Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Full of Grace

A furnace repairman who showed up before I, or the pipes, froze.

A new toilet handle.  It sounds like such a simple thing but the design is luxurious and it has solved the problem of the constantly running toilet.

A kitten who loves to sit on my lap when I’m on the john.  Kind of weird but an unexpected benefit on these unseasonably cold mornings.

Peachie and her boyfriend just bought their first house together . . . with a guest bedroom.

Beaner just won the job of her dreams. . . in a school with summers off, great benefits and a significant raise.

It is an ever amazing thing to watch my children successfully grow into themselves. Life is good.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Starfish Story

A quick walk around the web will quickly depress anyone these days.  People are feeling overwhelmed in the midst of the constant barrage of hate and divisiveness that has become our country.   It’s so easy to get stuck in helplessness and despair.

You may have heard this story before but I think it is a good reminder that we can all make a difference.


Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing.He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.

Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching.  As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea.  The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning!  May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”
The old man replied, “But there must betens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”

The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”


adapted from The Star Thrower, by Loren Eiseley (1907 – 1977)


I used to be very involved in politics and group activism until I became tired and very disillusioned. I’m not saying that those avenues to change are ineffective, but they can be slow and frustrating and disheartening. Since that time I have concentrated more on one to one activism, trying to help just one person at a time.  My work is not about changing an entire world or an institution or even a policy. It’s about touching one life around me in a way that hopefully makes a difference to them.  

So instead of being overwhelmed about what you can’t do, consider what you can do. What is one action you can take? For just one person?

We can all make a difference. . .  at least to one starfish at a time.


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Full of Grace

Going through some older photos I remembered how much these things delighted me:

Hiking this summer with  my daughter we came across this in the middle of nowhere



It still makes me smile . . .  in a weird way



This plant popped up in my flower garden.

I didn’t plant it. It just appeared this year and gave me bountiful flowers all summer


Accidentally stumbling into this bookstore.


It was like walking into a treasure chest of old books


And lastly, this bear that was recently spotted wandering through our suburban town.



Nobody got crazy and wanted to shoot it. Everyone was just fascinated and enjoyed the sightings as it made its way peacefully through.




Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Collateral Beauty

I recently watched the movie “Collateral Beauty”.  Not a great movie and rather disrespectful/ignorant of people going through grief, but Helen Mirren was in it so not a waste of time either.  It is a movie about a man whose young daughter died of cancer causing him to get angry at, and retreat from life.  But one scene depicts an old woman advising the daughter’s mother “to notice the collateral beauty” surrounding death.

I am not sure exactly what that term meant for the characters of this story. But I recognized the feeling immediately.  Having been destroyed by trauma and a tragic loss I was very fortunate to come back from that with the help friends and an amazing therapist.  And once I crawled out of that hole I was aware of a new sense of love and beauty I had never known.  In a very strange way that trauma was a gift.

I try not to watch too much news coverage of horrendous events such as the Las Vegas massacre.  But one thing I always notice are the selfless acts of kindness that follow these kinds of tragedies.  The strangers who put victims in their cars and raced them to a hospital. The people who used their own bodies to shield others. The first responders who saved so many other lives.  One deranged gunman. Hundreds of loving, selfless human beings.  

Collateral beauty.

I am friends with a woman who works in a hospice and one of the things she has noticed working with the dying is, when faced with death, they discover a deep love and trust in the goodness of life, regardless of the pain and suffering they may be going through.

Collateral beauty.

I look back in awe at the way my life has unfolded over the years.  Sometimes I feel like I am living a fairy tale with a happy, loved and rewarding life. Not a fairy tale that erases the suffering that came before, but rather a life that has overcome it in amazing ways.  Trauma and sorrow gave me a depth of love and awareness within myself that I didn’t know I had.  

Collateral beauty.

Of course, some sadness is insurmountable and the effects of trauma are a lifelong struggle.  I’m not trying to soften the enormous emotional toll of tragedy.  But I do think perhaps a deep level of suffering can sometimes provide a door to something even deeper.  And we are very fortunate if we find the key which allows us to wake up to the gift of love and life in each passing day.






Monday, October 2, 2017

Anniversaries



“What will I become,
when I no longer carry
the weight of all this?”

-  Tyler Knott Gregson

Anniversaries can be hard and September 28th is a particularly difficult one for me. Memories bubble up and must be acknowledged.  Some memories are voluntary while others are intrusive and come whether I like it or not.  

I still tremble when I think about what happened to me. To Daphne.  After the attack I lost myself. I locked myself away for months and wouldn’t come out. I was scared of space. Scared of things being in the open. Scared of having to talk to people. Scared of being stared at.  

With help I have worked on my own healing and recovery for over 20 years and have come a long way. But I still struggle through anniversaries when I need to focus more on the never-ending work of healing from trauma.

Rape shaped me and my sense of who I am.

And who I am not.

When I was raped, I lost a lot of things: my choice, my esteem and my voice.

Through this blog I have made connections with other rape survivors. Once I was asked to come and speak to one woman’s professional group.  I couldn’t do it. I went to the presentation and started to listen to others’ stories but I couldn’t even stay in the room.

I am not as brave as others.

I have such admiration for those women who can tell their stories and are changing the way the world sees and reacts to rape. Those brave women who go to court and talk about what happened to them and show their scars, even in the face of withering victim blaming.  I want to be a witness with them but I am unable to do it.  

I am ashamed and embarrassed that I can’t.

If I talk about the ways I’m affected— how I still wake to night terrors and how groups of men scare me—people will say I am so sorry, and then I’ll be the thing that happened to me instead of being me. But there are lots of other things that define me as well. Although I still grieve for who I was,  I am someone else now.  

I have learned to be okay with that.

The greatest act of love I have ever given myself was the willingness to do what I needed to do to heal. Although it still feels like work, I now also see it is as one of the biggest blessings I have been given.  I have found myself again.

I hope to someday find my voice.

i am.jpg

Today I woke to the horrendous news out of Las Vegas.  And once again I sympathize with all those who will forever be changed by trauma.  I know the long road they have ahead of them and I hope that all those who need to heal choose to do this work.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Seeds

I have always lined my deck with 25 boxes of flowers.  But as the price of flowers climbed, I started collecting the seeds and growing my own under lights in the basement. I love doing this as it gets my hands in soil in January and I can watch the baby plants sprout and unfurl at the same time I am out snow blowing in below freezing weather.  

When I started a vegetable garden a friend recommended a certain heirloom tomato - the Rose tomato - and bought me my first plant.

This is a picture of a store bought tomato


They are bred to look “perfect” and for long shelf life.

Unfortunately the taste has been bred right out of them and they have little meat. They usually look like this:



This is a Rose.  

They are not always pretty

Sometimes they are downright strange


But they are large, usually at least 5 inches across and taste amazing.  One slice covers a sandwich and hangs out the sides.

And they are so dense that they don’t make a sandwich soggy.  In fact, I have to dig around to find seeds to save.


To save tomato seeds I soak them in water for a couple of days.  This helps remove the gelatin casing and separates the good seed from bad.  Floaters don’t make the cut.


Then I dried them for a couple of weeks.  

And store them until next March when I plant them under grow lights to start the process all over again.


I usually grow 4 different varieties of large fruit and 3 varieties of cherry tomatoes. This year I was introduced to the Kellogg Heirloom which is similar to the Rose but yellow and ripens a little earlier. It’s a keeper.

My vegetable and flower gardens are winding down for the year but I feel they still live on as I collect and process seeds in preparation for next year.  

If anyone is interested in any tomato seeds shoot me an email (listed under my profile).  I’d be happy to share this amazing tomato with you.

Friday, September 1, 2017

The Love of the Mouse

My grandfather, a barber at the Algonquin Hotel, used to cut Walt Disney’s hair when he was in New York. My mother told me that once I met him and sat on his lap during his haircut.

algonquin.jpg

I have no memory of that but I mark it as the beginning of my love of Disney.  Sunday nights would find my family watching The Wonderful World of Disney and our first really big family vacation was to many of the western National Parks with a side trip to DisneyLand. Later as I pursued a career in planning, Walt Disney was studied as the one of the top planners of his time.  I still walk around his parks in awe of the layout, people moving and particularly the level of detail in every aspect of the experience.

Martha and I have taken our daughters to DisneyWorld 8 or 9 times,  always in winter as a break from the cold, snowy landscape of the northeast.  We went through the struggling with strollers stage, the waiting for character autographs stage, the waiting for the major thrill rides (I hold the hats) and the “have fun, we’ll meet up for dinner” stage.

Recently I have been to DisneyWorld a couple of times without Martha because she works in a school and prices are astronomical during school breaks. But she has been sorely missing The Mouse and so we planned a trip.  In August.  Florida in August.  

I know many people who hate Disney parks because of the expense and the crowds.  To me the magic is worth every penny and, having been so often, we know how to work the system and beat the crowds.

Our first day we reserved an event where we spent an hour eating mini desserts ( a LOT of mini desserts) and then had special seating for the fireworks show at the castle.  I have seen a lot of these spectacles but none that compared to this year’s with whole movie scenes being projected onto the castle.  



We have always stayed at a Park resort and therefore could book dinner reservations 6 months before the trip, always trying something new - Norway this year - and returning to old favorites like Boma at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. It is an African buffet which allows non-adventurous eaters like myself the opportunity to try little bits of everything.  But I really go to Boma for the Zebra Domes.


You can find the recipe on-line which is basically coffee-kahlua flavored heavy cream, sugar, eggs, and chocolate ganache.  I ate an embarrassing amount.

This year a new section opened in the Animal Kingdom based on the movie Avatar.  There are only two attractions at this point - one a luminescent river ride through the land of Pandora


The other is a thrill ride which simulates flying on a Banshee.  Although I do not do standard thrill rides like rollercoasters or things that drop, the thought of being able to fly on the back of a large bird had me intrigued.  You sit on something similar to a motorcycle seat wearing 3D glasses, with your hands on the reins of your banshee. And then a screen opens and you are in Pandora swooping through lush forests, nose diving down waterfalls and soaring past floating mountains while you can feel your banshee breathing between your legs.  It is difficult to describe how awesome this ride was. We had a fast pass and waited about 10 minutes to go on but others have waited 4 hours and still said it was worth it.  

We had been worried about the weather in Florida in August and packed sleeveless, wicking shirts but except for the first day the skies were generally overcast and kept the heat at a moderate temperature.  But you would have never known it has August because the Magic Kingdom was already decorated for Mickey’s Halloween Party.  


WTF???  

Well except for that extreme rushing of the seasons, and the lack of “wow” I always feel when I travel from snow into palm trees in the winter, we had yet another magical time dining with princesses, hugging Pooh, eating foods from around the world, watching the wide eyed wonder of little kids, and generally reliving the sweet memories of youth.  

The world is such a crazy place right now. Five days in a fairy tale was the best medicine.