Friday, December 30, 2011

Annie: 2012

"I Got the Blues"

This rarity from "Sticky Fingers" by the Stones was sent to me by my best male friend, who emailed me that it was dedicated from him to me and my Tatus (and loosely, he said, to Chris).

The Rolling Stones
I Got The Blues

(M. Jagger/K. Richards)

As I stand by your flame
I get burned once again
Feelin' low down, I'm blue

As I sit by the fire
Of your warm desire
I've got the blues for you, yeah

Every night you've been away
I've sat down and I have prayed
That you're safe in the arms of a guy
Who will bring you alive
Won't drag you down with abuse

In the silk sheet of time
I will find peace of mind
Love is a bed full of blues

And I've got the blues for you
And I've got the blues for you
And I'll bust my brains out for you
And I'll tear my hair out
I'm gonna tear my hair out just for you
If you don't believe what I'm singing
At three o'clock in the morning, babe, well
I'm singing my song for you

If I Fell...

Folks consistently ask me why I awaken at 5:30 am, when I don't have to leave the house to take Luke to school until 8:10 am, after which I get ready for work, which starts at 9:30am. My answer is always the same: I enjoy my "me" time in the morning. That's when I get up, have my copious amount of green tea, usually write my blog (if I don't fall asleep at the computer writing it the night before, once falling out of the chair asleep in the office), smoke my cigarettes and check my Facebook and Twitter, reading articles, responding to emails, et al. In peace. Without the watchful eyes of my family, whom I let slumber until I wake up Luke at 7:15am. I go to bed at a reasonable hour, so I feel that I'm getting enough sleep.

Yesterday morning, however, I woke the whole house up at 5:30am, thunderously. Went into the office to unplug my laptop, grab that, my mouse and pad and my cell phone to head downstairs to write and make the tea. I had the light on the office gathering those items together, turned the light off, and went into the hallway, looking for the hall light on the wall. It was very dark and my eyes were not accustomed to the darkness, having had the office light on.

Sliding my right hand around the wall looking for the light switch, my left hand full of my electronics, I slipped and fell down the entire flight of stairs onto the landing between staircases. Hardwood floors. Clutching my laptop for dear life, it didn't get busted. My mouse flew down the stairs, as did my cell phone, each falling apart. My ma says, in hindsight, that it was a blood-curdling boom as I fell down the stairs. She thought at first I'd fallen out of bed, but she said the sound was much louder than that. Turning the hall light on finally, she saw me lying on the landing, in shock.

Luke rushed out of his room and down the stairs to put the phone and mouse back together. My mom was trying to make sure I hadn't broken anything (on my body). All I knew was that my knees and my back were killing me. I started crying from the pain (and I'm no pain wimp) and the trauma. Ma started crying.

Ma and Luke went back to bed shortly thereafter and I pressed on with my morning. Each had a difficult time getting back to sleep, which isn't really my fault but I contributed to it (turned out Luke slept until after noon yesterday while I was at work).

I felt better being up and around at work yesterday, as opposed to sitting and getting stiff. The 4 Advil I took in the morning helped. I was experiencing severe dizziness, which made me wonder if I'd hit my head, but I don't think I did. One of my doc bosses said it was from the shock and trauma of falling. Took some anti-vertigo medication and that helped as well. I asked TOC if I should bother Stosh (my PCP) about the fall and he said no, that tailbone "bruises" take up to 2 weeks to heal and that I probably didn't need an X-ray or an MRI. But I wonder about the MRI, given I have a herniated L5/S1 in my back already. (UPDATE: Just called Stosh. I was told that even if I did fracture my tailbone, there's nothing they do about it, it just takes a long time to essentially the same thing TOC said.) (UPDATE 2: Stosh called back. He thinks, based on the spasms and pain, that it's fractured and will x-ray next week to confirm location and severity, and reiterated that it'll take a long time to heal...he wants me to alternate heat/ice and ibuprofen/Norco.)

But I had a rough night, to say the least. My back would spasm and wake me up, which curled me into a ball every time it happened, and it was hard to straighten out again, to the point where I just got up (I planned to sleep in this morning). It spasms when I cough, blow my nose, or anything. Took 2 nerve blockers and 2 pain pills this morning to offset the onslaught of pain. Propped the heating pad on my tailbone, which feels good.

I think I need the services of my rocking chiropractor, Randy. Acupuncture, anyone?

It didn't help that yesterday at work, I had a hypoglycemic attack and had to punch out for an hour, because my supervisor and co-workers thought I was slurring my speech too much. I didn't feel *that* out of it, and was working hard when I got the order to punch out and take a break. Ate my lunch in the car (bruschetta without the bread--just the tomato mixture) and an apple--my ma called to check on my injuries-and said I wasn't slurring my speech at all. In any event, I dozed off for a little while and went back into work at 3pm, my back stiff from sitting in the car.

So what was the much anticipated Christmas gift from my Tatus? A book. Books, yay! A book by Greil Marcus, one of my favorite rock critics? Yay! A book about The Doors? Let's just say I've never been a fan. So it'll be an interesting perspective with which to read the book, not liking their music at all and thinking they're one of the most insipid bands of the 60's. They're one of those groups whose songs you know all by heart, but you just can't really tolerate. So much emphasis was put on Morrison and his physical beauty and heavy lifestyle, without regard to what was most important, the music. Tatus meant well and I'm sure he thought the book would be perfect for me. I guess I never voiced my disdain for The Doors out loud to him, but again, I'll read the book as a music critic and not as a fan. The book wasn't exactly what I was expecting, as he said earlier that he got me something "everyone else would hate but that I'd love because I'm such a non-conformist." I don't know what I was expecting. But a lot of conformists like The Doors, you know, stereotypical 60's band fans. And he didn't even wrap it, or write something meaningful in the book. He just sort of handed it to me in the office, and handed my co-worker 2 books from which to choose, and called that our Christmas gift exchange. It was nice of him to think of me in the first place, and I'm always grateful to receive a gift, but I didn't feel special, I just felt like one of the crowd of many at work. It's fair to say I guess I was a little bummed out, after all the hoop-dee-doo and given that he and I have a special relationship. He's capable of great feats of love and affection. Other times, he can be kind of a boob.

I worked hard on his gift, figuring out what would be appropriate but would be unique. The guy's got 1000 ties, but he doesn't have any featuring the artwork of John Lennon. He did really like the John Lennon artwork tie I gave him, and I think, though colorblind, he could tell the tie was mostly red, as well as the compilation of 3 CD's worth of Queen's greatest hits, and I told him to read the sappy card I gave him later, on his own. I don't know if he read it or not, but I warned him on the envelope that the card rhymed. I got a hug out of the whole thing.

On his way out of the office, I showed him what my best male friend got me for Christmas, a gift I'm still flabbergasted about, as I showed all the girls in the office on Wednesday.

My supervisor saw the gift and insisted I show every female in the office, and I had to tell everyone how we're just friends, and that he's married, but that his wife sort of knows I'm really, super special to him, and that she doesn't interfere in our relationship. They all looked at me like I was nuts.

Tatus asked me what my best male friend got his wife for Christmas, and I said I didn't know nor did I frankly care. Tatus said it must have been a very good year for my best male friend to afford such an extravagant Christmas present. He looked at the gift carefully, and God knows what was going through his head. He didn't say much other than to once again voice feeling sorry for me about the weekend my friend and I spent together this summer being such a horrible experience, when the truth is, we had a fabulous time together, even given the uber-expensive clusterfuck part of the weekend turned into. I can't figure out why he keeps bringing up the weekend we spent together, other than to chalk it up to a little bit of jealousy, which is totally unnecessary. So I don't know what to make of all that.

I love this video of the Beatles' "If I Fell." Especially Ringo's insistence that the crew member not touch his drums. I'm the same way...

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Neil Diamond Fucking Rules. James Taylor Should've Stayed on Dope.

Watching the Kennedy Center Honors. The inimitable Neil Diamond is being honored tonight for his contributions as a singer/songwriter. Neil's a fucking American institution. A true original. A classic. He's aged well, sells out stadiums in minutes to this day, and has a catalog of hits that rivals that of any American songwriters and we're STILL talking about him, watching him live, and marveling in his Neilness after all these years. There's literally nobody my age that I know personally who doesn't categorically love Neil Diamond.

Two people on this planet love Neil Diamond more than anything on earth other than our children: me and Steven Drozd. We wear Neil t-shirts. We tweet to Neil on Twitter in the unlikely event Neil will tweet back to us. (Steven admittedly has a better chance of getting a tweet back since he's famous and I'm not.) Neil asks Twitter fans to submit jokes he can tell his grandchildren and we wrack our brains coming up with jokes to tweet to Neil. We obsessively talk about him like giddy schoolgirls.

About time he was honored properly by the Kennedy Center and inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame. Way overdue.

My Tatus can't understand how I can have such awesome taste in music and love Neil Diamond so much. To that I say, "It's Neil Fucking Diamond! He fucking rules!" which my Tatus doesn't understand at all. He knows I have an eclectic taste in music to put it mildly, but thinks that Neil just sucks. He cringes at Boston ball games when the whole crowd breaks out into "Sweet Caroline," though he did let us leave it on the radio the last time we rode together in the car, and I think he actually started singing along. (This was after I told him Caroline was my middle name and that my parents used to play this song for me all the time. Great, now every time he hears a baseball crowd go "Bum, Bum, Bum," he'll think of me. Just great!)

I found the following hauntingly beautiful version of Neil Diamond doing "Solitary Man," one of my favorite songs, on YouTube.

Tatus' missus loves James Taylor. He was also on the Kennedy Center Honors tonight, in an abomination of clashing vomitrotious, almost incandescent lightning rods of drivel. Taylor's performance was a cover of The Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun," written by my favorite musician of all time, George Harrison. Taylor was the first American artist to be signed to The Beatles' Apple Records label in the late 60's, because McCartney thought he had promise as a songwriter, so I suppose he feels he has some right to perform "...Sun" on national television in 2011.

James Taylor, though, has no soul. Nothing stands out about him. He used to be just a hippie little fucking pansy guitar player/singer-songwriter writing lame tunes about lame things--he couldn't even evoke emotion about heroin addiction in "Fire and Rain." "You've Got a Friend" wasn't even written by him; it was written by Carole King (who's also equally lame). Neil Diamond gets up and dances and plays guitar and has groovy moves and woos the ladies. James Taylor can't even get off a fucking stool as the lighting crew attempts to cover up his enormous bald spot. The only song I can stand by him is a duet with JD Souther, "Her Town Too," about his divorce from Carly Simon (who's also pretty lame). He got clean eventually, dropping heroin and methadone, but in this writer's humble opinion, he might have a shot at having a soul if he had just stayed on smack, and you know that I don't advocate drug use for ANYONE, as both Drozd and I are recovering narcotics addicts ourselves. Except James Taylor. I think in this video, it's a smackdown of smack-ups, as both Taylor and Souther were still on H. Souther can barely sit up.

The best tribute to Neil Diamond was my friend Steven Drozd's project, "Hot Coffee and Mornin' Lovin'" by his Neil Diamond tribute duo, You in Me, with Allan Novey, karaoke sensation and Diamond imitator extraordinaire. It's an original composition, not a Neil Diamond cover. A pastiche. It's comical, dead-on, and plus Steven looks really awesome in the video:

Neil Diamond will stand the test of time. He will always be adored by sold-out crowds full of fans like me, Steven and my Ma, while James Taylor will be relegated to playing to wine-drinking, cheese-eating crowds of oldsters at Ravinia until he's on the cover of AARP magazine next to an article heading about Medicare donut holes.

I'm Not in Love, So Don't Forget It, It's Just a Silly Phase I'm Going Through

Maybe it's different for girls. Girls and modern age, in-touch-with-their-feelings kinds of sensitive guys. But you sort of know when you're in love with someone. I mean really, truly, ain't-no-denyin'-it, what-the-fuck-is-going-on, can-this-be-real, surely-you-jest in love with someone. It's a feeling that doesn't happen terribly often, but when it does, it's both elating and nauseating. Overwhelming sometimes. Especially when you don't know what to do with those feelings, wondering if the other person feels the same way about you...but it's termed "head over heels" for a reason. And it's always got to be so fucking complicated too. It's never just boy-meets-girl, boy-and-girl-become-best-buddies, boy-falls-in-love-with-girl-and-makes-her-knees-buckle, girl-blabs-about-him-to-all-her-girlfriends, boy-finally-leaves-wife and they live happily ever after.

I was reading a psychology blog today (Partners in Wellness) about depressed patients telling their partners "I love you, but I'm not in love with you..." and what the causes of that are, the ramifications of such a statement in relationships, etc. It was about adjusting to the depressed patient's sullen mood and trying to not take the statement personally, and how depression literally sucks the romance out of the patient, how many anti-depressants ruin the patient's sex drive and that radiates into their relationships. It went on and on, but the general gist of it was whether or not you should stay with your partner if they're going through major depression and what you should do if they come home one day and announce they're no longer in love with you. I dunno, it didn't sound very fair to the depressed patient from my perspective, Kate Theida writes:

Your partner, who has been experiencing mental illness, just said to you, “I love you, but I’m not in love with you.”

“Excuse me? After all I’ve done for you and all you’ve put me through?”, you think. Next comes: “Wait…what does that mean, anyway?”

It could mean a lot of things.

Let’s take a poll as to what it means when your partner has a mental illness:

A. Exactly what they said: they still care about you, but the romantic spark of being “in love” is gone.

B. They never loved you in the first place, but are just realizing or admitting to it now.

C. They are struggling so much with their mental illness that they are incapable of feeling emotions of any kind, including love. Therefore, “feeling no emotion” = “I must not love you any more.”

D. Your partner is experiencing a major life change with having a mental illness, and is re-evaluating their life, which includes your relationship.

E. This is another version of “It’s not you, it’s me” when someone is looking for an excuse to end a relationship.

We could argue that any and all of the above answers apply, and I would agree with you, but the best answer is C.


The above statements could be true of anybody, not just the depressed, don't you think? In all fairness, this has happened to me and I wasn't even depressed. Mentally ill, yes, but was that why my relationships didn't last? I don't know. It couldn't have helped, but I find pigeonholing the mentally ill as unlovable is unfair.

I also read a "psychology" blog today about 8 rules of attraction, or "secrets of falling in love." That was largely a load of hooey, with obvious "secrets" such as falling in love with someone with similar political leanings (true, I probably wouldn't date a rampant right-winger), a good waist-to-hip ratio on a woman (signaling good fertility, a subconscious sign for guys), a decent age difference (sorry, Chris, but you and the French kid wouldn't have worked out but no wonder I like older guys), couples that look alike tend to stay together longer (cue "Dueling Banjos"), your partner's capacity for altruism (yes, it's nice when your partner is a "do-gooder," but it's not necessary for love to happen), as well as some load of crap about super-skinny people (like me) being the ideal for men in the Western world where food is plentiful as a sign of the woman's self-control and stability (talk about pigeonholing!).

Craig and I sat on my dorm room floor, looking at one another, after we'd been dating for a few months back in '92. "There's a difference between loving someone and being in love with them," he told me. "Yeah, so?" I said. He went on, "Well, I know that I love you." That was it. I told him I loved him too. Was I in love with him at that point? Sure, I was. And I meant that "I love you" as such. But he was making it blatantly clear that he wasn't, at the time, in love with me. I assume he fell in love with me later on, or loved me enough eventually to marry me and bear a child with me, and we had several happy years together both before and after we got married. Do we still love one another? In our own weird way, yeah, we do. We share Luke. We're interconnected forever. But I found his statement a weird thing to say to your girlfriend when he said it 20 years ago and still find it weird today.

But Chris was even weirder. He actually professed to never having been in love with me, even given the longevity of our relationship. He shuffled it off as to "not knowing what being in love with someone meant anymore." I asked him if he'd been in love with his long-term college girlfriend. Yes, he was, of that he was sure. Was he in love with his wife when they got married? He thought so. Was he in love with the French girl he was having the affair with? He wondered if he might be at the time (he went so far as to do a spread sheet that I found on his computer where he laid out a pro and con of "Do I believe in soul mates and is Taylor mine?" which I questioned him about, that he deduced that no, she wasn't his soul mate). But was Chris in love with me? Nope. He was convinced he wasn't in love. Never had been, wasn't and didn't plan on being in love with me in the future.

During our relationship, I would ask him about the feelings he had for me and what they specifically were. How he felt when he saw me, when he kissed or held me, after he'd made love to me (which is, by the way, the worst time to find out if someone's in love with you because you're too full of oxytocin to think straight). I'd ask him what he felt in his heart after spending a weekend with me, and he'd tell me. (This was before violence interfered with our relationship.)

"This," I'd reply, "is what being in love is." He knew that I thrilled his soul, or at least he told me I did, which is a pretty powerful feeling. (But I suppose, at the end of the day, Chris and I were both fools, because I told him what being in love felt like and he told me what a healthy relationship was, and neither of us was right.) Had he been in love with me, perhaps he wouldn't have hidden me away as a dirty little secret from his family and friends on social networking sites and not have introduced me to everyone as "his friend" instead of as his "girlfriend."

I'm big on soul thrilling. I asked my ex-husband after we got divorced if he married me just to get married or if it was because I thrilled his soul, and he said it was the latter. Right now, I thrill the souls of two men, neither of which is my boyfriend, but are each my soul mates in his own special way, and it's still a very powerful statement to me. Guys are REALLY weird with the soul thrilling question. The uber-sensitive guy who is one of my soul mates said an exuberant "YES!" when I asked him if I thrilled his soul, and the other, who is my soul mate on a totally different level, just sat nervously and stared blankly ahead of him when I said to him, "I thrill your soul, so what should we do about that?" That's why I said maybe it's different for girls. We're just better at expressing our emotions.

While I profess to preferring to date one man at a time, not that I'm dating anyone at the moment, I believe it's possible to be in love with more than one person at a time. The levels of intensity are different, and the circumstances are certainly different but in my experience, it's totally possible. It unfortunately happened to me while I was still married, while I was dating Chris, and still is true today. Again, it's not behavior I'm necessarily proud of sometimes, but it happens. I follow my heart way more than I follow my head. Sometimes that works out famously. Other times, it becomes a pragmatically impossible clusterfuck.

So has anyone ever been truly in love with me? Oh my, yes. Passionately. Recklessly. Somewhat unrequitedly. (See blog "I am Beautiful...") Guys everybody knows about and guys nobody knows about and never will. And I've been in love, many times over. I've also had my heart broken more times than I can count as a result.

"I keep your picture upon the wall. It hides a nasty stain that's lying there. So don't you ask me to give it back, I know you know it doesn't mean that much to me. I'm not in love, no, no. It's because....ooh, you wait a long time for me. Ooh, you wait a long time..."

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Mike Royko: Mary and Joe’s story, Chicago-style - Chicago Sun-Times

Mike Royko: Mary and Joe’s story, Chicago-style - Chicago Sun-Times

(Article Courtesy of The Chicago Sun-Times, December 25, 2011)

Editor’s note: The Chicago Daily News first ran this classic column by Mike Royko on Dec. 19, 1967, and then again at Christmastime many years until the paper folded in 1978. We missed reading it. For that matter, we miss Royko, who died in 1997. We thought we’d run the column one more time.

Mary and Joe were flat broke when they got off the bus in Chicago. They didn’t know anybody and she was expecting a baby.

They went to a cheap hotel. But the clerk jerked his thumb at the door when they couldn’t show a day’s rent in advance.

They walked the streets until they saw a police station. The desk sergeant said they couldn’t sleep in a cell, but he told them how to get to the Cook County Department of Public Aid.

A man there said they couldn’t get regular assistance because they hadn’t been Illinois residents long enough. But he gave them the address of the emergency welfare office on the West Side.

It was a two-mile walk up Madison Street to 19 S. Damen. Someone gave them a card with a number on it and they sat down on a bench, stared at the peeling green paint and waited for their number to be called.

Two hours later, a caseworker motioned them forward, took out blank forms, and asked questions: Any relatives? Any means of getting money? Any assets?

Joe said he owned a donkey. The caseworker told him not to get smart or he’d be thrown out. Joe said he was sorry.

The caseworker finished the forms and said they were entitled to emergency CTA bus fare to Cook County Hospital because of Mary’s condition. And he told Joe to go to an Urban Progress Center for occupational guidance.

Joe thanked him and they took a bus to the hospital. A guard told them to wait on a bench. They waited two hours, then Mary got pains and they took her away. Someone told Joe to come back tomorrow.

He went outside and asked a stranger on the street for directions to an Urban Progress Center. The stranger hit Joe on the head and took his overcoat. Joe was still lying there when a paddy wagon came along so they pinched him for being drunk on the street.

Mary had a baby boy during the night. She didn’t know it, but three foreign-looking men in strange, colorful robes came to the hospital asking about her and the baby. A guard took them for hippies and called the police. They found odd spices on the men, so the narcotics detail took them downtown for further questioning.

The next day Mary awoke in a crowded ward. She asked for Joe. Instead, a representative of the Planned Parenthood Committee came by to give her a lecture on birth control.

Next, a social worker came for her case history. She asked Mary who the father was. Mary answered and the social worker ran for the nurse. The nurse questioned her and Mary answered. The nurse stared at her and ran for the doctor. The doctor wrote “Post partum delusion” on her chart.

An ambulance took Mary to the Cook County Mental Health Clinic the next morning. A psychiatrist asked her questions and pursed his lips at the answers.

A hearing was held and a magistrate committed her to Chicago State Mental Hospital on Irving Park Road.

Joe got out of the county jail a couple of days later and went to the county hospital for Mary. They told him she was at Chicago State and the baby had been placed in a foster home by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

When Joe got to Chicago State, a doctor told him what Mary had said about the baby’s birth. Joe said Mary was telling the truth. They put Joe in a ward at the other end of the hospital.

Meanwhile the three strangely dressed foreign-looking men were released after the narcotics detail could find no laws prohibiting the possession of myrrh and frankincense. They returned to the hospital and were taken for civil rights demonstrators. They were held in the county jail on $100,000 bond.

By luck, Joe and Mary met on the hospital grounds. They decided to tell the doctors what they wanted to hear. The next day they were declared sane and were released.

When they applied for custody of Mary’s baby, however, they were told it was necessary for them to first establish a proper residence, earn a proper income, and create a suitable environment.

They applied at the Urban Progress Center for training under the Manpower Development Program. Joe said he was good at working with wood. He was assigned to a computer data processing class. Mary said she’d gladly do domestic work. She was assigned to a course in key-punch operating. Both got $20-a-week stipends.

Several months later they finished the training. Joe got a job at a gas station and Mary went to work as a waitress.

They saved their money and hired a lawyer. Another custody hearing was held, and several days later the baby was ordered returned to them.

Reunited finally, they got back to their two-room flat and met the landlord on the steps. He told them Urban Renewal had ordered the building torn down. The City Relocation Bureau would get them another place.

They packed, dressed the baby, and hurried to the Greyhound Bus station.

Joe asked the ticket man when the next bus was leaving.

“Where to?” the ticket man asked.

“Anywhere,” Joe said, “as long as it is right now.”

He gave Joe three tickets and in five minutes they were on a bus heading for Southern Illinois — the area known as “Little Egypt.”

Just as the bus pulled out, the three strangely dressed men ran into the station. But they were too late. It was gone.

So they started hiking down U.S. 66. But at last report they were pinched on suspicion of being foreigners in illegal possession of gold.

Merry Christmas from The Offbeat Drumming Lunatic

Wishing you and your families and friends a joyous holiday...give peace a chance! Hope your extended family time was warm and wonderful, drama-free and that the togetherness didn't drive you all bananas. I'm proud to say I made it through Christmas Eve and Day on only one anxiety pill. A new holiday record, though we have yet to get through New Year's.

It's admittedly a difficult time of year for alcoholics. So much of holiday celebrating is centered around alcohol--champagne, wine, spirits, loaded punches, but my family is overly compensatory by not having any alcohol served at our family gatherings. Not that them having wine with dinner would bother me, but I spent many a Christmas totally loaded, and though it's been almost 4 years since I had a drink, it's still on my mind during the holidays. But I made it through another Christmas soberly. So yay me.

On Christmas Eve, I received a gorgeous pair of Tiffany-designed earrings from Kate from the NYC Metropolitan Museum of Art. They're sort of blue-green and have gold flecks in them, and match my eyes, Kate said. They'll go nicely with all the various shades of blue scrubs I wear, and will match with my fancy clothes too (not that I ever go anywhere fancy anymore, but you never know, the day could come again someday...), Kate knowing what a lover of jewelry I am and Kate having exquisite taste, I'm deeply appreciative.

Speaking of being a non-conformist female who's in love with jewelry, I'm going on public record admitting I opened a present from my best male friend that I wasn't supposed to open until after I receive my Christmas gift from my Tatus for reasons my friend didn't explain. I'm sure the two hadn't been co-conspiring and he told me, "Look, I know you're excited about getting his present and you love the guy, but don't open my present until after you open his." Understand that it took all of my strength to open the signature-required, insured Fed Ex box and saw the small, wrapped gift box and didn't tear it open immediately. I promised him I'd wait, but curiosity and impatience overwhelmed me, not to mention my overly curious friends (it could be days--a week or more before Tatus and I exchange gifts!). I shan't reveal what the content of the gift was yet, but he wrote in the card that he "upped the ante" on the gift representing the past, present and future of our friendship that he bought me for Valentine's Day in 2010. I was, in a word, flabbergasted.

Our family had a (mostly) relaxing, humorous and cozy Christmas. My brother's divorce was finalized the day before Christmas Eve, so this was the first holiday season without my oft-difficult (now former) sister-in-law. Steve and his son (and their border collie, Sadie) spent the night and just ate and relaxed and ate more and relaxed more at our house the entirety of the holiday without walking on eggshells worrying about the reactions and opinions of his erstwhile wife.

Saw the extended Miklasz clan (my dad's brother, his wife, and my cousin and her husband) sans my loony aunt spouting off at me because I'm an alcoholic and have texted at the table before (good), though she bought me a pair of utterly useless mom made me my own fuzzy fleece giant Beatles blanket (awesome), I got my brother 4 pairs of his favorite drum sticks (always handy from drummer to drummer) and he bought me long underwear to keep me warm under my scrubs (necessary), Luke and Jake got all sorts of cool stuff (Jake got the Limited Edition Flaming Lips Strobotoy with USB memory stick containing their 6-hour long song, a toy you can trip and strobe lights with (perfect for him), Luke got a decent haul from me and a helluva lot from his dad and clan, and my mom only freaked out once, after dinner tonight when she was exhausted. The rest of the time, she was busy enjoying the spiffy new China teapot all of us kids chipped in on and bought her that doesn't drip, has an opening big enough to thoroughly clean and is in a floral pattern she found beautiful.

We made it to church to celebrate Christ's birth at the early service and were disappointed that the "candlelight" portion of the service included only a handful of fake candles and they didn't even dim the church during "Silent Night," the real candles reserved for the brave souls who went to the 11pm service. The service in general felt more obligatory than celebratory, but I'm cutting the new pastor some slack since it's his first holiday with our church.

Surrendered my bed to my nephew and slept on an air mattress in the office underneath my new Beatles blanket from Ma, which wasn't the most restful night of sleep I've e'er had but was over at 6:45 am anyway and I got up to have my tea and cigarettes in peace before the rest of the clan awakened. Fortunately, my brother's dog decided she could wait to out for a potty break until my brother woke up from all the rattle Ma and I were making downstairs.

Luke left at noon to go to Dad's where he apparently received a motherload, making me look like the cheap parent (I am, after all, the poor one!), all of which he showed me when he came home briefly tonight (with his charming little boy trapped in an old man's body personality) before he left with my brother and Jake to spend the next 3 days in De Kalb over break. Got to see Craig briefly, who I'm honestly sort of miffed at. I bought him a gift from Luke for Christmas--a book he really wanted--and he got me....Luke's lunch ticket for the month of January. I'm mid-process being accepted, due to my low income, into the free hot lunch program, but until then I have to pay for school lunches, and Craig bought Luke a handful and said that was MY gift from my son. Call the LAME ASS police.

It wouldn't be Christmas without a noir photograph my nephew took of me in my dorky hat! I look overly pensive.

Now, onto New Year's Plans...I have Luke this year, so we'll probably go out to dinner and hang out at home, and surely he and I will make it until midnight...Ma, not so sure. Missing my friends in Oklahoma and the chance to see them play with Yoko Ono & The Plastic Ono Band, but hoping my one-degree-of-separation from Yoko garners me a special message via my buddy...

So overall, Christmas was great. My mom's already asleep, exhausted from preparations, cooking and blankie making for all the kids, and her 6 varieties of freshly-baked cookies (I'm telling you, I'll crack 120 lbs by New Year's if I keep eating the way I'm eating!). I have a paid holiday off of work tomorrow, hooray, for which I'm thankful (as I was with my Christmas bonus, of which I'm deeply appreciative and it was more than I felt I deserved, but our practice is very good to we loyal workers).

A non-material gift for my Tatus, a song I put on one of the CD's I made for him this year--his birthday CD maybe? I dunno if he actually bothered to listen to it, but it's by my friend's band (from years and years ago, back when my friend still played drums for them, before he started to play keyboards and guitars) and certainly rocks and reminds me of him, because he's a scientist....

Again, Merry Christmas everyone! Christ is born!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Polish Christmas Traditions--Merry Miklasz Christmas

We follow most, but not all of the Christmas traditions from Poland, leaving out the importance of the plethora of fish offerings (eew). We've had borscht on Christmas Eve, we've done the mushroom soup thing, my mom certainly cleans the house like a crazy woman before the holidays, and we definitely pass to Oplatek (communion wafers) around the table before our meal together, even though our Polish family ditched Catholicism eons ago....

Wesołych świąt i szczęśliwego Nowego Roku!!! (Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!)

My son did a great job of explaining Polish Christmas traditions for a school project: Enjoy!

"Daydreamer" Dedicated to YOU, yes YOU.

Sitting on the sea
Soaking up the sun
He is a real lover
Of making up the past
And feeling up his girl
Like he's never felt her figure before

A jaw dropper
Looks good when he walks
Is the subject of their talk
He would be hard to chase
But good to catch
And he could change the world
With his hands behind his back, oh

You can find him sittin' on your doorstep
Waiting for a surprise
And he will feel like he's been there for hours
And you can tell that he'll be there for life

With eyes that make you melt
He lends his coat for shelter
Plus he's there for you
When he shouldn't be
But he stays all the same
Waits for you
Then sees you through

There's no way I
Could describe him
What I'll say is
Just what I'm hoping for

But I will find him sittin' on my doorstep
Waiting for a surprise
And he will feel like he's been there for hours
And I can tell that he'll be there for life
And I can tell that he'll be there for life

My Christmas Message....or "If The Universe Gave Me a Choice, Which It Hasn't."

Make every day count. Appreciate every moment and take from it everything that you possibly can, for you may never be able to experience it again. Talk to people you have never talked to before, and actually listen. Let yourself fall in love, break free and set your sights high, no matter what the risk involved.

Hold your head up because you have every right to. Tell yourself you are a great individual and believe in yourself, for if you don't believe in yourself, no one else will believe in you.

Everything happens for a reason. Nothing happens by chance or by means of good luck. Illness, Injury, love, lost moments of true greatness and sheer stupidity all occur to test the limits of your soul.

Without these small tests, life would be like a smoothly paved, straight, flat road to nowhere. Safe and comfortable but dull and utterly pointless.
Complacency IS safe and comfortable, but doesn't thrill you. The people you meet affect your life. They have the power to change your entire way of looking at life. Never settle just because that's what's normal or expected of you. Keep shaking the tree and soon enough, a bounty of fruit will fall down from it, all in your arms.

The successes and downfalls that you experience can create who you are, and the bad experiences can be learned from. In fact, they are probably the most poignant and important ones.

If someone hurts you, betrays you or breaks your heart, forgive them because they have helped you learn about trust and the importance of being cautious to whom you open your heart to. If someone loves you, love them back, unconditionally, not only because they love you, but because they are teaching you to love and open your heart and eyes to little things.

Merry Christmas!

Love Annie

Thursday, December 22, 2011

I Woke Up To Something "Beautiful."

My best male friend's been reading my blogs in between his harried life and holiday preparations.

He read the blog about my doubts about my beauty, and sent me this song this morning:

Gordon Lightfoot

At times I just don't know
How you could be anything but beautiful
I think that I was made for you
And you were made for me

And I know that I won't ever change
We've been friends through rain or shine
For such a long, long time

Laughing eyes and smiling face
It seems so lucky just to have the right
Of telling you with all my might
You're beautiful tonight

And I know that you won't ever stray
Cause you've been that way from day to day
For such a long, long time

And when you hold me tight
How could life be anything but beautiful
I think that I was made for you
And you were made for me

And I know that I won't ever change
We've been friends through rain or shine
For such a long, long time

Well, I must say it means so much to me
To be the one who's telling you
I'm telling you, that you're beautiful.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Into the Mystic--For Martin

What's not to like about this face?

Right before Christmas, 2007, vaguely a couple of weeks before I met and hooked up with Chris, I met a charming man on the Chicago Reader personals site named Martin Wolke. I haven't, to date, blogged about him or said much about him, other than the fact that I was sort-of dating him in the early days of dating Chris, and I chose Chris, for I am not one to be typically capable of dating around and I concentrate on one man at a time. I'm just too shy (yes, I am capable of severe shyness) and can't juggle multiple relationships very well (the summer of 2009/2010 notwithstanding).

As I referenced in an earlier blog about dating Chris, actually, Martin liked to email me. A lot. We'd had dinner a handful of times, and he was charming and pleasant, though unemployed, having recently transplanted back to Chicago after a few years living in Rhode Island. Once we met, at an Indian restaurant, he began emailing me every day, and I'd sporadically write back when I was sober enough to write, Martin not knowing I was an alcoholic. He was busy a) sending out resumes, b) managing his insulin-dependent diabetes and c) emailing me.

I didn't let him kiss me the night of our first date, though he admitted he wanted to kiss me really badly. I was unsure of what to do, that having been my first "normal" date since the catastrophic breakup the summer before with Art. In the interim between Art and Martin, I'd filled the void with insane amounts of alcohol and my requisite share of ho'ing around post-separation in situations no sane person would repeat soberly. I'm not remotely proud of the way I behaved, but I sort of chalk it all up to what I had to go through to get to where I am today.

Martin had an apartment in Edgewater and no car, not that he couldn't afford a car. (At this point, I'd been with a plethora of men who didn't have cars, one of the features that made Chris stand out, actually. He had a car he actually had a license to drive.) Martin was too urban and was too eco-friendly to drive in the city. He had pretty brown eyes (I'm a sucker for them.. but then again, I'm also a sucker for blue eyes) and a warm smile, was like 6 1/2 feet tall and thin as a rail, was 47 and the oldest guy I'd ever dated, and the guy was just fuck nuts about me. Fuck nuts to the point where he included me in the holiday letter he sent out to friends and relatives that season, citing "I've met someone!" where I was like, "Slow down, there, fella.." He wanted me to meet his sisters and friends and loved ones immediately. I hadn't the heart to tell him I was really siding more towards my attraction to Chris instead.

He was a NICE guy. A DECENT man. I didn't give him enough credit for how hard he tried to win my affections, and in hindsight, I'm truly flattered. I still feel guilty that I didn't make the time he needed of me when he got sick and subsequently died in his sleep in January of 2008 from the diabetes, but by then I was all-Chris, all-the-time, and that's a shame. Martin had emailed me that he was "sick, really sick" and I suggested he see a doctor, but he couldn't, or just didn't, and I was busy with Luke's 8th birthday party preparations (like messing up his cupcakes for the class treat because I was drunk when I made them and forgot the eggs) and couldn't be bothered with Martin. At the very least, I should've done a well-being check on him at his apartment or something when he stopped responding to my emails. I found out a short while later, through his sister, that he didn't answer me because he had suddenly died.

I was invited to the memorial gathering at a friend's house but didn't go. I didn't feel I belonged, though I was already recognized as "the girlfriend," though I honestly wasn't grieving very much at the time. I felt bad, but again, I was wrapped up with Chris.

In Martin's online dating profile, there was a question about what song defined you. Or what your theme song would be, I don't remember what the question said exactly. I remember my answer snidely being the "Theme from 'Shaft.'" Martin answered Van Morrison's "Into the Mystic," which at the time, I wasn't really (surprisingly) familiar with. To me, anyway, that song is about accepting your own fate, clinging tightly to your own destiny and creating your own dreams. It's about loving someone in the moment, with all your soul, regardless of the outcome. He sure gave it all he had. I wish to this day I'd had appreciated him more for his uniqueness, his charm, his sensitivity. I looked up his obituary online and it's still posted:

Martin Wolke, 47, of the city of Chicago, died unexpectedly in his sleep on Saturday, Jan. 26.

He recently returned to his favorite city after four years in Rhode Island.

Raised in New Jersey, he moved to Chicago in 1983 and was a resident throughout the 1980's and 90's. A high school graduate, he returned to school in his 30's and obtained an associate's degree in accounting from Truman College. He also attended Boston University in 1978-79.

However, he preferred the title "student life". A man of many interests, he was most passionate about human rights and justice.

A political activist all of his adult life, Martin worked tirelessly.

Some of the organizations he helped are: Tenants Assoc.

of Evanston, CISPES, Neighbor To Neighbor, O.N.E., Nicaraguan Solidarity Committee, Adrain Capeheart's Alderman Campaign, Harold Washington's Mayoral Campaign and the Vietnam Vets Against War in Iraq.

Martin's ideals were his life, his heart and soul, but in his leisure he enjoyed spending time with his family and friends.

His hobbies included baseball, golf, bicycling and competitive games of all types.

His poker face is renowned.

He was an avid reader and great lover of music.

Martin is survived by his father, Herbert (Marion), his mother, Veronica Potter (Frank); and sister Marienne Gallagher (Rick), all of New Jersey, brother Michael (Shandy) of Adelaide, Australia, sister Laura of North Carolina, brother Thomas with daughters Sonja and Anna of New Hampshire; nephew Chris of New York City, niece Lisa Balog (Joshua) of Maryland; aunts, uncles and cousins; and a multitude of friends.

All will miss him.

And that's what Martin did. He sailed into the mystic. If I learned one thing from our brief relationship, it was to love whomever you love with reckless abandon. To follow your heart and not your head. To take chances. To give it all you've got, regardless of where those roads lead you.

"Hey Hey, What Can I Do?"

...Perhaps you're all grateful I chose not to write when I woke up at 5:30 am yesterday, but I was sidelined with cramps leftover from my D&C/hysteroscopy on Monday. It was sort of a clusterfuck procedure all in all. I had my typical general anesthesia-phobia, convinced not only that I couldn't be put out, but also that I'd never wake up. Fortunately, both were successful.

(Luke was inexplicably either nervous or just snippy before my surgery, for the last couple of days. He kept telling me, "You're gonna die." I insisted I was *not* going to die from this simple procedure, but he kept it up, which made me uneasy. "You don't want your mom to die, Luke," I told him. "No, I don't," he answered. He knows I have a fear of being knocked out, maybe that's where it came from, I don't know. But his insistence was a nervousness I didn't need compounded upon my own.)

While waiting on the operating table, which is always eerie, looking at the trays of instruments and bright lights, shot up with Ativan, the nurse was asking me, "Are you relaxed yet?" with me answering a vehement "NO." One more shot of Ativan and I was more or less relaxed, though they couldn't seem to *find* an anesthesiologist. I lied there, strapped on the table, secured with a giant seatbelt and encased in blankets until some random dude waltzed in, didn't introduce himself, and said he was the guy, slapped a mask on my face and said "You're going to sleep now," to which I said, "No, I'm not." How they got me into and out of the position necessary for this procedure, I'm not sure, but it had to be a pip to watch. The next thing I heard was "Wake up, Andrea, we're all done." Well, m'kay. The procedure went as expected, I sort of got Roto-Rooted out and some biopsies were taken, and though I'm still crampy, the (TMI fellas) bleeding completely stopped and I'm going back to work today. The pathology report should be back in a couple of days, and Stosh will probably call me with the results before my OB/GYN does, as she's going on vacation for a week and told me she'd talk to me around the New Year, which would keep me on edge too damn long. I'm sure there's nothing wrong with my uterus, but they were, you know, ruling out the C word again, which is never a pleasant thing to wait to hear.

Unbeknownst to me, that sneaky Tatus swung by the hospital while I was still in surgery to check on me and once he found out I was still in the operating room, chose to leave instead of waiting for me to appear in recovery, which is very sweet of him but kinda sucks because I'm so used to seeing him when I wake up from anesthesia when I have operations at Resurrection. He's always in recovery when I wake up from operations and I'm sort of used to that...his face being the first I remember after the daze of anesthesia. He "happened to be in the area" on his first day of vacation and didn't stop in the office, just at the hospital.

Part of the clusterfuck was that he forgot to put in the cardiac clearance letter that I need to be super-hydrated via IV before, during and after the operation because I dehydrate very quickly. So I worked that out with the staff myself, and was properly hydrated, so yay. Such things happen, like typing my name as "Andrew" instead of "Andrea" when your Tatus has been up and working since 3am the day he writes your clearance letter himself.

He got me something cryptic for Christmas, which makes my gift to him look banal in comparison. Part of his gift is practical and special and awesome and part of it rocks, but he said he got me something that I'll love that everyone else would hate because I'm such a "non-conformist." Read: he thinks I'm weird. I'm giddy with anticipation wondering what it is, just hoping it's not something I need to keep alive, because I have enough trouble maintaining my parakeet. Mis-matched socks? A silly hat? A Chia Pet? A dead ferret? We have to make a plan to make a plan to exchange gifts, as plan-making is a vital part of our relationship, and it usually falls on me to suggest said plan, and for him to comply. Hoping to have it narrowed down by New Year's but willing to wait.

He did call me Monday night on his way home from men's group at church, where they were discussing why God allows suffering in the world, which had to be a hum-dinger of a discussion, of which I would be very interested in the spiritual perspective. He said he wanted to hear my voice and make sure I was okay, which was very nice of him, indeed. I wanted to hear his voice too. I filled him in on the procedure, told him what we're doing for Christmas, and we exchanged plans of having to visit with the dysfunctional sides of both of our families for the holidays. We wished one another a Merry Christmas again, as we did the other night when we parted after work and he hugged me in front of the whole hospital, which was a little unnerving but totally cool in retrospect, because we're close friends and who cares who sees us together, when at first I was totally nervous about us being seen by someone we knew or worse yet, someone looking out the window of our office. But fuck 'em. I wanted him to walk me to my car in the parking lot but he said he didn't care who saw us, so there we were left on the sidewalk of the entrance to the hospital. Who cares? I needed my hug and kiss on the forehead from my friend.

(Hare Krishna! Pandora is stuck on a 45 minute Indian raga it won't let me fast-forward through. Chanting is involved. I love Indian ragas as much as the next Christian Hindu w/Buddhist tendencies, but 45 minutes' worth? Jesus Christ!)

Speaking of mis-matched socks, I grabbed a pair of Luke's yesterday morning and they didn't match. Didn't matter much since I spent the day in jammies and Uggs alternating between sleep and sampling my mom's delicious array of freshly-baked Christmas cookies. With any luck, she'll fatten me up to the point where I am over 120 lbs by New Year's. I'm getting close. I best not get too heavy, however, or I might not fit into my new "Skinny Little Bitch" t-shirt that I received as a gift from a loved one for the holiday season, mostly as a joke towards those insensitive folks who like to say "I wish I had whatever disease Andrea has so I could be as skinny as she is!" Seriously, someone said that to me. Ignorant.

My shopping is largely done, aside from stocking stuffers for Luke and something for my supervisor at work. What to get her, I have no idea. I know she's into leopard print EVERYTHING, but otherwise I have literally no idea what to get her that's under $10. No one said it had to be tasteful, I guess.

Today, I'm giving the rest of the doctors their gifts. I got Nab "The Concert for George" (Harrison) on CD, since he's a big Beatle head, and it's just a great concert. I got Dr. C a daily affirmations for cynics flip-calendar book, perfect for him. And I got Lips a set of 96 varieties of tea bags, which should keep him out of trouble for a while.

Mrs. Lips sent me a lovely Christmas card from the Lips family. Too bad she addressed it to "Mr. and Mrs. Miklasz and Family." Ironic, since it's Lips who always hassles me because I'm divorced. Evidently, word didn't travel to Mrs. Lips when she filled out the cards that I'm single and a mom, so it looked like the card was addressed to my parents, including my dead father.

Speaking of my dead father, a triumphant move in the Miklasz household! My mom actually put a picture of herself with my father in a frame and on the entertainment center. It's a great picture of the two of them from the early 70's. I think it was shortly before I was born or when I was a baby. It's the first acknowledgment of my father in the house in 27 years. I think she gave all the other framed pictures of our family to my brother and myself years ago, wanting to rid the house of them. I don't know if she did it for herself, or for us kids, or who's benefit, but I must admit it brought a tear to my eye seeing it up there. Bravo, Ma! That's sort of Christmas present enough for me, anyway. The photo joins pictures of my grandfather as a baby, my mom with her parents as a teenager, Luke's school picture, and an adorable shot of Luke with my grandma from a church picnic when he was 3 or 4, a few years before Gram died.

As referenced above, I've spent a lot of time the last few days listening to Pandora. In suggesting they play me more Led Zeppelin, they complied and threw in one I'd sort of forgotten about but that I love, "Hey Hey, What Can I Do?" Couldn't help but reminded of the events of the last couple of days, and the phone call I received, et al. It's just a great, bluesy, raunchy favorite:

"Sunday morning when we go down to church
See the menfolks standin' in line
they say they come to pray to the Lord
but when my little girl, looks so fine
In the evening when the sun is sinkin' low
Everybody's with the one they love
I walk the town, Keep a-searchin' all around
Lookin' for my street corner girl"