Posted by: Christine L. | February 26, 2010

gratitude

There is nothing more depressing than being sick for a long period of time.

And there is nothing more wonderful than that first day when you realize, after so long, that you are getting better.

There is nothing that feels better than that feeling of gratitude that wells up from deep inside when you step outside into the sunshine for the first time in weeks, breathe the warm, fragrant air, and know that you are going to be allowed to experience another spring, another summer.

There are some dubious reasons why people believe in God.  Ask any atheist or skeptic and they’ll list them in great detail.  And they’ll be right.

But I believe that this instinctive feeling of gratitude is one of the GOOD reasons.  And it’s not quite as easy to dismiss.

Despite the fact that I attend church with my husband, and plan to continue doing so for the foreseeable future, I do so primarily for social reasons.  I don’t really believe the doctrines and teachings of that or any other church.

But I continue to believe in a God of some kind.

Because on a warm, almost spring-like morning in February 2010, I am grateful to be alive.

And I need to say “thanks” to someone.

Posted by: Christine L. | February 24, 2010

bronchitis

I went to Kaiser yesterday to get my bad self diagnosed and after a long bout of waiting room sitting, punctuated by brief bouts of actual doctorin’, was officially diagnosed with Acute Bronchitis.

And since I’ve had it before, it’s also technically Chronic Bronchitis.

What really annoys me about having this as my chronic illness (and everyone has one, physical or mental, wouldn’t you agree?), is that the most common cause for it is smoking.

Well, guess what?  I NEVER smoked.  Never, not a day in my life.

I did, however, spend almost a quarter of a century walking through, in, and around downtown Los Angeles – inhaling all those lovely bus and train fumes.  (Not to mention OTHER people’s smoke.)   See, until last December, I worked up on Bunker Hill.

And silly me, I always thought it would be healthier to get off the bus or the train as soon as possible and  walk the rest of the way to work.

You know – because I’m fat.  And walking is supposed to be really good for you.  Right?  It’s supposed to make you healthy.

Well, guess what?  After 25 years of lots of long walks in downtown L.A., I’m still fat – and now I have Chronic Bronchitis.

And yet – the funny thing is – knowing that – if I had it all to do over again, I would STILL have done the walking.

Because it did clear my head (mentally, if not physically!) in so many ways.

It got me connected with the past.  You can learn quite a bit about the history of the city in which you live, just by putting your boots on the ground there.

It connected me with the vibrant, exciting present.  For example, remember the (in)famous O.J. Simpson trial?  Like most people, I did watch a lot of it on TV, read about it in the papers, etc.

But I learned even more about it from walking past the courthouse every morning on my way from Union Station to Bunker Hill.

I especially remember – and dammit! if I’d only had a camera with me – the parking lot behind the courthouse, which had been taken over by the media. They camped out there, for months.  They called it “O.J. City”.

And I remember walking by one morning, peering over the back fence, and seeing a stepladder on the other side, to which someone had affixed a hand-lettered sign reading “OJ Getaway”.  It always made me laugh.

And you know what?  I never saw a picture of that on the news or read about it in the paper.  I only SAW it, and only because I happened to be walking past that particular corner of the parking lot at that particular time.

And a few days later, the ladder and the sign were gone.  They exist now only in my memory, and in the memory of whatever wit put it there.  I’ll probably never find out who it was, and it wasn’t really that big a deal.

But I smile when I remember it.  And I’m glad I saw it.

Not sure if it’s worth a lifetime of bronchitis, but combined with all the other wonderful things I’ve seen over the past quarter of a century, well … I’d have to say it’s close to being a fair deal.

Posted by: Christine L. | February 22, 2010

fever

I haven’t added any new posts for a few days because I’ve been sick.  I get this chronic cough which I’ve been told is either bronchitis or sinusitis or allergies.  I suspect the doctors don’t really know so they’re just guessing.

Last night my fever went up to 100.7.  That’s high for me, as my normal resting temperature is 97.1.  (Not that I’m cold-blooded, I just have a differently abled metabolism. )

Anyway, this afternoon I’m going to visit my doctor – the same one I’ve seen during the past several bouts with this thing.  Don’t know if it’ll do any good but at least it makes me feel like I’m doing something useful.

Also, I don’t know if this has any connection, but shortly after I began my latest round of coughing, my husband Luke started coughing too.  And harder than me, and with a fever and everything.

Not that I think he’s being competitive or anything.  But it’s always a possibility.  Maybe he thought I was getting too much attention from the cat.

Posted by: Christine L. | February 18, 2010

ashes

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday in the Roman Catholic tradition, and I understand some Protestant churches do this as well:  the penitent goes up to the priest or minister, who makes a cross on their forehead out of ashes, intoning the words:  “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust”, or “Remember that thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return”.

I’ve always thought it was a good tradition, whether or not you even believe in God or an afterlife.  Because we are all going to die someday.  And it’s helpful to remember that, when we get caught up in the day-to-day traumas of life that maybe aren’t quite as traumatic, in the long run, as we like to think.

For example, when someone cuts you off in traffic, you can either get pissed at them, shoot them the finger, and chase after them in an attempt to return the favor.

Or – you can just remember that someday they’re going to die, as are you, and wish them well on their journey through this perilous life.

(And you may be forgiven for hoping that their journey finishes within the next couple of blocks.)

Posted by: Christine L. | February 17, 2010

diamonds

This will be a short post because my husband is in the shower, and once he’s out, he’ll want to get online.

I do have my own computer – it’s a laptop, and it’s out in my office – aka the tool shed.

And I do love to go outside and walk alllllll the way through the back yard to the shed, and turn on my very own computer, and sit and listen to the birds sing while I surf the Net.

However, it’s COLD this morning – 41 degrees, brrr.  I know to about 95% of the people in the U.S. that would be super-warm right now and they’d scorn me and my thin blood.   But nevertheless, I don’t like to set naked, bare foot outside the house till the  temp is at least 60.

And I do like to go out barefoot.  It’s always been my favorite thing, to get up early in the morning and go outside and feel the dew on my bare feet.  I’m going to be 52 years old this year, and going barefoot outside is one of those things that make me feel like a kid.

I remember going outside early one morning, when I was about five years old.  The sun was just beginning to rise, and the grass was covered with dew.  It sparkled in the light, just like diamonds.  I squealed with delighted laughter because I thought I was rich.

Diamonds!  Diamonds everywhere!

When my husband gave me my engagement ring, it sparkled in the light, just like the dew on that long-ago morning.   And the sun is just beginning to rise, and I hold my ring up in front of the window, and there they are.

Diamonds.  Diamonds everywhere.

Nice. But I don’t squeal with delight. Though I do love the ring, I kind of miss the dew.

Posted by: Christine L. | February 16, 2010

lap band

Yesterday I was driving behind a bus that had one of those obnoxious ads for lap band surgery.  The big selling point these days is that you can get this surgery if you have to lose 50 pounds or more.

50 pounds? Hmm.  Well, it doesn’t surprise me that there are people who would be willing to mutilate their bodies and risk their lives to lose any amount of weight, given our fat-obsessed society, but 50 pounds seems like such a miniscule amount to me.

But surely they’re only advising this surgery for legitimate, serious health reasons, right?  Why yes, according to one of their radio spots, which I also heard yesterday.  A way too cheerful announcer was interviewing a woman who’d had the surgery and lost about a hundred pounds.

“What’s the BEST THING about losing ALL THAT WEIGHT?” chirped the announcer.

“Oh,” said the Real Person, “now I get to shop in all the FUN stores!”

“Ah hahahahahahah!” chortled the announcer.

Oh my GOD.  This poor woman, deprived of the joy of shopping in all the fun stores due to her humungous size.  Why, she was probably dying, DYING I say, all because she was refused entry into The Gap.  Of COURSE she had to have surgery!

Seriously, they’re pushing weight loss surgery so people can fit into hideously overpriced clothes and thus stimulate the economy?  Is that it?  I’m trying to get my brain wrapped around this concept.

Maybe I need a “brain band”.

Posted by: Christine L. | February 15, 2010

coincidences

I lie awake some mornings and think about the strange connections in my life.  How many of them are genuine coincidences and how many did I engineer for myself?

For example, let’s talk about Virgil, the guy I was romantically involved with before I met Luke, the man I married.  Virgil lives just a few blocks from Luke.  I didn’t realize that until shortly after Luke and I started dating and he invited me back to his house.  As we drove past some increasingly familiar landmarks, I realized I knew exactly where we were, and wondered if it was going to turn out that they lived on the same block.

Fortunately for my sanity and my ego, Luke turned left a few blocks before Virgil’s street.  Still, uncannily enough, Luke’s house was in almost the identical position on the block that Virgil’s house is in on his block.  And the floor plan, the layout of the house and the yard, are very similar.  Not identical but close enough to give me the willies.

On our wedding day, my gal pal April, my cousin Lucie and I had to make a quick run to JoAnn’s for some last-minute lace and ribbon fixes.  This was the same JoAnn’s store that was right across the street from Virgil’s house.  I’d been there a thousand times before, when I’d spent my weekends at Virgil’s, sleeping on his sofa (because he had a waterbed, and I couldn’t sleep on the waterbed).

And here I was, getting married to a guy who lived just a few blocks away, and shopping at that same JoAnn’s, and looking across the street at my old boyfriend’s house.  My old boyfriend who, as far as I knew, had no idea I was there, no idea I was getting married, and no idea that I even still existed.

A weirder coincidence than that is that when I first moved to California, my very first True Love lived in this very same neighborhood.  I sometimes wonder if perhaps this is my own personal Bermuda Triangle, where very special relationships lurk in the breakers, just waiting to make me disappear.

For what it’s worth, the marriage seems to be holding up nicely.  I’ve only actually seen Virgil once.  He’s in a wheelchair – rumor from mutual friends is that he became embarrassed about his increasing weight, had his stomach stapled, and became one of the many victims of “complications”.

I saw him from a distance, from the end of the block, and wondered if I should move closer and say hello.  But so much water has gone under that particular bridge I realized it wouldn’t be a good idea.  So I just looked at him, across that vast distance, and wished him well.

Posted by: Christine L. | February 14, 2010

Dance

It’s early in the morning, about 6:15 a.m.  We went to a Valentine’s Day dance and spaghetti dinner at our church.

It was pretty boring at first – almost like junior high.  You’d think once men and women pass a certain age they’ll get over this crap, but no:  the women all wanted to dance and the men all wanted to sit and talk.

So then the D.J. started playing “Bad Girls” – you know, that disco song where they sing “Toot toot, beep beep” over and over again.  And a whole bunch of us women just got up and started dancing together.  It was great!

I think a lot of us were flashing back to that “Sex and the City” episode (Where There’s Smoke).  The one with the hot firemen, and Charlotte went nuts dancing to this song and declared she was going to get married that year.   Remember?  Here, this should help:

Anyway, it was really a lot of fun, and it intrigues me that the times I’m most likely to enjoy myself at any sort of church event these days are when we go “off book” – when we’re doing something that has absolutely nothing to do with religion or doctrine or God or anything.

Just a bunch of people, together, having fun.  If I were God, I’d rather see that than a liturgy, any day.

Posted by: Christine L. | February 13, 2010

No one will be reading this, right? Ever? Good.

It’s not that I don’t want anyone to read this.  It’s not even that I’d be upset if anyone who knew me found out I was writing it.

It’s just that every time I start a blog, I make the mistake of telling someone about it – a friend, a family member, my husband – and then I get all self-conscious about what I’m writing, and wind up avoiding it altogether.

The thing is, I like to write.  I used to write a lot when I was a kid, and in college.  Back then (the late ’70’s), we didn’t have this fabulous Internet thingy, so we actually had to write with pencils and pens, on paper. (Papyrus scrolls were still available, but sneered at amongst the truly tech-savvy.)

Oh, yeah, there were typewriters too.  If you could afford ’em.  I longed for an IBM Selectric but could only afford a used Brother.

That was a portable typewriter, by the way, not a sibling. I actually had a brother (sibling) too, but my folks kicked him out of the house when he was 17 years old (they got tired of him punching holes in the wall when he was pissed off – guess he got a little expensive to maintain).

But I digress!  (Get used to it!)

Anyway, the thing is, I used to write a lot.  Then the funniest thing happened.  Home computers were invented and became widely available.  All of a sudden EVERYONE was writing on those funny TV typewriters (r.i.p. Peter McWilliams), and lucky me: I quit college and managed to snag an entry level job in the glamorous field of Word Processing, baby!

And all of a sudden – I stopped writing.

See, when writing becomes your job – especially writing OTHER people’s words for them, which was what this job consisted of – your fingers get tired. You get this wonderful thing called Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, which means if you type for too long on a keyboard, your wrists get this dull ache and you have to stop and put ice on them.

Eventually I wound up having surgery on both wrists, one after the other. The scars are on the back of my wrists, and I used to enjoy telling people, when they asked me about them, that I’d tried to commit suicide but I was dyslexic. (I dumped that joke after one too many blank stares, but it’s yours now. Enjoy.)

And now I’m reaching that point I always get to, when I’ve been writing for more than a few paragraphs and the engine is humming and I really have a lot of thoughts waiting in line to check out, like the line at Ralph’s on double-coupon Wednesdays: I want to stop. I want to stop writing because my wrists are a teensy bit sore.

But also:   I’m afraid to finish it.

I’m afraid because I think if I keep going, I’m not going to be able to stop.  Or that I will go on and on and not really say anything worthwhile, that anyone will want to read.  I panic.  I fear.  I nightmare.

Is that a verb, “to nightmare”?  If it isn’t, it should be.  It works.  Because this morning, about half an hour before I got up, I nightmared about just such a scenario.  I was walking around outside and there was this weird guy who looked an awful lot like that nerdy scientist in the 1985 movie “Reanimator” .

He was showing me his butterfly collection, and getting ready to collect a new specimen.  I was appalled, and tried to gently suggest to him that perhaps he could find some way to learn about butterflies without killing any more.

He just looked at me, sneering, and said, “Are you a vegetarian?”

And I couldn’t answer!  And in the dream, I thought, “Wow, that would make a great beginning to a story, wouldn’t it?  I’ve gotta wake up and start writing that!”

Then, still in the dream, I woke up and remembered – I don’t write any more!

Or do I?  Because then I woke up for real.  And got online.  And here I am, on WordPress, starting a new blog, not telling anyone about it, and hoping, once again, that this will be the Blog that Ends All Other Blogs. The one that makes the five or six I’ve started and stopped over the past few years look like the practice runs they were, rather than the best I could ever hope to achieve.

I don’t know.  I just don’t know.  And I apologize to anyone who’s read this far, because I’m rambling now.  And I know it.  And I’m going to try and be more organized, more careful, more streamlined in my future posts.

But for now, I’m going to stop, publish, and go outside.

Maybe there’s a butterfly out there I can follow around for a while.

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