Thursday, February 28, 2013

Finally - Some Photos!

No photos of me in this post...I'm always the one behind the lens. I'm embarrassed to say that these are from A MONTH AGO! Last night a friend told me that he doesn't know anyone busier than me. I wasn't proud. Well, maybe I was a tiny bit, deep down in that weird spot where you like hearing that you're the "most" of anything. But that is one F'ed-up brand of pride. I should be spending more time on making sure my life is clean and organized but instead I'm out there trying to give every last drop of myself to those I love and those I'm paid to at least pretend to like. Luckily I usually love the ones I'm paid to spend time with.  I'm mostly happy most of the time, I must be doing something right.   

ASIDE:  As I'm writing this * work* a student came into my office.  At this point with this one program I cringe when a student walks in because it could be a simple doctor's appointment that turns into six hours at the ER (this has happened to me TWICE already in the past seven weeks), it could be a weird issue with an online order and an orderer who can't speak the language, or it could be what happened just now - a student who was only looking for a cup so he could get enough water to take a pill.  I nearly kissed him I was so happy that it was something so simple and easy.  I've got to take refuge in the hundreds of simple things I can solve and help with and focus less on the few big issues that the students generate (pregnancy, family emergencies, health issues, interpersonal issues, culture shock, lack of language skills, et fucking cetera)

These photos are from Martin Luther King Jr. Day Weekend, a lovely three-day weekend in which I went to my favorite place on earth, the Kings River, to spend time with one of my favorite people on this earth, Jude - the woman who delivered my daughter and delivered me from so many depressions I lost count. Best of all, it was sunny and warm and let me tell you - warm sunshine on your skin in the winter is a MIRACLE.  I'm not ashamed to say that I took off my jacket and laid down on the rock of this overlook, hugging the warm, rounded edges and let the sun soak deep into me.  I swear I can feel the sunlight doing its magic at the molecular level, photosynthesizing Vitamin D and instantly making me feel happier and calmer.  I can't remember seeing the sun once this week.  Dreary and bleak and all I want to do is hole up and watch Project Runway and Justified in my blanket nest. 

But back to a month ago....This was from our short hike to the Kings River Overlook.  Super easy hike and breathtaking scenery.  This is why I love the Ozarks and can't imagine leaving permanently. 
Jude looking around

A photo of a photo being taken.  FASCINATING

Looking down and to the Southwest

Looking east

In case you didn't see the photo above

Do you see the profile?  Doesn't that look like a nose?

Moon rising

More moon

Oh!  And a closer look at the face in the rock

Texture.  Bark.  Good. 

A rosy piece of fungus.  A better photographer would have moved those twigs out of the way.

Then on my last night at the River/Eureka we went to Jude's son Farar's birthday party.  Farar and his beautiful wife Carmen (de Mexico) and their two boys Daniel and Samuel were perfect hosts.  Plus I got to see a bunch of old friends who are like my siblings in that we've known each other since we were little kids and love each other despite all of our quirks and oddities and predilections.

Caleb and Sal.  I've known Sal since I was maybe 8 or 9

Sal and Colin in the kitchen, Jenae and Carmen back there. 

Sal is my idol because he built his own house and it's beautiful and incredibly energy efficient and it's beautiful.

Birthday boy Farar

Samuel Liam and his Abuela Jude.  This boy LOVES being passed around by pretty ladies

Hi Samuel

Craig trying to get Samuel to crack a smile.

Sara Ann and Patrick

Getting sleepy

Jenae, Hanna, Samuel and Jude

Kristen and Samuel

Farar and Sara Ann
My girl wasting a day at the river crashing out.

At least I got something up and posted.  Right? 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

It Pains Me To Write This...

Hey remember last year when I was going through all that shit with my back? I wasn't writing in my blog then.  Well.  This epic post hints at the beginnings of it.  (And by the way...I just re-read that post for the first time since I'd written it and goodness gracious if it isn't still a little raw for me)  Well 2012 was full of medical appointments for me.  More last year then I'd had in the previous 37 years of my life totaled.  So many that I met my (high) deductible by June.  So after the string of doctor referrals, steroid shots, MRIs, neurologist appointments, more MRIs (those were the worst.  The pain was beyond description and all I was doing was just lying there, trying not to move) and a final diagnosis that really isn't that satisfying, to tell you the truth.  I have slight disc bulging in two locations and a narrow sliver of something called a syrinx.  I know a syrinx sounds like a mythical beast out of Tolkien and, in a way, it has sort of achieved that status in my mind.  But it's teeny tiny and way inside my spinal cord and I probably never would have known it existed if it weren't for all those damn MRIs. 

The worst part is that, despite nerve pain medication and real pain medication and yoga and massages and special pillows and exercise and physical therapy and acupuncture and hot baths and meditation and sobbing, nothing appears to really be working.  Last night the pain was so intense that I just took a sleeping pill so I could at least sleep and not feel it for a few hours.  I'm hesitant to even write about it because it invites a whole slew of well-meaning but unsolicited advice.  I've probably tried whatever it is that you're suggesting, but thank you just the same.  Narcotic pain medication takes the most acute edge off the pain but it is STILL there, underneath...dull and hot and constant.  That's the only way I can describe it - it's a searing pain.  It does ebb and flow with regards to the amount of stress and anxiety in my life.  That is why I will keep doing the yoga and exercise and meditation and hot baths and massages, because they do help temporarily.  Sitting at a desk is bad bad bad for me.  I know that.  I wonder if I could convince my boss to give me a standing desk.  That could help a lot.  I am sure I could get my doctor to write a prescription for it and maybe insurance could cover some of it.  It would certainly be in my insurance company's best interest...but that doesn't really mean anything. 

Other than that....things are just okay.  Stella and I are going through a rough patch (again...whee!  Roller coaster of adolescence, everyone aboard!).  Work  I am poorly navigating the confusing waters of single/dating.  I don't know how to act is where all the confusion comes from. I don't even know why I'm "dating" because I'm pretty happy to just come home, do my thing (usually that means watch tv shows through a computer hooked up to my tv.  The Future is Here!), cook, make plans with friends, and berate myself.  But I can't seem to make myself delete that stupid profile even though it's produced only the faintest of interesting nibbles on the line. 

I'm reading a lot.  Writing some.  No jewelry in a while, or collages.  Cooking a fair amount.  Those are my preferred creative outlets.  So far that seems to be good for where I am.  I turn 38 next month.  That sounds much worse than it feels. 

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Dear Stella....

Can you remember what it felt like your senior year of high school?  I can't - not really.  That could be because I was a total wreck.  I was very unhappy at home.  I moved into my own apartment in March of my senior year.  My mom couldn't live with me and although she was very broke she preferred helping me out with 1/2 my rent ($350!) to living under the same roof with me.  In fact, when she bought her own house that fall she told me I "wasn't welcome" in her new house.  I know I was angry and depressed as a teenager but I will never understand a parent telling that to a child who is basically a good kid, just depressed and confused and angry.  It's not like I was a drug addict who would steal her stuff if she let me in her house.  She just wanted me to stay away from her.   That's just a sliver of our complicated dynamics.  You can imagine how awful it was for me to have to move in with her back in 2004 - to the very house that she'd told me I wasn't welcome in back in 1993.

Jeez, tangent much, Alannah?  My point is that senior year is a difficult and emotional time for a young person.  Stella has certainly gone through her share of tears and confusion.  "I just wish someone would tell me what to do" she begged me one night.  So I did.  I told her that she should go to her first college choice, the small college in Colorado.  That we would somehow figure out how to pay for it but that is her goal and I need to support her.

The horrific tragedy in Newtown, CT caused me to have an epiphany of sorts - LIFE IS SHORT.  I had been concerned about how we can afford to send Stella to college in Colorado.  I kept suggesting to her that she should at least apply to UofA as a backup and she kept declining.  Then one afternoon a few days after that awful Friday I was in my car and the epiphany struck - LIFE IS SHORT.  It could end any moment.  I could lose my beautiful, adored baby (teenager) girl.  I could.  Or she could lose me.  So instead of pulling back and always pointing out the negatives and cons of this decision I should be focusing on the positive and working to make her dreams happen. 

The college she wants to attend is a former Indian schools so, in keeping with their tradition, any student who is a card-carrying member of a recognized tribe gets her tuition waived.  On her father's side Stella is 1/8 Cherokee.  That is solid enough for a card.  All her cousins, aunts, and grandfather have their cards.  Her father doesn't, though.  But his family helped us get all the necessary documents together and we sent them off back in October.  We're still awaiting the results but I'm hopeful.  I do find it ironic that he has never helped with any part of raising Stella but could possibly give her the greatest gift of tuition-free college education through his bloodline alone. 

Christmas eve I was thinking about Stella, like I often do....worried about her stress and anxiety levels about all these imminent changes.  So I dropped all my wrapping and crafting and, at like 2am, sat down and wrote her a real letter.  People rarely write real letters anymore and it's such a shame because having a tangible letter with words written by a loved one is a special thing indeed.  I wanted this letter to be something she could keep and pull out any time she needed a boost or needed to feel loved, loved in a way that goes beyond a post on her Facebook wall. 

With Stella's permission, I will share the letter I wrote her with y'all.  I'm not sure why I wanted to post it...probably because it shows how much I love my daughter and how we relate to each other.  Here goes:

December 25, 2012
Dear Stella -

First of all - Merry Christmas Sweetie!  Of course there's no way to know anything about what the future holds but this very well may be your last Christmas at "home."  Your last Christmas as a high school student - that much is known.  So I'm taking this knowledge as an excuse to write you a real letter - a letter I hope that you save and take out to read whenever you need to remember how I feel about you or want to be lifted up by words of unconditional love and admiration.

You are 17 today.  I am 37.  This year, it seems, has been full of potential (as in what is about to happen), transition, challenges, adventures, and change.  Both of our lives will change drastically in 2013 as well.

I am so excited for you!  I am filled with optimism and anticipation when I think about the many different wonderful paths you could take.  I'm SO proud of the woman you are becoming - STRONG. SMART.  BEAUTIFUL.  CREATIVE.  CURIOUS.  HUMBLE.  EMPATHETIC.  CARING.  BELOVED by so many!

It makes me feel so good to know how many people in  your life adore you and share in my pride and delight in who you are becoming.  I've always said that my truest philosophy as a mother - my primary goal - is to raise a human being with whom I would want to hang out.   And you are!  You are my favorite person to be with. 

No matter where this crazy journey will take you, I have so much faith that you will flourish along the way.   You really must know how special and wonderful it is for me to realize how incredibly talented you are.  Every doodle, every song you play and sing back in your room at night, every special thing you make for your friends, every outfit you put together - IT IS ALL AMAZING AND BEAUTIFUL TO ME!!  You interpret your world with such graceful and lovely creativity - it never fails to delight and astound me. 

What I wish for you is to  have the awareness and ability to stop and reflect on these things.  I wish for you to recognize opportunities and take them, and to approach new phases with an open heart and the confidence you deserve.

I hope that you will feel proud of your choices you make.  And I hope that you will always talk to me and tell me about your dreams and goals so that I can support you in achieving them.  I want you to dream big because there is no reason not to.

I want you to ALWAYS know how very beloved you are.   You have a whole team of people, near and far, who also want to support you in achieving your goals.  You're never alone in your struggles.  We are all alongside you, pushing you forward in life. 

It is after 3:00am and the big fire we built earlier is now dying out.

I know that I will miss you so much when you go away to school but the happiness and excitement I also feel for you will be much stronger than the missing-you.

I want you to know that it is okay to miss me too!  But  you will also be learning how to live a life separate from mine.  And what kind of life will that be?  I look forward to finding out.

Think of this as a pure and simple love letter.   You are the greatest love of my life and you will forever be my favorite person in the world. 

It's always been funny to me that people debate "the meaning of life" because it's so blatantly obvious - The Meaning of Life IS Love!  It is to love others and to be a person that others can love.  It is to generate as much love as possible in one lifetime, whether by loving others or creating environments where love flourishes.

I never knew how powerful true unconditional love could be until the day I first  held you in my arms.   I hope you always feel how strong and forever my love for you is.  Let it comfort you during hard times and nourish you every moment of  your day.

You are the very best thing I've ever done in my life!


Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Bury That Lead, Girl. Bury It!

I can't WAIT to bury the lead that is my previous post.  It just makes me nervous, writing about something so personally devastating.  "Really?!" You might argue, "Isn't that why blogs were invented?"  Oh okay, you got me.

Last week in a fit of deranged insomnia I started an online dating profile.  Lemme tell you - if you think the bar scene is weird and depressing you ain't seen NOTHIN' until you've seen what awaits a single lady in her late 30s in this region of the U.S.  Horrifying, pitiful, and just plain confusing are the first adjectives that jump to mind.  I can't believe how some of these dudes might think they're presenting an attractive package.  I also can't wait, I guess I can many guys will message me when it's abundantly clear that we have nothing in common and would, in fact, probably DISlike each other if we ever met in person.  No problem at all!

In other news, I've been reading blogs again lately . I get a lot of inspiration and happy feelings from good blogs where the writer's voice is clear and true.  And I get really annoyed by some blogs that are popular for apparently taking a lot of pictures of the writer's fantasy world that she is fakely presenting to the world.  No thanks, ladies - no thank you.  I'll post links just as soon as I feel like it and I'm not actively trying to avoid writing a grant proposal for work or cover up a previous post with nonsense like THIS!

I bet you're wanting some photos too, huh? 


So I've been trying to write this post for almost two weeks. all honesty, I've been trying to write about this topic, this major event in my life, for five years at least.

A common blog trope is to begin with a definition.  In order to just get started writing, I'm falling back on this tactic.

Merriam Webster defines Schadenfreude as "enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others."  Of course most of y'all know that it's a German word.  M-W goes with Schaden (damage) and Freude (joy), but since I studied German for at least six years back in high school and college, I can pretend to expound a little deeper.  Schaden is one of those words that has quite a few connotations.  As a noun it means prejudice, as a verb it can mean to derogate, to cause harm, to cause mischief, to impair.  When you want to show pity you say "Schade" meaning like "oh, that's a shame" or "that's too bad."  Freude can also mean to take delight in - it's a very multipurpose word for all things good and happy.  Leave it to the Germans to shove those two completely opposite emotions together.  But oh so appropriate, huh?

My word (ha.  Oof.  Sorry.  Can't resist a pun).  That took a while to get around to getting to the point.  This topic is still so tricky/painful/delicate/in-the-past for me that it takes a hundred years for me to even introduce it.  This is as specific as I care to get right now.  So here goes.  Ten years ago I was the object of one woman's bitterness and anger - to the degree that she attempted to ruin my professional reputation in my own hometown and actively, and quite successfully, managed to derail my career and destroy any naive belief I may have had in the innate goodness of people.  As a result of her actions I was fired for the first time in my life, lost every shred of confidence or self-worth I had worked to develop in my field of work, and was forced out of necessity to move in with my mother (and 8 yr old daughter) at the ripe age of 28.  I do not hold this woman personally responsible for the darkest years of my adult life so far but I know that she purposely shoved that first domino over.  I know it and I've accepted that another person, another woman, another mother acted forcefully so that I would suffer.  Ahhh, the warm fuzzies of sisterhood!

I can't emphasize enough how hard I have worked to get myself where I am today and do value the lessons I learned from that period in my life but yeah, there are plenty of times I wish I hadn't had to learn them in such a painful way.  I wish I'd had the confidence and wherewithal to recognize earlier how much damage a person containing the horrific combination of intelligence, wealth, and the desire to harm others can cause.  I wish I could have avoided her completely or fought harder for myself.  I was too shocked and then too scared and then too poor to properly deal with it.  So I packed up, moved in with my mother with whom I hadn't lived since I was 17 (for very good reason), and, after months and months of darkness and crippling depression, started to put the pieces of my life and career back together.

I will never identify this woman in any way other than to say that she is dangerous and possibly a sociopath.  No fucking kidding.  I learned from her to avoid her type as quickly and completely as possible.  I have worked very hard to stop trying to understand WHY someone could do what she did and really just not think of her at all.  I did not want to wish any sort of retaliatory harm on her - I just wanted to get to where I hardly thought of her at all.  For the most part that's been the case.  Until a few weeks ago when I heard from friends about this woman and her life the past few years.  It sounds like some pretty bad things are happening to her.  Not "dying slowly of a terminal illness" bad, more like "you reap what you sow" kind of bad.  I'm hesitant to call it karma because I'm not sure I really believe in karma.  I mean, I've seen plenty of bad things happen to good people and vice versa...but I still believe in putting good energy into the world regardless of what you've been through.  And I can't help but also believe, a tiny bit, in that energy you put into the world growing and expanding and then, eventually, coming back around to you....whether that energy be good or bad.  Wait.  Isn't that pretty much exactly what karma is?  Maybe I do believe in it.   I don't believe completely in Buddhism but it sounds like I'm on board the Karma train, destination: Yourself.  Woo woo!

So yeah.  I bet this is frustratingly vague unless you're one of my close friends and you nurtured me through that awful, awful time.  In that case - I love you.  Thank you for believing in me, soothing me, cheering me up, sending me money when I was too ashamed to ask for it but really needed it,  building me back up, and being the truest, best friends a woman could know.  I must have been REALLY good in my past lives to deserve friends like you.

So, to honor that love and support you showed me ten years ago, I will not resort to shallow or mean-spirited Schadenfreude.

But hot feels great to be validated!