Improvisation

This is where I write about the interesting things I want to write about. Except I have nothing interesting to say. Nothing interesting happened today. Just a while back I had many original thoughts, magnificent ideas, clever words and much more. I didn’t write them down then. I wouldn’t say they are gone for good. Perhaps with some digging I can gather a few remnants here and there. I may even be able to assemble them in ways that resemble ideas, but they have lost their luminosity and vigor. They lack the urgency and the novelty that gave them birth. They have grown dim and dull.

I am stuck in the past. Not a particular past, a whole bunch of pasts, some as recent as hours ago, others from decades past. This continual browsing of the past may or may not have hindered my progress into future and my experience of now.

How do we see the world? I used to think I see the world, as it exists; that we see the world as it is. But I’ve learned otherwise. I see the world through the eyes my past, my experiences. I see it through the things that I learned along the way, through the eyes of my ancestors. I judge the world as such and assign meaning and value to its people, places and events through the unreliable lens of my memories and my past. This seems flawed, yet undeniably powerful.

Yesterday I sat by my aging electrical piano. Dust and dirt had settled upon its keys, which I attempted to wipe with the hem of my T-shirt. My fingers felt cold and stiff as I began pressing on the keys and here and there a squeak or odd sound appeared confirming there isn’t much life left in the instrument. I was annoyed by the off sounds but kept going. I play the piano by ear and from memory. I do know how to read notes but I am not efficient and relying on my memory seems to be an easier way. However, my recollection favorite tunes and melodies are much like the rest of my memories, unreliable and with gaps and missing parts. I’ve learned to fill those gaps with other tunes.

As I played, the songs of my past took on a different rhythm. I played a favorite melancholy tune in E minor then out of nowhere it changed into E major and took on a cheerful upbeat rhythm. It went on to turn into another tune, then another, without a pause or a transition. I was linking melodies from east and west, major and minor keys in a way I had never done before. It was my creation. I inserted novel ideas of my own, chords, keys and undulations. I was partially lost in the notes. It was happening without much conscious effort. I felt as much a participant as an audience. I was lost in the music. Simultaneously a stream of thoughts was running in the background. It was an experience that I felt in the moment, yet its very existence or effect on me was determined by my past.

I think we are presented with the opportunity for growth, when our past fails to fully explain things. Improvisation leads to discovery, invention and birth of new ideas.

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Celebrating David Bowie

It happens sometimes, not often, but sometimes that I feel moved, joyous and alive in response to another human being. In that instant I am still, yet moving at immeasurable speeds toward something undefinable, an experience so vast that it defies my words and my mind. I am at awe.

It happened the very first time I listened to David Bowie’s music and saw his performance on the small screen. I don’t know what about him spoke to me, but it did and the magnificence of his music never seized to mesmerize me. It wasn’t the novelty of it that captured and held my attention.

Now he is gone, much too young if you asked me and I sit here thinking what he meant for me and how I want to honor him.

I am paraphrasing Maya Angelou that people may forget us but never forget how we made them feel. David Bowie was one such people, and despite only knowing him only through a box and occasionally a set of headphones, he has effected me more profoundly than many people I have personally known.

I begin a musical pilgrimage into the world of David Bowie. Let’s Dance, he says and I do – I am compelled to, almost involuntarily. I Get up and begin moving my arms, hands and legs. I move awkwardly at first. It’s been a while since my body performed in such ways. I let down my hair, tossing the hairclip aside. I feel free, invigorated with a sense of independent belonging to this wonderful sound. With my eyes closed, breathlessly I sing the words and take in every sip of the intoxicating joy that comes as my pulse quickens. I feel one with the beat and I am alive and graceful, suspended in a state that defies the confines of my physical body.

I celebrate him, the person he was, the music he made and the very real ways he left a positive lasting imprint onto my imagination. Thank you and rest in peace.

 

Words, oh words!

I can’t decide if this is a rant or a daily thought. I don’t know if I have daily thoughts any more. The tape seems stuck somewhere between original thoughts and re-runs of old ones … Nothing original, wordless, thoughtless, blank …

“Ouch!”

She’s brought back to the present. A moment of mindfulness thanks to a toy hitting her in the head!

Boy says “sorreet” for throwing toys on her head. That is a new word he learned today. He does it again. Saying “sorreet” and giggling each time – sorry without remorse, and without stopping the behavior!

Much Like mom’s cursing – she sprinkles an occasional “shit” and fuck”, rightfully followed by feelings of guilt and shame, especially when boy is around.

You see she lacks the eloquent skills and proper vocabulary to express her feelings otherwise. English is her second, neigh third language. She does admit that even in the first two languages, she lacked the desired skills to speak otherwise. Hence the shame she feels is not merely for the use of foul language, no! She is equally embarrassed for her impoverished and lazy manor of speech.

“Fuuuuuck”!

and back to the present again –

Boy says “fuck”! Another word he has learned. He has been saying it often. Boy is 2. Mom is furious (and ashamed). Mom tried to substitute another word.

“say, fun”!
“fuck”!
“fun”! (please, please, please)
“fuck”!!!! louder this time.

Mom gives up.

Boy brings his favorite book to mom. “Baa-Be, Baa-Be” he demands eagerly.
The book is Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? It is a little children’s rhyming book about 9 animals and what they see in each page. Brown bear sees a red bird, red bird sees a yellow duck and so on.

Let’s try reading it like him:

“Baa Bea, Baa Bea what do?” (That is brown bear!)
“I see wed-burd”
“Wed-burd, wed-burd what do? (… the red bird)
“I see yo-yo-dot” (… the yellow duck)

So on and it goes until we reach the green frog. One may guess what happens here  – Let us listen:

“Gween fuck, gween fuck what do?”!

Yap!

Mystery solved!

Burden lifted.

Mothering insecurities, gone (for now).

World Suicide Prevention Day

Today is world suicide prevention day. It isn’t a trendy cause, and not fun to talk about. Nonetheless, it very important to raise awareness about this issue as suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death in the world among those 15 to 44 year of age.

Suicide is preventable. Drawing from personal experience, I don’t recall ever being suicidal but I have been depressed. Depression is the leading cause of suicide and annually 20-25% of Americans over the age of 18 suffer with depression. Over 80% of those who receive treatment for their depression are successfully treated.

I’ve seen suicide attempts. As I think about this day and try to make a small positive contribution, thoughts and images pop into my head. One image is that of a Polish nineteen year old girl in the ICU during my first days of residency. I’d like to share this with you.

I first saw her legs as I glanced through the sterile glass walls of the room. Pale porcelain white skin and long legs that just laid there limp and seemingly lifeless. Then I noticed waves of shiny light brown hair fanned over the pillow. I couldn’t see her face as it was covered with the ventilator tube, tape and straps. There was IV tubing coming out of her chest and arm. A black faced monitor had waves of red, blue, green and yellow displayed across its screen and the waves moved. There was a monotonous beeping sound – I can almost hear it now. There were two figures standing by the door. A middle aged woman with short blond hair and a man. Their eyes filled with what I assessed as concern and fear as they stared into the room. I think the intensive care doctor was talking to them. A few other facts pop into my head. She had attempted (unsuccessfully) to end her life with a lethal quantity of acetaminophen. Her liver and lungs had failed and she was clinging to her life. A bitter mixture of feelings swept over me. I read through her chart and though I can’t remember all the scary problems listed, many of them singularly could kill her. This beautiful young girl was barely tethered to her life through tubes and wires. What hit me was a contradictory image of someone so full and devoid of life at the same time.

Two years went by and I was doing rounds with the gastrointestinal team. One of the names on our list seemed familiar. I went in to see a strikingly beautiful, vibrant and friendly face who welcomed me with a warm smile. She was a liver transplant recipient who had been hospitalized for complications of antirejection medication. Her current condition had improved and she was getting ready for discharge. She seemed happy and filled with joy and optimism. She told me she was recently married to a man “who saved me” and wanted to know about pregnancy as she was eager to start a family. She also mentioned she had immigrated to America from Poland in her early teens with her mother who married an unkind and abusive man and how she had felt neglected and abused by both of them until she couldn’t take it anymore and tried to end her life. It hit me then – this was the same girl.

I don’t know what happened to her after this encounter. I knew her chances of pregnancy were slim as the drugs she was on were very dangerous and contraindicated during pregnancy and stopping them could kill her. I was again swept with a bitter mixture of feelings. What if it had been different, if she had asked for help, if someone had reached out and tried to help her in those desperate times. What if someone had known about her struggles. What if she didn’t reach for the bottle, didn’t swallow the pills, what if her liver hadn’t failed.

When it comes to mental illness and suicide, it is easy to jump to conclusions. To portray a black and white image.  I suspect some may call her a coward, or judge her mother and step father harshly. It doesn’t matter anymore. But we don’t live in a black and white world. There is a little bit of each in the other. It is important to remember that every life deserves a chance. That every feeling must be acknowledged, even negative feelings, and that feelings pass. Someone may feel so overwhelmed with negative emotions that they feel incapable of tolerating them and wanting to escape, even if this escape comes in the form of death. Their thoughts maybe so distorted and impaired in such ways that irrational impulses may appear logical. Based on my few encounters with suicide survivors, they were happy to have “failed”. Those feelings do pass and the people who suffer with such thoughts and feelings deserve our empathy and help. It is important to not marginalized and stigmatize mental disease, depression and suicide. There is help and together we can preserve life and prevent suicide. For more information visit the following sites.

https://www.iasp.info/wspd/
https://magic.piktochart.com/output/2644231-suicide-prevention
http://www.save.org/
http://www.save.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.viewPage&page_id=705D5DF4-055B-F1EC-3F66462866FCB4E6

Love – Faith – chocolate

Last night I fell in love in a dream.

He was a man of faith (as I came to learn) and worked at a chocolate store. He showed me boxes of beautifully arranged and deliciously made chocolate. The colors and the arrangements were so vivid. He showed me his favorite flavors. I don’t remember them. I remember this one particular dark chocolate creation that was simple, elegant and seemed interesting. I blurted out “it looks like an adorable little black bible!” I immediately regretted saying it. I got this sense that he was a man of Christian faith who would take offense to it. I tried to apologize and followed with “I meant to say a cute little Quran, not a Bible!) He smiled and faded away. I “felt” his disapproval of my comparison, and of me. I don’t know why I remember this as a “falling in love” story. It felt as such.

These days my usual religious views have taken a radical turn to the left. I no longer respectfully disagree with them. I despise them. I see them as a major source of pain and suffering in the world. I don’t know about God. I can’t be sure, but for me, religion is done. The only exception may be Pope Francis and my beloved deceased grandmother who was a devout Muslim.

I do like chocolate though. I can understand the pairing of chocolate with romantic love. But that of religion was rather peculiar!

As always, thanks for reading.

The Hole

My daughter loves to read. She has gone through all the books we have at home several times over. Like most kids, she loves to read her favorite books over and over again. She also demands that we read them to her over and over again. Unlike her, we get tired of reading the same stories. So I decided to find her new good books to read. After reading rave reviews I bought “The Hole” for my daughter online. It was praised as a funny, meditative and philosophical book for kids. Once it arrived, it looked interesting. There was a real hole in the center of its recycled cardboard like hard cover. I eagerly opened it and began reading. Well to call it reading is a stretch. It is a picture book and has very few words in it. The graphics are very simple pencil drawing in black and white. It is a very plain looking book about a “Hole”: A guy moves into an apartment and discovers a hole in it and the hole. He (unsuccessfully) tries to figure it out and get rid of it. I hated it! I felt ripped off having spent over $ 17 for what appeared to be a pretentious fluff. I put it back in its box determined to return it.

Later that day, my daughter arrived from school and asked if her book had arrived. I had told her about some books I ordered and she never forgets such promises. I told her it is not a good book. Nonetheless, she wanted to see it. So the box was reopened and to my surprise she loved the book. Since that day we have read this book every night. My daughter taught me how to read it. She showed me things I hadn’t noticed in there. In between those seemingly simple drawing, she saw and understood so much. She found some parts funny and some parts scary but over all she loves the book. I must confess that I do too now! It is funny. It is philosophical. It is meditative. It has layers of depth. It is thoughtful. What an amazing book about a hole! A hole in someone’s life that is initially puzzling and scary. He tries to understand it, to get rid of it, and he does, sort of. The hole comes back, perhaps it never left. He either doesn’t see it anymore, or accepts its existence.

I wonder why I like it now. Do I like it because my daughter likes it? Did she teach me how to like it? Did she teach me how to see it?  Other than the story of the Hole, I learned that my perception and impression of the world, and the things I like or dislike are highly unreliable and ever changing and that is not such a bad thing.

If my life was a piece of land

My precious baby boy turned 8 months old yesterday. Time has flown by. They said it would. I knew it would. It did the first time. Sophie is now 5 years old. She will soon reach and surpass me in every way. I can no longer carry her. When she sleeps, I see the baby in her innocent face. She is innocent and beautiful. I miss the baby times, the toddler times, the wobbly walker and the babbly talker. I miss her falling asleep in my arms. I miss the occasional breast feeding time I had with her. I really miss that. I wish I had tried harder. I wish I had trusted my instinct over what I was being told. I wish things had been different.

But I have now. Now with my 8 month old Aidan. Now with my 5 year old Sophie. I have these precious moments. When she wants to dress like me, go to walks with me, go shopping with me. When she wants me to read her a bedtime story. I have that. I have the kisses and the hugs. She hugged me so strongly last night, it stained my neck! She is strong, she is healthy, she is wonderful, she is my daughter and she loved me. What else can I ask for? She makes my life a better place. Can I call life a place? If my life were a piece of land, with her in it, a garden has blossomed. Full of luscious fragrant blooms, full of tall beautiful trees, full of magic. It has. The land requires more attention, more care, more of everything. But it gives more, so much more than the easy to care for dry and bare piece it was before.

IMG_3335Aidan is 8 months old and I am already mourning the loss of these precious moments. I miss him being this little baby as I hold him in my arms, as I rock him to sleep, as I bathe him, give him kisses on the nose and those precious little toes. As I make him giggle and he makes me laugh, as I nurse him, as I sooth his cries, as I glance in those eyes. I miss him while I have him. I have him. He has me. I have these moments and I am so full of joy, it makes my heart ache.

There are always regret, along with those, there are wishes and hopes. That is a part of my life and I accept that, the joy, the laughter, the worry and the sorrow. It is all a part of me and I accept that. All those together are the ingredients to my happiness.

When did life become a smoothie?

To crave a smoothie, not the drinking kind but a smoothie of life and all it has to offer. A smoothly blended mixture of all things delivered in a glass to be consumed through a straw. Facts, news, information, products, literature, music, arts, science, friendships, relations, education, thoughts and feelings. Put them all in, press start and blend them together to reach smooth easy to swallow liquid. Suck it all in through a straw. Suck life in. An easily digestible, life. A smooth life. If unpalatable add more sugar, more fat or more salt. Do it until you no longer have to pretend and nod in agreement. When you don’t have to fake conformity. Until it becomes you and you it.

This afternoon I made myself a cup of coffee. I added coco powder, sugar and milk. I put less sugar than normal, only half a tea spoon. The drink was bitter. I had to search my palate and focus really hard to taste the sugar. I took another sip and closed my eyes. The aroma filled my nose first as I held the hot liquid in my mouth. I tasted the thick foamy milk, then my taste buds were once again overwhelmed with bitterness of the coco and espresso. “More sugar!” My reptilian brain demanded. But I paused and resisted the temptation as I swallowed my concoction. Sure enough there it was, the subtle yet unmistakable sweet sugary taste tantalizing my mouth, ever so lightly enticing me to notice, and to want more. I took another sip. This time my brain went to the sweetness first. I noticed that before the bitterness, or perhaps simultaneously. Midway through the cup, which by now had cooled to lukewarm, I had grown accustomed to its taste, its bittersweet taste, I appreciated it and was content to receive this stimulating boost of energy and satiety.

I wonder how many times I have failed to notice the sweet, the delicate and the pleasant core of things because I were too impatient. That I didn’t pause long enough to appreciate the painting, or keep the radio station because the music piece was too slow to peak. How many storied I missed because I didn’t listen long enough to get to the heart of it. A tragic, beautiful, important, humorous, or nonsensical story that was being shared by a friend, a family member, someone at work, or in a book. How often I didn’t hold on to people …

I wonder about my tastes, likes and dislikes My opinions and judgments. How and why the have shaped in this way – the fast way. When did I lose the ability to appreciate things individually, to pause and understand them. I still have teeth and can digest life. I can chew on the ingredients, the delicate ones and the hard ones too. When did life or my expectation of it become such a smoothie?

Antibiotics and stinky poop …


This topic has been on my mind for a while. Though I’m not equipped to write an elaborate scientific report on it, I still feel compelled to share this information along with a little personal story.

My baby had two rounds of upper respiratory infections this last month. Both times he developed superimposed ear infections and was prescribed antibiotics. I won’t go into the details about how difficult it was to measure his temperature or give him medications. It was. Especially the second time since the antibiotic was augmentin, notoriously nasty tasting and harsh on the tummy. These so called broad spectrum antibiotics were bulldozing his system, indiscriminately killing the good, the bad and the ugly.
I noticed a wonderful side effect (or so I thought). My son’s poop didn’t smell bad. In fact it didn’t smell at all! I didn’t have to change his diaper pail so often. There were some diaper accident curtesy of the diarrhea, a not so welcome side effect, but the mess didn’t stink!
Soon I realized this blessed side effect was actually a cruse. I missed the stinky poop! The stink always prompts me to change his diaper right away, much like pain and burning of the hand prompts me to not touch fire. This lack of stink, made the diarrhea often go unnoticed so on top of the respiratory infection, ear infection and having to give him nasty tasting antibiotics and breathing treatments, he developed a painful diaper rash. He is so tiny and delicate and it was heartbreaking to see him suffer especially since I was causing him a lot of this suffering.

Now with the antibiotics finished and a course of probiotics to restore his gut bacteria, the stink is back and that is a good thing.

We have antibiotics and can treat infections, most infections, or at least some infections. But soon, very soon, that reality will change. We will no longer be able to treat common infections and succumb to common infections such as ear infections, pneumonia and urinary tract infections.
Here is an eye opening report by PBS Newshour discussing World Health Organization report on post antibiotic era.

Of course that is not the only impact our over use of antibiotics and sanitizers have had on our health. Our bodies have had centuries to work a delicate and balanced system with other organisms that are not only beneficial but crucial to our health and well being. From gastrointestinal functions, to immunology, allergy, mental health and development, our bodies rely on these microscopic friends to function and thrive. Watch this short 6 min clip of the Daily Show with Dr. Martin Blaser discussing his new book Missing Microbes.

I am convinced I must change my ways. We must all change our ways, for us, for our kids and for the future of humanity.

Mathematical or artistic?

I was making myself an omelet this morning. I put all my usual ingredients, butter, 2 eggs, some feta cheese, some parsley, some sea salt and some cracked peppers. I like to drink honey sweetened black tea with my eggs. That is I put “some” honey in my tea.  I say some because that is what it is. Other than the eggs, I don’t really have a measurement of how much of each ingredient I put in or how long I cook them. Some of it is left to luck, to magic. I don’t always get optimal results. Sometimes I get really crappy results.
I am like that in all aspects of my life. A part of me desires order and consistency, makes to do lists and thrives in a predictable world. A scientific world in which things, events, people, the weather and life follow a predictable and computable formula. The left side of my brain, the logic side, is perhaps in charge that. Yet there is this other part to me, the part that does not like order, does not like conformity and thrives on spontaneity, and on magic. Perhaps that is my artistic side, ruled by the right side of my brain.
The two sides don’t get along and butt heads often. I am constantly being pulled from one side to the other, unable to find my equilibrium.
I don’t do either part justice. I am neither an artist nor a scientist. I lack consistency.
My eggs were good though salty, but my tea too sweet …

Upside of rain and a fox

What a day. I woke up to dark gray clouds this morning and a wall of rain was pouring down over our home, over my bedroom windows. I felt the weight and darkness of these clouds. It felt as though my heart was weeping rain. I wasn’t sad, but my emotions felt heavy.

I drove my daughter to school in the pouring rain. It was picture-day in her school and she was very excited to be wearing her “new purple dress with flowers on it”. It is typically a challenge to introduce her to new things. She does not tolerate change well. That includes new clothes or shoes. So this was remarkable that without any fighting, she volunteered to wear not only her new dress but also her new shoes. Her raincoat was a different story. She did not want her friends to see her new raincoat. I don’t understand her and that makes me angry often. I suppose that is where anger comes from for most if not all people. Not understanding things makes us fearful. To overcome the fear, we turn it into anger. I am good at that. At turning my fears to anger.

We made it to school and my husband walked her in. He did not take the umbrella from the trunk of the car. He never does. So he retuned to the car soaking wet. Dress shirt, slacks, shoes, hair, glasses. I bit my tongue to not turn my fear of the car getting wet into anger. I then dropped him off in downtown.

The rain had let up. My son was peacefully snoozing in his car seat. Despite the wet roads, this post storm weather, felt rather refreshing and invigorating. Classical music was playing on the car radio. It was a rather nice choir or operatic piece. It sounded similar to church choir but also different. I don’t like churches. I don’t like church music. I don’t like religion. I began to thing about God, about spirituality and whether or not I believed in it. I still don’t know.

I continued on my drive. Our house is located in a very nice historic part of town with mature tree line streets and majestic historic homes. The greenery and the quiet back streets could easily deceive one to thinking this wasn’t an ugly big city. It is.

I decided to drive a bit in the rain. I am not brave enough to do any walking-in-the-rain. At least I had the window rolled down. At this point the classical station switched to playing a piano piece by Franz Liszt. I didn’t recognize the piece. Thanks to the radio announcer, I learned that many of my favorite pieces are by him. Hungarian Rhapsody is one of my all time favorites but I had no idea he also composed Ave Maria. Now that is a religious song I do like. Later I looked up Ave Maria and learned that multiple composers have composed pieces named after Ave Maria. The famous one that I know of is not by Liszt but Schubert. Franz Schubert. Coincidentally, Schubert and Liszt had the same first name, Franz. The pianist performing was Valentina Lisitsa. What a remarkable pianist. It must be nice to be a remarkable pianist, to be a remarkable anything but especially a pianist. I wish I were remarkable. I am not.

The road I drove took me by a park and the lake. I felt the season. I felt nature. As much as one could driving inside a man made car, upon man made roads looking at a man made lake. I felt nature.
The mansions that line the street were nestled far apart. Between them lush manicured greenery. This part of town is less flat. There is the illusion of hills ever so slightly rolling up and down. I take any hint of an elevation. Even a few steps and a few degrees makes has a positive impact on my psyche. As I rolled down one of those hills, I saw a medium size dog cautiously, somewhat timidly running by the road. Do dogs jog? His run looked more like a jog. It was a peculiar looking dog with pointy ears and a low hanging bushy tail. Wait that wasn’t a dog. It looked like a fox! He turned his head and looked right at me. He was standing on a green stretch between the road and one of the mega mansions. He then looked away. I wanted to reach for my phone and take a picture. I had never seen a fox up close before. I wasn’t even sure if this was a fox, maybe it was a coyote. I had seen Coyotes but not foxes. I wonder if they had either one of those species here. I quickly changed my mind about taking a picture of him. Let the animal be, I told myself. I will remember that inquisitive face as he looked at me. I will remember. I can tell the story of him without proving it. I don’t need a photograph to know it happened. Nature doesn’t need to be photographed to be loved or appreciated, or to exist.

We humans feel the need to photograph everything. EVERYTHING. Taking pictures of food, plate after plate, of faces, face upon face, of shapes, clothes, colors, homes, chairs, things and things, animals, flowers, mountains, possessions, pleasures and pains. There is a need. The need is growing. It is becoming an insatiable need, much like the many other manmade needs we pursue. The pursuit of happiness has become the pursuit of satisfaction. It is an unattainable goal. A mirage. I wonder if earth was a better place before all the things in it became the subject of photographs, expeditions, explorations and study. Before we exploited and dissected all things in the name of humanity, curiosity, God or greed.

I drove away. It had stopped raining. There in the middle of the road laid a tree branch. A very large tree branch chopped off like a twig. Nature does things its way. It doesn’t seem to differentiate between roads, houses, cars or anywhere else for that matter. When it strikes, it doesn’t discriminate.

I made it home safely. My feelings felt lighter. The gray clouds seemed pleasant now. I had positive thoughts and pleasant feelings.

I wanted to sit down and write. To play some piano and sing a song or two. I wanted to dance and sway holding my baby. I felt optimistic. I opened all the shutters and let the gray light in. It had started to rain again. This time the rain was more rapid, with a sense of urgency. As if it were answering the call of the dry land. We have drought in this region so the rain is a much needed intervention. The winds had also picked up. The large trees in front of my windows were swaying. I could hear the thunder near and far.

I felt exposed. I felt valuable against this show of nature. Something about it felt vengeful and hostile. At this point I got a text. It was a tornado warning. I turned on the TV and the local station was storm watch. The sirens began their warning music. It was audible from the streets. This wasn’t just my feelings. This was real. Wouldn’t be a cruel irony if I were blown away in a tornado only weeks from moving away from this crazed town? What if my daughter was hurt, or my husband? Were my last thoughts and words to them unpleasant. Did I say that I loved them? I gulped down my veggie pizza in two rather large hurried bites, burning the roof of my mouth. No time for eating, I had to find a safe place.

I held on to my baby as we sat in the bathtub waiting for the storm to pass. It felt silly to sit in the bathtub. There is a large mirror and widow in this bathrooms. The other bathroom on the second floor is no better. We would be shredded to pieces if a tornado hit the bathroom. I decided to get out and hide beneath the stair case. If it were to hit this house, we wouldn’t survive. I remembered the first few months after we moved here, there were several tornado warnings. I had no idea what those sirens meant or what the safety protocols were in the event of such storms. They should have hand outs about tornados and extreme weather in all ports of entry to this city and this state. Perhaps I should have known. Then again, I kind of know now and still I chose to leave the bathtub. We humans are stubborn and reckless often. Some more than others. Perhaps my recklessness is of the average variety. Just as I am of the average variety. It must be nice to not be average.

The clock hit 4:15 and the tornado warning expired. There were massive storms and heavy rains with significant flooding, damage and power outages but our home was not affected. I survived this.

I survived this writing exercise. Jotting down most of my thoughts about the events of the day. Perhaps I will read it someday and edit it down, though most likely I won’t get around to it! Maybe there is something to be learned from today. Maybe that thing is about the beauty of a fox or an accomplished pianist from the Ukraine.  Or to eat mindfully, for example to not gulp down a whole pizza in two bites. I say this as i suffer a predictable heartburn. That is a lesson I am incapable of learning. Perhaps what I learn from today it is the knowing that there is an upside to rain and that storms, even the massive ones do eventually pass.

No instruction manuals …

I talked to a good friend today. Someone with whom I am finding less and less in common and more things to get annoyed or bored with. Yesterday I talked to another dear friend. I truly enjoyed our conversation. I felt close though we are hundreds of miles apart. What is it that makes us enjoy some people more than others? Enjoy one conversation more than another. It can be about the same exact topic with similar views even, yet yield entirely different impressions on our mind.

I feel exhausted when I interact with some people. Energy drains out of me. These feelings are heavy, and unpleasant, weighing me down. Other interactions achieve the opposite, bringing about feelings of content and joy. They induce a pleasant weightless state of harmony, elevating my spirit.
Some friends are good, other are dear. I believe the two are different. Dear ones can bring about deeper feelings of contentment. With good friends, good things happen but typically at a superficial level. Dear friends are closer to the heart.

How does one truly understand her limits, tendencies, likes and dislikes? Not the overt ones or the superficial ones, not as in I like ice cream or I don’t like caviar, but the inner more subtle likes and dislikes that creep up ever so slowly, unannounced. Suddenly they pile up causing a sense disharmony and disequilibrium. Feelings of unease can be overwhelming.

I have come to realize there are no courses, no classes to teach me how to read and more importantly comprehend myself. We did not come into this world with instruction manuals, despite the alluring claims. This is a path I ought take on my own. These are doors only I can open. Even if they turn out to be windows into a dark alley.

Illness & Inspiration

Today I want to write about illness and inspiration. In my case illness has never been much of an inspiration. It has been an impenetrable obstacle and it frequently visits me in one shape or another.

I was ill much of last year with pregnancy related complications. I felt better on April 4th. That is the day when one of my beloved movie critics and writers, Roger Ebert, died. I had been following his work, his movie reviews and later on his blog. His death affected me beyond feelings of sorrow. I was inspired and amazed by his story. The way he, in the face of terminal and debilitating cancer, disability and disfigurement transformed himself artistically from good to excellent. How losing his spoken words, fueled his determination and made his written word so much more powerful.

I kept wanting to write something about him when it happened. But I didn’t. I felt blocked and the few attempts I made felt trivial and subpar. So I didn’t produce anything.

One year has past and I gave birth to my son. My illness resolved. I did not write anything while I was sick and I still am not writing much despite being well. I think I do not have what Roger Ebert had neither in health nor illness.

This year as April 4th approached, I was reminded of my complicated pregnancy, my illness and despair and Roger Ebert’s death. That on the day he died, I started to feel better. I do not intend to correlate these to events but merely observe them. I tried to jot down my thoughts on several occasions during the past few weeks without much success. All my attempts were promptly deleted!


Later this April, I learned of the death of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. He is one of my most favorite writer of all times and his book One Hundred Years of Solitude is the most powerful and mind captivating piece of literature I have ever read.

He died in old age but he too battled cancer and illness for much of his later life. I couldn’t say if his ill health inspired him as I believe Roger Ebert’s had, but it did not stop his creative mind. I am not like that.

Illness like many other perceived or real obstacles block my progress. My creativity is much like a finicky flower that only blooms once a year if and only if certain optimal conditions are met and lasts a very short while before it withers away.

Today is the last day of April and despite my fingers itching badly to hit the delete button of my keyboard, I will resist the temptation and keep this post.
Perhaps there are lessons to be learned from this process. At the very least I am honoring the memory of two great men, both of them powerful writers.

Thanks for reading.

Sick baby – Cranky mom

My son is sick.

He has been sick for almost a week. It started with vomiting a few hours after eating solid food. My first thoughts were allergic reaction or food poisoning. The following day he started the sniffles and cough. This was curtsey of my daughter’s preschool.
Raising baby number 2 is in some ways easier but also more complicated. With my daughter, she did not get a respiratory infection until she was two (when she started daycare). With the new baby, keeping him at home doesn’t protect him from those infections. My daughter brings them home to him.
I started to worry because he only had his first dose of flu shot. What if this was the flu? There have been few flu related deaths in our town, some of them babies.
For the next three days he, my daughter and my husband had mild cold symptoms. Then on day 4 he started spiking high grade fevers. This fell on the weekend. It always does.

His fever had started on Friday and I required round the clock medication to come down. I called the pediatrician on call at 7:30 Pm on Saturday. He called me back at 8 advising me to take him to Urgent care. I had to wait for my husband to come home since we only have one car. By the time we made it to the urgent care it was passed 9. The doctor was a friendly female. Baby started crying. He looked so pathetic. He also seemed to have his first case of stranger anxiety. She found a slightly red ear drub and decided to treat him with antibiotics for presumed ear infection.
There was a Walgreens right next to this clinic but as we approached it, they turned of the lights. They closed at 10. It was 10 … We drove to the next closest 24 hour pharmacy some 30 minutes away.

Sure it is convenient to have 24 hour pharmacy but late night shopping there can be quiet annoying. The pharmacist was a middle aged man who was helping an elderly lady in front of me. She was picking up her prescription and also buying some other non pharmacy items. I could see some lipsticks, a few cans of chunky beef soup and some other items in her baskets. The pharmacist was incredibly slow helping her. She had many questions and apparently lot of time to waste. Question about price of the lipstick and if they were on sale “are these buy one get one free?”
“No they are buy one get one half off” followed by “do you still want them”
“how much would they be with the half off?” She asked.
This went on of almost every item in her shopping basket.
Finally they seemed to be finishing up as he was giving her the grand total for her merchandise.
“That seems to be too high” she asked.
So he started going through the prices with her again.
Finally she wanted him to go over the price of the two prescriptions 15 or 16 dollars I believe. She conceded to the grand total and reached for her wallet.
Great she seems to be done! I thought. I was wrong.
She was about to pay when the pharmacist said, “wait there seems to be a mistake with one of your prescriptions, they wrote for 8 pills but the instructions seems to indicate it should be 12”. “I have to call the doc and clarify”. He called the manager to void the entire transaction. There were also a couple of cars lined up in the drive through. He started helping the first car but there was a problem there too, one prescription out of the 5 was missing. Then he went to make the phone call.
I was so mad. He could have just given the damn 8 pills and call the clinic or hospital later to see if more needed to be dispensed. He could have called the patient later to inform her if more pills were authorized by her doctor. But no, at 11 PM he was making phone calls to clarify the issue right now.
I am still mad. The manager who had come to void the entire transaction asked If she could help me I said I was dropping off a prescription for my sick baby in the car and needed antibiotics for him right away. The pharmacist overheard this and gave me an annoyed look saying he is working as fast as he could and there was no guarantee when he could help me. “there is only one of me here”. I hadn’t said anything to this slow irritable bozo. The lady he was supposedly helping had wondered off to the cosmetics section. She did not seem to be in a hurry at all. I was. A guy standing in line behind me suggested I go to CVS next door. I took this advice and headed out. A good 20 minutes were wasted here. Baby was crying in the car and my daughter was cranky because she had fallen down and scraped her legs. We drove to CVS. I headed inside and here too there was a guy ahead of me filling out a prescription for hemorrhoid cream. He had no insurance and the script would have cost him over a $100. He asked for generic. This too was taking long. I suppose I had the annoyed look on my face. Of course I had to provide all my insurance information and my son’s information because we hadn’t filled scripts here before. There was an annoying overhead announcement ever 2-3 minutes loudly saying “pharmacy call, number one”. Pharmacist told me she was doing the best she can but she couldn’t guarantee any faster service than Walgreens. I forgot to mention I bitched to her about the long wait at Walgreens next door.
Now I had pissed off two pharmacists.
I tried to patch things up by saying I completely understood even saying something to complement her tolerance to the annoying voice announcements. She cracked a little smile saying she has learned to ignore it. “this isn’t even the worse, sometimes it is 3 or 4 waiting”. How much can one person do?
I wondered if I should have waited at Walgreens for the slow bozo to finally get around to helping me. Then I remembered my days as a slow, irritable bozo running around taking care of too many patients in too little time. I would snap at anyone making a comment about waiting too long.
But now with a sick baby and a cranky daughter in the car at 11:30 PM I had no patience and very little self reflection.

As I was reminiscing, a man approached the pharmacy window “where you all’s condoms at?”
Someone was getting lucky that night. He didn’t have a sick baby and a cranky 5 year old in the car.

Is there anything sweeter than …

IMG_2433Is there anything sweeter the sound of your baby’s coo?
Of course I am not talking about you, I am talking about me and how happy my little helpless bundle of joy makes me with one little coo. At five months, that’s pretty much the only sound he can make, that and crying. I forgive all the crying, countless spit-ups, diaper accidents, and sleepless nights for just one little coo. I think he knows it too!
I don’t remember the exact moment he started to coo but the very first time he smiled was on Halloween. I had yet another heated argument with my mother and felt quite awful. With his little head cradled in my hands, I was gentling rocking him on my knees swallowing tears of sorrow and anger. His eyes were on my face and mine on his when suddenly a smile appeared on his little lips. Sure I had seen him smile in his sleep, but this was the first awake/aware smile. In that instant all those ugly feelings melted away and I wept tears of joy. One little smile …
In all the happy and profound moments of my life, I cannot recall anyone or anything resulting in such deeply profound and satisfying feelings as those I have with my baby. Not with my first love, or when I first learned to drive. Not when getting proposed to or even married. Not with any presents ever given to me. Not when getting accepted to university or getting a job. Not with good grades, not with high praise and not with any number of nice things I or anyone has ever bought me. Is this feeling happiness, joy, awe, love? Is it driven by hormones and instincts? Though all those words are included in what I feel, they seem inadequate to fully describe the depth and complexity of what I feel toward my children. It is so much more than love, more than any word I have in my vocabulary or have ever come across in a poem, book or movie. It is so much more.
I wasn’t one of those women born to be a mother, perhaps because I was born to a mother who wasn’t very maternal or so she claimed. In fact for the longest time I did not want any children and I only decided to have my first child after all my colleagues and friends started having babies. It was one of those, now or never moments. There is really no way to describe the transformation that after we have children. When I didn’t have him, I couldn’t imagine what life would be like with him and now, I can’t imagine life without him. In one instant the epicenter of my universe changed.
For me living in the moment has always been a challenge. My mind is either exploring the past with regret or chasing years ahead in fear and anxiety. but when I hold this little guy, without any conscious effort or realization, I’m brought back to the moment. My eyes on him, I see my reflection in those two tiny little eyes and in that mirror I look amazing. All my senses are tuned in. His scent, his delicate skin, his gentle touch, the sound of his breath the the weight of his wobbly little body all bring me back to the now and what an awesome now it is to experience.
I don’t know what future holds, what he’ll grow up to be, what he’ll think of me then; but for now his coo is the loveliest soundtrack to my life and I cannot possibly ask for more.

Use it or lose it …

I’ve been absent for a while. I haven’t felt creative, nor have I written or read much of anything. I wonder if it was me who left or the muse but now I want to get back and let me tell you it is not like riding a bicycle. Even when I feel inspired, words escape me. Right now I am trying to think of a word and … “blank”, nothing comes to my mind. I can’t even find the right words to express my frustrated and sluggish state of mind. I am going MAD or senile or possibly both!That reminds me I haven’t ridden a bicycle in ages so who knows perhaps I’ve forgotten that as well!!
I wonder if this, creative writing if you will, is one of those use it or lose it kind of skills. Is the window of opportunity closing on that?
Same as acquiring a new language or becoming a true athlete which becomes increasingly difficult with age and rather impossible after a certain age. I hope my creative muscles can be sprung back to life with some sweet talking and bribery. I am even willing to lift some “weights”!
Meanwhile I suppose there is no shame in putting incoherent babble onto paper.

To retrain a predator


I just watched the documentary The Invisible War on PBS. It is sad and appalling but not surprising, at least not to me …

Military sexual abuse comes to light (yet again) with shockingly high statistics. The irony is laughable if not so tragic to see the recent arrests of high ranking officers in charge of sexual abuse prevention, for committing acts of sexual abuse and violence. There are talks to re-train and re-credential such task forces. After years of brushing it under the carpet and blaming and intimidating the victims, the powers being are putting up yet another fake show of concern and pseudo-determination to “fix” the problem.

The “officials” claim to want to do what has never been successfully and sustainably done – to retrain predators to not prey.
Why are these types of predatory behaviors prevalent among military personnel? Does anyone pause and investigate what attracts certain personality types to these career paths. I am not saying all service men and women have these tendencies, but people with more aggressive and domineering personalities are perhaps more likely to get attracted to positions and posts that put them in position of power over others. Positions that give them unlimited access to vulnerable potential prey. It is the nature of the game. The well publicized history of sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic church is another well known example …
By all means play your little games and dodge the bigger questions. Go ahead and “attempt” to re-train and re-credential. But in the end, I would never trust a “retrained” lion to not attack the gazelle.
I can only try to imagine what some of these military predators have done in the countries they invaded and occupied. I mean if they do this to their own “brothers” and “sisters”, when there is the potential of getting caught and facing punishment, imagine what they’ve done/ continue to do to the poor people of the war torn regions, who have no “rights”, and no one speaks for them … Abu Ghraib prison abuse comes to mind …

The damage goes far beyond what has been done to the military victims. Some of those offenders and predators have long moved on to civilan life and live inconspicuously among us not on any sex offender lists, and continue to prey on unsuspecting victims. Why would they stop? They got away with it the first time, what is to stop them now?

Sad, disgusting and infuriating. I hope there is a solution, I really do.

Never say never …

Tonight, as I sought shelter in the bathtub of our main floor bathroom, along with my daughter and cat, and while listening to the sound of the sirens, I couldn’t help but think, how the hell did I end up here? Living in Texas was a definitely on my “Never” list.

It was 18 years ago around this time when my parents, myself and younger sister, a fresh of the boat family of 4, along with our cat left Rolla, Missouri with all our belongings in a red Dodge Caravan and headed toward California. As we drove through the flat lands of middle America, I thought to myself “how depressing”. Flat land and no mountains. I hated the drive perhaps for more reasons than the landscape but the scenery definitely did not suit me. Our path took us through Texas amidst a nasty Tornado/hail storm. It looked as though an ocean was falling down the sky followed by golf ball size hail. We sought shelter in a gas station. It was terrifyingly hostile. We didn’t have weather like this back home. It was as though this part of the country was giving us a warning “stay away”! I made a mental note to never willingly come back to these parts of America. That is before I knew anything about the politics, the guns and all the other things that clearly puts me at odds with places like this.

Over a year ago we had to move to Texas due to my husband’s job. Interestingly, my husband too had Texas was in his “NEVER, EVER“ list! It is temporary” we said, and I still wish it to be. But tonight just as many nights last spring and summer, I found myself hovering in a tiny little bathtub, awaiting for the storms to pass. In all honesty, I believe if I am to get hit by a tornado, or an earth quake or any other form of natural or man made disaster, I would and there is no escaping the ultimate finality of life. But I can’t help but remember the promise I had made myself 18 years ago, and how I broke that promise.

Yep, Destiny has done it again
perhaps there is a lesson here
To never say NEVER again!

Then and now: story of my matress

Today I received a brand new top of the line mattress. Delivering it was quite an ordeal considering the monstrous specimen weighs 280-300 pounds according to the 4 delivery guys who had to bring to our second floor bedroom through the window. Unlike other large metropolitan cities like New York, San Francisco and most cities in Europe, here in Dallas, the delivery people are neither accustomed to nor equipped to haul furniture over vertical loving spaces. Here people live in mega size horizontal homes. After a few futile attempts to use the narrow staircase of this old Victorian house, they used an old fashioned ladder and with much struggle the mattress finally took center stage in our bedroom.  Minutes after receiving my prized new possession, I laid atop its plush and luxurious surface. I inhaled the “new mattress” scent and tested the many great yet difficult to remember reasons why we simply couldn’t settle for anything less than this heavy monstrosity according to the very convincing sales person/mattress expert.

I found myself reminiscing about all my former mattresses especially the very first mattress we bought when our family, that is my parents, my sister and I first moved to the United States. It was years, digits and miles of technology behind this new matress. We had our minimal belongings and some 1500 dollars to get us started in the land of the free and could barely afford luxuries such as the McDonald’s Dollar menu. We headed to a cheap furniture store and bought the cheapest twin mattresses they sold for 29 dollars each. We couldn’t afford a bed or a box spring for that matter. My mom, sister and I squeezed into the bedroom portion of our studio apartment while my dad slept in the living room part. I still remember the sea foam blue-green color of my first American mattress and as I look back, I recall my initial sense of wonder and optimism in those early days. The many good and restful nights I spent on my cheap mattress and the colorful dreams I had each and every night. I was happier and more hopeful then … I had dreams of making it one day, obtaining higher education, great job and the many luxuries, securities and happiness that awaited me in a not so distant future.

Here I am in the “future” with the education, career, luxuries, family, and many other things I have gathered along the way. I now have in my possession a mattress costing embarrassingly above my humble initial mattress. I have come a long way.  Yet I long for those first days and months here. I long for the days when through my teenage eyes, life seemed more optimistic, future was mine to and hope provided daily nourishment to my mind and body. Those days are long gone as is my sea foam blue mattress, and I have graduated several mattress grades, but somehow my sense of happiness and wonder have mostly disappeared. I want to foolishly believe this time will be different; that this mattress would once again cuddle me back to happiness, more restful nights, adventurous dreams and brighter days. That it would become my very own Magic Carpet transporting me to happier times.

To read or not to read

I used to think of reading as “good” in absolute terms. I’ve recently started to revise my position. Not all reading is “good” much as not-reading is not all “bad”. A bad read is a negative act with deleterious effects on the mind and body making worse it than the neutral position of not reading at all. This is a logical analysis based on simple math!

I came up with this brilliant redefinition after reading an utterly disturbing and disgusting book which was recommended on some bargain book page. To be fair it was initially engaging but the more I read, the worse it got, with poorly developed characters and unrealistically gruesome scenes and a comically sloppy ending. By the time I realized this, I was two third done with the book and my compulsive nature did not allow me to leave it unfinished. But I swore to myself, no more junk reads. It was much as eating junk food, I felt unwell afterward the conclusion and imagined my brain cells atrophy in response to this awful read.  But unlike with food, you can’t purge the garbage read out of your system. It stays with you! I suppose reading one too many such reads finally taught me a much needed lesson so I perhaps did ultimately benefit from my poor choices.

From here on, to read or not to read for me depends the substantive value of the read. But by definition, this will prove to be rather difficult since the substance of a read is unknown until it has been read! I’m keeping my fingers crossed and would appreciate any recommendations on intellectually stimulating current literature, fiction or otherwise.

Loss

Two days ago I lost something expensive which holds significant sentimental value. But in the end, it was/is still just a thing. I have searched everywhere repeatedly drivingly myself nearly mad, I’ve imagined seeing it in all sorts of odd places, but still no trace of it.

I was in possession of this thing for some years but except for when I first received it, I don’t recall being overjoyed or appreciative of having it. It belonged to me but didn’t serve a purpose other than being an expensive and beautiful possession. It didn’t keep me warm like a sweater or drive me to places as a car would. I had it but didn’t think much about it, it became routine and I didn’t really notice its value anymore. Not until it was gone and now all I think about is how miserable and incomplete I feel without this “thing” and how I must replace “it”.

A few months back I picked up my daughter from preschool and she had with her some art work including a triangle shaped piece of paper she had cut out. She was playing with it with the car window open when it slipped through her hand and flew out the window in the middle of a busy freeway. There was no way I could retrieve it but try reasoning with a four year-old. For what seemed to last hours I had to listen to her desperate cries. “come back triangle” she kept saying in between her sobs. “It just flew away”, “it is gone”, followed by more crying. It was heartbreaking to see those large tears covering her face and I found myself tearing up as I kept glancing in the rear view window. This was a lesson in loss and we were learning it together. She’ll get over it, I thought. Now months later, if I ask her about the triangle, she says “it flew out the window”. It is definitely not forgotten but recalling the incident is no longer painful. She has accepted the loss.

I wonder if I will accept the fact that I’ve lost my wedding ring … Time will tell.

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Let’s blame Lance Armstrong

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Lance Armstrong
is strong in my book
He survived cancer
and went on to win
Tour De France
Not just once or twice
he won seven times!
But now we know
he doped to win them
All over the news
disgraced and shamed
and called “a cheater”
I say who care?
For the love of God
We wanted entertainment
and he delivered
Take away the gold
but let the man be
Lance Armstrong
is strong in my book

But of course, this is BIG news. It is big because it is made to be big. How else would they keep the American public distracted and “entertained”? This is the era of cheaters. We have cheaters running our country, the banks and all the powerful companies. We have cheaters waging wars, killing the innocent, handing out guns. We have cheaters in charge of education and healthcare. Not to forget the cheaters who are feeding us poison in the name of food and in the name of medicine. Yes in this day and age, we would point fingers at a disgraced cyclist. Let’s blame Lance Armstrong because you see, that is the best way to forget the cheaters that we are, and the cheaters we allow to remain in charge of our lives, our world, our earth, and our humanity. In the end, we always need someone to blame and today, let that someone be Lance Armstrong because tomorrow, it maybe you or I.

Who do I write to?

I started thinking about this a couple of days ago. Being new to blogging, I formerly wrote only for me. I had no audience and my one and only audience for the most part liked what I was writing!
The reason I started blogging was to connect with the creative world and to overcome my contemplative and indecisive perfectionist. Once its out there and read by others, there is no going back!
Now that I have met others here, I find myself greatly influenced by their writing as well as their comments and feedback on my own writing. I find my writing taking a different form; traveling unchartered territories. I find myself writing both for me and for others. I find my writing has become interdependent on the writing and the opinions of others. I am just observing this as a new movement within me without any judgement or particular opinion. I just notice it is there. I wonder if this has happened to anyone else.

Today marks the 7th day since I started to blog. This has been one of the most profound and transformative weeks of my life and I am just getting started. Thank you WordPress, bloggers, friends, artists, poets, writers, dreamers, wonderers, insiders and outsiders for welcoming me into this marvelous world. – Parmis


The Art of Procrastination
4 stars

This book was reviewed on NPR’s All Things Considered last year with an interview with the author John Perry who is a philosopher and professor at Stanford University.
Being a life long procrastinator, it captured my curiosity. It is a short read at 112 pages, cleverly written and filled with humorous tips on how to deceive our “procrastinator” to get tasks done! Perhaps I can put my own procrastination to good use!
In the end, it gives the best advice which is to accept the procrastinator in us and that despite this “handicape” we, procrastinators do get quite a bit done. It doesn’t however offer any cures or solutions to “recover” from procrastination.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Art-Procrastination-Lollygagging-ebook/dp/B0091YL5KK/ref=tmm_kin_title_0