Wednesday, October 31, 2012

just us halloweenies

Ho ho ho, Happy Holloween!

Surely you can understand my confusion. I hardly know what color candy to buy this time of year, there are so many holidays vying for attention. But let's focus on Halloween for now.

I loved Halloween growing up. Our parents always took us Trick or Treating in our neighborhood. Sometimes our cousins or friends came over and we all went together, carrying our pillowcases or plastic pumpkins as we ran from door to door laughing.

I remember having store-bought costumes a few years when we were little. But mostly we cobbled together something from our box of play clothes and whatever we could find in the closet. We were clowns, cowboys, witches, princesses, super heroes...the usual stuff. One year I remember being a gypsy, wearing drapery rings as jewelry since I didn't have pierced ears.

I kept this up through my teens. I'd volunteer to go with the little kids so my parents could stay home. I was using them as an excuse to keep dressing up as a vampire. The foppish Catholic Anne Rice kind, not the glittery Mormon Stephanie Meyer kind.

It's fun to dress up as someone other than yourself, especially a fantasy character. Unless you're a professional actor, Halloween is all you get. Just once a year.

I went to a party store tonight to get a wig for my daughter. She's portraying Princess Diana in her school's Historic Pageant, the Montessori approach to celebrating Halloween in an academic way.

So far she's been Queen Elizabeth I, Pocahontas, Mata Hari, and Lucretia Borgia. This year she picked Lizzie Borden. Apparently she's drawn to notorious women. We put down our collective foot and said "Thanks for playing, try again" and she went with her second choice, Princess Di. Still notorious, depending on your source, but at least she didn't give her parents 40 whacks with an axe.

Anyway, back to the party store. I went by myself because my daughter can't handle the visual stimulation of any sort of horror. Not that I like it. On the way to the wig aisle, I walked by an upside-down flayed torso with a partial spine sticking out, a few zombies, a handful of Scream-type characters, and lots of skinned and bloody looking body parts.

Some people have a sick idea of what makes great yard decorations.

There were also some really odd looking people in there. Funny thing was, they weren't even in costume yet. Apparently Halloween brings out more freaks than normal. I swear I've never seen the likes of them before. They looked, well, like they hung out in graveyards, but they were plunking down big bucks for some freaky flammable nylon costume they would wear one night.

And let's talk about costume choices, especially for women: Why is there a "slutty" version of everything you could possibly imagine? Slutty vampire, slutty nurse, slutty zombies, slutty Navy Commander, slutty Taco Bell Sauce... I did not make that up.

Do all women have a year-long secret desire to be slutty and just can't make a better choice on Halloween? Based on how I see people dressed downtown and at the mall, I'd say the answer to that question is yes....and no. Yes, they have a desire to be slutty, and no, they don't limit it to just  Halloween.

I'm not a prude. One year a group of friends were characters from Rocky Horror Picture Show. I was, of course, Magenta. A little slutty maybe...hey, I was in character. It is is Rocky Horror, after all.

But another year we were the characters from the Wizard of Oz and I was the Cowardly Lion. Not a sexy lion with tights and ears and a little twitchy tail, but a big full-on, body-covering costume with full makeup. That was an anti-sexual costume if ever there was one. And we won the grand prize, which had something to do with waterbeds. Which none of us had. Still, it was fun.

And I guess that's what Halloween should be about.

Once, years ago, I went through a pseudo-fundamentalist stage when I swore off Halloween. It seemed to have gotten really dark, really evil, really creepy, and I didn't want to play. I think it might also have been a little depression kicking in. I refused to buy candy and convinced my husband to stay in the back of the house with the porch lights off.

Great googly moogly, it was so boring!!

Then our baby girl came along. We couldn't let her miss the fun. Her first Halloween coincided with her first ear infection, so she stayed home with me handing out candy in her baby pumpkin costume. Since then we have done something every year, either at church, in our neighborhood, or with friends.

We don't make a big deal, don't spend gobs of money, but we try to have fun. Last year we saw "The Addams Family" on Broadway, and our daughter wanted to be Morticia. I could have bought a costume, but we found a dress at Goodwill and together we modified it. Add a Cher wig, some white foundation and black eyeliner, and a big spider ring - voila! a perfect Morticia.

This year she wants to be a Nerd. A "hurt nerd" on crutches. Apparently "nerd" is all the rage. Too bad it wasn't popular when I was a kid. I could have gone Trick or Treating every day without changing a thing!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

the toughest ship to sail.....

The hardest thing about being human is relationships with other humans.

Think about it. What gives you more joy, more sorrow, more emotional and sometimes even physical trauma than having to deal with other people?

You have to deal with relationships your entire life, from birth to death. Even when they're over, you're lugging along what's left of that relationship by yourself.

They aren't all deal-breakers. Some are really big. Some may not mean much at all. But they affect us in some way, big or small, even when we don't realize it.

There's the grown man who flipped you off in traffic for something that wasn't your fault, the one who made you feel slightly angry and slightly ashamed, the one who made you use the terms "grown" and "man" in a whole new way.

There's the sullen girl at Old Navy, the one with the pierced nose who wouldn't look you in the eye, who said "thank you" so far under her breath that you wonder why she bothered to exhale.

There's the young man at the pharmacy, the nice bright-eyed one who remembers your name and pulls your prescriptions out of the bin before you even reach the counter.

There's the coworker who randomly leaves chocolate on your desk and who makes you feel better when the image in the bathroom mirror seems harsh and cold.

There's the woman who asked you out to lunch at your new job every day until she wore you down and you said yes, the woman who eventually became your best friend ever, the kind you can call after a year and just start talking to without catching up or even having to say hello.

There's the mother who gave birth to you and raised you and loved you and will never ever let you off the hook for anything, the one you spent the most time and money talking about in therapy, the woman you most love and desire to please while you pull away kicking and screaming. She knows how to push all your buttons. Including the ones that soothe you when the world is spinning out of control.

There's the old lover you can't forget, the person you thought was the "one", the man you dreamed of building a life with.... except he chose a different life that didn't have room for you.

Then there's the person you actually married, who is the most thrilling, infuriating, fulfilling, maddening, complex amalgam of dynamics imaginable, someone who adores you and fulfills all the old dreams, surpassing them and creating new realities you never imagined.

This is the ship of your dreams, the kind that makes you say cheesy things like "My, he is yar" like Katharine Hepburn in "The Philadelphia Story."

Relationships can be unwieldy, unpredictable, uncertain. Especially when they lose power. But when they are tended to, well oiled, stoked, and regularly taken out for some, they are yar.

Hopefully I can continue to learn and perfect the handling of that kind of ship.

Monday, October 22, 2012

women's lifestyle expert, apply here

I was recently asked by Skirt! magazine to be a National blogger on their women's lifestyle website! I am so honored and hardly know what to say! First, I would like to thank the Academy and my family for believing in me even when...oops, wrong speech.
Striking the "Godspell" set at the Dock Street Theater...a long, long time ago
Seriously, this is a very cool development.

Now, I'm not an expert on "women's lifestyles." I'm definitely a woman, and I do have a lifestyle, but that alone doesn't qualify me for the job.  Otherwise I could claim to be a skincare expert because I have skin and care for it.

However, my experience is not irrelevant either. It may even resonate with two or three people out there who might actually read my blog.

Now, as a woman, what exactly is my "lifestyle"?

Let's start with the basics. Basically, I am a wife and mom who works. Show me one who doesn't. What I work at changes depending on what hour of the day it happens to be.

In the morning I work on getting myself and one easily distracted daughter out of the house on time for carpool, regardless of whether the dog has peed on the carpet or someone has had a case of prepubescent hysteria. As I back out of the garage I try not to hit the trash can. Or my husband's car. Again.

Then I work on pleasing my customers at my "real" job (i.e., the one responsible for my bi-monthly direct deposit) by crafting technical manuals and papers and online help and "waving my magic wand" over someone else's mangled grammar. Sometimes I even make coffee, because I am a secure, modern professional woman. And because life is too short for bad coffee.

Afternoons are spent working on picking up my daughter from school on time and thinking about what I will do for dinner after carting my daughter to Irish dance and karate and piano.  (Did I mention how well I work to support the economies of oil-producing countries, even with my 24 mpg van?)

At home I work to get some sort of food into the mouths of my family that doesn't come in a box and get covered with milk. "Breakfast for dinner" does have a place in my repertoire, I just don't want to wear it out.
BLT with tomatoes and okra from my garden and a helpin' of Charleston cheese grits souffle 
Speaking of food, I'm working at keeping nasty stuff out of our diet, like HFCS and phthalates and flesh eating bacteria. So I put some raised beds in our side yard to grow fresh vegetables just like my parents used to. Green things are starting to push through the soil. It's probably a matter of time before the locust (or lice or Japanese beetles) descend, but at least I tried. We'll see how it goes.

I recently worked at losing 25+ pounds and rediscovered my love of fashion. Even shoes are more fun now. I never lost my love for shoes. No matter how the size of your hips might fluctuate, those 4" Nanette Lepores will fit every day. Now it's just easier to balance.

Depending on the day of the week, I work on my music and spend time with my friends at church. They are the most irreverent, silly, God-crazy, sold-out, loving weirdos I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. They challenge me and make me laugh and pray for me when I just can't do it for myself. They prayed my daughter into existence and have changed my life. I love them.

Some time during the evening I work at keeping my dog from feeling completely ignored. Ditto for the husband. And when the stars align, we all work together to keep the house from falling into C.H.A.O.S. (= Can't Have Anyone Over Status).

I work to stay in touch with my family. I love them so much, but - alas - most of them don't use email or Facebook regularly so I have to call them. On the phone. I hate talking on the phone. I have to work on that.

After bedtime snuggles - definitely NOT work - I spend an hour or so working on something that is just for me. It isn't always earth-shaking (reading! writing! shaving! picking my toes!) but it matters.

Then, after everything else is done, I work on staying awake...for just a little while longer. Because, you know, I LIKE being married and I never, ever want to date again. I would sure hate to see certain fires get neglected.
I'm a lucky girl!
I also deeply love that man and enjoy being adored by him. I'm pretty darn lucky that after 19 years of marriage my husband still calls me his "bride" and thinks I'm hot - I've definitely got a good deal working and don't want to screw it up.

So that's this woman's lifestyle in a thumbnail. A really big, Jack-and-the-Beanstalk Giant-sized thumbnail. It's hard to zip up all this red-headed weirdness into a compressed file. Thankfully not everything good comes in a small package.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

renegade patients/patience

There is an interesting healthcare article in the news this week about doctors who decide to stop playing the insurance game.

A few years ago, we decided to take the self-pay route for our primary doctor. Actually, the doctor quoted in the article, Craig Koniver, IS our doctor. He went to this mode of practice two years ago, and last year pared his staff down to one - himself.

My family is fortunate to have medical insurance coverage. But we chose to stay with Dr. Koniver because his approach to care has revolutionized our health. It's that simple. And that amazing.

Break Free of the System!

Dr. Koniver describes it as partnership. He uses his knowledge of traditional and organic medicine along with his personal relationship with us to guide us in taking care of our own health. We trust his advice, knowing it is based on a holistic approach to our well-being, not on a need to satisfy coding requirements or pitch product. The upfront cost is surprisingly affordable. And since the cost is controlled and agreed to up front, there are no nasty surprises from insurance companies denying charges because such-and-such was coded wrong or excluded by our plan.

He is amazingly accessible. And we no longer feel like just a number in an EMR system. We have his direct phone number and email. When we send him a message, he's back in touch within minutes. When we visit, we have as much time with him as we need and we converse on a first-name basis. He knows exactly who we are, what our lives are like, and what we're struggling with, even before he consults his whizbang iPad chart. When he asks how we are doing, he means it, and he wants to know not just our physical state, but how we are mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually. Because it all matters and has an impact on our health.

My husband was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes ten years ago and has had an ongoing struggle with controlling his blood sugar. Our prior caregiver would look at his numbers, nod as my husband voiced his concerns, then prescribe one drug on top of another. We are not opposed to pharmaceuticals and are grateful for medical advances, but after a few years of being pelted with pills - including one that was later taken off the market - we thought there had to be a better way. We wanted a holistic doctor who would LISTEN to us and would do more than just try to mask our symptoms with pharmaceuticals. Once we found that in Dr. Koniver, there was no way we were going back!

The importance of this approach became more evident this year. After getting to know my husband, following his struggles with his blood sugar, and doing some in depth research, Dr. Koniver suspected the possibility that my husband had been misdiagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. He sent us to a specific endocrinology specialist in Atlanta, whose tests verified that he had the marker for Type 1, not Type 2. No one else had ever looked at the numbers and suggested that maybe there was a reason why traditional treatments weren't improving his condition.

Obviously Dr. Koniver has not abandoned all that is good in traditional medicine. He uses everything that is at his disposal to make the best recommendations to his patients. We still use certain pharmaceuticals to treat ongoing conditions. But we prefer to use organic supplements when possible to avoid increasingly expensive pharmaceuticals with questionable side effects. (Seriously, have you ever listened to the rapid fire side effects list on those commercials?)  Dr. Koniver even has his own line of organic supplements. He doesn't push them, but we use them because they make a difference, we trust the source, and they're less expensive/higher quality that what you find in the market. And they work.  My husband and I are in much better health now than we were five years ago because of them. And as my husband would say, if it ain't broke, don't mess with it!

It's refreshing  - and inspirational - to have a doctor brave enough to defy conventions so he can fulfill his true calling of helping people reclaim wellness. He won't get rich this way, but he makes a good living and he spends a lot of time with his family, including his doctor wife who left practice to home-school their kids. Then again, that might just make him the richest doctor in town.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

do over....

Seventeen years ago, I became a technical writer. My goal: make money writing during the day so i could write my own stuff at night. Instead, I entered a 16 year creative vacuum and didn't write a thing.

In my business I document systems based on test case scenarios. If the system crashes, we fix it and start over. It's all part of the documentation process. We get lots of do-overs.

But life isn't a test case scenario. This is the big game. Mostly we get one shot. Rarely do we get to wipe the slate clean and start over.

One day I woke up and realized the big hole inside me couldn't be filled with anything but doing what I was meant to do - writing about the real stuff, the hard stuff, the fun stuff, the stuff that was inside and all around me.

So I'm starting over, where I am, with what I have. No more wasting time. No more fear of critics. I am a writer. The time is now. Here I go....