Sunday, May 29, 2011

Rich Little Poor Girl

5 years ago on Sunday, May 28, 2006, at 12:00 noon, my mama died.  It was a new moon and Memorial Day weekend.

Winifred Anne Butler,  "Winky", was born in Chattanooga during the depression.  She graduated high school at the age of 16 because she was super intelligent.  She became Miss Chattanooga (I don't know the year), toured with Mickey Rooney in a traveling medicine show, and then  joined the army when she was 20, so she could travel the world.  Her plans changed when she got pregnant, and got married instead.  My oldest brother was born in 1951.

Mom raised 6 kids, while teaching Spanish at a high school full-time. She became so involved with her job (and her students) that she became an absentee mother for a while, and throughout high school I felt much closer to my dad.  But once my parents finally got a divorce when I was 18, I moved out with Mom to help her cope.  

My mom performed in a production of Hello Dolly with me, and loved coming to see every play I was ever in.  She showed up for a one-woman revue I did once dressed in a t-Shirt emblazoned with the words:  "Holly Butler Fan Club, Charter Member."  When I started to write songs, my mom started writing songs too, and had high hopes for both of us!  During my lowest point when my own marriage was failing in 1994, Mom gave me a pep talk that was quite possibly life-saving.  In her final years, she wrote a memoir titled, "Rich Little Poor Girl" about her childhood, and I sure wish I knew where her manuscript ended up.  

During these past three months I've really just wanted to call Mom and tell her about my broken leg.  I keep remembering different events, like when she flew down to L.A. in 1985 to nurse me back to health after a car accident, and about the time she visited me in Nashville in 1999.  She was always tearful as she said goodbye at the airport, about the wonderful time she had.  I realize that I inherited her tendency to cry easily, and her love for high drama, and I cherish both of these qualities.  

I miss you, Mama.  Did I tell you that I broke my leg 12 weeks ago today?  You'd be so proud of my progress--I'm walking again!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Stagnation or Incubation?

Stagnate:  to stop developing, growing, progressing, or advancing: as in "My mind is stagnating from too much T.V."

I was complaining to my friend Vickie on the phone yesterday about how I am sooooo over this  too-long-of-a-broken leg vacation.  How I'm so upset over not being able to grow my real estate business while I've been nursing my leg.  How I've not been able to write any songs, or practice my guitar, or try writing a novel.  How now that I'm finally attempting to walk with a cane at 11 weeks, the pain is worse than ever.  I'm not progressing, I'm just stagnating.

And Vickie said, "Maybe you're incubating."  (Huh?)

Vickie went on to say that when she was pregnant with her only child it was a very difficult and sometimes painful nine months, but of course the birth of her daughter was well worth the long process of incubation.  (I thought, oh please dear God, don't let this pain go on for nine months!!  Coincidentally, I recently read an article that claimed breaking a femur  is more painful than child birth...).

My wise friend Vickie continued,  "Maybe you're just incubating, you know, you're healing, and then when you're done healing, you'll be a creative genius, and you'll be more productive than ever!"  This made me feel better. 

So I looked up incubation and found these definitions that I really liked: 
1. incubation - Latin incubare, the source of incubate, literally meant "lie down on"; incubation once had the sense of sleeping in a sacred place or temple for oracular purposes, 2. incubate - grow under conditions that promote development,  3. To form or consider slowly and protectively, as if hatching.

So I'm incubating.  More like a chicken with her head cut off, screaming the sky is falling, but I'm incubating! 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

"A Blip In Time"

That's what the doctor said at week five.  He said I'd be back to normal before I knew it and it would feel like a "blip in time."  Now I'm saying, "Like Hell!"  I'm coming up to week 11 and I am NOT back to normal.  Last week, I was all brave, and determined and with gusto, walking up those flights of stairs with my walker trying to impress a potential real estate client (who still hasn't hired me or returned my phone calls, thank you very much!)

That was sooooo last week.  This week I'm walking with a cane, and paying the price.  My right leg is throbbing regularly, and most of my other body parts are sore from overcompensating.  And my old pal, Impatience has come to call.  I know her well, and I haven't missed her.  It's been nice not having her around on a regular basis (like when I'm really busy and stressed out while working for a living).  But this morning, I woke up and Impatience was back, screaming in my head:  "I'm frustrated, angry, and tired of hobbling around!  No more Miss Nice Girl!  Everyone says I've been handling this situation so well.  Well Bullsh-t, I'm sick of it!!  I want to walk without a cane!!!  I want to run!!  I want all of my energy back and I want and need to make some money.  I'm tired of this so called "life of leisure."  I'm tired of laying around!"

My friend Brian said, "You're not yourself today.  Where's my Holly?" 

Steve said, "A mood has you.  Stop talking with that potty mouth, you sound like white trash."  

Because all I could do all day today was cuss!  "F this" and "F that".  "Where is my F--king book?"  "Where did I put the G--Damn, Mother F--cking paper I need?"  "I am so F--king pissed."  (I read a scientific article recently that stated that cussing helps to alleviate pain.  And damn it, I believe it!)

Now I lay me down to sleep.  Tomorrow is another day.  A Blip in Time?????   My Ass.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Beginning of the End

This past week I took three senior water aerobics classes with Steve (I fit right in with my need to move slowly and cautiously).  At physical therapy, I walked "hands free" for about eight feet and was given the go-ahead to walk with a cane if I preferred.  And, I had my first real estate listing appointment since my accident.  

I didn't tell the potential listing client in advance that I'd be showing up in jogging shoes and getting around with the aid of a walker (I chose the walker because I knew the home had some stairs and I wanted the extra security).  I told him that my husband would be chauffeuring me, because we had taken my car in for an oil change (I didn't mention that I still wasn't driving, since I broke my right leg).  I didn't want the potential client to imagine that I'd have any limitations as his real estate agent.  

When Steve and I arrived for the appointment, we both exclaimed, "Oh, no!  Look at those stairs!"  The entrance to the home looked grand, but daunting.  Steve was especially worried, but I was determined to appear completely capable. The steps up to the front porch turned out to be shallow and I managed them with unexpected ease.  I knocked and we waited.  The home was vacant and through the windows it looked newly renovated and gorgeous.  

Finally, the potential client, David, came around from the back of the house and said that unfortunately, he had forgotten his keys and that we'd have to reschedule!  He didn't seem to pay much mind to my walker and jogging shoes.  He said, "we can walk around to the back of the house and look in the windows.  You'll be able to see most of the house that way, and you can tell me your opinion on a list price."  Then he asked,  "Can you get around okay?"  "Absolutely", I exagerrated,  "I'm just using this walker for support while I recuperate."  We strolled very slowly to the back of the house, then I spotted the three sets of stairs up to the back deck.  (YIKES!)  I didn't let on as I winced in pain with every step up.  We walked back down, across rocks and cobblestones and uneven terrain just as David's brother showed up with the house key.  So, a tour of the inside began with yet more stairs and much more standing and walking.  Steve was invited to come in from the car and he listened to my entire listing presentation.  Talk about being put on the spot!  

Afterwards, Steve took me to lunch and told me how impressed he was with my real estate knowledge and my sales presentation.  I asked him to tell me again at least three times.  I felt a great sense of accomplishment even though I was  exhausted and in pain when we got home and I had to nap for several hours.  

I haven't heard back from David or his brother, even though I followed up.  I'll be disappointed if they don't hire me, but I know I did my best.  It's been 10 weeks, and although I'm not completely healed, I'm getting there.  I'm slowly re-learning how to walk.  I'm slowing getting back up on the horse (figuratively) as far as remembering my real estate skills.  I'm slowly thinking ahead to getting on with my life.

It feels like the beginning of the end of my broken leg odyssey, and the beginning of a new beginning.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Water Therapy

Mother's Day.  It was a gorgeous, sunny, spring day, and it started out horribly.  I'm nine weeks into my broken leg recovery and it seems that during this time almost everything else in the house is broken as well!
This morning, Steve and I woke up to a flooded master bathroom.  My renovated bathroom, completed just over a year ago, is falling apart.  The toilet tank has mysteriously cracked down the middle and I noticed it when I saw water dripping onto the floor a couple of days ago.  I had wiped  it up then, jiggled the toilet handle, and the toilet stopped running.  It seemed fine.  Steve called the plumber who said he could come this Monday.  I turned the spigot behind the toilet, thinking I had turned off the water.  The toilet was silent, so I thought our problem was temporarily solved.

While we were in bed last night, I heard the toilet start running again.  I thought of asking Steve to go down to the basement and turn off the main shut off valve, but it was after midnight and we were both sleepy.

So, this morning there was a half inch of standing water on the floor, water gushing from the tank, water running through the grout of the tiles, through the sub-floor and into the carport below.  The carport where piles of junk still sit from last year's May 1st flood.  
I was so freaked out by the floor that I temporarily forgot about my broken leg as I attempted to get on my hands and knees to mop up the mess with the only towel in the bathroom.  Bad move.  "Ouch!"  "Steve!", "Steve!", "Steve!"  Steve was nowhere in earshot and Brian was still asleep in the guest room.  I was in pain trying to get up off the floor with my right leg only able to bend part way.  Somehow I balanced most of my weight on my left leg and got back up.  I hobbled over to the shower seat, sat with a thud and waited. 
As usual, poor Steve takes the brunt of my wrath.  I hear him come clunking down the hall.  "Where were you?!", I scream at him while he leisurely plods past the bathroom in his slippers.  "What do you need?", he asks.  I scream, "What do you think I need, the floor is flooded, get me some towels!  I would think you'd be a little more concerned about our floor being destroyed!!"  (I found out later that Steve was outside trying to keep our three dogs from escaping the back yard.  I had heard the ruckus, but I was focused on the flood).  

It took me a few hours to shake my foul mood as I went into overwhelm about not only the broken toilet, but the broken kitchen faucet, the broken water filter, the broken microwave, all the other broken stuff around here, and the crap sitting in the carport for the past year, now wet again.

I don't know when we would've gotten back to combing through the stuff in the carport, if it weren't for today's flood.  And after Brian helped me get rid of a dumpster full of junk from the carport, we went to the YMCA where I spent an hour exercising my leg in the swimming pool. 

Turned out to be a cleansing day!


Friday, May 6, 2011

Two Steps Forward

I'm bummed today.

One week ago, I met with the doctor and he said I could start walking (with the help of a walker or crutches).  He said I could start putting more and more weight on my right leg and that gradually over the course of the next month I'd be strong enough to walk normally.  Well, waaaaaaaah!  I want to walk NOW!

When I left the doctor's office, I was so thrilled that I secretly decided I'd be walking sooner than a month.  On Saturday morning, my pal Brian and I went down to the Country Music Marathon.  Although I have a temporary handicapped parking placard, we couldn't find anywhere to park close enough to see anything, so I walked more than a mile, with crutches, putting almost full weight down on my right leg.  I found myself walking alongside marathoners on their 16th mile!  I was inspired by the runners, and although my leg was tight, I kept a slow pace alongside the race route.  It was a beautiful sunny day and I loved being outside walking.

I crashed that night, and the next day I was in so much pain I could barely stand.  But it wasn't only my right leg.  It was my left hip, my shoulders, my triceps, my neck, and my back!  Needless to say, I didn't walk much on Sunday.  

In spite of the pain, I've been religiously doing my exercises, practicing shifting weight to the right leg, walking as much as possible, and pedaling at least 20 minutes a day on the stationery bike;  all with the hopes of being fully recovered by nine weeks.  Alas, nine weeks is this Sunday, and I'm not there yet.

My life felt almost back to normal last night.  My friend Nancy picked me up and we met four other friends at the Hillsboro Village Art Crawl.  We had dinner and I walked around the village on my walker, looking at art, seeing friends, and drinking margaritas for Cinco De Mayo.  Today, my entire body is in pain.  Arggggh!!  (I think I may have had too many margaritas...)  

The catchphrase, "two steps forward, one step back", was rolling around in my brain this morning, and I found this quote on a motivational website:  "Two steps forward, one step back" is usually a negative term to describe someone who is having trouble making progress. But switched around, "1 Step Back, 2 Steps Forward" means that instead of grousing or feeling guilty about a misstep, you can still come out ahead if you put your head down and push forward.

I'm still mad as hell, but I just rode the bike for 30 minutes.  Two more days until nine weeks!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Steve and I were awakened in the middle of the night again last night by the sounds of loud thunder and pounding rain.  As I lay in bed listening to the rain's continuous rhythm,  an old ditty, one I hadn't thought of in years, was running through my head.  "It's Rainin'," was one of the first songs I'd ever written, 17 years ago, during an especially low point in my life.  

In August of 1994, I was living in Vancouver for the summer with my then husband, pursuing acting work.  The t.v. and film industry was booming in Vancouver, and my ex was getting quite a few jobs, because he had dual citizenship.  Although I auditioned plenty, I couldn't get arrested.  I wasn't a citizen, and I was a female in my late 30's--three strikes against me as far as acting roles were concerned.

I combed the classifieds daily, looking for something, anything, to fill my time.  One morning, I saw an ad for a lead singer in a country band, and I figured, what the hell!  I'd never sung country songs in my life,  I didn't even listen to country music, but I figured I could bluff my way into the job, since I had fronted pop bands (albeit, very few) in Los Angeles. 

On a Sunday, I drove down to meet with the band leader in a small run-down house about 30 miles south of Vancouver.  He seemed to be in his mid 40's, with not much to show for it.  After our introductions, he asked me to sing a couple of songs.  I had some karaoke tracks of pop songs which I sang to, and he apparently thought I was qualified enough because he sent me home with about 25 country songs to learn for a gig the following Wednesday.

Over the next three days I spent all of my time memorizing the lyrics and the tunes.  I showed up eager and ready for the gig at a VFW hall and had a blast.  It was a three person band:  The band leader who played guitar, the bass player, a drum machine, and me.  The rest of the summer we did weekend gigs playing at VFW halls, seedy bars, and nursing homes.  I got  $50 a night.  

One late night, while on a break, I ran across a magazine article written by Pam Tillis about songwriting, and how to write from title.  On the drive home, I thought up a title and came up with my first pathetic attempt at a country song, called "Ten Times A Day."  (A catchy little title, I thought!)

Singing in the band, and writing my songs (while my husband criticized), became my lifeline that summer.  My marriage was crumbling.  I cried often over my failing acting career, and contemplated suicide more than once.  As I wrote bad songs, my soul was soothed.  One dreary and rainy morning I wrote, "It's Rainin'."  The first line of the chorus began, "Rain, Rain, Go was catchy and uptempo...and although I can remember my melody clearly right now, the lyrics are tucked away, forgotten, in a drawer somewhere. 

That Vancouver summer was a huge turning point in my life.  Of course, I didn't see it at the time.  When we returned to L.A., my husband asked for a divorce,  I signed up for songwriting classes, and a new chapter began.

Today, on this rainy day, I'm wondering if this lengthy broken leg recovery period is another turning point.  

Time will tell.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

It's May Day!

May 1st, often called May Day, has a long and notable history as one of the world's principal festivals.  It's a celebration of Spring.  It's a pagan festival, a saint's feast day, and a day for organized labor.  In many countries, it's a national holiday.  

In Nashville, May Day is now remembered by most Nashvillians as the anniversary of the 2010 Flood.  A day when many lives were changed, and the blessings of help and love were bestowed by friends and strangers alike upon those affected by the flooding.  The people of Nashville rose as rapidly as the flood waters to help in every way imaginable.  As a city, we were a shining example of how folks really pull together when called upon by tragedy.  

Last year, I  felt somewhat guilty that our enormous basement only suffered three inches of water.  With the help of a couple of friends we got everything out, and within four days, had the basement dry and re-organized (although one year later we still have piles of junk in our covered carport).  I felt guilty receiving help, when our flooding was so minimal.  I felt guilty that I didn't help others as much as I could have or thought I should have.   Steve and I did attend some flood benefits, but I felt that I was copping out, that attending a benefit was the lazy person's way to help. 

Now, this year, on May 1st, as I am 8 weeks into my broken femur recovery,  I can't help thinking about all of the friends and acquaintances, and even strangers, who came to my aid after my surgery.  Emotionally, spiritually, and physically, I was supported by greeting cards, phone calls, e-mails, delivered meals, car rides, and so much more.  I didn't once judge the level of someone's help.  I only saw that I got more help than I ever could have imagined. 

I can't go back and re-do last year and help with the flood recovery.  But I can and will remember that every gesture of help, no matter how seemingly small, makes a huge difference to someone in need.  And, as a result of all the love I've received, I will remember to pay it forward.

Happy May Day!