I Switched Blogs

Hi everyone!

If you’re signed up to follow my blog, I have moved it to the following link:


Please follow me on this site by clicking on this link and choosing the follow via email option.  This way, you will receive email updates on when I post new essays, videos, and photos.

The blog is still titled “Scratching The Surface” but it has more pages and features. There is also a link to my nephew’s story titled “The Will of 50 Strong Men”. I will be updating his story soon as a way to raise money and awareness for the “Be the Match” Foundation – a nonprofit organization that matches bone marrow donors to patients in need of a transplant. I can’t wait for you to check out the new website and blogs. Thanks for sticking with me during this exciting transition.



Where Is Justin Timberlake When You Need Him?

Last Saturday, I went to the movies with my friend Sarah.  She was waiting for me outside of the cinema.  Sarah has long, thick, flowing red hair.  She has curves in all the right places, too. (Don’t let her try and talk to you about her “muffin top” because the top of the muffin oozes out in the form of a bodacious rack and cleavage.)  More importantly, she embraces her sexiness and wears it as comfortably as she does her multi-colored scarf and dangling turquoise earrings.

As I walked across the parking lot, I noticed her hair was blowing in the wind and she had on her chic sunglasses, making her look even more glamorous.  Then, I became painfully aware of myself with my scarecrow hairdo that I had pulled back into a librarian bun to tame the lioness mane.  I felt out of sorts that night, and I realize now I’ve been feeling that way on a daily basis.  My “sexy” vibe has been disconnected.  Immediately, I wanted what Sarah was portraying.

Fast-forward to later that evening as the two of us were sitting at the bar at Chevy’s (a restaurant near the cinema).  I happened to mention to Sarah this feeling of “unsexiness” that’s been pervading my daily life.  It’s not just because I’m single.  And it’s not just because I’m a teacher and deal with 150 high school students 5 days a week (though that has been a big part of it).  It’s not that I don’t think I’m pretty.  It’s just that I don’t know how to live outside of my head and inside of my body all the time.  I’ve lost connection to what I think makes me beautiful.  I wonder if I’ve ever oozed sexiness?  Sarah laughed and told me that I’m not oozing sexiness because I’m not feeling it, it’s not that I don’t have it inside of me.  I started down the “woe is me” path of not knowing how to talk to men and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah excuses.  She laughed again and asked, “Do you have ovaries?”

“Uh, yeah,” I said, totally confused.

“Do you have a uterus?” she questioned me.

“Yep.  Was just reminded about that last month.”

“Well, then, you’ve got the sexy goddess in you.  You just aren’t connected to her right now.”  And damn’t if I didn’t know she was right.  I thought that would be the end of discussion, but she sipped her $5 glass of chardonnay and flirted with the bartender.  She batted her eyelashes and asked him where would be a good place to take her lovely friend here “trolling” for men.  She said all of this with laughter in her voice and fingers through her hair.  I was getting taught Sexy Flirting 101, and I knew it.  I fought back a little bit by saying, “Oh God. . .Sarah,” while hanging my  head.  And I tried to justify that I knew how to flirt, but I just need to be attracted to the man otherwise I feel guilty for manipulating a guy to do my bidding.  “Duh,” she said and laughed while her breasts pressed tightly on the bar table and the bartender topped off her wine glass and smiled an even bigger smile than he had a moment before.

Our trolling took us to Hot Shots, a sports and bar grill right next to Chevy’s.  I began getting nervous upon entering when I saw a stocky man wearing a blue tooth headset and an Ed Hardy shirt and sunglasses at 9 p.m. I began singing Jutstin Timberlake’s “Bringing Sexy Back,” in my head as a way to boost my self-confidence as we walked in the door.  JT immediately faded from memory when we entered the dark bar that was blaring some randomly famous entertainer’s music of the moment.  The place oozed “sleaziness” ( the sleaziness factor was upped later when I learned that they have wet t-shirt contests and vibrator races every Thursday night.)  Any thoughts of classy Justin Timberlake styled men dressed in sport coats, sweater vests and Converse tennis shoes faded from my hopes of redemption for going along with Sarah’s hair-brained scheme.

I knew Sarah was out of her element too when I caught her acting like we were searching for our long lost friends who told us to meet up with them.  I played along, hoping that we looked like a natural fit amongst the sea of drunk men (most wearing Ed Hardy shirts, or some type of embroidery on their jeans or plaid shirts, and all with close shaved heads that showed off sideways ballcaps, designed sideburns or “manscaped”facial hair) and young women (most sporting orange fake-tanned skin, “bump-it” hairdos of bleached blonde hair standing up in a triangle on top of their heads, and skinny ponytails holding back fried ends snaking down their backs).  (Sorry, I know that was a difficult sentence to read, but you try and capture a place like this in words.)

As we walked towards the center of the bar, Sarah laughed so hard she snorted as she said, “Oh God!  I would hate to say I met someone in a place like this!  Ha ha!”  My librarian bun felt even tighter than my stomach as I thought, “Oh sweet Lord it’s come down to this.”  We finally sat down at the bar where the Hooters wannabe bartenders wouldn’t wait on us right away.

We began the “trolling” right away.  Sarah prompted me to tell her what man I found the most attractive.  I scanned the crowd and found one guy (not wearing an Ed Hardy shirt and minus any embroidery on his plaid red shirt).  He had nice teeth.  I smiled at him.  He didn’t smile back, and continued “holding court” as the alpha-male, cool, single guy while his overweight, uber-nerdy, married buddies tried to hide their “man crush”.  I crossed that dude off the list, but not after feeling a bit rejected because he didn’t smile back.  I cursed myself for tying my hair up in the librarian bun, and began to hunch my shoulders and berate myself for not being pretty or sexy enough.  I even thought for a moment that I should get my hair chemically straightened and buy some sexier clothes and workout even more.  I sighed and heard Sarah telling me to quit over thinking things.  She tried to tell me how pretty I am and that I did look hot that night.  But, I’m learning that sexiness comes not from just what you do to improve your looks on the outside, but how you feel about yourself on the inside.  And, in this crowd, I felt out of sorts.

All of you reading this have probably been following my other posts of my foray back into the dating world.  I’m striking out left and right.  (I even got depressed when a “silver-haired fox” blocked my profile on match.com after I wrote him a charming and witty email.)   I thought my 0-? record was because of the quality of man I was meeting -whether through the dating site or out and about in my daily life.  I am now starting to realize that the bigger part of the equation: my self-concept, my demeanor, my opinion of myself have a far greater influence on me meeting, or not meeting, someone who is right for me.  By blocking my natural sexiness, I am throwing off my self-confidence and making myself sink into a small pit of despair again over being alone. And, like I mentioned in my last post, I am really wanting to “let go” of putting the pressure on myself to find Mr. Right.  I am far more interested in being the Right One for Myself.

I didn’t come to this conclusion that night at Hot Shots.  It took the following picture to set me straight.  I call it the infamous “penis purse” picture because unfortunately both my body and purse were cast in silhouette.

Throughout our talk and funny experiences that night, Sarah tried to help me see that I need to put myself out there.  She threw out examples of putting myself in places where men would be around in quantity.  Ideas like working the beer tent at this year’s “Art on the Square” downtown in May.  Or, the idea I should let her take the “sexy body shot” picture for match.com that many women do to get themselves noticed.  Those are all valid, and good ideas. But they seem unnatural to me.  I have to be myself, just like Sarah and all of my other beautiful friends, and let go of my constant worry and analysis of my life.  (I guess I have to let my ovaries and uterus be a little more hootchie-kootchie than my brain and self-doubt too.  Translation:  let my femininity rule me a bit more.  Sarah is a good example of that type of goddess power.)

If the real Justin Timberlake can’t follow me around and sing “Bringing Sexy Back” to me, then I have to step up to the challenge of harnessing my inner beauty and discovering my own sexiness first and foremost. And, if comedy (and looking like a sexy librarian) is part of my overall sexiness, then I choose to embrace it.  (Minus the “purse penis, of course.)

Just for fun:

I Need an Eat, Pray, Love Moment

This was going to start out as a funny blog about dating; but truthfully, I am tired of writing about that right now.  Why?  Well, so far match.com and my own “mojo” aren’t working so well.  Lately, I’ve only encountered pathetic men who aren’t putting their best selves out there.  One man I met online had the looks and the right information on his profile.  “I’m looking for my best friend,” he writes.  “Someone to share all of life’s exciting moments. . .”  When we talked on the phone, he propositioned me for sex.  And not in a smooth manner neither.  From his apparent drunken or stoned state, he said to me, “Where do you go to meet men?  Let’s say you’re dating like 5 or 6 at a time, like, one young gal I’m talking to meets them at a place around the corner from her apartment.  If she doesn’t like them, she can leave, but if she does. . .well . . .well. . .uh. . .bada-bing, bada-boom, ya know?”  And even though he didn’t get to finish his conversation with me, he had the nerve to send out mass text messages at random times to me and a few of his other lady loves with words like, “Good morning to you,” and “Happy Valentine’s Day to you.”  I never responded and debated blocking his number, but I tried the upfront tactic instead by texting him:  “Please don’t text or call.  I’m not interested.”  Immediately he texted back, “Oops.  I thought I deleted you. . .I am not interested either.”

So, where is this blog going, you ask?  I’m not sure.  I just know I need to be shaken out of my self-doubt and worry about the future.  I’ve lost faith in myself to a certain degree, and in return that’s causing me to lose faith in the whole belief of “Everything happens for a reason.”  In the book, Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, she goes through a series of life changes that lead her to Italy, India, and Indonesia -each place and the people she encounters teaching her lessons and showing her all the different ways we love one another and ourselves.  All of this travel, and insight and life-changing events occur in the course of one year.  Yet, if you’ve ever read the book (or watched the movie starring Julia Roberts) you may forget that Elizabeth retells the moment of being in great despair over whether to get a divorce or not.  One night, she falls to her knees late at night and begins crying on the bathroom floor.  She was waiting for a “sign” from the universe on what she should do so the specific changes she thought she wanted would automatically fall into her lap and she could be happy.  She retells the moment when she heard a voice, possibly her higher self, telling her to get up, go to bed, and stop thinking about things.  It was a gentle nudge that got her back into bed.  Nothing in her life changed over night.  I sometimes forget that part of the book when I demand a change from all of my daily stresses, anxieties, and over-analysis of my personal situation I’m currently in:  being 36 and single.

I know what you’re thinking:  get over yourself.  I would like to, trust me.  I know I have a beautiful house, good job, supportive friends and family, nice clothes, cool pets, and the list goes on and on.  Yet, I can’t help seeing myself as a failure in one aspect of my life:  the dating world.  All my life, from preteen to adulthood, I’ve wanted a boyfriend.  And every time I got one, I didn’t like being “tied down” to him.  And, then there was the period in my late 20s and early 30s where I simply chose to shut myself off completely or date only douchebags who broke up with me via email or the silent treatment.  Let’s not even go down the road of dissecting and analyzing broken relationships.  It’s not worth it.  I’ve moved on.  What I haven’t moved on from is how to please others who want something so badly for me because I want it twice as much.  This dating world I’ve entered into has turned into a personal competition and pressure-cooker on my biological clock.  Once I got back into the dating zone, I thought it would be all fun and games.  But, it hasn’t.  It’s been me falling back into my old cycle of fear and anxiety on what I am lacking in my life.  My “What if. . .?” and “If only. . .” and “Maybe if I. . .” internal chatterbox phrases have been in high gear every time I step outside of my house to go somewhere and now echo in my brain even when I logon to the computer dating site.

Friends have told me to move away from the area because there just doesn’t seem to be the right kind of man for me here.  One always asks me, “How are you still single?” Another friend said she walked into a cafe by herself the other night and thought about how I must feel all the time.  Others have brainstormed an idea that I should use this blog to help raise money for an expensive dating service in the area that pairs you up on a lunch date with well-to-do men.  Only 1 or 2 others have commiserated with me over the trials and tribulations of their dating lives as well.  While all of this advice and venting has either made me laugh, ruffled my feathers off, or made me want to sink farther into despair and hopelessness, I rally and crack jokes and look at everything with a skewed perspective.  I know that they all have good intentions.  They hate seeing their friend stuck in this repetitive state of angst and annoyance.  They’re trying to solve my problem, cheer me on, and empathize.  I in turn, keep holding out hope that maybe in a few weeks, months, or early this summer I’ll find “the one” and then all of us will celebrate and be happy and my life can move on.  These are all my pressures, by the way.  No one has ever told me this.  It’s just what I’ve internalized through the course of living my particular life and dealing with being single in a society that emphasizes coupling as being the way to a satisfying, happy life.  (Think about how excited we were to watch Britain’s “Royal Wedding” even though Prince William & Princess Kate have been living together privately for years, and you’ll know what I’m talking about.)

Thoreau once wrote, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.”  We get ourselves into  negative thought patterns or habits; and like a broken record, our thoughts just keep spinning around and around in our brains creating deeper grooves of desperation and limitations in our lives.  Sometimes these thought patterns lead to addictions.  Mine are perpetual worry and coffee.  We’ve been comfortably uncomfortable with not changing these patterns for so long they become as familiar to us as our favorite sweatshirt or blanket.  They’re ripped and torn and don’t work so well, but the thought of giving them up is too difficult to do.  Side note:  I actually put away my ripped, threadbare college sweatshirt a few days ago and got a little panicky that I did the wrong thing – even though it is up on the top shelf in my closet.  Trying to physically and mentally break old habits is rough on the old heartstrings. I hope my “woobie” isn’t too lonely without me.

Honestly, I can’t carry this mental burden of searching for and finding my “perfect match” any longer.  It’s too heavy and it’s holding me back from living.  What I’m struggling with is how to let go of those addictive, negative thoughts that pressure me to feel like I have to live my life a certain way in order to find my happiness.  I guess acknowledging the fact that I need to let go of this worry and revive my faith and trust in the universe and myself is a start.  Oh, and the fact that I put good ol’ “woobie” on a shelf as a gentle reminder that turning “a-ha” moments into a life-changing story has got to be as good of a start as any, right?

Play on Playah. . .

This is not a “I hate men” and “I’m so bitter” post.  In fact, it’s quite the opposite.  I love men.  I have good men in my life.  I grew up with a father who loved my sister and I, took us out on “Daddy-Daughter Dates” and let us eat salisbury steak TV dinners while watching The Muppet Show.  He’s still a good man.  He’s old-fashioned and opens doors for women.  For the past 6 months, he helped take care of his grandson who underwent a successful bone marrow transplant; 3 of those months he and my mother spent living with him in relative isolation in a residency hotel near the hospital.  I’ve seen him cry, laugh, hug, get angry, apologize, and empathize.  I’ve watched him help take care of old people.  And he does a damn good job of helping out around my house and doing yard work (though, his caulking expertise needs a little more improvement).  Oh, and he’s a bad-ass.  I mean, this guy was a Navy pilot and instructor at a POW camp.  He showed the men how to cut out a rabbit’s eye and eat it for nutrition and hydration purposes.

I had a grandfather that made my sister and I buttermilk pancakes (still gooey inside because he used too much batter) when he babysat us in the early mornings while our mom worked first shift at the hospital and our dad was flying his UPS route between Louisville, KY and Decatur, IL for two weeks at a time.  Grandpa also picked me up from junior high school when I was “sick” and bought me a Coke, a snack, and a magazine while I laid on the couch with a heating pad and he watched a baseball game on TV.  He was the man who taught me how to hook a worm on my first fishing trip, and helped me scale and cut my first fish when I was old enough (yuck, never again).  He was a fisherman, a hunter, an esteemed Mason of the first order.  As a kid, I listened to stories of the years he worked as a milkman and later as a mailman.  Later, I learned from my mother and aunts that he always provided for his family while enduring the onset of rheumatoid arthritis that later crippled his body but not his spirit.

My uncles are kind men and good providers, and my best friends’ husbands are solid family men who love their wives as well.  So, I’m good.  I’m confident.  I celebrate real men because I know there are real men out there.

This post is an insight on how to identify “red tags” on broken men who are in the dating game, and are using it as their chance to unload their baggage at your doorstep on the first date.  All this is based on the past three weeks’ “dating adventures”.  These men are obstacle illusions:  they look like the real thing, but fall short of their potential.  This blog is for all you women out there who just recently got dumped via email (the qualms and rudeness that go along with today’s technology that has created, among many other ingenious things, that spider-web of on-line dating).  It’s also for those of you who have a real man and need to be reminded of how lucky you are to have found him (and he to have found you, his caveman behavior and annoyances aside).  And lastly, it’s for me, as a reminder to stay in the dating game and to keep my sights on getting the real man that I want and deserve.

“Don’t hate the player, hate the game.”  (Total bullshit line, by the way.  The game is fun.  Players who don’t play by the rules are not.)

1.)  The Milquetoast Man 

Description:  Nice person. Well-established.  Intelligent.  Doesn’t share much of his personality, but asks good questions.  Seems interested in what you have to say.

Red Flags:  Comes across as wanting to date, but wants the work done for him.  Disregards your request to not text as a way to ask you out or ask questions about planning the date.  Also, mentions his ex-wife in the few phone conversations you have.  It’s obvious that he’s not over her, and that she’s broken him.  Uses work as an excuse to not get together until it is convenient for him.  Doesn’t look anything like the pictures he posted on-line.  Keeps talking about how nervous he is when you’re out on the date, and making excuses for his behavior and requests.

How to Deal with Him:  Be yourself.  Be polite.  Stroke his ego a little bit to help him regain his confidence, but don’t settle for not getting any compliments or attention in return.  Don’t feel sorry for him.  He will be alright and fix himself in the end, or he will find an older woman who wants to boss him around and does it in a way that gives him guidelines to follow for an easy life with her.  Say “No thank you” when he suddenly has more time in his schedule that evening when he realizes you’re not a threat to him.

Possible Side Effects & Antidotes:  If you look him directly in the eyes and see that you’ve wounded him by saying “No thank you,” you may pull a “Chandler” and say “This was nice.  Thanks.  Well, stay in touch, maybe we’ll do it again sometime” when you really don’t mean it.  (See “Friends” episode where Chandler dates and tries to break up with Rachel’s boss.)  Look away quickly so you don’t feel sorry and want to deal with “stray cat” syndrome.  

2.  The Lazy Texter 

Description:  On his profile he says he’s a “one woman” man.  He’s good looking, has a good job, and rides a motorcycle.  You have exchanged emails where he’s complimented you on your profession and holds you in high esteem.

Red Flags:  He breaks your “no text” policy and texts you the following at 12:15 p.m. (2 days after you have called him and left a message):  “Hey Megan”

How to Deal with Him:  Do not respond to his two-word text message.  Hold out for him to possibly get the hint that he needs to call.  When he sends you another text at 4:15 p.m. that reads “Any plans?” do not respond until at least an hour later with something similar as:  “I am traditional and would like to be asked out either in person or on the phone not via text message, please.”  Wait and see if he calls.  When he returns your text message 3 hours later with “Ok sorry” instead of calling you to ask you out, move on.  There are no side effects or antidotes to combat this.  You’ve dealt with him.  No need to go on any further.  Lazy is as lazy does.

3.  The Latin Loveless

Description:  Charming.  Gregarious.  Laughs a lot.  Talks a lot.  Has a limited view of the world, but pretends to be savvy and knowledgeable about every topic you mention or discuss.

Red Flags:  Poor listener and asks you the same questions on the date as he did on the phone the night before.  Talks a lot about himself.  Touches your arm, laughs and says in a confidential manner things like, “Dating sucks, you know?” “Men are basic and we have basic needs. . .We just want to be admired, you know?” “I understand why Tony Parker cheated on Eva Longoria.  Man has needs, you know?” and “I think Tina Fey is hot because she’s smart and funny” (then later backhand compliments you and tells you that you’re too “analytical” and “in your head” when you make a funny, intelligent joke using cultural references).

Also, he thinks he’s this type of man:  

When really he’s more like this type of man:  

How to Deal with Him:  Make farting noises when he tries to justify cheating (even if it’s while discussing celebrities’ lives), when he tries to tell you he knows a lot about how relationships work, and when he acts misogynistic and tells you that Saudia Arabia, Kuwait & Dubai are the trendiest, coolest countries for vacationing. (Do a super-duper fart noise after you mention that it’s hard to get a tan while wearing a burkha.)  Do a lot of head shaking and pay attention to his words versus his body language:  words will be trying to tear away your self-confidence while body language will be trying to get frisky with you in hopes that you’ll feel bad about yourself enough to sleep with him.  Also, show him a video clip of your father and nephew playing in Christmas wrapping paper to prove to him that you didn’t lack for affection while growing up because your dad treated you in this tender way as well.

Possible Side Effects & Antidotes:  You may want to kick yourself in the ass for not getting out of the date earlier, or for not throwing your drink in his face when he began to subtly insult you after the first hour of realizing you were too much of a challenge for him.  You may walk to your car (to which he did not escort you because he had enough of you) wondering what you did during the date to make him act the way he did.  Do NOT second guess yourself.  Simply realize that with the exception of “play-ahs”, unicorns, and the Loch Ness Monster, real men do exist.  You know because you have always had them in your life.  You just need to keep searching until the right one discovers you.

I’m Dating My Friends

So, life is taking a new turn for me.  I’ve decided to take myself off the shelf and get back into the dating market.  It’s been too long.  But I’ve had things I had to do.  That’s all in the past now, and though they were exactly what I needed to do at the time, I’m ready to live life in the present.

I made a decision that I need to play and have some fun.  By nature, I’m a serious person who is focused and determined.  I know what I want (and what I don’t want), and that usually serves me well.  But it hasn’t worked as far as dating goes.  Part of that is because I’m picky.  The other part is that I teach high school.  There are NO available men in a 3 story institutional building that pushes you through the day with bells.  You walk through a sea of crowded hallways, run past a stinky cafeteria, and push past shouting teenagers who jostle you as you clutch your books to your chest trying to get to your classroom.  The classroom where you spend your entire day, stuck to a desk, a podium, a computer, or students’ desks answering questions, revising papers, or taking away cell phones.  Any male interaction is between you, married men, gay men, young men who are your students.  And the occasional attention you get is from your married male custodian who awkwardly tells you that you’re wearin’ some smokin’ hot boots with your dress.  (By the way, Bob, thanks.  That made my day.)

Long story short, I let my hairstylist talk me into signing up on match.com.  Honestly, I wasn’t too keen on the advice, and really thought it embarrassing that I had to resort to looking for love on-line amongst a sea of strangers who had cheesy pick up lines and awkward photos of them posing shirtless in front of the mirror with their cell phone in hand.  But, after some serious thinking, and a nudge from a good friend who also signed up and met a handsome fella, I decided, “Why not?”  It wasn’t like I was meeting men left and right at work.  I don’t travel, and my lunch hour is spent inhaling peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and yogurt while I sit at my desk in the office bitching and commiserating with my female friends and co-workers.

So, I took the plunge.  My friend Mary was the first to express interest in this whole dating scene.  She found it “fascinating” and was “intrigued” by all the possibilities and stories out there.  I, on the other hand, was (and am) blase about the whole thing.  I figure it is just a playground.  A place where I can practice dating and get my groove back.  I have been on a lot, and I mean a LOT of miserable dates over the year (see my post titled “Straight Up Liz Lemon With a Twist” if you want to know more).  My whole mentality is to not take this part of the dating scene seriously.  I think it’s a healthy way to look at it.  If I’m going to meet my equal, then I just have to go out into the world and be seen looking hot by a lot of people in hopes that one day he’ll discover me.  And, if he sees me on match.com, or at The Bread Company, or the Art Museum, or in the grocery store, then at least I’ll know how to talk to him, to be confident, and act flirty and ooze feminine energy because I’ve had all that practice.

The morning of my date, my friend Sarah (who also is my yoga instructor), asked me if I wanted to go to a yoga workshop/kirtan music fest in the STL area later that evening.  When I told her I had plans to go on a date, she jumped up and down and hugged me.  She laughed and said, “Oh, I’m so proud of you!” and then I told her I wasn’t that excited to go out with my date because he seemed pushy, blunt and hard to read.  I told her he was German, or so it sounded by his heavy accent, and told her that I couldn’t figure out if he had a sense of humor or not.  He had vetoed my choice of location (he apparently had a bad dining experience), and he told me that he wasn’t accustomed to eating at 7:30 p.m., and that wouldn’t work for him.  I was very nice and diplomatic, but asserted myself because I was thinking about my safety.  So I told him I wasn’t accustomed to eating so late.  We did agree on dinner at a nice restaurant at 8p.m.  Sarah winced and said, “Oooh, Megan, I don’t know. . .”  My old fears of bad dates came bubbling up to the surface and I said, “I know right?  Maybe I should cancel the date, or change it to a wine bar or coffee shop so I can make a quick escape?”  She advised me to go on my dinner date and just be breezy.  She started to laugh and pulled up this video on her phone:  

For the rest of the day, I had this image, this voice, and this bizarre poop question in my head.

In the afternoon, my friend Kelly called me to discuss what I was going to wear for my date.  Kelly talks a mile a minute when she’s excited, and there were times she was in super-sonic speed that I couldn’t tell if she was excited or ready to implode.  I heard her take a few drags and puffs on her cigarette and wash it down with a Diet Coke, so I knew she was in “super excited mode”.  We laughed and giggled, and conspired, and bemoaned the dating experience.  While I was on the phone with her, Mary called my cell phone.

I returned Mary’s call, and gave her the scoop on what type of guy I thought I would be going out with.  Mary tried to justify his cold demeanor and lack of humor, by saying, “Maybe he’s just off the bus.”  I was certain in less than a 5 minute conversation with him that he just wasn’t my match.  I would just sit through a date that was probably going to be pleasant but dull, and just smile and replay the video clip in my head that Sarah played for me earlier.  And sing, “La la la” in my head.  Mary waxed philosophical on all the reasons he could be the way he was, and I listened, loving the fact that my best friend, a woman who is an old soul like me, loves me so much that she wants me to be happy and find romance.  My equal, she said.  The one that will discover me.  “A Renaissance man,” she said.  “Damn straight,” I replied.  “‘Cuz I’m a Renaissance woman.  I mean, I like art, music, and shit like that, you know.”  Mary kept repeating, “Oh, I’m so nervous for you.”  She sounded almost near tears, and I had to be the one to cheer and pump her up.  I had to talk her down from her anxieties, and told her that it would all be ok, and that it is just a date, and nothing more.  I even related my life to Diane Lane’s character in Under The Tuscan Sun.  I reminded Mary that Francis (Lane’s character) in the end got so much more than she expected because she just went out and lived her life.  That’s what I am bound and determined to do.

She told me Jon, her husband, was curious about this date too.  “He wonders if it is safe,” she told me.  She reminded me to call her if I needed anything. “And I mean anything, Megan,” telling me that if I needed to spend the night, or if I had a flat tire to call, or if I needed a shoulder to cry on that I could come over any time that night, no matter what.    I genuinely thanked her and when I got off the phone I had tears in my eyes.  Not from being scared about going out on a date after a 6 month hiatus, or worried about the possibility of a bad date scenario, but because I realized that on a Saturday afternoon I already had 4 friends who had supported me and shown me unconditional love in the most endearing  way.

I called my mom later to tell her that I was going on a date (they say to tell as many people when you meet a date for the first time – safety in numbers I suppose).  My mom laughed when she found out I was going out with a real German.  “Who knew?  Here you have a German last name, German heritage, grew up in a German area, and now you’re going out with a real German.  Ha ha ha ha ha ha.”  I laughed more at the fact that mom was enjoying this far more than I was.  (Remember, I was -and am- being blase about all of this.)  I told her that he apparently made an insulting / confusing remark about unhealthy Americans that were at this retirement party at the Ritz-Carlton in Clayton.  “You know,” mom said, “he has a point.”  I said, “Yes, I know.  But seriously?  Is it a conversation starter when you’re talking to a complete stranger?”  I mean, I couldn’t understand it, and it was weird when he laughed and said, “So many anorexic gurls.”  I couldn’t figure out if it was his attempt at humor, a sarcastic commentary on America’s obesity problem, or if he was disappointed that American fraulines aren’t fattened up by beer, schnitzel, and pretzels.

Mom told me to go out, have fun, and she said, “Eat with your fork in your left hand and your knife in your right, and don’t switch it.  Show him you can eat European style too.”  I now had so much advice (and the constant replay of “Jennifer is a party pooper” video in my head) that I was overwhelmed.  To maintain my sophisticated apathy, I decided to take a nap.

Let’s skip ahead:  past getting ready, past getting a little nervous before going into the restaurant, and even past the date.  He was nice.  He was cute.  He was a gentleman.  He met my expectations and wasn’t Euro-trash although he had a penchant for techno-music (don’t they all?)  And, he was Polish, not German.  A fact I had apparently looked past when I glanced at his profile.  He was the right guy, but just right for another woman.

When he got up to use the restroom, I checked my phone.  I had 2 text messages and 1 voicemail.  I read the texts, 1 from Kelly reading, “Go to the bathroom and text me how it’s going.  I’m serious.”  And 1 from Marnie, another yoga girl and sweet friend that read, “We left you a message.”  My date came back to the table and I went to the restroom.  I texted Kelly, “Boring.  Boring.  Boring.  And Boring.”  She immediately texted back, “Oh damn.”  I listened to my voicemail and heard Sarah’s voice along with two other yogi pals: “Meeeggaaan!!!!!  It’s Sarah. Edie.  And Marnie.  We’re calling to see if you need rescued.  Um. . .I broke my ankle and I need a ride to the hospital.  Or, I have a flat tire.  Or somebody pooped at the party, and we need help!  [Add fake German accents and giggling in the background:  Uh, yah, I pooped at de party] Call if you need us.  We’re on our way home.  Bye.”  Though these wild yoga women are about 10-12 years older than me, they sounded like giggly 20 year olds leaving a drunk college party.

All of these antics were hilarious, and made my boring date seem less so.  Little do my all of my friends know, I am the one who has more love in her life than they could ever imagine.  This inconsequential date stirred something in me, and showed me that I am no longer the poor, lonely single girl who has to face a scary dating world all alone and feel sorry for herself.  I have the best, most loving, cuckoo bird friends who support me, love me and want only the absolute best for me.  My love life isn’t out there waiting for me.  It has been surrounding me constantly through emails, phone calls, text messages, fierce loyalty, motherly anxiety, insightful advice, and childlike giggling all along.

I arrived home, and played Words With Friends on my iPhone before going to bed.  My hairstylist is one of my opponents on this game.  She had left a message:  “So, my friend Amy saw you at the restaurant on a date.  She said he was cute.  I hope you had a good time.  Glad I made you get on match?”  Oh, gees.  It’s a small, small world.  I sent her a message back (and played a kick-ass word that scored over 30 pts, putting me in the lead) thanking her for her suggestion, and told her I was ready for another date.  With another man.  Who just sent me an email today asking me out (yeah, I got more than just smokin’ boots goin’ on).

After talking to my mom (who made Polish jokes when I corrected my error on his nationality), I went out Christmas shopping.  When I got back home, I checked my Facebook page.  My mother’s status report was:  “Hey Megan. . .How Many Poles does it take to go out on a boring date?  Lol.”  My reply?  Apparently more than one.

What the. . .?

I love a good curse word.  I curse frequently.  Ask my friends and family, and they will tell you that I fit into the cliche of being able to make a sailor blush whenever I get the chance.

There are times, however, when a curse word or two slip out of my mouth and I become embarrassed that they left my lips.  It’s a rare occasion because I tend to be very deliberate with my words, cursing especially.  Today, at work, was the rare exception when I was humiliated by the use of a “bad word”.  I should add that I teach high school English and one of my classes is Oral Communications (for you old schoolers that’s the new and improved term for Speech Class).  It’s not a class I am particularly fond of teaching.  This is the 2nd time in my career I’ve taught it, and that’s only because they desperately needed to fill one more class with a qualified teacher.  I think the only reason I have speech as an endorsement on my license is that I freaked out in college and wanted a job so badly that I took public speaking to meet a requirement and then filled it in on my graduation form.

Today, I was teaching demonstration speeches, and we were focusing on “attention getters”.  I thought it would be fun to find demonstration speeches on YouTube and show clips to students as a way to get their attention.  I found Steve Jobs introducing Macintosh computer to the world in 1984, and added in Billy Mays selling OxiClean for fun.  I led with the guy selling the towel “ShamWow!”  In my defense, I spent an hour last night on my computer searching for clips like these, watching them to make sure they were school appropriate, and also taking notes on how I found these links, and even emailed the links to my school account.

None of that hard work mattered today, however.  I turned on the speakers, set up the video, and saw my “ShamWow!” link, or what I thought was my link.  Students didn’t tell me that I chose the one that parodied the infomercial.  I didn’t realize it because it was merely the actual infomercial with a voice-over.  Imagine my surprise and humiliation when, after dimming the lights and anticipating the fun class period, I heard the voice over guy say in exaggerated eagerness:  “Holy Shit!  That thing really works!”

I was so flustered that I turned off the video instead of the audio.  So, it kept going.  Fortunately the voice-over work was shoddy, so I couldn’t make out any more cursing.  Finally, I came to my senses, shook my head, and leaned towards the audio/video cabinet and pushed off the power button.  I turned towards my students who were all now very silent and serious.  I look over at the door and see a teacher with a clipboard standing there.  It turns out today was the day for data collection on teaching methods / skill levels.  I have no idea if he witnessed the disaster, but I pretended that everything was normal, as did my students.  I began to improvise and said things like, “Now we’re going to watch the video again, and I want you to listen to the type of attention getter he uses, and tell me what his purpose is for this demonstration.”  The teacher wrote something on his clipboard and slid out the door as stealthily as he had walked in.

My students swore to me that he didn’t hear anything improper, but I was still embarrassed.  I put my head on my podium and let out a breath or two before looking up at them with puppy dog eyes and apologizing.  Wasn’t it just yesterday that I wrote a girl up in this class for cursing right in front of me?

To their credit, they laughed about it and a few said they were going to write about this moment as their facebook status.  I’m sure this incident will be a conversation at a few dinner tables or via text messages tonight.  Thank God social networking wasn’t like it is today when I first began teaching high school.  I was instructing a senior course titled Advanced Writing Skills, and we were in the computer lab that day.  I was trying to put together a few cables between my computer and the TV so I could show them a PowerPoint on the day’s lesson.  I was crouching down, and when I stood up quickly, I didn’t realize I was too close to the desk.  I hit the crown of my head on the corner of my desk.

Tears came to my eyes and a pulsing, throbbing sensation sent out pain signals in my brain and on my head.  I swear even my hair follicles hurt.  I became nauseous and dizzy.  I lost track of time and where I was.  In all my pain and agony, I placed my hand on my head and said the first thing that came to my mind:  “Fuuuuuuuucccccccckkkkkkkkk!!!!!!!!!!!”

My students stopped typing, and I was brought back to the present when a few sweet girls asked, “Are you alright?”

Dazed, like a deer in headlights, I shook my head “no” and cringed a few times.  In a flash, I realized what I had said.  All students’ eyes were on me now, and one boy’s jaw was slightly open -I don’t know if he was impressed or offended.  I shook my head again, and in my embarrassment I rushed an apology and said, “Oh holy shit, I’m sorry.  I just cursed in front of you!”

A few students giggled, and I realized my error.  Trying to correct myself, but angry that I had dropped my guard and released my drunken college girl potty mouth, I said, “Aw damn’t!  I did it again.  Shit.  Sorry.”  I put my hands to my face and laughed and cried at the same time.  Once I had gained composure, and students had overcome their shock, I begged them to not tell their parents.  Seeing how I was 23 at the time and they were all 18, they stuck by me and showed me great solidarity.  I believed that for the longest time until one day the school nurse, whose daughter was a student in that class, teased me and said, “I hear you can make a sailor blush, Megan.”  Oh. . .mother of pearl.


Full moon = Full on crazy.

I should’ve seen it coming when I noticed a few wasps in my living room.  They were dazed and confused, but seemed to have come out of nowhere.

Or, I should’ve realized crazy was the theme today when I noticed a spider crawling on the top of my shower curtain.  I jumped out naked and nervously turned off the faucet.  Grabbing my towel and my robe, I sloshed to the spare bathroom to shower there – all the while afraid that I had baby spiders living in my shampoo, loofa sponge, or face wash.

Crazy started at about 8:15 a.m. when I arrived to work (a solid 15 minutes later than usual due to the spider incident above mentioned).  I “hit the ground running” feeling scattered and underprepared, though I had spent a good portion of the previous day writing lesson plans and grading.

Crazy was on the rise when I asked a mouthy sophomore girl to step out into the hallway because she was being spiteful and rude.  A few minutes later, after getting my other students on task, I stepped outside to talk to her.  She was nowhere to be found.  A few emails and twenty minutes later, I found she had taken herself to the Assistant Principal’s office and tried to “tattle” on me for kicking her out of class.  Later, she came to me to ask me for notes, and challenged me on why she got a zero and an absence in my class.  She couldn’t understand that what she did was skip class, nor did she think it was fair or right when I explained to her that she was responsible for the makeup work in class.

Crazy came to a boil when, at hall duty, another “classy” young lady decided to challenge my authority.  I asked her to stay in the cafeteria and to close the door.  She “told on me” to her friends, who all turned and taunted and made faces.  Classy got right up to the glass door, did some wild, taunting hand gestures, looked me in the eye, smiled a rebellious smile and said, “What  ya gonna do about it bitch?”  What I did was march her ass to the Assistant Principal’s office.  Classy back-tracked her story and said that she was just singing and dancing with her friends.  It still didn’t get her out of a day of In-School-Detention, but I commend her on her blatant, ridiculous lie she told with laughter in her voice and stupidity in her heart.

7th hour rolled around and I had to explain myself at least 3 times in 3 different ways and hand out worksheets that they either lost or threw away last week.  Once I had them in the English Writing Lab, I had to make them log off their computers and march their asses back to class just because blank Word Documents were on the screen.  No one could shut up long enough to hear me say, “I mean it.  Let’s go,” until one meek and mild girl finally stood up and pushed her chair in and walked to the door.  Twenty more minutes of cracking the whip and ripping out sheets of paper from my own notebook to give to students with no material, and I was beat.  Crazy was knocking at my doorstep, and I finally decided to let her in.  I sat and stared out the windows of my classroom listening to a police siren and watching dark clouds blot out the sun.

Once I finally got a chance to gather my stuff, I realized I had left my flashdrive in my other classroom, 3 flights down.  I shoved my papers and books in my bookbag, wrapped my purse around my arm, shoved my keys in my pocket, and grabbed my sweater from the chair.  I huffed and puffed down the stairs, and as I was rounding the corner, my clickity-clackity cute flats slid across the slick concrete floor.  My left ankle gave way and down I went -kersplat!  My bookbag knocked into my hip, but softened my landing.  I got up saying “Dangit” (surprising for me), but was thinking “Holyhell, sonofabitch, muthafucker that hurt”.  Luckily “Dangit” came out first because two doe-eyed teenaged girls were standing there asking me, “Are you all right?”

I limped to my car after getting my flash drive from the other room.  I called my friend Mary, told her briefly about my crazy day, and agreed to meet her for dinner in South City St. Louis.  I had to take an alternate route to get on the interstate when a traffic jam caused by a traffic accident was blocking my path ahead.  A shoeless woman with a cut on her knee waddled by me as I turned my car around.  Then, three police cars and an ambulance screeched by me, as I inched my way towards the interstate.

Once in St. Louis, as I was turning onto Grand, Mary called and said that she could feel the crazy vibe while still in her car.  She said she went to turn down her car’s radio but realized the blaring was from a house nearby.  We should’ve known that crazy was in full swing just from the noisy, raucous traffic driving by too quickly as we sat outside at the cafe trying to have an intelligent conversation.

Each of our Crazy was competing for attention causing us to get distracted, lose our train of thoughts, drop our food out of our mouths as we talked, and break eye contact whenever a fire truck with flashing lights and blaring sirens raced by or a police helicopter flew above the buildings.

We gave each other a hug and said goodbye, and I thought my crazy day had finally had a positive ending to it:  I got to see my friend and hang out with her even though it meant wading through the crazy to get to that point.  Little did I know that I would wind up sitting over a half an hour in construction only because crazy drivers flew by me on the shoulder and the left lane trying to squeeze in to the one open lane.

After arriving home and letting my dog do his thing, I went inside to change in my pajamas.  Just then a wasp flew by me.  I ran upstairs, nervous and a bit hysterical.  I finally calmed down and changed into comfy sweats and a t-shirt.  Now, I’m thinking I need to drink a mug of hot cocoa, prop my semi-swollen ankle up on some pillows, and pray to God that the Crazies don’t find me in my sleep.

Yoga and Hiking

My friend and fellow yoga teacher and I hiked the trails at Vallmeyer Salt Quarry in southwestern Illinois today.  It was a beautiful October day:  warm, sunny, and glorious!  We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect outing.

We got out of her SUV, slapped on our backpacks, and pulled out a map from the trail description in the parking lot.  We were so excited to be out in nature that we took off at a fast clip.  That soon turned to a lot of huffing and puffing when we realized we were heading up a steep incline that would take us to the scenic overlook on the bluff we were climbing.

Sarah led the way and I followed like a puppy not wanting to stray too far from its friend.  I’m afraid of heights, and I became more aware of that fact as the trail narrowed and climbed.  I told myself to just breathe (which was a bit difficult because my heart was racing), but then I calmed down and realized I was safe and in good company.  It helped too that I’ve been taking the 3 flights of stairs at work for 2 months now.  My butt is starting to bubble and firm.  Look out Kim Kardashian.

Throughout the hike, Sarah and I visited, laughed and talked about life in general.  Sarah has been a constant source of inspiration and motivation for me in the 8 years I have known her.  It was good to get to know her more as a person than as a yoga teacher in the classroom.  I felt so honored that she shared life stories with me, and I was happy to hear her rebellious, raucous laughter.  It’s exactly what my heart needed today.  Red-heads are good for that.

One of my favorite parts of our hike:  finding inspirational moments to just break out in yoga poses.  We climbed on a boulder and did whatever pose came naturally to us.  We rejoiced when we saw a beautiful field of corn and the rolling bluffs looming over them.  I did wheel pose and Sarah did a sublime mountain pose with arms out-streched.  It felt good to have the sun on our faces and the warm air embracing us.

After the trail, we drove to the park nearby and did yoga on our mats in the shade.  Four Harley guys sat underneath the nearby pavilion as we finished our stretches.  It was humorous to hear them cursing “God dammit” and trying to figure out their cell phones as we sat in silent meditation.  I also heard the chirping of crickets, a buzzing of an insect, the dog tags on the sheepdog’s collar as his owners walked him past us.  The breeze and shade soothed me and I felt at peace knowing that all good things are coming because all good things are with me right in the here and now.  I don’t think I could have asked for a better friend or day to help me get back in touch with that free and happy side of myself.  Namaste, Sarah.

Row, Row, Row Your Boat

This past December, my 3 yr. old nephew Ben told us he wanted a boat for Christmas.  Honestly, none of us knew where he got that notion because his current obsession was (and still is) mostly trains.  He had only ridden a boat once over Labor Day weekend, and enjoyed it, so maybe that’s where his idea came from.  My sister, parents and I searched for one whenever we went shopping, but never found a toy boat for him.

One night, at my house (he was there recuperating from his tonsilectomy) we told him he may not get a boat for Christmas in case Santa and his elves got too busy and couldn’t make one for him, so he better start thinking of other ideas.  He didn’t get disappointed hearing this, yet insisted on a boat.  He didn’t worry or fuss about the notion of not getting a boat.  It was evident to me that he believed he would get a boat.  In fact, he kept verbalizing the phrase, “I want a boat,” to anyone who asked what he wanted for Christmas.  Then, he would toddle off and play with his trains, his Matchbox cars, or watch Polar Express for the fiftieth time that week.

One night, we took him to Santa’s house on the Square here in downtown Belleville.  When it was his turn to sit on Santa’s lap, he blurted out to Santa, “I want a boat for Christmas,” (with my sister having him say the polite phrase, “Please” afterwards).  Santa chuckled and said that was a very interesting request and asked if he wanted anything else in case he couldn’t get one to him on Christmas Eve (that being his busiest time and all).  Ben just smiled and said, “Nope.  I want a boat.”  If I remember correctly, Santa cajoled him into saying other items, but the boat definitely kept finding its way into the conversation.

For the 15 days he was at my house, he kept the same focused mindset, mixed with belief and a healthy sense of detachment to the notion of when or how he will get the boat.

Following the same laws of the universe mystics have known about for years of “ask and ye shall receive,” the planets and stars and chance and circumstance aligned themselves just right so that on the day of his doctor’s visit at Children’s hospital to check on his recovery status, Ben was allowed to pick a toy out of the toy chest.  Guess what he found?  A Fischer-Price toy boat equipped with a fisherman, life preserver and a little crab.  Katy later told me that he picked it up, showed it to her and joyfully said, “I got my boat!!!”

I use this story to show the power of positive thinking mixed with pure faith is real.  It is real. We have been learning this lesson over and over again throughout this whole journey of Ben and his bone marrow transplant.  The day he went in to Children’s hospital, Tuesday, May 31, 2011, I remember being so scared and holding back every single tear until Katy, Todd & Ben pulled out of my driveway.  Like everyone else, I was scared, sad, anxious, worried, angered, and confused.  Why was this happening to him?  to us?  What will life be like from now on?

As you know dear friends, to this point it has been a scary, nerve-wracking, and at times bizarre and definitely stressful but uplifting journey.  This little child is showing us how strong-willed, focused, and faithful he is.  How we all can be like him during life’s most difficult journeys.

He has been living at the Marriott Residency hotel in St. Louis with Katy, Todd (on weekends after a long week of working full-time) and our parents now for about 3 weeks.  As I type this it is 41days post-transplant.  Only 59 more days without major complications to go before the medical team considers the transplant a success.  In that time, life has developed into a new normal.  Every morning, after taking his pills, getting dressed and eating breakfast, he plays games or with his toys (he didn’t get to bring his boat).  Sometime during the day one of us helps him put on his “jet-fighter pilot” mask, and takes him down to the lobby to ride his motorcycle.  He likes to go up to the front desk and visit with his “girls” who are working there:  Shelby, Stephanie, Grace or Nakita.  They all gush over him and ask him how he’s feeling and what his plans are for today.

He has become friends with Jerry and Mike, the maintenance men, who talk to him about his hot rod or how they too take pills and are impressed that Ben can swallow them like a man.  He visits with anyone who will make eye contact with him.  In the elevator the other day, he said to another hotel resident, “Oh, you’re going to the 6th floor.  We’re on the 8th floor.  The 7th floor is down below me.  Where is it for you?  You’re sweaty.  What have you been doing?  Have a good day.”  (Think Macaulay Culkin style questioning in the movie Uncle Buck.)

If he sees Aretha, the main housekeeper on the 8th floor, he asks her, ” ‘Retha, are you vacuuming today?” and then visits with her and always gets a reluctant chuckle from her.  Upon leaving the room, I’ve heard her say numerous times with a happy, warm tone to her voice, “See you later, Ben.”  (You know you’re in good when you’re on a first-name basis with the hard-working housekeeper.)

Afternoons are marked with a car-ride down Choteau Avenue to Broadway to see the black and yellow tour helicopter (the “bumblebee” as he dubbed it) and The Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher riverboats on The Landing.  Then back up Choteau and down another street to see his church steeple, and then over to Gravois to see the Windmill restaurant, and maybe a leisurely drive around Forest Park.  We have now added the Delmar Loop to see the cool faux vintage signs on the buildings.  He has been to my school this summer to see my classroom (and wound up dancing and singing on the Performing Arts Stage there), and has even crossed the river to view the Arch from the comforts of our parents’ air-conditioned mini-van and the grand Casino Queen parking lot.

Without thinking this has been easy-breezy lemon-squeezy post transplant, let me inform you that there is something almost daily that has our hearts in our throats.  We’ve all had to learn how to change his portable IV tubing, which has scared us all beyond belief.  We don’t want to make one slight mistake and compromise his health.  We’ve worried if we washed our hands well enough, or if we cleaned him right, or warmed his food up to the correct temperature.  Due to his lack of an immune system, we’ve all had to stay away from him when we’ve felt a sore throat, upset stomach or a cold sore coming on, and worried if by chance we passed it to him.  If someone sneezed on the elevator while we’re on it with Ben, will he be in danger?  Thoughts like that.  And more recently, the rash on his head and stomach area that could possibly be the very dangerous Graft vs. Host Disease – where the donor’s marrow begins attacking Ben’s body.  He had to be put on 40 mg of Prednisone (steroids) and hydrocortisone cream to quell the rash.  The steroids have bloated him and given him some strong, angry feelings at times.  This latest “bump in the road” had me so worried that I wasn’t sleeping well at nights, and broke down and cried for the first time since he and his parents pulled out of my driveway to begin the process that would hopefully save his life.

Still, through it all, I’ve been in awe of Ben as he swallows his big horse pills with only milk or Kool-Aid.  I am proud of him as he accepts that he has to lug around his backpack carrying his tubing, medicine, and I.V. pump wherever he goes and whenever he sleeps. (He danced on the school stage with this pack that only a few weeks earlier almost threw him off balance every step he took.)  I was reminded of his boat story when I reflected back that this boy, wise beyond his years at this crucial stage in his life, has shown so much focus and determination to get what he wants.  And I believe he wants to live.  That’s why he has reminded us a few times that it was time for his 2:00 pill (he can’t tell time just yet).  That’s why he said the directions, “Pause.  Off.  Clamp.” to my Dad as he was reseting the pump machine after changing his medicine and tubing.  It’s why he knows not to pick up anything he drops on the floor, and why he calmly accepts the Germ-Ex on his hands, and why he asks to wipe down his motorcycle with a Clorox wipe.  (The will to live has also been mixed in with his hard-wiring of wanting to be in control, and having developed some OCD, but so be it.  He’s alive and thriving.)

When Katy called yesterday evening to give us the results of Ben’s bone marrow biopsy which checks to see how much of the new marrow is the donor’s and how much is Ben’s, I was with Dad and Ben in the hotel room.  My stomach had been in knots for days wanting to know the results.  I was preparing myself for news that would show he was on track, and was wanting something normal, not remarkable.  Remarkable seemed too much to expect or to handle.  I was preparing myself for not getting what I wanted, like we had coached Ben months ago about his boat:  “It just might not happen.”  Thankfully, my friend and yoga instructor reminded me that if you need something, ask for it because we are all connected in this universe.  So, I asked for prayers and positive thinking from anyone and everyone that knew Ben’s story.  It was the only control I had.  The only control any of us have.  It’s been so humbling to know that people you care about, or who have just learned about what you’re going through, want to help you, and tell you, “I’m thinking of him,” or “I’m praying for him.”  Cynics can scoff and say that those people don’t say a prayer or think of him after you leave them, and so what’s the good of asking for that at all?  The good is the genuine intention of all of you.  Just by being allowed to tell his story or to ask a fellow human being for their time to listen, to empathize or to read a blog or a facebook post is enough.  It’s enough because it’s real.

It was amazing to learn that because of your intentions, prayers and love, mixed with  Ben’s and our focus, determination, and belief, the intelligent and intuitive doctor and nurses, and the love of a stranger who chose to give of himself, literally, we got remarkable results from the biopsy:  the marrow is 100% the donor’s!

My dad and I explained to Ben in terms that he could understand that 100% means he is so much closer to getting stronger than he has ever been his whole entire life.  His face lit up.  He smiled and asked, “Does that mean one day I will get to be around a lot of people?”  We told him one day, but it will take a lot more time, but we’re closer than we’ve ever been before.  After that, he danced and sang around the hotel living room area with only his t-shirt, socks and a pull-up.  He said to me, “I’m so happy.”  I replied, “I know you are.  Me too.”  Then, he walked over to the window and looked out.  He was quiet for a minute, and then I saw a smile pass over his face.  He turned to me, and tilted his head back and howled like a wolf.  After that, he laughed, and went off to go dance and sing some more.  But let me tell you, it was, without a doubt, a victory howl.

I say to you, dear friends, with joy and gratitude in my heart, “We got our boat!!!”

Little Boy Blue

Little Boy Blue come blow your horn,
The sheep’s in the meadow the cow’s in the corn.

But where’s the boy who looks after the sheep?
He’s under a haystack fast asleep.
Will you wake him? No, not I – for if I do, he’s sure to cry.

Ben threw his toys on the floor of his isolation room because he was mad.  He couldn’t put words to why he was mad, so he threw his small trains instead.  I left them on the floor, and told him that he needed to get up and out of bed – that the day had begun and we needed to move and groove over to the couch for a change in scenery.  He didn’t say anything to me.  Then, when I got his slippers on his feet, he muttered incomprehensible words – more to himself than to me.  I got him down, unplugged his I.V. pole and said to him in an empathetic tone, “I know you’re mad.  I would be really, really mad too if I had to be stuck in this cruddy hospital.”  That got his attention.  He started to laugh but tried to hide it.  But, he couldn’t resist talking to me.  He jabbered all the way over to the couch as he pushed his I.V. pole, and we sat and played Play-Doh for almost an hour together.  I guess he just needed to hear his emotions put into words.

That’s the beauty of young children:  once they can express the emotion, they can release it and move on, leaving no residual effects nor posing any analytical thoughts on why they feel a particular way.  They just do.

He has been extremely adaptable to his surroundings.  He’s a mini “Cool-Hand Luke”.  He rolls with whatever comes his way and plays hard and passes the time quite easily by watching TV, playing Play-Doh or Legos, painting, playing games on our iPhones, or my personal favorite:  directing his band and playing his toy trumpet.  The day he got his clear-plastic drum, which opened up and contained cymbals, drumsticks, a harmonica, castanets, maracas, a whistle, and a trumpet, he got so excited.  My aunt had found it for him, and my mom delivered it to him.  My mom, Ben & I all sat around and he played every instrument there was.  But, the minute his hands got on his trumpet, he put it up to his mouth like a natural musician and began tooting away on it.  Then, he used his drumstick to direct the band and cajoled my mom and I into being musicians and playing specific instruments to his liking.  Later on, he put on his slippers and had my mom push his I.V. pole around the room as she and my dad followed him around.  He assigned them instruments and he directed the band as they all marched in a parade.  His doctor came in and got a concert from him as well, and loved his parade and clapped and sang his praises.

Ben’s spirits were high and all our spirits were lifted by his resilience and seemingly happy countenance.  It made us feel better, and unwittingly we drew strength from that and counted on that type of enthusiasm and energy from him daily.  So, it was hard to face the facts that the last week of being in the 8′ x 15′ isolation room was starting to wear on him.  He was beginning to crack and at night he began throwing horrendous fits with my sister when she tried to bathe him.  When I walked in one day to spend some time with him, he snapped at me and refused to look at me or talk to me.  I recognized then that he had hit his limit.  I vowed to work on helping him deal with his emotions instead of focusing just on mine.

A few days ago, he had a near melt-down with taking his medicine so much so that he got a nose bleed.  Fortunately, he had taken the more important “horse-pill” medicines earlier, with the help of Katy, the nurse and ice cream and milk.  The nurse said, “Forget this one, it’s not part of his daily regiment anyway,” and left Ben and I on our own while Katy took a much needed lunch break.

He and I walked over to the couch and played with his newest obsession:  Play-Doh.  For awhile he was upset with me and would barely talk.  He even smashed my bumble bee that I had made for him, and slapped my hand when I reached for the Play-Doh.  I can’t lie, I was upset that my nicely sculpted bumble bee was smashed on the portable table, but I remained calm.  I could always make another one, right?  I smiled at him and told him I knew he was mad and that it was O.K. to feel that way.  He ignored me, but handed me back my Play-Doh and said, “Sorry” in a quiet voice and handed me back my squished bumble bee.  “It’s alright,” I said, and continued playing quietly as did he.

Later, he started warming up to me and talking to me about his medicine.  I asked him why he didn’t like to take his medicine.  He shrugged his shoulders and said, “I don’t know. But I don’t.”  I asked him if he liked all of us trying to help him or if he wanted to do it by himself.  He said, “By myself.”  I explained to him that he was too little to do it all by himself, but there were ways we could practice to make him feel better about it.  I asked him if he was scared.  He said, “Yep.”  I told him that I get scared to take my medicine too, and so does my dog, Sancho.  He was more interested in Sancho being scared about his medicine, so we practiced it like Sancho.  I had him close his eyes, take a deep breath in and a deep breath out and then, pretended that the Play-Doh was his pills and faked like I put them in his mouth.  Then, he closed his mouth and swallowed.  I petted his head like I do Sancho, and said, “Good job, Ben.”  He laughed and said, “Do it again.”  So I did.  We practiced like this about 5 times before playing Play-Doh again.  Every once in awhile I would have him practice like that or he would ask to practice, and we went through the routine over and over again.  Later, when I got back from my break, Katy told me that he had taken his last pill of the day with no fight or fuss.  The next day, I watched as Katy stealthily placed the pill in the ice cream, told him to open up, swallow, and take a drink of milk.  After he did, she told him that he had just taken his medicine.  He was so impressed with himself and with Katy that he realized he wasn’t even scared.

Helping him deal with being mad and scared made me feel like I was doing my best part as his aunt, his “Meeda” as he calls me.  We punched his pillow and yelled at it saying, “I’m so mad,” and then he would laugh afterwards.  It was a learning experience for me to see how well he moved between emotions and how he let off steam without getting too attached to why he was feeling the way he was.  He was “in the flow” and “riding the current” of his emotions – something many yoga instructors and practitioners strive to do on a regular basis.

He has been my “guru” so to speak at times.  I’ve never been around someone who is so adept at being his genuine self when given the opportunity.  When he’s “unedited,” he can maneuver through the raging rapids of his anger and scream and yell and hyper-ventilate and then fall into his mom’s arms, and afterwards, be calm and kiss her on the cheek.  Or he can coast along with his cool self all the while telling his nurses, “Bye sweetie,” or “Bye cutie.”  When “unedited,” he can boss his doctor when he forgets to sanitize his hands or tries handing him back his shorts that fell on the floor, then turn around and smile back at the doctor and say, “I love you,” as he is leaving the room.

Yet, nothing prepared me for the heartache I experienced the same day he threw his trains on the floor, mad at the world.  Katy had stepped out for her last break of the day before I went home.  The lights in his room were off and his blinds were pulled.  I was trying to coax him into taking a nap.  His Curious George DVD was playing on the TV.   I sat down near his bed, and he sat up, crossed his arms, and angrily said, “I’m not talking to you, Meeda.”  I told him that was fine, he didn’t have to, and I started to watch Curious George and the Man with the Yellow Hat.  He repeated louder, “I said, I’m not talking to you, Meeda.”  Again, I said, “That’s fine.  Just watch Curious George, I don’t mind.”  He huffed and puffed and said it again.  So, I turned to him, and he turned away.  I said, “You don’t have to talk, just shake your head, ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ when I ask you some questions.”

“Are you mad?” I asked.

He shook his head, “No.”

“Are you sad?” I asked.

I looked up and caught a glimpse of the side of his face.  Tears welled up in his eye and his shoulders drooped.  His bottom lip quivered and he let out a whimper.  I didn’t know what to say to him.  Tears welled up in my eyes, but for whatever reason I held them back.  I felt such great pity for him because there was a look of loneliness and defeat that briefly passed over his face.  It was a rare glimpse into his soul, a genuine display of a powerful emotion, even if it was for a nano-second.  My heart and mind registered it at the same time, and I rubbed his back and meekly said, “It’s OK to be sad.  I’m sad too.”

My words ruined the moment.  I should have just stood up and wrapped my arms around him and cried with him, but I didn’t.  I was under-prepared for that moment.  Anger I could handle.  Scared I could handle.  I was expecting him to feel that way.  I even encouraged him to  deal with it head on.  Even before this whole experience started, he told me he was sad as he was walking Sancho on the sidewalk across the street from my house.  He was about to go into the hospital to get his Broviac tube and begin his auto-immune suppressant drugs.  I talked to him about what we can do when we feel sad.  He asked me if Sancho was ever sad and if I was.  I even stood there and held his hand until he told me he wasn’t sad anymore and we could keep walking.  I wasn’t attached to his sadness that day and didn’t 100% know from where it was coming.  But, since being directly involved with his treatments, staying 6 – 8 hours with him a day at the hospital in his isolation room, looking at his bald head and realizing the price his body and spirit have paid to get to where he is now, I knew exactly why he was sad.  It was too much to witness him struggle with emotional turmoil and inner pain because I had linked his sadness to mine.  It was foreign territory for me.  We were in this together and we both wanted away from it in that split-second of time.

He is out of isolation now, and living at the Marriott Residency Hotel with his mom and our parents.  He is happy, and even rode his motorcycle up and down the hallway as he wore his “jet fighter pilot” mask.  He has laughed like the happy-go-lucky child that he typically is, and it brought us all great joy to know he has more freedom now than he has for the past 3 1/2 weeks.  Still, I can’t shake that experience of watching genuine sadness pour over his face, and I keep replaying it in my mind.  I have a feeling he has moved on from that emotion and has released it because he let it flow out of him just as easily as it came to him.  I guess I need to re-learn that lesson.   So, when tears alight to my eyes again, I will simply let them flow and embrace the moment and the feeling, so I can move on to the next.  Only then will I be able to follow Little Boy Blue (who might be the Pied Piper in disguise) as he blows his horn and leads us all in a parade up and down the hotel hallway.