McKenzie Free

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

Archive for the category “Essays”

Beware the Oregon Deli!

I’m such a slow learner.  I’ve been living in Oregon now for six years (this time) and still when I see the word “Deli” displayed on the outside of a building I believe it’s a place where I can get a good, freshly made sandwich.  For those of you who, like me, believe “Deli” to be an abbreviation of the word “Delicatessen” you may be suffering from the same illusion.

Wikipedia states:  “Delicatessen is a German loanword which first appeared in English in 1889 and is the plural of Delikatesse. In German it was originally a French loanword, délicatesse, meaning “delicious things (to eat)”. Its root word is the Latin adjective delicatus, meaning “giving pleasure, delightful, pleasing”. The first Americanized short version of this word, deli, came into existence c. 1954.”

In other parts of the United States it has come to mean a deliciously fresh, diverse menu with sandwiches made to order.  Rarely will you find fried foods, or use of a fryer, with the possible exception of some eat-in delis that serve French fries.

In Oregon, however, beware.  The word “Deli” here usually describes a tiny, warn, space with a three or four booths or tables for seating; a minimal menu consisting of a few deli meats but mostly of items that can be quickly pulled out of the freezer and deep fried, and ; a room partitioned off, with saloon doors and no windows, where you can hear the click, click, click and occasional celebratory music as someone on the other side of that wall wins three dollars on a video lottery game.

Apparently slot machines, or video lottery games,  have become the second biggest revenue earner for Oregon, after state taxes.   According to State Law a business cannot make lottery games their only or dominant purpose.  Hence, the cropping up of “delis” serving nothing eatable but allowing gambling all around the state.   Were any of these establishments audited one would most certainly find that their dominant activity is gambling but as with all things government…money rules…and the money pouring in to state coffers from this activity provides little incentive to enforce the gambling law and limit these type of businesses.

Some believe that making these lottery game machines available in every local mall is creating a social issue by providing easy access to potential gambling addicts.  I don’t know how I feel about that since from what I’ve learned an addict will find a way to his or her pleasure regardless of difficulties or consequences.

What I do believe, however, is that one cannot get a decent deli sandwich in Oregon and that should be a crime.

 

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The Front Line is Wherever You Are

I have been in an inconsolable depression since the election.  I don’t mean in a slump.  I mean in a black spiral falling deeper and deeper into a hole that appears to have no bottom.  I am not a partisan person.  It has nothing to do with Democrats and Republicans.  I’m pretty much a free thinker and I don’t believe I’ve ever met someone who believes in exactly the things I do.

One thing I do believe in is the struggle between good and evil. It takes place in each of us every day as we consider whether or not to do what is right, or what is usually easier.    Right now my fear is that evil has a grip on our country in a way I’ve never before seen in my lifetime.  My depression stems from fear.   Fear that we may see the type of pure evil again that many of our parents lived through in the Second World War

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. There is contention about who should be attributed with these words; Edmond Burke, Charles F. Aked, John F. Kennedy, but in the end it really doesn’t matter who first spoke this truth.  It only matters that it is a truth.  Today, some good men and women in all parts of the political spectrum are standing back and letting what they know is evil take place.  I can’t begin to imagine or pretend to know their motives.  I think many of them are just in denial and don’t want to admit how badly they erred in judging our new President’s character.

What I do know is that for me, I think the only way out of my spiraling depression is to stand.  Stand up for something again and don’t back down.  Stand up for what I believe is right.  Stand up tall and strong with others who are as frightened as I am about what is happening in this country and say “no, not here, not on our watch.  We won’t let it happen.  We want our country to continue to stand for freedom, inclusion and social justice.  We want a kind country with arms reaching out to embrace those in need.  We will not close our borders.  We will not run in fear.  We will continue to fight for human rights for all people.”

At first I felt the need to rush back to DC.  I thought that’s where the front line was.  That’s where the real fight was happening.  I should be back there with my old friends and colleagues fighting the good fight.  But after a bit of thinking I realized that’s not the case.  The real front line is in whatever country, whatever state, whatever town, whatever room we find ourselves in.  The fight is everywhere and holding the line is as simple as not laughing at the racist joke at work; greeting each person we meet with compassion; not allowing bigoted behavior to go unchallenged in any form.  Holding the line is simply living your beliefs wherever you find yourself and speaking up whenever you see injustice taking hold. 

Realizing once again that each of us can make a difference has helped me to climb to the top of the pit.  I’m not out of the dark hole yet, but I can see light above.  A light that grows brighter each time I see someone standing up and holding the line.

The Easy Chair

Oh how I wish I could write like Barbara Kingsolver.  All I’ve wanted for as long as I can remember is to be able to write in a way that elicits emotions from people.  Sometimes emotions they don’t even know they have.  To write something with a kernel of profound truth that people can relate to and say, “that’s it…that’s just how that feels”.

In Kingsolver’s “Pigs in Heaven” her first six paragraphs describe exactly how if feels to be in a relationship after a certain age.  Those sentences resonate with everything I’ve been feeling of late.  As I get older my world is becoming smaller and smaller, my desire for things less and less, and my desire for intimate conversation greater and greater, while at exactly the same moment in time the average man seems to have used up his lifetime allotment of words.

The middle aged man spending his days in his easy chair couldn’t have become a cliche unless there was some truth in it.  Kingsolver’s descripton, “his Naugahyde recliner confronts her, smug as a catcher’s mitt, with a long, deep impression of Harland running  down it’s center” describes it better than I’ve ever heard or read it described.  I’ve seen that same impression in more men’s chairs than I’d care to admit.

The easy chair has always made me sad.  Not because it eludes to TV watching.  I can be the Queen of Netflix marathons myself.  I thinks it’s the singleness of the chair.  Where I would prefer to snuggle up and share my experience with someone (one of my fondest memories is spending an entire day with my God daughter on the sofa watching episode after episode of “Cake Boss” together until someone had to come and force us to shut it off) the easy chair sits alone and seems to say “there’s no room for anyone but me here…leave me alone”.

I have a single, male friend whose living room is set up with the requisite enormous flat screen TV with his comfortable easy chair right smack dab in the center of the room and a sofa pushed back against one wall.  Even when told he doesn’t see that this set up says to all who enter, “it’s all about my comfort…you sit over there against the wall and don’t bother me.”

I am a middle-aged woman, and one on the down hill side of that bell curve.  I am beginning to understand that the chances of meeting a man my age who has a serious desire for emotional and intellectual intimacy is slightly less than the chance of me ever fitting into my original size 6 wedding dress again.  Even if the intimacy were to be there to couple lifestyles at such an age would likely be as uncomfortable of a fit as that dress.

I guess the moral of this story is that I will now have plenty of time to devote to improving my writing skills.

 

 

 

The Dating Profile I’d LIKE TO Post but Never Will

59 year-old woman seeking partner in crime.

Life, and crime, are each more fun with a partner. Doesn’t have to be a romantic partner (Butch and Sundance, Thelma and Louise…) but if you can find someone that you can partner with in life and have great sex with too — what could be better?

Actually LOOK at my photos. I’m well-dressed, my hair looks good, if I’m wearing make-up it’s subtle and well done, I’m always smiling. I’m obviously going to make an effort to look my best at our first meeting and beyond. So it only makes sense I’m looking for a man who will do the same. Do I look like a woman is seeking a man with a filthy ball cap he never takes off, who wears grungy, frayed jeans to our first meeting and hasn’t trimmed his beard this year? Use your noggin!

Actually READ my profile. I’m smart, I’m funny, and I’m well educated. I’m going to expect you to be smart, funny and able to write a grammatically correct sentence, as well.

If you have more than one drink daily you are not a “social drinker”. Social drinkers have a beverage or two when out to dinner on Saturday night or when having friends over for a party or BBQ. Maybe they have a glass of wine or beer when they get home from work in the evening.

The same is true of pot. I’m not completely 420 unfriendly…and for anyone who has pain I say do whatever works for you…but if you have no medical reason and you’re hitting the bong at 10am I’m not the right woman for you.

Have two nickels to rub together. I prefer a man who pays on a date. That said…we can go Dutch if you don’t have that kind of money but at a minimum you have to be able to pay for your own dinner. It’s really not cool for you to sit and watch me eat my dinner while you sip on a glass of water because you can’t even afford a cup of coffee. I don’t have much, but a man has to have at least as much as me, ‘cause without that parity no partnership is possible.

Have a driver’s license and a car. I’m not hauling your ass around town for the duration of our relationship. I expect you to be able to come and pick me up for a date. I expect to actually GO OUT ON DATES. I love to walk in the park; ride bikes, hike, etc. Every once in a while I also want to go out for dinner, see a movie, go to the theatre, hit a comedy open mike night, something (anything) other than walking and talking or sitting and talking.

I didn’t post a profile on a dating site because I’m looking for someone to have sex with. Hundreds of men want to have sex with me. I’ve been pursued by men of every age who tell me how sexy I am and how much they want to make love to me. Wanting to bed me doesn’t make you special. It’s just pheromones. Get a grip on yourself. Think with your big head for a change instead of your little one. But if we do get past the dating and actually get to this point, please be able to perform. If you have problems performing you are surely aware of that before we get to this stage of the relationship so deal with it before we go there. Man up!

What I’m looking for is a partner. Merriam-Webster defines it as: A person with whom one shares an intimate relationship; one member of a couple; one of two or more persons who play together in a game against an opposing team. In this instance the opposing team is “life” with all it brings us. It comes with family, friends, good food, fun times and great sex but it also includes hard work, flooded kitchens, flat tires, mortgage payments, cancer, and many other frustrations and challenges. Like all roller coaster rides it’s more fun when you have someone you can cling to who’s screaming just as loudly as you are when the car hits the peak and begins plummeting toward the next turn.

I’m too old for online dating

I can’t believe I’m single again. I’m too old to date. However, there isn’t much call for 59 year-old mail order brides so unless I want to be forever without male companionship (a viable option I’m thinking about) I will have to date again. The thought of going on more first dates makes me cry harder than all the things I miss about my last love.

Feeling I must carry on, I once again turned on my online dating site. A man wrote to me. He was attractive, and if his write-up was even partially true, one in a million. The one catch for me was, he was only 5’ 6” tall. I usually only date men who are six foot or taller. Short fit men make me feel as though I might roll over in bed and squash them. I just don’t want to take the chance of an accidental death. It’s bad enough at this age worrying if the excitement of sex will give them a heart attack.

Last night I went out for a drink with my girlfriend who is much younger than me. I was telling her about this and she said it’s just a date, go ahead and email the short guy. So I show her his profile, and after a brief read, she explains to me that the reason he sounds like a man that’s too good to be true is because he’s a transsexual. Apparently he eludes to this in two different places in his profile which I missed while focusing on his small stature. So the reason he sounded completely wonderful was because he used to be woman. It had been like reading my own profile!

Actually, this wouldn’t have been the first time I dated a transsexual. The first time there was no indication other than the lack of attraction on my part.   I remember after meeting him telling my friends he had a butt like a woman’s. I told him we could hang out as friends and it would never be anything more. It was much later after some nights out dancing that he told me the truth about his transition. I have no problem with anyone’s choices of sexuality. I just have no attraction either.  We have remained friends, and judging by his troubles with dating, it’s no different after transition than it is before.

Alas, I digress. The point here is I’m too old to be dating online anymore and not being able to read this profile correctly proved it to me. I can’t keep up with the new slang phrases that are supposed to alert me to what men really want. It’s like learning a foreign language.  I once thought I had it all figured out but this experience makes me realize the world has changed too much for me to keep up with it.

Sadly, there are a lot of things I truly enjoy about male companionship, including sexual intimacy. I realize I’m spending a lot more time in my yard this year: chopping, pruning, digging, planting, spreading mulch. Apparently I’m taking my sexual frustrations out on my landscape. It makes me wonder anew about my mother who never dated or remarried after my father died in his mid-fifties. Her garden plot was enormous and flowers bloomed everywhere on her property.   Sure wish she was here now so we could laugh about this together. And, since I’ll obviously be doing a lot more gardening these days, I could use some of her green thumb tips, as well.

The top 10 reasons I miss my Dog:(

10. There’s no one at home to force me to go outside and get some exercise.
9. She was a great icebreaker at parties.
8. There’s no one to warn me when someone’s coming.
7. It’s now extremely obvious that I talk to myself.
6. I never had to worry about service or repair men coming into my home.  If they got fresh she’d nip them on their ass.
5. I no longer have a socially acceptable method of meeting good-looking strangers on the street.
4. She was the best excuse for not going out with co-workers after work: “I have to go home and let my dog out.”
3. I no longer have a useful purpose for my growing collection of plastic bags.
2. I’ve lost my best excuse for why I can’t “sleep over”.
1. And the number one reason I miss my dog? Now when I go home to that glass of wine after work I really am drinking alone!

A Tale of Unfulfilled Potential

I was told so often as a young adult how much “potential” I had. I was pushed into the advanced classes in High School. I took master degree courses my first year at the University because I didn’t want to be bored. At age 20 I met with members of our Nation’s congress and the Israeli Knesset. At age 21 I actually sat in the President’s chair in the Oval Office as part of a special tour of the White House given for “Up and Coming Young Politicians”. I was the only one with the courage to take the seat when it was offered. I commented as I sat down, “It’s about time a woman sat here”. That was almost 30 years ago and still no woman has taken the chair.

I was meant to do something BIG with my life. I was meant to do something big, find a big partner to share it with, have wonderful children who would be healthy and happy and well brought up. That is what seemed to be expected of me. We should be getting ready now to meet our grown kids at our beach house in Bethany for a long weekend where their Dad would tell them how proud he was of them and how much he still adored his brilliant, beautiful wife after all these years.

Instead I live alone with my dog. Two failed marriages behind me. No particular successes to share. I have no kids, no beach house, and barely enough money to pay my bills. I work for a not for profit organization that does invaluable work that America pays lip service to but where most of our workers barely make above poverty level.

I don’t know when it happened, where it went downhill, when I stopped being one of the best and the brightest and just became another tale of unfulfilled potential. I wonder if I could go back to that one moment, that turning point, would I make a different decision. If I got a chance for a do over would I take a different turn that would have me writing the great American novel while raising wonderful children with a loving, supportive man who thinks the world of me?

Was it falling in love with the wrong man and then holding on too long? Was it making the wrong career moves? Geographical moves?

No matter, for there are no do overs. I’m a survivor but I don’t know how much more survivor I have in me. I have tried desperately to rise up from ever y set back. I have mourned the deaths of those I loved and carry them with me daily. I have done my best to move on from a 20 year relationship that felt  liked it was ruined in an instant. I told myself, as all my belongings went up in flames, that they were just things, not relationships, and relationships are all that really matters. I have survived breast cancer, I have cried my way through the shingles and the other ravages of aging and through it all I can’t help thinking, where did all that often spoken of potential go?

Was it ever really there? How did I fail to harness it? Is it too late at this age to dig deep and find some flailing potential to build on?

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.

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