Saturday, January 29, 2011

Make The Best Of It

I was born with a neurological condition that has in many ways ruled my life.  I think it has made me what I am...slightly twisted, different, and unique because there was so much I couldn't do that everyone else could.  I spent a lot of time alone.  My dear husband "Himself" is really the only person who realizes just how bad it is.  My father did but he passed over ten years ago. 

I was born with Essential Tremor.  This is a condition that has had little or no publicity.  It's similar to Parkinson's Disease but doesn't kill you.  You shake (usually only from the waist up), this can include hands, arms, head, torso and voice.  Katherine Hepburn had Essential Tremor.  Usually you only start seeing symptoms as you age.  I had mine from the start.  It gets progressively worse as you age.

ET makes balance difficult.  I was never able to learn how to ride a bike, roller skate or any other activity that took balance.  I fall down a lot.  I have constant vertigo.  My parents were told that I had "senile palsy" when I was a child.   My Father, being a bit twisted like myself loved to tease me about being born senile.  I knew what senile meant way before most children my age had even heard the word.  My Father's teasing never hurt my feelings.  He always had a way of putting a funny twist on the situation, rather than making me feel bad about myself.  He enabled me to laugh and just accept that "this is the way I am".

About fourteen years ago was the first time any doctor even told me what I had.  It was like a revelation...however what he told me was "you have Essential Tremor, it's no big deal, nothing to worry about."  - Oh, OK.  In the meantime with my ET progressively getting worse my voice started to shake, eating soup was a huge adventure, I couldn't thread a needle, holding a coffee cup took two hands, life in general was difficult....it was no big deal.

It wasn't until I moved to "the peninsula" that I saw a neurologist for the very first time.  I have dead areas in my brain, probably related to ET, I'm on medication that helps a great deal.  However soup and coffee cups and needles are still a challenge....my voice and head don't shake (well on occasion my head does a bit, if I'm tired).  I just recently had to up the dosage on my medication because my symptoms were worse and it was not working as well as it had been. 

There is no cure for ET, it doesn't kill you...just makes your life miserable if you let it.  I usually don't.  I have learned to laugh at myself, ignore my shaking...I can do a great Hepburn impression.  Occasionally I'll get upset at people who comment about me behind my back...if I do it's because I'm tired or not feeling well.  I normally try to use it as an opening to educate about ET and make the best of the situation.

When you meet someone with an obvious condition or disability don't be afraid to ask about it.  If the person is willing to talk it gives them an opportunity to educate, and it gives you an opportunity to see the person not the condition. 

La Petite Crone says:  make the best of situations you are presented with.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Don't Dance, Can't Make Me!

I am a klutz, two left feet, very poor physical balance and I am an avid student of belly dance.  The journey from klutz to belly dance is one that took about eighteen years and is an example of "never say never".

Growing up I had a very poor self image.  Being a klutz I wasn't able to do many of the things that usual kids do like ride a bike, roller skate and skate board (in my day it really was a "skate board" - a piece of wood with a roller skate nailed to it!).  I have a reason why I am a klutz but I'll save that for a later post - suffice it to say I was, and am, physically unbalanced (we are still wondering about the mental side - cackle, cackle, cackle..). 

Because I knew there were so many things that I had so much trouble doing I was very self concious of my physicallity.  We had home movies of me doing "the twist" - and to be honest I looked horrible...I knew it too.  I never went to dances in school...never, not once.  Senior prom, forget it..didn't do it.  Sports were a failure as well. 

Fast forward to about eighteen years ago.  I'm happily married to Himself.  We both participate in living history (more about that in a later post as well) - a close friend who we do living history with says to me "You really should take belly dance lessons...you'd like them."  Oh yea, sure...I don't dance (can't make me).  Off and on for the next eighteen years she keeps bringing it up - "You should take belly dance lessons - you'd like them".  She's been belly dancing for thirty some years!

My excuses were: I'm too busy (not true), I live too far away from anywhere there are lessons (true), there aren't any teachers in this town (not true), I'm too stressed from my job to handle a new thing (sort of true)....then I retired and we moved to "The Peninsula".

"You really should take belly dance lessons, you'd like them" - Gads, won't this woman give up.  I DON'T DANCE!  I CAN'T DANCE!  Soooooo....knowing full well that there were absolutely NO belly dance instructors on "the peninsula" I told here "Ok, ok...next time I see an ad for lessons I'll check them out".  I'm off the hook.  I'm saved.  Two days later there were two ads for belly dance lessons!

I called the first number, no answer.  I called the second number no answer.  Cool!  I tried.  A few minutes later this very nice lady calls me back. I asked her about lessons and she informs me that her current beginner class started the previous week. Oh good!  However.... I could come to the lesson this very evening, pay for one lesson and if I didn't like it no problem, If I did like it she could help me catch up and prorate the remainder of the course as far as cost went.  She just sounded so sincere and nice I couldn't say no. 

I called my friend and told her I was going to check out some lessons.  What I didn't say was that I was sure I'd hate it, that I couldn't do it and then she'd never have to bother me again about lessons.

I went that evening, did the warm up exercises and then the lesson began.  Twenty minutes into the lesson I realize that I love it......that was almost two years ago.  I'm dancing with a troupe, have done a couple of solo performances and am an avid student. 

I really think I dance because I'm a crone.  Age has a way of letting you do things that when younger you'd be too self concious to do.  I'm comfortable with myself.  I still have all my physical issues but they don't matter. 

I dance.

La Petite Crone says - life is worth dancing over!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Crone Pride

There are two archetypes for old women - the grandmother and the crone.  Both similar in ways - both having the wisdom of the ages.  This isn't necessarily a "wise woman" as the archetype for the wise woman doesn't necessarily have to be old.

To me a grandmother is a little old lady, silver haired, rosy cheeked.  She putters about her kitchen making cookies (eat, eat, eat!!) waiting for her children or grandchildren to call or visit.  She sits in her rocker next to grandpa knitting away on mittens and scarfs for Christmas.  She's demure, kind, soft spoken.  She goes down to the senior center for meals a few times a week.  When her pension comes she may get a bit frisky and go to the local grange and play a few cards of bingo.  All in all a nice person.  To me the essence of a Grandmother is passive. 

Himself loves the "eat, eat, eat" aspect!

Hideous, loathsome, ugly, hag, old bat....thanks to fairy tales and Mr. Shakespeare, and even the funny send up by Blackadder, crones have gotten a bad rap.  Well...I'm here to say I'm a crone and proud of it!

I'm a silver haired little old lady (not THAT old!).  I don't have rosy cheeks thank you...I'm quite pale thanks to the weather here on "The Peninsula".  I DO putter about my kitchen but I make savory unusual dishes flavored with the herbs I grow in my own garden.  You can eat if you want , don't let the bottle of "oil of hemlock" sitting on the back of the stove bother you!  I love my children and grandchildren but don't dote on them.

As for being demure and soft spoken...well forget it.  I tend to say what I think and I'm perfectly happy about that.  Being a crone gives you quite a bit of freedom.  I talk to myself, my dogs and the critters that live in the woods near us.  I love my life, I don't regret who or what I am.

Some nights I go out on the deck, raise my arms and face to the sky and let the mist cover me and I dance.  I love the primordial feel of the way nature can envelope you in her arms.  I'm finding the older I get the more I open my mind to possibilities.  Age and death no longer scares me...we are friends.

To me the essence of a crone is assertive, while some may find that frightening (especially in an old woman), to me it's liberating.

Le Petite Crone says be proud of who you are

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Killer Bananas

When I was a little girl (a long time ago in a state far, far away) my Grandmother (whom I always think of as my "Crazy Grandma") told me that "A little girl down the street died because she ate a banana too fast!".

I had up until this point loved bananas.  Now I viewed them with fear....I mean, I had no idea that if you ate certain foods too fast that they could kill you!  Why would people risk death like that?  Why did her parents let her near a banana?  Why did MY parents let me eat bananas?!?!?!  I realized that the world wasn't the safe wonderful place I had always thought it was.  My innocence had been tarnished....there were killer bananas out there!  Heady stuff for a four year old.

From that point on I disliked bananas.  I refused to eat them.  It wasn't until I was about fourteen or so that I started eating bananas again.  I finally realized that what had happened to this unfortunate little girl was that she had choked...the Heimlich Maneuver wasn't really in use then. 

Bananas tasted better than I remembered, however it took me about half an hour to eat one. 

There was NO WAY I could eat a banana fast.  My throat seemed as if it would close if I took too fast a bite.  My mind would say..."it's ok, it won't kill you"....my throat would say...'I'm not sure about that....best slow down". 

Now in my "Crone Years" I can sometimes eat a banana at something resembling a normal speed....but it's still much slower than the average person.  You never know when they might turn deadly!  I have to admit that I even caution my dear husband "Himself" to "slow down" when he's eating these killer fruits.

I find it interesting how much a statement made ages ago still has control over me.  I'm lucky that this statement ended up as an amusing story.  There were other statements casually made to me as a child that still hurt to this day.  They caused me to have a poor self image, and low self respect for most of my life.

It seems as if we as a people tend to speak without thinking.  It would be wonderful if we all had speech writers who scripted each day for us so we wouldn't hurt any one's feelings, or scar a child with a careless statement.  We don't.  As a Crone I find that while I feel more liberated to express my thoughts I do seem to be thinking more about what I actually say.

La Petite Crone says:  Be careful what you say it may have life long consequences

Friday, January 14, 2011

When Dogs Laugh

Dogs laugh.  For those of you who share you life with a dog this is nothing new.  For those of you who are not dog people you may scoff...but it's true.  A dog laugh is easy to spot.  The mouth opens in a grin (usually you see teeth), the eyes sparkle, and the dogs pants in quick short little bursts and there is no obvious reason for the dog to be panting.  My dear husband "Himself" calls it "happy pants". 

My loyal mini minion Boomer (a blue merle miniature Australian Shepherd) is a comedian of great skill, and like most great comedians he is also adept at drama.  Boomer is the Robin Williams, Henny Youngman, George Carlin of dogdom.  Boomer gets his happy pants on all the time.

Boomer enjoys his ability to get you involved in his dramatic presentations.  He will after making sure you are aware of his presence, slink away, sit in a chair in another room and then proceed to whimper and whine until you get up and go see what the problem is.  Then he grins and laughs at you...."gotcha! I made you get up!  Isn't that funny...hahahahah!"  He will also give you a dramatic presentation while sitting next to you....deep sighs, a soft little whimper he can even get his lip to quiver.  "Oh, poor Boomer...what's the matter?  Doesn't anyone love you?" - he likes it when you engage in improv with him.  "Whimper, whine" (a very delicate lip quiver) - boy he's good.  Then out come the happy pants, big grin, sparkling eyes.  "Oh yea, I'm good..wasn't that funny?" - Yes Boomer, you are a riot.

Boomer's forte is physical comedy.  He thinks it's knee slapping funny to herd Rupert (my one eyed, blind Bull Terrier) into furniture.  Happy pants, wink, wink...."want to see me do it again?"  It's a good thing Rupert has a hard head and doesn't seem to mind the bumps, however sometimes I do have to doctor him up because of cuts and scrapes.  Boomer also has an amazing ability to go totally limp and fall to the floor just as you are about to pat him on the head.  I've seen some guests almost fall over because of his "Happy Pants Flop".   

I do have to admit though, Boomer has the best dog joke in the world.  I know, Himself and I are told "the joke" several times a week.  Visitors to our cottage on "The Peninsula" are sometimes continuously told "the joke" until they leave.  It is a riot.  I even get MY happy pants on when he tells it. 

So, for those of you who will never have the opportunity - here is Boomer's joke - the best dog joke in the world.  Prepare to get your Happy Pants on!

Boomer comes up to you holding a toy in his mouth.  He gives you the Lauren Bacall look (head down, looking up at you from under his eyebrows) with his big yellow puppy dog eyes.  "Awww, he wants me to take the toy from him" - you reach down to take the toy he's handing you......(here's the punch line)...Boomer whips around and plops his bottom into your hand.  Happy Pants!  I love it when he tells his joke to people who've never heard it before.  It is VERY funny.  Happy pants!

I really do enjoy Boomer's sense of humor.  I feel that he's enjoying his life.  He laughs at everything.  A good lesson here.

La Petite Crone says - when in doubt get your happy pants on!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Of Dragons and Dogs

I love my loyal mini-minions (my dogs) Rupert and Boomer.  They are my dog children.  When first married, before the real two legged children show up you may be blessed with dog children.  Once you enter into the crone stage, as I have, and the patter, thump, stomp of two legged offspring is something you no longer hear you may once again become the proud parent of dog children.

I at one time had a goal to have a "normal" dog.  It never happened.  Every dog I've shared my life with has been delightfully twisted and bizarre.  I've happily given up on my goal and just accept the fact that for some reason I seem to pick dogs that are to say the least...quirky.  Perhaps they pick me - no matter, we find each other and are happily demented together.

My oldest minion is Rupert.  He's a blind, one eyed English Bull Terrier.  For those of you who are not dog people...a Bull Terrier is like Spuds McKenzie (dating myself a tad there...cackle!), or the "Target" dog, Frankenweinie, General Patton's dog Willy, or perhaps "Bodger" from the original Incredible Journey movie 

Bull Terriers are just different.  Imagine a military super tank in a dog suit...that's Rupert.  Rupert joined our family at the age of 8 weeks.  He never whined, never had an accident, never bit, never chewed up anything..he was a perfect puppy. Then the medical problems started.  The poor guy has never had a break.  He's been sentenced to "the cone" so many times I've lost count.

At present he's got a heart problem, overly sensitive feet, and he only has one eye and it's over 90% blind.  He's constantly prodded, poked, messed with by Himself and I (doctoring, giving him his several times daily medications) and vets who cut, stick, poke and just generally make his life miserable.  Yet through this all he's remained perhaps the sweetest dog I've ever met.  He honestly doesn't have a mean bone in his substantial body.

Rupert has four goals in life.  Food, warmth, sleep and cuddling...if he can combine them; all the better (especially the last three).

I had a dream a while ago about my Mini Minion Rupert.  He was sitting next to me and as I glanced at him he had dragon wings, a long pointy dragon tail and had smoke curling out of his nose.  I realize that even though Rupert may have problems, may not be with me as long as I'd want (at least that's what the vets all say) he's got the heart and soul of a dragon...mythical in it's intensity. 

I believe all dogs are special but Rupert goes beyond ordinary.  He grumbles, stomps his feet, glares at you with his one eye, pushes, cuddles, gives an occasional rare but oh so sweet kiss on your nose...you could no more ignore him or forget him than you could a dragon in your living room.

He's next to me, sleeping, snoring, smiling and cuddling as I write this.  I honestly do think I see a faint wisp of smoke curling up from his nose......

Le Petite Crone says take a moment to appreciate those around you - even if they are dragons or dogs....

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Feathers Three

When I was very small we moved from one part of the country to another.  My life was unstable, my parents had jobs, didn't have jobs...where we were living changed several times.  I could sense that my parents were unhappy.  Finally things settled down and we stayed in one place for a few years.  I made a friend, a girl across the street...she was tall, fun, creative, beautiful...all the things that I wasn't.  I was in awe of her.

As the years passed we remained friends even though we would on occasion lose touch.  We'd always find each other, write letters or call and talk...even if we didn't actually get to see each other.  She became independent, her life an adventure.  She did bicycle tours of Europe, taught skiing in the Rocky Mountains.  She was an amazing artist, so spiritual...she even had a Native American mentor who adopted her into his tribe.  She told me her spirit guide was revealed to her during a sweat, three crows.  She used a symbol of three crows on all her important larger pieces of art.  My friend was all that I wasn't...then she died.

I was devastated.  She was my best friend, the one peer I had looked up to and admired since I was five years old.  Time passed and I felt as if I had handled her death well.  This wasn't the first time someone I loved had died, nor will it be the last.  I felt ok...I was proud of myself for the mature way I handled this loss.

A month later I received a box in the mail.  Inside were stacks and stacks of old letters...all the letters I'd ever written to her.  She had kept every single letter.  I have never been a "keeper" of things, I had nothing of hers.  I felt so unworthy of her friendship.  What kind of friend was I that I didn't even keep one of her letters!  How could she have done that to me!  Every feeling I had thought I'd handled came rushing back.  I was incensed.  I brooded on this, as only a crone can brood...deeply and darkly. 

A few days later while outside I noticed a flock of crows in the trees surrounding our cottage.  This isn't unusual, we seem to have an over abundance of crows around our home...we have since we moved in.  The crows, my bad mood, my anger and grief made me do a typical crone type thing.  I started talking to the heavens (old ladies aren't crazy when they seem to be talking to themselves...crones just do that!).  I pured out my anger, my hurt feelings,  my loss, my feelings of being unworthy of her friendship...everything...all out loud with only the tree frogs, the trees, and the crows to hear (luckily Himself was away for a few days doing guy stuff).

The next day when I went out to get our mail there was a large shiny crow feather laying on my front step as if placed there. 

The next day another...

The next day another....

Three crow feathers placed on my front step.  My anger is gone, my grief is gone...I am at peace.  My friend and I as always found each other again.  She was never gone, she will always be with me and I her. The only thing you need to keep to be a good friend is what you have in your heart, soul and memory.

Crows have a special place in my heart now.  I listen to them, talk to them and I think we are beginning to understand each other. 

La Petite Crone says you never know who or what your next teacher may be.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

From "They" to "Crone"

I hate to admit it but I was at one time "They"....that scary word that you utter under your breath - "You know what THEY are going to do", "Look what THEY did" and so forth.  I was authority, I was one of them. 

I started becoming one of "they" when I got out of school and didn't have enough money to finish college.....granted being one of "they" paid the bills, helped me raise my son as a single mother...and also funded and encouraged (nay, necessitated!) my transformation to become La Petite Crone.  I don't regret my path, nor should I!

Years of military and government service, years of being someone I didn't like, and doing things I didn't believe in got to me.  I couldn't take it any more.  Something had to give.  Either I was going to become stark raving insane or I had to change.  Some days it was questionable which it was going to be.  It took time, a long time.  It wasn't easy.

Things happened.  Death, turmoil, illness, injury, upheaval....all very major stuff.  I survived.  I moved on, married Himself, found some stability in my life, time to take a breath and listen to my inner voices, now that they weren't screaming anymore....well, ok....an occasional cackle but hey, I'm a crone!

I've been retired for five years now, living on "The Peninsula" with my strange little family.  My hair is silver, my mind is calm and open.  I take the time time listen to myself and the voices around me, watch the world with crone eyes and try to understand what I'm being taught.  My life now is magical, wonderful and I'd not give it up for anything.

So if you find yourself at wits end, the voices are screaming, the world seems to be crashing down around your shoulders, as I did, take a moment...imagine yourself in front of a fire on a dark rainy night.  Sip a cup of tea.  Are you who you want to be?  If not and you want to change you can, but you have to become who you really are.  Changing to another falsehood won't help.  Lies never help, especially the ones we tell ourselves.  It will take work, a lot of effort and it won't be easy but it will be worth it. 

Listen to La Petite Crone and finish your tea.....