Today’s word, and the last fortnight’s word, is microbe.

I love using the word “fortnight”. I’d like to bring it back into common usage.

But the word is microbe. Because in the last fortnight, I was nearly killed by microbes.

I really am arrogant about my health, the worst kind of take it for granted criminal, a kind of Robin Hood of my own resources. I cruise about in my get away  van, cruising into multiple worksites, imparting my wisdom AND youthful energy, robbing from my body to give to the poor of spirit.

All the while, the microbes took advantage of my caviler attitude, and massed against my body without my consent.

Suddenly, on an ordinary Wednesday,  I couldn’t manage to stumble into work, much less cruise.  I had felt unwell the day before, and attributed the problem to intensifying cramps. On that day,  I told my boss how sick I was of these monthly events, their usefulness long over. I had important business to attend to. My uterus was in the way. She reminded me of the temporary nature of our physical existence. Prophetic.

Twenty four hours later, I was alternating shaking with chills or burning up.  Thirty six hours later, in the middle of the night, I was informed that without immediate surgery, the infection in my body could kill me. Forty eight hours later, I was in intensive care with dangerously low blood pressure.

It isn’t the plane falling out of the sky. It’s the microbes, with their cunning multigenerational evolution and will to multiply, and your body, hiding disaster, fighting valiantly despite the ego’s untempered self pride, which gives in only at the last minute. Hello, the body screams. Now you are dying. Pay attention.

That’s what can kill you.

Still, I sit here two weeks later, part of me infuriated that such nonsense can occur, and part of me humbled to the point of tears that I so consistently ignored the physical me. The body that holds the brain. I need to do simple things, like drink more water, get enough rest, allow others to do their own work, ask for help, lower my expectations. Middle age is confusing..I was told in ICU how strong and young I am,  but I feel old, taking these old man medications, sitting on the couch watching reruns of television shows I remember so clearly, and with not much else to do but cope with pain, reflect on the fact that many of the actors are dead.

I ask my younger daughter to come home in June. I need her help. I need help, and probably have for some time.

I haven’t learned all I need to learn from this, I am still struggling against this reality, dreading falling into the constant physical monitoring and interminable discussions of organ failure I fear is old age. No, I object! There is still more.

But from now on, some consciousness for the body.

Watching out for the microbes.





Mothers 2

Hello my friend–

This holiday is tinged with the sadness of the loss of our moms.  For both of us, with such strong women in our lives, we must think of them.

 My mom was born in 1924, only four years after the 19th Amendment was passed and women got the right to vote. Great Depression. No TV. Doing dishes by lantern light. Your mom, though you lost her earlier, was younger, and from the generation of women who had read Helen Gurley Brown. Having it all, baby. Both of them adventurous and strong-willed, with great smiles. Fierce women, and kind. My mom shot an antelope for Pete’s sake.  Fierce.

Before they came along, women were property, or schoolteachers. Pawns in a men’s world. Do you remember those commercials for Enjole perfume?   “We can bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan, and never, ever let you forget you’re a man?” Oh brother!!  I think the ad showed a woman dropping a necklace on the floor,  undressing and putting on something sexy. When I first started working, women were still “secretaries,” and all of the managers at my first office job were men.  There were jokes on TV about chasing secretaries around desks.  We had to be very careful later to say “administrative assistant” instead of secretary.  Language is powerful, and language changes.  We must forgive our mothers their faults.   They weren’t secretaries, and certainly not administrative assistants. 

You’re right, the term “mother” is a word so charged, it could spark an electrical fire, or at least stick a balloon to a wall. Mother & country. Adjectively:  Spanking, stay-at-home, working, breast-feeding, welfare, strict, bad, saintly mothers.  I fear our society isn’t very friendly to moms. Moms are supposed to pick up our kids afterschool at 3, but work till 5. If moms stay home, they aren’t contributing to the family’s income. If moms work, they aren’t home with the kids. We are supposed to breastfeed our children, but not in public. Making it work is the female kobayashi maru.

Despite society’s callousness toward moms, they say when men cry out wounded in battle, they often cry out for their moms.  “Mama, mama….”  When men fear death, they want their moms.

When I think of holidays it makes me tired. We are lucky to have anything, and I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. But, as 2016 moms, we endlessly grocery shop, bake a turkey and an entire Thanksgiving feast, wrap Christmas presents into the middle of the night, fight the crowds on the 4th of July…and today, I paid for the kids to “take me to dinner and get our nails done!”  because I wanted them to be able to have & give me some kind of a treat.  It’s work. Work can suck the joy out of any holiday. We have to remember the good and silly things.  The eyes of a child watching fireworks, chopping down a pine tree, my mom’s cherry pie!  What I think, is there has to be meaning.  What I think we are experiencing is a lack of meaning.

It’s easy for me to be disenchanted with this holiday, as with many holidays which are more of a burden than a celebration.  I have to tell you, my ex called the kids today. He wanted to make sure they called his wife to wish her a happy Mother’s day and ask if they made her a card.   I made sure they called her. Even though step-mom’s day is actually next weekend –one of the kids looked it up. I do want her to feel loved. I was surprised, though, he made such a deal of this silly holiday. The kids didn’t make me, or her, a card. They’re teenagers….they’re not six anymore!  I yelled at them today for something the dog did.  Boy, if that doesn’t make you feel like an idiot. Yelling at the kids — on Mother’s day — for something the dog did.

I’m happy to admit, I’ve never been to a Mother’s day brunch. Maybe that’s something a spouse suggests?   Or just another cultural norm I’ve missed.  A club I didn’t get invited into, a sorority I didn’t join.  According to most people, I am un-American if I don’t love football, go to church, and dislike poetry.  Or, I should shop at Whole Foods and drive a Prius. I can’t afford a Prius and Whole Foods is across town. The consequences of this are, for me, a feeling of cultural isolation.  

Promise me we won’t get in a rut where everything is a task to get through, and I will do the same.  So let’s re-invent all holidays for ourselves.  Mother’s day can be Mother’s day and gambling day, or photography day.  Maybe we need additional holidays similar to PI day & Talk-like-a-Pirate-day. Alternative holidays:  Captain Kirk & Spock day. I look-good-in-a-red-shirt day. Where-is-Johnny-Depp-today?-day. I hate it when it’s just about getting through it.

One of the big events today was watching a You tube video of tornado hunters in Wray, Colorado.  Huge tornado there yesterday.  Before viewing it, I thought I was an adrenaline junkie.  My mom always watched tornado stories with fervor….having grown up in Missouri.  I realize now, I am very small time.  The people chasing tornados….just too much. They sped their cars toward the thing, around broken power poles. Adrenaline superheroes.  I watched it I think four times.  My kids, unfortunately, did not share my enthusiasm for the video.

My mom was *the* smiling woman with the apron & the pie! But so, so much more. We knew that as children, so we hope our children know us. One year, my mother innocently cut a cherry pie she had baked, and found all the cherries inside of it gone.  We looked around and my brother was turning red and sort of slinking down in his chair.  He had put a tiny hole in it, leaving the crust on top completely untouched.   You should’ve seen my mother’s face when she cut the pie and saw all the cherries gone! (the thing was, she was also slightly proud that he had been so clever.) My mom never let me believe that being a mom was the only thing she did. She read books.  She had political opinions. She planted roses. She studied history. She played poker.  She paid the bills.  She pretty much ran the place.  Sorry, dad.  We are our mother’s daughters. 

My dearest, your children are in college. They sail sailboats. They dream. I’m so glad we’re writing. Every day is Mother’s day, so of course you’re ambivalent.  Me too. 

I write this to you as my son & daughter sit playing piano.  It is lovely. Now, there is a mom’s joy.  I bought the $50 piano.  I pay for the lessons.  I am mom…     


It’s Mother’s Day and I have my usual ambivalence.

Both of us are mothers, both of us no longer have mothers. My motherhood began nearly exactly when my mother left this planet. I have never known a mother’s day when I could enjoy being a mother and having a mother.

Probably because of this, I find the day sad, irritating, stereotyped (does everyone go to brunch on Mother’s Day? Are there any other thoughts here?) and surprising when it comes upon me..this is a measure of my denial.

I feel compelled to tell people that not all mothers are loving, kind, self-sacrificing and attentive. In fact, no mother is these things at all times, and all mothers can be hateful, mean, and self absorbed at least some of the time.  The experience of “mother” is one of loss and longing as well as joy and contentment and feeling cared for.

This is an unpopular message. The smiling lady with the apron and the pie, let’s just focus on that.

I’ve led you straight into a quagmire with this one, because it’s my belief that the word “mother” is one of the most loaded words in our language. We love and hate “mother”, women loathe to be like their own mothers, then realize cultivating their mothers’ best qualities may be their highest aspiration. What a load to carry  for those of us who choose to mother someone, usually our own infants.

Maybe after all the “non-mothers” should hand us a rose at the local Brunch R Us on this May Sunday, where here at least the sun is bright and the flowers are blooming.

I’m not known for making stuff easy though.

So let’s here it, my literary friend. What do you think of “mother”?

And by the way, Happy Mother’s Day.