Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Update on Life, Tumors, Moose Mating Rituals, Airport Insanity, Chemo Sucks and Beacons of Light

Oh my, its been a year since I've written you (almost).  Wow.  Trust me when I tell you, I'm talking to you in my head all of the time and I have the best of intentions to write.

So much has been going and I think it has finally reach such a capacity that I  feel compelled to sit down and catch up with words on a page.  (I spent half an hour breaking in to an old filing cabinet on Tuesday night to dig out my collection of letter writing stationary if that helps put the word 'compelled' in context for you).

Quick Update on Life in General - It ain't bad.

The past year has been pretty amazing.  We moved into what we call "our forever home" on the side of a wooded mountaintop over looking the valley of Park City.  On Saturday, sixteen inches of snow fell.  In September there were moose mating in our back yard.  You can see the stars almost every night.

Emerson started a new school and can now spell her name, count to 16 and identify the entire alphabet.  I hate to brag (kind of) but to be honest, she works hard and she practices these things because she loves to learn.  She deserves the credit.  Her favorite toys this week are some of my left-over yarn and a blanket we break out when winter arrives - a child's imagination is truly boundless when given free reign to ramble wild.

I have started a new job within my company.  As a result of that and some other significant professional changes I am actually loving what I am doing.... (just process that, those of you who have known me for longer than five minutes).  I am re-learning how to play the piano and how to nap. (more on me later)

Hunter has grown his hair out long again and has taken up occasional running.  In my humble opinion, mountain living looks damn good on him.  He lives and dies by ski season and the snowfall totals in Big and Little Cottonwood.  He has seen Phish seven times this year and is learning John Fahey's Christmas album on the guitar I gave him for for our 10th anniversary.

More About Me (and Squishy)!

For so long, I have truly felt as though I haven't had enough writing fodder to justify an entry here.  (Wait until you see the length of this one!)  I mean, there's really only so much you can say about moose mating, though trust me, I was so tempted.  However, there are a few things I'd love to send out to the masses.

Last May, after years of inexplicable knee pain, we discovered that I have a tumor in my knee.  Turns out, the tumor is the result of a condition called P.V.N.S. (I really can't ever remember what that stands for) PVNS occurs in 1 in 2 Million People.  It is a condition that causes chronic tumor growth in the lubricating fluids and tissues of your joints.  The tumors will eventually eat away the joint.  While you would think the ultimate solution here would be joint replacement, the tumors can actually come back and attach themselves to artificial joints as well.  SO.... your best option is to get a really phenomenal oncological orthopedic surgeon and hope that s/he is awesome enough to remove the tumor and then it's gone for many years or forever... Which is exactly what I did...  Because, I mean, less than 5% of these 1 in 2 million people who have this barrel of monkeys shows any signs of tumor regrowth at their 1 year MRI check.  Well fast forward to five months post op (Sept/Oct)- guess who is seriously working the hell out of these odds.  (And I, of course, live in a state with no lottery).  So my tumor is back, this one is actually larger than the first one and I have named it Squishy.  Why not?

So given Squishy's vehement perseverance and the fact that my leg is still recovering from the first surgery, I have started a three month round of chemotherapy in an effort to:

1) Keep the tumor from getting bigger between now and when my leg can handle another operation
2) Try to shrink the tumor so we have a better chance of removing 100% of it and preventing it's return
3) Kill. the. tumor.
4) Any combination of or variation on the above.

This "brand of chemo" is specifically targeted to patients with Leukemia.  It is a daily treatment that, in theory, can be sustained indefinitely.  This drug is traditionally well tolerated with minimal side effects.  I don't really have anything to compare it to but I can honestly say, Chemo. Sucks.

I started the treatments the week of Halloween.  The only way I know to effectively communicate my level of exhaustion to you is to tell you that I did not dress up, hand out candy or carve a pumpkin.  We did take Emerson trick-or-treating.  (and for what it's worth, we did carve a pumpkin sometime last week, it got smelly with a quickness but hey, pumpkins were carved, people)  Point being, so, so, so very tired.

At the start of week two, I had to make an impromptu trip to NC to kick off my new position at work.  One of the caveats with this medicine is that it causes you to retain everything to you put in your body.  The only way to combat that is to practically eliminate your sodium intake.  I'm eating less than 500 milligrams of sodium a day.  Stop what you are doing and go to your fridge or pantry.  Look at the sodium content of anything in there.  Weep with me.

The first thing I do when I get to North Carolina (besides drive past a Bo-Jangles, wailing, and immediately pick up a medium black dark roast from Cup-a-Joe - because coffee doesn't have sodium and God is still good) is head to my Grandmama's house for Sunday dinner.  God bless my Grandmother and her southern cooking.  That house smelled so damn good I practically melted standing in the threshold of the front door.  Sadly, her idea of low sodium cooking, along with every other Southern Grandmother worth her salt (ha. ha.), is to simply not add extra salt from the shaker to the vegetables that have been put up and cooked with country ham and cooked in chicken stock and butter (but Grandmama totally did skip the salt shaker, just for me).  I ate the salad greens and naked roast beef that she made just incase I couldn't eat her world famous chicken cordon bleu and was instead, fulfilled by catching up with family that I haven't seen in over a year.  There is always, always, a beacon of light near by when the darkness starts to settle.  The trick is having the will power to open your eyes.

I was able to spend one glorious night with one of my oldest and best and for several beautiful moments we felt like we were 22 years old, not 32 and the stress and responsibility that comes with that extra decade floated away like smoke drifting into oblivion from the front porch on an autumn night.  When she dropped me off at my hotel, she outfitted me with no-sodium oats, pumpkin butter, fruit, protein bars and all natural pumpkin macaroons (so I could cheat without really cheating) because this is what best friends do.  Again... that beautiful, shining light. So, armed with low-sodium love, I was left to engage the brand new dynamics of a ten-year seasoned career.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.  I think I have been back to the corporate office, where I cut my teeth (and contemplated a vein a time or two), twice in 5 years - it is always a bizarre mixture of gratitude to see familiar faces and the twitchiness that comes with visiting a place you have separated yourself from.  Much like going to a dysfunctional family reunion (I would imagine).

I walked in the front door to the office and was greeting by the warm, smiling face of our delightful, deeply southern, receptionist.  She glows with joy upon seeing me and exclaims "JULIE, GOOD MORNIN'!  I'M SO GLAD TO SEE YOU!!!  WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO HAVE ANOTHER BABY?!?!?!"
......   .....   .....  ......?


(*SIDE NOTE - I now live in the land of perpetual procreation.  Generally speaking, people in Utah are underwhelmed by your ability to reproduce and quite frankly, I suspect, are secretly hoping that you won't continue to add to our seemingly infinite sea of toddlers...I forget The South's deep desire to see their women happily married and producing rolely-poley offspring to continue on our treasured lineage)

So starts my day.  Within the first 2 hours of my prodigal return, I kid you not, I was asked if I was pregnant again yet or when I planned to be pregnant again no less than 7 times.  These people have never met the one magnificent child I do have.  Most of them probably don't even know her name.  I'm a little befuddled as to why that is the default question and not "Hey, how's Utah" or "So, excited about your new job?" of "How 'bout them Red Sox?".  I don't understand.  I finally found an empty office in which to hide as I started to fade from what I would soon learn was the beginning of a very unpleasant reaction to Chemotherapy.  As I was wilting, a friendly faced popped-in, took one look at me and said "are you okay, you don't look so good?'  I explained that I was feeling very tired to which she responded (you guessed it) "oh wow, are you pregnant?".


So at this point I, drag myself and my newly developed pregnancy complex to the break room where I reunite with all of the IT guys.  As I bid them farewell, fresh cup of coffee in hand, I hear them whispering "dude, how cool is it that she's still super hot?!?!".  Complex averted.  I love you, IT guys.

As the week progressed so did my exhaustion.  By Wednesday I was listening to a chorus of "wow, you look awful" and "what's the name of that cartoon dog with the humongous bags under his eyes?  You look like him".... (Hi Complex.  Back so soon?)

By Thursday morning my eyes were swelling, my skin was hurting and my feet were itching.  By the time I woke up on Friday to catch my flight, the fun was in full swing.  I looked like I had been stung by a bee and was covered in a full body rash.  You should google chemo rash.  Weep with me.

Given that it was 6:00 in the morning and my only means of transportation was the hotel shuttle, I consoled myself by deciding to travel in my pajamas and to buy some benedryl at the very first airport convenience store I could find.

I breezed through security with blessed efficiency (after all, when one is wearing pajamas there is much less to maneuver) and saw, the true american utopia gleaming in front of me... a huge store marked OVER THE COUNTER PHARMACY.  HALLELUJAH!

(Side note - you would think benedryl would be such a necessity that it would be passed out by flight attendants on airplanes along with peanuts.  People get twitchy when the travel, they get hives, they're surrounded by allergens (see peanuts) and recycled contaminated air.  There are children who need to be drugged, and adults who need to be drugged.  Benedryl can help with all of these things.  Guess what.  They don't sell benedryl in the airport.  I shit you not.)

So, it turns out, after much desperate searching the woman at the OVER THE COUNTER PHARMACY store had some topical benedryl-gel stuff which I bought out of sheer desperation, knowing that it would be no help so ever.  Before she agreed to sell it to me, however, she eyed my pitiful swollen, flaming, itchiness and made me swear to her that I would not drink the topical gel.  How's that for context?

I made my way to the gate and checked in for my flight.  The gate agent looked at me in horror and asked if I was okay, to which I responded, "You know, I could really use some benedryl... I'm having a mild reaction to some medication I'm taking.  Do you know where I can find some?"


Turns out the words "reaction to medication" are in the sacred text of TAA Officers under "Emergency Situation".  She, despite my extreme protestations, insisted on shoving me into a seat as far away from any human being as one can get in an airport and calling the airport police.... who called the airport medic team.... who called the Rex Hospital EMS.... who came flying down the jet way in an ambulance, lights, siren, the whole she-bang.  I was gently informed (from a safe distance) that I was going to miss my flight but that I would be re-booked somehow.  I gently responded in-kind by reminding her that all I wanted was a little, tiny, over the counter, benedryl capsule.  She looked at me with tremendous pity.  I resigned myself to the onslaught of uniforms.  Blood pressure, O2 Stats, temperature, death release form, etc. etc. The EMS medic finally opened his medicalcase and says ... wait for it... "Oh no, I only have one capsule left in here, I'm sorry but that will have to get you through (now that I won't be home for another 8 hours... thanks for that.  I make a mental note to re-nig on my promise to not drink the gel if things get too bad.)

I finally made it home 12 hours after my day began and drove straight to the acute care clinic where I was given steroids, PRESCRIPTION BENEDRYL (WOOT!) and thrush medication.  That's right, I forgot to mention that little gem.  Thrush!  Woot!

Over the course of the following week the rash subsided for the most part, the thrush seems to come and go and I've had a few other surprises not really appropriate for public consumption.  All in all, I'm half way through my third week and am grateful for each day that I seem to adjust a little more to my "new normal".  I've learned the hard way that caffeine and chemo don't mix.  Wine and chemo are SUCH A VERY BAD IDEA and not to make plans after 4:00 pm.

So I'm hoping Squishy is getting the message loud and clear and is feeling as uncomfortable as I am.  I'm trying to embrace modern medicine as a welcome necessity because I think that railing against it keeps it from doing what it needs to do.  I think a team mentality verses and adversarial mentality towards the chemo helps.  We do have the same goal, after all.  I'm forgiving myself for letting some things go and I'm learning to being gentle with myself emotionally, mentally and physically.  I'm trying to be better about asking for help when I need it.  I'm trying to take pride in the positive aspects of this new healthy lifestyle - like clear pee that doesn't smell like fresh roasted Sumatra.... what a novelty that is! (Beacon of light, baby!)

So that's the latest.  The reality is, I don't have cancer.  I know it could be be so much worse and is for so many.  This is livable.  It is a massive pain in the ass, it pisses me off, it is, at a minimum, extremely inconvenient and uncomfortable - but it is livable.

I will try to keep you posted on this bizarre road that I'm on so that you can either laugh or cry with me. I'm hoping we'll do some of both together.

Love and hugs and processed foods and cheesy, salty goodness to all!


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Waking up EXACTLY where I don't want to be - the perfect place at the perfect time - for Dylan, Jake, Ann Marie, their Families, Aurora and Newton P. D., et. al., infinity.

This morning I woke up at about 5:30 AM with time to kill in my LasVegas hotel room. 

I swore off of cable TV news and morning shows long ago, primarily in an effort to triage the influx of hysteria into my already overstimulated psyche.   As an alternative, I listen to an internet music provider or my hometown NPR Station, 2,200 miles and currently 3 time zones away.  Over my $34 dollar pair of poached eggs, english muffin and liter of coffee (that’s right, it was 34 dollars, I prefer my eggs poached and I’m going for the full liter with not a drop to spare- you read all of that right – Vegas.) the BBC so eloquently provided the soothing white noise that can only be provided by a British radio news anchor.
All of a sudden, the voice on the airwave was no longer British, she was American. The voice belonged to Nicole Hockley, the mother of Jake and Dylan Hockley of Newtown, CT and she was telling the story of her boys.  Jake is 8 years old and was a student of Sandy Hook Elementary.  He can't sleep at night because he keeps asking when the shooting is going to happen again and no one can really answer him.  His little brother Dylan was 6 years old before he was found shot to pieces, what was left of him was cradled lovingly in his teacher’s arms, surrounded by other children hidden in a school supply closet.

I know that was hard to read, I’m sorry.   It was hard to type.  It was even harder to stop the gut wrenching sobs that had me doubled over out of nowhere this morning as I was eating my breakfast, watching the Nevada sunrise over the mountains on the outskirts of Sin City.  Listening to Nicole, a primal surge of simple shared, human pain just wrenched me out of nowhere and I found myself sobbing with a level of emotion that I have not experienced in recent memory.  

As deeply as I felt the impact of what happened in that small town several weeks ago, as much as I thought I had talked through and processed my feelings and reactions and emotions, with friends, family and the rest of the nation, I was completely unprepared for this innate emotional response to hearing a mother tell the story of her two sons and their teacher, Anne Marie Murphy.

It’s possible that I would have had the same reaction in the sanctuary of my own home in Salt Lake City, (not-so-arguably the nation’s strongest advocate for unlimited access to unlimited weapon ownership).  It’s also possible that I would have had the same reaction on a business trip in, say, Chicago (I believe the Nation’s leader in gun related violence and homicide), which is where I was the Monday after the Newtown shooting.  I will forever remember sitting in my Chicago hotel room, breaking my self-imposed cable news ban, tuned in with rapt attention to CNN’s broadcast of the interfaith service held in Newtown.  I will never forget listening to the local Newtown Rabbi chant, hauntingly, beautifully in a language that I don't understand a song of mourning so poignant that it seemed to be a cry from God himself. But I wasn't home and I wasn't somewhere else - I was here, in Las Vegas listening to Nicole.

I pulled myself together, pushed aside my breakfast, put on my brand new logoed shirt, specifically designed for the SHOT Show, opted for the pencil eyeliner in lieu of liquid, given the circumstances, and went down 22 floors to face somewhere around 70 THOUSAND of America’s most enthusiastic weapons enthusiasts.    There is no possible way for me to convey to you in words the level of inner conflict and self-loathing that I was trying to process between those 22 floors.  When I came down an additional escalator and had a bird’s-eye-view of a sea of human beings being guided by cocktail waitresses holding huge bright orange signs in the shapes of rifle scopes and targets, only those unfortunates who have experienced the joy that is a panic attack will be able to somewhat relate.

BUT HERE’S THE THING!  I spent my day in a section of the show that is exclusively targeted  to active duty law enforcement and active duty military.  8 hours, not one comment on gun rights.  Not one mention of politics, speeches, reactions, NRA, President Obama, liberalism, conservatism, or the Second Amendment.  THOUSANDS of individuals; not a word. This, as the NRA is literally across the hall, simultaneously launching an epic, internationally covered, public relations response to President Obama’s call for weapons reform.  Not one peep. 

I outfitted hundreds patrolmen, squadrons, S.W.A.T, and Medics all day long with ballistics protection, soft body armor, hard body armor, tourniquet casings, and emergency response kits  with the hopes of keeping them alive and giving them better tools to help them keep their brothers alive.  Brothers….  Brothers…  There are Jake and Dylan again.   

I spent 30 minutes talking to two adorable twenty-something police officers from Aurora, CO about a piece of $50.00 gear that their departments couldn't afford to provide.  Without thinking, I jumped on the geography of Aurora, given its proximity to UT, before I realized what I was doing.  These guys did not want to talk about the fact that they were form Aurora.  They just needed better functioning gear.  They just wanted to do their jobs.  They just wanted to not be from Aurora.

In Julie’s dream world, the one where its totally cool for me to refer to myself in the 3rd person, I have a pet donkey and live in a 200 year old colonial home on the coast with an unlimited supply of Sumatra coffee, and farm acres of lavender, there are no guns and every decision that we make as human beings, states, and nations is motivated by the furthering peace and love.   Sadly, Hunter can't stand it when I refer to myself in the 3rd person, I don’t think donkeys like cold weather and we just bought a 5 year old house in Park City where the altitude doesn't even let you grow so much as an onion.  Guns exist and so does snow and new construction.  I understand and accept these things, and this is not meant to be my proposal to impose my brilliant liberal solution to this problem.  I don’t use this blog much lately, much to my chagrin, but its name is fortuitous.  This is where I ultimately go find myself – a safe place to wrestle with these Shades of Gray.  In my heart, I know I will never own a gun.  That is a conscious, well-thought out, highly discussed and considered decision that we have come to together as a family for a variety of legitimate reasons that apply to us as an individual unit.  Does that mean you shouldn't undergo the same analysis and be allowed come to a different conclusion?  No, not really – to a point…

I found myself about every hour or so throughout today drifting off with thoughts of Dylan.  And then a young man would walk up to me and ask me very politely to direct him towards a piece of equipment that will better his chances of staying alive while he devotes his energy, time and life to keeping the next six year old little boy and his teacher from ending up in pieces – to keeping all of us from ending up a 30 second sound bite in a never ending news cycle of decimated carnage.  And while I’m trying to be engaging and jovial and informative… while I’m slipping this young man from Aurora (who would rather be anyone than “that young man from Aurora”) a “sample” from the booth display that I know will give him better, quicker, more reliable access to the comparatively tiny little magazines in his standard issue Beretta, the NRA is across the hall arming anyone and everyone as fast as they possibly can with bigger guns and more ammo. 

I’m going to sleep tonight hoping that today, I advised someone in Military/Law Enforcement towards a piece of equipment strong or efficient enough to stand up against the pin that was pulled out of the grenade across the hall by the NRA.  We have, under the same roof, orchestrated heaven for the misunderstood loaners, riled up and teetering on the edge, looking for a deal to purchase via private transaction semi-automatic weapons and at the same time consolidated resources for the heroes who will stand in the line of fire while working to get that same weapon off of the street so that it doesn't do what it was designed to do - kill someone.  These guys shop gear, not because its cool but so they can realize their goal of seeing their son graduate from high school.  I have to imagine that a few of those guys were thinking about Dylan today too.  And Jake.  And Nicole.  And Anne Marie.  And next time.   

More Information on the Hockley Family’s outreach can be found here:  here:
I Promise to honor the 26 lives lost at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  
I Promise to do everything I can to encourage and support common sense solutions that make my community and our country safer from similar acts of violence.”

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Amendment One - Work with me through this one.

I am an unapologetic social liberal BUT… I am doing my best temper that fact for the purposes of a hopefully diverse audience so that I might appeal to you all.  However, at the same time, I realize that this is not entirely realistic.  That said, let's see if we can marry our perspectives for a moment and see if we can find a common ground because this is important.  I believe in the rights of all men and all women of all races, all colors and all creeds to live their lives as they choose.  I believe in the rights of all people to be free to live and to love in the purest capacity they they possibly can.  I believe that this freedom to pursue a truth of spirit and of soul… that this is the ultimate goal for all of humanity - to be true to our most honest selves.  Many people believe in a more rigid, prescribed code that interprets this ethos differently.  It would be hypocritical for me to condemn those whose beliefs and moral codes are in opposition to mine or to try to force my world view upon them given my previous statement.  While I don't personally subscribe to an interpretation of ethics that can be boiled down to a simple right and wrong or sin and righteousness, I acknowledge that that perspective exists and I know that this chasm is great and my words are more than likely not powerful enough to bridge such a vast divide.

So this is who I am.  These are my values.  They are set in stone for me and I can not imagine a scenario in this life that could possibly change them.  There is little chance, no matter who you are or how long I've known you or what life experiences we have shared that they are exactly the same as yours.  Here's the thing;  THAT'S OKAY.  I have this belief structure and it is so important to me that I feel a soul-wrenching obligation to live a life and to raise a child who, God willing, will share and reflect these things that I hold sacred.  I fully expect and respect your right and responsibility to do the same.  Perhaps, with patience and open hearts and love  we will fortify intelligent discussion and rational arguments that will allow us to grow together to be an increasingly self-realized people.  So this is our mantle and we wear it every single day of our lives.  We do this because it is important, it is critical and it is who we are.  I acknowledge all of this.  What I don't acknowledge and what I hope will give you pause, is a need for political legislation to affirm my belief structure.

This afternoon, I spoke to a dear friend whom I love deeply.  This friend is about as conservative as conservative gets.  I typically dance on pin heads to avoid political discourse with this friend because we are so very diametrically opposed.  Going out on a limb, I said, "I hope you will vote against Amendment One" (for those of you reading not in NC, this is  a very high profile amendment that will eliminate rights of same-sex partners and all civil unions).  I braced myself.  This friend responded with something to the effect of the following "You know, this country was founded by the most brilliant minds that have ever existed and the constitution that they created, founded on Christian values of course, is the most amazing document every created.  It is perfection.   I embrace the Founding Father's ideals and I believe that they were Christian men founding a nation on Christian values and they did a damn good job of it.  I am sick to death of politicians trying to corrupt something that is so inherently pure."  

Politically, this friend and I could not have less in common and that's okay.  We agree to disagree, we have lively debate and we respect each other as intellectuals and human beings.  He lives up to his responsibility to live his life according to his beliefs and I try to do the same.  He will likely be voting against Amendment One. 

Here's my point:  I believe in the rights of human beings to love and to live in the best way they they can and advocate for those rights given any opportunity.  From my perspective, God knows this world needs all of the love it can stand, so I will do everything in my power to raise my daughter, who will grow up in an essentially theocratic state which is as conservative as it gets, to respect and hopefully share those same values; That's really all can do but I don't need legislation to tell me that's right for me; I know it in my heart and in my soul.  I don't need legislation to make me feel more secure about my beliefs and I can honestly tell you, no legislation is going to make me feel less secure or doubt what my heart tells me to be true. 

If you are opposed to same-sex couples sharing the rights of couples who have a traditional marriage, that's obviously where your world view has taken you and its unlikely that any statistic or scenario that I could throw at you is going to change that.  Its also your personal belief and not mine.  Obviously that's fine and its your responsibility to live accordingly, to raise your children accordingly, and to make sure that your actions and your contributions to our society reflect that belief structure.  I champion your right to do so.  It is your God given right to exercise your freedoms in this way.  Utilizing this freedom to further restrict the freedoms of others, however is incredibly counter-intuitive.   Trying legislate morality and legislate belief structures is a basic cry of insecurity and frankly, hysteria.  We have so many crosses to bear as human beings.  There are so many people who suffer from hate and abuse and neglect - lets focus on building each other up instead of wasting our time with personal insecurities to break each other down.  

All I ask is that you think about your own responsibility to be accountable for your own morality before you cop-out in an attempt to legislate it for those who dissent.  Minds and hearts will not change.  People will continue to live their lives as they see fit and when its all said and done all that will have been accomplished is an excess of unnecessary red tape, state legal fees, and an era of divisiveness with less and less hope of resolution and reconciliation.  Less love.  More hate.  Please think before you vote for Amendment One.  As a parting note - if you can't get over the gay marriage things, here are a few other points to ponder:   

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Turns out my latte is not pregnant. Whew!

So, I'm back on the road and true to form adventure and hilarity are keeping me company on what would otherwise be a very lonely trek across the United States.  I'm used to the security circus.  Enough loops through the hoops and you get the hang of the monkey dance.  Belt off, liquids appropriately sized, shoes off, hole in sock... cold, dirty floor, don't think about it... just keep moving.   I have even procured the mother of all carry-ons.  This thing is a BEAST.  Its a roller bag that converts into a back pack.  It fits under the seat, in the overhead and down the aisle and I'm pretty sure I can get at least 3 days of travel out of it...maybe more.  It has pockets for kindle, ipod, cell phone, passport, chap stick. It even has a detachable clear bag for the infamous 3oz liquids.  To describe my relationship with this bag as a love affair is an understatement.  To seal the deal... FLIGHT ATTENDANTS drool over this bag.  I. Love. This.  Bag.  So, yes, I have no qualms about zipping up to the "professional traveler" line and yes, I'm that jerk who looks at you with total disdain if you forget to take your change out of your pocket.  I am that person. All that said, I experienced a whole new level of violation and intrusion from the FAA today.

My typical routine leaves me 30 minutes for security, 10 minutes for starbucks, 5 minutes for bathroom, 5 minutes to make absolutely sure I'm in the right place and 10 minutes to breathe before getting on the plane.  This morning, my routine was perfectly executed.  I had just wrapped up my 10 minutes of breathing time and was beginning the boarding process when I was stopped by an absolutely ridiculous FAA agent wearing goggles and what looked like a chemistry set strapped to her back.  Let me tell you something.... An FAA agent who looks like she's moonlighting with the CDC is NOT something you want to see ambling toward you as you're about to board an aircraft.  This rogue lab tech approached me, pulled me out of line, and proceeded to- brace yourself- proceeded to give my triple skinny latte a pregnancy test.  Not kidding.  She whipped a little test strip out of her science kit, hovered it over my coffee, "tested the vapors" and then we waited for the results.  Fortunately, for all of us, my coffee was not pregnant.

Really, FAA?  You didn't violate me enough when I came in?  You have to continue to harass me after I have run your gambit and jumped through all of your ridiculous hoops with flawless execution?  Its bad enough that every time I go to the airport I have to leave a half of a pot of coffee on the counter and wait the dark and dreaded 30 minutes before I can throw myself at the mercy of the corporate machine and wait for them to feed my addiction; now I have to worry about not only the proverbial levels of toxicity in my cup-a-corporate but the literal levels of toxicity as well?  Can't you just hang out behind the line and test the vapors as they come out of the drip?  Lord knows, they could use an extra body back there.  

Once we determined that my latte was only harming my soul (and wallet) and was not an agent of death and destruction.  I was allowed to board the plane and am now in lovely Minneapolis.  What a great and underrated city!  Thanks to a shout out on facebook, I was directed to a truly phenomenal local brew pub and enjoyed some exceptional craft brew as well as a moderately life changing almond butternut squash bisque and the best sweet potato fries I have ever had.  I'm staying in the heart of Minneapolis right next to a tiny little coffee shop called Dunn Brother's coffee located in the basement of a stone building built in 1887.  Granted, I walked 4 blocks out of the way in the absolutely FREEZING Minnesota night air to procure this lovely Americano but in the end, I realized that the theme of today penance.  Penance for subsisting on soulless caffeine.

The good news is, I'm pretty sure I'm square with the house.  Cheers to you!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

An Appeal to the Angels of our Better Nature - A blog on the Defense of Marriage Act

The planets have officially aligned.  Its Friday afternoon, work was light, Emerson requested a late afternoon nap, and we are having a very rare Salt Lake rain shower that is seriously whetting our whistle for the impending Autumn here in the Wasatch front.  What a truly magnificent start to the weekend... and I'm about to launch into something very ... uncomfortable.

This week, in particular, I've been thinking a lot about people.  And culture.  I've been extremely disturbed by recent political developments in my home state of North Carolina this week.  NC passed legislation that brings the state that much closer to passing the Defense of Marriage Act, which, as I'm sure you know, specifically defines marriage as an institution between exclusively one man and one woman.  As I'm sure you also know, this legislation aims to bar many of our neighbors, friends and loved ones from legally entering into the one of the most basic and true expressions of human love and partnership: Marriage - which  is ideally a loving partnership of two consenting adults who want to spend their lives together loving and growing in unity (and all of the institutional benefits (and drawbacks as the case may be)) that go along with it.  

While, I fear that my feelings on this issue are so impassioned that I will not be able to adequately articulate them on the page, I need to throw this out. I've struggled with whether or not this blog is a waste of time and breath but someone was kind enough to point out to me yesterday that even if it falls on deaf ears, we have a responsibility to check in and be present when we feel things are going off course.  So I write this if for no other reason then, I feel I have a responsibility as a mother, an advocate, and a member of the human race to do so.

The way I see this, the issue breaks down into three pieces - legality, religiosity, morality.  Let's ease into this:

In its most basic essence, a marriage certificate issued by the State, is binding legal contract between two individuals.  The contract is not signed or sanctioned by the church any more any other legal document -  a birth certificate, death certificate, or for that matter, a state tax return.  I find it interesting that the symbol of our justice system is a blind fold.  When it comes to basic contractual law, on which I am admittedly no expert, morality, religious doctrine, sex, or social status, play no roll.  I'd love to expound on this point but the truth is, from a purely technical perspective, its pretty simplistic.   Questions of personal religion and personal ethics have no place in a legal contract issued by a non-theocratic state and to introduce them corrupts the very necessary black and white (gasp!) protection and responsibility that a contract is designed to provide.

Now the hard stuff:
As much as we'd like to say the bible is clear on homosexuality, the truth is - its really not.  As I am so passionate about this issue, I've spent a lot of time researching this.  Yes, there are two Old Testament passages about homosexuality being unclean: one in Corinthians I 6: 9-10 and one in Leviticus.  The Corinthians passage simultaneously calls out idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, drunkards, slanderers, and swindlers in addition to homosexuals.  Last time I checked idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, drunkards, slanderers and swindlers can all still get married, bless their poor spouses... I'll be honest while I haven't encountered any male prostitutes, I can name pretty much someone in every other category that is legally married in the eyes of the state.  The Leviticus passage (20: 13) simply calls for a man who lies with a man to be put to death.  I ask with a mild attempt at hyperbole, "while we're at, it where do you draw the line at your literal interpretation of the scripture?" 

In the new testament, Paul also mentions the sin of homosexuality in his letter to the Romans.  I could go into the context of Paul's letter to the Romans and explain my understanding of how the politics, audience and circumstance of the time in which he was writing shaped his message, but that's another blog.  The real point is, Jesus Christ, in whom most of the people driving this legislation profess their faith, never mentions the issue of homosexuality in his teachings.  Ever.  Not one time.  He does, however, have quite a bit to say about loving one another, and about treating each other with fairness, and kindness, and humility.  In fact, he built his ministry on these teachings.  He talks about all of  humanity being equal in the eyes of God from the lowliest among us to the most fortunate - the lowliest, in fact, being more favorable in the eyes of God. He talks about forgiveness and not casting stones.  He gives us one of the most simple and one of the most challenging directives ever issued to human kind- Love thy neighbor.   

I understand that faith and religion are very personal things and there are probably no two people on the planet who have the exact same interpretation of their faith.  I understand that people believe what they believe and I respect that very much.  What I don't respect is when others try to force their personal interpretation of what is holy and what is not upon the general population.  What I view as an abomination is people who use faith and religion as a weapon to create hate, to create an "other", and to punish their fellow man. 

There's a fine line between religiosity and morality.  When I say morality I am specifically referring to the argument that homosexuality is a "choice" or that it can be "cured" like a disease.  To be honest, I don't really understand how this argument is the slightest bit relevant.  I quite frankly view it as a cop-out and a distraction that people hide behind so that they don't have to address more difficult questions.  I disagree with these perceptions of homosexuality (as does science) but I also always come back to the question of "does it matter?"  In a free society, whether an individual chooses to share their life and love with someone of the same sex or of a different sex should not make them more or less entitled to the same rights as every other citizen in the United States.

So there's my 2 cents, my soap box if you want to call it that.  I know that it might not line up with the ideals of 100% of my readership, but I hope you will respect my need to speak out on an issue that is incredibly important to me and I hope that you will take the time to consider a different perspective on this divisive issue that, in one way or another, effects our human conscience.  Whenever I think about this issue, I always hear the below quotation from one of history's most admirable leaders spoken in another time but a time also wrought with difficult questions of unity and freedom and equality:

"I am loth to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stre[t]ching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature." 
~Abraham Lincoln

We've done it before and I hope as a nation we can again find the strength and courage to appeal to the better angels of our nature.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


I was fortunate enough to encounter this blessing/poem last night which, as I understand it, is an old Celtic blessing that has been revised by John O'Donohue (whom I had not heard of until this poem).  Regardless, I found it to be incredibly beautiful and was moved by its simple rhythm, emphasis on natural strength and beauty and the sense of stillness and peace that it seems to communicate.  I hope you enjoy!

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.
And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.
When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.
May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

~ John O'Donohue ~
(Echoes of Memory)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

This life... so far... THE ESSENTAILS

So, I seriously wrote the best blog the other day.  It was my "come back blog" if you will.  It was an ode to Emerson's 15 month birthday (so it was several weeks ago), but it wasn't really about Emerson, it was a list of things I've learned about myself over the past 15 months.  I wrote it on a flight to somewhere.  I'm sure it was to the East Coast, as that's where I've spent most of my summer and it was a rather lengthy and well thought out blog, which requires several hours of uninterrupted focus which, lets face it, is only available when I'm encapsulated in a vessel with no child, vacuum (yeah I don't really spend that much time with the vacuum), or Internet connection (read: work email).  So I wrote it and then I wanted to spend some time editing it and then my hard drive crashed in an epic sort of way… and now its gone.  Frankly, I hadn't planned to recreate it but… look what I did:

1.  You are the sum of the parts that are formed when you're not paying attention
This parenting thing, man - seriously, its no joke.  I find myself saying, sometimes apologetically, the following words "I'm doing the best I can, there's really no instruction manual for this".  What I'm finding though, is that the most important aspect of parenting is not so much your cumulative approach to discipline, or what you allow your child to watch on TV, or whether you breastfeed for x number of month/years or whether or not you let your child "cry it out" or "co-sleep".  Its what you do on a lazy Saturday morning.  Its how you shape your family dinners.  Its bed time stories, lullabies and goodnight kisses. Its going for a walk around the block when you don't have the energy for the orchestrated play date (I'm so bad at play dates) .  Where am I going with this?  I have come to realize I can analyze and second guess those big picture parenting decisions and read all of the books that I want to, but where I am really driving home my hopes and expectations for my daughter and for my family is during the times when I'm not necessarily thinking about it.  It really is the little things, not the big things, that set the tone of this life - that define our value structure.  I'm not saying I have figured this out or that I have answers, in fact, I'm saying that I haven't and that I don't - BUT…. what I do know for a fact is that a 9 a.m. pajama dance party to the Allman Brothers and Van Morrison laced with maple syrup, black coffee, and bare feet is as important, if not more so than how we approach any of these other big picture parenting decisions.  Granted, it can't be all fun all the time - obviously.  Sometimes the little things are the things that you let go, its an argument with your partner or spouse that you pass on because in the scheme of life, it really doesn't matter.  Its making the decision to pass on that extra hour of work even though you really need to put it in.  Sometimes, its the decision to put in for the extra hour for the sake of sanity.  Its declaring, "today is going to be a movie day because I just don't have it in me for anything else".  It's dragging yourself out of bed to volunteer when you all you want to do is stay in pajamas and have breakfast.  The point is, for what its worth, there's truly not much in the life that can't be fixed by banana pancakes, good music, and fresh air.  The point is, this world can be overwhelming and can absolutely bleed you dry and if I can raise a loving human being who is grounded enough to value the simplicity of a Saturday morning, well then… its a small thing, but I'll count it as a win.

2.  Plugging In.
I mentioned volunteering.  Obviously, the week of Emerson's birth is burned into my brain.  One of the things that happened that week was the gulf oil spill and several coincidental subsequent local oil spills in local parks and wild life refuges.  It was a very emotional time for me as you might imagine, and bringing a new human into this world that seemed to be drowning in the residue of assault left me feeling this massive sense of responsibility.  Here I was, in my rocking chair, shielded by lullabies, warm and comfortable with more food and clothing for my healthy child than I knew what to do with.  For the first time in my life I felt the true meaning and frankly the true weight of being "blessed".  That feeling was heavy because it came with the weight of fortune in the face of the people around me who were hungry, cold, sick, suffering.  I felt a sense of obligation that I have never before felt in my life.  It was so overwhelming it was almost paralyzing.  Since then, I have become a regular volunteer at a local food pantry.  Its a very small thing (on my behalf - the pantry itself is a PHENOMENAL resource).  I try to volunteer every other Saturday morning for a few hours.  To be frank, I started volunteering here as a response to this new found sense of obligation.  Since then, the pantry has become a service to me.  The Saturday mornings that I drag myself out of bed and into the shower instead of lazing around and having breakfast with my family are painful… until I get there.  What I have found is that I get as much out of those Saturday mornings behind the line of the pantry as anyone on the other side of the counter.  I am a part of my community.  I am a part of this world.  I am better for it, my perspective changes, my world view is altered, I am grounded.  I am a better person and a better mother when I plug in to my community.  What's crazy is, it has very little to do with having or not having or volunteering and charity - its all about plugging in and experiencing the world around you in the best way that you can.  

3.  Be true to who you are, not who you think you should be
This is probably the most difficult.  It seems like the moment you announce that you are pregnant you become public property.  Suddenly strangers on the street feel perfectly justified in telling you what you should and should not do for the health of yourself and the health of your baby.  There is a never ending stream of spoken and unspoken judgement that doesn't appear to end once the child is born.  Example:  How much weight you gain, whether or not you advocate natural child birth, breast feeding, length of maternity leave, decisions about child care, baby food, discipline, potty training… it. is. un. believable.  I have decided the following: Almost every mother you will ever encounter is doing the absolute best that she can.  Support her.  I made the decisions that I felt were the best for me, my family, and my baby and I feel good about them.  I have to remind myself of that somewhat regularly though, not just for peace of mind, but to keep myself from slipping down the proverbial rabbit hole as it were.  For example, I chose to maintain a job that has me traveling away from home about 50% of the time.  This is can be incredibly difficult for me and for my family BUT - this job also allows me to work from home and keep a flexible schedule.  I also (yeah, I'm going to say it) enjoy travel.  That does not make me a bad mother (I say that more for me than for you).  The truth is, I need a change of scenery sometimes.  I need 4 hours on an airplane to read a book or write.  I need 3 hours in a car to listen to guilty pleasure music, get lost, and take pictures of fields of wild flowers or pretty barns… because this is who I am.  Its tough, because who I am doesn't always jive with what is ideal for my family but I feel like if I chip away at these things, I'm not jiving with my family anyway.  These things are difficult to balance and I'm still figuring it out myself but one thing I do know is that I'm a better mother, wife, and person when I'm being honest with myself… and that's the best I can do.

4.  Love Yourself -
 Sense a little conflict in #3?  Yeah, balance isn't easy or intuitive.  I'm a work in progress and I'm more ok with that now that I ever have been.  There are so many things I wish I was better about - I wish I did more exciting things with Emerson, I feel like we should spend more time going to parks and the pool and the zoo.  I wish I made more time for exercise.  I wish I had more self discipline.  I wish I could stay up later.  I wish I could for once in my freaking life beat Hunter and scrabble… The list… is… long…  The truth is, Emerson and I have fun dancing and walking around the block.  I'm exercising more now than I ever have in my life.  I've made a lot of progress with the self discipline thing and you know what, indulgence is a part of life.  I get up a 5 a.m. so that's something and, well, Hunter has it coming.  Its like the little voice in my head that is always nagging me has been given a megaphone.  I read this great book though called "My Stroke of Insight" which explains that voice in a very physiological way.  It also explains how that voice is controllable and that its presence is component of the left hemisphere of our brains and that we voluntarily let it into our thoughts or make the choice to quiet it.  Since reading this book, I've gotten much better and telling that little voice to stuff it and choosing to focus more on my progress and achievements instead.  Its a daily battle, but its at least its an active battle and not a passive assault.

5.  Frustration -
My hesitation in publishing this the first time was, I don't want to this to read "preachy".  Like I've got it all figured out.  I wish I could communicate how far from the truth that is.  I see, in an abstract way what seems to be workable for my family and what doesn't but implementing it and remembering it every day is another matter entirely.  I find myself more and more frustrated as this journey continues and I'm trying to figure out why.  Is it just because I'm tired?  Is it because its impossible to be all things to all people all the time?  Is it because I don't make enough time for myself?  Is it because I don't make enough time for my family?  Is it because I sleep too much?  Don't eat well enough?  Do we have too many pets (trust me, with 2 dogs and a cat, you think these things!).  Another dynamic is that I spend A LOT of time in my head, working from home tends to make you excessively introspective.  I was bouncing this off of an incredible friend who knows me inside and out earlier tonight and his response was simple.  "Write".  Duh.  This has always been my outlet, my forum, and my connection and without it… well… that's a big void.  So here I am.  I've recycled the lost blog as true to form as I can get it.  A "state of things" if you will.  So I hope this will be a jumping off point.  Winter is just around the corner here in Salt Lake City and a beach combing southerner trying to navigate 3 feet of snow is always good fodder if nothing else.   Thanks for your ear, for your time, and for your support.  That said…

6.  You -
if you're reading this, any sanity that I've found in the past 17 months is attributed in no small part to you… my friends, my family, and even my network of people who I haven't seen in years but have shared kindness, experience, and encouragement.  Its true, it takes a village and in this day in age, its a big, scattered, hodgepodge village, but a village all the same.  Thank you.