Monday, February 28, 2011

Surviving February

The Longest Shortest Month of the Year
It’s time to bid a pleasant, even joyous, adieu to the shortest but absolutely longest month of the year. February is historically brutal on me. This year has been no exception, just different. I’ve discovered that grief holds greater powers than seasonal affective disorder. But grief can also override depression because to move through it, the process is different.
Even before Jim’s shocking death in early November I was arming myself for February. I purchased two “Happy Lamps,” one for the office and the other for home to provide an hour or two of warm bathing sunlight no matter what nature offered outside. I set a soothing exercise plan rather than the more rigorous exercise I engage in the rest of the year.  A strict bedtime was set. I was ready to fight this winter before it even started.
But Jim’s death changed a lot. My lethargy, depression, lack of energy all needed to be pushed aside because there was a family—my family—that was suffering greatly and a mother who lost her youngest child. If you’ve ever heard, and most have, the worst thing a life can bring is the experience of burying one’s child, it is Truth. Watching my Mom’s pain and suffering and pure unbridled raw emotion has been almost more than I can bear but truth is it kept me going in my darkest hours of the dreaded month of February.
Perhaps the most powerful action has been dropping to my knees once a day in my sunroom and praying. Prayer has never been a regular part of my life. I’m not even sure who or what I’m praying to but I can say the act of prayer has opened up my senses in a divine way, allowing me to see insights and perhaps answers that I never would have sensed otherwise.  To see things due to my heightened sensory that I would have otherwise missed has been a powerful life experience.  And in 15 hours February 2011 will be history.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Church Lady and the Victrola

Foxtrot Anyone?

I first learned of the Church Garage Sale because of a Facebook post searching for a home for a load of old vinyl records. This was my first hint of technology meeting theocracy, though I did not yet understand the near biblical nature of its impending outcome.
A far leap from the old church bulletin announcement, a Church Guy posted and said he would pick up the albums. And he did. So, out with about 200 LPs that I’d picked through over and over again, to thin my permanent collection, and in with the freedom of the extra space. Relief. My doctor was threatening to order another dumpster anyway.
I next learned of my brother the heirloom tosser the afternoon of the sale. While visiting with my mother and sister, Mom related how my brother had stocked the church garage sale by emptying his attic. Most of it was ready to go but Mom told me of racing over to the church and buying back a fine bowl of her grandmother’s and a rocking chair. Then in a very quiet, somewhat apologetic voice, I heard the word “Victrola.” Mom knew, I knew, everyone knew that there was going to be blood on the moon when I saw my brother.
He didn’t even ask me if I wanted the Victrola. Wow. That Victrola was symbolic of the magic of the old family home and my first bonding with music and art. 
With steam and profanity exuding from my pores and vocal chords, I raced to the church, just as my mother had earlier that day. Finding locked doors, I banged on the windows. A church that is never locked was in full lockdown due to a bunch of junk and my Victrola in the basement! 
Mom instructed me to call the Church Lady and explain the situation. I told her that Church Lady does not like me. Normally, this would not bother me a bit, but this was different. She had my Victrola under her control in the church basement.
So, I conned Jim into making the call. He talked her up in the usual Jim way--he spoke to her as if she was expecting his call--and explained the error of our brother’s judgment. Church Lady conceeded by saying she would hold it for me and charge me “only $200,” since it “used to be in the family.” Acceptable behavior? I think not. But Jim wouldn’t call her back when i told him he needed to wheel and deal her for me and i realized that ultimately the Victrola was back within my grasp.
I rolled down to the sale early, located Church Lady, and started to write the check. In a chipper voice, she announced, “That will be $300.” Immediately, I reminded her that she had promised to sell it back for $200. 
She retorted that it was $200 for the Victrola and $100—only half price--for the stand. It was beat up with peeling veneer, and i didn’t have room for it anyway. So I let Church Lady know that I just wanted the Victrola. Almost preening her bird-like bosom, she said “well then you won’t have any records to play.” I had forgotten the stand had all the 78 RPM records tucked in the fold out bottom of the stand. I wrote the $300 check, then called and told my brother that he was to deliver my repatriated Victrola to my house. This directive, delivered with what is now commonly referred to as an F-bomb, then gave Church Lady a plastic smile and headed back home for bed.

Home Sweet Home

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Nature’s Wonder Plant

I consider this the mama plant of the Burnam St. Aloe Veras.
At the '89 Telluride Bluegrass Festival I received a horrible sunburn--a  scalding that only can be acquired in the mountains at 70 degrees while listening to bluegrass music with no sunscreen.  I returned home sporting a wicked, blistering, infected sunburn. At work, another waitress asked if I had used Aloe. Thinking she would bring a bottle of light green gel, she rather broke off a stick of an Aloe Vera plant. As she rubbed it in my wounds, I honestly could see my skin repair itself in motion. I became an Aloe Vera loyalist.

Fast-forward 20 years. I always keep live, fresh Aloes around my house and re-pot babies to give to Aloe-less friends. It’s my go-to treatment for a burn, cut, or an insect bite. Since last fall I gave a passing thought some experimentation. The results could make Aloe life-changing for me . . . Aloe Vera appears to be a very effective treatment for psoriasis! I’ve suffered from this auto-immune disease since third grade. The medical establishment told me then and consistently since that there is no cure. I’ve bought ridiculously expensive prescription steroid creams, bathed in pounds of salt water, taken medication and shots, stood on my head (kidding, are you still reading?) and stayed up-to-date with pharmacology relating to psoriasis treatment. One month of experimentation with Aloe has yielded improved skin, money in the pocket, less itching, and a question if I missed my calling as a plant scientist (says the woman who always wants to reinvent herself). Regardless, I'll be ready for Spring fashion and skin when that sacred time of year rolls around.

These are NOT my legs but it provides a good visual of what my elbows looked like before and after my Aloe Vera experiment. My psoriasis has always been the worst on my scalp and then my elbows. I've had bloody elbows resulting from a good game of tennis more than a few times. The search for this picture actually made me feel like a lucky lady! Google  Image Psoriasis and you will know what i mean. I could have it much worse but that really isn't a comfort!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Emergency Sirens

My office is at Walnut and College, the third floor corner office of Lela Raney Wood Hall. It also sits about four blocks from Boone Hospital Center. I hear sirens all the time. For the past couple of months, every time an ambulance screams in my ear, my eyes instinctively well up with tears and at times I just sob. All I can think of is my brother's last ride while EMTs begged for a heart beat. Yesterday when I heard heard the sirens, I heard them, and hoped that the person transported would be okay.

Grief, frankly, is a lonely and self-absorbed place to be.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Snow is Gone

Josh Ritter and band perform "Snow is Gone" at Vicar Street in Dublin, Ireland.

A gifted lyricist like Josh Ritter leads me in and out of his dreams. "Heaven is so big there ain't no need to look up/So I stopped looking for royal cities in the air/Only a full house gonna have prayer/."  One of Ritter's undeniable influences, the brilliant Bob Dylan, gets a more practical response from me "Life is sad/Life is a bust/All ya can do/Is do what you must/," useful words for surviving the day. Lucinda Williams knows the need to ache, to feel it "little angel/little brother/your bad habits and your attitude/." These old friends are accustomed to being around in dark quiet hours. I know my way around with them; it's comfortable, familiar. This morning, after a healthy dose of silence, I start by listening to the evocative "Snow is Gone" before joining the noisy world outside.

(lyrics by Josh Ritter)

Birds beneath my window dustying their wings upon the lawn
I hear them in the morning light giving last amen to a migratory song
They're never looking round for me—their eyes are on the sky or the ground below
But I'd rather be the one who loves than to be loved and never even know

Hello blackbird hello starling
Winter's over be my darling
It's been a long time coming
But now the snow is gone
You were beautiful when I first saw your feathers and confectionery airs
Like the earth it up and promised you the stars but you really didn't care
I sang in exultation pulled the stops—you always looked a little bored
But I'm singing for the love of it—have mercy on the man who sings to be adored
Hello blackbird hello starling
Winter's over be my darling
It's been a long time coming
But now the snow is gone

I'm underneath your window now—it's long after the birds have gone to roost
And I'm not sure if I'm singing for the love of it or for the love of you
But I've flown a long way honey hear my confession then I'll go
I'd rather be the one who loves than to be loved and never even know
Hello brown one hello blue one
Last night's feathers exchanged for new ones

Hello blackbird hello starling
Winter's over be my darling
It's been a long time coming
But now the snow is gone

Monday, February 21, 2011

You Are Not My Friend

Quite simply, I don't want you in my house.
Perhaps I'll see you at Murry's or Booches.
But not on Burnam Road.
You aren't welcome here and I do not like your company.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Hole That Can't Be Filled

The Jimmer who held my hand.

I miss my little brother so very much. I was in 5th grade when he was born so a perfect age to have my own baby and for my parents to have the devoted and free babysitter. Jim and I bonded the day he came home from the hospital; I still remember what he was wearing and the feeling I had the first time I held him.

When I left for college, we still held hands in the grocery store or the mall. I remember coming home at some point in college and taking Jim's hand as normal, and he shook it away! I knew then that my baby brother was growing up. As adults, we had a special bond if you will, because we were both single. He called us the Singletons and the rest the Marrieds. Ever since I moved back to Columbia, he was a key part of my life and smiles. Jim understood me. He supported my pain and fears without being asked, his sixth sense was very well developed. The hole he leaves is huge.

Christmas morning while I was in college. Note I had to keep my distance. By this time my baby brother had no use for sitting on my lap or holding hands. He was becoming a young man!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A New Lens on the American Flag

One of Jim's friends stopped by the morning of his funeral and dropped his flag to half mast. I went by to photograph it and the second i got there, the stillness turned to wind. It took on supernatural forces and a life of its own.
I’ve never really been a flag person. Don’t own one or a flagpole. Therefore, to chat with a flag, a specific American flag, every day, sometimes several times a day is uncharacteristic of me.

  My youngest brother Jim loved his flag. It was huge. Flagpole number one actually bent from the flag weight and the wind. The second flagpole had nothing to fear. A tornado would have taken his house before that pole.

A huge American flag flies from a very tall pole (50 feet?) on Providence Road, centered between Broadway and Walnut on the east side. This flag swirls and waves while other flags down Walnut Street--like the police station or in front of the courthouse--sit limply. The  Providence Flag ripples and dances and on a windy, sunny day the stars look like diamonds in the sky. That’s my time to talk to Jim, driving south on Providence, usually to work. Craning my neck to get the first glimpse of the flag, I marvel at Jim’s spirit that he offers me through the flag.

cloudy morning, I went out to photograph the Providence Flag for this blog entry. As usual, I talked to Jim as I drove down Providence. While snapping some shots of the waving flag a few very light and gentle drops of rain fell from the sky. Light tears from above but they passed as quickly, before I returned to my car.

Friday, February 18, 2011

WELCOME to All Things Important

All Things Important is a new blog about things that are important (to me).  By giving a voice to my experiences I can only hope that, on occasion, others may read something they can relate to in my words.  Here a reader can expect writing on these topics:
1-Book Reviews
2-Music Reviews and Concert Reviews
3-Surviving the Death of a Sibling
4-The Wonders of Nature
5-Boone County, Missouri
6-Health and Wellness
8-The Power of Prayer for the Non-religious
9-Other Things That Become Important
Check in tomorrow for my first entry.