Disney World at 50… My Memories

Here come a bunch of thoughts/memories in celebration of Disney World being 50-years old today. Please keep your hands and arms inside the vehicle! ¡Por favor mantenganse alejado de las puertas!

  • For years before WDW opened, there was the Walt Disney World Preview Center in Lake Buena Vista between 535 and down what was then called Preview Center Road. It opened in January 1970 and closed right before WDW opened in 1971. In that year, we had to have visited it more than a dozen times. I have in the recesses of my memory, every word of the spiel.
  • Here is one of the many pics I have taken of the Preview Center over the years. I remember being there, dirt road out front, as if it was yesterday.
  • I stepped into the Magic Kingdom when I was 10-years old. It was a couple of months old. I remember it like it was yesterday. I can see Cinderella Castle at the end of Main Street. The place was pristine. Magical does not begin to describe that memory.
A photo I took from the catwalk outside California Grill at the top of the Contemporary Resort.
  • My mom started working at Walt Disney World (WDW) in 1973 at the Pueblo Room at the Contemporary Resort. The Pueblo Room was where George Kalogridis also got his start as a busboy. My mom, a seater, worked with George for several years. He is now the President of Segment Development and Enrichment for Disney Parks, Experiences and Products (whatever that is).
  • Because mom worked there, we got in free. This was when tickets were a thing, but there were rides that didn’t need one and we went on them a lot.
  • This is a WDW Tickets in 1973 site.
  • One of my faves was If You Had Wings. There was never any line and it was ice cold inside. Looking at the video, I am reminded of the growing hanging fish… and the people in the waterfall. Wow.
  • We went to River Country a lot. That was on Bay Lake (a natural lake, whereas the Seven Seas Lagoon is man-made) by the campground, Ft. Wilderness. Early on, and for a long time that I can remember, there were no alligators (that we knew about or saw) in Bay Lake. We used to swim in the lake a lot and there were and swimming races by Discovery Island, across from the Contemporary in Bay Lake, early on, too. We knew about the amoeba early on (Naegleria fowleri) but until several people died from the primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, the warning about swimming in lakes in the summer were rare. Now we know much more.
Bay Lake behind the Contemporary Resort.
  • When we went to the Magic Kingdom when my mom was working, as it got close to her getting off work, we would hang out in the arcade on the ground floor of the Contemporary Resort. It is still there, but much larger now. We did not have arcades back in the olden days, so this was fascinating. I cannot imagine my parents giving us much money to spend, but I do remember playing air hockey, probably on someone else’s dime.
  • How did we find people who were lost in the park? How did we do this without cell phones? I can’t even remember. My mom says we had to meet at certain places at certain times and BE THERE or else. I guess we found each other. I know where everyone is tonight!
  • I remember when Space Mountain went so fast they had to slow it down when someone got hurt. Sitting one in front of the other? No thank you!
  • Ahhh, the Buckets… the Sky Ride. I loved that thing so much once I got on them. I was scared for years, but once I finally climbed in, it was great! Wonderful place to make-out.
  • Speaking of making-out, when one was at the Magic Kingdom (MK) at night, there were tons of places to get naughty with a boyfriend or girlfriend. How was there ever a time without cameras everywhere? I liked by the Liberty Tree Tavern… very dark there.
  • Tomorrowland Terrace. Remember the eccentric Michael Iceberg? He was fascinating with his musical computer!
  • I also saw Maynard Ferguson and other jazz musicians on the Tomorrowland Terrace stage. So much fun with my band friends.
  • Grad Nights! I don’t know how I got to go to so many Grad Nights, but I went to several. Here is a list of the performers for Grad Nights from 1972-2008. I graduated in 1979, but know I was at other people’s Grad Nights, too. Tickets were expensive! 1972, they were $9. Get a look at the Dress Code. HA!
  • I knew the MK so well, I could do tours and did. Later, I went with a couple of families who were on vacation and photographed them, allowing everyone in the family to be in the pics. I took some great shots! Do I still have them? Nope.
Photo I took from Liberty Square.
  • I do have some of the (now missing) thousands and thousands of pictures I took at Disney World during my Rec.Arts.Disney.Parks (Radp) days. I need a separate post just for all the posts I have from there.
  • We took Tristan to WDW when he was 4 weeks old. Here are a few pics of him. How tired do I look in my 1982 giant glasses? I should have been home nursing my newborn! I tried nursing in the Baby Care Center… lovely with rocking chairs in a darkened room that was cold and cozy. I had a hard time nursing in bed. The rocking chair was nigh on impossible. My boobs were so swollen!
Tristan and Me at the Magic Kingdom November 21, 1982.
  • Remember the Year of a Million Dreams? 2006-2008. I love this pic of a monorail I took. The moon high above.
  • Here’s an early monorail leaving the Contemporary Resort.
  • Oh my god, do you remember the hoopla surrounding when the “Fry Cart” was coming into the Magic Kingdom in Frontierland? If you were in online Disney groups in 1996, you will. If we had known it would be gone by 2008, I wonder if we would have had such heated discussions. I love McDonald’s fries, so I was all for the fry cart.
  • Do you remember when Tape Art came to the 2nd floor of the Contemporary Resort? I happened upon it accidentally and let the Radp group know Michael Townsend and Erica Duthie were decorating the hotel, inside and out. I LOVED the Tape Art! Here’s Meghann and Aimee after their own creations… while imitating what they made!
  • Here’s one of my fave pics I took of Cinderella Castle from the top of the Contemporary Resort.
  • Another Castle pic I took. Same vantage point.
  • And a few moments later, when the Castle changed colors.
  • The 3-Legged Goat on the wall closest to the monorail going through the center of the Contemporary Resort. When riding, I would always make sure to show it off. I told parents if they looked at it, their kids would not cry all day. The craned their necks.
  • This next one is Tristan and Meghann behind the Contemporary Resort when they were 3 and 9 months respectively, in 1985. Mickey sunglasses. Go, Tristan!
  • Meghann on her 21st Birth Day in 2005. Crystal Palace.

I have many more memories to share but want to get this out on Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary. I will add more as I can.

A photo I took of the Cakesle 25 years ago. Everyone hated it but me. I loved the Cakesle!

Random Ponderings

I’m going to write things I think about. Many of you might not give one whit, but many of these things, I hope are springboards for extended posts. Others, just thoughts, maybe for my kids or grandkids, who knows. I just feel the need to get some things out that have been piling up in my journal.

  • Just had my several-months-late Dermatology Exam for the melanoma that wanders over my freckled skin. CLEAN! Not even a biopsy needed. I was so scared there would be something I should have been in months before to find. Whew!
  • Serious memories jumping up. Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here showed itself this morning. Then there is the Great American Melting Pot… I know about a few million Republicans that need to review that one.
  • I’m doing a labor intensive project for work so am pretty sure I will not be able to do NaNoWriMo this year. My book sits staring at me and I pray I still have the words when I get back to it. If I didn’t sleep, I could work on it, but, alas, I am still tired some of each day. I do, however, LOVE the book a lot. It’s moving along well. When it moves forward.
  • Do you remember Afterschool Specials? They have a boxed sets on Amazon selling all of them! I remember running home to make sure I saw each one. They were fantastic. It was the first place I saw anything about where babies came from. Reading the synopses, I would love for my grandkids to see these. Nothing that I know of is around nowadays.
  • Out of the blue, I had a dream about drag queens in Minneapolis. Mary Tyler Moore was there. Not one clue where that trigger came from.
  • “I need to sing louder than my fear.” (I don’t remember where I grabbed that, but love it!)
  • When I was in 5th grade, I had 2 crushed velvet skirts, one deep purple and the other deep blue. When the waist was in the proper place, the hem was down right above my knee. For some reason, I needed the skirt up around my ass instead, so pulled the waist up under where I would one day have boobs. Sitting here 50 years later, I am embarrassed for what that little Barbie had to have looked like, her panties showing with each step she made. What was I thinking?
  • My first kiss was during Spin the Bottle and I kissed Pat Quinn. I can still feel that tender, wonderful kiss. I wonder if any one since has been as sweet.
  • I have a post I’m working on about Zora Neale Hurston and W. E. B. Du Bois. Both these black writers, essayists, and, in Hurston’s case, also an anthropologist, have opened my eyes more about Black History than anything I have read before. I hope to finish the blog post post soon.
  • I’m reading War and Peace for the first time and absolutely love it. A client recommended it, saying it was better than Anna Karenina (both by Leo Tolstoy), which I really loved, too. I thought, “What the hell,” and was sucked in from the beginning. I am listening to it (50 hours long!) and know I would never have been able to read all the Russian names, hear the French properly (bits in this translation are in French, sometimes translated to English, but not always) or pronounced the cities’ names correctly. I really like hearing it. Thanks, Audible!
  • I just saw that David Cassidy died. In 2017. How did I miss that? Liver failure from drinking. He was 67 years old.

Bette Midler and Memories of “P,” the Best Drag Queen Ever

As I work on my book about the late 70’s and early 80’s right before and after AIDS hits, I am going through so many inspirational music genres. Of course, Disco has the main stage, but so do Broadway Musicals.

Right now, it is Bette Midler. I have listened to her Bette Midler: Live at Last over and over the past few days as I write about the drag queens I hung out with between 1978 and 1980. Hung out is not really what I did. I fawned over them.

P

Paul Wegman as Miss P

I followed my favorite queen P like a puppy dog. I was so enamored of P I could not be in her orbit for a long enough time. I was 17 when I met P. She was the emcee at the Parliament House, a gay complex here in Orlando. I lived for the drag shows… Thursday through Sunday nights. I loved sitting up front, in the vulnerable section of the audience. The lights were always glaring over the first few rows and P could see who was there easily.

Her ability to banter with anyone was uncanny. She took great chunks out of people’s armor, illuminating their naughty sides, baring their shameful sides and highlighting their most wondrous parts as well. Her brash social commentary operated without any polite bullshit enveloping it.

It wasn’t until I was out of the drag queen community and came out as a lesbian, reading everything I could about the gay community that discovered Another Mother Tongue: Gay Words, Gay Worlds. In there, Judy Grahn, a poet and historian, shares a bit about the history of drag queen speech:

“…incessant witty verbiage, gossipy, outlandish, repetitive, poetic, and philosophical in the most elemental sense. Sensual, barbed, informative, revolting, political – Fairy speech is a living art.”

Another Mother Tongue, Judy Grahn, page 86

Also:

“…splashy entrances and exits, louder than anyone and funnier, more daring, taking up a lot of space and always with a smart remark, a critique, a commentary cutting through hypocrisy, conformity, or rigid manners, revealing the bones of the matter.”

Another Mother Tongue, Judy Grahn, page 86

Drag Queens will have a prominent space in my book. They taught me a lot about communication and honesty. I struggle with that a lot, so am tapping into P and the others to be brave and keep writing.

Bette Midler

P loved Bette Midler, “singing” to her Live at Last album so many times even I memorized the words. As I listen to Ms. Midler sing, I can see P lip syncing to “Shiver Me Timbers,” guiding the audience through, “C’monIWannaLeiYou” and sharing hilarious Sophie Tucker naughtiness.

I wanted to add this small part about Ms. Midler because I want her to know how integral her voice was to my growing up.

When P became a friend, his name was Paul. Paul and I worked at Subway Sandwich Shop in Winter Park, near Rollins College. I was even more enamored of Paul than I was of P (which, looking back, would have been a pretty hard thing to do!). He teased me as if I were his kid sister, playing pranks on me like, on my first day, sent me back into the old parking lot to pick lettuce behind a brambly bush. I can see him still, cigarette dangling from his lips as he sliced the salami, laughing at my blissful gullibility; anything to make Paul happy. (I really did think there would be lettuce to pick back there.)

We had a small transistor radio that played above the slicer and whenever Bette Midler’s “The Rose” came on, Paul stopped whatever we were doing (except making sandwiches, of course) and swept me into his arms to dance with him. I can still feel his warmth against my body. That song encompasses everything I feel for Paul.

This book I am writing. Paul is my Muse. I talk to him as I write. “Do you like that? Did I describe it right?” It might be fiction, but it is autobiographical fiction. Paul wants me to get the words down as he saw them, too.

I’m writing, dear one. I am writing.

Paul Wegman died of AIDS August 24, 2004. He is missed by so many.

Writing in a Cocoon

I seem to go through cycles in my writing.

First, I love to write, then share what I have written with a couple (few) people, then read what I have written at various Open Mics on Second Life.

Then I find myself feeling all heady and full of myself when I get good reviews (which, so far, have been always).

After that, I struggle to reclaim my humility, feeling as Dani Shapiro says in Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Writing Life, that when one shares their work before it is finished, it drains the energy to continue writing. The pressure… divine pressure… is released before the task is done and the work suffers.

I am in that third place, realizing that I have been floating on a cloud of good reviews and instead of writing, I am gloating, looking over what I have written. The previous post, Ravel’s Boléro & My Writing, is an example of that gloating.

When I wrote:

Turning back to the window after hearing a couple of guys oooo and ahhh, (Lisa) stood watching two particularly active men. Tilting her head and squinting, they became notes on a musical staff, Ravel’s Boléro pulling the men through the staccato eighth and sixteenth notes. She watched as they tumbled three-quarter speed through the lines on the page, each thrust into a man’s body creating the accent at the end of the wave before a new crest of orgasms began. The symphonic orchestra in her head, mixing with We Are Family on the motel’s radio, created something resembling a Stravinsky composition.

…I swooned and shared the paragraph in half a dozen places, including, as you see, here in my blog.

Shapiro says that when that swooning happens… when one is so enamored of a section, a sentence, a word… that is the first thing to go in editing.

The original attribution is from British journalist, critic, and novelist Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, who said: “Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it — whole-heartedly — and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.”

I re-read what I wrote and laughed aloud because after I put it here in my blog, I saw the absurdity of the paragraph, that it would take a musician to know what I was talking about. Is it a pretty section? You bet. Can I use it where I put it in the book? Not at all.

Re-Building the Cocoon

I’ve decided I am not going to share any more of my writings with people until I am ready for Beta Readers when the book is finished. I’m going to stop bragging about the book’s possible names, the importance of writing the book now and how much is me and how much is the character.

I’m re-building my cocoon.

I better stay in it for a darn long time, too. I have work to do!

Sharing my writing is sapping my creative energy. I need to cocoon and write for my One Reader (my inspiration!), finishing before sharing the whole work at one time.

Ravel’s Boléro & My Writing

I’m working sort of diligently on my main Work in Progress about the gay world immediately pre and post-AIDS and created a few sentences I wanted to share with you before I tell you about my Rabbit Hole experience with Ravel’s Boléro .

Turning back to the window after hearing a couple of guys oooo and ahhh, (Lisa) stood watching two particularly active men. Tilting her head and squinting, they became notes on a musical staff, Ravel’s Boléro pulling the men through the staccato eighth and sixteenth notes. She watched as they tumbled three-quarter speed through the lines on the page, each thrust into a man’s body creating the accent at the end of the wave before a new crest of orgasms began. The symphonic orchestra in her head, mixing with We Are Family on the motel’s radio, created something resembling a Stravinsky composition.

The paragraph formed as I was writing in silence, Boléro being what began in my head and then I had to look and see when the movie 10 came out… 1979… exactly where Lisa would have heard the song first. Lisa was also in band and would have known details about the music. Then as she came back to herself, the combination of Boléro and We Are Family, a disco song, would have created the cacophonous sound of a Stravinsky orchestration. I have never liked Stravinsky, so that was an easy one to “hear.”

Example of the complicated cacophony Stravinsky offers.

Herbert von Karajan

Moving to YouTube to listen and the first orchestra I heard was the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra with Herbert von Karajan as Conductor. I watched mesmerized and needed to know more. First, I scrolled through the comments, blessedly I read Spanish, too, because everywhere I read the next few days had a lot of Spanish comments and articles. In the comments, I see the word “Nazi” in relation to Karajan, so off I go to Wikipedia and learn that sure enough, he was a Nazi during WWII. When he traveled around the world to conduct orchestras, he had been picketed, his evenings of conducting interrupted by protesters (including here in the United States). While I do not know the year this particular video was created, the orchestra is all white men. He died in 1989, so before then. While his conducting was amazing and my favorite, I just cannot watch him anymore.

Maurice Ravel

Then I head in a different direction learning about the actual piece Boléro by Frenchman Maurice Ravel who, thankfully, was not a Nazi. Boléro was a commissioned piece for a ballet.

I find the rhythm, the pace and instrumental shifts as interesting as it starting pianissimo (as soft as possible) and ending fortissimo (as loud as possible).

I have listened to orchestras from around the world play Boléro… professionals and students, loving each performance. There are Flashmobs that are worth watching.

Two ballet performances in particular are worthy of your time. Both were choreographed by Maurice Béjart, one with a ballerina, Maya Plisetskaya and one with a ballerino, Jorge Donn… an extremely homoerotic piece that is amazing to watch.

Jorge Donn dancing Boléro

I have a preference for the slower pace… between 62 and 76 beats per minute. These were the beats Ravel himself set in his scores. It annoyed the crap out of him to have the conductor speed up as the piece goes on, something that, apparently, is really common.

When Piero Coppola was doing the first recording of Boléro in 1930, Ravel sitting next to him, Coppola says:

Maurice Ravel… did not have confidence in me for the Boléro. He was afraid that my Mediterranean temperament would overtake me, and that I would rush the tempo. I assembled the orchestra at the Salle Pleyel, and Ravel took a seat beside me. Everything went well until the final part, where, in spite of myself, I increased the tempo by a fraction. Ravel jumped up, came over and pulled at my jacket: “not so fast”, he exclaimed, and we had to begin again.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bol%C3%A9ro

Conductor Arturo Toscanini

Toscanini premiered Boléro with the New York Philharmonic in 1929. I am sharing that because the original recording is in YouTube and knowing that was the first playing in public of the piece gives me shivers of happiness! How lucky we are to be able to hear this! Instrumental foibles and all.

Where’s the Part About Writing?

Listening to Boléro, my writing has been going really well. This book is flowing along. Not fast enough for my taste, but at least it is going. I must have listened to it 100 times now, and watched half of that.

Gustavo Dudamel

When I need to take a break, I love watching Gustavo Dudamel, a Venezuelan Conductor who is delightfully animated as he directs the Wiener Philharmoniker. Someone commented: How to be a good conductor… really love music or have a controlled seizure. This fits Dudamel perfectly.

And then there is writing this post. No one might care, but I have a new blog post out and I am very happy about that!

Coming Back, Again

I am doing really, really well.

COVID Vaccine

I have gotten BOTH my COVID vaccines (Moderna), having nothing more than a sore arm the 1st time and no side effects the 2nd, I am 3 weeks out from the 2nd shot. Not bad for a once Anti-Vaxxer, eh?

Writing

Writing is going really well. I wrote so much during NaNoWriMo 2020, still needing to write more, but am editing a lot, too. This is an excerpt from near the beginning of the book:

Lisa heard Manny whispering, “Is that one over there?” She looked and saw a tallish man wearing jeans and an AC/DC tee shirt slip behind the azalea bushes.
“Lake Eola is hopping tonight. Let me go talk to him,” Lisa said.
She stepped away from her friends to follow the older man now in the shadows. When she was also hidden in the darkness, she softly asked, “Are you looking for someone?”
His answer was more a grunt than an assent.
She continued, “I think your friend might be over there.”
He nodded towards her friends chatting out on the sidewalk. They were deciding who would be the first “friend” tonight and who would be the decoys for the cops so the cocksucker would be safer with the guy in the bushes.
“Yeah, you know where my friend is? He got lost. Tell him where I am.”
She went back onto the moonlit sidewalk, pulling Manny by the hand, the hand that was sweaty and sticky before he even got near the other person.
“Don’t be nervous. Once you get going, it’s easier.”
She yanked him back behind the azalea bush and dropped his hand before turning to go back to the other two guys waiting for her to find them a “friend,” too.
Lisa and the two waiting their turn sat on a bench together, chatting. They acted as if nothing out of the ordinary was going on except they were out at Lake Eola at midnight on a school night, watching the space ship-shaped fountain changing colors.
Lisa had been going to Lake Eola since her family moved to Orlando in 1965 when she was four, six years before Disney World opened. Orlando was sleepier then. T.G. Lee Milk had a ranch with cows on it on Bumby Avenue T.G. Lee was just a boring building now. The city had changed so much in thirteen years.
The three of them waited and before seven minutes were up, Manny was back out of the bushes, looking triumphant.
He said, “You were right! It was easy!” and all the guys high-fived each other.
Manny was the first of the group to suck cock at Lake Eola that night. Lisa felt like she had become a tour bus operator on a kinky road trip through Anonymous Homosexual Sex Land.

Malignant Melanoma

Well, I had a patch that needed surgery for awhile and my daughter Aimee and I did all kinds of woo woo incantations and such on it and by the time we finally scheduled surgery and did another biopsy to see how much it had grown or gotten worse, it was GONE. HA! I cured myself! So, for the moment, I am cancer-free. Wheeee!

Spirituality

I have been exploring, as I have said before, and had been looking for the perfect book to guide me along. I read all sorts of Ram Dass (whom I love) and then some other books, but one was suggested to me that was perfect: Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo. It answered so many of the questions that have puzzled me for so many years and I finally feel on decent footing for finding a spiritual path just for me.

Somewhat Caught Up

Work is really good. I am thrilled writing is going well. My kids are amazing and we get to spend a few days ALL together in a few weeks. Me, my mom, my kids and my grandkids. I have not seen all 3 of my kids together in one place in about 10-12 years. I am going to be in heaven! All but one of us is completed vaccinated. We are prepared!

Hopefully, more soon!

COVID & Me: I Year Old

March 11, 2020 was the day the world learned we were in a COVID-19 Pandemic.

A Year Ago…

…I was riddled with anxiety and depression knowing I was going to die within weeks. I did not want to die alone in the hospital, so decided I would die by suicide at home. I gathered all the most potent medications and set them out, trying to figure out when I should take them. I called a beloved friend who would sit with me on the phone as I faded away, so felt more in control over a completely out-of-control experience.

A Year Later

On March 11, 2021, I got my first COVID vaccine shot.

I am going to make it through this pandemic alive.

Reflections of Aire

Last week’s Initiation class was about the element of Air(e) (I like the E on there even though I am not British.)

I am a Fire sign, but was l-o-s-t in the Fire element discussion and meditation 2 weeks ago. I did not have much hope for Aire, something I had never given much thought to.

So imagine my shock when, as the meditation began, I was thrust onto the terrazzo floor in the house I grew up in, ice cold because the air conditioner was always on… the antique Hi-Fi Stereo System we had playing Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. This stereo was like a suitcase with hinges so the speakers could come off and be placed, corded, somewhere in the room to get the best sound. For me, the best sound was when each speaker was sitting on either side of my head, blaring into my ears.

Flying!

As Pink Floyd played, I found my (drug-free) 16-year old Self lifted out of my body… spontaneously. Not something I had ever heard of or aspired to do. First, I flew around the house, up to the ceiling, then I mentally opened a window and flew out of it. I wandered/floated around the neighborhood, my viewpoint being that of a bird. I felt no flapping wings, did not feel like a bird, but was UP and dipping and flying back UP again. I could hear Pink Floyd in my ears, but it sounded further away.

The first place outside of my neighborhood that I had to visit was Disney World.

When I got used to the flying feeling, I thought how cool it would be to wander further,

I never told anyone about these flights of fancy lest they commit me to a psych hospital, but in times of pain or fear, I would zip up and away from where I was not having a good time. Escapism at its finest.

Not sure when I stopped flying around, but I had not thought of it for eons… and then…

Initiation Into Aire

…imagine my surprise when, as our meditation began a couple of weeks ago, Pink Floyd started playing in my head almost immediately. Before I could even wonder what I would do during the meditation, I was up and out, the still-familiar feeling of flying I had not experienced in decades.

I wandered all over for the 40 minute meditation, but don’t remember exactly where I went (should have written it down!), but it was fantastic.

Claiming the Aire

I won’t overlook air again!

And, I was also reminded I have a hummingbird on my left breast, a dragonfly on my right arm and Tinker Bell on my calf. Apparently I am more Aire than I thought!

Reflections of Earth

I owe you all a Reflection of Aire, but this came out first.

Last night’s Intuition celebrated the wonders of the Earth and Earthly bodies. I know the earth well, so knew this would not be a difficult experience. I did, however, go places I did not expect to and now I will take you with me. (And if you think I am crazy, so be it!)

I was a midwife, doula and monitrice for 32 years, catching about 900 babies and watching even more born through the decades.

So, when I started traveling through time during the meditation, it was not shocking, but surprising that I wandered as a midwife. I walked so many places, barefoot, my feet muddy and toenails chipped and caked with mud.

I walked to wooden houses, mud huts, spaces around a fire with no covering at all. I was walking from my mind’s eye. I did not watch myself, but was looking out my eyes as I moved around. I did not catch any babies during the meditation, but was “With Woman” as counselor, curandera, spiritual leader, doula.

And then I moved even further back, an early human, lots of hair, but upright and in caves. The fire outside the opening kept the animals from approaching the wetness of birth, the blood and fluids that sank into the earth and, subsequently, added to the designs on my feet as I was finished with my time with the family.

I easily went further back, walking on knuckles and feet, knowing I was a gorilla one moment, a chimpanzee another. I wandered as a great ape, not as a midwife, but as a mother myself. Alone, but not lonely, laboring alone and as I birthed, I birthed my Self.

photographer: Barb Herrera

What a beautiful experience.

Disappointment & Bliss

Disappointment

After ALL that processing of the upcoming surgery, the surgeon’s office called me and canceled, rescheduling for March 30. That Malignant Melanoma best keep itself in check until I can get it melon-balled out.

The cancellation was not a total bust though because I ordered my own Bariatric Gowns and will be able to bring my own on the 30th. Wheee!!

Bliss!

I have been trying to get the COVID Vaccine since I decided to get it about a month ago. While I am not in the age range, I am extremely high risk health-wise. If I got COVID, I would be gone soon after.

So, it was with enormous joy when I got an appointment at a pharmacy close to my house for Thursday evening!!

Dojo Bliss Art

I thought and considered, long and hard, the pros and cons of a vaccine that was so new, but the odds were against me if I did not get the shot. Wayyyyy against me.

So I am giddy with happiness!

Surgery; Wagging the Dog

I go in tomorrow for my 3rd surgery (in 14 months) for removing the malignant melanoma I gave myself after sunning for years with Crisco on my skin, being a lifeguard for a decade and swimming in outdoor pools with nary a drip of sunscreen on me.

No white-skinned, blue-eyed person should have that many freckles brought by the sun fairies.

Anyway, after the last surgery debacle, the doctor and I decided to do the next surgery in his office and decide what works best next time after this office surgery experience. I agreed wholeheartedly, after being terribly mis-managed physically in the Operating Room last time.

Tomorrow, March 8, 2021 at 3:00pm is the surgery.

I had 2 virtual meetings with the surgeon (whom I adore) as we planned the surgery. I asked for a sturdy chair with no arms so I could sit on it and lean over the exam table while he used local anesthetic on me. He thought that was a clever idea and solution to my teetering on my side for an hour (or more) on the exam table. I also asked if I could please have a Bariatric Gown and he said that was easy.

How hard is it to have chairs without arms available? Costco sells them, for crying out loud. And I am HARDLY the fattest person on earth who goes to their offices. Why have I been struggling with this chair issue for 40+ years?!?

So when I called Thursday to make sure everything was in place, they said they knew nothing about any of that, there were no chairs without arms in their office and they did not have bariatric gowns, either. I calmed my anger for a few minutes to explain why I needed these things… and, by the way, the office knows me WELL, how fat I am, disabled, etc. I make them all laugh and we always have fun.

Until now.

I called on Friday and the surgeon’s nurse said I would be placed on the Bariatric Exam Table they have and they would “try” to get a bariatric gown for me. “The doctor never told us about a chair (she said almost spitting).” I decided there, that even if I cannot order my own chair, I would order my own fucking gown and carry it around for myself.

Solution Power!

Anyway, after I hung up and had a good frustration cry, I regrouped my senses and thought about how I can make this as pleasant as possible. Not enough time for a gown, but will bring a sheet with me to cover myself with.

The teetering on the exam table took a few more hours to find a solution.

My U-shaped body pillow! I took the cover off, washed and bleached it and then put it in a ziplock bag. I will carry my body pillow and my comforting supplies (more on that in a moment) and re-dress the pillow when I am in the surgery room. I can hold/cling to that as I am on my side and it will keep me immobile.

Music to My Ears

I am bringing my tablet set up to play my George Winston Playlist, starting with Autumn, then December and on and on. There are 5 hours of George Winston; I doubt I will need that much.

Earbuds are in my purse, along with my Ibuprofen and MY SIGNED NOTIFICATION OF HAVING DIABETES SO I CAN GET THE COVID VACCINE! Not that anyone tomorrow will be giving me a shot, I am carrying that sucker around just in case.

My Golden Ticket

Ready to Wag the Dog/Run My Surgery!

I will holler when I can about how things went. I feel MUCH better writing this out. Thanks for listening!

Spiritual Trip to Mexico (circa 1990)

A new doula-longtime La Leche League friend of mine and I had this wild idea to go visit a curandera down in Mexico… a healer… some would call a curandera a witch. Use whatever form of wise woman you choose.

My friend (I will call her Julie) was driving her smallish, good gas mileage car and we drove around San Diego devising our plan before finally turning south… you know, since Mexico is south of California, right?

Spiritual Supplies

We two white girls had zero clue about curanderas or Mexican culture. What we knew were from bad movies that (now I know) mocked Indigenous People all over the continent. When we stopped at the small gas station god knows where, we bought a couple of nectarines and a couple of plums, microwave popcorn (3 bags) and, of course, unfiltered cigarettes. Healers want tobacco, don’t they? Sitting here with this trip so far in the past, I am ashamed of my stupidity, but am trying to offer myself grace for wanting to do the right thing.

And so Julie and I headed south, not having one idea where to go or how to find a curandera, but we just trusted we would find one.

What we did figure out before crossing the border was the question we wanted answered: Were we going to be midwives?

Into Mexico

90 minutes later, we were sure we’d crossed into Mexico… no border crossing, no Border Patrol and certainly no fence gave us the exact moment we moved from in the United States into Mexico, but surely we were there by then, right? We were on an asphalt road in a pretty flat area of desert that looked much like the desert in San Diego, but the little bubble compass said we had been heading south for that hour and a half.

Driving into nowhere, we verbally asked the Universe for directions to a curandera. I’m trying to remember if I really thought that would work or not, but I do know we did it.

After not much longer, though, we saw some houses on the horizon and headed towards them… now on a dirt road. A really bumpy dirt road that had us both bouncing around the car, hitting our heads on the roof and everything. But we were giddy with excitement (and nervousness) that we might find who we were looking for.

Asking for Directions

We eventually made it to the neighborhood we’d seen on the horizon. There couldn’t have been more than 75 or a hundred houses in the small area we were in and a lot of people were outside, some working on cars, women talking, kids playing.

The houses looked kind of like this… there was a paved road with dirt roads every few blocks.

In my broken Spanish, I asked, “¿Dónde está la curandera?” The men were the ones who came down to the car to talk and every time I asked, they would point the way… pointing down the street. We would drive down the block, then ask again at the corner and someone else would point in the direction to go. When it was time to turn down a street, someone pointed the way. Not one person seemed to think what we were doing was odd or absurd. They all but nodded and showed us the way. We followed the directions until someone said, “Esa casa.” That one.

The Curandera

We parked a couple of houses away and gathered the plums, nectarines, tobacco and microwave popcorn and walked to the small house that looked kind of like this, without the fence.

We stood at the door and I was going to knock when a very old woman who was only up to my shoulders in height (and I am 5’2″!) opened the door and stepped back asking us in.

How she knew we were there is beyond me. We were silent walking up and it seemed unlikely that someone called to give her a head’s up. We saw no electric lights and the house was silent except for our breathing. There were two rooms… the kitchen/dining room and the living room. Both were 3 steps wide and about 4 steps long. The walls were covered with Catholic iconography. Take this next picture and put it on every wall, floor to ceiling and on the altar in the living room; that is what it looked like.

There were also candles burning everywhere including several to the Virgen de Guadalupe (the Virgin Mary).

How Did She Know?

The curandera knew exactly why were there without our saying one word. She said the word “midwife” in Spanish (partera) which we both recognized and looked at each other, waggling our eyebrows as a gesture to say “How the holy hell does she KNOW?!?”

The curandera was magical. She was so tiny and wrinkled, but stood the whole time, giving us her 2 chairs at the table. She talked to us, recited many prayers and we were entreated to cross ourselves which I did even though I was studying Judaism. It seemed the right thing to do at the moment. We were asking… she was answering. She deserved our respect.

She pointed at me several times and I got the gist that she was saying I was already on my way to being a midwife. I was much closer than Julie was, that was true. I had worked through a lot of my fears, but it would still be many more years before I was able to BE a midwife and not freak out worrying about someone dying in my care.

Facing Fear

After talking to me for a few minutes, she turned to Julie and made tsk tsk noises and tapped her forehead several times. She reached for a jar that had pink liquid in it… set right on the kitchen counter… and I could catch every few words of Spanish. She was telling Julie she could see how scared she was about being a midwife and she needed to stop being afraid.

She handed her the wide-mouthed jar 3/4 full of the pink potion and gestured for her to take a drink. Without questioning, Julie took a swig. Her face contorted from its vileness and she handed the jar back to the old woman who put the lid on and gave it to Julie again who was near tears from how disgusting it was. She said it tasted like brake fluid.

The curandera told her to keep the jar and any time she was afraid, she was to take a drink. Julie looked at me and said she would never be afraid again. Voila! The magic trip worked! We laughed about her calling it brake fluid because it was, in many ways a “brake” on her fear.

After Julie’s encounter with the brake fluid, we offered the fruits and tobacco to the sweet woman. We’d set the microwave popcorn aside thinking 1) she didn’t have electricity 2) she didn’t have a microwave 3) she didn’t have teeth, but the curandera pointed to it and we gave her the 3 bags. She did not want the tobacco and I could all but hear in her head, “What idiots!”

The curandera walked towards the door, letting us know our time was up and we hugged and kissed her on both cheeks as she bid us a lovely farewell prayer in Spanish. I swear we were high as we floated back to the car.

Driving Home

I asked Julie if she was okay to drive after the potion she’d drunk and she said she was, just really buzzy, which was the perfect description of how I felt.

Buzzy.

While the trip there was over flat land, we somehow found a mountain going North to the States again. The mountain was a dirt road for much of it, but it became asphalt when we got inside the U.S. (That was my guess anyway.)

It looked a lot like the picture above. We drove slowly because we were never sure who was around the next bend and we would have to squeeze the car against the mountain so the people could pass in their cars. I was never so thankful to be in a tiny car.

Being in the passenger seat, I could look over the side and more times than not, when I dared peek over, there were buses and cars and carts down the mountain, clearly having fallen some time in the past. I told Julie if we fell over, no one would ever know where we were. We had not told anyone where we were going. There was no such thing as cell phones back then. We didn’t even have GPS to find our way… just the little bulb compass attached to the windshield.

Nervously, I laughed and Julie did, too. A wind picked our car up and dropped it down hard. We did not laugh again.

Home

We headed north until we were clearly on a road leading to a highway and finally found ourselves on I-8 between Yuma, Arizona and El Centro, California… about 2 hours east of San Diego. Once again, there was no border crossing, no Border Patrol (we never saw Border Patrol on our journey) and no fence. We were not even certain when we passed back into the United States, but once on I-8, we knew how to get home.

As we know, I became a midwife. My friend Julie is a nurse and I am sure she is a magnificent nurse who deals with fear in every way she can. I know she still has that jar of brake fluid on her altar.

Ego, Ego Everywhere

As I traverse this new-again “Spiritual Path” (I really am not sure what to call it yet), I have come up against feeling left out/that people are talking about me/that people are ignoring me/MeMeMeMeMe.

I’m reading Walking Each Other Home: Conversations on Loving and Dying by Ram Dass & Mirabai Bush and, of course, the topic of Ego is discussed in-depth.

So as these not-so-fun feelings are coming up, I am being given the “opportunity” (HA!) to explore where they came from and why I am hanging on to them. Interestingly, I have not cried about feeling “other”-ish, something I would have typically done before. Instead, I am looking at the feeling, from a little further back, and smiling… sometimes actually laughing at the humor of why I think so many people talk or think about me in their day-to-day lives… how absurd that really is.

That is not to say the feelings evaporate, but the nettle-sting of them is blunted considerably.

I like this a lot better than boo hoo-ing over feeling left out. With my Self, I am never left out!

I’m Glad I’m a Boy! I’m Glad I’m a Girl!

This is the name of a book I have had for over 3 decades, that I found at a yard sale.

It’s really quite a ghastly book that I never showed my kids until they had kids of their own because of the sexist pages between that sexist-sounding title.

Copyright 1970

So, without comment, here is the book:

My question becomes:

If you, at anytime while looking at the pages thought, “Well, that’s true!” I am asking you to reconsider that gender role again. Is it always true?

Spiritual Hierarchy

I had a dab of feeling like I was at the bottom of the spiritual hierarchy this week. Some comes from the Ram Dass podcasts I’m listening to and some from real life experiences.

Recovering Yogi – Vanessa Fiola

So the questions become:

  • Is there a Spiritual Hierarchy?
  • Are there people more “enlightened” than others?
  • Was Ram Dass one of the Enlightened Ones? One that many strive to emulate?
  • What do I do when I feel people are pulling rank on me?
  • Do I ignore it and find my own worth without worrying about being a “rising star?”

I am pretty sure I am supposed to just not pay attention to people playing the, “I am more enlightened than you” game and recognize that as ego in themselves, but my ego feels like caca when being judged for my ignorance. I’m thinking that is what I am supposed to figure out, right? How to 1) not do that to others and 2) how to let go of others’ thoughts about me.

And here I am asking questions! Who am I asking? Myself? Other more enlightened people?

Reminder to Self

Each of us has areas of knowledge others might not have. I have a lot of midwifery knowledge and was asked questions for decades for my opinion and ideas so others could grow in their knowledge. Perhaps spirituality is the same way? Some people have a lot of spiritual experience and are asked their opinions and ideas?

5 Stages of Spiritual Awakening

As I was researching for this post, I came across this, something that made the most sense… something that I do. Alone. Independent of others. Without looking side to side, seeing what others are doing. Just stay in my own yard, tending to my own garden without worrying what my neighbors’ gardens look like.

Glimpsing: The call to adventure
Closer examination: Choosing a path
Seeking: Following the path
Loss of sight: Losing the path
Seeing: Merging with the path

I do believe I am off and running!

Ram Dass & Synesthesia

One of the assignments this week was to find an enlightened person with whom we could do “eye-gazing.” This was new to me, so had to look it up.

Something magical happens during extended eye contact (also called eye gazing or soul gazing). This moment arises when we forget that there’s a “you” and a “me” and we become engulfed in an experience of unity. Personalities, gender, social class, beliefs etc all melt away. And we are left with this recognition of the other as purely a reflection of ourselves.

Michelle Passmore

It took a couple of days for me to figure out into whose eyes I should gaze, but realized there really was only one for me: Ram Dass.

Baba Ram Dass

In 1978, when I was 17-years old, a dear family friend took me to see this guy, Ram Dass. I had no idea why, but she insisted I join her.

There were dozens of people there, patchouli reeking in the room (I have never liked the smell of patchouli) and lots of flowers in people’s hair and behind their ears. Hippies. Well, I have always loved tie-dye, so my eyes wandered around to look at the creative swirls and hearts of the tie dyed clothes around the room.

Enter Ram Dass

When Ram Dass walked in, I saw an old man… 46-years old. Now, of course, I know how incredibly young that is! Later, I would learn about agelessness.

Besides the “old man,” I was shocked by the glow of light around him! White light surrounded his body and his face was especially lit up with happiness and joy. I had never seen/met anyone who had this before. When I told my very enlightened friend, she looked at me and asked what colors were around the people around us. I started telling her, “purple, yellow… that one has red… that one has orange around everything but her arm which is dark blue.” Without any fanfare, she said, almost matter-of-factly, “Oh, you see auras.” I knew what an aura was, but did not realize everyone didn’t see them until that moment. When I was a midwife, I could see them well, but since I’ve retired, it is harder for me to decipher what surrounds people’s bodies. As might be expected, when I have surgery or am really sick, I can see them easily again. I believe it is in my relaxing into it, that they reappear.

Synesthesia

I also see words coming out of people’s mouths. That is called Ticker-Tape Synesthesia. It was great when I learned about that, also thinking everyone saw words around people’s heads. For me, they are fluffy if they are kind words, flaming red if words of anger and hate, the words changing according to the person’s mood. It is easy to see when someone is being disingenuous and I use the floating words, not their oral words, to gauge truth or not.

Not terribly long ago, I learned that seeing auras is a form of Synesthesia as well. To me, it makes sense since I can see moods and intentions through auras, a form of speech to my “vision.”

The first time I demonstrated my Synesthesia was when I was 5-years old having my tonsils taken out. As the mask was lowered on my face, I tasted blue and said it out loud. The anesthesiologist just looked at me and then I was out. I can taste it still today. I do not taste in colors now, though… but some people do.

Be Here Now

Looking into Ram Dass’ eyes has brought these memories forward. Not very “Being Here Now,” I know. I am learning there are different states of “Now,” some of which live in the retelling of stories.

What stories take you back to the present?

Ram Dass Revisited

One last note about meeting Ram Dass. When I went up to meet him, shake his hand… well, have my hands held in his… he looked at me… into me. His white aura was transmitted to me and my own hands glowed with his. I can see his intense blue eyes still in my mind. He really was a magical being.

He really IS a magical being.

Four Elements + One Question

Elements

Fire: What can I do to feed my soul?

Right now, I think I am feeding my soul by taking this class and reading books that explain what I am learning in class. Not sure that is answering the question, but it is a hard question for me.

Air: How can I calm my mind?

I thought I knew how to meditate (have taken the MBSR class twice in San Diego), but the class on Monday night showed I am very bad at meditating. I was so bored when I was supposed to be meditating that I did email. Wahhh! Not good. While I was there, multi-tasking (sort of), I recognized what I was doing, chuckled a bit and kept going back to the mantra I was saying.

First, the word I was repeating was Reborn, then Rebirth popped up. Then my word for 2021 showed up: FOCUS. And I chanted that in my head, but it felt like a directive, not a meditative state. When I talked to Aimee (my guru daughter), she suggested I try I Am instead. Alright, I will try that, but I asked, “I am… what?” Ahhh, but it will come clear eventually. Sometimes suggestions are mega-vague.

Often, I feel like Young Grasshopper.

Earth: What can I do to nourish my body?

I’m willing to bet drinking Diet Coke and eating Kraft Mac and Cheese are not on the nourishing the body plan.

Water: How can I tend to my heart?

This one is the one Untethered Soul is answering for me. I have felt a shift in my heart loosening up in the past couple of days, coinciding with visits from Aimee.

One Last Question

How do I connect to Spirit?

I am still not sure, but I am open to finding a way.

My Skepticism is Showing

I am reading about Chakras because according to Michael Singer in The Untethered Soul, they are a way to open my heart, which, I will admit, feels completely surrounded by a cement silo.

I was really woo woo back in the 80s and 90s. I read every Louise Hay book, read Women Who Run with the Wolves, practically memorized The Four Agreements and for awhile, even believed The Secret (“to think is to create”). Then I spent a long time studying Judaism, thinking that was where I would end up spiritually. Technicalities trumped my desires and I pretty much tossed out all “spiritual” needs and desires.

So now I am reading about Chakras and I cannot help but think, “This is hoo hoo woo woo.” I did find this image (below) in A Non-Woo-Woo Guide to the Seven Chakras and she had some decent stuff to say, but it was a tiny moment of setting aside my cynicism to read it.

This really is a challenge for me, this spirituality stuff. I am reading what I can, listening to YouTube videos, and even talking to friends and really feel I am struggling with the whole concept. Can someone so ingrained in numbers and science and a belief in chemistry find their way into this realm? Are there doctors who believe in chakras? Are there biologists who open their hearts when they feel fear?

Am I destined to live a soul-less life?