Thursday, July 30, 2009

There are two new lizard eaters in the Lizard Eater home


My friend, Witch Goddess, "whispered" in a feral cat, on the "catch, spay, and release" plan. "This cat is lactating," announced her vet. So she beat the bushes, found the kittens, and whispered them in. We took 2 of 3, two sisters, whom my kids have named Tabitha and Sookie.

I think this has been the longest time in my life I've been without a cat. Our 18 year old cat died, and then LW was rediagnosed, so not really the right time to get a new kitty.

They're pretty skittish, but getting lots of love. Tabitha (stripey one) is curled up inside my shirt right now. Hey, this attachment parenting stuff still comes in handy.

No.

I will not be breastfeeding them.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Taking my Prejudice Pulse

I agree with Eric Holder that we're so afraid to talk about racism, we miss out on helpful conversations. So I'll throw out an inner dialogue from my life:

Crossing the parking lot yesterday, a car rolled up to me. "Can you help me?" asked a 30ish black man, in an well-worn tshirt and a do-rag.

"Yes," I said, not moving forward.

He held out a piece of paper. "Do you know where this is?"

I moved closer, so I could read it. It had the address of the hospital/medical offices I'd just been in. I gave what I hoped was a comforting smile (because it is confusing, it had stressed me out earlier) and told him it was right there; the offices were part of the hospital. He thanked me and drove off.

Walking away, I thought about the short interaction; specifically, my response to him.

The fact that I did not immediately get closer to the car was intentional. My children walk to school and this is something we drill into them -- if a car pulls over to talk to you, do NOT go closer to the car. Be wary, be alert.

I take the same advice. At a few of the grocery stores near us, women have been robbed in the parking lots. And in the past year, a woman was forced into a car; her body was found a week later.

I don't believe in living in fear, convinced that every person is ready to do you harm. My life is far more pleasant if I assume, until proven otherwise, that everyone is a friend. But I leave some space. And I tell my children to pay attention to their instincts. Especially as women, we often are taught to ignore our instincts. "Don't get off the elevator when your internal alarm is ringing. That would be rude."

"Would you have acted differently if he were white?" I queried myself.

I thought about that. I mentally saw a white guy of the same age, old tshirt, do-rag or gimme cap. No, I don't think so. Same wariness.

I mentally retraced my steps. The windows weren't tinted, so when I saw that he was alone, that was when I began moving forward.

Okay, class test. What if he were wearing a suit and tie?

Hmm. Okay, got me. Not sure I would have moved forward any faster, but wouldn't have been as deliberately wary.

What if he were old?

Guilty. Would have moved forward a lot faster.

Color matter?

Black man in tie and suit ... black old man ... no, I believe it would have been the same. No halo over my head, it's just that I have a different set of experiences. My favorite professor is black. The majority of my classmates are black. My pal R bears a startling resemblance in size and appearance to Michael Clarke Duncan. What if he'd been Mexican, in a low rider? Hmm. Not sure. I don't think it would have been different. I keep going back to the fact that it was a single person in the car. If there had been a woman in the car with him, probably not much change. If it had been two men, probably a little more caution. Three men? Probably would have had Danger Danger Will Robinson! in my head. I mean, why would three men be going to the doctor together? ("It's hard enough to get one man to go," she cackles, the sexist piglet.)

Even after going through the exercise, there is no final judgment. Just an urge to keep checking my reflexes.

It is a challenge, being a woman. So many of us are raised to be afraid. It is easy to turn your life into "Defensive Living." Watch what you wear. Where you go. Who you're friendly to.

So, I try to find a balance. Smile at strangers (this is what we do in the south), but keep my finger on the alarm button when walking to my car at 10 pm. Be equitable in my caution.

So, I may need to be a little more cautious around those suit and tie types. It could be the Preppy Killer. Or, you know, an insurance salesman.


Lizard Eater apologizes to the insurance salesmen she has made fun of. And men who don't go to doctors. Speaking of, Husband, have you made your appointment?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

PSA

I had an appointment with a dermatologist this morning. Two suspicious mole-looking things.

I have to confess ... I should have gone a lot sooner, but I allowed life to get in the way. All the steps ... find the login information for my insurance, find a doctor on my plan, make an appointment, well, I procrastinated.

I was lucky. I left with a "looks fine to me," and an appointment to go back on a regular followup schedule.

Let me tell you about my dad.

He and my Mom go to the dermatologist every 6 months. They strip down and she goes over every square inch. A few years ago, in taking several of the little suspicious areas that a person who has lived in the sun their whole lives develops, she took a bit from my father's back. "I'm not really sure I should send this in," she admitted. But she did. And this, the least suspicious looking freckle, turned out to be malignant melanoma. The bad one. The one that can kill you.

She referred him to the best of the best. They removed it. They tested his lymph nodes and ran him through several tests. Result: no need for further treatment. They got it all.

This spring, routine check, they found another spot, this time on his arm. Unrelated to the first one. Removed it, did the pathology. Malignant melanoma, but with clean margins. No need for further treatment.

This is what can happen with early detection. EARLY DETECTION. They find it, remove it, and that's it. No chemo. No radiation. No death.

So consider this your message from the universe. Make that appointment you've been procrastinating on. Get in the habit. Hopefully, you'll be like me, walking to your car, thinking, "Huh. That's a load off my mind."

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Synchronicities

About a week ago, my parents were out on their driveway when they smelled something foul. They looked around, went and raised the door of my father's workshop, where the smell seemed to be coming from.

My father looked down -- the smell was from a dead snake. My mother had been out there a couple of days before, lowered the door, and without knowing it, crushed the head of a rattlesnake, its rattles raised.

"Mom!" my sister exclaimed, when they spoke about it, "You've got to be more careful, you've got to be more aware."

(I simply pointed out to Mom that it's good that God takes care of fools and children for which she heartily agreed.)

Sunday morning, as I was preparing for church, I got a phone call. It was my father. My mother had been in the hospital since midnight. Earlier in the day, she'd been dizzy and her teeth ached. She sat down and felt too tired to stand up. She knew that for women, a symptom of heart attack can be tooth or jaw pain. She chewed an aspirin, the best way to take it in that situation. She took her blood pressure. It was fine, but her pulse was racing. She told my father, "We'd better go to the hospital."

She was having what turned out to be a minor heart attack.

She's home now, and doing fine. They've got her on all kinds of drugs, and a heart monitor is on its way.

During this time with her in the hospital, the hours of procedures on her end, waiting for a phone call on my end, I was uploading all of our cds to an external hard drive, rediscovering old friends. I found Kate Bush's This Woman's Work.

I played it. I wept.

Pray God you can cope.
I stand outside this woman's work,
This woman's world...
I know you have a little life in you yet.
I know you have a lot of strength left.
I know you have a little life in you yet.
I know you have a lot of strength left.

I should be crying, but I just can't let it show.
I should be hoping, but I can't stop thinking

Of all the things I should've said,
That I never said.
All the things we should've done,
That we never did.
All the things I should've given,
But I didn't.

Oh, darling, make it go,
Make it go away.

Give me these moments back.
Give them back to me.
Give me that little kiss.
Give me your hand...
All the things that you needed from me.
All the things that you wanted for me.
All the things that I should've given,
But I didn't.

Oh, darling, make it go away.
Just make it go away now.

Over the years since retirement, my father has had two bouts of melanoma, a near stroke, various ailments that come with age. My mother - nothing. She is tall and slender, won't even eat butter on her toast, mows the yard, keeps the house.

Twice now, with my father, she has also left her home to step into the roll of parent to her grandchildren, as I tended to Little Warrior.

She is empathetic with her words and actions, but strict with her words. When I would call home from college, whining about having 3 finals on one day, she would say, "Buck up!" It has become a joke between the two of us. Buck up. There's work to be done.

When we spoke on the phone the first time since she'd been admitted, she complained a bit about the tests and botheration. "Buck up," I told her. She laughed.

I don't watch So You Think You Can Dance, but a friend told me about this performance from last night. More coincidences.

Watch it, and maybe weep a bit. And then, buck up. There's work to be done.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Pablo's LiveStrong Video

Our little friend from Wilms' World, Pablo, who recently passed away, is featured in a new LiveStrong video. It's touching. Pass it on. (This was filmed back in February, when they thought Pablo would be healthy and healthy by now.)

Pablo and Jeff's Video

And, yet another article came out, letting us know that even for survivors, danger lurks ahead. But bless Dr. Dome -- the rock star of the Wilms' world -- if he can prevent even one doctor from telling another newly-diagnosed family that Wilms' is "the cancer to have."

The Husband and I watched the video together, I showed him the article. It's hard. We feel like our friends feel we should get over it, move on. Her hair is growing back and everything's fine, right? No one has said that, of course, and probably they don't feel it. They just don't know what to say. We don't either. Emily Post doesn't talk about this. We don't want to be bores, constantly talking about childhood cancer. But it's ever present. There is no goal line. We never get to spike the football, to paraphrase the movie "Parenthood."

"We might have thought there was," says The Husband. "But that's the first time. After the second time ..."

"Fool me twice," I say.

"Yeah."

"Once you've taken the red pill, you can't go backward."

He nods.

"Or is it the blue pill? I can never remember which is which."

"It doesn't matter," he says. "We never got a choice."

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Good Ole UU Boys

So several folks that I know are still thinking about this idea of UU Culture and what it looks like.

Let me tell you about one of my pictures of Unitarian Universalism.

My father. My daddy, as we Southerners often say, no matter how old we get.

Born in 1929 in Texas. He grew up in a small town in East Texas, raised Baptist. He left the religion but still gets a twinkle in his eye when he sings along with one of his favorite songs and it gets to the line about "Nothing makes a sound in the night like the wind does, But you ain't afraid if you're washed in the blood like I was." He left the religion behind, but he remembers the feelings.

That song is Don Williams' "Good Ole Boys Like Me" and it sums up a lot about him, and a lot about other UU men I know.

Last year, when I read about Greg McKendry standing up to the shooter who walked into the Knoxville UU church, oh I sobbed. Not just for him and his loved ones, but because my thoughts immediately went to J and A, two big men in our church, two men that I can see doing the same thing. They're Good Ole Boys.

What? You thought Good Ole Boys were only uneducated bigots? Then you don't know Good Ole Boys, my friend. There were Good Ole Boys at Selma, too -- and they were walking with the protestors. One of then was the abovementioned friend J.

So that's one of my images of UU. Good Ole Boys, who help stack the chairs at the end of the service, and come jump your car battery when you're by the side of the road, and bring a big pot of chili to the potluck and have friends over to watch the UT - A&M game at Thanksgiving. And frown and say, "Now, that jest ain't right," when someone cracks a racist joke.

Tell me about your images.

--


When I was a kid Uncle Remus he put me to bed
With a picture of Stonewall Jackson above my head
Then daddy came in to kiss his little man
With gin on his breath and a Bible in his hand
He talked about honor and things I should know
Then he'd stagger a little as he went out the door

CHORUS:
I can still hear the soft Southern winds in the live oak trees
And those Williams boys they still mean a lot to me
Hank and Tennessee
I guess we're all gonna be what we're gonna be
So what do you do with good ole boys like me

Nothing makes a sound in the night like the wind does
But you ain't afraid if you're washed in the blood like I was
The smell of cape jasmine thru the window screen
John R. and the Wolfman kept me company
By the light of the radio by my bed
With Thomas Wolfe whispering in my head

When I was in school I ran with kid down the street
But I watched him burn himself up on bourbon and speed
But I was smarter than most and I could choose
Learned to talk like the man on the six o'clock news
When I was eighteen, Lord, I hit the road
But it really doesn't matter how far I go

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

UU Culture -- T'aint Just Yankees


"It was true that American Unitarianism had flowered in New England and was part of a proud heritage, but the situation was not unlike that of Christianity, which bloomed in the Holy Land, where it is now extinct except for a few shrines maintained for pilgrims. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that this might someday occur with American Unitarians." -- George Marshall, writing about A. Powell Davies

The Boy snapped a picture of a UU seminarian, doing a little light reading.

There were a few quotes that came out of GA about our "Yankee culture" so when I saw this pic, I had to laugh.

This isn't a serious post -- I'm still on vacation, y'all -- but if you think our UU culture is strictly Yankee, I'd request that you explore the research of the Rev. Dr. Barbara Coeyman, who has written about the time in our history when Texas was just lousy with Universalists.

As for the present, I think three of the most dynamic and potentially influential ministers of our religion are located in Albuquerque, Tulsa, and Atlanta.

Again, nothing serious about this post. The point of the two speakers who referenced our Yankee culture was not Southerners vs. Yanks, and I found both of their fuller talks to just light my fire.

As for me, I'm kicking back with some Christmas* enchiladas and contemplating what a cowboy UU church would look like.



*New Mexico term indicating that a person wants both red AND green sauce on their dish.

Monday, July 06, 2009

The River

Silently the morning mist is lying on the water
Captive moonlight waiting for the dawn
Softly like a baby's breath a breeze begins to whisper
“The sun is coming, quick you must be gone.”

The habitat that feeds our soul is different for everyone. Some are desert people, some get their energy from the city. Some find their joy at the beach. For me, it is the mountains.

Smiling like a superstar the morning comes in singing
The promise of another sunny day
And all the flowers open up to gather in the sunshine
I do believe that summer's here to stay

Two years ago, The Husband, our foursome, and I came up to stay in a cabin alongside the Pecos River. My parents drove up and spent a couple of days with us. No internet, no cell coverage. We liked it so much, we made plans to all come back last summer, plus my brother and his wife, and my sister.

The best laid plans of mice and men …

After we received the phone call that made me drop to my knees, I waited to cancel. Waited for the formal diagnosis of recurrent Wilms’ Tumor. Waited to decide on our plan of treatment. Waited til I figured out the calendar, and knew for absolute sure that there was no way we could go up in the mountains. And still I waited. I could handle so much, but making that phone call to cancel our reservation … I just couldn’t do it. Without any words between us, my mother knew. When she canceled her reservation, she also canceled ours.

In the hospital last summer, there was one channel on the hospital tv where they ran video of nature scenes and soothing music.

One of the frequent scenes was a river in the mountains, tall pines stretched above it. It was so much like our place, I couldn’t watch it. It didn’t soothe me. I didn’t know if we would ever return.

She ended treatment in November. In January, we needed to make our reservations. It scared me. There would be at least two sets of scans between January and summer. I made the reservations. The lodge for my crew. Two smaller cabins for my parents and my brother.

A week ago, we drove the meandering mountain road up to our cabin. Before unpacking, leaving The Husband and my children opening drapes and setting themselves up in the lodge, I walked down to the river.

It was still there.

Of course it was still there, you might say. You think the river would be stopped by your life, your sadness?

Maybe I did, a little. Maybe it was hard to believe that the river would keep flowing.

Sit beside a mountain stream, see her waters rise
Listen to the pretty sound of music as she flies

Every day we were there, the river and I would hold long conversations. It would tell me about the things it had seen since I’d last been there – snows in the winter, deer drinking at dawn – and I told it about what I’d seen. We both saw death this year, and we both saw birth. The river kindly carried my tears downstream; I dipped my hand in her cold water and splashed it on my face. The river is generous with both her healing medicine and her counsel.

And Oh, I love the life within me
I feel part of everything I see
And Oh, I love the life around me
A part of everything is here in me

Yesterday, after a glorious holiday, it was time to leave. Turn off the lights, wash the towels, close the drapes, lock the doors.

I went down to the river to say goodbye. I stood above her on the deck, and I knelt down beside her in a hidden little room at her edge, with overhanging branches and stones for seats, where the children and I were sure we’d seen fairies.

Already, we talk of our plans for next summer, when and how, but definitely all of us.

My parents are old, Little Warrior is … Little Warrior. We know that plans might need to be canceled. But we make them with hope and happiness and anticipation.

video


Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.

I am haunted by waters.

--
Attribution: Summer by John Denver, Mother Nature's Son by The Beatles, A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean.