Friday, April 4, 2014

What I Learned This Week, or, How Gilligan Got Off That Damned Island

I've been awake for a few hours. It's quiet in my place, save the sound of traffic from a nearby intersection, and the occasional neighbor slamming the door. (HONESTLY with the fucking door slamming.)

One week ago at this time, I was in a recovery room with a team of people surrounding me. I'd been out of surgery for over an hour, but apparently didn't want to breathe. I'm told it would be over an hour and half before I would start to breathe on my own rather than being assisted, and another half-hour before I would decide to join the world again and regain consciousness.

I don't remember anything from those hours, save two separate memories of what most of us would likely call dreams: in each, I sat on a park bench very near the shade of a pink-blossomed tree with a man in a dark, well-tailored suit—the same gentleman in each engagement. Tall and thin, I don't remember his face, other than he was quite handsome, his intelligence obvious, and his demeanor so very, very calming.

We sat and talked. I don't recall what we spoke about in word, nor even theme, but I do know he was my first thought upon waking in that recovery room. My second thought, which I'm told I verbalized with as much force as I could muster, was, "would you stop YELLING my fucking name, woman?”  In a strange side note, it turns out that woman was a cute little blonde thing who bears an uncanny resemblance to my surgeon friend,  Kourtney—who does not practice in Fargo—which set off some internal and short-lived confusion regarding who actually had performed the procedure. But I digress.

I've thought quite a bit about that man on the bench. I'm certain it wasn't one long encounter, or dream, but rather two distinct and separate meetings. Try as I may, and meditate as I do, the content of our time together remains a mystery. The only clue I get has twice been a whispered voice: "Pay attention."

So this morning, as I luxuriate in the day that was supposed to be filled with coffees, lunch, a pedicure, long bath, and packing for a season wrap-up celebratory trip out of town this weekend, I instead sit, PJ-clad, reflecting in my favorite recliner. I know, I know: you really thought I was going to tell you I am sitting here paying attention. Uh … no. I am  not. Reflection is my current method of paying attention. (I have yet to really nail down the concept and practice of being present. I'm always two or three steps ahead, trying to guide and control things to get an outcome that seems to work best for the majority of those involved.)

What I notice is that I've spent the last two years repeatedly saying, "I'm the only one who does what I do," at both my job, and in relation to the Tell. Really hammering it in, ya know?

Ah, the martyr. So capable, so willing, so alone. And I've worn this idea as though it were the mantle of truth: my choice, nay—my DUTY—to stride tall and finish in glory, regardless of the toll.  

With this idea, the first four days after surgery should have been a quick and easy recovery (it was laparoscopic, for Pete’s sake) instead saw me holding things up all based on this one idea of aloneness. Steeped in guilt for not being at work, and not getting things done there and for the upcoming season finale, The Tell Off, I worried myself into a pile. When we factor into that the starkly obvious state of living alone, reliant upon friends and family to stop by and feed and help me out of bed for the first few days, my mental state diminished, quickly and succinctly. I wallowed, my friends. I wallowed hard, sinking deeper, all the while delaying physical healing.

What brought me around was evidence. Evidence in the forms of emails, and Facebook messages from people I barely know, just checking in. Calls from those I do know well, insisting I tell them what I needed. And the tipping point: a friend new to me in the here and now, but who my soul recognizes with a swell of love, gently suggesting that all was not lost, but indeed, was free and roaming as it should … and that taking a shower and putting on clean pajamas would feel really good.

I was forced to ask for help, and harder — forced to accept it.

In the last week, my coworkers came together to figure out how to cover things in my absence, and we're now creating ways to make sure that if I fall off the grid again, everything is covered. Hard lessons learned, but in the end, it all comes to the surface so we can clean it, take a good look at it, and make it better.

My tribe closed in and descended, hands extended and hearts open, to get the Tell Off on its way, with or without me. Plans put into place, ideas brought forth and implemented, and soothing confidence in others instilled.

Last night was one of those nights. Five of my friends packed into my living room, clipboards created out of books, passing a fresh bag of marshmallows for sustenance, working every angle of tonight’s show to make sure it was covered, and that all I have to do is show up.

Reflection upon this evidence today reveals the idea of my solitude to be complete, utter, and disgustingly mired in bull shit.

So whaddya know: ‘turns out, I am not alone.

I am, in fact, a part of a community of people, close to me or not, who care. Who are themselves capable. And who are so obviously willing to be there.

Fuck that martyr business. THIS is right where I want to be. Mired in love, laughter and a metric shit-ton of gratitude.


Friday, January 10, 2014

Sooner or Later, It All Comes Out

Something about a good show shakes something loose in me. We had an extraordinary night at The Tell on Wednesday, and sure as shit, all day Thursday, I felt something casting off its moorings.

I made it through the workday, cognizant of this thing emerging, ready to fly. Called my cranio-sacral babe (Carolyn over at Relaxation Plus), but wasn't able to get in to see her that night.

SHIT. I was going to have to birth this thing by myself.

For those of you who don't know me well, I'm an angry motherfucker. Like WICKED angry. (Check out what Louise Hay has to say about belly fat; it will all come together.) The reasons for the anger don't matter right now, and may never bear any weight again. Besides -- they're nothing but stories I created around factual events; the meaning I've added.

I damn near lost it in the grocery store. Right. There. In. The. Squash.

Nope. Not gonna happen.

I went into full avoidance mode, calling friends, throwing myself into work, traipsing over to my girlfriend's place, calling more friends, working social media like a rented show pony ... until I just couldn't any longer.

I knew it was the anger wanting, begging, demanding to be released. I took a deep breath and asked, "how do I do this?", and heard, "focus on it."

Are you FUCKING SERIOUS? Do you not know the entire reason I'm funny? Why do you think I commit so fully to being positive in social media? It’s so nobody has to look at it. ‘Focus on the anger?’ PASS: that shit is dangerous.

"Focus on it."

Oh, voice in my head ... FINE.

So I made myself a bath with sea salts, baking soda, and a blend of essential oils I like to call the Smart & Spicy Jesus .... and settled in to tentatively welcome whatever was going to come forth.

It started with recognition of full-body muscle tension, so I worked to relax each muscle in my physical being, one by one.

I swirled around, avoiding my heart and stomach (the pain centers, as I think of them in this case), until I couldn't ignore them any longer.

My focus on the reason for my anger became intense, burning. I could see this person, smell their wretched breath, see the gaps in their teeth, hate the very thought of them .... and then I burst.

Like a soap bubble caught just right by the wind … .
What I thought surely was going to be some sort of verbal version of the Exorcist— 30 years of fuck you—presented itself in hot, exhausted, apologetic tears.

Yes. You read that correctly. Apologetic.

I suddenly found myself steeping in full-body sorrow, of all unexpected things. Regret for the assumptions I make, the roll I play in perpetuating all of this reciprocal bewilderment of feeling betrayed but not being able to give name to it, and the stories I created around the entire ordeal.

My soul called my anger forth … to ask for forgiveness.

I know I can’t possibly be the first person to make this connection.

But you can be damn straight I’ll add my voice to the sound of those preaching about the other side, amen. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Mama Laura's Sweet Beef

Man, if that post title doesn't bring folks lookin' for porn, I don't know what will. 

Speaking of porn, I posted a photo of tonight's dinner on Facebook because I love me some food porn, and a recipe was requested. I obliged in a Facebook note, but there was a desire expressed to be able to pin that bad boy. And here we are. 

Honestly, given that I haven't blogged in what, months?, I really thought my first post back was going to be a life-story. Like about the storytelling competition I started here in Fargo. Or about Mike getting his first apartment. Or our new kitten, Penny. Or that time I accidentally showed Louie Anderson my lady parts. 

I guess that one will have to be told another time. 

Tonight, I come back to blogging glory to give you Mama Laura's Sweet Beef. 

A conglomeration of hundreds of recipes online, in cookbooks and on that thar tee-vee, we use cheap beef (because we're not the friggin' Rockefeller's donchya know) and there's very little to it—making it a go-to on nights when we're fighting the siren song of fast food. 

  • 1 lb beef (eye of round, chuck round; whatever ... it doesn't have to be expensive. Lord knows mine wasn't.)
  • 1.5 to 2 T cornstarch

Slice into thin strips, then sprinkle lightly with cornstarch. Don't let the beef sit in the cornstarch for more than 20 minutes or it will get mushy. 

  • 1/2 c soy sauce (not that light shit, either)
  • 3 or 4 green onions, sliced (shallots or any kind of onion work; 'bout a 1/3 c)
  • 1/2 c brown sugar (light or dark) + 1/3 c more for later 
  • 1 1/2 T rice vinegar (or regular ol' white vinegar)
  • 1/4 t ground ginger (or fresh if you're Martha Damned Stewart and happen to have some laying around)
  • 1 t ground black or white pepper
Mix all of this bidness together. Use a whisk if you're feeling fancy. (Tonight, I used my fingers. True story.)

Marinade beef in this mixture for as little as 10 minutes, as long as one hour. Give 'er a stir at some point to make sure the sugar isn't laying down on the job.

Cook over medium to medium-high heat in whatever oil you've got until beef is about 2 minutes from the way you like it. If you're showing off and making veggies as well, toss 'em in about half-way through. Just before it's cooked to the desired "doneness" (I hate that word), throw in another 1/3 c brown sugar in and stir the bejesus out of it. 

Jazz hands, bitches. Jazz hands. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The One Where My FILDI Is Set Free




Here I am, facing what could be an amazing opportunity for me and my business, but I’m paralyzed.

My business feels like a relationship I’ve allowed to fall by the wayside—first I stopped calling, then stopped writing, and pretty soon, I didn’t even bother with a Christmas card.

I think about this relationship all the time.

How I really should be trying harder. How I really don’t know what to do or say to get back into the swing of things. How I suck as a human being because I just can’t seem to do anything in the direction of making this one thing great.

I stand just outside of it. Staring. Waiting for the rhythm of the double-Dutch ropes to be absolutely perfect so I can jump back in, both hands up—as though feeling the wind created by the rope whipping by will help me gauge the perfect moment for re-entry.

At some point, I know that if I want to get back in there, I’m going to have to gather my balls about me and just …. jump.

But what if I fall? What if my feet forget what I was doing? What if my brain forgets the words? What if I was wrong and none of the other kids really want to hold the rope for me?

That’s where I am: hands up, gauging the rope-wind.

My brain plays a loop of  a year’s worth of excuses to not work my business. 

But a light shines like a beacon: I know—I feel to the depths of my soul—if I don’t try, I’ll wind up buried alive in a shivering, gelatinous pile of self-loathing.

All of the things I’ve been should-ing on myself with are coming rapidly to a necessity point: the one where I either take great, swift, and concise action—or plummet into a crevasse of crap. The same crevasse—I didn’t know until I was well into my 30’s—I created all on my own.

I instinctively knew this was going to be a year of inertia. In the beginning I embraced it. But the more time that went by, the more my inner adolescent started to worry. The more she started to flirt with self-doubt and then judgment, dancing dangerously close to the edge of giving up the whole idea.

But I’m not an adolescent any more. After years of mulling over the concepts involved, I accept my role in my past and choose to write my future in a language that builds and strengthens, with love for myself when I screw up or chicken out.

I’ve been feeding my FILDI oranges and whispering encouragement to it. It’s ready. It’s time. And it’s allergic as all hell to self-loathing.

So with a big breath, I encourage you to stay tuned for a big announcement.

I’ll see you on the other side … of awesome. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

On Healing

Last year, I posted a reclamation declaration on September 11.

A lot of time has passed since then. A full year, according to my math.

Since then, Matt has met and married the love of his life. Mark's daughter and Trish's son have both grown and continue to delight their families daily.

September 11 belongs to us. Not to pain. Not to the unknown. Certainly not to fear.

Go: reclaim this day.

The original post below can be viewed here.

Today marks ten years since the Towers fell and our lives as Americans changed forever.

The numbers are staggering.

The statistics from New York Magazine recount the horror, the devastation, the obvious and solid reasons for the fallout of fear and anger even a full decade later:

  • Total number killed in attacks (official figure as of 9/5/02): 2,819
  • Number of firefighters and paramedics killed: 343
  • Number of NYPD officers: 23
  • Number of Port Authority police officers: 37
  • Number of WTC companies that lost people: 60
  • Number of employees who died in Tower One: 1,402
  • Number of employees who died in Tower Two: 614
  • Number of employees lost at Cantor Fitzgerald: 658
  • Number of U.S. troops killed in Operation Enduring Freedom: 22
  • Number of nations whose citizens were killed in attacks: 115
  • Ratio of men to women who died: 3:1
  • Age of the greatest number who died: between 35 and 39
  • Bodies found "intact": 289
  • Body parts found: 19,858
  • Number of families who got no remains: 1,717
  • Estimated units of blood donated to the New York Blood Center:36,000
  • Total units of donated blood actually used: 258
  • Number of people who lost a spouse or partner in the attacks:1,609
  • Estimated number of children who lost a parent: 3,051
  • Percentage of Americans who knew someone hurt or killed in the attacks: 20

Every September since then, I am sick all over again. My mind is consumed, my body mourns, my soul twists in agony. 

This year, though, I had a revelation.

Today is an anniversary marking other things, too. 

So many beautiful things, not just in my life, but in the lives of those around me.

Events that not just underscore, but really define the joy in life itself.  

Today, for example, is my friend Matt's birthday. (HI, MATT!)

Matty is one of my favorite people. (Please, don't tell him though -- we don't need him getting a big head.)

See that gleam in his eye? 

It's pretty much always there, and it's comprised of the stuff that makes me think, inspires me to action and is usually guaranteed to make me snort-laugh in a most unlady-like fashion. 

Matty is my reason number one to reclaim this day.

Enter Mr. and Mrs. Sorgaard.

Twelve years ago today, they were married. 

photo credit: Gabe Haney

Mark is one of my favorite photographers, and I stalk him on Facebook pretty regularly. (HI, MARK!)

Mark's favorite subject, and his greatest muse, is his daughter, Skylar. Take some time to peruse the gallery on his website dedicated to her, and you'll understand why the Sorgaard family is my second reason to reclaim the day.

Finally, there is Mr. Max. 

Maximillian joined his family five years ago today.

The joy he brings his family is radiant and undeniable.

His mama, my friend Trish, (HI, TRISH!) wanted a shot of both of her kids on their first day of school this year, but Max was having none of it. 

He needed to express something else. 

Something that made a statement. 

Something out of the ordinary. 

Something independent, strong and solid. 

I think he accomplished it, and reason three stands before us. 

There they are. 

The first three reasons I'm choosing to redefine September 11 as my day of joy. 

Will I ever forget the lives of those lost? Of those who willingly chose courage, bravery and a sure death so that others may live?

Absolutely not. 

I will, as long as I am on this Earth this time around, think of them not just on September 11, but most days. 

As an American, it's now a part of who I am. 

And it's as an American that I reclaim this day. 

For the people who make me laugh. 

Who inspire me. 

Who make me think. 

Who make me reach.

And for those who make the people I love laugh, feel inspired, think and reach. 

Who make the world a better place by simply being them. 

Matty? Happy birthday, buddy. I still owe you a birthday girly-coffee, but this time I'm bringing the trivia questions. 

Lara and Mark? Here's to numerous decades more, and millions of loving memories.

Trish? Happy Mama birthday, my friend. Your fierce and abiding love for your children makes the world a better place.  

And to you, sitting at your computer, balancing your iPad on your lap, or scrolling away on your smart phone?

Thank you for being you. 

Thank you for being reasons to reclaim and redefine the day. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Creativity and An Invocation

My house is in ruins.

OK. That's a gross exaggeration.

It's really just the down-down.

(I'd say the "downstairs," but we have a four-level split, which makes the downstairs the garden-level family room. Which makes the basement the down-down. Clear? I thought so.)

It's funny what allowing myself to be creative has awakened in my Spirit.

Firstly, I find myself wanting a nicer space to live. A more loved space. Something deeper than just lived-in. 

Full disclosure: We moved in 10 years ago and haven't done jack-shit to our home, save painting a whopping six walls of color. I bet you didn't know jack-shit was hyphenated, didya?

I found myself looking around at the evidence of being uninspired and happily found I was a bit beyond the apathy of my surroundings. I was apathetic for a long, long time; I assure you. To be on the other side of it was (IS!) like a clean shower and a cool drink of water after bathing in warm, salty sea brine.

The space in which my creativity was rebirthed is our aforementioned down-down: the most rag-tag misuse of space for four counties.

It is here I shall take the next step in the reclamation of myself.

I've heard time and time again the best way to create a room is to choose one piece and build it from there.

Never one to heed any advice wherein being stingy is celebrated, I have chosen three pieces. They were all created by the brilliant, honest and willing, Ze Frank, of A Show. 

The first, The Invocation, was introduced to me via my friend Becky, formerly of high school, now of Denver. (HI, BEC'!)  The Invocation hits me hard. In the solar plexus. And whisks my heart into a can-do frenzy. 

All artwork property of Ze Frank. Don't try to download it and print it out yourself. That would make you a dick.  And not a big dick, either. A tiny, sad little dick. And let's face it: ain't nobody appreciates a little dick. 
To fully experience the Invocation, I invite you to visit Ze's (because we're on a first name basis) channel on the Tube of Yous. It will be the best investment of your time you've banked today. True story. 

The other two pieces are snippets of the Invocation, but cry to be considered on their own. 

Read. Be inspired. Declare your invocation. Amen.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Day I Stabbed The Ceiling

They say most accidents in the home happen in the bathroom. 

Clearly, whomever "they" may be, they've not visited my home. 

Imagine, if you will (and I think you will), a cool, bright spring evening. 

You've come home from a day of work and would like to start cooking dinner with a clean slate. Those clean dishes must be put away. 

You fire up your redneck sound system. (iPod plugged straight into computer speakers atop a shelving unit) and roll up your sleeves.

Now, you've spent all damned winter waiting to see the sky the color it is today. With the music secure, your next priority quickly becomes letting in as much light as possible. 

You reach across your pile of clean dishes and past the magnetic knife strip and, ignoring the dust along the bottom of the fabric, give the rolling curtain a yank. 

And shank the ever living shit out of the ceiling. 

Tell you what, that ceiling hasn't back-talked me since.

Nope. Not a peep.