The Best Birthday



I’ve had some amazing birthdays. I’ve gone trail riding, hiked in mountains, lolled on beaches soaking up the sun. I’ve partied the day and night away in different cities, different countries. I’ve gone exploring new places, visited museums and shops, gone to dinner with friends and let them throw down way too much money on wines and champagnes we could have bought for half the price if we could have been bothered to go to a liquor store instead of drinking in an elegant restaurant.


I’ve had birthdays where I stayed close to home. I spent one birthday in hospital in Ohio. I’ve worked, I’ve danced, and I’ve given presentations and performances on my birthday. I’ve laughed as it—predictably—rains wherever I am on my birthday, even if only for five minutes. I’ve worried about small things, big things, silly things, on my birthdays. Whatever I have done, wherever I have been, my birthday has always been incredibly memorable.


This year was meant to be awesome, too. Lee and I had plans to book a holiday to celebrate both our June birthdays. Clearly, that did not go quite as planned. But then, collapsing and having the next thing I recall being a doctor I had never seen before an inch from my face, saying to me in that slow, precise voice people use in life-or-death situations because they don’t want to scare you more, “You’re having a heart attack; if we don’t get you transferred to the other hospital in less than an hour, you’re probably going to die,” wasn’t exactly part of the plan, either.


The days between then and my birthday are largely a blur (gods be thanked for that small mercy). But there are some moments, strikingly vivid, marvelously lucid, that bear mention here.  A doctor telling me she owed me a coffee after losing a bet with me that cardioversion would be effective (never has been, didn’t see it would be then and said so) in breaking the relentlessly racing beat of my quickly-tiring heart. I remember her stroking my hand and telling me she was sorry it hadn’t worked. I remember a nurse that cared fighting to get a doctor to really see what I needed.


I remember my nephew stepping up to place a treasured childhood stuffed animal on my pillow. I remember my father’s face as he held my hand and was faced with the fact that his only living daughter might not survive, and the helplessness on the faces of both my parents when they realized that if I was going to lose the fight, there was no way they could do anything to stop my defeat.  I remember the courage Lee showed in making decisions about my care when I could not make them. I saw the agony on his face through the haze of pain and sedation; I know what it cost him to take those decisions and own them.


There was a very real possibility that my heart was going to give up the battle and call it quits. And, cardioversion attempts aside, there were five occasions when I thought I was about to leave this life. The day before I had the second procedure was what I sincerely hope will be the last time my heart stops beating.  In those forty-five seconds without a heartbeat, I found myself paused between two doors: this life behind me, the next existence in front of me. I could neither go forward nor back, and faced with the knowledge that I might not get back, I hovered there in the warmth and light, and I thought.


I thought hard about my whole life. If I couldn’t go back, if I were forced onward, were there things I regretted doing or saying? Things I regretted leaving unsaid and undone? If my actions in this life were laid in the balance, would my soul soar free or sink in despair? If I could do it all over again, would I change everything?


The medical documentation shows I was gone for only forty-five seconds on that occasion, but there was no sense of time in that place. It could have been hours or years or decades that I paused there and took stock of my life. There was no sense of rushing, no urgency. I had plenty of time to consider everything and, in a strange way, I am grateful I had that chance. I might not have the perspective on things I do now without it.


When I woke up, I was (undeniably and understandably) confused and scared but those feelings faded fast, blown away by the most profound sense of peace I have ever experienced in this lifetime. I had brought it back with me, the joy in the knowledge I found in that place between. Sure, I had been frustrated and annoyed that all of our big plans for this year have encountered obstacles that caused delays. I mean, who didn’t want that new Samsung Galaxy S8+ ASAP once it was out? (Unless you’re an Apple person, that is.) Who wouldn’t have been frustrated that the plumbing “repairs” someone did as a favor were now going to cost you over $1K to fix? And that that necessary expense delayed booking the trip to visit your new in-laws in England? Who wouldn’t be pissed that they had to keep putting off things they’d budgeted for because other things kept coming up?


In that place there where I waited to see if I would come back or leave this life, I realized I am that person who can see the true value of elements of her life; I had just been letting daily life intrude on the bigger picture. My in-laws will still be in England, and England will still be there to enjoy when we can make the trip together. And Samsung will keep putting out new phones—wonderful as it is, elegant and amazing as it is, the S8+ is, after all, just another device. (And if I jumped on the S8, whatever would I do in a few months when the new Note comes out?) Our computers might need updating to be up to optimal standards for what we do with them BUT they are still top-end machines and have a lot of life left in them.


I’ve heard that phrase about money not being able to buy happiness my whole life, but until I lost my heartbeat, had to stand outside and look back in at this life, I never really accepted—or understood—it. But in that pause, while my physical heart stopped, I understood and accepted. And I rejoiced in the knowledge. Poised there on the edge of life, what soul would choose to lie, to turn away from truth?


And here is my truth, what I brought back: Yes, I have some regrets, mostly that I wasn’t brave enough to take the decision I knew was the right one. Yep, I have been unkind sometimes. I’m human; I have faults. But would I change my life? Even if not changing one second of it meant I had to live all the pain, all the fear, all the long, lonely moments over again, would I leave things as they are? Yes, yes I would. Seeing the love and fidelity that is the foundation of the bond my husband and I share—oh yes, hell yes. This love is a gift, an honor, a privilege. Living in its light is worth the bumps and disappointments and hurt I had to live through to reach it.


I will still lose my fine red-headed temper from time to time; I was born a Whitis after all, so not much chance of shedding that part of myself. Just so, I will continue to value loyalty, to defend those who cannot defend themselves, to cut out of my life those who honor neither loyalty nor honesty. I came back changed—but changed more into myself than anything else. I will still call people out on bullshit and challenge them when they need it (doubt that, and you can ask the doctor who operated on me how I told him he needed a dictionary if he couldn’t understand the difference between “you will be sedated but coherent” and “you’re going to be totally out under general anesthesia.” If I don’t fear to confront the man about to literally plumb the physical depths of my heart, hold my life in his hands, no one is really likely to give me a pause.)


Little things are still going to piss me off. But I’m okay with that. I’m okay with me. Not perfect, no, not by a long shot but not a bad person either. I came back with the freedom of knowing my soul would soar, not sink.


So, this year, I came home from hospital for my birthday. I had a wonderful day, at home with close family. I even got to do some gaming with Lee and my nephew. I laughed when we all realized no one had gotten a cake and we ended up celebrating and making birthday wishes over tea and donut sticks. I cuddled Pocket Dog. I sat outside in the sun and watched the dogs romp and listened to birds chirp and I celebrated being alive.


Late in the evening, Ginger Two walked up to me carrying something which he deposited at my feet. He mowed, looked back down at it, and walked away. Joo had brought me a tarot card—The World. And, indeed, my world, our world, is full and rich and alive and I am so glad to still be in it.



A Snake In The Grass…Literally

I’ve gained a stalker today. I call him Wadjet for purposes of publication; what I really call him, I probably shouldn’t publicly announce.

I was minding my own business, outside enjoying the wonderful weather we’re having today, playing with my large dog, Alex, in our back yard. It was Alex, the dog that saved my life just over a year ago, who initially pointed out the sneaky little reptile. I yelled–something really brilliant like, “Snake!”–and summoned my husband to deal with the situation.

He actually thought it was wonderful and took a few photos, before encouraging the snake to take a stroll towards the big field behind our property. The snake obliged, sort of: he stopped off at our compost pile/bird haven on the way.

I thought the little fu–I mean, snake–would have the sense to stay the hell away but, no. Of course not.

Outside with Alex again just a few minutes ago, I discovered that the little bastard was right behind me. Actually, Alex noticed the snake and let me know about it. Alex loves to “mommy” small, cuddly creatures, but he seemed inclined to regard said small snake as a threat..or as a potential chew toy.

By the time I’d convinced Alex that I’d prefer he look on the snake as a threat and got Shadow on the scene, Wadjet had disappeared once more. But I know he’s out there, just waiting for me to venture into the wilds of my backyard again.

I’ve included a photo, just so you’ll recognize Wadjet if he begins stalking you.



One Site To Rule Them All…

I’m all for making the most of technology, using technological capabilities to improve our lives, but this is just frigging ridiculous.

Nevada Allows Voter Registration Via Facebook

I’ll get my Ten Companies Will Control The World article up soon, but for now…

One site to rule the world, one site to find them, one site to rule the world, and in the darkness, bind them. If you’re not clear on the applicability of this slightly altered line from ‘The Lord of the Rings’, I strongly suggest you read or re-read the books, and/or watch the films.

Surely I’m not the only one who sees that Facebook is way, way too much a part of peoples’ lives these days?

The Disability Perception

While standing in line at my local Wal-Mart earlier this week, I had the opportunity to hear the conversation of two young women immediately ahead of me. They were speculating on the real reasons behind two or three nearby folks using scooters to get around the store. “You can tell there’s nothing wrong with her,” one of them said. “Oh, of course there isn’t,” the other one replied. “The only reason she’s riding a scooter is because she’s a big fat blob and she’s a big fat blob because she’s a lazy bitch. That’s all.” Other than make me wish, once more, that people came equipped with mute buttons you could push to silence their mindless babbling, it got me thinking about some of my own experiences as a disabled person.

Several years ago, when I was still able to work, I was helping out a friend while her car was being repaired by giving her rides to and from where we worked. One morning, the weather had traffic tied up, causing us to run a little late. The lot we normally used was entirely full—except for a few handicapped spaces in the first row. Even though I was entitled to use these, I seldom did, but was not up to a half-hour hike if I parked elsewhere. As I pulled into one of these spaces clearly designated Disabled Persons Parking, my passenger and colleague looked the incredibly full lot over and said, “You know, I bet most of the people with these tags aren’t really disabled; I bet they’re just like us.”

“What?” I asked, switching off the ignition. “What do you mean by ‘not really disabled’?”

“Well, you know,” she told me, “people like my Mom; people in wheelchairs and stuff.” I eyed her curiously for a moment while I considered my reply. Considering her educational background, and the responsibility of the position she occupied in my division, I was truly surprised to find this woman held such an opinion of disabilities and disabled people.

We’d been working long hours on an important project for the past several days; it was the combination of physical exhaustion, my surprise at her revelation, and the unpleasantly steamy temperature of the morning that inspired my next remark. When I am hot and tired, it gets really difficult for me to mask the symptoms of the pain that I feel round-the-clock. “Janet,” I said, struggling to keep up with her powerful, long-legged stride, “you might have noticed my limp.” She nodded. “Haven’t you ever wondered why I limp?”

“Well, yeah,” she replied, “but still…”

“Still, I’m not in a wheelchair, don’t carry an oxygen tank around with me, don’t have to use a cane or crutch or walker that you know of, have a decent education, a good job, and speak several languages?” I asked, and she nodded again. “And it’s really hard to think of someone as being truly disabled if they look normal, isn’t it?”

She sighed, relieved. “So you see what I mean,” she said. “Good; I was worried.”

I touched her arm and she looked down at me. “Janet, my friend, I think we need to have a talk later,” I told her, “because not all disabilities are visible on the surface.”

It’s a curious attitude that I encounter in people from all walks of life and backgrounds, that expects ‘real’ disabilities to be as plain on the folks who have them as copper is on a penny. But the plain truth of the matter is that disabilities don’t necessarily appear on the surface of those who bear them. Some conditions simply are not visible without specialized equipment, training, and/or tools. And, sometimes, a disabled person will do a great deal to hide her disabilities. A very great deal.

I know this because I am one of those people. No, it’s not my favorite thing about myself; I didn’t even realize that I was consciously doing it for several years after becoming disabled. Why I do it can be summed up neatly by saying I don’t want to be considered disabled. I don’t want to be disabled. But, of course, it’s really not that simple at all.

I think it’s probably the rare individual who has not, at least once or twice, looked at a disabled person and said, thought, or felt something rude or uncharitable; I know I can’t say that I haven’t—but that would be true of me were we speaking of disabled or non-disabled people. I can be just as sarcastic and snarky as the next guy, and I frequently am. But what I’m talking about here is looking at the morbidly obese man who just took the last scooter at Wal-Mart and saying, “If he wasn’t such a lazy blob, his ass wouldn’t be that fat and someone who really needs that scooter could use it!” We know nothing about that man; maybe he just had knee surgery. Maybe he has a metabolic disorder and can’t lose weight. Maybe he has a heart or lung condition that makes it difficult, if not impossible, for him to take any real exercise. The point is we just don’t know, but that doesn’t stop us from assuming that we do.

It’s not precisely that I am ashamed of being disabled. It’s more that I don’t want to be thought weak or vulnerable or useless. I didn’t ask for a doctor with a drug problem to be stoned and stab me in the spine during a surgery that was supposed to repair damage and let me get on with my life and career. I didn’t ask for the extra pathway in my heart that screws with its rhythm and makes my life bloody difficult when it acts up. I didn’t ask for that damn rock in North Carolina to slip and send me tumbling forty feet down a mountainside, smashing into every tree and boulder in my path. I didn’t ask for my gallbladder to secede from my bodily union and develop a neuropathic pain syndrome as a result of the surgery that removed it.

I didn’t ask for the elderly man out getting his wife’s prescriptions to forget he wasn’t supposed to be driving on his new meds and fall asleep at the wheel of his car. I didn’t ask for him to then strike my driver’s side door at nearly 60 mph when he shot through a red light and plowed into me. I didn’t ask for my ex-hellsband to get wasted out of his mind on half a dozen drugs, combine that with several kinds of alcohol, and then try to kill me after being served with divorce papers. I didn’t ask for any of that to happen, but it did. I didn’t ask to be disabled, but I am.

Generally, people have no idea that I am disabled just by looking at me. If you’re in the emergency room when I come in shaking, sweating, and unable to speak because the tachycardia is in full swing, you might have an inkling. If you see me on a bad pain day and I’m limping heavily or unable to use my left arm, you might have a sneaking suspicion, but since I only use a cane in private, a wheelchair when forced, and refuse to ride on a scooter on the grounds that I would likely injure people more than I would help myself get my shopping done, you probably wouldn’t ever get to the point where you realize that I am disabled.

On my first visit to him as a patient, one Ohio doctor exclaimed, “I had no idea you had so many problems! That you were in so much pain—that you were disabled!” I remember thinking, of course not, because there was no reason for you to know when I wasn’t your patient, only accompanying my husband to his appointments. While in hospital thanks to tachycardia a couple of years ago, one doctor said, very surprised, “But you’re too intelligent to be disabled.” No, I’m not kidding; it was a real doctor—a cardiologist, no less—who said that. One emergency room nurse gave it as her opinion that I was “too young” to be disabled. Fools.

I’ve lost track of the people who’ve told me that they envy me not having to work. No person in their right mind would choose this. Would you? Would you choose to never know when your heart’s gonna go wonky and you need emergency help to frigging breathe? Would you trade having to get up and go to work for having to stay home and not be able to support your family? Would you trade knowing the only raises you’re ever going to get are going to be cost of living allowances, and possibly tiny increases in the Federal Standard Deduction for the paycheque you get now? Hell no, you wouldn’t. I wouldn’t. I admit to possessing my fair share of the basic human inclination to laziness, but I would much rather have a career, a real career, and a real income, than being disabled and not able to earn a real living.

At the heart of this, I suppose, is the fear that I’ve lost any chance I had to reach my true potential in this lifetime, along with a certainty that others must also see that about me. Living in constant pain alters your perception of yourself, of your life, of everyone and everything around you. Things you used to be able to do without a second thought now require special help or tools, or just cannot be done at all. Holidays have to be planned around medication refills and doctor visits. Your life changes, you change, when you become disabled. Your heart and soul are screaming, “It’s still me! I’m still me!” But deep down, you know you’re not.

You are forced to face what can be frightening limitations. Where once you possessed reasonable confidence in your ability to take care of yourself, you see that you need help. You watch others watching disabled people, see the looks of revulsion or pity on their faces and know you cannot bear strangers to see you thus, let alone family and friends. You cannot bear for those you love to see you as any less than what you were before. You lose faith in yourself; in all you ever have been. And that’s when it hits you.

Maybe the biggest problem of all isn’t how others see you when you’re disabled; maybe it’s how you see yourself.

A Poem of Politics

I have no idea who wrote this interesting little poem, but after I read it on CNN this afternoon, I just had to share it.

My thanks for the anonymous author for his/her work.





It is a sad time for the party of Lincoln
Their candidate, Mitt, looks like he’s sinkin’
In October the leaks will be no surprise
And prove to the People some very big lies
Of tax amnesty and special Swiss banks
Then a wave of resentment will roll over the ranks
All will then know why Willard’s so mysterious
The Republican trouble will be the most serious

The Romneys must realize the truth will surface in a while
Perhaps they suffer from the worst case of denial
In the primaries, Mitt’s megalomania slipped by undetected
Although Newt would declare it’s what he expected
The Romneys have betrayed the party of Eisenhower
For reasons, look simply to Mitt’s lust for power
August 18, 2012 10:54 am at 10:54 am |


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