Trying To Save A Life-My Part In A Beach Rescue

Trying To Save A Life-My Part In A Beach Rescue

It was mid morning on a gorgeous sunny Sunday in Miramar Beach, Florida. The sun was warming up. The breeze was cool. I was at the beach for my walk. There were quite a few people beginning to show up there, as Spring Break was in full swing on the Emerald Coast of the Gulf of Mexico. I’m guessing there were easily 3 or four hundred people along the mile of beach to my west, as I had intended to be walking there.  I began to walk west in the dry, white crystal singing sand, the  gorgeous emerald green water lapping to my left, the green and dark brown stained wooden chairs and umbrellas lining the way to my right, two by two.

I had only taken a few steps when I looked down to see something that made me quite sad and a bit alarmed. There was a large, beautiful black and white polka dotted loon there on the beach. At first, I feared it was dead. I immediately called Michele Phillips. my friend the full time Beach Ambassador on duty. Thankfully the bird was still moving. But it was obviously injured as there was a big chewed up spot on the lower back. I thought that a leg was injured too, but I later learned that loons are unable to walk on sand. 

I am a Volunteer Beach Ambassador, as Walton County has organized volunteers and paid folks alike to provide a service to the beach visitors, both local and those who travel up and down the county’s 26 miles of Gulf Of Mexico beauty during the season. Some of the jobs of a beach ambassador, paid or volunteer include educating the four million plus visitors who travel here each year-about the area, what to do and not do to keep sea turtles safe, where to safely set up on the beach so as not to impede the lifeguards-just to name a few.

When I got Michele on the phone, I quickly learned that she had already had reports from concerned visitors hours earlier and that the loon had been on the beach for a few hours.  The nearest agency who she had contacted had informed her that they were not going to send someone to pick this loon up, (the loon, which shall now go by the name Lou 2, because the name Lou was already taken, given to me as a nickname by a fellow ambassador.) but they gave instruction on how we could try and save Lou 2 and if we were unsuccessful, we could call them back. 

I am partial to loons. For their name, their beauty, for the fact that they migrate to Florida in the winter and the fact that when they shed their feathers, they make me one happy polka dot feather collector as I have a half a jar of them so far. 

When I came to Miramar Beach a year ago February to “live” for a month, making sure that the move I did make months later was right for me, I spent every one of those 29 mornings on that beach at sunrise. And when I found my first polka dot feather, I was ELATED! I paint art furniture and painting polka dots is one of my favorite patterns to paint. I get so into it that sometimes my mouth makes a weird clicking noise. I agree that’s weird. But I like my weird.

I even did a little research on Loons and I love the fact that the mother carries the baby on her back! I made some whimsical art, painting a loon and her baby, and I used some of the feathers for the baby’s wing.

As suggested, I wet my beach towel, wrapped Lou 2 up, walked into knee deep water, and floated the towel, hoping he would pop up and be on his way. My concern and sadness went to cheering and hope as Lou 2 came out from under and began to swim out.  

My next task, which I felt both honored and so purposeful to do, was to watch Lou 2 to see if he was able to fly, as that was the goal, and report back if Lou 2 was unsuccessful at taking off. I just kept thinking of this story about starfish:

One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean.

Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?”

The youth replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”

“Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!”

After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf.

Then, smiling at the man, he said…..“I made a difference for that one.”

I began the same walk west that I had originally intended. This was a bit complicated, as by this point, families with lots of little ones were all over my path. Normally, I am just looking at my feet or where I am going when there are so many people. I am 5’10”  and it would not be a stretch when I get my stride going for me to drop kick some cute little kid in a diaper suit who was darting from mom into the water. When they are low to the ground like that, kids are twice as fast you know. 

So off I went, eyes glued to the black spot that had gotten ahead of me by riding the tide, briskly walking, trying not to lose sight. As the sun was reaching it’s high point, I realized I had no sunscreen and knew this was going to take some time, so I walked up to a mom who was at the water’s edge to my right. “Hi. This is going to sound weird. And I am not going to look at you when I say it. I am watching a bird we are trying to rescue and I have to follow it down the beach. I wasn’t prepared and I have no sunscreen, so would you mind sharing some of yours?” We chuckled as she offered and sprayed my back, while I stared at the water making sure not to lose sight of Lou 2.

I walked along, dodging kids and holes, eyes glued to Lou 2. About a mile in, Lou 2 began to appear bigger, which was not good news, as I had been watching multiple attempts at flight, wings trying hard to spread and take off, sadly followed by a white round belly as Lou 2 was struggling to stay upright. 

Lou 2 Washed Up 2nd Time

At the end of a mile, Lou 2 washed up at the feet of the crowd along the beach in their green chairs. I called the ambassador and was advised to sit tight, watch Lou 2 and keep onlookers at a safe distance. Poor Lou 2 had to sit helpless in the sun with all those people looking at her one more time, people who were helpless to help. The agency from earlier now said that they could not come, my understanding was that the loon was not a bird in their jurisdiction of protection and while I understood, I was frustrated for Lou 2. It wasn’t his fault that the universe was directing  Lou 2 to Florida and the Gulf to migrate in winter. 

Fortunately, Michele made contact with the state, told me they were sending someone and back into action I went. I had borrowed a towel from the umbrella vendor who willingly loaned it to the cause. My towel was soggy and a mile east, hanging off the back of a green chair I had not rented, along with my keys and my clothes. This was not a naked rescue. I was wearing my suit. 

I was instructed to wet the towel, wrap Lou 2 up, and walk that mile back to get Lou 2 to where the state would be arriving for pick up. I was nervous. Would I get bit? Would I drop Lou 2? I stopped thinking and went into action, gathering a posse of support. A dad, who was moral support and phone valet to carry my phone said yes when I asked for someone to help if I could not make the whole walk back. His teenage daughters came too, and did a lovely job of grabbing my things from that green chair on our way down. 

I wetted the towel, wrapped Lou 2 up, and began a brisk walk, intent not to cause Lou 2 any more trauma than had already ensued. Dad and his daughters followed behind, dad saying how he was just talking about needing to get more steps in. 

When Lou 2 squirmed, I was happy and nervous. Happy at the fight still left, nervous that I might drop the towel. There were moments of rest when I was calm and concerned, hoping Lou 2  was only resting. And just a few steps into this last mile trek, I began to silently repeat this prayer, “God, grant me the serenity, to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” This calmed me and also made the baby sized creature I held cradled against my heart feel like a part of me. I had imprinted with Lou 2.

The final step now was again, to wait. It was easier because there was help on the way and now Lou 2, that big brave feathered friend and part of my heart was now resting in the sand under a nice big umbrella out of the hot sun. Side by side, Lou 2 and I were enjoying the rest of the shade.

The woman from the forest service arrived to take Lou 2, at which point I told her I loved her, and Lou 2 and asked to please be kept informed as to the outcome. 

This was as of Tuesday, March 16. Good News So Far.

It was not the Sunday I had planned, but I was so grateful I got to be a part of that 3 hour adventure. No Gilligan or Skipper, but count me as the millionaire because the value of the experience was infinite.

I will come back and let you know what I hear beyond this text that came in today. In the meantime, send out love and light for Lou 2 please. Thank you.

Update: It has been nine days since I last heard how Lou 2 was doing. I am happy to share the following text from the woman who brought him to be cared for. Yay!

THIS MADE ME SO HAPPY!
I Got High.

I Got High.

I got high yesterday. It had been a tough day emotionally, one in a series of many. I did not plan it. I started my day feeling emotionally spent from having made some tough decisions. The kind that sap so much mental energy, I think I can’t move my body. 

I used to misinterpret those kinds of days, when I was emotionally fried to mean I could not do anything physical. I would intend to do 3 exercise classes in a week, but then at the end of a workday from a dissatisfying job, I would tell myself I can’t exercise, not realizing that that was a lie. In fact, exercise was not only possible then, but I did have the physical energy, I just didn’t know it. That was 30 years ago. Now, I know that mental fatigue does not mean that my body cannot move. I am fully committed to walking 2 to 4 miles most days, in spite of the heavy emotional ones that leave my brain feeling like mashed potatoes. And I am always better for getting out there and moving my body.

After a morning phone call with a friend where I could hear exhausted chatter coming out of me, all the while my gut was saying “You are too tired to talk. You need to rest,” I caught myself. I told my friend I felt like I sounded like what tired animals look like when they pace aimlessly around in circles and she said she could hear that in my words. I hung up, revised my ambitious plan for the day to look more like gentle self care and self compassion. After all, I had just come out of several weeks of trolling online dating for hours on end. No wonder I felt so wiped out. I was. 

I needed to go to the grocery store, and the beach was out because of rain, so I saw an opportunity to go get some paint for a custom order rocker I have to paint. And I wanted to attend a new support group online at six thirty in the evening. Perfect! A couple of errands, cook myself dinner, support group, a little TV, then bed.

But that is not what happened. I got through the first errand picking out some yummy colors for a rocker I was painting for a client in Memphis when an idea came out of nowhere. “Let’s go look at shoes!” That sounds innocent enough. My rationale was that I do need shoes for walking in the summer, as well as some inserts in my current walking shoes. But the energy was not there. And you don’t have the full context.

You see, I have a history of shopping and overspending to avoid dealing with reality. It goes hand in hand with an eating disorder and alcoholism, if you want to categorize it by addiction or disorder. Along with that, my most recent addiction of online dating to excess, you now have a better picture of my challenges. Or, the main moles whose heads pop up in my game of Whac-A-Mole.

Alcohol has been out of the picture for 36 years. But you can’t not eat and you can’t not spend and you can’t not have relationships with people, so those have all been to excess for me in the past thirty some years, talking turns rearing their furry little heads. The food has had a tremendous amount of work put in by me and that disordered eating, which has twice required treatment is most of the time in remission. The relationship/aka online dating obsession has only been a thing since my divorce five years ago, after a 26 year loveless marriage so that is a new mole, relatively speaking and as my previous story indicates, I have disconnected the power to that little furry guy just this week.

My mother was in the fashion industry. She worked for the chic women’s magazine Women’s Wear Daily in New York City, right out of college with her journalism degree in the 1940’s. Her last business which closed in the 90’s was a high end dress shop, serving the wives of wealthy monied oil barons and the old money of Tulsa, Oklahoma. She did fashion shows on private jets. Served wine in the sitting area outside of the dressing rooms. All of the nurturing that she had to offer went to her business. None of it came home to me. And many nights, neither did she.

My brother and sister were adults out on their own. I was in high school and I was home alone. Alot. My mother had her own problems, namely acting out promiscuously with married men and bar hopping to get attention. It was very important to her that she be seen. She had gotten used to that when she met and married my father in New York City, where he was a dashing handsome celebrity in show business. They were a beautiful couple, hob nobbing with the show business elite of radio and television and music in Manhattan in the 1950’s, so after my father’s untimely death in 1967 at the age of 42, her party, the one with the silver spoon and the Stork Club and Big Apple came to a screeching halt.

Her store was the only place I really saw her much. It was clothing for women, which did not fit my adolescent form in high school, but she would not buy me much from stores more appropriate for me, so I was stuck with pants that pooched where I didn’t have hips because that was what I got. 

Over the years, I developed her love for clothing and fashion and pattern and texture and color, and I learned a lot from that exposure. In some weird way, the clothes I got from my mom, were a form of love in my experience, so it makes sense now as I write this that I would become a compulsive shopper, as I was groomed for it really when that actually WAS love from a mother who did a poor job of giving it otherwise.

I walked into the shoe store with the best intentions of just trying on some shoes for beach walking and getting some inserts for my sneakers. It was dark and rainy outside and I had just enough time for this quick stop before heading to the grocery store and then home. This is where the high comes in. Most of the time, when I go into ANY retail store, I pray this prayer, “God, please make this a sober shopping experience.” And for good reason. Because for me to walk into a store full of pretty things with a 1,000 open line of credit on a card and not say a prayer for protection, I can get and have gotten into some serious debt over that. Especially when I have been upset or emotional. And I practice what I call sober spending as a rule as a means to do just that. Be sober with money. Some people would call it being financially responsible. That works for them. For me, it’s sober spending. 

Before I share what went down yesterday, I’ll share another episode of, let’s just say, me getting shitfaced on shopping at Chico’s. Chico’s is a women’s fashion store, similar to my mom’s and was at one time my favorite place to go for clothes. On this occasion, I was freshly wounded from the surprise ending of my 26 year marriage one night in my living room some weeks prior. I had dropped my daughter off to go to a concert in Oklahoma City and decided I would take myself out to dinner and shopping while I waited. And when I say my life blew up, I mean it. I thought my then husband and I were working things out when all in one 24 hour period, I learned that no only had he relapsed in his alcoholism, but he had been paying for sex and acting out in a full blown sex addiction, spending tens of thousands of dollars in the process for at least 6 years right under my nose, which had been up in the cloud of denial for that entire time. So, needless to say, I was hurt, and perhaps fit the description of a woman scorned.

So as I am putting my pile of merchandise on the counter that had to be 14 items stacked, I am vomiting this all to the woman ringing me up. Just like she were a bartender pouring me shots that just happened to come on plastic hangers. 

“And then he…” me having inappropriate oversharing “this happened to me” tourettes all over her because that was the best I could do at the moment. Thing is, Chicos hires women my age for part-time work, so she was commiserating with me that she had had the same experience and the woman in line by me, who may have well been swivelling on top of a red leather trimmed in chrome bar stool said this to me. “You know what some women in your situation do, they go out and buy a ‘Fuck You’ Lexus.” Believe me, had that been an option, I would have. But that money was gone, so clothes it was.

Yesterday was not much different in that I was emotionally spent, for different reasons, but still raw and hurting. I walked into this brand new store, full of fabulous shoes, handbags, beach apparel, well lit and displayed, literally out of the dark of the storm into the light, and there they were. My bartender and the servers! The manager and two clerks who had no other customers, plus the owner, who happened to be there with his wife. I turned on and connected to get off before I even got near the register. Just looking at the funky artistic designs of the bold, colorful shoes in snakeskin, leopard, sapphire blue, metallic and combinations of all of these. When I tried on the first pair, the owner, or, should I say the dealer, spoke to how great the shoes looked and said maybe I should be a shoe model for him.

My ego grabbed ahold of that like a shot of tequila and went to town. What should have been a twenty minute stop turned into over an hour after I virtually created a position for myself in his store as someone who would essentially lurk around customers, getting a read on the one who might be receptive to buying if I saw them hovering at a display, slipped into the back to grab a pair of what they were looking at to wear out and show them, “this is how they look on,” it was brilliant. And the owner was all over it. I gave him my number, after extolling my retail history resume and upbringing, bragging how I knew when to leave customers alone and when to cater, sharing my lesson learned from my mom, who used to nag me to try things on, saying, “go on, try it on, you can’t tell until you try it on,” which was accurate, and he was literally going to create a spot for me. So I left, elated, but only as long as the light from the store’s door closing behind me still reflected upon me. By the time I got in my car, and after calling my neighbor still flying to tell her what happened, I hung up, my mood began to rapidly deflate and by the time I got home, the high was gone, replaced by exhaustion, no groceries, an overpriced to go order and me too spent to be on that support group meeting online. Instead, I checked out on the couch with Netflix and girl scout cookies. 

I don’t want to abandon myself anymore, so today I succeeded in not doing so. I got my groceries, spent the afternoon sunning at the beach and fed myself a nice dinner. So tonight, I committed to myself that I would write this instead. And I love me more for doing so. Now, I can watch a little Netflix and go to bed feeling good about getting to the grocery store and being there for me and with me.

Anti Social Media-My Recent Experience with Facebook and Online Dating

Anti Social Media-My Recent Experience with Facebook and Online Dating

Destin, Florida February 2021

I am sitting on my couch on a Monday afternoon. It is raining outside here in Florida. 70 degrees.  It is March 1st. I don’t know why I am writing but I am. I am binge watching the same Netflix show of seven seasons that I first began in October as a way to cope with so much alone time during this pandemic isolation. I am at the end of season seven for the fourth or fifth time, I have lost track. It is called Offspring, a show complete with hot Aussie men, a dysfunctional family, sunshine, laughter and tears and quite alot of wit and poignancy, but I got bored after sleeping through an episode or so, so here I am typing away. 

I was feeling lonely and started to do what I used to do which was look to social media to fill the void. I got as far as my Facebook page, where I updated my profile picture, knowing that by so doing, I could get some likes and loves and maybe if I am lucky, some comments. Those are the brass ring you know. I mean, anyone can hit a like or a love but an actual comment. Someone actually ambulating their fingers and going to the trouble to make words out of letters, well, that just feels so…empty really. In the long run. Because this is what happens next, for me, and this is the reason that I have abstained almost entirely from Facebook since the middle of December.

Now, I have set myself up for more loneliness, not less. Because now, I have a choice to make. I can go back to my Facebook to see if anyone has seen my new picture and then see if I have had any likes or comments. And then I can spend time living in my head wondering if certain people I find attractive have seen my picture. Or, whether friends have missed me or not. In the past, it inevitably ended up with entire evenings lost in scrolling, reading posts, being outraged at some, tickled at others, touched by a couple of memes, but ultimately coming away feeling spent, tired and MORE lonely than when I signed on and those hours spent scrolling are never coming back to me. Because I have used something outside of me to try and fill me up, when what I am actually doing is abandoning myself in the process.

Social media!?! It really isn’t social at all. At least not in my “I live alone in Pandemia and I am single” experience. Because since the time I have left Facebook, I have only heard from a small handful of the over 1400 friends on my account. Admittedly, there are probably about half of those who are only friends for business reasons. We have a code where we friend each other and then like each other’s business pages to grow those business pages and hopefully grow those businesses. Facebook algorithms give business pages more exposure when they show a higher number of followers and fans.

I am not judging or criticizing any of those people who I have not heard from. It is a two way street. Just observing my behavior that leads nowhere good.

The view from my window

Today, I decided to do something different. I know people who say that doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is insane behavior. And I want to feel better, not worse. So that is why I am telling on myself here because who knows, maybe I am not alone in my behavior. Wouldn’t it be ironic if by posting this story on the social media apparatus of my WordPress blog page people relate and take some kind of comfort in knowing that they are not weak or flawed or unloveable, all feelings I have had today backed by the gray rainy sky that blocks my solar mood altering sun from me. 

We are coming up on the one year anniversary of Covid 19 taking life as we knew it, and hermetically sealing it, or in some cases, us in, leaving REAL social interaction in some cases potentially dangerous to our health. I am so thankful that I have remained well from that sickness. 

The sickness I have had has been loneliness. Actually, loneliness is not a sickness, but I have some shame admitting mine. My response to my loneliness at times, is seen by some as sick behavior. I am just going to call it learned behavior. The other social media that I have gone to at times looking for something outside of me to make me feel less lonely is online dating sites. While I do have a valid desire for a loving romantic partnership, I have a pattern there. I start out telling myself that I can do so in moderation. Just sign up for one app, only check it every so often, maintain balance in the rest of my life and before I know it, weeks go by, four dating sites are downloaded on my phone, hours of my nights spent scrolling through pictures of men looking for…something outside of myself to fill my void, entertain me or take away my pain. There have been several dates. First and last, all in ones. I can’t believe I am admitting this on paper, but truth is the only way for me. And the truth is that I don’t want to feel discomfort or grief or loss or boredom for that matter and these are things in me asking to be felt.

I have a support network in place set to catch me when I need to be comforted as I purge losses that I have distracted from in any number of ways. TV, food, shopping, men, women, your life, world news. It is far more exhausting to distract at this point than it is to just sit with the feelings and let them come out. But I still fight just holding still.

I am having to unlearn some bad advice, or better described, “programming” I have subjected myself to for a very long time and took to be gospel truth.  For many years, I have heard the terms, “fake it til you make it,” and “act as if”- two of the worst bits of advice given by people who don’t know what else to say when someone is really in need of dealing with some really uncomfortable feelings. Advice typically given by people who can’t be with their own uncomfortable feelings, so it just trickles down like a bad infection to many unwitting eager for relief listeners. I tried it. It doesn’t work.

For me, it only caused me to believe that I was somehow flawed for having anger or fear or grief or loneliness. And I have them all. At some point or another. Because I am human. I still have shame even writing this here. But I want to be over this. 

So as of this moment, I am not cruising Match.com or Bumble or Tinder or Hinge or Plenty Of Fish, which, by the way goes by POF.com and would be better named POFFOT.com, (plenty of fish floating on top.com), and yet I go there. Desperate. But I want to bring a more whole me to whatever relationship I have coming, which I sometimes trust the Universe is preparing for me.

To be fair to me, and to anyone out there, I don’t bring a healed person to the table, so I am going to do some more of that before I get out there again and I really hope that I allow my daily walk of life to be the source of people I date because online dating leaves me spent. And not in the sweaty, fun way. I rationalize going there by saying “It is hard to meet people out in the world” which I find to be true, but I also find meeting people who I have anything in common with online to be difficult as well. Maybe more so than if I just give it up and see what happens. At the store. At the beach. Who knows. Clearly, I don’t and my way certainly isn’t working.

Honestly, I don’t feel like I am very available right now. I tell myself and others that I want a meaningful relationship and I do. But if I am completely honest with myself, I don’t have a lot to bring to the table right now and I don’t want to lose myself in someone else or use their attention as a distraction for feelings that I am trying to avoid. That is not fair to them. And not good for anyone. Just writing that here is scary because it means getting more intimate with me.

So that is where I will be. Hanging out with friends, open to timing other than mine to fulfill that heart’s desire because I have done nothing but wear myself out, lead people on, lie to myself and spin my wheels. I have caught myself saying “he’s a game player.” “He’s unavailable.” “He’s all talk.” That all may be true, but guess what? I am the common denominator. The laws of attraction are at play here and that tells me that these things are all true of me too, or else why am I attracting this type of man, so I am stepping back.

In the meantime, I have art to create, words to write, a one eyed cat who needs and gives love, a beach to comb, sun to soak up and being to do.

Eclipse-Pandemic Passion Requited (Almost)

Eclipse-Pandemic Passion Requited (Almost)

“ECLIPSE”

verb

 1.

(of a celestial body) obscure the light from or to (another celestial body).

noun

1.
an obscuring of the light from one celestial body by the passage of another between it and the observer or between it and its source of illumination.
“an eclipse of the sun”

2.
a brand of chewing gum.

I met him on a Saturday night. I was home watching a movie when I swiped right and so did he.

I was stunned by him because he was 20 years my junior and while I have often found men in their forties attractive, this was the first time one had indicated they were attracted to me. I have to say, that while I get more years as I breathe more days in a row, my spirit is getting younger and my libido is one of a teenager who had unrequited hormonal expression because that is my reality.

Most of my friends were having sex in high school and I was off somewhere wondering what that was all about. No one was endorsing me to explore my sexuality when I was younger. And what was modeled for me was done by my mother, a widow who got her sexual needs met inappropriately with strangers and married men.

From high school forward, I struggled to find a way to show up for a sex life. It was excruciatingly frustrating. I had to get good and drunk the first time I had sex at 21 and got pregnant right out of the gate. I had a brief marriage to him, while the child was lost to miscarriage.

From that point on, I was very attractive and painfully shy, a lethal combination which presents itself at 5’10” to some as being disinterested or unavailable, both of which could not have been further from the truth. There was one brief fling with a man 10 years my senior that took care of a long dry spell sexually, but it was not unusual for me to go years at a time with no sex life.

For my adult prime years from age 30 to 55, I prostituted myself for the house and the yard to someone I never had any sexual chemistry with. Ever. We didn’t even consummate our marriage on our wedding night and for the last six years of our marriage, we slept in separate bedrooms.

My swipe right connection struck me as different when in his exchange he actually used the words “I’m lonely.” 

That was so refreshing to me. A man who can own his feelings. Not something I have seen much in my time of latent dating which began at divorce and age 55. 

I have been shamed after telling some of the people in my life when I am feeling lonely. “You just need to love yourself.” “When you truly love yourself, you will no longer feel lonely.” “You just need to get good at being with you.” These comments, usually uninvited, come from people who are not alone. They have a relationship with a significant other-a husband, a wife, a partner, a lover.  Here’s what I say. Fuck them. And their unsolicited input.  

So I find myself living alone with this amazing woman. Tall, pretty, sexy, sensual and funny as hell and she wants to have a relationship with something that’s not purple and doesn’t require batteries.

We talked back and forth and the conversation was flowing nicely. Not once did he “go there.” There being where amateurs go getting graphically sexual before really knowing about each other. I had a friend once who said the ones who go to sex right out of the gate are princes and that it takes a king to know when that should be a part of the conversation. Personally, I prefer  the terms used by Javier Bardem’s character in the movie Eat Pray Love when Liz says she is sick of people telling her that she needs a man. “My dear, what you need is a champion.” Exactly.

The chat flowed nicely, when sometimes they don’t go past “Hi.”  “Hi.” He was fully present for getting to know you chit chat which went on for most of an hour until I told him I was calling it a day. He said goodnight back to my goodnight and I went to bed. 

When I woke up, he had messaged me saying it was his birthday. He then said, “May I call you?” A little thing, but the chivalry in that small gesture was so sweet to me. Especially from someone just 41 years old. When I answered the phone, he said “Hello Lucinda” in a voice that made me bend over silently saying to myself “oh my God” because it was so sexy. And I kept doing that throughout our short conversation. He asked me if I would like to go to lunch. I said yes, but I did not feel like travelling. His home is just over an hour from me so when I asked if he would come to me, he said sure. He also asked if I would be willing to travel to him if we decided to see each other. I said yes. I picked a beautiful restaurant with outdoor seating right on the beach of the Emerald green water on the Gulf of Mexico. The only thing between us and the water would be white crystal sands. It is stunning.

I made him a little birthday gift from the things I have to make art with. An old vintage military metal toy plane with the paint chipped off except it still had red, white and blue stars, one on each wing, and wheels that turned. He was a flight instructor for the Coast Guard and had shared that he had ambition to become a commercial airline pilot. (I didn’t have a commercial toy plane, so this one would have to do.) With that, I placed a red drink umbrella and a small glow in the dark star. I wrapped it up in crumpled silver tissue paper and tied it with a bow of plain string. I was really excited about this date with this guy. That was on a Sunday. 

Sadly, that lunch did not happen because his kids got dropped off a day early with no notice, so we had to delay our first meeting. 

On Monday, we planned a do over date. Same beachfront restaurant for lunch for a week from Monday, provided he was able to take the day off. He was travelling an hour to honor my request that we meet on my turf and frankly, I wanted to be close to home in the event that the passion and excitement we shared talking to each other proved to be there in person so that I could bring him home with me.That, and the scenery where I live is considered to be some of the prettiest beach in the world. What woman would not want that to be the background for a tryst with a young, healthy hot man!?!

On Wednesday I got a text asking me what I was doing. He said that he was rained out at work and would be off for the day until his kids came home from school. He asked if I’d like to meet for coffee which ended up becoming lunch and of course I said yes, excited that we had an opportunity to meet sooner. In the flesh.

We were both eager with excitement. So we decided on a halfway point, about 40 minutes drive for each of us, as he only had a few hours. We met at a restaurant. As I pulled in, I knew I was right behind his truck. Just being that close made me really excited. And we hadn’t even gotten out of our cars yet.

I was nervous, but I had already expressed that prior to meeting, telling him that I had not had a date in several months. “Don’t worry.” His words to me. And worry was not anywhere near me, as we hugged hello. He, in an oatmeal colored wool sweater, typical attire for someone in New England. None of that polyester knit. Just real sturdy wool. And he was that.

I carefully chose what I wore. A soft fitted olive heather green long sleeve tee shirt with a boat neck that showed my pretty neck and shoulders. That and some nicely fitting jeggings, open toed sandals revealing my multi colored mermaid manicure on my tanned pretty feet. They are magic so that when I get in the water, they allow me to swim for miles without coming up for air.

When he hugged me hello, I practically shoved his present into his hand. “Here, take this.” I was nervous. We walked into the restaurant and after surveying the place for a social distanced table where I felt comfortable with a lunch date during a pandemic, we parked our stuff at a table near the window where there were no people within well over the six foot guideline and went straight up to the counter to order. 

We stood there in line, and I felt like an adolescent, excited and stimulated to be standing next to him. If we had been magnets, we would have been stuck shoulder to shoulder, the attraction was that strong. I felt him scan my body up and down with those great big gorgeous green eyes as I looked on to order, sneaking a peek with my peripheral vision. And oh my God, did I hope he liked what he saw because for me the attraction was palpable. My next thought was “Please God, let this be mutual,” followed by, “and if it is, we may blow the top of the building of my third floor apartment on our upcoming date.”

I learned that his mother was from South America, his father from New England and that he himself had lived much of his life abroad, including much of his education prior to joining the Coast Guard for his career there. And let me tell you, this man was refreshing to me.  I could sense something in him that I am guessing came from his mother. A softness without shame or false bravado. And a passion that exuded from his saucer like big green eyes and face full of dimples that lit up when he smiled.

First, he opened his birthday present and as is my practice, I had to narrate and explain. I love to give gifts. “The plane is the best I could do to represent your ambition to be a commercial pilot. The umbrella is so that you won’t get a sunburn at the beach and the glow in the dark star is meant to serve as the symbol that all of the difficult things that are going on in your life right now will one day be in the rear view mirror. (He was about to finalize a difficult divorce, something I knew about first hand.) He thanked me, then devoured his lunch.

He leaned all the way across the table towards me, his broad, sexy shoulders all in, as he asked me about my art. I was literally taken aback, and I leaned back at this body language that seemed to indicate an interest in my answers and the one who was giving them. 

It bears mention at this point to say that this experience was happening in the midst of a pandemic that had a year under its belt which for me, as an extrovert, has been something of a challenge with the forced isolation that comes with prudent concern for health. I had just begun to add back certain things to my life that pre covid didn’t seem like a luxury. I went to my first movie in nearly a year. The theatre only had about seven people in it, yet the experience was almost a sensory overload as I have adapted to all of my movies at home with my one eyed cat Atlas. And as for eating at restaurants, that was newly added back too so just seeing people out, albeit in sparce numbers as if picking up the pieces of a social life after an apocalypse seemed new and strange.

Distracted by his everything, I suddenly forgot how to talk, and as I fumbled for words like “paint” and “pictures” and “I like to,” I told him I didn’t think I was describing my art very well. “You are doing fine.” His words to me as the thoughts I wasn’t sharing were the fact that his strong folded hands that led to his wrists with dark and gray hair that led up his sleeves to his broad forearms that went up his sleeves to his broad shoulders, which were aimed right at me made it hard for me to think.

He was done with his food, smiling at how good his steak sandwich and french onion soup was. He had boasted “I’m hungry!” upon meeting and all I could think was me too. Famished for human touch. Specific to that of a man. I had hardly touched my food. I struggled with how to manage all of the sensations. Hunger, lust, chemical explosion and the sound of his voice. “How do I work the straw in my drink?” was just one of my concerns at that moment.

I wondered, did he feel what I felt, so in the middle of someone’s sentence, I have no idea whose, I said, “So how do you think this date is going?” followed by, “I think you are really cute and I am very attracted to you.”

His response at first was to smile simultaneously with his big eyes and his pretty mouth, as if I had tickled him. Then, he leaned in, looked at me and softly said in that bend me over voice, (wait, I almost forgot where I was, because I was reliving the moment-sorry.) He was looking at me so I was looking back and his big green eyes and my big blue eyes were making some serious big turquoise when he spoke the words “You are a very pretty woman and I find you very attractive.” I had no options but to be with that feeling of being washed over by the sound of him.  That loses something in black and white, so I will describe the experience or the feeling that I had when he spoke. It was as if we were the only ones there and if my side of the mutual chemistry that had just been confirmed could have spoken, it would have said, “Crawl across this damn table and ravage me right now.”

Instead, since there were other people there and getting naked in public is frowned upon here in Florida, we reviewed how much time we had left before he had to be home for his kids to come home from school,  so I suggested we go for a walk.  

We went to a nearby park and walked along a path in the woods. We were shoulder to shoulder, I had borrowed a warmer jacket from him that he had in his truck and I was cozy next to him. He shared about his family, much like a young teenager on a date with raging hormones. He would be a freshman and I would be a senior, but as far as desire we were both honor students. We talked about playing tennis together. His voice even smiled when he shared about his plans to live on a lake in Maine, where his great great grandfather had worked in a lighthouse. Such a sweet man.

When we got back in his truck, he said “Should I take you back to your car?” I said, “I don’t know, how much time do you have before your sons get home?” He said he had about two hours. Taking me sounded good. However, to my car was not how I would complete that phrase.

At this point, the only contact we had had beyond the hug hello was brushing up against each other as we walked. Now, it was intentional. He reached over and gently took my hand, massaging one finger at a time. He had said he liked giving massages and he knew that my shoulder had been bothering me, so as awkward as it was with the console between us, he worked his way slowly up my arm. Then, he leaned in. And kissed the back of my neck. All of it. From one ear to the other. Just writing this makes me feel something. He asked if I would like to come to his house. I told him I wanted to have more time together the first time after which he said he had wanted to get a room with me. If only he had said that earlier.

We sat back in our seats as he asked me what I liked with a man as if to say what is your favorite color, intent in his listening to my reply. And I gave it. He told me what mattered to him. About how he liked to touch. And be touched. It was innocent and sweet and sensual and a bit erotic. “I think you should kiss me” I said, as he sat up in his seat. He was reaching for the gum in the console. Eclipse. I giggled nervously as he did so. He said he wanted a first kiss to be remembered as tasting good. So I grabbed some gum for me. And we kissed. His gum and mine were eclipsed by what was happening in the middle. And I wanted more of that. 

When he took me back to my car, a difficult conversation was had. I kissed him goodbye and I got in my car. I could feel his eyes watching me as I walked across to get in. We exchanged a wave and he drove off.

Two more days before what was to be the official first date. The one I so looked forward to as holding the possibility of an entire day enjoying each other publicly and privately. Instead, that difficult conversation continued and that date never happened because of it. There would be no next date from there.

And while I was sad, I was also rewarded by the entire experience. There was communication from the word go, honesty and thoughtfulness too. There was sexual tension fed by pandemic imposed touch starvation. And there was a younger man desiring an older woman who desired a younger man.

You see, while I have confidence, it is not constant and when it comes to affairs of the heart, I can sometimes be the last one to know that when I walk into a room, I am seen.  

I gave 26 years in the prime of my life to a man my age who I did not love that way and who did not love me that way. And now, I am ready to claim some of the sensuality and passion that never got expressed when it was meant to.

I work to trust the universe and my instincts and the laws of attraction with my heart to bring me the lover or lovers I am meant to have when I am meant to have them.  Since my marriage ended six years ago, I have had several experiences in relationships and in each case the relationship was more loving than the one before and if this progression is any indicator, I really have much to look forward to. In the meantime, I’ll just buy more batteries.

Dying Today Is Not An Option

Dying Today Is Not An Option

Prayer from “Your Holiness”-Debbie Ford

Last night, when I went to bed, I told God that if I died in my sleep, I would be okay with that. And then, I woke up. 

Today, I find myself alone. And hurting in ways that are hard to express and even harder to experience. I try and practice prayer and meditation, as my spiritual life has become a greater priority than ever. With age, and awakeness being the great motivators. 

I find reading difficult, so I rarely do it, but a couple of years ago, a friend said to me when I was in the throes of grief, that the book, “Your Holiness,” by Debbie Ford was important. For me, it was exactly that. The author, Debbie Ford, a woman who had recovered from addictions to alcohol, drugs, men and money and served many in her spiritual service work, died an untimely death from a rare cancer in her fifties. The date of her death was Feb. 17. An anniversary that I share as that is the day I got sober from alcohol. It was chilling to me when I saw the date coinciding. I feel that she has communicated with me from the afterlife because her book has spoken So loudly to me. A miracle really, as I have rarely been able to take in words from a page that could leave any lasting impression.

On this day, as I crack the book open randomly to see what it has to say to me, I find this prayer, that I had yet to read. (I find that using a highlighter to illustrate the words brings them into me when just black ink on white paper fails to do so.) It was just the right thing at the time.

I am back in touch and in some cases, in touch for the first time with much grief. At 61, and after 40 years, give or take, sitting across from therapists, I have all the knowledge from the neck up about the losses in my life. And it is a long list. Some come with trauma. All, as they are screaming to be released, hurt to express, but they have to be heard if I am to stay on this planet and if God continues to wake me up like today.

As the prayer states, “Let the wings of angels lift me out of earthly problems,” I really don’t have many earthly problems when I think about food, shelter and clothing. All needs are handsomely met. Right now. 

My acute needs are to express the grief that has set up camp in my neck and my shoulder and my hips and my throat when swallowing my food is difficult.

I lost my father at age 7. I lost any semblance of family that remained shortly thereafter. And I wasn’t even ten years old yet. 

It’s funny. Now that I am writing with the intent to share here for whoever reads it, I find myself guarding my words. Not everyone is worthy to know my truth in its entirety, but still, I am moved to share because frankly, I have survived yet another bout of hurting so bad I did not want to live.

Living alone, with no one to touch me, and I mean almost ever, because it is not safe to just hug people like it used to be for the very real pandemic and its risks, I am touch starved.

It has been nearly a year since my routine of seeing people in groups, several times a week, where I got multiple hugs, has been drastically curtailed. Before the virus, I might see friends four or five times a week for support groups, fellowship, making art, sharing meals, having parties, going to parties, always with hugs hello and goodbye. Things I choose not to do today because I don’t want to get sick. I have a compromised immune system as it is. 

That kind of lack, like a drip of water on a rock, for long enough, is going to leave a mark.

I do have two friends who are cautious that I feel safe to get hugs from and I am now getting monthly massages, but as a friend who went to Harvard put it, “This shit’s hard.”

So I literally am at a point of do. Or die. The do looks like diving into the deep end of a support group where grief is not only honored, but where the members are willing to sit with my uncomfortable when those grief purges come. And I need that. I need the company of another, albeit by phone or on Zoom, to be present with me as I express my sadness. Because while others can do this on their own, with just their Higher Power as witness, I am not them. And my inner wisdom knows the depths of the losses I have had that need to come out through the tear ducts and my voice in order for true relief and healing and they need to be witnessed by whoever made me and safe people. Both.

As this prayer so beautifully expresses, I have angels. Upon whose shoulders I can rest my head virtually as I sob into my phone and my black and white polka dot happy bedspread, adding accents of black mascara. Sobbing like the little girl inside me who just needs to be heard. And she is. Being heard by others who have been brought into my life at precisely the right time so that I don’t have to go there alone ever again.

I do know that people cannot be my God, or Higher Power, or rescuers. But those people I have found, who listen without judging, who validate without fixing, are put there by whoever or whatever made me, are walking me towards a new and improved definition of a Higher Power.

From the grief and loss and trauma that comes with losing a father at age seven and losing a family shortly thereafter and losing over thirty years to looking outside for the love I had inside in the “hims” of the world, all the bullies I put in place because that was my comfort zone, the men who invade my space physically and verbally because that was my grooming with a promiscuous mother, the cancer that took much from me and left me scarred in its wake, the food that was a comfort until it became a tool of self harm, the alcohol that took me to unsafe places at vulnerable times, and for all of the time I have lost abandoning myself to the many distractions of this world, and for all of the self hatred that had no place to go until now to really get healed, well, the length of this sentence speaks volumes to what is crying to be expressed.

So, sometimes just doing right now and the right nows that follow that, is all I can do. I rarely make plans anymore because I want to live an organic life. I don’t set an alarm, and I can set a goal for my day, and intentions, but the results are often so different than what I thought, like now, writing this to share with you, I am just going with my spirit and how it moves me.

I still hurt, but it is lessened for sharing. In a way, I really am dying. My old self is dying off and getting a replacement. The real me. Been there all along, but she got alot weighing her down. I trust that as I do the work, those spaces left vacant by old, crusty grief and nasty trauma will be filled with light and air and energy and joy.

I hope if you find yourself reading this in that place of wanting to give up, that you don’t. My own history has proven that all of these painful times do pass. So please be encouraged that the same is true for you. And if your pain is so great that you can’t find a way out, at least make one more call to speak your truth.

Others may not be listening where you have tried to be heard. Others may not know what to say. Others may say things that only make your pain worse. But you are worth one more call. And then, if you still want to check out, you can.

But I believe you are still here for a reason. You may not know what that is right now, and you may be as old as you have ever been and felt nothing but struggle, but I see you. And you matter.

Also, I love you.

Help is available

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My name is Elvira and I’m an alcoholic.

My name is Elvira and I’m an alcoholic.

(My ego, Elvira)

I got sober at the age of 25. That means for over half of my life, I have not touched a drink. There is much discussion of ego among my sober friends and I.  And somewhere in the last year, I decided to give my ego a name. Elvira seemed fitting. For one, she has the big boobs I wanted when the breast cancer afforded that option 18 years ago. That didn’t go the way I intended, but the cancer did go, so I really can’t complain.  

This morning in the shower, when I was talking to God about writing, the suggestion was made that I introduce Elvira here and speak using her voice. So, here she is!

Elvira: Well THIS is interesting. For all of the times I have screamed for attention, today, Lucinda decides to give me the floor.  

Lucinda: You know, Elvira, you really can be a brat! I have the best of intentions for things like learning to have delayed gratification when it comes to shopping or dating and you just sit in your big chair over there staring at me, shouting bad advice like “Ah go on, spend the money. You can’t take it with you.” Like you have nothing better to do. 

Elvira: Well I DON’T have anything better to do. 

Lucinda: Actually, that’s not entirely true. Did you know that by definition of the word ego, you are a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance? The difference in you, Elvira, is that you want to be all important and it just doesn’t work like that. Another definition of you sees you as the part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for reality testing and a sense of personal identity. So, I think we should work together. And I want you to understand that I am the alpha in this relationship. Capiche?

Elvira: I’m listening…

Lucinda: Elvira, you and I have one simple job to do. And that is to love.   That is pretty simple. But it is not easy.  Now the first thing you think of when I say that is boys. Romantic love. That is only part of it. That is just a heart’s desire we share. But the love I am talking about here is a universal thing. It is our purpose in the short time we have left here. 

 Clearly, you have trust issues. And you seem to have a God complex and a want to be in charge of me. Well, you are not the boss of me, girlfriend. You are not. I surrender my will to God on a daily basis with the intention of being of service to the best of my ability each day with whatever I do, whoever I talk to, however I spend my time, money and energy. But you get so impatient with God’s plan for us. Why?

Elvira: Well, I have known much disappointment in life with you. And I just want to have some fun for the time we have left here. What is so bad about that?

Lucinda: Nothing. Nothing at all, but when you try and bend things to go your way rather than allowing them to go the way God has planned, you end up creating your own misery and that spills onto me. I know, for example, that you and I have heart’s desire to grow old with and love another in a romantic partnership.

But your lack of trust and fear of being alone with and getting to know me kept us in a marriage that was not happy for anyone for most of 24 years and since that time that same lack of trust in God’s plan and fear of being alone kept us both in relationships where we were settling for less. Don’t get me wrong, we learned lessons from all of these, but we stayed longer than necessary in a couple of them and across the board, there was a pain in the endings that could have been avoided altogether had you and I joined forces years ago and learned together to trust that God would take care of us and taken the time to know each other then as we do now.

Elvira: Yeah, well, I didn’t see much evidence of that care of God growing up with you. I mean, where was God when your mom left us alone all the time?

Lucinda: I get it Elvira. It looks like we were alone. And it felt that way to me, too. But it turned out that we were safe. Right? Nothing happened that I can recall anyway. So here is the deal. Let’s look at facts over feelings. The feelings we shared were those of neglect, lack of love and abandonment. And maybe there was some truth in that. But our mom always came home and in her absence, something kept us safe. Do you see my point here?

Elvira: I am beginning to, yeah.

Lucinda: I think everything that did or didn’t happen to us so far in this life that may have caused pain was a well learned lesson, sometimes more than once that we can now, moving forward for whatever time we are still here, avoid re-learning if you will just work with me here and be a little more patient and trusting.

Elivra: That sounds easy, but when it is Sunday afternoon, and we are alone AGAIN in this pandemic isolation that has droned on for five months, aching for companionship, I just want to talk to boys.

Lucinda: Look, Elvira, you are preaching to the choir. But let’s “play the tape” as they say. Let’s say we meet someone online who is nice enough and let’s say we agree to have coffee and let’s say you make me forget that there is a pandemic because you can be pretty persuasive and we get up close and personal when we have no way of knowing short of a test that is not 100% reliable as to whether they or we have this virus, is it worth the risk?

I know this is a marathon. A waiting game. To see when the coast is clear. So why don’t we just indulge each other until things are safer. We can make nice dinners for each other like we would for a special someone. We can watch great movies. We can play great music. We can make happy art. We can call people who might be lonely. We can share LIVE video of the beach with people who are landlocked. We can write with the hopes of inspiring others who are in the same boat with this pandemic fatigue. Basically, we can give to each other and share with others and when I say until the coast is clear, hell, we have the Emerald Coast of the Gulf of Mexico 5 minutes away where we can go every day at a safe distance from others to get filled up on God’s beauty and the gifts of the Universe. We can love from a safe distance and get filled up in return.

This will all change, Elvira. I don’t know how. I don’t know when. But I do know it will change. We will go to restaurants again. We will hug our friends again. We will go to the movies again. We will have parties again. But until that is a prudent thing to do, let’s just accept what is, take it a day at a time, and make the best of it. 

Elvira: Ok, but I am gonna need a dog, cake and cookies and ice cream. And I mean the good stuff from scratch, and Ben and Jerry’s and Haagen Daz, not that other store brand crap.

Lucinda: Fair enough, Elvira, fair enough.

Gratitude Beach

Gratitude Beach

I have just had the most moving experience. From Tulsa, Oklahoma to what I am going to rename Gratitude Beach. But for the sake of geography and Google search for when you want to come here, I live in Destin, Florida.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is efb47442d918e9c6debade097a53567b.jpg(My new home.)

Destin used to be a fishing village. Today, when the million plus tourists aren’t flocking here between June and September, it has a modest population of just under 20,000 people. My county of Okaloosa has just over 200,000 people while the city of Tulsa, my home for most of 50 years boasts a headcount of 400,000.

I like the smallness here. The potential for greater intimacy. The intrigue of a possible Peyton Place Syndrome, where your business is everyone’s business. I am going to be on my best behavior with the hopes that I won’t be somebody’s “Did you hear about…” punch line. I do have a history rich with sentence completion that does not make me proud. But I am happy to report, that is way the hell back in the rear view mirror, somewhere around 1985.

This move has had many moving parts. I downsized from a three bedroom house to a one bedroom apartment. Could have been a daunting task, but the reward at the end of the journey being a zip code on the Emerald Coast was quite the incentive to be thorough and to only to keep those things that I needed or that continue to bring me joy.

In that process, I sold some antiques. And that was a fond farewell. I wrote about Beulah here, the dry sink that was a fixture for most of my life as my parents were big antique lovers in New England and New Jersey back in the 1950’s, both of whom are now deceased.

The last antique treasure to go that I still had affection for was the church pew.   This piece of wood that has held together for well over a hundred years with not one nail was like a member of my family. It always lived where my mom was until she was no longer living, at which time, it came to live with me in my marital family home. And when that family was no more, the church pew, much like a good loyal dog that sees you through hard times, followed at my heel and moved twice with me.

Once I had custody, it went from empty and welcoming, to whimsical display of my fancy shoes and wind up toys, an ever changing display of the whimsy that I insist in surrounding myself with.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 117009264_374315020220931_7800420205910773569_n.jpg(Tulsa decor)

Well the universe is a generous kind place, filled with generous kind people and a friend here in Florida bought the church pew from me when I shared the Craigslist post on my Facebook while I was still in Tulsa, with the plan that I would deliver upon my arrival here. He even paid $25 over my asking price, which was welcome, as the move was not cheap and the funds were required. I was happy to know that I would know what loving home it went to. Much like my furniture art, I get attached to things that bring me joy, and this church pew has done that over time.

A week ago today, when that friend showed up to help two others unload my life as it is now, from the innards of a big yellow truck and up three flights into my tree house apartment in paradise, that same friend, after learning the story about the bench and what it meant to me, gifted it back to me as a house warming present. I gotta tell you, God Is Good, All The Time, if I am just paying attention.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 0808201127.jpg(My new theme)

Now I move again. This time, forward. Into whatever and whoever God has in store for me. To know, to love, to be in relationship with, to serve. All the top priority of each and every day that I continue to be gifted with. Which is my truth. That every day IS a gift. Pandemic or no pandemic. Worldly calamity or World peace. NO MATTER WHAT. My life is a gift. Every day, when I wake up, I get to open a day like a present. And I get to spend my time, energy and money in ways that I hope are pleasing to the universe and the God that I intend to serve in whatever ways I can be useful.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 0808201128.jpg

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t always come from a place of gratitude. In fact, last night, was just the opposite. After a week of being driven to unpack everything I own and nest, I was exhausted. I had hung over a dozen pictures, unpacked and broke down at least that many boxes.

I was angry that ATT wanted me to pay them an additional $50 for my last month of TV and internet. Something about my “12 month special” rate expiring and leaving me with the final month at a higher rate. And I am not proud of the manner in which I spoke to the innocent woman on the other end of the phone. It was not her fault that I had not read the fine print, but, no. I wasn’t paying without a fit. And I had one. But at the time, because no one was watching, I justified my bitchy tone on the phone by telling myself, “My words were not unkind.” But if you were to rate my tone of indignation on a 1 to 10 scale, it would have easily hit 9.75. I was not nice. And I knew it and I felt it and I cleaned up my mess just as fast as I made it. “I realize this is not your fault. I know my tone is cranky and I am sorry.” But not before I got in another jab at ATT for, I don’t know, not teaching me to read the fine print first? “I just have always had trouble with ATT and their poor communication.” What an ego I have on me at times!

Her name is Elvira, by the way, my ego that is, if you are new to my stories here. You know, the one with the big boobs and big black bouffant to match. She really has a mouth on her. And much attitude, coupled with little to sometimes no patience. She is a justification queen. Suffice it to say, I finally decided that my serenity was worth $50 bucks. Besides, I owed it. I just didn’t like it. And more important, I was not in a good place when I made the call, or should I say, when Elvira insisted on picking up the phone to channel her frustration at the latter part of the afternoon. She and I both were quite tired and sore from unpacking and acclimating. To a third floor walk and a town where there are no mask mandates for the public, except for those local or national chains who won’t allow customers or employees to be present if a face mask is absent.

This has been a scary scene for me in that respect.  Moving from Tulsa, where there was a mask mandate for all public anything to a state that has achieved ranks up there with the big apple for viral cases. Two weeks ago, a friend died from the virus and another here in Destin, who required hospitalization, thankfully, just recovered. And for me, social distancing and wearing a mask are mandatory because I don’t want to give or get a sickness that is a stealth by nature.

This, coupled with all that goes along with a major life change, be it positive or negative, I really just needed to vent. But to a friend, not passive aggressively getting it out to an innocent call center employee who, for all I know, is as done with pandemic life and being stuck at home for work, as I am sure are many people, when I dare to think of others above myself.

These are teachable moments to me. These ugly actors in my behavior. And I look to others who are of a similar mindset to be of service and do the right thing in their walk of life to tell me what they see. So when I was about to take a dive in the deep end of self pity last night, I reached out to a friend who is very uplifting and positive and just plain fun. Truth be told, I wanted a commiserator. Someone to wallow with me. Just for a minute. Instead, again, thanks to a generous Universe, what I got was an unexpected gift. Here is the text:

ME:  “I got to tell you it’s almost cruel to be living in such a beautiful place and shut into my apartment. I’m having a little bit of pity here. I won’t stay there though cuz it’s going to take a minute before this s***’s over with.” (Start the violins and call me a wambulance.)

ME: “Hope you’re having a good Friday! Hate to end anything in a pouty tone. LOL.”

FRIEND: “I don’t expect you will sit there long. LOL. We are too blessed to sit in pity.”

Those words really hit me hard. In a good way. I was at a crossroads. About to choose how the rest of my gift of a day was going to go. And because of the suggestion of looking at blessings that I heard there, I took that as the Universe using this person to kindly remind me I have so much. So much. So much. To be grateful for.

I love the way God uses people if I only allow them in. In my ugly moments. In my times of sometimes repulsive to me neediness.

And I love the saying:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 117083112_298249238281450_376421188364482437_n.jpg(Miramar Beach-Where I go every morning)

I just came back to this post to publish, after taking the afternoon to do my art, which I do with intent every Saturday afternoon. Just as I began to sit to do my art, I saw that sitting after writing for a time needed to be interrupted. So I went to the floor to stretch and I hurt my back. Bad enough that it scared me to think that I might need to go to the ER. But I just took a breath between the ones that the wincing was taking from me and I reached out to four people who walk the same spiritual path that I do. Two are doctors and two are not. All are a part of my family of choice. And every one of them offered their service, with one bringing my gimpy ass self the Tylenol, Motrin and heating pad that were recommended by someone who knows more than I do, loving me out loud and with action. Acts of service is a love language you know.

So tonight, I will order a pizza to be delivered to  my third floor tree house apartment in paradise and bask in the love that the Universe has showered me with in just these last twenty four hour, never mind the last week.

I am indeed grateful. For everything. The pleasure of having eyes that can embrace the beauty of the beach as I go there every morning to see God and fill my cup as well as the times when I hurt with pains of change or pains of moving or pains of missing my daughter because those are the things that move me to grow in my spiritual life. Through those I know in human form who I like to call my God Squad. The ones who tell me the truth in kind and gentle ways. And I am grateful for all of the pain and difficulty that makes me need more than just me. And when I turn those needs to a power greater than what I have, I am consistently richly blessed in ways that you have to know are beautiful.

(My morning set up.)

Time To Go Tulsa

Time To Go Tulsa

(I’m getting loaded.)

Well Tulsa, It’s about that time. I’m leaving you. This time, I think, for good.

I came to you with my mom from Connecticut after my dad died when I was 7. We were supposed to be moving to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, but my mom made a permanent detour via Southern Illinois and then here when I was in the 8th grade. 

I started school in one of your junior highs, where the boys in my 8th grade band class were not too kind in their words to me as I was “welcomed” to Tulsa and into the band. When the band instructor introduced this new barely pubescent 12 year old flutist from Illinois, the boys in percussion chimed in. “Is she pointed or flat?” Said the first. “She’s flat.” Replied his buddy. To which the band instructor said  “ .“ That was my first wrongful attachment of pain to you Tulsa. To be fair, I already had a chip on my shoulder for my mom not taking me to the beach in Florida.

I went on to two of your private high schools and graduated. I went away to a short lived college career before I returned to you at 17. I worked in your restaurants. Drank in your bars. 

I escaped you at 19 for a year of fun in the mountains. Skiing and drinking in Crested Butte, Colorado. 

Then a summer in Lake Tahoe working at Caesar’s. Then a couple of years in Texas. Houston first where I got married and drunk alot.  Then on to Austin, where I got unmarried and sober. Once.

After that Tulsa, my car brought me back to you.  All in my early days of sobriety. When the advice is to not make a major change in the first year. I must have thought that being blonde and left handed made me exempt as I left my husband and Texas with all that I owned in my car  bearing a sign in the window which read, “Tulsa or Bust,” to return to you at less than six months sober.  I went to a lot of your meetings. Loved and was loved by a lot of your people.  

I spent three and a half months in one of your halfway (insane) houses, then several apartments over five  or six years until that second marriage of 24 years happened. 

We lived on your outskirts in the sod country of Bixby, Oklahoma for 14 years, where we built a lovely home, complete with three hand prints, one for mom, one for dad and one for 4 year old Abby, dated 2002 on the floor in the corner of the garage.

(Our Family Home)

We fled from you for our first year of marriage to the Dutch Country of Pennsylvania. I could not be with you. I did not like you. I thought you made me unhappy. And I was sure that leaving you was the answer.  

After one year of experiencing that the natives of Lancaster, PA only like people who visit and loathe those who bring moving vans, we aimed for Austin, Texas, but you had the job that fit the mechanical engineer in my house, so back to you, Tulsa,  we came. 

While you welcomed us back,that marriage of 24 years eventually ended here. And so did the dream I had spent have of my life believing in here in Tulsa. 

My creative work of painting began here as my marriage was coming to a close. I started to paint whimsical furniture for kids going into foster care. I also started my real spiritual work with you Tulsa.  I pushed up out of the ashes of my former life, and you generously provided me great teachers of what God does and doesn’t look like to teach me the lessons of the day.

(Samples of my work)

I completed my treatment of and survival from breast cancer here with you Tulsa 18 years ago. Some of your docs could use some work, in my experience, but there were enough good ones here to meet my needs. I mean, I’m still here. Right?

I have known much unhappiness while living with you. You get dark in the winter and you are cold to me too. I have spent much of my time living with you complaining about you. About the way you look. You don’t have an ocean. Or mountains. Your lakes feel like big mud puddles with sticks and snakes and God knows what else in them. I sound like a bitchy wife or ungrateful child here. Don’t I?

One thing I have learned and forgotten and relearned over and over again in my spiritual walk of 35 years is that nothing is perfect and focusing on what I see as negative just makes it more so. Conversely, focusing on what I do like makes it even more so. In other words, it’s all about perspective. And appreciation or as I like to call it, gratitude.

Tulsa, I want to ask your forgiveness. You did nothing to me. My unhappiness was not your fault. Your version of traffic is nothing compared to what I knew in Texas. Your people are, for the most part, friendly and those who I was in relationship with for support, were quite loving indeed.

I could live with you and find the good in you of which there is much. And I learned to do that quite well as I learned and experienced over the years that my happiness is an inside job. To be done wherever my body resides. 

But Tulsa, the God of my understanding has directed my body and soul to the beach. I suffer pains in my body and spirit in the darker days and cold of your winters. Each season is harder on me than the one before as my body and mind advance in age. We just aren’t a good match, you and me. Not today. And because of that Tulsa, I am leaving you.

I am an artist and while you have a quite impressive art community here, one that I only began to truly discover in the last year or so, my bliss is in the colors of the Emerald Coast of Destin, Florida, where I pick up keys to live on August 1. Sapphire blues, emerald greens, periwinkles, tangerines, pinks, turquoises-all my favorite palette to surround myself, dress myself and work with, all on the ever changing canvas that God puts out for my eyes to feast on there at the beach in the water and the sky. It pulls me like a magnet. That’s how God is in my experience.

And so does the weather, particularly their version of winter. I spent all of February there basking in their version of cold, while my daughter sent me pictures of the snowman she had made in our back yard. While I love the smile you put on her face as she stood next to said snowman with the hot pink spray painted boobs, I was so relieved that I could hang up the phone and be with the door open where my body was in a relatively warmer place. 

I have a calling to help young women who are marked with the F word of Felony.  Women who have done their time for their crime, which in most cases was non violent and drug related, done at a time of sickness not badness, but can’t get a break or a decent job in our society. I want to teach them to paint and sell furniture. Something I began here with you Tulsa. And I have found a community of these women in Florida who I can help.

I do love you Tulsa. You do have your own unique beauty and style. Your Riverside Drive along the Arkansas River. Your Philbrook Museum, Woodward Park and Mapleridge neighborhood, just to name a few. 

You have provided me with good friends, great loves, jobs, shelter, amazing doctors, wonderful homes, terrific neighbors, treasured memories, and you are the birthplace of my favorite co-creation, my daughter Abby. 

Thanks for my Happy House. The one on Rockford Place. The one with the hot pink door. This has brought me great joy. My back yard full of bunnies doing what bunnies do best as they just keep making bunnies. For my sun porch where my art grew as my heart grew. And my living room filled with light all around and my ever changing pictures of my picture window. What a delightful revolving evolving art show that has been to see. With each passing moment, as I look out through the panes.

And my front porch that I took for granted until the pandemic hit. That porch became my window to my spiritual friends. Where I sat perched at 8 am, every day since March, armed with phone, coffee and gratitude and a need for connection, abundantly filled by people all over the country. In that tiny screen on my phone. Channeling God through channel Zoom.

(My Happy House and my art)

About Abby, Tulsa. I have never lived more than 20 minutes from her 22 year old self. And she is staying here with you. So, please. Take good care of my little girl. The one who lives inside of that bright, funny, gifted beautiful young woman of whom I am so proud. Surround her with your best God squad to protect her and love her as I will only be able to do so at an 800 mile distance. Keep her safe in her home and on your streets and in your workplaces and with those she keeps company with. 

(The best thing I ever did)
(Abby in Destin-Hope to Recreate This. Probably not gonna happen.)

Thank you Tulsa. For being my home all these years. And for letting me go.

Let’s Hear It!-A Surefire Way To Beat The Pandemic No Touch System

Let’s Hear It!-A Surefire Way To Beat The Pandemic No Touch System

I am starving for affection.  I live alone. And I am sad that prudent measures of healthy living in the midst of a pandemic include not touching others. So I looked it up and the definition of starve is “suffering or death caused by a lack.” I don’t feel like I am dying, but a hug or two sure would be nice.

As I write this I have done some research and learned that there is a thing called Touch starvation. It even has an alias. Skin hunger.  

“When you touch the skin,” explains Tiffany Field of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami, “it stimulates pressure sensors under the skin that send messages to the vagus [a nerve in the brain.] As vagal activity increases, the nervous system slows down, heart rate and blood pressure decrease, and your brain waves show relaxation. Levels of stress hormones such as cortisol are also decreased.” Touch also releases oxytocin, the hormone released during sex and childbirth to bond us together. In other words, human touch is biologically good for you. Being touched makes humans feel calmer, happier, and more sane.

Without touch, humans deteriorate physically and emotionally. “We know from the literature that lack of touch produces very negative consequences for our wellbeing,” says Alberto Gallace, a neuroscientist at the University of Milano-Bicocca. He explains that humans are inherently social creatures; studies have shown that depriving monkeys of physical contact leads to adverse health outcomes. Our brains and nervous systems are designed to make touch a pleasant experience, he says. “Nature designed this sensory modality to increase our feelings of wellbeing in social environments. It’s only present in social animals that need to be together to optimize their chances of survival.”

For four months now, I have missed being able to show my affection for my friends. I have felt like the loneliness in this time has been exacerbated by not being able to touch those friends that I do see while practicing social distancing. I am humbling myself to admit that too because this world has become so big on autonomy and technology that I think the need for physical contact has been dismissed and devalued. 

I am in a couple of support groups where hugging hello and goodbye is common practice. And this is especially good for people like me, who don’t get physical touch at home.  Since March of this year, these groups have, for the most part, taken to the online rooms of ZOOM, where we get to see those we love, but the touch needs met by the hugs hello and goodbye are gone for now and into the foreseeable future. And I miss it terribly. 

One of my most affectionate groups of friends are those that I spend all day Thursdays and half day on Saturday with at a place called Stuff Dreams Are Made Of in Jenks, Oklahoma. In this modest craftsmen house, full of vintage everything from postcards to buttons to trinkets to marbles and toys, we gather to make art. A different theme suggested each week. Some weeks a scribble is the starting point. Others a mandala of mixed media finds or doll making. But really, we gather to make connections. The art is merely a by product. 

And our practice there for the year and a half I have attended religiously to grow my soul with the use of paint and found objects in the company of like minded travellers is to welcome each person as they arrive with hugs all around. Everyone gets up from their button sorting, doll making, painting or gluing to literally get in line and welcome fellow creatives into the room. And we all do the same whenever someone gets up to leave the house. “Hugs!” Linda exclaims, upon each arrival and departure. And we all follow suit, as she is like our Pied Piper of Passion.

When the pandemic rolled in, we had to take a break from gathering at Stuff Dreams Are Made Of. A month to honor the mayor’s “Shelter In Place” order. Stuff Dreams Are Made of was forced into slumber.

From mid March to June, I went through withdrawals. Gone was my reason to load up my art supplies on Wednesday night for the 15 minute drive across town to this magical place where my friends and I would gather to create art, eat, pray, love, laugh and tell stories. 

Gradually, we started back up getting together to make art. A couple of times in the interim, I would sneak over to meet Linda over a social distanced Happy Meal in the driveway, the chosen faire of every Thursday when business was as usual. We all suffered through chemical soaked apple slices and skinny dry burgers just to get to  the toys that have been proven to be the stuff whimsical art can be made of.  And meeting her helped. It gave me a reason to leave the house with the payoff of seeing my friend.

(Happy Meal Art)

The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of woke up from its long springtime nap on the first Thursday of June, opening its doors to a social distanced small group of masked creative zealots. And I was first in line. 

It was strange at first. I felt socially atrophied. So when I found myself back in the social setting with these people, I found myself talking rapid fire for the first five minutes, saying practically everything I might say over an entire day. It was like the dam had burst and I had Post Lockdown Tourettes. 

But the lack of physical contact for all of these weeks, that was something else to adjust to. And while we are back at our art making, we can only see smiles in our eyes as the rest of our expressions are blunted by a piece of fabric that acts like a barrier blocking good things and bad. 

After a few Thursdays of not being able to hug hello and goodbye, I had had enough.

About a week ago, when I walked through the doors right after the door opened at 9am on Thursday, so happy to see my good friend and proprietor of Stuff Dreams Are Made Of, Linda, I looked at her, and I clapped. “I am clapping my hug to you!” I said and she grinned her big kid grin and joined me. I slapped myself silly from hand to hand as an energy came from it that surprised me with relief.   There was something tactile in that touch, even if it was just one of my own hands slapping the other. Two senses were sated as I could hear the smacking of skin on skin and I felt some real satisfaction. Some touch need met. 

(Let’s here it for Linda, Janie, Pamala, Emilie and Abby!)

So as the others began to arrive, one at a time, we welcomed them in with applause, explaining as they looked at us funny, “We are hugging you with applause!” And they reciprocated. This went viral in a good way as each person came and went throughout the day of arting as a group.

(This is the Stuff Dreams Are Made Of)

This may seem silly, but if you think about the world we are finding ourselves in, where human touch comes with a potentially high risk until further notice, why not get creative? For those of you who live alone and are used to the hugs from fellow travellers, who are choosing to be careful when it comes to physical touch, I dare you. Try this! And if I am right, let me know what you experience. 

In the wise words of Herbert Spencer, 19th century english philosopher, biologist, anthropologist, and sociologist:

“There is a principle which is bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance-that principle is contempt prior to investigation.”

Let’s start a new virus. One that won’t need a vaccine.

How I Spent My Cancer Vacation

How I Spent My Cancer Vacation

(My favorite wig.)

“We don’t like your image. Come back tomorrow.” The words that I heard just before I hung up my phone. This wasn’t about public persona either. No, the image referred to was the mammogram that I had just had. Number 13 in a series of 13 annual boob squishings.

I was 42 years old, a wife and the mother of a 4 year old daughter. We were getting ready to build our dream home and move to suburbia in Bixby, Oklahoma to raise Abby, plant flowers, walk dogs, go to basketball games and be happy.

My mother had breast cancer when I was 30. She was 67, lost a boob, took tamoxifen for five years and she was good. Hell, the day she got home from the hospital after over a week of festivities, she was out sunbathing on her deck while I passed out on her couch.

When I showed up the next day for this follow up to the unhappy mammogram appointment, I wanted to throw up. I lay on the table, surrounded by techs and in walked the doctor. Not just any doctor either. This guy was the head of radiology for Hillcrest Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma. They all stood up straighter when he got there.

I tried to crack jokes as I lay there outnumbered by people who had their clothes on backed by the image of one ominous looking shadow about the size of a grape with a big red circle around it on the x ray screen.

I am quite sure I was funny, but this was a tough room. Not a peep. Until the doctor spoke. “You have a stage 1 breast tumor, 8 out of 9 for aggressive growth…blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah” was what I heard. In an instant, I had joined the ranks of a group I wanted nothing to do with. My mother was a member, her mother had a breast removed, (unclear if that was cancer), my Aunt Rosemary had succumbed to metastasis and we had just buried a member of our church who fought long and hard for 16 years from a stage three breast cancer. And I was about to get schooled in the science of cancer, whether I liked it or not. And I did not. In fact, a lot of the information bounced right off as I was in complete shock.

My case was more complicated than my mother’s. The start to finish of it all. My journey, while not as bad as some, I mean, I lived, but what I did experience in the process was from hell. There is no other way to put it. Not only was the cancer actually a 9 out of 9 for aggressive growth, meaning whatever was in me was growing at the highest speed, my ensuing treatment and recovery spanned two long, hard years.

Cancer Treatment Center is in Tulsa and was open at that time, offering a holistic approach, using conventional medicine, spiritual guidance as well as counseling and nutrition.

I chose just plain conventional medicine. I didn’t give much credence to spiritual anything or nutrition for that matter at that time because frankly, while I was sober and being in contact and relationship with my creator is the cure for me there today, at that time in my life, I worshipped a God in the form of my intellect and the things outside of me- the kid and the van and plans to build the house-these were my God, so I saw no merit in that other God stuff to take care of body, mind and soul- like yoga, meditation, visualization, nutrition. What’s funny is that it was The Cancer Treatment Center that ultimately made me whole again at the end of what was a two year walk down a hallway that had a few burned out light bulbs along the way.

The day I found out it was cancer, I was exhausted. It was an afternoon sometime in June and I was sprawled across my bed. My daughter Abby, age four, walked in and stuck something on me and left. When I looked down, what I saw was a red heart shaped sticker about an inch in size that she had gotten out of a February issue of a kid’s magazine. And when I looked at the spot where she had (not so) randomly placed it, it was right where the tumor was located on my right breast. This was one in a series of many moments that drove home the undeniable fact that God was present in the midst of a very rough patch in my life.

In order of appearance, the treatment players were these:

July 18, 2002-Lumpectomy in Sunny California, where we were led by a long set of circumstances. These circumstances made Dr. John Phillips, a brilliant surgeon in Tulsa, Oklahoma who had taken care of my mom, and removed many breasts once belonging to old Tulsa oil money bless the trip.

Dr. Phillips is part of the reason I am still here because right after my mom’s surgery, he sat me down when I was just 30 (like the father I did not have after age 7) and said, “You, young lady, will have an annual mammogram from now on and do monthly self breast exams.” I did not do the recommended self exams because I had fiber cystic tissue, a.k.a. lumpy boobs and the “normal” bumps to the touch made me gag, so thanks Dr. Phillips. Those mammograms paid off.

Lumpectomy is where they just cut out the lump and the tumor, along with a prudent amount of lymph nodes from under the arm so that they could check them for cancerous cells. The good news for me was that it came back a negative, meaning that avenue for spreading was likely to be a dead end.

Lymph nodes are small, round or bean-shaped clusters of cells. Inside lymph nodes are a combination of different types of immune system cells. These specialized cells filter your lymphatic fluid as it travels through your body and protect you by destroying invaders.

They took 14 of these good guys away from me and I was left with the lifelong threat of a thing called lymph edema. That is when there is a swelling in the arm which can come on anytime post cancer and can be very painful. I attended a support group once with cancer survivors who had a long period of recovery and had been get hit with this painful condition out of nowhere. I take precautions with massage therapy, exercise and I wear a compression sleeve to travel.

We made the best of California. We were there for about two weeks for my initial treatment, which included a lumpectomy. My ex -husband, who I refer to as my wusband, daughter and I slept together in a “Heavenly” California bed at the Westin Hotel like Charlie Bucket and his grandparents in Willy Wonka’s time. We lived at the Westin Hotel in Costa Mesa, near the breast care center at Fountain Valley. While there, we enjoyed the beaches of Malibu, Laguna and Huntington.

(Me and Dr. Jane Kakkis-She saved my life. Twice.)

The day after my lumpectomy, I left my wusband and Abby asleep, slipped off to La Provence, the fancy hotel coffee shop for a scrumptious celebratory bowl of oatmeal that had creme brulee on top. As I made my exit, I stopped at a round table of people who appeared to be having a business breakfast, uninvited. “Yesterday, I had cancer. Today, that cancer is in a ziplock in a dumpster somewhere in Orange County.” This was my boasting. It wasn’t much weight loss to be rid of that tumor, but the weight lifted was immense. The response was enthusiastic as they gave me a unanimous round of applause.

A day or so later, we got a doctor’s note for the short lines at Disneyland and went to the Magic Kingdom. I had never been and since my daughter was four, well, we just HAD to go. We had a great time, I bought out the gift shop and then it was time to return home to our “new normal” life living through cancer treatment in Oklahoma. The doctor’s orders were for six rounds of chemotherapy followed by 35 rounds of radiation.

(A welcome distraction)

Summer/fall 2002-Next up, chemotherapy. I could paste the definition of the word and the process, but my version will make the point. It’s liquid poison. Used to kill lots of things. Like cancer cells, healthy cells, happy cells, appetites, spirits and energy reserves, and any hair that you might be fond of and even some that you aren’t.

Abby was also quite cognitive of the fact that I was going to lose my hair because I was sick. “Mom, I wanna shave my head.” Even though she was only four, she sounded like a teenager, standing next to me in the bathroom at Lowe’s, until she followed that up immediately with a perky “Will it grow back in two weeks?” We compromised and she settled for a mohawk with blue glitter.

(My little hero)

When I was pregnant just four years before this, I spent my first trimester in bed and in the hospital for nausea, but let me tell you, that was NOTHING like the nausea I had with the “A/C Cocktail,” as the kids in the clinic like to call it. That stands for Adriamycin/Cytoxin. Two toxic liquids that get shaken, not stirred, then placed in an IV and slowly, but surely, over a period of hours, with six trips over a couple of months to just drive that shit home, sent into the body through an IV and a port. Just to give you a clue, Cytoxin has a pet name of “Red Devil” as it is one of the most toxic of all. If it gets ON the skin, it can cause severe burns. And from my experience, (I won’t get into much detail,) it felt like gasoline coming up my throat when it left me through a different pathway from the nice little port it came in on under my chest skin.

The day before chemo was to start was a field day at the hospital. I was wheeled and rolled from place to place to get checked out for treatment. Bloodwork and vitals and installation of a chemo port, all part of the day. A port is surgically placed just beneath the chest skin so that there are less needle sticks in the skin.When they go to plug in the IV for chemo, the port is used each time to offer less sticks to an already assaulted body.

Somewhere along the course of my day, I decided to have a party. That night. I called it my “Comfort Shower On Chemo Eve.” The idea was to have a party to distract from the fact that I was having chemo the next day because I was so afraid of that treatment. The party invite morphed to include a cost for admission which was a tube of pink lipstick.

My anxious brain had a wild idea to start a foundation called The Great Pink Hope. I had worked in low income housing and when I found out I had cancer, I learned that the demographic of low income and minority women had a higher incidence of breast cancer. I thought that maybe these women, who typically did not have access to any reliable transportation if they did go for a mammogram, could be coaxed out of their apartments to be tested with some kind of mobile mammography service by giving them a free tube of pink lipstick for their trouble. Somehow, I thought I would find the time and energy to make this happen. It didn’t I had other things to do.

(My Comfort Shower)

It was a slow news day in Tulsa, so all three local TV stations showed up to cover the happy event. I confess, I invited them. I and I felt like this was good news and I still knew the number to the KJRH newsroom, Tulsa’s NBC affiliate where my brother had been a reporter in the 1970’s .

By the end of the night, a good time had been had by all 50 or 60 people who attended, some I knew, some I had only met that day in my travels through the hospital halls, and whose cars at one pointed wrapped the street next to my house down one side and filled the cul de sac on the other. It looked like that scene from Field of Dreams where all of the cars showed up at the baseball field. “If you invite, they will come.” And they did. Leaving me with a huge bowl of pink lipsticks ready for a good night’s sleep.

(It wasn’t QUITE this many cars…)

My posse and I arrived for day one of chemotherapy. Time to meet the new oncology doc and get this show on the road. Me, my wusband and daughter, our pastor, my mom and my neighbor all crammed into the waiting area. Then they took me back first, and in a few minutes, my wusband followed. On his way, he was met by a woman wearing a white coat with her name embroidered on the pocket who claimed she had been to med school and who, violating HIPAA, spoke to him before speaking to me about her plans for my (mis) treatment.

Immediately following her introduction to me were these words. Mind you, it had only been a couple of weeks since my lumpectomy. “Your cancer is back. It’s in your breast, your liver, your uterus and your ovaries. While it is incurable, it is treatable. We can make you comfortable for two years, using the drug Taxotere.” I could only wish that this shock came from a toaster dropping into my tub, but no. Not only was I just pronounced soon to be dead, but the drug she named to “make me comfortable” was a word I had heard once before.

In the midst of all the jargon and staging and planning in California, the one thing that got through to me was the result of my tumor assay, which is the process they use when they cut up the tumor and test various toxic cocktails to see who the best ones are for the job. And the one drug that my tumor essentially said “F*** no, I won’t go” to was her pick- Taxotere.

I had California on speed dial and after Jane, my surgeon told me “she didn’t have confidence in what the doctor was telling me,” I acted quickly because if any cancer cells were floating around in me, they were fast suckers and I was nervous. While I stood in line for stand by boarding from Tulsa to Orange County, CA, I prayed to God, “Please get me on this flight.” When my name was called I boarded to seat 1 A.

(Me with Abby, on the phone with a real doctor)

Across the top of my chart, my first oncologist in California, who actually went to class looked at me calmly, then looked down at my chart, and then popped his head up when he realized it was me. “What are you doing here? You are supposed to be starting chemo in Oklahoma!?!” Incredulous in his affect and tone, while trying to remain professional, he got on the phone with the diagnostic department. “The doctor over read her chart.” His words to the diagnostic center (I think it’s code for “some doctor f**ked up here”) where I would spend the next four days, drinking barium smoothies, getting injected with contrast fluids, having my ears plugged to drown out the hammering of the MRI. Four days where my 9 out of 9 for aggressive cancer, if there were any crumbs left, was throwing a party at my expense.

On day five, I was cleared of all counts. My liver, breast, ovary and uterus were merely annoyed and insulted that someone would call them cancerous. And the death penalty was off the table. Now I had been given a prognosis with better odds, a first round of chemo and a plane ride back to Oklahoma to get back to my “new normal” life as a cancer patient.

(The diagnosticians who got it right.)

And that woman in the white coat in Tulsa? That was in the (mal)practice of prescribing toxic drugs? I could not find her. And believe me, I looked. She was off the grid. I intended to file a complaint, with the hope that she wouldn’t (mal)practice on anyone else. And I said a prayer that whoever she did serve in her illustrious career might be someone across the counter at the food court, as she sported a tall, stupid hat, selling hot dogs on a stick.

During the early part of my treatment, Bob Losure was there for me. Former anchor at CNN, Bob had worked with my sister in television in Tulsa back in the 70’s. Bob was also a cancer survivor, so he knew what it was like. All throughout my treatment, Bob either called, emailed or visited me, inspiring me with his words of hope and encouragement. It didn’t hurt to hear them in that beautiful satiny broadcast voice. He interviewed me for a story he was doing about cancer and survivors.

(Left-Steve Sembritsy, right-Bob Losure)

Next was radiation. Another burning process. This time, burning tissue, leaving it hard in the aftermath. The recommendation for my flavor of tumor was 35 rounds, 5 days a week, over 7 weeks time.

By this time, it was winter, and I was bald, tired and very depressed, so after 6 rounds of laying on a sterile steel table, wearing nothing from the waist up but a creepy screen mold that was shaped like a torso set over me so that they could aim the xray guns at the small tattoes I now had dotting my upper body for precision of their sharpshooting, I did not want to complete the radiation. Honestly, that compromised position made me afraid I might have some kind of memory of abuse because it had gone on in my family and I just didn’t want that information at that time.

It was a Friday afternoon and I had just come home from round number 6, when I sat on the floor of my brand new dining room, (we built the house against the advice of my primary care doc and friend Marilyn Culp because I thought I needed the distraction) and the phone rang. “Lucinda, it’s Jane.” My surgeon from California who had saved my life once already by cutting out that tumor and a second time when she told me on the phone that she did not “have confidence” in that cancer of an oncologist.

Her call was divinely timed, although I was a little mad at her, because when we first made the pilgrimage to Fountain Valley, California to the Women’s Breast Health Center that had been recommended, I had BIG plans to come home with BIGGER boobs than the ones I left home with. She was too good at her job, coming to tell me after surgery, “Good news! You are cured with breast conserving lumpectomy!” I was both relieved and disappointed. I think my first wusband’s message to me at the age of 23 that he thought I needed larger breasts had stuck with me all those years. I even had a Hooter’s T shirt that was autographed by the wait staff wishing me well on my trip and treatment.

“How are you?” Jane said. She let me call her Jane because California doctors like her, whose esteemed medical family have streets named after them in Long Beach can do whatever the hell they want.

I explained that my mood was not good. An underlying concern throughout as I showed up on her table with a significant history of major depressive illness. I also let on that laying there for that radiation was playing games with my head as I felt vulnerable being naked from the waist up and not free to move. “I don’t want to finish the radiation.” I told her, knowing in my heart of hearts that I could not take any more of that. “What do you want to do?” She asked, to which I did not miss a beat in my speedy reply. “I want to have a double mastectomy with reconstruction.”

I could have stopped there. At lumpectomy and chemo. On paper, I was “cancer free” the day I left a tumor in a ziplock bag somewhere in a dumpster in Orange County. And the chemo most certainly did a number on SOMETHING. But the prudent measure was not to stop there.

I had done much reading and the consensus among women with breast cancer who, in some cases, were in the medical field, was to go ahead and have both breasts removed to reduce the chance of recurrence because statistics were higher for metastasis when the breasts were left behind. I later learned of two cases of women who, like me, were deemed “cured” with lumpectomy and chemo, but in both cases, the cancer returned and the women did not survive.

The reconstructive procedure that I chose, after the breasts were removed, is called a pedicle TRAM FLAP reconstruction. In a pedicle TRAM flap procedure, the surgeon cuts a section of skin, muscle, fat and blood vessels from your abdomen, tunnels the tissue underneath your skin to its new location, and uses it to form a new breast mound.

In my words, what happened to me was this. Over a period of six hours, four doctors would have a part in this. The general surgeon came in first, removed the breasts, leaving the surface skin. Then, enter the plastics guy. He is the artist. You don’t need a bedside manner with this one. You need someone who thinks they are God and performs to the best of their ability. And I got that in spades. What he did was make a big cut across my abdomen in the shape of an elipse, then take the tissue and muscle there, divide it up and going under my own skin with it, he moves it up from my abdomen and into place under the top skin that remains where the original breasts once were. And if you are cringing here, sorry. But this is my story. And it is quite amazing.

While the procedure was a technical success, the recovery was from hell. At six weeks post op at home, where I was sleeping in the recliner because I could not lay down yet, the pain was severe. And because of my mental health history being part of my record with the plastic doc’s office, he was all but too eager to say hasta manana to me when I hit their magic six week mark. “Our patients don’t have pain at six weeks.” The dismissive words on the phone from his office as I was left on my own to find a solution to some very real pain that resided in my back.

(After my surgery. The smile was fed by morphine.)

It took two years from that point to find my solution. I was led down the pain management hallway, treating the symptom but never the problem with fentanyl patches for a large part of that time.

Nothing was working. And the reason I was hurting there was that I was literally stuck. To myself. Yes, you can laugh if you know me. I was stuck on myself. The pathway that my abdominal tissue and muscle had travelled along my mid section from my well earned tummy tuck to my abdo boobs, as I like to call them, was full of scar adhesion. And this made standing up straight and upright completely impossible. So my 5’10” frame was working against gravity for all of that time, until finally, somehow, because there is a God and I am not him, I was directed to the Cancer Treatment Center of America for what is called myofacial release. A most gentle and gradual process of a massage therapist gently coaxing my innards to let go of each other, where they were holding me down so that I could join my fellow upright apes.

I survived. And today, I thrive. 18 years. July 18. Cancer free.

If you are reading this and you are a woman, or if you have a mother or a sister or a daughter or someone you love who you don’t want to lose, ask them if they are taking proper care of their girls. Mammography has come a long way. I learned that some women know that they should go, but they fear the discomfort that might come along with that. My reply? DO IT ANYWAY. The pain of your absence in the lives of your loved ones if you are lost to this far too common form of cancer could be prevented.

There is much more to this story, which I am telling in my book. But for my purposes here, I want to list the gratitude that I take away from my experience of having had breast cancer.

I am grateful for the oncologist who taught me to trust my instinct over someone who is quite literally practicing at their craft. She did me a favor. I have no idea what went so terribly wrong with her interpretation of my medical records, but had that not happened, I would not have seen the need to be my own BEST advocate for health and medical care. Those who, even well intentioned, practice medicine, are just people. Who went to school and got training. Don’t get me wrong, I am not dismissing the expertise of some doctors, but not ALL doctors are worth their salt. And they are ALL human. The lesson here? Trust your gut. If it says, “What this doctor is saying to me doesn’t sound right.” Listen to that still small voice. And run like hell for a second opinion.

The plastic surgeon also did me a favor. When he dismissed me and my care with the insinuation that my pain was “in my head”, it drove home for me that when a person has a mental health diagnosis on their chart, some doctors don’t want a thing to do with that. I didn’t go to med school, but I have noticed that the human head, where the mental health or sickness resides, is a part of the physical body. But hey, nobody asked me.

This was not the first time I had found myself being dismissed by a doctor with the coincidence of my chart including a mental health diagnosis and the blessing in that was the education to the fact that some doctors don’t care. Stigma is a powerful thing.

The first doctor who dropped the ball on my care over mental health issues was the man who delivered my daughter. I suffered with tremendous postpartum depression which required hospitalization after she was born, which rendered me virtually unable to take care of her. For that entire pregnancy, my resounding concern out loud with the OB/GYN doc was that I was ripe for the picking to have some kind of major depression after childbirth, based on my history and the research I had done on postpartum depression and psychosis. I had a reasonable expectation that he would support me in my care after her birth. And I was wrong, as he too, dismissed me at that magic six week mark. I guess that is a time frame that specialists get to use to decide when they can dump people who are too much work for them.

I am even grateful for the cancer. And while, at times since, I sometimes forget that I got another shot at life having survived it, it is proof in my book that God wants me here for something. I lived through it, and since it is far too common today for people to get breast cancer, I know I did not suffer in vain because I can share my story in the hopes that it will enlighten others to see what they might expect and also what they do and don’t have to tolerate from the doctors along the way.

I am grateful for the scars that I have. My scars have made me feel unfinished all these years. They have been difficult to live with as I don’t look the same. Over the years, the scars have faded quite a bit, but I still have a long one across my abdomen and scars on both breasts which I intend to have tattoo art done on at some point as I, an artist, am my most precious canvas. Bottom line? These scars are battle marks. And I won.

And when it comes to intimacy, it has been quite a vulnerable thing to have to prepare someone for the scars that contributed to the ending of the intimacy in my marriage of 24 years. That left a mark of its own. But it has all forced me to find a self love that goes beyond skin deep. In that respect, these scars are a thing of beauty because without them, I may not even be here.

If you find yourself with a diagnosis for breast cancer, remember that you are paying the doctors to provide you a service. Coming to an end are the days when the doctor is the authority and final say. You have always got a choice in how your care will go. Do your homework. Learn all that you can. About your diagnosis and your treatment options. If you don’t trust your doctor, find a new one. Your life may depend on it.

Find people who have been through the kind of cancer treatment that you may be facing. The American Cancer Society is a great resource for pairing people up with those who have been through that same type of cancer and the resulting treatments. I had two people matched to me as mentors for when I faced chemo and my double mastectomy. They were great comforts to me for the fact that they had survived what I was facing at a very scary time.

One of my doctor’s (I have one for every orifice at this point) said, as I look to find a replacement in my new home out of state, that a doctor/patient relationship is not a dictatorship. It is a collaboration. And should be a relationship based in a mutual respect. Especially in matters of life and death.

I don’t have a problem changing doctors as I age if I feel I am not both respected and well cared for. You wouldn’t take a Maserati to Joe’s Garage, and aren’t you worth the best you can find? I think so. Life is a precious gift. And so are you.