Where there’s smoke

I smell smoke.  All the time.

At first, I thought maybe one of the folks who live in the house next door were sneaking outside for an illicit butt, and the smell had wafted over to my house, invading my nostrils.

But no, it’s not from outside.  It’s inside my olfactory canal somewhere, imbedded like a plug-in air freshener gone rogue.  And it’s not a nice, campfirey smell –  the closest approximation is cigarette smoke.

I think it may have something to do with the super flu I had last year.  I posted about it.  At that time I had lost my senses of taste and smell for months, and they are not entirely back (has not stopped me from eating though, sadly).  My first course of action like any self-absorbed person, was to Google the symptoms to see if others have this affliction.

There is actually a condition called phantosmia wherein some folks smell cigarette smoke for no explainable medical reason.  Who knew?  It could also be caused by a brain tumor, but that is a stretch for most.

I went to an ear nose and throat doctor who looked so infantile, Doogie Howser would have to buy for him at the liquor store.


An hour and a half wait just to be told I have no polyps lurking up my nostrils and so an MRI was the next step.  Have you ever had an MRI?  It’s some serious shit.  If you don’t think you have a brain tumor before you go, by the time they insert the IV and encase your head in that plastic burrito basket to keep you from thrashing around as you’re rolled under the donut-shaped device, you’re half convinced they may be on to something.

I’d already had a bad day before I showed up for my appointment.  In my haste to leave work, and get gas before arriving, I had turned too sharply and clipped a large concrete planter at the gas station and did some major dingage to the side of my SUV.  So as the kind technician settled me onto the MRI bed and urged me not to move, I could feel hot tears streaming into my ears.

She thought it was because earlier she couldn’t find a viable vein to insert the catheter needed to shoot the blue dye through my skull.  “Lynn”  had had to call over “Chris” who I guess was the vein expert, to do so.

The reality was the stupidity of the car accident compounded by the fact that again my husband was not there to comfort me.  I try so hard to be outwardly strong, but lost it a little.  His death had once again, left me alone to deal with a stressful situation.  I didn’t even get to go home and tell him about my travails, and that made it extra hard to buck it up.  This expensive medical procedure just seemed too surreal – how did I get to this point?

“Just a bad day,” I reassured Lynn, who was wiping the wet, salty side of my neck with a tissue.  I regained my composure.  I didn’t need hearing loss due to salty tears plugging my ears added to my list of lost senses.

“It’s naaaht a toomah!!! (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kindergarten Cop, 1990)

In any case, I’ll find out the results when they have a mind to let me know.  They gave me a copy of the films on a CD, like “The Greatest Aneurysms from the 80’s” or something.  An undeciferable memento of my visit to MRI Land.





‘You have a smudge…right…there

My friend and I went over to her mom’s place this week to cleanse her apartment.

I don’t mean “clean,” I mean, help her give the old heave-ho to some evil spirits lurking in her bedroom.

Her mom is a soft-spoken, no-nonsense lady from a small town in Texas.  She has a well polished southern drawl, soulful eyes and carries herself with economy.  Not the type to flit around in batik muumuus that reek of patchouli oil.  The last person you’d think, to be haunted by some nasty-looking presences.

I’ll admit I was intrigued to help and a little scared.  Intrigued since I love all things spooky, and scared that a veil may have been ripped open to let in a world we either don’t want, or don’t truly believe exists.

It all started after one of her other daughters had died.  At first, she was just visited by family members who had passed.  She’d shoo them away if they were too persistent and annoying – much like you’d do to a pesky house fly.  Lately, a more ominous presence has been popping up at night.  An unfamiliar presence that is not a playful family member, but a large dark entity that fills the room.  She has always been sensitive to what’s behind the curtain, but the uneasiness these visits bring are new.

My friend may have a touch of psychic sensitivity too, but is uneasy wearing that mantle.  She had already gone over and smudged her mom’s apartment with sage, but these negative entities still appeared – most recently in broad daylight at 8 am in the morning.

“Well,” I thought, the veteran of many an exorcism movie, “it’s time to pull out the big guns.”

We went over Wednesday evening (after picking up pizza and grinders. I mean, we had some heavy spiritual lifting to do!).  On the way I had my friend stop at the local Catholic Church since I had the kooky idea to steal some holy water. The doors were locked – darn those Catholic sensibilities!

My friend had been brought up Southern Baptist  – a bond we share.  Therefore, we were a bit awkward regarding the practices of exorcising, which always seemed to be more of a Catholicky thing to do.

needle-1295821_1280.pngI did, however, bring her mom a rosary that had belonged to my late father-in-law.  My husband had  – unbeknownst to me – hung it over my side of the bed not long before he passed.  Can’t hurt?

We smudged the crap out of that apartment.  It was incongruous us waving our arms around the smoke, urging it into every knook and cranny.  Incongruous because her bedroom is a girly girl’s  room.  Chintz curtains, homemade quilts and a thimble collection on the wall.

Her mom was a bit worried some of the elderly neighbors who congregated outside her window to smoke some nights, might hear our chanting, see us waving our arms around the rooms like the temporary crazy coven we had become.  We closed the blinds and smudged every corner, every closet.  All the while, we talked rudely to these entities and did NOT use our indoor voices: “Leave this woman’s home.  You are not wanted here!”

We made her very hesitant mom join hands and recite a prayer.  We even threw in the Lord’s Prayer for good measure.  My friend’s mom as I said, is not prone to hysterics or flights of fancy.  She grew up in an orphanage, had picked cotton,  raised children on her own after marriages had crumbled like old brittle bones.  She had experienced more than her fair share of difficulties and risen above.

But even if her mom had not been so genuine and stoic,  so true to what she had been experiencing, what was the harm in lending her our support?  We all go through difficult manifestations in life.  It’s best not to go it alone.

Since the super smudging, I’ve joined my friend in keeping tabs on her mom. So far, all is clean and clear at her home.

‘Nary a shadow.


The first worst year

After almost a full year of horrible firsts, I now face the most daunting of all.

Over these past 11 months time has held absolutely no meaning, and evinced no hold on me.  I made it through holidays, birthdays, and an uncelebrated wedding anniversary. I fractured my ankle, dealt with the ravages of the flu without the “there, there” support of my beloved, and took countless solitary plane trips, landing with no greeting heralding my return. I even took my first trip back to the vet’s office where James died so unceremoniously on March 14th.

It dawned on me with almost an electric shock a few weeks ago, that it has been almost a year since he died. Where did a year go? How is that possible? It still feels so fresh, so recent. It can’t be! I say to myself. Time truly has had no meaning. It’s been one painful, foggy slog to get through the next “first” in a seemingly endless laundry list of painful milestones.

It’s like a constant rollercoaster ride with no time’s up. You don’t disembark, so no opportunity to gain firm footing. Back up the slow and steady incline – clack clack clack, all the way to the top with no view of what’s below. Then whoosh! Your stomach is left far behind as you hang on for dear life, while outwardly trying so hard not to look like you’re scared.

My favorite scene in the movie Parenthood with Steve Martin, comes near the end and is uttered by the unnoticed grandmother who often gets left behind by her large, self-absorbed family.

“You know, when I was nineteen, grampa took me on a rollercoaster ride…it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited and so thrilled altogether! Some didn’t like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the rollercoaster.”

James liked the steady and expected pace of the merry-go-round. I knew it wasn’t representative of real life. Shit happens. Up, down. Up, down.

We don’t have to like it, we just endure it.

The lukewarm psychic hotline

Mary Lincoln, so overcome with grief by the horseless carriage-load of tragedies in her life, was said to hold seances in the White House and so was a firm believer in the afterlife.

I know most refer to her as Mary Todd Lincoln, but she never signed her name that way and so I am setting the record straight.

Who could blame her for reaching out to lost loved ones? She buried three out of four sons, a husband who was shot right before her eyes, and her remaining son later in life, had her committed to an asylum. Talk about a crappy life! I’d want to reach out to the hereafter too. Oh, wait, I have.

Even before losing my husband, I would reach out to mediums and psychics in an attempt to contact my mom, who had died about 20 years ago.  I admit I had spotty success. I certainly don’t believe everything I hear, or that all reputed psychics are genuine. But I’ve had enough spot-on feedback from some to make me be open-minded about it.

Probably my worst experience was fairly recently.  A few months after James died, I made an appointment with a “psychic” whom I found on-line. (Should have been my first warning bell. It’s best to go by recommendations from friends and family.)

stocksnap_8pws9yv4cuAfter arriving at her place and amidst the smell of sage, we started to chat a bit. She immediately started to channel a woman, but I told her I was really only interested in getting in touch with my husband.

“He wants you to know that he is glad you buried him with his wedding ring,” she proclaimed.

I waggled my fingers at her. ” I’m wearing his wedding ring and he was cremated,” I said, trying not to be curt about it. I mean, these visits are not cheap. The typical hour appointment can be $120 or more. I don’t want to waste time on having her shotgun a bunch of disparate feedback.

Another misstep on her part: “He says he is worried about the children.”

I looked at her puzzled and with a sinking feeling in my stomach. “What children? We don’t have any children.”

It continued with the same amount of success (I say, sarcastically). I think she took one look at me, a middle-aged woman, and made some basic assumptions. We had been married a long time (not!). We had children (none!).

Now, not all psychics are charlatans. I made a more recent visit to another medium who has had some local acclaim and has even assisted in police investigations. She made some good assumptions about my husband in her attempt to talk to him. He had a beard (yes), he had blue eyes (yes) he loved cars (oh, yes).

But at the end of the session, perhaps sensing that I was not totally satisfied with the reading (I guess I thought I would have a direct line to James and he would say something to her that only the two of us could know) she launched into what I can only term as personal growth advice.

I hadn’t asked for it. I realize that a lot of people come to her seeking life advice – Should I take that job? Will I find love? Kinda like a bartender dispensing advice to the drunk, but in this case, to the dissatisfied.

“It’s a dog eat dog world, and I’m wearing  Milk-Bone underwear.” Norm, Cheers.

I was not interested in her comments about how “lightning can strike twice,” and that I still have a long life to live (that does not give me comfort these days) and may find another love. It made me mad. I don’t want anyone else. Not now, and likely not ever. (If she was a good medium she should have sensed that, right?!)

I mean Mary Lincoln, a troubled woman for sure even without all of the personal tragedies, mourned the loss of her husband her entire life. And she was short! Not sure what that has to do with it, but anyway.

These spiritual sessions are really about confirmation and comfort. Confirmation that our loved ones are still with us, albeit in another dimension. I believe that, but still wish that man of mine would get off his fat, heavenly cloud and give me a more tangible sign that he is still with me.