Friday, December 21, 2012

When A Bag is more than a Bag...

Candace's Bag
When Candace’s husband asked me what I wanted of Candace’s, I didn’t hesitate. I asked for the bag hanging in the garage. This bag. This large, blue and white, 15 - 20 year old Land's End bag that says "Candace" stitched in cursive.

It may seem like an odd thing to ask for a bag. I, of course, don’t see a bag. I see a trip. I see almost every trip we ever took together. Thank god this bag can’t talk. If it could, the things it would tell about our excursions might make me blush in mixed company...

Some of our earliest trips were to stay overnight at my dad’s ‘cabin’ in Marblehead, Ohio. Calling it a cabin made it sound so romantic. It was a trailer. An old trailer. A 1978 trailer. A comfortable middle class trailer with a room built on and an air-conditioner stuck in the window. My mother had chosen to cover the kitchen floor with carpet that had strawberries on it. God I wish I had a photo of that carpet. Sometimes it was just me and Candace. Sometimes? It was Randy. And sometimes it was a dating weekend with her boyfriend (later husband – Mike) and my boyfriend at the time. Sometimes it was a girl’s weekend. There was almost always skinny dipping involved. Oh yeah, we were wild women in our 20s. Later as well got to know each other that trip was ‘couples weekend’. Steve and Ellen, Mike and Candace, Hans and I. We lived like we had all the time in the world to be happy. And we were. Candace eventually married Mike, Steve and Ellen eventually married and Hans and I remained friends, even after all these years. They were good times. Some of the best times, and I am pretty sure Margaritas were almost always involved.

In my early 30s, I moved to Seattle. I told Candace I would only be out there for 5 years. - then I’d be back. I did move back later, but never again would Ohio be my permanent home. I remember the day I left. Candace took me to the airport. In the back of her van this bag sat full of summer stuff she hadn’t removed from her car yet. She hugged me, I made my empty 5 year promise and we cried. And we cried. She told me once she cried all the way home. Then cried for several days. I did the same. I knew I was leaving a part of myself behind. It wouldn't be long after that she started her family.

Candace and I talked on yahoo instant messenger almost every day. We talked on the phone, although I really don’t like talking on the phone – she loved it. Sometimes she’d call just to talk and I wouldn’t answer the phone. I feel bad about that now. I feel bad that I didn’t take the time to connect. It never bothered her and I don’t ‘regret’ it, just think today how much I’ll miss that. Even towards the end of her illness she'd call me and her voice was full of joy. I will miss that more than anything.

Candace and I made the trip across the country from Ohio to Seattle five times together. I can’t even remember the details of all the trips. She desperately wanted to make that trip one more time with the kids, but that didn’t happen. I remember on one of the trips, we decided we were going to stop at every cheesy roadside attraction. We saw the giant statue of the Jolly Green Giant, The Corn Palace (which was to become a favorite stop), the Spam museum (inside some strip mall at the time, we almost didn’t find it), Wall Drug (of course the signs lured us in) and The Badlands. One trip we affectionately named “eating across America”. It was not our finest hour, although we did learn the joy of fry bread tacos and I learned NEVER to take Candace to Dairy Queen twice in one day.

This bag went with us on our RV trip to the Grand Canyon. On that trip we filled it with pamphlets, AAA Guides, books from the library with all the places on Route 66 she wanted to find and National Park guides. (We always tried to take national park trips, but usually ended up taking photos out of our car windows.) On our Grand Canyon trip, Candace had just had her hip replaced because the cancer had eaten through her bones. She had barely recovered from the surgery and her doctors told her she shouldn’t go. Thank god she had an adventurous spirit. Because every single moment of that trip – all of them will be part of my shared history with Madalyn and Grant. I thank god I had the support of people around me – both financial and emotional to make that trip happen. Even the plague of locust in Oklahoma has made a memory that will never be forgotten.

Of course, this bag, if I look closely, still has sand from our trip to Put in Bay. Last summer we went one last time together. Madalyn, myself and Candace – she drove up to the lake and met me, I drove her back. Just the drive up to the lake exhausted her. Looking back, I realize letting her drive was nuts, but she endured. She brought this bag - only this time it wasn’t full of towels and sunblock, it was full of medicine. She needed an entire canvas bag to hold all of her medicine. Later, after our trip, when we returned to Columbus, she was so exhausted she slept for two days without waking up. She didn’t take any of her medicine. Two days of missed morphine was two too many. That was when I realized, for her, it wasn’t ‘better living through chemistry’ but simply ‘living through chemistry’. But the day we went on our trip to the island? It was sunny and beautiful. I rented a golf cart and Candace, Madalyn and I laughed, went to the winery and drove around the island over and over and over – none of us wanted to leave. We even went junking! I had rented a hotel room by the water. At the end of the day we took the ferry back from the island and went to our favorite restaurant – Phil’s Inn and ate spaghetti. During dinner, Candace got the call that her grandmother Gwen had had a massive brain bleed. Gwen was much more than Candace’s grandmother, Gwen was Candace’s mom, her joy, her love. Hearing that Gwen had a massive brain hemorrhage and likely wouldn’t recover, I asked if Candace wanted me to take her back to Columbus. She said, “No, Gram would want me here by the lake. It was our favorite place. She loved it here and would want me to be here. I can’t take all the drama there. Here, I can make peace with everything.” She cried and cried, but I have no doubt Gwen was the first one to greet her last Sunday. Gwen died the next day. Candace often said that it was the hardest day of her life. Last Sunday was the hardest of mine.

When Candace died on Sunday, there was no funeral. She wanted to be cremated and there were no showing hours. I was with Grant and Madalyn when she died. When I told them, Madalyn asked me to take her to Put-In-Bay. I called the ferry and it was running but the lady at the ferry told me that nothing was open there this time of year. Everything is closed. No golf cart rental, no lobster bisque, nothing. When I told Madalyn, I promised her I would take her this summer. She and Grant and I will go to Put-In-Bay together and rent a golf cart and drive around. Sometime before this summer, her husband Mike and the family are planning a “Celebration of Life” party where everyone can come and share their stories of her. I hope I can make it.

I’ll make sure to bring the bag. I’d hate for it to miss anything.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Tending to the Heart

On Dreams and Other Things...
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I had two dreams last night - both of my closest friend, Candace. In the first dream, she was sitting on the couch in her living room. She was trying to talk to people because she had things she wanted to say. Everyone was gathered around her, and she was telling people how much she loved them and how she was going to miss her family and her friends. She was getting tired but we listened as she spoke to everyone individually as best she could. Then she got sick. She fell on the floor and I covered her with my body and held back her hair and she vomited - over and over. She said she was tired of being sick and I told her I love her - that everyone did. And I held her while she cried.

In the second dream, we were out shopping for Christmas gifts for her children. Grant and Madalyn were with us. Madalyn wanted a specific pair of shoes and we were in our third store looking for them. Candace looked at me and said, "Wow, look at you all getting me out shopping. You always gave me energy when I didn't think I had any". I looked at her and I said, "Honey, you know you aren't really here, right? I mean your body is back in that bed." And she looked at me and she smiled. I fell to the floor sobbing. I said, "How am I supposed to go on without you? How do I do that, because I don't know if I know how to do that." And I full-on, open-heart-chakra started wailing. She waited a moment, smiled at me again, touched  my head with her hand and said, "MK, my body is full of light." And I knew she'd be okay, I just wasn't so sure I would.

For the last two days I have watched as my best friend slowly drifts away. She has not been lucid. She has simply slept while hospice gives her medicine every few hours and people come and whisper their "I love you's" into her ear. I have tended to the kids, and let others tend to the things that needed tending. There has been a lot of 'tending' going on. I have tended to everything... everything except my heart.

I'm sitting in my hotel room right now; my beautiful goddaughter sleeping next to me. I'm trying to cry quietly so I don't wake her up. My bff hasn't eaten or had anything to drink for 4 days. It won't be much longer now.

But in my dreams? She is a ball of light. She is smiling. And she is full of love. She is the long-haired, hazel eyed, cheerleader. She is joy. And my heart knows that even as she transitions to another place, she is not so different there than when she was here.

ETA: 3 hours after writing this blog, my best friend died. I wanted to say she 'transitioned' or she 'passed' or any of those other euphemisms, but her body simply gave out. Her spirit did not.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Wheat Free, Dairy Free, Meat Free month!

Free of a lot, but not free of taste!
Avocados, how I love thee...


It's been months since I last wrote (March... really???). Maybe I haven't written because I'm happy. It's harder to write about the joy I feel in life - especially when a great deal of that joy is from having found such a wonderful partner. I'm honored to share my life with someone who treats me with such respect and love. I want to be careful not to step over the line and intrude on the life of someone who is more private than I am. 

That having been said, recently, my boyfriend and I have had some strong reasons to get back on track with our weight loss and motivation to be healthy. We were quite successful last year and both of us want to get back to paying more attention to what and how we eat. 

So with the suggestion and participation of my friend, Lori, this month is dairy free, wheat free, meat free month (she's also doing soy free, but I don't want to eliminate tvp or tofu)! Even my boyfriend is on board (he's awesome). I wish I had thought to take photos of day one... because it was amazingly delish. Luckily, I used a recipe from this website:

A website full of yummy wonderfulness and photos. 

Tonight we had Tinkyada Organic Brown Rice Pasta with Creamy Avocado Sauce. It was so good! You can follow the recipe on the website. I put in a bunch of garlic... maybe too much! But the combo of lemon/avocado/garlic/basil was sublime.

I added a handful of walnuts to make it a bit more like pesto, used a whole lemon and two avocados and maybe half a cup of fresh basil. 

Photos from now on, promise.

What has been difficult for me this time is getting back on track. The re-aligning of my body with my new goals takes time. I'm still craving grease and meat! However, after day one I find that I feel full and content. I'm excited about the future and the rest of this month.

I'm fortunate that my friend Lori came over this weekend and we planned the month together. There is nothing more difficult than trying to plan alone. I always seem to fall short when I try to do this sort of thing alone. Not only that, but we put together grocery lists of things we needed.

I'm excited to post about this most recent foray into being healthy and happy with anyone who wants to read along. If you have a great recipe you'd like to share, please feel free to do so! 



Saturday, March 31, 2012

Intentional Living... Intentional loving...

My Days of No Outrage...


I'd like to start this blog with a quote from one of my favorite authors, Kim Antieau (if you haven't read her books Her Frozen Wild or Jigsaw Woman? They are must reads!). On her facebook page today she said,

I am continuing my days of no outrage. It is amazingly calming. If I start to feel outrage, I make myself look at the topic from many different points of view and many different angles. Doing this helps me see (even more than I did before) how the media distorts and how much the talking heads distort. I'm not outraged about this either. I understand how and why it happens. My action is not inaction. My action is that I will not participate in these many, many manipulated outrages. I will decide on my own if other action on my part is needed.

I'm sitting in a coffee shop in Bellingham while my bf is taking an improv class. He's doing something that makes him happy... so I thought taking a few minutes to write in my blog would make me happy. I could have spent my time watching him do improv, but I realized I needed a little "MK" time on the last weekend of a relatively busy Spring Break. 

So as I was sitting here glancing at my facebook page, Kim updated her status. I read her post and what she said really resonated with me. I realized in many ways, that is what I have been doing since my little 'incident' in the parking lot last summer. I feel like what she was expressing reflects how I have been living my life in a 'state of grace' since this summer. But really? It could have many different names: 'days of no outrage', 'intentional living', 'being centered', 'living in each breath'... but in many ways, it is all the same concept.

What I realized this summer is how crazy I was making myself trying to control everything. I think this idea of 'no outrage' is not only good for my health, but it is good for my heart. 

This post came at a good time for me. Recently, I was reminded of being less 'reactive' after my whole KONY2012 experience. I was outraged! Incensed! Horrified! I ran to the webpage, ready to MAKE A DIFFERENCE!!!!  Luckily, for me, the webpage was slammed and I couldn't do anything about my outrage. When I went back to the webpage, I started to have a 'feeling'. This 'feeling' led to discomfort. It pushed me to research the organization and I realized it wasn't a cause I felt I wanted to support. The webpage outage dispelled my outrage and it turned out to be a good thing for me. 

I have spent a lot of my life reacting to moments. Often passionately. I invest in my outrage. I did this recently with a blog I never ended up posting. In this blog, I spent a tremendous amount of time ranting about the man who shot his daughter's computer. I was OUTRAGED!!!  But something inside told me to stop, breathe and listen. That inner voice said, "MK, come back to the blog in a day and see if you still feel the same way." I was fortunate, I was able to talk about how I was feeling with my bf and he helped me process where my anger was coming from and what it was that was truly upsetting me. In the end, I realized what my outrage was about and recognized posting it all over the internet wasn't productive. I'm glad I didn't make those rantings public. 

Living a life of 'no outrage' seems like the next step in being more centered in my own life and maintaining a space of grace. The thing is, in our world, 'outrage' is a form of currency. It gets some people 'access', it gets others 'votes'. Outrage gets some people 'acceptance' and it gets others 'money'. It can be a very valuable commodity and manipulative people trade on its currency. I don't want to be one of those people that is on the other side of that manipulation.

I think what I like about what Kim said, is the idea that upon learning or reading something which triggers my desire to jump to action, I will, instead, take important time to reflect. Then I will decide what my next action will be and how I will respond. I can choose my actions based on what I have learned, not based on an emotionally driven response.

I was speaking this week to someone I trust, about if being in a state of grace constituted 'apathy'. I realized the two concepts can appear on the surface to be very similar. But it isn't apathy I am feeling. There is no emptiness. No lack of attachment. I still feel love. I still feel frustration. I still feel hurt. I still feel frightened at times. I think apathy is a lack of being centered, not a sign of it. I do care, I just want to get better at managing my caring in a way that leaves me feeling whole.



Monday, January 30, 2012

It isn't funny when the other person isn't laughing...

Cruel to Be Kind?
Only in an 80s song...

Recently, I saw a side of myself I am sure most of us have seen, but it made me pause and take a closer look at who I am and who I want to be.

I found myself being incredibly critical of someone. I wasn't just mocking. I was being cruel. Not to her face of course, but behind her back. Whispering words like "skanky" and other equally degrading things. *sigh* I don't even like writing about it, but I did it - I said it. And I laughed about it.

Until I got home. Then I thought about it. And I wondered, where did the desire to be so harsh and critical about this woman come from?

Clearly I learned some of it growing up. When you are judged so harshly, and bullied at times, you become harsh yourself. I also think it is a form of self protection. I think being cruel comes from a sense of anger, I think it is a way to temporarily make myself feel better. I also think it comes from a pattern in my own life of being extremely critical about myself. I have spent way too many hours to count being harsh about myself - my appearance, my intelligence... Being mean to someone else is just an extension of being mean to myself. Instead of focusing the anger inward, it is much easier to focus it on someone else. But the way I felt after that initial deflection wasn't healthy or productive.

I thought about how I would feel if I had to face the woman and tell her to her face what I had whispered about her behind her back. I would have been ashamed. Humiliated even. Humbled. The worst part? This woman has been nothing but kind to me. Yes, she has a colorful past, but (if you believe such things) it's God's job to 'chat' about that with her, not mine. I have my own life to chat with God about; I should focus on that and not anyone else's life.

I have worked with people who have been cruel at times in the name of "funny". I have had friends in the past that have been cruel in the name of "funny". And I, myself, have been 'cruel' in the past in the name of "funny". And really? It isn't funny. It's mean.

I suppose it is the same reason I never found those 'gotcha' tv shows entertaining. Laughing at another person's humiliation to me isn't funny. I had a student today tell another student who was teasing her, "If I am not laughing? It isn't funny." I agree with her, but I'd take it a step further. If the other person isn't laughing? It isn't funny, it's bullying.

I've been told, when I talk about not liking shows like "Candid Camera" that I am being 'too sensitive' and that I am 'over reacting'. I learned about a new term recently. It's called  'gaslighting' and if you haven't read this article? It's enlightening. This article is also eye opening.

I realized that, for me, walking in a state of grace means walking in such a way that when the day comes that I have to stand in the presence of Divinity, I can look at my life and know I did the best I could to be kind in the face of cruelty. I know what it is to be mocked and derided. I want to live my life in integrity and in the process of being kinder to others, I am learning to be kinder to myself.