Thursday, December 13, 2012

Unconditional Puppy Love

It's beginning to look a lot like... the way it should look the rest of the year! Though the holidays have re-sized themselves in our home to accommodate less lavish soirees and gifting, they have also taken on the adult vibe that surrounds homes in between grown up kids and the world of grandchildren. Lots of people my age are grandparents and their homes are filled with electrical outlet safety caps, breakable items on high shelves and every holiday decoration they can find gracing any surface that exists. My house looked like that too, back when my kids were young.

We have arrived at that wonderful, comfortable place where our kids are adults now; intelligent, funny, creative and wonderful company and their visits home allow impromptu gourmet cooking adventures, marathon viewing of favorite movies and nights by the fireplace tucked in with the dogs and a glass of wine. I'm leaning into the fabulous Bohemian feel of having these "big people" days together because I know that soon enough, my home will reacquire that North Pole ambiance when, one day, little people will run my halls and the world will change again.

My daughter, Samm, has been inspired to use this holiday to gather things for our local Humane Society. I am so happy to see her stepping into a helping role again, as she does often. While other people her age are obsessing over which gift they want, what to wear to the holiday party or some relationship drama that has taken over their full attention, it is inspiring to watch as people step out of their own needs and wants and look to the needs of someone or something beyond themselves.  

In the spirit of reaching out to those who can't help themselves, how about looking into your own community to see if there is a cause you can give a little time, or a little money or a little love to?

If you're in Mid Michigan in the USA, you can help Samm by making a donation that will make the lives of some precious dogs and cats, just a little bit better this holiday season.
Here's her blog... check it out and I hope it inspires a similar project at your house, wherever in the world you may be.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Cups Running Over

As parents, we go along, living our lives and wondering if any of the thousands of hours we spent encouraging our children to "use their words" sank in far enough to become part of their daily practice.

Those same people who once dragged their blankie down a hallway with their story book in hand so you could read it to them in their favorite rocking chair, now wield a keyboard or a pen and paper and create their own wonder of words for others to experience.

My son has chosen a career path in the world of food and restaurant management. It was his major in college and now it is his life as he helps guide the day to day workings of a popular and highly rated Italian restaurant in Chicago's Lincoln Park district. I love that he's doing what he loves, but my heart was holding a space for him to do some writing too. He has a gift with words, and the crazy hours of restaurant world don't make for the easiest schedule to settle at your laptop and let the words flow.

Somehow, he made the time and I was thrilled today, to see that he's decided to blog ... about food. How perfect! His observations go beyond the usual recipes or wine pairing chatter. True to his inquisitive nature, he writes about underlying motivations of diners and food creators and he studies the memorable evenings we all treasure, gathered around a table laden with dishes and glasses, in the company of friends, laughter and stimulating conversation.

I have an imaginery "Mom" cup here; one that fills with joy and pride when I get to see what the people I love are doing in the world. Right now, it's running over.

Check out Mike's blog called Pursuit of Pasta:

I'm a proud mom.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Social Vampires in the Family: Watching Out for the Pointy Parts

I’ve had some interesting discussions with friends and family of late. I’ve listened as they’ve laid out their stories of the mother-in-law, the sister, the brother, the parent, the child who is the person  at the center of their worry that is stirring the hurricane that threatens the peace of their home. I’ve seen the depth of their anxiety over how much or how far or how long they are required to try and quell the storm their wayward relative insists on resurrecting day after day and year after year. It knots their stomachs and drains them of resources both physical and emotional. Let's call this post a pre-emptive strike for anyone who has a social vampire relative and  also has any sort of financial success and stability in their lives, because you will, forever, smell like fresh blood to your family fanger. This Blogisode is for you and all those of us who live with the fang marks of past attacks on our necks and still get up every day to care for our own.

Issues of all proportions eat away at us. If you ask a professional therapist what the number one source of continuous stress is among us, they will tell you it is family issues and dysfunction. There isn’t a family on the planet who does not boast a cast of characters worthy of a soap opera, a sit-com or, in the extreme, a psychological drama that can leave you drained and depressed. Back in the 1970’s, I actually chose to walk out of a theater showing Ingmar Bergman’s classic, Scenes from A Marriage, because I couldn’t believe I paid money to watch something I could see at home any day of the week for free. It’s so much harder to walk out of a family and harder yet, to shut your door on a family member who is knocking for reasons that can harm you and your own loved ones like the death of a thousand cuts.
Recently, theaters, bookshelves and family dinner tables seem to be the unwitting hosts to the new threat to simple, happy living: vampires. Movies and books are filled with good looking, wealthy, educated bloodsuckers that play more like rock stars than villains. If only the family vampires could be so cool, we might even be able to forgive them the “accident” with the family dog.

Family vampires, social vampires aren’t looking for actual blood; they latch onto the jugular vein on a family and they suck until every ounce of goodwill, patience, forgiveness, money, second chances and compassion is as dry and useless as a Phoenix street in August.
When a family member approaches, or rather, when they demand financial and/or emotional support, as the potential benefactor, we have the vantage point of historical precedence for their current situation. We have been witness to their lifetime of events and we know that this is not a situational emergency at all, but a lifestyle choice. We recognize the familiar sharpened fangs of a social vampire when we see one, even when they share our own DNA.

Some people chose a life as a circus performer and their every day work puts them, literally, on a high wire with or without a net between them and the thirty feet to the ground. Performers train and learn how to walk that narrow wire and every time they place their front foot out and take the second step, they have committed themselves to the task at hand and accepted the responsibilities of the job. The same can be said for firefighters who bravely walk into a burning building to save us, knowing full well that this may be their last day. They do it anyway because this is their calling and because they chose this life and choose it again every day when they wake up.
Anyone can find themselves in a rare but desperate situation, even those who do not choose to live a life where danger or risk is required of them on a daily basis.  It happens. Jobs end, natural disasters strike or serious illness befalls them and they are suddenly without shelter, without funds or without assistance when they need it most. And though there are some instances when a financially solvent, independent and fully functioning person is suddenly unable to cope, there are far more instances when the person “in need” is working their latest angle to extract money from others rather than finally getting the mental health care and occupational rehabilitation that they really need.

As a family member, we know the long history of events that led the needy relative up to this moment. We have watched for a lifetime, as each choice they have made has kept them on a risky and fiscally irresponsible path and we know, without a doubt, that they chose, of their own free will, to live a precarious life and that their occupation of choice is one of a social vampire: a panhandler and professional victim.
Granted, individuals who live this lifestyle choice are predominantly those who suffer borderline personality disorder or other undiagnosed mental health care issues. Most of them have been encouraged by family and friends to seek mental health care assistance. Many have been offered the payment of that mental health care if they accept and follow a doctor’s prescriptions and recommendations. When they decline the help they really need and instead, keep their hand out for a cash infusion, they will eventually come to the end of the money train and, sadly, the end of their family member’s patience and goodwill.

On their own and fresh out of smaller emergency situations that historically netted them a cash infusion, they often turn to attaching themselves to larger, more dramatic relief efforts funded by church or government monies. At the new source, they hope to latch onto the constant flowing milk teat of a cash source that is too large and busy to ever do a detailed background history that might expose their mental health care issues. Like all good vampires, they will feed and then form new families of others like them that can identify replacement sources after they have drained their access to their current source.
The social vampires who have managed to live a marginally functional life often haunt the internet  and you will find them attempting to rally others together against the “system”. Read: relatives who have had enough and have cut them off. They join support groups for issues that they have no connection with, and they select them based on outrage factors alone: child abductions, etc, much the same way tabloid papers select their cover stories; by shock value. They can smell the blood of pain and tragedy and they know that where that scent exists, innocent donors will be drawn to it and a fresh source of what they want will be available for the taking, if you can jump on the sympathy train.  Each time there is a natural disaster, the stories of some person trying to collect benefits who wasn’t anywhere near the tragedy come floating up in the news like a rotting piece of meat in the sea of compassion.

Individuals who have worn out their own families feed source often become these same predatorily driven people who are drawn to tragedy like a shark to blood in the water. They have a religious resume that reads like a Wikipedia file on random belief systems as they have tried them all on like t-shirts at Wal-Mart, and left them on the floor after they realized the shirts weren’t free.

Often, they appoint themselves as a crusader for issues they don’t actually have and when their expertise comes into question from actual victims, the social vampire moves on to fresh feeding grounds. You’ll find them all over the Internet posing as “concerned citizens” trying to promote efforts with poorly organized online communities. The sites hold a few threads of chat that die off from lack of any real forward motion. Healthy individuals, who were unlucky enough to have stumbled onto these social vampire sites, will naturally gravitate away from them, leaving web pages and chat groups flailing like a running vacuum hose awaiting the next taker to be sucked into its machine.   

There is nothing as tragic as being forced to end contact with a family member who has chosen a life of social vampirism. Lost are all the opportunities for a shared familial experience; celebrating or supporting one another throughout milestone events, witnessing the lives of their children and grandchildren and comforting one another as we lose family members along the way. Breaking the ties with these damaged individuals means an early loss of a loved one that rides the same rails as the loss of a family member to dementia; they are still alive but gone from who they ever were. We don’t make the decision to cut the ties easily or lightly and it is always done so that we have a chance to preserve our own family; done as in the removal of a gangrenous limb so the remaining healthy body can continue to live.
For the social vampire, the pain of rejection by a family member always cuts deeply because family is the first source of belonging. As in all forms of vampirism, the social vampire never considers the pain that their bite or the life threatening blood loss has on their victims as they bleed them dry of cash, patience, second chances and compassion. Their only thought and their driving force, is their need to feed on whomever has a little bit more than they do and they feed with a vengeance and a sense of entitlement, coveting others lives and property as if it was their own.

And beneath it all, in the quiet stillness of their long nights living in their own personal hells, they know exactly who they are and exactly what they are doing. They know full well that their financial responsibility is their own and not that of their child, their sibling, their parent or other relatives. They look in their own mirror and if they still retain a shred of their former healthy, human lives, they can see that they are 100% responsible for everything they experience and they also know that getting the real help they need and following it is their only chance to be able to walk in the daylight of functional life once more. Again, they know exactly who they are and they are fully aware of what they are doing at all times. Hold no delusions of their ignorance.

Admitting there is a problem and seeking mental health care are the first steps toward a life worth living. Getting the help they need, living that healthy and responsible life day after day is the path that must be walked for any chance of ever reconnecting with others. This is their only choice to build a healthy and happy relationship with people, young and old; who would be in their life if they finally turned away from the road they have chosen.
Each morning, like the tightrope walker, the firefighter, the accountant, the hotelier, the waitress or the nurse; the social vampire chooses their profession. It is a choice and not a situational emergency and the only way today will be different from yesterday for them is to choose differently as they open their eyes when the sun comes up.

NEW NOTE: 30 August 2013   
WOW. This has been a popular post! Perhaps, because we all have at least one of these creatures in our circle of family or friends. And so it is...


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Ass Kicking Demon Slaying with a Side Order of Bring It

In an alternate universe, I am a black leather trench coat wearing, ass kicking, demon slaying immortal with a Wind and Thunder Wakizashi blade strapped on my back and gravity defying skills. My reputation precedes me; clearing out hell bred evil long before I need to lift a finger with just the sound of my boots arriving.

In this universe, I am a woman who has tremendous difficulty turning away from the siren song of cupcakes fresh from the oven and I can be found, curled up in a chair reading far more often than on a road walking. It’s just sad.

A few months back I ordered up the whole, “One totally wrecked knee and a side of tibial plateau fracture” combo meal. I’m free of crutches now and pain meds and even physical therapy. Just a little limp and stiffness if I find my rear end has been glued to the computer chair too long and I forget to get up and stretch it out.

Good stuff happened too while I was in “reset” mode. I finally dragged a writing project out that has been cooling its heels for ten years under my bed and it is now a fully cooked manuscript, on its way to publishing. That was good. But in order to get there, it required hundreds of hours of sitting and sitting and sitting as I wrote and rewrote and printed and edited and corrected until it felt like it was done.

You know, there’s no room to wear a sword on your back while you’re sitting at a computer chair? Trust me. And there are also a frightful number of demons that can sneak up behind you while your head is down and your fingers are flying on the keys. Demons like fast food and the ninth cup of coffee and the forgotten promise to exercise. Demons like doubt and worst of all, the dreaded Imtoo: the deadliest near-life form of all.

Imtoo, the personal demon of dashed hope, slithers into a room and parks its grand ass on your best sofa. Then it stretches out its legs, mud covered shoes atop your coffee table, crossed at the ankles all casual like and knits it fingers together behind its head to watch your cage match with Motivation. Your opponent is pinned and the next move is your coup de grace when Imtoo chimes in with a whiny voice like a five year old who needs a nap; a voice that sounds eerily like your own voice because it is, coming up from the depths of your subconscious.

Imtoo. Imtoo. Imtoo. “I’m too old for this crap. I’m too tired to work out. I’m too fat to walk in these shorts. I’m too uncoordinated to do yoga. I’m too hungry to step away from the table…”  Damn it! Where’s my sword! I want to cut this piece of garbage into a thousand pieces and throw him on a bonfire you could see from space!

He’s the embodiment of doubt; the demon that looks so innocent but destroys your presentations at work, your job interviews, your relationships, your food programs, your sobriety and your happiness.

I am sword shopping. Why should I only get to kick ass in another universe when mine needs kicking in this one? It doesn’t matter if it’s a virtual sword, I’m going to start wearing it every day just so I’m ready when a waffle distracts me or some other equally lame thing stands between me and putting myself in the best condition I can be in right now.

Imtoo Doubtful, bring it.

(Sound of steel sliding out of a scabbard…)

If you're in need of a FANTASTIC urban fantasy read- check out the Empress of Demon Slayer Writers- author, Lilith Saintcrow. Her many books are available through Amazon and other booksellers. Warning! You're gonna get hooked...

Monday, February 20, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day to Your Inner Knowing

Here's my poem for anyone who needs it.

Where The Light Is

One day,

when we least expect it

we will see the light

that burns inside another.

On this day

we will know love.

Thereafter, we  

seek opportunities

to sit close

and warm ourselves,

next to where the light is.

When we finally

see that same light,

everywhere we look,


we can know God.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Knee Bone's Connected To The Brain Bone

Post surgery report: stitches are out, stabilizer brace is off and physical therapy began yesterday. I'm still on two crutches for another couple of weeks, then one for two more weeks, and then I'm on my own two legs again.
It is astounding how quickly your brain can actually forget how to walk normally on two legs! Part of it is the fear that when you put weight on the injured leg that your knee will just fold like an origami paper crane and you'll face plant. My surgeon did one of those serious eye contact things and said, “Mimi, when there’s a bone injury like this, it will take six to twelve months to heal before you’re back at 100%. The thing you need most right now is patience.”
Six to twelve months… I was doing that silent-scream-inside-your-mind thing as I smiled at him and nodded in agreement. I’ve been a foot tapper my whole life. My dad loved telling the story of when I was five years old in the middle of high mass at our suburban Detroit Catholic church and I yelled out across the room, “Hey! Let’s everybody sit down!”
There's a whole psychological trust aspect to this healing process that is baffling and fascinating at the same time. The Universe is handing me an exam on my two hardest life lessons: patience and trust. No kidding. These are the flaming dragons that have burned me over and over again in every challenge I've encountered. My impulse has always been to yell, "Get the frak out of my way and I'll do it myself" any time something isn't happening super fast and super efficiently according to my clock and achievement measuring stick.

So here I am now, looking down at my very own knee, the same one that has been driven by my very own brain my entire lifetime, and there’s a shy awkward silence happening between the two of them.  It’s like they speak dramatically different languages and my American-English brain isn’t sure how to ask my very foreign and once fragile knee to dance. I’m questioning whether it can really bear my weight and figuratively, kicking myself over how cruel I am to ask my knee to be responsible for my holiday cookie bulk when it has just returned from some level of hell.   
The X-rays show the tibial plateau fracture is healing and I can now stand on my left leg and even take a step with my crutches there in case I need them. I’m wishing there was a way to see into my mind to locate proof of my own confidence, my commitment to change, my patience with my progress and my trust level in myself to achieve what I set out to do. The logical part of me knows that I have all those things inside of me, just like it knows that my knee is structurally sound enough to now put weight on it again. The scaredy cat part of me is standing by the wall at the school dance hoping no one asks me out on the floor.  

The human body is an amazing organic machine; perfectly constructed to do hundreds of things and to continue running for many decades without a major overhaul if it is maintained with simple, basic care. Right food, right movement, right rest, right thought is all it asks to take us through to our 60th class reunion.
Instead, we beat the crap out of it by tying a bungee cord on our ankles and tossing our bodies off bridges only to have them whiplash back at high velocity for “fun”. Others of us force our bodies to sit perfectly still for 100 hours a week in front of computers or TVs causing our muscles to turn to mush as efficiently as foot binding destroyed women’s feet in China for a thousand years. We torture our insides by forcing processed garbage down our throats, pretending it’s “food”.

It’s time to bring the brain and the body together for a chat, a bit of a peace conference and a planning session for the rest of our time together on the planet.
“The journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step.” Lao Tzu said that more than 2,600 years ago. He was a very smart dude, though he might have reconsidered the crazy mustache.

Moving towards healing...moving towards excellent health… left foot…right foot…here goes nothing.
Or something.
See you on the dance floor

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Ladder, Ladder In The Hall, Who's The Dumbest Girl Of All?

The past several weeks have been a weird blur that feels like a never ending road trip over miles of boring highway while living out of a suitcase. Oh, did I mention I've been at home the whole time? That detail may have slipped my mind. 

About 10 days before Christmas, I was smack in the middle of Holiday Frenzy World; baking, wrapping, cleaning and decorating like I do every year. I went to grab something from a high shelf in my kitchen cabinet while standing on a cafe chair; a stupid thing I've done a hundred times. When I still couldn't reach the elusive item, I extended on my right foot to cover the distance and in a nano- second, I had flipped the chair and landed, left knee first on my tile floor. 

I was home alone at the time, which is a good thing because the screeching string of impressively shocking profanity that rolled off my tongue surely would have made a pirate blush. After two x-rays, a CT Scan, an MRI, ultrasound, regular stabilizer and crutches, and now a stabilizer that I think was designed for RoboCop, I'm awaiting surgery next week to fix all the damage from a split second stupid decision. 

Isn't it interesting how you can happily go along in life never needing to know what a "tibial plateau fracture" or a "torn ACL and meniscus" are, let alone how to spell them and then something happens and suddenly, you could handle the medical dialog from an episode of Grey's Anatomy without a blink? 

More interesting is how I have neatly avoided adding all that regular exercise to my daily routine that one year ago I promised myself I would do, and now that I'm told I can't do it because it puts pressure on my leg, all I want to do is jump around and run up the stairs. There is a whiny 10 year old with major authority issues inside of me and at times like these, she is pacing the imaginary floorboards. 

I can't get to the 2nd floor of the house to sleep on my real bed and I can't get to the basement where the laundry room is, so I've got a weekend bag i'm living out of and family members doing chores that I actually miss doing. Well, sort of. Like cooking. Leaning on a counter with your crutches balanced next to you while you hop around from stove to sink to refrigerator is crazy aerobic, so when dinner is done, I need a nap.

"Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards." Oh, that Soren Kierkegaard,he was such a smart-ass-know-it-all. He was right though. Everything happens for a reason and I'm thinking that my commitment to health and well being was pretty half assed and this little adventure is the kick in the other butt cheek that I needed to go "all in." 

The guy who'll be putting my tibia back together with screws and who knows what else will be handing me off to some physical therapists and trainers who take their work very seriously, like I should. It is my leg and my life after all and not getting this thing into good condition means a life of pain I can spare my self. Suffering is over-rated. 

Let me be a cautionary tale to all you folks who also use a chair instead of a perfectly good step ladder when you "just need to grab something quickly". By the way, I do own a step ladder but I thought it would be a hassle to walk the 15 feet to the closet to retrieve it.  Yeah, not my best decision.

I'll be writing more regularly after I'm done with the whole surgical adventure. Before I sign off, I wanted to say Happy New Year to my readers in the UK, Russia, Australia, Canada, the U.S.A.. I appreciate your feedback!

Back on my feet again soon...