Thursday, March 31, 2005

Enlightenment Blues #2: Easter

Here’s how I know I’m not enlightened yet. Right this moment, I believe the only thing that will make me happy is if someone would bring me a little tiny baby rabbit to hold in my hands. Either that or a pet kitten. Or maybe a baby goat. I can practically smell the soft fur, and even though I’ve gone down this road before, this time I am sure it will be different.

I’ve had four kittens in my life, and each time, for some bizarre reason, they have morphed from delightfully humorous cuddlemuffins into cantankerous, malodorous proprietors of cat boxes. We all know the cat box to be the scourge of the planet Earth, the most vile of sand traps, creator of stench and small pellets which wedge in your bare feet when you descend to the basement to do laundry. (Please do not send me your recommendations for high quality cat litter, state of the art magic cat boxes or training manuals in getting your cat to poop in the human toilet.) Why I think rabbits (who eat their poop the first time around and then let it sit in their cage the second time) would be any better than a kitten is beyond me at the moment. But that’s the point. Even though last week, I definitely thought Nirvana was at hand, I have since descended to the netherworld of wanting, aversion and delusion. I am not enlightened; to wit, I am what Brother Buddha would call A Hungry Ghost. Hungry for a soft kitten. Or bunny. Or miniature baby goat. And I don’t want it to grow up.

Saturday night I watched What the Bleep Do We Know? with my fiancĂ© Tom. I’ve had the movie out for a week, and I’ve watched it four and a half times. It’s a heady, groovy movie about quantum physics and enlightenment, complete with state of the arts graphics and Ramtha, a 10,000 year old sage as channeled by a blond woman named JZ Knight who resembles Zsa Zsa Gabor. The movie is all about creating your own reality, addiction to emotions and how we miss the point—getting to be alive—on a daily basis.

“Wow,” said Tom.

“I know,” I said. We were profoundly moved and forever changed from the experience.

Then we got up from the couch to do the dinner dishes. I ran the water over a dirty bowl where the tuna steaks had been marinating. While I was letting the tap water rinse the bowl, I crossed the room to get the flatware from the table. Tom came over to the sink and turned the water off, a familiar dynamic in our clean up rituals.
I felt the hairs on the back of my neck go up, like a pissed-off cat.

“Hey,” I said. “I had that on for a reason!”

“I know,” he said, in his special tone which I did not like one jot. “But we really don’t need to waste water.”

I fumed. Mr. Spotless Environik was right again, and I hated that. I also hated being bossed around in the kitchen, having my little system of bowl cleaning disrupted, and most of all, hated the fact that I was still so childish and petty to even care. What would Jesus/Buddha/Muhammad/Gandhi/Mother Teresa/Ramtha do? Surely they would not have bristled at the gentle correction of their partner’s turning off of the wasted water.

This is the problem with WW fill in the blank D. Immediately we think we need to be fill in the blank. What if Jesus was occasionally wrong?

I went upstairs and filled the bathtub with warm water, lit some candles, sat in the tub and thought about anger. Tom and I never used to fight like this. I thought of the Righteous Brothers Song “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling,” and started to cry. I toweled myself off, put on my most comforting polarfleece, and got into bed.

Tom came up and joined me.
“I’m sorry I snapped at you,” I said.
He shrugged. “No big deal,” he said. “We’re both tense. In six weeks, we’ll be getting married for the second time. It’s kind of scary. It’s a miracle we aren’t screaming at each other night and day.”

This made me sadder and angrier. The story I like to believe is that Tom and I were married before TO THE WRONG PEOPLE! And that even though it was sad and painful to break up with those people, ALL IS WELL NOW BECAUSE WE FOUND EACH OTHER! So when Tom says something like what he said next: “There’s a lot of grief we still have, sweetie, about our exes”—I get angry again. I don't like to be told I have more grieving to do. I want to be done, finito, on to the next wedding cake.

But before I snapped for the second time that evening, I paused. I felt the snap inside. Snap! And it felt like a tiny ampule of medicine, pouring a hot Tabasco sauce-like liquid through my veins. Usually when I get this feeling, I NEED to say something out loud, to let the person who made me snap--the snapper, if you will—know that his behavior is less than acceptable. I think I will DIE if I don't assert my rights! But what if I don't?

“I don’t really need to react,” I said. “I don’t need to snap at you! I can choose instead to feel that burn of anger of keeping my mouth shut. And later on, I will forget about it and not feel as though I abandoned the Equal Rights Amendment.”

As soon as I said this, I felt liberated. I felt the sky open and a dove settle on my shoulders. Well, not really, but it was a nice feeling. Tom looked at me and smiled.
“You can snap all you want, he said and kissed me on the top of my head.

The top of my head kept spinning. What if being angry was exactly what I was supposed to be feeling? What if it were as natural for me to feel anger in this moment in my life as it was for a kitten to chase a ball of yarn?

And that’s when I first got this incredibly strong urge to get an Easter bunny.
“Can we get an Easter bunny?” I asked Tom.
“What?” he said.
“You know. Tomorrow’s Easter. People sell little tiny bunnies right about now.”
“Yeah, in Flint, Michigan,” said Tom, looking at me like I’d cracked.
“I know, I know. It’s weird. It’s completely against everything I stand for. But all of a sudden I want a little teeny Easter bunny. Or maybe a chick. Or a kitten.”
Tom looked very alarmed.

On Easter Sunday at my little renegade Congregational church in West Cummington, Stephen (shepherd poet minister) preached a sermon about Jesus’ last days. He said, “That story about Jesus riding in to Jerusalem and overturning the money changers? Let’s look at that closely.”

And he proceeded to give us a radical reading of a scene which has always perplexed me. In the scene, Jesus basically throws a first class temper tantrum, overturning the money changers’ tables and whipping them with a whip—a very mean thing to do. And one that was rife with symbolism for Jews who were about to celebrate Passover, which commemorated the end of their slavery in Egypt.

“It seems obvious to me,” suggested Stephen, “That one of the main reasons why the Jews were so angry with Jesus was this very public, violent action. What if Jesus’ crucifixion were looked at as a kind of instant karma? He loses his temper; he gets killed.”

I looked around the church, waiting to see if someone would jump down Stephen’s throat for suggesting, on Easter Sunday of all days, that Jesus Christ might have been responsible for his own death. That it wasn’t some kind of divine plan. That he didn’t die for our sins, in that equation way explained to me by my Campus Crusade for Christ friends back in my college days. Adam=First Man (who through sin) subtract God. Jesus steps in, takes Adams’ place; now Man is +God.

No one jumped the pulpit. Some people nodded.
“Because you see,” said Stephen. “Jesus was human. This is human. And humans get angry.”

And I felt the dove descend once again, the top of my head spin. Anger. Even Jesus got angry. Thank God! But anger has its consequences. And its greatest consequences are always leveled at the person who is, him or herself, angry. My anger is there. It’s wonderful! It’s a fire that wakes me up, points something out. Pay attention! But when I react to it, or act out of it—when I snap at Tom for commandeering my dishwashing program—there will be consequences. There will be burning.

We had a pancake breakfast after church. We laughed and joked with the members of the congregation. One of our fellow congregants raises the cutest Aussie puppies you’ve ever seen.

“Let’s register for one!” I said to Tom. “Cody would love a playmate!” Poor Tom smiled and restrained himself from mentioning that it is he, not I, who mostly walks our current Australian Shepherd. But, I would have said if I weren’t practicing my own form of blessed self control, Cody is no longer a cuddlemuffin.

For the entire drive down, the hill, I kept my eyes peeled for a sign for baby bunnies.

“There has to be someone selling them,” I said. “On today of all days.”
Tom looked at me again, started to open his mouth. He looked longsuffering. I could tell he was practicing what Thich Nhat Hanh calls “cooking your potatoes.” This is when, recognizing that anger is a fire, you put anger to good use: without fire, you would not be able to cook your potatoes. The goal is to concentrate that fire into boiling water rather than setting the house ablaze. Tom did admirably, and you will be glad to know we made it down the hill with no baby animals in the car.

I still want to believe my own myths. I want to believe that marriage is a mystical process of finding my soul mate and having him save me all the while saving him. But I know it doesn't quite work like that. Relationships grow and change; they have a kittenhood and a cathood of their own.

“A woman completes a man,” a friend of mine (a man) said to me today.

“No, “ I said. “You complete you. I complete me. But if I can find someone to share the joke with, I will have a more interesting time in this go-round.”

When we got back down from West Cummington, we took nine year old Cody for a long walk in the park. Then we came home and I picked up my guitar and played Bob Dylan’s “Someone’s Got A Hold Of My Heart” while Tom played the drums. And for the span of that song, looking across the music room at my intended, his eyes closed, his whole body engaged in music making, I thought, “This is Nirvana. This is heaven. This is better than holding a baby bunny.

“This is Easter.”

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Enlightenment Blues, Part One

Above my desk is a list of my goals. They are:
1. Write great, classic songs that will endure beyond my death
2. Have a great family which I sustain and which sustains me
3. Be a part of a vital, creative community
4. Meet Paul McCartney
5. Become enlightened.

To wit, I do a number of things every day to advance my goals: I write. I make sure to at least say hi to my fiancĂ©, Tom, with whom I live; I call my sisters and my parents, play with my nieces and nephews. I get out of the house, answer emails, talk on the phone with old friends, try to make new ones. The Paul McCartney thing, I admit, I’m not doing that much towards advancing, but I will have you know that at one point, I asked our record company to send him our CD to see if he wanted to produce us. He declined, but I’m pretty sure that was only because he was dealing with slightly more urgent matters, like the death of his wife.

As for becoming enlightened, it’s not going so well. I’m a dutiful little Bodhisatva in training. I meditate daily—well, I suppose that continues to be debatable, as I have the world’s most blabbering monkey mind. But I do assume the position--after twenty years, my legs twist into a marvelous lotus, almost without any help from my hands. I go to a tiny congregational church in the hill town of Cummington where the pastor, a shepherd and a poet, has never set foot in divinity school.

And I read spiritual books like some people eat potato chips. I can’t get enough, Whoever is the guru du jour, you can bet I’m reading him or her. And for the span of time that I’m reading this guru, I see the world completely through his/her eyes. Byron Katie? Everything is “your story, sweetheart!” Eckhardt Tolle? “Be still. Listen…….to ze ………spaces…… much …….ass…..ze verds. “

I read about how to be in the present moment and how to be so deeply committed to a partner that the idea that you are two separate beings will never thereafter enter your mind. Of course, I am reading so fanatically, that when Tom leans over to kiss me and tell me about his day, I nod and go, “Uh huh,” without looking up from my newest book, “How To Be Completely Present For The One You Love.”

My biggest problem with some of these gurus is they’re not that funny. They can’t be—because to be really funny, you have to make fun of yourself, at least a little. To be funny you have to be human and fallible. But here’s where the guru is stuck in a bind. If she makes fun of herself, she is pointing out that she is sliding, perhaps, from that rarified spot on top of the mountain. She is admitting that even though she’s enlightened, she’s not always so. And if she is selling that product: My Brand Of Enlightenment (let’s call is “EnlightenMee” just for kicks) which promises freedom from ego-ic thoughts and emotions, the ability to let Whatever Is Be So, but has to add this disclaimer: “Usually works, but sometimes I hurl my computer on the floor when AOL Crashes and I lose an important email--” well, you can see how this might undermine her credibility just a little.

Oftentimes, the guru’s story goes like this: Down and Out man/woman is either depressed or addicted or just plain mean as hell. Down and Out person goes to bed gnashing his/her teeth in despair, wondering what is the point of even waking up the next morning. Then, Down and Outer has a huge epiphany complete with thunder and lightening, Beethovenesque crescendos and a severe ringing in the ear. During this epiphany, Down and Outer realizes that our thoughts are our only problem, that we are all One, that God is a Great Light which loves us all, and that we are each, in fact, God.

That’s all fine. I have no problem with that. My problem comes with what happens next. Former Down and Outer stands up from the epiphany, shakes him or herself off, spends a few years sitting on a park bench just smiling benevolently at passers by, or, alternatively at a kitchen sink washing dishes (and by that I mean, really washing dishes. Dong nothing but washing dishes but being so in the NOW with the dishes that the dishes become part of God, part of nature, part of the down and outer, and no one notices dishpan hands or needs Palmolive…) Anyway, Post Epiphanal Down and Outer emerges some years after the epiphany on the self help circuit, pawning a book with his or her face smiling smugly and deeply, and the book has words like “groundbreaking” and “revolutionary” on the cover. Soon, the guru is being featured in People Magazine, Oprah and the Today Show. Here Post Epiphanal Down and Outer smiles calmly and the interviewer actually wonders, “Has this person had a stroke?” But instead merely asks, “Don’t you ever worry about anything?”

“No,” is the answer, given with calm assurance but no humor. “Why should I worry? The universe provides for my every need. I have but to be with whatever is and know that this is the way it should be.”

I can’t argue with this. And I know my contrariness, if it were to be analyzed by one of these gurus, comes from my ego resisting the notion that it is not a singular, unique self. I know that these gurus would say I am addicted to my thinking, I am addicted to my emotions and I am addicted to my sense of self. And I would have to admit this is true.

But, guru, what about grief? Aren’t we supposed to grieve our losses? In the last few years, if I have learned one lesson, it’s been that. In the actual grief, in the very center of that feeling of loss and nothingness, I have found the sweetness. I have found the comforting presence of Other, of Being, of God or whatever you want to call that feeling that we are, that I am, not alone. And I don’t believe I would have found it without falling all the way to the bottom. When you’re on the ground there is nowhere to fall.


My sister has a polyp on her vocal chord. Its timing is extraordinarily bad, materializing right at this moment, at what was supposed to be the beginning of the resumption of our music career after a six month maternity leave. We are supposed to go back out on the road supporting a novel, a book based on one of my songs. We recorded a soundtrack to go with the book, and the soundtrack came out over a year ago. We had a whole plan to tour behind the CD and the book, to bring our message of freedom and self-fulfillment to young women everywhere, to liberate all with the power of the word and the guitar. Now, we don’t know when she’ll be able to sing again.

When I sing with my sister, I have a physical reaction. My throat aches with pleasure when my voice joins hers. It’s the easiest thing I do, and that for which I get the most credit. Sometimes I resent this; it reminds me of what my friend Priscilla said about her red hair. “People are always admiring my red hair,” says Priscilla. “But I do nothing to have red hair. Why can’t they admire my abs or my sense of style? Those things I’m responsible for.”

I want people to admire me for those things I sweat and slave over. Why can’t people admire my songs? That’s what I want. I want people to admire my songs, to love my songs, to sing them without me present (especially if they are Bette Midler or Garth Brooks and want to put them on an album. The royalties for that would surely pay for my transatlantic flight to London where I could stalk Paul McCartney. Or at least pay for my dream kitchen.)

I climb to the top of the mountain where the guru sits, all in white, naturally. This guru is a blond Germanic woman with one of those odd European voices—a voice that speaks English with so little trace of an accent you kind of get the creeps, as I used to when I watched Soviet Spy Joe Adamov being interviewed on the Today Show in the 70’s.

“Ah,” says the guru. “Turn it around. Why can’t you change your thinking? Why can’t you put ‘Sing with my sister’ at the top of your Goals list? Then you will have already achieved your goal.”

That’s the other problem with these gurus. They leave you no wiggle room when they prove you wrong, and you end up slinking away like a shamed dog. But as I start to slink, the guru says, “Wait. You’re Nerissa Nields, right?”

I am surprised. I really didn’t think the guru liked folk music. But I’ve learned over the years that the strangest people have heard of me, and it’s never the ones I expect. I’ve been so often embarrassed at parties when I introduce myself as a folk singer and the stranger I’m talking to says, “Really? I love folk music! What’s the name of your band?”
When I tell her, she wrinkles her face, and begins to look frighteningly apologetic, as if she’s about to break my heart.
“God!” she’ll say. “I’m really sorry. I know EVERY band that’s up and coming, especially folk bands. But I’ve never heard of you!”

But then there are random people at airports all over the country who recognize me on sight. There are corporate types from my new career as a life coach who say they heard one of my songs on the radio and ordered all our CDs online. You never know where the little seed takes root.

Slowly I turn and face the guru. “Yes,” I say warily.

The guru smiles. “You’ve created quite a fix for yourself, sister,” she says.

“What do you mean?” This guru, while perfect looking at first, I now notice, has love handles and crows feet and is more the beautiful for them.

“Well,” she says. “You believe you’ve made a living off your ego. How are you going to shed it now?”

“Plastic surgery?” I joke. Predictably, she is not amused.

“Service,” I say, guessing. That seems to be the right answer to all spiritual questions in the same way that “performance” is the right answer for corporate life coaches.

The guru looks at me as though she knows I know better.

“I know!” I say. “Be in the NOW!”

Now she’s angry. “Well, of course, be in the now.” And she turns her back on me! I’m dismissed! I can’t believe I climbed all the way up here for this!

“Wait a second,” I say. “I have a question!”

She sighs and turns back.

“Now that you’re all enlightened and everything, I want to know, do you ever get irritated?”

Aha! I’ve trapped her, Since it’s pretty obvious that she’s irritated at this very moment. This present moment. This now.

She whirls around. “You’re goddamned right I do! When I’m angry, I’m angry! And you are pissing me off! Go down the mountain and climb up again tomorrow.”

This is too much. I’ve had a really hard week. I miss my sister. I am angry that she has to suffer. I want to sing with her, and I’m trying to find a way out of my stupid suffering and I’m trying to be brave and honest and ask the right questions, and I really don’t fancy climbing a mountain this tall twice in two days. I do the thing I swore I wouldn’t do in front of the guru: I sit down on a rock and cry.

The rock is pink and grey like a lung. I weep kind of softly and as I weep, I feel a little better. I’ve been singing with my sister, writing songs, trying to get more people to recognize me in airports, for my whole adult life. I’m tired of things changing without my permission.

The guru has come over and is sitting next to me. I don’t look at her. It sounds like she might be chewing gum, which shocks me, just a tad.

“So why Paul McCartney? Why not Bob Dylan?” she says finally. “Bob Dylan’s a much better songwriter.”

“I know,” I say, wiping my nose on my sleeve. “But Bob Dylan’s mean. He hates fans. If he met me, he’d be mean to me and ignore me. Paul McCartney on the other hand, loves to talk to fans. He goes out of his way to talk to fans.”

“So which goal is easier to attain? Meeting Paul McCartney or meeting Bob Dylan?”

“Huh?” I say, fearing I’m about to be tricked again. “Meeting Paul. I mean, if I happened to be in London. I’ve heard he walks the same way to his office everyday, always hoping to be stopped by fans who want to ask him Beatles minutia like what kind of reverb did he use on the drums at the end of ‘Hello Goodbye. ‘ They say if he doesn’t get recognized he practically bumps into people. He really likes to talk.”

“So, is it fair to say that you like doing things the easy way?”

I nod vigorously. “Of course! I don’t want to have to bang my head against the wall! Who does?”

“Um,” she says, “You do. Sometimes. You struggle against the flow of the river. You said you want credit for the things you work so hard at, the things you strive to accomplish. You don’t want credit for the easy things like being able to harmonize with your sister. But don’t you get it? The easy thing is a gift. Paul McCartney’s accessibility to his fans is a gift. Your harmonizing with your sister is a gift. Why not go with the flow? The river’s heading south, sister, and instead of going along with it, you suddenly decide to swim north.”

My blood boils. This woman is an unfeeling jerk!

“It’s good to go against the flow sometimes! It keeps you exercising! It makes you strong! It’s good to resist! If we all went with the flow, we’d be allowing atrocities to take place! What if Gandhi went with the flow? What if Martin Luther King went with the flow?”

She is smiling at me in the most annoying way. “They did. How do you know that the Flow wasn’t moving towards freedom and liberation and they weren’t just riding the wave?”

“Because they got shot!” I shout. The wind is picking up a little and I see the trees on the peak across the range from us blow sideways. Yet somehow, not a hair on this woman’s head moves.

“And what’s so bad about that?”

“They DIED!!” I scream. “What is wrong with you?”

“And dying is bad?”

I get up. I hate this woman. “My sister can’t sing right now,” I say, squinting at her, as if by looking at her with less of my vision she will shrink. “How am I supposed to go with the flow when the river’s dried up?”

I turn and walk down the mountain and I will not climb it again.

But as I pass the crest, I look back. She is sitting on the lung rock with that annoying Mona Lisa smile on her lips, gazing across the valley. Suddenly my anger is gone. I don‘t know about Katryna, about her voice, about when the next time will be when we get to sing together. But I do, suddenly, inexplicably, know what it feels like to get angry, to cry, to shout, to breathe the way you breathe when you’ve just climbed a mountain. My lungs burn a little, saying, “We’re here. Exercise us.” My legs feel strong and ready for another climb. I turn and continue down the mountain. Tom is making pesto chicken for dinner. And even though I said I wouldn’t climb again, I think maybe I will come back tomorrow after all. The view is pretty spectacular, and you only get to see if you take the time to get to the top.

And really, it’s not that hard. It just takes a little time and attention.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Hello, my friends

Hello, my friends,
I need to let you all know that after careful consideration we are cancelling our shows this April.
Ever since I went to the doctor on Friday, every friend and family member who knew about my appointment has called me and asked. I've told the story so many times. Maybe that's why I feel accepting or at least resigned to the less than great news I received. But something kept me from writing to you all right away. I guess that was partly the fact that I was carrying around my sweet William while simultaneously playing ballerina cards with Amelia. Not much room for a computer keyboard in my weekend.
So here I sit. William is still asleep with his Daddy who was up til at least 3am mixing a record. Amelia is watching a new version of Peter Pan starring Cathy Rigby that we got out of Blockbuster yesterday. I don't think it is quite as good as the Mary Martin version and I am quite sure that Cathy Rigby is lip-synching. She doesn't sound ANY different when she is walking around on her hands, upside down. hmmm... Maybe I could try that.
Am I stalling? Well, my doctor had put me on a 6 day dose of steroids during which time I had been silent (see blog for further details.) The polyp shrank a little and the nodule-like reaction on the healthy cord seemed to have disappeared, but the polyp is still quite large and I am still hoarse. I asked the doctor if the hoarseness could be primarily attributable to the acid reflux. She said the reflux could only partially explain the hoarseness and that she thinks the polyp is the primary culprit. We talked about whether I should do the shows in April. As you may have noticed, we don't have shows in May because Nerissa is getting married and going on her honeymoon and doing a book tour on the west coast. My doctor felt that the next two months could be just what I need to shrink the polyp back to where it doesn't bother me. She said that she cannot guarantee a full recovery in that time. She said that surgery was still a possibility, but she was encouraged by the fact that my body has a history of absorbing the polyp enough so that I am not bothered by it. She also said that my throat would be recovered from the acid reflux damage by then.
I am going to be doing some vocal therapy with a speech pathologist in Northampton. My doctor said that if I were to have surgery that the work I do now will cut down the recovery time post surgery. So this is not wasted time. I am also going to try cranio-sacral therapy which many of you recommended. I went for my first session last week and I seemed to feel less hoarse- at least that day.
I miss singing more than you can imagine. A few months ago, inspired by a songbasket at Amelia's school, we made a song suitcase. It is filled with little toys each of which represents a different song. There is a plastic carrot for the Garden Song, a little horse for All the Pretty Little Horses, an angel pin for Amelia's favorite Christmas carol- Angels We Have Heard On High, and lots of others. She asks me all the time to sing her one of the songs. I can't wait to sing for her. I can't wait to sing for you all too. I am feeling patient about it, and also quite hopeful. I have pictures of my vocal cords from the nineties when this first happened. It really did go away. I really could sing once it had shrunk.
I will be doing everything I can to heal including trying to not worry too much. Anxiety can't be good for me.

I am so grateful to all of you for your kind wishes and for YOUR patience. I will continue to keep posting blogs.
I am sorry for this hiatus. Thank you all for your understanding.

Monday, March 14, 2005

She Speaks!

I am joyfully chatting away. I actuallly think I might have overdone it a little. I will return to the doctor on Friday so I will let you know what she sees when she sticks a camera down my throat. I definitely feel better than before the 'roids, but I also definitely have some hoarseness. So, we will see...

Tonight we had chinese food. Super mild version due to my reflux. After supper I opened Amelia's fortune cookie and read it to her. It said, "Try to channel excess energies into rejuvenation." Amelia's response was, "But How do you do THAT?" Then she asked me to read it again. This time she said, "That's hard."

I guess when you have as much excess energy as she has, you can't use ALL of it for rejuvenation. Especially when you're alrady pretty juve.

I am so grateful for my voice. My first instinct all the time is to look for a piece of paper and pen to express myself. Then I remember that I am allowed to talk. It is the best feeling, like when you wake up from that dream and you aren't actually in French class anymore so it doesn't matter that you haven't done any of the reading. Actually, my version of that dream is always that I am in a play and I have not memorized my lines AND I have forgotten to bring the script.

Thanks for all your bloggy comments.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Voice Rest Day 6

So I spoke again today. Patty drove up through the snow to play with Amelia. Since I couldn't talk, I couldn't tell Amelia. She was giddy when Patty's car pulled up into the driveway. We were watching Mary Martin's Peter Pan and playing with blocks and puzzles. Patty arrived with a Unicorn paint kit, a book about Sue Bird and a gummy candy making kit. She's a travelling amusement park.

Well after an hour or so of playing inside, Patty managed to convince Amelia to go out and play in the snow. I attempted to get Amelia dressed. This was a challenge because Amelia wanted to wear a dress. It's a bit chilly out today. The silent fighting was a sight to behold. Patty was most amused.
Eventually they went out intent on returning to steaming cups of hot cocoa and marshmallows.

There is an impressive snowman in our driveway (who might get plowed away...) and there were some thuds on the walls and roof from Amelia and Patty throwing snowballs at the house. Lots of giggling and delight ensued outside. When they came in, as they were delayering, I got two cups of hot water and put them on the counter. One of them was Amelia's Peter Rabbit cup. Well I was holding a crying William and Amelia came up behind me and grabbed the cup off the counter. Patty saw the whole thing and had Amelia under the sink in the cold water practically before she had even started to cry. Needless to say, I spoke again. Amelia is fine. She had a few pink areas on her wrists, but I think those are even gone now. Still, it's see
ms like we have had more than the usual trauma this week. We have certainly had more nightmares, but that seems like it might be connected. I would think that having your mother go from a chatterbox to a mute could be unsettling.
Last night she told me that she had had a dream about William falling out of the car in his carseat. Dave said that means that even her subconscious actually loves William.
Well, it is my last day. I am so excited about talking again. I am even excited about not having to take those pills all day. Today I only had one. Yet, as I write, I can hear, emanating from the living room, the sounds of a spring training game. It reminds me of the dream.. the unfulfilled dream, that will remain unfulfilled all because I chose to get juiced.
I can't wait for tomorrow.
Hope you all are having a great weekend!

Friday, March 11, 2005

Voice Rest Friday

So yesterday I was cut off from my lifeline. I could not get online all day. argh. The most significant event of the day before was that I had enlisted the help of a babysitter in putting Amelia to bed. Dave was working and I could do most things, but not the bedtime story... Well, Amelia is accustomed to a "counting story." This means that I tell her a story that ends with me counting. It used to be that I would count to 100. Now I have it down to 30 or 40. A story might be about Amelia and I camping in the Adirondacks in the summertime. We decide to lie out on the grass and count the stars. Then I count. Well, her sitter came downstairs after reading her a couple of books. Amelia had requested that I tell her a counting story in sign language. I went up to her room and lay down next to her. She instantly found my belly button and put her finger in it. Then she said, " Mama, you're my favorite person in the whole world." I signed to her that I loved her. Then she said, "William is too little to tell a counting story and Daddy doesn't like it when I put my finger in his belly button, but you can do both!" I was most honored. Then I tried to tell her a counting story in sign language. I really tried. Finally she said, " Mama, I don't understand what you are saying."
gave up and kissed her goodnight. The sitter returned and Amelia fell asleep to her counting.

I have been a little cranky. I am looking forward to this silence thing being over. I get to talk again on Sunday.
Also I ready for winter to be over. I think I might be more hostile to the snow now that it made me crash. But, really. This is ridiculous. I just heard that Worcerster has had 99" of snow so far this season. What is with that? I made the mistake of watching The Day After Tomorrow- is that the global warming movie?- during a particularly big storm this winter. Now I am scared that spring will never come to New England.

I miss singing. Even in all my crankiness I am quite hopeful. I truly believe that I will be able to sing in April. I sure hope so.

I will try to revel in the beauty of what I am sure will be our last big storm of the season.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Voice Rest Day Three

Ok, so I spoke yesterday. I think you will forgive me when you hear the circumstances. I had spent the morning recovering from the ridiculous night's sleep. Then Dave and I drove up to meet a friend to test drive her van. We are thinking of selling Mama's Purple Tar- the van that Nerissa and I have been driving to gigs. Amelia will be most disappointed if the deal goes through because we will be switching to a silver car. Amelia likes pink and purple and considers our maroon van- purple. Plus, like her parents, Amelia is a tad resistant to change.

Well, there are 118,000 miles on my car and I figure that the way we put mileage on vehicles, this van will only last a year or so more. So when we heard that this friend of a friend was downsizing from her 2004 Toyota Sienna to a Mini Cooper, we were intrigued. We went up to drive it and were impressed by everything except the comfort of the seat. Dave and I are so picky. Nerissa too, actually. Mama's Purple Tar has a power driver's seat which means you can adjust it in may ways with these controls. Everytime we switch drivers we have a tradition of saying, "Are you kidding me with this seat?" I like the seat as upright as it can be and pushed back so that my knees don't hit the steering wheel. Dave likes the seat leaning back so far that I don't see how he can see the road. Nerissa is someplace in between. So we're a little Princess and the Pea about the driver's seat. We are still thinking about the purchase...

Then I went to pick Amelia up from school. I went early because of the snow. They hadn't called to tell us that school was ending early, but I just thought the snow was coming down hard. It turns out that they HAD called us, but on the cell phone which does not work in my house.. All the kids were getting ready to leave when I arrived. I silently picked Amelia up and demanded that she change out of her sneakers back into her snow boots. Most people in my life feel the need to stop talking or even to whisper when they are around silent me, but not Amelia. She just talks and talks. She asks questions, but she doesn't wait for the answer. It's actually refreshing to hear a human voice. Plus I imagine that it entertains William.

So we left school and William was sad. He wanted to be asleep. I put on Amelia's Music Together tape and William was appeased. It is about an 8 minute drive home when there is no snow. We were driving pretty slowly, but we slowed down even more when I saw a car perpendicular to the road having crashed into a parked car. We were about a mile and a half from home and I was going between 15 and 20 mph when my car started to skid. It was all in slow motion. I had absolutely no control. The car slowly crossed the oncoming lane, crashed into the bank on the other side and turned around so that I was facing away from my home, but with the traffic. Thank God, no cars were coming at the time. William started to cry. Amelia was quiet. I pulled off the road into a driveway. That was when Amelia started to bawl. So I talked. Wouldn' t you have talked too? I told her we were fine. I called Dave and he came down the hill. I was shaking like a leaf. I got out of the car to check on William. I was worried that I needed to take him to the ER. I drove back to the gas station that we had just passed and William, Amelia and I sat in the back of our van where there is no seat, just an expanse of flat space where our music gear usually goes. As soon as I took William out of his car seat he was happy as a clam. I think he was just annoyed at being woken up. Dave arrived a minute later and we all realized it was silly that he had come down. We were all okay. My bumper had done what it needed to do. It was cracked but the car was okay. Most importantly the car seats had done their job and my children were fine.

So my brief visit back to speaking world was not exactly worth it, but in all that trauma I think I noticed that it was a little less hoarse.
I've now gotta bring Amelia to her aunt Nerissa's house for a fun filled day. Amelia literally squealed with delight when her Daddy told her what she was doing today. "The WHOLE day? I get to play with Nerissa for the WHOLE DAY??!!??" So much joy her aunt brings to her.
Write to you tomorrow!

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Voice Rest, Day 2

Yesterday, on the way to a friend's house, Amelia said to me from her car seat, " Mama, I still love you even though you can't talk." So that was nice.

Being silent is a challenging thing for a blabber mouth like me. The grocery store is surprisingly hard. I feel so rude not saying thank you or even answering the check out people when they say How are you today? The thing is, they never look up when they say that. It makes you realize how infrequently we all look at each other in the face.

I even have a hard time not talking to my pre-verbal William. I whistle to him and click my tongue and he beams and coos. Pretty cute. I love the way his upper lip curls when he makes his little sounds.

One fringe benefit to this whole polyp thing is that I have gotten really hungry for music. I often go long periods- weeks- without putting music on the stereo. Amelia has a boom box in her room where she listens to music every night, but I rarely get music out to listen to for myself. That has changed. Some of my favorites: Dan Zanes' Sea Music, kd lang's Hymns of the 49th paralel, and a cool song by Jack Johnson that I heard on the radio. Also, my friends Nalini and Drew made a fantastic mix for my kids when William was born. I love Nickel Creek's version of The Fox and Amelia is pleased to have Joan Baez's version of Hush, Little Baby. In fact she listened to it last night instead of my live version. It did not really do the trick. She didn't fall asleep til 9pm and she woke up at 4:45am. oy.

More tomorrow!

Monday, March 07, 2005

Voice Rest, Day One

So today is my first day of vocal rest. I sang "Hush, Little Baby" to Amelia last night. She and I talked about how it would be a week before I could sing it to her again. I told her that Daddy would sing it to her, but she is skeptical about his ability to remember all the words. On the other hand, he is much more fun after her bath. They play mail. Amelia is a letter, the towel is the envelope and Dave is the delivery system. The bed is the mailbox. There is always a lot of squealing.
Amelia came into my room beaming this morning. I think she likes the fact that I can't talk. It's harder for me to say NO. I also think she is relieved that I can still hug and kiss her. When I was about a year older than Amelia, my mother was pregnant with my little sister, Abigail. A kid in my class got the German measles so for about a week or so, my mother could not hug or kiss me. I still remember her standing at the foot of my bed with a sad expression on her face, blowing me kisses. My overwhelming impression is that my mother loved me so much that it made her really sad to not be able to kiss me. I think impresson has helped me more than the quarantine hurt me. Hopefully this silence will be good for Amelia.
My throat is already feeling less sore than it was. I am so hopeful and I continue to be so grateful for your support and caring.
I'll report again tomorrow about my silence.

Katryna's First Blog

Wow. I cannot tell you what all of yor support has meant to me. I have a little problem with feeling like I have to make sure that everyone around me is OK. Otherwise, who knows what would happen... Well, all of your emails reminded me to take care of myself and I am so grateful for your advice, your well wishes and most of all your understanding.
So I went for a second opinion last Thursday to a doctor in NYC who had treated me for vocal problems back in the nineties. Boy was it ever a SECOND opinion. She feels that surgery is REALLY a last resort and that we should exhaust all other avenues before touching my cords. She told me that Rosanne Cash had lost her voice during her pregnancy. When they looked at her vocal cords they were shocked to find an enormous polyp weighing down her cord. They were planning on using surgery to cut out the polyp but Rosanne put off the surgery because she didn't want to deal with anethesia while she was breastfeeding her son. While they were waiting to do the surgery, Dr. Korovin went to France and heard a doctor speak about research that he was doing exploring the connection between hormonal changes and the voice box. When Dr. Korovin returned she told Rosanne that they would wait and see. Rosanne apparently breastfed her son for 14 months and after that her voice returned and the polyp was absolutely gone. No surgery and the polyp disappeared on its own!
This was huge news to me. I am not in the exact same situation, but I can learn from it. I am going to proceed with a medical rather than surgical course. I will be going on vocal rest while I take a 6 day dose of steroids. I guess I'll have to sacrifice my pitching career for the Red Sox, but I was having a hard time figuring out how to fit in Spring Training to my schedule anyway. I am going to be treating the acid reflux. I will also be donig a variety of other therapies- vocal, speech, physical. A few of you recommended Cranio-sacral therapy and it just so happens that my dearest friend from college is certified. Sadly she lives too far away to do the treatments herself, but she has been a great resource in persuing that idea as well.

So I will keep you posted. Right now my biggest concern is how to keep my week of silence from being traumatic for Amelia. I have called in reinforcements to entertain her. She may wish that I go on vocal rest ALL the time.

Speaking of Amelia, she has created a new word. It is a useful word for anyone in the performing arts and I want you all to know it so that you can use it whenever appropriate.

Throminate or Throwminate (Amelia's language is more oral than written):
When a player leaves the stage and enters the audience. You may have seen this at a Nields show when David Nields ran through the audience during Living it Up in the Garden. Amelia saw this at a ballet called the Honeybee and the Robber. The Robber was a bear and when eh was chased my the honeybees, he ran into the audience. Amelia did NOT approve.

There is also reverse throwmination. This is when an audience member joins the players on the stage. You may have seen this at a Nields Children's show. Amelia experiences this at our children's shows when she gets to come on stage and hold a washcloth puppet. Amelia DOES approve.

SO there it is. I will continue to keep you posted. Not being able to talk will make me want to communicate however else I can... That is a warning.
Thank you all again and again for all of your wonderful emails.