Friday, July 10, 2009

On back in August!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

I need a vacation....

I get jet lag, sun poisoning, have absolutely no aptitude for foreign languages, cannot navigate my way from the bed to the bathroom in the dark and have a "delicate constitution" that flares up at the most inconvenient times.

My traveling companions relish in a vast collection of photos demonstrating the many creative ways I've come up with for carrying my own emergency toilet paper. (The one I'm most proud of is threading the entire roll onto my belt leaving my hands free to swat away flies and gnats while I squat in the jungle.) On the rare occasion I find a restroom (not counting over the side of a sailboat or on the jungle floor) I have managed to cause a minor disaster.

In Copan, Honduras I accidentally locked myself in a toilet in the rear of what looked to be an abandoned building. I had to be rescued by strangers through a trap window over the door. This rescue may sound straight forward to you, but trust me, when you're locked in a toilet in a foreign country, and you don't speak the language and your friends are two blocks away downing beers with the local resistance movement, it can be timorous.

While looking through a travel guidebook on Belize I discovered an out of the way destination referred to as "quaint and romantic." The "Bacchanal Lodge", owned by Francis Ford Coppola . Located deep in the jungle it sounded like the perfect place to relax on our way to explore the ancient Mayan ruins.

We determined that the lodge was approximately 160 miles from Belize City west on the main road towards Belmopan. We planned to arrive at the Lodge in time for an early dinner having read in the brochure "every meal is an adventure and should not be missed!"

Starting out at 8am we flipped a coin to decide who would ride where in the unairconditioned Land Rover. I captured the very back which was the most comfortable, but had no windows. We drove for hours. It was after 3pm and for an hour I'd been silently fantasizing about the fish taco I refused at a roadside stand where we stopped for gas about 2 hours ago. But 2 hours ago, only mildly hungry and still slightly satisfied from the conch fritters I'd eaten for breakfast, a fish taco didn't seem necessary. I certainly didn't want to spoil my appetite and ruin my long anticipated "not to be missed" meal.

I had already managed to deplete my emergency food supply by prying up an old cherry lifesaver that had fossilized and affixed itself to the bottom of my purse. But now, I've crossed the threshold, my blood sugar has dropped below whatever is below low and I was rapidly slipping into a deadly hunger rage.

I breathed a sigh of relief as the Land Rover slowed to make the left turn my ex-husband Dennis had told us was 20 minutes away, 90 minutes ago. It was getting dark. My stomach let out a loud groan.

The road, and I use the word road generously, was mostly mud with potholes large enough to swallow a Volkswagen. The jungle was dense. Heavy vines with thick leaves seemed to wrap tightly around anything that stopped moving for more than a minute. Even if the sun were still shining it would be as dark as midnight under the foliage canapé. There was no doubt in my mind that the jungle leopards and boa constrictors indigenous to Belize were alive and thriving right here along this 20-mile stretch of jungle. If you've never been in the jungle you might be surprised at the deafening noise. Animals you will never see shriek, grunt, warble, chirp and bark all through the night.

It was getting late and we were told before we left to stay off the roads after dark or risk being attacked and robbed by rebel road pirates. Returning to Belize City tonight would be impossible and looking around us it didn't seem likely that we'd pass a Holiday Inn anytime soon.

Finally, after surviving the last 20 miles (taking almost 3 hours!), we arrive at the lodge. Montague (Monty) Bedwell, our host, was kind enough to start up the generator, the only source of power, long enough for us to find our rooms. Unfortunately the kitchen was closed but Monty offered us a warm bottle of Jack Daniels. (Hey they did say that every meal was an adventure!) I'm not much of a drinker but I thought that alcohol, if used as a food substitute, might soothe the hunger pangs in my stomach.

Blind as bats we stumble through the jungle and climb a ladder to our room, and I use the term "room" good-naturedly. What was described in the brochure as a "Gauguin type cottage with thatched roof and woven grass walls"; was in reality an open air sleeping pad with mosquito netting built on stilts over the river, supposedly to keep bugs to a minimum. (Ha!) I think Monty thought that if he called our attention to the beauty of river below us we wouldn't notice our luggage was being carried to our room by six inch cockroaches that appear at first glance to be wearing name tags. I hesitate to ask if we tip or not.

I climb into bed and stare up at the thatched roof wondering if the lizards (some carrying small rodents in their mouths) scurrying across the fronds above my head ever lose their grip and land on unsuspecting victims below. (I later found out they do after one landed bulls-eye in the center of my breakfast plate!) My sore swollen body, covered with coral cuts and jellyfish stings inflicted the previous week while "swimming" (or truth be told, fighting for my life - but that's another story) was now stinging and burning from my own sweat.

When I read the travel brochure months ago, I had envisioned myself as Meryl Streep in "Out of Africa" staring into the eyes of wild jaguars and stepping over man-sized boa constrictors while dressed in a cute safari outfit. Instead, a thick coating of insect repellent and a sweaty baggy tee shirt had replaced my fantasized cute outfit. Believe me, I was feeling more like Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now than Meryl Streep in Out of Africa. (Oh the romance of it all.) After a restless night I woke the next morning to find my entire body covered with insect parts.

Wings, legs and antennae. Did you know that insect repellent will dissolve finger nail polish, thus allowing the pest parts to permanently cement themselves to your fingertips? (Just a little travel tip you may want to remember)

After a unique breakfast of "river chicken", (aka,river frog!) we were off in search of a missionary (a whole other story) to treat my numerous infections and a newly acquired bladder infection most likely caused by bouncing in the Land Rover for hours the previous day.

Monty provided us with sandwiches, fresh water and sound advice for our return drive. "Watch out for old Guatemalan mines," he cautioned. "Where?!?" I replied trying to control the panic in my voice."Who knows?" He shrugged and waved us a jolly good-bye.

Monday, April 27, 2009

While life doesn't necessarily get any easier, it can, thank God, get funnier

Yesterday I woke up to a startling revelation. While looking down at my comfortable Easy Spirit shoes (a sure sign of middle-age is when suddenly "comfortable" becomes the first and most important word when describing your favorite new shoes!) I realized that I'm too old for a minivan, too young for a Cadillac, and too fat for a sports car. So what's left? For most it's time for the practical Toyota Camry or Honda Accord but for those of us not ready to face "practical" there's only one other alternative. The Sport-Utility Vehicle, or SUV. Now, I don't know about the rest of the country but SUVs have taken the west coast by storm and recent studies show that an increasing number of drivers are women. Auto manufacturers are keenly aware of this fact. Many have begun marketing to middle-aged women in crisis with models with names like Pathfinder, Quest, Explorer, and Land Rover.

The assumption is that if I drive an SUV just the name of the vehicle itself will transform me into the outdoorsy type of woman who fly fishes, hikes, reads Outdoor magazine, and has unlimited credit at Eddie Bauer. Just the name alone of my $40k vehicle will provide me with an identity that 25 years of therapy and 1,000 self-help books couldn't. Behind the wheel of a SUV (as long as I keep my Easy Spirit shoes hidden) I can become this woman, wind blowing in my hair, conquering rough off-road terrain (even if the only rough terrain I ever have to deal with are speed bumps and potholes of the mall parking lot).

I'm not old! I'm not middle-aged! If I can pay enough for a vehicle with the right name, I can be adventurous. Questing the territory! Roving the Land! Outdoorsy. Tough. I like to refer to this transformation as the Thelma and Louise Syndrome.

Thelma and Louise Syndrome occurs when otherwise sane, stable, and well-behaved women feel an uncontrollable compulsion to leave their homes and behave like teenagers, occasionally like tramps or, in extreme cases, like men. In addition to occasional excessive liquor consumption the following behaviors are associated with Thelma and Louise Syndrome;

-Nonsmoker smoking. These are "non-smoking" women who, when exposed to liquor-oriented environments, will light up and puff like the chimneys of London. Girls Night Out smokers cite the following rationalizations; "I only smoke when I drink," "The other girls made me do it," or "I didn't inhale." Afraid of being discovered and admonished by their vigilante children these women hide their tobacco usage with gum, perfume, and curiously strong breath mints.

-Girl-girl dancing. When the amount of liquor consumed exceeds a woman's maximum-intake limit the victim will lose her inhibitions and succumb to the temptations of girl-girl dancing. For many women, same-sex dancing is no big deal. They've been doing it, by default, since junior high. But even the most conservative woman who believes dancing should always be a male-female activity will bolt to the dance floor when certain songs are played and enough alcohol has been consumed. An experiment conducted by the Radcliffe Institute for the Advanced Study of Girl-Girl Dancing, researchers found that 90 percent of all women, after consuming an average of 2.8 cocktails, will knowingly dance without male partners to the following songs:

Disco Inferno
Devil with the Blue Dress On
Stop In the Name of Love
I Will Survive
Maggie May
Hey Mickey, You're so Fine, You're so Fine You Blow My Mind, Hey Mickey!

-Karaoke compulsion. Like girl-girl dancing, a turn at the karaoke microphone can prove irresistible to a woman under the influence of Thelma and Louise Syndrome. Again, peer pressure and liquor consumption come into play as a woman will, against her better judgment, humiliate herself on stage in a roomful of strangers with an off-key rendition of "The Way We Were" or "Crazy." Statistics have proven that 98 percent of all karaoke experiences end badly, with flashbacks often continuing for years after the performance. Recently, a national karaoke awareness organization launched a bumper-sticker campaign targeting women on Girls Night Out. Their Slogan? FRIENDS DON'T LET FRIENDS SING KARAOKE!

My friends and I have been fantasizing about "The Diva Weekend." I mean Girls Night Out was okay in our thirties but it's just not enough anymore. We are no longer satisfied by the occasional night out. The Diva Weekend would involve wilder nights, hotel shenanigans and unconstrained shopping in big, cosmopolitan cities. In New York's Rockefeller Plaza you can always spot diva weekenders vying for face time on the Today Show or Good Morning America. Perfectly coifed, but slightly dazed from the night before, these are the women wearing foam Statue of Liberty crowns and holding signs that say, "Hi, Kids! Send Money! Spent Traveler's Checks on Bail!"

Personally, I've been having some extreme hormone changes that're leading me into some kind of puberty déjà vu. Uncontrollable weeping, a new wardrobe from Abercrombie & Fitch, the desire to wear body glitter and hair paint to work and use phrases like, "like," "dude, that rocks" and "he's all that, girlfriend, uh-huh."

If you can relate to this, the best advice I can give you is to keep these urges in check, no matter what the cost. My friend wanted to do something wild on her fortieth birthday so after two pitchers of margaritas, we made our way to the local tattoo parlor. She chose a cute little Cupid and had it applied to her right buttock. I could tell she suddenly felt like a new woman with a sexy secret! Her husband loved it too! Unfortunately now seven years and thirty-five pounds later, Cupid looks a lot like the Pillsbury Dough Boy after a carbohydrate binge and she's forced to get undressed in a dark closet for the rest of her days.

I'm currently considering writing a book, "Midlife, Schmidlife, Just Thank God You're Not Dead!" I mean let's face it, just reaching middle age is a victory. Consider the odds we have beaten in our reckless youth: riding bikes without helmets, driving cars without seatbelts, second-hand smoke in restaurants and airplanes, listening to rock and roll at deafening levels, jogging without sports bras....It's a wonder we're still alive.

In addition to now being "over" 50, I've also been thinking about my 34 year class reunion coming up next year in Chicago. First, didn't I just graduate from high school only about 10 years ago? I'm a really old enough to be thinking about a 35 year reunion of anything!? I'm guess I'm having what you could call, "Reunion Nervosa." I'm dealing with denial, bargaining (Trying to make deals with God like; "If you help me lose forty pounds by next Tuesday I promise to return all those Mel Gibson DVD's to Blockbuster."), wrinkles, depression, acceptance and reality. Yep, reality. The reality of how I got to be so old, so fast, and now, what am I going to do about it? The upside is I guess I will no longer have to consider answering questions like, "What will I say if tomorrow someone asks me to pose for Playboy?"

And, I will remember that fortunately, while life doesn't necessarily get any easier as you get older, it can, thank God, get funnier.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Wrestling with Jello

I wrote this probably ten years ago as I waded in the dull, thick gray matter that was my life. I take this out and read it every few months to remember. Or, more specifically, to see if I can still feel it. Do I just remember feeling it or do I actually still feel it? (Like a depression meter) A friend recently wrote in her blog about suffering from bipolar depression. I don't know if I was bipolar, (or North Polar or Barber Polar), I was never officially diagnosed as "bipolar" but now having several friends who are bipolar, seeing the symptoms, I guess it's safe to say there were times I had bipolar "episodes."

I thought of sharing this because it's a part of me many don't know yet. The long way around, depression is probably what puts the "fun" in "funny" people. I wanted to put this here so maybe someone else who has felt or is feeling depression, could say, "huh, yeah, I get that. I know what feeling, thinking or seeing things that way feels like." Sometimes that's all that can help. At least there were times when that's all that helped me. Just knowing or being with someone who understands what it feels like. Finding someone who has been there. The disconnection. The isolation. The pain. It's weird getting relief from finding someone as messed up as you are but it's true.

My best friend committed suicide after murdering her six year old daughter, Terri Lynn, who, as you might have guessed, was named after me. I had two boys. Kendra had a girl. It was perfect. We were a blended but still a two parent family. We lived in Encinitas, at that time a quiet, sleepy, two block long little beachy surf town. I worked full time managing an engineering office, she worked part-time waitressing. She was so funny. People think I'm funny but Kendra was much funnier than I am. She was Homecoming Queen in high school and very popular.

Then reality set in. I'd left husband number two and I moved to Los Angeles to start a career. I wanted to stay in Encinitas where in the early 1980's Kendra and I lived right on Moonlight Beach. We'd play volleyball every afternoon until dusk, had bonfires at night and every morning we'd walk on the beach drinking our first cup of coffee while the kids ran in the surf looking for crabs and chasing birds. I LOVED it there, I hated leaving, but I needed more. For me and my kids. I was not going to receive child support, I knew that. My ex couldn't take care of himself so there was no reason to spend my life chasing him for money. I couldn't stay in this perfect sleepy little beach town, and work the rest of my life as an office manager or a bartender bidding time until I met someone. I needed a career. So, I packed up, and headed for Los Angeles where I found a job as a corporate sales manager for an investment firm that owned multiple hotels. Kendra stayed there. Six months later she was dead.

But, this isn't about her, well, in a way it is, but, it's not really. It is because I think that loss was the first step towards the "great" depression. Before that, no matter what happened in my life, I had her to pull me through and now for the first time I was really alone.

So what follows is a little peek into my depression. This same "essay" has at times been anywhere from 10 to 2 pages long. Lucky for you, it's in its two-page-long-stage. Anyway, this is what I call "Wrestling with Jello."

I spend every second of every minute of every hour of every day analyzing what, if any, is the purpose of my life. Generally I concentrate on the past since the present and future only exist in feelings of agitation and anxiety.

I think constantly of individual events of my life but can only process them as one large tangled, jumbled failed event. My mind, constantly filled with my failures, dominate my thoughts and forbid me to focus on anything else. I am void of passions that make a person human and constantly feel there is some impending doom about to happen.

Obviously I cannot live in the past, but where do you live if you don't have a present? So, I live in a purgatory. A vortex where I can only survive through alienation, ambivalence and indifference. I use every molecule of energy I have to survive for now, hanging on to a thin thread of the hope of a later.

The only thing worse than having depression is the fear of never escaping it. You cannot feel anything except pain and the pain is so unbearable that there's no possible reason, event or explanation monumental enough to justify it. It would be so much simpler to explain if depression was simply about how lifes assets and debits don't balance out. The truth is that you suddenly realize that you are on a collision course with yourself and it feels like a never-ending brain sickness that produces such internal agony that your world no longer has meaning. It becomes the epitome of loneliness.

The unhappiness infiltrates everything, everything is a problem, and everything makes me cry - children, friends, job, husband, home, loss of a future, the uncertainty of future, fear of the future, fear in general.

I look at family photo albums and see pictures of myself. I can only, with great effort, conjure of vague memories of who that person was. In the pictures I recognize my face but the contrast of the feelings I have now and the person I see in the picture only intensify my feelings of depression. How could the life force I see in the eyes in the photos of myself turn so completely into a death wish? It's so ironic.

Therapy can sometimes act as an exfoliate to shed some of this emotional dead skin but only sometimes. Just as often it can act as more grist for the mill.

Therapists will almost always say something like, no wonder you're depressed, you have 1000 reasons to be depressed. But they rarely have any advice on why I feel the way I do. Why that day? What had I done or not done that I deserved this punishment? Depression seared through my very soul and was slowly suffocating me. My self, something I'd spent my entire life protecting from the world has been infiltrated by an ominous and deadly presence.

The doctors say that either my brain lacks, does not effectively use, or is totally out of proportion in regards to two brain chemicals. Nor epinephrine and Serotonin, scientifically known as neurotransmitters. They ask how I'm feeling. "Shitty." I usually tell them, or why would I be here seeing you? Generally they nod knowingly. A silent admission that they don't desire to see me anymore than I want to see them. Then I give them a lot of money (which means the round is over), they give me a handful of prescriptions and some back-up prescriptions to manage the side effects of the first prescriptions and tell me to hang in there, and pat me on the shoulder and walk me to the door.

Sometime after taking my first Xanax I'm in bed, curled up, arms hugging myself, convinced that if I hold on tight enough I cannot slip lower. I have no ability to concentrate and I cry all the time, even while I'm sleeping. I've been completely derailed off the track of life and spend hours at a time crumpled in my bed and weeping uncontrollably.


I'm an Emotional Idiot

Emotional Idiot

I'm an Emotional Idiot
so get away from me.
I mean,

Wait, no,
that's too close,
give me some space
it's a big country,
there's plenty of room,
don't sit so close to me.

Hey, where are you?
I haven't seen you in days.
Whadya, having an affair?
Who is she?
Come on,
aren't I enough for you?

You're so cold.
I never know what you're thinking.
You're not very affectionate.

I mean,
you're clinging to me,
what am I, your freakin' cat?
Don't rub me like that.

Don't you have anything better to do
than sit there fawning over me?

Don't you have any interests?
Sailing, Fly fishing

There's an archeology expedition leaving tomorrow
why don't you go?
I'll loan you the money,
my money is your money.
my life is your life
my soul is yours
without you I'm nothing.

Move in with me
we'll get a studio apartment together, save on rent,
well, wait, I mean, a one bedroom,
so we don't get in each other's hair or anything
or, well,
maybe a two bedroom
I'll have my own bedroom,
it's nothing personal
I just need to be alone sometimes,
you do understand,
don't you?

Hey, why are you acting distant?

Where you goin',
was it something I said?
What did I do?

I'm an emotional idiot
so get away from me
I mean,

by Maggie Essop (sp?)

Thursday, January 19, 2006

And, more cancer....

Here is a picture of my mom taken this past November, 2005.

My mother has had three surgeries in the past week. After each surgery the biopsy has come back positive and they schedule yet another surgery. The wound on her cheek keeps getting larger and larger and she gets (understandably) more and more depressed.

Today she had a third surgery and once again we wait for results.

Waiting for the biopsies to come back is of course almost unbearable. In the meantime any good thoughts, positive vibes and/or prayers you could send our way would be very much appreciated.

Friday, January 13, 2006


My dad died less than a year ago from cancer. My mother now has melanoma on her cheek. They went in this past Tuesday, removed tissue but it wasn't enough so now they will go back into surgery tomorrow and hopefully get the rest. She has a hole the size of a silver dollar on her face which the Dr. left open just in case they had to go back in and now he has to go deeper. While obviously cosmetic results are not our primary focus it's hard to not think about it at all and it's depressing. My mother is very attractive and has always taken great care in her looks and health.

My aunt's breast cancer has returned. She had chemo last year following a lumpectomy. But, this tumor is growing rapidly. She's been through chemo which didn't help so they will try radiation this time.

My uncle had both prostate cancer and melanoma earlier this year.

My grandmother is out of the hospital but has now been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I'm devastated at the results.

I can't believe this has all happened in less than 12 months. A perfectly happy family, well, at least seemingly perfectly happy, well, at least a family talented enough to act like we were perfectly happy, is now following apart. We've rarely had health issues in the past and now we're getting slammed.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Tonight, for a split second, I forgot.

And in that split moment thought to write my dad an email. Ouch, my heart.