Sunday, August 30, 2015

There's Magic in Music, or, Old Lives Matter

A darkened nursing home.  Elderly citizens sitting motionless in their wheelchairs.  Parked like forgotten shopping carts.  Hanging still like waiting fish.  The TV is off.  It doesn’t matter they’re facing a blank wall anyway.  Mom, Ellie and I walk into the room, my grandmother trailing behind with her walker.  Stubbornly refusing her wheelchair as always.  It dawns on me this is why.  I find new respect for my 97 year old grandmother on this visit.  Good for her for not budging even though it inconveniences others.  Bully for her for not giving in.

She gets up to play the piano and mom and I join in, singing a little.  Mom doesn’t really want to at first I can tell, we’re both kind of shy.  But I remind her, no one here can HEAR us well anyway.  And even if they did they won’t remember us when we leave.  So we sing.  And a nurse comes in to turn around the wheelchairs so their occupants can see us and the baby.  And there are smiles on previously empty faces.  Twinkles in eyes that were dull before.  Ellie ‘sings’ with us, ‘Ba, ba ba ba ba ba baaaaa’.  Grammie stops.  For the first time ever Ellie makes the sign for ‘more’ for something OTHER than food.  I am astounded.  I feel a little buoyant despite where I am.  There is something happening here, something special.  Something magical.  It might be our bright shining faces but I suspect it’s the music.  Music awakens the dormant.  Speaks to the speechless.  There is something powerful and mysterious about the way music affects us.  

One of the ladies with Alzheimer’s suddenly bursts out with ‘Sweet baby, sweet baby, pretty baby, ka ka ka ka ka ka ka.  She wants, she wants, two girls and a box, a box, a box, two girls in a box.  Such a sweet baby.  Sweet baby.’  She claps.  Ellie claps back.  She claps again more excitedly.  We talk to her a little.  She seems to appreciate the interaction.  I had no idea alzheimer’s affected speech.  The nurse tells us there’s nothing there, she doesn’t know what’s happening and I think she couldn’t be more wrong.  She knew there was a baby.  The words she must have said a thousand times over her life came to her.  Sweet, pretty baby.  The words of a mother, and a grandmother.  Of a kind person.  Of a PERSON.  

I wanted to shake my head and tell that nurse she was wrong.  Just because the connections have failed and she can’t string the words together intelligently doesn’t mean she can’t communicate.  She was communicating right now, and the light that came into her eyes!  What’s wrong with these people they can’t see that?  Is the definition of communication so strict you can’t see she’s talking with her HEART?  Her name was Eleanor too.  Maybe that’s why I felt a connection to her.  Or because she was dressed so nicely.  She kept picking at her skirt.  Or because she is the mother of someone we used to know.  Someone who may not have time to visit every day.  Or every week.  Or at all, for all I know.  (Which I don’t).  But who am I to judge?  It’s a broken heart that looks on a parent who doesn’t know you anymore.

Grammie called later, after we’d left, and said she was feeling lonely after the visit.  No doubt.  If I could bundle her in my suitcase and take her home with me I would.  Airport security may have issues with that.  (She keeps complaining she’s cold ma’am, and she keeps asking Gracie in luggage if she’s seen her glasses…)

Her ‘treat’ drawer was empty.  We left a chocolate bar and some chips.  I hugged her again.  I didn’t cry.  (I never cry at important, actual heart-wrenching moments.  Only at long-distance commercials.)  I’m at peace with that.

Grammie doesn’t have a TV in her room (her choice) or a computer (that might be pushing things for a woman who can remember when electricity was new and running water was for ‘rich folk’.)

So she doesn’t know I’ve written this entire blog about her, really, and for her.  Our relationship is totally uncomplicated, undemanding.  I’m the darling granddaughter who can do no wrong and she is the sweet grandmother who made me PJ’s out of old curtains and fed me chocolate chips whenever I wanted them.  Who helped me practice my piano lessons.  Who let me do cartwheels and somersaults in the living room.  

Thanks Grammie, I love you.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The life of a Star-Ship Counsellor-Cop

I woke up Wednesday morning quietly, laying in a pool of gradually brightening morning light.  I can’t tell you how good that felt.  It was as close to joy as I’ve felt in awhile.  I suppose, with a baby, the joy is there but so is the busy-work, the action, the need to clean, care, hold, move.  And so the joy doesn’t get a chance to penetrate all the way down to your core.  You need stillness for that.  You need the quiet start of a new day.  You need to be alone and not pulled in all directions.  

There is a little tear in the shade in the spare room that’s been there since I can remember.  Where the window lock got caught in the shade and tore it.  I probably did it, let's be honest.  Hurriedly, carelessly yanking up the shade some morning I was in a rush to go somewhere.  My ‘marks’ are everywhere here.  The faded dog stickers on my old childhood dresser that hadn’t been cleaned off yet.  I have to say there’s something relaxing about being in a house where the ‘to do’ list is more of a good natured suggestion than a do-until-you-drop command.  Where my ‘additions’ to the furniture and decorations haven’t been cleaned-up, straightened out, erased.

Where the memories of my childhood resonate as loudly as the fifteen fans they have going in the non-air-conditioned house.  Where the windows are flung open at night to catch the cool air and closed up during the day.  Where I can remember what it was like to be young and passionate about the future.  About my future.  As a cop-psychologist-writer who travels on a top of the line spaceship on a mission to explore strange new worlds, new galaxies, and to boldly go….etc.  Ba ba ba baaaa ba, ba ba ba baaaaaa ba ba ba ba baaaaa.  Etc.

I don’t think young teenager-me would be too disappointed with the way things turned out.  I have explored strange new worlds (if that doesn’t apply to Texas I don’t know what does…)   I do write.  I do throw a lot of psycho babble around at anyone who will listen.  (What were YOUR parents like?  Ah huh.  Ah HUH.  Ah huh…well that explains a lot.  No, what do YOU think I mean by that…?)

I’m not a cop but I do KNOW one.  And I have a beautiful baby girl who keeps me so happy and so busy I forget to be still and let the joy sink in.  I never knew I could help take care of two kids who aren’t my own in any way that a court would recognize, and lose a part of my heart to them.  Lose it in a good way.  Sort of planted deep down inside them and they are growing around that seed of love in a beautiful way.  They may not think about our time together or me every day or even at all for months at a time but, I’m there.  And that feels pretty good too.  As for the spaceship, I can do without any star-faring ship that doesn’t have a holodeck or a replicator anyway.  Really.  Let’s catch up to the times people.

And I never knew how passionate I could be about yoga.  About being mindful and trying to meditate every day.  Or that I’d train to be a yoga teacher myself.  I never dreamt how good sushi might taste.  Or what it’s like to take a subway by myself in Paris.  (Ok that was a huge mistake and an almost-international, TOTALLY terror-filled disaster but still…)  Even as a crazy optimistic kid I never imagined some of the things I’ve been able to do, experience, or accomplish so far in my life.  So they weren’t the goals I’d set out for myself in the beginning.  Goals change.  What you want changes.  Who you ARE changes, even if you don’t mean for it to happen and you liked yourself just fine before.  It’s nice to know some things don’t change.  Like my ‘marks’ on the walls here.  Both figuratively and, poor mom and dad, literally as well.

It isn’t what I would have envisioned for myself but I can’t imagine life any other way.  I can’t imagine it unfolding any differently.  Even if I’m not jetting through the galaxies at warp speed, counseling people and solving crimes on the way while writing about it in my series of best-selling novels entitled…’How to live the life you’ve always wanted - Holodeck living guide 3.0’.

It’s still a pretty good life.  And it's real.  So, so real...

Monday, August 17, 2015

Home, James

Chargers, formula, the monitor, my shampoo!  My shampoo!!  I don't have room for my shampoo!  I have started packing so long ago and put so much in the suitcase I no longer remember if I packed underwear.  There are so many layers before I could get to where I THINK I packed some underwear that it isn't worth it to check.  At this point, I can afford $5.99 for Walmart skivvies if I need it.  I'm already going to need Stallone and Schwarzenegger to help me close it.

Ah to be going home.  A list of items to accomplish (buy shampoo and underwear.  Visit friends and family if time allows after shopping for shampoo and underwear).  An even longer list of food I want to eat.  Shreddies!  Lobster!  Scallops FRESH FROM THE BAY OF FUNDY!! Garlic cheese fingers WITH DONAIR SAUCE DARN IT!!  Tim Hortons!  Is Tide and Boar still open?  The new hibachi grill place on Main Street where I don't have to remember the name because it's the only one?

Dads hodge podge made from fresh veggies from his garden in the front yard!  Strawberry shortcake made at home.  Cheesies!  Most definitely not made from home.

Old friends (long-time friends I should say!). Well, we're all old too, aren't we?  Ha ha.  Well, YOU guys are getting older.  I'm staying the same...

And a NEW list - a list of things I want Ellie to experience once we're there.  The atlantic ocean.  My Grammie's hugs.  Nana's cuddles.  Papa's grin.  The hot summer days, the cool Canadian evenings.  Family.  Friendship.  Love and belonging.

No matter how far away we roam, we do find other places where we are loved and to where (and whom) we belong but it's never as effortless as it is at home.  No one's life is perfect  but if you're lucky, if you're really lucky, home is where you get to soak up a lifetime of happy memories, just by dozing in the armchair, or coming down for a late breakfast.

I wish that for Ellie.  More good times than bad.  More love shown than held back.  More praise given than refused.  More 'being comforted' remembered than the thing that caused the need for the comfort in the first place.  I wish all that for her, and more.

To home, James, to home!

Sunday, August 09, 2015

too weird for Texas?

She spoke so fast I had to focus to catch everything she was saying.  “I’m from New York.”  She said.  “I’m so glad you said you’re from Virginia.  Everyone around here is like sloooow down, I can’t understand what you’re saying.”
“Well, I gotcha.  You’re very thorough.”
“Ok well why don’t we get you to fill out the form here while you’re here and then if you want to come for class it's easier?”
“Ah, sure.”
“Oh, there’s like one spot left for tomorrow at 830am, why don’t I put you in?”
“Ah, ok.”  I say while I’m busy filling out the form.  What’s my last name again?

People from New York, ugh!  I have a hard time saying no to people from New York.  Really.  I married one after all.  They’re just so much more….pushy than I’m used to.  I get kind of carried along with the tide of their always rushing words and then I look around and go, holy crap, I’m living in TEXAS now?  Or as was the case yesterday, I”m in a BARRE class!?  What the heck!  So FYI for anyone who has never done a Barre class.  Yes.  BarRE.  Ouch.  That’s all I have to say.  Well no that’s not all, let’s be honest.  So.  I thought it was a Barre/Yoga class.  Well, I was half right.  We used a Bar.  Which was actually kind of fun.  Everyone wore socks.  In fact, about 10 mins in the teacher went and dropped some ‘loaner’ socks in front of me without a word.  Talk about peer pressure.  Of COURSE I put on the loaner, probably soaking in the last sucker’s-sweat-socks on and continued the class.  Irritated.  I don’t LIKE to do yoga with socks on.  Luckily there was no yoga to be done.

After about 25 minutes of class, me growling internally about the socks (ew), and just when I was about to DIE OF EXHAUSTION the teacher pipped up cheerily…’We’re half-way done everyone, yaaaaah!’.  AND I ALMOST DIED.  Right there.  For real.  Of exhaustion and annoyance.  I don’t WANT to wear socks.  I don’t WANT to ‘pump it, pump it, pump it, feel the burn…’  Ugh!  

Actually if I hadn’t been really needing a soothing yoga class I may have (MAY HAVE) enjoyed the challenge.  The instructor was enthusiastic, the people were nice, the lady to my left moved the ball around and helped me keep up with the class.  The lady to my right SAVED A SPIDER that was on her mat.  She picked it up and brought it outside.  I thought, well, these aren’t my people but, they ARE my people after all.  And it’s always fun learning new things.  But I don’t go to yoga to bust my butt to get in shape.  Obviously.  I do it because it makes me FEEL better.  My body feels lighter, leaner, healthier.  My heart feels more free, my mind less chaotic.  After 60 minutes of intense high energy tunes pounding out the speakers yesterday, and being yelled at (encouraged) to keep pushing those glutes…I was ready to hurt someone.  

Mostly myself, because I suspected it was this kind of place.  Where yoga is an afterthought.  Where all the power, beauty and solace has been stripped away and all that’s left is a series of poses you do at the end of a ‘real work-out’ to cool you down.  It pissed me off.  And here I thought I was open minded about all the different variations of yoga there are in the world.  And I think I am, mostly, but when you reduce it so much it’s just being used in a cool-down well, then you are completely missing the point. 

So then I checked out VillaSport.  I had heard about it from one of our friends so I walked in and asked for a schedule to see if it was for me.  Then I asked if I could look around.  The 13 year-old behind the desk told me he couldn’t unless I was willing to pay a Guest Fee.  SERIOUSLY!?  To LOOK at your facility that I may be paying hundreds of dollars a month to use, I have to PAY FOR THE  PRIVILEGE to LOOK at the equipment and class space!?  I gave him back his schedule and said thank-you-very-much and left.  Ass hats.  Any place that’s going to charge me money to look around to decide if I want to spend my money there can kiss my butt.

So.  Finding a place to do yoga is hard.  I’m trying to reserve judgement but in Texas, it seems to be really, really hard.  I was spoiled in Virginia with so many great studios to choose from, and to have my home studio at Masuda’s Radiance Yoga Studio, that was a one in a million place.  

So.  For now it’s just me and WaiLana.  It’s a bit lonely but it will do for now.  There are other yoga studios to check out and VillaSport was really a gym with yoga classes so I probably would have been irritated there too anyway.  The thought had crossed my mind that this market isn’t saturated with studios and someone like me could create a yoga studio that would have all of the kind of centered, peaceful space I’m used to.  Where you don’t just come to ‘feel the burn’ but to find peace.  To transcend the daily grind and the noisy voices.  To have some core-building classes but some Yin classes too.  Doesn’t anyone else here want that?  Am I the only one?

I ate breakfast out on the patio with Ellie today.  It was lovely - enchanting, even.  With the early morning light filtering through the tree’s, and the quiet of the morning pervading everything.  I did a few stretches and I wondered what it would be like to do yoga outside.  In the forest, on a river.  It’s all the rage in California and to some extent in Virginia.  Am I the only person in Texas who wishes that existed!?  I also wondered what it would be like to have chickens in the back yard, probably the only one in our social circle for sure who wonders that.  So cute.  Chickens in the back yard.  And frogs in the garden.  And fairies in the tree’s and elves in the brush.  I live a charmed life I tell ya, a charmed life.  And some of it isn’t even imaginary!  I don’t know, maybe I'm just too weird for Texas to handle.  We’ll see.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

happiness is

What is happiness?  The pure pleasure of a cool swim on a hot day.  There’s something I’ve always loved about the water.   I love just playing, there’s no other word to describe it.  Dancing in the deep end, flipping somersaults underwater and being exuberant because I CAN.  I’m so clumsy, always tripping over my own feet but in the water I’m a DANCER, I’m graceful and lithe and I love it.  

It’s the same with Yoga.  Instead of feeling like a size twelve in a size seven world I feel balanced, poised.  Happiness for me is a long slow exhale while I find my space in a pose.  Happiness is listening to jazz while I fed Ellie, the sun setting in the backyard, spilling honey-sunshine over the trees.  A deer looks up from grazing, his velvet horns caught in the dying light.  They glow like there’s magic on them and I gaze back in wonder.  I’ve got no joke for this, this sudden connection with nature I’ve gained.  I’m in awe, and I love it.  

Happiness is also a hot bath with suds to my eyebrows and a cold glass of wine.  It’s cuddles with Ellie after a good nap.  It’s running to HEB by myself and blasting the music so loud I can’t hear myself singing along with it.  Cooking with Bill, chopping vegetables side by side while Ellie plays.  Reading a good book.  Sipping a hot mug of green tea.  A juicy peach.

I have a long list of what makes me happy and you know what?  I’m constantly on the look-out for things that will make me even happier.  There are dips in life and dark places.  I will soak and store up the sun while I am sitting in it.  And if life never veers me into the cold shadows again well, I’ll be grateful and surprised.  And if not, I will have lots of sun-pictures in my head to keep me warm.  Namaste y’all.

The Brothers Cuomo

Recently Governor Andrew Cuomo has said that New York state is a microcosm of America. They’ve got the big city of New York, but also rur...