February 9, 2018
by Annie

Love The One You’re With

Valentine’s Day.

I lost interest in the holiday long ago. It has always felt like we have to muster a prefab feeling for all those cornball heart-shaped candies and flowers.

Actually Valentine’s Day reminds me of my folks. No, not because they were married for sixty-two years, but because they decided to celebrate by buying each other a cremation. I’d be lying if I said I’d found a nice neat compartment in my brain to house that joyous expression of love.

Now I realize it was a gift for their children. They saved us from having to wing it at an emotional time. It was all paid for, right down to the last upsetting detail.

As my parents forged their twilight years they discussed death and dying as if new friends they didn’t care to meet. Of course they wanted to be responsible, leaving no loose ends to chance…but at the same time, making it quite clear they had no plans to vacate the premises.

I suppose all these conversations about dying were a preparation of sorts. A form of shattering the illusion that the moments will last forever or that there is greatness in existence…a seriousness in holding onto material things and being able to pass them forward. Or maybe we all share a secret longing for solitude …a deep mysterious living need to die. Hell if I know…I’m still trying to take down my Christmas lights.

Maybe that’s why I found this morning’s call from a funeral home somewhat entertaining. I’ve received robocalls in the past, but this was different.

“Congratulations,” the female voice chirped. “Your name has been chosen in our annual drawing and you’ve just won a free burial plot!”

“Wow”, I said. “This is truly my lucky day! A six-foot patch of dirt all my own. Me…a frickin’ landowner! Let me catch my breath. Too much glee could stop the old ticker and I want to savor this moment.”

I know she must have thought I was nuts, and she had every right to go there. But, come on. It was over the top. Her cheerful voice…the image of a raffle at a funeral home…basically, the whole idea that someone could become downright giddy over an underground storage unit started me on a trajectory of revelations.

See how I segue? Just when you think I’m going to badger some poor funeral home employee who is just doing her job, I untie the tether and send the conversation free falling. You see, my brain is like a door ajar, and any little breeze causes it to swing on its hinges and bang away through the night like a call girl at a sales convention.

So there I sat…waiting for her to explain all the hidden costs associated with my new narrow home when my mind spiraled to the last Valentine’s Day with my parents. I brought them a box of chocolates filled with hard caramels. Yes, I know it was not a good idea…but we opened it anyway and proceeded to pull out our fillings.

While digging nuggets out of our molars, we discussed where to scatter their ashes. My dad mentioned that one of his friends’ remains are on a golf course where he made a hole in one.

“That’s pretty shallow.” I said aloud, although I should have kept my caramel trap shut.

Besides, who am I to judge? Maybe that was the greatest experience of his life. Possibly there was nowhere else he’d rather be than in a small dark hole where golf balls are knocked in daily.

I’m starting to depress myself. Besides, I’m no spring chicken. Youth came and went as if I slept through an entire evolutionary drift. No doubt about it…I’m flying down the backside of the Bell Curve with my arms raised high in the air and screaming so loud you can hear me in a past life. Soon men with their trousers up to their nipples will be asking me to Starbucks to do crosswords together.

So I guess on that note I’ll end with…Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

April 5, 2017
by Annie

The Root of the Problem

More and more I feel that we are off track.

I can hear the subtle shift that is taking us further away from the source.

I listen to the music…only someone is playing the wrong chords. I want to turn it off, but I don’t know how.

Where is the connection? Why have we turned a blind eye to so much suffering?

Have we forgotten that when the earth is in pain, we collectively grieve?

If we are no longer ‘grounded’, we are denying the divine pull to reconnect with what is important.

We have a president who thinks we’ve done enough for the rest of the world.

Time to get selfish, he says!

No, when we lose our bond to each other, what is the point to our existence?

Can we truly just sit back and watch Syrian children gassed and kids starve in the Sudan?

Is it really our turn to be selfish?

We dilute ourselves with political upheaval and social media feeds in search of the new god of narcissism.

Does this feel right?

Trump unveils environmental laws as if he’s rolling out a revised world map…one which promises sunken fracking holes, pesticides, drone strikes and melting ice caps.

The earth has somehow held up, in spite of being a slave to a mad master.

We treat her as an abused lover, “our better half”, while she silently seethes.

I want to hold on and stay centered. Ride out these crazy times, and keep priorities in order.

I want to be grateful and respect my revolving home.

I walk into the garden and ask forgiveness.

Today, honor the earth. Make beautiful connections. Be human.

December 11, 2016
by Annie

Treading Water in Trump’s Swamp

I’m sad.
You don’t need to reprimand me.
I’m well-aware that I should get over my post election blues and stand behind our new president elect, and yet I find myself consumed with dread.
It’s irrational, I know.
Trump hasn’t even been inaugurated.
He’s still picking cabinet members, taking victory laps, and posting on Twitter…short 140 character drive-by-tweets to the world at all hours of the day and night.
I have no idea when he sleeps or what is so urgent that it can’t wait until morning, but I’m hoping these angry old white man’s irrationally narcissistic outbursts will become more politically stable after January 20th…and yet there is a feeling that hangs ominously over the moral fiber of this land…slowly seeping into our country’s DNA like a paralyzing disease.
This feeling of despair has only visited a few times in my life, and each time it began with an apathetic decision, a period of great pain, followed by a rocky transition…ending in new growth.
I probably deserved every one of those smackdowns because I wasn’t paying attention. I didn’t seem to care enough, and complacency breeds surrender… in terms of this election, that’s right where they want us.
Each lesson learned started out innocently enough, and yet I knew it was the wrong choice. I felt it in my gut.
I recognized that I was on the wrong course, but I let it go. … because I didn’t feel like fighting it. I became passive…hoping that it would eventually work out…or someone else would take the reins and fix it. But no one else is going to fix this…and I haven’t come this far to be a voice unheard.
We are told that Donald Trump will be an unconventional leader…that he shies away from normal protocol and Washington rules.
He has been described as a man who enjoys surprising people…which is great if you’ve hired David Copperfield, but I don’t want to wake up one morning and find that Trump has waged nuclear war with a neighbor due to an online Twitter scrap.
Actually, I don’t even want my president to be active on Twitter at all, but I must be an exception to the rule because no one seems to give a rat’s ass.
Instead, we witness his thin-skinned insecurities on social media…maligning Muslims, flogging families of fallen soldiers, scorching SNL cast members, bitch-slapping Broadway casts, undercutting Union workers, blowing off Boeing contracts, basically any person or institution that condemns him.
How did we get here?
We thought we’d made such strides to build a stronger, more tolerant nation! Oh, how we praised our progress! Of course we knew there was much more to do, but we never disputed our direction and course of action.
Looking back, I suppose we were too busy high-fiving our progressive stance on electing a black president, implementing equal rights, health care, and climate change policies to even be aware of the forgotten American undercurrent. In the wake of our progress, the rumbling voices duped for years into voting against their best interests grew stronger…waiting for their turn…and their leader.
Trump gave these voices permission to “lock up a Crooked Clinton” and laugh at a man’s disabilities or call Rosie O’Donnell a fat pig.
His tour bus locker room antics with Billy Bush should have turned America’s stomachs…but instead, the crowds gave him a pass for his pussy grabbing gaffe, and his rallies continued to multiply, sparking the flames of hatred, prejudice, misogyny, bigotry, bullying, and racism.
I realize you can’t have it both ways. I want transparency when it comes to our leader’s taxes and investments around the world, but I don’t want to hear about their “private holdings” with women. Nor do I want to be lied to, or played a fool. Yes, other presidents have acted as if their penises are running the show…Republicans are the first to toss Bill Clinton’s sexual dalliances at Dems… as if we introduced him to Jennifer Flowers and Monica at a suburban cocktail party.
Character flaws exist. They are not to be celebrated or defended. Bill was nearly impeached for his infidelity, whereas Trump was elected despite his double-dipping.
As the campaign months dragged on, lines blurred, fictitious news stories surfaced, and yet Trump did not denounce the fabrication because it was what his followers wanted to hear. They stood in growing numbers, chanting their frustrations as he basically promised a happy ending to every blue collar man’s wet dream.
Now we are facing a new issue. Did Russia play a role in our election results?
And if so, why did Obama wait until now to call for an immediate and thorough investigation? So many unanswered questions, and yet if the CIA finds that the Kremlin tampered with our election, what options do we have?
As Bob Lefsetz wrote, “It’s not like we haven’t lived through this before, fifty-odd years ago. The Russians were the enemy, but JFK stood up to them, ended the Cuban Missile Crisis, now we’ve got a half-cocked doofus with no experience pointing out Putin’s advantages. If that doesn’t make your head spin, your spine is fused.”
So Donald…
You know all those people who voted for you? They want a wall…they want Hillary locked up…they want their jobs back…and now that you’ve pretended to care, they want your undivided attention.
Did you realize if you offered these rewards for their votes you’d have an obligation to perform?
You, who ran the Apprentice and fired people when they didn’t live up to your expectations?
I don’t care if you dig into that border soil yourself in the middle of the night with a flashlight, you better build that wall, the higher the better for your fanbase, and remember, Mexico pays!…because that’s what you promised.
Bottom line, as a single parent who married someone hellbent on obfuscating the truth, I’ve spent a lifetime trying to educate my kids that there are consequences when dining with charlatans.
My gut told me then…and my gut tells me now…that I’ll be fine, having pulled myself out of these weeds before. In some small way it might be my contribution to the collective consciousness as we move through these bitch-slapping, pussy-grabbing, Putin-bromancing Trump transition times.
Okay, I’ve struggled with throwing this out there, but I realize that I can no longer be a passive observer. If we can’t speak the truth, then why live in this country? I need to speak mine…we all must…many already have. I’m tired of tucking things deep, watching the carnage, and adjusting to the fallout.

September 28, 2016
by Annie

Off Leash Reboot

shutterstock_52210522I’m going to start writing again.

My goal is to be as prolific as J.K. Rowling on a Harry Potter bender. I want to eat and breath literary excellence, summoning the wise Virginia Woolf, the caustic Edith Wharton, the wisecracking Dorothy Parker…and roll it off the press faster than Danielle Steele’s latest and greatest…Or maybe I should be content to finish this short piece.

First, I probably should explain why I quit.

Before I had cancer, I loved to write about all the things I found amusing. I’d pound out a post during the day and then my husband and I would edit into the night over a few glasses of wine and a lot of laughs. Then I got sick. I tried to hold onto my humor through cancer and chemo, but it became increasingly hard as the treatments ended and I was supposed to resume living with rekindled purpose and joy.

But I didn’t know how. I was scared to eat anything for fear it would return. I was reminded over and over that reoccurrence usually happens in the first five years. As much as I tried to live in the moment and not think about that timetable, my thoughts always circled back. So I exercised until exhausted. I became a slave to perpetual motion…somehow believing the culprit was the sedentary sloth-like hours I spent at my writing desk. Ultimately I stopped doing EVERYTHING I loved since it seemed obvious the life I led caused that dreaded disease.

For the first two years I waited for time to pass, hair to grow, and my mind to reboot. I became fixated on things to avoid…chocolate, alcohol, coffee, stress, root canals, red meat, processed food, white rice, microwaves, vegetable oil, artificial sweeteners, soft drinks, …the list grew longer and longer as I turned each calendar page. I snacked on Brazil nuts and almonds, made a commitment to whole grains, and tried a conscious uncoupling with Monsieur Cabernet.

I wanted to figure out who I was, the “new me”, the one who could no longer write or read because my brain was foggy. I began small though lofty projects, but soon left them halfway done, moving onto the next. When I finished a book, I forgot its contents immediately. I would take out a mop, a footstool, or a vacuum, plug it in and walk away, leaving a perfect toe-stubbing obstacle course for my uber patient husband.

I was bald for over a year, with token cameos from my eyebrows, eyelashes and  short patchy stubbles on my head before they would all exit stage left again. Every ounce of hair on my body went MIA for those first two years and I pined for everything from pubes to nasal follicles. I felt sexless and depressed and I just wanted to be left alone, but my mind was on a tape loop. If I ate or drank something that was on the no fly list, I felt guilty and worthless. It was not fun to go out to eat or rendezvous with friends as no one wanted to be reminded of illness. An uncomfortable meeting with an old acquaintance leading to a comment about my appearance could set me back for months. My emotional skin was thin, leaving me ultra-sensitive when someone found all those new little sprigs on the top of my head to be a real knee-slapper. I stayed home, tucking myself away in the writing alcove and bounced on an exercise ball, praying that I’d find a lift, while feeling like a spoiled brat for being depressed. For God sakes, I was one of the lucky ones.

Now that I’ve filled this page with doom-and-gloom, I’m going to tell you what I probably should have said at the beginning. I’m finally done thinking about reoccurrence. I am going back to my old mantra…”I am healthy and I am healed.” I will enjoy each moment, whether it’s writing this post, running a half marathon, or eating a super sized bacon-cheeseburger and fries. Besides, if cancer makes another guest appearance, wouldn’t I be pissed that I spent my days worried about it? I’m going to stop feeling sorry for myself, get on my Quidditch stick and skewer demons!