Saturday, March 10, 2018

Now What?

In 1996, six pounds of painful, useless flesh and fat were removed from my mammary glands. They call it breast reduction surgery. I take full responsibility for this elective procedure.

March 12, 2008 was the date of my first open-heart aortic valve replacement surgery. I chose a cow valve (they were out of pig parts that day)

Then there was the mold that got to me in 2010 and early 2011. Seattle doesn't think it has a problem.

Having been thrown on to the dance floor in 2010, it was determined I had a cracked and chipped 5th lumbar disc in my back. The pain comes and goes.

Late June of 2011 had me stuck in a 3-hour traffic jam at the top of Donner Pass in California. A week later, I was in the hospital for 8 days, being pumped with Heparin and Warfarin because a blood clot sailed up my leg and through my heart and took up residency in my lungs. Pullmanary Embolism, is its formal name.

More mold, this time in Pennsylvania, made me move to the high desert in New Mexico at the end of 2012.

A surprise diagnosis of an ascending (upper) aortic aneurysm needed immediate surgery in February of 2015, but not until after a large tumor that had wrapped itself around half of my thyroid and vocal chords was removed in January. And oh, by the way, the 7 year old cow heart valve got replaced by a pig valve, also.

What is this, March of 2018? Well, they've just discovered cancer in my uterus and it has to be taken out.

What the fuck, universe?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Dead Cow Walking

Sometimes I cannot believe the people I know in this town.

My friend Nora calls me to let me know that the other morning, one of her housemates showed up in the front yard wearing the carcass of a dead cow. It had been found in a dumpster, with the guts and entrails removed. It was not a tanned hide and still had its head and limbs and wounds to the flesh. He brought it home in a stolen red shopping cart.

In his drug-addled state, the young man decided this would make an excellent outfit for a vision-quest. He peeled off most of his clothing and placed his head inside the face of the dead cow and wrapped the rest of it around his nearly-nude body. Blood was dripping down his forehead and the hooves and legs draped around his torso. After scaring my friend out of her mind, he walked halfway down the block, dressed like this.

Neighborhood canines (including coyotes) started barking, enticed by the smell. People who were walking their dogs were dragged down the street to get a closer sniff. 3 police cars were dispatched and surrounded him. Finally, the young man was convinced to "take off the cow" and go back home. I suppose no crime was committed, except for the stolen shopping cart, which was returned (and hopefully fumigated).

Can't wait to read about this in next week's police blotter in the Taos News.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Aaron English & Walter Koga: "Afande" ("Policeman")

This Afropop-inspired tune is as good as any I have ever heard. Please give it a listen.

Over-reaching police brutality is a global problem.


Major General wearing black trouser
Afande (policeman) wearing brown suit

I come to this city full of dust and sweat and noise
The living & the dying and the consequence of choice
My people used to light a fire to keep the lions at bay
Now who will shine a light for me to keep these city wolves away?
Afande, afande.  Please, please, afande.

I am taking a bus to Nairobi. Kisumu pass by, Kericho pass by, Nakuru pass by, Kericho pass by, Naivasha pass by, then l reach Nairobi.
It’s not fair afande, It’s not fair afande…

I came to this city with my suitcase full of dreams
Now I know this city it ain't nothing like it seems

The bus driver made a mistake by dropping us in the middle of Nairobi town. Then the policeman met me by mistake, while I was carrying my nyatiti (lute), and he started harrassing me, asking me bogus questions. What are you carrying in your bag? I told him I’m just carrying my nyatiti. The policeman came to me and wanted to tie me up. l started begging: don't take me in! l just came to see my children in Kariobange!
It’s not fair afande, It’s not fair afande…

I came to this city with my suitcase full of dreams
Now I know this city it ain't nothing like it seems
Afande, afande.  Please, please, afande.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Now You're Cookin'!

Food I can now cook that I couldn't, five years ago:

Broccoli-cauliflower casserole
Corn pudding
An Indian-inspired rice dish from The New York Times Food Section
Grilled Rib Eye Steak
Roasted Chicken
Chicken Salad
Pennsylvania Dutch Marinated Cucumbers and Onions
"Poached" Salmon in a foil pack
Homemade simple tomato pasta sauce
Chicken Stock
Chicken and Rice Soup
Apple (and Apple-Cherry) pie with Crumb Topping
Pear Cheddar Pie
Dark Chocolate and Choke Cherry Sauce
Caramel Sauce
Caramel Corn
Banana Bread
Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

I have been able to steam or boil or bake vegetables since I was much younger, so please don't think this list is all I can cook.  Hamburgers and pan-fried trout with lemon were also in my skill set, as was spaghetti with a heavily-doctored jar sauce.

My most recent triumph was the chicken stock. It bubbled away on the stove for 5 hours, before I strained the golden liquid into a bowl. I didn't have the desire to learn how to cook, before. Being isolated out here in the New Mexican wilds makes it more of a necessity.

When I really get a hankering to make something, I usually read at least a half-dozen or so recipes online and then use one of them or combine a couple for my creation. I have had great success with this method. The apple-cherry crumb pie is a combination of the filling from the "New Fat Ladies" apple-cherry cobbler and Emeril Lagasse's crumb topping. Not too sweet but somehow, the flavor reminds me of the best Danish Pastry filling. Just so you know, I haven't attempted a crust, yet.

By the way, due to necessity, all of my food is gluten-free.

I'm not painting or drawing, these days, but I guess my cooking is my creative outlet.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Pornographic Escape

I haven't posted since August. Just haven't been feeling it. Life is pretty routine and not much out of the ordinary has happened. I am walking every single day, for about 40 minutes, with Baxter. At his insistence. My health has been good but I continue to have anxiety attacks at regular intervals that make it difficult for me to be around other people. Especially crowds and shoppers. This predicament is especially difficult during the holidays.

I still check the blog statistics intermittently, despite my lack of new material. I have noticed a fascinating trend: About once or twice a month, my readership spikes dramatically. I have no idea why but have come to a conclusion. I think boring blogs are being used as a "quick escape route" by pornographic websites. Say a horny teen boy is exploring the round bottoms of college coeds and his mother knocks on the door. He strikes a key and POOF! Suddenly, he is whisked to the bland graphics and tame content of Ansapo's World. Mom is none the wiser and all is as it should be, despite the sticky fingers. Suddenly he's fascinated by my Post Film Festival Invisibility Disorder. Until mom is safely back in the hallway and the coed's bottoms are once again revealed.

Have at it, Justin and Garrett. Say hi to mom for me.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Shockingly Good News!

If you read my last post, 'Dog People', you know I was at the end of my rope and super frustrated by my dog's behavior. My last resort was the shock collar for Baxter.


He now comes when I call him and will stop chasing cars and people at the cemetery next door. He doesn't bark at everybody who comes to visit my landlady. I only had to shock him a few times, for him to change. I am so grateful and less worried that I'll be kicked out of my apartment in the near future.

We still have a lot of work to do before he becomes a model canine citizen, but I can feel my blood pressure dropping by the minute. And, next month, when I go away for 10 days, he is scheduled to stay with his part-time trainer and his pack of pooches - hoping he learns how to model himself after them. I still miss the ease, softness and cuddles of a cat, but I am starting to like being a dog mom a bit more.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Dog People

My puppy is a year old now. I love him but I can't control his wild instincts. I am not a dog person.

Dog people like to have command over something. They like to be in control. They are at the top of the food chain and want a pet who understands that truth.  OBEY ME NOW! I AM THE PACK LEADER! They say dog people are more "successful" in life than cat people. Probably true. (If you gauge success by money and position).

I am a cat person. I know I am NOT in charge. I speak to my pets with low and soft and soothing tones. I like to co-exist, peacefully. I like things quiet. I want to be loved but I have no need to lord my dominance over something. I have had 2 open-heart surgeries and I can't muster up the power to be forceful with my dog. Every time I have to raise my voice, it feels like I am damaging my soul. This has become a problem.

A couple of nights ago, I was rudely awakened by my dog, Baxter, barking so loud it made my ears ring. I knew there must be a rabbit or some other prey close by. He wouldn't stop the noise, despite my chastising. This went on for at least a half an hour, probably more, until I finally let him outside. For hours, I could hear his angry screams all over the property. Whatever he was hunting was not slowing down and he was determined to catch it. I didn't get back to sleep.

The next day I was greeted by the frustrated and sleepy face of the woman next door, who also did not get back to sleep, once Baxter started his hunt. I learned that the garbage cans had been toppled over which only means one thing out here. The BEAR is back.

My dog was chasing a BEAR. A gigantic predator with 4-inch claws. My 45 pound Chihuahua, German Shepherd, Chow and Collie mix spent the night protecting "his" property from something that could easily turn around and end his life with one swipe.

Today, I'm driving out to the mesa to meet with a dog trainer for my disciplinary last resort - a shock collar. the "Mini Educator 300" with a 1/2 mile range. It sounds like some kind of kinky S&M device. I am encouraged by the stories of a dog-loving friend who used it to control her beloved pooch. She said it only took a couple times before her pet stopped chasing birds. There was no trace of remorse or guilt in her voice. (I doubt dog people feel much guilt or remorse about discipline). I pray it works.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Inch By Inch

I practically crawled up the big hill behind my apartment today. Inch by inch, cross step by step. Sitting for a few minutes and then back at it again. Even my dog, Baxter, needed to rest a couple of times. The thought crossed my mind tonight that my father never ever exercized. Probably died partially because of it. My mother stopped exercising when she retired from that sit-down office job she held for decades. She lived until she turned 80. Suppose that is a normal age - well, it is for my family. Her mother died at 80 and my father's father left this world at the same age. Both of them always looked after their health. So, in the end, maybe it doesn't matter.

Mother passed away April 29th. I was with her for the last 4 days of her life, taking the overnight shift as caregiver. When she first saw me, she gazed at me with loving eyes I never saw while she was healthy. She looked at me like I was the most precious, treasured gift she could have received. She said "Anne Louise, I love you So Much." and held my hand. This was the greatest gift I could have gotten from her. My only regret is that during that last caregiving shift, I don't think I was able to get her head and neck at a comfortable angle and may have caused her breathing to be even more labored. She died of congestive heart failure and during the last days, she had a very rattling, labored breath. It sounded like blowing into a straw in a glass of water. I was asleep when she left. My sister told me the news.

Because mother converted back to Catholicism, my sister, Linda, who spent the past 3 years with her, honored her wishes by having a funeral mass at her church. What a horrible, painful thing. I don't believe there is a worse place than the Catholic church. A fetishized, controlling organization. When the priest came over to discuss the service, I asked him if he'd like a few details about mother to personalize the service. Father Quinlin, of Holy Name of Jesus Church in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania then said to me, "I'm not here to be your best friend". Seriously. What a complete asshole. When I walked him out to his car, there was a mallard duck on mother's rooftop quacking loudly at him. I like to think mother was inside of that duck and was disgusted by his dogmatic smugness. The priest then made the decision to deliver the entire service to a potted forsythia bush immediately to his left (probably because we offspring weren't catholic - again, one heck of a religion. But, the mass turned out OK in the end because our beautiful high school friend, Jill, sang. Her angelic soprano calmed me down and nearly opened my heart. However, my heart has never been able to fully open up in a church. Houses of worship usually make me very angry - especially catholic.

I have not felt my mother's presence since she died. I have not been visited by her ghost. I have, however, nearly adopted her poor eating habits. Well, I've eaten a lot of chocolate since April 29th - partly because my sister made the request "In lieu of flowers, please send chocolate". And her friends really responded - that box of confections from Richmond, VA was my favorite. The beautifully decorated treats from Santa Fe came in second. Once I got home I indulged myself more than I used to. Anyway, I set up my annual medical check up and they tested my sugar - much to my surprise. The number was pretty high. Not pre-diabetic, but close. So, I'm stopping the chocolate again and watching the carbohydrates. And trying to motivate myself again, to exercise. Inch by inch.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Post Film Festival Invisibility Disorder

The previous blog, entitled 'Invisible' was written following 3 days spent volunteering for the Taos Shortz Film Festival.

Sitting at the Will Call table, talking with film makers and actors from all over the world, I felt insecure and untrained and feeble-tongued. I also felt plain and unsophisticated, by comparison. I spend too much time comparing myself to others. And too much time talking myself out of feeling bad.

The films, however, brightened my mood. My favorite was an entry from Spain, "Nothing, Inc.". Featured a man hired to sit in a chair and do nothing, for 10 hours a day, 6 days a week. He couldn't even get out of the chair to relieve himself. The actor's comedic timing broke language barriers. Got to see more than 40 films in the 3 days. The whole reason for volunteering is to watch the movies for free. I was profoundly impacted by all of that visual stimulation and it affected my dreams for a couple of nights. Should have written them down.

Now back in the day-to-day world of my life, I don't care about being invisible - in fact, I think I prefer it. I have gone back to t'ai chi classes and walks in the back acreage with my dog. In this world, as long as I am healthy, I am happy.

Sunday, April 10, 2016


I've become the sort of person people look right through.

My thoughts aren't as clear as they once were and my words falter, my tongue stumbles. People's eyes go dead as they look around me for somebody else to talk to.

Having a hard time giving directions or advice when asked. I repeat myself several times. You'll smile at me and wish the conversation was over. I'm becoming one of those feeble-minded women who get passed over.

Thing is, I'm not sure I care much anymore. I no longer have to pretend to be ambitious. No longer feeling like I need to assert myself and 'network'. I don't have anything to prove. I feel some sort of relief now that my singing and speaking voice has lost its power. I don't have to apologize for my lack of ambition.

Middle-aged, round, stammering giant woman. With a dog. Who realizes she won't find love in this lifetime. Who knows her best days are behind her. Who is invisible to most of the world. I'm not crying myself to sleep. There are spots of happiness most days. Keeping my life on an even keel without much stress. My brain fractures with stress and I fall apart.

If I'm noticed, it is because I'm in somebody's way or driving too slow, or annoying them with my dog's barking or pooping. I'm past the age of attraction.

Still I try to be kind, try not to get in the way, try to be invisible. Try to be.

Monday, March 28, 2016

I Can Cook

Sheer momentum (and a whining doggie) pulled me out of bed hours before my body was awake. Made coffee with my French press which cracked and broke before I could pour a drop. I was sleep walking through my t'ai chi class. Finally realized, after I started craving beef and peas, that I was feeling the effects of low iron and lack of protein. Happily there was a small ribeye steak in the fridge. I can't tell you how much better I feel. It is like blood is pumping through my veins and my brain is working again!
I don't think I can ever be a vegetarian, much as I love animals. If there's one thing I've learned here in this tiny, isolated place, it is how to cook. I'm not expert, mind you, but I combine ingredients much better and don't make burnt, flavorless food like I used to. I think I'm now eating out only about once a week, these days. We have restaurants here but, with the exception of my favorite Chinese place, they are overpriced and underwhelming.
I've become quite good at baking, too. I'm especially proud of my apple or pear and cheddar pies (on a pre-made gluten-free crust). I found a free wok at a thrift store and have done a couple slightly-better-than-mediocre stir-frys.
While I won't go so far as to say I am a good cook, I will concede that my skills have improved and I am no longer a bad cook.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Can't Go Home Again

Had a wonderful visit to Seattle this past week.

I was a social butterfly! Breakfast, lunch, coffee and dinner dates with wonderful friends. I felt so loved! Ate food that I miss, being here in Northern New Mexico - Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, Japanese sushi and endless cups of chai and first-rate coffee. Going for walks at sea level is so much easier than walking at 7,000 feet! I had so much energy!

But, on my last day in town, my sister and I decided to treat ourselves to pedicures. I knew my legs had swollen a little during my trip, but when I took off my shoes and socks and sat in the massage chair with the foot bath I was shocked to see my ankles and feet, nearly doubled in size. I became very concerned and wondered if my heart was once again malfunctioning.

It took until later that evening for me to remember that I had this same reaction when I was exposed to mold in 2010. My feet swelled up so much my toes looked like 5 little stumps on top of a balloon. I coughed all week while I was in town. Damp chest coughs. I think, despite my heart's desire, I am allergic to my home town. It makes me sad that I can't go home again. But, doubt if I could afford it. My friend, Angela, did a report for her college statistics class that showed the median price of a one bedroom apartment in town has skyrocketed to $2,150 a month! They say Amazon is hiring 50,000 new employees and there is an apartment shortage. Seattle's always been a 'boom or bust' kind of town. And if you aren't booming along with it, you are plain flat busted.

Speaking of Amazon, they now have an actual brick-and-mortar store where they sell books. Built of actual brick and mortar. First they kill all of the bookstores and take all of their business. Then they build their own bookstores. Ain't capitalism grand?

Wish somebody'd find a way to remove the mold from Seattle, so I could move back one day. But, it doesn't seem likely. And I'm pretty happy most of the time where I am. Guess I'll just have to face the fact that I can't go home again.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Empathically Yours

One of the side effects of my latest open-heart surgery is that for many months now, I haven't been able to "feel my heart". I may register joy, happiness or anguish in other parts of my body and psyche, but my heart is unaffected. It feels numb. Like there's nothing there. So, I've been wondering if this is the result of having a Dacron aorta and the aortic valve of a pig.

Today, my heart felt something. And it wasn't at all pleasant. For several hours, there was a deep, dark sadness. I was filled with grief and couldn't understand why. I wanted to cry. Perhaps this feeling was due to changing and aging hormones? A few nights ago, I prayed for my heart to open up again. Maybe this was the result? I sat with the feeling for a long while and decided to just "breathe through" the emotions. It was highly unpleasant.

Around 2:30, I got a call from the person who was to relieve me from my shift as an elder caregiver. She was in tears as she told me her dear friend had been found dead, after falling through the ice while on a hike. She needed time to pull herself together so she could come to work.

I had an "ah ha" moment. This was the origin of my pain. I was picking it up from 20 miles away.

I know I am empatic and have had lots of proof, especially being an identical twin. Similarities in thoughts and feelings is second nature. Actually, I have just as many of these occurrences with my younger sister as my twin. Family closeness.

Anyway, it seems the only time I can feel love, since the operation, is when I'm around cats. I have a fondness for the dog I've raised for the past 6 months, but I only seem to feel calmness and warmth when I'm cuddling the cats at the animal shelter. It might be because loving cats was the only safe kind of love, growing up. But, I couldn't say for sure. Soft warm fuzz and purring are awfully comforting.

For an empathetic person, like me, a good question to ask yourself when feeling a strong emotion is "Is this coming from me or am I picking up this feeling from somebody else". Sexual attraction might work like this - that electric jolt between two people. How do emotions travel through the either and on to the heart of another? Another one of life's great mysteries, I suppose.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Time to 'Fess Up

I haven't been a "good patient" for the past few months.

My heart surgeon wants me to exercise for an hour or more, 7 days a week. I am nowhere near that goal. Have only done 2 or 3 days a week, a half hour or so, for a while now. I blame my feet. "Plantar Fasciaitis" - severe foot and heel pain, and also the usual joint problems in my knees and hips. Not a young woman anymore. I am now wearing tight elastic bands on my arches, to help repair the damage. Bought new arch supports for the inside of my shoes and boots and ordered new boots that should arrive next week. I have a dog now, and he loves to go for hikes into the back wilderness with me. I know I have to get my act together but lack motivation.

I hear weekly reports about my mother's slide into sedentary feebleness. She has only taken 5 steps, since her second hip replacement. The rest home uses a convoluted piece of equipment to get her out of a chair and into the bathroom. My sister calls it The Jaws of Life. Sounds like a small fork lift with a claw attachment. I don't want to become like that. Mother exercised a lot when she was younger. She was always biking, swimming or walking. Then she got her knees replaced - and the operation failed. Thus ended her physically active life. According to her doctor, her bones are now literally dissolving from lack of use.

Outside of walking (or hiking), physical activity in public is not something I ever gravitated towards. When I was a kid, I endured plenty of cruel taunts from classmates about my prematurely developed body (and especially my breasts). It made me want to hide. I mustered up all of my courage in 9th grade and won a coveted slot on the Junior High cheerleading squad. My bouncing breasts during "stomp cheer" in an assembly elicited deafening laughter from the crowd. After that year, I never went out for cheerleading, again.

I know I'm erecting mental barriers to movement. Once the new boots arrive, I hope to motivate myself to walk at least one more day a week. I'm tired of my tightening jeans.

Monday, October 12, 2015

First Rehearsal

Started singing again, yesterday. I lasted nearly 2 hours in a rehearsal with a couple of musicians, as we tried out five songs. Had a mic and small PA set up so that I didn't have to push my voice. Even so, I felt a bit weak and raspy by the end - in fact, I called it quits because I didn't want to do any damage.

I'm encouraged. And the others were very complimentary of my progress. I haven't been practicing much. I sometimes sing along with the car radio - but get scared if my voice drops out all of a sudden.  I like this keyboard player. A former lead guitarist, he took up the piano a couple of years ago. While he's not the most dexterous on the keys (yet), he is a solid musician with a vast knowledge of theory and a great sense of humor - and patience. I'll take that over a guy with killer chops and an over-sized ego, right now. I love getting scat ideas from musicians but these days, I'm happy to stay on pitch and sing the melody.

We're preparing for an open mic, some Monday in the not-too-distant future.  My sister brought me the microphone I used in the early to mid 1980's when I was with the "Jason Moore Show". It still works - and the polished silver of the AKG looks pretty. The pinkish-reddish lipstick stains are still on the windscreen. Don't think I'll wipe them off. I like the memories. Damn I wore a lot of lipstick back then.

We're working on some blues cover tunes: Moondance (of course), Lean on Me, Summertime, and a song called "Woman On Top" by Gino Vannelli. That one's kinda saucy and my musicians were blushing a bit when I sang it. I've always gotten a kick out of "double-entendre" songs. Those that can, do, those that can't, sing about it, I guess. 

Last time I rehearsed was about a year ago. And a couple of weeks later, I got my scary diagnoses. It is a small miracle that the voice (and the rest of me) is back in business. I am thankful.