So, here I am…krooked face and all. It is what is is and in all likelihood I will get better. True to my competitive and yet optimistic nature, I plan on being the valedictorian of recovery. Which means that I have to admit while I think I am super woman…sans the tights and the cape…not a good look for me, I cannot do it all. It kills me that I have to rest because I feel like crap, that my elocution sucks (and let me tell you extemporaneous speech is one of my superpowers) and that half the time I can’t see because my left eye doesn’t blink on its own anymore. My inability to recognize my limits may be my kryptonite. At first thought, I had the same attitude I always have had…simply that I’ve walked around with a fractured spine for 30 years undetected, this can’t stop me either. Except it did. I am forced to wear a vulnerability right out in the open and I don’t like it. It was awkward at parent teacher conferences last night, because it’s hard not to keep staring at my flapping lips, when I want to talk as fast as I always do and can’t, and that I have to explain what happened over and over. People have been beautiful about it, don’t get me wrong, that isn’t the issue. The real eye opener (pun intended) is that I am part of the 100% of the population who is fragile and vulnerable and broken and weak. We all are broken, I just happen to have it written on my face right now. We should all be as beautiful to each other as those who can see it on my face have been to me. It just isn’t always as obvious. Who knows what internal paralysis may be going on inside someone, hidden to the outside world. It has given me pause and challenged me to be more sensitive, and kind to others. I do plan on posting the after picture as soon as possible. Until then, I appreciate the prayers.
I have been struggling with auto-immune problems for a while now, and this weekend I started experiencing the symptoms of bell’s palsy…which you can google for specifics but in a general sense it means that the major facial nerve on the left side of my face is inflamed leaving me with minor facial paralysis. Yes, it sucks to be me right now, but I’m trying to remain calm because stress can definitely make it worse. I will have all the necessary blood tests to rule out lymes and other diseases, but I quietly chalk it up to a year of increasing difficulties with food allergies, inflammation, thyroid issues etc. While the ARP treatments I have been receiving have helped my bio-mechanical trouble from my spondylolisthesis, it appears I have a larger battle on the inside. I do appreciate your prayers and I am thankful for the great support I am receiving right now….thank God I finished my Christmas shopping early!
This past weekend Steve and I were privileged to play host to a couple of exceptional athletes, great role models, hard working, positive, ethical and generally all around really nice people. Sadly, when it comes to many famous elite athletes, those traits I just listed aren’t usually the first that come to mind. It is more the infamy, the arrogance, the multimillion dollar salaries and exposes in the media that range from the tawdry to the criminal. Having two boys, it is often disheartening to see one of their sports heroes get entangled in a sex controversy, or get caught cheating by taking performance enhancing drugs. The formula for excellence should be committment, perseverance, hard work and a good share of failure to learn in the process. Now it seems that less energy is put on the hard work and learning through failure portion and more into what better way to cut corners. I certainly understand the pressure that is on todays’ athletes to keep winning when the bar keeps getting higher and higher. But I also believe that the bar is raised unfairly by bionic bodies created by illegal “short cuts.” It just isn’t fair to those athletes who build their talent the old-fashioned way. And I would imagine these old-fashioned athletes would be frustrated, bitter, angry and just want to give up….but not Caitlin Compton Gregg. She is a breath of fresh air. She loves what she does, and is committed to being the best at what she does. Not only is she a committed athlete, her actual job is to be a role model and mentor to kids ( her husband Brian is also a youth mentor and an elite athlete as well). That is the kind of athlete that I want to inspire my children, not the kind who live in such a moral vacuum that their spurious escapades dwarf their athletic abilities. I want my sons to understand that excellence demands hard work, committment and the willingness to fail. Excellence in sports means being an excellent person. I know it sounds so simplistic, but that is why I wanted to write this, it just needs to be said more often. How we get to a goal is the most important part of any journey. I see all too often the emphasis is put on winning or being the best without highlighting how one gets there. Caitlin’s journey is full of hard work, committment and the kind of grace that I really haven’t seen in a long time….it was encouraging for our whole family. She is a role model, she is a mentor, she is an exceptional athlete, she is an excellent person and we were enriched by meeting her and her husband Brian. It a year of a lot of pessimism and struggle, she charged my optimism.
There is so much in parenting that no amount of age, wisdom or experience can prepare you for. No matter that I am educated in child development and spent most of my career working with young adults. It is a giant exercise of strength and will just to hold on tight to the grey matter in my head and keep myself from physically dissociating and taking a permanent vacation in my happy place. Even more difficult is having two children who are on two complete ends of the spectrum. Nothing I learned from raising the first was applicable to the second. They never agree on anything except how unbelievably stupid their parents are. When suggesting that they could benefit by walking in each other’s shoes and trying to see the world from another perspective, they of course took me literally and went on infinitum about cooties and the diseases that each would get from touching the others shoes. When I told them I wasn’t being literal, but figurative they both snorted, ignored me and took respite in their iPods. Don’t get me wrong, they are both great kids in their own right, but I certainly have a greater appreciation for the divisiveness that plagues our country. So I used the great ol’ USA as my example at dinner. I told them both they were perfect examples of how both political parties have become completely intolerant of one another and are at the same time ignorant about who and what the other really is. My sons were behaving like a little mini microcosm of the large macrocosm of our two-party system. Yes, they almost choked on their meatloaf, but I concluded with this phrase, “If you two Yahoos can’t get along…and you’re family, who can expect the rest of the country to broaden their perspectives….” the reply…”What’s a Yahoo?” my answer “Read Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift.” Conclude with plenty of eye rolling and masticating of beef. Seriously now, am I really the stupidest person you know??????
This week, the struggling economy became even more real in our small little hamlet here on the St. Croix River, when our town bank was closed and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) was named receiver and the Central Bank of Stillwater took over all accounts. What really hit me in the gut was being directed from the old riverbank website to a “Failed Bank Information” website. While it is easy to say that people made grave mistakes, I just don’t see it that way. I cannot wrap my head around the word “failure” because it was just a few years ago when we were a burgeoning community on the cusp of growth and the RiverBank was a central feature of what we wanted our community to be. This was and hopefully still is a place where people want to live, and if not, open enroll their kids in our schools. It is a full community ripe with opportunities and expansion, and I know that I would have thought it inconceivable that this is where we would end up. And amidst the expected shock, sadness and mingled with a bit of fear for the future, I want to stop and take a breath, turn and try to look at it from another perspective.
When I studied the New Testament, there was a particular parable that I loved…the parable of the talents. In short, a master is going on a long trip and distributes some of his wealth to three of his servants, the first two take the money they are given build and grow it, the last, in fear of losing it and fearing the master’s wrath, buries it in the ground. When the master returns, he is pleased with the progress of the first two servants and blesses them with more abundance. The third he rebukes for doing nothing and letting fear take control and takes the original amount and splits it between the first two servants. I used to wonder at the strong language of the master toward the third servant, after all he didn’t lose the money, he kept it safe. I figured out that the message here is that safety is overrated. Taking risks and using the gifts we are given and building them into something greater is the expectation God has of us, doing nothing and staying safe is not. So when I look at all that the RiverBank has accomplished I don’t see a failed bank. Could any of us have foreseen what transpired in the last few years? While I’m sure in hindsight there is plenty that went dreadfully wrong, but there was also so much that was right.
So I say, rather that see this situation as a failure, perhaps as difficult as it might be, we all should try to see it as an opportunity to build something else, something even better. There is still an abundance of talented people out there, and it would be like burying treasure in the ground to do nothing, to stay idle. When this country has been hit with natural disasters, we come together and rebuild. How is being unfortunate enough to be in the path of an economic tsunami any different? We simply come together and rebuild. We take the talents we are given from the master and take the risk to grow and expand them once again. That is what I hope will happen in these dark times, is that we see beyond the fear of losing, and embracing what great gifts we have all been given and move on. My prayers are certainly with everyone in this time of transition, but if we hold on to a hope for a greater future, the struggle today will only make each of us stronger.
One of my favorite movies from the 80’s was flashdance. I didn’t like it for its depth and breadth of plot or acting…I just loved the dancing. Lately, though, I’ve been having flashbacks of that infamous scene in the movie when she throws herself back in a chair and a bucket of water dumps all over her. Then, I was thrilled at the sensuality of that dance….these days, I simply daydream about that cold bucket of water. With the coming of the new school year, when both boys are finally in high school, also came what I’ve been dreading to come for awhile….hot flashes. Not that I lack any information on the subject, I do work in health care after all. But what they really can’t prepare you for is the horrific psychic time travel when you are forced to revisit the emotional upheaval that were our bodies in adolescence when they raged with hormones and did things without our permission throwing us into a continual tailspin. But, since I had the added degradation of travelling through highschool as a 12 year-old boy, and pretty much spent my freshman year in college squeezed into underwear that was too tight because I was too far away from home and too broke to buy a bigger bra and even my loosest sweaters made me feel like Marilyn Monroe…except for the wicked case of acne…my revisit of this lack of control over my body has shattered even my super hero power of common sense like kryptonite did to super man. It isn’t enough that I was just getting comfortable in my body after all this time, now I had to go to the store and again buy a bigger bra ( yeah I bet they didn’t tell you that little tidbit) and I have to change my shirt at lunch time because I sweat through it and just as I neared spontaneous combustion, my thermostat completely shut down and I froze the rest of the morning in my “wet” t-shirt and had to tape down my nipples that reacted to the cold. My body was saying porn star against my will. The advice I get from other woman is to dress in layers, but yesterday when I brought a light sweater to cover up once the freeze hit after the flash, all that did was send me into another hot flash. I work in a field where dozens and dozens of people walk through this door every day, and the last thing I’m sure they want to see is a sweaty woman with a delicate wardrobe malfunction. I am waving a paper fan continually just to keep the makeup from running into my eyes and trying desperately not to surrender to the heat. I’ve tried supplements…including the ones with black cohosh and they don’t do bupkis, but with the memory lapses I’d forget to take them anyway. It just doesn’t seem fair. Last week during the morning frost, I actually went outside in my underwear and the steam that rose off my body was in close competition to the fog that blanketed our valley. I actually choose dress clothes that won’t show perspiration stains…THAT SUCKS! I remember now when I was a young teen that it didn’t really matter how cool I felt inside my brain when my body refused to cooperate and I just looked awkward. Today it feels no less frustrating. Right now as I am writing this I have stuffed a kleenex on my lower back to catch the sweat that is now running down my back. It will be alright, I have learned to adapt with a lot of ice, multiple t-shirts to change into, and the promise of a cold winter soon on the horizon. For the time being though, to all you sweaty women out there I stand in solidarity with you, I would hug you too, but I wouldn’t want to stain your clothes….
Yesterday, as I sent by boys off to school, I sat down with a cup of tea to watch the today show before my workout…which usually means a lot of dancing around pulling too tight things on just to sweat in. I stopped half-clothed as they did a story on a young man who had recently come out as gay to friends and family and while he tried to be an advocate for anti-bullying by posting on the internet, the bullying escalated and ultimately he ended up committing suicide. I always am sad when I hear about bullying, but what literally made me break down and sob, was when Jamey’s mother told Anne Curry that on the night of the wake, their daughter wanted to be with her friends at the homecoming dance, and a Lady Gaga song came on that Jamey liked, and his friends started chanting for him, the bullies that had been harassing him started chanting “We’re glad your dead” and “you’re better off dead.” What kind of miscreants are we raising today? In the name of what God is this kind of behavior ever acceptable?
I know I’ve stormed the principal’s office when my sons were the victims of bullying and did what I could do to protect them, but I know that reprimands or punishments don’t change hearts or minds. It isn’t enough for me that they have a safe haven at home, and that we encourage them to be exactly who they are. They should be able to do that out in the world as well. We adults can, though, say loud and clear that this kind of brutality and intolerance will never be ok, and it really doesn’t matter where you stand on the issue. The challenge is to show young people by our own behavior that different is good, and diversity is even better. God has graced us all with specific potentials…I am reminded by that great metaphor of the body of Christ that Paul uses in 1st Corinthians. But when one part of the body has the audacity and arrogance to defame that grace and goodness of another part of the body and snuff out their potential, the whole body suffers. One of Jesus’ last commands was that his disciples love one another, so that the world would know who sent them. Somehow, by placing moral judgment ahead of love, that authority is lost….and the proof of that can be found by the divisiveness of the very people who were charged to bring a message of good news and eternal love.
I do apologize for pontificating, and I seem to do a lot of that these days. But I’m just so frustrated and sick of hearing stories like this, and Jamie and his family moved me to speak. You cannot call your self a Christian and not be scandalized by this tragedy…and if you’re not religious, you cannot call yourself civilized if this story didn’t make your blood boil. And if you feel nothing or engage in this kind of reprehensible behavior than even hell isn’t good enough for you. I know that righteous anger won’t solve the problem, to hate the haters is no less cancerous to the body. I do pray that the hatred stops, and is replaced by a spirit of decency. Most important was the conversation that I had and will continue to have with my own boys, it appears being against bullying is one thing we can agree on.
The reason for our trip to LA, revolved around old friendships. Since the new stadium opened a couple of years ago on the U of MN campus, Steve has been in touch with many of his Gopher team mates. When they realized that the Gophers played at USC for the first time in 20 years, many decided to make the venture west…including me. Now, I’m not much for sports…I am more academic and artsy…but I will never turn down an opportunity to travel, to have a break from our clinic and not have to cook and drive and all the other chores of daily living. Steve and Dewayne Eldridge hadn’t seen each other in 30 years, and they were just like school buds again. It was great to listen to the stories and what happened to everyone over the last 30 years. Dewayne is now a detective in Orange county and it was wonderful meeting he and his wife Lydia. We met such nice people and had such a great time, with the exception of a really bad sunburn. It appears that the sunscreen I used was not as sweat proof as I thought.
From decadence to holiness, I was able to find a bit of heaven while on my trip to LA. We were actually walking somewhere else when we came across this cathedral. I guess it is the biggest in the United States, and it was spectacular. I know the pictures don’t give it justice, but if I lived in LA, I certainly would attend mass here. Beyond the beauty and grandeur, the quiet and holiness was actually palpable and the calm and peace washed over me. It was wonderful just to stop and pray for a moment. I’ve seen many ancient cathedrals around the world, and this modern one felt as awe-inspiring as any other. It was a highlight for me.
I know there will be plenty of posts dedicated to my trip to Los Angeles, but right now I just have to say how much certain parts of the city had to resemble Rome before it fell. I know it’s easy to criticize a place that is inherently foreign to me, but I’ve travelled around the globe plenty of times and no place gives me this same visceral reaction that I get when I enter into Beverly Hills. It is full of the decadent kind of wealth that I associate with Monarchies and those tyrants who amass wealth while the populace suffers. I am not a socialist, but it is hard to tolerate this kind of excess when the rest of this country is suffering so deeply. Yet, to the young billionaire who was stalked by the paparazzi, life was as it should be. She was catered to, and the rest of the crowd breathed in her glory. From what I gathered from some of the cameraman (who really are rude, by the way) she has done nothing to earn her special treatment in the world except to have been born into money. While I certainly don’t blame her for this, I do expect that a country whose very existence is rooted in the rejection of power by this kind of “new” monarchy, not perpetuate the belief that they are indeed better. Every person that stood on that street and waited for the celebrity did that. And while I stood there all surly and couldn’t wait to get back on our LA tour bus, I couldn’t help but feel inferior and obvious in my “touristness” I felt stalkerish, and I didn’t like that feeling one bit.
While we were lucky to know friends there and venture out to some pretty remarkable restaurants, it was obvious that for one in particular (Asia de Cuba) the simple people get treated far less respectfully that those who flaunt their money and position. At one point I wanted to smack our waitress who often made it clear that she would rather be serving someone else. On a trip to the Ladies, my size 8 made me look like a heifer in comparison to the women, who looked as though they were in a non-size category. They were twittering like pernicious little twits about everyone else at the Sky bar…Iguess I’d be crabby too If my daily caloric intake was smaller than my shoe size. I grabbed my phone and looked down when I started laughing nervously so they wouldn’t know that I was laughing at the ruthlessness of their conversation. They were…horrible, there is no way to couch the judgment. In fairness to our gracious friends who took us there really for the excellent food, I kept my mouth shut. I also did so because my opinion was clearly not wanted or needed. To that end, future posts will be all about the great things that I experienced on our short jaunt. I did ruminate on the possibility that I harbor some deep envy, but I truly think that I I’m just better than that. I was raised to believe that you treat people how you want to be treated, that money doesnt exempt you from civility. None of us are better or worse for the size of our wallets…that is earned by what we do with what we have.