blunt force treatments and glass boxes.

magic in the city.

magic in the city.

It started out as a small patch that itched and felt like a heat rash. By yesterday midday, it had grown to a fist-sized area of maddening vesicles surrounded by a bruise. I walked into the Assistant General Counsel’s office to ask her about something and before I could finish my sentence, she was eyeing me.

“What the fuck are you digging at on your back?” she demanded.

I hadn’t noticed I was absently scratching while I talked to her.

“Lemme see,” she said, and I shut the door so I could lift up my shirt and show her the patch.

“Yeah, that’s shingles,” she said. “Call your fucking doctor and get in right away, cuz if you’re not already in terrible pain, you will be soon.”

And lo, I found myself at my old familiar Urgent Care. It seems to be exclusively staffed with eastern European doctors who are prone to viewing my ailments as invading armies that must be stamped out and annihilated with blunt force. No delicate sophisticated treatments for them; they prescribe me antibiotics the size of horse pills, a scorched earth strategy of leaving no small writhing germ behind. I like that.

In retrospect, it has been a pretty stressful summer, both at work and on the romantic front, so it’s not surprising that I find myself in bed dizzy and drowsy with antivirals, slathered in lidocaine cream. There have been scandals and sackings at work, investigations and interviews with stone-faced executives who tell you later behind closed doors that they just wish someone would take this cup from them. And on the romantic front, a meeting and a break up and a make up with someone that I am frighteningly fond of, and all the complications that arise from that.

Dating at my age and as a divorced working mom is an adventure and not for the thin-skinned. The men I’ve met have also been divorced and with children, only they’ve been divorced for much longer than I have. They seem open to having a relationship, to letting someone in, but being on their own has hardened them somehow. They say the right things, they do the right things, their hearts are right there, but closed off somehow, in a glass box. I can see it, but I can’t touch it. They know they can do it on their own, they have made homes and a family for their children, they are wary and protective of having that disturbed, even positively, by another factor to balance.

And I completely understand it because I feel the same way. I know I can survive. I love my home, I know I can make it on my own and be happy with Miss L and my job and the blessings that I have; I want more, but that ‘more’ will have to be pretty incredible, and it won’t come at the expense of what I’ve already earned through blood, sweat, and tears. However, I’m still flexible, and open, and the men I date, their glass boxes have grown heavier, shatterproof. I see that and I don’t want to become that. I don’t know how you date and not grow increasingly protective and closed off, but it seems that at some point, you have to be able to let things penetrate, even if it’s scary and hard.

So I have been spending time with a man that I really like. It’s a challenge, there have been stops and starts and many feelings of ‘this is too hard’ for both of us. But so far, we have struggled through it, and I am hopeful that our friendship will last. I’ve let him into my house, which is a huge step for me, to let someone see the flaws and beauty and small chaos where my private heart lives. A couple of times, I’ve had to tell myself, ‘I’m really proud of you, this is a big step, I know that everything isn’t perfect but it’s okay to let someone see that’. Deep breath, open the door, let someone in.

It’s nice to have someone to go for walks with and sit on the porch with, and see movies with. I don’t know if it will be more than that, but time will tell if we’re able to continue the process of letting each other in. I feel good about going slow with that. It’s hard enough to trust a single person, and incorporate them into your life; we have to know we can do that before we start with other aspects. I hope our glass boxes slowly dissipate, but for right now, it’s enough that we can meet in the middle and know we can survive.

in which i write things i can’t ever say

For the last two weeks, I went on vacation and traveled, and in between it rained, so when I finally had a sunny Sunday in which to do yardwork, things were a bit out of control. The summer is suddenly half over, the solstice gone, and still it tends to rain and shiver and I have only been out to fuss over my tomato plants once or twice. It’s funny how life can change, the once-thrilling expectation of summer harvest suddenly disappears in dampness and melancholy, things are never what you expect them to be.

Sabine, my neighbor-behind, came through the hedgerow to chat. She passed along sad news about the other neighbor’s cat Oreo, who was once upon a time the scourge of the neighborhood; taken by a coyote. With an eyeroll that exuded disapproval of Those Who Will Never Learn, she indicated a new cat lounging indolently on Anne’s patio, licking a fat glossy butterscotch paw. Emmett, from his safe but confined vantage point in my window, regarded it with thinly concealed bitterness.
“I’ve been remiss,” she said suddenly, and pointed to her yard, barely visible through the overgrown arbor vitae along our border. The grass was ankle deep, unmowed perhaps for weeks. She twinkled briefly. “Maybe I’m rebelling,” she mused, “although I am not sure against whom.” The deer, she explained, liked to lie in the grass back there.

After she had gone back through the hedge to her own quiet house and her own feline familiars, and Emmett sulked off into the house to yowl, I stood for awhile swishing my legs with a handful of pulled-up weeds. I realized that it is an odd grouping of women, four women living alone in bordering yards. A dark kind of feminine magic. Maybe just by where I live I am destined to belong to a strange lonely tribe. I feel as though the realtor should have warned me before I signed on the dotted line; but perhaps it is a better trade. A still house of dark magic is better than many things. Sadness about this is old and weary now and comes from a long way away and I don’t have the energy for it anymore.
I thought of my recent attempts to explain a concept; the feeling that some entire lives, and large chunks of other lives, are made up of things beautiful and shiny on the outside and empty on the inside. Like Christmas in a catalog, a painful attempt to buy a life, to triage a mortal wound. I don’t care what it looks like on the outside, I told him, I just want there to be something on the inside, something that matters.
His eyes are glacial green and lovely. They regarded me for a moment of instant, pitying understanding, and then skated away, already bored, already somewhere else.

in which life is good.

06.2015 peony

LIfe is really, really good lately.

06.2015 donut day

And not just because of National Donut Day, which we celebrated enthusiastically.

06.2015 sarge book

I am super excited to be back to running cautious distances with no pain and this morning I rolled out of bed and had my first ‘I feel really awesome’ run in a very long time.

I have a duathlon next week that could change my mind about all of this – run 3 miles, bike 10.7, trail run 1.5 – but I’m even excited about that, and about a 5k the following week.

Life is just really, really good.

“Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.” – Maya Angelou

a few happy things.

05.2015 deer3

  • Tonight the deer was basically standing in our side yard watching us pull into the driveway, with its mouth full of the neighbor’s landscaping. I swear, I feel like I have a third pet.
  • Watching Miss L’s Daisy Scout troop crowd into a booth together (away from the troop moms) to nosh on froyo and banter about their days. Miss L wouldn’t take her bicycle helmet off. :)
  • Signing up for my first race in a year!
  • Being able to run without shin pain. (I mean, everywhere else hurts, since I’ve lost so much endurance, but no shin pain.)
  • Eating dinner late: tabbouli salad with salty salty pita chips and hummus and a splash of red wine in a jam jar.
  • The Mad Men finale…Om.
  • I’ve made time for meditation almost 50% of the days since I started again.
  • Sarge, who watches Gaston the fish with his tongue out.

05.2015 sarge tongue

mostly tomatoes.

05.2015 tomatoes

This is the second year that I’ve relied on Michigan Heirlooms for my tomato plants. Those of you who’ve lasted out a year with me will remember that I am a bit of a tomatophile and that my best luck last summer came from the Paul Robesons.

I kept the Paul Robesons this year but branched out in some new and different directions, experimentally. My other plants are:

Dixiewine – apparently a damn good, workhorse tomato. Likened to Brandywine but reputed to be more productive with a better flavor.

Brandywine Sudduth’s Strain – later to ripen, but considered to be the most delicious heirloom strain available.

Black from Tula – a black tomato prone to cracking but with a sweet, smoky flavor.

Harvard Square – ok, I bought this mostly because of the name. Somewhat new to Michigan Heirlooms but she loved it.

George’s Greek Beefsteak – everyone needs a beefsteak. These are +1lb and reportedly above average production.

Palmira’s Northern Italian – kind of a classic sauce tomato, more acidic than sweet, very productive.

Zebra Heart – apparently a technicolor tomato, lime green and lemon and pink. Michigan Heirlooms says with confidence that this year, Zebra Heart won’t be found many other places in the world – but she has dispersed seed and expects that it will take off.

Michigan Heirlooms was properly appreciative of my order and said that I have chosen well. I’m pretty excited to watch my plants grow this year and I’ll report back on the varieties that I am most fond of.

sentence per picture, memorial day edition, with a 1-sentence ‘*bleep* my brother says’ bonus.

I've been so sick for the past two weeks with bronchitis and sinus infection, swallowing fistfuls of antibiotics and steroids every day; yet I finally felt better and continued my running rehab program - with a post-run wallow on the sunny riverbank.

I’ve been so sick for the past two weeks with bronchitis and sinus infection, swallowing fistfuls of antibiotics and steroids every day; yet I finally felt better and continued my running rehab program – with a post-run wallow on the sunny riverbank.

I was super thrilled to find a morel growing in my own garden; then everyone warned me that it might not be real so, afraid of dying ignominiously from mushroom poisoning, I didn't eat it.

I was super thrilled to find a morel growing in my own garden; then everyone warned me that it might not be real so, afraid of dying ignominiously from mushroom poisoning, I didn’t eat it.

Although I think the cardinals moved their nest to a quieter locale, there are still nests and babies in my yard.

Although I think the cardinals moved their nest to a quieter locale, there are still nests and babies in my yard.

The stained glass window behind Sarge made me sing "Take Me to Church" to him, which 1) he didn't get, and 2) made me think I've been spending too much time alone with my cats, based on the amount of hilarity I received from this.

The stained glass window behind Sarge made me sing “Take Me to Church” to him, which 1) he didn’t get, and 2) made me think I’ve been spending too much time alone with my cats, based on the amount of hilarity I received from this.

Friday night I was standing at my kitchen sink, listening to WRCJ's evening jazz, when I happened to look up and see this standing under my birdfeeder staring at me.

Friday night I was standing at my kitchen sink, listening to WRCJ’s evening jazz, when I happened to look up and see this standing under my birdfeeder staring at me.

On Saturday night, Sarge climbed the back screen door, scolding, and when I investigated, our visitor had returned and was placidly consuming the neighbor's flowers. In response to my posting of this photo on FB, my brother wrote severely, "You should tell them they need to leash their ungulates..."

On Saturday night, Sarge climbed the back screen door, scolding, and when I investigated, our visitor had returned and was placidly consuming the neighbor’s flowers. In response to my posting of this photo on FB, my brother wrote severely, “You should tell them they need to leash their ungulates…”

in which i am feeling a little discouraged.

There’s been a lot of negative energy swirling around my life for the past couple of weeks and I’m basically trying to weather the storm in my little lifeboat. If bad things always happen in sets of three, then hopefully I’ve completed one cycle and things will start to clear up. I met the car accident with equanimity – not serious, not my fault, no one hurt, Miss L wasn’t with me, and the faithful Camry is now back from the repair shop & better than ever. Work drama – more difficult and entrenched to cope with, but again, not my fault and I have become able to compartmentalize. Bronchitis – a day off from work and a visit to the Urgent Care, fistfuls of antibiotics, steroids, and pills for my cough. After a week of fever and night sweats, dreams of tigers, an aching chest and head, and having to literally force myself out of bed every day, I am feeling more human already.

I told my girlfriend J. about these setbacks and she noted that I have been working really hard on myself – sort of a second wave of project work to supplement the major remodeling that happened 2 years ago this summer. She said that she bet that the big internal changes I’m making are causing things to go a bit haywire around me for a bit while my brain et. al. adjust to the changes. I meditate daily and have made conscious steps to let go of toxic thoughts, relationships, and behavior. I know this sounds very New Age and I am a bit self-conscious about putting it all in writing. But I do believe that you get out of life what you put into it and if you can verbalize what your intentions are and set them firmly, visualize what you want, then maybe the actions will follow.

That’s the thought, anyway. Sometimes you put all of this into play and are then immediately deluged with a series of unfortunate circumstances and your dedication is put to the test. It’s really difficult to have faith and know you are doing the right things. I frequently find myself looking with no small resentment at some jerk who’s done no work at all on him / herself and wondering why the hell they get to be so happy and I have to smack myself at how lazy and silly a thought that is – usually I do this by reminding myself how I would counsel Miss L if she were suffering from the illness of comparison. And it’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling like it’s a quid pro quo – that I am making changes so that I will get xxx. If I do this, then I will get that. For me, the change has to be the reward, and anything else that comes along with it is just extra.

And the most efficient remedy to that is of course just feeling gratitude at how much I have in my life, how rich I am in so many ways. If the simple act of gratitude doesn’t stop my dismay from growing into discord, then nothing will.

So I will keep meditating and trying to keep my life a clear channel. I will work in my garden and hang out with the small handful of people in my life that I can count on to be positive and supportive and full of light, and try to grow that circle by being the same way back to them. It sounds easy, but damn, there are times when it is hard work.