Interlochen Michigan

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Late Show

This song has always been a favorite of mine.  It is referenced by Bruce Springsteen when he inducts Jackson Browne into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, although by the Album title, not the song.  When listening to this song, in it's studio produced form, one can hear the closing of the car doors, each a few seconds apart, followed by the revving of the engine as the car pulls ways.  That piece of art plus the beautiful thought provoking lyrics constantly amaze me almost 40 years later!

" and now I am sitting here wondering what to say,
Afraid that all these words might scare you away,
No one ever talks about their feelings anyway
Without dressing them in dreams and laughter
I guess it's just too painful anyway."

Maybe that is why the music of Jackson Browne is so powerful, at least to me.  He does talk about, at least in song, talk about feelings.  Feelings that I know I experience in my life, for my own reasons, but similar feelings just the same.

I am much better at dressing my feelings in dreams and laughter, or at times hiding them in boxes which I metaphorically bury them underground deep enough to never have to accidentally unearth them.

Yesterday I ran into someone I hadn't seen in quite awhile.  It was nice to see her, she asked how I was doing, to which I replied "great".  I walked away laughing.  Am I doing "great"? No, not really.  However, what does someone  say to a really nice person they haven't seen in years? Should I have said "Karen, great to see you.  Actually I am a little tense these days.  I recently found out that I have tested positive for the breast cancer gene, and I am walking the path of trying to make the best preventative choices.  Monday I will be having my tubes and ovaries removed in Chicago. Additionally tomorrow is the anniversary of my father's death, so I really miss him.

Then I thought about the lyrics of the Late Show.  Feelings and emotions are scary enough for the person who has them, sharing them indiscriminately could send people running away with record speed.  All people, do however, need someone to share their thoughts with, who they need not fear will disappear.  I have always been an expert at not sharing, and I have been striving to change this pattern, by learning to share first, then break the tension with laughter.  Laughter is a great healer, and find in humor in life after accepting the other feelings rocks!

So, as I mentioned today is the 22 anniversary of my father's death.  He always loved a good bar holiday, so St. Patrick's day seems appropriate.  My father died of cancer, as did my mother.  Genetic testing  has given me a gift.  I have the opportunity to make proactive decisions, and possibly prevent an eventual cancer diagnosis.  My children will have the same opportunities.  

In the act of sharing my feelings, I have many on this issue.  I feel lucky to know about my crappy genes.  I am scared to walk thru this process.  I am terrified to not go thru this process. For me there is only one direction to chose at this path in my life, so I have chosen to start this journey on Spring Break.  As my son as called it, it will be an Alternative Spring Break.  I'll be getting closer  to peace of mind, which, could end up feeling like a great working vacation!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Doctor My Eyes

Today is my birthday.  In honor of my birthday the Secretary of State invited me to take the written Driver's License Exam, in order to remain a legal driver.  While I was impatiently waiting, I reflected on the last time I took the written exam. 
Here is what came to my mind:
  1. The last time I took this test I believe that Nixon was President.
  2. Jackson Browne had one album, and I mean album, creatively named Jackson Browne, housed in a burlap textured album cover, and mistakenly referred to as Saturate Before Using due to the words on the burlap bag.  The song which took off from that album, was Doctor My Eyes.  For me, that was when I realized who Jackson Browne was, but certainly not what impact his music would have, and still have on my life.
  3. I did not know anything about Selective Mutism, ADHD, Anxiety Disorders, Alcoholism, or Deleterious Mutated Genes.
  4. I wanted to be a Pediatrician.
  5. I had already had a fair amount of experience being a patient, a sick person, and a child of parents who were ill, so I already knew that feeling a being "different" than my peers.
  6. I had already become very good at avoiding certain feelings, especially those of sadness, which continued to be a problem for much of my life.
  7. The one thing I was certain about, was that I wanted more than anything to be a mother!
Next, while still impatiently sitting and waiting at the DMV, my mind as it does wandered to how my life has evolved over these past 41 years.  What I had "pictured" as my life when I was 15, and what my life has actually held up until this point.  I say up until this point, because I have figured out by now, life  is a journey with twists and turns, road blocks, and surprises which shape who we will become, and what direction we are driven.
Here is what came to my mind:
  1. I so thankful for my children and my husband.  I knew I wanted to be a parent, but I could never have imagined the intense feelings and connections between parents and their children.  The fierce need to protect their spirits, and nurture them, and protect them from harm.  The feeling that over powers a parent to understand the internal workings of their child, and help them use what they have been given to to their best abilities, while educating others about their differences, hoping their teachers will appreciate their strengths and see their courage.  The feeling of a parenthood which doesn't allow giving up on their children, even when running into many walls, while searching for answers.
  2. "Doctor, my eyes; cannot see the sky; Is this the prize for having learned how not to cry?"  I can't remember when, but one day listening to this song, I realized that this line was speaking to me.  I looked up at the beautiful blue sky, fluffy white clouds, and at that moment I saw such beauty around me.  It suddenly occurred to me, that my inability to feel sadness, also prohibited me from seeing the beauty that was all around.  Children laughing, flowers, trees, people interacting, often escaped my eyes, my inability to deal with sadness had also started to remove beauty and joy from my life.
  3. While working through the opportunities which life provides us, and frankly some of them really suck, it is important to feel all emotions to fully live life.  I realized eventually that without allowing myself to feel sad, frustrated, and at times angry with some of life's opportunities, I was cheating myself out of the other side of the spectrum that comes with walking through the fire...feeling of pride, strength, joy and true happiness.
  4. Life is not what happens to us, it is how we choose to deal with those events.  The opportunities thrown our direction, and how we respond to them create our life.
  5. My story is not over, each opportunity provides new experiences which may take my life, in a direction I have never anticipated.
  6. What I pictured doesn't matter, what I do with my opportunities does.
I want to close by saying that, yes, I was at the DMV long enough to have all of these thoughts, and more.  I am thankful that I do not have to sit there before every birthday to renew my license!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Enjoy Every Sandwich

When Warren Zevon made his final appearance on the Dave Letterman show, Dave asked him if his recent terminal diagnosis had caused him to have any new perspectives on life.  He replied,  "Not unless it is to remember to 'enjoy every sandwich'.  Profound, yet simple, something everyone is probably aware of, but in the day to day craziness of life, we are too busy to take that time today, and it is put off until tomorrow, and so forth.

This is a picture of my little Warren Zevon.  He does enjoy every sandwich, morsel of puppy chow, milk bone,and scrap of food that hits the ground.  He enjoys riding in the car with his "family", playing in the yard with his dog "brother" Wrigley, chasing a ball, chewing a throw rug, licking the sofa, and dressing in handsome clothes.  He loves to visit his human sister in the city, and staying at her apartment.  There is not much is doesn't love, and to be honest, his little doggy life really doesn't throw much at him to worry about!

As the holidays approached, I found myself really excited this year, wanting to really enjoy this special time of year, and not have all the holiday decorating, and preparations seem like a chore.  Accepting that with college aged children the family dynamics of the holidays changes, and it is up to me, to find different ways to enjoy the holidays.

Tradition one: we get our tree on Black Friday.  It is a process, Mike's journey to find the "perfect" tree.  It can take him more than one day of searching for that to happen, and more hours than anyone could imagine.  Somewhere in high school the kids no longer found this to be a fun experience, they had a social life.  I had given up on the experience many years prior, and it had become a father/children experience.  In the last several years we learned that if Mike goes out and looks at as many trees as he wants to, even if he then returns and buys the first tree he looked at, he doesn't care, if it is the best one, he is happy.  We always have a fabulous tree....and now that we don't join on the painful journey, the tree is enjoyed by all.

Tradition two:  Waiting for Mike to get the tree into the house, and replace the lights that never seem to work, and put said lights on the tree.  There are never enough, so then there are several trips for more lights, but in a day or two, tree is nicely lit.

Tradition three:  I wait for this joyous evening, when all four of us excitedly gather in the living room and together decorate the tree, singing Christmas songs in harmony.  This never happens.  Since our children were past elementary school age, they have never really had that moment when this opportunity seems fun.  For the past several years our tree wasn't fully decorated until Christmas Eve, and frankly last year many of our ornaments weren't even unpacked.  I am usually annoyed by the time they agree to hang a few ornaments, and no one has fun.

This year I did something different.  Mike brought home one of the best trees ever, and within a day, had lights on it, and there it sat ready for decorations.  I decided to decorate the tree, and enjoy the experience.  I have the time, and I am the one who wants it done.  If I want it to be fun, then I have to avoid forcing my adult children to be nine years old again!  I know they will love the tree, enjoy looking at it, and certainly won't care that we don't have to have the annual tree decoration disaster.

It is very possible that next year my life could hold some different challenges.  Some of them, if I dwell, I find very frightening and overwhelming.  However, today everything is fine, and I want to enjoy every sandwich.  I found myself feeling emotional as I unpacked our family ornaments, and placed them on the tree.  Each one seemed so special, so meaningful.  Our tree, it appears to me, is a memory book of the life of our family.  Each group of ornaments tell something, about us.  What we did that particular year as a family.  The Mickey Mouse, and Disney ornaments represent our favorite times together as a family in the happiest place on earth.  We have a collection of trains, from Thomas the Train to a variety of Lionel engines, wooden trains, and rail cars.  Andrew was a "train boy" from birth.  When he was young we would hang the trains towards the bottom of the tree so he could move them around on the tree, which he did daily.  We have decorated cows from the year the city of Chicago had the Parade of Cows.  We took several trips to Chicago that summer to walk around and visit those cows, and take pictures of the kids with their favorite bovine.  We have American Girl Ornaments to match Katie's dolls.  There is an electric guitar, baseball bat and glove, Barbie ornaments to represent things the kids liked at certain times of their life.  There is a collection from the Christmas Story from the year we fell in love with that movie as a family.  We have a series of retro fisher price toys, replicas of the real ones I collect, as well as a collection of S'more ornaments, another favorite of mine.  Most important there are the kids "Baby's First Christmas" ornaments and the home made ornaments the kids made in school, and have made it safely through the years. 

The ornaments on our tree represent the layers of our family life.  It shows our evolution as a family, what brought us joy at certain times of our lives, and who we are.  The past few days, as I placed each one on the tree, I  took the time to remember when and why each one became a part of our family, and what that time in our life felt like for us as a family.  Time brings many changes, families change and evolve.  For many years we were the owner of two beagles, Jack and Wrigley, who were very close.  Our tree contained a pair of beagles that for some reason always had the strings tied together, so when the ornaments hung one beagle was resting on top of the other.  Just like Jack and Wrigley.  Jack passed away last winter, so yesterday I separated the ornaments for the first time, and hung them separately, because things change. Now we have Warren, and I need to find a Pug ornament, to hang beside the Wrigley ornament on our tree.

My hope for everyone I love this holiday season is for them to take a few moments to enjoy all of their sandwiches, and appreciate the history they are creating this year for their family, as well as the history of the past years.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Running on Empty

My daughter and I went to see Jackson in Indianapolis in mid August, had great seats, saw a great show, and then I was lucky enough to get this picture of her meeting Jackson after the show.  It was a beautiful night, and those of us waiting were told that Jackson would not be stopping to talk, sign, or take pictures as they had a long drive that night, but we could take pictures as he walked to the bus if we wanted to wait. Jackson, however, came out and walked directly to the fans who were waiting, posing for pictures, signing autographs, and talking with the crowd.  I personally have always wondered just how many of those black shirts he owns, as every time I have seen him in concert in the past two years, as well as in many You Tube videos he is wearing the faithful black button down.  My daughter indulged me and asked him, while I was attempting to take the picture as my phone battery was "running on empty".  The answer is three.  I then suggested that since my daughter will be a college graduate in need of employment, maybe she could be hired to wash and iron those shirts for him.  He told us he was responsible for that task!

I have taken my daughter to see Jackson several times, and each time we have, what I feel is a magical time.  The music of Jackson is something she enjoys, she has always found magic in music, and the healing power in songs, and singing.  So at this time in our lives we can deeply connect through a trip to a Jackson Browne concert.  I cherish this trips, at a time when my daughter is heading off in her own direction as a young adult, these moments are priceless.

I titled this post Running on Empty, which Jackson has described as being written about a time in life where he was "chasing the dream", and then "living the dream" and wondering if this is what he was looking for after all.

Many an afternoon or evening I can be found either walking with my I pod, volume turned way up, listening to Jackson Browne songs, sometimes the same one over and over, as I absorb the words and meanings, as they apply to my life; or watching YouTube on my computer, and enjoying the variety of Jackson Browne videos available for my viewing pleasure. 

Today while walking, listening to "Looking Into You" on repeat, as well as a few other favorites, I realized how lucky I am.  Even when I am "Running on Empty" which has been fairly constant over the past year or so, I have a place to go to figure things out.  I go to the words and music of Jackson Browne, and I listen, really listen to the words and what he is saying, and somehow I can always find comfort and peace.

I realize that not everyone has a special "safe place", a place to put reality into perspective.  I feel really blessed to have found this place as a teenager, and still have it today.  I am particularly thankful that Jackson has continue to write songs, to provide wisdom and thought provoking material over the past 30 plus years to provide a consistency in my life, and that I have had the opportunity to meet him and see what a genuine human being he seems to be.  In a world where many seem to be out to get what they need for themselves, it is really inspiring to see that there are still people who care about what happens outside of their personal bubble.

My personal goal would be to eventually tell him the impact his work has had on my life, and thank him.  As well as to have my husband and son also have their picture taken with him, to complete the set! 
Running on, running on empty
Running on, running blind
Running on, running into the sun
But I'm running behind

Running on
You know I don't even know what I'm hoping to find
Running behind
Running into the sun but I'm running behind
At times I have thought that I was living my "dream", making a difference, changing someone else's life for the better, making an impact on the community in which I live; only to find that maybe it was a fantasy. 
Today I know that whatever I do, if I have honest intentions I can't go wrong.  When I don't know where I am "hoping to find", I can pop those head phones in my ears, and turn up the music, and soon I will feel at peace.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Sing My Songs to Me

Sing my songs to me
Sing them to me softly
Sing me sunlight and shadows
Orange groves and meadows
Let your voice ring back my memories
Sing my songs to me

This song was in my wedding.  Why?  What was the special meaning? The special meaning arrived after our wedding, when it became "the Jackson Browne song that was in our wedding".  It was chosen because, I insisted that there be a song by Jackson Browne in our wedding ceremony.  For various reasons most of his songs were eliminated right off the bat.  After all it was 1989, and the reason that I was drawn to his music was the ability it had to help me work through the difficult times in my life.  So my favorites at that time, "For a Dancer", "Here Come Those Tears Again", and "Bright Baby Blues", "Lives in the Balance", even the "Rehab version of Cocaine" were really not going to work.

Bring my dreams to me
Bring them from the darkness
Let the minutes and hours
Show my mind strange new flowers
But I'd like to know where they go
When the morning comes
Bring my dreams to me

I spent literally hours listening to Jackson Browne songs, which was a job which I loved, however, without the Internet I had to find the cassette tapes, and boxes so I had the various words just to make sure I didn't make a mistake, misunderstand a lyric, and play a song like "Rosie" believing it meant something else.  I did hear him later say that the original words in  "Sing My Songs to Me", were oranges and yellows in reference to various colors of pills he stored in his room at the time, instead of of "orange groves and meadows",  I would have chosen the song even if I knew that then, because frankly that is quite funny.

My point here is that I was tenacious in my quest to find a song of Jackson Browne's to play at my wedding.  Even though I will have quite a selection for family funerals, what is really on my mind is tenacity.

For the last two weeks when I have headed out to my car to start my day, I have noticed a spider web on the side view mirror.  There has also been a larger one on the hatch back door.  The first day, I brushed them away, thinking to myself, I must really be a slob to have not noticed my car has been taken over with spider webs, I need to get it together.  Each morning said spiders had elaborately spun a more intricate web than the day before, and each morning I knocked it away, knowing that Jackson would probably have the spiders transplanted to a special habitat where they could live out their lives without me destroying their hard work daily.  Maybe, I thought, the message is to get a more earth friendly car, a hybrid, or electric.  Then it hit me, man those spiders are tenacious.

My thoughts drifted to my children, whom I have always hoped to instill tenacity, so they would have the inner strength to do with their life what they desired, and follow their dreams. I don't really view myself as a tenacious individual, but I have put that on my list of skills to work on developing.  My son just built the Taj Mahal,  out of legos, but a job which took tenacity, and my dogs are trying to remove the family room carpet string by string, while no one catches them, so they are covered.

Then there is my daughter, who has incredible tenacity but doesn't even know she how much she actually has.  Until she was 15 she was unable to speak to adults outside of her father, mother, and a few teachers.  She had what we now know is Selective Mutism.  When I finally found that as a diagnosis, I began dialing for doctors to find someone to work with her, and we were lucky to find someone who could help her work through this debilitating condition, allowing her to take on the same challenges other's her age are engaging in.  When she was 15, I wondered how if ever she would be able to get a driver's license, because she had to get in the car with a strange man, and in our neck of the woods, usually quite grumpy, take his direction, and drive.  At this point ordering food in a restaurant was challenging. 

Then before I knew it, my daughter headed off to attend college, on her own, knowing no one from her past life to help her into her new life, and became a college student.  Now that is one tenacious person.  I was close, but not close enough to assist with getting tasks done, and she was over the age of 18 so there were things I legally could not help her with even if I was present. She occasionally stumbled and fell, but got back up and tried again, and never ran home for safety. 

I began to watch videos on "you tube" by teens and young adults with selective mutism, and I became more in awe everyday with her tenacity.  I suggest everyone watches a few so they can get an inside look at what hell these kids go through on a daily basis, while others around them think they are snobs, stupid, and incapable of trying just a little bit harder.

The first moment I really, really, really, saw the change in my daughter was in Chicago in September 2010.  We were at a Jackson Browne concert, and as I have mentioned before, she asked someone if her mother could possibly meet him.  A stranger, in an alley, in Chicago!  My life changed that day for several reasons, but one of them was seeing the strength of my daughter reaching new heights.

As I write this I am anticipating her return from a year "studying" in Australia.  I know that she has had a fabulous time, and that she feels she has met her future.  She wants to return to live in Melbourne, go through her life down under, where she and I will not even be existing in the same day, let alone hemisphere.  Although she must return to finish her bachelors degree in Chicago, she plans on returning to Australia.  So, as hard as this is for me to do, I wish her the tenacity to do what she needs to do to find her way back, if that is where her dreams lie.  I will be happy to Sing Her Songs to Her, but she will need to do the work, find the path, the means both financial and educational to make this happen.  Although I can't fathom a life with either one of my children living so far away, especially due to my anxiety of travel, her happiness is of utmost importance. While sharing her life I learned so much from this young woman, that I am sure I can learn to experience some time outside of the United States.

Because it seems to me that there may never be
A better chance to see who I am
Come timelessly dancing
Through my dreams to me

Friday, May 25, 2012

Alive in The World

I want to live in the world, not behind some wall
I want to live in the world, where I will hear if another voice should call
To the prisoner inside me
To the captive of my doubt
Who among his fantasies harbors the dream of breaking out
And taking his chances
Alive in the world

The picture above was from a September evening in 2010.  My daughter and I went to the concert. I was suffering from a broken foot, wearing a stylish boot on my right foot.  My daughter, wanting to help complete items on my bucket list approached a gentleman who looked like he was "with the tour",  and I believe asked if there was any chance her mother could meet Mr. Browne.  At that time in my life, I was just realizing that I was experiencing some increase in health problems, and I frankly believed that if I was going to the get the chance to work on the items on my bucket list, this was the day.  So, my guess is, I looked pathetic!  The "official" looking man took us inside the Chicago Theater, and sat us down for sound check.  There he was, Jackson Browne, looking young, energetic and I felt 19 instead of 53!  Which at that moment was the age of my daughter.  The "official" looking man, came back after sound check, and presented me with a Jackson Browne guitar pick.  All that was before the concert even started, and I was pretty much already floating in the clouds.

Through out the rest of 2010 and the Spring of 2011 I continued to be plagued with increasing health problems, which I wanted to ignore.  I assumed that one day they would randomly disappear and I would be who I used to be.  Didn't happen.  As documented previously, I started a downward spiral of emotions, which caused me to turn strongly to the music of Jackson Browne, to listen carefully, to begin this blog, to eventually meet the man who wrote and performed the songs that I believe help me find my way in the world, and to eventually find the strength to leave my job of many years, trying to come to terms with the fact that I physically could no longer perform the job as I knew it needed to be done.

One year ago tomorrow, May 26, 2011, I left my job where I had worked for 17 years.  It is also the birthday of one of my favorite people in the world, who can't read but I am pretty sure knows how I feel.  Without this little person, and her family, and my family I don't know if I would have had to courage to move on, take care of myself, and begin to believe I could once again feel "Alive in the World".

I have documented my experience throughout this blog, my realizations, my feelings and thoughts as I taken this journey over the past twelve months.  This particular song, which I heard as I was driving around today, to me reminds me how far I have come.  I have forgiven myself for "failing" and developing health issues that forced my path to change.  I do want to live  in "the world", not behind a self created wall, or inside my head.  I do want to to take my chances, even though it may involve facing my fears. 

To open my eyes and wake up alive in the world
To open my eyes and fully arrive in the world

With its beauty and its cruelty
With its heartbreak and its joy
With it constantly giving birth to life and to forces that destroy
And the infinite power of change
Alive in the world

To follow these words, in my life today, I can take the anniversary of the beginning of my new path in life and enjoy the changes. Feel, as I do, thankful that I am here Alive in the World.  Then continue moving forward, and take advantage of the "infinite power of change", and face my health issues head on, with out fear, and increase the time I have to "to open my eyes and fully arrive in the world". 

Thanks to everyone who has helped me this year, treating me with respect when I didn't respect myself, liking me when I was not incredibly likable, sharing your children with me and trusting me, when I wasn't sure if I would would ever feel that I was able to contribute to the world around me again.  Allowing me to recover, slowly and begin to take the next steps into my future life!  Teaching me to enjoy my life, each and every day.

Sunday, May 13, 2012