I haven’t updated because I’ve been working on a memoir and I will share some of that ASAP. So much has happened, from moving to healing to separating from a destructive marriage. Almost all good things. Well this morning I noticed that my author name isn’t coming up with my book when I google it but rather another Claudia Turner. All the luck to her but I want my book out there. Plus I’m writing a memoir and now she’s writing a memoir. Hmm. Interesting. With all that in mind I’m learning about the art of business, if there ever was such a thing. Starting with my own author page:
I stayed up til 2 am checking and rechecking Coronavirus reports, friends’ posts, and a book about hormones, endocrine diseases and veganism. One friend said if people didn’t stop going out for extra curricular activities and random reasons to be around crowds, and didn’t do their part to help keep everyone safe, then just wait until our country ended up being forced to lock in. Then we’d all be complaining about our rights and freedoms to do what we want. How about we started thinking of the collective whole instead of just ourselves for once? Oh wait- this was America. Nobody could tell us what to do. Another said this meant it would all drag on for months instead of weeks, of course. Another said her kid’s teacher was “telling her that in Italy, they were entertaining themselves by sitting on their balconies and singing together while Americans are standing in line to buy guns. Sigh…”
All the absurdity of this dystopian dark comedy was keeping me up at night. There were people walking and shopping all over the place today when I drove by to check out the state of things. All the grocery parking lots were full. I saw pictures of crammed beaches in Florida. I heard Kid Rock wouldn’t close his Nashville bar citing it unconstitutional to do so… I was terribly embarrassed by my country- again. Idris Elba entered New Mexico and all the local news sources were saying the Coronavirus numbers were up after he came… meanwhile the spa I worked at as a massage therapist massaging naked people- with tourists from around the world- remained open. I refused to work. Fuck that spa. Fuck Florida beaches. Fuck New Mexico. And fuck Kid Rock. So many places were out of their goddamn minds.
On the morning of March 18th, I needed to go shopping but I also didn’t want to leave the house. I mean I didn’t really have to shop I just usually shopped more for groceries and wanted some cold brew coffee and sweet tea. How could I do this without dying from Covid-19? First of all, Covid-19 was a respiratory virus, so it was transmitted through respiratory droplets from sneezes and coughs. I could get a droplet from a nearby cough, touch my face, and BAM, begin my inevitable decline. Knowing my luck, my remaining adrenal gland and this new virus would work together to destroy me and I’d be dead before I could finish a Stephen King book. Also, someone could pass on the virus even before they start to show symptoms of the disease itself. The symptoms could take anywhere from 2 to 14 days to show up after exposure to the virus. One study by doctors published for The Annals of Internal Medicine on March 10th, in the article “The Incubation Period of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) From Publicly Reported Confirmed Cases: Estimation and Application”, (take a breath), found that of 181 patients with COVID-19, there was a median incubation period of about 5 days, with more than 97 percent showing symptoms by 11.5 days after exposure to the virus. And here I’d been feeling bad since my daughter started to finally improve from RSV. Since RSV lingered and was a respiratory illness most common in kids but definitely something that has swept through our home, and Coronavirus also lingered and was a respiratory disease, what the hell did I have? If doctors weren’t testing my coworker’s boyfriend they wouldn’t test me, so I’d just have to wait it out. I’d been trying to stay healthy but living with a toddler was like living with a little petri dish of diseases.
Now I wanted a mask. Just as I’d been certain I needed more canned beans weeks before everyone started buying all the damned canned beans, now I was certain I needed a mask, and if I was certain I needed a mask then everyone would probably be trying to get some sort of mask in the next week or two. Here’s the lowdown on masks: If it’s a regular surgical face mask, it wouldn’t work. I read that from a Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. The only mask that would work was a specialized mask, known as an N95 respirator, could protect against the nee Coronavirus, also called SARS-CoV-2. The respirator was thicker than a surgical mask. The CDC wasn’t recommending it for public use, and I already had something fucking me up, and people would probably look at me funny if I walked around buying cold brew in a fat ass mask, but if I could find one sure I’d wear the damn thing. Besides, my checking account was overdrawn to a -$6.66, and I needed all the help I could get.
I told Charley, who was back in the ski valley, to stay away, I wasn’t feeling well. He said yeah, he’d stay away, there was a case of Coronavirus in the ski valley now anyway.
“And you may have gotten it and then given it to me you’ve been all over the ski valley talking to people and working like it was some special hidden place. Listen to me: the ski valley is second home to rich travelers and Texans. Symptoms sometimes don’t show for 11 days… and it can spread that whole time. Now I probably have it. I’ve avoided everything but you haven’t and you kept coming around and now I probably will die.”
“How do you even know someone had it there? It’s not in the news.”
“A coworker. I was supposed to go in today to clean but everything’s shut down for two weeks.l
“Well who had it?”
“A rousing at the Edelweiss.”
“What the hell were they doing there if they had it?”
“I don’t think they knew.”
“So how’d they find out?”
“I don’t know. I’ll find out more later. I have to clean up Duke’s shit.”
“Why’d Duke shit? Did you not let him out?”
“No, I fed him chicken.”
“Don’t do that! I told you not to feed him your crap. That’s not real food.”
“Just fucking self-distance, stop feeding our dog shit, and stay away and let me know who this fucking Texan is who gave me Coronavirus.” Ski Santa Fe and the Taos Ski Valley announced they were ending their seasons. The mesmerizing interactive art installation clusterfuck at Meow Wolf in Santa Fe closed. Restaurants, bars, breweries and all other eating establishments were now limited to 50 percent of maximum occupancy, which still sounded like a man invitation for death.
Dakota was walking around naked.
“Go put your panties on.”
“No, babies wear diapers and little girls wear panties. So you want to be a baby or a little girl.”
“Then go get your panties, Dakota.”
“No mah too patties.”
I had a frog in my throat. Dakota was running around naked. Bobby was eating my slippers. Freyja wouldn’t stop barking. Lady’s breath was like a rotting skunk. The cat Bodhi was knocking over shit on my windowsill. Life at home was exhausting.
Ultimately, even if the government and media aren’t talking about it, this pandemic is a result of humans eating animal flesh. Pandemics weren’t an issue until domesticated animals began to pop up around the world. The first domesticated animals for food purposes were likely sheep, between 11,000 and 9,000 B.C. in Southwest Asia. Goats followed later around 8,000 BC. Both goats and sheep were used for meat, milk, and coats, and became an integral part of these nomadic societies. So where did our infamous viruses and pandemics come from? Most modern scientists believe measles evolved from the rise of early civilization in the Middle East and rinderpest, a very similar virus that infected cattle at the time. Whooping cough, also known as bordetella pertussis, is spread from animals. Today it is established that pigs and many primate species are highly susceptible to B. pertussis and develop clinical whooping cough in high incidence when exposed to low inoculation doses. The bacteria is also found in some wild animal populations. In humans, coughing may last for 10 or more weeks, hence the common phrase “100-day cough”.
Another pig virus, known as Porcine deltacoronavirus, was identified in China (again) in 2012. It was found in pigs but was not associated with disease. Two years later, it was discovered in the United States during an outbreak of diarrhea throughout farm pigs in Ohio. It’s also been detected in other countries. Young pigs infected with the virus develop fatal diarrhea and vomiting. Scientists are worried that the virus may eventually infect people due to a similarity with viruses responsible for outbreaks of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome).
Then there’s small pox. caused by the variola virus, which virologists speculate evolved from an African rodent poxvirus 10 millennia ago. The common cold
The common cold is came from birds about 200 years ago. Typhoid fever is a life-threatening illness caused by Salmonella Typhi bacteria, and affects an estimated 11 to 21 million people around the globe each year, especially in places where water and food is contaminated and sanitation is poor. While Salmonella Typhi and Salmonella Paratyphi live only in humans, these bacteria are usually spread from raw meats, poultry, eggs, unpasteurised milk, and unwashed food.
Then there’s Influenza, originated in avian birds and pigs. Many different animals, including birds such as ducks, geese, gulls and domestic poultry, and mammals such as pigs, whales, horses, dogs and seals, can be infected with influenza viruses. H5N1 is the most common form of bird flu. It’s deadly to birds and can easily affect humans and other animals that come in contact with a carrier.
And let’s not forget Hansen’s disease, aka. leprosy, from Λέπρα [léprā], “a disease that makes the skin scaly”, spread from the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae. Did you know over half of the Amazon’s armadillos have leprosy? It’s also found in some primate species, such as mangabey monkeys, and armadillos in the SE United States. This was not just a disease for biblical times. At least 200,000 new worldwide cases are recorded each year, and three million people are living with irreversible disabilities, including peripheral nerve damage, ulcers, skin lesions and blindness.
Anyway, my point, again, was that animals carry diseases and eating and exploiting animals not only goes against the natural order of life on Earth, but is going to fuck us up. Big time. Not only is a vegan diet the only diet to help reverse certain western diseases like heart disease and cancer, but it can stop the spread of zoonotic pandemics like Influenza A and now Covid-19. China, from eating pangolins to eating dogs, has some fucked up practices, but so does the United States, with the regular use of hormones that lead to significantly increased risks of breast, prostate, and colon cancer in consumers, and antibiotics that lead to drug-resistant bacteria. Each year 76 million Americans become ill from foodborne illness, and thousands die. And antibiotic resistant infections kill 90,000 Americans every year. At least. These are CDC numbers, and they’re not all vegetarians.
So let me pose a simple question. If eating a vegan diet reduces risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, while lowering risk of contamination from bacteria such as E.coli and salmonella, while immediately eliminating 37% of methane (CH4) emissions, which have more than 20 times the global warming potential of CO2, while immediately ending the abuse and death of 10 billion land animals in the United States alone raised for dairy, meat, and eggs each year, then, um, why wouldn’t we just go vegan?
But I had to do a lot of research over years to find some of the information I’ve found. I mean, with the lockdowns in place over Covid-19, spending my days playing peekaboo with my toddler, I have come across only ONE article about how “the Coronavirus may be our last warning to stop consuming animals”. And it’s not just endangered species sold at Chinese markets for medicinal purposes. It’s from Wuhan to Nebraska, we’ve got some waking up to do.
“Eating meat is the most disgusting thing I can think of. It’s like biting into your grandmother.” -Morrisey
There were now 21 cases in New Mexico, 174,000 worldwide documented cases, (the CDC said there were likely 5 to 10 undetected cases for every confirmed one), 6,700 worldwide deaths and 68 deaths in America. “I was stupidly overconfident”, said a South Korean professor and coronavirus survivor.
A NY Times article by Jennifer Senior said the Coronavirus might turn out to be the ultimate stress test for couples: “We are now reckoning with a crisis of a much larger magnitude. The coronavirus pandemic forces all of us to contend not just with the customary tensions of a disaster, which are financial and logistical, but with a sense of dread as well. To live through it means tolerating a painful uncertainty- particularly in these early days, as we’re all still waiting to see just how many cases there are, how overwhelmed the hospitals will become, and how bad the economic devastation will be.
“How partners approach information in moments of crisis. One may binge; the other has a defined sense of when enough is enough, and turns off the tube. How consumed partners become by an emergency. One may be preoccupied with risk; the other may focus more on maintaining the rhythms of a normal life. How partners move through the world when disaster strikes. One takes a structured, purposeful, proactive approach; the other is more passive and fatalistic.”
Okay so I was binging, Charley was tuning out; I was preoccupied, Charley was trying to preserve his normal life; I was structured and proactive, Charley was like whatever blah blah. For what it was worth, our marriage was rocky before we got married, so maybe this would be the catalyst to solve things, bringing us together or ending it for good.
“This dynamic is a familiar one in our relationship. When Donald Trump was elected, my husband and I had a running argument. Me: ‘You are underreacting.’ Him: ‘No, I’m not. You are overreacting.’” Again, it was me. I was political and outraged and Charley was apolitical and outstretched on his bed, asleep.
Sitting at home with little more to do than check the news, I wrote New Mexico’s Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham for a third time: “I’m confused as to why spas in New Mexico are still open. I had to suspend my own work at Ojo caliente spa because I refuse to massage people in close quarters where I am breathed on and touching strangers for at least one hour, sometimes over two. It’s impossible to tell if someone has Covid-19 when they first get it and an outbreak at Ojo or any other spa means a mass spread in a matter of hours. And you know, it could happen at any moment because a couple of rich spa owners and employees don’t want to lose revenue. That’s completely irresponsible. This is my third message about this. If you’re putting restrictions on restaurants this is a given. I hate losing my income. As an Independent contractor I get nothing now, but it would be worse to willingly spread this virus.”
And then I sent my message to the LMTs and spa managers at works. Other LMTs had similar messages:
“I know Ojo and Sunrise are doing their best by creating strict precautions, however my friend who works at Ten Thousand Waves told me that they are closing tomorrow until April 15th. Does Ojo and Sunrise not think we should take further steps to prevent outbreak by following in their footsteps? I know we need money, but Trump just advised people to not gather in groups of 10 or more. I speak out in concern for employees, contractors, and guests. I’m just wondering if perhaps we need to take more extreme measures, especially seeing how other businesses are going about this universal health crisis.” – Becca
“Where we live is not equipped for a health crisis. I have been trying to contact a nurse at the NM Covid19 hotline since 11 AM with no progress. My partner came down with symptoms yesterday. He was in Denver all last week. I called our doctor in Peñasco this morning to see about testing and the receptionist informed me that testing is only available at hospitals in Albuquerque, Española and “maybe” Santa Fe. Taos doesn’t have testing according to her. She directed me to the hotline. I managed to get someone on the hotline to begin a health survey, but we did not finish it before we got disconnected. I have been struggling to reconnect with them all day. It is apparent that they are overwhelmed and there aren’t enough tests or nurses to even address everyone showing symptoms. We must be making ethical choices where we have the power to. There simply aren’t enough resources to address the consequences of risking it and maintaining business as usual.” -Sabine
“I had started a letter this weekend to send in the case I returned to work, which I would have only done with a mask…as therapists, as often is the case, we are in a unique situations. Being in a closed room with total strangers for hours at a time. Though it is only one at a time, they are coming from everywhere: Seattle, LA, NY. On Sunday 8 I felt that pang of anxiety adrenaline when client said ‘Seattle’. That’s not a therapeutic setting. Client didn’t even sniffle or twitch, but it’s believed to be quite contagious even when asymptomatic.” -Greg
“The CDC advises no groups of more then 50 at a time for 8 weeks. Is ojo limiting the number of guest coming into the doors? It’s very important we all stay safe as this spreads fast even if a great number is recovering. Most people that I’ve seen at ojo come for there own self healing meaning there immune systems are already compromised and they are at the highest risk of having or getting this virus. At what point does management decide it’s safe to stay open? We do receive lots of travelers from around the world and several locals. I am concerned for all of our health and safety, not just the LMTs. We are at the highest risk because we have skin to skin contact. I would like to be removed from the schedule for the next 8 weeks if ojo doesn’t close for the precautions of everyone’s safety. The tricky part of this virus is the lack of outer signs until about 14 days and many people can be carriers of this virus and not get it, pass it on, and also not know it…I appreciate and love everyone at Ojo. For those that continue to work be safe, be happy, stay healthy! I look forward to returning when this is done…” -Leah
As of March 17, 2020 at 14:06 GMT, there had been 4748 confirmed cases and 93 deaths due to coronavirus COVID-19 in the United States. At least 87 people had died: 48 in Washington state, 11 in California, five each in New York and Florida, three each in Louisiana and New Jersey, two in Virginia, and one each in Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Nevada, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota and Texas. Spas around the country were closing their doors. Ojo Caliente was still open. I was home making oatmeal, watching cartoons, and yelling at my puppy for trying to eat not one, but two pairs of slippers in less than an hour.
Some billionaires were chartering private jets to take off for seasonal homes or specially prepared disaster bunkers, taking personal doctors or nurses on their flights to treat them and their families in the event that they become infected. Others, very few others, like Mitt Romney, proposed giving $1,000 to every American adult. While coworkers and other residents of New Mexico expressed concern with their escalating symptoms and inability to get testing, Trump bragged about how most states had very few problems in general and no problems with hospitals.
I’ve been extra vigilant about hand washing and avoiding germs since I was a little girl. I mean, my mom was a nurse. This was inevitable. But I also have read a dozen books about pandemics including “The Plague” by Camus. I know how this is going to go. Denial, arrogance, spreading cases, hysteria, and the ultimate measure of man. How do you act during a modern-day pandemic?
“FRI, MAR 6 2020 4:57 PM EST: SXSW canceled due to coronavirus after Austin declares ‘local disaster’
“March 6, 2020 – 6:50 PM: UW suspends classes, coronavirus moves to more counties
“12:56 AM ET, Sat March 7, 2020: US coronavirus cases top 300
“March 7, 2020 at 1:19 AM EST: U.S. coronavirus death toll reaches 17 as Florida reports first fatalities.”
It wasn’t just the elderly who could suffer from severe cases of coronavirus. Others, including those with respiratory issues, were also terribly susceptible to developing intense symptoms of COVID-19. And everyone was talking about Grey’s Anatomy or American Idol and the president was tweeting about it like it was the Super Bowl. I’m sorry, I am obsessed with Grey’s Anatomy and anything Shonda Rhimes but let’s not forget the Spanish flu of 1918 y’all! There was some nasty shit afoot, and while I could talk forever about how I always knew Alex Karev was going to return to Izzie, what really mattered was that I was also stocking up on canned food and band-aids.
My actual essential covid-19/zombie apocalypse self-quarantine shopping list:
Canned and frozen foods
Dried rice and beans
Children’s fever reduced
Dish soap, laundry soap, hand soap, and other cleaning essentials including sanitizing wipes
NyQuil and melatonin
An axe (preferably red because red axes are super cute)
Tea (loose and bagged)
Batteries and flashlights
First aid kits
Hydrocortisone (until my remaining adrenal gland kicked in anyway)
Rubbing alcohol and a little drinking alcohol (just the essentials)
Bandaids with cool kid designs
Water (and I hate bottled water because it’s usually making bank on regular rap water and wasting plastic yet here we are)
Vegan protein powders
Some new mascara (where do these people in dystopian futures find all their makeup?)
All Billie Holiday on vinyl
Did I say coffee?
I can’t believe I work as a massage therapist. Rubbing almost naked people in close quarters with their breaths in my face! What if people around me have it and just don’t know it? What if my sick coworker has it? I haven’t been feeling very good. My chest feels sick. What if I have it? What if I got it from the lady from Seattle? What if I got it from the Chinese girl who said she was from San Antonio because she obviously wasn’t from San Antonio. I don’t want to work. I don’t want to shop. I want to sit at home or walk in the woods and stay as far away from people as possible.
I honestly just wanted everything to shut down. I kept worrying I’d get a client who’d been traveling and caught Coronavirus and then I’d get it then my whole family would get it and we’d just be another statistic. More than any time in my life I had a deep feeling of pandemic dread and knew this was different and people needed to stop telling everyone to “stop blowing it out of proportion”.
As one Italian doctor wrote for Newsweek: “I’m a doctor in a major hospital in Western Europe. Watching you Americans (and you, Brits) in these still-early days of the coronavirus pandemic is like watching a familiar horror movie, where the protagonists, yet again, split into pairs or decide to take a tour of a dark basement.
“The real-life versions of this behavior are pretending this is just a flu; keeping schools open; following through with your holiday travel plans, and going into the office daily. This is what we did in Italy. We were so complacent that even when people with coronavirus symptoms started turning up, we wrote each off as a nasty case of the flu. We kept the economy going, pointed fingers at China and urged tourists to keep traveling. And the majority of us told ourselves and each other: this isn’t so bad. We’re young, we’re fit, we’ll be fine even if we catch it.
“Fast-forward two months, and we are drowning. Statistically speaking—judging by the curve in China—we are not even at the peak yet, but our fatality rate is at over 6 percent, double the known global average…..”
Some people will keep breaking off into pairs and going to the basement. I don’t want to be one of them. Forget the arrogant spa manager. I don’t want to work because someone inevitably is gong to come to Ojo carrying this mystery bug. When the NBA is shut down and Tom Hanks tests positive then yeah, I know it’s serious. And when right-wing pundits like Sean Hannity call it a “fraud” by the deep state to spread panic in the populace, manipulate the economy and suppress dissent well then goddamn I really know it’s time to stay home in seclusion.
But I’m not staying home. Not yet.
“March 12, 2020: Coronavirus can remain in air for 3 hours, live on plastic for days, new study says.”
“11:42 AM EDT, Thu March 12, 2020: NBA suspends season after Jazz’s Rudy Gobert tests positive for coronavirus.”
“March 11, 2020: Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson test positive for coronavirus.”
“Wednesday, March 11, 2020 10:28 pm: Fourth case of coronavirus in New Mexico.”
Have you ever read “The Plague” by existential philosopher Albert Camus? Supposedly the novel’s sales soared along with the virus. I didn’t know that. I just kept remembering what I’d read in college. “The dystopian novel was published in 1947 and was considered an allegory for wartime Paris occupied by Nazis. It started with rats dying by the thousands on the streets and stairwells of Oran in Algeria, under French rule. Dr. Rieux realized that his patients, inflicted by insufferable pain, swollen ganglions and high fever, were victims of the return of bubonic plague. The sleepy city- remarkable only for its ordinariness, hot weather and commerce- was eventually quarantined. Dr. Rieux battled on, while increasingly suffering from compassion fatigue. Each of the protagonists in the story struggled in various ways with the plague and tried to leave their own testimony of dark times and human triumphs. It’s clear that the plague will recur repeatedly and they will demand that people look deeply within themselves to rediscover their consciences, morality, solidarity and altruism, in order to save their homes and their environments.
With dystopian clarity, “The Plague” recorded the “fake news” produced by those in power and by the press. The Coronavirus broke out in the comparable, commerce-centric Wuhan, China. Originally authorities denied its presence: “The usual taboo, of course; the public mustn’t be alarmed, that wouldn’t do at all,” as Camus puts it. In this real-life, modern version, the doctor who first discovered the contagion and dared to publish it was vilified, and punished. Although his good name was later restored, Dr. Li Wenliang, 34, died from the very virus he had warned of, 102 years after the Spanish flu wiped out 50 million people, and 725 years after the Black Plague killed at least as many. But, as a Camus said, “There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.” Maybe we have grown so accustomed to tv and movies that such real life drama like wildfires and pandemics, destroying our planet just seems like some dramatic pretense. Again, what a remarkable gift fiction has of telling more truth than facts.
I’ve been interested in Zen Buddhism since I was sixteen and read a book about it on drives to Nordic skiing practice every winter afternoon. I remember reading it on those drives carpooling with a friend who seemed to begrudge me for not having a car, and reading it on long bus rides to races around Wyoming, and reading it at home before bed.
My mom, an Episcopalian, my dad, a rather agnostic Catholic, and my extended family, strict Methodists, did not want to hear about Buddhism. My high school friends, obsessed with boys, and Smashing Pumpkins, and lunch adventures off campus, did not want to hear about Buddhism. So I read it and thought about it and didn’t talk about it.
I dated Adam in college, and Adam introduced me to a week long silent Vipassanā (a Buddhist word meaning “insight”) meditation retreat on the border of Washington and Oregon. And then I read a book called “Ambivalent Zen” that encompassed all my cynicism and all my longing for connection and simplicity and grace.
I used elements of Buddhism in my photography and writing and even work as a massage therapist, but it wasn’t until I had my daughter and someone completely smitten and absorbed in my every word, that I began to properly discuss Zen Buddhism.
She’s three now, so I read Amelia Bedelia, but I also read Tricycle magazine and ask, “Dakota, do you know the seven qualities of an investigative mind?” or “Dakota, any story you have about yourself is not the same as the reality of what you are.”
Dakota is very interested, laughing when I say “lotus sutra” and tilting her head in wonder when I say “Bodhisattva”.
“Oh-dee-yato”. I ask her to close her eyes and sit in the quiet and just breathe. And she actually does it. My mom doesn’t do it. My husband doesn’t do it. But she does it. And she likes it.
My daughter was there when I was sick. When I had to crawl into an ambulance when an ovarian cyst burst, and we waited in an ER room reeking of urine and antiseptic, she was there. When my husband repeatedly lost his temper and stormed out of the house, she was there. When my friend died of cancer she was there. When my dad never called, she was there. She was always there. And she is always present. She is mindfully aware and she is open to life, in all it’s pain and pleasure.
Of course she throws tantrums. Toddlers do that. But she also has a masterfully calm gaze set solid and motionless between her wild outbursts. I believe I see the wise Buddha within here always looking out at me, looking into my soul. Those eyes know me, my past, my pain and my love. Those eyes know the world.
Michel de Montaigne, a French Renaissance philosopher I’d also started reading after finding old mildewed books at a thrift store in Tennessee, followed Plato’s “middle road” between “hatred of pain and love of pleasure” and instructed himself to “contemplate both pain and pleasure with an equally calm gaze.”
I saw an article in Tricycle that mentioned Montaigne. “I feel death continuously nipping at my throat and kidneys.” I had quoted him in exhibition for my MFA, with photography that expressed this vision of space between the material and the spiritual worlds, and here I saw his name again, years later, with my daughter pressing her sweaty forehead against the pages. “‘Each stumble of a horse, each falling of a tile, each slight pinprick’ could be the harbinger of death.” I’d read and Dakota stares sagely.
“Hobby-tur” she says.
And with one hand on my cheek, and the other hand on my other cheek, she stares into my eyes and smiles. She holds my head, looking through every morning I ever woke with a hangover ashamed of my life, and through every lonely day. And through every anxious night she smiles as if to say “it’s okay. You are beautiful. You are discovering who you are and worrying about yesterday and tomorrow and clutching at everything, but everything you need is right here, in this world and in body, and in soul you are beautiful and perfect” and she leans in and kisses my forehead like an old wise woman to a baby and whispers “it otay.”
I feel like I’m entering a new chapter of my life. Last chapter was get married too fast, have a kid and discover endocrine disease. Yay! But I had surgery last month- a left adrenalectomy- in Albuquerque, and I’m hopeful that I’m on the road to healing now which means also on the road to a new city, new chapter. A city where a lot of the things I love can return to my life, and where I can use my degrees, not just the massage license but my MFA and BA and some of my absurdly numerous and diverse work experience. I feel like New Mexico isn’t the right place for me, and yet I’m surrounded by people who love it. It’s like I’m eating a meal that is okay but the restaurant has all 5 star reviews and I’m just sitting there thinking “I can’t believe everyone loves this so much wtf am I missing?”. Something like that. Don’t get me wrong, Taos has its charms, but it also has shit hospitals, shit schools, shit customer service, potholes galore, mud everywhere, and drunks. I replaced the mountains and wildlife of northern Wyoming with hills and skunks. You get the idea. If you’re from New Mexico, save your cliche ethnocentrism for someone who cares. Netflix is moving to ABQ, there are plenty of people obsessing over this area right now, so I feel no guilt. Moving on…
You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go. So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left.
So today- since it’s cold as fuck outside, I’m still tired, adjusting to my post-op low cortisol levels, and not working for another week or so, I decided to make a list of all the things I love to do or love and miss doing and want to do more in 2020 and beyond. Specifically, things that require more than northern New Mexico has to offer, like a barrage of vegan restaurants, a rock climbing gym, a not extremely expensive hot yoga studio, an Ethiopian restaurant, dog parks, an outdoorsy, liberal (plus for vegan) preschool for Dakota, blah blah …
I made a list then I googled “cities for the best” such and such things and cities that are most liberal and are the most creative job friendly, with music concerts and forests and hot springs and waterfalls… ok listen up, the initial list was just a draft ok? Then I narrowed down the places I want to move to from my original list and these lists because let’s face it I’ve been all over the place in my head for a few years now and need some direction. I’ve been fantasizing about this move and I may just do this without the already mostly absent man-child. Of course I cut out any city I wasn’t already considering or didn’t have any clue of how to get to with four dogs, a cat and a toddler and maybe my husband in tow (Edinburgh, Casablanca and Barcelona are out for now).
Some cities I’d already been considering were in some of these lists, and others that I would like to consider aren’t really practical but maybe they’re possible? Either way here’s where these deliberations took me: Madrid, Spain, has a colorful rock climbing gym called Sputnik with nearly 20,000 square feet of climbing space but that’s not exactly feasible now, I think? Edinburgh has a great gym too which is annoying since I have even less of a clue how I’d live there. The one that really caught my eye was in London- the Castle Climbing Centre. It’s not a castle- it was converted into a gym in the 90s- but it looks like one. It’s actually the remains of a Victorian water pumping house built in the 1850s. Easy to see why I wish I lived abroad when it seems all the history and beautiful architecture is abroad. But, again, to focus on some places closer to home…
There’s the Planet Granite Climbing Gym, Portland, Oregon, which I’ve actually been to- I think it may have been my first experience rock climbing the beginning of college. Planet Granite merged with Earth Treks in 2017, and they became the largest network of climbing gyms in the U.S. Joining one of their locations gives you access to 10+ gyms in Colorado, California, Oregon and the D.C. metro area. This I did not know before but this I like very much. This gym has top walls that are 55 feet high and features 18 cracks. There was also High Point Climbing in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Planet Granite in San Francisco (connected to the Portland gym, I used to go here too when I was living in Berkeley), Alaska Rock Gym in Anchorage, and the Cliffs in Queens, NY.
Best cities for thrifting and junking? San Francisco-Bay Area, Portland, OR, Providence, RI, L.A., Sacramento, Pittsburgh, Rochester, Minn, Nashville, TN, Buffalo, NY. Best places for antique shopping? From my own experience I’d say anything mentioned above for thrusting, anything along Hwy 101 and anywhere in Tennessee. But from online again I got some small towns (there is nothing like a day trip to a ghost town or little wee town for wandering and antiquing and pictures of dilapidated buildings: Eureka Springs, Arkansas, Georgetown, Colo, Woodbury, Conn, Kailua, Hawaii, Galena, Illinois, Walnut, Iowa, Ponchatoula, Louisiana (honestly I just love the name), New Market, Maryland, Portsmouth, NH, Fredericksburg, Virginia, Stillwater, Minn, Clinton, TN, and the slightly larger New Orleans, Louisiana.
Some of the cities worldwide with breathtaking architecture: St. Petersburg, Russia (Rococo), Brasilia, Brazil (futurism), Athens, Greece (classical), Budapest, Hungary (art nouveau), Rome, Italy (Baroque), Barcelona, Spain (Catalan modernism), Chandigarh, India (mid-century modernism), Florence, Italy (Renaissance), Istanbul, Turkey (Byzantine/Ottoman), Marrakech, Morocco (Moorish architecture), Oxford England (gothic revival), and I’ll also add northern Spain, with the gothic architecture and Spanish architecture and cobblestone streets I loved exploring in college. Cities with beautiful architecture in U.S.: NYC (the skyscrapers and city favorites but also the old Victorians in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn), Chicago (not on my move list but it is true), Philly, Boston, D.C., San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Portland, OR, (known particularly for its green architecture), Seattle… a Santa Fe is on this list, probably comprised by a southwest adobe lover, and all I can say is no, no, no.
Cities and towns with animal sanctuaries: NorCal’s Animal Place in Grass Valley, Catskills Animal Sanctuary north of NYC, and a couple near Denver, Seattle, Asheville, Nashville. Cities and towns with great access to wildlife: Bozeman, Montana, Corpus Christi, TX, Jackson, WY, Coos Bay and Portland, OR, Deadwood, SD, Fargo, ND, Anchorage and Juneau, Alaska, Bellingham and Seattle, WA, and St. John, US Virgin Islands. Though I didn’t see them on many of my lists without a specific search, Alaska and the US Virgin Islands must be two of the most breathtaking places in the US.
What about vegan food-friendly cities? I like cooking at home and I’m not looking for a vegan wine club or anything but I miss having multiple restaurant choices when I want to go out and I am sick of going to places with maybe one vegan entree, but usually just a hummus plate and tea. Ask the internet and it immediately says Portland, Oregon, L.A., NYC, Berlin, London, San Francisco, Seattle….some less expected cities included Scottsdale, AZ, Las Vegas, Nevada, Orlando, FL. And what really caught my eye: Berlin has 62 (as of late 2019) vegan restaurants and almost 400 vegetarian restaurants. The word “vegan” is visible on restaurant signs throughout the city. In Portland, Oregon, “veganism and plant-based eating are an integral part of Portland’s social fabric. The city’s landscape is dotted with a wide variety of fabulous vegan eats” (more on HappyCow.net). They include some I loved living there after college, including Sweetpea Baking Co, and some I really want to try, like Homegrown Smoker Vegan BBQ.
More international cities with a wide variety of delicious vegan restaurants? Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City, Paris, Leicester. As much as I love the idea of Alaska it’s sort of behind for vegan and vegetarian food. Where do the most vegans live in the world? Berlin was top of the list (I’ve always wanted to go there), and absolutely no American cities were on that it. Best vegan cities in the U.S.? NYC was top of the list, as well as Portland, of course, Nashville, Austin, and the cities I mentioned above (L.A., Seattle, San Francisco).
Cities in America with the best museums? D.C. (obv), NYC (obv), Philadelphia, Boston, L.A., (the list also said Santa Fe but I live near Santa Fe and that is horse shit), San Francisco, Seattle, San Antonio, Portland…still mad that Santa Fe was not only in this list but ahead of these last few cities, this article is rigged and I want my money back. As a kid I loved the museums in Houston, Dallas, San Francisco, Chicago and D.C.
Anyway. Ethiopian food. I grew up getting Ethiopian with my dad when he took me on business trips (I was his miniature navigator as this was pre-internet/gps/cell phones smaller than a koala). There’s always the veggie combo and the most amazing spices and honey wine. I went to Ethiopian restaurants (sometimes these were also Jazz Clubs so win win) in Chicago, Houston, D.C, Austin with my dad. Later when I was grown I made friends and family accompany me to more. I’ve had Ethiopian in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, NY, Dallas, SLC, Colorado Springs, NorCal, Denver. That’s all I can remember off the top of my head. There isn’t one Ethiopian restaurant in New Mexico and while I’ve learned to make some sort of Ethiopian berbere dishesand injera bread of my own it’s just not the same. Not even close. So there weren’t exactly any articles online called “best American cities for Ethiopian food” but I searched around and used my sleuthing skills. So this list included the whole Bay Area- obviously as well as: Washington, D.C., Austin, London, NYC, Paris, Denver. Apparently there is a book called “Mesob Across America: Ethiopian Food in the U.S.A.”, but I didn’t feel like paying $20 for it. What I did learn searching around is that archaeologists and historians believe Ethiopian food first emerged in the first millennium A.D. in Aksum, an ancient kingdom that occupied what’s now the northern region of Ethiopia and the southern region of neighboring Eritrea. All I know is I live it to pieces and need to have it near wherever I lay down my roots. If I can’t have a place with family history I can at least have a place with historical food.
I started Bikram yoga in Berkeley, CA, (an unforgettable place with a dozen French bulldogs in the lobby) and continued it in Eugene, OR. Later I did variations of hot yoga in my hometown of Jackson, WY, and in Portland, so I need to return to a place that has hot yoga for less than $20 a damn class. Who do these people think I am? Goldie Hawn? I can’t afford this shit. So cities and towns with great (hot and steamy preferred) yoga? NY, SF, Seattle, Portland, OR (duh), DC, Austin (I’m seeing a pattern here), Denver, Houston.
Out there things can happen, and frequently do,
To people as brainy and footsy as you.
And when things start to happen, don’t worry, don’t stew.
Just go right along, you’ll start happening too!
Now this is an important one. Cities with great (vegan/vegetarian friendly) daycares?: Portland, OR, with the Overlook Collaborative Preschool, Olive Branch School, New Day School and Treehouse Preschool. Smile + Wonder in L.A.’s Koreatown. Phoenix Global Green School in Pasadena, CA. I don’t know their dietary standards but the Harold E. Jones Child Study Center in Berkeley also caught my eye and that was while watching a dramatic country music movie with Gwyneth Paltrow and Tim McGraw so it must be special. But it’s clear the only city I didn’t have a hard time finding preschools catered literally for vegan kids was Portland. Again. I’m seeing a trend here but let’s keep going.
Best hospital cities? Rochester, Minn (Mayo screwed me for bad insurance but perhaps it’s different if you live there), Boston (Mass Gen), Cleveland (Cleveland Clinic), NYC (Mount Sinai, NYU and NY Presbyterian), LA (UCLA and Cedars-Sinai), SF (UCSF), Palo Alto/Bat Area (Stanford). No Portland in this list but Portland and Seattle both have great teaching hospitals.
Best cities to raise a family? Cambridge, Mass., Berkeley, Seattle, Austin. Cities with great music venues? Austin, Boston, L.A., Nashville, NYC, Portland (oh hi), San Francisco, Seattle. Best cities with urban forests? Austin, Denver, Portland, Seattle, NYC, D.C., Charlotte, Sacramento.
Best cities for rowing shells (I like what I like): Boston, Philadelphia, Seattle, D.C., Austin, Long Beach, CA, Boston, Philadelphia, Cambridge, Berkeley. (I’m sure Portland is good too though I have no immediate evidence. Also, I came across a reddit post for best boat name people had ever seen, included answers like “Four Girls One Cup”, “Octopussy”, “Sexual Tyrannosaurus”, “Your Mom”, “Fourskin”…well you get an idea of the rowing community).
Cities with highest IQ (these things matter okay?): Austin, Boston, (Chicago was on this and many other lists but who wants to live through that winter, honestly?), NYC, some other places I don’t care about, Boston, whole Bay Area, Seattle, D.C., Portland, OR.
Best coffee cities in America? Seattle (obv), NYC, Portland, San Francisco, L.A., D.C. Boston. You may live in a great coffee city or a place with great music and wonder why it’s not on here. It may be that it’s just not a city I give two shits about and would bother mentioning. For that I apologize. It may also be a city that no one else noticed and for that, well, it ain’t my problem.
And since I’ve always loved a university town, the best university towns (and cities in America and worldwide because why not)? Bellingham, WA, Rochester, Minn., State College, Penn, Charlottesville, Virginia, Ithaca, NY, NYC, London, Boston, Berlin, Munich, Amsterdam, Paris, Austin, Seattle, Denver, L.A., Nashville, Pittsburgh.
You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So… get on your way!
Portland wasn’t on the university list which is fine I guess because I lived there and I know there are good ones around from UO, my alma mater in Eugene, to Reed in Portland, but I still had to throw up my hands and just ask the outright important question of all questions: “The best place to live in America?” Some of the answers included Durango, Seattle, Bellingham, WA, Yachats, OR. The first list that answered this question had a million pop-ups for every “next” I clicked, and Taos, the town I’m so desperately trying to leave, was 5th, and my HOMETOWN Jackson, WY, was 2nd (who the hell conjured this up?) so I had to ask it again. “THE BEST PLACE TO LIVE IN AMERICA?” New article. San Antonio (birthtown, hell yeah), Winston-Salem, NC, Albany, NY, Boston, Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth (lived there for much of my childhood, it’s like three cowboy cities merged into one cowboy), Charlotte, NC (if I could avoid the skinheads), D.C., Asheville, NC, Nashville, Seattle, Portland (there we go), San Francisco, Denver, Austin. Listen, don’t get me wrong, I love Jackson Hole and I miss the moose, but there’s a lot to consider here like not running into old high school mean girls dressed in four layers of polar fleece when I buy groceries…ok moving on.
I have four dogs and a lot of “civilized” cities aren’t so friendly about dogs anymore, so I need places with great running and hiking trails nearby and some great dog parks (so better dog parks than what Taos has to offer which is one little muddy yard connected to the animal shelter which is like free people playing right outside a prison. When I searched dog parks I got the straight to the point “most dog-friendly cities in America” which included Portland, Oregon (Portland is winning I think), San Francisco, Seattle, Albuquerque (supposedly though I live near it and don’t really see that), Arlington, Virginia, and Oakland. For cities with great hiking trails there were more of my prospective cities: Portland, OR, Denver, D.C, L.A., Austin, Philadelphia, Seattle, San Francisco, NYC (weird, huh? Look at nearby Bear Mnt.), Asheville, NC, Seattle, Albuquerque, Knoxville, TN, Denver. And today, there are an estimated 810 dog parks scattered around the 100 largest cities in the U.S. The best cities include Portland, OR, San Francisco and Oakland, CA, Arlington, Virginia, Madison, Wisconsin, Boise, Idaho (really not keen on Idaho because I’ll always consider it second to Jackson, but it has lots of beauty and a lot going for it for the right person).
American cities with (supposedly) the most beautiful downtowns? Philadelphia, Burlington, Vermont, Seattle, Boston, Chicago.
Anyway, Portland was on almost every list. I lived there for two years after college and a year abroad teaching. What do I remember? Very pedestrian friendly, rain (I love rain), great bookstores (Powell’s), movie theaters, great gourmet and vegan food, health food stores, great biking and walking and hiking and running trails, the alphabet streets, too-notch bars and bakeries and music venues. The beautiful architecture that was more like the east coast, the ocean nearby and forests. What’s not to love? Maybe some anti-vaxxers eating their own placenta crackers and occasional red necks with Trump hats but the educated vegans outnumber those guys. I think I know where I need to go…again. Maybe? Still going to depend on jobs but at least I have a narrower list: Portland, Seattle, Austin, Bay Area, Philly, D.C.(my best high school friend is near there and having a baby, plus), NY-area (you’ll note how people usually will put NY or LA, I’m a NY girl). Maybe a couple others (my hometown and birth town cross my mind). Who knows. Maybe I’ll start in one of these- Portland is a frontrunner- and eventually end up in Edinburgh, Berlin, Casablanca, Paris or London area. Who can say? Where would you go? Which of these finalists pique your interest? Where are you now? What are some places you dream of spending time in or moving to and settling down? Why? I love cities and the middle of nowhere. If I can be in the middle of nowhere right in the middle of a city, or somewhere right on the outskirts, that’d suit me just fine.
Oh the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done! There are points to be scored. There are games to be won. And the magical things you can do with that ball will make you the winning-est winner of all.
*thanks for the inspiration, Dr. Seuss
What is it about thinking maybe I’ve finally started figuring things out that makes something incredibly stupid happen? Today I went shopping, I got a guide I’d ordered off amazon for sewing with lots of fun phrases like “saddle up, ladies and gentlemen, we’re about to make that sewing machine your bitch”, and I was feeling optimistic and adultish and then I immediately did something stupid, that pretty much mirrored my entire childhood of losing shit and forgetting things. Just ask my old cross-country coach.
My daughter Dakota had been sleeping in the car after a trip to the health food store to buy ingredients for vegan egg salad, and I was as tired and lethargic as she was after getting a left adrenalectomy (no big deal, a tumor and adrenal gland removed from my body) a few weeks ago in Albuquerque, so I just ran in to the house to pee and get a couple of the dogs. I didn’t want to wake Dakota. I’d drive around and listen to an audiobook, much preferable to listening to a prematurely awakened toddler scream for half an hour.
As I returned to the car I checked the side door. It was unlocked. I locked it- phew, always good to be safe- and returned to the car. “No key” it said. I’d left it in the kitchen. No big deal, right? I’m no stranger to breaking into my house, I’ve done it at this house at least FOUR times. But when every window is locked and it’s 25 degrees and I’m wearing a skirt and no gloves it’s… a challenge. Luckily, in a crisis I’m Houdini.
First I tried the exceptionally slim window from the toy room. That required climbing over a rose bush covered in thorns. The bush actually wriggled a couple branches into the window so it’s always slightly ajar. I’d broken into the window before with a few squeezes but that was in the summer with pants, and it had been more open. Half an inch was a no go. So I tried the windows in the bedroom. One luckily was kind of broken. It was closed- all the windows were closed- but picking at it with a fingernail it opened slightly and then with a hand then an arm then yanking at it I opened it just enough to stick my arm in all the way and wind the window handle counterclockwise. It opened and I kicked off my boots and climbed in over my vanity table knocking out the screen and a rock. Not bad, Claudia, not bad.
The keys were in the kitchen. My dogs were in the back of the car. My daughter was sleeping. What a relief. I started the car and rolled my eyes. The dogs respectfully looked out the window like nothing had even happened. I immediately drove to Ace Hardware and got three copies of my keys. Actually, no, that’s what I should have done, but remember I’d recently had surgery and my cortisol was low for the first time in a decade. This meant my head was fuzzy with hormonal imbalances similar to when I was 14 so I just bought snacks and drove around for an hour until Dakota lifted her heavy eyelids and we went home to watch Netflix and chill (with four dog and a toddler, one cat and one house key).
“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” -Richard Lingard
As Shakespeare said, all the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. All the players have their exits and entrances, playing many parts, playing between work and meals and stress and grief, playing to learn, to live, and to survive. When you’re three this means running and jumping and daydreaming. When you’re older maybe it means going to the opera, to a movie, running, jumping, daydreaming. Hopefully it means growing up is more than a 9 to 5 job and bills and depression. Hopefully it means playing and learning and questioning every single day of your life.
Have you ever known someone who took themselves super seriously, acting like they were extremely important? Like questions and curiosity or play were stupid? Like engaging in play was a waste of time or for stupid children? What a fucking drag, right? Were they happy? No. Were their lives or the people around them happy? Doubtful.
I had extremely strict parents growing up. Strict and serious and not very fun at all parents. But they also worked a lot, which meant I was in school and after school programs and at babysitters’ homes and classmates’ homes a lot. This also meant that when I was home with my mom- my parents lived in separate towns for work til I was nine- I usually was wandering around alone or with neighbors in the apartment complex where I lived. Basically my time- from apartments to playgrounds- was spent playing ALL. THE. TIME.
I have been reading a book called “Animalkind” by Ingrid Newkirk and Gene Stone, a new book on remarkable discoveries involving various animal species. It was made to help people develop awareness and empathy for other species that aren’t so different from us. I love this book for multiple reasons: it’s informative, it’s eye-opening, but also it will give people deeply entrenched in speciesism the opportunity to see some of the special complex social networks, emotions, intellectual pursuits and communication patterns of different animals.
In a chapter on “play” the authors describe how most animals and all mammals need play to survive, by using play in early life to develop important life skills- whether hunting or surviving, chasing prey or hiding from predators, learning social adaptations or mating skills.
“By studying other primates, scientists have stumbled across a second theory for why animals play. Instead of—or, perhaps, in addition to—preparing for adulthood, play may serve to stimulate and strengthen regions of the brain associated with learning and cognition, which are crucial skills for highly social animals.”
Remember, humans are primates and that modern humans and chimpanzees diverged from a common ancestor between 8 and 6 million years ago. There is only about a 1.2 percent genetic difference between modern humans and chimpanzees throughout much of their genetic code. To study primates is to study people. Humans may have skyscrapers and credit cards, volkswagens and wedding rings, but the essential quality of our social behaviors and hierarchies is comparable. And don’t say that humans differ from other primates because we don’t go crazy and kill other humans because we all watch the news at least once a week and we all know that’s a lie.
Anyway, “the more primates play together, the larger the size of their cortico-cerebellar systems—a highly complex learning region of the brain that uses sensory information to develop muscle memory. Having fun makes us smarter.”
I’ve made some godawful choices in my life- like going to art school and marrying an alcoholic- choices that one might consider the opposite of smart. But let’s be real. Humans have a lot of distractions and life is just a complex pile of shit. I still think I’ve done a lot of things right- like traveling extensively in my twenties and birthing the most beautiful, creative, inquisitive child in my thirties- and I think a lot of that has to do with all the play I did growing up.
Some of that play included visiting every single playground in Texas, water wrestling a skinny boy every other day in middle school at the TDCJ (Texas department of criminal justice) pool. Tether ball, dancing to the Dirty Dancing soundtrack, four square (I was the champion), and tag. Lots and lots of tag. Later when my parents moved to Jackson, Wyoming, and all the kids were a maddening mix of stuck up, rich and sheltered, I did basketball and volleyball, orchestra and choir. When I sucked at sports requiring teamwork, I did cross country running, track, Nordic skiing and swimming.
A lot of it stressed me out as I got older, but hell, high school is stressful, and my family life was controlling and stressful, so leaving class early to ski with moose was as good as it got.
I know we aren’t necessarily monkeys, but absolutely all mammals play to learn survival skills and all the mammals who play the most and the best tend to survive the longest and live the best lives. There are always going to be fucked up twists of fate, psycho monkeys, and weather disasters, but to get the best hand while you still can play is obviously the answer.
Just proves how stupid adults are, monetizing and militarizing harmless play to sap the joy out of youth, or hiding behind tv screens and iPhones. As a mom I am determined to play long and hard with my daughter and to do it without the extreme temper and competitiveness (I’m looking at you dad). And by play I’m not talking about hours of grand theft auto or sending my kid off to play while I shop on amazon. I’m talking interactive, get your hands dirty, old school play.
Play has never really left my life. Even with adult woes, heartbreaks and health issues, the last few years I kept running, doing yoga in my home and dancing with my toddler to old vinyl. I still have a love for life, even when the going gets hard, and I do think if I hadn’t spent as much time playing as a kid that a lot of my life skills and little life joys wouldn’t be developed. I still struggle to just be happy because it was often play blanketed in competition and rigid rules. Of course I wish my dad had never forced me to ride a bike before I was ready or repeatedly dive off the high dive when I was scared. I think there has to be gentleness and patience when it comes to nurturing survival skills through play in any species. That’s why it’s called play. Species that enjoy playing, therefore, have an evolutionary advantage.
White-tailed deer fawns dash around their mother in circles, bucking and reversing course. This is how they learn to escape- up to speeds of 45 mph- human hunters, automobiles, cougars, alligators, wolves, jaguars, bobcats, bears, and wolverines. Brown bear cubs routinely play together- wrestling, chasing, and other forms of play-fighting. A study found “young bears that played more tended to survive best to independence. Our data support play as a survival factor.” Brown bears- including subspecies grizzlies, Kodiak, and Eurasian brown bears- are one of the most playful mammals on earth. And young lions spend their days chasing, pouncing, pawing, wrestling, and nipping as they learn skills that will one day keep them alive. Read “Animalkind” for more cool facts but what I’m stressing is all this play- movement play, hunting play, fighting play, and nursing play- is universal and essential. Anyone who tries to make kid grow up to soon is cutting short important development time and likely creating a bitter and underdeveloped child. We’ve all seen them. They may be are barista. They may be a manager at your local spa. They’re bitter, kind of arrogant, and often stupid as fuck. Don’t raise that guy.
So go play, run, build, break sticks, climb trees, paint faces, get dirty, get lost, get silly, get wild, get mischievous, get curious, get in some trouble. Camp out in the backyard. Bake a cake. Hide and seek. Have a scavenger hunt. Have fun. Play is everywhere. Some essential life skills play helps to develop: Focus and Self-Control; Perspective; Communication; Making Connections; Critical Thinking; Taking on Challenges; Self-Directed; Engaged. From tag and hide and seek to chess and scrabble to bowling and racquetball, there are a million ways humans have developed to play. Or we can just wrestle like lions. That’s one of my favorites and it builds strong core muscles.
Don’t let your overly controlling parents stifle your sense of play. Don’t let gray hairs a few old peers stifle your play. Don’t wait for a trip to Ireland to play. Don’t wait for the weekend. Play every day. Ask questions. Break out the board games. Dress up. Dance. Play is all around and it reminds us to think, to reason, to communicate, to be here now.
“Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing.” -Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr
My daughter turned 3 in October. She likes to play with Barbies and Frozen dolls. Sometimes we dance to my record player. Some things are more fun for me- like exploring outdoors, books, dance and tower building- than others- like barbies. But they all require attention and empathy and imagination and communication and patience and joy. And these are the ingredients to creating a good human. I believe that with all my heart.
“This is the real secret of life — to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.” -Alan Watts
Couldn’t sleep a few nights ago and went searching through old family photos provided on dropbox by my uncle in Tennessee, looking for pics of my nana (who would have been 100 in February), and was sent down a rabbit hole of old BW photos. Many photos of people I don’t know or barely know about but all were my relatives who made a series of small choices in their lives that eventually led to me being born.
My nana was 7th of 17 kids. She is in the first pic in the middle holding my mom and in the second standing on far right in overalls next to her dad and siblings. She used to say that picture had a ghost in the window behind them, and she thought it was one of her siblings that had died as a baby. (I believe my mom is in very left front row of last pic with cousins.)
I remember all these infinite little moments with Nana- being scolded for trying to take a walk alone WHEN I WAS IN COLLEGE and throwing her slippers in the backyard full of fire ants when I was 9, and cuddling in bed for hours at night visiting her in TN so she could tell old stories about the depression and ghosts and milking cows and perming her hair. She was the best storyteller and was always sitting in a daydream with her hand on her chin pondering something beyond the material world. I think she probably used to look at old photos and have some of these very same thoughts. Anyway, back to sleep.
“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” -T.S Eliot
I’ve done so many questionable things with my life starting when I was a little kid trying to sell ice cubes for a dollar to save the planet. Not everything we do as kids or adults makes any damn sense and yet if we foster some of that passions and curiosity perhaps something will occur where sense is involved and real transformation and progress begins.
Kids do some crazy shit though don’t they? Especially when they’re three. Yesterday my 3 year old kept muttering “apple juice” which she does a lot because it is about the only thing she will drink. I was putting dishes away. When I finally looked at her she was holding up a bottle of Pine-Sol. Don’t worry, it wasn’t opened. But still, wtf right? She then put a diaper (again don’t worry it was clean) and a piece of toilet paper on my head. Why? Who knows. It’s all a part of the exploration and discovery and experimentation and invention that is childhood. I have to keep constant vigilance to make sure the Line-Sol remains unopened and the bookshelves remain upright and the play-do doesn’t turn into food. But the curiosity- it’s priceless. It’s what make humans beautiful souls before they lose hope, veg out, are overcome by insecurities and fear and love and our convention and comfort before daring and exploration.
Exploration is what keeps life going and without it we stagnate and then life is just a series of empty comforts and discomforts until we blindly roll off into an overweight, underlined, meaningless death. Not me and you of course. And not our kids. It’s one of my greatest responsibilities as a parent to preserve that daring, curious, whimsical, precocious spirit in my daughter and, in turn, in myself. And what little bits have frozen into terrified, lazy, resentful, traumatized icicles, will have to be thawed to be the beat parent I can be. Sometimes it’s hard- what with the diseases, the fractures, the PTSD, anxieties, broken hearts, griefs, and what not- but how else can we live if not by using these to evolve rather than to curl in within ourselves and stop living?
My greatest lesson over years of trauma and rejection, was to know that I didn’t need anyone to experience love. Love isn’t something external that we find in partner or even in a material appreciation for our assets or careers or looks. Love is definitely not from these trivial things. Instead it grows in us and we start to feel that whole love when we have children. The first moment my daughter was akin to skin starting up at me with those big bulbous blue eyes and I felt love as I had only been told with useless words I would feel it- purely whole and unconditional and raw.
What in the hell is going on in my little girl’s big knotted up head when she puts a half eaten (thanks dogs) plastic horse in the dishwasher, or maple syrup on the piano keys? Sometimes you want to ring their little tiny necks. But not literally. Because you love them and they make the world bright, like that part of the Wizard of Oz when everything turns technicolor, and life before this child was a grayscale Kansas, not worth experiencing to its fullest, appreciated through tweets and happy hours. We all have a friend or two who likes to post sarcastic comments about hating children and anyone having a kid is a real dumbass in this crazy dystopian world but what the hell could they know living in a black and white movie? Cut them some slack.
I’m post op two weeks exactly since my left adrenalectomy to remove a tumor and adrenal gland causing hypercortisolism. I can take a real bath now. I couldn’t sleep with low cortisol last night- a first after years of excess cortisol- and tapering is messing me up in a whole new way. I have time off work and have been cooking a lot and reading a lot and then started two more side blogs for Cushing’s (the fat dog disease as I like to refer to it given how many people believe it is only a disease for dogs who are fat) and veganism just because these two things I’m obsessed with right now and want to know everything about and so why not write about them like I did with preeclampsia in 2016? Some of you followed Notes On a Hospitalized Pregnant Woman which became a little book and three writing projects sustain me- along with making almond milk and vegan tuna salad for the first time. So if you want to help me wait out this time of adjustment as my body heals and want to follow either let me know. You’ll learn why protein obsession is stupid and why carbs are not bad and why or just how King Henry VIII- once hot turned old fat and mean killing wives etc- probably had Cushing’s syndrome! I didn’t make this up! It’s in more than one British periodical!
Anyway, in the meantime I’ll be cooking, watching more cat videos, playing piano more, exploring more, photographing nature around this annoyingly dry (sometimes snowy) southwestern landscape more, and writing more here too because I have a lot from my past and from just experiences now involving motherhood I want to share with you all dear readers… my husband is drinking again and I am ready to make this year a new one, with transformation and strength. Cushing’s is something my endocrinologist believes I had for over a decade but it really started showing more serious and physically obvious signs in 2016 when I both married and got pregnant and had preeclampsia and gestational hypertension and moved to New Mexico. It was stressful, it was huge, Trump was elected. WTF right? Well this is the year everything changes. I have this amazing daughter who will be FOUR in October and entering preschool. I have this body that has one less tumor and time to heal and find out what it’s capable of without this decade plus burden, and it’s 2020 so Trump will hopefully rot in hell. And we will be here to celebrate and converse and come to terms with what’s next. Let’s figure it out. What’s next for you?
My mom has been at my house for a week and a half and it’s driving me up a walk. My al anon sponsor said to try my best and my aunt her sister said to try my best and my friend said to try my best and my husband said to try my best but what the fuck do they know?
I hated growing up with her and with my dad. I spent all my time in my room and with her here, pretending to help as I heal from surgery, sitting on her fat ass on the couch watching football and talking about how much she does, it makes me want to scream. So again I’m in my room, exhausted, taking hydrocortisone tapering down until I find a balance again with one adrenal gland. I hope these bouts of melancholy and depression and anxiety and anger are mostly because this old asshole is here and when she leaves I’ll feel 100% better.
And no I don’t want to try. I don’t want to pretend to mend a bond that was never there and fabricate a relationship that was never there and an intimacy that was never there. I don’t want any self help books or mantras. I just want to move on.
I love my daughter to pieces. I love being a mom. I love that bond and isn’t that enough…
Goodbye stupid, miserable 2019 (and 2016 and 2017 and 2018) and hello 2020! This is my year of renewal and health.
So I had surgery at UNM hospital in Albuquerque yesterday. Arrived with my husband and mom and daughter at the hospital at 7:30, surgery a couple hours later. A left laparoscopic adrenalectomy with five incisions to remove a tumorous adrenal gland, the tumor being over an inch and larger than the adrenal gland. The surgery was over 3 hours, extended because Dr Auyang and students found adhesions on my spleen- likely from the abdominal infection last spring. Post surgery my blood pressure immediately decreased from a regularly high 130’s over 100 (though I never took medication for it) to 117 over 79. Then I was given a high dose of hydrocortisone that made me grumpy and my mom, ex nurse but also a cunt, rolled her eyes and said “she hasn’t changed”.
This morning I am sitting in my own hospital room accidentally watching FOX and waiting for a speech from Nancy Pelosi. Hold on have to change the channel…
OK. A bad comedy now. Whatever. I’m a bad comedy. Last night’s “vegan” meal was a bean and cheese burrito. I told charge nurse I couldn’t eat it and two hours later got two slices of white bread and two packs of peanut butter. I begged for ginger ale. They didn’t have it. I asked for a message to my surgeon that I didn’t want to take all this cortisol medication (steroids like hydrocortisone LEAD to Cushing’s and if I’m producing cortisol still the the other adrenal gland then why). The charge nurse stared me down like I was a trash can and then gave me so ‘tude (daughter’s word, not mine).
But whatever. The surgery I was waiting for since June has happened! I don’t know, maybe I’ve actually landed on the road to recovery. Have not taken my morning hydrocortisone. If they won’t listen then I won’t either. Or what I really mean to say is my body feels pretty good (with the pain meds and lower blood pressure) and I want to wait for the pharma agro cocktail as long as possible.
Anyone following my journey through this blog knows I had preeclampsia and then a series of unfortunate health events including a hip fracture when I had this belly fat and high stress and no idea what Cushing’s syndrome was it that I had it. I’m 36. Thought I’d run a marathon and get my health in order but there were these internal monsters and I had to find the right doctor to diagnose them. So here I am- on the road to recovery, fingers crossed that the very small tumor on the other remaining adrenal gland is going to work correctly and all these years of symptoms from excess cortisol finally die the fuck down.
By the way, how in the world am I supposed to believe Goldie Hawn as Amy Schumer’s mom! Gotta change this channel, brb…
So what’s next? Cushing’s forum friends have some advice:
“I just had mine on the 19th of dec. I barely had to take pain meds once I was home . Blood pressure down, lost the quadruple chin in a few days. It’s the adjustment of the meds , seeing the endo frequently . You got this, don’t lift anything and don’t overdo,” and “Claudia Turner they had me on prednisone the first week, but my endo changed it on my one week follow up to hydrocortisone , she lowered it Tuesday to 10 mg 2x a day. I’m feeling better already. I’m still very exhausted , sweating a lot . Shaky and weak, she keeps telling me not to overdo, I’m a physical therapist so I’m used to pushing people to do more, but you can’t push yourself at this point . This didn’t happen overnight so this process will not be quick, be patient.”
I’ve been on these forums for months. I reached out to them when I went to Mayo Clinic in Minnesota via plane and bus and had my insurance denied. I reached out to them when the chronic fatigue, stress, insomnia, and torso bloating and weight leading to “are you pregnant?” comments became too much to deal with on my own. I needed a reminder that this was real, that my life didn’t have to be a daily struggle, and there were others like me.
“How about this… I’m just gonna leave these in here and step out…” my nurse Jeff gets me. I put the hydrocortisone in my bag. I’ll think about it…
Can we just talk a minute about how damn nice male nurses are? I mean after bed rest at a hospital for two months during my pregnancy and the ER visits last year for ovarian cyst ruptured and abdominal infections, and a mom as a nurse, I KNOW hospitals and nurses and bedside manner and some nurses are brilliant and empathic while others are real pieces of shit. But make nurses almost across the board are the kindest most thoughtful nurses on the planet. Thank you men courageous enough to break into this historically female field. Like a woman astronaut, you’ve got barriers to crush and have done so with thoughtfulness and kindness and it is absolutely refreshing.
More soon, back to my hospital tv and fruit bowl.
Today in a training for LMTs at the “all-inclusive” yuppie spa I work at, I observed a girl sit next to the spa owner’s wife, who also started the skin car line we were being trained to use on clients for face therapies…this girl was all but polishing her shoes and as the owner left she began to chat and they shook hands and the owner asked her name and she responded and the owner insisted it was a name hard to forget and I nearly vomited on both of them.
And tonight I was wondering why me- of everyone there who seemed extremely content all day- why I had to not only notice but be bothered by that interaction and I immediately thought about all the interactions I’d been sensitive to over the years with authority figures and managers and brown-nosers and sycophants and I thought of my dad.
He came to my head before anything else because he used to take me on business trips when I was very small to alcohol and drug abuse counseling conferences and he was the president for the entire United States in this association and there I was a very little girl smiling when he told me to smile and shaking hands when he told me to shake hands and being the absolute picture of perfection. And he would own a room and everyone would bow to his every smile and frown and growl and groan. And I was small and blonde and quiet. And I did exactly what I was told.
I remember when I won a teddy bear in a raffle and he made me give it away because that was the right thing to do. Who the fuck decided that? Not me. I remember diving the high dive though it scared the fuck out of me. I guess it was character building. Like running a 10k nonstop when I was six. Look, I’m not complaining. That was…let’s see, 23 years ago. I’m just saying I don’t want to watch a fucking blonde smile her way into the approving gaze of a rich spa owner and skin care entrepreneur. I’d start my own skin care line too if I had a shitload of money I was keeping while paying massage therapists a quarter of the earnings on a fucking massage. Anyway, blessed be, goodnight.