|Posted on June 9, 2015 at 7:00 PM||comments (0)|
Buddha Babe Goes to Camp
This past May 9th on my birthday, I had the pleasure of attending one of the SGI Conferences at the Florida Nature and Culture Center, or the FNCC, as we know it.
When I became a card carrying Buddhist and joined the Soka Gakkai International, three years ago, I read about these conferences, but knew in my heart, I would never have either the money or the physical endurance to go. Nevertheless, it went on my altar with my list of “impossible things” I wanted to accomplish.
Another impossible goal I put on my list was to make money selling my paintings.
No one could have been more surprised than me when I sold my first painting, and then my second and then my third. Money started rolling in along with many physical benefits.
I was led to a surgeon who trimmed back my stomach and helped me lose 80 lbs, which caused me to no longer be diabetic, hypertensive, or pain-filled. I began to sleep better and as of my last blood test, everything is running at 100%
Suddenly, I found myself monetarily and physically ready to make the trek to Florida and see this SGI miracle in the Everglades, the Florida Nature and Culture Center.
I won’t say I wasn’t nervous about traveling in my power chair. I knew it would have to be stored in the hold of the plane for the trip, and then I would require lifts on the various vehicles taking me to and from the airports.
To my delight, everything went smoothly, and I arrived at the center just in time to enjoy a steak dinner. The first of several mind blowingly delicious meals.
That first steak dinner for all the new arrivals says a lot about the ichinin of the land.
The Florida Nature and Culture Center sits on 125 acres of pristine, Florida Everglades, normally teaming with reptiles and insects. Yes, there was a 7 ft gator that liked to bask among the water lilies on Toda Lake, watching us eat on the veranda. And yes, sitting outside at dusk, one had to spray mosquito repellant all over your body to keep from being eaten alive, but in general I’ve never felt a place so gentle and protective.
In 1996, President Ikeda dedicated this piece of land to the SGI-USA members as a place to go to refresh our spirits and our determination to practice. It’s all that and more. I would encourage all of you to make the trip someday soon, and enjoy this precious gift.
There is an aura of caring and compassion that fills you up while you are there.
This started right off when I first walked on to the property. An attractive man hailed me with a wave and said, “Hi there! Welcome to this beautiful place on this beautiful day with the happiest people in the world!”
The conference I attended was the 15th Annual LGBTQ Conference, and for those of you who have never heard the term, LGBTQ stands for Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transsexual and Questioning or Queer
This year, President Ikeda honored us by giving our group a name: The Courageous Freedom Group, and we spent the weekend dialoguing about what these words meant to us, on a personal level.
We were asked, “What does freedom mean to you” and “What is courage”?
What does freedom feel like? How do you know if you are being courageous?
As was stated at one of the workshops, “our community is a majestic spectrum” and there are no simple or cookie cutter answers.
Sometimes you can only define freedom by what you don’t have: Like the freedom to be yourself, when you are an outlandishly feminine gay man,0r the freedom to be a man when you have all the plumbing of a woman.
I justy know, It’s hard to come out, no matter how many times you do it.
I suspected I was a lesbian at age 20, but did not admit it to myself or others until I was 30. That’s 10 years of no courage and no freedom.
At 33 I joined a women’s collective and fairly burst out of the closet, shaved my head, had 5 earrings in one ear and became a “man-hater”.
Well, I’m older now, and I know I’m not really a man-hater, but I bond emotionally only with women, and I don’t want to be ashamed of that. There is a place for me on this planet and Sensei has convinced me that I’m an important part of that majestic spectrum.
Being at the Florida Nature and Culture Center reminded me of how proud I am to be a lesbian and helped me renew my vow to challenge and overcome my limitations whenever and however they pop up.
Some of the people at the conference were not as lucky as I and told stories of abuse that I’ll never forget. It was a healing experience for us to all be together and be able to open our hearts in love and acceptance of each other.
I made about 100 friends at this conference, and I’m going to have a hard time keeping up with them all, but I’m going to try, because I learned so much from them, and I just love them.
I would like to end this experience with a quote from President Ikeda in his personal letter to those of us in the newly formed Courageous Freedom Group where he encouraged us to remember, quote “that there is no Buddha who is defeated by suffering and hardship”…and to “please lead a life dedicated to your personal vow, filled with pride as a bodhisattva of the Earth. Let us adorn our lives with optimism and cheerfulness, as we “dance with joy” all the more.”
|Posted on April 19, 2015 at 11:40 AM||comments (0)|
Chapter 8 - My Memoir
I had an eye doctor appointment yesterday. My new glasses suck although they are lovely and make me look better too. But I’m having trouble seeing out of them. Everything seems to be moving, especially letters, and forget trying to read my fish food labels. They told me the new prescription would help me see better in the bright light, but everything is just as foggy as ever. Consequently, I was not thrilled to make the long trek back to see what could be done. So anyway, my appointment for my yearly exam came time and I went in and got dilated. It seems that I have Grandma Winebrenner’s eyes. My cataracts are growing like crazy and there is nothing to be done but change my prescription again and expect surgery in six months. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that they now have “premium” lenses available to pop in your eye after they take the old yellow cloudy ones out, and these lenses are so exquisitely calibrated I will never have to wear glasses again! Imagine that! With no cool glasses I will definitely have to work on my personality.
So I was not only rather blind on my roll home, but also exploring my foggy, or actually, less foggy future. I’ve been playing with the idea (eye-dea) of getting a neck tattoo. I’ve never been a fan of the tats, but they are very popular in this part of the world. I want one on the back of my neck, popping out above my collar. I won’t be able to see it, but everyone I leave in my dust will. Little joke there…..
So while I was waiting for my eyes to dilate I thought about what I might want and the idea of a Kundalini Dragon came to mind. Although I think the Kundalini is a snake, I picture mine as a dragon. Puff of smoke floating into my hairline, maybe flames, open mouth, fangs, but pretty, little wings coming out its neck, then a curving dragon body swooping down my spine, kind of dancing with it. Little feet? Maybe. And not an ugly, mean dragon, but beautiful and Awe-full. A little something for the coroner to find. Is that sick? #dragons #cataracts #tattoos
|Posted on February 22, 2015 at 2:55 PM||comments (0)|
What a strange and uncomfortable time.
Christmas frenzy going full blast all around me and I’m vomiting blood. It started out just as a little stomach upset from drinking wine at our potluck on Saturday, December 6, 2014. Ever since my bariatric surgery last spring, I sometimes have trouble digesting when I over indulge and eat too large a portion of food. Now I realize I can’t drink alcohol. The next day, I wasn’t able to keep anything down, not even water, and I had a major stomach ache. By Wednesday, I had begun projectile vomiting tiny blood clots. The ambulance was called and I went to Providence Hospital where I stayed for 3 days as they did tests and provided me with saline and pain medications. On the 3rd day, I felt better and was able to keep food down so they sent me home. My diagnosis, “gastritis with coffee ground emesis”.
A week later, December 21, early Sunday morning, Janie started vomiting blood, a lot of it, and it was red not brown. We called an ambulance who then took her to Providence. They did an endoscopy later that day, found 2 bleeding ulcers in her stomach and cauterized them. We believed that would take care of the problem.
However, she started vomiting blood again the next day, so they did another endoscopy, but there were so many blood clots they couldn’t see where it was coming from. They set up another endoscopy for the next day, hoping the debris would clean up by then. She felt pretty good before going into the procedure room, except for a headache and tremendous thirst. However after about 10 min. she bled out on the table, and stopped breathing. Basically, she died for 20 minutes.
I heard them announce “Code Blue in Endoscopy” over the loud speaker and I knew it was her. My blood went cold and my stomach felt like it dropped right out of my body. About 15 people rushed into the room with machines and worried faces. I was crying and demanding information from the nurse at the front desk, so he called in the parish priest to talk me down. The priest helped me get nearer to the room she was in. I was in the hallway right outside the door. I could have moved to a place where I could look in at her, but I was frozen to the spot, I didn’t want to see her dead. I knew I would never forget it.
She was violently resuscitated, with a nurse actually jumping on her chest and pounding. Later, the nurse told us that she could feel how fragile and almost flat Janie’s chest area was, she said she could feel the heart under the cracking bones. After 20 minutes of pounding and shocking, they brought her back, breaking several ribs in the process. They immediately took her to the O.R. and opened her abdomen for an exploratory procedure. Finding nothing, they sewed her back up and sent her to her room in ICU.
At this point, the doctors still did not know where the blood was coming from, but they suspected that one of the ulcers may be tapping into her aorta. Because of her unique stomach placement (due to her esophagectomy 10 years ago) to find out for sure, they would need to get under her heart for a look see. She had 4 doctors putting their heads together on this, and none of them wanted to do this type of surgery on her because of her weakened condition.
On the seventh day of her hospital stay, Janie started vomiting blood, again. She had been eating well and feeling good, and was even planning to come home. A scan was performed and the doctors decided they needed to look at the area behind her heart. An incredibly young cardiac surgeon, Dr. Costas, performed a thoracotomy, breaking through her ribs to get to the heart. Sure enough, the ulcer had eaten through her aorta. Once again she bled out and her vitals went way down, once again they brought her back. Dr. Costas, sewed it shut, tied it all off, artistically padded it with some fat, and closed her up. She was intubated and put in a medically induced coma.
By this time, Janie’s older sister, Jo, had arrived from Denver, and camped out in the hospital with her. I took the evenings, she was there in the mornings. Janie’s friend, Phyllis was usually there in the afternoons. Although Janie was no longer in a coma she had been given a “saddle-block”, paralyzing the upper half of her body to relieve the pain of the surgeries and the broken ribs, so she could breathe. However, this resulted in her not being able to move anything from the waist up. We tried to make her more comfortable, but at times it was impossible. She was not allowed food or water, and the lack of water is something she remembers with a lot of post- traumatic stress. She developed pneumonia and they put a tube in her chest to drain off the liquid and started her on a course of antibiotics. She also developed a urinary tract infection from her catheter and this required another type of antibiotic.
One of her blood tests came back showing elevated h-pylori bacteria. H-pylori is an opportunistic bacteria most of us have in our stomach and/or gut. It’s highly communicable, but usually kept in check by our own bodies defenses. However, too many antibiotics or a weak immune system can cause the h-pylori to flourish resulting in acid reflux, indigestion, ulcers, coffee emesis, and even cancer. I think this is the answer to the question “WTF?” Janie had been on antibiotics for a tooth. I wasn’t on antibiotics, nor did a high level of h-pylori show up in my tests, but I think I had it, too, but my body beat it back. Janie wasn’t so lucky. A third type of anti-biotic was added to her intravenous cocktail.
She was hospitalized for 2 more weeks in recovery, with only one day out of ICU. They wanted to send her to rehab, but she was ready to be at home, so I told her I would help her recover for a few weeks since her in-home aide, Gloria, was in Alaska, visiting her mother.
That was six weeks ago. I feel great and am totally recovered. Janie’s recovery has been very slow, but sure. She can now walk several blocks if she rests in the middle, and her arms and upper body are getting stronger every day. Sadly, her near-death experience did not pull her into a light and love-filled plane of existence. Quite the opposite. She remembers a dark tunnel, with no light, blacker than anything she has ever known. And she was angry, very angry with the doctor performing the endoscopy. And then, nothing. She came away from this experience shaken and feeling not quite fully plugged in to her life. We’ve read that this is common after a near death, but that doesn’t make it any easier. #NDE,#wtf,neardeathexperience,#wheelchairlife