Here we go! Come join me for my first reading from my book Misadventures of a Happy Heart, A Memoir of Life Beyond Disability at the Riverside Arts Market next Saturday. I will be taking pre-orders for the memoir from my booth and Frankie will be there (against my better judgement) to charm the crowd. Stop by and see us and help support local authors!
I wasn’t sure about my new neighborhood when I first moved in. I missed seeing the ocean every morning. I missed hearing the seagulls overhead. Frankie seemed to miss his dog buddies. We hadn’t met a lot of new dogs or their owners on our walks at Mom’s.
“How’s it going?” a friend asked me.
“I don’t know,” I sighed. “I might as well be in Mandarin.”
Now, don’t take offense if you live in Mandarin (or some other suburb of town). I’m not trying to pull a beach superiority complex on you. I just mean, I felt very far away. I moved half a mile down A1A, but when you don’t drive, it might as well be across town.
There were no more drop-ins at my friend Michele’s for coffee. No cruising down to the corner in my power chair for dinner out or a book signing. And no trips with Frankie to Jarboe Park to watch the ducks. Frankie and I did discover a park here, but all we can watch are the homeless people.
When I thought about my old morning routines, I felt sad. Then I thought about another, more major time of loss in my life. I compared the experiences and wondered. Is it possible I was more depressed about my move to Jax Beach than my move to a wheelchair? It sounds ludicrous yes, until you realize — it’s all about acceptance.
Everyone said I’d accepted my place in the disabled world quite well. I think I’ve figured out how. I mean, what choice did I have? Clinging to what might have been is no way to live. Spending the rest of my days woulda-coulda-shoulda-ing is not for me. And there’s the answer. I needed to let go of my past to be able to enjoy my present.
I had spent my first month here trying to enjoy my old routines. I could get to the ocean, but I hated crossing Third Street. I tried to make it to Michele’s, but it took so long now I had to leave by sunrise. And I knew better than to attempt to hit the corner spots for dinner unless I had a death wish.
When I stayed in my own neighborhood and developed a couple of new routes, we met some folks. We met Steve walking Sage, Larry with Luna, and Betty and Ed who don’t appear to have a dog, but drink coffee on their porch when we pass by around 7:45. The dogs, walkers and cyclists are fewer and farther between now, but they’re out here. It’s just taking longer to meet them. I’m trying to be patient. Frankie is beside himself when anyone stops to chat, especially with a dog. He’s dog-starved.
Of course, it helps me appreciate what I have when glimpsed through someone else’s eyes.
“It reminds me of the Keys back here,” said my friend Jamie, looking at the pool. “If I lived here, I’d be out here all the time.”
So I’ve started eating my breakfast out there. Bella and Frankie line up by the door every morning, part of our new routine. It’s ridiculous that they both wait for me to open the door when there’s a perfectly good dog door right there. But Bella, in true cat form, only uses it when no one’s looking. I know she’s figured it out, because she appears and disappears mysteriously. She probably doesn’t want to appear graceless or un-ladylike getting her rather portly body through the opening. I have no idea what goes through Frankie’s head or why he waits for me to let him out this one time when he flies in and out the dog door regularly.
So, I’m enjoying my mornings again. Only here, it’s chlorinated instead of salt water, cardinals instead of seagulls and retirees instead of twenty-something surfers. It all reminds me of a plaque that hangs in Michele’s garden, “Bloom where you are planted.” So, you know what? I’m blooming.
There’s something wonderful about drinking in the middle of afternoon. It’s so forbidden. So frowned upon. I love it. I guess that’s why I like the lyrics to that poppy Sheryl Crow song, “All I Wanna Do.” You know, “… is have some fun.”
Well, I did it. Popped open the champagne one afternoon last week with my friend, Diane. I finished (with her invaluable help) editing my memoir, Misadventures of a Happy Heart: A Memoir of Life Beyond Disability.
I had no idea the whole process was going to take forever. My eyes are open now. I don’t see how people write second novels. Unless, it’s like childbirth and you forget the pain amid the joys of parenthood/authorship. I’m obviously just guessing.
But, it was a feat worth celebrating. Of course, this had me looking up quotes on celebration. As usual, I found a bunch I liked, so I’ll let you choose your favorite. Don’t forget to make time for your own celebrations. Not just birthdays and anniversaries, but the days you had a little more to do with. And, don’t be afraid to toot your own horn.
“Celebrate what you want to see more of.” ~Thomas J. Peters
“Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we will die.” ~Dave Matthews
“The year you were born marks only your entry into the world. Other years where you prove your worth, they are the ones worth celebrating.” ~Jarod Kintz
“A good time occurs precisely when we lose track of what time it is.” ~Robert Farrar Capon
“Celebrate the happiness that friends are always giving, make every day a holiday and celebrate just living.” ~Sydney Smith
“The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.” ~Oprah Winfrey
My mom has a chair problem. By that I mean to say she hoardes chairs. Or perhaps I should say she “collects” them. Hoarding implies she’s just days away from suffocating under a pile of dirty laundry and banana peels. It’s not that bad. She only has 24.
I began noticing we had an inordinately large number of chairs when I first moved in. Since then, she’s acquired three more. Mind you, these are only the outside chairs. I can’t begin to think of the inside chairs.
In her defense, most of them were free. Usually, they’re in someone’s trash by the side of the road. While I think, “they must be throwing them out for a reason,” Mom maintains that they’re perfectly fine. She watches all the salvage shows on HGTV. And you know the saying: One man’s rusted wrought iron is another man’s home-improvement-project-that-never-happens-so-it-sits-by-the-pool-growing-rustier.
The pretty red ones were acquired last week on a rare shopping outing. My mom agreed to take me to that OCDer’s heaven — Bed, Bath and Beyond. I could spend hours in the place just daydreaming about reorganizing my closet or checking out shelf liner. My mom, on the other hand, hates it and spends the entire time waiting on me up front, sitting in displays of patio furniture. This particular day, I’d only made it halfway through the kitchen gadgets when I received her telepathic message of distress. “Let’s go. Now.” She eyed the rainbow of magnetic bag clips in my hand, but refrained from saying, “Do you really need that?”
I know she’s glad she refrained, given the irony of what happened next. Having run into Home Depot for an extension cord, she came out with chairs number 23 and 24.
“What?” she said when I looked incredulous. “They were on sale.”
Like anyone in the throes of addiction, she passed through phases of anger and denial. Once I began counting the chairs, she became defensive.
“You can’t count the cheap stackables! Don’t count the outdoor dining chairs. Those are part of a set.”
Oh, I see. Part of a set. For the record, we have 14 chairs, not counting the cheap stackables or the outdoor dining chairs. They’re still chairs by the way, but whatever.
We’re ready to host a party of 50 at a moment’s notice.
When I went to take a picture of the chairs poolside, I noticed they’d all been moved. Much like a kindergartner moves food around on his plate, my mother had spread chairs all over the yard in groups of two and three, hoping to disguise the sheer volume of seating choices available. I guess that she’s aware enough to try to hide this is progress. And after all, the first step is admitting you have a problem.
Bella’s worst fears were realized one night when I shifted to the opposite direction and rolled the entire mattress on its side. I dumped myself, Bella and all my bedding straight to the floor. Note to self: air mattresses can topple. They don’t just feel like they will — they’ll do it.
Frankie had already moved into the office to sleep on my power chair, but he did come over to check out the situation, wondering, I’m sure, why the heck I was on the floor. Bella leapt from the bedroom, never to return. Seriously, it’s been days and she won’t even enter the room except to pass quickly through it on her way to the litter box, let alone touch paw to mattress ever again. Frankie promptly curled up in my bedding.
The fall was in super slow-mo, very gentle. It didn’t even hurt. After all, I had the wherewithal to take a picture, didn’t I?
“Chaos in the midst of chaos isn’t funny, but chaos in the midst of order is.”
Let me tell you, becoming disabled is one big lesson in giving up control. I haven’t quite gotten it, but I’m getting better.
Silly me, I envisioned my pictures frames in the box of picture frames and the nightlight together with my lamp and stereo in a box marked “electronics.” (This is the freaky part of being a control freak.)
But when you don’t pack or unpack the boxes, and can’t even write the word electronics, you’re at the mercy of someone else’s organizational skills. And seriously, why should I care? I’m trying hard not to.
So while last week was about embracing my rolls, this week I’m embracing the chaos. Let the silverware get thrown in with my old albums from college. I’m throwing caution to the wind. It will all get there anyway. And really, I’m lucky to have friends offering to help. I’m taking a deep breath and trying to let go. C’mon June.
Walgreens was its own corny planet this time of year, oozing sentimentality all over the place. I combed the aisles in my power chair, looking for the less mushy cards, wondering how the employees stood it. It started right after New Years. Red and pink banners swirled from the ceiling. Rows of cellophane hearts from miniature to jumbo lined the shelves. A stuffed lion held out a cushy pillow that read I’m wild about you. I rolled my eyes at all the commercial fanfare and steadfastly refused to go out to dinner that one night a year, but secretly I used to have high hopes.
When I worked, I’d sit at my desk like every other woman there, and pretend it was a day like any other. You could feel us holding our collective breath when the bells tinkled announcing an entry, and hear it released in disappointment when the spring water guy filled up the water cooler.
Some lucky women already had their declarations of love displayed proudly in their cubicles. I viewed these bouquets like diamonds on a ring finger. They were affirmations. Someone finds me lovable. I have been chosen.
Many years, not dating anyone, I contemplated sending flowers to myself just to avoid the empty desk.
Though not dating someone was certainly preferable to dating He Who Does Nothing. I never understood this. It’s so simple. It requires virtually no thought. And, I never, not once, met a woman who didn’t like flowers. Still, it happens. I know because I have dated several Mr. Do Nothings.
One claimed he forgot, which we all know is impossible if you live in the United States of America and didn’t just wake up from a long coma. Another said he was taking a stand against profit-making corporate giants and didn’t need a holiday to tell him when to express his love. Unfortunately, he didn’t express it any of the other 364 days of the year either.
I broke up with another man onValentine’s Day itself after eight months of dating and receiving nothing from him but a card with a fart joke on it. I didn’t think they even made valentines with fart jokes, but apparently no holiday is too classy. I’m sure even one of the three wise men is letting one rip in a manger somewhere. Continue reading “My Valentine”→
Please enjoy this excerpt, “A New New Year’s,” from my upcoming memoir.
I must have been insane to do it. Maybe my ability to reason had not been fully restored. I still operated under my old personality. It was the end of 2007, and the old me loved going out to ring in the new year.
Vivian looked cute. She wore tight metallic pants with a black silk scoop-neck and the strappy heels with the high cork wedge I’d passed on to her. I loved those shoes. Even as painful as they’d been after a night out, I loved them.
We waited in a short line. The girls wore tops covered by leather jackets that would later be shed to reveal sparkly colors and glitter and too much skin. I was conscious of my jeans and frumpy black sweater. I wore flat, black boots that might as well have been corrective shoes surrounded by all those tottering heels. These women clacked. I clomped.
Viv began making our way, pushing the wheelchair toward a large empty table up front that had a homemade sign with the words, “RESERVED — BAND” on it. Rob came over from practicing to thank us for coming out. He didn’t know we were grateful to have an automatic place to go. I used to love that when we were dating. Viv’s husband was in a band too, so we always had a choice of venues.
People parted as we cut across the dance floor on our way to the table. I received lots of attention, “Happy New Year!” wishes and condescending “you go girl!” pats. Apparently, my very existence among the scene was to be commended. Continue reading “A Holiday Rerun”→
Since I’m loathe to simply slap up the “Writer At Work” sign and leave my poor readers with only the Sunday paper or less worthy blogs (blogs of dear friends excluded, of course,) I’m doing the next easiest thing: posting something I’ve already written. Frankie got a lot of love last week, so for all you Frankie fans out there — enjoy this excerpt from my book. And don’t hold it against me if the sign’s there next week.
Arguments with my mother can sound like Abbott and Costello routines. We are parked in the car and my mom is taking Frankie out to do his business.
“When we get back, we can eat!” she tells him.
“I thought you said you didn’t bring any cookies,” I say.
“I didn’t. You said you brought grapes.”
“I did. But those are for lunch.”
“But we always have a snack at the park.”
“Yes. We always have cookies. You’re welcome to the grapes. But they were for lunch.”
“Well, I didn’t bring cookies. I thought we could eat your grapes.”
“Again. We can. I’m just saying, they were for lunch.”
Frankie whimpers to remind us he needs to go out or this could go on forever. As the door shuts, she shoots me a look that says I’m a spoiled child, unwilling to share.