The Bucket List…..

I want to be the girl in this video….travelling across the world, uninhibited, throwing caution to the wind.  Chances are, the likelihood of this happening is akin to a camel poking its head through a needle, and then realizing he still has to get his body through it.

I love, love, love to travel.  It’s just that we have no extra moolah, and what we do have goes to silly things like food, vet visits and electric bills.  I don’t have a bucket list in all actuality, but here is a sampling of things I would like to do before I leave this planet:

I would love to go to Ireland, in search of my ancestors.  If I do go to Ireland, I will be tempted to drink an ale with the kin folk-you know, raise up a glass to the country that turned us out-I hear they’re very folksy and welcoming, but let’s face the facts, I would want to live there, or perhaps petrify in one place, sitting at the pub, drinking Guiness, and singing the songs of my people.

Big Sur was a big draw, until I read about Bohemian Grove.  With our luck, we would find the wrong place at the wrong time, and I apologize, but becoming a blood sacrifice for the elite in this world?  Let’s just say I have no time for the big, wooden statue of Baphomet, and I don’t like people telling me what to do.

Hawaii was big on my “list” at one point, and now I see the error of my ways.  The fat faced dictator from HELL has threatened their peace, and I don’t want to spend my whole vacation in an underground bunker.

And lastly, there was Sea World.  Yes, I wanted to ride the dolphins with abandon, you know, be that girl: the one who never stops talking about her relationship with a fifty year old she met out in California, and then you come to find out it was a sea mammal.  No thanks.

So for now?  I’ll stay in this sleepy little town of horse and buggies, biting flies the size of Texas, and more cow manure than you can shake a stick at.


The Silence is Deafening

Trying to get something done around the house, and let’s just say the couch is winning.  After feeding the felines, Jesse and I head to the couch, defeated yet eager to rest.  I flip on some Christmas music, and this song is the first I hear.

I have often wondered why I simply can not grieve in front of my husband.  I believe it is due in part that I know my tears upset him, and I want my lover to be happy, at peace.  Watching my emotions carefully-I just took myself off of a ten year addiction, albeit to Zoloft.  What began as the flu and not wanting to drive, turned into a trial run of freedom from the bondage of antidepressants.  Please don’t get me wrong, I thought I was to be on this drug forever;  I never gave this a second thought really -I am irrepressibly in agreement with anti-depressant/anti-anxiety medications for those who suffer mental illness.  I am the poster child for Ativan, yet I knew deep down that the depression had vanished.  Seven days later and I have no homicidal ideation, let alone suicidal.  But as I sat down to ponder, the haunting taunt of Bing Crosby’s vocals coming loudly from the surround sound, I wept.

Tomorrow my golden retriever turns five.  Just typing those words brings tears to my eyes, and I can’t see the computer screen.  After the loss of Jesse’s brother Dylan, four years ago, I have remained traumatized, the idea of him aging rips my heart right out of my chest, and any animal lover will understand those feelings.  Not for one millisecond do I take the blessings of this year for granted.  My husband’s new career, financial stability (kind of-my SSI check never amounted to much, and the monthly payments help tremendously-I had hoped to give my church an abundant Christmas tithing, and still do-but overhearing my husband discussing our mounting medical bills from a shoulder injury and physical therapy he suffered this Summer? Let’s just say I have devised a payment plan) and the miracles of being set free from physical and mental anguish are miracles, of this I am certain.

Yet I cannot contain the emotions this song bring about, so many memories of childhood Christmases -I would cut off my right arm to go back to those innocent days, ones I somehow knew were precious and rare, even back then.  We lost my parents years ago, and my brother is in California with his beautiful family.  There will be no Christmas phone calls, or holiday gatherings with my sister, or nieces and nephew.  No Christmas Eve conversations with the best friend who tried to ruin the first real vacation my husband and I had taken in twenty five years together, and prior to that?  I should have known her to be a vindictive and malicious narcissist years gift exchanges, no carols sung.

This makes me terribly sad, and lonely with an ache that permeates the air I breathe.

But none of this changes the fact that this is the time of year that we celebrate the birth of our King of Kings, the Prince of Peace, Lord of Lords and hope to all nations.  And the best part of the story is that He forgives us if we turn to Him with faith and sorrow for our sins.  We are a new creation in Christ and no longer need to carry our heavy burdens or past mistakes along with us!  It matters not what we have done, He will forgive us.  It is because of what He has done that we are set free~

In his great mercy God has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.                                                                                                                        1 Peter 1:3


The Silent Scream

I want to write about treating others as we would expect to be treated (if you love yourself enough)  In recovery, there is this long and arduous, yet somehow pure and raw discovery of who we really are and what our destiny entails.  If you are one of the lucky ones?  You will go through the darkest nights of repressed grief, shame, abandonment and despair.  I say this because in order to get sober, you have to do the work.  There will be slips and relapse, until you finally come face to face with your demons, make amends to people you may not even like (over and over again) have awkward discussions in the supermarket aisles because you run into the nurse you screwed over in regards to a shift you didn’t show up for because you were home, hungover and sick…..and not remembering that you had told her just last night you would work for her because her aunt died.  Those conversations.  Bad lighting, bad feelings and bad memories, oh my GOD those first years re hard.

If someone argues with you that getting sober is easy?  Call them a liar.  Call their bluff.  They may just break down and get real, emotions might be triggered….every sober person has a colorful, if not plethora of “stories” involving how hard it was not to take that drink/drug the night that something didn’t go your selfish way.

My husband just came home to find that I have yet another cold.  I have done everything under my control to protect myself this year (vitamins, homeopathic mixes, probiotics, vitamin C……) and remain healthy.  I do have a compromised immune system, and I can no longer apologize for things of this nature, as I do not relish in it, nor do I enjoy being sick and ineffective when I am painting the entire house, take care of 12 animals, have to clean, cook, do laundry, change sheets, go to the grocery store….. my volunteer work, clean the litterboxes…Come on.

“You’re always sick,” he laughs, bitterly.

His reaction let me down, and rather than retaliate?  I want to lovingly say that I have told him thousands of times that this is related to my Lyme, and my state of mind.  I used to pray for a cold to get a few days off around this time of year-you know, horizontal, you-can’t-clean-you-can’t-cook, you want to sleep until the cows come home, you know the drill.  As of late I loathe the idea of being less than 100 percent.  I wasted way too many days sleeping or sick, although I remain convinced that God wanted me alone, near and quiet.  I want to live this life I love, have new adventures and we aren’t promised tomorrow.  Carpe Diem is literally my new catchphrase.

There are things on my mind this time of year, but I push my feelings down.  Everyone and their mother knows that  many people suffer crippling depression/anxiety during the holidays, and not only are my parents gone, but I am only speaking to one third of my family, and the other third lives thousands of miles away in Las Angeles.

What I am trying to say is:  this has been a hard week.  I found out my estranged sister was diagnosed with melanoma in situ, and obviously I just cannot afford to break no contact.  Sometimes it’s all I can do not to drive down to Exton, and insist she cry on my shoulder, show some emotion, get it off her chest….no you are not perfect, who said you ever had to be?  Please, please seek counsel with a professional for your pain that you have pushed down for 51 years!  I don’t judge you, I am protecting my sanity and well being.

What I’m trying to say Dwain is this:  Why can’t you be happy about how far I have come?  Did you forget how much I dread the holidays… I have scratched and clawed my way out of bed, out of depression and addiction.  I have scars on the outside, but that is nothing to compare to what I have on the inside, that remains unspoken, so I don’t have to rock the boat.  But honey?  I’ve been apologizing for my own pain for way too long, just be the husband Jesus and I know you to be.  I love you Charlie.

Don’t Want to Hear About It……

Females.  You can’t live with them, and you sure as Hell fire can’t live without them.  I cherish my female friendships, but a few of them came at a cost:  once you love a sister with your whole heart and soul?  Little can come between you.  You argued.  You were pissy.  She was controlling.  She was cruel, and you gave it back in spades.   But you love each other, and family argues.  This isn’t the family you were dealt, this is the women you have strategically chosen for a  reason; or they chose you.

But what about the ones that don’t make the cut?  The friendships that God nips in the bud, just when you were growing extremely fond of her?  One thing I will never again tolerate in a friend of either sex?  Passive aggression.  I grew up with a narcissistic mother, and my sister and “best friend” Doreen (name changed to protect the criminally insane, and by that I mean myself) picked up where Mary Lou left off.  Don’t talk to me about picayune little arguments:  I have neither the time, nor the patience.  I will not allow myself emotional trauma at the hands of anyone, let alone the women who I have  allowed into my own Private Idaho.

I am angry now, but irritation will not prevail.  I thought I knew better, and clearly, my honing skills are askew.  And yes, I loved her.  For now I will add her to the growing list of frenemies, but God knows I’ll pray for her.

But I Won’t Go, Go, Go……..

This song came out in the peak of my drinking career, where I began “getting drunk” in a more profound and obliterating way.  We were in LA, partying with my brother-this song was on during the drive home from the airport.  We listened to the CD for the entire vacation, and I flew into Baltimore forever changed by her haunting lyrics.  I was devastated by the loss of one of the most prolific jazz singers of all time.  I am saddened by her demons.  She was one of a kind, she always will be.

I was getting dressed for my shift at the ER.  Talking to Jesus, I was overcome by the knowledge that he would prepare something special this day-I knew he would send someone to me, and the thoughts of how he orchestrates His magic into this amazing tapestry of life, putting people in our paths we are destined to help, or vise versa-things others may call extreme coincidence-well, I was anxious to see how this would play out.

Twenty minutes into my shift, a pitiful-looking couple walked, slowly, past the triage room, and the nurses were abuzz discussing how she had just been in the ER, they had referred her to her family physician.  They had done everything they could.  I let some time go by before I walked into the room.  A beautiful, buxom blonde with insanely green eyes lay on the gurney.  Her boyfriend sat in the chair, looking bored, irritated or both.  I asked if she would like a drink, and I noticed that he tried to answer the questions for her.

I knew immediately that she suffered hypochondria, and her vast experience in the medical field confirmed my suspicions.  I have pursued the medical field for as long as I can remember-my mother was sick her entire adult life, but she was also a hypochondriac: as were my brother, my sister and myself.  My faith has led me out of that state of mind, praise God.  As irritating as this group of people can be?  They are terrified, absolutely mind-blowingly frightened, yet psychotic in their belief that they are sick.  The disease is about fear of losing control-and let’s just say there are so many, many germs, conditions and illnesses out there that they are in a constant state of fight or flight-and it is a living hell.

The woman began to open up to me, and what she said was shocking on a new level.  She had anorexia, for years.  (I wondered if she had been to an eating disorder clinic, something I had wanted to do for years, but could never afford the cost or to take the time off)  Surgery after surgery to slim herself down.  She was an orphan, left by her mother after her father was killed in the line of duty.  She told me she ate so much plaster as a child that the doctors didn’t give her a chance in hell of graduating high school.  She and her brother were not adopted until she was 9 years old.  When her adoptive parents allowed them snacks, desserts and access to the refrigerator.  She became morbidly obese by the time she was 14.

What I did not, could not say was that she was telling me the story of my life.

“I can’t keep giving out my phone number,” I yelled at myself, thinking of doing precisely that.

After a lengthy visit, I asked what her name was, and she replied:

“Michele.  With one l.”


The Bravest Cat in the History of Cats….

DSCF8737This man right here?  His name is Hank, Jr.  He came to my cat shelter last Spring, actually born here on the farmette.  Hank had a twin brother who died a horrible death inside this house-four times.  Literally.  My poor husband went out, dead cat in hand.  The ensuing shot gun blasts were a clear indication that she had come back to life once more, and my husband confirmed my fears as he walked inside and out of the blizzard in progress.

From day one?  Head over heels in love.  He was so sweet, so loving and bold-he couldn’t care less what anybody thought of him, and the other cats adored him.  My Golden Retriever took Hank in, and we called him “Jesse’s baby,” after that.  I loved it when he came at me, head held high, bow legged and proud of it, feeling his oats and somehow knowing that he was the cooliest kitty kat in town.

On Friday I was horrified to discover that his bravery had served a cold dish of “severed leg at the hands of local farm machinery,” and drove to the vet before he returned my emergency call.  I remember driving like this in many, many animal emergencies over the last 25 years-but I know the back roads of Myerstown like my own bathroom, and at least I’m usually the only person around.  This trip was so traumatizing, that I am still recovering from a stress migraine, which I suffered once the cat was at the vet.

I asked for prayers on my Facebook page.  I woke up this morning with such a sense of dread.  I phoned my dear friend and left a weepy voicemail, “………and I can’t deal with rehabbing a cat for six weeks.  Oh my word I am so overwhelmed, (sob, sniff, belch)  You have to understand, I don’t reach out to my friends when I should.  This morning I knew I had to talk to a friend who really loved me.  This friend/angel is going through some pretty crappy stuff right now, but she stopped everything to offer an encouraging visit, moral support for bringing Hank home.  Kind.  Compassionate.  Friend.  Confidante.  Sidekick.  Beloved.  Those are just a few of the words I would use to describe her.

I strode into the vet’s office, and after paying a $701 vet bill (not bad for 3 nights stay and an amputation) sat in the little room and waited nervously for the Dr.  He sat and spoke to me, answering all of my questions.  He told me he was not in pain, and that he was the model patient, never even a hiss.  I had read online how to prepare for this transition.  I was bringing home a disabled cat, and I wasn’t handling it well, not at all.

His nurse brought in my furry friend.  Shaking like a leaf, I approached my poor little dude.  And then I was put instantaneously at ease as I looked at him, freshly bathed, eyes as big as fifty cent pieces.  I was such a nervous wreck that I babbled on about coyote traps, and cracking bad jokes a mile a minute.  But Hank, Jr. looked, well, amazing.  He ran, ran to his food dish.  After I had him settled in the comfy bed I had made him, I went off to the store.  When we returned I could hear his cry coming from the upstairs.  I picked him up and brought him down to the bed I had so lovingly prepared.  He went to his dish, then the miracle happened-he used the litter box, and ran up the stairs once more.  He is purring and mewing.  He is so happy to be home.  To those of you who prayed, thought of our plight, or sent positive vibes…..I felt your prayers.  You gave me the strength I needed.

I can do all things in Christ, who strengthens me.~

How Far We’ll Go……

Each October, my church shows a movie each Sunday.  Some are serious, and some are lighthearted; as I expected this movie (this song made me hysterical, for reasons I will let you in on momentarily) to be of the latter persuasion.  My pastor and friend, Jo Anne, attached a sermon to this film, and spoke in between clips.  She asked that we look for the parallels between finding out whom you are in Jesus, attaining the power and dreams we know are deep within us, sometimes hidden, often not.  I cried throughout the entire display, and I went to her in tears at the service’s closing-not just to thank her for her amazing gift, but to give a soul sister a hug.  We are kindred spirits, her and I, and what we have in common makes her even more of a sister than blood could or ever would.

What we share is a childhood of bullying, feeling left out, psychic pain and unfathomable redemption in the blood of Jesus.  As I aged, I was full of a desire to please others-I needed affirmation through others’ perception of me-a deadly flaw if there was one.  I never outgrew the awkward, chubby child of my youth; physically, yes-emotionally, no. Well into my thirties, I could and would not run past teenagers at a bus stop, or merely a gaggle on the street corner, laughing it up.  I was convinced they would bully me, which never made since, as I had long since fallen into the rabbit hole of anorexia, and the idea that they could see me at all, at 73 pounds?  The heart wrenching fact is:  we believe the stories people tell us.  Just eleven years ago I was in so much pain that I drank to oblivion; snorted spoonfulls  of self esteem, and popped pills to quiet the voice that screamed, “You blew it, you suck, you don’t deserve to be happy, just look at the mess you have made of your life.”

I won’t tell you that this journey has been easy.  I would be remiss.  Heartache after heartache, projecting my pain onto others, especially my weary husband-well, I had no choice but to cling to God-and what transpired was a phoenix rising, further and further from the ashes as every single disappointment, every trial I thought I could not bear, and a loneliness that was felt deep down in my gut-even when surrounded by others-was transformed into joy by a God we cannot see.

I have a wonderful husband, (let’s just say he’s come so far, we fought like lions and tigers and bears-but God knew that we would survive the ride, and blessed beyond our wildest dreams-by one another.)  Something divine happened to me in New York, as I walked across a swinging, wooden bridge the length of a football field, a blanket of jutting rocks and rapids beneath; after spreading daddy’s ashes fifteen hard years late, and then standing up to my latest bully-(read Pistols at Dawn) my hunching has stopped.  I stand tall and confident.  I love writing, my gardens, my family, my life.  I truly enjoy my volunteer position in the local ER, a job I have dreamed of forever and a day.  Our financial worries have diminished, and I won my Social Security disability-something I did not pray about until the week before we received the good news.

“Father Abba, precious Jesus, I cannot ask for more after you have given us so very much.  How could I possibly ask for more?”

And in the quiet hours before the dawn He spoke to me: What you could do to help others with this income, give back as graciously as you have been given…….

But what you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do-blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity!  I tell you the truth, they will receive all the reward they will ever get.  But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand no what your right hand is doing.  Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

6 Matthew:2-4