09 June 2013

Forwarding address

Yes, I'm still blogging.

Just not (for the moment, or possibly, ever again) blogging here.

Find me at When All This Actual Life Played Out.

Except on those days when I'm off running around the world, of course. Then it's catch as catch can.

You know how this works.


04 December 2012

Postscript: I can get back on

In December 2010, I suddenly became partially paralyzed and the prognosis was dire. My regular doctor was convinced I had a tumor growing in my spine, but it turned out one of my discs had exploded (her term), shooting its contents into my spinal canal and damaging two of the major nerves that fed my right leg. Four other discs were in various states of collapse. I was shuffled off to a surgeon who specialized in "complicated" cases but who also was conservative in treatment. He asked me my goal. I told him I wanted a fully functioning leg. He was blunt: that wasn't going to happen.

And it hasn't.

What followed was two years of pain and frustration and learning accommodation. Two years of refusing pain meds and injections, and doing physical therapy. The first two years of the rest of my life with permanent loss of function in my back, hip and right leg. I fought with myself daily: there would be no self pity, just the hard work of getting back as much ability as I could. But anger at losing another bit of myself, losing the things that I loved to do, was frequently overwhelming.

For someone who is complicated, my joys are pretty simple: travel and concerts. Time with friends and family. My life is a physically active one filled with running for planes and gardening, entertaining and exercise, hiking, biking, doing things.

Or it was.

Without really thinking much about it, I turned my back on a lot of what and who I loved. Rage is poisonous that way, even more than physical inability.

But the daughter wanted to go to a concert. Grudgingly, I bought tickets two weeks before the show, though I'd known about it for months. If I couldn't go whole, if I had to sit through the show and politely clap, I didn't want to be there.

But we went and it was magic. Sheer magic. And tentatively I stood. I moved, carefully at first and then with a little more abandon. Sure, it hurt some, and I had to sit down periodically, but it was good. And I was happy, really happy, for the first time in a long time.

So I got on a plane.

D. met me at the airport. We laughed like we hadn't laughed for a long time. Next night, we went over to the arena and bounced and sang and danced. It was my first concert out on the road in two years, my maiden flight with a very changed body.

It was magic. Sheer magic.

Leaving the arena, my right leg dragged like it hasn't for months. It embarrasses me when this happens, when I can't control it, but that night I didn't care because I was happy. And my back hurts and my leg hurts and my hip hurts which tells me that I need to learn to moderate the bouncing and dancing. But I'll pay the price for three hours of joy.

My body... My body sucks. But my body has sucked since I was 15, when the pediatrician told me I had crappy knees and bad ligaments and that I would need to strengthen all my muscle groups to keep my joints from popping out. And on and on it's gone. What happened two years ago is nothing new, strictly speaking, just more painful and debilitating. Given world enough and time, someday I will probably be carrying enough hardware in my spine to be the Bionic Woman. I've done what I can to keep this shell in good shape, but I've reached the point where it's all beyond my control. And no, I don't like it when I'm not in control.

But what I learned two weeks ago and again, two days ago, is that I'm also not in control of my heart. My heart--the emotional construct--is whole and fully functioning. It is very much alive and well, and uninterested in rage. It wants the good and the harmonious, the sun and the air, the bass, the drums and the guitar.

And if the love remains...

Go listen to some great music: "Far Cry" from the album Snakes and Arrows by Rush. Also "Bravado" from the album Roll the Bones by Rush. Mostly written in Houston Hobby airport while I waited for my flight home. This post is brought to you by the letter "L."

Sent from my iPhone

06 October 2012

I never heard nothing like you

Really, this is it.

But there was one last thing to say, to send into the impermanence of the ether.

(Impermanence. That's important. Read fast. You know what happens next.)

It's this:

I've never seen anyone like you.

I've never heard anyone like you.

You are why I kept writing as long as I did.

You.

Go listen to some good music: "Do Ya" from the album A New World Record by Electric Light Orchestra. I do. Feelings are permanent though words may not be.

04 October 2012

You just keep on trying 'til you run out of cake

It's a momentous day!

Hell did freeze over (Rush was nominated for inclusion in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which I think makes many people very happy. Me? I've been a fan for decades, will still be a fan, and don't need anyone else to validate my fandom. I mean, obviously. Female? Rush fan? Yeah, that. So, nice, but also whatever.)

More importantly (to me, anyway), I'm out of cake. This brings us to the natural end of Out of the Kitchen.

It's time.

For those of you who are still interested in what I have to say (why?), there is good news. I have another blog! It is called When All This Actual Life Played Out. It's true that a picture is worth a thousand words, though periodically I seem to need a thousand words to explain the picture. In any event, it's pictures and words, though mostly pictures. Perhaps, if I'm motivated and/or bored, a recipe.

Remember, I do what I must because I can. That's kind of always been the point here.

But before I go, one last story. It's worth it, and I'll let you make of it what you will.

Back in March, the son and I were en route to his bus stop early one morning. As many of you know, and others might have figured out, I walked my kids to and from school from 2001 until 2011, and then just the son to the same school through June of 2012, because it served as the pick up spot for the bus that took him off to high school. Over the 11 years that we made that walk, we went through various permutations of time and who was being escorted when and where. The good part of those 11 years was all the chatter and laughter shared with my two children on our way to and/or from, dragging rolling backpacks and science projects, while the son insisted that I never, ever actually drive them to or from school even if it was pouring rain.

(I did drive when it was pouring rain. The downside of driving is that because of the way the streets are controlled, it actually took twice the time to drive that it did to walk. And the walk was nice. Except for when I had to deal with bad drivers ignoring us in the crosswalk. Things got a bit iffy then. I have a temper. And a camera. And a will to see wrongs righted.)

Anyway. A morning last March. I'd left the son off, and I was walking back home, enjoying the cool morning and the sun rising, and the birds and all that. As I walked down a side street, a car approached and pulled up alongside me. This, of course, is pretty much guaranteed to put my hackles up, especially at 6:55 am on a quiet street. The male driver put down his passenger side window and said, "Your son must be getting ready to graduate from high school."

I expected, "Where is the nearest Starbucks?" or "How do I get to the freeway from here?"

If there had been a roof for me to go through, I probably would have. Every klaxon known to motherhood was going off in my head. And to his credit, the man--a nice-looking man a few years older than me, driving a nice car--correctly interpreted the look on my face (those of you who actually know me understand I was not sporting a big, happy smile), and hurriedly added, "I've seen you walking your children to school for 10 or 11 years, and I've watched them grow up...I kind of feel like I grew up with you."

"Oh," I replied, still very uncomfortable with where all this was going.

"I'm a teacher," he continued, "and I guess your son was probably in second grade when I first started to see you walk here every day when I was driving to work. And he's grown up so much...and," here he laughed, "then there was the beard."

I thawed a bit, "Yeah, the beard."

"So, I guessed that he must be getting close to graduating."

"Yes," I told him. "In a few months."

"I'd like to get him something for graduation. It's like you guys have been part of my life, too, all these years. It was always good to see you laughing and talking while you walked..."

"That's very kind of you," I told him. "But..."

"Does he like Starbucks? You know, like just maybe a little gift card..."

And I thought. I thought about pedophiles and the ways that strangers gain people's trust for all the wrong reasons. And I thought that this might simply be a nice man who was very much on the level. And I thought about how his words could have easily come out of my mouth under similar circumstances for all the same reasons. I thought about how many times I've written right here about the strange and beautiful connections we make with one another in the oddest and most unexpected of ways.

Still, it made me edgy.

"Look," I said, and I tried to make my voice kind, "it's a very generous offer, but he really doesn't drink coffee or visit places like that. I do appreciate what you've said, though."

"Okay," he said, "I'll think of something."

Still uneasy, I texted the son the substance of the conversation when I got home, along with a description of the man and his car, figuring that it's best to cover all the bases. The son was also uneasy, but I pointed out it was within the realm of possibility that this was actually just a nice a person.

And I felt sad that I was so disinclined to trust others.

Time passed, as it will, and many mornings, I drove the son to his bus stop, but only because the boy was in a theater production and there was too much stuff to actually carry on foot.

After a few weeks, I was walking home one sunny morning, and the same car pulled over. The driver rolled down the passenger side window and the man handed me a small package.

"For your son," he said, and smiled.

"It's really kind of you," I told him.

He waved and drove off.

When the son got home that afternoon, I gave him the package. He looked at me, a little ill at ease. But he opened it and inside was a book, a children's book but very appropriate, and a brief note.

"To a mom and her son," it said.

It was very simple and contained a good deal of what the man had already told me along with the revelation that one his own sons had considered the university the son planned to attend. He went on to say, "...I always wondered how long [seeing us walk to school] might last. I regretted the day I might see you walking alone, because I could tell how much joy it brought your mom to walk with you. Many kids wouldn't allow their parents that simple pleasure.....good luck, enjoy the book, and never forget who was with you every step of the way, and I mean that literally."

It was an incredibly sweet and perceptive sentiment, a truly kind gesture.

We only saw the man one other time before the son's high school days ended, and he was driving in traffic, but he caught sight of us and I waved, smiling. He smiled back, hugely, and honked.

The son had written him a thank you note, but we never had the opportunity to give it to him. Probably, now that school is back in session, I should go down the street and wait to see if he drives by.

For this stranger, the simple fact of our existence meant something--something good and something nice. For him, too, my son's graduation was an ending.

Endings frequently are very sad. But they also open new doors, offer new possibilities and sometimes give us new knowledge that we might not have been privy to. The son finished a chapter of his life, but he's reveling in the new. He loves being at university and all the grand challenges and opportunities that have presented themselves. I miss him, but am enjoying his hilarious texts and the increased freedom his independence gives me.

Here then, is the end. But I am already looking forward to the beginnings, the next things. I know they are out there: the ones I've created, the ones I hope for, the ones still a mystery. As I wrote six years ago: "I've just made an enormous change in my life, and enormous changes must be acknowledged in similarly enormous ways. And anyway, I'm also enormously fickle and very easily bored, so I'll figure out the whole blogging thing, get bored, and start mass-producing scones or something. The kitchen part isn't figurative, by any means."

And it's not. I may be out of cake, but there are always scones.

Go listen to some good music: "Still Alive" from the album The Orange Box (Original Soundtrack) by GlaDOS and Jonathan Coulton. I do, of course, reserve the right to change my mind. But I don't think I'm going to.

01 October 2012

We do what we must because we can

Yes, I had to pick a very goofy song.

Because I'm in a very pissy mood.

(You've been warned. That was a joke. Haha. Fat chance.)

Anyway.

It's October.

Still alive.

Go listen to some good music: "Still Alive" from the album The Orange Box (Original Soundtrack) by GlaDOS and Jonathan Coulton. No, I've never played these games but the kids love 'em and I've heard this song sooooo many times. And it was so fitting. In any event, I think my frustration and I will now go to sleep. I have a meeting tomorrow with a person I don't want to talk to and a phone call with more people I don't want to talk to. And all these things I don't want (and shouldn't have to) do are creating an enormous black hole in my available time and available psyche. Gah.

25 September 2012

Your guess is as good as mine

So here we are again.

Chaos!

On Sunday, my house was inundated with student filmmakers. We knew the daughter's production schedule would ratchet up this year--the conservatory director gives everyone a rundown of what the whole four years looks like so we know the commitment.  For this class, as her screenplay was chosen for a group filming project, she's director.

And her film requires a residential interior scene.

(Does this remind anyone else of the time I had a thousand people looking in my refrigerator for the son's male refrigerator blindness project? Yeah, me too.)

I'll give the kids a great deal of credit: they were organized and they knew what they wanted and needed to accomplish. They had the room dressed, lit and ready to go. Of course, we were having a mini-heatwave, so I kept turning the air conditioning down to account for the heat generated by the lights.

Nothing caught fire.

The parent who owned the big lights was here supervising as well, so I just kept out of the way, listening to the daughter call, "Action!" Which made me smile.

And all went well until I suddenly heard cries of, "Mrs. S.!" "MOMMY!" "L.'s mom!"

I have not been called "L.'s mom" since the daughter was in fifth grade.

I went to investigate the problem.

"We need to make CH cry," the daughter told me. Their actress, one of the daughter's closest friends, sat amidst the blankets on the son's former bed looking at me expectantly. As was the rest of the film crew.

"Okay...?" I asked, slightly puzzled.

"So...!" the daughter said impatiently, gesturing emphatically with both hands.

Clearly, I was meant to make some sort of magic. I thought for a moment.

Within minutes, CH had tears streaming decoratively down her face.

Later, the other parent emerged to get a bottle of water. We chatted for a few moments about how well the our filmmaking team was doing in getting their scene down and how wonderfully motivated everyone was.

"We all have our jobs, and they are getting done," he said serenely.

"Even when we have to make them cry," I said with a small smile.

"And you do it well!" he laughed.

Saline solution is a wonderful thing.

Go listen to some good music: "God Put a Smile Upon Your Face" from the album A Rush of Blood to the Head by Coldplay. Yeah, ok, maybe not the most entertaining post in the universe. But this is my life at the moment. And I could have done the heart attack version of my drive home tonight. THAT would be entertaining.


19 September 2012

You let your mind out somewhere down the road

A text with my morning coffee:

The son: I have to work the Saturday you're here. If I can figure out a way to trade the hours, I will.

Me: No no no. Not if it's a hassle and you risk losing hours (and dollars). I wouldn't ask that of you. No worries, I can entertain myself.

The son: I don't want to punish you for making the effort to come out and see me!

Me: Don't stress about it. I'll go sit in a bar and pick up spies until you're done. The we can go have dinner! (without the spies)

The son: 'Pick up spies'? Please. What spy would be good enough for your discerning tastes? They're all greasy and shifty-looking. You wouldn't like them at all.

Me: Or! I'll shoot up to Philly after Saturday lunch, see Rush, and be back in time for Sunday brunch!

While unlikely, it would be far better than spies.

Go listen to some good music: "Don't Bring Me Down" from the album Discovery by Electric Light Orchestra.