Tuesday, September 29, 2009

What Are You So Afraid Of?

Anyone who has read some of my previous blog posts knows how much I love animals, how I will sacrifice financial freedom and time to care for them. I pretty much respect all living creatures; I even believe in that “talk to you plants, they respond” theory. To that end, I generally try not to harm any living creature. Although I won’t go so far as to swerve my car to avoid an animal-vehicle collision, I am known to drive 2 mph so as not to squish caterpillars or frogs making their way across a highway. When I have on occasion hit a squirrel or bunny crossing the road, I suffer from tremendous feelings of guilt. I can, however, euthanize my pets when their physical bodies are no longer capable of letting them live a quality life. I cry a lot but send them off with the thought I am doing what’s best for them.

I have even been known to rescue those winged pests, pigeons, and keep them safe and fed in my chicken coop. There really is only one creature I have no qualms about eliminating - cockroaches. I despise those sneaky, mass-producing, invincible menaces with a passion, and although I feel bad about killing them, I feel worse about letting them live and take over the world, or at least my backyard, so “off with their heads!” is my motto.

There is another creepy crawler that I have trouble allowing to live, only because they creep me out so much. I cannot handle spiders. I think it has something to do with all the legs and the sneaky way they can climb up your body without you even knowing it. In any case, I don’t want to risk an encounter with spiders ever! That’s why I’m still reeling from my recent trip to northern Washington state where spiders rule the woods, a place I love to go but where I had to be ever vigilant.

My husband, John and I were taking a nice leisurely stroll with our bed and breakfast host, enjoying the tree-lined paths throughout his property. At one point I noticed a beautifully crafted web (I do appreciate the intricate beauty) off to the side with a nice, plump spider in its center. I pointed it out to my companions and said, “as long as the spider and her trap are not across my path, I’m fine.” Soon however, I stopped just short of walking into a web spread across the lane; I HAD ALMOST WALKED RIGHT INTO IT! There, sitting pretty and just waiting for a nice juicy meal was the biggest, fattest, meanest-looking spider I have ever seen. Okay, so I exaggerate, but it freaked me out so much because a mille-step further and I would have had web sticking to my body and a spider SOMEWHERE on me and I would have died from fright! Now, that’s no exaggeration.

Growing up I was witness to my grandmother and aunts’ illogical fear of snakes. I have no problem with snakes and could never understand why they said even just hearing the word “snake” could bring them to tears. My spider phobia isn’t quite as excessive, but it’s close. I can clearly recall as a child sitting outside on a lawn chair and looking down to see a big, fat yellow spider crawling up my bare leg. I screamed and flailed to rid myself of it and I am traumatized to this day with the memory.

So on what was to be a peaceful walk in the woods turned into a tense experience with me, the always independent woman, clinging to my husband with my eyes scanning the path ahead. Once we were out in the open I felt I could relax. Then SOMETHING brushed my face (okay, in hindsight I think it was the wind) and I became a vision of Chevy Chase from Saturday Night Live doing one of his clumsy pratfall skits. I flung myself against John so hard he actually got mad at me for bruising his golf hand! Needless to say I didn’t make the best first impression with our host, especially when he considered me to the “nature girl” my husband had painted me to be.

I know spiders have a place in this world. I have even learned to control my phobia enough so that I can, using a cup, magazine and shake action, remove a spider from the wall of my house. I respect them; I just don’t want them to touch me! Almost worse than a real encounter with one is the dreams I have with spiders; there’s no escape when in the grips of that nightmare.

Usually when I write about something that is emotionally taxing, I can rid myself of the burden by getting the thoughts out of my head. Not this time, however. I’m afraid all this talk, and writing, about spiders has set me up for a day of hyper-vigilance.

“WHAT’S THAT? Gotta go, I think something is crawling up my leg.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

America the Beautiful - No other description needed

I’ve had the privilege to see much of this gorgeous country we call home. There are still many more states that I have not had the chance to visit, but there’s still time. But for a girl from a little town in New York State, I’ve been around the block, I mean the country, a few times.

Every time I look at my surroundings, be it the desert southwest (Death Valley, Las Vegas, Santa Fe), the Pacific Northwest (southern Oregon, northern Washington), the flat lands of Nebraska and the mountains of Colorado, or the woodlands and waterfalls of the east coast, I become enraptured by the sheer beauty of this land that we have the freedom to explore. We are so lucky to live in a place that has all these amazing natural resources.

I am not one to say such expressions as the “best” or the “greatest”, but it sure is hard not to feel as though we live in the best and greatest country in the world when I realize the diversity we are all privileged to be owners of. I think that most Americans tend to forget that we are indeed “owners” of every inch of public land that is within the United States. If we did remember, perhaps there would be a greater push toward appreciation and consideration for the land, its limited resources, and the legacy we are leaving future generations.

But this isn’t a lecture on conservation; rather it is meant to be a tribute to the places I’ve been and those I hope to visit in the future. So be my guest on a journey through this great land we call home and "ours."

The Alabama Swamps It's like being in a present day Jurassic Park

Sitting in the shadow of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park

Mountains outside of Las Vegas, NV at sunset

The Applegate River, southern Oregon

Enjoying the view and the ride, Morro Bay, California

Somewhere in Alaska

Sun setting on the Pacific Ocean

The formidable Death Valley

Southern Utah lake in the wake of a mountain

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Happiness is in the Heart of the Beholder

"You will never be happy."

That’s what my father-in-law told me recently. I was sharing how in the near future I hope to find myself and my husband out of Las Vegas and living in a place that:

* Is green with real, live vegetation, not from fake lawns
* Has water in the form of lakes, ponds, creeks or rain
* Doesn’t have accidents on every corner like some cities have 7-11s
* Where we actually have conversations and social encounters with our neighbors
* Where I can go outside without having a heat, not hormone-induced, hot flash
* Where I can stop saying to myself, "in the next place we live…."

In some ways my father-in-law is right; I’ve never expressed supreme happiness living in Las Vegas. In fact, in the 21 years since I’ve lived here I have left it twice permanently (or so I thought), left it temporarily a few times more than that, and have left it mentally a thousand times. He’s probably referring to the many times our family (sometimes just me and the girls) have moved in the last 20 years.

Prior to moving to the desert I had made it a habit of moving around a lot. From New York it was Washington State, from there Simi Valley, then Moorpark, California; then Jacksonville, Oregon, back to Simi Valley, with one extended stay back home in Corfu, New York. Back to Moorpark, then Las Vegas; from there I was certain the Yosemite, California or the two New York excursions were my ticket out – but alas, Las Vegas, as Al Pacino succinctly put it, “kept pulling me right back in.”

Now my mind has me dreaming of Oregon, where one daughter and my 7-year-old grandson have escaped to; where the other daughter is said to head to in the near future. The thought of being a quick car drive, not an airplane ride away from all of them is a strong motivation. So is the lush, green, wet, cold region.

I thrive on change. I can’t help it if I have never been drawn to the stationary life. As much as I admire my many friends who married their high school loves, live in the same community where they grew up and send their children to the same schools they attended, I just know that life is not for me.

If my parents had lived I just know my life path would have followed the one I just described; I would probably never have gone further than the village bounds. But that isn’t what happened. I flew the coop at an early age, no moss grew under my feet; and I reveled in the experiences.

Yes, so much change causes upheaval and instability. It also gifts those lucky enough to experience it certain skills that aid them in life. That’s how it’s been for me – I have little fear of the unknown, can figure things out as they happen, and I can share all sorts of great stories about the people I’ve met, the places I’ve been.

A Dixie Chicks song pretty much sums it up for me:

My friends from high school
Married their high school boyfriends
Moved into houses in the same ZIP codes
Where their parents live

But I, I could never follow
No I, I could never follow

I hit the highway in a pink RV with stars on the ceiling
Lived like a gypsy
Six strong hands on the steering wheel

I've been a long time gone now
Maybe someday, someday I'm gonna settle down
But I've always found my way somehow

By taking the long way
Taking the long way around
Taking the long way
Taking the long way around

I met the queen of whatever
Drank with the Irish and smoked with the hippies
Moved with the shakers
Wouldn't kiss all the asses that they told me to

No I, I could never follow
No I, I could never follow

It's been two long years now
Since the top of the world came crashing down
And I'm getting' it back on the road now

But I'm taking the long way
Taking the long way around
I'm taking the long way
Taking the long way around
The long
The long way around

Well, I fought with a stranger and I met myself
I opened my mouth and I heard myself
It can get pretty lonely when you show yourself
Guess I could have made it easier on myself

But I, I could never follow
No I, I could never follow

Well, I never seem to do it like anybody else
Maybe someday, someday I'm gonna settle down
If you ever want to find me I can still be found

Taking the long way
Taking the long way around
Taking the long way
Taking the long way around
The Long Way Around, from the album, Taking the Long Way (2006)

My father-in-law just doesn’t get me. I can be happy. I just need to keep moving, that’s all.

Monday, September 14, 2009

It's the Blogging Life for Me

I am a lazy writer. I have dreamt of having a book with my name on the cover for 30 years, but the most I can boast is that I was paid $76.00 when I had a piece published in New Moon Magazine. Unfortunately, I used a pseudonym because the nature of the work was very personal. I have had a few other things published in local newspapers and my fiction short was once published in a college literary magazine; other than that I have been a fly-by-night author. My problem isn’t lack of ideas, for I am sure I have a bestseller or two in me (what aspiring writer doesn’t), it’s I have no discipline for the real work it takes to be a writer.

My most successful writing has come from a spur of the moment, inspired need to exorcise some strong emotional turmoil within me. I can write a 2,500 word piece in one sitting if I’ve got the right motivation. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how much turmoil one wants in life), that doesn't happen too often. When it does and I have a body of work I feel is publishable, the process of getting it in print is another story.

That’s the other part of the writing business I have no patience for. Researching publishers, finding the right niche for the specific piece, preparing a query letter and the stamped self-addressed envelope, mailing and then waiting are too much for my ADHD self. That is why I am thrilled beyond words (unless you take this posting as such) with the Blogging World.

In the span of just a few short months I have fulfilled a desire that I honestly believed to be out of my reach. Not only am I writing on a consistent basis but I am getting recognition, just the motivation I need to keep me writing. It all started with the nagging of a new friend (Linda Lou), herself a writer and avid blogger, who insisted that a blog was what I needed to be writing. I resisted for months than thought I’d give it a run.

At first I was hesitant to put my work out there for the world at large to read. I never had the confidence that my writing was worthy; my fear was that my grammar (I am a compulsive comma user) and lack of creativity was at the root of my anxiety. My friend's words that blogs are more forgivable than professional publication eased my mind. I remember thinking I’d be nervous that anyone would happen upon my site; that is until I wrote a few posts and hit publish. Once I posted I felt my confidence boost and actually could not wait for people to find me. Then they did.

Since I began blogging in May 2009 I have been showered with recognition, albeit to a small, yet admirable degree. I have followers! – people out in the world that find my site worth stopping by. For an impatient person like me that instant recognition is all that’s needed to keep the flow of words coming. There have also been sites that have chosen me for a post of the day nomination (authorlog.com), reprinting of specific posts (midlifebloggers.com), and one that has approached me to publish my blog on their site (vibrantnation.com). My confidence in my writing is greater than ever and I am realizing a dream.

The most important thing is, however, is what the writing process does for me. Writing has been and continues to be a therapeutic release. When I write I become jubilant and giddy, I have energy and feel a sense of lightness. Who wouldn’t want that feeling? For no other reason than that I will continue to post to my blog.

If, by some stroke of luck, I have the chance someday to inspire others with a hardbound copy of my work I will have fulfilled a lifelong dream. However, if my only outlet is a blog, I believe that will be okay, too. It’s the writing that counts. The acknowledgment is the icing on the cake, but, oh how good it is!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Childbirth - My Way

In November 1980 I gave birth to the first of my two daughters. By that time in my life I had a well established desire to live as natural a life as possible. I grew and canned my own vegetables, shopped in natural food stores, and vowed I would give birth completely without drugs or intervention. Toward that goal I set out to read as much as I could on the topic of natural childbirth and my “bible” became the 1975 bestselling book, Immaculate Deception by Suzanne Arms.

Prepared with knowledge and a sense of my rights as a patient, my then-husband and I informed my birth doctor of our desire to have a completely natural childbirth. The doctor agreed to honor our wishes, that is, until I was his patient in labor.

When it was “time” we went to the hospital where we were met by my doctor. Over the course of a few hours I progressed nicely but apparently not quickly enough according to my doctor. He suggested breaking my water which I at first refused to do, but acquiesced at his insistence. When I still did not progress to his liking, he then ordered a pitocin drip, a drug that would speed up my labor. None of this was going as I had planned or had requested.

It became clearer as the day went on that my doctor had no intention of waiting around for me to progress at my body’s or my unborn child’s own pace. His pressure upon me to intervene in the process increased and became more aggressive. At one point I asked him what the chances would be of a caesarian birth should I follow his recommendations. His response was that of course the need for a surgical birth increased. As my child, according to the fetal heart monitor, was in no distress I once again refused the doctor’s insistence for a drug-induced labor.

As day turned into evening I was no closer to giving birth. My doctor, in a last-ditch effort to coerce me, told my husband and I that if I didn’t agree to his method then he would excuse himself as my physician. We requested a second opinion but no doctor in the hospital would agree to examine me. We contacted my birth coach, Clare, who had herself experienced two natural childbirths. After hearing what we were going through, Clare contacted her birth doctor.

Dr. Hai Abdul operated a birthing center in Azuza, CA and agreed to allow me to come to his facility. With that promise, I signed myself out of the hospital, against medical advice, and we drove the 60 miles to the clinic that would allow me to have the birth experience I envisioned.

Dr. Hai Abdul

Dr. Abdul’s clinic, staff, and attitude were the complete opposite of the hospital we had just fled. Each of the rooms in the clinic was decorated in a different theme. Fittingly, we were placed in the “country room.” I was allowed to move about, eat a bit for strength, and even showered before the moment arrived.

The Country Room and the bed I gave birth on. That's my 2-week old daughter after her check up.

Close to 10:00 am my baby decided it was time to make an appearance. With Dr. Abdul supervising, an attendant midwife guided my child out of my body. I recall Dr. Abdul saying to me, “Open your eyes, your baby is almost here.” Just before she was completely free of my body the midwife told me to reach down and grab her. I pulled my beautiful newborn up and out and placed her upon my chest. The memory of pain and fear melted away as I looked down at my little girl. My husband and his best friend (who had accompanied us) were both looking at the miracle that had just taken place.

Other than the birth of my second child, nothing has come close to the beauty of giving birth naturally in all its painful glory. I have Dr. Abdul to thank for giving me this gift.

Sadly, Dr. Abdul’s life and profession suffered because of his support and actions. Although I don’t know all the details, I do know that once my doctor and his hospital learned of where I had gone, the Board of Medical Examiners conducted an inquiry into Dr. Abdul and his practice.

This was an era when natural childbirth, patient wishes, and even breast feeding were just becoming a popular trend. In fact, midwives were being hounded and prosecuted by the medical establishment at that time; I recall attending the trial of a well-known midwife accused of malpractice. There was even a newspaper account of my ordeal, written and published in the local newspaper about six months after I had given birth.

Times changed, however. A few years after my experience I was once again mentioned in the local paper; this time it was in reference to the opening of a birthing wing in the same hospital that had been so against my personal wishes.

As I prepared to write and share this account I thought I might Google Dr. Abdul to see if I could locate him to thank him once again for the gift he had given me. I found a website created by his familyand dedicated to his memory. I emailed his daughter whose address I found on the site. I told her who I was and that I hoped Dr. Abdul had not suffered too much because of his involvement with my case. Surprisingly, she knew of me and reported that in fact her father did not fare well after he was investigated. I did not inquire further so I don’t really know what the circumstances are. I am, however, truly sorry that such a good and compassionate man and doctor suffered at all on my behalf. I will always be grateful for Dr. Abdul and for the sacrifice he made that allowed me to experience the birth experience naturally and on my terms.

My daughters are now of childbearing age. Both have decided that “going natural” is not for them. I honor their choices but secretly wish they would allow their own children to come into this world the way women have been doing so for centuries. That is their choice and thankfully in this day and age, they have the ability and the right to decide for themselves. For me, I will always cherish the moment when the pain of labor vanished with the joy of seeing my newborn and knowing I did all in my power to bring them into the world the way I felt best for them and for me.

This post dedicated to the memories of Hai Abdul and Clare Whalen

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Black Cloud

Worry is such an unproductive emotion
But it just won’t stay at bay
Tell your head to think of more positive things
Buy your heart doesn’t listen
Your physical being manifests the worry
Whether you want to acknowledge it or not
The inner shakes, the nauseous stomach, the hand wringing

Worry consumes all your good feelings
In its place is fear of the unknown
The wonder if you should do something
The fear that you will pay the consequence
For inaction
Or should you just butt out?

To each his own
It is what it is
You are you own person
Thoughts are things
Think positive
Worry doesn’t do you any good
All that these cliché’s do is provide an excuse
To carry on day to day, minute by minute
Hoping your fears are baseless
How will I know that they are?

I’m just waiting for a phone call

In the meantime
I’m thinking good thoughts

Or trying to