McKenzie Free

One woman's quest for greater understanding through freedom of self expression.

Advice to my Goddaughter on her 18th Birthday!

  • No matter how many people tell you the fashion rules don’t apply any more—don’t wear white after Labor Day.
  • If you think you are at the end of your rope — let go — give someone the opportunity to show their love and support by catching you.
  • Don’t forget how beautiful and strong you are. 
  • Don’t spend money you don’t have.  Save for what you want or you’ll become a slave to your debt.
  • Laugh every day.  At yourself, with others, at life’s little oddities – it will help you keep perspective.
  • Don’t stop dancing until the lights go out. 
  • If it’s not worth working hard for, it really is not worth having.
  • There almost nothing that can’t be fixed with duct tape or three-in-1 oil.  If one doesn’t work, try the other.
  • Men do not judge our bodies the way we do our own.  They’re just grateful we have them. 
  • You don’t have to look cool all the time.  Go ahead – do the chicken dance at weddings.
  • Trust your instincts.  If something doesn’t feel right you don’t have to understand exactly why at the time – just walk away from it.
  • Don’t Sext – Those photos and words can come back when you least expect them.
  • A broken heart will always mend with time and what you learn about yourself in the process will be worth it.
  • No one is thinking about you.  We’re all thinking about ourselves and thinking everyone else is thinking about us.  If you remember this it makes all the bad hair days easier.
  • Everyone fails.  It’s all about what you do next.
  • Don’t date men who call themselves Hawk, Spike or Steel.  Men with real names are more likely to be real men.
  • Floss daily, make sure your shoes go with your outfit, and just get out there and do!

What Can Beat No Chemo?

I’m still reeling from news yesterday that chemotherapy is not indicated in my particular case.  I don’t remember ever receiving better news.  I was prepared for the worst, so much so that I didn’t know how to react to such great news.  I couldn’t quite grasp it at first.  I wondered if they’d gotten my sample mixed up at the lab.  The doctor had to ensure me that the results were mine.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how perspective changes everything.  Six months ago I in the midst of a deep depression and couldn’t seem to pull myself out of it.  Now, the things that were concerning me hardly seem important.  I’m alive and I don’t have to have chemo.  I feel lucky which is a feeling I’ve never really experienced before.  On the contrary, I’ve always felt like a little black could was hanging over my head.  Today I feel almost grateful for new outlook that having cancer has given me.

At this point I can’t think of any news greater than “You don’t have to have Chemotherapy”.  What can beat that?

Best meal I ever had at the Inn at Little Washington?  That night I was catered to by more restaurant staff than I ever knew existed, experienced delectable food, celebrated my birthday with my husband and closest friends.  A great memory…but it doesn’t come close.

Best sex I ever had?  Incredible and also delectable but I do not kiss and tell so I’ll say no more about it except although it was exhilarating and took my breath away it doesn’t come close to the joy I’m experiencing now.

The only thing that ranks up there with finding out I don’t have to have chemo is the birth of my god-daughters.  That’s the amount of joy I feel again today.  A rebirth of sorts.  A new way to look at life.  I hope I’m able to harness this feeling and channel it toward enjoying life and not let depression take hold of me again.

Study Hard and Get Straight ‘A’s

“Study hard and get straight ‘A’s —  that’s what I flippantly used to tell the kids as they went off to school.  Today I will find out my score on what is arguably the most important test of my life.  It’s not Pass/Fail – you get an actual score from 0 to 100.  If you get 100 on this test, you don’t get an ‘A’ , a big gold star, and congratulations all around.  You get to have Chemotherapy.

Apparently only 4 of 100 women with early-stage invasive breast cancer benefit from chemotherapy1, and we’re all aware of its toxic nature and the resulting side effects, most notably hair loss.  So, now they have a test called Oncotype DX that can help you find out if chemotherapy is mandated in your specific case.  Oncotype DX gives you personalized information about your individual breast cancer diagnosis.   If your score is low, no chemotherapy for you.  If it’s high then chemotherapy is definitely prescribed in your case.  If you get a score in the middle then you must decide for yourself if the risk of recurrence outweighs your fear of the treatment.

I’ve been waiting three weeks for the results of this test and part of me just wants to find out the score so I can make a decision and get on with my life.  The other part of me, a bigger part than I’m willing to admit even to myself, doesn’t even want to go to the appointment.  It wants to ignore this is happening to me and get on a plane and go somewhere sunny where I will lay on the beach drinking Mai Tais  and reading sexy novels.

There have been many times in my life when people have told me I’m courageous, or even fearless, as if the two words are interchangeable.  I never think of myself this way.  I’m certainly not fearless as I’m frightened of many, many things, including clowns and things that go bump in the night.   What others see as courageous was most likely me running away from something I feared even more than what I’d chosen to act on.

So today I once again forge through.  I will do what needs doing although I don’t want to.  I will get out of bed, I will get dressed, I will put my make-up on (for one can’t go into battle without war paint), I will go to the office, and when it’s time I will pick my sister up and we will go and find out my score.  For the first time in my life….I’m hoping I flunked a test.

1  Lancet 1996 Apr 20; 347(9008):1006-71

Chocolate no longer works for me…..

Content

There was a time when a bite of deep, dark chocolate could ease the tension of a really bad day.  That’s back when bad days were about the wrong shade of hair color, a broken heel, a long wait for the subway, a husband coming home late from work in a bad mood, or a well-deserved speeding ticket.  As I get older, life seems to throw me more curves.  Hell with curves — it has  thrown me fast, hard balls that hit me point-blank going 65 miles an hour.  Bad days now consist of divorce and lover’s lost, death of beloved family members and  friends, disease and ill-health for myself and others I love.  I now require alcohol with my chocolate.   Sometimes I think if I wasn’t completely allergic to cigarettes I might even consider smoking. Others look so relaxed and thoughtful while drawing in that dark, smoldering vapor.
 

I’m scheduled for surgery on Friday.  I will spend hours in pre-op getting wired for sound by the radiologists and shot full of dye by technicians so that my lump and lymph nodes will light up like an airport runway to guide my surgeon’s hand.  After that, lying naked on a table with my breasts exposed to total strangers,  the anesthesiologist will put an IV in my arm and ask me to count backward.  These skilled strangers won’t see me, the person who lives this life, but only my disease which they will attempt to slice out of me taking along with that tiny piece of flesh an enormous part of the person I am today.

 

One of my good friends wrote, “I know you will get through the operation for your cancer and move on with the good grace and courage that is your hallmark.” If only I could be as certain as she is of my finesse and bravery. I will get through it. That I will do. With the emotional support, and sometimes financial support, of family, friends and loved ones. I will get through it and I hope I will continue to find at least some comfort in chocolate.

The Writers Mind

What she wrote:

I was skiing down Mont Blanc on the Italian side of the mountain with a group of friends when an out of control, grey haired, full length mink came barreling across my path. I swerved to miss her and down I went. A fall that usually only hurt my pride this time broke my shoulder. Ski patrol seemed to appear in a flash and carried me off the mountain, followed by our ski instructor Georgio.

Georgio stayed by my side through the emergency room, the surgery, and the six weeks of recovery in his beautiful chalet. He waited on me hand and foot during my recovery. In spite of my pain and disability we fell in love and were blissfully happy, sharing stories about our lives and laughing out loud daily about the little miscommunications caused by our lack of fluency in the others native language.

At the end of six weeks, just as I was about to be released from the doctor’s care, a long-legged, stunning brunette opened the front door of the chalet and announced she was home. Georgio’s wife, apparently, back from visiting her parents in the South of France.

I left them in the midst of a knock-down-drag-out and after being released from the doctor’s care flew back to America and back to reality. I had an 8 hour flight to cry and lick my wounds arriving at customs with a broken arm and a broken heart.

What really happened:

Walking the dog one evening I tripped over my own feet, fell and broke my shoulder. My boyfriend came and took care of me after surgery. We spent six weeks sitting on the sofa watching TV, unable to do much else.

The missing muse….

I thought my muse had deserted me.  For over a year I haven’t put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, other than at my day job.  Then this morning I woke up and this…

 

It was years before she realized it was the marriage, not the divorce, that broke her.  Every time she acquiesced to one of his demands she had lost a bit of who she might have been.  Not taking writing class or going out with her friends anymore because he wanted her home in the evenings. The promotions she passed up, the relationships she let slip away, because it would take too much time away from their life together.   Always having sex in the same position while he whispered strange, ugly comments in her ear.  His odd attraction to granny panties.  Victoria Secret had been lost on him.  He preferred full coverage briefs that made her feel like someone’s pasta making grandmother.

She told herself it was okay, normal, even good.  She told herself she was happy.  She took care of him and their home as a good wife should until one day after 25 years he walked into the kitchen and told her over his morning coffee that he was moving to California with the firm’s young receptionist.

And now, here she stood just a few years later, on the brink of something new.  She felt as though she was beginning to travel down an unmarked path similar to the one that park rangers always discouraged hikers from following.  “Stay on the marked trail”, was the advice she’d always followed. Until today.  Today she was about to leap into an unknown forest of possibilities.

 

Disc Function Nightmare

I lay on my back writing this the proud owner of not one, but three, herniated discs.  I’ve always been an overachiever but this is really taking it too far.  The pain has been incredible but I will meet with the surgeon today and I know that it can be fixed, I will heal, and before you know it I’ll be wearing high heels and dancing again.

Work is another story.  Work has become a waking nightmare.  My work days have become a hell which I would run from if I could but the responsibilities of bills and mortgage payments will not allow me to be free.  It’s not the work I don’t like, but those I have to work with.  I’ve been working for over 30 years and there are always a few people in every office that make life difficult for everyone around them.  There are always a few who have been promoted beyond their level of competence.  At Dysfunction Junction, however, incompetent, dysfunctional and flat-out crazy are not exceptions but the rule.  The more dysfunctional you are, the longer we keep you.

Can’t work more than four days in a row without calling in sick?  Welcome aboard.  Have to take medication to get through the day?  We need you.  Caught drinking at work more than once?  Please contact us immediately.  Don’t know the law or best practice around your supposed area of expertise?  We have a job for you.

It has gotten to the point that I would rather have severe back pain and be unable to bend over or go about my normal routine than be healthy and have to go in to the office.  At least I know my back pain can be cured.  There is no knife sharp enough to cut the disease out of this organization.

I’m trying to think of a way to keep the work and the paycheck but get out of social interactions with others.  My first thought is perhaps I can develop a phobia to sunlight where I can only leave the house after the sun has gone down.  Would they have to ADA accommodate me so I could work nights when no one else is there?  Hmmm…….

Please send me any and all ideas!

The Universe at Play

I’ve met a man.  I know, that’s how all my stories begin, but this time it’s different.  I met a man online, as I’ve done many, many times before.  He lives on four acres on the other side of the pass, 300 miles away, 12 miles outside of a town with a population of 9,000.  I live in the valley in Weird Town with a metropolitan area population of approximately 220,000, which after life in DC, London and NYC often seems far too small.

There was nothing about this man’s pictures or profile that told me he had much potential to be the life partner I was looking for.  In fact, we began talking only because when he flirted with me I critiqued some of his pictures of dead fish and told him if he wanted to attract women…pictures of dead animals weren’t the best way.  I never expected to hear from him again but, rather than taking offense, he thanked me for giving him a woman’s perspective.  Self- assured enough to withstand a little criticism was my only thought.

We began corresponding regularly, and we talked on the phone a few times, and then one day he said he would like to stop by and meet me for dinner on his way back from a clamming trip up north.  (I didn’t realize until much later that this wasn’t “on his way” but actually 3 hours out of his way!)  When I drove to the restaurant to meet him that Monday afternoon I went to meet a friend with no sense that this could ever turn into anything more.  After all, what would our options be, perhaps a remake of Green Acres?

I felt I already knew him somewhat from our email and phone conversations and thought him to be a decent human being with strong character and values.  I also love meeting all kinds of people and the more different their lives are from mine, the more intriguing I find them.  So off I went in the hope we would strike up a lasting friendship and I’d have a pen pal for life.

We met in the lobby of a restaurant, him in his sweats from his clamming trip, and me in my heels and make-up and from the moment we sat down our eyes were magnets for each other.  He not only listened to what I said, but he actually “heard” everything I said.  Not only that, but he heard everything I didn’t say.  Later he would write me when he returned home, I could see in your face and the way you moved you are strong person but yet I could feel the wanting to be fragile on the inside, the wanting to be held close, to be pampered like a lady should be, to share your heart and your feelings with another”.  When I read that line was the moment that I knew I had finally met a man who understands me and who (“If God’s willing and the creek don’t rise” as my mother used to say) I will marry one day.

It’s remarkable to me that just a couple of months ago I said to a different man “I want to be with a man that thinks I’m amazing.  I do not want to be the woman you sleep with until you meet the one you think is amazing.”  Only a short time later I find myself lucky enough to be with a man who knows exactly what he wants, owns his emotions and shares them freely.  A man who is capable of looking me square in the eye and saying, “You’re an amazing woman!”

Last month I was asking myself “Who are these women men obsess over and write poetry about”.  This month I am a woman a man writes poetry to.  Once again, my theory regarding living life to the fullest, not pre-judging people, never turning down an opportunity to meet a new person or learn something new, has proven itself.

None of us know what the future will bring. I certainly never imagined as I got out of the car to meet this man that a short time later I would have someone to share my every thought with; someone who I enjoy talking to, someone who I enjoy sitting quietly with.  Every day truly is a new beginning and there is hope around every corner.  I don’t know exactly what the future holds for us….but I am certain it will find us facing each new day together.

The other thing I’m certain of is that our new age way of meeting, all of these dating sites (which I’m not knocking because without them I would never have found this man who lives 300 miles away from me) are meant to be only the conduit…not an end to themselves.  You can’t order up a life partner off a menu.  You can look at pictures and read profiles all day long, but if you don’t actually go out and meet people in person, nothing will come of it.  So, yes, I have spent seven years, met more men and drank more tea at Starbucks than the average woman, but I believe the willingness to give those men a chance has finally paid off.

My Love’s First Poem to Me

I will give you love when you shed a tear.
I will give you kindness to show my love.
I will give you warmth when you are cold.
I will give you strength when you are weak.
I will give you happiness each day of your life.
I will give you understanding when you’re blue.
I will give you my shoulder to cry on when sadness comes.
I will give you my arm to walk beside me as we travel this life.
I will give you my hand to hold to give you hope.
I will give you comfort when bad news arrives.
I will give you me for the rest of your life.

Crazy in Love by McKenzie James

I’m ready to fall in love;

head over heals

crazy in love with you.

 

I’m teetering right on the edge of the precipice

but I’m afraid to make the leap.

I’m waiting impatiently for you to catch up.

 

It’s a long way down if my timing is wrong

and you’re not there to catch me.

I’ve traveled there alone once before.

 

It’s a painful landing

and a long, treacherous climb  back

out of the abyss when no one’s there to greet you.

 

But I’m ready.

The sound of your voice,

the touch of your hand,

the smile on your face

have me bursting my seams with joy.

 

I want to stop holding back and leap

free-falling into your arms.

 

I’m ready.

I’m waiting.

Let’s dive in over our heads together.

Angering the Gods OR “Who has the Voodoo Doll?”

On Monday I woke up to high winds and rain and a house with no electricity. This was a minor inconvenience since I was finally going to meet a man that afternoon who I’d been communicating with online and on the telephone but had never met in person and I wouldn’t be able to blow dry my hair. I went out to the garage only to realize I didn’t actually know how to get my car out without the electricity to open my garage door for me. Amazing how much we take for granted every day. I called the office to let the receptionist know I’d be late and, smart woman that she is, she knew exactly what to tell me to do. So, my week was off to a bit of a slow start but off I went thinking I’d stop by my sister’s house in the afternoon and blow dry my hair.

I was only at work a couple of hours when I began seeing hundreds of black spots in front of my eyes. It was like looking at everything through a spattering of black paint. I called the eye doctor and was informed that this was nothing to take lightly and I should get to their office immediately. Apparently, the fear when this occurs is a detached retina. I was extremely frightened but after having my eyes dilated and thoroughly checked out was told I would be fine. Another crisis averted. Just one more thing that comes with “age” as the very young doctor informed me politely.

I was told I should not go back to work because with my eyes dilated it would be difficult to read for some time and I should stay off the computer. By this time it was after lunch so I went back home, the electricity was back on and I took a shower and styled my hair. Since I couldn’t return to work I decided to go get my nails done. I was seated in the pedicure chair only moments when the chair at the other end of the salon made a loud noise and a huge cloud of smoke came billowing out of it. My manicurist, who has known me a while, looked up at me and simply said with her Korean accent, “you should probably not leave house! Trouble follows you!” I laughed and told her that it is true, trouble does follow me. I’m certain any day now the Mayor will implement a city ordinance stating that I must warn people of any plan to visit public establishments.

I met my online date, with styled hair and painted nails, and we had a lovely evening together. The next day, Tuesday, was relatively uneventful other than a late night work meeting. That evening I got ready for bed and at about 10:30 was closing up my laptop when I began to feel a strange sensation on the right side of my face near my lip. I went into the bathroom to look in the mirror and noted my lip was beginning to swell. An hour later when my face was as big as a basketball and I looked like Will Smith in “Hitch” after he accidentally ate shell fish, I finally decided to go to the ER.

My emergency room experience could be another essay in and of itself. I was there from 11:30pm to 2:00am and was never seen by a doctor. At this point I determined my condition was not life threatening and I returned home and tried to sleep. As soon as the pharmacy opened at 6am I went and bought Benadryl. Now, three rounds of the antihistamine later, my face is looking much better although the swelling is not completely gone and I have been able to get some sleep. It seems, although I’ve had several nasty bouts of diarrhea today, that I will live.

I have to confess that so many odd things have happened in just three days that I actually emailed my ex-husband and suggested, since his new/old (he remarried his first wife) wife is the only one I know of who harbors an extreme amount of resentment toward me, that he please find where she is hiding her voodoo doll and make her stop torturing me!

I spent the night at the ER, and some time at home today, wondering what I had done to anger the Gods this much and I must confess I’m a little bit afraid of what the rest of the week may have in store for me. Stay tuned and stay alert. If tomorrow you happen to notice the sun being covered by a black cloud that turns out to be locusts descending on Weird Town you’ll know exactly where to place the blame.

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