Root Canal #2: Baton Rouge-Style

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It’s funny how a day can go wrong in a heartbeat … or in this case- a toothache. A couple of days ago I noticed that one of my bottom teeth was starting to feel a little sensitive. I was really mad because this was a tooth that was bothering me last year right before I had to have an emergency root canal on a different tooth. I knew this one was feeling weird every now and then, but I hoped it would hold out another year or two until I had some decent coverage on my dental insurance. This dental insurance I have with the state sucks. It pays 25% the first year, 35% the second year and then goes to 50% after that. Last year, I bit the bullet hard, and I had to pay an endodontist for the work. It hurt … and it’s what put me over the edge to implement major budget cuts for about 7 months. I just got out of that hot water when Ashok had surgery 3 weeks ago. When the tooth started hurting, I went into major intentional denial.

It was worse yesterday, but today it got a little better. But my friend Tiffany talked me into going in to my dentist today. She had to be so reasonable to remind me that if I waited until it got worse, it might need a root canal. I hate rational people. When I want to be in denial, dammit, I want to be in denial!! So, after lunch I went over to my dentist’s office which is really close to my office. My dentist is about 12 years old and is extremely handsome for a 12-year-old. Perhaps this is why I’ve had several dental emergencies in the last two years even though I have horrible insurance. But so far, he has not realized what an amazing woman is hiding under those bad teeth nor is he interested in cougars.

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Apparently, the diagnosis for a root canal is to tap on the teeth and ask the patient if they feel anything. Last year, I was in serious, monumental pain when I went to the endodontist. He tapped on my tooth, and I punched him in the face. He said, “Yep. You’ve gotta have a root canal.” I said, “That’s what I’m paying $1300 for? For you to tap my tooth?” He assured me the diagnosis was as simple as that. So, just to let you know, you can find out if you need a root canal at home. Blessedly today’s pain was hardly recognizable, so there were no injuries to that beautiful face. He just delivered the bad news, and I asked the assistant to bring me the really bad news – the cost. It was better than last year but worse than I anticipated. What’s a girl to do? I said, “Sure. I’ve got nothing else to do but go back to the office. Let’s do it.”

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The Wicked Witch of the South came in to give me my shots. I had already come close to slapping the dental assistant who tried to cram an enormous wad of sharp-edged plastic in my tiny mouth for an x-ray. But she backed off, and, once again, no injuries were sustained. So this Witch comes in with loads of cartridges of Novocaine – or whatever they use these days. Now why do shots that big have to be used? When you get shots in other places, they are tiny, and the nurses hide them so you don’t see them. Not at the dentist!! No, they are trained to pick out the largest and scariest shots on the planet and wave them in front of your eyes. She snickered and cackled before she put the first one in. “This will only hurt a little,” she howled while flipping her hair back and waving the gigantic needle-gun in the air. Then she went back for a second load and then a third. On the third, the shot hovered right in front of my eyes with Novocaine dripping slowly down the edge of the needle. “You have to do another one?” I asked incredulously. “I’ll get you, my pretty,” she howled, “and your little dog Ashok, too.” Her eyes turned green, and she went in for the kill. I never saw her again, thank goodness. Next time, I’m going to throw water on her.

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I waited for what seemed hours for the handsome prince to come in and save me. But while I was waiting the dental assistant and I started chatting. Apparently, there was an LSU football player who was getting a crown ahead of me. I’m glad I had to wait. She didn’t have an accent, and I asked her where she was from. She was from Illinois, so we got to talking about how we ended up in Baton Rouge. Either there are a lot of people that are not from here in Baton Rouge, or we are somehow attracted to each other. I’m meeting so many lately. It’s a difficult transition coming to Baton Rouge especially if you are single. There’s nothing wrong with Baton Rouge, but it doesn’t have yoga studios, natural areas and parks or many of the other amenities that other cities offer. And it’s a married town, even though I have read statistics that the majority of people here are single. One woman told me that her Louisiana co-workers didn’t even try to make friends with her for three years because they thought is was a waste of time. Once people make it three years, they may be here awhile. Why bother if they are going to leave?

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My dental assistant knew me. She sees me walking my dog in the Capitol Heights neighborhood all the time. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met who have told me they see me walking the neighborhood. I usually don’t recognize them, but they recognize me. So, we talked about yoga, Illinois, being single in Baton Rouge and the Artist’s Way workshop. By the time the dentist got there, I was numb, but I wanted to tell him to go away. I had made a new friend. He was insistent that we do this thing, and he did. After cramming a large brick in my mouth to hold it open, he covered the rest of my mouth with a rubber tarp that threatened to choke me to death if I tried to get a big gulp of air. When I wasn’t watching the plethora of needles and swords that he was putting into my mouth, I was focusing on my breath and telling myself that I was going to live and I was going to be able to pay this off before I died. At some point in my sixties I will be able to afford a vacation. The root canal itself was painless, and he said the root was already dead when he went in. It was just the infection that was causing the soreness. I was thrilled when it was all over.

“That was a blast! Can we do this again tomorrow?”, I asked the woman at the front desk. She said we could, but I’d have to pay more money, and I wasn’t willing to cough up more. So, alas, we just scheduled the appointment for the crown which will take a lot longer than the root canal unless there’s another football player needing some work. And, apparently, my dentist has still not recognized the major hot babe he had in his chair because he did not ask for my number….  other than the one on my credit card.

So I exchanged contact info with my new friend and told her about the Women in Transition Meetup Group that I’ve enjoyed so much. I drove home thinking that I may need to give up my quest to be debt-free. I had been debt-free for about 2 years before I moved here, but ever since I’ve been here, it’s just really hard to keep that goal. I’ll have to see how it all falls out, but I’ll be another year budgeting to pay off this and Ashok’s mattress-eating fiasco. At some point, I’m just going to have to find a cheaper place to live or get a second job in order to have a life where I can travel again. But, I don’t want to think about that right now. In perfect timing, I received a care package today from my friend Jessica in Tulsa. It’s a perfect little gift for a rainy day. I made a big hot chocolate with whipped cream so I can relax a little after the trauma to my mouth. My mouth is numb, so I can only taste it on one side, but it’s pretty tasty on that side. Uh oh… I think I just saw that witch fly by on her broom.

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Emotional First Aid

My friend and fellow blogger, Tara Mae, shared this Ted Talk on her blog the other day.

Dr. Winch makes the point that we value the health of the body much more than we value the health of the mind. I see it when friends run to a medical doctor for every little tiny illness or wound but when they have wounds from grief, abuse or just stress from everyday life, they wait until they are in dire straits before they ask for help. In fact, they often ignore that those conditions even exist. The fact is that some of the most dangerous and deadly illnesses we have are those of the mind. Suicide – a symptom of depression, other mental illnesses or addiction – has surpassed traffic fatalities as the leading cause of death in this country. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 88,000 people die each year from alcohol-related causes. Winch says that loneliness is as dangerous to health as cigarette smoking. Why do we try to treat alcohol abuse, loneliness and depression as conditions that we can just ‘get over’ by refocusing our mind?

Winch points out that we often tell someone who is in emotional pain to ‘just shake it off. It’s all in your mind.” He asks if we would ever tell someone with a broken leg to ‘just walk it off. It’s all in your leg.” For some reason, we place more of a priority on healing the body than healing the mind. The other day I spoke with a friend of mine about some issues I was processing. I was sad, and I cried. Right before we hung up, he said, “Smile. There are people who have a lot worse problems than you.” I felt like he had slapped me in the face. I wasn’t asking for anything, I was merely talking about my feelings. Can you imagine if we would tell someone with a broken leg to “smile. There are people with a lot more health problems than you.”? It may be true, but just because other people have worse bodily injuries, we don’t tell them not to get treatment or have empathy for their situation.

Over the years my circle of friends has grown to include more people who understand the trauma associated with emotional wounds than those who don’t. We talk about triggers and feelings without shame and without needing to fix each other or make them feel better. It was a learning process for me, because I didn’t know what to say when someone was wounded or triggered. I wanted them to feel better, too. But I knew I could no longer offer platitudes designed to minimize or distract them from emotional pain. I wanted to offer healing in whatever way I could. So, I found a phrase that helps me convey what I know I need when I am triggered or hurting. I urge my friends to ‘be gentle with yourself.’ This is the direct opposite of sucking it up and getting over it. It is the same advice I’d offer to someone physically sick. Be gentle with yourself .. get some rest .. take care of yourself… don’t push yourself too much right now.

I love Winch’s example of the woman who got rejected on the date and the response her “best friend” gave her. We are our best friends, and I know I often beat myself up rather than offer myself gentleness and compassion. The day my friend told me to smile and remember that my problems were minimal in comparison with other’s issues, I felt like he was saying that I was selfish and self-centered on top of the emotional pain I was already feeling. I was already beating myself up for some bad decisions and not handling things well. I forget that when I have been hurt emotionally, I can’t process information well. I’m like a runner who has a hurt knee. The injury impacts everything, and trying to run on it will not help even if I take painkillers and don’t feel it. Overcompensating for the injury will just lead to other issues. So, any incoming information when I’m in emotional pain does not get filtered as it would be if I was feeling my best. On my best days, I could accept that they don’t know what to say, so that’s all that’s in their tookit. It’s on them. But, when I’m already beating myself up and limping emotionally, I take it as a failure of my own. I don’t want to do that to other people.

I had a rough day today. It wasn’t the whole day, but at one point I felt like I was emotionally limping. I became edgy, and I start beating myself up for the situation I was in. Initially, my mind starting going over the big mistake I thought I’d made in coming here. I started outlining my failures and what I should have done. I told myself that I was stupid, and I was never going to get out of this situation. Then, I remembered this video and my reaction to Winch’s message. “Be gentle with yourself, Sharon,” I told myself quietly. “You are not in a good place right now emotionally, and beating yourself up further won’t help.” I felt better immediately. I practiced emotional first aid. Thank you, Dr. Winch.

Sunday Night Check-In: Camellias and the Wacky Louisiana Winter

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My AC/heater switch has whiplash. On Friday, I was wearing a heavy jacket. Today, I wore a tank top and shorts for a long run and got sunburned… well, more like sun-kissed, I guess. At any rate, it was borderline too hot for my dog to run. My sister texted me from an hour and a half north of here and said her school is calling ‘snow days’ for Monday and Tuesday. “What?” I asked. “It’s 74 degrees.” Apparently, the temps will nosedive again tomorrow. But I have to say I was thrilled with today’s offering. It was sunny and perfect. I took a running tour of the state capitol grounds and downtown Baton Rouge. I had to hold myself back from thinking here we go into the fiery furnace of a Louisiana summer. But it looks like it was a false alarm, and I am really, really glad. I’m not ready, you hear me …. I’m not ready.

Yesterday was warm but really muggy. I let Ashok out Friday night in my jacket, and, when I opened the door on Saturday, it felt really warm. I picked up my brother Terry, and we went to the Farmer’s Market and then later met the rest of his family for a nice walk on the state capitol grounds. It was a really nice morning with lots of yummy treats like sweet potato teacakes and delicious mango white tea. I spent the afternoon with a friend watching Gone Girl and cooking a yummy healthy dinner.

Ashok loves my beautiful niece.

Ashok loves my beautiful niece.

This morning I took Ashok for a walk in the neighborhood and then sat down to blog and write my Morning Pages. I did a little work on a new business opportunity before heading out for my run. It was a busy day today but I made time to go to my sacred circles and touch base with God and my soul. On the way home from my prayer circle at the Red Shoes I stopped at Trader Joe’s and got provisions for the week. I was thrilled that their Maple Leaf cookies only have 8 grams of sugar in them. They are quite tasty and somewhat remind me of the old vanilla creme cookies we had when I was a child. When I compare the 2 teaspoons of sugar of those cookies with the 8 teaspoons of sugar in most fruit-flavored yogurts, I figure it won’t hurt me to have a cookie every once in a while for a treat. Why in the world do we need to put 8 teaspoons of sugar in yogurt? Sort of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?

I’m sitting with my girl on the sofa listening to yoga music on Pandora. It’s a quiet night. The dog next door is unusually quiet, barking only every now and again. Ashok is snoring. The run this afternoon wore her out. Buster is purring in the chair across the room, and Bella is sleeping on top of the pile of yoga blankets. My kitchen is clean, and I’m feeling like it’s time to take off my make-up and head toward bed. This week, my Artist’s Way program is asking me to deprive myself of reading. That rules out Facebook and social media, too. No reading magazines before sleep. No reading blogs that come in my email. She even wants me to play hooky on reading for work. It’s supposed to give me all of this time back and keep me from distracting my creative self with input. I’m anxious to see what happens with this.

My sister-in-law's sweet gesture.

My sister-in-law’s sweet gesture.

Everything kept coming up Camellias this weekend. After my brother’s family left, I found a single pink Camelia floating in a bowl of water on my kitchen table. My sister-in-law Laura surprised me with it. Being single, the only thing that ever appears without my seeing it is something the cat throws up. It was very nice to see that lovely offering on my dining room table. I felt loved. Someone brought a whole platterful of Camellias to our circle tonight for us to take home. I didn’t take one because I already had one, but I had to snap a few photos to share. They are so beautiful and one of the gifts of living in a place where the line between hot and cold is so dynamic. I’ve said before that I love seeing flowers in January. I suppose I love them in February, too. Have a great week, y’all … and bundle up tomorrow. It’s gonna be cold.

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Synchronicities and Unexpected Gifts: The Artist’s Way

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When I started The Artist’s Way program at the library about a month ago, I expected I would be in for an adventure. I needed an adventure. I needed something that would dilute the anxiety-filled rut I’d dug myself into with some positive energy and challenge. The Artist’s Way is a program that is designed to be a spiritual path in creativity. The philosophy, and one which I wholeheartedly believe from personal experience, is that we are all creative, and creativity is born through God. We are merely a channel that opens into the creative flow of the Universe. I have felt it when I’ve written my best stuff. Some days I just write. I’m more of a ditch than a channel. Other days, I’m not writing. There is something bigger and more expansive than me that takes control of the keyboard and literally blows me away. I’m left breathless when it is over.

One of the key tools of the journey is The Morning Pages. The Pages are three hand-written pages of composition book-sized paper each and every morning. There have been a few times I’ve done Afternoon or Evening Pages, but, for the most part, I’ve done Morning Pages. Our facilitator says it doesn’t matter when you do them, just do them. The theory is that the free-form writing will clean out your head of the garbage rolling around in there so you can clear the channel. I know how powerful journaling is. I’ve experienced it before. But, I love the fact that I have to do 3 pages every day. Many times I find myself writing “I don’t have anything else to write. This is frustrating.” Other times, I can hardly believe I’ve filled up 3 pages so quickly. Mostly I write about what’s happening in my life until I’ve exhausted the external stimuli. It is only then that I get to how I really feel. I imagine this is a small micro-cosm of my reality. I let the events of my life overshadow what I bring to the table. The exercise has been empowering.

Everything that I’ve been procrastinating for the last year has been marked off the list in the last month. I finish my pages, and I’m energized. My house is cleaner than it’s been in a long time, and my bathroom literally sparkles. In my writing, I realized that I WANTED my bathroom to be clean. It wasn’t something that I should do; it was something that I wanted to do for myself. And, I got up one day and did it. I met a guy I like, and I’m dating. I took my vacuum cleaner apart and cleaned out the whole thing. I planned a trip to Tulsa to see Jessica. I signed up for a workshop at The Red Shoes. I’ve been meditating every day. My running program is on track. I’m sleeping like a dead person. I’m dreaming. And I’ve begun to tolerate the negative events in my life with a lot more acceptance. I’m even finding a few writing topics that interest me again.

Synchronicities increase when I’m getting seated as the channel. What others may say are coincidence I see as confirmations that the Universe is blessing my path. When I met a new guy for lunch the first time, there was a lot of laughter. I drove up, and the restaurant was on fire. He was standing in front of the fire truck talking to me on his cell phone. He jumped in my car which, of course, was a mess. I normally would have been horrified, but we were laughing, and it was fun. We went to a Mexican restaurant where the waiter promptly tripped and threw chips all over us. I felt like God was kidding around with me getting me to lighten up and pay attention. I have no idea if this will ever turn into anything serious, but it was fun, and it gave me hope that God does care about those little things that matter to me. And He’s willing to show up with His uncanny sense of humor and play.

I’ve been percolating a business idea for a long time but have been stalled because I just couldn’t see how to make the time or get the energy to launch it. I contacted an old friend to say hi, and he’s been percolating the same idea and was needing a partner in crime as well. We are already moving ahead with some ideas to tip our toes in the water to see if this might be a fit. I was stunned when I realized that this was falling into my lap. In this morning’s reading in The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron described my feelings exactly, “It’s my experience that we’re much more afraid that there might be a God than we are that there might not be.” My first reaction was one of fear that this might actually be supported and happening. Be careful what you ask for … you just might get it.

This program is asking me questions about what I enjoy, what sounds interesting and what things might interest me but I know I will never do. A picture is emerging of an adventurous gal with a thirst for learning new things. At the same time, I’m watching my nephews hit growth spurts where they are rapidly becoming young men. Tall and lanky physiques are replacing little boy builds. Every time I see them I am stunned by how much they have grown. I feel like I’m growing like that inside. I’m changing internally rapidly. I feel like I’m holding on for dear life with an emotional helmet secured on my head. I keep looking down to make sure my seat-belt is fastened and listening intently for engine trouble. I can’t see where I’m going, but I know I’m getting there. Thankfully, I’m in a place of trusting the operator to guide me where I’m supposed to be if I just keep my legs in the car and my arms up over my head. “Enjoy the ride,” He seems to be saying. “I’ve got this.” Cameron gives the analogy of seeing your blocked self as a car wreck. I am up walking away looking at the crashed vehicle I’ve been riding in for awhile. Right now, there is no new ‘ride’, and I may be without one for awhile. But I’m alive. That alone signifies potential for growth.

God, Grant Me the Serenity ….

red  rosesI just got off the phone with a friend of mine who is dealing with the end stages of chronic alcoholism with her 40-something sister. She basically had to take her home from the hospital after she almost died from alcohol poisoning and leave her in her home to drink herself to death. She took away her keys and brought her little nephew home to stay with her and her family. Her kids and husband are reeling from the impacts of dealing with the stress and impossible decision-making that goes along with this stage of the disease. Her family is falling apart, her job is suffering, and she is absolutely in an impossible spot. The alcoholic won’t get sober, and she’s a grown woman. The nurse at the hospital told my friend through a veil of tears that she had been in the exact same place with her mother. The only thing she could do was take her home and let her drink herself to death. They both cried at the impossibleness of it all.

Unfortunately, this is not uncommon. All I can say at this point is I HATE alcoholism. You can’t even hate the addict because they are enduring their own kind of personal hell. Alcoholism creeps in and destroys families slowly at first. The disease accelerates and spirals into a horror story that no one should have to endure. My normally vibrant friend sounded weary and defeated. My prayers are with you, my friend, and anyone else that is facing this dreadful disease right now. Do not kid yourself that a happy ending is inevitable or even a probability. It’s not. The worst-case scenario often comes true.

If you have a loved one who has a drinking problem, you can get help for yourself here. You are not alone.

The Serenity Prayer

The full text of the original “Serenity Prayer” written by Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)

GOD, grant me the serenity
to accept the things
I cannot change,

Courage to change the
things I can, and the
wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardship as the
pathway to peace.

Taking, as He did, this
sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it.

Trusting that He will make
all things right if I
surrender to His Will;

That I may be reasonably happy
in this life, and supremely
happy with Him forever in
the next.

Amen

Fifty Shades of Valentines

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In Boston today…

I’ve had 54 Valentine’s Days in my life. When I think back to the little girl Valentine’s Days, I remember Valentine’s Day with fond memories. Daddy would get us little red Valentine hearts filled with chocolate candies. I felt like such a big girl with a miniature of the giant chocolate heart he’d give to Momma. Schooldays were parties with cupcakes and those little paper valentines that you’d buy by the box. I remember being a bit confused about whether a valentine suggested romance while I was giving those cards to everybody in my class. As I got older, I got a few romantic valentines from boys, but never very many. I felt pretty unappreciated by the male gender most of my high school years. And Valentine’s Day became fraught with messages of rejection and unworthiness after I hit puberty.

When I was married, my husbands vacillated between honoring Valentine’s Day and grappling with the expectations of it all. I always wanted to celebrate it just because it was fun, but honestly sometimes it felt disingenuous to proclaim someone my Valentine when our relationship was so distant or rocky. I’m sure there are a few years that I’ve enjoyed Valentine’s Day, but none really stick out in my memory. I got engaged to my second husband on Valentine’s Day in a beautiful restaurant at a winery in Southwest Michigan. It was fun and romantic until he refused to set a date and became evasive about the whole marriage piece the next morning. I was confused once more about a valentine and conflicted over Valentine’s Day.

Yesterday, I had to shoot down two rather aggressive advances from married men. The more often that happens, the less safe I feel about relationships. My walls go up, my trust goes down, and my faith in men plummets. Even the most seemingly devoted husbands can sometimes have issues that cause them to look elsewhere. And holidays – especially Valentine’s Day – can bring out the worst desperation. During my marriages, the question I found myself grappling with most often was Can I want what I have?.  As a single woman, I most often find myself floundering with the question Can I have what I want? And I find neither question less painful than the other. They both seem impossible to rectify and totally uncontrollable.

I’ve been divorced seven years as of this January. I thought that I was over the experience of that marriage, but it haunts me all the time. It’s not the man … or even that marriage .. that haunts me. It’s the fear that I can’t judge a relationship well enough to know if it’s safe or the even more intolerable fear that no relationship is safe. My heart is wrapped in ice, and I can’t tell if the winter will ever be over so it can thaw. The conditions feel so dangerous out there.

My friend Nancy is a server in a cafe in Southwest Michigan. It’s February, and the weather was abysmal yesterday. Windchills dropped to 25 degrees below zero and accompanied white-out conditions. She said it was kind of amazing last night how couples showed up despite the horrible weather. Women dressed to the nines in their red dresses and heels trudged through the muck and the snow for an evening with their sweetheart. Literally every time the door opened, the wind would almost blow it off its hinges. But, still the darlings celebrating Valentine’s Day were determined to make this evening count. Her description made me long for the snow and the cold in Michigan. There was something about the effort required to live life normally during the winter that brought out the best in me. There was a sense of accomplishment in defying the bitter cold to be a human being.

I want the winter of my heart to be over. But, maybe that’s not the task set before me. Nancy has many more months before the tulips will bloom, and she can put her mittens away. The tulip poplars are already in bloom here, and I spotted a vine of morning glories blossoming on my walk this morning. It’s warm here, but I still feel frozen. Perhaps the task is for me to accept the nasty weather that is outside in the world of love, shrug off the evidence of rampant infidelity and hurt, scale the walls of my paralyzing fear and thaw out my heart by the flickering fire of hope. Today, it seems so much easier to just stay inside where it’s warm and cozy.

My southern-bred Momma remarked yesterday how crazy people were to get out in that weather up north. I laughed and said, “But they live there, Momma. They have to in order to live their lives.” Brrrrr … it just feels so cold out there. Do I trust myself enough to know when it’s too dangerous and when it’s time to bundle up and brave it? It’s another confusing Valentine’s Day. I’d just like a simple little chocolate heart. They are on sale today. Perhaps I’ll get one from my favorite, most consistently loving valentine… Me. That’s one way to tip-toe out into the cold.

A Quiet Friday Evening

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Friday evenings are usually so lazy for me. I started having lazy Friday evenings after my first divorce. The hardest and saddest time of the week was Friday evening. I guess it was the anticipation of the long weekend alone that socked it to me. Although, I rarely had long weekends alone. I usually had lots of interaction with friends. It’s just that I was used to having a husband around to go exploring on Saturdays and Sundays, and when I would get off work on Fridays, I’d be hit with this huge sense of dread and sadness. So, I’d go to my 12-step meeting and go home and go to bed as soon as possible just to check out. Later, I would have long runs scheduled on Saturday mornings, so I had an official excuse to go to bed early on Friday nights. 4 AM came early. So, Fridays, for me, are usually down time.

I got home from work this evening, and I felt a little off. I needed to do a run. My running program is going pretty well so far. I’ve been running now for 2 1/2 weeks. Jessica’s writing my plan on the Live Streaming Fitness site, and I’m following it to the letter. It helps that I’m doing yoga 3 mornings a week. I feel flexible and am getting stronger. I dreaded the run tonight. I looked at the plan, and it seemed doable if I could get myself started. I asked Ashok if she wanted to go for a run, and she leaped into the air and started jumping around. “Ok,” I answered, and I got dressed. It was not easy, but I got through it. Now, I’m so glad that I got it done. Tomorrow I can do a class instead of running, and that seems so much easier for some reason.

I baked some sweet potatoes and a mess of spinach that I bought at the Farmer’s Market last week. I can’t believe how much greener and heftier it is than the kind I buy in the supermarket. I think I’ll head out there early tomorrow and buy some more. Dinner was meatless, so I cooked some apples and topped them with Greek yogurt, a little maple syrup and whipped cream for dessert. The Greek yogurt will give me enough protein for dinner. The maple syrup and whipped cream just felt like a celebration.

I have two cats passed out in my lap, and Ashok is passed out in her bed at my feet. I plan on doing some journaling later, and I’m tuned into the yoga music channel on Pandora. I’ll probably do a yoga nidra and take a hot bath in epsom salts before the night is over. I’ll get a good night’s rest and hit the ground running in the morning.

Tomorrow is Singles Awareness Day – S.A.D. I hardly noticed it this year. Down here, Mardi Gras is in full swing, and I’ve heard people talking about Mardi Gras and parades and balls, but I haven’t heard a peep about Valentine’s Day. I’m going out with some friends tomorrow night for a Valentine’s thing, but it’s not a couples thing… at least that’s the line they sold me. I’ll probably be the token single there. Whatever…. I’m so used to Valentine’s Day being a non-event it doesn’t even phase me. I thought about going to the Spanish Town Mardi Gras parade, but I think I’m going to visit my parents. I won’t really decide until the morning. I could always go visit them on Sunday. My Meetup group is going out to the parade. It’s supposed to be fun. The theme is penises and flamingoes. I’m not sure how the two intersect, but I see pink flamingoes all over the place, and tomorrow afternoon, there will be Mardi Gras beads with tiny plastic penises on them all over downtown Baton Rouge.

So, y’all have a good weekend. I guess I won’t make it to Mardi Gras in New Orleans this weekend. I’m glad I got a chance to go last week. So, if you are going to Mardi Gras, have a blast for me. I know everybody is excited about it around here. I guess it will happen without me. Night, y’all. It’s time for a hot bath and a good night’s sleep. I’m just glad it’s Friday, and I have the whole weekend before me. There’s nothing better than that.

Sunday Night Check-In: ‘tit Rex, Chewbacchus and Sunny Days

Chewbaccus on Frenchmen Street

Chewbaccus on Frenchmen Street

This was a weekend of making new friends. I can’t believe how many new people I talked to and met over the course of the last two days. Mardi Gras season down here does seem to bring out the best in people. It’s all smiles. At work, we’re about to start a big project involving a Utah vendor, and they wanted to kick it off Mardi Gras week. Even though we’ve been chomping at the bit for this lift-off for over a year, we are going to cram it all in this week on short notice because there’s no way South Louisiana can focus on work during Mardi Gras week. Christmas and Thanksgiving are but stepping stones to the grand dame of the holiday season, Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday.

I downloaded my parade tracker app in mid-January. Yes … there’s an app that tells you where all of the parades are in up-to-the-minute detail. I went to Mardi Gras once when I was young. My country parents drilled it in my head that if I ever went to New Orleans, I’d be killed upon reaching the city limits. I snuck down there a few times during college, and I have to say I did wonder if I’d been killed the next day, but apparently I’d lived to tell about the experience – if only I could remember it. I went to one Mardi Gras with my friend Angel, but it’s a vague collage of fuzzy images that tell me nothing. So, for years when I lived away, I only had my imagination to tell me what Mardi Gras in New Orleans was like. I imagined it was like the Macy’s Day parades or the Rose Bowl extravaganza. After all, I knew it was opulent and decadent, and those parades are pretty cool. But, I was dead wrong about Mardi Gras.

Last year I went to NOLA Saturday and Sunday before Mardi Gras. I walked the route of Endymion. You can read my blogs here (my favorite is the second one):

The Mardi Gras Adventure Begins

Fried Chicken, Ladders and Beads: Mardi Gras in New Orleans

The parades were nothing like what I thought. In fact, the parades were cool, but they were not the highlight of the carnival. It was the crowds in the neighborhoods, the colors of everything, the costumes, and the smiles on their faces. The Mardi Gras in the neighborhoods of New Orleans is nothing like the dark and provocative Mardi Gras in the French Quarter. Literally the whole town was dancing for days. I wanted to go back this year, but I wanted to go MORE. Parades start in January, and each week brings more and more parades until the carnival peaks that last week before Mardi Gras day. I had no idea there were so many, and so many different kinds.

Each parade is born of a Krewe that works all year to plan the parade and celebration during the carnival. There are a crazy number of Krewes and parades. You can see a breakdown here and the schedule of parades. This is serious business. I’d love to know how much money is made at Mardi Gras each year. But, last year I spent exactly $17 for my weekend adventure. It’s free to the public unless you want to go to a ball or get seats in bleachers. You can even go by yourself. You will have 12 new friends before you leave.

The tiny floats of ‘tit Rex

Yesterday, I experienced some walking parades. These are neighborhood parades that have no motorized vehicles over the size of a golf cart. The first one we saw was ‘tit Rex. This Krewe decided that the super-sized floats needed some competition, so their floats are teeny, tiny floats made out of shoeboxes. They give out teeny, tiny ‘throws’ like teeny umbrellas, a teeny plastic baby impaled on a giant diaper pin and teeny, tiny cards. The parade stopped right where we were standing, and the woman beside us asked me if the man in the parade in front of me was from The Fringe. “I have no idea,” I said. “Why don’t you ask him?” I added. I had just asked him why the parade had stopped, and he was right nice. Indeed he was the star of The Fringe. We took photos of the two of them, and the three of us carried on a conversation with a TV star until the teeny, tiny parade started up again. There were teeny, tiny bands for good measure.

We walked down the street to catch Chewbacchus. This is a parody parade theme of a sci-fi nature. Indeed, Chewbacchus was there sucking on a bottle of Crown Royal. We saw the parade on Frenchmen Street – a big music street in New Orleans. It was packed with thirty-somethings dressed in outlandish costumes. Chewbacchus was huge. I counted over 75 ‘floats’ which were mostly inebriated people dressed in homemade cheesy costumes pulling kegs and ice chests. At first glance, I thought this was ridiculous, but as the evening wore on, I started to enjoy this cheesy, outlandish activity. What a great way for everybody to be celebrities for a minute and to show off your creativity even if you aren’t very creative. By the end I was dancing in the streets, too, and thinking I might need to be a part of this next year for my couple of hours of Chewbacchus fame.

My host and I rode through the streets of New Orleans last night on a motorcycle. I got a taste of the city that I’ve only known from afar for most of my life. I mostly visited the French Quarter. But, the neighborhoods in New Orleans are magical. We zoomed through several on our way. Beautiful old colorful homes bedecked in Mardi Gras lights, flags and decorations shouted that the carnival was going on. People were out and about as if the whole town was a festival ground. I couldn’t help but smile. Everyone was in the streets. In fact, in the midst of the super-crowded parade area, we went to a Vietnamese restaurant for dinner. There was no line. I stopped in a coffee house. There was no line. The streets of New Orleans are alive during Mardi Gras.

Today was a quiet day of reflection and eating healthy. It was a beautiful 70-degree day, and Ashok seems to be back to herself. I went to my women’s circle at The Red Shoes, and we had a really amazing gathering that grounded me. I came home and made a broccoli omelet with the fresh broccoli I purchased at the Farmer’s Market yesterday. That broccoli was so good it had me dancing at the dinner table. It seems that I really am enjoying what is put in front of me. And Mardi Gras is still more than a week away. I hope someone will put a piece of King Cake in front of me this week… I’d like to enjoy that. :)

Ashok is back to her happy self.

Ashok is back to her happy self.

The Limiting Power of Fear

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Tonight was the first night’s study of The Artist’s Way. We explored the ways our creativity has been blocked through our lives. I never really thought I was creative until I started writing this blog. I thought of myself as sort of dry creatively. And I think I was. But, when I started writing, I began to shuck many of the fears that I had about showing up as who I am. It wasn’t intentional, and I honestly didn’t know that I wasn’t. But in looking back, I realize how much I’ve grown. I never would have gotten the courage to start writing if I hadn’t been courageous in my personal growth. It was a process that started slowly and continues to build.

I shared some of my early feelings about being creative. My Dad was a long-time celebrity sportswriter here in Baton Rouge. I saw writing as a career. I knew I could write. In fact, my first job out of college was as a beat reporter at the Valley Morning Star in Harlingen TX. I wrote free-lance off and on but finally gave it up because it was not lucrative at all. I remember my writer husband editing my writing. I got really frustrated because it seemed like my writing must have been horrible with the number of changes he recommended. I finally quit, thinking I’d never be able to do it at the professional level. I never thought about writing for fun.

The beauty of blogging is that nobody is going to critique it. I can write whatever I want. Sure people can make some nasty comments, but, for the most part, they don’t. In fact, most of the time there are no comments at all. I’m left with my own inner critic. It is the freedom of not being right or wrong that allows me the freedom to write creatively. Now, I’m wanting to learn a little more about the skill of writing, but it’s taken me awhile to get there. I’ve even had people recommend that I find a way to make money off my blog. I don’t want to because I don’t want to start censoring what I write by what I think would make money. That’s not the point for me. Maybe one day I might write a blog that would make money, but it would be a business blog. Midlife Moments is about me… and for me. It’s my little space in the world where I can show up when and where and how I want to with no rules. Isn’t that what creativity is all about?

One of the things I realized tonight is I have self-censored myself more than anyone else ever has. My Dad came to me one night after I first moved here and apologized that he had sort of steered me away from writing as a career. He had always wanted me to have a high-paying career so that I could have financial freedom, and journalism is a notoriously low-paying gig. I thanked him for saying that, but, really, I was never that obedient of a child anyway. My choice not to go into journalism was much more about my fear of being able to perform up to the standards necessary in chasing a story and putting it down on the page. I was a chicken, and I had little self-confidence. I had to grow into myself before I could step out into such a public arena. I envy people who did that early in life.

I have always had this fear of not being able to perform to expectations. I know that I’ve held myself back. I know that I’ve not developed my talents the way I could have. I also have a fear of success. What if I was successful and then people would have these expectations of me that I couldn’t meet? What if I landed a great job… started my own business … married a great guy … or wrote a best-selling novel? What would that mean? I’m comfortable shrinking. I’m not so comfortable expanding. I told this coach one time that I was afraid to look for a new job even though I needed to because I was afraid. I feared they would expect too much at the new company, and I would be found out as the fraud that I am. She told me that every executive she ever coached said the same thing. Apparently, many people have this fear that we’re really not as good as we’re supposed to be .. that who people think we are is so much better than we really are. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve shared this story with because they’ve mentioned the same fear to me. It is really common.

What if I could step into the power of who I am? I have a meditation tape that urges me to think about a belief that I have about myself. “What would happen if you let go of that belief?” she implores. I always feel such a relief when I think of that belief of my not being good enough vaporizing into thin air. I can feel the rush of power moving up through my chakras and exploding into my heart. I feel the joy of being free and acting without the shackles of unmet expectations holding me down. I want that so badly. I know it’s as easy as letting go of it, but it’s also as hard as lifting a 5000 pound boulder.

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The only way I’ve found to change beliefs about myself is through the power of other people. That’s what is drawing me to this workshop. I know that I can’t shift this on my own, and I probably won’t shift it in the next 12 weeks. But what if I could budge it? What if I could let go of it just a little? Could that help me open up a little more? Then I may be able to open a little more after that? Change comes really slowly to me. Tonight when I got home, I drew a Medicine Card. I got the Horse card. Horse medicine is about power. Man walked slowly upon the earth until he learned to fly with Horse. It was a game-changer for man.

Horse urges man to realize that wisdom is power, and there is wisdom in our ENTIRE life journey. Looking back over our entire lives will tell us many things we need to know. I learned a lot tonight in looking back on my early experiences with creativity. I learned that there were people that encouraged my creativity, and there were people who didn’t. But, the biggest blocks I had were self-imposed by limiting fear.  Could that knowledge be the ‘horse’ that changes the game for my creativity. What if one day I could fly across the sky? The journey continues…

Ashok’s Adventure: A Scary Hotel

IMG_1193Hi, everybody. I’ve got a lot of free time on my hands right now, so I thought I’d write on Momma’s blog. She’s making me wear this stupid inner tube around my neck. I think I’m being punished for something, but I can’t figure out what I did. It all started last week. I got really nervous and tried to eat this big marshmallow-like thing in the room where I stay when Momma is gone. It’s so fluffy that I like to lay on it, but all of a sudden I got this urge to eat it. It didn’t taste like bacon or peanut butter or even close to sweet potatoes, but it was kind of a challenge, and it helped me relax to tug on it and chew it up. She was kind of tense when she got home and locked me out of that room. But she was better later.

The next day the marshmallow stuff came back up my throat. She had to tug at some of it because it was stuck in me. Then later that day some more came up. She seemed a little worried then, but she said something about me having to go to the vet the next morning anyway. But later I felt really bad, and stuff came up all over Momma’s new rug. But she didn’t get mad this time. She just said ‘let’s go for a ride’, and I love rides, so I ran out to the car.

She took me to that hotel where Momma doesn’t get to stay. I prefer the hotels where Momma can stay. When we stay at those places, we usually ride for a long time in her car and have fun when we stop. But this time was not fun. We went in a room with a lot of metal, and a man tried to take me away from Momma. I hugged up against her, but she tricked me and acted like she was walking through the door with the man. I went with the man to have my picture taken. I never saw Momma again after that. I spent a really long time at the hotel, and I thought I’d never go home.

It was awful. They stuck me with metal things that hurt, and then I fell asleep. When I woke up, my stomach hurt really bad. I had tubes running inside me, and I was in a cage. I felt really foggy and couldn’t remember what happened or why I was there. I couldn’t find my Momma anywhere, and I couldn’t believe she let them do this to me. The people seemed really nice even though they hurt me a lot. They seemed really happy when I would sit up. They got really excited when I ate and even when I pooped. They must have been really bored. It seems like it would be more fun if we floated in the plastic container that floats in the water or a walk in the woods. I just slept a lot and dreamed about having fun with my Momma.

It was years before I saw her again. I walked out with the man to the front of the hotel. My stomach still hurt, so I walked really slow. I was really glad to see her, but I didn’t feel good. She didn’t look like she felt good either. She took me to the car, and she said something about us not going on vacation this year. That made me really sad because I love camping in that little tent in the woods. But, I felt so bad I couldn’t think about it. It hurt me to jump out of the car. I went straight in to my little box and went to sleep. I dreamed about camping and wading in the creek in Arkansas where we used to visit. When I woke up, she gave me this white creamy stuff with some nasty tasting bits in it. She put the big inner tube on my neck and laughed. I didn’t think it was funny. Then I got sleepy again. The cats just stared at me. I hate those cats.

Today, we went on a few short walks. I wanted to go longer, but I didn’t feel very good. I got confused. I stopped to urge her to walk me farther, but I couldn’t move. I didn’t know what I wanted. I still feel like there’s fog in my head. When she got home today she told me that we could go on vacation. She said some nice people who liked me on Facebook gave money to the hotel for keeping me. I don’t know why that place cost so much. It wasn’t any fun. Who would want to go there? Anyway, I’m just really happy that we’ll get to go on vacation this year. I hope we go camping on Lake Michigan where it’s cool. It gets so hot in this new place where we live. I want to run on the beach and jump in the cold water. I think I’m going to sleep now so I can dream about something besides these cats. Thank you to the people who helped my Momma and me this week. I hope I never go back to that hotel again. I wish the cats would go there to live.