About Me

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Los Angeles, California
I am 47 and thriving in Southern California. One day at a time.
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Monday, January 30, 2012


kids love me.

i have no idea why.

it's like they never got the memo.

["go away. i never wanted you. you freak me out."]

but like bad boy syndrome, they want what they shouldn't have, and i appear ever more delicious, leather-clad, straddling my harley, flicking my butt their way.

friday was dark.

cedars days are always dark. the theatre is closed, rats scurry along our barren stage as i improvise through the a.m., break-festered l.a. streets. i run lines, silently, protesting too much against any potential scenario about to be cold-called my way.

"share the magic, not the germs", reads the sign above the masks, next to the sanitizer, ironically beside the "donate to cedars-sinai!" sign.

"fucking adorable," i think, as i begrudgingly affix a mask to my germy mouth. and sigh.

10 months later.
"some kind of deja vu", i think, "except last time i wasn't sober."

["what's a girl gotta do for a handful of xanax?...oh, right...lose everything...]

unfolding up from a series of lap coughs, my gaze lasers clear across the waiting room to a dozing emt., with his empty gurney. a dialysis gurney. and my head sinks right lap down into fits and starts of terrified hacking.

[oh, god.]

so once again, dr. k and i come to verbal blows. me with my big mouth, double-sided list of crazy side effects and 30 + years of experience brought to the table . dr. k. with, i don't know, like, a degree or something? scheech...

"these are your options. you either live with no kidney and dialysis. which we all know you did not tolerate well."


"or you learn to deal with these medications and their side effects."

["hmmm." (pause.) "did i just get scolded?"]

"cellcept and prednisone will not be further reduced. with years of new research, we have found underimmunosuppressing, typically assumed to cause less toxic harm to the kidney, actually allows for antibodies to cunningly build up over time; allowing for a much earlier rejection of the kidney. on the other hand, overimmunosuppressing staves off these antibodies for years longer, unfortunately increasing the lifelong side effects as a trade off for a longer kidney life."

[well, then.]

i saw henriette's adult face for only 9 years. between 1999 and 2008, i was not on prednisone and i finally got to see what i looked like as an adult. a woman. no moon (face) on monday. but now the plan is to keep me on the world's craziest drug forever...

so there's that.

and as dr. k. explained all this to me, his strict, professional, md tone began to tremble in favor of a sympathetic friend,

"i feel bad for you"...

"i am trying," i sighed,"the worst side effects are the inability to get to sleep and stay asleep. the swelling, twitching and constant itching. and the abdominal distention that causes g.i. issues (read: poop problems.)"
and though he gazed at me with a sympathetic lilt of his head, and sweet, droopy eyes that rivaled any hound's, it was his not quite convincing tone, "it will get better" that sent my rolling stone, rock bottom stomach; where it sat all day, growing radioactive moss like some kind of defective chia pet.

[get me the fuck out of here...]

and by here, i mean my head. that hot, churning swamp; images sopped off the floor after the spaghetti is thrown against the wall to see what sticks. left over plans. dead end fantasies. and insanity replayed over and over and over again.

[exeunt flourish...]

i exit into dark. and the only light, through slitted slats, reveals shadows of a future i'm not sure i want a part of.

acquisition of sobriety is still in escrow.

and i am a body i can't stand to stand.

head hanging low, i comfortably traverse the path of self-pity, avoiding eye contact, assuring all isolation. once alone, i confidently chug into the dark.

the dark side of the moan.

i was never afraid of the dark.

it was there i could escape when all options seemed to vacuum seal shut behind me like a panic room holding all my loved ones; leaving me stranded to face the incoming pandemic...

"i'd love a glass of wine..."

[a glass of wine. who are these people? how precious. a glass of wine...]

by the end of friday, i wanted a frozen quart of siberia's finest clear; burning my throat, luscious lime and scalding, soda bubbles scraping my tongue off, as i chugged into calm. staying up until 5, 6, 7 in the morning, passing out on my music, my mac, my couch. who cares. it all sounded fabulous to this black whole.

[a glass of wine...fuck. off.]

and then there was izzy.

i pulled up our roller coaster drive and began to unload groceries, knowing k. was just wrapping up his shoot with a 5 year-old girl. cool. just grab the bags, get inside and flee to the bedroom before they see...


a voice squeaked from behind the car.


i came around to meet my match.


"i just finished taking pictures."

[hmm. precocious. my favorite kind.]

"cool. what's your name?"

"isabella. but people call me izzy."

"i'm henriette. but you can call me hen or henny."

[izzy looks at me with those big, KID eyes. says nothing.]

"did you enjoy your shoot with kevin?"

[izzy ponders this.] "yes."

[izzy ponders me. fingers her pigtails.] "we have almost the same hair color."

[fingering my own pigtails.] "yeah. except mine has a lot more grey in it."

[HUGE, self-effacing laugh.]

[izzy ponders this.] "i have some stuff to make my hair blue."

"cool. i dyed my hair black in high school. for like a week."

"yeah? that's cool."

"so why don't you dye your hair blue?"

"well, 'cause we can't find it..."

"ohhhh. well, you better get on that..."

yes, suddenly i had a new friend. she asked me where i got my groceries. and i asked her if she missed her dogs in south carolina. she asked me if she could have some blueberries. and i asked her if she liked her little brother, cannon; who had decided to play mix and match with the salad dressing bottles on my open fridge door.

and in 60 seconds or less, izzy had uncovered my secret. kids love me, because they know i love them right back.

i will never shelve this little red haired girl.

and i love the dark too much not to shelve it.

for this little red haired girl is innocent enough to believe there is something greater than her. like izzy, who was innocent enough to believe that i could be a great friend, if only for a few minutes.

because sometimes a few minutes is all we need to keep us out of the dark.

[thank heaven for little girls...]

Sunday, January 22, 2012

do the right thing

"you kept me up all night with your scratching"...

not the sexiest thing to ever slip from my husband's mouth in the boudoir...

yet even as he said it, my hand compulsively darted from eyebrow, to knee cap, to coin slot.

to scratch.

i haven't blogged about my side effects for a while; but they are alive and well and living imperishably.

they range on the hen from random (incessant runny nose, exhaustion, massive bruises) to uncomfortable (constant scratching, rash, night sweats, tingling in the hands/arms/feet/legs) to painful (insomnia, abdominal distention, swelling of the limbs).

i was going to solidify my resolve with a hard candy shell and a shellac of confectioners' glaze(d) acceptance. truth is, i'm all hot and frothy; take a deep whiff, and that soothing, vanilla scent is all fake. aspartame to the core.

i don't feel grateful.

and it's only made worse when opinions of the healthy, the hypocrites, the sugar dumb fairies, nag me to not swallow my gum.

sundown. you better take care. the swelling knocks up and against "the kid"; panicking both mother and child. those elastic bands are back. restraining blood flow, designing puffy pockets of flesh, as i frantically piano along my side for the zipper.

"remember this time last year!"

is there anything more insulting to someone chronically ill, than someone perfectly healthy, acting perfectly ignorant?

[take medications for 30 + years and call me in the morning...]

i think about "this time" last year every day. dialysis. no-one ever forgets being on dialysis. and recalling that hell; the searing wound in my chest, the tube that never ceased to sting, the manic detox that was every other day; those memories are the only thing that keep me from flushing all those shiny, happy caplets out to the pacific...

because in thrashing, splashing around in the remains of the day, it is not the vanity of a double chin. it is not the shame of rehab weight gain. and it is not the physical misery of these medications...that devastates...

it is because in drowning in this sad trinity; i still feel sick.

i still feel sick.

and that more than anything, breaks my heart.

{but then i had a flash...of a little girl named j.,who quietly observed from the outskirts of a nuclear circle. two spouses comparing scars. first, the hubby, with his flat stomach, and newly, burgeoning six-pack. phoenixed from the angst of a wife's spiral into insanity. ["ptsd gone wild"...]. second, the wife. with a flip of her top, emerged a seven-month pregnancy. yet she, only ripe with bloat and sadness. [silence]. and in the stillness, an unspoken arrangement. "don't mention the swelling"...but, with a gesture so lightning quick, j. shattered the sound barrier, and shattered this heart. wordlessly, she threw her arms around her auntie, speaking volumes that need never be blogged. she just squeezed. and squeezed. and squeezed...

just doing the right thing...

a hug.

[100 days]

so, watch out kid, this is gonna hurt...}

Thursday, January 19, 2012


i couldn't have a bat mitzvah.

but i definitely became an adult at age 13. it was the year my body stopped. the year my head started. and the year my heart blew wide open.

after several bouts of scarlet–cheeked fevers, many hospitalizations and the bloodletting biopsy that-kept-on-giving; it had finally been signed, sealed and delivered. chronic renal failure. and off a gentle graze, one firm clasp upon the grandfather clock’s secondhand; the ticking stopped. and all was silent. through decsending nuclear ash, i peered into a world thick with gray. as my kidneys began to fail, my body failed to grow and i grew to hate a future that had vacuumed-sealed tighter than a nun's legs.


but then i started high school. and it was the 80’s. yuppie syndrome. more is more. bigger, better, LOUDER. i walked into grade nine english class. a glance over to my left. left to my own devices, indeed. i had found my higher power. my first love. the one you never forget.

this isn’t confessions of a teenage dream, a diatribe from planet of the "gone ape-shit"or my amateurish musings on jung's father figure archetype. but it is (un)adulterated amazement that these recollections can stir feelings so fresh, i now whiff at the dew drops upon that spring awakening bosom...

[author’s note: the word bosom is directly plagerized from “blanche” of “the golden girls”. righteous.]


in that fog of obsession began a lifelong commitment. to drugs. not to my beloved, codeine or her edgy, promiscuous older sister, fiorinol. but to my kidneys. i’ll never forget the date. may 19, 1983. my bff's birthday and the first day i ever swallowed prednisone. to describe it as bitter is like saying lady gaga likes playing dress-up. understatement. it was as unforgiving this morning as it has been every day for the last 30 plus years.

but nothing was more science fiction than my vague awareness that one day, i would be TRANSPLANTED. my only frame of reference was moving our perennials from our balcony flower box to our apartment allotment in high park. i had stopped growing at 5' 3". my height. my legs. my chest. everything. everything physically should have been different. but, i am exactly as i was at thirteen.


and so i gulped back the nostalgic elixir that was my niece and nephew this christmas past. and by past, i mean 3 weeks ago...43, 38, 13 and 9. this motley crue of 4 would often cruise the bizarrely barren streets of winterpeg, ever cranking sirius hits 1; much to uncle kevin's fine tuned chagrin [scooping? sharp? dude! it's rock n' roll! ]. me, omnipresent finger changing stations, t's incessant chatter, k's sustained rolling of the eyes and j's beautiful voice; cottony soft, padding our conversation with every lyric to every song...

[i smiled. i'm allllll about the lyrics....]

but, it was t. who simultaneously seared and soared this soul so recently released. with a sentence so simple. so EVERYTHING. so 13.

"i love this song!".

every song. every station. every time.

"i love this song!".

and i died a little.

because that was me. every time a song came on the radio. [when it was still radio ga-ga.]

and that was me. when i lost my body to a disease i still wake up to every day.

and that was me. who fell so hard, so fast, that her heart still flinches when she reenters that english class.

and that was me. whose mind awoke to a world that would not be kind, so she kindly better wake up.


and we sang together...

"my heart's a stereo
it beats for you, so listen close
hear my thoughts in every note

make me your radio
turn me up when you feel low
this melody was meant for you,
just sing along to my stereo..."

and suddenly, i wasn't 43; the fallen aunt, nine days out of rehab, swollen, un-covergirled, sprouting gray gardens, less than zero.

and always he would ask,

"auntie hen, are you going to a meeting?"

because at 13, you can fall in love for the first time. you can be diagnosed with a chronic illness. and you can be an amazingly insightful, supportive, intelligent, loving nephew. 

knowing that i was completely off (kilter). and not quite sure how to turn me back (rock) on. but seeing, grasping and supporting what was charging my surge...

everything doesn't happen all at once, at 13.  but when you handle what does, like t., you become an adult...


[and he didn't even need a party.]

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

wagon will

people get antsy when you’re an addict.

like a smorgasbord of picnic delights, i laid my renal demise upon a crumpled linen of red and white for all to sample. and they did. from all across the facebook, family and friends sipped up the latest blood results, grazed at the slaughtered soul and swarmed upon the sticky sweetness of surgery fait accompli.

trimming the fat, serving sinew and bone, leaves little marrow to suck out. just reality to chew on.

and so, they scattered.

when the monster of addiction ravaged through the dandelion celebration; leaving smeared jam shirt, nutella poop smudge and red wine stain.

far too late for white wine salve.

with vibrating antennae tuning into real, reality television, they scattered.

but let me tell you about a few who haven’t.

first, there’s j.

only yesterday. yes. ter. day. my friend of 30 years wrote to see if I was ok.

and today. to. day. she had a baby. a beautiful, baby girl, with the greatest name on the face of the earth, (that i must assume is a most excellent tribute to her father, yet devastatingly original.). oh, the gift of her call in rehab. but, in her voice i could hear pain. confusion. and devastation. for me. as she struggled to understand, what neither of us did. but, she hasn't given up.

there is e.

e. gave me back myself. she gave me another 28 days in rehab. like a good, red wine, i had to open, breathe and mellow before soaring out on the wealth of my authentic self. [and yes, you can be sober and make an alcohol analogy.] she acted, as she has with everything in our friendship, without hesitation. without condition. she doesn’t offer love. suggest love. or pantomime love. she is love. pure and simple. 

and then there is l.

my frustration with all things television was cauterized today. after flipping around last night, finding absolutely not one show, not one person of interest worth donating a smattering of gray matter cells to...

like my predecessor, dick simmons, bloated belle here was sweating to the oldies; scanning by default the plasma screen double parked right above her head on the gym wall. “the doctors”. some daytime reality show that i missed during my drug-fueled, three year co-dependency with my king-cal. [with a noon start, it was, quite frankly, probably on way too early for me…]

definitely challenging to take seriously these glowing, glossy, blacklit beteeth-ed md’s. but ah, they were doing a segment on fingernails.

i haven’t had fingernails in 10 years. 

back in 2002, i left my ego on the bathroom counter, alongside my hair straightener and glitter shadow, and trudged over to a mcjob at a market research company. officially, well, i've blocked out the politically correct, tightly spun concocotion that was my title. unofficially, i was a gal friday. my retro-futuristic take on "jack shit". doing everything from peeling stickers off of fruit to overwindexing conference tables with a visible film so thick, johnny weir would have won a gold medal on it.

[geez. take a blog away from a girl for a week...]

and that was when the culprit surfaced.

"fung-ass of the thumb".

it is possible, a medical condition such as this doesn’t exist, but in my fucking world, it did.

latin american standoff. unable to fight this off with my immune system, yet unable to take medication potentially damaging to the kidney.

[yes. i see the irony.]

and so, this fung-ass of the thumb decided to dig deep and settle in, spread out and make it self right at home. and for the last 10 years, i've had no nails.

unable to open cans. scratch hubby's back. get fun manis.

on my scale of physical side effects, it always floated down and settled in near the bottom, but there was always one friend who remembered. every time i flew due north and landed for a cuppa tetley.

inevitably, without fail; with beautiful, detailed compassion, she would ask,

"how are your nails?"

and so today, when the shiny, happy doctors explained that broken, stunted, raw nails were often a sign of kidney disease i thought bubbled,

"uh. d-uh."

and then i looked down, and smiled.

and the first person i thought of showing was l.

"look, l! look at my nails!"
who's been writing. and calling. and worrying. and being my friend.

my never-think-twice airport friend. the friend who picked up my medications, so i wouldn't worry. the friend who scoffed when i thanked her and said,

"please. give me something hard."

three hearts. three friends. three angels.

and for the record, no-one fell off the wagon this week. i am sitting here firmly, bare-assed. splinters prickling, stinging; cheeks sizzling, fajita-hot.

but i have no intention of giving up my seat.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

writer's bawk


crow, henny, crow...

creatinine 1.0...

immunosuppressants slightly lowered...

my heart's a nuclear glow...

a glint of knowing in my smirk...

listen up docs, she knows her swollen hogtie,

this ain't my first rodeo, not my a mile...

Monday, January 9, 2012


i'm not sure what this feeling in my tummy is.

it's fairly innocuous. movement so slight, deep warming, like heat from a pot bellied stove. thick smoke, soothing, enveloping, spreading throughout as if dragged from a fiercely clenched cig. and with a deep exhale, i recognize it.


tonight i visited klean for the first time in almost 4 weeks.

it was a family affair with kevin and maggie may in tow.

with 87 days under my bloat, one juicy segment of myself felt like the conquering hero. but within minutes, word of two relapses travelled faster than quick burning cigarette paper. and it was a sigh-worthy moment. and a hen-cage rattling moment.

but there was not one moment of judgement.

for that is the awe in which i regard this program.

a long time ago in the 1930's, two gentlemen created a program with no financial or religious aspirations; but simply with the intention to help others, without judgement, who were born like me.

and returning to klean reminded me what a spiritually bankrupt person i was. selfish. self-absorbed. terrified and broken.

[i'm still no adoring self-referencer...]

but klean introduced me to myself.

and to aa. and in aa there is such power. such potential to travel a path overgrown with thorny brush and jagged stone...

and to traverse it, trudge it, takes gut-wrenching, daily snot-sobbing, knee-falling, contrary-action work.

work. daily work. forever work.

[higher power, sponsor, meetings, step work, service...]

but the only things in life that mean anything to us, are those we have worked for...

so hand me a shovel...

because, this ex-janitor is breaking ground...

Sunday, January 8, 2012

out of the mouths of babes

if being in rehab taught me anything, it's that i don't know much.

but i dare to drip a dribble or two of wisdom...

children are smart. too smart. don't ever lie to them.

there once was a dishonesty, an evasiveness, a thick, black hamlet-ian weight loading every answer presented to the little-red-haired-girl. skunk foul stench. an ominous mood impossible to smother with even the brightest and tightest of smiles. plans too calculated, excuses too knitted and pearled; ballooning the old adage, truth is stranger than fiction.

for the truth is what a little girl wants. no games. not even truth or dare.

i also learned, that i love to write. more than i ever loved to act.

[demons and dreams, structure and scenes...oh, can i sprout, soar with new wings...?]

and finally i learned, that it's not all about me. and sometimes you take a grateful step back...

...and let someone else's gift...

fly you to the moon...

(click on letter to enlarge.)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

homecoming 2.1: the reboot

one miss maggie may mcintyre sniffed out her turf, took a giant dump and proceeded to wag her tail all the way over to her dinner bowl.

[dogs rule...]

in our cabin in the sky...

that is still standing...

post-rehab. post-road-trip. post-apocalypse.

home is where the hurt is.

but at least we have somewhere to start.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

to whom it concerns

dear cyclosporine,

i've got a lot on my plate right now. being 24 days out of rehab, trying to salvage my marriage, galvanize my spirit, and all. i'm trying to love you, but if you could let up on the whole 20 lbs. of swelling thing, tha'd be cool. i mean, there's a reason i never wanted to walk like a pregnant woman. i'm also trying to get behind the whole "yay! i'm sober and alive thing!" and it'd be a lot easier to jump for joy, minus the whole "michelin man" deal.

most sincerely,

henriette the recovering alcoholic-addict-multiple-post-renal-transplants-little-red-haired-girl xo

[object in picture feels larger than actual size]

the 3% girl [year of the monkey girl]

no this wasn't my final math grade, before i dropped it at the first opportunity.

[but it was pretty close]

in my medical career, or should i say, patient career of now 30 years, i have experienced more ups and downs than a bulimic's head over a toilet.

it is now clear that i am extremely sensitive to medications, procedures and surgeries. so i swing this loaded backpack of information onto my back, alongside my screeching monkey...and try to flourish under my burden of proof.

[hear no evil, speak no evil, speak no evil]
[born "year of the monkey"...you may be on my back, but you ain't breakin' it...]

self-coined the 3% girl in high school, as my kidneys slowly deteriorated; my blood pressure began to elevate and medication was the order of the day. a bittersweet sixteen, my doctor wanted to try an experimental drug that could manifest, in 3% of cases, as loss of taste. well, barely a month had passed before the only things my not-so innocent tongue could identify were hard boiled eggs and french fries with gravy....and pepper...lots and lots of pepper...go figure.

and such has been the trajectory of my renal career.

-a biopsy that removed liver tissue instead of kidney tissue.

-an outpatient biopsy with a rare chance of passing blood clots, became a bright pink, very bloody, very rare emergency that hospitalized me for 3 nights.

-being hospitalized twice for e-coli poisoning for 12 nights.

-waking up to allergic reactions both times, post transplant.

-being the one lone ranger that can't tolerate toxic prograf as her tonto.

-the girl whose cyclosporine level is always an anomaly. always below normal.

and tonight.

my stomach and intestinal area was so misshapen, so absurd looking, so perfectly placed as a pregnancy, with nervous glances and tallying fingers, we counted back days and considered running out for a test. in blackfoot, idaho. until kevin discovered this:

in 0.63% of cases, people on high amounts of cyclosporine suffer with stomach distention, swelling of the feet, ankles, calves and thighs, joint pain and cramping...

[what are the odds!?...apparently, less than 3%...]

check. check. check.

so stuff all this in the backpack, too.

because the little red haired girl is weak. she is strained. and there's a monkey ever taunting, ever tempting by her ear...

[monkey see, monkey do...]

but she's gonna bear this weight until april the 8th. and beyond.

for she wants to be the 3 % girl, after all.

the girl who had her kidney for 23 years.
the girl who has 83 days sober.
the girl who still has someone willing to hold her backback...
...and scream back at her monkey...

...whenever she wants...

...because he is still here...

[because, really. what were the odds?]

damn. she is proud to be a 3% girl.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

(light at the end of the) tunnel vision

behind the wheel.

I 94 W. the greatest sense of control i have felt in years.

finally crowned miss independence. and although we are a family of three, traversing the montana trails, for a couple of hours i was team leader. negotiating the twilight lights, picking the pit stops and gps-ing one miss maggie may into the "pet wing" of the comfort inn, billings, montana.

then my calves began to expand, throb and surge upwards throughout my thighs; like excessive ribbon tightened around and around by an overenthusiastic, professional, christmas gift wrapper. or perhaps, more accurately, a rodeo rancher hogtie-ing, stringing me up, paralysed, demoralised.

and poof, those lovely, lavender puffs lowering into the western sky deepened, darkened down into the horizon, and any sense of empowerment vanished total.

immunosuppressives had shackled me once again.

with kevin's 31'' jeans burgeoning wide, i placed my quarter and a desperate plea over to cedars.

and i did not get what i wanted.

second transplants are very high risk. i am extremely fortunate that the graft (transplanted kidney) is performing this well. but, because i rejected on cyclosporine two months in, they are reticent to lower my medications until the one year mark. at that time, there is more medical evidence that the graft will have a long life, and they will be more comfortable lowering my cyclosporine.

i have tried to tell them that i have always been an abnormal patient by cyclosporine standards. my level was always around 70, and i had my first transplant for 23 years. but they would prefer the level to be 200, hence the double dose i currently take. but, when i rejected, i was drinking and abusing drugs, which, of course, directly interfered with the absorption of my cyclosporine.

but my transplant co-coordinator made a good point. she reminded me, kindly, how everyone is very aware of how brutal my current side effects are. she also reminded me how accomplished and focused i have been with my recovery, and how challenging all of this must make my life. and finally, she reminded me, that if you lower your meds on your own, you run the very, very, real risk of a rejection episode.

in fact, not just a rejection episode...
but the painful IV steroids you must suffer along with...and biopsies...without drugs...
and ultimately, the terrifying reality that you may lose your kidney...without drugs...

yup. somewhere along the north dakota/montana border, i was scared shit less.

but her final words flipped on a reminder switch for a barely flickering light. if i squint, i can see it. but it never stays on long enough to be certain.

"by one year, we would like to have you back down to 100 mg, if not 75 mg twice a day."

[sigh. there's a lot on my plate, and dammit if my mother didn't always tell me to at least try everything once.]

april 8th. one year.

it's almost all i can think about as i squirm, flop, gasp for air, upon the deck;
too slippery when wet.
hooked in the mouth, yanked away from salt water sin.
sliced down the belly, my guts are ripped clean;
yet i am still a medical machine.
when will i swim upstream?
how do you live each day, when you are living for a date?

Monday, January 2, 2012

blogless 5: barely in bismarck

i just sat on "la quinta" 's covered toilet seat and it buckled with a belch.

not a good sign.

i am not used to lugging an extra 20 lbs. around, even if it's only a quick piss stop at a "flying j".

yes, we are on the road again, and i am officially deflated.

deflated from the blood-letting purge that was rehab. emotionally deficient, i flipped up my collar to yuletide expectations i knew could not be met. and so i trudged, head down, neck flushed red, eyes bright with shame. petrified to look up and scan the prairie flats; its endlessness so painfully ripe with opportunities i could not feel.

[breeze me, float me upwards into the great beyond, far away from the crossroads traffic jam i am in...]

deflated over a body i so longed to celebrate, yet still barely navigate.

it belongs to immunosuppressives. it belongs to cedars-sinai. it belongs to kevin.

[it's pretty demoralizing when your default wardrobe is your husband's...]


i once had an enormous purple balloon...a celebratory sphere filled with dreams, hopes, aspirations and the courage to lift my eyes off the ground as i put two extra-wide, danish-sized feet together.

now, i can barely raise wet eyelashes up to brief the horizon. every thought paralyses, like the startling, arctic drafts trailing us. every action fractures my heart; small fissures throb, like teeth-torn cuticles; raw, painful reminders that you. are. diseased.

all the helium has fizzled away, long before i could lift up my voice.

so now. i breathe. moment by moment.

and try to blow each day up to it's absolute strained, fullest, most robust, bursting best.

because right now, there's barely air.

ba, ba, black hen...

maybe i'm not as canadian as i think.

i started a tradition in the mcintyre clan 5 years ago on new year's day.

instead of an "all is quiet on new year's day" vegetation, we do full blown canadianna; ice skating, tobogganing, hot chocolate, followed by marginal delights at "the royal fork buffet."

the first time we all boarded the tradition train down to "the forks", rumor had it, the exceptionally cold winter had ensured the assinaboine a longer, winding frozen trail, exceeding the length of ottawa's rideau canal.

[this is news in winnipeg.]

even the press was there. and within moments of toe picking the ice, i was little miss interviewee, sporting kevin's monstrosity of a coat and bug-eyed shades a la nicole richie. (sooo 5 years ago).

but as soon as i hit the ice, i remembered.

oh, yeah. i can't skate.

[hence the reason i played goalie.]

i certainly skated occasionally as a child, but i could never compete with all my private school peers who racked up figure skating lessons, glitzy costumes and level patches faster than i used to go through a bottle of codeine.

this athletic awkwardness, coupled with the frenzied wind, filleting my cheeks into two rosy pounds of flesh ready for sacrifice, sent me gliding for the wings and an obvious realization.

i hate winter.

so, although family bravely marched into the bleak wintry landscape today, skating with thin grace, and tobogganing despite soldiers of the unknown injuries, i chose to remain behind.

i am first generation canadian. born to a latvian and a dane, i grew up in toronto, now live in los angeles and have spent at least 2 years of my life in denmark, and possibly a year in winnipeg.

but my internal compass has no home.

the arrow inside has always erratically twirled, pirouetting, spinning nowhere on a broken spring.

and as i sat at dinner tonight, the same family jokes and stories played out over my head, like a ping pong match, with comedic precision, and comforting familiarity. and sadness.

for now, more than ever, i feel like an outsider.

with every casual joke about someone drinking too much, having a couple of drinks for courage, someone landing in jail, when people were going back to work, what the kids were doing; i was shimmied out to the border's edge where i peeked over shoulders, trying to twist and shout my way back in.

"i don't care to belong to any club that will have me as a member..."

the little red haired girl is now 130 lbs. she wears men's pants and is in constant, swollen pain. she has no job, no kids, no prospects. she has a husband whom she failed so badly...so terribly...that she doesn't know if he should want that membership again.

and she is an addict.

[she longs for suburbia. for franchises. for strip malls. for 9 to 5. for mega stores. for iceberg lettuce. she longs for routine. for monotony. for catatonia. will that keep me honest? will that keep me sane? will that keep me sober?]

she is those frustrating, awkward, last pieces of the puzzle. those last few that looks so similar, but up close, upon dissection, are utterly unique and profoundly integral to the picture as a whole.

shorn again.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

how to make a sobriety quilt

under fingernails find filthy, bloody; clutch jagged edge of cliff,
detritus is flying, coughing, spitting; sharp throbbing hit.
down below a vacuum lingers, widens, echoes with your sometime fall,
no, girl, thin whisper galvanize, one day you'll stand, stand tall.

this new year's eve i was dry.

on borrowed time, like a brittle branch in a whipped, wind ferocious, i am ready to snap.

stitching pieces step, by step, i long to swaddle in the quilt of surrender, so that i may find calm. peace. serenity.

[willpower will break you...surrender will break you open...]

so maybe next new year's eve i will be sober.