Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Short, Private Vacations in the Tropics, Huh?

Well, I've been awful about not blogging lately. It's because school has just started up and I'm teaching a course I haven't taught here before, so I'm having to spend time doing more class prep than usual. Over the summer I re-read The Great Gatsby, and now I'm keeping a few weeks ahead by re-reading Othello. I'd forgotten what a manipulating puppet-master Iago was.

My friends on Facebook have all been treated to my various bouts of hypochondria. Well, not everything. Mostly they've just been hearing about my perimenopause. I've been this way for years, but I seem to be going through a particularly rough patch at the moment. No sign of a period since May's, and my night sweats are getting worse. Fortunately they're not really making me lose much sleep--if I wake up at all, it's because I'm shivering, and I'm shivering because my blanket and pillow have gotten wet. I just turn over the pillow, throw off the blanket, and pull another one on. Then I go back to sleep.

But I'm also having repeating hot flashes in the morning, so my 8am class has been treated to me standing there, fanning myself, walking over to the open window for air and standing there gasping, all the while mopping my face and arms with a hand towel. I finally had to break down and tell them to not worry; I'm not dying. I'm just old and menopausal. We all laughed about it. Still, it's embarrassing. On Monday, when I left class, not just my shirt was sticking to me, but also my pant legs were so wet they were sticking to me. In anticipation of another day like that sometime, I've brought an extra shirt to campus and have it in a drawer in my office. Sheesh.

I see the doctor tomorrow for my annual check-up, so perhaps he'll have some bright ideas. In the meantime, I'm taking One a Day vitamins for menopausal women, which, as far as I can tell, is different from other One a Day vitamins only because it has soy isoflavones, and I'm taking black cohosh. Another friend is recommending wild yam.

And then this morning I had a bout of light-headedness, felt simultaneously hungry and nauseous, and my right arm was tingling like crazy. Actually, it's still tingling. But the nausea has gone away. Chelle told me to take an aspirin in case I was having a heart attack. Good lord. I'm falling apart. I thought when I quit drinking three years ago, I was supposed to get healthier. It's true I have dropped about twenty pounds (a lot of which was bloat), but my cholesterol continues to creep up no matter how much sugar I skip eating. I just may be at the mercy of my genes on this one. Hello, Lipitor.

But who am I kidding? Death stares at all of us all the time. At any moment, a bus might run over and kill any one of us. What good does it do to focus on it?

If there's a moral to all this yabber, I guess it's to keep your shit in order at all times, regardless of whether you're twenty or eighty. Make sure your loved ones know you love them. Click back through your day at night before you go to sleep, and if there's something you don't feel good about, vow to make it right the very next day. And then make it right. No postponing stuff. Go ahead and stick your neck out and take a chance on something you've been wanting to do but have been too afraid to do. Lately I've been reminding myself that the things I have tended to regret the most are things I didn't do, not things I actually did. Do I sound morbid? I don't feel morbid. I just feel like being realistic. And I feel like life just might be lived more fully if I live it understanding that it's short and that nothing lasts forever.

Or, maybe I'm just being hormonal. There's always that.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sunday Humor

A friend on Facebook posted this, which came to her via family in Australia.
Veet for Men Hair Removal Gel Creme

After having been told my danglies looked like an elderly rastafarian I decided to take the plunge and buy some of this as previous shaving attempts had only been mildly succesful and I nearly put my back out trying to reach the more difficult bits.

Being a bit of a romantic I thought I would do the deed on the missus's birthday as a bit of a treat.I ordered it well in advance and working in the North sea I considerd myself a bit above some of the characters writing the previous reviews and wrote them off as soft office types...oh my fellow sufferers how wrong I was.

I waited until the other half was tucked up in bed and after giving some vague hints about a special surprise I went down to the bathroom. Initially all went well and I applied the gel and stood waiting for something to happen. I didn't have long to wait.

At first there was a gentle warmth which in a matter of seconds was replaced by an intense burning and a feeling I can only describe as like being given a barbed wire wedgie by two people intent on hitting the ceiling with my head.

Religion hadn't featured much in my life until that night but I suddenly became willing to convert to any religion to stop the violent burning around the turd tunnel and what seemed like the destruction of the meat and two veg.

Srtuggling to not bite through my bottom lip I tried to wash the gel of in the sink and only succeeded in blocking the plughole with a mat of hair.Through the haze of tears I struggled out of the bathroom across the hall into the kitchen by this time walking was not really possible and I crawled the final yard to the fridge in the hope of some form of cold relief.

I yanked the freezer drawer out and found a tub of ice cream, tore the lid of and positioned it under me. The relief was fantastic but only temporary as it melted fairly quickly and the fiery stabbing soon returned.

Due to the shape of the ice cream tub I hadn't managed to give the starfish any treatment and I groped around in the draw for something else as I was sure my vision was going to fail fairly soon. I grabbed a bag of what I later found out was frozen sprouts and tore it open trying to be quiet as I did so. I took a handful of them and tried in vain to clench some between the cheeks of my arse.

This was not doing the trick as some of the gel had found it's way up the chutney channel and it felt like the space shuttle was running it's engines behind me.This was probably and hopefully the only time in my life I was going to wish there was a gay snowman in the kitchen which should give you some idea of the depths I was willing to sink to in order to ease the pain.

The only solution my pain crazed mind could come up with was to gently ease one of the sprouts where no veg had gone before.

Unfortunately, alerted by the strange grunts coming from the kitchen the other half chose that moment to come and investigate and was greeted by the sight of me, arse in the air, strawberry ice cream dripping from my bell end pushing a sprout up my arse while muttering..." Ooooh that feels good "

Understandingly this was a shock to her and she let out a scream and as I hadn't heard her come in it caused an involuntary spasm of shock in myself which resulted in the sprout being ejected at quite some speed in her direction.

I can understand that having a sprout farted against your leg at 11 at night in the kitchen probably wasn't the special surprise she was expecting and having to explain to the kids the next day what the strange hollow in the ice cream was didn't improve my status...So to sum it up Veet removes hair, dignity and self respect....... :-)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

RIP Neil Armstrong

"That's one small step for a man; and, one giant leap for mankind."

In July of 1969, I had just turned seven years old, and I remember my daddy calling Wayne and me downstairs to watch the moon landing on our black and white tv. I don't remember much, but I do recall watching the astronauts bouncing around on the surface of the moon and daddy telling us we were watching history being made. I remember later getting a coloring book that told the story of the moon landing, including a page with then-President Richard Nixon on the phone congratulating the astronauts. What a decade that was. Whenever there was a liftoff or a splashdown for any of the Apollo missions, classes came to a halt at school, and we all gathered around the television to watch.  It's funny to think that the USS Hornet, berthed here in the Bay Area over in Alameda, was the ship that collected these astronauts from the water, bringing the Apollo 11 moon landing mission to a successful end. 

I wonder if the American flag they planted on the moon is still there.

Rest in peace, Neil Armstrong, first man to set foot on the moon.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Listen for the Still, Small Voice

"There is guidance for each of us, and by lowly listening, we shall hear the right word. Certainly there is a right for you that needs no choice on your part. Place yourself in the middle of the stream of power and wisdom which flows into your life. Then, without effort, you are impelled to truth and to perfect contentment." --Ralph Waldo Emerson
 I know I've been quoting a lot of Emerson lately, but that's because I've been studying the American Transcendalists as part of a series on Neoplatonist thought. Emerson believed in what he called "the Oversoul," the basic idea of God as One and all of us possessing a spark of divinity as part of the divine plan to reach Perfection. Emerson felt most in touch with his divinity when he was connecting with Nature. It's sort of the same idea behind the Emerald Tablet: God being the One Mind, connected to all that is material as the One Thing. Another way of looking at it is God has the thought, then speaks the thought (the Word), and we come into being as the materialization of the thought. A highly evolved person, after many incarnations, will eventually reach high enough consciousness that they no longer incarnate and merge back within the One Mind. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

First Day of School Shenanigans

Well, today was the first day of fall semester.  I had everything all ready: syllabi printed out and already copied (thank goodness, because the copy machine was down this morning--you should've heard the wailing in the hallways!), rosters printed out, add codes printed out. But, I couldn't find my glasses. In searching for my glasses, I discovered that I have one pair that's scratched; another pair that dates back to the 1990s, are perfectly round, and make me look like a frightened owl; and some pretty cool prescription sunglasses. Decisions, decisions. I went with the sunglasses and presented myself to my 8:10am pre-freshman composition class as "Professor Joyce Oh-So-Cool." I could hear the strains of Santana's "Smooth" playing in the background as I unlocked the classroom door and let everybody in.

Typically what I do is give the students a hardcopy of the syllabus and then project the syllabus onscreen in front of the class using this neaty-poo system installed in the SMART classrooms. Problem was, I couldn't get the screen down. The string to pull it down hung tantalizingly a few feet over my head, and there was just no way I was going to climb on top of a chair and try to reach it. (If you think I'd do that, you don't know me too well. I am the world's most sober klutz. Just this weekend, I slid across the kitchen floor on some water that had apparently slopped over from the kitties' water bowl and slammed my right foot onto the edge of the trash compactor. I now have a bruised ankle and an injured big toe, including part of a missing toenail.) Some brave student volunteered to hop up and pull the screen down, but alas. It was merely a piece of string hanging off of the REAL string you need to pull--the end of which had been flipped up, away, way out of anyone's reach. Ha-ha. Some wag of a student must've ended his summer semester that way, pranking the next poor teacher to set foot in 16-204.

I dealt with this by just projecting the syllabus onto the white board--they could still follow along well enough, and, after all, they did have hard copy.

Now, all of this took place after I had sat briefly at my desk to take attendance. I discovered the desk wobbles. For some reason, one leg appears to be shorter than the others. This will represent a real inconvenience all semester long because I happen to be one of those twitchy persons who can't keep things still. If there's a button in sight, I have to push it to see what will happen. If my cell phone screen glows suddenly, I have to stop what I'm doing and look to see what's going on. If my desk wobbles, I am going to wobble it and then complain that this wobbling is going to drive me nuts all semester long. Wobble. Wobble.

Needless to say, after all these fiascos, I'm sure my students were feeling pretty comfortable with me, their very first college professor.  "Call me Joyce," I told them. "I'm perfectly comfortable with that. If that's too informal for you, 'Professor Luck' will do." I paused, then added, "And I'm sure you'll be calling me some other things, too, as the semester progresses, but don't say them to my face."

And so we're off to a rollicking good start.

Oh--and I came home and found my glasses. They must have fallen off the nightstand in my bedroom and were wedged between the headboard and it, behind a small, tumbled piece of sodalite. Don't ask.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Emerald Tablet

Nobody knows where it is (buried somewhere, no doubt, or turned to dust), but we have records of what it said in the original and various translations thereof.

Translated, this says:

Sorry it's a bit blurry. 

For more information on this, I recommend Dennis Hauck's book, The Emerald Tablet: Alchemy for Personal Transformation. Let those with eyes to see, see; and those with ears to hear, hear. May your meditations be fruitful.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Kingdom Is Within

Standing on the bare ground, —my head
bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted
into infinite space, —all mean egotism
vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball;
I am nothing; I see all; the currents
of the Universal Being circulate through
me; I am part or particle of God.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Nature"

Friday, August 10, 2012

Relapse? Or Simply Got Well?

AA is one of those groups whose teachings can make the rational mind blow up. For example, if alcoholism is a disease that you have no control over, then what is the point of AA at all? You have no control; so, you are ultimately doomed to fail. The religious people in AA will say, "No, your Higher Power will be what keeps you sober, so you are NOT doomed to fail," but what if your Higher Power is the hands-off, non-intervening kind of god that grants all human beings free will? God doesn't stop wars or little children from breaking arms, and He's not going to stop you from tossing back a drink. Hence, many people find AA stupid because the entire premise of "lack of control" does nothing but give the drinker an excuse to say "I couldn't help it."

I was thinking about this just this morning because for the second time in a week, I've learned about a "former alcoholic" deciding they're not an alcoholic and returning to drinking. One seems to be handling it well--just social drinking on occasion. She says the episode that landed her in rehab (where we met) was the result of stress and grief that hadn't been dealt with. Now those problems are behind her; now drinking poses no problem. Do I believe her? I don't know. Maybe she is "cured." (An AAer would say she was then never an alcoholic in the first place.) I suppose the only way we'll ever know is by seeing what happens when life throws another curve ball at her.  Naturally, I don't wish that on her, but life just has a way of doing that to all of us. If she's learned the lesson "do not drink when I am under stress," then perhaps she'll be just fine. I certainly hope so, and that is certainly my wish for her.

The other person resumed drinking and did have some sort of horrendous drinking episode not that long ago, which tells me she's not even remotely "cured," but now she is pregnant and is choosing to not drink, so that's a good thing. I hope she's not white-knuckling it. I can say this with utter certainty: one sure sign of addiction is extreme discomfort when you're not able to use. (That's the part about having no control that carries truth--I'm not sure I can even describe what it feels like to be jonesin' so bad you think you'll lose your mind if you can't get your drug into you. To be shaking, for your heart to be racing. To feel positively suicidal. To know better than to pick up but to be driven to do it--just so the pain will stop.)

That shit no amount of willpower can lick, at least not permanently. Anybody can have willpower for a week or a month, or maybe even nine months, but the rest of your life is a long, long time.

The evidence says that some of us can learn to drink in moderation, or that many of us, in fact, just grow out of alcoholic drinking. Think about all those college students who used to get puking drunk every weekend--they grow up, get a job, marry, have kids, and start drinking like normal people. Or I think of my own dad. He had a job as a salesman and used to drink beer every night--until one day he had a few too many over a business lunch (or maybe it was a golf outing with a client), and he was tagged for DWI trying to do wheelies in the parking lot at work. Lost his license, lost his job. After that, he drank only once a week on Saturday nights. I saw him drunk only two times after that incident--so he kept it pretty well under control. (I can't say he was a happy man, though.)

Me, I do things when I'm drunk that I just wouldn't do when I'm sober. I tell lies; I get inappropriately touchy-feely with others (to this day I still marvel at the few people who actually responded WELL to the come-ons and went ahead and had sex with me when I was in a total blackout--how unsexy is that!?); I get paranoid and simply make shit up. Old recordings from my childhood start playing in my head--I feel persecuted and am convinced my partner doesn't really love me and is mean to me, and I act out accordingly. I've been rushed to the hospital in an ambulance for passing out and falling off my barstool at a bar.  After all those things, I still thought I had only an "occasional problem" that I could get under control. So, it's pretty clear the addict brain tells whoppers.

Me, I've tried quitting too many times, tried moderation too many times, and failed too many times to let my addict brain keep lying to me. But in all honesty, it's not AA anymore that is keeping me sober. I worked my program--and really, the 12 steps are something you work your entire life--I took a lot of tools and wisdom from rehab and AA meetings, and now I hardly go to meetings at all. (Some will shake a finger at me and tell me a relapse is inevitable.) But for me, the difference has been to find things that bring me more pleasure than drinking ever did. I do have a spiritual practice that is impossible to do under the influence (and somebody who drinks regularly, even if they don't happen to have a drink in their hand at the moment, is still under the influence--alcohol changes your brain chemistry.) I have been cultivating my creative side in both painting and playing guitar (sure, I'd like to be a Van Gogh or an Andres Segovia, but that's not necessary to keep me sober). The point is, you regain control over alcohol when other things become more important than alcohol--but it has taken three years almost for me to feel comfortable in this.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not complacent. Upon first hearing the news about my rehab friend, I grieved. And I definitely felt fear. "If it could happen to X of all people, it could happen to me!" But I'm not X. I'm me. And I know damn well my addict brain is just waiting for the chance to whisper more lies in my ear.

I am fifty years old. I missed a good portion of thirty years of my adult life being an on-and-off drunk. I am just now starting to really live. I will not risk ruining what time I have left to a substance that wants nothing more than to destroy me.  So, "cure" or "relapse" just don't matter. It's a conversation I don't need to have. I just do NOT care to drink what, for me, is essentially poison.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Har De Har Har Har

Okay, if you're a big Mitt Romney fan, stop reading right now.

I think these are funny. (Hey, if you can't laugh, you'd cry all day long.) But how 'bout our US women's soccer team? GOLD!

Now on to the giggles....

Be sure to read the arrowheads.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Teach Your Children Well (cover song)

Still learning to play this guitar. This time I tried a little fingerpicking. Note the funny bit: I started high and immediately realized there was NO WAY I could sing the whole song in that key, so I dropped into a more comfortable range.

I always liked this song because of its message.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Gorgeous Weekend at Del Mar

Here is the glorious Del Mar starting gate:

Here is the start of the big stakes race of the day, the Clement Hirsch:

And here am I grinning like a monkey even though I didn't win anything this weekend.

Chelle and I had a great time hanging out with her cousin Shelley, and the most amusing story of the weekend was the one about the women two boxes over who hit a big winner and started pounding drinks. Before too long, she was heading up the stairs to go place another bet and tripped. Recovering nicely, she went on her way and then returned and had a few more drinks. Finally, during one race, she and some guy that by now she was hanging onto decided to stand up and sing "Ai, yi, yi, yi, I am the Frito Bandito!" in the middle of a race, much to the chagrin of several elderly gentlemen in the box next to ours. It's times such as these that I'm grateful I gave up drinking.

Oh! And I met Lisa, my BFINM Dawn's best friend.

Altogether, a solid weekend.