This is the Stuff of My REM Time or “Animals and drones and soldiers, oh my”

I’m standing at the door of a house that in the dream is similar to my grandparents’ home in Peabody, MA. It’s nighttime and I’ve let the cats out into the front yard. I see something has gotten their attention and as I run down the stairs I see they’re stalking a bunny. I pick the cats up and turn to go up the stairs and I see that an owl has climbed up the decorative metal design on the outside door and is eyeballing the bright green macaw that’s hanging from the screen on the inside of the door. As I open the door the owl cranes its head forward and tried to make a grab for the macaw. I shoulder it aside and drop the cats indoors, pulling the door closed behind me. Light comes into the sky as I putter around the house getting ready to go out and suddenly I’m in the bedroom of the house I lived in, also in Peabody, MA, until I was 11 years old. I hear a loud noise, that gets louder and louder outside the house as it gets closer. I see an unmanned military drone slowly circle the house and as it gets ready to make another pass, I close the curtains in each room.

The scene changes and …there are people milling about in the house with me and the house is no longer one with which I’m familiar in my waking life. My mother tells me that you can shoot drones down. Also that my brother and I “got their attention” and the drone will be back. I walk downstairs into the basement, find a shotgun, and begin loading it. I go back upstairs and I’m in a room with soldiers in jungle BDUs. It feels as if a briefing has just taken place and I take one of them aside, someone of high rank, and ask what the hell is going on. He’s my father in the dream but I get no answer.

The scene changes. And I’m in a TV station I’ve never seen before but I’m trying to find the controlroom so I can direct a show. I’m carrying the shotgun, awaiting the reappearance of the drone.

As I wake, I experience a hypnic jerk and the cat curled up between my legs lets out a startled mrrrrp of complaint as he leaps to the other side of the bed. I see it’s only 6:32AM as I apologize to him, then settle us both down for another few hours of shuteye.

I Remember…….

I’m locked in a struggle. This woman, wearing a very Jackie Kennedy-esque suit–pale yellow–wants me to take a nap. I have a doll, with a plastic curlyque curl on it’s forehead, clutched in my hands. I want to take it to bed with me. She, of the suit, and also a pillbox hat, wants to take it away. She thinks it’s unsanitary. Also that I’ll be spoiled if she lets me do what I want, which is to take the doll with me for a nap, instead of what she wants. We’re in a semi-darkened room, curtains drawn. The room is non-descript, a bedroom in a tract house in a bedroom community. Like all the other tract houses around it, this bedroom is square, has a small closet along the right side of the room in relation to coming in the door. The woman and I are standing next to the bed, she with her back to the door, me facing her.

This is what I believe is my first memory. I see it in my mind’s eye as if watching a movie. I don’t know whether it’s a true memory or something my subconscious has concocted over the years to exist as the defining moment of my relationship with my mother. She became my mother, after first having been foster to me, the last in a series of fosters from the time I was 18 months to the age of 2. Our relationship was adversarial until about two weeks before she died. I wonder if I made that scene up to explain how it was we came to be locked in struggle all of our lives together. But it rings true, somehow. I can feel the heavy air, the silence around us as we stare each other down. My desperation to not let go of that doll, the one constant thing with me, that was MINE, as I moved from home to home within my first adoptive parents’ extended family.

Yes, this is it. My first memory.

This is written in response to the weekly writing challenge, to check it out, and others….the link is below:

This is the Stuff of My REM Time or “Why is Burt Reynolds driving this pickup truck?”

I’m riding in a pickup truck with my husband, late to an event at a country club restaurant. We’re riding in a pickup truck along a beach, blasting along with no time to spare. Burt Reynolds is driving, I’m sitting next to him, my husband is on my right. Where we need to go is up a long climb, up a bluff…or something that most resembles a cliff face but it’s got lawn. Greenery. It’s a country club, so we’re going to climb up their golf course. Burt downshifts so we get good traction as we start to climb from the beach. He’s grinning the signature “Smokey and the Bandit” grin as the truck slews around the sand. The lawn/sod/golf course is being churned up by the truck but it seems like all the emerald green is being rolled up as we go so it can be laid back down. The engine roars as we climb and Burt Reynolds is laughing as we top the cliff.

We slide to a halt in front of one of the club’s buildings.

This is a fragment of the night’s action adventure dreaming. I don’t wake from this, and I don’t remember what came after. I know a cat sleeps in the bed with me, and my retired sled dog is dreaming in his crate as I experience another action adventure in my dreamtime.

This is the Stuff of My REM Time or “Where a prisoner camp, the grocery store, dysfunctional family, and a highway come together in the night”

I’m with a friend from high school and we’re in a prisoner camp where the guards are Asian/Japanese and the prisoners are Americans and Asians from other countries. We’re hiding, watching as all the Americans are let out to waiting trucks but we’re afraid to run for it, fearing being shot. Also, my friend is of Korean and American heritage and we don’t know if he’ll be kept in. The other prisoners are bunking down in a large, dormitory-like building and we decide we’ll try to hide in plain sight with them. I find a long robe with a hood and I pull it as far over my face as I can to hide myself.

The scene changes and I’m in a building in this camp, looking for an exit. I come around a corner, face-to-face with an English speaking woman who’s teaching children of the camp guards. I hear footsteps coming down the stairs I’d just descended. She doesn’t want to give me away, or lose her favor …whatever that is… in the camp so she points me to a door behind me. I turn.

And the scene changes again. I’m outside, walking slowly down a sidewalk alongside the dormitory building, hoping no one will take notice of me before I get back into the relative safety of the crowd. I’ve got the hood pulled low over my face and I hunch over, trying to walk as if I were an old woman but this doesn’t do much to disquise my 5’9″ height and large frame. A guard dressed in samurai-like garb passes me and calls out in a language I don’t understand. I keep shuffling. He lifts the bottom of my robe to reveal grey sweatpants and I know I’m given away. My friend appears and takes the guard down with one punch. I kick a guard who’s appeared to my right and we run for a nearby truck. We clamber in, he gets it started and

The scene changes and I’m in a grocery store that has skylights and is bright with sunlight. I’m in the produce section choosing red peppers to put in my cart and I see my long ago high school friend. I tell him, You were with me in a prison camp last night. He laughs, we chat. I had a huge crush on this friend so long ago. He’s still charming and kind.

The scene changes and I’m on my stomach, stretched on a bed, watching TV. I have a habit of leaving water bottles wherever I’ve finished them, intending to get them for disposal later. A woman who seems to be my mother yells at me, telling me I’m hoarding water, drinking too much water. I realize I’m a widow, and that the family of the man to whom I was married expects me in court that day, suing me for alienation of affection. I call one of my sister-in-laws to tell her that my husband is dead, and that I know his will bestows his wealth on his family, with only a small part to me. I expect that she’ll tell me everything is OK and we’ll have lunch but she is shrewish and threatening. I hang up the phone and get ready to leave the house.

The scene changes and I’m standing alongside a highway in the early morning darkness. I realize I’ve forgotten my keys and I run back to the house. The same mother-woman opens the door and hands me two sets of keys, one of which I put into the lock in the inside of the door. She has disappeared and I close the door, realizing too late that I’ve locked them inside the house.

I come to waking, the clock reading 10:21AM. I stretch and flex my feet, the cat stretched along my outseam grabbing my toe through the blanket. Some hard-wired instinct tells him it’s prey, not my foot. I look over to see my retired sled dog has…once again…opened his crate but had gone back to sleep inside it. He stretches and yawns as I softly call his name. Time to greet the day.

News Porn or “How Ariel Castro got to justify his actions on live TV”

Food porn. House porn. Terms that have come into daily use as a result of over the top TV reality shows that bring us the biggest, the best, the most amazing whatever-it-is or the worst, the most awful, hideous whatever-it-is followed by the incredible makeover of it with the expectation we’ll be titillated, captivated, droolingly mesmerized by it all.

This is how I felt being subjected to Ariel Castro’s uninterrupted justification of some, and denial of other, of his actions as I sat in the director/TD chair in the controlroom of the news outlet for which I freelance. I’d offer you a link to it but then I’d be contributing to what I see as a decline in the industry. It’s gone beyond the pictures of smashed up vehicles or some other spectacular (but not in a good way) video about which I used to say, “Well. That’s revolting, yet oddly fascinating.” We’ve come to have a lineup of train wrecks, shootings, murders, bombings, kidnap and tortures in micro-focus. And to what purpose. To capture the attention of the viewer inundated with media choices by providing them with the most excruciating telling of detail it makes me want to cover my ears and turn my eyes away.

I don’t know who sits, watching unflinchingly, as we present it all. If it’s “most viewers,” then I wonder who those viewers are, and what their lives are like that they stay awash in it all. Ratings continue to fall for television news…perhaps it’s because viewers have the choice to turn their eyes away and figuratively cover their ears by choosing outlets other than television.

This Is the Stuff of my REM Time or “Welcome to the zombie apocalypse”

I’m in what I believe is my Uncle Jack’s house. Although it’s not like my real Uncle Jack’s house at all except for the white clapboard typical of older New England homes. It’s night. I’m in the house with several people, one of them is a woman with whom I work in real life. We’re looking out the large windows and we understand that what we’re seeing is zombies off in the distance. We hurry to close the blinds and douse the lights so as not to attract notice. Suddenly, a zombie who was once…and very recently…an older teenage boy stumbles into the house. I go running to find a baseball bat. Thankfully, this zombie is not of the “28 Days Later” sprinting type of zombie and it’s bitten no one by the time I lay my hands on a wooden bat and return to swing at it’s head. I miss with the first shot. I connect, solidly, with the next and the shock of the blow jolts up my arms. It takes two hits to make it fall down and I have to repeatedly bludgeon it with all my might to crack it’s skull and deactivate it’s brain. This, I think, is where “The Walking Dead” gets it wrong. Clearly it’s not so easy to bash in a freshly undead brain pan.

We see a window open and assume that’s how it got in. We rush to lock all the windows and gather to talk about what to do next. We decide going to a sparsely populated place like the southeast or far northwest U.S. is a good idea. The woman with whom I work has her car parked in the house and it’s refrigerated. We talk about loading it with the perishable food we have and then scavenging other homes in the area. We watch as zombies lurch past the house.

And the scene changes. I’m with my stepsister, Jane, and several children in the house. We’re going to run through the neighborhood to a house that we think has supplies we can use. Before we go, a little girl runs into the back yard where we’re standing and I get ready to bash her head. My stepsister says NO! She’s alive! before I get a good grip on the baseball bat. We know the little girl lives across the field from our house. Her house is bigger and we think it’s a good idea to bring all the children to her house. I pick up the phone to call her mother and get a weird tone from the handset. I dial and I can hear the line is connected but no one says hello. I tell the phone that we want to bring all the children over but I don’t tell her who I am or that I’m at Jack’s house just in case there’s a zombie on the other end of the phone and can understand what I’m saying.

Jane and I go running down the street and the neighborhood is deserted. Empty streets but I’m on edge waiting for the next zombie to stagger out at us. We get to the house we want to plunder and discover antibiotics and pain meds in the bathroom cabinet. We head back to not-Jack’s house and there’s a train parked on some tracks at the rear of the house. Jane gets it moving but before I can tell her DON’T! she’s got so much momentum that the train just glides silently down the tracks, beneath the sodium vapor streetlights, leaving the back yard vulnerable. As I tell her why we needed it she grimaces and says Oh, I see, we needed it to screen the back yard from view.

And the scene changes. I’m with two other survivors and we each hold a stake resembling a wooden driveway stake along with a short piece of same. We’re going to the symphony. A special symphony for survivors and surviving dignitaries of some sort. And we’re the muscle, apparently known for our ability to hold off our undead adversaries. We get to the symphony and there’s a large cake decorated in silver and pink fondant. People standing around the table are putting their handprints into the fondant at the base of the cake. I’m thinking that’s really unsanitary as I go to take a seat. The symphony begins to play but the audience keeps talking so the head dignitary walks over to the table and upends the cake into the trash.

And the scene changes. I’m running to catch up to the other woman in our trio of muscle as she runs to catch up with the sole man in our group. I’m far behind and I slow to a stop and say what I’m thinking out loud: I don’t think I want to see what happens when she catches up to him, actually. The head dignitary is standing to my right and says, Then don’t. Stay here with me. I look into his dark brown eyes and think, Why not? He leans toward me and I feel the sleeve of his navy blue jacket as he reaches for my left elbow. We kiss. There’s shouting, calls for help and we run toward what we expect will be more zombies.

And I wake to the clock showing 1:23AM. The alarm is set for 1:30AM. I want to fade away for seven more minutes but I don’t want to fall back into that dream. I sit up, greeted by the cooing purr of the cat stretched out along my inseam, and the thump of my sled dog’s tail. Time to greet the day.

Menopause Overture #5 or: “Too much on my face and not enough on my head!”

Let’s start with the head part. Somewhere around age 52, or so, I noticed a lot more hair in my brush. And while I’m not scant on top, I definitely noticed there’s less volume of hair than there used to be! Since my hair was fine to begin with, I was horrified but vowed if it got too bad, I’d go the Susan Powter route–with no apology. Thank goodness I haven’t had to resort to that….so far. Time will tell. As my body produces less and less estrogen, this is one of the changes that comes along. Now I understand why so many elder women have short hair. It’s easier to disguise the loss of volume with the right cut and some good styling products.

On the other hand, I must still be producing testosterone from somewhere because –gahhh!– nose hair, mustache, and chin whiskers, oh my. (And also no lack of sex drive but more on that later.) I don’t know why I didn’t expect this hirsute development. My first mum-in-law(British) told me, after she’d been in hospital for some chemo related issues, “You should have seen all us old ladies in the mornin’ shavin’ our chins!” It was a look into my future and I didn’t realize it. My GYN provider, a nurse/midwife, calls what’s on our faces “the fuzzies.” With an eye roll and a grimace when she says it because she doesn’t like that change on her face any more than I like it on mine.

So whattaya do? Plucking, sugaring, wax strips, Olay Removal Duo (and no, I didn’t get paid for that)…..some combination of all of those things? I’m waiting for a reporter at work to do a segment on the No No to find out whether it works. I’d pay a chunk of cash for something I could use for several weeks and not see another chin or nose hair sprouting ever…. again.

In the meantime I keep a handheld magnifying mirror handy because my trifocals don’t let me get close enough to the bathroom mirror to accurately assess when I need to take 8 minutes and let the Olay Duo work its magic. Which often becomes the only time I take 8 minutes to sit still. Hmmmm.

Out of the Old and Into the New or “If this is the start of a new adventure, why do I feel so sad?”

I’m taking a page out of Madonna’s playbook and reinventing myself. At 54. And, you know, without all the glamour, fame, and fortune. Not that I had those things to begin with after twenty-odd years in local television news. On the tech side, as a director/tech director. We’re the men and women who, over the span of their careers, have found themselves “suddenly” doing what up to five people used to do….but from one chair–just like everyone else these days.

Sure, it was fun to meet Bobby Orr on his way to the studio, playing “Pied Piper” to a bunch of kids about to tape a kids’ sports show. Jimmy Tingle has had me in stitches while he was on-air and I was in the controlroom on more occasions than I can remember. Meeting Peter Jennings and David Brinkley–and running audio in my very early TV days on location for ABC World News Tonight and Good Morning America– during the heyday of New Hampshire’s relevance as a primary state during a presidential election still gives me chills.

But I also watched the live feed for days while Worcester firefighters searched for the remains of their brothers, killed in the Worcester Cold Storage Fire. And went up with live pictures of them bringing each one out of the rubble in solemn procession. I got in “The Chair” just before the first Tower came down on 9/11, a staid and respected journalist on set unable to utter anything other than, “Good God.” On the flip side of the dark things I’ve been party to bringing you ….I was in “The Chair” when they got Bomber #2 (who’s name shall remain unwritten by me for all the rest of my days), our reporter and photographer so close to where he was hiding we could hear the police shouting, “, come out, we know you’re hurt. Come out, we’ll help you.” The spontaneous eruption of cheering and clapping among the assembled crowd as law enforcement left the area brought me to my feet in the controlroom, cheering, too.

And maybe it’s these things that pointed me in my new direction. I know I’ve been a compulsive helper all my life, organizing care and being a patient advocate for friends and family. Through both parents having lung cancer at the same time. A treasured uncle who succumbed to complications from emphysema. A mother-in-law diagnosed with lung cancer who lost her battle, too. I’ve wanted a career change for nearly a decade and the search for a new niche, where my uber multi-tasking skills and desire to help could be put to use has finally come to fruition.

And it’s a job I’ve been wanting to do full time since I got a part time taste of it several years ago. I’m excited for the change. And yet, 23 years is a long time to do the same thing. Many of those years with the same people. I’m finally not so shy with them any more. Not afraid of not being good enough, because I know I am. In the last year and a half of being in the same place full time instead of sporadically freelancing, I feel attached to these people. The people with whom I’ve been “in the trenches”…. with whom I’ve shared long hours in “The Chair”, horrific scenes, scrambling to get on with breaking news, the strain of the back-breaking multi-tasking, the “do more with less” management style workers face all over the USA. One day, years ago, a crew member of mine had a grand mal seizure just before we went to air. I got my arms around his torso and eased him down just as he started convulsing. When I told my Dad how emotional I felt he said, “It’s like combat. You’re in the trenches with those people every day. And you come to love them.”

And so I do.

And I’ll miss them. At the same time, where am I going? Into a different trenches with some of the same challenges, and a whole host of new people I’ll come to love. And instead of bringing people pictures of horrible scenes, I’ll be sending people the help they need. I’m going to start my third career, proudly, as a Fire/EMS Dispatcher next month.

Menopause Overture #4 or “Let’s Talk About Sweat, Baby”

7th June 2013

I have breaking news for you if you haven’t yet got to menopause. You’re going to find yourself wet in all kinds of ways but the one way you really wish would happen. More on that in another post.

It’s not just the hot flashes, it’s the sweat, too. Cold, hot, light film, tropical downpour… you name it, it happens. Once again, I’ll refer you to this clip of Andrea Cabral, Massachusetts’ Public Safety Director, clearly experiencing a monster hotflash and the sweat that goes with it. If you look closely, you can see the film of moisture on her face…if you watch carefully, you can see it get worse in the blink of an eye.

While I was in perimenopause, my sweat came as what I’ve named a “flashsweat.” No heat and not while I was awake. I’d wake up in the middle of the night with the sheets under me soaked in sweat.

These days, sweat comes with heat, awake or asleep, with no consideration for whether or not sweating is convenient for me at the moment! Don’t get me wrong, sweat happens, but I prefer it happen because I’m either sitting in the sun on a warm summer day enjoying the heat or because I’ve worked out…taking satisfaction in the notion that the sweat is the fruit of my labor. So to speak.

Instead I find myself blasted by heat, drenched under my clothes without warning, then chilled from being wet with sweat. Other times the heat is a really pleasant sensation, as if I’m experiencing a mild blush all over my body and this doesn’t always bring sweat, but when it does it’s more like….what do they say? Women don’t sweat, they glow? It’s more like that. But still I wonder how it is my body has become such a stranger to me when once it performed in a predictable and amicable fashion. I’m going to delve into the hows and whys of this in another post. I know it’s related to the change of balance in hormones but I want to know the actual why…how the change makes the physical part happen biomechanically.

In the meantime, my only advice is…..layers. And if you can get away with it, a large fan.