Sunday, July 31, 2016

Disability Journey--end part from mono

This was on the other blog, of course.  
Almost forgot to add it to the life stories--LOL! 
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Oh no!  I have no idea why it has this ugly highlight on it when I copy and paste.  Never did that with the other stories from my main blog?  Sorry, I don't know how to fix it.  :(
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Anyways, I have a confession to make.  Or more of a shocking realization I couldn't ignore or excuse away as to how truly bad off I have been this past year with the move.  Totally freaked me out, to be honest.
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When I saw the pictures of Ian's birthday party I had no clue who the little one in the high chair was.  I figured out it must be Leah's sister's baby--but had no recollection of ever having been told they had a second child!  Zero.  
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Granted, Leah is a very quiet, close-to-the-chest kind of girl and I rarely hear that much about their lives...but Leah swears she told me about Elliott and even showed me pictures!  He was born in September...when I was struggling to unpack and had reached a point of needing lots of help from Dagan and Leah to do so.  Total brain fog.
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That level of brain fog--no retention whatsoever--has happened to me before.  But I didn't think it had this time with this move.  I wonder what else has been lost to me?
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When I had been working the two jobs at Lee Square in Minneapolis and ended up with mono (1999)--that was the first time my brain just didn't work for me anymore.  No retention.  You can be so exhausted that you can not think anymore.  I could read something over and over again and not remember one word of what I read.  If I sat down and didn't move for more than about 20 seconds I would doze off.  Sometimes I thought I was asleep with my eyes open.  My doctor wanted to put me in the hospital, but I had no insurance coverage.  
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My boss refused to give me time off and I couldn't live there if I quit the day job in the office because the night emergency personnel job was only in exchange for the apartment--no income.  So--long story short--that is why I ended up moving to Fargo-Moorhead (without Workman's Comp's permission) to go to college...which I started while recovering from the mono.
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My brain cleared, but I was never really well again.  I caught everything that went around at school.  The kids at Concordia knew that if they needed over-the-counter medication or tissues that I carried supplies with me.  [Well, they also knew they could come to me if they needed a pen (choice of colored inks and types of pens), paper, stapler, highlighter (choice of colors), paper clip, safety pin, scissors...you name it...just like when I was in high school--LOL!]  
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But my general health continued to decline.  By the second year I couldn't work my part time job anymore.  By the third year at Concordia I had to drop down to three classes a semester instead of four (which was all that was allowed before you'd lose funding).  College was becoming more and more of a struggle because of exhaustion, pain, IBS, and the returning brain fog.  I even got tested to see if I had mono again--nope.  (Didn't really surprise me as I didn't have body pain or IBS when I had mono.)
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By my third year at Concordia, even with reduced classes, I had to drop a class first semester.  So, I started to look into switching to the public college where I could take two classes a semester and get funding because I was sinking fast and Concordia would have to kick me out, anyways.
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So, in what would have been my senior year, I switched over to MSUM (Minnesota State University Moorhead).  I tried everything to not miss classes...to persevere.  All afternoon classes, classes only three days a week...professors even gave me extensions and allowed me to have more absences than officially allowed (because I had good grades)...other students volunteered to share class notes and contact me to let me know what happened in classes.  Regardless, I didn't manage to complete all four classes.  
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When summer vacation started I finally went in to the doctor.  I told him I was sure I was dying of something.  Nobody could be in that much pain all over their body and be mono-tired without them dying of something.  I had tests all summer long.  Finally he called me in to give me the diagnosis.  He told me--"The good news is--you're not dying.  The bad news is--you're still going to feel like you are."  (He knew me and my sense of humor well by that time.)  Told me--"You have fibromyalgia."  "Huh?  What the heck is that?  I watch Oprah.  Never heard of it."
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I was very fortunate to happen to go to a doctor who 1) heard of fibro and 2) believed it was real.  I had friends and family who didn't accept it or believe it was a real thing for a long time.  Heck--I struggled with acceptance for a long time, myself.  I was used to just pushing through anything and everything--mind over matter, you know?  But that doesn't work with fibro.  You pay dearly for it...even just slightly pushing the many limitations you already know you have.  
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Anyways, I had had several people telling me to apply for disability.  So I finally did that.  And I got a lawyer, as everyone told me was the best way to go (although he turned out to be almost useless because I wasn't going to amount to much money for him).  He did file.  I was rejected.  He filed again.  I was rejected (he didn't even remember who I was outside the courtroom and hadn't read any of the documentation I had sent him).  He filed again.
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Meanwhile I was making a valiant attempt to tackle a second year of part-time college at MSUM...which I hadn't been able to pull off the first year and I was in even worse shape, so it didn't look promising. My school funding was my only income all those years since I had moved up here--well, ever since I couldn't even manage one day a week for 4 hours anymore after the very first year.  The money I got twice a year had to last me for the entire year--rent, etc.  I had moved up here with mono and no job--had to file bankruptcy and give back my car, too.  I had to get help with rent from Federal Housing and get an EBT card (groceries).  If I quit--I had no income at all--would lose my apartment--had no money TO move and no where to go TO.  No money to even put my belongings in storage so I could crash on Dagan and Leah's couch.  I had all-encompassing pain and it was a struggle to keep my eyes open...plus I couldn't remember anything for two seconds.  That was the second time my brain just wasn't working for me.  I used to wake up and just lay in bed and cry.  I didn't know how I was going to survive the day.  Even just a day at home doing homework was totally overwhelming.
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    What I decided to do on my own was see a free counselor (I'd fall asleep in the waiting room and then cry in front of her for an hour--insisting I was only situationally depressed, which was true) and I made an appointment for a Functional Capacity Test.  I knew I needed proof by medical professionals for the third disability decision/rejection.
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The Functional Capacity Test is a 2-day affair.  You are supposed to go two days in a row and they do all these simple tests.  Well, they sure looked simple to me.  Before we started, I filled out forms that asked me what I thought I could do.  I remember I thought--well, most of this isn't gong to help me at all.  I can do all of this--except for the bum arm stuff, of course.  (You guys know that I do suffer from undying, unrelenting optimism.)
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  OMG!  It was awful!  Yet it only entailed things like standing for 20 minutes, carrying things, climbing up and down a stepladder, walking a balance beam, doing small motor skill stuff (fine with my right hand and only thing I did well--until I was so shaky later in the day), and I can't even remember what all else.  By the time I had to do the walking of a long hallway...she insisted she push me TO the long hallway in a wheelchair...and I was struggling not to cry.  I kept apologizing.  Kept telling her that if I only had to do one of these things in a day for a short period of time that I could do them--honest!  Like climbing up and down a stepladder, for goodness sakes.  But after doing stuff all day long--I couldn't.  No strength left.  No balance left.  Couldn't even walk very far at all down the long hallway.  She stopped me...and made me get back in the wheelchair.  I was mortified.  And I was truly, deeply, shocked at how bad off I was.
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It was winter and I had to bring shorter pants with to wear so they could check your knees and ankles for swelling and such.  By the time she let me go home...I couldn't even change to my long pants...and I was pain-crying.  I drove home shivering in my capris.  Hurt so badly to drive--to press on the pedals, to turn the steering wheel...and the tears made it harder to see.  Pain-crying (what I call it) is when you have tears flowing down your cheeks and you aren't even aware that you are crying.  It's just an involuntary reaction to the knife-pain and exhaustion.  
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I made it back to my apartment, collapsed on the couch, and later discovered when I had to pee that my knees and ankles were so swollen and I was so weak that I couldn't walk.  I had to sit on the floor and kind of scoot backwards on my butt to the bathroom.  Dagan and Leah came over (shocked at my condition, I think) and brought me food...for days.  It took me a week before I could go back to do the second day of the testing!  She didn't push me as hard the second time.  Or let me push myself as hard, to be honest.  (I aim to please, you know.)  She was a sweet girl.  She emphatically pointed out the vast discrepancy between what I "thought" I could do and what I actually could do.    
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 I'm better at it, but I still tend to regularly overestimate.  ;)
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Meanwhile, back at the ranch...
I am ashamed to admit this, but I wasn't able to complete one class--either semester--that last year.  Not with extra time and help from classmates...just could not physically do it.  I could barely manage daily maintenance of myself, to be honest.  I had to quit school.  I was losing my apartment when my pre-paid rent ran out.  Had no money to move.  No income.  Couldn't work.  I had been in for the third court date for disability and never heard anything (but had turned in the functional capacity test results).  Nobody wants to end up a burden to other people.  Can you say situational depression?
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    I remember having one of those handing it over moments.  I tried everything I could possibly think of.  I was beaten.  If I was meant to be homeless and a burden, so be it.  Somehow things always turn out for the best--even if it is not the way we expected.  Maybe it was going to be good for my soul to be homeless?  Anyways, I handed it all over to my guardian angel.  I trust him with my soul.
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Within two weeks I was accepted for disability, got a back payment so that I had money to move, and found a low income apartment in the middle of winter!  It was a horrendous move--shyster movers who tried to get more money from me (I refused), moved like snails, broke lots of stuff, took all day & night (even took a 2 hour dinner break with half my stuff in the truck and tried to charge me for their time).  They took me to court and lost, BTW.  :)  But, I digress.
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I was in such terrible shape after that move (11 years ago Feb) that I could barely walk and refused to even have anyone come and help me unpack for a week.  They had just made my bed and hooked up the TV in the bedroom and put up the shower curtain.  I wasn't up to evenoverseeing unpacking.  I ate dry cereal and toast--and spent the week in bed.  Dagan and Leah brought me other food regularly.  Barely remember that move any more than the move up here with mono--LOL!
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Which brings me to this move.
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I truly believed that I was in a lot better shape and had done a lot better--which I did do better physically, but I was still in worse shape than I even realized!  And the exhaustion part...I totally underestimated.  When I said a while back that it felt like the fog was lifting--that was quite literal.  I know at times I felt like I did when I was in college...at the end.  I knew I had trouble reading sometimes--retention.  But not remembering Elliott--well, I was worse off than I cared to admit to myself--again.  That is proof of how bad the brain fog really was.  How weak and exhausted and in pain I was.  My brain wasn't always working for me...again.
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So, I apologize for all my boring, repetitive blog posts, emails, and letters over this past year.  Those of you who have stuck with me--you have been with me at my worst.  Bless you, patient people.  Until recently I have been strictly on maintenance.  I know I have mentioned not being able to remake the bed for a week at a time...having to work up to making soup, doing laundry...and sometimes it was just to take a shower.  It wasn't that long ago I couldn't untwist a Powerade cap--even with a gripper--and Leah opened up all the rest of the bottles for me when she was here. 
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So, I am not only confessing to you but admitting to myself that I have been a lot worse off than I even thought.  I feel so badly that I didn't remember Elliott was even on this earth for nine months.  Not that I ever see them...or anyone, really, except McFamily and Caroline.  But, obviously and without a doubt, the brain wasn't working at all sometimes this past year.  No retention--again.  I honestly didn't think I was as bad as that.  Shades of the Functional Capacity Test!  Not many spoons--sometimes none and borrowing against the next day.  All my spoons were focused on the move until I was unpacked.  I'm kind of foggy about the family visit last year in October, too--that same morning was the last of the unpacking.  After that I kind of collapsed--on all levels.
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I am getting better.  Slow process, but the fogginess has lifted a lot.  I haven't been sick in a while (knock on wood).  The pain level is a bit lower.  And I still say--no better place to be laid up.  I dearly love the new apartment, as you know.  Karma and I have been so friggin' happy here--would go through it all again in a heartbeat.  I am blessed to have Dagan and Leah in my life looking out for me.  And Ian is just the frosting on the cake.  ;)  


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Uniform


Uniform
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When I was a young waitress in 1970 working the graveyard shift at McGregor's Truck Stop in Anoka, I couldn't figure out why there was this sudden rash of truckers ordering malts...in the winter...at night?  But I'd dutifully go scoop out the ice cream from those huge round cardboard containers in that deep freezer in the corner, put together the malt ingredients, stick it on the machine, get the glass and tall spoon ready, and deliver it with a smile--proud of the fact that we also gave the customer the rest of the malted that was left in the big silver mixing cup.
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One night when I had all three of the spots full on the mixer I walked over to one of my regular truckers and asked what in the world was the deal with all the malts?  He looked into my eyes and, apparently, couldn't lie to me.  "It's the uniform".  He lowered his head. 
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The light bulb finally went off.  
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Not quite five foot two, short uniform, leaning over the deep freeze...
Goodness!  
I always pulled the back of my uniform down before I started--but I also knew how intensely involved I become in whatever I was doing...OMG!  They might have seen my undies for all I knew!  I'm sure my eyes flew wide open.
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Shame on you! I scolded.  
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There was a clammer of laughter (mine included) and a slew of red faces (mine included).
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I kept a long sweater jacket on top of the freezer and tied it around my waist when I had to lean in deep to scoop.  After a few days (and some good natured whining and complaining from the guys) nobody ordered malts until the heat of summer.  ;)
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I still think about this and giggle.
In honor of my naiveté, 
I have a few quotes today.
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"My life has been one great big joke,
a dance that's walked, a song that's spoke,
I laugh so hard I almost choke
when I think about myself."
Maya Angelou

"If I am not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don't want to go there."
Martin Luther

"I love people who make me laugh.  I honestly think it's the thing I like most, to laugh.  It cures a multitude of ills.  It's probably the most important thing in a person."
Audrey Hepburn

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Innocents On The Road (Running Away To Canada-Part Two)

Innocents On The Road.

First of all, I woke up at 4am with "Toronto!" shouting in my head. So, I have to correct my error. We landed in Toronto--not Quebec City. I have always been bad with names, labels, and time. This just proves it--LOL! Anyways, I couldn't get back to sleep so I got up and googled maps. We had gone up through Duluth...through Grand Marais...crossed the border and into Thunder Bay...drove along the lakes...and ended up in Toronto. I kept thinking Quebec, but that is because Anita and I actually made it to the province of Quebec when we hitch-hiked to Montreal.

Yes, Anita and I were feeling so guilty about being a burden to the guys that we decided to take off on our own. Alan and Tim told us we could come back any time and seemed a little worried about us taking off by ourselves. It was a different time, though, and kids were hitch-hiking everywhere. Alan gave me a map of Canada and they let me take most of the money that was left since they could work and I had donated the most into the pot. (I remember it was over a hundred dollars I had saved from my job at the Pet Ranch.)
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I was too tired to tell "the rest of the story" (anyone else remember Paul Harvey?) yesterday. So--here goes...the misadventures of the missing day in Canada...
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This is so long ago now that I can't remember if the guys gave us a ride to the highway outside of town, but I think they did. This was 43 years ago and I've been suffering from fibro fog for the past ten--LOL! I just remember Anita and I hitching rides east. We never had to stand there long. Guys seemed more than willing to pick up a couple girls with their thumbs out on the side of the road. The weather was nice. We got a couple short rides and then a longer one with a nice young guy who bought us both cheeseburgers and packs of cigarettes, was fun to chat with, and never hassled us once! But he finally wasn't going any further and we were on the side of the road again...waving goodbye to him.
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It was late afternoon when a car stopped with two older men who looked Middle Eastern. (Well, they were older to us--maybe in their 30s.) They were talking to each other in some foreign language, didn't seem all that friendly, or even to pay much attention to us. But the one man said, "Are you getting in?" We were on a long stretch of empty road and weren't sure how far the next town was...Anita and I looked at each other, shrugged, and got in the back seat. We felt pretty safe because the two men didn't even seem interested in the least. In fact, they didn't look at us or speak to us. Just chatted in their language and ignored us. We relaxed.
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They pulled into gas station later and asked us if we were hungry...offered to buy us something to eat. At first I refused. There was something odd about how they would not give you eye contact that bothered me. And they seemed to subtly enjoy the fact they could talk and we didn't have a clue what they were saying to each other. (Learn to trust your gut instincts!) I could tell Anita was agreeable to some food...and, true, we didn't know when we would eat next and didn't want to use the cash if we could help it...so we agreed. This was all non-verbal communication between Anita and I because we didn't know how much English they understood and didn't want to be talking about them or our cash in the back seat, right? We just sat silently, watching the backs of their heads, listened to their strange language and music, and watched Canada roll by the window as the sun set behind us.
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I had been kind of dozing in the darkness when I suddenly realized we were on a dirt road. Anita looked just as puzzled. I tried to ask them where we were going, but they conveniently didn't understand English and ignored us. They took this dirt road out into the country, parked beside a farmer's field of some kind, got out, opened the back doors, and kind of took our arms to help us out of the car. Anita and I were peering around in the darkness...expecting to see a farmhouse, maybe some place that they planned to stay the night, or lived, or something since they had seemed to know exactly where they were going like they were familiar with the area. But there was nothing. Nothing but crickets.
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They led us off in different directions and suddenly...well...this guy was all over me! Aggressively! And when I wasn't accommodating he got angry and pushed me down on the ground. I assumed the same thing was happening to Anita. I had been raped before, so the fear aspect dissipated quickly. I was furious! It dawned on me that they had just assumed that we were slutty young girls who owed them because they bought us some fast food. Maybe it was a cultural thing, I don't know, but they really pissed me off! How dare they! The struggle went on for what seemed like forever, but it was just a few minutes. I hit. He hit. I slapped. He slapped...and grabbed my ankles and was trying to pin them up beside my head. I bit. Hard. He quit. Thank God!
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He was thoroughly disgusted with me...and angry...stood up and called to the other man as I yelled for Anita. She looked disheveled, too, as they kind of pushed us into the back seat of the car again and angrily conversed in their native tongue. I was thrilled I had apparently become too much trouble. ;)
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Next thing we were back on the highway and it turned out we weren't all that far away from a big town. They drove us into a dimly lit, seedier looking part of town and dumped us off like so much trash...laughing as they drove away.
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But we were thrilled to be out of that car and away from those creepy men! We spilled our stories, grabbing each other's forearms...so glad to be free of them! But then we had to figure out where we were and what to do. We walked down the block to a phone booth on the corner and discovered we were in Montreal, as we suspected, at two in the morning. I decided to call the police.
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I explained that we were Americans, we'd been hitch-hiking, two Middle Eastern men picked us up, fed us, and then tried to attack us in a field...then dropped us off in town. The officer, in that charming accent, asked me where exactly we were located. I told Anita to go over and look for a street sign. I relayed the information to the policeman on the phone. He said, "well, there's a street light right there, isn't there?"
"Yes."
"Well, go stand under it."
Click.
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So much for the Canadian police. No better than the cops in Fridley blaming me when I was abducted off the street and raped. (They told me I shouldn't have been barefoot, wearing a tank top and tight shorts.)
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Anita and I huddled together near the phone booth wondering what to do and which direction to go. I took out the map and was trying to see if it had a separate little street map of Montreal...when we heard whistling and footsteps.
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This young guy was strolling up the sidewalk, his hands in his pockets, a bounce to his step, and whistling like he was Fred Astaire in a movie. I imagine we must have looked nervous...and I had the tell-tale map in my hands. He started to talk to us in French. We told him we didn't speak French, so he said in English--"Are you lost?"
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I told him we were Americans and, yes, we were lost.
"Have you no place to sleep?"
Apprehensive looks passed between Anita and I.
"Oh no...no...no", he laughed. "I live alone. Just me. You are safe. Can sleep on the couch till the morning." His voice was a little slurred and he was quite the happy drunk.
Well, there were two of us and we had just fended off a couple of fairly violent grown men...okay. We followed him a few blocks to his apartment in a wonderful old building with a courtyard.
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He showed us the bathroom off his bedroom and we all took turns peeing. I noticed he had some women's things in the bathroom--like hair pins, lipstick, mascara--and yet he said he lived alone? Oddly, there was no door to his bedroom, just an archway. He had one of those sectional sofas that wrapped around the corner of the living room...conveniently, for us, near the front door. Plenty of room for Anita and I to lay down. He shut off his light to go to bed as we whispered in the dark.
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Suddenly we heard him jumping on the bed. Honestly, that was our first impression. Whatever Mr. Inebriated Gymnast was doing in there by himself, it caused another suppressed giggle attack. He bounced and bounced for quite a while and then snored. We talked the rest of the night until morning...afraid to sleep...quietly making plans.
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In the morning we slipped out at first light. I had found the way to the bus station on the map. We had just enough money to make it back to Toronto. Whew! We were so glad to see the guys, I tell you! And we had stories to tell. Well, I did. I was always the talker...the storyteller. Anita was the corroborator.
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Innocents or idiots. A toss up, I suppose. ;)
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Toronto was great. There was a huge park where people gathered. There was usually a cluster of people around various guitar players...sitting and lying about. Usually there was a couple or maybe two making out. Everything was so very clean. I swear nobody so much as dropped a gum wrapper. And the squirrels were black! Gorgeous black squirrels.
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There was a trailer home that was pulled in (on various streets, I believe) every morning. The American guys went in the front door and came out the back door with fake IDs and work visas. It was very organized...and mobile.
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There was this one street that was like the hippie street. It was filled with far out shops and blaring music. Every time I hear
this song from Midnight Cowboy...

...or Lay, Lady, Lay by Dylan (no video, just sound)...

...it brings me back to that street, the smell of grass and incense, and all those friendly people.
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Oh, and Anita had a baby boy. :)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Helpful Hooker (Running Away to Canada-Part One)

In the fall of 1969 my former first love, Alan, and his friend, Tim, were planning to run away to Canada. Tim had been drafted, was home on leave from boot camp, and didn't want to go to Vietnam. Alan had been caught with two joints, was awaiting sentencing, and didn't want to go to prison. My recently acquired friend, Anita, and I talked them into letting us come along. Anita (unbeknownst to us) was afraid she was pregnant. I had been emotionally reeling since I had been gang-raped walking home from a beach dance the summer before. We four friends were going to begin our lives fresh--have a do-over. We hoped to join a commune.
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We were able to cross the border into Canada pretending to be two couples going on camping vacation for a couple weeks. When they opened the trunk and saw sleeping bags (one of the guys brought) along with everything I had accumulated for living on my own one day--including an iron and my yellow metal colander...

...they probably thought our story must be true. After all, in the age of hippies, who would run away with brush rollers and a bonnet hairdryer? ROFL!
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Anyways, we drove and slept outdoors. I remember skinny dipping in the dark in Lake Superior and losing my class ring washing my hair. I remember sitting on big rocks along the shoreline eating plums for the first time. We stayed in a hostel along the way where all the girls were in one huge room and all the guys were on another floor in another huge room...army cots and wool blankets (itched like crazy)...but you could take a shower.
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We thought we were so street wise and worldly. But Anita and I snuck into the bathroom after all the other tougher looking females were asleep to take our showers. We were kind of scared of them...plus shy--LOL! And there we were in the bathroom shaving our legs in the sink and rolling up our hair with the brush rollers. In the dim light I shaved off a mosquito bite that bled profusely and started us off on a suppressed giggling attack that came to an abrupt end when a deep voiced woman yelled at us from the darkness of the army cots. (I have a round scar on my shin to this day.)
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When we got to Quebec City and heard it was well organized for helping draft dodgers, we decided to find a room to rent and start our new lives. The guys got directions to some very old Victorian looking houses that had been divided up for cheap room rentals. I remember being shown the small grubby room. Tall narrow windows, a single metal bed frame with a thin stained mattress, and a used condom on the floor...but seems to me it was ten dollars a week, they didn't care if four of us stayed there, and we were running low on cash. There was a shared bathroom and kitchen. The kitchen was large enough it had an old table and a couple chairs. The bathroom had a lock on the door. We took the room.
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I told the guys to get my scrub bucket, dish soap, rags, and Windex out of the trunk (told you I brought everything I owned) and, with optimistic enthusiasm, Anita and I went to town cleaning every inch of that room. The semicircle of tall narrow windows were actually part of one of the turrets you could see from the street...cool! But there were no curtains or blinds (thank goodness we weren't on the ground floor) and if you looked out the back side window you could see right into the room next door to us...and there was a bed right under the window...and a naked girl was sleeping in it...next to a naked man...with no covers! So we tried to be really quiet and turned our heads while we cleaned the windows.
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Anita and I whispered about how shy we were and how we had never slept naked. How we wished we were as comfortable with our bodies as this girl apparently was. We finished scrubbing every inch of the room, flipped the mattress to the least stained side, and had the guys bring in all our things. Anita and I had found a wooden orange crate under the bed that had been made into shelves, so the rest of our few dry goods stacked nicely in there.
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We were fluffing the towels and deciding where to hang them in the bathroom when that girl sleepily posed in the open door. We apologized, explained we were just figuring out where to put our bathroom things, and would get out of her way. She smiled and told us, with her groovy French accent, to keep everything in our room and to keep our door locked...including the toilet paper we had just hung on the holder. She told us that the guys would use anything to wipe their butts, including our towels...and that anything and everything would be used or stolen. We thanked her profusely and scooted out with our toilet paper, soap, shampoo, and towels.
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She was our heroine! Beautiful, long thick dark wavy hair, slender, looked like a model, and kindhearted, too. She always smiled so genuinely and asked how we were doing. Wondered if we were the ones who cleaned the bathroom and the kitchen (of course) and thanked us. Anita and I wondered if we could ever be friends with her. She wasn't much older than us and was just so gentle and sweet!
****
The next day the guys left early to see if they could get fake IDs. They left us with change to wash clothes at the laundromat on the corner. We'd been traveling for several days and were out of clean clothes. Us "women" were expected to clean, wash, and cook, of course...and, girls of the 50s that we were, we loved taking care of the guys. The "men" would return and give us the lay of the land. But it was a small laundromat and all the washers were full with baskets lined up waiting, so we decided to try later in the day. While we were gone we remembered the beautiful girl, were wondering about her some more, and decided to peek out our window. Surly she couldn't be sleeping in the afternoon again, right?
****
She was! Naked! And with a different naked guy!
****
Goodness sakes! We had read all about the hippies and free love...and we knew that grass, hash, and pills of all sorts had finally hit the upper midwest...but we were still a bit shocked to see it close up. Of course, it could have been a French thing. This triggered a long conversation about living in a commune, wondering what was expected, and could we have sex without love...like men did?
****
By dusk the laundromat was almost empty. Anita and I were sitting in the metal chairs watching traffic, waiting on the dryers, wondering when the guys would be back, and still discussing this free love idea...when we watched her saunter up to the corner.
****
She just stood there. Waiting. We figured it must be a bus stop and kept gabbing. But a car drove up, she checked to see who it was, and got in. We figured it must have been one of the two boyfriends picking her up for a date because she was looking good in her mini-skirt and makeup. How rude to make her wait on the corner, though, we thought.
****
We were folding clothes when the car returned to the corner and she got out. Now we were puzzled. If they had a fight she didn't look angry or upset...and she didn't go home. ??? We snuck peeks as she stood on the corner and fixed her lipstick.
****
A different car drove up and stopped by the curb. As she leaned in, we could see the guy this time...and it wasn't either of the younger boyfriends! As she climbed in the light bulb finally went off. I remember Anita and I staring wide-eyed at each other as we heard the car drive away. "She's a hooker!" we whispered at the same time.
****
We scrambled to get all our clothes and get out of there before the car returned to the corner. Not to avoid her. We still absolutely adored her. But we didn't want to embarrass her by kind of catching her in the act, so to speak, you know? I think she knew we were clueless suburban Americans and we didn't want to ruin our friendship with her.
****
We never mentioned anything about her private life. We had a friendly relationship with our self-employed neighbor the entire week we lived there. To this day I think she was the sweetest, most beautiful woman and think of her fondly.
****
The guys could get fake IDs and Work Visas, but there was nothing to help us girls. Without those Anita and I couldn't work in Canada. We didn't want to be a burden for them, so we called home. (Would have been missing persons on TV the next day...missed our 15 minutes of fame, I guess--LOL!) After we flew home, Tim decided he shouldn't go AWOL and returned and went to Vietnam (survived, but they're never the same). Alan drove back for his sentencing. Anita found out she was pregnant. And me? I learned that you can't run away from your sorrows, no matter how hard you try or how far you run. So you might as well deal with them where you stand.
****

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Personal Memory of 9-11

Ten years ago started out as just a typical day. I was a fifty-year old college student. When the alarm went off I hit the snooze and laid in bed with tears rolling off my cheeks into my ears and onto the pillow. School had barely started and I was already so physically weak, exhausted beyond belief, and with the now familiar constant searing pain all over my body, it was a challenge to get out of bed, let alone make it to the bus stop to get to class.

I'd adjusted the alarm to allow myself a good half hour to forty-five minutes of snooze tapping so that I could slowly stretch out some of the pain before I even attempted to get out of bed. I also needed that time to psyche myself up for meeting the challenge of another difficult day--hopefully with a smile on my face. No need to bring other people down, right?

I remember thinking in the shower and as I dressed how this year I was already physically worse than last year...and how, since I couldn't take less than a full load at Concordia (private school), that maybe I really should look into MSUM (public college) for next year so that I could have a lighter class load...then maybe I would feel much better and things would turn around for me.

Hobbling a little less, standing a little taller, I headed for the living room. Glancing out the window to assess the morning, I clicked on the TV so I could check the weather channel prediction before I packed up my books and decided on how many layers and which coat or jacket to wear. Remote in hand, I stood a few feet in front of the TV and waited for the screen to come on so I could punch in the weather channel.

What appeared on the screen was the picture of the first tower smoking against the blue sky. What?! The announcers were wondering what had happened. I watched and waited with the rest of the world. But then a plane disappeared into the other tower...erasing all doubt.

At that moment, I remember an almost physical sensation of this monstrous wave of black fear energy instantly radiating and spreading outward from the towers--even before they fell. It felt like the blast from an atomic bomb--knocking people backwards. My first thought was--No! I closed my eyes. Don't let this do that to you! I felt like I wanted to wrap my arms around everybody! Tell them--Don't be afraid. Please! Please! Hold onto the light! Choose the light!

This lifting sensation gradually came over me. My entire body buzzed and tingled. I stood, eyes closed--even the sounds from the TV faded away--and this core of calm took hold of me. A vision of waves of dark energy spreading across the earth like ripples on a pond increased in power as the initial fear and shock of the people gave birth to raw panic, anger, and hatred. I stood.

As I spread my arms I felt my heart open so wide it was my whole being. Waves of this love energy began to wash over me...or through me...or from me...I don't know. But suddenly I realized...I wasn't alone. It was as if I could see rays of bright lights all over the world...reaching out...almost as if we were holding hands...like this lace blanket of light covering the earth...

[I had to stop writing because just remembering this reduces me to tears...because it breaks my heart that so many people are still washed in that fear.]

Anyways, I stood in my living room like that for an hour (felt like a couple minutes). Never moved. Never felt my body. Only felt attached by energy to all those other people...radiating white light...the waves of love reaching outward. Never felt so connected to the light, to love, to humanity. And then it slowly subsided. I opened my eyes...was still holding the remote in my hand. They were replaying and replaying that scene...as they will probably do again today. I won't watch.

Horrible things happen all the time. It's not what has happened to us, but how we choose to live through it and what we take away from it that determines who we are.

I have never had an experience like that before or since. But 9-11 changed my life in an unexpectedly positive way. Our choices do matter. They do make a difference. We are not alone.

We have chosen.

We are already holding hands somewhere in that dark blanket or in the light blanket.

But we have the gift of free will.

And we can change our minds whenever we choose.

Flowers and Garbage-Part Two

In this vision, GA and I went for a walk.

Imagine every person has their own little house. Each house has a yard with a fence around it and is part of this huge neighborhood with endless streets. We were walking down streets near my house. Some of the neighboring houses were pristine, while some were badly neglected, falling down shacks. I could tell that almost all the houses had originally been identical, but they had been painted, decorated, and cared for differently by each resident. Then there were a few people who had built their fences up so high and solid that you couldn't even see their houses at all--warning signs to trespassers on a couple of high fences.

The yards--they all seemed to have varying amounts of flowers and/or garbage, but there were a few that had nothing but barren dirt. A few were packed to overflowing with a rainbow of flowers and there were a few that had garbage piled so high you couldn't even catch a glimpse of their roof! Some people were out in their yards. Many were empty. Either the people were inside, in the back yard, or out walking.

And there were quite a few people out walking the streets. As you walked by the people who were out in their yards, most of them ignored you. There were a few who offered me flowers over the fence, and some actually tried to hit me with their trash! Attacked me and I didn't even know them! (Pissed me off and I desperately wanted to give them a piece of my mind, but GA grabbed my arm and kept me moving.)

There were actually people wandering up and down the street pulling wagonloads of garbage and tossing it in people's yards! And yet there were also a few carrying armloads of flowers that they were randomly handing out. Most were just scurrying past, trying not to be noticed.

We came across a garbage fight! Neighbors pelting each other with trash! And another fight! Shoveling over the fences into each other's yard. Screaming at each other! Hurting each other!!

Chaos! Looked crazy, chaotic, and dangerous--made no sense! I just wanted to go home.

So, GA took me to my house.

Much shabbier than I expected--kind of run down. And my yard! A few scattered flowers...but a ton of garbage. I was devastated! I had tried so hard all my life to be a good person and my house and yard looked like that?!!

GA showed me my life--like a strange flowers and garbage movie.

I did see flowers sprout and grow in my yard. I had genuinely felt love for people, animals--and I felt that was related to flowers, but I wasn't sure how. People often hurt me or let me down--garbage dumping--and I didn't trust them anymore. Flowers grew. Flowers withered and died. But--the garbage never seemed to stop multiplying.

People came to me and handed me flowers...and I usually gave them flowers back. Sometimes, even if I planted the flower and tried to care for it...it shriveled up and died, no matter what I did to save it? And yet other flowers sprouted all by themselves for no apparent reason. Some of the flowers I was given and went to plant...discovered that they had been plastic and not real at all!

Certain people stood by my fence and begged me for flowers...and I gave them flowers...real flowers...and they withered in their hands!? But they keep those hands outstretched until I had no more real flowers to give and reluctantly gave them plastic ones. They didn't seem to notice the difference, but I knew. I felt guilty, but those people drained me. I only had so many flowers to give.

More recently...I saw my second husband pelting me with trash. He scared the hell out of me and I hid in my house a lot. He came with wagonloads and dumped them over my fence while I stood there silently. Sometimes he snuck back and tried to retrieve some of it. I didn't dare throw any at him or raise my voice in my defense, but my garbage pile kept growing--even when he removed some of it?

He'd barely left the scene and then my first husband arrived...backed a dump truck of steamy, smelly trash right up to my yard! I stood there and screamed at him...threatened him...threw handfuls of garbage in his face...but he just kept on dumping...and drove away laughing. And that pile kept growing long after he drove away.

My yard was overflowing with garbage!!

I was ashamed.

I wanted a pretty yard with flowers.

A yard I could be proud of.

But I hadn't a clue how to get rid of all that garbage...and keep it out! Or how to get flowers to grow in my yard...and keep growing! I couldn't even tell a real flower from a plastic one! How do you keep people from dumping trash in your yard, even if you didn't get involved in garbage fights (the red rubber ball thing)--they still just did whatever they felt like!

Tears of abject sorrow and defeat...

(It was a roller coaster night--LOL!)

GA revealed the secret to flowers and garbage.

The only thing that matters is what you give away. Whatever you give to others, multiplies back in your own yard.

(I know to many of you this is a "duh!" moment, but I was, and still am, a slow learner.)

The garbage people give you doesn't matter at all. Not one tiny bit. Don't give one piece of it a second thought. It is what you give that matters.

There is nothing to gain in wandering the streets, neglecting your own yard, to check out other people's yards. Asking others for flowers, needing flowers to be given to you...will not help your yard...like the people who stand and beg at the fence. Only giving flowers, grows flowers in your yard. Same as the people who attack, use garbage as weapons, and try to destroy other people's yards--it will not make their yard look better. They could even scoop it up and haul it off to dump in various people's yards, but it only multiplies the trash back in their own yard.

If someone dumps a garbage pile in your yard and you send anger, fear, annoyance, frustration, or hatred in return...then that is what will grow in your own yard because that is what you are giving away. Even by your thoughts, your energy! You retain and create your own garbage in your own yard. Nobody else can.

If you react by giving flowers--even by thought alone--that pile of trash will just fade away and poof! It's gone. Like an illusionist's trick. No, it's not easy, he said, but try it and see for yourself. No matter how old the trash pile, if you forgive, love, send flowers... :)

And the more flowers you give the more flowers will root in your yard and they will multiply and there will be more and more for you to give away! The supply is absolutely endless! You will not feel drained by the outstretched hands. It doesn't matter if someone gives you plastic flowers...because that is what will grow in their own yard, not yours. Plastic flowers fade away just like the trash.

It doesn't matter if people dump garbage in your yard...because that is what will grown in their own yards, not yours. Don't give fake flowers. Don't give garbage. Because it is what you give. It is only what you give that effects your yard.

The barren dirt yards? People can hide inside and try not to participate--give nothing at all. Free will and all that. (Sounded tempting to me!) But their fear creates garbage you can't see from the street. (Dang mind-reader!)

All the houses are from the same blueprint. Some people try to hide away their trash by hauling it into the back yard, or to the cellar, or the attic--he giggled. Makes no difference. You may be able to hide some things from passers by on the street, fill your yard with plastic flowers, but in the end--you are the only one responsible for the state of your own house.

Remember, only real flowers can root and grow and multiply. Only real flowers can make garbage fade away and disappear. There is love and there is fear. There are sides. You do have a choice. You just felt the invincible strength and power of love. Why would you be afraid?

And he was gone.

****

I have been milling on this concept and practicing when I was able (not easy, but so worth it!) for almost 30 years. I am still afraid. But less and less so. I try not to hide my trash. Admittedly, I may have a little tucked away in the basement, but the vast majority is out front for the world to see. I have my own little flower garden that I give freely from! (But I really do need to work on my house.) The rare times I was feeling I was going to run out of flowers, I always recognized I had more garbage in my yard--and I knew how to go about fixing that. Some very old, very large trash piles are quite small now. I have long forgiven (well, maybe 98%) the two husbands, for example--LOL!

Flowers and Garbage is a simple idea for me to picture--like the red rubber ball thing. GA knows what will work best with me.