26 February 2007

God grant me...

...some sense!

In this exclusive group I'm a three plus year member of, every meeting is started with "The Serenity Prayer". Even if you're not a member of the club, I would be willing to bet you've heard it.

"God, grant me the serenity, to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can't, and the wisdom to know the difference."

Interestingly enough, it works.

But of course, now I know...

I've been to too many of these meetings. I know I have and I can tell you why. Prior to three years ago, I would not have given a second thought to posting my thoughts on maniacal elves and how to spot them. But the reality is, that I have been to three plus years of those little gatherings, drank gallons of really weak coffee and met a broad cross-section, from every imaginable walk of life, profession and many different geographical locations and backgrounds and my gosh we're freaking everywhere! But back to my point, all of these "steps" toward a better life, hearing them over and over again well, even with a hard head like mine, something was bound to sink in, and it didn't even require trephining.

It's not that anyone said anything critical about my post - in fact, I received quite a few literary "high-fives" from friends who know...ummm, the object of my disaffection. I received several "congratulations, well done!" upon learning I had left the premises.

It was fun reading e-mails from friends offering tales from their own experiences with their own "elves behaving badly", similar to my own. Some of the stories involved incidents far worse than what I wrote of or experienced, and a few were much more amusing, but I couldn't shake the fact that my "public venting" failed to offer me the satisfaction and release I wanted so much to savor and feel - the sweet taste of revenge, the glory of having, "the final word", completely eluded me. Mostly, the whole affair made me wince - both the living it and maybe even more the reading about it.

I had another one of those "Wow, I could have had a V-8" moments, only it felt more like a self-inflicted, well-deserved blow to the head. Nothing compares with slapping your own wrist, or chastising your own obstinate self for a low-brow exposition. Very low brow...

Shame on me and darn those stupid meetings! They make it NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE to carry-on in a less than stellar manner and get away with it. Couple those meetings with the way I was actually raised and, well, there's no way around it - you couldn't find anything dysfunctional in my parents if you were using the most high-powered lens of a finely-tuned, enormously accurate microscope. My parents could make Ward and June Cleaver look suspicious and downright sketchy and I've watched enough of those reruns to understand that is no easy task. Ugh...it's so annoying. Clearly, I have to work very very hard to be subversive and roadblocks are tossed in my way at every single turn.

It's not easy being the me formerly known as my former self...

But it's also those very same cliches, repeated stories, more cliches, parables, not to mention the warm gooey homemade memories of my childhood that remind me that life in these past three plus years feels so much better than the years that preceded 12 January 2004. Bad elfen behavior notwithstanding, things have been so much better since the transformation a guy named Bill often referred to as a "spiritual awakening". Not perfect, mind you - how boring would that be? But definitely better.

So, I guess it's no real concession to excise the inflammatory post that I posted a few days ago - the one that dealt with bad elfen magic. Nothing I wrote would in any way change someone elses' actions or deeds or remove any character defects, particularly my own, and the last thing I want to do is to appear on the very same miserably low level as my "talking point". I do well to keep my own behavior in check and so I'd probably be better served looking after that rather than policing anyone else, even if that someone else is a rat. Sorry, I couldn't resist. Not that I tried THAT hard. It's an anonymous rat, after all. I didn't name rat names! :-)

Progress...not perfection. Look it up. Google it. Go ahead.

I received a phone call today from a very close friend in France who gave me his considered and always valuable opinion on my recent "career" developments. He shared with me that he thought it was a positive change and he seemed pretty pleased, as have a lot of people I respect. My phone call with this gentleman, who has literally been my writing mentor through the years, (no easy task, huh Michel?), was presciently timed and I respect his feelings, his thoughts and his advice not to mention his uncanny ability to be on target.

Michel made me think about the terror of my ways and my Mom, while innocently making coffee this morning, made me reconsider the terror in my words. She wasn't exactly trying to make a point, which is generally when she makes the most pointed ones. I'm sure both Mom and Michel were telepathically conspiring to change my wicked wordy ways which is just like them - ever since they had that whole bean stringing experience back in Pembroke Pines, they've been a formidable team. Similar minds separated only by an ocean.

And again, they boast an inarguable track record for being write...I mean, right, though I would probably still try and argue that point.

The truth is that I would probably never have walked away from that "dead-end going nowhere fast" position, at least not until I won the lottery, because of my favorite co-worker, clients and also, well, the health and dental benefits were certainly handy. As they say in that club I keep frequenting, this was probably a brilliant example of "God doing for me what I couldn't do for myself". Even though it's true, imagine me rolling my eyes, but smiling...definitely smiling.

Now, that flaming exercise in exposition that I ignited certainly wasn't for naught. It was good to get it out and a much more positive way to handle the pent-up, damn-bursting irritation and annoyance than, say, do something self-destructive which, I'm happy to report, was never ever a remote thought. An elf will never drive me to drink - not even a really mean, nasty one. My friend and counselor Jimi was quite right in directing me to blog my heart out, to release the poison. It's not healthy to keep that stuff in! Really! It's just that in hindsight, which generally contains much more clarity than foresight, I would save my diatribe by clicking on the "save as draft" tab rather than the "publish" button. By saving it as a draft, I can revisit it when I want to, and marvel at the amazing way I captured my subject matter! But I save myself the alloted "self-disrespect" that accompanies any public bashing, literary or otherwise.

In my last post, I spoke of this lingering cloud of dismal disparity that I still felt, even though I was no longer in the employ of an unpleasant person. Now I know why. Whatever negativity he may have spread, didn't justify my adding to it in any way, shape or form. I wasn't suddenly granted some celestial permission to be mean, hateful or unkind. I knew none of this was "eye for an eye" stuff but gosh it's so tantalizingly tempting to "act out" - but "acting out", after the initial blush, doesn't have a very pleasing aftertaste. In fact, it tastes even more bitter than the initial pill than nearly makes one choke in the first place.

I thought about it a lot this afternoon. I revisited all of the facets in my life that are in place and co-exist to make it the blessing that it truly is, and I realized that all of those facets, just like any precious stone or prism you can think of, reflect light, not darkness. Well, I can tell you from personal experience that when you "blog darkness" there's no satisfaction to be found there, either. Trust me on this.

And finally, when I (literally and metaphorically) slapped my forehead late this afternoon, just as the sun was sinking, bathing my office in the most lovely warm tones of peach, yellow and mauve and every other color that any late winter sinking sun can disperse, my eyes fell on a book near my desk. Out of NOWHERE (but "nowhere" is always somewhere, right?) I finally realized why there was no satisfaction to be found in what I wrote. I was approaching the whole thing the wrong way and using the most improper device imaginable. The harshest words available couldn't possibly do what needed to be done in order to put things in their proper order and strike the balance I so desperately needed.

I found it on page 63 of "The World According to Mister Rogers" and it's "da bomb". And there it was - the perfect way to resolve this personal conflict - and I'm really grateful for that because I'm beyond bored with all of this festering, investigation, reexamination and self-analysis.

Fred Rogers gave credit to one of his "wise" teachers, Dr. William F. Orr, for this, and so I would suppose he'd expect me to do the same.

"There is only one thing evil cannot stand and that is forgiveness.".

Who knew? Well, I knew that - I'd read it about a hundred times before, but I didn't know any elves at the time so it didn't really click. Today, it clicked; no, actually, today it clacked, which is much more pronounced than a mere click...in a way that was undeniable, and so I won't even try to deny that it didn't and forget about ignoring it! You must never ignore anything that goes to the trouble to clack.

I already feel better and I haven't yet clicked on "publish", but I will and when I do, I already know that this post won't result in any of the tension that my posts of the past few days have. Now I can see I was only pouring gasoline on a flaming fire and that's not the way to extinguish anything with the potential to consume and destroy. Believe me, I really need to engage in a few "esteemible" things.

Sometimes, the hardest things we know we should do, are the very actions that will ultimately allow us to feel the best. At least, that's what that small, tiny voice deep inside of me is whispering...but it sounds so credible and so utterly convincing, that I have to believe it's worth the listen.

This is me...listening.

Tomorrow, this will be me...e-mailing my resume and cover-letter to Glen in NYC. Thank you, Glen.

18 February 2007

I'd rather be a diamond than a basketcase...(read below for an explanation)

“A friend is someone who understands your past, believes in your future, and accepts you just the way you are.”

I have some friends just like that, who truly epitomize the quote above and they've been with me this weekend - not physically - these friends of mine are scattered - the UK, Manhattan, Michigan and, of course, Wilmington and the surrounding coast. They have made me laugh and been irreverent, silly, poignant, philosophical, optimistic and brilliant. How I came into the company of such wise and accomplished people, I can't possibly explain, but it was my great fortune. I know one thing, these amazing "inner circle" friends of mine have given me a blueprint for what comprises the finest qualities of a friend - Someday I hope to be close to their level of near-perfection. It's good to have a goal.

Katie has pointed out that if I had been writing and turning in the things I have been asked to submit, perhaps Britney might have been able to avoid shaving her head and walking in and out of the rehab revolving door at Eric Clapton's Crossroads Treatment Center in Antigua. [I really wanted to go to rehab in Antigua but since the admission was more than my house, I settled for scenic Wilmington Treatment Center which also offered stunning recreational activities - a volley ball net and a horseshoe pit. Pretty glam, I know.]. But back to Katie's rant: Thanks to my unfinished submission, the world must look at a "sheared Spears". We had quite a chat about the whole thing yesterday both online and on the cell.

Yes, Katie reminded me that if I think I've got problems, focus on poor Britney, Robbie Williams, Lindsey Lohan, Ray Liotta (breaking news!) and, my gosh, will we ever live long enough to see the end to the Anna Nicole Smith Saga? I think they need to dedicate a channel just to the life and times of the late Ms. Smith so that the other channels are freed up enough to actually, you know, report real news. What astonishes me even more is that people are deeply entrenched in the daily updates as if it actually impacts their lives in some way. My theory is that ANS's life was such a tangled-up mess that even on our worst days, we can look at her and glance back at ourselves and still feel as if things aren't all that bad. I don't know about you, but I'm personally pleased that Howard K. Stern isn't tagging along with me.

More troubling and a little closer to home, I overheard our cat Sylvester muttering something about possibly being the biological father of Anna Nicole's daughter so this house could be surrounded by paparazzi at any moment. Sadly, I can't say for sure that he's not ~ Sylvester may be 14, but he's spent more than a few nights catting around. I feel like a paternity test will clear everything up and perhaps exonerate poor Zsa Zsa Gabor's husband and clear his good name, which escapes me at this time, which would be no small blessing. I figure Sylvester has more of a chance proving paternity than that old man - besides, Syl is from Texas and we lived in Fort Lauderdale for four years with quite a few trips to the Bahamas. It's not like he hasn't been around. Plus, let's face it, Sylvester is a charming, charismatic, dapper, virile cat (just ask Felix!). As we've seen time and again since this story broke wide open, anything is possible. I thought Syl had calmed down a bit in the past couple of years but now and again he still comes in at odd hours with absolutely no explanation as to where he's been or who he's been with. He swaggers in the doorway with a cheshire cat grin plastered on his face, the kind of smirk that lets us know that we don't really want to know. Given his past escapades, I guess he can't be ruled out.

Everyone has their cross to bear, but a few of us have a cross to wear and I received a beautiful cross this past Wednesday. It was a gift from someone who appeared unexpectedly in my life, but not at all by chance. I met this graciously gifted gentleman in what I thought was a last-minute "chance" meeting in Manhattan right before checking out of my hotel and heading over for a quick lunch with Katie. What I imagined would take an hour or so lasted three. I spent those three hours learning about his life and he gently queried me about my writing, my experiences, my goals and most of all my passion.

The next morning I received a phone call and he told me that he thought I had a book in me and could I please send in 50 pages and an outline? It's taken me a little time - life has been chaotic since that late October morning in Manhattan, but he hasn't given up on me just yet which is such an unmerited blessing. In fact, the story continues to unfold as we speak. The last chapter in the project I imagine is in the process of being lived while I write the beginning of all that has passed up until this point. To have someone of this fellow's qualifications, talent and seasoned-eye go to bat for me as he has, is something I would have been too timid even to wish for. He isn't about to let me give up on this, and I'm not about to let either of us down. He's taking a firm, but compassionate, stand with me ~ much kinder than I remotely deserve.

This man has even been known to duck inside a nearby Catholic Church to light a candle or two for me. It is humbling to have someone believe in you to that degree. I am humbled. I don't want to waste the faith he, or anyone else, has invested in me. I think about that a lot and sometimes I foolishly try to make sense of how Point A connects to Point B and then intersects with Point C and that alone can create a headache, and none of it makes sense, and yet it is the insensibility of it that compels me to believe none of it is a product of chance. I don't really believe in luck, but I do know a thing or two about blessings. I've met them and I can report they exist all over the place. Truly. On both sides of the pond! Honestly, the planet is simply littered with them, if you open your eyes and, of course, your heart. Thanks Glen...

February has been a month of changes and surprises and some are still unfolding even as I type this. I find I'm becoming more measured (for the moment) <did you notice how "for the moment" jumped out there like that?> in the words I choose and it's not always readily apparent who is who and what is what, but there are always those that you know in your heart you can always rely on and trust with your life. Everyone and everything else eventually sorts itself out with a few ticks of the clock. Sometimes it's hard to know who or what to believe in and who you can trust and what your own part in any given play, day or drama may be. When those situations present themselves, it's usually best to be quiet and watchful waiting becomes the wisest thing to do. I've not always been known for doing the wisest thing but, not to sound too grandiose, I think I'm getting better at it. I need lots more practice and given the way life is bouncing around these days, I have no doubt I'll have ample opportunity to test my decision-making machinery.

So what do you do when you're aimlessly surfing the Internet and you're supposed to be engaged in more constructive pursuits? Since I was out of chocolate (thanks Ali), I visited a site that always cheers me up and makes me laugh. Despair.com. I found the perfect poster. I wouldn't say that pressure had reduced me to a basketcase - more like an empty creole after a day spent surf fishing on the Outer Banks. It could have been better, it could have been worse. I didn't take anyone's head off and Cassie, Felix, Sylvester and Princess are still scampering around me, so I couldn't have been that surly. In the grand scheme of things, the annoyances circling around won't really matter a whit ten years from now. As long as I have some loose-leaf jasmine tea within kettle's reach, I'm good. Whatever happens in the next week or two will happen. I have to believe that it will all be fine.

Last but never, ever least, Jim in Amarillo, I'm still loving my flute and when I'm not trying to figure it out, I'm thinking how lovely it looks on my wall. I hope you're safe and warm and that the ice is thawing. What a special person you are. And he is!

10 February 2007

Cruising along...

I had the most wonderful lunch on Friday (2/09) with one of my best buddies. She's one of my dearest friends for so many reason, and one of the first people I became close to when I moved to Wilmington in August 2000.

We've been through a lot of things - both individually and collectively. My respect for her is huge and I can't imagine the past five years without this angel in my life. The very fact that my friend Sharon exists and that I know her, validates for me the existence of angels, not that I required any sort of formal confirmation; I live my life surrounded by informal manifestations.

Matt, proprietor of The Courthouse Cafe, served us a delectable and decadent homemade brownie complete with sinfully delicious swirls of whipped cream. Sharon started singing "happy birthday" again, but I strongly suggested she stop. She ignored me. It happens. I love her still.

My horoscope. I don't believe in them and yet I never resist the temptation to read them. That, and itself, defines Aquarian quirkiness. The LA Times had this to say on my birthday:

Today's birthday (Feb. 6). Your presence is inspiring to others. A change in your work environment allows you more freedom in March. May features demolition and rebuilding. You'll be flexing your creative muscles to great response in July. Singles marry in August. Couples recommit then, too. Love signs are Virgo and Gemini. Your lucky numbers are: 4, 39, 22, 19 and 45.

I had an interesting encounter at yet another local restaurant later in the day on Friday (I seem to visit a lot of restaurants lately). Someone who I don't really know and have exchanged nothing more than a casual, "Hi, how are you doing?" with, after taking my order, shared with me that she'd enjoyed the article in the Wilmington Star a couple of months ago. I smiled and thanked her. And then, in an almost sheepish, softer tone, she told me that February 15th would mark two months of her being sober. Of course, I congratulated her. Two months is a very long time to go without a drink and many don't make it that far. I was touched that she shared this with me. I had nothing to do with it, but my gosh I'm glad that such a conversation could even transpire. The much too "taboo" topic of alcoholism really doesn't merit the hushed tones and shadows in which it's generally discussed. Bringing it out into the light of day seems to extinguish a lot of its foreboding and misplaced power. Good news is good news and putting down the bottle for one more day, for an alcoholic, is darn fine news! It's the perfect reason for raising a glass...of jasmine tea.

Speaking of "putting down the bottle", there was a news item in the Wilmington-Star today that sort of surprised me, though I don't really know why. It seems one of the Assistant DA's for New Hanover County was charged with a DUI on February 1st. I can well imagine what she must feel like. At least when my own experience with alcohol appeared in the newspaper, I consented to its publication but, given her position in local government, she didn't quite have that luxury. She plead guilty and she's facing the probability of having her license suspended for a year which is now the penalty for a DUI in the State of North Carolina. As the article and Ben David, the District Attorney, reiterated, "no one is above the law" and, it goes without saying, no one should be.

I would never want to revisit how that whole experience made me feel when it happened three years ago, but I am grateful every single day that it did. I didn't realize at the time just how lucky I was but, with the passage of time, it's been demonstrated for me more times than I can count. Life goes on after such events but what is even more important to note, is that everyone has the power to determine which direction s/he chooses to follow.

At the time though, you spend a great deal of energy beating yourself up and it's such a miserable experience. But really, it has to be painful - we don't tend to change ways when we're not hurting. I know I wouldn't have. It's too easy not to remain the same even if the same isn't a very wise place to remain. The penalty for a DWI has, over the years, grown remarkably severe...as it should. It's serious business for both the person driving impaired and the innocent people who have to share the road with the offender.

Speaking of driving - I have a new car! (Well, new to me)! I never was minivan material though, no question, it's by far better than nothing. My dad and I met up with Mark Villanti at Neuwirth Chrysler, and what a cool guy he is. He listened very carefully to what I was looking for, and how I hoped to acquire it and, amazingly, he made it happen. The choice came down to a VW Cabriolet Convertible and an "Inferno Red" PT Cruiser. After trying out the VW which was in great shape, it was a 5-speed and I have scant experience with a stick. Considering that I am never without an iced tea (or two) and a cell phone, I knew it would be problematic to have something else requiring my hands and limited attention, not to mention actually focusing on "driving", so he suggested I take a look at the PT Cruiser. I had already decided I would hate it and saw very little reason to even take it for a spin, but he was charming and insistent and, and I loved it. I was astonished by how impressed I was with this car. I really didn't want to like it and he did offer to teach me to drive a 5-speed properly, but the PT Cruiser was just plain fun (though someday I still want a convertible...). It is a quirky little car which fits me perfectly. The transfer and document fees were a birthday gift from my parents. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Friday Evening, I was chatting with my friend in England (it was morning in the UK) and he asked if I'd received anything that day in the mail. When I told him nothing of note, he corrected me and said that he had compelling evidence that UPS had been to my house at 2:05 EST that very day. No one told me about it. However, a quick check of the front porch revealed a package that contained Norah Jones latest CD, "Not Too Late". And it wasn't! Too late, that is. What a great CD! Thank you, Ali! This has been the 12 days of my 47th birthday and a very full and happy week. I'm extremely grateful.

I was checking out my favorite websites yesterday and absently clicked on my daughter's blog and was surprised to see myself looking back - well, the 15 year old version of myself. Katie had updated her Vox Blog and, Katie had correctly noted that I had her when I was something like five or six years old - what a medical marvel it was at the time however, Katie, I regret to inform you that, well, you got it wrong. You incorrectly imagined this to be my 29th birthday. According to an e-mail I received today, 50 is now considered to be the new 30 which means, according to my calculator, 47 must be the new 27. You overstated my age by two years. I'll let it go this time, but next year, let's try and not make me older than I am. I guess that means, given that you're the antiquated age of 23, I must have had you when I was four. I hardly remember it! I just figured I was checking into the hospital to have my tonsils removed and I was bribed with tons of ice cream. Who knew?

And one last word to my buddy and sparring partner, Mike Ford, a hillbilly by way of Michigan; you better rest your old, silly self up. We're all looking forward to seeing you March 27th and you must be looking forward to the great "thaw". Mike is an OLD friend of my family's and he used to play with my sister and do really bad things to my parents front porch when he was a little boy. I won't go into the details of the crime, but it involved a paper bag and fire and my Dad actually caught him "red" handed. :-)

Now, I personally have never had the thrill of meeting Mike in person - I was born a vast ten years after he was, but we have done our share of e-mail swapping. Three years ago, about the time my world was changing, we "met" on the Internet and began corresponding. He left West Virginia long before we did, but that doesn't necessarily make him more brilliant. Remember, he is ten years older than me, a fact I never let him forget - particularly after that birthday card.

Mike was weaving his way through some challenging times himself and I have to say that he was a huge source of understanding and humor for me in the winter/spring of 2004, when I needed both of those things most. I feel like I know him and my parents think of him as family and, given that he's from WV, he probably is, but March 27th, he will be landing in Wilmington, NC and I will be there to pick him up at the airport. It will be then that Mike truly learns how important it is to fasten his seat belt and prepare for the ride of his life. My parents will get to relive and remind him of all the mischief he got himself into when he was a little guy and I will probably inspire him to get into more trouble. It's what I do. Mike, we can't wait to see you!

It was a beautiful day today and the sun seems to be lingering longer in the sky and I love it that the evenings are growing in light. I hope everyone has a wonderful Valentine's Day and that it's all you hope for and more.

Until later!

08 February 2007

A minor interruption...

We had a small interruption today. Around noon, a very handsome, buff fireman popped his head into the salon and told us we would have to leave. Apparently there was a gas main break on Princess Street and we were encouraged to leave immediately, if not sooner.

Hey, it was sunny, a little brisk, but the streets were teeming with all manner of incredibly nice looking law enforcement and public safety types. Not only was it sunny, but the scenery was very easy on the eyes. :-) They didn't need to ask me twice!

As luck would have it, my good friend, next-door neighbor and former drinking buddy, Kathleen (who sent me over the DELICIOUS chocolate birthday cake earlier this week - I think she's trying to make me gain weight), was due in for a noon appointment. Soon, my cell phone began ringing and it was Kathleen wanting to know what was going on downtown! A lesser and more boring friend, would probably have said, "Well, I'll just go back home and get out of this chaos. Let me know when you can reschedule my appointment.", but Kathleen is neither lesser OR boring. She parked her car in the middle of a potentially dangerous situation, walked across the street, and joined us by rating the passersby - shamelessly flirting. Time spent with Kathleen most always means some sort of fun will take place. It's pretty much guaranteed.

All too soon, we were given the official "OK" to return to our businesses. I guess it all got fixed, but as soon as we returned to Vida, yet another buff fireman walked in to make sure that all was well. We tried to convince him otherwise, but I think he was on to our little game.

Anyway, it broke up the routine and I'm all for that. Routines are so over-rated and I tend to get bored so easy. I had a great time!

We finished up the disruption in our routine by heading over to the Chinese restaurant on Front Street and the place was packed, though we did manage to score a table. Vanessa astutely pointed out that the gentleman dining next to us was none other than Wilmington Mayor, Bill Saffo. Vanessa also observed that he either didn't care for the food or he wasn't much of an eater as she noted that he didn't touch his plate for most of the time we were there. Oddly enough, I thought the food was unusually tasty today. I'm not really big on Chinese buffets, but today's was actually enticing. I've had better, but I've definitely sat down to worse.

In an unusual move, I didn't request one of the obscene fortune cookies. I took the high road and grabbed two of the regular ones. I still have the fortune from a meal I had there last fall. I keep it on my keyboard because I loved the prediction: "When winter comes heaven will rain success on you.".

There's about a month and a half of winter left. It's time to get busy. :-)

I'll keep you posted.

06 February 2007

Almost heaven...

...I bet you thought I was going to say "West Virginia" given that's where I got my start. You should know better than THAT. Forty seven, that's what I'm talking about!

I have to say that if today is any indication of what this year might hold, I'm wildly optimistic.

Even with a voice that threatened to go AWOL off and on during the day, it was still a great birthday. Actually, my birthday eve brought surprises. It started yesterday - the postman only rang once, but he came bearing gifts: One from the western high plains of Texas and an Adobe software application and computer propaganda (Apple Computers) Mac OS System manual from the Northern region of the UK.

Now, I have to tell you, I got an e-mail this morning hinting that if there was a report of a nuclear mishap in Cumbria, well, I had to bear some responsibility for it. I guess it depended on how strong the coffee was across the pond. At the close of business today, I'm happy to say that the only "big news" involved a very strange story involving an astronaut love triangle and, I can promise you I had NOTHING to do with that. I was in Wilmington all weekend and I've never been an employee of NASA although, I will admit, that Katie and Justin did attend Space Camp. But that was a LONG time ago and I never dated an astronaut, although I did love riding the zero-gravity simulator, I can't see how one can be tied with the other. My conscience is clear and my hands are clean.

Vanessa arrived at work bearing gifts and a cake - a yummy whipped cream cake. Vanessa also got me some fun, blue pajamas. I think she believes they will make me write more efficiently. I think Vanessa was on a sugar high. I think Vanessa's cute when she's loopy.

Katie told me the "birthday fairy" might be paying me a visit. I didn't know what this "fairy" might look like, but she never showed herself in downtown Wilmington, but she certainly found Lansdowne Estates.

And what a busy birthday fairy she was!

Daisy Points of Origin included (in order of appearance):

New York, New York --------------------->
Thank you Katie & John!

<------------ Paris, France
Merci, Michel!

Tampa, Florida----------------------------->
Thank you Billie!

Everywhere I look, I smile because everywhere I look, I see friendly daisies. And then I smile some more...

But wait, there was yet another cake awaiting me when I arrived home. My next door neighbor and wonderful friend, Kathleen, my former partner-in-crime, sent me a beautiful chocolate cake from Apple Annie's and a sweet fig scented candle which is supposed to make me write with an eloquence not seen in these parts. :-) Oh Kathleen, you are too good to me! She may not realize it, but I will force her to share this cake with me.

We've tossed back a few things together in the shared history of our friendship and I see no reason why we can't toss this back, too! It's almost too beautiful to eat, but I'm willing to try and get past that. My side door is unlocked Kathleen - I have a plate with your name on it. This wonderful neighbor also sent me chocolate dipped pretzels and chicken soup this past weekend when I was not feeling so hot. I had no idea when I bought this house six and one half years ago, that it came equipped with such amazing neighbors who would soon segue straight into precious friends.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned a special man in Amarillo who, along with being one of the nicest people I've ever traded an e-mail with, is an artist on top of it. He sent me a photo of some snow scenes to make me appreciate living in a more temperate climate. He also included a picture of a flute he actually made.

Yesterday, the flute in that photo arrived at my house. The photo he sent doesn't do it justice. It is exquisite and although I haven't yet had the privilege of playing it, I am so proud of it that when I'm not trying to figure out how to play it, this gorgeous instrument will be displayed on the wall over my desk. A keen reminder of some of the many blessings I've accrued through writing because, Jim and I "met" when he started reading my newspaper column YEARS ago in Amarillo, Texas.

And it's right here that I have to send a special thank you to Michel LeSeac'h in Nantes, France, who cajoled me into making the proposal of a single-parenting column to the editors at The Amarillo Globe News and who made me believe I could actually get paid to write something. So I guess I became friends with Jim because an extremely obstinate and very dear Frenchman challenged me into taking a chance. You just never know where your next blessing may come from. It is a very small world, indeed.

Of course, the fact that today was as wonderful as it turned out to be, should have been of no surprise. When the first phone call you receive on the morning of your 47th birthday is a native New Yorker serenading you with "Happy Birthday to you...", well, you just sort of know it's going to be a pretty fine day. Thank you, Glen. I was honored. Have you thought about a career in....ummm...publishing? You might have a future. Don't get me wrong, the singing was great, but you are still obligated to giving me a tour of your favorite parts of Manhattan which, from hearing you go on about the place, is every square inch of it. I can't even believe you don't know what a hush puppy is! You need to get out more often. (The card made me cry...).

I have to admit that my heart has skipped a lot of beats today, but stress wasn't the culprit. Sometimes, particularly on days like this, my breath is taken away when I consider how many angels have strolled into my life and carressed my heart. Turning another year older is painless, when you are lifted up by friends such as these. I "heart" every last one of you, with every single beat of my own, even the extra ones.

03 February 2007

Trying really hard not to skip a beat...

I went to the doctor yesterday. My purpose was three-fold:

1) I wanted to know why it felt as if my heart was literally skipping beats.

2) I wanted to know why I couldn't hear very well out of my right ear and what was causing this fever I didn't even realize I had until his nurse told me?

3) The third item wasn't directly health-related and mostly I just wanted his opinion on something work-related. He actually made me laugh which, given that my appointment was at 11:15 AM, would prove to be the ONLY time yesterday that I would find anything funny. Absurd, sure, but nothing struck me as funny from that moment on. The day most definitely went downhill from that point on, though through it all, I really was glad that he felt sufficiently certain I would live.

The good news was that in his professional opinion (and yes, I asked point-blank and after I did, I would lay good money that he had to work to suppress a smile), he felt I would live to celebrate turning 47 years old. I tease quite often, but I don't think I was teasing so much when I asked him if I would live through my present challenges. Just the day before, I had actually felt like I was going to have a panic attack, right in the middle of having lunch with Vanessa at Roudabush. I started to feel as if I couldn't breathe, the room suddenly started spinning and I had to get up and go to the bathroom.

I was dining (a word that for some reason people insist on inserting two "n's" into or perhaps "dinning" is a different activity I'm simply not privy to) with Vanessa. Vanessa makes me laugh, listens to me, offers me all manner of advice and never does she hesitate to share her opinion and I love all of those things about her and more. Vanessa can cut through anyone's bullshit, but if she cares about you, and I know she cares about me, she does it with love. As I was sitting there detailing for her all of the things that were on my proverbial "plate", including and especially our mutual work-related "issues", I even became overwhelmed and said out loud after listening to the the litany of present irritants I'm dealing with, and I just panicked. Right there on "Southern Cuisine Day" at Roudabush. All of my favorite dishes (except the sushi) and I felt completely overwhelmed and undone. I was in such a state I couldn't even finish my collard greens and I barely picked at my fried chicken. Vanessa even suggested I go get a piece of chocolate from the dessert tray but even that couldn't shake me out of my shakes. For Vanessa to recommend dessert without having first eaten "real food", nearly unnerved me.

Dr. B., who I've been a proud patient of for more than six years, listened as I went on about MAJOR work concerns, the pressure of the past few weeks - the times I've wondered what might be next on my uncertain occupational horizon, not to mention the wringing my hands over the nature of the writing I'm involved with and the pressure attached with it - trying to meet a deadline without winding up dead, working to keep EVERYONE happy which is just so perfectly POINTLESS - even as I write that line, it strikes me as so completely absurd that I should assign myself such an impossible task. Of course I can't keep everyone happy. I don't have a magic wand, (although I do have one taped to my monitor at work - as it turns out, it possesses no magic) and I can't make great things appear nor am I able to make unpleasant things DISAPPEAR. My gosh, why do I sometimes get the completely stupid notion that I can? I don't have that kind of power. I don't want that kind of power. I don't even truly want a "magic wand" even if there was such a thing that did, actually, work.

I remember when I was a little girl and my parents and I would return home from a trip to Southern West Virginia and visiting family, where I knew my behavior would be scrutinized, as would my manners. On the way home from those trips, I would always ask my parents, "Was I good? Did I act OK?". I look back on that now and wonder what made me ask that question? I never misbehaved on those trips. I didn't particularly enjoy them, but I knew what was expected of me in terms of my actions.

There are days that I still find myself wondering, to no one in particular, "Am I good? Am I behaving OK? Have I disappointed anyone? Did I hit my marks?". Many times I feel hopelessly inadequate, that I'm always falling short and never quite making the grade. Who's approval am I searching for? Am I being graded on a curve? Maybe I should simply check-in with myself and worry about what I think. I realized recently that I never ask myself what I think. I'm usually so worried about everyone else's approval, that it doesn't occur to me to consider my very own appraisal and opinion.

I think I'm doing the best I'm capable of and, now that I mention it, I'm doing a pretty darn good job of holding it all together, thank you very much.

My doctor did the most wonderful thing yesterday. He listened. He simply listened to me for a long time before engaging his stethoscope. I didn't feel as if I had to prove anything, or impress him or justify my perceived inadequacies. To be given the chance to vent was more than worth the co-pay of the visit. I'm certain his antibiotic samples will clear up my fever and my ear infection and I'm sure the anti-anxiety prescription will assist in the deceleration of my heart, but probably the most valuable thing that took place was the chance to unload. Just let it go. Verbalize it. Purge. I suspect that nothing I pick up at the pharmacy could be of more benefit. After he patiently listened to my explaining that I couldn't possibly be "all things to all people", he agreed with me and then he told me I was going to be OK. Simple as that. He said it with such conviction, that I couldn't help but believe him.

"Too much adrenaline", he told me, was making my heart beat so fast. "You've got to calm down!", he suggested. I would love to know how much adrenaline I leaked later on that afternoon during an unexpected phone call at work. On second thought, I'm probably much better off not really knowing. I do know that had I been photographed in the middle of that phone call, it would have found my jaw laying in pieces on what used to be my desk at the salon, but I am proud to announce that I didn't cry. I went from being the "cheerleader" to feeling completely cheerless in a handful of minutes.

Thank God my doctor visit went well, because the rest of the day just got more bizarre. I went to work and intended only on spending a few minutes, but as is usually the case, a few minutes turned into a few hours.

Before I went home, I was so completely rattled that I knew the best thing for me to do would be to take a fast-paced walk. It was bitingly cold outside, the sky a slate gray in a most fragile February light. I didn't even know where I was taking me, but I followed. I was in no mood to argue with myself. I never win when I do that. I found myself walking, no make that stomping, into the Port City Java on Front Street. Immediately, I realized the person standing in front of me was my good friend Pat and her wonderful husband Jules. What warm faces on such a dispiriting February day. I was pleased to discover that I didn't forget how to smile and was instantly melted inside their warm embrace. Jules introduced me to a gentleman who, I was told, was his fraternity brother from New Jersey. He most graciously bought me a hot chocolate and I was invited to sit with them which is exactly what I needed to do. It was almost as if they were situated at that exact location, in that precise moment, to remind me that I have some incredibly fine friends. I do know that their warm company erased a great deal of tension. I truly do believe that our paths crossing was probably God's way of helping me forget the very event that sent me on my walk in the first place. Clearly, the whole world had not gone mad.

I finally came home, locked the door to my office, drank some jasmine tea and stared at my monitor for a really long time. I just sat and stared. I don't even think I engaged my mouse. Eventually my gaze was broken when my friend Glen instant messaged me on google and made me giggle. This faithful NYC friend drew me out of my mood and, along with it, away from myself. He made me laugh, even though I really wanted to stay pissed off. He reminded me that I needed to make some changes, make some progress, and make some fun. I need some fun. He reiterated that I wasn't responsible for everyone's bliss and that just maybe I needed to focus on finding some of my own. A change would only do me good. I'm not powerless.

I've always enjoyed Emerson's advice to "Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in. Forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; Begin it well and serenely with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense.". What a great proposal, but I doubt Emerson had to deal with Friday's "blunders and absurdities". Emerson didn't answer the phone call I unwittingly fielded. Or maybe he answered a call similar to the one I did, which is how he came to write such an eloquent directive. I don't know what inspired Emerson to make that observation. Come to think of it, even if he'd had a phone at his disposal, he would probably have been much too bright to answer it. I know I have a "high spirit", but it still finds itself encumbered by old nonsense - even if the nonsense doesn't belong to me. What should I do about that, Mr. Emerson? Any ideas?

What I need to do is stop feeling so guilty about everything, especially the things I'm not responsible for. I'm certainly not perfect (there's a newsflash!) which is fortunate since I have no interest in being perfect. Someone once said that imperfections add interest and character. If that be the case, I must be completely fascinating and absolutely teeming with character.

So these last few days of being 46 aren't all that much fun, but it could always be worse and these days will pass. They just will! I have determined that they most certainly will.

I just finished taking my own inventory and here is what I've come up with:

1) It's true that I still don't have new bedroom furniture. I told Katie the other day that I may very well have to get remarried in order to get new bedroom furniture, at least the kind I have in mind - I just hope that if I do, that the future Mr. (fill in the blank) has his own furniture and doesn't have to "borrow" it from his Mom and, as a not-so-side note, for the love of everything holy, I am NOT sleeping in some pansy wicker. One must draw the line somewhere.

2) I also desperately need to look into biting the bullet and acquiring a new laptop computer. I have been saying this for quite some time and obviously I didn't behave myself to meet Santa's standards which means I've simply got to take matters into my own hands. This isn't such an easy decision. New York and UK sources have just one word for me and, wouldn't you just know it's fruity? "Apple!" they vociferously vote with an almost Stepfordian devotion. I've never owned an Apple so it's not simply forking over the cash for something I have great need for, but to convert myself to a completely different operating system demands deep thought. This isn't an easy decision, but it's an urgent one. I have work to do and I can't always be in the same space as my dual Dell desktops. Feel free to vote and tell me your reasoning behind it.

3) Additionally, while there is absolutely nothing in this world wrong with minivans (or the people who drive them!), but I really do want a small car. I'm just not a minivan sort of person and please don't get me wrong, I'm grateful to have what I have! What if I were to be confused for (gasp) a soccer Mom? Do you know how that could ruin a person's reputation? I just can't risk that - it's enough having to face forty-seven. Seriously, I just want something small and zippy. Things don't look promising - C'mon Joe - I need you and your auto-expertise. HELP!

Finally, I still need to head up to New York City in the worst possible way for both personal and professional reasons. I need my buddy Glen to take me on a "random" walk in Central Park and I really want to spend some time in the company of my acerbic, sarcastically sardonic daughter - the young lady who can poke fun at anything and make me laugh when no one else can, the inimitable Katie Jane. She has some ideas on "Elf Elimination" and I may need her expertise sooner rather than later.

Hey, it's good to have some goals, right? :-)

And before long, we will be in an Outer Banks state of mind. The light will grow less fragile, the sky will take on a sunny countenance and kites will dance in the sky raising our spirits right along with them, courtesy of favorable winds and at the generous invitation of a most wonderful Scotsman by way of England. We will taste salty air and if I can talk my friend Alistair into it, we may even go surf fishing. We will play serious games of Scrabble and watch the DVD "Tombstone" at least more than five times. Katie, with any luck at all, we might even catch Uncle Kracker on the OBX radio.

"Follow me,
everything is all right.
I'll be the one to tuck you in at night.
And if you want to leave,
I can guarantee.
You won't find nobody else like me..."

Good times, good times. Katie, we must devise a curriculum for making Mr. Norwood a silly American for at least a week, and abandoning his English manners and the curious way he introduces milk into his tea. We have our work cut out for us, my dear, but we will persevere. I know Emerson himself would sign off on it.

And of course, it goes without saying,
"you're a daisy if you do".

However, being presented with daisies is another thing entirely. Alistair, those beautiful, perky flowers you sent are still just mind-bogglingly gorgeous. I'll never beat you up again. I promise. There have been moments that those simple flowers have literally sustained me. You must have known I would need them right there, on the corner of my soon-to-be former desk. Don't worry, I'm taking them with me to where, I'm not exactly sure, but I am taking them. Well, I probably won't take the daisies because they will have been wilted by next week, but I will for certain take the vase, and definitely the ribbon. I'm not certain where I'm about to be relocated to, but you can count on the fact that the vase will stick with me.

And as to Mr. Emerson, I will try to begin the day serenely, infused with new hope and lofty ideals. But make no mistake, there is a blog entry in my future that will fill in the holes I'm not quite prepared to fill in at this time. Everything comes in due time. So will the rest of this ubiquitous story.