Archive for May, 2011

May 22, 2011

What, No Rapture?

Yesterday, I was driving in my car around 7pm, and I heard an interview on the radio with a man I believe was Robert Fitzpatrick, author of “The Doomsday Code,” and a well-known believer in yesterday’s scheduled Rapture. Obviously it hadn’t happened, and amidst the throngs of believers and curious onlookers, he was asked why. He replied that he just didn’t know. There was so much evidence in the scripture, but apparently they had been mistaken. As to what would happen next, he said, and I quote from memory, “I suppose now we just have to go on practicing forgiveness and doing good in our lives.”

I was kind of stunned by this response. For one, I’m not used to hearing public figures use phrases like, “I don’t know,” and “We made a mistake.” It’s just not common practice. Too bad, since I’ve found admitting to mistakes to be one of the best teaching tools, especially as the parent of a young child.

It struck me when hearing this, that it would be pretty amazing, after all the hype of the doomsday prediction (seriously, the Rapture PR firm definitely earned their fee), for a takeaway message like this to gain similar traction. Imagine that one going viral? “True believers say we must all now live lives of forgiveness and doing good for others.” Not the same kind of punch as “all of you sinners are about to die,” but hey, it’s pretty darn religious if you ask me.

I won’t lie. I’m definitely from the “can’t we all just get along” school. While I don’t actively practice any organized religion at the moment, I consider myself deeply spiritual, and I don’t begrudge anyone’s choice to fashion their own version or go with some established tradition of a belief system that gives form to the great unknown. We all have to deal with it… whatever works for you is fine by me! Where I draw the line is when someone tells me that their way is THE only way. Or takes it a step further and determines that because I don’t believe in their way, I’m inferior to them, or worse, a candidate for extermination. That’s not very nice, is it?

Call me crazy, but I thought that all the major religions were basically about worshipping their version of THE GREAT ONE by adhering to a code of ethics that entailed doing good, treating each other right, not stealing each other’s mates, not killing one another, etc. Perhaps this “end of the world” we’ve been hearing about is something more akin to the end of the world AS WE KNOW IT. You know, like the dawning of the Age of Aquarius? Shedding outmoded ways of being, treating each other, thinking? Stepping into a new era?

If someone who believed so fervently in this very extreme outcome can suggest that maybe we all just have to hang around for a little while longer in a state of forgiveness and goodness, I suggest we go with that. What have we got to lose?

Photo by Steve Jurvetson

May 14, 2011

Surgery, Life, Health and Courage

Apparently, like so many women, I herniated my belly button during childbirth eight years ago. At first, I thought it was just that usual, “I used to have an innie, but now I have an outie,” thing. But over the years, that outie popped out further and further. Not so cute.

I admit, I was told by more than one doctor that eventually, I would have to get it fixed. But what really made me understand that something had to change, and fast, was that I was incurring increasingly frequent bouts of lower back pain. After an acute, two-day, flat-on-my-back episode several weeks ago, my astute chiropractor, Dr. Loretta French, explained to me how the lack of abdominal muscle strength caused by the hernia (i.e. no core!) was causing me to overuse various muscles in my lower back. Hence, the weakness and vulnerability there.

I can’t tell you how happy this made me. Seriously. I have not been able to sustain a workout regimen for longer than a few months without injuring myself since I had my son. I went out the next day and scheduled an appointment to see a surgeon. Finally, an explanation for the chronic problems I’d been having since giving birth! I had just thought, OK, I had a baby, now I’m broken… But no! It did not have to be this way! Now I could see a light at the end of the tunnel. So I expedited the process, and this past Tuesday, I had the outpatient surgery. It went well, and I’ve been slowly recovering at home, gradually getting back to my regular work…

Of course, the experience brought up a few things, and of course, I want to share them with you.

First of all, I have to say, it’s very different being on the receiving end of medical services than it is being the care partner of a patient. I fulfilled that latter role for over twenty years with my husband Ivor, before he finally passed away in October of 2009, due to complications of his lifelong, chronic illness, sickle cell anemia. During our decades together, Ivor and I logged countless hours in emergency rooms, intensive care units and regular hospital wards. We crossed paths with untold numbers of nurses, interns, residents, specialists, technicians, assistants, pharmacists, therapists… I found most of them to be caring, dedicated and skilled, although over the years, we did have the misfortune to meet more than a few who were plagued by cynicism, overwork, negative presumptions about Ivor or his illness, or just plain battle fatigue. We learned to be pro-active, articulate and self-protective.

We were a team.

Now my surgery was no where near the harrowing, life-threatening, repeated incidents Ivor had to endure over the years. Having not let my condition progress too far, the procedure was still at the semi-elective stage, and besides that one problem, I’m basically strong and healthy, so I had no other risk factors going into surgery. Predictably, there were no complications. But things did get a little weird for me when, a half hour before the procedure was to begin, the anaesthesiologist described how he would be putting me to sleep with some medication via my IV, and then inserting the tube down my throat for the general anaesthesia. The what? THE WHAT? How had I missed that??

Intubated. The thing that happens when you’re so weak from pneumonia that you can’t breathe on your own. When one of your major body systems can’t function and you need mechanical support. When you are near death. Tube down my throat? I acted calm, but inside I was filled with all of the most negative associations. So much so, that when it came time for them to administer the first injection, the anaesthesiologist asked me if my heart always beat that fast, or was I just nervous. I said, I’m very nervous. My kind surgeon, Dr. Sas, offered to hold my hand. I squeezed it hard. But honestly, when the medicine began to hit, I remember saying, “Oh yes, this will work just fine.” And the next thing I remember, I was waking up in recovery.

Surgery is a kind of miracle of faith and trust. You put your life in the hands of doctors and nurses who cut into you to change your body, so you may live a better life. You have faith that when you go to sleep, you will in fact, wake up better than before. That you will, in fact, wake up! That you won’t wake up attached to some metallic, wired apparatus in a hidden room somewhere, with alien creatures performing strange sexual experiments on your helpless body (yeah, I went there). Or that you won’t end up at the end of the tunnel of light with your dear, departed husband (I love you honey, but I’m just not ready to be dead yet). All these thoughts and more were crowded out of my brain by the flood of endorphin producing chemicals that do whatever else it is they did to mercifully blank out my consciousness, allowing those talented and caring professionals to exert their skills on me.

I feel grateful that I don’t have to do this on a regular basis, and I feel awe and respect for those who do. Living with a chronic or life threatening illness enters you into an ongoing ride on the faith, trust, courage, strength, and fear train. Repeated challenges to one’s inner fortitude take almost as much, if not more energy, than the physical toll of the medical condition and its treatment.

The sacred bond between patient, doctor and all members of the support team (including the care partners) is one that I will always honor. I have lived many sides of it, and know of its profound impact on the souls of all who are involved. Being part of this circuit has given me an appreciation for the preciousness of each moment of life and good health. I am deeply grateful for my experience.

And yes, I have an innie again…

Photo courtesy of otisarchives 1

May 8, 2011

Welcome to My Blog

Like every good self-involved writer, I feel the need to step back for a moment and write about what I’m going to write about. Just to make sure I pound the obvious deeply into the dirt. But more importantly, I want you to know just how important you, the reader, are to me.

The writing I’ll be sharing with you will fall into roughly three categories: stuff about me, posts about creative people or events that inspire and delight me, and political or social stuff that I think has some kind of significance or value beyond the boundaries of my self. Sometimes the thing I write may fall into more than one category, and I’ll have to double categorize it. I may sweat this process longer than necessary, so bear with me.

This post, however, falls squarely into the personal category. I want you to understand a bit more about me and why you matter so much.

I am at my best when I’m writing letters. I’ve always enjoyed the freedom of boundariless sharing with friends, freedom to flit from one topic to another and cement my relationship in whatever random ways feel good at the moment. I might throw in some keen observations, progress updates, self-deprecating jokes, sardonic comments or heartfelt confessions. When you receive a letter from me, you will definitely recognize that you have been included in something very personal. I put a lot into my letters, and often feel like I need a nap after I’ve completed one.

This will not be a letter. I do not know you well enough yet.

However, I am prone to sharing, and I do need to reveal a certain amount of my psyche in order to feel that something genuine has happened here, so there will be a few takeaways.

A few basic facts. First of all, I am a solo parent of an eight year old boy named Josiah. He is perhaps my biggest inspiration, as well as my biggest responsibility and concern. More often than not, he delights and entertains me beyond belief, and you can expect me to share a lot of stories about him.

Secondly, I am a widow. I lost my husband Ivor in October of 2009, to a terrible disease (one of the suckiest I know of) called sickle cell anemia. Ivor and I were together for just about 22 years, and during that time I experienced more than my share of stresses related to living with a chronically and progressively ill partner, including dealing with hospitals, medication, financial pressure, and a decreasing ability to live life in a lighthearted, spontaneous manner, not to mention the psychic pressure of impending death. However, I also experienced a profound understanding of what is important in life, how to not sweat the little things while valuing the precious gifts of love and family and friendship and small pleasures like cooking and eating yummy food, planting flowers, watching a great movie, having a good stretch in the morning…

The paradoxes inherent in this huge portion of my life have provided me with enough material to write about for quite some time. I have experienced so much, and I am interested in so many things, plus, I know SO MANY amazing people, and I want to tell you about ALL OF IT. In some ways, it feels beyond my control. This stuff is pouring out of me right now, and I’m just going with it, delivering it as fast as I can.

But here’s the thing. I really need to know you’re out there. It’s hard for me to get invested if I think I’m talking to myself. It’s a blog, not a diary. I do know the difference. And like an actor who thrives on the immediacy of performing for a live audience in the theater, I need to know that someone’s actually receiving the energy I’m putting into these words.

So subscribe to my blog. Tell your friends about it. I promise, there will be a great variety of topics and ideas covered here. Comment on my posts! I’ll respond…

If you get bored, you can always move on to the next thing. But I’m betting you won’t.

Photo courtesy of Hamed Saber

May 8, 2011

Let’s Consider Our Humanity for a Minute…

Hi Everyone, it’s me again.

In honor of Mother’s Day and my maternal instincts that extend well beyond my own child, I want to present you with this thought. If we can get ourselves to think about at least one other person in the world outside our immediate circle and do something to more fully understand them and their suffering, their humanity, then we will be taking a significant step towards making the world a better place. For once we make that type of emotional connection to another human being, it’s hard to not consider following up with some action. We just have to take it one step at a time.

It almost doesn’t matter which person or people you choose. There are plenty of options of people in need. Just pick one and go from there. But in case you need an idea, here’s one: Iraqi refugees.

Many of us are living fairly comfortable lives. Even though we all have our share of problems and struggles, in general, the situation here in the US is qualitatively different from that of any people who are living in a war torn region where car bombings and other random attacks are a daily occurrence, and the very fabric of normal existence has been ripped apart by drastic deficits created in the basic infrastructure. Such is the case in Iraq. It has been like this for the vast majority of Iraqi citizens for over 20 years, largely due to the impact of US policy towards that country. The level of suffering of the Iraqi people has been well documented, and it’s pretty damn staggering. Currently there are over 4 million displaced Iraqis, many of whom are now living in a virtual state of limbo in neighboring Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

After 9/11, Iraqis were unfortunately (and, as there is much evidence to prove, mistakenly) associated with those who would do harm to the US. With that kind of negative legacy, inspiring support for Iraqis among Americans continues to be a daunting task. Several artists I am proud to know have undertaken projects that provide a way to help American people to grasp the very basic human aspects of the situation and relate to Iraqis as fellow world citizens, not too different from ourselves. I truly believe that making this connection is our only hope. When people hear their stories, they are moved. It’s that simple.

Check out the following creative endeavors which I believe go a long way towards evoking appropriate understanding of and sympathy for Iraqi refugees and will hopefully inspire concrete action on their behalf:

No Place Called Home – A one-woman show written and performed by Kim Schultz, commissioned by Intersections International, based on her experiences hearing the stories of Iraqi refugees she met in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, performed in NYC, Washington, DC and South Bend, Indiana, and now launching a national tour.

The Unreturned – A documentary film chronicling the plight of five displaced middle-class Iraqis, living in Syria and Jordan, by filmmaker Nathan Fisher, seen at festivals in the US, Europe, Canada, Syria and Japan.

Erasing Iraq: The Human Costs of Carnage – A comprehensive book chronicling the last twenty years of the near destruction of Iraqi society, featuring searing historical documentation and in-depth interviews of Iraqi refugees living in Syria and Jordan, as well as western countries, written by Michael Otterman and Richard Hill with Paul Wilson.

These artists, who are each committed to making a difference in the lives of our Iraqi brothers and sisters, have my complete admiration, as I, too have worked on a creative project illuminating the plight of Iraqi civilians, but unlike each of them, I was unable to complete my own project.

My film, “Christmas in Baghad,” which I worked on from 1999-2001, looked at the impact of sanctions after the first Gulf War on the lives of Iraqi citizens and their family members living here in the US. I never forgot the quiet dignity and generosity of spirit I encountered in the families I met and grew to care about during production. I, too, had a similar experience of hearing the stories of brave and sad human beings who had endured incomprehensible suffering for reasons that were beyond logic. These stories also burned a place in my soul.

And that’s why I’m sharing this information with all of you. Read Mike’s book. Check out Nate’s film. See Kim’s show. Better yet, arrange for a reading, a screening, a performance. Maybe even a panel discussion with all three of them! Contact me, I know them all. I’ll hook you up.

I’m not trying to overwhelm you. This is just me introducing the topic. Take in what you can right now, I just wanted you to know there are options moving forward. But we can take it one step at a time. For now, just consider the fact that it could be important to all of us. To our humanity. Think about it. I’ll get back to you…

With gratitude,

Deborah

May 7, 2011

My Son, the Talent Scout

Last weekend marked a seminal occasion. It was my son’s first rock concert. I think eight is a good age to be inducted into the world of live rock music – your energy is off the chart, you have this urge to fling your little body all over the place, and mom knows you’ll fall asleep in the car on the way home, so she doesn’t mind keeping you out late on a Saturday night. So when I was invited to attend a fund raising concert for my friends over at Road Recovery, I thought, this will be a good time all around.

After a fun afternoon in Central Park, Josiah and I, accompanied by his best buddy Aidan and his mom, Orchid packed into my car and headed out to the Long Island campus of SUNY Old Westbury to the Maguire Theater. A group of bands were performing to raise funds for Road Recovery, a terrific organization dedicated to helping young people struggling with addiction problems and other adversities. Headed by founder Gene Bowen, a long time rock and roll tour manager and former out-of-control addict, they hook the kids up with professionals from the music biz who have been through recovery themselves, and get the teens involved in music production and live performances. It’s a great way to positively channel young, troubled energies into a productive direction within the music world, with guidance from those who’ve “been there” and are making it on the other side.

We arrived just in time to see the one band in the line-up comprised of Road Recovery alums, called Father and Son. I was impressed that these two guys, Tim on guitar and lead vocals (and such a sweet voice he has) and Ryan on drums (and occasional saxophone), could produce such a huge wall of sound. The impact on our boys was completely visceral, their response, instinctive. As if born to rock, their heads were instantly bobbing up and down, arms flailing on air drums and guitar, and they howled their pleasure at the end of each song. What a joyous sight to behold. I must admit, I sat there grinning like a fool for most of the set, enjoying the new found pleasure these kids were experiencing at their first live rock show. This was truly a moment to remember.

After the show, I sat down with Tim and Ryan along with Road Recovery VP Jack Bookbinder, to talk about music, recovery and life on earth. I was impressed to learn that these two young men, still at the tender ages of 22 and 24, have been sober and loving life since 2006. (Budding creatives, take note!) Their music is raw, ambitious, creative and totally rockin, with influences as disparate as Clutch and John Coltrane, trip hop and classical. Made me think of the art rock of King Crimson, or the raw, experimental fun of bands like They Might Be Giants when they were just getting started in the east village of 1980’s NYC.

Check out our conversation here. Note the sounds of the boys running around in the background. They had a whole two-story administrative building to themselves, and they probably ran at least 10 laps around that thing during the eight minutes of our interview.

Did I mention we have a drum kit at home? Yeah. I see my future, and it is a garage band…

*  *  *  *  *

The next day, we went visiting with our cousins out in Brooklyn. Had another great day out and about, complete with a waterfront stroll along the semi-industrial route up to Dumbo. On the subway ride home, we watched a tall, stylish young woman get on the train and sit down across from us, decked out in a most funky, chic outfit topped off by this awesome necklace:

Josiah leaned over to me and said, “Mom, look at that great necklace.” So I told him that the woman wearing it probably made it, and why don’t you ask her?  He was too shy, but she was so friendly that I not only asked her if she  made the necklace (She did!!), but requested a picture, and you can see the result… I told her that I’d like to include her in my blog, and did she have a website or anything… Does she!!! Oh my, this woman is Kalae All Day, designer of jewelry and accessories, and the face of http://www.UttaKAOS.com…  AND (as if that weren’t enough), she’s also a recording artist and performer. The name of her digital album, AFROMATIKNEOHIPPIEROCK​*​SOLEMUZIK pretty much says it all. Check out her stuff. You can tell her Josiah sent you…