May 29, 2005

i want photos

when my last dell died, i lost a lot of photos. i need replacements. will you email me your favorites?

you know where to find me...

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more green goo

i am drinking fresh-squeezed valencia OJ, and listening to amos lee's "keep it loose, keep it tight". have you listened to him yet? gosh, he's good. and as handsome as my friend, jamesy.

meanwhile, i am sicker than i thought. the green goo has taken up residence in my eyes. i woke up this morning with my eyelashes glued to my cheek. it took a hot rag to pry them loose. gross. please tell me i'm not getting pink eye. for now, i simply look strung out, and i smell like oranges.

things could be worse, right?

helen still cannot drive, and so i was chauffer to the grocery store yesterday. what they tell you about shopping on an empty stomach is very true. after an hour of stumbling around HEB with a shopping cart, the post-concussive and the feverish forked out $120 for lots of produce, chicken, perrier, wine, and catfood. as we lugged it all to my car, we chuckled at our extreme shopping. i then suggested we go out to eat. helen's jaw dropped (as far as it could, given the swelling from the accident.) i giggled. i may be sick, but i'm still funny.

we then proceeded to make a lunch of chicken and fake chicken, respectively, and homemade biscuits. sound nice? yeah, we thought so too. we were convinced that we'd have our own little cracker barrel experience, without having to leave the house. no crazy old ladies in rocking chairs but us. the only catch is that neither helen nor i have made biscuits in years. and come to think of it, i am pretty sure that i only watched my mother make hers. we were not deterred by lack of rolling pin. we improvised.

i offer this: the biscuits tasted good. but they turned out to be quite flat. i should be kinder to them: they were fluffiness impaired, and sort of looked like that sad zoloft cartoon pill in the commercials.

today, we've abandoned biscuits altogether, and are enjoying chicken and mac and cheese: an equally cracker barrel experience. and now, i think i'll settle in with an episode of nova. ooo, it's a special on the history of typhoid fever in new york city, complete with dramatic re-enactments! perfect.

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May 26, 2005


after a long weekend of gauze and darvocet, unexpected family visits, and lots of movies, helen and i attempted to take on the week as productive americans.

of course, when one has had a blow to the head, this isn't easy.

and as for me, of course i came down with the funk. who knows what i've got; let's just say it involves green phlegm. mmmm.

helen seems to be suffering from post-concussive syndrome, which is a very vague diagnosis for a broad range of post-closed-head-injury symptoms. nausea, frustration, memory loss, achiness, anxiety, overwhelming sleepiness, mood swings, etc. she seems to have all of them. so. back to the ER went we last night, and sat in the waiting room for a few hours. we watched the american idol showdown with latinos in wheelchairs, who didn't speak much english, but were well-versed just the same in all things carrie underwood. they did not like bo bice at all.

after a second round of CT scans, the doctors concluded that helen has no internal bleeding or brain swelling. it's just a matter of time and rest for these symptoms to abate.

the good news is that she doesn't have to go back to work for nearly 2 weeks, thanks to the miracle of FMLA. and i am home with her today, as caregiver from bed. i'm watching her from here, making sure all is well as she eats her chinese food. [looks fine to me. chewing. swallowing. good.]

here's a weird thought: 13 years ago today, i was in my own bike accident, and suffered the same post-concussive nastiness, except with the added bonus of a fractured skull and blood-on-brain. (i was not wearing a helmet.) synchronicity and empathy. strange, isn't it?

i need a nap.

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May 25, 2005

one thousand words.

i haven't seen it said better.

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May 22, 2005

the helmet of salvation

thursday evening, i lay on the couch, lazily, reading a book. helen was on her way home from work. she'd ridden her bike that day, and happily so. at 9:00, my phone rang. it was helen. she was probably wondering if i wanted anything from the store. i answered. the voice on the other line was male. it was a police officer. "your friend has had a bike accident. she'll need to go in the ambulance to the ER, and get stitched up. can you come pick up her bike?"

i bolted out the door. she was only around the corner and down the block. i arrived to find an ambulance and two police cars directing traffic through the busy intersection. and there was my helen, covered in blood and road rash, sitting on the sidewalk. she had a concussion, it was obvious. her memory lapsed every fifteen seconds. i kissed her forehead and told her every fifteen seconds that i was here. i wasn't going to leave her side. she was ok. she was ok.

the police officer handed me helen's helmet. it was cracked in the front. miraculously, he had seen the whole thing happen: helen was riding in the bike lane, rode through her green light at the intersection, and then hit an upturned manhole cover that somehow had been left in the bike lane. she flew over the handle bars, headfirst, landing in the street. the policeman pulled her to the sidewalk.

though she had a goose egg on her forehead, and the subsequent concussion, the helmet had protected her. probably saved her.

i followed behind the ambulance in my car, as they whisked her away to the hospital. the next several hours were full of xrays, ct scans, and stitches. helen had bitten through her lip and her chin had a gash almost to the bone. slowly, her memory returned, and the familiar helen surfaced. she joked with doctors, even suggesting that they let the intern do the suturing. (we've been watching grey's anatomy a lot. we now know how big a deal it is for an intern to do something important.)

at nearly 4 am, the doctors released helen into my care, and i took her home. everyone in the ER was amazed that helen suffered no broken bones, no broken teeth, no brain damage.

these past few days have been ones of constant wonder. we both stood, in our unique circumstances, on that precarious precipice of life and death and change, and stepped back unscathed. since then, the coffee has tasted so good. every kind gesture from the neighbors has been face to face contact with God: they've brought flowers and lasagna and martinis.

helen is sore, to be sure. road rash is nasty, i've discovered. but she's up and around and laughing and thankful. she's ok. she's ok.

the helmet of salvation will hang on the wall as an icon.

(please wear yours.)

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May 19, 2005

be on key


if you are looking for a refreshing new blog with photos of beautiful children, along with fantastic storytelling, search no further. my dear friend, michael, has finally started his own blog. visit him at bookmark him. his talent makes me a bit jealous, honestly.

but in a good way.

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May 18, 2005


on this warm, warm evening, i'm sitting with a glass of shiraz at halcyon coffeehouse, downtown. aimee mann's the forgotten arm is playing in my ears, and i realize that this is my time to write. i've just gotten off work; my badge is still attached to my pants.

dreams last night were tumultuous and warlike. helen and i watched hotel rwanda last night, and i confess that it left me looking at my feet. have you seen this movie? it's beautiful and true. but. it's horrific and true. america in the 90s was so proud of itself for being so liberal and on the rise. tech boom and prosperity. did we blink an eye at genocide? or did we relax ourselves by calling it "civil unrest" or some other sinful euphemism? if we are such protectors of democracy and humanity, why did we do nothing? why do we continue to do nothing?

i am naive. i am an optimist to a fault sometimes. but after watching this movie, and knowing that it really held no hollywood hyperbole, i wonder: is peace possible? how can humans sanction genocide, ever? how many people are dying, as i type, in countries i can barely place on a map?

my faith stretches and aches like an unused muscle as i ask these questions. it is very, very hard to reconcile the brutal reality of the world with my belief in a loving, protective God. i am so small.

it is no small wonder why we all have, throughout history, pinned our hopes on the coming of a savior. in my church, we pray, "come lord Jesus". venite. "Christ have mercy." kyrie eleison. these are the words my soul prayed as i watched hotel rwanda, as i tried to sleep last night, as i went about the business of my day today.

i recognize the immense freedom i do enjoy by living here and now, in austin, texas, united states, north america. what do we do with our freedom, however? with our relative safety? i may suffer indignant expressions from time to time by those who do not agree with the way i live my life, however i am not afraid that i will be macheted in the street.

what is my role--our role--as small citizens in a big world of lazy freedom? how do we redeem it?

i wonder.

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May 16, 2005


let me just say: yesterday was a bitch. i woke up nearly in time for church, but could not rouse myself enough to actually shower. and dress. and drive. so i sulked all morning, even after french toast and eggs. and french pressed coffee. my only consolation throughout the afternoon was the music of trespassers william. i ignored my ringing phone. i stared into space.

the synapses haven't been firing very nicely as of late.

today, i went to work groggily, and ran my monday reports in a haze. however, just before lunch, a coworker let me into her world. she honored me with her story. and it woke me up. the rest of the day, i plugged along, and even sat at mozart's after work with a cup of coffee, watching the water against the grey sky. the weather is cool today, a relief. and the fireflies are out. one nearly flew into my mouth this evening. the puppies are very excited about a break in the weather, and they ran and ran tonight, chasing real and imaginary squirrels from tree to tree.

i've got new music from nichole, who i am very excited to see next month, and she makes me want to be brave.

it's 10 o'clock now. laundry is put away, and the dishes are clean.

small wonder.
small victories.


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May 13, 2005

rallying the troops

i've just gotten home from work--by way of a happy hour detour to the green muse--and i am sitting contentedly on the patio. the sky grows redder by the moment, a slow crescendo of sunset. the dogs are barking at passersby, and the cats are skulking in the ivy. all is well in this little world.

in the ashtray beside me sits a solitary pall mall cigarette butt, and i know that our neighbor, joe has been here. he stopped by this morning, after i'd gone to work, to drop off a bottle of cold-brewed coffee. joe swears by the stuff. he says it tastes fresher than drip coffee. i'll give it a go. we'll see.

it just makes me immeasurably happy that the neighbors stop by with gifts, that they water helen's garden when it appears neglected. that our dogs, for the most part, play in peace every evening at the dog meeting.

a hodge podge community. i like it.

today, of course, was better because it is friday. every menial task was done by 5 o'clock, and i felt like i got my hands dirty with the earth of the work. and now i am free for the weekend, left to my own devices (which will hopefully include writing), and i resolve to be thankful for the freetime.

my sisters rallied around me via email today--helen #2 and sheela and jude and marlei--and their words were embraces from LA, london, and nashville. jude called me a bit ago, and it was so wonderful to hear her voice, conversation was so cozy that i almost invited her over. i forget about several states and the atlantic between us.

and then, out of the blue, my friend carie im'ed me. we were fast friends as freshmen in college, back in canton, ohio. ah, malone. carie and i fostered a dormlife friendship, with late night pizza and giggles, contraband beer and cigarettes, as well as impossible crushes. we saw jars of clay play in akron together (that line's for you, flibbityflu). and she was there for me in that first semester, when my father died. all the time i was away for the funeral, she wrote me letters, which she gave me upon my return. carie was a good, good friend, and i have not seen her in over six years.

she misses me, she said. after all this time and living, she remembers our friendship. we made promises to visit soon, somehow.

my friend, michael, emailed me last night, out of the blue. "you don't send me flowers anymore. what the hell?" he asked with a smile. i was there when his first son, jacob, was born.

i may not have many friends in austin just yet, but i certainly have friends. and their phonecalls and emails reminded me that physical proximity doesn't mean much.


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May 12, 2005

no one likes humidity. or a whiner.

Today, emotions and humidity are thick around my shoulders. And I am inexplicably sad. Maybe it’s the massage last night—the toxins running wild in my body, after a sudden release—or maybe it’s the wine afterward, when we all sat around eating pizza and enjoying the $4.99 wine special from the Whip-In.

Who knows.

It’s one of those days, though, where I sit here at work, staring at my computer screen like it really doesn’t matter. Like nothing I accomplish matters. And here comes the malaise that always accompanies such perspective. What I wouldn’t give to disappear under the blankets—at home, in bed—and surface come fall.

The world is blah today.
And I really am trying to see color in this impossibly grey, 90% humidity day.
It’s just not happening.

So, what now? I’ll wait it out, do some mindless data entry, because, after all, this is what I am paid to do. Responsibility knows nothing of perspective fluctuation, especially not from a girl like me, whose moods can be so dominating.

Work ends in 5.5 hours. Surely, I’ll make it through the haze.
Remember, kids: I am not my mood.

[I sure sound a lot like strong sad]

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May 10, 2005

joining in

when i left pam's house on saturday morning, i pleaded, "please, come knock on my door if you need anything at all. i'll be home all day." pam is stubborn, fiercely independent. i was just another friend, offering up help she would never take. and, i wasn't even sure i meant it--how serious are we when we say it? was i trying to make myself feel helpful? better?

four hours later, i was curled up in bed with the dogs, napping. there was a knock at the door. pam stood on the patio. her mascara had begun to run. "can you help me bring in some trees?" how had she possibly gotten her hands on trees since i last saw her? i didn't ask. i'd said i'd help with anything she needed. right now, she needed someone to help her with trees. i walked outside, barefoot, and saw them: two very tall trees hanging out the windows of her hyundai like dogs.

She had to have trees, she said. Magnolias and plum trees. For her new home. “If I have trees, everything will be ok. It’ll be ok.� She said it over and over to me, and then she started to cry. I know it was the drugs. I know it was the alcohol that she shouldn’t be mixing with the drugs. I smelled it. Still, I wasn’t angry with her for going to buy trees by herself. Because, upon her return home, she realized she couldn’t do it alone. She knocked on my door. I carried in her heavy trees, pot by pot. And now, my back seizes and spasms; I pulled something. And I have entered into her world. Right now, her world is full of plants. "I bought an orchid, too," she said before I left. "I've always wanted one." It bloomed bright purple on her porch.

I long to believe, with everything that is in me, that this is the Gospel, the taking up of a cross.

i just hope that pam doesn't try to drive again.

and i've made a massage appointment for tomorrow with kenny, my nextdoor neighbor.

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May 9, 2005

i still care about tenncare

although i may not live in nashville anymore, i'm still aware of the battle to save tenncare. i know many, many people whose lives hang in the balance because of it. today, 857 miles away, the reality of tenncare is right on my lap. my long lost friend, bernie, wrote the cover story for this week's nashville scene.

[clicky photo]

please read.

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May 7, 2005

everything so frail

do you remember last summer, when i chronicled my days at the pool with the unrelated peroxide twins? one of them, our next door neighbor, has been struck down. i found out on the day i was sitting on the patio, smoking. a woman i've never seen before came up to me. "do you know your neighbor, pam?" she asked. her face was full of worry. of course i know pam. just a week before she was sitting on the patio with us, and kissed my cheek before she left, saying "i'm so glad you are my neighbor."

"have you seen her?" the lady asked me. i hadn't seen her in days. "she's home," she continued, "but she won't answer her door."

"is she ok?" i asked.

"she had some bad news from the doctor today. i told her i was going to check up on her, but she told me not to come. i had to come. she won't answer her phone, either. i'm going to wait outside her door. she's bound to let me in at some point." she walked back to pam's.

oh no, i thought. oh God, no. fears of cancer pulsed through my brain. pam is a vivacious woman, full of life and makeup and perfectly sculpted hair. her smile makes you smile back. not pam. not cancer. please God.

helen visited her this morning, and found out the truth: pam fell, and injured her brain. her speech is slurred, and she is slumped over, shaking as she holds the wall to stay standing. she can no longer drive, and is not allowed to be active. the fitness enthusiast is confined to her home. and she's moving. on tuesday. her coworkers are gathering her things for her, and moving her to an apartment close to her workplace, so that, when she is able to be out a bit more often, she can take the bus to work.

pam is a fixture here. she was the first person to befriend me at the pool. she's a woman with endless stories, who, after her husband split years ago, put herself through nursing school. her fellow nurses are rallying around her now, standing outside her door till she answers. they're packing her life in boxes for her on tuesday.

my friend, cary recently wrote a blog entry about the constant split second between life and death, and i can't stop thinking of my neighbor. will she ever recover, return from this slumped over place?

we missed her the other night, on cinco de mayo. i decided, at the dog meeting on the 4th, that we should have a margarita-full get together at our place the following night. i pulled it all together quickly, purchasing a big bottle of lowgrade tequila, a bright yellow table cloth, votive candles, and lots of corn chips. our neighbor, joe mcintyre (not the one from new kids on the block), brought queso made from wisconsin cheese and chipotle paste, and the freshest homemade salsa you've ever tasted. he also brought a thermos full of martinis, for the non-margarita crowd (i.e. himself). patrick brought ice. art brought mariachi music. rachel brought maracas. soon, our house was full of 15 neighbors, laughing and talking loudly over the blender, in which helen made several pitchers of the fantastic margaritas. drunk jim brought his dog, moe, who sat outside and drained jim's glass every time he set it down. we guessed that moe drank three whole margaritas throughout the night. he eventually chewed through his leash, and went home on his own.

we left a note on pam's door--we didn't yet know about her fall--asking her to come. the next morning, there was a note taped to a big salsa bowl, sitting on a patio chair. "i am sorry that i could not come. i hurt myself. you are in my thoughts. thank you for inviting me." the bowl was a gift to use for our next party.

those of you who pray, please pray for pam. she said to me a few moments ago, "God saved me from dying. i am so fortunate." and she told me she loved me, shakily kissing me on the cheek. she is still wearing her lipstick.

loneliness is everywhere. you find it when you throw a small party for the neighborhood dog-owners. you find it when you befriend someone at the pool. and we all get the chance to enter into the loneliness, and whistle in the dark together. sometimes you get margaritas. sometimes you get a kiss on the cheek. mostly, you get company, and the gift of sharing in someone's suffering.

if i were to write a devotional, or a self-help book, or pontifications on how to end all wars, i would say this: knock on your neighbor's door. and keep your own door open.


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May 2, 2005

a drunkards prayer and a sweatshirt

it's sweatshirt weather tonight, and i'm cozy in my trogdor hoodie. i am sat at my proper writing desk, in my proper writing room. the candles and the ibook screen are my only illumination, and over the rhine is singing a drunkard's prayer from little mac speakers.

sipping bushmills from the antique shotglasses that marlei, jude, helen, and sheela gave me two years ago, i'm telling myself that all is well in my world. charley is sleeping at my feet. before helen left for a beer with the boys, she told me, "you're in good paws." and then charley licked my nose.

i've spent the evening with this crazy story that is quickly outgrowing its "short story" boundaries. it takes me over when i commit myself to working with it, and the words out of my mouth are not what i expect to come. i thought that i knew a thing or two about writing, but truth number two is this: i know nothing. stories will have their way with you. and they will demand your all. stories don't respect your boundaries, nor do they take the hint when you feel uncomfortable. they simply pour from your fingers if you're lucky.

i was born to laugh
i learned to laugh
through my tears

and i was born to love
i'm gonna learn to love
without fear

karin sings. she always hits that mark, doesn't she?

i've opened the tall window in front of my desk, and i am smoking indoors. it feels like the thing to do tonight: let it all happen in one room. let the candles, the (100% pure tobacco, thank you) cigarettes, the holy whiskey, the sleeping dog happen altogether.

you're my water
you're my wine
you're my whiskey
from time to time

(sweet intoxication
when your words
wash over me)

back to the story.

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Posted by bananie at 8:59 PM | Comments (2)