Monday, October 07, 2013

Calogrenant Episode 66 for your pleasure...

While there's no dialog in this panel, if you've been following young Cally's journey, the point here, will be all too clear. My deep thanks to our brilliant artist, author, and gifted storyteller, Gillian Cameron.

Monday, September 30, 2013

More yumminess in the form of another installment in Calogrenant!  It is Monday after all, and that's when get treated to the yummy goodness. So without further ado, I present you with week 65:

Monday, September 23, 2013

Calogrenant Week 64 is ready! And the crowd cheers!

Our very own brilliant and talented Gillian has given us another installment in Calogrenant!  It is Monday after all, and that's when these come out. So without further ado, I present you with week 64:

Girl Fights BackGirl Fights Back by Jacques Antoine
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was awesome! You can bet I'll be reading more in this series soon.

Seriously, this was better than all the Karate Kid movies and all the best movie fight scenes combined. Jean Claud Van Dam, best surrender now, it will hurt less. Steven Segal, might be a close match to her, but he's still a man that she would mop the floor with.

Uma Thurman in Kill Bill would look her in the eyes, plant palm in first and bow deeply, then smile and give Emily a hug.

View all my reviews

Monday, September 16, 2013

Calogrenant, Week 63!

Okay, I know I've not posted in a while, and not updated anything, but I'm working on fixing that. In the meantime, the brilliant and talented Gillian has given us another installment in Calogrenant!  It is Monday after all, and that's when these come out. So without further ado, I present you with week 63:

Monday, May 13, 2013

Further down this new road, coming to a place . . .

Boulder Cafe, Courtesy Google Street View.
14th St and Pearl, Courtesy Google Street View. 
. . .I never thought I'd be, or could dream of as a possibility.

We're going to go back now, twenty years ago, to the Pearl Street Mall in what was then jokingly refered to as the People's Republic Of Boulder [PRB].  I was newish to Colorado, having moved there recently because I knew in '89 when there on a business trip that I had to move there.

Colorado was as different from the East as Boulder was from Denver in many ways, and it was a bit of culture shock.

I'd left a successful career in the east searching for someone I knew in '89 I felt I would meet in Colorado, the woman I'd spend the rest of my life with. Crossing into Colorado in the truck with all my stuff, singing "Rocky Mountain High" at the top of my lungs never once dreaming I'd be where I am right now.

So Pearl Street Mall in the PRB, that was a big adjustment for me. People laid back, mellow, healthy, going about their lives in one big blur of Zen.  For those who've not been there, Pearl Street Mall is a big outdoor party kind of mall.  Places to eat, read, drink whatever pleased you from coffee to smoothies with wheat grass, to shop, to sit in the sun.  There were, are, more healthy places to shop, to play, to be in that short strip of laid back in that small part of Boulder than was to be believed.  REI, Yoga places, cyclists everywhere, and this almost over powering laid back feeling of what I can only describe now as Zen.  People right out in public, sitting on yoga mats, meditating and no one paying them any mind. Except for me. I was amazed, mesmerized even.

I was fresh off Wall Street, no color in my life, clothing, being.  I was one of those plastic people that New York City turns out in massive quantities.  Standing there in my "uniform" labeled me as not just from outside the PRB, but an alien.  And it's that alieness that so didn't fit in this space of artists, hikers, climbers, cyclists, yogis, Buddhists, HEALTHY people everywhere.  People buzzing about, coming down off the flatirons on bikes, gathering at a cafe.  A woman in active wear, with a yoga mat and bag, flying by on a bike, heading to yoga class with a healthy smoothie in her bottle holder.  The calm, meditative, pure zen was as alien to me as I to it.  Yes, years of meditation practice was mine, still a place I retreated to, but not where, or how I lived. I was still doing then, while once in a while retreating to being.

A dear friend and sister who isn't speaking to me now for reasons her own described the differences between us this way at one point: "She practices the art of movement, I the art of stillness."  It was a pretty apt description at the time.  And it really highlighted why I didn't fit in the PRB.  I was, when I wasn't meditating, constantly DOING something.  And that was why I didn't fit in Boulder, and I think upon reflection why most of the world, let alone the Denver Metro Area, didn't really understand Boulder.  It was, is, a center of BEING, not doing.  It was like my sister, stillness in a world of movement.  I no more belonged there than most of the people who jokingly call it the People's Republic Of Boulder.

The problem was even then it spoke to my heart.  I could feel, if I allowed myself to, the deep longing to BE.  That woman on her way to yoga with her smoothie?  I could feel the calm, still, center of peace even as she was moving.  She was everything I wasn't but deep inside wanted to be.  Deep, deep somewhere inside I knew I needed to be.  At that point in my life I was certain that wasn't ever going to be possible.

Now 20 some years later, I find myself stunned and grateful.  Two years ago I got back on a bike after having been off one for decades. With diagnosis and proper treatment of an annoying and problematic birth defect I'm getting more sleep than I ever have, and I'm finding out what I'd chalked up to "getting old" for the last 20 years years or more wasn't. It was that my body has never really worked correctly. So I'm doing more, exploring more, pushing myself a little more.  Healing, growing, getting to know me.

It started with being able to get off the floor without help.  Something I'd not been able to do for years.  Then I noticed I could go up and down stairs without holding onto anything.  Yeah, I know now, pathetic.  Then by accident, I found Tara Stiles on You Tube and one of her simple, basic easy beginner's yoga routines.  So of course since I could once again get onto and off the floor with out help, what did I do?  I dug out the yoga mat I've had for years that I use for meditation. And I started trying these routines.  Why? Because Tara Stiles reminds me of Nat Sullivan from Debora Geary's Modern Witch series of books.

So let's see if we got that straight. She can get off the floor, go up and down stairs, and found a video that reminds her of a fictional character in a book?  Right.  A bit crazy? Maybe not.  My doctor joked "Oh sure, it makes perfect sense, now that you can get off the floor without help you start yoga? Most people would fall in love with their coach and not get back on the floor again."

I'm still riding, and I've working now on running too. On September 1st I ran in my first official chip timed 5k race and finished in under an hour.  Not quiet running per say, but it depends on who you ask.  I'm working on getting my times down, but that's not really what I'm here to talk about.

So I'm doing Yoga these days, walking, jogging, and my meditation practice has grown.  In January I got my first tattoo, which I talked about then, but recently it came to me, that that woman in Boulder all those years ago?  I am her. Now.  Where once my closet held only white button downs, black, blue, and grey business slacks and the uptight black shoes to go with those outfits, I think I own maybe two button down blouses now.  My closet looks like a rainbow exploded now on the best of days, and having lost 78 pounds since Janurary, I've been buying bits of new clothing, off the rack, in places like Target.  And you know, where once I'd have had a nearly identical white button down blouse for every day of the week, I have an explosion of active wear, for cycling, running, yoga and just being. Where in that day so long ago in Boulder I'd not have thought of having my legs exposed, even in the summer, now skirts, shorts, and skorts above the knee show off the results of exercise and genetics.  I'm my mother's daughter, and I have her legs.

And that woman I could only dream of being all those years ago in Boulder?  Well she's the woman I see in the mirror these days.  This new road has led me to a place that deep in my heart I've always wanted to be, but never dreamed could be real.  I am truly blessed, coming to a place I never should have left in the first place.

Friday, January 18, 2013

A short trip in the way back machine . . .

January 4th, 2013 started as a day of running around, getting things done, including my first ever visit to Chipotle then coming home and dropping onto my bed to regroup.  It was 1923 hours and I was mentally wrestling with going back out to a local group meeting for Ham Radio operators, something from my past I've started toying with a bit. My heart however really wasn't in it.  The meeting was supposed to start at a location not terribly far from my house, I could have made it there had I left right then. But I was also considering going to bed really early and leaving the day behind me. I was just exhausted.  So I'm having the conversation with myself about going to the meeting, or going to bed when I had one of those moments of Satori.

Satori is the Zen concept of a moment of pure enlightenment, Nirvana if you will, or more commonly complete clarity and then you go back to whatever life was before you had that moment.  The thing about Satori is that like trauma, it changes you the instant it happens, and going back to what you were working on is often (but not always) rendered pointless.  This was one such moment.

Now we go even further back in the way back to 2003, a decade ago, when another such moment changed the course of my life forever.  I undertook some hypnotherapy to help me survive really hard times.  My husband had just had his first two heart attacks and my brother Jon had just died.  I was a complete mess, and wasn't really certain how I was going to survive the coming storm, or if I was even going to survive it.  Thus the hypnotherapy.  The law of unintended consequences basically says that do all the right things, for all the right reasons, and things will happen you could never have planned for or imagined.

That point in 2003 was like that.  In another moment of perfect clarity I saw a path split, one let to a happy, healthy, related tenth wedding anniversary three short years later, or to another funeral I couldn't afford to deal with emotionally.  My husband had the choice, take some decent healthy steps toward change and be around for our tenth, or take the other road and be dead before that point.

Regrettably 2006 came and left me a battered, abused, terrified widow fighting my own health issues and living in fear of my in-laws who BLAMED ME for my husband's death and served only to reinforce my Cassandra complex.  You know, Cassandra, the mythic figure from Greek history? She predicted the future, no believed her, and then she was cast out?  Anyway, by then I was already fighting hard to save my own life, and survive without knowing when, if, where, or even if I would land.  During that time, I developed a fascination with many things and had been toying with getting an Om tattoo on my wrist.  Over the years between then and Jan 4th, I'd inked myself using pens, markers, and even henna to see how it felt, and to see if I could stand the thought of living with it for the rest of my life.

Several times I self inked, each time changes came, each time served to reinforce the concept of having this a part of me forever.  Still I waffled, and eventually had stopped thinking about it because one of the places I talked to said it would be at least $100 dollars for the small bit of ink I wanted and they'd never heard of it.  The Om they said I'd have to bring them a drawing.  That was three or four years ago?  So I hadn't really given it much thought.

There is however energy, magic even, in symbolism, and one of the many, many reasons I'd considered getting the Om was a demarcation between my old life, and my new life.  Of course that would first require getting said new life first, and the criteria for that, included a bunch of health related issues I shall not bore you with.

Getting back to the Friday of the 4th however, there I was trying to decide to go out an socialize, or go to bed early.  Which is of course when a sudden flash of perfect clarity left me with the NEED to get that tattoo inked where I wanted it, right now.  That Friday night.  I suddenly felt refreshed, invigorated, ready, certain, and knowing intuitively that it wasn't going to cost what the first place claimed, but that even if it did, I NEEDED to do this now, that night.  I had to find a female artist in a decent place, to trust with the task of forever changing my body irreversibly, and I had to do it then.  Some time with my web browser, and few phone calls, including the place I'd been too years ago that said it was going to be $100 dollars, and I remembered driving past another place years ago that the name stuck with me because I thought it was funny.  Acme Body Art.  You know the place where while they work to ink you, Wylie Coyote drops a safe on you? Even my brother when I told him the name of the place said about the same thing.  But I thought I'd give them a call, see if they were still open, and if they had any female artists on staff.

Amber put me right at ease, answered my questions, and I speak more about her in my review both on Yelp, and here on my blog.

It was quite a change for me to leave the house on a Friday night, let alone head downtown, not to mention finding parking right across the street.  It was an amazing experience, and one I simply knew I had to do that night. I had no idea what it all meant, but it was an intuitive flash that left me knowing it was time, right then.  And I made it happen.  The money, time, and certainty in my heart and soul that this was not only something I could live with for the rest of my life, but needed to live with.

Tonight, it's exactly a two weeks later, and the blush so to speak has not left. It "healed" if that's the word for it, astonishingly quick, it didn't hurt at all when I had it done, hasn't hurt since then, and at most felt like I'd gotten a bit to much sun.  Now it doesn't even feel like that.  Just smooth, black skin that was once flesh colored.  I'm still so thrilled I finally did it.  It's in part, representative of my new life, and all the positive changes going on.  It's a reminder of then, and what not to do again, and it syncs me in with the universe better, as the Om is the fundamental frequency of this universe.  My home universe.  Or at least the one I'm living in now.  It's everything, past, present, future, now, all in one place.  It's full of deep meaning.  And it's something, almost a precious bit of jewelry I don't have to worry about losing. Ever.  No matter what happens for the rest of my life, that Om is going to be right there with me.

I've noticed over the last two weeks of living with it, I'm often seeing it out of the corner of my eye, and it helps remind me to stop, breath, and be.  The day after my tat went on, I'm once again at Chipotle eating my burrito and I enjoyed it even more, because I was reminded to be still, mindful as I eat, to savor the blessing of good food.  After years of avoiding Chipotle because of hype, I wanted something different that Friday and thought, okay, I'll try it. I am ever so glad I did.  The food is wonderful and they are a deeply "green" company mindful of such concepts of sustainability and organics.  It's good food, it tastes good, is good for you, and it's all done with sustainability and green culture in fact, not in name only.  They buy, whenever and wherever possible from local suppliers, use only meat grown to their exacting, organic, humane, free range/natural feed, specifications and pay farmers a premium for it, on purpose.  Because they only use specific cuts of meat, farmers are free to sell the rest as fully organic and make even more money of their work.

So Friday January 4th was a very full day, one with new experiences, things accomplished, and my first ever tattoo.  I'm already planning my next bit of ink for my left wrist which will be a Zen Enso of some kind. I'm still thinking about it.  Okay, maybe not such a short trip in the way back machine, but a worthwhile one.

Friday, January 11, 2013

A bit of permanence in an impermanent universe . . .

I put this image together after seeing some other ideas online and posted it to facebook, but it's been rolling around in my head and heart for some time since then.  It's come to me however in the almost a week since I finally became a tattooed lady, that this means even more to me than I'd first thought, or could even imagine.

I should start by saying that some of the things that everyone else I know and have talked to about getting inked never happened to me.  It was over the course of the last eight years I've been considering this that I have a less sensitive part of the body inked first, because the inside of the wrist hurts more than other parts of the body.  It was suggested I get a really tiny intro tat someplace else on my body so that I'd know if the pain was going to be a problem.  It was also mentioned that the endorphin rush after the tat was done would make the pain so worth it, and that people often get addicted to being inked because of the high afterwards.

Well I missed out on all of that.  As Amber was inking my wrist I sat there completely relaxed and comfortable chatting with her like we were having tea.  To me is felt simply like she was drawing on my wrist with a pen.  No pain at all.  And afterwards, no endorphin rush either. :(  So no chance I'll become addicted to being inked.  Thankfully, I can and do get endorphin rushes when I'm out cycling and I break through that wall, hit the zone where it's all flow and go.  So I don't feel cheated.  Drugs and pain however are not what I'm here to talk about.  Which is a good thing, lest I bore you all into a coma.

What struck me, aside from all my existing reasons for finally taking this irreversible step and permanently altering my body is something I'd not expected.

Over the years I've lost nearly everything I've ever owned more than once. I've been profoundly homeless. Even now, the remains of my life and my marriage sit in a storage locker a thousand miles away.  I'm spending an absurd amount of money on the storage locker until I can get there, save what I want to keep, and donate the rest to Goodwill.  Of course the money I'm spending to keep this locker is money I could be saving every month to get out there and get what I wanted to keep out of the locker.

I'm a Buddhist, and aware of the suffering attachment and impermanence can bring. I'm not really so wrapped up in the property that's there.  It's stuff that I've not really had any major access to since I put it in storage almost a decade ago.  Yup, nearly 10 years ago.  I'm interested in saving some of the memories there, and selling some of the valuables there to then be able to finally move back to Colorado, and start saving for a trip to California.  But most important are reclaiming some of the good memories that are locked away in that storage locker and sharing them with others.  Like of all things the video of our wedding that Earl didn't want and his parents did.  On it, is my brother, being his usual priceless self, a video my sister-in-law never saw because she wasn't married to my brother at the time.  A brother now long gone.  So it's about closure, it's about the future, it's about doing something right.  Because I have worked hard to rebuild my life after Earl and his folks, and having then the locker go into default and getting the hit on my credit report.

So I'm working towards getting that done, but it came to me that no matter what happens I've reached the point that if I have to, I can walk away from what is in the locker. I won't like once again losing everything from my past, but I can do it.  And it'll be memories, opportunities and good credit lost - again.

Which brings me to what struck me about this simple bit of ink.  For the rest of this lifetime, it's mine. No one can take it away from me, it's something I invested in that I will own for all the days of my life.  It's a level of permanence I've never had before.  It's kinda stunning and amazing for me.  I own it. It's also not something that can be stuck in a box, dropped in a storage locker, and left there for ten years.  Even if I lose everything including even my clothes, I will still own and have with me this ink.  It's a lovely bit of permanence in an impermanent universe . . . this means more to me than I possibly could have imagined in the eight, more years that I've wanted this tattoo.  It struck me suddenly, but feels really good. Standing naked in a spring rain, this will be with me, part of me. It's mine, I own it, and regardless of what may happen for the rest of my life, I'll own this and what it represents to me.  That's a sudden and powerful feeling for someone who has lived a life that is an exercise in impermanence.  I'm kinda stunned.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Inked And Proud ...

I've recently left behind the world, membership in a group of people and moved to a new special group. I'm inked now, I got my first tattoo recently, one I've wanted for years. So while I'm no longer a member of the part of humanity that has never been inked, I'm Inked And Proud! There on the right is my first tattoo ever. A long time I've been waiting, thinking, meditating about this one. The other night in a moment of Satori I KNEW! It was time. No doubts, no fears, no uncertainty whatsoever, just the clarity of knowing I'd arrived and had to do this right now. NOW! It was Friday night, and I don't usually go downtown into the heart of the city at night, let alone on Friday night. But I knew it was time. When I got down there I even found parking right across the street from Acme Body Art, and that just was another indication that today was the day, this was the time and place. But I'm getting ahead of myself in my tale.

I've wanted an Om on the inside of my left wrist for at least eight years. I've done it myself time and again with Sharpies and even Henna. Friday after a day of running around, I could feel it was time. It was the time. I had a few places in mind in downtown, and read the reviews carefully. There are plenty of places in Cincinnati to get inked, many are well reviewed, Acme Body Art however made the most sense to me because they had answers to my questions that others did not. Then I called Acme and asked the questions most important to me. The first being did they have any female artists there, and Amber got on the phone. My other question was did she know what an Om was. It's amazing how many places did not know what it was. She answered my other questions and put me at ease with this lifetime change, this piece of art that would be part of my body forever. I jumped in the car and drove down to the shop and found a parking spot right there! Just another sign this was right, right now. Alas, they DO NOT take credit cards, thankfully there's a money god (ATM) at the Marathon station right nearby.

Amber was awesome, very professional, took her time talking with me about exactly what I wanted, then stenciled it in place and let me sit and look at it to be sure it was the right size, in the right place. The workstation was clean, the whole place was clean, I felt safe, and then Amber showed me all that she was using, was all clean, sterile equipment and supplies. Then the hard part for her, and the easy part for me began.

I've heard being inked hurts. This was NOT my experience. I've heard the inside of the wrist is the most painful place. Also NOT my experience at all. Amber was slow, gentle, took her time, and was very focused on getting this done for me. We chatted while she worked and it was an excellent experience. 

The walls of the shop are adorned with original art, done by the artists there that is just breathtaking. So the entire experience was everything I could have hoped for and then some.  Very worth the money if you're thinking of getting inked.  This was my first time, but it shan't be my last, and Amber at Acme will be the artist I trust to forever mark my canvas.

Everything about the experience was wonderful, everything is clean, everyone is friendly, the atmosphere is calm, and no one there felt rushed to me. These people, each of them, are gifted artists, and know what they are doing in a clean, safe environment that will have you feeling relaxed, safe, and in good hands. I didn't get the names of the two male artists on staff, and honestly, that's my fault. I'd also like to give a shout out to Erin, another gifted artist that works there, some of her art was hanging on the walls as well and we spoke a bit about it while I was there. Like Amber her vibe is awesome, and I would feel safe n her hands as well. 

Frankly, the vibe/energy/feel of the whole place is great. So if you're thinking ink, and you're in Cincinnati, this is the place to go. No question. Everything about this place is five star. And the prices were lower than I'd thought they were going to be. You can't go wrong with Acme!

Oh and their phone number has changed - (513) 559-1670 - it's easier to remember! :-)

It's important to keep in mind that a tattoo is for all practical purposes, forever. This is one thing you can and will take with you to the very last day of your life. Be sure of what you want. Try it with sharpies, try it with henna, give it some serious thought, and pick something with meaning, something that speaks to you heart & mind. Don't get someone's name inked on to your body unless there is a really good reason, even then think it through...

I went to Acme Body Art @ 270 Ludlow Ave in Cincinnati because out of all the places I looked at, I felt the safest there, and because the vibe was right, both the vibe of the place, and the artist. I'll be back there again.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

No longer just a 'possibility' of progress...

In my last post I mentioned finally seeing a good Endocrinologist.  One who, at our first meeting, based on my history alone said "I'll be stunned if it isn't CAH."

Monday October 22nd came and found me once again sitting down with my new Endo after tests she ordered. I was a nervous wreck, the night before I was in the shower sobbing, and then on the phone with my sister terrified that the tests would come back negative. I mean really, who in their right mind wishes they were going to be officially diagnosed with a birth defect? But that's just what I was hoping. Negative results would mean that I didn't have CAH and we'd be back to "I have no idea what is wrong with you."  Lynne did a wonderful job of helping me calm down, and reminded me that it wasn't just my Endo that thought it was CAH as Lynne and I had spent time researching it and comparing notes with my life.

The fear however was still there.  All my life I was so used to hearing things from doctors like "Well given everything you've been living with, I'm stunned you're even alive.  But we have no idea what's wrong with you."  I was terrified Monday was going to bring another "Well clearly you have health issues, but we still have no idea what's wrong with you."

I really need not have worried, because my new Endo, well she was not the least bit stunned. I do in fact have Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CA) and have had it since birth.  Thus Congenital.  So Monday, after a lifetime of suffering, I started on treatment for it.  One of the many crushing symptoms of it was an inability to sleep in any way that was really healthy.  It was this, and the weight problems I have that finally had me at the Endo's since my primary care had no clue.  She's a wonderful doctor, but the most recent in a long line of Doctors that had marveled at the fact that I was alive at all.  She suggested the new Endo.  I owe that woman a big hug at the very least.

So, I started on new meds Monday.  Wednesday night I went to bed, still not having noticed a difference in my sleep behavior hoping it would change soon.  Nine hours later I awoke to the sun shining in my bedroom and no idea what had happened.  Nine hours of solid sleep was a miracle for me. A major one! Had a spot of breakfast and my morning meds (which include the new ones for CAH) and then took a 45 minute nap!  Not content, and worried this was a fluke, I went to bed Thursday night, hoping the new sleep would last. I woke up once for breakfast and pills and again took a short nap.  Almost 12 hours of sleep waking up briefly only once. Friday night, went to sleep, rose for breakfast and pills and then back to sleep.  10 hours last night.

God willing it shall continue!  And as I understand things, it should.

There are other signs that I will not bore you with that also indicate real progress here.  So it's not longer a 'possibility' of progress here, it is actual progress. And I shall be eternally grateful for the change this diagnosis, and treatment has brought to my life.  My whole life I've been waiting for this.  The new treatment however will do nothing to change my salt issues, so I'm still going to be consuming staggering amounts of salt.  I can live with that!