Penny’s Plugging Along

We just passed five months since my birthday and Penny’s diagnosis. I was alternately numb and panicked for a good three months after the news. In July, she had a bout of potty problems and I thought, “Oh! This is it! It’s happening!” but it passed.

She has gastrointestinal cancer. She feels better some days than others, and goes through periods of predictable issues. She meows a lot then, as though she’s looking to me for comfort (That’s hard), and doesn’t eat much. She loses weight, but always gains it back. She’s thin, but not skinny. I tell her that I know she feels lousy and I’m sorry I don’t have a solution, “but I’m with you every step of the way, and I love you.”

We’ve got her meds to a level that maintains her weight and seeming comfort, but for those times, and she’s still jumping up onto the table and watching the street at dusk. We have a lot of foot traffic on our lane, and I like to think perhaps Penny and I share a favorite color: Deciduous Leaves In Late Afternoon Sun.

She’s mobile, vocal, clear-eyed, cuddly, responsive, and engaged. Penny’s perfect.

Maybe when she misses the litter, she’s telling me she’s especially uncomfortable. Thankfully, it’s only happened twice. She’s fine. She’s great! In fact, our long-time pet psychic, Danielle Tremblay said, “Penny thinks she’s an amazing cat.”

That’s such a Penny thing to say! “What do you mean, a Penny thing to say?” one might scoff. I don’t know, except Cricket wouldn’t say that. Penny would. And she did, haha! Incidentally, I’ve been saying that all her life. She is amazing! She’s also hilarious.

Cricket was quirk funny; Penny is prestige funny. Crick was cricky; Penny is dignified.

After those initial months of denial and desperation, we settled into it. I’m so glad Penny hung out long enough for me to be present. That’s what I wanted from the start, but all I succeeded in doing was to sublimate heartache and panic, which only amplifies it. Penny’s job has been to sweep energy, she told Danielle in our very first reading six years ago. (That, also, was not a surprise. She’s always had a bearing of importance.)

I hated bringing tension to our relationship at the end of Penny’s beautiful life, but I couldn’t help it. I was not okay. Crying was too big yet, and panic always precedes it. I was frenzied; Penny was working. She tends to me when I have more stress or sorrow than usual. (Danielle reminded me to let Penny care for me. Her work is important. That helped.)

Have I ever told the story of how Penny came to me?

I had no affection for cats. I didn’t dislike them; I didn’t know them. I’d never had pets, and all my life I’d dreamed of having a puppy. I knew I wanted a big dog, someday, someday.

In 2004, I’d lived in my condo for six years and I was aching for my dog. I planned eventually to parlay my equity into a home with a yard, but the time was now for my fur family. If there’s baby hunger, this was it. I ached for a pet. I did the math and calculated that it would be five years before I could have the home my dog deserved.

Five years!

Around this time, my old friend Bryan popped into my mind. One or the other of us would call two or three times a year, just to check in, and I did that. The first thing he said was, “It’s funny you should call. Shakina had kittens and I can’t place the last one. For some reason, I can’t stop thinking of you. You don’t even like cats.”

My heart burst in chest! I was on fire. She was mine!

I drove straight to Bryan’s, picked him up, and went with him to Petsmart for help kitting me out for my new life with kitty. It wasn’t until we pulled back into his driveway that I realized I hadn’t thought to go in and meet her! I got emotional in the car!

And then I saw her. There she was, the tiniest little thing with full grown ears and a little red nose. The funniest, cutest, little wee thing. I was sad that she would be removed from her mother and the siblings that stayed with Bryan and his daughter, so I asked him to come with us to my home. I hoped a familiar smell in a new place would comfort her.

While Bryan and I caught up, Penny burrowed behind him on the couch and fell asleep. When she woke up, he’d gone home and she was in mine, alone, timid.

(Penny had gone to two homes that changed their minds and brought her back. Isn’t that incredible? The first, a young couple with a new baby, decided right away that a pet wasn’t a priority yet. The next was a hippie chick who decided the day after bringing Penny home that she was following a boy to Italy instead. Interestingly, this girl had named the cat Penelope Platypus Something or other. There was a third name to the moniker; I only remember Penny and a ducky Australian animal. Hippies…)

I talked to my kitten from the start. That first day, we workshopped names. Bryan had told me her mother was named for a Hindu goddess. (In fact, it’s a Christian term, denoting the feminine aspects of God, but I took Bryan’s word for it and thought it might be a nice third generation tradition. Shakina’s mother had been Shakti.)

That first evening, I Googled Hindu goddesses, as well as Hindi words meaning blessing, joy, family, and talked to Penny about who she was. (There were no real search engines then. I can picture antiquated script on the screen of my bulky desktop computer – with the dial-up cord across the floor – but I don’t remember how technology told us things. Chat groups, perhaps? There was a lot of that back then. Funny.)

The wild card, and the name I was trying to avoid, was Penny. I wanted that for my daughter, for my grandpa, who loved me better than anyone and embedded pennies into his woodwork. When he died, I asked him to send pennies, and he did! In unusual, notable ways. Like strolling past a penny sale in a coin shop I hadn’t noticed before – “Pennies! Pennies! Pennies!” – or finding a penny on the floor of my neurotically clean, new-build condo, where there had been no penny before. That happened a lot.

(Today, Molly dug an old space heater out of the basement for me. There was a random penny sitting on its base, that didn’t fall off on its way out of storage, up the stairs, and into my apartment. I wrote this stuff down today and my angels are confirming it, I’m convinced. I don’t see extraordinary pennies as much anymore, and I’ve shared their meaning with so many people that it’s less remarkable somehow. I smile to find any penny, of course, but the stand-outs have to stand out, so I was happy for today’s.)

Grandpa had been gone for five years when Penny was born, and I was falling deeper and deeper into the chaos and pain that would worsen until I was diagnosed with cPTSD. I remember a couple of years before her, sitting in my bedroom in that condo, sobbing, journal open. I was entertaining angel writing at the time, so I was in a sort of begging, desperate prayer. I’d already met them, my angels. I met the first of them when I was ten; the larger group in my early 20s. I’ve felt them quite a lot, in profound ways. At this particular moment, I knew they were with me. I remember fighting the love I felt from the presence. “No one will ever love me,” I cried. “How could anyone ever love me?”

It was not an unfamiliar feeling, but it was unbearable this time to the point of panic and thoughts of escape. Suddenly, I felt my grandfather, as though he’d walked in the room, and I was loved. Done. I stopped crying. It was so strange. I was loved, period.

I put my journal aside and sat in warmth and relief for a few minutes. I felt him leave, as though he saw me better and went back to his research. He loved facts. I imagined him loving heaven like a limitless university.

I opened my bedroom door. I remember being in the hall when I asked for pennies. It had become reliable by then that a knowingness of grandpa’s presence would come with the appearance of pennies, in some unusual way. I was always afraid to expect them, like any of these times I was going to be caught out, an idiot imagining access to angels and talismans, but I asked. “Okay!” I dared them, teasing. “Show me my pennies!”

I turned the TV on to the story of a man who cashed in his million penny collection for $10,000. Wow! It was almost like they were playing, too. “You asked for it!”

That was the moment I knew I wanted to name my daughter Penny. Penny means love.

It was my child’s name, though, not a pet’s, but it was the name I loved. “Well,” I said to the furry stranger at bedtime, “I don’t know your name yet. You tell me.”

I awoke in the morning to that little bobbin chewing on the end of my nose, and I knew.

“You are Penny!” I exclaimed, laughing. “You’re straight from heaven!” (I tease her now that it’s short for Repentance and tell her whenever I leave, “Be very bad. I’ll never know!”)

This cat is the best thing that ever happened to me. She’s squishier and cuddlier than ever, and I’m calm. I’m present! I’m so grateful. How I love my Pretty Pennycat. >^..^<

My One True Thing

Yesterday, on my 49th birthday, I took my kitten to the vet. In truth, she’s an ancient lady of 17, and we’ve entered the final phase. Penny has cancer.

Penny is my life, my baby, my best friend, the best thing that’s ever happened to me. “Well, today’s my birthday,” I told the vet. “And the only thing that matters to me is getting Penny to hers, on June 21st, the Summer Solstice. She’ll be 18.”

“We can do that,” she promised.

I only care about Right Now, celebrating the beautiful life we co-created with our little black magicat, Cricket, who preceded her sister in summer 2018.

I think I may be somewhat in shock. I just can’t believe it’s here. I can’t remember life without her! I never loved anything so much as this cat.

I’m trying really hard to stay present. There will be plenty of time to mourn, when it’s time.

My emotions are very tender. This is life, and I love my cats for spending theirs with me. 🐾

Taurus in The Garden of Eden

I read something recently the made me laugh: “Taurus takes great pride in the fact that she reigns in The Garden of Eden.” It’s true!

On my birthday, the petals fall like confetti. I joke that the whole world is giving me flowers, tossing blossoms at my feet. “She’s here! She’s here! She’s finally here!” Haha!

IT’S SPRING! Not struggling and spare, but SPRING. Every day, it’s new and more, more, lusciously more. Did the hyacinth outside my window double in size overnight?!

It’s still bitter after sundown, and snowed even last week in the city, but we are green and blooming! I love being a Spring baby! I love celebrating life and birth, and MEeee and Earth at her freshest breath of warmth, fragrance, and green!

I’ve been dating an Aries recently, so naturally I researched him a bit. Specifically, in the context of Earth’s early turn to the long days of sun and growth, it said, “… but Aries knows something Taurus doesn’t: Earth when she is fallow. Aries takes pride in moving Earth into action, being the agent of change. Aries prides himself on making something from nothing, spurring the shift from bare to bursting.”

There’s an interesting qualitative difference between Aries and Taurus. Both are hard working. Aries is dynamic, swift. Aries is go, go, go. Aries changes the world.

I’m industrious or indolent, one or the other. And you’re hard-pressed to change whichever mode I’m in. Taurus doesn’t stop her task until it’s complete. And then she goes to beach.

Occasionally, she walks into the surf up to her knees. If the sea is calm, she swims. If not, why, Aries is already diving headlong. Taurus sits. Taurus luxuriates. Someone brings her drinks. Someone’s fanning her, and there’s music. There’s an endless buffet and several 5-star restaurants at this all-inclusive hotel. That’s Taurus. Satiety, indulgence, wealth, beauty, comfort, more.

And then you work. Did you know I never take my 15-minute breaks? I wouldn’t get my work done. I could work faster, but I like my pace. What’s the rush? (Where’s the fire?)

Taurus puts her head down and pushes. Taurus moves mountains. Go, go, go, but differently so. Methodical, unswerving, patient, powerful. Aries is on fire. Aries is the fire.

Aries is the firstborn of the Zodiac. Taurus, his closest sibling. We have a lot in common, and we’re very different. It’s fascinating, and I really giggled at that expression of pride noted in each of us.

I’ve actually said, “I’m so glad I was born when Spring is really here, almost abundant.”

Spring has always been my favorite season. Mid-Spring, my Spring, ideal. Green is her brightest and most vibrant. The trees feel as joyful as I am! I feel like I can finally breathe!

Everything feels possible. Everything’s so beautiful! Earth is such a glorious home.

So, during this season of fresh vitality, remember to sit in wonder. Get your hands in the dirt. Lie down on the grass. Take a deep breath. Feel the warmth of the sun on your skin, the coolness of the breeze. Relish beauty, bounty.

But get up again! Taurus easily gets stuck. Picture the bull, blithely chewing the grass under her nose. She’s long since chewed it down to the nub, when all around her is ungrazed meadow as far as eye can see. “Look up, Taurus!” is something I’ve taken to saying to myself when I catch me being particularly concrete. Bull-headed, one might say.

Do your chores with single-minded purpose. (Aries has got the rest covered. All at once.) Take pleasure in your pursuits. And great pride. Taurus loves the finer things. Enjoy your work. Celebrate the work of others. Pamper yourself, and marvel. Isn’t it all so marvelous!

Happy birthday to me, and happy Taurus to all!

Dynamic Aries!

Welcome to the Zodiac New Year!

In the Zodiac calendar, Aries is the first sign. As the “firstborn,” Aries has a youthful zeal, an infectious magnetism, and a sometimes reckless movement through life.

Aries doesn’t hesitate or second-guess. Aries plows forward, full steam ahead, with confidence in themselves and their ideas.

As the first sign of the Zodiac, Aries can be impetuous and careless, often acting or speaking without thinking. This serves them well in getting things started, but it can alienate others and keep them from following through.

Aries’ youthful energy has great appeal, but can run out of steam or grow discouraged when others don’t immediately see it their way.

We are all under an Aries sun this month, whether or not we enjoy an Aries birthday, so remember to consider others and follow through on commitments. It can be quickly become overwhelming to have incomplete projects in various stages of progress, leading Aries to “burn them all” and dream something altogether different and new.

To enjoy the rewards of your fresh ideas in Aries and Spring, follow through!

222222!

Can you even believe it?! I can’t. Time is immaterial in middle age and later.The feel of it just keeps changing. I think the older we get, the more aware we become that it just ain’t linear, a fact of astrophysics that my simple Taurus brain really fights, haha! It feels at once like a lifetime ago that I started this blog (ten years). Right now, it feels like yesterday.

Today, this is how I feel:

“If you want to lose half of your friends, work on yourself for six months.” – Peter Dinklage
(“… and your entire immediate family” – I would add – oh! my heavy, heavy heart)

Today, I would describe myself like this:

“Late bloomer right on time. Soft and strong. Silly, intense, sassy, cheeky, FUN, smart, surprisingly ditzy, and building a future that surprises me more than anyone.”

*****

A Taurus adjective I’ve found is “concrete.” It’s so laughably accurate! In this context, it means simple, plodding along… dense, haha! Taurus can have a reputation as stupid. I’ve always taken great umbrage at this: “I’m anything but, thank you very much!” But I’m so dumb! I catch myself all the time! Wtf, Christie! ALL THE TIME.

Imagine the docile bull, just gnawing away at that patch, lost to everything around her… “Oh, this is it! Here’s nirvana. I’m never moving again!” That oblivious cow just keeps her head down, forgetting her own imagination and the world around her, and keeps chewing the same damned patch of NOTHING LEFT, failing to look up to find a vast wealth of green pasture… beauty, satiety, pleasure, health, nutrition, and indulgence all around her, hahahahaaaaaa!)

When I catch myself blocked and flummoxed – I’m getting more quick to see it, sometimes – I’m able to laugh and say to myself, “Look up, little Bull, look up.” It feels like love and light rather than the shame and degradation I was raised to feel whenever I made “mistakes” or moved through the world at my own pace, with my own energy, flaws, and gifts. My poor, sick home couldn’t contain anything but total obedience, subjugation, and erasure. It’s so sad.

(The paper job was a terrifying example of not looking up and seeing that I DID NOT BELONG THERE. It was as simple as that. I’m still ashamed and frightened by wtf happened, but the only thing that feels true at the end of the day is a Loving Universe gave me a Universal Smackdown. Perhaps Source or Something helped me fail utterly so I could move on. Perhaps I have early onset Alzheimer’s or dementia. It’s humiliating and seriously terrifying, still, but I simply didn’t belong there, so I’m not. Moving on.)

“Thank god for failure, and the things I couldn’t do
So much of my life, it’s all I ever knew

Thank you for failure, and the mighty music
For making the dreams that chose me come true…” – Martin Sexton

*****

I NEVER DREAMED ANY OF THIS for my life. I never imagined myself approaching my countdown to 50 alone, without a family, without a partner, without security, and without a dynamic career to “cover” for the tired, sexist question, “Why didn’t you have kids?”

(“Fuck off. That’s why,” haha!)

I love my life. Gasp! Saying so is difficult for me.

I’m terrified. I won’t lie. I’ve hidden for so long, from pain and myself, that I’ve lost some skills I had and others I didn’t develop. So many possibilities my inborn talent and tenacity gave me went dormant or passed me by. Life is choice. Over time, you find that not choosing is a choice. I was frozen, for damn near 49 years.

Everyone’s heard of Fight or Flight. But chronic trauma showed me another layer. The truth is it’s Fight, Flight, or Freeze. And I’ve done them all. All my life. I have Complex PTSD, cPTSD. My family doesn’t believe me. My sister actually said, when I tried to make her understand how our childhood affected me, “It wasn’t that bad, Christie.”

“For you, but it was for me. I got sick.”

In her case, she genuinely has the incapacity to understand. She’s happy, well-meaning, prone to denial. My mother’s mental illness created a classic situation. I had no idea how common it is for mothers to create the good daughter and the bad one (for fathers, a kind of primogeniture: the firstborn inherits; the next disappoints). My sister and I fit so seamlessly into our roles that we practically did it for her, but the truth is our mother needed us to be one-dimensional characters that she could act out her illness on. It’s such a tragedy.

Sometimes I can’t believe how ridiculous it is. I mean, we even look like Angel and Devil! If we were cast in our own movie, no one would believe that the good sister was actually blonde, while the bad one had red hair, haha! It’s so obvious it’s cliche, and it’s real!

My sister, the sweet, cuddly towhead baby blond, and two years later, me, the wiggly redhead whose big eyes can’t stop taking in the big world around her. I plowed through my mother’s disapproval, screaming back from before I could speak. My mom tells this story that’s so crazy I can’t even go there. Anyway, the gist is that she has decided from before my first birthday that I was out to get her, so self-fulfilling prophecy made it so.

She could beat me. She could kill me. But I was never going to stop screaming my truth.

In so many ways I made my own grave, but I was raised to. It’s just the lottery of inheritance that Melanie’s personality is gentle and retiring, a mother hen from birth, who shrank from chaos and then forgot it. I’m happy for her. My personality is determined, fiery, on its own terms, and responds like you’re crazy if you’re acting that way. So I got hit. I was disrespectful before I had language. I was literally the redheaded stepchild.

“It’s funny cuz it’s true.” – Karen, Will & Grace

My family still can’t see that I’m not the [only] problem. Though I’ve grown stronger and healthier in the decade[s] since I left, while my poor mother has declined into near-total insanity, they still dismiss me and conclude that I’m “doing it” on purpose. WE WERE RAISED TO RELATE THAT WAY! Do you get it? RELATE. We’re related!

Of course, I don’t say any of this. I just went away for real ten years ago. And I still hear through the grapevine the hideous things they discuss and decide about me. “Ugh, Christie,” loving pity says to each other. “If she’d just get along.” With insanity? No! That’s crazy!

Our family dynamic is diseased but, to them, it’s only mom and me. It was easier when it was infuriating. Now it just breaks my heart. I learned long ago that anger is easier to feel than pain, but I don’t choose that for my second half. I often regret that commitment, but I’m the grown-up in my life and I’ve begun to construct a new culture going forward.

“A family is only as healthy as its sickest member.” -Dr. Phil

My family is so locked in our roles that I’ve hardly been home in the last ten years, but I still hear things like “Arguments and Christie go together like grass and lawn.” “Christie” is less a name than a noun, synonymous with problem. It’s easier that way. And I’m not even there.

I spent the first half of my life stuck in Fight, Flight, or Freeze, and my natural inclination to pursue imagination and growth withered in survival mode. So I’m doing it now. It pisses me off that it stole my entire first half and half my money to learn that I have actual brain damage, but I’m doing it, because that’s my life, and I’m strong enough. I’m a Bull.

Taurus really just wants indulgence, pleasure, beauty, but we’ll work like a hell to get it. It’s harder with a late start – with a chronic pain condition – but I’m doing it. Taurus doesn’t quit. I’m actually bullheaded. It’s so ridiculous, it’s delightful. I love laughing at how much I’ve learned about my birth sign and how accurate it is for me.

Something surprising came out of me one day – more than once that day – and it’s stuck around. It’s so timely: “I can do this. I am doing this!” It’s so simple. How do I know can do this? I am. Again and again, my life shows me: Look up, little Bull. It’s that simple. Abundance, opportunity, and resources are all around. I’m blessed to feel connected to something larger, and I know in spite of myself that I’m not alone. And I’m right on time.

I still have anxiety. Massive, sometimes crippling anxiety. I live with a panic disorder. Pretending it away makes it more powerful, so I’m learning how to move forward with it, simultaneously nervous and afraid. I don’t want to hide. I want to see the world and create the adventures I dream of. Whether I like it or not – and I often reeeeally don’t – a Loving Universe tells me, “You’re not alone, and you’re doing it! You’re exorcising your history, in real time, and building the future of your dreams. New dreams. Good dreams.”

The more I flex those long-ignored muscles, the more I attract the kind of people who can see me as I am, support and champion my progress and my dreams, friends who are capable of receiving the love I’m finally learning and daring to express.

Today, I feel confident… and frightened, ha! I know I’m getting better. So often it looks, acts, and feels like regression. But I’m doing it. I’m moving along. I’m getting there.

It’s a good TEN YEAR ANNIVERSARY for this blog, for this wild, western girl. My goal ten years ago was to heal myself by now. I have to admit that I have. It’s nascent and fragile, but it’s begun. So I did it. The tragedy and heartache of my life, that will never go away, is that my most enduring fantasy – being able to go home – is an impossibility. It’s one of those things you just don’t get outta life: One day you get old enough to see and accept those things, and grieve them. Refusing to love yourself enough to walk away can kill you. It happens all the time. I get sick with my family. I regress there. I become everything they believe and need me to be: the scapegoat, the problem, the reason for our co-created dysfunction. I’m old enough and I love myself enough, for the first time, not to expose myself to that danger.

Ten years ago, I would have considered that a failure. Today, I see it as the saddest, most profound success of my life so far. I love myself enough to contain that pain, and keep growing. I love them. I’m too vulnerable there. And so it goes.

So here we are, on my favorite day, special because it has an extra two.

What a fun and magical day! When I started this blog ten years ago, I didn’t look far enough ahead to realize that my goal date for “success” here, TODAY, was special because it’s a last in a lifetime event. We’ll never see SIX numbers repeated again in our dates. I love that shit. It makes me happy. And 222 is magic for me. I’ve seen it since I was a kid.

It was weird. Noticeable enough that I mentioned it to my mom: “Oh my gosh!” little Mormon me said. “Every time I look at the clock it’s 222!” Even if I woke up in the middle of the night, it was more often than not 222.

At my first burn, I couldn’t believe my eyes: “This can’t be real. This can’t be happening.” Out in deep playa was a GIANT neon 222. “WHAT?!” I was dead sober my entire first burn – because I terrified of getting dehydrated, getting heat stroke, and dying – and there was my magic number, still following me. I looked to the heavens and laughed! “Wtf? Did you know I was coming?!” I didn’t know until the week before! And there it was.

I’m getting older. Like a proper middle-aged woman, I got zero fucks left and I’m more inclined to say so. But deep down, I’m still that playful, dancing girl who believes in magic. Oddly enough, I’m obsessed with science, too – facts, minutia; Astrophysics, frankly, biology, earth sciences – but it gives me pleasure to find or create meaning beyond logic, and I’m a Taurus, goddammit. I give myself permission, at last, to take my pleasure where I find it.

I love my beautiful 222. I love my weird. I love my silly. I love my play and magic. I love my strength. I love frailty. I love and respect my authenticity. I love my courage. I love myself. Oof, that’s hard to say. I celebrate my success and commit myself to creating more. I love my future. The vast expanse of unknown terrifies me, and still I love my future. And I love right now.

Happy 222222! Enjoy your day. I will, two. 😉 (on TWOsday! seriously! Sometimes, I don’t want to believe in a Loving Universe, but I have to.) (And it’s hilarious! Source is pure joy.)

Coloured historical artwork of the constellation of Taurus. The constellation is depicted as a bull charging at the shield of Orion, below the Bull to his left. Taurus is the second sign of the Zodiac. The Sun is in Taurus between 20 April and 20 May. It is a conspicuous and important constellation, and has been depicted as a bull for many centuries. The bright star Aldebaran marks the lower of the Bull’s eyes. The Sun’s path, the ecliptic, is the black and red line at centre. This artwork is based on a sky map by the Polish-German astronomer Johannes Hevelius (1611-1687), published posthumously in 1690.

(^ That’s so cool! ^ I think if I went back to school, I’d get a Bachelor of Fine Arts, just for fun. I’ve felt that way for a couple years, but after Chicago Institute of Art, I knew. So cool!)

Happy New Year!

I hardly know where to begin. 2021 was the hardest of my life. Professionally, I was beset by failure after failure after failure.

The seed of my version of Pandemic Fatigue was planted in April 2020, when Covid finally forced furlough from my long-held, well-loved position with Big Brothers Big Sisters. I couldn’t find work for five months, but it was time I was willing to take to find another position in which I felt like an asset to a good team.

I was a terrible assistant teacher.

I moved on to becoming a chef. While I was never very good, I did demystify the kitchen enough to release fear of feeding myself. Perhaps it sounds strange, but my aversion to meal prep exceeded disdain for cooking. It was pathological. Now I’m unafraid to try new recipes and, more importantly, I don’t deflate when a dish doesn’t work out.

When my beloved Chef Mama retired, however, cracks from the top down, that I’d already begun to see, widened and made my kitchen crew less than skeleton. It was a pile of desiccated ash. In an emergency, I worked 15 hours straight, three days in a row. My seniors had to eat! Ever after, the Executive Director just expected me to break myself (I told him it was a one-off), never once working an extra hour himself to cover the shortfall.

I took a pay cut to move to the front desk, where I could interact with my dear residents face to face, which I longed for stuck in the machinery of an industrial kitchen. I loved my seniors. I loved face time. Nevertheless, I grew increasingly aware of just how poorly the entire operation was managed. It wasn’t.

“We’re working on it” was the disingenuous party line. I looked back in maintenance logs to learn that some issues had been unresolved for years. Serious issues! We flooded during a rain storm, and not for the first time! The building was falling apart. Manager after manager quit during the six months I worked there.

Residents’ concerns were never addressed. Some paid $4000 a month! For a lie! “We’re working on it,” I repeated, knowing that no one in a position to effect change would do so.

It was an interesting juxtaposition between the employees and the Executive Director. The worse his leadership was, the harder we worked to enrich their lives. The Lifestyle & Leisure Manager was imaginative and creative in bringing talent and entertainment to the residents. I often danced with them when a particular group got them up and out of their seats. Everyone working the front desk dropped all the but the essentials just to visit with someone who stopped by wanting to chat. It was lovely. I witnessed and participated in Love In Action every day.

Nonetheless, I grew more and more angry that the Executive Director should let the building fall into such disrepair and leave us to face an increasingly stressed and agitated population of elderly people, who hadn’t the wherewithal to move. All for the lowest wage I’d earned in… I don’t know how long.

I had perceived that my front desk supervisor was “one of us.” She certainly acted buddy buddy. In fact, sometimes I went to work hoping I wouldn’t see her, because she talked FOREVER about video games about elves and trolls and quests and magic. Comradery among colleagues is lovely, but it interfered with my work and kept her from her own much more important work. She picked up most of the Executive Director’s slack, and actually kept things running, if barely.

Nevertheless, I had a skill she didn’t: Brightening someone’s day. Certain of my residents clamored to visit with me, some at great length, and I lived for it. When someone approached the desk, I’d turn to them, expecting my supervisor to pause her narrative, as one does when there’s work to be done, but she kept talking – about wizardry! – until they walked away. Look. I may not do much of anything for my pittance, but my residents look forward to me. They were my job! It was a privilege to bring joy to people needing a vibrant, enthusiastic friend. I loved them.

It was annoying, certainly, but bearable. She craved a sense of belonging, clearly, and who doesn’t? She crossed the line, however, when she complained [more than once] about our Director. I understood, of course, but it put me in a tricky position.

In the end, Covid finally penetrated our Senior Living Center. I was the one to take the initial report. It was Saturday, so no management was on property. I had my resident quarantine in her apartment, and called the Executive Director personally. He was coming in anyway, he said, and would administer a rapid results test then. Hours later, he sauntered in (in shorts) and went straight to his office without a word to me. I called his office, which he didn’t answer, so I went to his office and asked again, “What will we do?”

He promised, again, to administer the test.

Half an hour later, he walked through my lobby, looking back at me before exiting the building, and said, “I don’t have time to do the test. Look in the Emergency Contacts and call her son. Tell him they’ll have to arrange their own test through Salt Lake County on Monday.”

WHAT?!

I looked for her Emergency Contact sheet and found none (!!!). I called the Executive Director, again, who passed it off to my supervisor, who didn’t answer. I finally had to call this little old lady in her home and tell her myself that she was S.O.L. til Monday. Predictably, she began to panic. “Why can’t I have the test now? What does my son need to do?” I got his number from her and called, but she was left to agonize for days, when ten minutes of the Director’s time would have answered the question. I was furious that he should leave her to anguish, and I’d been the face of his indifference. I know it felt like I didn’t care. It’s not like I could tell her what actually happened. As far as she knew, I wouldn’t help during a global pandemic. She was scared!

Furthermore, she was a bit naughty. All weekend, she snuck out of her apartment in search of neighbors to hang out with in common areas. When we ushered her back to quarantine, she’d feign innocence. “I don’t have a negative test….”

Well, she would have, that day, if our Director had honored his word and done his job, and we ended up with a small spread, including a death. Yes, he was very old, but he died. I was so angry! He might have had Covid anyway, even if a timely result had kept our Patient Zero in her apartment over the weekend, but my Director’s refusal to give even ten minutes of his time to our exposure made me feel like he’d killed him. I took the initial report, and he walked out the door. I complained to a colleague, who complained to my supervisor, who reprimanded me for denigrating the Director. I owned it. I had. It was inappropriate work behavior, but now I was offended. How could she chastise me without any self-awareness or shame? I was her confidante for warlocks, witches, and bitching about our boss. I didn’t consider her behavior permission for my own. I was wrong, but she was ten times more so and unabashed to scold me, in spite of gross hypocrisy, particularly galling in view of her position over me. It’s objectionable that my team leader should set the very example she later admonished me for. I could have had that place shut down for countless violations. But where would my seniors go?

I quit. I said simply that, despite the love I bore my colleagues and residents, I could no longer look past issues with the building and leadership. I offered to give a proper two weeks notice, but I was leaving for Chicago the next day anyway with Alan. I could work for two weeks after that if my supervisor would like, but I would be taking the rest of the day off. “I do apologize, but I’m not keen to finish today’s shift.” (She declined my two weeks.)

I later learned that the Executive Director was fired shortly after I quit, but I’m banned from even entering the building! This supervisor lied to my face when I asked if I could continue with my Astrology parties, which had grown in popularity each month. Why should the residents be denied a fun activity? Why should they pay for her small mind?

I shared tearful good-byes that day with a few residents who saw me leaving. A colleague called later, asking permission to give my number to a resident who’d missed the chance to say farewell, and she called me at home to thank me! I loved my people so much.

On my way out, I received invitations to visit many residents personally. I promised, and looked forward to it! I live half a mile down the street. I would love to hang out with my new senior friends, and come over for a cafeteria dinner every now and then.

NOPE. Persona non grata. I miss them so much.

(They also stole hundreds of dollars from me, through a 401K I didn’t choose, and was never presented with. When I noticed it on my pay stubs, I showed it to my manager. [“Oh, how strange,” she feigned. “That’s automatic, but only after a year.”] She promised to look into it, and I kept asking. She put me off again and again. “As soon as….” As soon as nothing! I was, as yet, blind to the depths of deception that operated the facility.

(Later, also before this time, I had time off scheduled for my grandma’s 95th birthday. I asked this manager who I should speak with to apply my PTO earnings. She identified herself as head of payroll. I told her I wished to use PTO, and was there anything else I needed to do? “No.” Well, I couldn’t celebrate my grandmother, because of our Covid spread. I stayed home and cried, but made sure to remind my supervisor to apply those earnings. She promised.

(Why did I trust her? Why am I so stupid? Hundreds of dollars.)

From there, I went on to work in a decorative paper company. We’re talking hand-made papers from all over the world, with inclusions of tropical flowers or reeking of perfumed, natural dyes. It was so beautiful! It was more money, and it spoke to my strengths. I am exact. Things go how they go and that’s how I do them. I find great satisfaction in doing things right. I half ass nothing and struggle with perfectionism. Finally! A job where that pays off! And it’s so pretty!

Y’all. I was fired! I CAN’T CUT PAPER! I lost a paper cutting job!

It’s not like any failure I’ve known. It’s terrifying. What the hell is happening? It’s not a talent or a technical skill or a type of intelligence. It’s a remedial task. And I couldn’t do it! Scarier still, I had no idea! I was completely unaware. I felt like I was doing all of my obsessive excellence checks – I was doing them – but my own quality control mechanism failed.

The owner had to sit me down and show me sheet after sheet of unsellable artisan paper. The sheer volume of random inconsistencies and gross errors was horrifying, mystifying, humiliating. It’s bad enough that I did it; worse that I didn’t catch it! It rattles my entire sense of self and reality. For all my seeking the elusive calling, I’ve learned that I quite enjoy mundane tasks. I love To Do Lists. I live for minutiae. I’ve been called anal retentive.

“I’m not,” I reply. “I’m precise.” This was in my wheelhouse!

This wasn’t failure to excel or meet my own impossible standards. It was failure to perform simple tasks with competence. This was ineptitude. I can’t trust the ground I walk on. I’m losing my mind. How did this slip past me? How is that I CAN’T CUT PAPER?!?!!

I fuckin’ lost my job! … Paper!… I…I…I.. I don’t understand. I’m terrified. It’s like not being able to tie my shoes. It’s 8.5×11! That big line and that big line, and cut. I couldn’t do it!

Luckily, I had therapy the next day. I don’t think I’ve cried that hard that long in a session before, the whole hour. He recommended I see a neurologist, which I will, but I don’t think they’re going to find anything, and I don’t think menopause can explain this.

I describe Fibro fog as thinking through quicksand. It’s definitely frustrating for someone who’s always had a quick, reliable mind. Though I joke that I’m smart enough to know how stupid I am, I’ve been very grateful for my intelligence.

Menopause has made the ever-worsening mental morass more vast. Or at least I’ve blamed menopause, but now I think I’m just declining, period. Ha! Period. What I wouldn’t give for one more. I want my rosy, plumpy youth hormones back.

I WANT MY BRAIN BACK!

This is beyond even that. This is loss of function. I CAN’T CUT PAPER!

I’m flummoxed. Oh god, I’m embarrassed! Wtf? I’m scared.

Five days after losing the pretty paper job, I was hired in specialty cheese at the supermarket, so I start the New Year in dangerous dairy. (Cheese is a better friend than chocolate.) That’ll help the Menopausal Middle. I can’t cut paper but, by god, I can cut the cheese, haha!

It helps to soften the blow of being sacked, not to worry about a money gap (plus a pay increase), but the confusion remains. It’s discombobulating. It’s so frightening.

This is the first time I’ve encountered failure that I can’t find, appreciate, and be better for one of two things: The learning or the love. There was no point to this. There is no silver lining to this colossal reversal. I don’t know what to do with that. I need it to mean something or teach me something, and it just doesn’t. And I certainly don’t love myself or anyone more for the experience of it. It’s been absolutely devastating, unlike anything I’ve known.

???????????????????????????

So, that’s a lot of pressure to take into what I meant to make of 2022: MY BEST YEAR!

It’s just begun. I will do it. I have a job. I have the strength to weather hardship. I’m ready for progress and consistency, and I’ll see it. I know I’ll see pain, too, because life is life, and I guess I’m living it. I confess I haven’t committed to life any more than I’ve committed to a job, a relationship, anything. I’ve lived with an escape hatch since I left home.

Next year, I’m 50. Soon, my Penny will pass and I’ll check off my sole bucket list item: Move to Bolivia and master Spanish fluency.

2022 is for getting serious about my health, so I can feel powerful, confident, and clear-for-the-love-of-god-minded. I have a sleep study on Jan. 12th. I see the Ear Nose Throat specialist Jan. 18th. I have yet to hear back from the neurologist, but I’ll keep you posted on what I learn. Cholesterol and diabetes screenings tomorrow, and 40 pounds to lose from my highest weight ever. You’ll never see the Before pics but I’ll share the Brags, er, Afters.

2022 is on! Oh, my beloved 222, don’t let me down!

Hail, Scorpius!

Last month kicked my ass. I got my first cold since we started wearing masks, and it knocked me into a deep fatigue that became a serious, lasting depression. I was out of commission for a couple of weeks, feeling really lousy and really sorry for myself.

I’m hoping that Scorpio’s passion and determination will translate into getting back on track with my life and health goals. The scorpion loves genuine effort, and I start the sign with a personal trainer! This Taurus is out of shape and terrified.

I never got Covid19, but I definitely gained it. Wish me luck!

Balance or Blind Justice in Libra

Libra’s scales are well-known to represent balance, but the reason for that association is interesting to me: During the change of season from Summer to Fall, light and dark are equal. We lean daily further into night, and rest.

Equinox is a time to go within. For my part, this week has been a time of enormous resistance, like I know what’s good for me but instead of doing it – the setting things in order work of Autumn – I’ve let my home and personal life sink into disarray.

Complete chaos. It’s a mess in here.

Alan and I have been together for long enough that we’ve met ourselves in the context of us. We’ve begun to establish a pattern with our individual habits in relationship with one another. And it hasn’t been working.

We had our first fight on Sunday. It was awful, maybe because it wasn’t familiar. There was none of the screaming and “gone too far” of my history, and we left in an embrace.

But it was awful.

I called the next day. We both felt… well, awful. We talked again about the disconnect of the night before, when suddenly it became unmistakably clear: I’m not unsure anymore about continuing to try; We’re not a match. I knew it.

I ended things. We both cried. I enjoyed so much about him and us. I was falling in love. We just don’t work together when it’s hard.

I was unsatisfied by a phone break up. It seemed cold and unworthy of what we did build and do well, but we have consistent communication breakdowns and we’ve failed to find a way through them together. Too soon. In short order, the inability to reach resolution would fester and potentially trigger each of our worst. I want better for myself, and for him. It matters to me to love each other well.

And we have. It’s love, too, to know when is when. Not waffling on my resolve, I called the next day and asked to see him. I simply wanted to hug and kiss him good-bye.

I’ve slept over every night this week!

This is absurd. We’re having a laugh, but it’s not harmless and my resolve is weakening. We don’t work, and all I feel is tension and resistance.

I’m glad I’m not going to E11 this weekend. It seems I’m yet unwilling to respect my own boundaries, and require a few days of absence to take the choice from me.

So balance yourself in Libra’s sun, friends. There’s still time to do this right (comma, Self).

Breaking up with love is so much harder than torching the fucking bridge.

The Maiden Virgo

I like to decorate the party hall according to the zodiac theme each month, but drew a complete blank on The Virgin. How does an experienced middle-ager harken back to maidenhood? I tease. Counterintuitively, I found it harder to personify a person, rather than iconic traits of an animal, such as the crab or lion. I had a hard time identifying with Virgo.

I phoned in my presentation. No one knew, but I don’t like halfass-ing things. I feel false, and it’s reduced to busy work involving memorization. I excel at memorization and enjoy task-related things (Taurus), but I prefer to find meaning, however “woo” that may be. We humans are meaning-making creatures, and astrology is more fun, in my opinion, when you accept it as a possibility and allow yourself to play inside the ideas on offer.

So last month’s presentation was surface-level but it’s meaningful, nonetheless, to provide enrichment, generate energy, and build community with the residents I love.

I also admit to being totally side-tracked by my new love affair, and being whisked away on my very first all-expenses paid romantic trip. Alan flew us to Chicago and whadya know? We travel together like champs! It was… oh! It was wonderful.

The opposite of Virginal in Virgo, haha! He’s been such a surprise. Yes, the sex is fun and new, but I just like him. It’s his brain and humor I can’t get enough of.

“I’ve always wanted my very own redhead,” Alan reported.

That’s one I haven’t heard, and I love it. It took him six weeks to tell me. I love that more.

The Palmer House
Faces of Chicago / Millennium Park
Monet’s Water Lilies (!!!) / Art Institute of Chicago

Leo Burns

Leo Party / July 20, 2021

Our astrological fire sign has been, well, on fire, and I’m itching to get out of the West. Salt Lake had the worst air quality in the world for spate of days just over a week ago. We have smoke from Burning California every summer, but this year was the worst. It won’t be the last time that’s pronounced. It will always be worse.

July was Planet Earth’s hottest month in recorded history. My beloved West will only experience ever-worsening drought, and fire fire fire. My heart hurts.

Other than that, you may have noticed that I disappeared briefly. My life has been rather small, for a decent amount of time. One by one over five years, my three best girlfriends all moved away; My social life went with them. I was old enough then to switch my focus from partying 24/7 to finally getting my Life Toolkit on lock.

Covid was devastating for the global community, but timely for me. I’d gone within. I remained there, to demystify the Wtf. I’ve experienced enormous change over the last five years, and was just feeling as though I might be ready to step off that rotating fulcrum from youth into my second act. Covid came like an invitation further into the cave, to examine the progress I’ve made, commit to it, believe in it.

“Stay in for a minute longer,” Pandemic summoned. “Really look at the changes you’ve made. Picture what you create with your energy and your choices. Rise up to your full capacity and claim it! It belongs to you, and it’s up to you.”

With the start of this blog, I chose a tagline: “Life has lived me. Now I flip that.” It’s time to reclaim my life… kinda for the first time. Living intentionally is different from what I’ve known and done.

I’ve felt all along like loving Galen this second time around was “love with training wheels.” I know he’s not my forever person. Because of this, I was able to accept him exactly as he is, not viewing his difference as lacking, not meeting my needs. It’s okay to want more from a partnership, but Galen wasn’t that person. I didn’t ask that of him. As a result, I was free to love him completely. And I love him. I’m so grateful for our final love affair.

Galen gave me the experience of myself as a loving person. And a great romp in the hay. 😉 We always had the best chemistry. I didn’t want a fuck buddy. I wanted to love him.

It’s strange to feel and to say, but it’s really something to be loved by me! That’s been my biggest fear in therapy. What if? What if? The answer is, you just do it… and learn as you go. Intimacy is the biggest trigger of that deep pain, vulnerability, fear and, more importantly, self-preservation. Love is cPTSD, period, and you can’t love armor up.

So! Kam’s 50th Birthday was a fully-vaccinated festival in Boulder, UT. I’ve been living for it. At the last minute, my ride dropped out and I invited Galen. It would have been the first time we’ve seen each other since April of last year, but he had a river trip planned. I found a ride with a single party-goer in need of a room, and a new friendship was born.

I’m so grateful for friendship that grew over time with this inspiring woman. Happy 50th, Kam. ❤

On Day One, I’m sitting alone at brunch, chatting with old friends and new, when in walks some hippie-lookin’ dude in a Tshirt that commands conversation:

We haven’t stopped talking.

I haven’t been more comfortable or natural in my life. And completely taken by surprise. I had no idea when I laughed out loud that, come dawn, I’d be kissing him by the fire.

I practically missed the party. It was all Alan. It was dreamy. It was heady and thrilling, and effortless. He likes me, a lot, and I’m in deep smit.

He’s whisking me away in two weeks on a romantic weekend getaway to Chicago! I had no idea when he asked that he meant to pay for everything! Never have I permitted myself to be wined, dined, and spoiled. It was too fraught. I’m not worth it. What happens when the bottom falls out? Is this weaponry for when we end horribly?

For the first time in my life, I’m not attached to what happens tomorrow. I love what’s happening now. I get to care for someone, for real. Training wheels off!

Last night I made him dinner. I’ve resisted and resented expectations of domesticity all my life. Sad, that my natural expression of nurture was stifled so early, but I’ve unearthed it and I’ma pour it on everyone able to receive and reciprocate!