Two of the sweetest words
that my ex-wife
ever wrote to me
were on a grocery list.
This time last week, I was in Southern Nevada in the dry desert air visiting family. I walked 3 miles a day for personal exercise in addition to all the walking and sightseeing with family. In the five days that I’ve been home in Georgia, I returned to my gym for yoga and barre classes (the latter is basically ballet conditioning without the dancing….I’ll explain later) and for some time on the elliptical. While on summer break, I’m also getting more rest than I ever do during the school year. Without a doubt, I have been back on the road to taking charge of my physical fitness.
However, there was that little burning tickle behind my nose, that congestion up in my sinuses the first day home. I handled it well. I used my sinus wash. I took my vitamins. I rested. The symptoms of a little airplane travel transmitted cold were under control.
Yesterday, asthma decided that it liked the little rhinovirus too much to let it go away. So now, I feel like a rhinoceros has parked its fat rear-end on my chest, occasionally pawing my throat and jabbing my nose while I try to breathe.
So ridiculously funny. Asthma, you’re knee-slappingly hilarious every time you open my mouth. No! Seriously! I love spending evenings doing my Sith lord respirator impersonations. The nebulizer and I are great friends; it’s a symbiosis most certainly. Then there are my pocket pals: rescue and maintenance inhalers.
This morning’s walk with Beau was a slow stroll up and down the street. Not our usual 2 miles. Though I’m sure Beau was glad! He is old and grumpy these days and finds longer walks irritating when he could be napping on the sofa. Dog! I’m doing us both a favor.
[Barre One is a group fitness class at my gym, One Life Atlanta Fitness. One of the instructors is a former student of mine. Since I put her through three semesters of French, I guess I owed it to her to do one of these classes. I’m no stranger to dance training considering all my on-again-off-again experience in amateur, high school, and college theater and performing arts. The nice thing about Barre One? I don’t have to wear shoes, and no one thinks my wearing compression shorts or running tights is unusual. (One more reason why I like so many kinds of yoga!) Exercise is one of my keys to controlling asthma, so any variety of it that really lets me adapt to my breathing needs and where there are people around to help if I need it is great. Thank you, Courtney, for a great class. I’ll be back!]
Ok, asthma. Time for you to go back on hiatus so I can enjoy my own.
For a summer Monday, it had its usual routine beginning. By 7 AM, I was out the bed. I took my asthma controller and my allergy pill. I had a glass of water. I put on my shoes, and then I got my dog Beau to the door with his harness and leash. Off we went for our two mile walk, something we’ve done every day this summer. It’s hardly intense exercise, but it does our bodies good.
We passed our little creek. It’s not exactly near the house, but we love to look at it. The water has slowed to a trickle with the shortfall of rain this year. By this point, I had begun playing Celine Dion’s Taking Chances album on my iPhone. It was actually a beautiful soundtrack for our walk.
Soon we were again home. Beau didn’t want to waste a minute for me even to put the waste bag in the garbage bin in the driveway. His tongue was lolling out his mouth, and he was ready for water, a treat, and breakfast. Inside the house, I got him all three. After that bit of tending to my little dog, I also fed our cat Margot who was a bit impatient that her bowl was secondary to that of the dog. Once she ate, she went about the business of ignoring my existence.
Next, I set about cleaning the kitchen. It’s a Zen kind of ritual: putting away the clean dishes, each in it’s specific location about the kitchen. There’s joy in this kind of repetition. The logic of it is all in my head, and clearly no one else in my family understands my kitchen intuition. Whenever I leave to others the tasks of washing dishes or storing groceries, I am met with surprises like bowls in the wrong cupboard, knives in the wrong drawer, or utensils in the wrong caddy.
All the while that I worked, Celine was still singing in my ears, a concert just for me and my routine. After a little break to make coffee with a touch of cinnamon and chocolate, I started prepping the sink full of yesterday’s dishes to go into my favorite of Maytag appliances: the dishwasher. I’m not like my parents or grandparents before me. Each dish isn’t scrubbed to near cleanliness before placement in the appliance. No, the cutlery and serving vessels are lucky even to get scraped or rinsed. Maytag hasn’t let me down yet, but I’m sure Cascade is a bit of a help, too. [Either company, please feel free to send me coupons or something. I’m no corporate shill, but your products are great, so I don’t hesitate to endorse them.] Lastly, I wiped down every countertop and scrubbed the sink. Pleased with that accomplishment, I set dirty dishcloths in the washing machine [yes, a Maytag!].
In my office, I opened Facebook on my computer to look at whatever might be new while I finished my coffee. That took all of about three minutes. The coffee was done. Facebook can only do so much for me, so I figured, why not a few moments of meditation. I returned to the kitchen, washed my mug and set it to dry. I padded to the living room and got my yoga mat from the little cubby corner near my bedroom. Beau heard me, and I guess he thought it would be the perfect moment to return to bed. When the bedroom door remained shut, he looked at me, a bit dismayed if I read his canine emotions properly. “Come here,” I invited him to the end of my mat.
My meditation, that moment of peace that I wanted to start my day was really what I had done in the kitchen and on my walk. Now, crosslegged on my rubber mat, I gently ran my hands over my little black dog’s body. I caressed his head, scratched his ears, rubbed his belly, patted his back and chest, and then I began again. For at least fifteen minutes, I can’t be certain, I repeated the process with little variation. Occasionally, I asked him little loving questions in a cooing voice. My thoughts wandered, and I just sat there soothing my pet. It was real service to a loyal friend in a way that I think I don’t do enough. Often, I think of Beau (and Margot, I don’t neglect my cat–she’s far more touchy-feely than Beau), as a dog I have for loyalty and comfort, but it’s rare he wants such attention from me. This morning, however, it was pleasant to be a comfort to him. There was no silly YouTube moment of him rolling around, barking here and there, flipping about. Instead, it was peaceful comfort to keep in my memory and in my heart. Me thanking him for his companionship these last 11 years, thanking him for turning introspective meditation into a moment of outward service.
That last part is probably the whole point of my story.
Enjoy your Independence Day.
So today, I decided that I would finally become an officiant. I found a website, and that’s all it took. It wasn’t a spur of the moment decision. I’ve been contemplating this step in my life or career since marriage equality became a reality in the entire USA. I hope to officiate a wedding soon. Thank you, American Marriage Ministries.
So this nugget was forgotten on my phone… from 70 days ago!
The me that I am on vacation is not radically different than the me that I am when I am at work. Perhaps it is the added sleep or the freedom to schedule activities as I please. Maybe it is the time to cook a homemade meal and then enjoy it slowly with a glass or two of wine. Possibly it is the sum total of all these factors.
That is still to say: I am busy on vacation. Usually during my breaks from teaching, there is a long list of “to do” projects that have been waiting while I’ve been in the classroom. Car service. Doctor/dentist visits. Yard work. Household repairs. Computer updates. Veterinarian visits. Catching up friends in person. You name it.
The biggest change? Spending habits. Because I am out and about, impulse buys are far too frequent. Sometimes, I can stifle the urge, but that requires carrying a complement of desk supplies in my backpack so that I can even begin to ignore the various notebooks, pens, phone chargers, knick-knacks, key fobs, vintage décor, and cooking magazines that catch my eye. However, what usually happens is my trying to minimize the impact on my debit card. It surprises me continuously that the magnetic strip still works.
PS: Thank goodness! I just got my new debit card.
Since I was 12, I’ve charted my life by his albums. I stuck true a fan for him through the highest heights and lowest lows; through the change from Prince to ; during the SLAVE years to his Emancipation from Warner Bros. From his conversion to Jehovah’s Witness to his last days touring his HitNRun albums.
I bought–never bootlegged–everything I could afford whenever I got my hands on it. [My parents are artists, and I know the toil that goes into making beauty that others take for granted.] What I couldn’t afford, I forwent. I’ve trolled the Internet for two decades for whatever I could find about Prince, for images of him in concert, for video clips of interviews and of performances on late night television. I fed my participation in his fandom on a budget.
In the early days of the Internet, I joined 1-800-New-Funk, then the NPG Music Club, then LotusFlow3r.com, and finally purchasing from ArtOfficialAge.com
Somehow, I was always a few steps behind each change, rarely able to catch the newest release when it was a surprise, instead getting hold of it as it became day-old news. And then Prince would drop something new and unexpected yet again.
My boyfriend even bought me the Prince Opus: 21 Nights photobook and purple iPod (that I never got–what a disaster–long story) for my 40th birthday. At least the relationship survived. With my boyfriend that is. And with Prince, too.
I kept missing or putting off seeing Prince perform in person. His final concert only 30 miles from me in Atlanta, and I couldn’t manage to get tickets.
Perhaps because my grandpa’s birthday is this weekend, or rather what would have been had we not lost him last summer, I am especially sensitive to Prince’s death. Too keenly, I am aware the cost of putting off opportunities to spend time with people you appreciate and love. This new loss is very much like when you haven’t seen a close family member in years–physically estranged but always intimate in verbal contact–and then before you get your shit together and actually go visit, they’re gone. I never saw Prince perform live or even have a celebrity sighting. I didn’t see my grandpa for at least two years before he died. The only barrier was me.
It’s not something I seem to be able to shake.
So about a week after Prince’s death, I am sleepless after midnight. I’m listening to 3121 while I write this short entry, muddling my relationship with Prince with that of my extended family. I pray for my grandmother, realizing the pain she must feel as the calendar leaves fewer days before the birthday of her beloved husband. Very likely she could care less about Prince.
Recently, I reread the obituary that I wrote for Grandpa in July of 2015, and it’s still meaningful–not for any special quality of the words, but in how many roles he filled for so many people. A stained glass window now memorializes Al Stepman at Community Lutheran in Las Vegas. The window features a lamb bearing a cross because Grandpa was not so prideful to think that others should look upon his memorial and think of anyone other than God.
Prince seems to have left no will. Perhaps that was intentional, that his estate never really mattered. The fortune that remains, including the sudden surge in its value from posthumous record sales, is just dust in the wind from a man, who despite his provocative past, had become not so prideful to think that his wealth deserved preservation.
Rest in peace, Prince. And you too, Al Stepman. We were all blessed in very different ways to have had each of you on this earth.
May all of us live 2 see the Dawn.
Mon français est peut-être plein de solécismes et de barbarismes. Par contraste, je sais bien ce que je veux dire même si tous les francophones ne me comprennent pas. Cette belle langue m’est épatante et curieuse et malgré mes fautes bêtes, je pense qu’elle m’aime de réciproque. Je peux la lire et l’écrire le reste de ma vie sans jamais la maîtriser. Pour ça, je serai toujours heureux.