Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Crash Test Dummy

Wish I could say I’m feeling better, but I’m not. My neck is really hurting, so I have an appointment today with a head, neck and back specialist. At least this morning, I could lift my head off the pillow without having to hold my head with my hands.

However, now my stomach hurts. I think it’s all the Ibuprofen I’ve been eating the past several days. Nothin’ like stomach cramps to get your mind off a sore neck. I spent most of yesterday in bed whining since no doctor could see me right away.

I’m quite optimistic when it comes to my health. The body, God’s most amazing creation, was designed to heal itself, sometimes with a bit of outside help. My whining is simply a temporary indulgence. I used to criticize the old folks for complaining about all their ailments. I mean, for Pete’s sake, weren’t there better topics for conversation?! But, now that I’m an “old folk”, I have joined the club and I’m takin’ notes!

Today, I think I will begin telling my body how great it feels. You know the saying, “Act As If”. It’s time to invite positive, healing thoughts into my realm, like Wayne Dyer talks about in his book, The Power of Intention.

“Your right big toe feels GREAT! Way to go, body!” My toes are about the only thing on my body right now that doesn’t ache. But, hey, I gotta start somewhere, right?!

Let us not take for granted our health. It is one spectacular gift! Oh, and let me not forget our other wonderful gift here in Texas as we usher in the New Year…weather in the 70s! Jalepeno!!

Y’all Be Safe Out There On The Roads Tonight!!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Holiday Headache

Last night, on my way to the Austin-Bergstrom Airport in Austin, Texas, I was hit from behind while stopped at a light. The woman who hit me in her SUV was from out-of-town and had taken her eyes off the road. Personally, I wondered if she’d been on her cell phone. She plowed into my car, actually my son’s 2006 Kia Spectra5 hatchback, going at least 50 mph. My car was forced into the car in front of me and that caused a chain reaction with all the cars waiting at the light. There must’ve been 6-8 cars involved. I won’t know for sure until I obtain a copy of the collision report.

Anyway, the experience was quite scary. When I was hit, I felt the force of the blow in my chest, likely the result of the seatbelt doing its job. My brain and my organs were all jostled about. I don’t really recall hitting the car in front of me. Just the realization that I was hurt. I had enough wherewithal to feel for my cell phone and call 9-1-1. The operator asked me questions:

Operator: “What is the nature of your emergency?”
Me: “I’m hurt. Somebody hit me from behind. I’m in my car.”
Operator: “You’ve been in a car accident?”
Me: “Yes”
Operator: “Where are you?”
Me: “In my car.”
Operator: “Where are you located?”
Me: “In my car.”
Operator: “Where did the accident occur?”
Me: “I don’t know. I was on the way to the airport. I’m on 71.” (I looked up and could faintly make out the La Quinta Hotel sign.) “I’m in front of the La Quinta.”
Operator: “Stay on the line with me. Help is on the way.”

I could hear people talking to me, but I couldn’t focus my eyes to see anyone. It was such a scary feeling wondering whether I was severely injured or not. My next thought was about Gene, who I was supposed to pick up from the airport. I left him a message on his cell phone, knowing he would be arriving in the next 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, a couple of people were trying to talk with me through the passenger side of the car. A young man opened the passenger side car door and asked me for my insurance information. Another woman poked her head in the door and asked if I had called 9-1-1. I told her I had. She was also on the phone with them. The young man again asked if I had insurance. I told him I did. My brain wasn’t computing why he was asking me that type of question, instead of asking if I was okay. I said, “Are you the one who hit me?” He replied, “No, I was at the front of the line. I’m just on my way to the airport and need to get your insurance information.” I replied, “I’m hurt.”

Then, a fireman knocked on my window and asked, “Are you hurt?” “Yes”, I said. He pried open my door and began asking me more questions. Officer Nordstrom from the Austin Police Department arrived and took care of the young man who’d been bugging me.

My eyes came into focus and an EMT replaced the fireman by my side. He asked me where I was hurt and began to examine me. I had the need to try and stand up to see if all my parts were in good working order. He explained that, indeed, my internal organs and brain had been seriously jolted, causing my headache. He said I had experienced trauma and asked if I wanted to go to the hospital. Initially, I told him yes, I wanted to go to the hospital. But, once I stood up and realized there were no cuts, no blood, no apparent broken bones, just bruises, bumps, a very sore neck and back, I opted not to go to the hospital.

Many years ago when my son was young, I was rear-ended by a driver and was taken to the emergency room at the nearby hospital. I was there for hours and hours, only to be told there was no apparent damage. The thought of repeating that experience, even if there was something wrong, did not appeal to me. The EMT kept an eye on me while the accident was being cleaned up and asked if I’d seen the back of my car yet.

As the EMT directed me towards the back of the car, I gasped at the damage. I nearly cried. One of the firemen told me how lucky I’d been and that my Kia had held up very well. In fact, several of the emergency responders commented that the Kia had held up well under that type of impact.

Then, I walked to the front of the car and saw the hood had buckled under the impact of me hitting the car in front of me. The site was amazing, and I truly felt blessed at that moment.

The police officer informed me that my car would be towed, obviously totaled, and asked how I wanted to get home. I told him I could take a taxi to my friend’s house. Then, I mentioned that I would call my friend at the airport and tell him to also take a taxi. Officer Nordstrom offered to drive me to the airport to locate my friend and suggested we take a taxi together. He felt it would be best for someone to have an eye on me after the ordeal. I agreed and accepted his offer.

Before we left, I saw the grill of my car lying in the street and picked it -- a memento of my gratitude for the life I have and the body to experience it in, a reminder of my holiday headache.

Life is Full of Unexpected Blessings, Y’all!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Through the Looking Glass - Part 3

"Through the Looking Glass" by Kenneth Rougeau

With the Durango’s tire fixed, I spent the rest of our second day on the island giving Andrea the Martha’s Vineyard Abbreviated Tour. Our first destination was Chilmark Pottery.

Andrea is a potter with over 20 years of experience and was very curious about the local pottery. We met with the owner, Geoffrey Borr, and spoke to him about the various types of pottery in his shop. Geoffrey and Andrea talked shop, while I roamed the aisles, and Geoffrey gave Andrea a “Potter’s Discount” on the coffee mug she chose.

Our next stop was Martha’s Vineyard Glassworks in West Tisbury. This unassuming gallery for blown glass art is a must-see while on the Vineyard. I love all the colored glass and the display of pumpkins was my favorite this visit.

Robert Phillips, a local glassblowing artist, was creating a piece called “Flames” the day Andrea and I visited. The process of creating glass pieces is amazing.

Andrea and I were fascinated and asked many questions of the artist as he worked.

From there, we drove through Chilmark to Menemsha, a small fishing village on the island. Although it wasn’t raining in Menemsha, the fierce wind had turned cold and the sky was foreboding. We stopped to walk the beach for a bit before being driven back to the car by the cold.

What?! No nude bathing? Imagine that!

We also drove through Edgartown, Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven trying to find souvenir T-shirts for Andrea, but with it being the off-season, most stores were only open on the weekend.

Brenda Dimovich, with whom we were staying, made us a delicious spaghetti and meatballs dinner that night.

After dinner, a few of my dear friends stopped by to say hello and goodbye.

One of the painful aspects of my separation from my husband was not being able to say goodbye to my friends and co-workers. Although I wasn’t able to meet with all the friends I wanted to, I was able to get some closure with these sweet sisters. Being able to get a last hug and express our sisterly love for each other helped all of us cope with what happened last March.

“I relieve and release your hurt that you may be set free.” –Alice in Wonderland

Let Go and Let God, Y’all!

Through the Looking Glass - Part 2

Our second day on Martha’s Vineyard to move my things began with butterflies in my stomach. It wasn’t fear, it was sadness. My husband had told people he was afraid I would harm him. While in the hospital, he had filed for divorce and for a restraining order, which only added insult to injury.

Nine months of psychological therapy helped me understand the problem was not with me. I had been depressed, not homicidal. I didn’t cause my husband to be fearful. Elements from his own past, likely his deceased father’s violent, depressive episodes, contributed to his fear. I had reached a place of acceptance, understanding that my husband was unwilling to seek marriage counseling, unwilling put forth any effort to resolve whatever differences he perceived in our marriage. In fact, I now know that I deserve much better treatment from a husband, more empathy, caring and love, than my husband could provide. His actions were not just unloving, they were mean-spirited.

When I awoke, Andrea told me I’d been arguing with my husband in my sleep. I had cried out, saying my attorney would handle things. We dressed for cold weather, but as we walked outside, the air was warm and balmy. It was 60 degrees and overcast. Two days before, it had been 19 degrees. The forecast anticipated rain, but as we headed to the West Tisbury Police Department, where I met the officer who would be “protecting” my husband’s property from Scary Ol’ Me, the sky offered no direct threats. The weather was Miracle #1.

Officer Garrison Viera was dressed in plain clothes and drove his pick-up truck to the farm, following me in the moving van. As I drew closer to the Old Mayhew Farm, Andrea said, “I know you’re feeling anxious, and it’s going to be alright. It really is. All this will be over in a few days.” I needed to hear what she had to say, being so close to tears and not wanting to “lose it”.

Pulling into the long drive up to the small farmhouse around 8:30AM, I saw three men waiting – two Brazilians and one high school student. My husband had hired them to assist with the move, obviously wanting me out as soon as possible. He also knew that the men from church I had asked to assist were unable to help me during a weekday and that the police could only come out between the hours of 8AM – 5PM.

I knew one of the Brazilians, Arte Narty, and had briefly met James, the high school student. Opening the barn door, I saw all my furniture filling the space. Apparently, my husband had packed most of my belongings and had moved the boxes and furniture out of the house, into the attached barn area. My things had been there quite some time, as the furniture was dirty and in some cases, moldy, from the excessive heat and humidity during the summer.

Arte Narty kept asking me what they should move first, but I simply couldn’t deal with the aspect of managing the truck loading. That’s when Andrea took over. I climbed into barn loft to identify and hand down boxes, while Andrea directed labor efforts. Unbeknownst to me, Andrea eventually ordered Officer Viera into the truck, not knowing he was a cop.

Andrea barked, “Get up in there and arrange that furniture so it fits in the truck.” Officer Viera replied, “I don’t want to.” She retorted, “I don’t care what you want. You get up there in that truck. You are the king! King of the moving van!” So, he did. And, Officer Viera did an outstanding job of packing the truck.

A little while into the move, my friend from the island, Melanie Bilodeau, came by to help me pack. She took the half-empty boxes and consolidated them. She also helped me make decisions about items that were better left behind or thrown away.

At 10:45AM, the loading was complete. I was totally amazed and shocked. What I had thought would take a couple of days, took a little over two hours. This was Miracle #2.

Officer Viera turned his back to us to climb down from the truck, securing the truck door, and Andrea saw his handcuffs, clipped to the back of his pants. She suddenly realized he was the police officer, not a hired hand. She apologized profusely for ordering him around, thanking him for his help and praising his efforts, pleading her ignorance at his intended purpose.

I looked into the officer’s eyes and smiled, thanking him for his work and told him that the miracle of getting the truck loaded was directly due to his willingness to help us. In a most gracious manner, Officer Viera beamed a bright smile back at me and told me that he couldn’t just sit back and do nothing while there was work to be done. He enjoyed helping, but he asked me not to let anyone at the station know, to which I agreed. Officer Viera was Miracle #3.

I had been told the day before traveling to the island that my husband did not want to allow me access to the house. His reasoning was that all my belongings were in the barn. Through my attorney, I insisted that I be allowed to walk through the farmhouse to ensure all my belongings had been packed. I asked Officer Viera to accompany through the house, which he readily agreed to do. I saw jigsaw puzzles and a Scrabble game that my husband’s mother had given me for my birthday and Christmas, which had not been packed. I smiled and left them alone.

I walked over to the bookshelf, reached up on the top shelf and got down one book, The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran, which had been given to me in 1995 by a dear friend. As I showed it to Officer Viera, he apologetically told me he would have to take a picture of it and would have to call the station before releasing it to me. I told him that was fine, that there was an inscription in the front to me. He agreed the book was mine and called the station. Meanwhile, I continued through the house.

Looking around, I could see why my husband did not want me there. The house looked so pitiful, dirty and dismal. The second-hand furniture he had acquired was so bleak in comparison to the warm, rich leather and fabrics of my furniture. There were no paintings or pictures on the walls. There was no order to his things. It was chaos and emptiness at the same time. It was sad. And, I imagined that this farmhouse reflected the inner feelings of my husband.

Rather than search through the CDs and DVDs, I walked away from the house after briefly perusing the surroundings. If he had kept anything else of mine, he could keep it. I realized at that moment that I had been the reason that farmhouse was a home. I was the reason there was warmth and love reflected in that house. And, with me gone, that house was no longer a home.

My 2000 Dodge Durango, which had been parked beside the barn for nine months, had a flat tire, a broken hatchback latch, broken gas cap and was filthy inside and stunk like my husband’s truck. Undoubtedly, he had used my SUV to haul feed and other things. A friend on the island had alerted me earlier in the year that my husband had been seen driving my car. At least the car started right up and had a half-tank of gas.

Andrea followed me over to Island Tire & Auto. When I asked them to fix the tire and change the oil, I was told it would be the next day before they could get to an oil change. I told them to forget the oil change and asked if we could wait to get the tires looked at. The man at the shop said, “Sure! Pull your car around to the bay and I’ll look at it right now.” This, to me, was Miracle #4.

The feeling of relief as I drove the moving van away from the farm was indescribable. Elation, weightlessness and joy don’t even accurately describe the wondrous feelings of severing the physical ties to my husband. And, then it began to rain…Miracle #5.

Caterpillar: Who... are... you?
Alice: Why, I hardly know, sir. I've changed so much since this morning, you see...
Caterpillar: No, I do not C, explain yourself.
Alice: I'm afraid I can't explain myself, you see, because I'm not myself, you know.
Caterpillar: I do not know.
Alice: I can't put it any more clearly, sir, because it isn't clear to me.

Bird in the Tree: A serpent! Help! Help! Serpent! Serpeeent!
Alice: But please! Please!
Bird in the Tree: Off with you! Shoo! Shoo! Help! Serpent!
Alice: I'm not a serpent.
Bird in the Tree: You're not? Then just what are you?
Alice: I'm just a little girl.

Don’t Give Up Before the Miracles Happen, Y’all!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Through the Looking Glass - Part 1

My friend, Andrea, and I just completed a 2,000-mile jaunt from Martha’s Vineyard to the Ranch, retrieving my belongings from the island. Going to the island at this time of year was not my idea. I’d received a veiled ultimatum through my husband’s attorney, and my parents graciously and generously paid for my trip and expenses, with the hope that they will be able to recoup those costs in divorce court.

My anxiety was high as I prepared for the trip, and I approached my friend, Andrea, to see if she could take time off from her job as a home care nurse to drive my car back to Texas. I expected her to say she could not go. After all, it’s a lot to ask someone to use vacation time from work to drive 2,000 miles. But, she was thrilled to go and didn’t even take time to think about her answer!

I wish I could have had her enthusiasm. But, I had already made this journey once, when I married and hauled all my stuff up to Martha’s Vineyard. (I drove the 26-foot truck that time, too, while my new husband drove my car.) I also hadn’t been back to Martha’s Vineyard in 9 months, and since leaving the island hadn’t been my idea, I was apprehensive about returning.

Many people were praying for us as we embarked on our journey, and those prayers were certainly answered. Our 5:45AM flight to Boston Logan Airport, with a connection through Houston, was quite uneventful.

From Boston, we caught the Peter Pan Bus down to Bourne, Massachusetts, which was a 1 ½-hour ride. We sat in the first row and chatted with the bus driver, John, the entire time. And boy, John sure did like to talk.

We learned that John had been driving commercial vehicles for the past 30 years and that he was “still learning”. I wasn’t sure whether to take comfort from this revelation or not. He was originally from Portugal, which he made us guess. Thankfully, I had ridden with John once or twice before and seemed to recall where he was from. He told us about how he met his wife in the United States, had gone to school here, and how much he loved this country.

John also gave us tips for long-distance driving: 1) take frequent breaks, 2) keep peeled oranges in the car for refreshment, 3) wear loose-fitting shoes or no shoes while driving, and 4) take along a cooler with a washcloth. When tired, wet the washcloth in the cold ice water from the cooler and touch it to your forehead and the inside of both wrists. John was quite a character and kept us thoroughly entertained.

I had previously arranged for a taxi to meet us at the bus stop in Bourne. With long, dark straggly hair, topped with a ski ha, an oversized nose and pasty white wrinkled skin, our cab driver looked like a very old hippie from a Cheech and Chong movie. He drove us over to Colony Moving and Storage in Pocasset, MA (pronounced “Po-CA-sset”, not “PO-ca-sset”, which is how I said it) where we rented the 26-foot Penske Truck.

I encountered a glitch as I tried to pay for the rental truck with my debit card. Apparently, the cost for the rental far exceeded the daily limit on my card. So, I contacted my bank, and they were able to adjust my limit within 15 minutes. Glitch squashed!

Climbing behind the wheel of the monstrous vehicle, I felt the power that comes with sitting up so much higher than the rest of the traffic and listening to the roaring engine crank up. Andrea hopped in and I proceeded to run over a curb making my first turn. My ego quickly became right-sized. Although a twinge of fear about driving the large truck onto the ferry hung in the far reaches of my brain, I tried to remain focused on the road right in front of me. That type of thinking served me well throughout the our journey. After a brief side trip into Wal-Mart to buy Andrea a winter hat, we continued on toward the ferry in Woodshole, MA, and my fears were unfounded as the Steamship Authority workers guided me onto the ferry.

Returning to the island was not easy for me, but I was much stronger emotionally than when I left the island. However, some things never change. As I stepped off the ferry, I could feel my perfectly straightened hair begin to kink just like it always did when I lived on the island. It was quite cool and humid outside.

I followed the directions to Lou and Brenda Dimovich’s home where Andrea and I were invited to stay. Brenda met us at the parking area where we planned to park the moving van overnight. I stepped down from the truck and gave Brenda a big hug. It was an emotional moment for me. I hadn’t seen Brenda in over nine months. When I returned to Texas, Brenda had been visiting her new grandbaby. Her big bear hug was balm to my soul and I began to realize how important it was for me to gain closure with my friends from Martha’s Vineyard.

To be continued…

”Take care of the sense, and the sounds will take care of themselves.”—The Duchess, Alice in Wonderland

“Oh, pooh. I'm not afraid of you. Why, you're nothing but a pack of cards.”—Alice, Alice in Wonderland

Keep on Truckin’, Y’all!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

'Tis the Season

Oh, ‘tis the season to be jolly! At long last, the Christmas spirit has overcome me. I no longer feel resentful when I hear the Christmas jingles piped into my shopping experience. Not only do I catch myself singing along or whistling, but I’ve also been doing the Holiday Shuffle. This may consist of waltzing down the aisle at Target…1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3…or a bit of soft shoe,tapping tennis shoes while pushing my cart in the grocery store. Bring it on! I’m ready for the holiday cheer.

Perhaps the change in my mood has something to do with that first downed bottle of eggnog this season. Oh, that creamy, dreamy nectar of the gods, which blesses our grocery stores once a year...I cannot resist it…it calls my name. I must buy my very own bottle or carton at the beginning of each Christmas holiday. When my son was still living at home, we each had our own personal eggnog cartons - his was leaded, mine was unleaded. Surprisingly, his always seemed to last longer. Mine rarely lasted a full day. This year was no different. That first bottle of the season was gulped down with a gusto I can only compare to the first beer of the summer (back in my drinking days).

Perhaps it’s the onslaught of Christmas movies bombarding the TV screen that has me in the mood. My sister, Cameron, sent me a text-message the other day, reminding me that my favorite Christmas movie classic, “White Christmas”, was airing on television that night. Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen, whose waistline measured a mere 21 inches, headlined in the film. The music takes me back to warm memories of singing and dancing to the song, “Sisters”, with my sister.

Or, maybe it’s our delightful trip to Wimberley Market Days today that has me whistling “Jingle Bell Rock”. The Hill Country’s oldest and largest outdoor market sported over 470 vendor booths displaying everything under the sun, including antiques, jewelry, art, toys and more. Everywhere we turned there was turquoise, turquoise and more turquoise. It is the Year of the Turquoise!

It was a perfect, sunny, 60-degree day, and we were greeted everywhere to good ol’ friendly Texas hospitality. All the parking lots and food concessions were sponsored by the Wimberley Lions Club, with 100% of all proceeds going to charity and scholarships. We made our own donation with two orders of scrumptious fried catfish and crinkle-cut French fries before heading back to Austin.

And, for those of you searching for that perfect stocking stuffer, I recommend the Oxo Good Grips Soap Dispensing Palm Brush for $5.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond. No kitchen should be without one.

“Once again we find ourselves enmeshed in the Holiday Season, that very special time of year when we join with our loved ones in sharing centuries-old traditions such as trying to find a parking space at the mall. We traditionally do this in my family by driving around the parking lot until we see a shopper emerge from the mall, then we follow her, in very much the same spirit as the Three Wise Men, who 2,000 years ago followed a star, week after week, until it led them to a parking space.” –Dave Barry

“Unless we make Christmas an occasion to share our blessings, all the snow in Alaska won't make it 'white'.” –Bing Crosby

Share Your Blessings, Y’all!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Turquoise and The Hair

On November 30th, I turned 49 years old. I always know how old I am because I turned thirty just two days after my son was born. So, this year my son turned nineteen. I’m still not certain how that happened. I mean, it seems like just a few years ago we were playing Thumb War in the car, talking like Mexican Chihuahuas. (You would’ve had to been there.) Now we talk about what he’s learning in his anthropology class and his view of the world…when I see him.

My Aunt Mary Lou, my mother’s youngest sister, was also born on November 30th, so we celebrate the three birthdays – mine, hers and my son’s – at Thanksgiving. This year was no different. Ironically, Mary Lou and I gave each other the same gift – a turquoise necklace and earrings. She’d forgotten to take the tag off, and as she tried to grab it out of my hands, I chuckled and told her I’d spent the same amount of money, too. We just laughed and laughed. (Again, you would’ve had to been there. It really was funny.) And, it must be the year of the Turquoise, because another dear friend gave me a fabulous turquoise necklace and earrings for my birthday.

There’s more gray in my hair this year, more than I can pluck out. And, so for the first time, I am thinking of coloring my hair. I may throw care and conservativism to the wind and go RED. Then again, I may just come back with some highlights. We’ll see how bold I feel at the hair stylist’s tomorrow afternoon.

I commented to Mary Lou that I couldn’t believe I’ll be 50 years old next year, that I feel more like thirty in my head. She agreed, saying she couldn’t believe she is 60-something. Mary Lou is quite young-looking and full of energy. I told her that in my mind, I am thirty and she is forty. She agreed and said that according to Oprah (and if Oprah said it, it must be true), 50 is the new 30. We concurred that 60 must then be the new 40. I like it, and I don’t care who said it!

I guess at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter how old I am chronologically. I like who I am today. I really am grateful for the knowledge that comes with life lessons, but just wish I would’ve read the crib notes instead of stumbling firsthand down that windy, bumpy path I have trodden for nearly half a century. But, what a ride!

On my actual birthday, Gene drove me down to San Antonio to the UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures Museum and for a stroll in the market place downtown. We had a wonderful Mexican food lunch at La Marguerita Restaurant and Oyster Bar.

Then, we headed over to Gruene, Texas (pronounced “Green”) for some antique and specialty store shopping.

I think 49 is going to be a very good age for me! A very good age indeed!

"And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years." --Abraham Lincoln

Enjoy the Journey, Y’all!