Tuesday, March 31, 2009

What's all this white shit???

Today is my mother's birthday. March 31, 1926. She who died July 1, 2008, nine months ago.

She who made every birthday into a national holiday with home crafted cakes and presents galore. Or in later years, a big check. We started sending checks on her birthday and she absolutely loved it. Alan, whose mother also died recently and whose birthday was the day after his (how brutal is that?), buys a cupcake identical to the cakes his mom used to make him, and has a birthday party each year.

I was so glum today that sounded like a great idea. I had to stand up in front of thirty people and do a presentation at noon, but I really wanted only to lay down in the snow and bawl like a baby.

Today I got a poem in the email from my notorious poet friend, Eugene. It sums up quite nicely and expresses probably the emotion of the whole town:

where's the season's cotyledon

why is springtime not-a-heedin'

all the critter's calls for it

why's there more of this white shit?

Yes, waking up yet again to the imitation blizzard which stops and starts again all day. Yesterday the cloud was over Polson and no where else. I came down over the hill from Pablo into a snow shower. We're having one now. This late season snow is putting a serious cramp into my pre-season alley grazing. Those poor robins what are they doing today? They were so optimistic showing up three weeks ago! The lilac shoot buds are greening up, irises poking up. Anyone have crocuses? I wouldn't be surprised to see some surprised pussy willows. I saw stellaria making a bold come back last week...some tiny seedlings popping up through the dirt.

But winter has no teeth now. And the snow could be our insurance policy against August wildfires. You just never know.

Back to my mother. There was only one time that I know of that my Mom honored her own birthday. She was coming up on 80. No one including her thought she would EVER live that long. She had just been diagnosed with metastasized lymphoma, was bewigged following aggressive treatment, and she figured this was it. Last Birthday. So we called in the troops: her long lost brother and adorable wife came in from Florida, my cousins rolled in from the south, my brothers and I were there with bells on, and we had a ball for 3-4 days. She was the center of it all and loving it.

The funny thing is the cancer just went on holiday for a year, so she ended up having the birthday she didn't think she'd have: # 81; what an anti-climax it was for her. Then some other medical problems started edging up on the cancer, which muddled the diagnosis when it came back. During that hiatus, she said, "Shit, I thought the cancer was going to take me out."

Really, she talked about her eminent demise that way...with such a cavalier, in your face directness, she had us undone most of the time. Looking at her calendar one time, she said, "Maybe I won't have to have my teeth cleaned next time!" Have you ever known anyone to look at the bright side of dying...as a way to get out of an unwanted appointment?

Today I will follow my dear one's advice and get a cake and have a birthday party. Turn around is fair play, Mom!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What some people do for a living

So here it is, almost the Ides of March again. I remember my first 'ides of march' post last year, was a trip down memory lane detailing mid-March catastrophes.

Now I see the pre-spring bursting-at-the-seams energy as a good thing. Me, I'm out of my mind as usual. But the good news is that I am enjoying the insanity rather than fighting it. So one crazy thing is that my job is really two jobs, Executive Director and Administrative Assistant. Since we tightened the old belt and cut out a position, there are only two of us. My Program Director is already doing two jobs, so I can't complain. But I began to notice that I am a mean boss. I flog that poor Admin. Asst. like a government mule.

Now that we are putting the fundraisers together, it is especially intense. If you want to check it out, don't say I didn't warn you! I sent a fundraising letter to all my friends and God Bless the darlings, they started sending $$.

My friends have the most varied occupations as I'm sure yours do too. Many of my friends are writers in addition to the following. I have 2 psychologists, 6 carpenter/contractors, 2 tile setters, 1 communication cable installer/engineer, 3 nurses, a computer geek, 3 store owners, 2 restranteers, 1 chef, a classical musician, several authors, one judge, a medical transcriptionist, a transitional housing job coach, a peer counselor, a business consultant, 2 graphic artists, 2 online business entrepreneurs, a photographer (and hermit), a former school custodian, a dentist, a doctor, and a dozen massage therapists (lucky me!). One of my high school sweethearts was a famous illustrator for Disney before he died a couple years ago. The thing is you could put all these people in the same room together and you would have a party. Simple as that...they are all stellar humans who happen to perform the current job description of their choice.

A man I once worked for was a carpenter before he decided to go to medical school. He had a rich Hawaiian auntie who paid his way and he became a surgeon. When we started the remodel on his medical office, he was so happy to throw his stethoscope on the desk and strap on the tool belt again. You have to love a guy like that. My friend Shaun, a petite lass, was a dump truck driver, became a nurse, then private detective/insurance adjuster and finally went back to school for her Masters in physical therapy. Wow. Her husband was a nurse anesthiologist, became a master tile setter, and now is back to his original profession.

We have so many opportunities to express who we are. I jumped from college to massage in a sleaze joint, to phone soliciting, to recycling center worker, to pre-med, to truck gardener/tree planter to house painter/carpenter to self-employed masseuse, to job coach at a sheltered workshop, to cabinetmaker to landscaper, to domestic violence shelter advocate, then shelter Director, to Big Brothers Big Sisters Director. What a surprise. It never occurred to me to go for a career.

I had a short little attention span that quite forbade that type of thinking. So here I am...having a ball, my confidence running just ahead of my incompetence most days. My learning curve is always steep. I must like it that way, because I can't seem to stay with what I know. Some days I am so exhausted, I wonder why I have created such a life, where getting through the day feels like a marathon.What I figured out is this: like many folks I have a hell of a time asking for help. Guess what? I am so freaked out most of the time-working these two jobs in one, shouldering more responsibility than I thought I could, crashing my computer with my manic energy, making hellatious accounting blunders and still managing to have it all turn out okay. Why? Because I have to ask for help a dozen times a day.

Like Sandra Bullock in 28 Days, with the sign around her neck, 'Confront me if I don't ask for help'. I was handed this weird combination of qualities: a tough little body, a galloping mindless energy, ferocious ambition, a dose of ADHD, and a clown's gift for klutzing. Most days my mind is like a catfight in a burlap sack. So asking for help hits the restart button and off I go again. Another thing that happens, is like I mentioned in an earlier post, self doubt comes blowing in with gale force to try to topple me. When it doesn't work, when I laugh at how nuts I seem to get, instead of cursing it, I get another opportunity to restart the day.

A lot of my friends also design their lives to be maximally challenging. My cuz is the head of a huge women's homeless shelter. Because they believe in the women, empower them to make their own choices, and stand out of the way, some exciting (sometimes horrible) things happen, some huge disasters ensue. But these gamblers on human potential never stop expecting the best. I love that about my friends. If they aren't racing around the next bend to see what new thing they can learn, what new person they can meet, they are betting the ranch on someone coming through and not worrying if they don't.

This cobbled together life that found me, that nailed me, even though I was too distracted to settle in for a long time, came with great friends, a splendid man who really sees me and still sticks around, and my brothers and cousins who have loved me so well all my life. When I was a little tyke, the stupidest things would upset me, like having to share a bathtub with my brother and cousins. It never occurred to me that it might get a lot weirder than that.

I may even retire sometime from the exhausting day job. I wonder what will happen then?! The friends are for life, and who knows maybe even after that!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Getting back on the horse

I finally got back on the horse and headed for the slopes last weekend...and then again this weekend. Once you start, there is just no stopping. It turns out my old friend/new love, Alan, who had never skied Blacktail (and never let on that he was a skier), looked like a slalom racer blazing down the hill. The first time I saw him in action, all I could think was, "Yikes".

So, yesterday, I did buy myself the promised helmet. My ski outfit is almost complete with only the poles to go. I went without last year, just because, skiing without poles felt very free. My skiing went to hell but it was worth it with less equipment to wrap around the lift chair or catch under my ski. Noting this deterioration of my skiing ability, and having a ski buddy that looked like a pro, I rented poles and took a lesson last week. Voila! Was I ever doing it wrong.

When I headed down the first run yesterday, I worked on my 'homework' of practicing hands out front ("like you're holding a tray") and shifting my weight from the uphill to downhill ski before the turn and keeping my weight forward. It was feeling pretty good after awhile. I didn't biff all day which is a personal record I will probably never beat. Usually, you can recognize me by the amount of snow I'm wearing. Skiing with Robert and Maddie, Terry and Dave and their grandson, Shawn Michael, or waving to them going by on the lift, is just a great way to be with friends.
photo of Flathead Lake and the Mission Mountains by Janice Myers

A bus full of school kids arrived from Browning and they were having a blast chewing up the slopes on boards and skis, some of the younger ones getting lessons on the bunny hill. I thought about what a trip that was for them across the highline, up through the passes and down along the park. They must have left in the dark. That is the obsession for you...to go through anything to get to the ski hill. The bus driver looked as though he was getting a much needed rest to make the drive back, probably also in the dark.

That 14 inches of new powder up there drew us like flies to honey. And sunshine. Nothing beats a place like that in the sun. The valley was shrouded in damp, soupy overcast when we left Polson. Talk about mega depressing. Driving up Blacktail Road was like ascending into heaven, with the hush of whiteness, pine boughs bowed under the load, and a dazzling panorama of non-stop mountain ranges in the distance.
cell phone photo by Al 2/28/09
Up there in the clean, blue air it was hard to imagine a single problem in the world.
Can't you tell by our happy little faces!