Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Lesson From Alzheimer's Disease: Hope Springs Eternal


Today is the first day of spring: the equinox, transitions on the earth's axis. Mother nature giving us a respite from winter.

It's also my mom's birthday.  I've had no choice but to put her in hospice care at home, which is sad, but also a relief for her sake -- all, everything and anything for her pleasure and comfort.  I am fully committed to making each and every breath she has left in her as joyful as possible.

It takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a village to help someone die -- to make a graceful, dignified and happy transition to light.

Recently, a friend of mine who practices Reiki, kindly sent me a care package with a teddy bear, among other goodies. When I first held the teddy bear, I sobbed, because it reminded me of the photo above.  If I hadn't had a miscarriage last year, I'd be holding a baby of similar size. I named her Alba, which means "morning song" in Spanish.

I had no baby. There was never a morning song.

But I'm still a mom to my mom.  My mom is my baby.  The sun still rises every morning. And hope springs eternal.

So now I hold the teddy bear instead, because I can no longer hold what I've lost, including my mother's old and ailing body.

We are attached to material things in ways we should forget.

Actually, that's the good thing about mourning a patient with Alzheimer's before she has even died:  it teaches us a lesson in humility and what is really, truly materially important.  It's the love in your heart, not the things you hold or possess, that forever remain -- an impossible invisible imprint, something unspoken but carved deeply in the soul, a petroglyph in the heart, the songs we sing in frequencies we can't see with the naked eye, the simple technology of suckling on a nipple, or feeding an aged body that can barely swallow, nourishment that has nothing to do with food, but that is all about compassion -- even if, dear mama, you are trapped in your body, unable to speak, move or live vibrantly, on this first day of spring, year 2014.

My mother's body is not my mother. But I hold her in a place so vast, so deep and filled with love, that she is larger than life to me, bigger than continents, planets, galaxies and universes.

Dear mother, thank you for being the vessel that gave me a body. A soft, supple yet strong body that I love. A body that sings.  And thank you to all the grandmothers and great grandmothers who gave me life. Women connected by an invisible umbilical chord through blood, flesh, and time, indifference of centuries; separated by boundaries of clocks, exiles, and tribes, differences of days.

Happy birthday, mama.  Even though you are dying: you are life, love and hope to me, just like you were when you held me when I was barely two months old.

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Saturday, March 15, 2014

BREAKING NEWS! Multiple Orgasms Don't Exist As Proved By Binary Sequences!

when harry met sally orgasm scene katz's deli
If only all sex was as good as a Pastrami sandwhich at Katz's.

I was just pondering the concept of multiple orgasms. Technically, an orgasm is an anatomical event that starts and stops -- kind of like the bars in a musical score. So if you have multiple orgasms, when one ends the other starts, then it's not multiple anymore, right? In that case, you experience orgasms in succession with a beginning and end point to each orgasm. Now, if you have one long-ass orgasm that lasts forever -- if you don't know where it begins and ends -- then that is technically not a MULTIPLE orgasm because it's part of the same neuromuscular physiological sequence.

If you are a tech geek, think of this as a binary program.  It starts. It stops. And that is the way the body communicates pleasure to the brain. Or vice-versa.  It is the morse code of the body.

Men squirt and they're done with business. Women's bodies are more mysterious.  And sometimes, even women don't understand their own bodies.  It's possible to walk around in an orgasmic state of bliss, even when your glorious clitoris isn't blowing Joy to the World like the angel Gabriel at heaven's door wielding a gilded trumpet.

You can thank oxytocin for that feeling.

My point is, however, that you cannot technically have multiple orgasms. You either have a really, really long one, or you have them in succession with pauses in between.

Yeah, I know. I think about this shit. It's not a first world problem, but rather a first world luxury.

And ... I have experienced all of the above. What about you?




Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. Take all thoughts and advice with a grain of salt and maybe your favorite adult beverage.

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Sunday, March 09, 2014

That Smile


I wonder what this little girl was thinking.

Why did she look so forlorn?



Oh, she was a sassy, spoiled kid. She hated having her photographs taken by doting parents.



But what if, somehow, she knew then what she knows now?

Did she know that she’d fall in love in high school? That she’d leave the love of her life almost a decade later, because she was too young to get married and wanted to find herself?

Did she know she’d have an amazing but financially troubled career as a writer? That she’d follow her heart’s passion at whatever cost, that she’d make people laugh, cry, think, that she’d help friends and foes, that she’d sometimes write words to blind eyes and speak words to deaf ears?

Did she know that one of her lovers would rape her?

Did she know she’d get pregnant in her forties and lose that child?

Did she know she’d become a mother to her own parents, that she’d have to give up everything in her life to take care of them and put them in hospice less than a year after losing that child?

Because if she did, if she could foresee, a tiny glimpse, an oracle in a little body wearing a colorful frilly dress, then I can now understand the expression on her face, that beautiful face, still so fresh, young and promising.

The decades have somehow spared me of wrinkles, but she’s not, of course, what I see in the mirror now.

But I see her clearly in my heart. Her sorrows, her fears, her joys and dreams are all imprinted in that invisible mirror inside, that photograph you cannot see, yet you know indelibly.

And she still wonders: what’s going to happen?

I want to change this face.

After a moment of passion, some lovers have said to me: “Maria, that smile.”

There he is, lying on top of me. He’s still inside of me. We’re sweaty. We’re spent. His eyes gaze into mine while I am beaming, my body floating in plenitude while muscles quivering.

That smile is a gift to the world and to myself, not just to any man who is my lover. It is a smile of gratitude, of pleasure, of joy in being embraced. That smile is the gift of love and compassion. That smile is everything that comes from my heart to everyone I have ever loved and supported in any way. I even bequeath that smile to those who have judged me.


Fret no more, little girl.

You know why you haven't got crows feet around your big blue eyes, child? Because you haven't smiled enough.

And as I help my parents end their lives -- it was their passionate sexual embrace that brought me into this world, after all -- I’m going to bring a very mindful and heartfelt smile back to your beautiful face.

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Friday, February 14, 2014

Funny Valentine

laughter and love is the best medicine

My parents recently celebrated their 53rd wedding anniversary and I'm spending today arranging for their hospice care.  Last year, my then boyfriend avoided the holiday and I remember walking in the rain to pick up some grub from a local restaurant.  I ate at home, completely alone, wondering why I would choose to love a man who didn't quite appreciate me.  He never deserved me.  And there's a pun there: de-serve. He rarely operated in the "service" of love.  In fact, he did me a great disservice.

But I'm none the worse for wear.  There are greater forms of love.  Pure love:  love that is boundless and that makes your heart swell, having nothing to do with romance or sex.

So this year, on this day, at least, I'm quite happy to be single and celibate, because I am enduring one of the greatest unconditional loves a human can experience: helping two people you cherish deeply make an end of life transition.  Yes, it sounds terribly sad, and it is, but there is also joy and dignity in your last days, just as there is joy and dignity when you begin your human journey out of the birth canal.

When I visit my mom at the skilled nursing facility, I sing to  Funny Valentine and other tunes to her.  I place my hand on her heart.  Her heartbeat was the first sound I ever heard in the womb and it's music to my ears.  The day it stops beating, her vibration and rhythm will still resonate within me.

And I'm sure my future husband will appreciate my capacity to love in this way.  See you soon, my funny valentine. Laughter with a infinite dose of love is the best medicine to help us heal.  What's keeping you, dear?  I know that if I ever walk in the rain again, it will be while holding your hand and we'll frolic like kids.

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Friday, January 17, 2014

The Most Feminine Thing About Me Is Not The Clothes On My Back

shark fisherwoman florida victorias secret bra big boobs


A few weeks ago, I thought about doing a clothes swap with a few girlfriends. Ladies, if you’ve never done this, pay attention: it’s a great way to spruce up your wardrobe and clean out your closets! Bring whatever you don’t want and share with others.  Left overs go to charity.

That suit you never wear? That purse you never clutch? Those jeans that no longer fit? That blouse you loved but only wore once? Those earrings that were so last year? Bring it all and let it go. And take home a bounty.

Sure, it’s a first world problem to have that much sartorial abundance. But in sharing what we no longer want, we also create more abundance of the heart currency kind.

It’s also a great way to connect -- wine, women, conversation and even an impromptu yoga class, where I individually taught each gal downward dog. And that’s a bit ironic, because my first experience of a “clothes swap” happened years ago while I was training to become a yoga teacher.

We laughed. We cried. We hugged. We talked about everything under the sun, including, of course, sex, penises, vaginas, relationships and all those wonderful thoughts women concoct on an absolutely wonderful “girls night in.”

We thought we were going to make it to the Wynwood Art Walk. But I knew better. I knew that this was a work of art in a social sense.

We gathered together from all walks of life, all ages, giving away cloaks we no longer wanted but that would bring a smile to another’s face and most importantly, sharing part of ourselves while shedding old things – things that we are attached to but that no longer serve us.

One new friend was shy about receiving lavish cast offs. "Why?" I replied. "Go. Take it. Give it love." We were all paying it forward.

My friend N, who generously hosted the evening in her beautiful loft studio near downtown Miami -- and, who incidentally is owned by a feline who took great offense to her practicing “downward dog” on the mat -- came up with a brilliant idea in response to a male-centric post on Upworthy entitled 6 Guys Challenging Decades of Stereotypes Using Only A Whiteboard and a Marker.

The challenge was to find something not so much gender-specific, but heartfelt. We did it, too. We asked ourselves: “What is the most feminine/womanly thing about me? But what also feels masculine?”

The results were interesting!


the-most-feminine-thing-about-me


  • I Catch 200 Pound Sharks and Wear Victoria's Secret Bras
  • I'm Ballsy
  • Courage to Move Into Unknown
  • Nerdy Academic
  • Magic
  • Multi-Tasking
  • Loving
  • Art of Persuasion
  • Obsessive Devotion

Over some laughs, it occurred to me that UPWORTHY was not quite SPONGEWORTHY. Because many of us that night had a tale to tell about a man who wasn’t and a man who was.

 (If you're not of the Seinfeld generation, please click here.)

THE CLOTHES SWAP


It doesn’t matter if your pants are too small or too big for the next woman. What does matter that you share from the heart with your beloved friends. Me? I left with a couple of shirts, a cool velvet brown cap, some lovely hoop earrings and some really awesome yoga pants that I needed to upgrade my typical caregiver schmatte wardrobe.

My friends are a bit smaller in bodily size, but their hearts are enormously, fabulously beautiful. My heart swelled larger and was more blessed for the company – the clothes make the man but the heart makes the person – no matter what fabric covers your body.

And no seamstress, no bespoke tailor in the world can stitch up these things that money can't buy.

If you’re in the Miami, consider doing a similar event and donating whatever is left over to Lotus House or Dress for Success. And if you’ve got seriously luxe items, check out Fashionably Conscious.

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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Drumming Joyfully Into the New Year

Coconut Grove Drum Circle at King Mango Strut Parade 2013
My new "drummer" mama. She's also an amazing painter.


I really don’t have any typical New Year’s resolutions this year. Last year was filled with highs and lows, professionally and personally. Becoming a full-time caregiver has been one of the greatest challenges of my life, but that’s another story.



This year, my only resolution is not a thing “to do,” but a thing to experience in my heart, each and every day: JOY.  That’s it.  Simple, unabashed, joy -- to feel joy not just in my heart, but also in my bones, deep down inside at the cellular level.

In the book Eat, Pray, Love, Liz’s spiritual guide in Bali says: “Even smile with your liver.”

Good advice, because so many of us have become accustomed to frowning in our bodies.  Oh, that litany of aches and pains, stemming from hurt, anxiety and depression.

Some days, the pain I feel while seeing my parents decline in dementia is so intense, I forget that the sun shines, that babies giggle, that there is always something new and fresh in the world, like the fragrant herbs and delicious tomatoes I grow in my balcony garden.


But one thing I haven’t forgotten is my love and practice of music and dance, which I rediscovered last year, in spite of everything. This is the year of spiraling upwards into joy, not spiraling downwards into sadness.

No matter what.

Think about it.  We focus so much on the external. The challenges of losing weight, quitting smoking, starting an exercise program or cutting back on drinking – whatever your “bad” habit demons are – all these pale in comparison to the ultimate challenge of living in a state of grace and JOY no matter what shit storm hits you.



Happiness is our birthright.

So for inspiration -- and sheer, glorious fun -- I marched with the Coconut Grove Drum Circle during the King Mango Strut Parade on December 29,  which got me started on the right foot January 1.

During the event, I interacted with the spectators on the sidewalk by sharing my percussion accessories.  I also felt the embrace of a friendly, warm group of people who practice the arts of drumming and dance.


Coconut Grove Drum Circle at King Mango Strut Parade 2013
No shortage of exuberance with this drummer. 


Coconut Grove Drum Circle at King Mango Strut Parade 2013
I think this lady was totally smiling with every fiber of her being.  I want to be her when I grow up.

The Coconut Grove Drum Circle meets on the corner of Commodore and Grand Avenue the first Saturday of every month around 8 PM.  Stop by and listen.  It also coincides with an art walk. A good way to spend the evening, Miami-style.

Sometimes, random passers-by try playing shared instruments.  I once shared a small drum with a little girl who was a tourist in Miami. Her parents nodded in approval and the child gleamed for five minutes. What an experience for her: go ahead, try something new, experience joy.

The circle is so germane to our archetypal consciousness; it symbolizes a space that is enclosed but still fluid, a space that allows for a sense of community that respects individuality.

Irish poet W.B. Yeats once wrote: "How can we know the dancer from the dance?"  Well, we can't. Both are one and the same -- united, in harmony, gliding through the ether.

Movement means joy to me.  Stagnation spells spiritual death. So I’m going to continue to love my new friends, beat the heck out of those drums and shake my booty to my heart’s content.

I don’t just want to smile with my liver. I want to smile out of my sweaty pores, every hair follicle, my retinas -- every fiber of my being. I want to giggle like a baby over something silly.  I want to sing lullabies and funny tunes with my mom and dad. I want to feel the vibration of music in my soul, to laugh like everyone's watching.  I’ve released the past and will drum my way into a new year filled with music, dance and joy.

And love, lots of love.  I'm sure my future husband will love it when I'm smiling, even in my sleep.

What brings you joy?

MORE PHOTOS ON FLICKR

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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Silk

vietnamese silk robe


A friend of mine gave me a luxurious silk robe for my 46th birthday.

At first, I thought it would just be a beautiful wardrobe item to wear at home.  But it has become more than a work of art that dangles on the wooden paravan behind my bed.

At night, after a long day of toil, I wear my birthday suit instead of pajamas.  I practice a beauty ritual of bathing, followed by moisturizing my skin with softly-scented lotions and oils. Some nights, it is lavender.  Other nights, citrus scents like lemongrass, bergamot and ylang-ylang perfume my soft skin. If I'm feeling frisky, I'll resort to my trusted nutmeg.

When I first wore the robe to bed and let the silk touch my flesh, I felt a kinship with the fabric. Something magical happened. In the absence of a lover, I felt loved. I felt enveloped, swaddled in some kind of gentle sensuality. I felt embraced by a sense of peace, as if God was holding a tender bird in his hands.

The robe caresses me. The robe gives me sweet dreams about love, lightness, joy and well, perhaps a naughty thought here and there.

The robe has become part of my meditation ritual -- the one I practice in my bed, which is a tantric sacred space, even when no other body lies next to me.

When I awake at sunrise, I remove the robe and hang it back on the wooden paravan. I face the day naked but soothed. Never raw.

Every woman should enjoy a robe such as this, even when she sleeps next to her beloved. Or even if she sleeps alone.

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Way to a Woman's Heart Is ... Well, Through Her Heart



A woman's body is a temple. A woman's heart is a place of worship. When a man honors a woman with love, respect and fidelity, amazing things happen. Ladies, protect your heart from unfaithful men who prey on your vulnerability. Let yourselves receive from men who recognize the goddess in you, who will adore you for who you are, taking the best and worst of you all in, embracing all that is feminine in you, including the tempests and calm seas, but always with honor and devotion.

I'll share with you a more prosaic analogy. A woman's heart is like a tootsie pop. You have to lick it hard to get to the soft center.  But it's worth it.

My words above.

Quote from the video:

"At the center of every woman is a mystery that restores you to wholeness, which is in every woman, but you need to find it with one woman. And if you are lucky, you will find one woman who will guide you through the gates."

Video via Cheryl -- an amazing life coach, artist and friend.

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Friday, November 08, 2013

Love is Caregiving

Love is the Best Medicine

“May I warm up something in the microwave for you?”


A man who never was and isn’t and will probably never will be my lover gave me love in a moment I needed it most.

 In my frazzled, sleep-deprived state, after rescuing my mother nearly dead in a pool of blood -- she had a bad fall,  almost cracked her skull and miraculously survived -- the hired nursing assistant gave me a gift that wasn’t wrapped in ribbons.

The gift was him – or more appropriately -- his care and attention.

And most importantly, I gave myself the gift of receiving.

A gentle giant. A big guy with backbone. Someone I can count on in my time of greatest need.

While it was his paid duty, there was something incredibly intimate and tender about both of us tucking my aging parents into bed. Their dead-weight bodies and sagging skin would be the only touch we would share. Their complaints – which in Alzheimer’s patients usually only last for a few minutes before short-term memory dissipates -- were punctuated by knowing smiles and glances between us. It’s as if we had children together.

I’ve been enduring years of many hospitalizations in which I act as the first responder, supervising the triage for my parents.

This time around, once mom was discharged and safely back home in bed, the hired caregiver had the presence of heart to focus on my obvious anxiety and ask: “what can I do for you?”



It's the first time we had hired help.

I was confused and elated. I hadn’t heard those words from anyone beloved in a long time. And most certainly, the nursing aid wasn’t getting paid to fix dinner for the primary caregiver.

I never ate that microwaved dinner with him. I’m sure it would have been a great cup of noodles.


But there are miracles.


More importantly, the kindness of his intention soothed me. The gesture alone fed my heart and I walked back home alone with a huge grin on my face. My heart was full – the best non-sex and non-meal I’ve ever had.



I’ll probably never see this caregiver again, but I’m grateful for the lesson he taught me: all forms of love are a form of caregiving.

When you give so much love unconditionally, you deserve it in return, even from a stranger and much more -- incredibly more, by the bucket full -- from any beloved in your life.

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