Bird brained

April 3, 2018

I’m not sure when it happened, yet in the last year or so of feeding birds, or having feeders out for birds, I became a little bit obsessed.  The best feeders, the best food, the most food, the most diversified food, the best access to fresh water…etc.  You get the idea.  Over the top.  The birds loved it and I marveled at how many birds would come to the feeders at one time.  Mostly finches and pine siskins in those types of numbers, yet I felt like a mothering soul taking care of the wee birds.  My arms opened wider and wider to accommodate them all.  I was sure they needed me!  After all, how could they not?  I was an integral part of their survival.  I may not have thought this out loud as I know it isn’t true, yet it sure motivated my behavior.

The first time I saw a finch with the eye conjunctivitis disease a while back, I didn’t know what it was.  I had never seen a sick bird at our feeders.  It was surprising and worrisome.  So, I did some research, and within the research there are varied schools of thought.  Some say, take down your feeders until the sick bird disperses, and others say that they may be getting sick elsewhere and bringing the disease to your feeders, so what good does it do to take them down?  I struggled with the notion of removing all the feeders as how could these birds be okay without my help?  Again, I didn’t really believe this to be true, yet I felt guilty thinking about removing a reliable food source.

So, I diligently cleaned the feeders, and tried my very best to maintain a safe environment for the birds.  So much of this was out of my control, however.  No matter what I did, the needle will not be moved very far, as disease exists in wildlife.  I cannot make it go away.  I can only remove it from my sight.

This past winter, I saw several sick finches.  Sick pine siskins.  I thought if I just stepped up my game and swiped down the feeders at night with alcohol, in addition to cleaning them regularly, it would make it go away and keep the healthy birds safe.   I could adjust the amount of feeders and ‘control’ the way in which they were getting seed.

Tonight, heading into a spring that doesn’t even feel like spring, I took the feeders down for a while.  I spent the day following a few sick birds around with cotton swabs of alcohol, trying to clean up after their feedings.  It’s insane.  I am not helping.  When did this stop being fun?  What happened to my joy with having feeders?  Now it is just a burden and a worry.  I want to know that I am only doing ‘good’, yet I cannot feel this while seeing another sick bird on the deck.  What made me think that I was a necessary component in this scenario?  Who am I?  Just a nutty woman who loves birds, yet has taken forever to see that sometimes less is more.  Sometimes not being in the middle of it is actually better.  Sometimes loving something, like I do these birds, is not a reason to interject my thoughts, my behaviors, my needs into their lives.  Sometimes the best thing one can do for another living thing is to step back.  Step away.

So, for now, I will take bird pictures from afar, and hope that I haven’t done too much damage in having the feeders, and by ultimately taking them away.




14 and counting.

November 13, 2017

Me, too.

I was verbally and sexually assaulted by a teacher at the age of 14.  My story is not unique nor particularly terrible. I am not special.

What is special to me, and every other woman who has experienced such assault, is how this affront ripples through one’s life… what shape it takes, and the myriad of ways in which it affects one’s perception…even forty years later.  The exposure of sexual predators in the news of late has brought up some crap memories for me.  Far too many, I’m afraid.

Something, though, about the memory of this happening at 14 is particularly acute.  I was a freshman in high school, mature for my age, both physically and intellectually, though emotionally right where I was probably supposed to be.  Like most teenagers, I wanted attention from the opposite sex (in my case), though I had no real clue what that actually entailed.  I was basically just a kid.  I’m sure I thought of myself as an adult, and fancied myself progressed.

I remember the day the first assault happened with this teacher.  I can tell you exactly what I was wearing, where he was located in the room, what the sunlight looked like as it shown across the tile floor.  Everything.  Everything he said and did.  I remember everything.

He planted something inside me that day as surely as if he injected me with a virus.

I was not safe in my body, was I?  I was an attractive person, so had I done something to warrant this behavior from him?  I had no idea what to do or how to act.  I remember the mind numbing feeling of trying to act normally in the face of his lewdness.  Nothing would ever be the same.

I was from that day onward in conflict with myself.  One half striving to be normal and desirous of being attractive to men, just like my friends, and the other half wishing for isolation and safety.  This battle waged not only in my psyche, yet in my body, as shortly thereafter, weight became a huge issue.  I have had psychologists since that time tell me that I used weight as a physical barrier of protection. yet all I could feel as a young woman was more depressed and abnormal.

My intention is not to belabor the already well known and documented correlations between sexual assault and weight issues, self harm, addiction, or the like, yet to highlight the fact that even if one understands the origins, the damage is not undone.  It cannot be undone… merely managed.

I manage a lot of things now I wish I didn’t have to.  Most of us do…and some days are better than others.  I am angry, though, that he added something extra to my plate.  Angry at the ways in which those experiences skewed my vision as a young woman.  Angry at the EXTRA SHIT he passed on to me because he couldn’t say ‘no’ to his perverted impulses.  Angry that even at 54 years old… 40 years after this experience, it is still as fresh in my mind as if it had just happened.

That is not fair, nor right.  It never will be.

I am not special.





Chronic Pain

October 28, 2016

You Bitch.

Get out of my head and leave me alone!

Give me at least five minutes

to replenish

My body

My spirit

My sleep.

I am so tired.

You take too much of

My time

My heart

My life.

You Bitch.




Death of Discourse

June 13, 2016

Years ago when I worked at Planned Parenthood in Kansas City, I had to cross a picket line every day I went into work.  Many of the people in this line acted poorly, to say the least.  Screaming profanities, violence and hate at the employees as we tried to get into the building.  I remember one woman in particular who used a bull horn to yell her vitriol.  She would follow me to and from my car, having spent her entire day at the clinic, yelling her hate.

As employees, we were not allowed to ‘engage’ with the protestors.  Most of the time this was fine by me, as truth be told, they frightened me.  It was glaringly obvious that we had no common ground from which a ‘discussion’ could arise.  If it existed, it was so far buried beneath emotional outrage that it was not even accessible.  There could be no grown up, reasonable discourse in this atmosphere.

It seems to me that *everything* is emotionally charged these days.  Gun control, immigration, sexuality, equality… just to name a few.  Reading comments on Facebook regarding any of these topics is enough to make one’s head explode.  We are so divided as humans that there literally is no common ground.  No middle road.  No place from which a conversation can be had.  Obviously, disagreements on how societal issues should be handled exist, yet when did we lose our ability to reason with each other?  Our ability to engage in a discourse without violence and insults?  Has it always been this way? And, if not… what in the hell has happened to us?

I don’t claim to have any answers, nor obvious fixes to our never ending divisiveness.  It does seem apparent, however, that without respect for others and a core sense of common decency, we will only widen the chasm.





After my last visit to the hospital to have the trial stimulator removed (fail), I found an email from MU Health that provided me with access to my medical records on line.  This is fairly standard procedure these days.  I was curious about the doctor’s notes, so I read the charts regarding my visits with two different neurosurgeons.  Nothing terribly enlightening, yet I was struck by a line that read something like, “patient is sitting in no acute distress.”

I remember this visit.  My head was throbbing and I was irritated beyond belief that it had taken almost two hours for me to be seen.  I was patiently answering questions that I had already filled out on the forms that no one bothered to read, and I did not feel well at all.  Yet, in the past year and a half with this headache and almost 20 years of dealing with low back pain, I have acquired the ability to look like I am not in distress.

On one hand, this is a bonus.  A requirement, almost, to living as normal of a life as possible in the midst of chronic pain.  Yet, on the other hand, I don’t appear to be sick, so a lot of people… even professionals, like the neurosurgeons I have visited, probably wonder whether it really is as bad as I say it is.  Why wouldn’t they?  I’ve become a master of the “I’m fine resting face”.  I can do the grocery shopping, smiling and nodding at people I see, while cringing at the pain in my head or my back.  I can function.  I can laugh, and I can act like nothing is wrong.  I have had to learn how to do this.  Otherwise, I wouldn’t get anything done, or probably even get out of bed most days.

Please know, I do not wish for the kind of pain that would literally bring me to my knees, yet sometimes I wish the outside matched my insides so I did not feel the need to plead my case.  After all, who wants to insist that they are in pain?  Who wants to insist that it really is as bad as it is?  Who wants to look like someone trying to garner attention through illness?

What a weird deal.  I’m glad that I haven’t thrown in the proverbial towel, yet I am also saddened that this pain that hugs me like a second skin has inadvertently required me to mask my real self.


Blue Veins

December 24, 2014

When I was little, I used to believe that if the veins in my hands were raised and visible along the surface of my skin, it meant I was feeling sorry for myself.  My body betraying a sense of weakness.  Being vulnerable and exposed, somehow.  I rarely saw them, other than a faint blue beneath my smooth and youthful skin, so to see them had to mean something.  Surely it did…

Sitting in the hot tub tonight, staring at my hand in the bluish underwater light, I flashed back on this memory as I looked at my veined hand.  The veins now clearly visible.   Woven and intricate.  Raised.

I see the veins in my hands all the time now.




The A in Authentic

May 30, 2014

Many years ago when I lived in Kansas City, I spent some time with an art therapist who helped me with some life struggles I was experiencing.  I don’t remember much about what troubled me, for thankfully, I have freed up the bandwidth previously known as my “angst space”, and have moved on from said turmoils.

What I do remember about that time is the therapist herself.  She was in her 50’s, had short gray hair, a large build, and a strong, clear voice.  An amazing artist, to boot.  The first time I met her and shook her hand, I thought, “this woman is completely at home in her own skin.”  Though I had no experience with such a state of being, I could recognize it in another.  She had such presence!  I was in awe of how calming she felt.  I wanted to sit on her lap and be wrapped in the safety of her energy.  I wanted what she had… for myself.  I wanted this peace, this *knowing* that the person I was, inside and out, was completely and utterly OK.  Somehow she had achieved such grace, and I wanted it as well.

Something rather inane got me thinking about my old art therapist today.  I caught a glimpse of myself in the rear view mirror as I was driving home, and I saw an older face, devoid of makeup, surrounded by graying curls blowing in the breeze from the window.  And, lo and behold, that face staring back at me was simply, a face. The usual litany of harassing thoughts did not follow.  You know, the ones like, “maybe I should color my hair, gray hair is aging,” “maybe I should put on makeup before I go out in public, otherwise I look all washed out, ” and on and on, ad nauseum.  I was simply a gal driving down the road in her car.

This scenario may seem like a superficial spin on the deeper subject of self security, yet to me it seemed like a huge deal to realize I no longer have the barrage of nasty thoughts in the ready when I spy myself in the mirror.  Somewhere along the way down this road we call living, I have become OK with all that I am, inside and out.  I am finally comfortable in my own skin.  How did this happen?  I remember making it a ‘goal’ to find this sense of peace , yet I never really thought it was possible.

It has taken me years to get here.  I’m pretty sure I’ve just stumbled to this spot.  Truth is, I think I just stopped listening to the judgmental diatribe in my head.  Such a ridiculously simple thing, yet so difficult to offer ourselves.

Now I think I know why Avis, the therapist, felt so amazing to me.  She was authentic, uncluttered, and utterly present.  She was yummy artistic energy wrapped in wisdom and kindness.  She was what I wanted to be.

Thank you, Avis.  I know what it feels like now…







An unexpected journey…

December 31, 2013

Many times when one finds themselves in a hospital, it is unexpected.  An accident or illness, perhaps, requiring care and attention.  In my case, I knew the date of my knee surgery months before it happened.  By the time that the actual day arrived, it still seemed so surreal that I was planning on replacing an entire joint in my body.  Sitting in the surgery waiting room prior to being called back for pre-op, I kept looking at my right knee and wondering… am I even remotely prepared for this?  Am I doing the right thing?  No answers were forthcoming, so I said goodbye and thanks to my crunchy, old knee, and began the journey.

What followed was pretty typical of any major surgery.  Pain, nausea from the anesthesia and heavy duty drugs, disorientation, and a constant flow of nice people coming in and out of my hospital room at all hours of the day and night, taking vitals or drawing yet another vial of blood.  It is all kind of a blur now, two weeks out from the surgery, yet I do remember how incredibly helpless and weak I felt.   For an independent person such as myself, this was particularly challenging.

Since I have been home, there are a few things that have struck me in a profound manner, beyond the initial, “holy crap, I can’t do a bloody thing for myself” awareness at the hospital:

  • Lee is a remarkable caregiver.  He goes above and beyond the “in sickness and in health” marker set by our partnership.  I am so grateful for his help, both literally and figuratively.
  • There is no way I could have been prepared for this experience.  Period.
  • I am not a patient person.  In fact, I am really, really impatient.
  • I do not appreciate my life, my person, my *everything* like I should.

The last one on appreciation is where I must expound, for it is important.  We so glibly will say things like, “better appreciate what you have before it is gone”, or “live each day like it might be your last”, or “carpe diem”, and yet we don’t have a clue as to what that really entails.  Now that I am re-learning how to walk, get in and out of a chair, or use the loo, I realize that I do appreciate what I had now that it is temporarily ‘gone’, but there would have been no way for me to know this fully before the surgery.  Not in any real and meaningful way, that is…  So, how do we appreciate the small things of our everyday lives *before* they are taken away or gone, or injured?  How do we stop and appreciate the fact that something so simple as taking a shower is a miraculous feat of physical dexterity?  It seems like in order to do that, or have a mindset that is open to that realization would require an almost dream-like state of hyper awareness.  Probably not very practical or realistic.

So, I propose this:  try and take a few moments out of each day to really, really pay attention to what you are doing.  No matter how small or simple the task.  Be that washing the dishes, or petting the cat, or making a bed.  Be amazed that you can do these things!  It may sound silly or trite, yet it isn’t.  Perhaps if we can inch in a moment or two of complete awareness in our regular, sometimes boring, lives, we will know appreciation.  The kind of appreciation that enriches our present experience.

I was thrilled the first time I could maneuver my leg under the covers without help.  I was ecstatic with my first shower after surgery, albeit a sitting one, yet it was marvelous.  I look forward to being able to manage the stairs again so I can do laundry.  Wow.  Who knew how exciting my ‘old life’ used to be?

The unexpected part of this planned reconstruction of my right knee has been the lessons I am learning everyday about appreciation and living in the present.  I thought I knew what that meant.  I thought I knew about being grateful.  I didn’t have a clue.

My goal for 2014 is to be healthier in mind, body and spirit.  I will endeavor to pay attention to the small things.  The daily things.  The sometimes mindless things.  I will be glad for my hands the next time I begin a quilt.  I will be grateful for strong arms and fingers as I play my guitar.

I will, I will, I will…



Parts is parts…

October 4, 2013

Looks like more knee surgery is on the horizon.  Turns out, if it is “broke”, you do have to fix it.  Pondering the impending surgery this morning had me thinking that it would be super cool if I had a great story to tell as to how it got “broke” in the first place…

Something along these lines:

*Back in the 80’s, I wrenched my knee on a pole during my career as a famous exotic dancer.  It was brutal, yet I managed to finish the routine despite the pain.

*I crashed into Susi Chaffee in 1979 during one of our downhill races in the mountains of Washington state.  Unfortunately, I lost the race.

*I was rescuing several kittens from a burning building in Pasadena in the early 90’s and had to jump from a second story window.  All kittens survived, thanks to my personal sacrifice.

Yeah.  Those stories would probably be good ones, yet what struck me is that my own stories aren’t so lame:

*I worked as a bartender in a 5-star restaurant in La Jolla in the late 90’s and bounded up and down four flights of stairs from the wine cellar to the bar carrying cases of beer and wine.  I was in such good shape that I could do this many times a shift.  On one occasion, I made the trip to the cellar to get a particular wine requested by Sammy Hagar.  And, I got to serve him said wine.  Now, that IS cool.

*I spent weeks on end painting the outside of the very first house I owned in Columbia, MO.  I did the entire house by myself, and though my knee swelled to the size of a small child’s head from all the time on the ladder, the paint job was a success.

*I’ve lugged, hauled, lifted, and sculpted large hunks of walnut and alabaster over the years into groovy pieces of art.  All the while, standing on a concrete floor.

In the long run, it doesn’t matter how or why my knee is wrecked and needs to be fixed.  It doesn’t matter!  What matters is that it is so very cool that I did all this stuff in the first place.  That I have knees, or legs, or a back, or arms!  All these parts, and the related stories, are of me, yet they don’t define me.  Gratefully, I am more than my parts.

So, in the end, I will simply have another story to tell… how cool is that?








May 27, 2013

A month ago today, I decided to stop ingesting alcoholic beverages.  I was drinking too much and too often, it seemed. It was time to do something different.

The absence of alcohol has been an interesting thing.  I have missed having a buzz.  I haved missed being able to drink something that will alter my state of mind, and provide me with a little detachment from the moment.  I don’t think I drank in order to escape my problems (cliche’), yet I did drink to feel relaxed, or whatever it was I told myself I was achieving through alcohol.  It is a socially acceptable way in which we alter ourselves.  I got into the habit of doing this regularly.

Thankfully,there have been no crazy withdrawal symptoms.  I have, however, started to wonder about the deeper question of why I wanted to alter, numb, detach or otherwise be something other than what I am sober, on a regular basis.  Was this just a bad habit?  An addiction?  Perhaps, yet at the same time; I think the thing to which I was most attached was the fact that alcohol alters my awareness.  Softens and blurs it somehow.  Makes it “other than”.  This seemed to be my real habit… my real addiction.  Regularly altering my awareness to the present moment.

Alcohol is an obvious route to an immediate distraction, though many people use other drugs, food, or even work as their methodology.  We seem, as humans, to be dissatisfied with ourselves, our circumstances or our environment, on a fairly regular basis.  Looking at our lives, or our bodies in an accepting and non-judging way is hard for most of us.  We need, or want, distractions from how things really are.  To be present to our “in-your-face realities” without trying to change anything, or judging how things look, is difficult.

I am starting to see that there is a difference between wanting to make a change for the better and wanting to make a change as a distraction from the present.  Obviously, life is not static, yet if we are not present and accounted for in the moment, we are missing something.   All we ever have is the now, and though this seems and feels unrealistic at times, it is true.  The past is gone, and the future nonexistent.  If we are forever ‘somewhere else’ than in the moment, are we really getting the full experience?

In the end, this isn’t a sermon about the sins of alcohol.   More, a pondering on how easy it is to get attached to, and actually need, our distractions as a way out of the present. I let go of one big vehicle for detaching from my life, and I like how I feel.  Not just physically, yet esoterically, as well.  I have one less need, and I feel lighter and more in tune because of it.

As Charles Bukowski said, “The less I needed, the better I felt”.





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