Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Not every post can be uplifting

Ladies and gentlemen, there is no other way to put this: I am losing my hair.

For more than obvious reasons, this is devastating to me.

My hair was the only thing about me that I ever consistently thought was pretty...the only aspect of my appearance that really made me proud.

And now it's falling out in handfulls.

And I don't know why.

As you can see, my scalp is red and irritated. It's itchy or painful often.

The itchy/painful feelings only became apparent to me over the last month or so.

I'm not sure how recently I started balding. The spot is on the back of my head, so it took my hairdresser pointing it out with a big mirror for me to see.

Has this ever happened to you?

Perhaps you can shed some light?

Is this the dysautonomia? The birth control pills? I am presently on antidepressants, a proton pump inhibitor, and birth control...all of which can cause hair loss.

My parents say it's stress - but I don't think stress causes red scalp and scalp pain...

I'm really hurting today, readers.

Really upset.

I can't articulate how much this hurts and scares me...

I guess sometimes a picture (or two) is worth a thousand words?

Monday, December 28, 2015

The 30-Minute Mile

Never in my 34 years of life did I think I'd brag about a 30-minute mile.

Even as an asthmatic kid, I could still fight the blackout with my inhaler long enough to eek out a 12-minute-or-so mile. And hell, up to and until July of this year, even taking my typical, leisured nature walk, I'd average around 18 minutes.

So if you'd told me then - in fifth grade, in the fifth month of this year - that I'd be all bragadocious about a 30-minute mile, I'da toldja you were nuttier than Planter's Pistachios.

And then, there came JULY.

If my Life were a screenplay, the first 34 years would be what is often referred to as Act 1 of the 3-Act structure, wherein we get to know the characters and surroundings - you know, the basics: who is sleeping with whom, who is really so-and-so's long-lost brother, who is secretly a scumbag successfully masquerading as a sweetheart... that kind of thing.

For us screenwriters, it's called establishing the stasis, and, as every good screenwriter knows, into every stasis, a conflict must fall.

Thus, we enter Act 2.

JULY.

It was at this point in my Life's play, that the "conflict" portion of the plot reared its stasis-shattering head in the form of blood, forced anorexia and a sudden inability to go more than five minutes without sweating, fainting, or otherwise feeling like I was going to fucking die.

Unbeknownst to and unwelcomed by The Lead (me, for those of you bad at theater and script analogies), Dysautonomia entered, stage right... and since then I've been praying for a denuement and Dysautonomia's exit, stage left.

But like all worthwhile adversaries, it seems this fucker just won't leave The Lead alone... which brings me to THE MILE...

Here we are - five months into Act 2 - and the conflict has left me, very literally, weak.

I've lost count of the doctors' visits, medications, hospitalizations, and days spent in the bed, too weak or sick or pained to move.

My 18-minute mile? Likely said, "Sayonara," around month three, but I was too busy being bedbound, writhing in agony to hear her depart.

...

Not much changed when I received my diagnosis, except that the crippling fear that had gripped me for months now had a name, and a "get cozy 'cause you're gonna have me for life" prognosis. In some ways, this made my life better: I could research this monster and find out how to best wound it. In some ways I was worse: knowing there's no cure for the plague infecting me robbed me of what little hope I'd managed to salvage.

...

Prior to Dysautonomia, I was a journalist, and, despite this disorder's crippling effects, the standards of that station still persist in me - the tenacity to uncover the truth, the refusal to take no for an answer, the unmitigated gall to put my foot in the door and absolutely refuse to remove it until I have had my say - these things remain.

And they are serving me well.

It typically takes a patient five years to be diagnosed with Dysautonomia.

I was diagnosed in five months.

Because if I had to knock on the door of every damned doctor in Georgia (and Florida, as it turns out), I was gonna be heard. I was gonna be seen. I was gonna be treated. I was gonna improve.

I found my diagnosis on my own, because no local doctor could make heads or tails of what was wrong with me (if they believed anything was wrong at all).

I took what I found to a doctor who'd listen and perform the tests I asked for.

The tests (whose brothers had all come back with negative, you're-perfectly-healthy-now-go-home results) finally started coming back in measurable "positives" - I say finally because finally we were running the right tests.

With the Dysautonomia diagnosis, I began to do what I've always done when I had a story or paper due - I researched.

I got my hands on every piece of credible literature I could find and I read it. And I marked it. And I returned to it for reference.

And in doing so an unexpected thing happened - I got some of my power back.

I got just a modicum of my momentum back.

Dysautonomia had hindered my health, but it hadn't claimed me.

I was - I am - still here.

And dammit, I can walk a mile.

...

Today, I began to write Act 3.

I took what I had learned from my reading - that exercise, perhaps the most difficult thing in the world for a Dysautonomia sufferer, is a key to feeling better.

Today, nauseated and lightheaded, I climbed on the treadmill in the gym at the Marriott Courtyard in Birmingham, Alabama, and began to walk.

I would make it to 30 minutes, I told myself.

And I know Dysautonomia heard me say it.

My pace was embarrassingly slow, but I was able to select a program that included sporadic use of an incline.

I clenched the bars tightly - to guard against collapse, yes, but also because doing so would allow the machine to monitor my now tachycardic heart.

Slow and steady.

Minute by minute.

I made my 30-minute mile.

Sure, it wasn't what I was used to.

It wasn't what I was capable of even six or seven months ago.

But I'm not the same person I was six or seven months ago.

And that is as it should be.

The Lead must change over the course of the story. She cannot be who she was before Conflict disrupted Stasis. She must be stronger, better, wiser, changed.

Sometimes, she may even need to be broken.

But this time - this story - is not one about the brokenness, the shattering.

As I've told you before (and Buddha said before me), the glass was already broken.

This story, then, is about what I am going to do with the pieces.

And the first thing I am going to do

is walk.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Get Off Your Ass and DO SOMETHING: A Christmas Wish

While lotsa folks are lovin' on "Jingle Bell Rock" and "Sleigh Ride," my favorite Christmas carols were always those that B98.5 conveniently forgot. Likely because Mariah Carey never did the Olde English "Good King Wincelas" or "I Saw Three Ships," these tunes have fallen from favor.

Some other ne'er played favorites of mine? "The Holly and the Ivy," "I Wonder As I Wander" (This one should be mandatory listening every year), "Oh Come Oh Come Emmanuel" (likewise mandatory), "Here We Come A-Wassailing" (just because it's jaunty), and, perhaps my favorite, "Some Children See Him."

But this year in this particular season, I find myself humming "A-Wassailing" a little less and a lesser-known tune a little more. Perhaps - in fact, I am sure - it's because this not-at-all-jaunty carol boasts a speak-to-me theme: "Let There Be Peace on Earth and Let It Begin With Me."

For those who aren't familiar, the lyrics are these:

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.

Let peace begin with me, let this be the moment, now

With every step I take let this be my solemn vow:

To take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.

...

Sure, it's preachy and P.C.

And it's certainly no soul-rousing "Hallelujah Chorus."

But while the Lord God Omnipotent surely continues to raineth (as He has done every year), this particular song points out that we, as human beings, haven't really been excelling at our end of the bargain when it comes to upholding The Golden Rule.

Sure, other songs - this one in particular - also call for peace on earth, but they, like so many Miss America hopefuls, only put forward such a possibility as a wish.

"Let There Be Peace on Earth" dares go beyond that. It takes a stand and issues a challenge.

Not only am I gonna wish there was peace on earth, I'm gonna do my part, every freakin' day, to make sure it happens.

So while you carolers and Miss Arizonas are over there wishin', I'm gonna be workin'... and we'll see which process yields more results.

Now I know many of the wishers out there are already doers. Many Miss Americas use their crowns to make some sort of positive difference. But while sparkly crowns may open doors - may make people sit up and listen for a time - it's my impression that this particular holiday, and the peace for which it calls, is less about a sparkly crown than it is about a crown of thorns.

I know, I know...that's throwing Easter into the mix...

But what I am talking about here - and I note the irony of the beginning of this sentence as I type its conclusion - is that talking isn't enough. Wishing isn't enough. We need to be doing.

After all, if Jesus had just talked a good game, but never walked a walk that ended in sacrifice, most among us wouldn't know his name. If it wasn't for the sacrifice, the willingness to go the distance and pay the ultimate price for peace, there'd be no reason to celebrate Christmas in the first place.

Right?

Now, as Jew, I know I believe differently than many of you. I have my own thoughts and theories about Yeshua of Nazareth, but, rather than letting those beliefs cloud the issue, I rather think they reinforce my point. About "Let There Be Peace On Earth" anyway.

Because, see, you and I can disagree on many things - Jesus included - but the desire for peace is a shared one. It transcends doctrine, race, sex, and creed.

It's one of the few things the vast majority of humanity can agree on.

And if the vast majority of humanity not only agreed on something but had the balls to act on it...well, then maybe peace on earth wouldn't be such a far-fetched prospect that Anne Murray had to croon some carol for Aladdin's lamp.

...

I talk a big game.

But here lately I have been castigating myself for my lack of "do."

Sure, I want peace, but what have I done to contribute to it? Write a blog? Pointed you to an obscure carol?

Maybe that counts as doing something. Or trying anyway. But, as another prolific spiritual leader once said, "Do or do not. There is no try."

Friends, I challenge you, during this busy time of year, to reach into your heart and actually find a way, any way, to make the world a better, more peaceful place this Christmas.

And, perhaps I can hearken to a teacher whose words many of you will recognize when I tell myself: "Go, and do likewise."

Friday, December 18, 2015

Not exactly uplifting, that Buddha...

With the exception perhaps of the death of a loved one, nothing will divide your life into "pre" and "post" more prolifically than chronic illness.

Since becoming sick, everything in my life has become "pre"dysautonomia and "post"dysautonomia.

I was a three-mile-a-day walker predysautonomia.

I was a world traveler predysautonomia.

I was an award-winning journalist predysautonomia.

Now?

Postdysautonomia?

Ummm...I bathed this morning?

...

Now, postdysautonomia, I often make it through the day by telling myself the usual platitudes - that I just have to make it to the right doctor and then things will get better - that I just have to have the right test for the eureka moment - that any day now I'll wake to find, in Dorothy Gale-fashion, that this was all a dream...

But despite getting by mostly on denial, I have actually come across some thought processes that help me.

The mind is a powerful thing, and, when I can get mine right, I manage to transcend my circumstances and gain some deeper understanding of the universe and my place in it. It's one helluva price to pay for presence of mind - knowing you're likely gonna be sick every day of your life for the rest of your life - but I will say it's been an unexpected (dare I say it?) gift of my illness that it has allowed me to see life in an entirely new way.

And I will share that way with you today.

Buddhism holds, among many things, that life is suffering.

"Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says otherwise is trying to sell you something."

I know. Uplifting, right?

But bear with me here.

Thing is, I had suffering predysautonomia. Lots of it, in fact. It seemed my mind was always on some form of my suffering and how to fix or overcome it.

Whether it was trouble-shooting my wedding or coping with the frustrations of my job or facing my own inadequacies in areas in which I desired to thrive, I had suffering.

And while that suffering pales in comparison to my suffering now, at the time it was sufficient suffering for predysautonomia Erin.

So, in short, life pre? Wasn't all it was cracked up to be. Sure, knowing what I know now, I'd love to go back to pre, but even if I did, there's no way that pre me would or could have understood... Because there are some things only experience can bring.

So - first thing is - there was suffering pre and there will be suffering post. It's true for me, and it's true for everyone. And it's good to keep that in mind.

Second uncomfortable but earth-shattering truth: we were born to die.

Each and every one of us, from the moment of our birth, began to die.

Like our birth date, time, and location, the details for each of us are different, but the end result is the same.

I will die. You will die. We're all gonna die.

So if my dysautonomia gets me to that final destination faster, well, what's the damned difference in the end?

Sure, we'd all prefer to die well-into our twilight years, peaceful, in our sleep, having lived a long, healthy life.

But since being sick I've come to realize that that's the end we all want - nay, it's the one we all expect and the one we're all banking on - and yet so few people meet their end in such a way... it makes "banking on" such an ending a bad investment really.

So live how you can the best you can, because tomorrow isn't promised to anyone.

Which brings me to point three. Also a Buddhist principle: The glass was already broken.

This one has moved mental mountains for me.

To be blunt, we all die, and each of us dies because our body breaks.

Every human being who has ever lived and died has died because their body has broken.

Period.

End of story.

Universal truth.

Because this is true, and each of us knows it on some level, we therefore think of our bodies and our lives as I have been - "pre" break and "post" break.

We were complete, healthy and whole...then we're broken, dead and buried.

But friends, this is not so.

Just as we were born dying, we were also born broken.

Wrongly, we view our lives as some sort of beautiful, priceless vase and, when sickness or death comes a-calling, that vase is then shattered, irreparable.

I'm here to tell you - your beautiful Life Vase? Is already broken.

You. have. been. dying. since. the. day. you. were. born.

Your vase, if it ever was pristine, had a fault line in it since birth.

You were not destined for a life of health that was suddenly interrupted.

Nope.

Your fault line - my fault line - all of our fault lines have always been there.

When I broke to the world (July 2015) - and whenever you break to the world - the fact remains that the glass was already broken.

It just takes the loud noise and the flying of the pieces for most of us to see it.

...

Two seconds, one second, mere milliseconds before my sister died in a car accident, she was what any of us would call completely healthy.

Young, vibrant, 16-years-old. "She had her whole life ahead of her."

Friends, she didn't.

I don't know why or how or to what purpose, but her glass was always broken, and her time to shatter in a way where we could all bear witness was 7-26-07.

I take no pleasure in saying that.

I do not say it coldly, or even with distance.

When her glass shattered in a way that I could actually see it, I, too, was shattered.

My Life Vase fault line deepened that day.

But the fault line - hers and mine - was already there.

...

I know that some will not be able to accept this.

I know some will not understand.

I know some will think me cold, or bitter, or spiteful.

But knowing what I now know - seeing what I now see - about the inevitability of the fracturing of this life is actually helping me to cope.

My body broke for the world to see in July 2015.

But it was broken before that.

And that's nobody's fault.

There's no one to blame.

There's no one to curse.

The glass was always broken... and, in accepting that, I can accept me - I can accept me "post." At least for a little while.

Tomorrow - or maybe even in 5 seconds - I will return to my "pre" way of thinking: that this was done to me, that I have been set upon, that my life, which was meant to be X, was cruelly interrupted by Y... but such thinking only builds resentment, frustration, woe.

The glass was always broken. I have not veered from my path.

And though my path is different than yours, the destination is nevertheless the same.

I will meet you there, dear friend, when our predetermined points collide.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

If I didn't know better...

Here lately - the past 5 months - my mind could often be found wandering the senseless paths that we all, at some point or other, tread: the "if I had a time machine, I'd go back and do ______ differently" trails.

Inevitably, this flight of fancy would deliver us from our present, undesirable circumstance, and magically rewrite the whole life chapter to be nothing but kitties and rainbows.

But my friends, need I remind you - and me - that the rainbow only came after the flood?

...

I saw a commercial yesterday - bear with me - that really spoke to me. In the commercial, there were two giant boards. One had a sign - "The Past" - at the top; the other's sign read "The Future".

Bystanders on the street were asked to take magnetic words/phrases from a gargantuan pile and place those words/phrases, as they applied to the individual, on the board to which those bystanders felt the words/phrases corresponded.

"Positive" words/phrases were written in yellow; "negative" words/phrases were written in blue. (ie. "Promotion at work" was written in yellow. "Hospitalization" was written in blue.)

Frantically, folks rush to the wall to add words.

When the exercise is over, the Past Board is an even mix of yellow and blue. The Future Board is almost all yellow...

I thought about that for a long time...

Since becoming sick, I've taken a really thorough look at what I wanted for my future. By and large, my desires didn't much deviate from my assumed desires for many of you: a home, a family, a job I love, the ability to travel and see the world.

Indeed, in the realm of "What Erin wants for her life," I felt I'd set the bar squarely at "completely attainable."

But Life, it seems, had other plans.

(Now "bathe myself without fear of collapse" ranks high on my list of "What Erin wants for her life.")

...

Why is it that, despite our experiences of the past - despite our knowledge that Life delivers good and bad to every individual - that Life is not fair and never will be - do we continue to paint the future with (in this case) a predominantly yellow hue?

Do we all feel we have somehow met our quota of negativity and that Life is therefore preparing to dole out favors aaaaaaany minute now?

That Life remembers those things it did in the past that were wholly unfair and insufferable and that, if we just sit back in our recliner and wait, Life will ring our doorbell with flowers and chocolates and a letter of apology tucked under the wiper of "OUR BRAND NEW CARRRR!"?

...

Acceptance is the last stage in the grieving process.

Once we're done denying the situation... getting mad at the situation... bargaining with God over the situation... getting depressed and bawling our freaking eyes out over the situation... we finally accept the situation. And it looks something like this: (you're welcome)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_Z3lmidmrY

And while I cannot say that I, personally, will hang out in the sands of acceptance (that reference will make sense if you watch the video), forever - or even for the rest of the day - I can say that, in this moment, I have come to accept that my future might have a bit more of a blue hue than I'd have liked.

But then again, that was really always the case, wasn't it?

What's changed, really, is not my future... but my concept of what my future should have held.

...

Therapists tell me "should" is a dangerous word, loaded with expectation that may just be impossible to meet.

I should have lived another 50-some-odd years healthy, happy, and whole.

But that, my friends, is painting The Future Board with positives.

When I look back at my Past Board, I realize Life doesn't work that way.

And I further realize that sometimes these negatives - these terrible experiences that broke my heart and my spirit - eventually worked out in my favor.

Some of those blues made possible the brightest of yellows in my life.

And maybe that's what this is.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Dysautonomia - my life sentence

On Tuesday, they strapped me to a table.

I averted my eyes as she put the IV in.

I stared at the ceiling when they applied the half-dozen or so monitors all over my chest and torso.

Then they tilted the table upright.

I passed out.

...

For about 5 months I have been suffering.

Daily.

With the symptoms, of course, but also with the uncertainty.

Suffering knowing something is desperately wrong with me, while test after test came back negative.

While more than one doctor told me it was all in my head.

And then I passed out on the table.

...

Dysautonomia.

That is what I have.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it basically means that, for some reason or other, my autonomic nervous system (the one that controls your involuntary functions - digestion, heart rate, circulation, body temperature controls, fight-or-flight response, breathing) stopped functioning properly.

My fainting spells?

Dysautonomia.

Daily fever for 5 months?

Dysautonomia.

Inability to eat?

Dysautonomia.

Constant nausea?

Dysautonomia.

Excessive sweating for no reason?

Dysautonomia

Feeling feverish/lethargic/like I have the flu?

Dysautonomia.

Tachycardia?

Dysautonomia.

Palpitations?

Dysautonomia.

Uncontrollable panic attacks?

Dysautonomia.

Vision blurs?

Dysautonomia.

Neuropathy pain and muscle weakness?

Autonomic neuropathy from...you guessed it! DYSAUTONOMIA!

...

So what does this mean?

Well, dysautonomia is incurable.

Sometimes it presents as a secondary disorder, meaning that, if the underlying disorder is addressed (usually diabetes or MS or Parkinsons), then patients see an improvement in their dysautonomia symptoms.

But for those people like me - people for whom doctors cannot determine an underlying cause of the dysautonomia - the prognosis is not good.

For many people disautonomia is degenerative. For some, the degeneration eventually makes it fatal.

...

Vanderbilt University has a dysautonomia center. I believe Mayo Clinic has one too. So those are my next steps.

I have been placed on medications to attempt to lessen my debilitating symptoms. Unfortunately they have not provided much relief, which has resulted in my being housebound much of the time.

...

I have always been an extraordinarily active person.

Since childhood, at least 5 days of my week could be accounted for with physical activities - dance, gymnastics, flag corps, show choir, rollerblading, riding my bicycle, going for miles-long hikes. This was my life. This was my stress relief.

Now I am attempting to come to terms with the reality that I might never be able to do those things again.

In addition to the daily pain, nausea, and panic attacks, I am also attempting to come to terms with the loss - loss of the woman I thought I was, loss of the international adventures I thought I'd have, loss of the family I hoped to have with Scott Miller, loss of my mobility and independence.

There are many who have suffered with dysautonomia. Many who have written books about making a house-bound life still a life worth living. I am not ready or able to process those realities yet... especially as the books and blogs I have found are written by women who got to live a life - got to have a family and a career - before getting sick.

...

I don't know why I got sick.

Many times dysautonomia is triggered by a viral illness that somehow sends the body into a tailspin from which it cannot seem to recover. I was ill shortly - about two and a half weeks - before the onset of my symptoms.

Perhaps this virus was the trigger that set this series of events into motion.

...

I want to say a heartfelt thanks to all those who have been praying for me.

I want to ask that you please continue to stay in my life despite my limitations.

I want to ask for continued prayers for healing - because God is capable of great things - and maybe, if enough people ask, He will look down with favor upon me.

I want to ask that we find doctors who can give me medicines so I am not in pain all the time.

I want to ask that you please support my husband, who has been nothing short of an angel for the duration of my suffering.

Pray I have a good quality of life.

And please help us in any way you can...

It is likely I will end up applying for disability, as daily activities are becoming more and more challenging depending on the day.

If you can think of any other way in which to help, then please do so.

My small family is really struggling right now.

...

If you or someone you know suffers from dysautonomia and has a success story or tips on how to handle the discomfort, pain, and very real terror, please do point them in a direction to contact me.

In the mean time, you can read more about dysautonomia here: http://www.dysautonomiainternational.org/page.php?ID=34

To read more on autonomic neuropathy, try here: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/autonomic-neuropathy/basics/definition/con-20029053

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

All The Lovely Bones...

In Spain, I visited catacombs. Beneath my feet were the bones of hundreds, if not thousands, of nameless people, long passed and past, whose lives and loves have been lost to time.

All that remains are the bones...

In my favorite childhood novel, the protagonist looks at her outstretched hand and studies the bones. She realizes, perhaps for the first time, the reality of her own mortality and all of its implications.

How sad it is that our legacies lie in a heap of bones. For as surely as we live on in the hearts of those who love us, those cherished hearts bear the same burden - the burden of time...

And all that remains are the bones.

And all that remains are the bones.

Monday, November 9, 2015

November Summer

Positivity can be a challenge for me.

Like some sort of mood chameleon, I tend to take on the outlook of my situation... If said situation sucks, then life sucks, there is no green grass anywhere, and no one cares if the glass is half full or half empty you idiot. If said situation is rainbows and kittens, then pass the champagne in that half-full glass! Green grass for everyone! Hurray!

My father likes to remind me that happiness is a choice. Cognitively, I know this is true. As one of my person heroes, Alice Sommer, proved, one can choose to be happy in the most dire of circumstances. (If you can find joy in a concentration camp, and choose to forgive your captors, then you're a better woman than me.)

Still, all the Sommer in the world (that her name translates to "Summer", the warmest and brightest of the seasons, is not lost on me) can't seem to disentangle me from my Winter brambles once I've wandered into them.

In fact, it often seems the more I fight the tentacular terror, the more ensconced I become... Try as I might to see the light or smell the roses, I end up dark and bleeding from the thorns.

Friends, it seems I've wandered, once again, into a dense patch of brambles. And I could use a sense of Sommer to light my way. If you've any positivity to share, I'd welcome it.

Perhaps with your help I can blend with your mood and adjust to your shade.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

I need help to save my life

I am having a very hard day.

Temp high again.

Spent much of today so far laying in bed, cold compresses on my head, taking Tylenol to bring the fever down. I feel so sick and so terrible. Even on meds for the stomach issues (protonix) and for the nerve pain/panic attacks (remeron), I still feel very sick, weak, terrible and terrified.

Can you offer any words of comfort?

I'm genuinely frightened for my life.

Specifically because of the fever and lightheadedness... Fever of undetermined origin could be anything - even something sinister - or not.

I do not know what to do. Most of what medical science has offered me thusfar is just symptom management, which, as I said, has provided little comfort.

I look online, and so many people go years or a lifetime without being diagnosed.

I cannot live like this.

I cannot be in bed everyday, cold compresses getting me through, afraid of what it is that my body is fighting - getting test after test that is negative.

Please, please - I am terrified. I so desperately need help to save my life...

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Three months - 90 Little Deaths

Four months ago today, I had just returned home from an exotic work trip to Bermuda.

While there, I climbed the multiple stories up the island's lighthouse.

I climbed a "forbidden" mountain and was ceremoniously "escorted" back to the "allowed" areas.

I hiked the beaches for miles across terrain the others complained about.

I was - as I always have been - the consummate adventurer.

I was - as I had newly become - the adventure partner wife to a beautiful husband that I came home to, full of stories.

And then, a mere four weeks later, "the illness" happened.

Like so many illnesses before it, I assumed this one would come and go.

Mentally, I gave it two weeks.

Surely, once the minor surgery had passed and the antibiotics worked their magic, I'd be out adventure seeking again.

I was asked if I'd be ready to start a new job by September 1.

I confidently said, "That shouldn't be a problem."

Little did I know what a problem it'd be.

Because July came and went.

As did August.

September 1 and I was still no better - still no closer to any answers. In fact, I was getting worse...and no doctors could tell me what was wrong.

So I went to the best of the best.

Scott and I spent a week at The Mayo Clinic.

That was mid September.

It is now mid October, and I attempted to go to the park today.

In June and early July I had a 3-mile trail I walked everyday.

Today, vision blurred, feverish, heart rate through the roof, several body systems still inexplicably sick - I walked.

I think I made it a mile.

It took about an hour.

It damned near killed me.

I've spent the rest of the evening, like so many others, on the couch - crying.

Crying because I do not know what has happened to me.

Crying because I don't know if I will ever know.

Crying because I don't know if this illness will ever leave me.

Crying because I don't know if I'll ever be able to have my adventures again.

I don't know that I will ever revisit Machu Picchu or The Old Vic or Harry Potter World.

Crying because I fear the Erin Greer I knew and loved - the traveler - the adventurer - the woman who wanted to see the whole world and be inspired by it - I fear that woman is dying.

Yes, perhaps physically...but - equally troubling - emotionally and mentally.

Crying because I miss her so desperately...and every day that passes is a day she slips further and further away.

It reminds me - heartbreakingly it reminds me - of the way I view every death I've ever experienced.

...

Friends and family hold out hope.

Loved ones send encouragement.

"There's still time. It's early yet."

"You haven't seen every doctor yet. Haven't had every test. Someone, somewhere will find it."

But my faith is dwindling with my health.

My courage is waning with my strength.

There are those people who never recover.

There are those who never get better.

I never thought their story would be my own.

Now I am not so sure.

And there are no words for that kind of sadness.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Doppelganger

So few of us get a glance at our doppelgangers.

My dad found mine in Sky Magazine.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

I MAY HAVE FOUND MY ANSWER - ON THE DANGERS OF CIPRO

I am furious and excited - I think I may have found at least a part of my answer!

When I first got sick, it was with uterine and gastro problems. To address these problems, I was given several antibiotics - among them, CIPRO.

I ceased taking the Cipro after I was prescribed a different antibiotic by a gynecologist. Following my polypectomy, however, I was told by a nurse to take the Cipro again for 5 days to stave off potential infections.

Within days of following this regimen, I developed burning pains in my thighs, hands and feet. It feels as if my skin in these regions is on fire, and I frequently use ice to numb these areas. When my thighs are not burning, they feel weak, like they might not hold me if I try to walk.

Also, my vision started to go blurry. Now I sometimes have perfectly clear vision, sometimes blurry, often light sensitive/unable to adjust to changing light.

GUESS WHAT CAN CAUSE ALL OF THESE SYMPTOMS?

THESE ANTIBIOTICS! - and not just while a patient is taking them. The FDA has issued warnings - STRONG ones against Cipro and its cousins - that use can result in neuropathy (the burning and weakness in my hands, feet and legs) and potentially permanent vision changes/vision loss.

I am presently waiting to see a neurologist, and I plan to tell him/her what I have found.

So far, this is the only plausible explanation I have found for my symptoms (not the uterine bleeding and stomach upset, but for everything that came on after).

I will keep you posted on what I find - I am trying to read websites about healing from what victims call "Floxing". We shall see what the neurologist says, but I plan to implement the natural remedies I have found on several sites to see if I can't facilitate some healing (Some people took years to recover from Cipro. Some never recover.)

Please pray for me. And, if you are so inclined, do some research on the neuropathic and vision dangers of Cipro.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

In need of a Mayo Miracle

Next week, I will be traveling to Jacksonville, Fla., to be seen at The Mayo Clinic.

I cannot tell you what high hopes I have for this trip - for a diagnosis - for relief.

But here are my concerns - many of my symptoms are nonspecific or -worse - can be "easily" explained away by anxiety.

For example, my hands and feet are so sweaty that my shoes sometimes slip off, as do my rings.

Most websites equate this to anxiety/panic attacks.

But this seems to happen to me multiple times per day at random. And seldom when I am doing anything remotely stressful.

I am presently on an antidepressant and anti anxiety medication, yet, even when I am just sitting reading a magazine or watching tv - activities which require no stress whatsoever - my hands and feet will have pruned as if I have gone swimming for a long period of time.

Additionally - my difficulty eating - the feeling like I must force myself to eat - and the necessity to burp multiple times afterward, lest I feel nauseus. Many doctors say nausea is a sign of stress. And then move on.

I thought, once my eyesight started going in and out (I can see fine at certain parts of the day, and at other parts of the day my vision goes blurry or becomes very light sensitive, as it would before developing a migraine. Several doctors have looked at my eyes, declared them healthy, and then dismissed this symptom, and the lightheadedness associated with it...but I feel this symptom could be key to my diagnosis.

I have burning in my hands and feet. And, if they do not feel like they are burning, they feel like they are spasming or weak. My legs feel like they might not support me when I walk. This feeling comes and goes.

I continue to have uterine bleeding - the symptom that first presented itself. As this symptom is undeniable (no doc can say the bleeding is all in my head), I have been hopeful that the continuous bleeding will point doctors in the direction of what is wrong. To my chagrin, however, scans - CTs, MRIs, sonograms - have found nothing conclusive other than fluid in the cervix and thick endometrium that doesn't seem to slough away, despite constant bleeding.

Birth control pills have not stopped the bleeding.

As all of you who have been following my saga know, I have seen numerous doctors, some of whom have been kind, others of whom have written me off. Even my PCP, who called Mayo on my behalf, called me in for "fatigue" and "limb pain."

I feel and fear I am not being listened to. I feel and fear I am not being heard. I feel and fear I have something that is causing many symptoms - causing my body to react in a haywire fashion - and that the medical community will continue to disbelieve me or think it psychosomatic because the MRIs don't show tumors or some other enormous red flag.

I reach out again, asking please for someone to help.

In the past few days I have been running a temperature in the 99s - 99.4, 99.6 etc. - and my resting heart rate has been in the neighborhood of 120 beats per minute. Average resting heart rate should be between 60 - 100. That I cannot seem to get mine down despite attempts at relaxation and meditation (and even sedation) may be one of the reasons I feel like I may shake clean out of my skin.

Doctors keep saying these signs are not "impressive" - meaning they are not heightened enough to be considered emergent. (Emergent heart rate, for example, is around 140 beats per minute.) But while my vitals remain non-emergent, I nonetheless feel my body is falling apart.

Between the clamminess and the shakes and lightheadedness, I feel as if I have a flu from which I cannot recover. Perhaps an infection or virus that does not show up on scans.

I know I have asked before, but please let me know if you know of someone who can assist me.

I tried to get a new PCP today - one highly recommended by family - but he said he couldn't get me in for three months...

I fear what shape my body might be in in three months.

My current PCP even said this weekend when I called her, unable to leave the bed because of the shakes and the sweats and the burning in my extremities (no to even mention the bleeding) and she told me, "If you have something bad enough, eventually your illness will show up on one of our scans."

Is that the best I can hope for? To become so violently ill that no one could deny I am enduring something truly terrible?

I fear this.

And I fear Mayo.

I fear Mayo's scans will turn up nothing more definitive than the scans I have had these last two months.

I fear that this is what my life will be...

I fear that I will not be able - psychologically, physically or financially - to continue this quest of attempting to get me back to the perfect health I enjoyed mere months ago.

For those who pray, please pray Mayo finds and fixes the problem. My greatest fear at this time is not that Mayo DOES find something...it's that it DOESN'T...and that this nightmare continues for me.

Some would shirk at sharing of this information, but I hope the more people I tell, the more chance there could be that someone else has experienced something like this and can help.

If you have already offered suggestions, thank you.

For others, please look over my symptoms - feel free to share them with friends who could help - I am truly sick. The sickest I have ever been in my life. And despite various medications, I do not seem to be recovering.

Please, please, help if you can.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Health crisis part 2

The bleeding started again today.

Called my worthless gyno.

"You've only been on birth control for a week. Breakthrough bleeding is totally normal."

This on the heels of 6 weeks of:

"Most women have some bleeding between periods, it's totally normal." Followed by:

"Oh, you have uterine polyps? Well that's why you're bleeding. Totally normal. It'll stop once we get them out."

and "Oh I know we just took out the polyps, but that was surgery. Everyone bleeds after surgery. Totally normal."

Well, guess what buddy - you're "totally normals" have lead to 7 straight weeks of me bleeding. WHICH IS NOT TOTALLY NORMAL. Nor is me missing my period.

Seriously everyone. I need help and prayers. None of my symptoms have subsided. Some have gotten worse. (Lightheadedness, difficulty eating, constant burping, abdominal pain, burning or continued pain down the legs, blurred vision). I have come to the point of begging for help...

Friday, August 21, 2015

If you can help...

It began as abnormal uterine bleeding over a month ago. A distended belly and pain sent me to the ER with it, where they did a CT scan, and found my cervix was distended. I was referred to my gynecologist, who performed a cervical and uterine polypectomy. Which was supposed to fix me, but hasn't.

I just spent three days in the hospital getting all kinds of tests... I had an abdominal/pelvic MRI and a tube put down into my stomach. Blood tests came back within normal ranges, though some concerning things like thyroid, red blood cell and hemoglobin and iron count were low. I received an iron infusion. My amylase was high.

I continue to bleed, and I have pain in the pelvis which sometimes radiates down my legs and through my arms. The pain in my legs makes me cry and keeps me from sleeping. I have difficulty eating. Most days I feel like I have the flu - hot and cold spells, "the shakes", lightheadedness. The shakes are very, very bad, and have me confined to the bed. I cannot walk for long distances without feeling like I will pass out.

I have passed out several times. Many of these symptoms actually came on prior to the polypectomy, so I don't know that they are or could be surgery related...

My gynecologist says it is not related, and has me on anti anxiety medication because none of the tests showed any indicators of internal causes.

If you know what this could be - if you know where I could go to get relief and healing - please let me know. I am running out of hope...

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Touche

Today Swype changed "I miss you" to "I miss me"... which may have been exactly what I needed to say...

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Wisdom of Emma Watson

The first time I tried on a bridal gown was on a film set.

My first "wedding photos" were staged by a director and a DP.

Surrounded by strangers, judging my "angles."

No friendly face to tell me I looked radiant.

No mother's eyes awash in pride-filled tears.

I wasn't spinning before a mirror, breathless at how lucky I was to have found my match, and to know that one special day he'd see me in this special gown.

No.

Instead I was crying in a back dressing room.

Wearing my grandmother's engagement ring, the reality of this fake situation hit me like a ton of bricks: I was alone. I had no prospects of an actual marriage. All of this - ALL OF IT - was just for show. I was a doll. A doll that could pretend to be happy. A doll that could spin and flounce and beam, wide-eyed at the prospect of a fake marriage to a nonexistent husband.

This was a dream - a dream I'd never even dared to dream or role play as a child. A dream I knew full well I might never wake to. And here I was, being payed a rate to enact an experience I had heretofore not allowed myself to even imagine.

The first time I tried on a bridal gown was on a film set.

And I have to live with that for the rest of my life.

...

"I remember reading this thing that Elizabeth Taylor wrote. She had her first kiss in character. On a movie set. It really struck me. I don't know how or why, but I had this sense that if I wasn't really careful, that could be me. That my first kiss could be in somebody else's clothes. And my experiences could all belong to someone else." - Emma Watson

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Voldemort V. Cosby - One Woman's Struggle

As a kid, I saw my life taking one of three paths: 1. I'd become a mermaid 2. Or a unicorn 3. If neither of the first two worked out, a Cosby Kid.

The first two were fraught with danger - 1. Eugene Levy would constantly be after you and, as you're under water, you can't sing America's soundtrack to "The Last Unicorn" at the top of your lungs 2. Between Voldemort and The Red Bull, you're pretty much screwed - so Cosby Kid was my safety standby. After all, nothing too terrible ever happened in the Huxtable House. If it did, Bill and Phylicia were "on it," and it was usually resolved in 30 minutes (22, without commercials).

And then Cosby went and ruined the whole thing.

Raven Symone protestations aside, the recent revelations brought forth from previously-sealed court docs reveal that Doctor Huxtable was potentially abusing his access to prescription medications. For sex! AND NOT SEX WITH PHYLICIA RASHAD!

Sigh.

Safety Standby indeed.

Looks like I may have been better off taking my chances with Voldemort.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Fess up!

Why do I feel the need to point out my hypocrisy in a public forum?

I don't have an answer - not a good one anyway.

Perhaps it is to dispel any vestiges of "holier than thou".

Perhaps to maintain some semblance of humility.

Perhaps because dirty laundry needs taking to the cleaners.

Or perhaps I think it'll put you at ease about considering your own double standards.

Because, in some way or another, we are all hypocrites.

...

I spent much of the last week arguing for the Separation of Church and State. Gay marriage cannot be denied, I said, because almost every argument I heard against it was rooted in Biblical teachings, and Biblical teachings, I proudly upheld, had no business blocking civil liberties.

I believe I was/am right on this.

I stand by this.

And for the record? I stand by the Bible too.

But friends, here's where my hypocrisy comes in.

A monument of the 10 Commandments stands outside the state capitol in Oklahoma.

A push has been made to remove the monument, as it can be argued - probably rightfully so - that the monument constitutes a violation of the Separation of Church and State.

I see this. My logical brain sees that having a monument to a Judeo-Christian code of conduct on state grounds professes a commitment to that code of conduct - and therefore a sponsorship of that code of conduct - and therefore, a statement, aloud or implied, that the state of Oklahoma stands on Judeo-Christian teachings.

Which the state of Oklahoma is not allowed to do.

Period.

Here's the thing though - I like the 10 Commandments.

I think they represent a "right" and "good" way to live one's life.

I believe if we all lived by the 10 Commandments, the world would be a more civil place.

But then again, I'm a Jew.

So...I'm a bit biased on the topic.

I realize that Commandments 1 - 5 (while I personally believe in them), isolate many.

I realize they violate the Separation of Church and State.

I realize that, by my own reasoning with regard to gay marriage, the monument should be taken down.

And my inner two-year-old doesn't care.

I like them.

I want them to stay.

And I'm tempted to pout about it.

...

But this ain't "Tombstone", and I ain't Doc Holliday.

It appears my hypocrisy DOES know some bounds.

Because there are those times when the heart and the head are gonna fight.

There are times when the heart can and should and will be the winner.

And in my heart, the 10 Commandments will reside. If I'm lucky, they'll even govern the way I live my life.

But my head's gotta take the upper hand on this one.

It knows the 10 Commandments cannot and - grudgingly - should not govern those who do not acknowledge their power.

My head knows that mandating morality is not the job of the government (but "thou shalt not kill" is gonna remain on the government books I'm pretty sure).

So, in the case of Erin's head versus Erin's heart, I must declare Erin's head the winner - though I am not requiring the heart to pay reparations.

I hope my heart hasn't wronged anybody.

I cannot help how I feel.

But I can control what I do about it.

I can choose to do unto others as I would have them do unto me - and that's a religious teaching on which my head and my heart can readily agree.

And the 10 Commandments can remain proudly displayed - in my heart and in my household.

Where they belong.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Women Are From Venus

E. Roosevelt once famously said, "No one can intimidate you without your permission." Strong words for anyone - but especially so for a woman married to the Most Powerful Man on Earth at the first of the 20th century.

I am not intimidated by these people - though at first I wondered if that was perhaps the origin of this feeling. Surrounded by Big Apple PR pros and celebrities who make more in a week than I do in a year, I felt - what was it?

Not intimidated.

Not envious...

...

Alien.

Like either they - or, more likely, I - am not "of this world."

I find I approach conversations here the way an anthropologist might when attempting to communicate with a "lost" tribe: Asking a series of routine questions and being astonished by the degree to which the answers differ from anything I'd ever associate with my "normal" life.

I have to stifle the urge to preface every sentence with "Where you're from, how do they..."

"They."

That's the heart of it really.

I am presently among a group of "them" - a group to which I do not belong. And I can feel my alienness with every interaction.

It's a gargantuan divide; like the Grand Canyon of "Upstairs, Downstairs."

Sure, I know they put on their $500 pants one leg at a time (don't they?!?), but in many ways it appears that's where the similarity ends...

I don't desire to be or join them, but I do hope someday to understand - to find the humanity in this alien world. And maybe, just maybe, to help them find it in me.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Untitled

Lord, imperfect beings, we

the faults within our stars

Heaven, it illusive be

From Venus and from Mars.

Celestial orbs bespoke our Fate

before Began was lost

Faulty though our model, make

Our cognizance, our cost.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Path With the Brambles

Someone once asked me why I always insist on taking the hard road.

At the time, I didn't know how to answer

because it never occurred to me that the road I chose was the harder of the two.

I didn't even realize there were two.

Hundred.

Options.

Choices.

Now, years later, I don't know how to answer

because how do you explain

the attraction of the brambles?

The lure that, while the other paths are paved and flat and filled with filling stations, the path with the brambles holds...

Promise.

Wild, untamed, unmitigated.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Nothing comes from nothing. Nothing ever could.

The temple is hosting standardized testing today.

So they're here.

High schoolers.

...

While the young'uns are milling, hoping for revelations that will result in high scores, I'm experiencing a few revelations of my own.

1. When did high schoolers get to be so...young?

To say my high school years were formative is to call the ocean wet or the desert hot. It's an understatement so epic as to warrant a National Parks status. (Welcome to Understatement National Park...I'm Erin, I'll be your guide...)

So to think that those four years wherein I learned my first lessons of love, lasting friendship, betrayal and the proper technique for drop spins...to think that I was experiencing all of this at the age that these - it has to be said - children are now experiencing them is unfathomable.

It's too deep for me.

...

2. When did high schoolers get to be so...loud?

As I tell myself the lie we all tell ourselves - that we were different. That we were more mature than the current stock. That we were special - I pause for the moment of truth that is this: I was once that young. That beautifully, blissfully naive and hopeful. And yes, that freakin' loud.

A chaperone comes in. He yells over the din: "Reminder: this is a place of work and a house of prayer. Please be respectful and keep the volume down."

Pleasantly and surprisingly, the high schoolers lower their conversations in reverence.

I am impressed.

"That's the kind of respectful teen I was," I lie to me.

Five minutes pass. The noise is, once again, deafening.

3. When did high schoolers get to be so...accepting?

From my bench, where I am scarfing chocolate chip cookies and watermelon (lunch of champions. Who still eats like she's a high schooler? THIS GIRL!), I watch the children play.

Hacky sack.

I attempt to place their high school of origin, but am surprised to find I can't.

Pleasantly surprised.

Because certain socially unacceptable clues - race, socioeconomic indicators (you can read a lot into a teen with a Fendi purse) - are nonetheless tipoffs when attempting to ferret out origins.

But these kids - these high schoolers were diverse.

For starters, the student population seemed to be split pretty evenly between white and non-white. And so did the social circles.

As I watched, the white students piled 8-deep into SUVs with the black, asian and hispanic students to head to the McDonald's between test sessions.

The hacky sack pack was comprised of a rainbow of human colors - and not just because the asian kid with the pony tail and painted-on jeans was flashing his hazmat-orange Chucks. (THAT'S gonna be a look he regrets later. Everything from the ankles up anyway.)

Truly, y'all, it was after-school-special beautiful.

...

Controversy. Cheating scandals. Boycotts of standardized testing. Bullying. School shootings.

We hear a lot about the negatives surrounding this generation of American teens.

But we don't hear a lot about their successes.

When did high schoolers get to be so...resilient? And how, faced with the barrage of bad, do some of them stay so inspiringly, powerfully good?

Ignorance is to virtue as you are to correct in your argument

You do not understand analogies.

Your grasp of logical argument - and apostrophes - is also dangerously loose.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

I wish I had Sylvia Plath

Why am I Oscar Wilde in my head and Rodney Dangerfield in real life?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Flawless through the Fog

Just because you miss something doesn't make it true.

...

Ever seen "500 Days of Summer"?

The always-adorable Joseph Gordon Levitt is madly in love with The New Girl (it's the gargantuan eyes, I think). Anyway, JGL thinks they're peas and carrots. Best match ever. Written in the gargantuan-eyed stars.

And then they break up.

At which point he (still, adorably) mopes and moans and wishes for what was.

Weren't we fetching? Cutest thing since kitten GIFs?

Where'd all that perfection go?

Then, as we all (less adorably) do, he gets his shit together. And once he does he looks at his past with a fresh pair of (smaller but undoubtedly clearer) eyes.

He finally sees the relationship for what it really was -- a sea of red flags amid the glossy good times.

Yes, without the rose hue, Gordon Levitt's Past Glasses finally show him the truth that we all learned from FOX in about Season 2 (waaaay pre-Prince episode, which is still worth checking out. Because it's Prince.): that Big Eyes wasn't a muse but a succubus, and that she only started doing him good when she got gone.

Friends, I can't tell you how many times I've JGLed down the street, a song in my heart, over some perceived piece of perfection, only to discover later that what I'd encountered -- and later mourned -- was more figment of my imagination than product of reality.

Hindsight, it seems, is not actually 20/20. It's myopic.

And, unless you one day decide to don prescription glasses, it will continue to be so.

Yes, even given time and distance, folks will continue to romanticize the past unless and until the present presents them (us?) with a sobering dose of reality. Like running into Big Eyes at a coffee shop with some other dude. Or encountering that former best friend's mug shot in the weekly reader flyer at the gas station. Or realizing that the Little Orphan Annie Decoder Ring was actually just a way to get you to drink more Ovaltine.

Suddenly, everything you knew or thought you knew is called into question. And the world itself zooms into focus.

Did you really love this person? Or did you fall stupidly, madly, head-over-heels for the image you had of this person? Was he or she or the circumstance really so perfect, or was that just the reflection of your own projection?

Is Little Orphan Annie really speaking to us through the radio, or were her pleas for help really nothing more than a marketing ploy for hapless saps like ourselves?

...

Despite -- or perhaps because -- I am a hopeless romantic, I refuse to watch refuse like 27 Dresses and The Wedding Planner.

Sure, I could argue that the only things more banal than the performances are the plotlines, but the real reason I don't indulge is that I already have so many of these fucking-impossible scenarios bopping about in my skull.

Scenarios in which I encounter these loves again in some "step-into-a-bar-to-get-in-out-of-the-rain-and-there-he-is" cosmic cosplays -- where witty, heartbreaking things are said with perfect timing -- where the parting is bittersweet and one-for-the-ages (you know, end of Chasing Amy-type stuff).

It's mentally all-consuming.

And utterly wrong.

...

Over the years, I've had perfect past loves recontact me, whether to rekindle the old flame or to sate some curiosity, I'm not entirely sure.

And each time it's been the same: the thrill of returning to those perfect moments, only to discover -- sometimes alarming quickly -- that those moments (and the people who lived them) are gone. Perhaps they never really existed in the first place.

This discovery is always painful.

Because, try though I might, I continue to paint the past and the people in it with the now-threadbare brush of perceived perfection.

It's a heartbreaking exercise I nevertheless return to time and again.

Perhaps there is a deeper reason -- some resonating need -- that such an exercise fulfills. Maybe we all need to believe that perfection is possible. Maybe we all crave the near miss to give our lives some meaning.

But friends, just because you miss the past, doesn't make it true.

It just makes it hazy enough to appear flawless through the fog.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

“A Voice Calls Out” by H. Leivick

“A voice calls out: ‘You must!’

Must what? O voice, explain!

Instead of an answer I hear

That call again.

I peer behind the door,

I dash at every wall;

I search, though no one strange

Has sent that call.

I’ve known them all my life,

The caller and his call,

Yet it seems to me I hear

What I never heard at all.

It cries: ‘You must! You must!’

And only God can tell

Whether must is my redemption,

Or must will be my hell."

Friday, April 3, 2015

Surprising Soulmate: my love affair with a dress

She's not much to look at.

Very few adornments.

By all accounts, plain.

No frills, no bows. No lace or buttons.

In a world of Bangs, she registers a Whimper.

The moment I laid eyes on her, I knew:

I hated her.

Soundly and staunchly.

There was no way she'd ever "do" for My Big Day.

Where were the beads? The sparkles? The razzmatazz?

Surely this sales lady had made some mistake.

Surely she could see that THIS bride-to-be wanted the Baz Lehrmann of wedding gowns.

Surely, she would never do.

For I cannot rock socks with an off-the-rack frock.

I frown.

I frown a frown that won't turn upside down.

I don't wanna try her on.

Where's that 10-ton Gatsby tailoring monstrosity I tired on half an hour ago? Surely SHE'S's the dress that's gonna make the cut (once, you know, she's cut to fit.)

Silly sales lady insists. Says this one will be different from the previously force-fed ballgowns and A-lines. She promises Simple Sally is the last one I'll hafta try...

So, damn her, I have to try...

Off the hanger, she falls in a heap. I harumph her up over my hips. She makes about as much fuss as I do.

She refuses to zip over the masochistic bra I've been commanded to wear ("I'm sorry ma'am; we don't carry your size. You'll have to special order. Here. You can borrow this B cup.").

I know, dress, I know. This is not the scenario in which one wants their cups to runneth over. You're right, dress. You're right.

I remove The Rack from my rack and she zips just fine.

Better than fine.

Like we've come to an agreement.

In fact, there's surprisingly little fuss out of her.

She's staying up (and so are my girls!). She's moving and not getting all up under my feet.

She's hugging my waist and disguising my thighs.

Hey - this girl ain't half bad!

...

Three-way mirrors are a proven cause of diagnosable depression. Yet, this duel 3-way I've going between the mirror, myself, and her... It's working better than I imagined.

Different, oh yes. There wasn't the lace or the beads I'd longed for (but, to be fair, I hadn't brought the long, luxurious legs I'd longed for to the fitting either. So, between she and I, concessions had to be made.)

Still, stilts aside, we look surprisingly not bad.

She and I walk together. We sit.

It's like a great first date with someone you didn't really dig at first.

I find I am unable to shake her.

And so?

I take her.

Right there in the store.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Slime and snails; puppy dog tails

I was ass-end-up on the walking trail at Rottonwood Creek Park, bent double to coax a struggling worm onto a stick (I "save" them from hot cement and place them in the grass. It's a thing I do.) when I was passed by two young women - one in a sorority formal t-shirt and one...well, it's this other one I'd like to write about today.

The other one - let's call her "Chrissy" - was wearing a Climate Change Denial t-shirt which featured an image of a lovely hot air balloon with a slogan about how environmental initiatives are "a bunch of hot air and a waste of tax payer dollars."

That she wore this in a public, outdoor, come-look-at-and-enjoy-nature park funded by tax dollars showed she was either 1. a complete and total MASTER of irony, and I should bow in her presence or 2. that she's a huge fucking hypocrite, and I should push her into Rottenwood Creek, where, if there was any justice in the world, she'd land in some pile of putrid styrofoam and plastic refuse and get a taste of what fish and water foul experience on the daily.

As I know irony to be largely misunderstood by the general populace, I supposed Chrissy belonged in Camp 2, and I immediately hated her for it.

Yes, almost instantly, the embarrassment I felt for showing my ass was replaced by anger at Chrissy for showing hers. "What a stupid bitch," I thought. Few things irritate my more than hypocrisy - and encountering hypocrisy emblazoned on a t-shirt somehow took me to a whole new level of irate. I fumed on the path for a good 400 or so yards.

And then I approached the part of the path that leads to one of my favorite places in our fair city.

From the highway, you'd never know it was there, but beneath the 75/285 overpass are beautiful, cascading waterfalls; a metal bridge suspends park visitors over the falls.

I could stay here for days.

As I stood, arms draped over the rails of the bridge, I noticed a spider's web that extended from the bridge to a nearby tree, which would bloom soon.

Have you ever stopped to notice the beauty and intricacy of a spider's web?

Moved, my anger began to melt away, and I noticed that the fire in my gut was slowly transforming itself into something else.

The only word I can use to describe it is pity.

I began to pity Chrissy. Because, while Chrissy and her friend ran right over this bridge, Chrissy hadn't noticed the spider web. She'd moseyed right past the to-bloom buds, not stopping to see that life was reinventing itself before her unseeing eyes.

Chrissy, who, if her shirt was any indication, would clear cut that tree for a paycheck and render that spider extinct if it in any way hindered her "prosperity" (Yes, a direct quote from the offending t-shirt) would never know what I have the extreme privilege to know - that a tree has value outside of a lumber mill, that the grace and exoticism of a spider, while terrifying in certain respects, are also extraordinarily beautiful.

Chrissy, it seemed, was one of those unfortunate people who "know the price of everything and the value of nothing."

On the way home, I started picking up snails.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Jewish Quadrant

I represent the Jewish quadrant. We have a quadrant now; tell your friends.

Monday, March 16, 2015

You know better babe, you know better babe, Than to smile at me, smile at me like that

And then

there are those times

When the "what if"s

prove less painful

than the truth.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Come on Lucky 7s!

With trepidation and excitement, I placed the last of my chips on the table.

The Vegas highrollers – friends, if for the evening only – had a “no fail” system, and they (and their money) were backing me.

It was a sure thing. My number was coming in…

...

Like so many starry eyed bachelorettes, I hit the tables at The Mirage in hopes of striking it rich – or at least of making a hundred bucks. I’d held on to my chips all evening, afraid of letting go of my sure thing, even though, by letting go, there was at least a chance of obtaining something better. And then I remembered something I’d seen in one of my favorite episodes of “Sex and the City.”

Carrie Bradshaw is turning 36. A Big City writer at a life precipice, she decides to join her girlfriends for a trip to Atlantic City, where a lucky roll of the dice has her palming a $1,000 chip. Her friends tell her to risk it – you gotta play to play! – but, much like with the other life choices she faces, Carrie is hesitant. What if she makes a mistake? What if she loses it all to a throw of the dice?

She approaches the roulette table and notices the final number is 36. “What happens after 36?,” she asks the table master. “I guess you fall off the table,” he responds.

With a deep breath, Carrie puts all her money on 36 – and, symbolically, on herself.

She loses the $1,000.

Friends, we never really know what’s going to happen when all bets are in. Once the ball is rolling, the outcome is out of our hands. But even in betting one thing is sure: you have to show up to get the ball rolling… and that’s exactly what I have decided to do.

I have loved my time at American City & County, but, all cards on the table – it’s time for me to place my bet. Like Carrie, I must bet on myself, even if I lose.

So I have accepted another position and, by the time you read these lines, the roulette wheel will already be in motion.

Friends, we can spend our lives playing the game, hoping for something better. Or we can hold onto our chips, afraid to lose. I won’t say I’m not afraid, (turns out the Vegas highrollers’ “no fail” plan not only could fail, but did) but I will say this: it’s been a pleasure serving you, and my hopes for your future remain as high as my hopes for my own. I hope these past 2+ years of content have paid you positive dividends. They certainly have for me, and, as I play this particular hand, I know the value of the chip I’m placing on the table. What I don’t know yet – and what I really stand to learn with this gamble – is the value of willing myself back into the game and expecting, even for a moment, that I might just win big.

Magazine Megaphone

Recently, while attending a panel on Holocaust remembrance and human rights at Atlanta’s new Civil and Human Rights Museum, I posed the following question to M. Alexis Scott, former publisher of the Atlanta Daily World:

With the proliferation of modern media, where individuals can pick and choose media and messages that reinforce already-held beliefs while discarding or ignoring all media that might challenge that belief, how does one get a contrary message through? In short, how do we ensure that we’re not only preaching to the choir, but getting our message to those who we wish to reach – those minds we hope to change?

Scott’s answer? “I don’t know.”

Media and politics, while strange bedfellows, share a common goal – to deliver our message to as many people as possible in hopes of informing the electorate and planting the seeds of positive change. Back in the day – say, prior to 2000 – this process took place on doorsteps, with get-out-the-vote campaigns and the arrival of the daily paper and the nightly news. Today, for better or worse, the information war claims the internet as its battleground and, as we all know, if it’s on the internet it must be true. Even if your true and my true are diametrically opposed to each other. Even if one of us is just flat wrong.

And speaking of flat and wrong…via the internet, one can “prove” that the earth is, indeed, flat (Thank you, Flat Earth Society and members of certain religious orders). One can also “prove” that aliens have landed and are living among us, gathering information for eventual takeover. Internet sources can even reinforce with “evidence” the most disgusting and dangerous of beliefs – that certain peoples are inferior. That the Holocaust never happened. That terrorist groups, far from being deplorable, are actually ridding the world of evil, and should be lauded for their murderous efforts.

My friends, I do not know if the world is a more frightening place than it ever was. Maybe the proliferation of media has just brought more of the world’s longstanding problems to our attention. But what I do know – and what Scott echoed – is that for those of us among us attempting to reach disengaged or hostile audiences, the messages are just not getting through.

But it is imperative that we get through.

So I ask – if anyone hears me through the noise – how do I get through to you?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

You're just too honest

Those truths that lurk in our heart and lodge in our throat are best left unspoken...

Dislodged, the path to divulgence is free from obstruction.

And no one welcomes that level of honesty.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The 10%

"Don't take this the wrong way, but 90% of the people in the world don't care as much as you do..." - friend and coworker

"90% of people in the world don't care as much as you do..."

My morning was spent mourning. My night may well be too.

For the spider.

For my failings.

For my lostness.

For you.

"Don't take this the wrong way..."

But you'll never be as dear

as my dear he is to you

You'll never ever measure

to the treasure, yes, it's true.

Because 90% of people just don't care as much as you

"And this isn't a fatal flaw in them."

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Pseudo Psychic

Like any good neurotic, I suffer from magic thinking - the belief that, by sheer mental prowess alone, I can make things happen. Or not happen. Which, as you might guess, results in some pretty terrifying behaviors.

Yes, with nothing more than the power of my mind, I can determine whether a plane lands safely or falls from the sky. It's entirely up to me. So, when someone I love is on that plane, I must therefore be psychotically diligent in my thoughts to keep that plane aloft. For if I falter - even for a moment - the plane and all within it could fall. And we don't want that to happen. So SILENCE! I'M TRYING TO CONCENTRATE.

It's not always life or death things that require my cosmic mental power. But it is typically something that holds a mighty sway. Like whether or not I get a job. Or a role. Or a new friend. Or enemy.

Yes, truly, everything that happens in my life - and often in the lives of others - is completely up to me. And if it doesn't go the way I initially desired, well, then I must not have hoped hard enough. I must not have prayed diligently enough. I must have let me mind wander for a second too long - gone to get a cookie before the cosmic intermission - and missed something. I must've stepped on a crack on the way back. My mind must have made the proverbial plate drop.

For just as I have the ultimate control over any and all things with my mind, I am conversely powerless to rectify the mistakes of said grey matter. If the plate starts to drop, I panic and my mind can no longer stop it.

I cannot intercede once the chips begin to fall...

So, my friends, DILIGENCE! as once more into the fray go I.

And fret not! For tonight, you are all in my hands!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Grizzle

Wilde, he wandered, destitute;

Turing ate his apple.

impassible the destined route,

impossible to grapple.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

We need to talk about your performance...

Few will fathom what you do;

Fewer still will help you score it.

But long and impassioned is the line

of those who'll judge you for it.

Friday, February 13, 2015

On the other foot. And other shoe-related wisdom.

Coincidentally, most of the folks I know who subscribe to the "bootstraps" mentality are those fortunate enough to have been born with shoes.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Death of Expertise

I don't know when or why we all voted to board the "everyone's opinion matters" wagon.

Somehow, somewhere along the way, our adopted doctrine that "all men are created equal" ceased to apply solely to man's inherent value, and become more broadly applied to include opinions and thought processes.

To our detriment.

Because, while your little individual snowflake may be in all ways separate but equal to my little individual snowflake, the thoughts and actions of each are what differentiate you, I and us from the flurry.

In short, you and I? May have been born equal. But everything that happened after that - every circumstance you faced and choice you made? Is likely anything but.

Friends, the more I'm subjected to social media, the more I realize that we have a very pervasive problem. Tom Nichols outlined it nicely in his piece for The Federalist. To sum - we are suffering from a Death of Expertise.

It's not that folks are no longer studying to be experts in respective fields - no, that's still definitely happening. What's shifted is that we, as a society, are no longer listening to those experts.

Such is the nature of our "me, me, me" culture that, rather than hear and attempt to understand expert findings that might challenge our own opinions and biases, we instead latch on to "sources" that agree with those predetermined prejudices, and completely ignore or discount the testimonies of those folks who - it has to be said - actually know that they're talking about.

An easy example is climate change. Statistically, more than 9 out of 10 climate scientists will tell you climate change is 1. not only occurring but 2. is being exacerbated by human activity.

These people are the experts - the folks we should turn to on matters of this nature, because it's their job, their career, their area of expertise.

Not so, according to climate change deniers across the blogosphere.

Yes, somehow, in donning their collared shirts and nametags and trudging off to bag groceries at Publix, these climate change deniers picked up the same wealth of knowledge as scientists who've studied the earth's patterns for decades. Surely this is the case, for, if our social media is to be believed, the opinions of these friendly, neighborhood baggers should be given equal weight and forum to the scientists. And should be considered viable arguments against, well, science.

Y'all - that ain't how science works.

As Neil deGrasse Tyson so eloquently phrased it, "The good thing about science is it's true whether or not you believe in it."

Hallelujah, my good sir! Preach! But even if you do, do so knowing it'd only be to an I-already-agree-with-you choir.

Why? Because, with the proliferation of the internet, you can find just about any "source" for your (in some cases, painfully wrong) opinion. You can find sites on the internet that deny the Holocaust. Or "prove" that eating raspberry seeds prevents cancer. Or show, irrefutably, that Brittany Spears is the most talented singer to have ever sung.

This phenomenon is not necessarily a new one. Media in some form or other has been used to convince people of untruths or half truths for...ever. But gone are the days when people look at these reports and question what they are - propaganda. And worse? Propaganda to make you buy things.

Today's propaganda certainly still takes the form of advertising, but nowadays what's being advertised is ideas - and, consequently, ways of living and belief. Today, rather than refute incorrect claims, the internet and the proliferation of biased media provide the uneducated with a litany of sites and "examples" that will support incorrect findings and biases.

Call it naivite, but I tend to believe there was once a time that, if someone said something categorically false, an expert could be called in to refute, and all people present - including the initial someone - would concede to the truth of the educated argument.

Not so. Or no longer so.

Fox News is a fish-in-a-barrel example, but this particular clip from Media Matters Minute illustrates what I am talking about nicely. The experts weighed in - the economy is doing well. But this IS Fox News, so the pundit at the end disregards everything said by economic analysts to restate his own - blatantly incorrect - agenda.

It'd be comical, if it weren't so detrimental.

CLICK HERE.

Despite its status as perhaps the most blatant offender, Fox News is but an easy example of a detrimental phenomenon that doesn't show any signs of ceasing - the disregard of fact in favor of more palatable opinion. The choice - and the ability to choose - what's comfortable over what's correct. The ability to supplant fact with opinion and use each term interchangeably.

Folks, let's take a trip back to third grade English, shall we, and acknowledge that there is a marked difference between fact and opinion. Further, and for extra credit, let's recognize that one is meant to be dependent on the other: opinion is supposed to dependent on - and derived from - considering all the facts.

Somehow we have it the other way around.

Facts are not tools to validate opinions. They're meant to be the basis of forming them.

You, me, we - we all knew this in third grade.

Perhaps its time we revisit the lesson. And turn to teachers qualified to give it.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

To Temperance!

While some people truly deserve to "get what's coming to them!," I'm not entirely sure that I deserve to be the one doling out the justice.

Let's all raise a glass to temperance, shall we? Because I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that judging others for eye specs while you're sportin' a peripheral plank is bad business...

Oh Keanu

Most of the self-made problems of my life (which is damn near all of them) stem from what Kevin Lomax so beautifully expresses in The Devil's Advocate: "Lose? I DON'T LOSE! I WIN! THAT'S MY JOB; THAT'S WHAT I DO!"

Monday, January 26, 2015

Two

Two years is nothing.

Two drops in the life bucket.

Two point 56 percent of the average American expectancy.

...

Two years is everything.

Time to meet you, love you, plan our future

Time for surgery, recovery

Time to earn the diploma and the job

Time to bear witness

To weddings and babies

Time to leave.

...

Two years is nothing.

Two years is everything.

Two years is enough to know that it's time to go.

One syllable. Starts with...

We have monogrammed towels.

The "E" is unraveling.

Art imitates life.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Negotiable, mood depending

The only two things I "always" want to be are honest and impeccably dressed.