March 6, 2020

COVID-19 : Prepping for Coronavirus Quarantine

Just as I finished stocking my cupboards in case we somehow end up needing to quarantine for the new coronavirus, the state announced our first confirmed case. Yikes!

I am immuno-compromised, so this sent a bit of a cold chill down my spine. However, it's not surprising. We've been told for a while that it's not if, but when, COVID-19 will strike where each of us live.

How do you prep for the unknown? I'm not quite sure, but I did a rough estimate and came up with a plan for what we might need if we need to stay home for a couple of weeks. Maybe it will help you. Maybe you can help me if you think something is missing.

I started with cleaners that seem popular with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)  and available in my area. Clorox disinfecting wipes, Lysol Clean & Fresh multi-surface cleaner, and Lysol Power Plus for the toilet. I also bought a big bottle of bleach, and have a can of Lysol for hard surfaces.
Do I normally use these things? Not at all! These go against my entire lifestyle. I use soap berries, a three ingredient laundry powder, a locally hand made soap with minimal ingredients, and one all natural, all purpose cleaner. I am chemically sensitive, but I'm also sensitive to death, so I'll need to deal with the side effects for a couple of weeks and then get back to my regular habits later. I'm also still fighting off pneumonia that started in November of 2019. While my x-rays show no more pneumonia, I still have a cough, stuffiness, and green yellow sputum. On top of an auto-immune disorder, can we please not add coronavirus?

I also have filled my cupboards. We'll need to eat! In this one, the bottom shelf contains various things. For meats, we have jarred tuna fish, canned salmon, and canned chicken. To add to the protein there are nuts, peanut butter, and sun butter. Some of my homemade jars of peach preserves and strawberry jelly are in there as well. There is applesauce and cranberries, various granola bars, oatmeal, grits, and "just add water" pancake mix.
The top shelf is very important. SNACKS! Dried seaweed, graham crackers, pita chips, corn chips, potato chips, cookies, jello, and pudding.

Everyone will also be able to enjoy some soup! While all the cupboards may look like various things just thrown together, there's a reason for it. I tried to include a full diet. Proteins, carbs, fruits, vegetables, and multiple colors to maximize nutrition while providing choices.

Also, I have an innate fear of running out of tacos. Can you tell? I also made sure to get some of my favorite flour, Bob's Red Mill unbleached all-purpose flour for making baked goods.

I've found that listening to people that have been through things is the best way to know how to prepare. Right now, people in China are talking about using vitamin C both as a preventative and healing aid for this newest type of coronavirus. Guess what I bought? Three bottles of vitamin C. If I'm not going to be going out much, I likely need to give my husband some vitamin D. I am on it anyhow as I am sensitive to light, but my husband will need it as he won't be able to go out on his daily walks. We both made sure we have enough vitamins.

Our tap water is gross. It stinks and makes me vomit, so we have extra ten gallon jugs of water.

Of course we need other basics. Kleenex, toilet paper, and sanitary products. I suppose we could do reusable products on some of these, but when you're sick or caring for someone who is sick, conserving energy is important.
On another note, the news is reporting fights at stores over toilet paper. Please remember that toilet paper is somewhat of a luxury and not exactly a need. Most countries use water. Try keeping a small container for water (hand bidets are a thing) and just use a little bit of toilet paper to dry off. It will save you money, help the environment, and you won't have to throw down in the Costco parking lot over who gets the last roll.

I also have beans, rice, and noodles. There is a tea cupboard, but it is not pictured because we always have a tea cupboard. We will never, ever run out of tea! Hopefully we do run out of COVID-19.

Just for showing off purposes, I finally found pop tarts I can eat! Perhaps I should call them toaster strudels. Whatever the case, these may not be there in the stock cupboard for long!

There is a bit of dried venison and of course we will always be concerned about access to medications. My husband has Parkinson's disease and is on multiple medications. He also is on daily thyroid medicine. How will we access this is we are quarantined? I do not know. I need to make some phone calls and find out. Most medications are only filled a week prior to needed a refill, so if he is at the end of a medication, that would definitely pose a problem. Our state did set up a helpline to call and ask questions specifically about coronavirus. I will try to talk to our doctor first though. Our state is not very trustworthy. The person they had make the announcement pretty much compared it to the flu, stating the number of deaths from the flu as if that somehow negates the zero deaths we've had in the two hours since the first positive test here came back. Ignorant. I'm purposely not saying the name of the state because it annoys me.

This really is a sobering outbreak. The isolation of loved ones from their families, sometimes until they die, truly is heartbreaking. That is part of what really gets me angry about people comparing this to the flu. COVID-19 is not comparable. People with the flu get care and help. If they have family, they typically can see and talk to them. So many are saying "Don't worry, it's just the old and those with lowered immune systems die from it. We have plenty of examples of that not being the case, and even if it is, that's my youngest daughter. That's my husband. That's me. We matter.

I've done what seems right to prepare. If this starts hitting our direct area, we'll need to self-isolate for our own protection. Hopefully none of it will hit us. Even better, it won't hit anyone else, ever again. Unfortunately we know that is lowly likely. (don't worry, lowly likely is a thing, because I said it is) If you have any tips or experiences, feel free to add them to the comments.

I purposely did not take time to write this in any type of professional manner. This is just me, doing things and hoping that somehow it can give someone ideas, or others can correct for errors or oversights in how to prep so we all can be as safe as possible.

January 11, 2020

Shaking Hands with Death

 "Spend time with those you love."

"Appreciate everything."

"You never know how much time we have."

"Cherish every moment."

People find certain phrases acceptable once one visits with death and returns to continue yet another unmeasured walk among the living.

While true and substantial, they lack intensity. We who momentarily touched the stars may have a deeper understanding of those phrases, but they are an immature deflection to avoid what really happened. A pretty gloss over what we faced. The trauma we live with. The flashes that run through our minds when we're trying to just be normal.

Let's be real. We changed. Our personalities changed. Parts of us deepened and continue to seek depth in the shallow world that surrounds us. Parts of us caught on fire and continue to burn away. Out of fear, we clung to some remnants of us and we're afraid to let go, scared because with all that is new, we find comfort in the familiar. We don't talk about it much with our loved ones, or we do, and they freeze in concern of what it all implies. Will they run? Will they stay? Will they still love us? Do they understand we now love them more passionately than ever, even as we find our old selves distanced from our current existence? Will those who knew us accept our new parts as truth, or will they blame our illness, our experiences, possible brain changes?

So, when people ask, or when we try to relay what happened, we use the acceptable phrases. The safe ones.

And I am done with that.

You know what happened when I faced death? Nothing I thought would happen, that's for sure. After a couple years of mysterious symptoms, I momentarily lost consciousness while working from home at my computer. My head hit the computer screen and my customer was still talking to me through the headphones when I woke up, complaining about her order. It stunned me, her insignificant complaint about her order while I fought for consciousness. I quietly whispered, "Oh wow," and she stopped for a second to snicker, then continued.  I managed to politely let her know she'd get a call back, then I hung up and dialed my husband to come home from work right away. I do clearly remember knowing something was going violently wrong in my body, and with each minute, I felt time closing in.

Why didn't I call for an ambulance? I don't know. Perhaps because death never seemed to be like this in those occasional times we all have where we imagine what our final physical demise might feel like. The end. I always figured I'd know for sure it was happening. The crash of metal and glass, or I'd be in a bed, surrounded by loved ones, saying wise and loving words until my soul peacefully surrendered to the great beyond. Drowning seemed a possibility, given my love of water. As a pre-teen, I partially drowned. I got to the point of drowning where the body stops fighting and is paralyzed. My head went back, and I was staring at the clouds, keenly aware of the beauty of the blue surrounding each cloud, feeling oddly at peace. I saw too much for a human, too far beyond the horizon. People in the distance, trees, a view not possible apart from a moment like this. I watched someone point and yell. My brother jumped, he ran to the water, he pulled me out. I admired his swift reaction but hated him for saving me because in that brief time, I'd come to peace with leaving and been partway out of this world, and it felt beautiful. I've never lost touch with that moment.

But things change. In front of that computer, no longer a child desperate to escape abuse and hatred, reasons to stay flew at me. My husband came home and somehow, I got in the car. As he drove, I explained to my husband what was happening, so he could tell the hospital as my hold on consciousness continued to waver. I don't remember all that happened, but my last sentence ended up being, "My jaw is heavy. I don't think I can say any more." I immediately thought, "That was stupid. Those were my last words on earth, and I used them to try to save myself instead of relaying a message for my children." I wondered at the strange feel of my jaw. It wasn't just hard to talk, it felt made of quickly compacting marble, and might pull me down under the earth for the heaviness. My body started convulsing. This time, the sky was black, tiny stars lighting the distance. Unlike my childhood drowning experience, I was oddly present. I waited, but no peace came. Just fear. Not of death, never of death, but fear for the living left behind. My grown children. Who will love them like I do? Who will do all things possible to be sure they are safe, that they always have a place to go, someone to talk to? I fought this death, tried to grab hold of some invisible thread that might keep me grounded, but that's not easy when you're in a failing body. Nobody teaches how to keep our soul and spirit contained in our flesh and bone housing. As often as I'd wanted to escape my body, once that door opened, I wanted nothing more but for it to shut back up again. And I was tired. So tired. So aware. Each particle of cool air, the power cords strung along, the tiny bits of starlight. My heart beat wildly, in no way I'd ever experienced, out of sync and out of rhythm, too far over. My brain kept going quiet, as if it no longer cared to house my soul. That's the only way to explain it. A brain in touch is present, full of things, not able to be separate, and carries with that a constant type of noise.

I woke up again and we were nearing the hospital. My body was calming. My heart snuck closer to its proper position. The heaviness in my jaw reluctantly yet steadily lightened. I attempted words, and they did not fail, though they were weak.  We pulled in, and I found myself able to make it to the front desk. They took me back immediately, surrounding me, and I tried to say it was an allergy and I think the words came out. They said it was my heart. I could not argue, but my brain screamed at me to keep trying. I just couldn't. I stared at my husband, angry at his Parkinson's, at the lack of understanding as I tried to convey to him what was needed, but I realized my words were not forming.  The nurses surrounded me, drawing blood, putting monitors on. A nurse put her hand on my shoulder, looked in my eyes, and said, "You're going to be with us a long time." Someone came to take me somewhere; I don't know where. I heard the nurses at the station saying they needed to prep me for surgery. The person pushing me in the wheelchair rubbed my shoulders, commented on how hard I was shaking. I could not stop peeing, more coming out of me than anyone could possibly have drank in a single day.

But it wasn't a heart attack. They didn't know what it was, but all the bad things started fading away. I quit shaking, quit peeing. My blood tests looked great. They had never checked for an allergic reaction, because it "didn't look like one." They explained what one looks like, and it occurred to me that though I lived that night, nobody would ever treat me for my allergic reactions because I don't react in ways others expect is typical. Normal people get hives, have trouble breathing, then go into other symptoms. I don't get that pleasure. My body just says, "Nope, don't like that, exit exit exit!" My allergist blames my reactions on lupus and refers me to a rheumatologist. The rheumatologist blames them on allergies and refers me back to the allergist. Seeking a second opinion only resulted in the same mess. I discovered what I'm most reactive to, but my body decides to randomly be allergic to various things, with varied reactions. Thankfully, they've all been mild in comparison to my allergy to propylene glycol and all its derivatives. That is the one that is brutal and must be avoided. It also is one that cannot always be avoided. While one can look for it in foods and medications, it is not listed all the time and is contained in so much more. It could be built into a counter-top, released from a car, used to process a spice, or contained in a medication.

Which brings me to the second recent brush. Pneumonia. My husband took a good two weeks to heal from a nasty yet seemingly innocuous virus, so when I felt terrible and went to my doctor, he seemed to think the same and didn't do any testing. I blew it off as me being childish. Perhaps I needed to buckle up and just wait for the virus to go away. It didn't. On day eleven of the fever, I asked the doctor's office how long a fever can last before it becomes a concern. They said not to worry unless the fever got higher. It didn't, nor did it go away. A week later, they didn't have me come back, but they called in an antibiotic. The antibiotic contained propylene glycol. I told them, and they called in another. It also had propylene glycol. I requested they stop doing that, and they told me the doctor didn't have time to figure it out. They told me to figure it out and call them when I found something without it, and he'd call it in. It was day twenty of a fever and feeling awful, and I not an expert in what works for pneumonia. I was in no condition to do my doctor's job.

I just so happened to have an appointment with my cardiologist, so I quit fighting my primary care doctor and went to my heart appointment. My cardiologist came in for two minutes, looked terrified, and told my husband to get me to the emergency room "or she's going to end up on a respirator." We went, but they were packed, and it would take them around six hours to get me in. Sitting there surrounded by unknown germs seemed ill advised, so I went home and worked a shift, then went back to the emergency room. They diagnosed me with pneumonia and debated admitting me. When we discussed my allergy, they said it was nearly impossible to find anything that didn't contain it, so I should just take what they wanted me to take, and trust they would "bring me back" if I reacted. They did a culture for sepsis, and instead of taking it from two places, drew it all at once from one vein in my left arm. My faith in doctors and hospitals working with my allergy was, for obvious reasons, greatly diminished and I made known my preference to not be admitted. They gave me breathing treatments, let me go home, and prescribed an antibiotic, stating that if I got worse at all, I'd have to come back in and get admitted. The pharmacist told me the antibiotic contained a derivative of propylene glycol and should not be used. I called my primary care doctor's office and they told me it wasn't at all related, and to take it. So, I took it. Just once.

And reacted.

Thankfully, it stayed relatively tame. A lite version of death 2.0. My heart flopped, the room jumped about, and I found myself stumbling against walls trying to get to the bathroom as my connection to reality tried to flip the off switch. I made it back to the couch before I passed out, but then I woke back up and felt better.  I debated going to the emergency room. It seemed I might have better luck healing myself. I weighed the risks. They would very likely give me something that contained my allergy. Should I not go, maybe my body would heal on its own and if not, at least I'd be more comfortable in my own home. My breathing was getting rough. So rough. I'd lost my ability to smell or taste. My blood pressure was low. My heart rate high. I looked at a picture of my kids and decided to risk the hospital. I stood in front of that picture of my children and sobbed. Apologized. I didn't feel like I'd be coming back.

On the way out, it hit me. Don't go to that hospital. Go somewhere else. My online lupus group answered a quick poll on which hospital emergency room might be appropriate, and I took myself to the one the majority selected. The doctor who walked in just happened to be a pharmaceutical doctor and while he'd never met or treated anyone with my allergy, he knew what to look for and provided swift, appropriate care. Unlike my primary, it took him under 30 minutes to find antibiotics that work with pneumonia and do not contain propylene glycol. Still, after the intravenous medications and breathing treatments, one of the ones he prescribed did contain my allergy. I caught it before we left the hospital. Still, even with a highly trained and caring doctor, my situation is crazy. I must always be aware , sickness be damned, to save my own life.

Much happened before and between all these things, but the point is that I live between multiple world, never knowing how close to one I will be tomorrow, how far I will be in an hour from where I am now. For me, there is no up or down to it, no stairway, no curtain that pulls back. There is a veil, a mist, and it becomes more translucent on days when my body and brain battle my soul and spirit.

I didn't come out of all the experiences of the past few years a happier, calmer, more appreciative person. Yes, the sky is more amazing. Yes, the colors appear even more lovely than before. Yes, food tastes better now, and I smile more.

But damn, am I angry. I am so angry now. I saw the world all at once when I was a pre-teen, and the people of this world took what I knew and made me ashamed of it. Tried to make me one of them. Filled me with ideas of one human being better than another, of one religion being the only truth, of taking care of yourself above all other concerns. They taught me that being common is normal, and normal is good, and since I allowed it in my mind, I am angry at myself as well. We are so much more than the insulated, small minded strugglers we've been made to believe life is normal for human beings. The taming of humanity is horrifying. This is not what we were meant for. I am not angry in a punch holes in walls way, but in a let's knock this off and heal and in order to do that, we need to tear down some conventions, bust down the doors of most major companies, replace the majority of governments, and put a few billionaires on a fast rocket to a far planet.

I am afraid. My confidence that I will be here tomorrow to do things that need to be done is minimal. I want to do things. Fix things. For my husband, for my children, for our world, for the future. I freeze at the visions in my head. The pain I've gone through, the idea of going through it again. At the idea that my kids could have to go through something like this. That they could get hurt and know this suffering. It's all a jumble. The day will be great, and I'll be back in the car with my jaw weighing me down, the Milky Way fading off in the distance, saying my goodbyes in my head, unable to speak the words aloud. I'll envision my daughter, who inherited my auto immune disorder, back in the hospital and I'll just start sobbing. I've learned to cry in a way that allows me to continue a phone call, finish a transaction in a store, not be noticed by someone next to me. But not always. Sometimes I just stand paralyzed.

My love is purified and fierce. No longer is it a tame, warm feeling. It is a fire lit from a silver torch dipped in the source of all light, and it burns away anything selfish and untrue. This love encompasses all things rightfully of this world. Rich, fertile earth. Plants, so many plants, in their various shapes and forms, with so many parts. Plants rising to the sky, roots travelling underground, providing food, offering healing, giving shelter, taming the wind. The water. Crashing or flowing, sweet or salty, misting or torrenting, so full of living things and ever giving life to all who drink. Humans being birthed and crying out that first breath, tigers seeking their next meal, people running on the beaches with sun-drunk skin, the voices of my children and the sound of their laughter, their hopefulness and struggle for the future. I want to fight for all of this, for the renewal of all things, for the protection of the sacred, for dedication and commitment to well-being of all who take breath.

My temper is short now when it comes to injustice. Not just specific injustices, or large ones, but minor ones as well. I witnessed a person aggressively approach someone whose car he had struck with his truck, and without thought, I stepped up. Don't do that. Don't treat other people like garbage. While my natural self runs towards a problem and try to help, precautions used to play into my reactions. That is gone now. Don't pull nonsense around someone who almost died. We've been where you haven't been, and if we must drag you there for a little visit, we're going to do it without hesitation. Most don't expect that out of a grandmother-looking grey-haired woman, but here I am. I watch the wars going on in the world, our own country leading the way and my face flushes, the heat rises. I talk to people who try to explain it away, to justify it because we need "things" and to maintain our lifestyle. Our lifestyle in this country, the United States, requires theft. It demands death. It destroys and poisons humans, life, and our life source. Let's change the lifestyle. It is pure evil to turn justify what it requires.

I am dependent. I know that now. All that we are depends on all that is outside of us. Without pure air, our bodies grow sick and weak. Without pure water, our bodies grow sick and weak. Without kind humans, our hearts grow sick and weak. Without pure love, our spirits grow sick and weak. We fail at interdependency so hard, and the result is a sick and weak nation of sick and weak people. I can wave crystals about, sage, pray, light candles, and not of it will make me okay without you. You are part of this, and my health, physical and spiritual, is dependent on you and your actions, and yours on mine, and ours on the earth, water, winds, and sky.

My illness does hold me back. Many people say their physical limitations freed them in some way. That sounds great, but unfortunately, it isn't my case. I found no new hobbies. I just get mad when I can't do what I used to, so I keep trying. Heaven help me if one more person encourages me to take up something I've never been interested in, like making potholders. I hate that I can barely read anymore, but I'm going to keep doing it as long as possible, even if it is a paragraph at a time. I hate that I tip over half the time when I try to take care of my plants, so I get more plants and make a line of them and have something to guide me as I walk so I don't feel as dizzy. When I can barely walk, I use my walker in the kitchen, but I still try to bake. When I wanted to go to a protest, I carried a walking stick and keep emergency medicine in my pocket and had someone park around the corner in case I needed help. Sometimes I just can't do things I want, but I don't replace them, because I don't want to.

Coming back from facing death did not heal my depression. In fact, sometimes it comes on even stronger, as my sense of urgency causes despair when I see injustice and suffering continuing and know my efforts to stop it are so weak and impeded by my illness. Sometimes I feel like life isn't worth living. I don't want to be in a place where people kill each other, rape each other, steal land, steal money, steal food, force citizens to live in fear and poverty, where the air is polluted and simply drinking the water causes cancer. Where selfishness abounds and love is all wrapped up in conditions and easily destroyed by expectations set by those who gain from its failure.

That is how coming close to death changed me. My brain is on fire. I am impatient with this world. I've seen it from a different angle now, in its entirety, and it is wildly beautiful and ripe and filled with potentialities, but we as a people, we see the seed in an apple but cut down the tree. We rape and kill this planet. All of it. We weakened it, but it will not die. She will kill off what it needs to kill off to survive, then return, and her return will be glorious. She has that power, and our dependent selves do not. I live half here and half out there, but more present than ever before, and it hurts. I feel ridiculous sometimes just eating a banana and being so very grounded and human when I've felt the possibilities in the stars and wandered past the blue of the sky. People are so in touch with their mortal side, so unaware of anything beyond an inch of their skin. We need to reconnect with the ancient song that formed us, that still sings to us, that will sing us home when we're done with our bodies. It is the key to our survival.

©2020 Gina Locke

November 23, 2019

Does Scent of Samadhi Work? Does it work *anywhere?*

Ads for Scent of Samadhi kept popping up on my Facebook page. As someone with a propylene glycol allergy, it is crazy tough to find deodorant that works.

The tiny container peaked my interest. I liked that the scent could not be defined, and being curious to a fault, I was going to order this even if the reviews were terrible, which they were not. How cute is this tiny container? It fits in the center of my palm.

So let's get straight to the point.

Does it work as deodorant?

No, not in the way most people think deodorant works. It worked in the real way, by sanitizing the odor. Covering it up. Distracting the nose from anything else that might be going on.

Scent of Samadhi is what I can only describe as an ultra concentrated perfume. Look at how little I use under each arm!
 That amount seems ridiculously tiny, but trust me when I say if you increase it, only use a tiny bit more than this or you will not be able to deal with it. They could perfume 50 bottle of body splash with this stuff, and I'm not talking about those tiny samples. I'm talking about those giant Jean Nate bottles from the 80's, the ones your 5th grade classmate got you because she drew your name in the gift exchange at Christmas. I'm talking about the perfume of 500 grandmothers gathered on a Sunday morning trying to impress with each other. I'm talking about opening the cap and turning your head to the side just to be able to get some air. It's beautiful and marvelous and powerful and will not be washed away, so start tiny.

I still wear my deodorant with this. The Scent of Samadhi is my insurance. Perhaps I could wear it without the deodorant, but I want that extra layer of protection for my own sense of self confidence.

How long does it last? For me, I can still smell it on the third day if I am not outside gardening or running around too much. My desk job isn't all that physically demanding. I just sit in a chair and type things, or get yelled at on the phone. Which leads me to the next question people often have about stuff like this.

Can you use it anywhere you want?

Well, what you really want to know is will is deodorize your crotch. I had concerns with it touching anywhere too intimate, so I put some at the top of my crotch, just a bit under the natural hairline, so I couldn't risk it getting into more sensitive areas. When you sit at a desk all day and angry people call to tell you how much you suck and how they're about to get you fired, sometimes you start sweating a bit. I hate that. I always wonder if anyone else notices a smell when you stand up after sitting at a desk job sweating.

So did it work for that? YES! I couldn't tell so much as I didn't smell anything at all. With it under my arms, I catch whiffs of it when I move, or raise my arms. Down below, I don't catch whiffs of the Scent of Samadhi at random times,  but when I go  to use the bathroom and pull down my pants, there it is. Pleasant and happy, and no hint of "Becky started screaming for your supervisor again" sweat.

How do you apply Scent of Samadhi? If you use your finger to apply it, you will smell this perfumed substance on your hands all day. Wash your hands right away, because you will also taste it on food you might touch with your hand, or if you tend to bite your nails. It comes with a tiny plastic applicator, like a little curved scoop, but I don't like the idea of having to wash it daily and my fingers give more control over exactly where I can sprinkle or rub the Scent of Samadhi onto my skin. That simply cannot be achieved with a tiny plastic scoop.

I do not see having to purchase this again for months and months. This tiny container is going to last a very, very long time at this rate. It may sound expensive, but I feel like the only reason they aren't charging more is because people have a tough time understanding the concept of value if the thing they are looking at doesn't LOOK big and like you get a ton of it.

The most repeated question I saw in the reviews was, "What does it smell like?" The most common answer is the same as mine. It is very difficult to describe. I would say it smells like a thousand orchids. It seems to change with my mood. Sometimes it smells earthy to me, but more often, it smells very flowery. If I stand far enough back, it smells like a the wind over a remote valley in late spring. If I stand very close to the scent, it is the cloistering, gladiola infused perfume of the town gossip. At just the right distance, it is the scent of jingling bracelets and the laughter of dark haired women as they meet around the neighborhood and exchange stories of their children and discuss professional goals. It really is a moody little substance, and your mood is going to change your perception, and its mood will change you as well.

Disclaimer: At the time of writing this, I simply wrote it because I saw a lot of questions and wanted to share my experience. I have spoken to nobody and received no compensation as of the day I am writing this, 11-23-19. I just thought it was a really cool little container and a potent formula, with enough questions floating around out there that it really did need a decent review!

©2019 Gina Locke

October 4, 2019

Moon Fall

Witnessing the moon fall holds more meaning for me than watching the sun rise. The sun is a seeker, looking for praise and threatening all who stand directly within its power. The moon, she hides from the sun and refuses to come out fully until she feels safe. She then simply lays in a hammock of stars and relaxes, or some nights stares at us curiously, always using soft reflected light to gently guide us through darkness. Light shows us evil, but dark protects us from witnessing it and helps us hide from the clutches of those who mean us harm.

The moon protected me during my childhood. Staring at her blocked the memories of daylight and the noise and scary things that come with sunlight. I remember staring at her, writing her the songs of my heart when old enough to write. I purposely used old English to reflect the reverence and sense of wonder the moon brought each evening, as it  I knew no other language and plain English did not feel good enough. As I grew older, I took a third shift job in a nursing home. A surprising number of people die as the moon starts to fall, and I spent many hours holding the hands of those departing their current path, readying their bodies for visits from their loved ones. It seems the most peaceful time for a body to die. One sweet man remained fully aware, chatting with me about fishing and other small parts of his life.
He'd never talked to me before that night, just watched me warily whenever I took vitals. That night was different. He knew it was his time and unlike many others, did not wish to be alone when it happened. It stuck in my mind that in his last moments, he did not discuss things like past sins, life achievements, regrets, or people. He smiled wistfully while talking about fish jumping in the lake, the peaceful feeling of being on the water, walking through the woods, the turning of the leaves in Autumn. Then he just quit talking. He sighed and that was the end of his life.  I told the nurse, and she called his family. They said they did not have money to come get him, so the nurse called the morgue. I readied his body anyhow, out of respect. Two men came with a stretcher. One had a McDonald's soda cup in his hand. They carried him out, one man sipping his drink, the other laughing at some unrelated story the two were discussing. Anger welled up in me at this casual treatment of a body with a newly departed spirit. When they left, I stood under the moonlight and apologized to the world for the coldness of some human hearts.

Modern medical treatments rarely allow for such gentle passings. Life becomes artificially extended, bodies writhing and struggling to breathe under harsh lights. Sometimes I think about that, and how it will happen when I die. When my loved ones die. I hope the moon will come to my rescue again, hiding my last breaths from those who may seek to fight my death on my behalf, not recognizing it is not theirs to take part in.

The cooler winds settling in as the leaves begin their gentle descent towards the withering flowers brings such thoughts to my mind. Without loss, without sadness, without decay, there is no renewal and there is no rebirth.

I stand here and lift my arms to the sky. Let the snow fall. Let the leaves fall. When it is my time, let me fall. Let me fall under the moon, staring at her beauty, at her protection, at her cradle of stars, and promise me you will join me when your time comes. Tell me we will dance across the constellations, swoop down into the clouds to play hide and seek, and swim into the deepest parts of the ocean to see all the secret fishes. Promise me we'll swim up out of the water and float under the soft glow of the moon, laying on our backs and remembering that time we went out on the boat, or gathered red and orange leaves, and do you remember hot apple cider on cold days? The way new babies yawn, their little mouths all uneven and their bellies extending and announcing that there is nothing else in their lives but this very moment? The way horse breath smells when they snort as you pet them between their eyes? The papery smooth feel of the trunk of a birch tree?

Until then, remember the moon. Glance up in the evening, and if you happen to catch her as she secrets herself from the rising sun, take a moment to tell her goodnight. As for you, take your phenomenal self and do something that brings you joy. Something you can one day reflect on during moon fall. Never forget that you are part of this glorious, intricate dance of everything becoming. We are always becoming, rounding the corner to the next place, joined to each other by the experience. I'm glad that in this moment, simply by you reading this, we are together.


@2019 Gina Locke

July 19, 2019

Bread and Circuses

Bread and Circuses

There amid the scent of wine and silence
Still and small I lay along her side
Cutting myself on the broken pieces of her heart
Sing her the song I hear caged deep within her soul
And she reaches out a numbed hand as if trying

Trying to be in a place she could never reach
Where love dances on the waters
While waves rise to wash away the tears
As potent wind transforms pain into power
And fire burns away the ashes of all fears

Fears that locked her in a fools paradise
Built up of hell's dust and dreams
With doors to everywhere but freedom
As the clock hand relentlessly pointed
To a place where hours do not count

Count the hours, count the seasons
Since the raindrops froze in place
Amid the scent of wine and silence
While my arms reached out for her
In a place I still have not reached

Reached into the brokenness where I find power
To rage against the darkest fears
Smash the clock to stop the stifling hours
Knowing every sacred minute counts
When love dances on the water

The water of an ocean of healing tears
So still and small I lay along her beach
While she sings to me the song I caged
And tomorrow's sun sets for the night
Shadowing the scars born of wine

And silence.

@2019 Gina Locke

May 25, 2019

Therapy: Session Three - The Session That Wasn't

My therapist’s secretary overbooked her. I looked at my phone in complete belief. Of course. I always do the hard things alone. Codependency is not my weakness, so I felt silly for having felt the appointment needed to happen for me to cope with the sudden fruits of decades of research. 

She asked if we could do it via Skype, and I said no. It did not feel right, not for this. I hadn’t been keen on the idea of therapy, but my daughter’s chronic illness coupled with knowing her insurance will end as soon as she graduates college, the intensifying of my own chronic illness, and my husband’s new diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease merging with the stress of a job that consists of taking verbal abuse for eight hours a day while pretending to be happy finally got me there. Now this, everything I’d wanted, everything I’d feared, memories I’d suppressed, or made up, or did not know existed started popping up at once.

It all started with an e-mail. “My mom knows we’ve been talking and wants to talk to you.” Then a voicemail. “You’ve been talking to my daughter. I think we should talk.” A phone number, a time zone.

I’d done an Ancestry DNA test quite a while back, hoping to find relatives. At first it only confirmed that I was related to the people I hoped would magically turn out to be non-relatives, so that was disappointing.  Then someone else popped up, and there she was. A link. We spoke briefly, on and off, and now this.

After the phone call with her mother, it all exploded. The lovely woman put in touch with a prior social worker for some relative, and she would be a wealth of information. I bit my tongue and called. I have a deep resentment and mistrust of social workers. She did not answer at the time she asked me to call, so I left a message. We played tag for a bit, then she called the next day. I listened to her halting voice, pauses between questions, and held back from asking the questions I wanted to ask about her involvement. Maybe she was one of the good ones. Maybe she was not. Time would tell.
Yes, I am being purposely evasive with the exact information, for the sake of the privacy of others involved.

I ended up with names of most of the people I was looking for. The social worker said she would contact them and let them know I was looking. I waited, then grew angry at myself. Once again, I was waited anxiously for answers from a social worker. For permission, like a child. Dependent on their grace, but why? There was no reason for it this time. I went online and found one person, then found another. During that time, I discovered, with shock and anger, that I’d found one before. Somewhere buried in my memory was a name. From the dawn of Facebook, I poured through that online resource looking for faces that might be them and found that one. My own distrust told me no. Too blonde. Still…I stared at that photo. For a while I had sent messages to people, but nobody ever answered. I told myself I was stupid and moved on. My mind always grapples with self-doubt. It is the result of years of being called treated as worthless and told that whatever I thought, the opposite was true. “Just ask Gina, and the answer will be the opposite of what she thinks.” Great, more wasted time, and my own fault for not trusting my instincts. People always want to think they would know someone if they saw them, even if they never met, so I thought perhaps it was my fantasy wanting to think I was special and had that power.

I made first contact with one of them, and the rest unfolded rapidly. Phone calls, questions, answers, more questions.

It turned out that nobody knew I existed. The more I thought about it, the more awful it became. The more personal the separation seemed. Oddly enough, the first photo they saw of me turned out to be one holding a butterfly across which I’d written, “I Am Here.” I'd posted it on Facebook a few months prior. All I’d wanted all my adult life was to know they were safe, okay. Wanted. Loved. How do you love and worry about someone you never remember meeting? I don’t know. It just was there in my heart. People in the past told me to stop looking for my own sanity and sometimes I would, but then it would suddenly be three in the morning and I’d realize I’d been searching since the night before, leaving message on internet forums, scouring for familiar faces.

There is so much joy in finding blood relatives. It is overwhelming. Grounding. Until my children were born there were no real connections for most of my life. They did not grow up with a gramma and grandpa, aunts or uncles, cousins or any of the other such connections and I thought of this as a significant failure on my part, despite it not being much of a choice. There simply was nobody, and those that I knew of were not safe and could not be part of my life or anyone that I owed protection.

Am I happy about having found them now? Happy is for when you get a meal with a toy. This goes way beyond happy. I am in awe of whatever word it is that can hold the feeling that describes the way this feels. We need to find that word and set it on a throne made of gold and silver woven by butterflies and fairies, then we need to hand feed that word fresh pressed grape juice and rare berries from an extremely high mountain top until that words gets so fantastically large that it covers every human and animal in this world and we feel it in the depths of our souls. It would be the word to end all wars, to end all sorrow, to end all anger, to end everything that is not good in our lives.

The way this happened, though probably best, was so fast and furious and unexpected that it left me stunned with the mental workout. And that is why it is what it is right now. An entire lifetime of trauma and disappointment surging to the front of my brain at once as I try to sort fiction from reality, the now known from the once unknown, to deal with the idea that some of my worst fears were not the product of an overwrought imagination, but based on things that really happened.  On the second day I sat shaking violently, my body trying to release the tension of the memories my brain fought to keep suppressed. I wasn’t ready for this flood. I still am not sure what to do with it all. How to cope. I guess like this. Writing. Crying. I am finding myself frozen and staring off in the distance, revisiting the things in my childhood that led to all this. This separation, this self-doubt, this inability to discuss and reveal things without it ending up in vomit.

Humor is a tool that typically serves me well.  Sometimes it is cutesy humor, the type that makes you feel like a perfectly normal housewife is telling you a silly secret that we all share but rarely talk about. At other times it is the dark humor of one who has witnessed trauma and grief, one who has held the hands of people dying alone and then washed their dead faces even when nobody would be around for one last look. But most people are uncomfortable with the latter type of humor. Kind of like how people like me don’t get to have normal conversations about our childhood. “Hey, remember that time you hid your bloody underwear, somewhere around kindergarten age, and when asked about the blood you said you scratched a mosquito bite because you were afraid you’d get in trouble for getting raped? And you didn't even know the word for it? Ha ha ha! You were so dumb then!” Instead, we just change subjects and discuss things more common among our neighbors. “Wasn’t that fun to run around sprinklers when we were kids? Man, those were some carefree times!” And I nod and smile, and pretend I had a sprinkler, and imagine me and my brothers and sisters running through it happy and carefree, sipping our juice boxes and laughing and pushing each other into puddles.

But nothing is striking me as funny this time. Nothing pulling me out of that place that keeps trying to drag me backwards from the flashing scenes of blonde hair, the memory of angels, the putrid smell of liquor, the stench of sweat and the intermingled moments of peace shattering, always shattering.

Nothing except hope.

I’ve done this before. I will do this again. And this time, I have purpose. There are people to get to know. People to love. People I hope will learn to love me too. I’ve never been into gift giving or holidays or cookouts. That is something other people do. They get together and eat burgers and I watch from the outside. My friends usually are others on the outside. We understand each other. Lately there are no friends, because my illness does not allow for much interaction. So even if those things do not happen, this is okay. Love happens in different ways. Sometimes it is big and loud, sometimes it is quiet, sometimes it is someone out there on the fringes, looking in and just being glad you exist. I’ve been at the edge, not able to look in until now but always loving, always hoping, so this is probably easier for me than anyone else. They likely think I’m nuts. Who comes at you out of nowhere, having never existed until this moment, full of hope and love and tears? Well, I AM HERE.

And with that, I’ll go finish cleaning the house and living this amazing life that has rained down so many blessings that would not exist without the storms. Cliché? Perhaps. I’ll leave you with something I wrote. Something I knew deep in my heart and could not explain, and now I understand it more. You may wonder how that can be when I wrote it myself. Well, I don’t know. I don’t always understand me. It’s why I’m seeing a therapist now. Maybe. I have three sessions left on my “you get five sessions paid for” account and I have a mental block against paying someone out of my own pocket to listen to me talk.  If she figures me out by the end of the fifth session, I’ll let you know. It doesn’t seem that important though. Life is filled with self-discovery. Don’t we just die when self-discovery ends, if nothing else takes us first? Or is that not how it works? I don’t know, but neither do you so let’s just leave that right there and go on a journey down The Backwards Road.

The Backwards Road

When you find yourself on an unknown road
Headed back to where you once were
Through blackberry brambles
And the harsh stings of bees
Through echoing memories of her

Looking forward to find your way back
To her cool, energetic embrace
To the hair warmed with sun
And the words of her song
Wrapped in the depths of her emotionless face

Will she still have the strength you still lack
To fight back your old demons once more
Or has chance stole the moment
You found in those days
And from what you have run from before

No rhyme to the season
No song for the harm
That steals from the shadows again
To rob of her soul what was stolen in youth
Only leaving that cold, bitter charm.

©Gina Locke

April 24, 2019

Therapy: Session Two

Therapy Session Two


Today's theme.

Is it okay that the most exciting part of my life this week was choosing what color marker I got to use?

She held up three markers and asked, "What color do you want?"

I chose pink, then changed to green. Pink felt too obligatory, while green represents things like grass and newly sprouting leaves.

My initial reaction was that the marker would make me sick, but I chose to cap it between markings and not sniff it. Life just isn't as fun when you can't sniff the markers for fear of reacting, but I did get to flirt with danger by using it in the first place, so who wins now? ME! Meet your Marengo, marker! Close, but no cigar.

The marker's intended use turned out to not be to defy death, but to put check marks throughout a list of self-care ideas. Did I want to take a walk in the woods? Maybe. It didn't say if I had to come back. CHECK! Read a book? CHECK! Put band aids everywhere I wanted to cut myself? This sounds like work, either way. No check. Spend time with a sibling? Well, her toys involve needles and spoons with burn marks, so no check. Write. Check! Post online. Check! Plant seeds? Okay, if you put your hand in my pocket, you will find seeds. They're everywhere.  The bottom of my purse, the dining room table, in paper envelopes in drawers, stuffed in a ring box, slipped into miniature plastic baggies that could easily be mistaken for something to be heated over a metal spoon. Don't do it, sis! No check. I consider explaining the seed thing, but she didn't ask, and my side issues can wait, and besides, it will only lead to discussions of seed bombing, and she doesn't need to know my life like that. I'd like to appear at least a tiny bit normal. I check off all the other things on the list that I can do, and then we move on to discuss what self-care is NOT.

It starts off with not being something you must force yourself to do.

Great. There goes peeing and walking and paying bills and getting out of bed. Now I have an excuse. "This is not self-care! I need self-care right now!"

That's not how it works though. Those other things still need to get done, but I should ADD self-care things. Now I must find some woods. The therapist gets on her laptop and helps. It's not easy. The lack of trees in this state is all too real. We find some places with trees and water and for some reason, buffalo. I never really thought of them as being in the woods, but I suppose they’ve got to live somewhere. They're always walking when you see them on prairies, and we don't even really have prairies,  just giant parking lots and corporate owned stores where buffalo really should be, so the creatures apparently retreated to the trees in the more mountainous areas of the state, which are really just small inclines, but you can't tell that to anyone here. If it's not a flat piece of land, it's a mountain. So now there are forest buffalo in the mountains, and it's all getting really complicated but maybe this can still work out.

Of course, this all came about after she asked about my sex life. It took me by surprise. I'd mentioned my husband's medication seemed to be having very positive effects. I just meant on the tremors and other issues that come with Parkinson's, but then she said, "And is that improving your physical relationship?"

Well. I didn't quite know what to say. I never thought of it as an issue, but since she was asking, I told her that it always helps if neither partner is flailing around like a drunk and running into walls when you're just trying to get to your loved one. She nodded sympathetically, and probably has no idea that I'm the one who runs into walls. Not during intimate moments. Well, sometimes, but the truth is that I run into walls pretty much anytime a wall happens to be too close. She must have sensed that the topic was not one for much discussion, so we moved onto the self-care issues and the unintentionally dangerous markers.

We then talked about friends. Who do I talk to? Do I hang out with anyone?

No. I am isolated by my life, my illness, my inability to not die when someone whips out one too many markers. A few weeks ago, a kid at the store knocked over a bottle of perfume and my throat started closing before I could get outside. It's not a good way to meet people. "You smell nice. Is that Shalimar?" *thud*

Of all the self-care things we go through, after we take out what cannot be done, what cannot be interrupted by the ridiculousness that is my daily existence, we end up with writing. That is the one thing that allows me to stop thinking. To stop being afraid. To not get interrupted by flashbacks. I start writing and just get lost, not always in what I'm writing, but in the ideas behind it, in the pictures it brings to my mind, in the pain it brings to my hands, in the sound of the keyboard, in the delicious flavors of various words or sometimes their scents, in what I secretly know of them, in our relationship with each other. It is something most people I talk to do not understand. They don't find certain sentences minty or hear morning glory seeds ping as they fill up the letter u, and they are deaf to the roar of water that runs through the word "relationship." If I say stuff like this while swiping furiously at my phone, people do things like ask "What are you reading that is driving you so nuts and making you go on this rant," and I say, "Nothing, I'm just playing Candy Crush and thinking," they get concerned. Seriously concerned. But if I write the words, my thoughts suddenly become acceptable to others. Even magical. Saying that the word morning looks chewy is crazy. Writing the thought makes it poetic.

So, I write, and now we're all happy.

This is my self-care today.

Goal accomplished.