eve brought its annual traditions: We attend a “Dead Celebrity Party” hosted by our dear friends. Guests must dress as a celebrity who died within the year, so needless to say, this year was a costume BONANZA. Fidel Castro, Princess Leia, the Red Solo cup guy, Zsa Zsa…it was quite a list. As for us, we were Prince, Willy Wonka, Carol Brady, and Arnold Palmer. We also visit another nearby set of friends, which creates a hilarious buzz as to how we’ll switch from full costume to “normal us”. We race, with me always losing, but I undid this in 10 minutes, so RESPECT, people.

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“Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today for this thing called LIFE.”

In reality, I was attempting to represent all the greats: Pants were David Bowie, sunglasses and Cross earring were George Michael, hair, velvet jacket, and purple ukelele are Prince. But as my HAIR usually takes center stage, everyone took one look at me and screamed “PRINCE!” He’s my favorite, so fine. I’m PRINCE. To answer the questions asked by my friends (who simply MUST work on their ability to drink champagne, as year after year, I’m left to drink IT ALL): No, I did not cut my hair. It still extends halfway down my back. Nope, not a wig. It’s about 40 bobby pins, a couple of hidden ponytails, and the same hairspray used by Miss America. I might make this look a thing for 2017. Don’t dare me…with the mood I’m in lately…I’LL DO IT.

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Annual Dinner With Friends, Christmas 2016

I’ve always been one to set a big table. I LOVE expected company and unexpected company and breaking bread with people from all walks of life. I love making noodles in a kitchen full of kids, and finding flour 4 days later in places which make no sense, geographically-speaking. I love that I handed the dessert table over to my daughters this year, and they knocked it out of the park. I love curling up on my couch with friends, and hearing their stories, and having them comfort me within mine.

I love community, and I have a sneaking suspicion, in 2017, it will be my community who will light my way. God has my heart, and he most certainly owns this story, but He gave me the most beautiful people to hold my hands. And for ALL of this, I am endlessly grateful.

Wisdom Comes Suddenly.

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Catching Fire

January 12th, 2017 · 3 Comments

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“I will not live in fear of falling, or catching fire.”

-Dr. Dawna Markova

 

I stopped writing.

I didn’t wish to stop writing. It certainly wasn’t planned.

But for a long time, everything has hurt. And when I hurt, I go quiet, and speak of it after it has passed.

I’ve been doing some waiting. Playing the waiting game. In the waiting line of the waiting store, on waiting island.

It’s a good thing I am on waiting island because I’m pretty certain I filled an ocean with tears.

Is it over yet? [Cringe as I peek around my world…]

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Nope. Not over yet.

Should I write? (Insert no, no, no, no…I never write until the sad has passed…remember Lori’s Golden Rule…wait!)

Silent agreement with myself to just never write again because last year Matt died, then Denver died, then I took on the hardest project of my life, and now THIS…so just STOP LORI. NO ONE WANTS TO READ THIS.

(Insert writing a piece for the Indy Star…yummy, so much fun…that was delish…)

NOPE! Not writing.

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(Insert the taking of another small job to keep my mind occupied while I’m waiting for the hurt to stop.)

“Mommy, are you ever going to write again?”

Uh-huh. Sure. Someday. Kind of busy right now with the “you-know-what-situation”.

Right after I get the world to LOOK. As soon as I light these fires so that people can SEE.

LOOK WORLD! LOOK OVER HERE! HELP! WE HAVE A…SITUATION!

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But I think I should face the facts: some sad things stick. Best to get on with it, knowing this part may involve scars which never heal.

I can write this as I attempt to dip my toes back into the writing pool:

Should you ever find yourself helping other people’s children who are going through an unbelievably hard time and experiencing things no children should ever experience, and if you have to catch yourself on fire while trying to save them (it’s feeling rather literal tonight…my heart is shattered):

JUST DO IT. DO NOT SECOND-GUESS IT. DO NOT DELAY.

Burn that shit to the ground, my friends. Burn yourself, scorch the earth, torch relationships, light up the sky with flames.

At all costs, SAVE THOSE CHILDREN.

If I had to do it all over again, and cry the same tears to extinguish the flames, I would.

Wisdom Comes Suddenly.

 

 

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