Tigers


This is the story of the tigers. I have told it before but it’s sometimes hard to keep things straight now that I am living in so many times and places.  That may seem like a strange statement but I know you will understand it eventually.  For now though, the tigers.

On hot summer nights as children, my mother would sit on the porch with us, my sister, brother and I.  It was for relief on those nights that we would sit outside and maybe catch a cool breath of air.   Sometimes there was nothing but sweet, hot humidity.

We would pretend that we were on safari in the most dangerous parts of Africa.  None of us had been to Africa.  The things we knew about Africa were only things we had seen on television or read in books or heard from other people who knew of these places.  Still, we would get on our horses and ride…constantly on the lookout for dangers lurking behind every bush. We all recognized Kilimanjaro in the distance and knew instinctively the beauty and the danger of the African bush that surrounded us.  We understood the terrain like it was part of us.

We would be riding along and have to stop, suddenly.  Something was moving in the bushes just ahead of us.  We were completely silent, and our mother would point at the bushes, signaling us to look, and she would whisper to us, “Tigers.”

I don’t know about my brother and sister, but I could see them.   The hot wind would blow the grasses just enough to expose magnificent bodies, lying in wait, their tails flicking as they watched us.  I would hold my breath, for fear that the very sound of breathing would give us away and they would spring from the grass and kill us.  Somehow we always managed to sneak by them, perhaps because we were so determined and so afraid.

For a long time through my childhood, everywhere I went I would look for tigers.

I don’t know why this has been on my mind lately but it occurred to me that maybe the tigers were not there to kill us.  As I look back, I think they were really there to watch over us and protect us from the bigger dangers of the plains.   They were on guard and ready to spring up and stand in front of us if danger came to us.

I have become a grown up.  I can’t see the tigers anymore.  I rarely even  take the time to look in the bushes when the summer air is hot, heavy and wet.  My imagination has changed and now what I look for is every other bad thing that might happen in the world.  I superstitiously go through my daily routines trying to predict and prevent.

Lately I have been trying hard to see behind the long grass, hoping for a breeze to blow it ever so gently, creating the chance for me to catch a glimpse of the tigers.  I know they are there.  They are watching, guarding and protecting me.  Today I will stop imagining all of the bad and walk in confidence that my tigers will take care of me so that I can see the magnificence around me without fear.

Family, Part II


This is the second part of my writing about family, particularly my family via my son’s sperm donor.  That’s quite an opening first line, eh?  So my son’s other mom and I determined that there were two families in California that had children from the same donor that we had used.  So now we were three!  Through the network of sibling registry, we then found a sister in our same city.  Very cool.  Then we found out there were sisters in Malmo, Sweden and oh, and some brothers there too.  It seemed like the sibs were located in pairs.  And all over the world!  It took some time to get our heads around this…and trying to explain it to others, well, it’s challenging.  We’ve also located siblings in two different families in Ohio.  So now we are eight families making one BIG family.  Most of us are two mom or single mom families to start so, we have committed to maintaining contact so the siblings can be with families like their own.  It also seems important to give them opportunities to grow up together since they truly all get along so well.  At least once a year, all of the families get together and hang out.  We’ve all met up in California, Milwaukee and are up next to go to Sweden!

I can remember one of the first “reunions” when all of the moms were trying to figure out why we had all picked this same donor.  We came to the conclusion that it was more likely something about us rather than him, some quality we all had that made this donor a good fit for us.  It was then I knew that these women, these children, they were my family.  They are my family.  The summer after my stroke we were supposed to meet in California again.  They all changed their plans so that I would not have to travel and could join the family.  I blogged about that visit and how much it lifted me after feeling so lost.  The entire thing has expanded my definition and understanding of family.  My own biological sister informed me that ‘t;hey” were not my family.  I can only try to imagine how my family of origin must wonder about my extended family and the bond we have.  How can I explain the bigness of this without somehow sounding like the other is small.  I believe we are put here to love and find love.  I have experienced the vastness of love and feel humbled.  I am only able to experience this though because I had a biological family who supported my search for my life and authenticity.  Had they not shown me unconditional love, I may not have had the courage to seek out my life.

Family.  It doesn’t look the same anymore but it is deeper, fuller and has connected me with a bigger world/life.  It is hard for same-sex parents and families but we are family and I tend to think there are a lot of benefits despite the present climate and opinions in the world around us.

So, whoever your family, biological, bound by trust and respect for another, chance meetings on the road, embrace them and tell them you are luck to have such a good family.

Family, Part I


I’ve been thinking about family lately.  I think that most of us are closer aligned with family.  It’s not an uncommon question when you meet people for the conversation to get to family at some point quotation marks where you from? Where’s your family? How many siblings do you have? Are you parents still alive?”  Ancestry, traditions, things you bring or take from your family, it’s what we identify with.

Family conjures up different meanings from different people with different terms to describe, nuclear family versus extended family, family of origin versus family of choice. If I try to describe my own family, I think that the multifaceted blind people in my life to him I referred to as my family.  My original family, mom, dad, brother and sister and the family I’ve been reunited with along the way.  Richard Bach, author of “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” and “Illusions” wrote, “the bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each others’ life. Rarely do members of one family grew up under the same roof.”  My family of this description lives all over the world California , Virginia, Denmark ,France.  Some of these family members I made only briefly or spend a small amount of time with but I feel as if we are bonded for life.  I sense that they would do anything for me and I would always rally for them as well.   See my post Angels and Fire setters .

 

And then, there is my family made up of my son’s brothers and sisters and their mothers.  It sounds complicated but my son has two mothers and  he is the result of a sperm donor.  We have been fortunate to connect with siblings of the same donor and the families of these children.  Let me tell you the story of “Plus Seven”.  My son’s other mother and I put a lot of energy into our choice for a donor.  One of the many reasons we selected him was that we could agree to be contacted by other families with siblings from the same donor.  We were excited and highly nervous when our son was about 2 years old and we discovered a family in California.  This led to discovering another family in the same Cali town.  Two brothers, within a year of each other and our boy.  We swapped photos and birth stories and family information.  We all met and the boys instantly started to play, as if they knew they were brothers.  The physical resemblances were also uncanny.  This was the first step on a phenomenal, unbelievable journey towards expanding our view on family.  Stay tuned for more.

Legend of the Pheonix


1imge02The myth of the Pheonix is spread throughout history and cultures.  Greek, Roman, Christian,Chinese, Arabic and Native American cultures all share a version of the Pheonix.  Throughout the many cultures the Phoenix represents high virtue, grace, power, prosperity, strength, peace, purity and life. (1)

The Greeks rooted the tale of the phoenix in Western imagination more than 2,500 years ago, but its story began in ancient Egypt and Arabia. The fabled bird is said to live 500 years or more, and when the old bird is tired, it flies from Arabia to land in Heliopolis, Egypt, the “City of the Sun.” There, it gathers cinnamon twigs and resin to build a nest of spices atop the Temple of the Sun. The sun ignites the nest and the old phoenix dies in flames. A new, young phoenix emerges from the ashes and wings back to Arabia to live another life cycle. The bird’s features have changed over the centuries, but most agree it’s an eagle-like bird with shining red, golden, and purple plumes. (2)

So what does the Legend of the Pheonix have to do with Stroke Recovery or me?  I feel like I have died and risen from the ashes, albeit a slow rise, and continue to rise with renewed power and strength.  In Native American traditions, it was believed among the Lakota and other tribes that if you had a dream or vision of birds,you were destined to be a medicine man; but if you had a vision of Thunderbird,
it was your destiny to become something else; heyoka, or sacred clown. I know what my friends are thinking:  Clown yes.  Sacred?  WTF?Like Thunderbird, the heyoka were at once feared and held in reverence. They were supposed to startle easily at the first sound of thunder or first sight of lightning. Thunderbird supposedlyinspired the “contrariness” of the heyoka through his own contrary nature. He alternates strong winds with calm ones. While all things in nature move clockwise, Thunderbird is said to move counterclockwise. Thunderbird is s aid to have sharp teeth, but no mouth; sharp claws, but no limbs; huge wings, but no body. All of these things suggest Thunderbird (and the heyoka) have a curious, paradoxical, contrary nature. You could become heyoka through a vision of the Thunderbird, or just of lightning ora formidable winged being of power. (Steiger 1974)

However insulting or sacrilegious heyoka actions might be, they were tolerated, since it was assumed they were acting on the higher and more inscrutable imperatives of the Great Mystery. Heyoka were freed from all the ordinary constraints of life, and thus were usually not expected to marry, have children, or participate in the work of the tribe.Despite their bizarre acts (such as dressing in warm clothes during summer or wearing things inside out), they were trusted as healers, interpreters of dreams, and people f great medicine. Whenever they interrupted the solemnity of a ceremony, people took it as an admonition to see beyond the literalness of the ritual and into the deeper mysteries of the sacred. Like the flash of lightning, the heyoka’s sudden outbursts and disturbances were thought to be the keys to enlightenment – much like the absurd acts of Zen masters in Japan. (Hultkrantz 1987)  I am grateful that I have been tolerated for my heyoka ways and will try to continue acting on the higher imperatives of the Great Mystery.  I am:  Sacred Clown.

mythical_phoenix

The mythical Phoenix. (Bettman/Corbis photo)

http://www.phoenixarises.com/phoenix/legends/story.htm
http://www.phoenixarises.com/phoenix/legends/story.htm

http://www.phoenixarises.com/phoenix/legends/story.htm

 

 

 

 

1. http://www.phoenixarises.com/phoenix/legends/legends.htm

2http://bulletin.swarthmore.edu/bulletin-issue-archive/index.html%3Fp=117.html?p=117

As lights go out…


Is it just me or does the world seem just a bit dimmer today? Several huge spirits have passed on and taken light with them:
                 Ted Stone: Railway worker,  guitar aficionado left us yesterday morning. As a seven-year old visiting my grandparents home in Maryland, the halfway spot for the families of Gus and Gladys, my grandmother told me to go upstairs to their spare room and check the closet. Upon opening the door I found a beautiful full-sized Epiphone acoustic guitar which Ted, who was my uncle, had acquired through trade or luck and passed on to me so that I might expand my knowledge of the guitar with a quality instrument. It was my first real guitar and the one that I learned the most on with its full, mellow tone and easy action. I played some days until my fingers bled.   I learned the nuances of hammer-ons and finger picking.   I released my inner songwriter and artist and found my place in the world of performing.

The best of those times, although infrequent, were when I got to play with my Uncle Ted. He made my simplistic picking sound world-class with his easy riffs and harmonies. One magical evening, in the deep hills of Virginia, he and I got to play a private party. As the evening progressed and Uncle Ted got more “lubricated”, our songs came together and wowed the guests. As the night wore on I noticed that my Uncle’s demons had joined the party and the Jack Daniel’s was making us play the same song over and over again. My uncle became quite bold in his interactions with the guests, referring to them as “Govner’” and “Fuzzface”. It became our inside joke afterwards, a light moment from a potentially embarrassing night. The gods of the mountains were good to us and we made it home safely through the winding switch back roads.  My Aunt was not pleased when we arrived due to Ted’s condition. All I knew was that I had experienced the miracle of my uncle’s musical genius and it lifted me to another place.

I still have that old Epiphone and will never give it up despite the many different guitars I have used over the years of my playing life…nearly fifty now! This one guitar, with its beautiful blonde wood shell and inlaid mother of pearl fret board still teaches me. A big regret and sadness since my stroke is the limited weakness in my arm and hand that prevent me from playing lately. But eventually, I will. And I will once again absorb the magic and spirit held within the history of that instrument. I’ll have a bit of bourbon, tip my hat and say, “Here’s to you, Govner’” Life is hard. Losing people is hard. Finding meaning in it all can be a challenge.

The other great spirit to leave this earth was the Mighty “H”, a friend’s Old English Sheepdog, an old soul trapped in a dog suit.  He lived life with a constant  smile on his face with a kind of reckless abandon that made me wish I were a dog some days…or at least a human who could enjoy just plain old fun!  Farewell Henry, Godspeed across that legendary Rainbow Bridge.  Say hello to my boys and tell them I miss them still.

2015, go easy on us for the rest.  Contemplation of this depth is too much for so early in the year.

        “Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.”

— Louise Erdrich

 

“It’s much bigger on the inside”


I’ve gotten hooked on Dr. Who this winter break thanks to too much alone time and a little subliminal suggesting from my son’s sister, Grace and her mother.  (That’s another blog) So, I am sure I am the last one of my generation , and the next to have gotten thoroughly attached to this series.  I have been wonderfully surprised at the humor and philosophy infused in this show.  Like the Tardis, it has been much bigger on the inside.  And, a nice segue for me to this my first post of the brand new year.  Last year was a wild ride, eh?  Lot’s of stuff to look back on, contemplatively.  I will never claim to have stuff figured out…and you have permission to slap me if I talk like I have, but I did feel like I was figuring out that I didn’t have to have it all figured out immediately.  Of course, the universe, one’s higher power has a way of keeping you humble and focused on powerlessness.

I still cannot believe that on February 12, 2014, my brain experienced the trauma of a stroke.  In looking back, in trying to retell my story to friends, family and curious onlookers, nothing signaled me that anything was different.  I was exhausted all day but I had a long weekend playing pond hockey and living fully.  It was back to the daily grind and a surprise call to work a Harley event at the Bradley Center where the struggling (okay , that’s kind) Milwaukee Bucks were playing the New Orleans’s Pelicans.  I am always re-enerized when I enter the world of motorcycles and this night, exposing people to the power of being on a bike, it was no different.  A young man was surprised when I invited him to sit on the stationary bike and start it up.  He turned to his mom who looked at me as if to confirm this decision.  I eagerly explained the safety, the fun, the thrill…she nodded and he was ecstatic.  He climbed on and I talked him through the start up and shift process.  He rolled on the throttle.  Let me say if you’ve never experienced that “roll on” experience, well, that’s one thing, but to WATCH someone experience it, and know what’s coming…./now THAT is an unforgettable, humbling experience.  This young man had just gotten his mind blown by the gods of motorcycles when my Motor Company employee partner for the event started to ask me what was wrong.  I felt great!  No weakness, no difference that I could feel.  I have not had a chance to talk to this employee since my event.  Sad to say, I never got his name, at least, not after my hospitalization.  I either case, he may well have saved my life by whatever he noticed.  Even riding to the hospital as the EMT lied about how the IV line wasn’t going to hurt much, ha!  I felt fine.  Sure, I was panicked but glad to be on my way to trained medical staff who would pronounce me terribly fatigued but able to return home and tend to my life.

I was awake most of the night,  squeezing the fingers of ever appearing new nurses who pretended well enough to be having the bones in their hands crushed by my brute strength.  They took my vitals, they commented on how young and in good shape I was to have had a stroke.  You think!!!!!!????They popped in and out all night.  I don’t know when I slept or what time the next day it finally occurred to me that I had indeed had a stroke, couldn’t move my left side and my mother was on her way from Pennsylvania.  It was definitely much bigger on the inside!!!!!

The staff at St. Mary”s was skilled enough to distract me from the reality of the situation by being excited about how soon I could be transferred to the rehab floor.  The nurses all assured me it would be tough but thankfully I was in great physical condition.  My brain was mush but at least I had spirit.  Which felt a lot like being told “You have a great personality, though…” So I got excited about my big transfer until I realized that it meant getting up at 6:45 am each day for vital checks and dressing lessons!  I’m tough, determined but getting up early starts to exceed my limits.  I learned how to dress myself again, in front of people who cheered for me.  I’m just gonna put it out there, that’s a bit unnerving.  Maybe not as creepy as if they would have cheered about me taking them off.  (They didn’t).

I had people tell me my heart rate and blood pressure many times a day.  I had student nurses tell me they couldn’t find a pulse (I have a very low heart rate, always have.)  and they’d call for an experienced nurse, despite my telling them they could just “call it” and be done with it.   They didn’t even crack a smile.  Just like the morning nurse who’s always ask what I wanted to take my laxative with.  Their response to “your best pinot noir” was always met  with a very serious, “Now the doctor wouldn’t allow that!”.  As if I really expected them to have a fine pinot on hand.  As if….

And the parade of people who came into my room…medical staff, Psych staff, rehab staff, friends, relatives, vampires…early in the morning hours for blood draws.  The parade was interesting and constantly changing.  There were new shifts of nurses constantly and I’d like to think because I’m so damn fascinating that there was always a wide range of people who just wanted to see me.  It kind of felt like a petting zoo without the petting!

And so started the story of much bigger on the inside of my life.  Although that’s a lie, that story started when I entered this world.  I always felt like there was more.  More time, more love, more life…just out there.  I was so right, I was sooo wrong.  It’s not out there at all. It is right here and has always been, will always be.  10891682_10203191917300104_4618808544436251354_n

 

It sounds cliche’,  and if I had not just lived the last two years experiencing how big it was, it would have felt cliche.

And this comes back around to Dr. Who.  Oddly enough.  I feel like the last 1-2 years has been intensive time/space travel.  I’ve seen the future and aged 10 plus years it seems, I had clear flashbacks of my old life, I am missing chunks of time where I was living in time, it was passing, but I don’t feel like I accomplished much more than moving like I was on some kind of cosmic treadmill.  Then I head back to the Tardis that is my life and realize that it is huge inside and it can take me wherever, whenever I need to go.

Seemed like a cool analogy at the onset but it’s gotten rather long-winded.  Ah well.  Fuck it.  It’s what happened and what is yet to be.  Above all else, It IS bigger on the inside!