Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Good Ol' Boys Club

On Christmas eve, Martha’s niece J. had something slipped into her drink, didn’t feel well and went up to her apartment over the bar. She woke hours later to find herself naked, her sheets wet with semen, and all her money and jewelry stolen. She called Martha who is a retired cop. Martha told her to call the police and she would meet her.

The male State Trooper who met them took down the basic information and then started with questions like “what were you doing in the bar?” “How much did you have to drink?” “What were you wearing?” etc. Martha went ballistic. The trooper said he would go down to the bar and ask some questions, but he was obviously annoyed that his Christmas was about to be interrupted. Martha left to take J. to the hospital for a rape test. That came back negative although a sexual assault had obviously taken place.

The trooper got the security camera tape which showed J. going upstairs. Then a man going up. And shortly after, that man comes down and asks his buddies to go up. From this, the trooper found the man and questioned him. The guy didn’t deny he went up to J’s apartment but said the sex was consensual. On Christmas night the trooper calls J. and says there is nothing he can do - it is just her word against the guy. And Martha once again went ballistic, made a few calls and had this guy removed from the case.

Meanwhile the bar guy calls J. and mocks her saying that he knows all the troopers and no one is going to believe her, and she should just let it drop because, after all, didn’t they just have a good time. Martha immediately called the new investigator and asked him to get an order of protection. He called back to say the judge would not issue one. Martha then called a female judge she knows and got the order. Although, as she says, a piece of paper is no protection at all if someone wants to hurt you. But she is hoping that it will stop the guy from calling J and further harassing her. She has also arranged for DNA testing and insured that J’s blood sample will be tested for evidence of whatever drug has given to her.


At the beginning of this, Martha was not telling me much because she knew how much it would upset me. But it has been tough not to overhear her conversations with the police, the investigator, and J. What amazes me is how little things have changed. It is just so wrong that a young woman would be questioned as to what she was wearing at the bar, as if she provoked a sexual assault. Or that a police officer would just write off the case as “the guy said it was consensual so there’s nothing else I can do.” Or a judge wouldn’t issue an order of protection.

I don’t remember much of the immediate aftermath of my attack, but I do remember some officer who was questioning me saying “well what did you expect?”

What did I expect? I think I expected that things would be better by now.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Interrupted

For the past 20 + years, Martha and I have developed a calendar of traditions to be able to celebrate the season with all our friends and family. This year almost everything crumbled.

The season usually begins with a feast at our elderly neighbors home. But she is now at her daughter’s in Virginia while her house is being reconstructed. (A car hit the house and moved it right off the foundation)

Then there would have been the office Christmas party. But most people declined because everyone was feeling down about recent layoffs.

On Christmas Eve eve, we have always gotten together with our favorite couple, C & K. They were due at 7 for hors d'oeuvres but called at 5 to say C’s grandmother had just unexpectedly passed away.

On Christmas eve we go to Martha’s niece’s house for dinner and gift exchange. I was just delving into some ham when my cell phone rang. One of my closest friends had gone to the hospital, suffering from more depression than she could handle. And so I left to be with her.

I came home Christmas morning around 4 am to find that Martha’s car was missing from the garage. Both the girls were in their beds but there was a note on the counter - call me when you get in. Apparently her niece’s 23 year old daughter called her in a panic after spending some time in the bar she lives above, she woke to find herself naked and everything of value missing. She had no memory of what had happened. So Martha went, called the police and went to the hospital with her. Apparently someone slipped something into her drink. And then invited his friends.

That was enough to put me into a whimpering fetal position until Martha came home around 7 am. (Rape test came back negative, so that was a relief, although something else obviously happened.)

But we pulled it together, and tried for some semblance of a normal Christmas morning for the girls. Open gifts, fell asleep for a few hours in the afternoon and then went back to the hospital while Martha spent her xmas on the phone with the police making sure everything that could be done was being done. Same with most of Sunday, but at night Martha’s best friend and her family came for our traditional roast beef and yorkshire pudding dinner. Even though they left early due to the snow storm, it was the first moment we had to raise a glass and relax.

Tonight I would traditionally be getting together with my oldest and dearest friends. But one is in the hospital, the other dealing with her own domestic drama, and I have to go to a wake.

I keep thinking this has got to get better and in two weeks I will be traveling to celebrate Christmas with my family. But then my sister called to say her father-in-law is in hospice and not expected to live much longer. They will most likely be leaving for Florida to say goodbye.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

19 years ago today

19 years ago today I was handed this bundle that changed my life forever. We brought her home on Christmas Eve.  Best present I ever got.



Tonight we will all go out to dinner to celebrate and then to a girl’s high school basketball game where Beanie will meet up with her former teammates, all home from college. They will be coming back to our house to celebrate, over night.

Tomorrow her college friends will be arriving from far and near, joining with hometown friends to take her out to dinner and then back to our house to continue partying. I will be driving to Massachusetts to pick up one friend, meeting her half way from Connecticut. Beanie will be shuttling others from the train station. Her former boyfriend (they broke up when she left for college and he joined the military) will also be here. At least six of them will be staying over until Christmas Eve, because, you know, this time of year is not crazy enough.

I may be looking for a room at an inn.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Communique

Celebrating the spirit of the season,


and the technology of the times...



Friday, December 17, 2010

A Gift of Gratitude

I volunteer for a community organization that links people who need a little help with folks who can provide a little help. This year I was asked if I could give a little girl a ride to dance class because her mother is blind. They live very close to where I work, and she goes to dance studio where my girls went, right around the corner. So once a week, I pick up 5 year old Becca, walk her into the dance studio, help her put on her dance shoes, and then return to pick her up. Easy.

This week when I took Becca home, her mom asked if I could come in for a few minutes. Then she told me that Becca had a present for me. She asked me to sit while Becca disappeared and then returned with a DVD player, a little tutu over her leotard, reindeer antlers on her head and began to perform her own dance to Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Very, very sweet.

I remember the elaborate productions my girls used to conjure up. They would give us admissions tickets and usher us to own front row, living room seats. They would create costumes from all their various princess/ dress up paraphernalia. And then they would dance. Making up their own choreography, dancing with abandon and giggling joy. I used to love these personal performances, so much more than their formal dance recitals.

As I watched Becca leap and twirl, I also noticed her mom. Sitting, smiling at her daughter who she could not see. I can’t even imagine what that must be like. When the dance was over, I stood and clapped and cheered, as did her mom. It was a wonderful, delightful gift.

When I went home I pulled out old home videos and watched my own daughters. I watched them dance. I watched them play various sports. I watched their numerous accomplishments, large and small. And all I could think about was what it must be like to experience your kids growing up when you can’t actually see them growing up. The birthday parties, riding a bike, scoring the winning goal, the prom dresses, the receiving of a diploma.

I generally start each day with a prayer for all I have to be thankful for. This week I received a gift. And I realize that I haven’t even scratched the surface of what I have to be grateful for.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Puppy PSA


Saturday night we had a small party at our house. Peachie also invited a group of friends, although they stayed downstairs. For the most part, our dog was confined in a bedroom because otherwise she would go up to everyone with those pleading puppy dog eyes begging for food and licking everyone to death.

All the guests had left around 11:30, the dog and cats reclaimed their house, and Peachie went downstairs to clean up. She ran back up announcing that the dog had eaten an entire plate of brownies.

We vaguely remembered that chocolate is very bad for dogs but didn’t really have a sense of it. Fortunately our vet is also a friend of mine so I called his cell phone. I obviously woke him from a sound sleep and with huge apologies for the lateness of the hour, I explained what had happened. He calmly asked how many brownies? At least 8! What kind? With chocolate chips and chocolate frosting. (I’m not sure how those slipped by me) How long ago? About 10 or 15 minutes.

He explained that chocolate is extremely toxic to dogs.  He said the amount eaten for a 50 pound dog would not be deadly, but would certainly give the dog major gastro intestinal problems. But since she had just eaten them, we should try to make her throw up. And how would we do that? Make her drink some hydrogen peroxide. Really? He explained that it will make her gurgle and foam but will make her vomit. So we forced a couple of swigs down her throat and sure enough, not 30 seconds later, up came the brownies. Eight whole brownies. She hadn’t even chewed them.

So there you go. Don’t let your dog around any chocolate. But if they get into some, give them hydrogen peroxide. Who knew?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Ref

This weekend I attended a regional sports banquet honoring my daughter, among other athletes. Standard affair - about 80 girls with their hetero normative families - Italian buffet, long winded emcee, some alumni telling the girls to give back to their sport, yada, yada, yada.  I have been to dozens of these.

The program also listed a speech by the guest of honor. I’m already yawning. But when the time comes, they introduce the honoree as a woman who has been a ref for over 20 years. Who this year, due to illness, is retiring from the sport. And up comes this very beautiful, very butch woman, who begins her speech (and I’m paraphrasing here as much as I can remember)

When I was in high school there were no other girls who looked like me. There were no other girls who dressed like me. There were no other girls who talked like me. I was an outcast. Classmates laughed at me. I had no social life. I had no friends. I was different. I knew it and they knew it. Until I stepped onto a playing field or an athletic court. And then I was part of a team.

(And I’m looking around at all these very straight mom and dads, in this very conservative part of the state, and every person is listening with full attention)

It was my teammates who accepted me for who I was. An Athlete. And for all those horrible years in high school, being an athlete was what got me through.

After college I became a ref. And I loved reffing your games. Not the freezing cold games in drenching rains that always went into overtime. Not the coaches questioning my calls. Not the parents screaming at me. No, what I loved was watching you girls play your sport as a team. Full tilt, all out, leave it all on the field. Athletes. Before the game I could see there were girly girls and there were girls like me and all the differences in between. But when the whistle blew, and you came onto the field, you all wore the same uniform and you played as a team. If one player was injured, the entire team was diminished. When you lost, you lost as a team. And when you won, you won as a team.

And I know all the things that happen off the field. The team meetings, the team dinners, the team sleep overs. Team bonding. No one is excluded. Every member, no matter what their differences, is part of the whole. And the team would be weaker without them.

Today I want to urge you girls, to continue with the lessons of hard work and dedication that you have learned from playing a sport at this level. But mostly I want you to remember that when you go out into the world, there will be many, many people who are different than you. Remember we all bring different abilities and skills to the field.  Everyone has their specialty.  But it is only by working together, and encouraging each others talents, that we can succeed.  Never, ever let your teammates down.

As she walked off stage, every single athlete and parent in that room stood and gave her a rousing ovation.

And I was totally floored.

Monday, December 6, 2010

and you held me

and you held me and there were no words

and there was no time and you held me

and there was only wanting and

being held and being filled with wanting

and I was nothing but letting go

and being held

and there were no words and there

needed to be no words

and there was no terror only stillness

and I was wanting nothing and

it was fullness and it was like aching for God

and it was touch and warmth and

darkness and no time and no words and we flowed

and I flowed and I was not empty

and I was given up to the dark and

in the darkness I was not lost

and the wanting was like the fullness and I could

hardly hold it and I was held and

you were dark and warm and without time and

without words and you held me



~~Janet Morley

Monday, November 29, 2010

Giving Thanks

I love Thanksgiving. It is by far my favorite holiday.
Having lived a number of years in a low income housing project gave me a good sense of what poverty feels like. Having my home and almost all my possession taken from me gave me a good idea of impermanence. Having the love of my life senselessly ripped from me gave me a hard lesson in loneliness. And so I am acutely aware of how blessed I am now. I live an incredibly abundant life filled with the love of family and friends. I have a deep and spiritual appreciation for the good things in my life. I take none of it for granted. I love giving thanks.

And then occasionally I accept the thanks of others -

First, we received this in the mail.



Included was a thank you card from Beanie’s college friends who had recently spent a weekend with us. It said “thank you for letting us crash at your house, eat all of your food, for doing our laundry and for giving us Beanie. We love her and you.”   The basket is filled with cookies and brownies.

On Thanksgiving, Martha’s nephew gave us several gift cards to our favorite restaurant to thank us for some help we gave him years ago. He is finally on his feet.

Oh yes, if you want to thank me for something - says it with food.

And then yesterday I drove Beanie back to college. We lugged up all her now clean clothes she had brought home for me to wash. And all the groceries we bought because, you know, that $12,000 room and board fee doesn’t seem to provide enough food for her to eat. We said our final goodbyes and when I returned to the car I found this on the seat:



Yep, that did me in.


I love Thanksgiving. And receiving thanks isn’t too bad either.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Slave for a Day

Tomorrow is Martha’s birthday. She always makes a list of gifts she wants. But the traditional gift is that I am her slave for the day. This usually entails doing her chores - make the coffee, unload the dishwasher, iron her clothes, vacuum the house, clean the litter box, come up with dinner,  and anything else she wants me to do. For everything she does to keep the house running all year, it seems like a small gift to give in return. At least when her birthday is on a weekday. When it falls on a weekend, it is a bitch. When it falls on Thanksgiving, slave day gets postponed to whenever she wants it.

At the stroke of midnight she will wake me up to start her day with birthday wishes and a little loving. Hopefully, she will let me sleep for a few hours before I get up and make her breakfast, pack her lunch for work, and get to some of the chores. As soon as she gets out of work we are driving down to pick up Beanie at college, who will be coming home for Thanksgiving break. I made reservations at an historic tavern located on the way back. And that will be her favorite gift - the whole family together for dinner. When we get home, she will open her gifts and have more requests that will keep me up long after my normal bedtime.

On Wednesday I will recuperate. On Thursday I will very thankful birthdays come only once a year.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

PTSD poem

Last night I curled up
in a ball and learned
for the first time
what PTSD really is

A disease that rots a person
from the inside -
tears their wounds open
like an amputated limb

Last night I learned
that 8 years can feel
like only 8 seconds
and what time machines do:

They transport you back
to the moment your brain
stopped working and
your heart stopped beating

Correctly

Last night I learned
about war and tried
to remember what
peace felt like

The profundity of
these lessons seep
into my dreams
and I am rattled

For only by remembering
the horrible
the terrible
the despicable
can we truly forget



This poem was given to me yesterday.
Unfortunately there was no title and or author’s name attached.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Dorm Life

My youngest daughter Peachie was selected to play in a regional field hockey all-star game on Sunday. And naturally Beanie, her older sister, wanted to come home to see it. So I went on-line and sent her a train ticket. Then her college best friend wanted to come too. One more train ticket. They came home Friday night. Then Saturday a couple of their friends called to say they were lonely and could they come too? Another call to Amtrak.


We live in a small, one bathroom house. By Saturday afternoon the entre living room was littered with laptops and books, the bathroom was a web of hair dryers and curling irons all hanging from light fixtures and towel bars, Beanie’s bedroom was an explosion of duffle bags and clothing and everywhere there was a phone/ipod/computer charging.

They spent a good deal of time on Saturday doing their school work. One was writing a paper on comparative genocide in the 20th century, one was doing a business and marketing plan for a local business, and Beanie was writing a paper on some pharmaceutical study about kids on the autism spectrum. And they did this all with the TV on, IPods in their ears, and answering texts on their phones. I was impressed.

Saturday evening Martha made a huge roast beef/yorkshire pudding/mashed potatoes/beans/apple pie dinner. They were like raptors. Every dish finished down to the last smidgeon of gravy. Not a single leftover for me to have later. *sigh*

And the conversation . . . the conversation centered around who got trashed last weekend, how many Oreos they could eat during one episode of Grey’s Anatomy, reminding each other to take their birth control, the lack of hot guys on campus, who was sleeping with who, and just how disgusting is the smell of Spaghettios? Were these the same scholarly girls I had just seen doing their school work?

Saturday night they were all up late, chatting away. I had gone to bed when Martha came in and asked if I wanted to fool around. But the girls were only 4 inches away on the other side of the wall. “Listen to them” Martha said, “they’ll never hear us. I’m going to tie a sock on the door”. “What? Are you crazy?” “No, she laughed, that way they’ll know not to disturb us.” And she did it. Later that night I heard one of them get up, obvious see the sock, and start to laugh. Could I be any more embarrassed?

On Sunday morning we needed to be out of the house by 10 am to get to the game. I went to get bagels and then came home to shower. But every time I tried, someone was in the bathroom. The door was never closed, but I felt odd sharing the bathroom with someone who was not family or pretty close to it. Finally I gave up and just got in the shower while someone was straightening her hair and someone else doing their makeup. No one seemed to notice.

They were all very sweet at the game. Cheered for Peachie loudly and appropriately and then we went out to eat (because there was literally no food left in the house) afterward to celebrate. And finally, Martha piled them all into her car and drove them back to school. Ahhhh. Sweet, sweet silence.

Dorm life. It is kind of fun to revisit. But I wouldn’t want to live there.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Road to Shalom

Monday I went to the knee doctor. The MRI shows a torn meniscus and other damage that will require surgery to relieve the pain. But the damage was not done when I awkwardly slipped. No, the doctor tells me the knee is wrecked because I walk unevenly on my left foot. The foot that was smashed on that day of violence.

This news has left me somewhat depressed. I had made a commitment this year to face down my demons and finally address those emotional issues that continue to sabotage my well being. But now I realize that it is the physical issues that are going to win. No matter what I do, I will never, ever be rid of this. Every step I take reminds me of that.

I went from the orthopedist to my therapist. I told her I was quitting. This immersion therapy has taken way too big a toll on me. Yes, I now understand why a laundromat spooks me and I have filled in some gaps of time I couldn’t remember before. But what I have remembered is not pretty. I don’t know why it is considered a good idea to rehash and relive the most physically and emotionally painful event of my life. So now my nightmares have more detail. What is the point of that?

Last week while helping a friend clean out her attic, we found some old photos from that time. A photograph of me standing outside a house I moved into, my foot in a cast, leaning on a cane, still battered and bruised. Empty.  I do not remember much from this time. But what really struck me is that I do not recognize myself in this picture. I am a stranger. It is a little frightening.

The other night I was watching the news with Peachie. A story about a man accused or convicted of rape - I don’t know. (I can still use those little therapy tricks to put myself on a beach somewhere when I feel the anxiety rising) All I heard was Peachie say “that woman will never be the same again.”

That is the theme that has haunted me all week. I understand that I will never be the same. Physical changes. Emotional changes. Events change people. We all evolve. But I don’t yet understand who I am supposed to be now. I have one foot stuck in the past (literally and figuratively) and one in the present.

Overriding it all is trying to process the unexpected and senseless death of a friend. And all I can think about is how precarious life is. And how I really need to get myself back to the present. Full time. Whenever we would discuss tough decisions or future plans, my friend’s philosophy was always “do what brings you peace.”

So that is now what I am trying to discern. What will bring me peace? I am not sure yet. Will I be okay if I never see Paris? Can I find peace in the present without resolving the guilt and pain of the past? I don’t know. But I do know I can’t stay where I am now.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Posts I Didn't Write

I have started to write many posts this week.

The first one was about the great weekend I had, just Martha and me, alone for the whole weekend. It was going to be a love story about transitions and cleaning out the garage.

Then there was the one about some medical decisions I have to make and how difficult it can be when the decisions affect others in your life.

That got sidetracked when therapy hit a raw nerve and I started to write a rant on how much therapy hurts.

But they all became meaningless when I got a call Monday night telling me that a close friend had died in a car accident. Although it wasn’t an accident. She was killed by a drunk driver. And I wanted to write an angry post about the impact of DWI and how many families I know that have been torn apart by this senseless, selfish act.

But I have just returned from a funeral and sitting Shiva for a friend. A single mom with two beautiful daughters. And I am having trouble finding any words for anything.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Doctor Hopping

In the last two weeks I have been squeezing work in between medical appointments. Every day I have had an appointment for something.


Dentist for a cleaning. Bad tooth. One day for a crown prep. And then back for the final crown.


Mammogram. Called back for an ultrasound. Something not quite right so back to Sloan Kettering for more study. (Not new cancer. I am just a lab rat)


Went to the family doctor about the hurting knee. He referred me to an orthopedic who thinks I tore my meniscus and will likely require surgery. MRI next week to determine degree of damage. Then back to ortho to determine next step.


Today is the only day on my calendar that I don’t have a doctor’s appointment but I am picking Beanie up to get her to the doctor for a follow up blood test for her mono.


Aarrrghhhh!


There is nothing life threatening here. I just really hate all things medical.


End of rant.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Open church door survey

In my life I have belonged to 3 churches. And each of these churches has, in its own way, provided sanctuary for me in times when I needed to feel safe or to re-center myself on a spiritual level. There was a time when having an open sanctuary literally saved my life.

The doors of the first two churches were always open when I needed them. I could just walk right in. The last church was always locked, but since I had a key because of other work I did there, I was able to use the sanctuary whenever I had the need. Until they took my keys away.

Having no quiet sacred space currently in my life continues to be a huge void I need to fill.

I have now become very interested in how physically welcoming churches actually are. When I went to the cemetery last month there was a church there, doors wide open with a sign outside saying “all are welcome”. I sat in that church before and after visiting the grave site and I am very thankful that it was there. I recently visited NYC with my daughter and every church we passed had its doors open.



My former church as just completed a new mission statement where one of its eight missions is a welcoming facility, although the text only talks about freshly painted rooms and new computers in the education building. The building is always locked, although the Elders have a security code to get in. When the secretary is there you can hit a call button to be let in but it is at a tiny side entrance a visitor would not know about. And in their newsletter is this.


Does not feel very welcoming to me.

So I am asking my limited (and mostly atheist) readership if their places of worship are available to anyone wishing to use their sanctuary. Are there only certain times, security access, or other impediments to welcoming a stranger? Even if you don’t have a church now, any info on your childhood or neighborhood church would be welcome. If you have a story about how the availability of an open sanctuary helped you, I would love to hear that too. And for all those readers who never comment, feel free to answer anonymously. I am just trying to get a sense of it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

18 Again

A couple of weeks ago I received a text from one of Beanie’s high school friends, now in her first year of college. She is also the daughter of the man I work most closely with. I have known her since she was born, watching her grow up through the pictures and stories and occasional office visits to her dad.


After a couple of greeting texts -

Hi, this is A.

Hi A.  how is college life?

Okay. Lots of drama.

What’s going on?

I think I’m a lesbian.

You want to talk about it?

Oh yeah.


And we arranged to have lunch when she was home on break.


I have had this opportunity many, many times - to talk with some young person struggling with their sexual identity. I generally enjoy it. But in light of all the recent gay teen suicides, I have to admit I was feeling a little stressed about it this time. I was feeling a lot of pressure about saying the right things, and giving the right encouragement, and generally not screwing it up. I read a lot of things on line. I talked to my therapist. Suddenly this seemed like a lot of responsibility. I was very nervous.

On Monday we met at a local pizza place. I started with questions about her classes and activities at school. And then asked her about what she was feeling about her sexuality.

Well, it turns out she is quite comfortable about who she is. I asked if she had told her mom (her parents are divorced) “Yup, she’s cool with it.” Then I asked if she had told her dad, thoroughly prepared to go back to work and rip him a new one if he had been a schmuck. “Yeah, he said he just wants me to be happy.” Hmmmm. I was feeling very relieved but quite curious as to why she wanted to talk. I asked when she first recognized her feelings. She replied she had her first girl crush in 10th grade. “Who was that?” I asked. “Your daughter.” I smiled. “Did you tell her?” I asked thinking that *this* must be where the conversation is going. “Yep”, she said “she wasn’t interested in that but would always be my friend. In fact, she always told me that I should talk to you”   

So I finally asked exactly what it was she wanted to talk about. And then she welled up with tears. She had fallen in love and the girl first reciprocated and then backed away and they had just shared this heart stopping sex and spent the night snuggling and eating Oreos and they were just made for each other and now this girl is acting like she didn’t even know her and flirting with other girls and she thought this would be forever and why is this girl acting like this and what did she do wrong and why are lesbian relationships so fucking complicated and how will she ever be able to find someone again and what should she do now?


And yes, she said all that, and more, in one long heartbreaking sentence.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Infirmary

Wednesday night Beanie came home for her mid-term break. Thursday she looked like crap. Friday the doctor said she had mono.

On Friday Peachie said she was feeling crappy. Then she played in her field hockey game, in 42 degree weather in a cold, driving, drenching rain. Apparently an hour and a half of that was not enough for all of the teeth chattering, soaked to the bone players, the game went into over time. And to finalize the misery, they lost. Peachie now has a full blown head and chest cold.

On Thursday Martha was informed that there are 3 cases of whooping cough in her school. She works with two of these children very closely. On Friday the doctor put her on a five day course of intense antibiotics, just in case. We have to wait and hope that she didn’t catch it. Meanwhile, we are not supposed to exchange any body fluids. What?

Saturday morning while bringing in groceries, I slid on some wet leaves and wrenched my knee. It has blown up the size of a grapefruit. My athletic family tells me I have most likely torn my MCL. It will require a doctor’s appointment. Damn.

All day Saturday we sat around in various stages of misery. Beanie can barely stay awake and has a sore throat. Peachie just keeps blowing her nose. I sat with my leg elevated with an ice pack on the knee. Martha is just generally run down and worried about getting seriously sick.

Still its nice to have everyone home together - even if it looks like an infirmary.


This too shall pass.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Getting Up

We had our first frost last night. The temperature dipped below 30 and I had left the bedroom windows wide open.

It is really unusual for me not to be the first one awake. But I have not been sleeping particularly well, and last night I just crashed. A good, sound sleep - all night long. Bliss.

We were both snuggled way down under the duvet when she woke me with tiny butterfly kisses on the back of my neck.


Martha: You left the windows open last night.

Me: Sorry, but I slept so well in the crispy air.

Martha: That wasn’t sleep, it’s so cold in here you were cryo- frozen. I am defrosting you.

Me: Sweet.

Martha: Yeah, now get your ass out of bed and close the freaking windows so I can get up.


Alright, not exactly how I wanted that story to end.



I have been using this blog to document a rather painful journey through therapy. But I did want to relate that it is balanced by all the abundance in my life.

My children are both healthy and very happy, moving smoothly through the transitions of their lives. They make me smile everyday. Martha and I just celebrated another anniversary. Work is starting to pick up again and I have a major nursing home development to sink my teeth into. Life is good.

I don’t know if I have been through the worst yet. Seems like every time I say it is getting better, something else knocks me down so I am hesitant to say it anymore.

But I am still getting up. Everyday.

Although some days, I admit, it is only because someone kicks me out of bed to close the windows.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I am not crazy . . .

. . . I am healing.

This is what my therapist tells me.


But I know I am losing my grip. Or as someone recently told me - the wheels have come off and I am careening all over the place.

Years ago I went through therapy and learned how to cope with flashbacks. Mostly I experienced emotional (feeling overwhelming sadness or fear) and visual flashbacks (seeing parts of the attack in rapid screen shots). These lasted anywhere from seconds to hours, and were very disruptive and disorienting. But I learned the tricks of getting myself back to the present - visualizing a safe place, counting out and naming the things I can see, hear, touch, wrapping myself in a blanket, etc. - and eventually I was able to manage it and get through my days in a reasonably sane fashion and sustain a career and create a family and a very happy life.

But then Martha and I fell apart. And then I had issues with my church. Or more accurately, the pastor had issues with me. And that seemed to create all sorts of cracks in my already jerry-rigged foundation. Sadness returned. The flashbacks became more frequent. And it started to negatively impact the quality of my carefully structured life. So back to therapy I went.

This time to try exposure therapy, because okay, I have buried the pain for far too long. The theory involves the person recounting traumatic memories until they lose their sting. This can be done by saying them aloud repeatedly, writing, reading over and over until they are no longer distressing. And so for the last few months this is what I’ve been doing. Pulling out long buried memories, going over the torturous details.

Trusting my therapist, onward I went. I choked out the memories of the torment my lover went through. And the flashbacks became more vivid and longer and debilitating. And still I continued, opening doors I still think should remain forever closed, trying to speak about the physical pain and the humiliation done to me. And the memories are flooding back. Things I do not want to remember. Why would anyone want to remember this?

And now, this week, physical flashbacks. I sat in her office Monday answering her questions, and suddenly had so much pain I doubled over. Body memories she called them. And she was very good in getting me back to the here and now, but do I really want this happening at random moments?

I started this process feeling 90% normal with occasional cracks that needed repair. I now feel totally wrecked and don’t see how this is getting better. My therapist assures me this is quite normal and I will break through it, but I do not want to spend this much time in the past.

I can now talk about some great memories with Daphne which was a goal. But the good memories are always shadowed with the horror in a much greater detail than before. I now know why the smell of a laundromat is a trigger for me, but I now also have the memories of why. It was easy to avoid laundromats, not so easy to relive broken bones and lost teeth.  And why am I doing this to myself?


I fear that this therapy has taken too great a toll on my life. Tomorrow is my and Martha’s anniversary, but she is sleeping on the couch since all my tossing and turning has been keeping her up. I am missing a wedding this weekend because I don’t feel confident going anywhere in public. (Martha is not pleased)   My daughter is avoiding me. I am trying to stay in a routine but often leave work after an hour or two, totally spent. I want my life back. I need my life back.  I am afraid I will never feel normal again.


I feel like I am going crazy.


My therapist says that I am healing.


But I fear that the cure is far worse than the disease.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Another Thing I Ought to Be Doing


Another Thing I Ought to Be Doing

by

Marilyn L. Taylor



So now I should be taking special care

of them, is that it? Every month go pat

pat pat—when what they’ve done for me is flat

out zero? Nothing? Case in point: where

were they when I was fourteen, fifteen,

and topographically a putting green?



Not to mention nights when I disgraced

my gender, stuffing tissue paper down

my polo shirt or confirmation gown—

my philosophy on staying chaste

having less to do with things profound

than fear of giving off a crunchy sound.



And now you’re saying, Minister to them!

these very breasts that caused me great gymnasiums

of misery and high humiliation—

Institute a monthly regimen!

meaning I’m to walk my fingers gingerly

around these two molehills in front of me.



Sorry, but my hands have dropped straight down

like baby birds. They will not rise

to the occasion, won’t get organized,

refuse to land on enemy terrain.

They simply twitch and fidget in my lap

as if they sense a booby trap—



As if they hear the moron in my head

insisting that I’ll never be caught dead.

________________________
Many women fail to check their own breasts for suspicious lumps on a regular basis.
- The American Cancer Society

October is breast cancer awareness month. Early detection made my breast cancer easily treatable. I am now ten years cancer free.

I urge you all to have a mammogram if age or history appropriate. And do those self exams !

To learn how to do a Self-Breast Exam Click Here:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Days Like These

Most of you know this has been a very rough month for me.

I made some advances in therapy, being able to give voice to the events of that violent day, something I thought I would never be able to do. And that was good. Unfortunately, at some point it became too much, causing an overload of triggers. Too many details I really didn’t want to remember. It was very frightening so I had to stop.

Switched gears to focus more on the guilt that I carry, which led me to write a letter to Daphne’s parents, asking for forgiveness, among other things. Received a letter back from her mother with an acknowledgment of our relationship.  It was not an unkind note.  But no forgiveness.  Most importantly it gave me information on where she was buried.

Went to the cemetery which was brutal. I really don’t have words for it. I was utterly unprepared to see her headstone. It sucked everything out of me. Having never had closure it was almost too much to see the ending, so cold, so final.

And today was the anniversary of that day. It was particularly painful this year. Listening to Billie Holiday records. Her records. The only thing I have left of her.  In many ways I am going through the mourning process all over again.  I hope this time the wound will heal better.

I have been brought to my knees more than once this month. I have wept harder this month than I thought humanly possible.  But there is always something that picks me back up - the knowledge of all the angels in my life who keep me afloat in one way or another.

I thank all of you who let me know that you were with me through the month and particularly today. It is so incredibly comforting to me to know that although I am still dealing with the trauma of violence and the loss of a great love, I still have an awful lot of love and caring that surrounds me. 

It is because of you that I can make peace with days like these.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Response

Today I received a simple, handwritten note, signed by Daphne’s mother.


Two sentences.


And the name of a cemetery.





I need to rethink everything I thought I knew.


My head is spinning.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Updating the Kids

By request

Beanie is absolutely loving college life. She declined the crew team (sending Martha into a tailspin) but has redeemed herself by joining club basketball and field hockey. And has gotten a paying job to ref basketball games. She is running for freshman class vice president - not because she has any love of government but because the guy running for president is hot. Yeah, some things never change. Since she took a ton of college level courses in High School, she has been able to jump right into her major courses, psychology and criminal justice, which she is loving. Philosophy not so much. She likes her roommate but says she’s a slob. Which, if you ever saw Beanie’s room here, you realize must be pretty bad.

Peachie is in her senior year. She was elected captain of her field hockey team which is great because she has long lived in the shadow of her sister’s athletic career and its nice for her to shine a little on her own. She loves all her teachers this year which is a refreshing change. She has decided she does not want a boyfriend, but has remained very good friends with her ex. In fact, since where he is going to college is actually closer to us than where he used to live, they are actually seeing more of each other than when they were together. She says he is her best friend. That works for me. She has befriended an exchange student from Germany who we are getting to know. His one observation of America - “the portions are so large”. Yep. She has lost her waitressing job when the restaurant was recently seized for back taxes and is really bummed because she had close to $300 still owned to her. So she is out seeking new employment and beginning the college application process. And while she is missing her sister, she is also loving being an only child.


This weekend Peachie is going to visit Beanie at college. At first, she was going to take the train, but since I have been in such a funk, I thought it would be therapeutic to drive her down and all go out for a nice family dinner. And then, I am told, Martha and I are to leave immediately because they have plans. Beanie has already told me that she has told all the guys how hot her little sister is. And I am now personally delivering my littlest lamb to the college wolves. What kind of mother does this?

So this weekend Martha and I have the house to ourselves. No kids. No friends of kids. This is what it will be like next year, every single day. We’ll have to start getting used it.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Atonement

This week is a high holy week in Judaism, set aside for atonement. And although I am not Jewish, I have long been exposed to and invited to participate in many of the traditions and celebrations of the faith. Unlike the Christian belief that when you sin against someone, you can just ask forgiveness from a priest or god, the Jewish belief states that first you need to go and ask forgiveness from the person you have hurt and make it right. This makes much more sense to me.

I began to practice this ritual many years ago. I have found it to be very humbling and very cleansing. And I have been very blessed that all the people (and there have been many) to whom I have spoken and asked forgiveness have always been extremely gracious and forgiving. Except, ironically, three leaders from my former church who chose to not even acknowledge my apologies. (Christian hypocrisy noted)

This month is a hard one for me, the anniversary of a violent attack that changed my life forever, and now, finally, doing some serious work in therapy to come to grips with it all. One of the biggest things I believe prevents me from having closure is that I don’t know the ending of the story. Because her parents would not allow me to see her, nor would they speak to me, I don’t know if, or where, Daphne was buried. I do not the exact date of her death. Or even how she died. There was no saying goodbye. There was no saying “I’m sorry”. Just a huge gaping wound that continues to bleed.

I have often fantasized about calling her parents hoping that, after all these years, they might give me some closure. Numerous times I have look them up, written down the phone number, but I have never been able to find the courage to call.

And then, on Rosh Hashanah, after considering all those other apologies I wanted to make ths week, it came to me. I was unable to apologize to Daphne but I could, should apologize to her parents. And as soon as I thought of it, the need to do it became overwhelming. For the last three days I have working on this letter. It has been agonizing. Every word. Every memory. The guilt. The staggering guilt. I have poured my whole heart into this letter.

Now that it is written, I am hesitant to send it.. I am wrestling with knowing that this apology is not pure. That I do have another motive, that of wanting some information back. And I don’t know how I’ll handle it if I get no response at all.

The thought of that seems unbearable.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Progress

As some of you who have followed my journey through therapy are aware, the main goal of my therapy has been to be able to express the details of the sexual attack that entombed me in trauma and guilt and eventually took the life of my partner. Having buried the attack as far as I could for many, many years, being able to talk about it at all has been a challenge. But under the expert care of my therapist, I have been nibbling around the edges and begun to allow some light into those dark places.

On Monday, answering her direct and often brutally frank questions, I was finally able to talk about the details of the torture and excruciating torment that was inflicted on Daphne. I will not relate it here as it somehow seems like a violation of her privacy. Suffice it to say I am emotionally raw and exhausted. I don’t think I’ve ever done anything so harrowing.

And I was expecting a major shift in myself. For years I have heard that if I could conquer the trauma by talking about it, it would lose its power over me. That all those triggers that body slam me, and all those horrific memories that plaque me, all the guilt that weights me down, would somehow disappear. I was expecting a miracle. I didn’t get it.


I still have to talk about all that happened to me which I can’t even imagine doing.

Maybe then.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Trail of Tears

Beanie goes to college.

Ever since Beanie’s graduation at the end of June, she has been on the goodbye tour. All of July she went to graduation parties. Come August, some of the kids who were playing fall sports began to leave and the goodbyes started.

This past Saturday was Beanie’s turn to leave. Thursday her boyfriend came for dinner. He is leaving for 6 months training having joined the Air National Guard. They agreed to break up as they were both about to start new chapters of their lives. He stayed overnight, they went for breakfast, she came home sobbing. I looked at her and started to cry too.

On Friday her best friends came over. Beanie has been friends with L since preschool, K since kindergarten. They brought a bunch of junk food and went downstairs to stroll down memory lane, cry, and swear forever friendship to each other. I got very teary saying good bye to them, L leaves today, K is going to college locally, lamenting that she will be all alone. I have known them for 15 years and I love them as if they were my own. Everyone left crying.

In the wee hours of Saturday morning Martha, who obviously could not sleep, spooned up behind me and asked “she’s going to be okay, right?” “She’ll be more than okay, she’ll be great”, I answered. And then Martha started to cry. In all the years I’ve known her, I could count on one hand the number of times I have seen her cry. I just held her until we really had to get up.

We drove two cars to be able to hold all her stuff, Beanie riding with Martha. The move in itself was massive organized chaos. Beanie’s roommate is a fashion major which will hopefully rub off on my daughter who spends 80% of her time in basketball shorts and tanks. We had anticipated the goodbye there being the worst, but it wasn’t too bad. Leaving her at numerous sport’s camps at college campuses since she was 14 really gave us a lot of practice. She said goodbye to me and Martha and asked to have a few minutes alone with her sister. Peachie swore she wouldn’t cry. She did.

I was doing okay Sunday until when I passed by her empty room. Tears welling. Then I went grocery shopping. I kept reaching for things - Beanies’ favorite cereal, her favorite cookies, etc. Yep, started to lose it. Later L and K came back to our house with ice cream to cheer us up. I forget we are not the only ones who will miss her.

Beanie is having is having fun. She went to her first frat party Saturday night. We skyped her last night and she had 10 people in her (very tiny) room. I have no doubt that she will totally enjoy her college experience.

Today the pool needs to be vacuumed. Crap, that was Beanie’s job. I guess its mine now.


Yep. I am going to miss her.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Saturday

If you are anywhere near the northeastern US on Saturday, and hear the faint sounds of weeping and wailing somewhere in the distance, that would be me. I will be leaving my first born daughter at college for the first time. Name any human emotion - and I am feeling it. Fear. Yep. Jealousy. Yep. Love. Oh yeah. Anger. Only at the fact that she didn’t stay 4 years old forever. Pride. Overflowing. Sadness. Oh yes, deep sadness, I will miss her terribly. How do mothers do this?

Also on Saturday - the USA will be playing undefeated England in the Women’s Rugby World Cup for bragging rights and a tie for top spot in Pool B. I have a bet (food, of course) with Haizey on this one, who will actually be at the game (she is one lucky woman). So, if you live on this side on the pond, I expect to hear you cheering.




Don't you wish you were there . . .

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Conversations with my Daughter

Going out last night, I tried on a pair of pants that had been too tight for awhile. But I have lost about 7 pounds so I thought I would try them again. I put them on and went into Beanie’s (18) room to get her opinion -


Me: Be honest, are these pants too tight?


Beanie: Do you want the kid answer or the mom answer?


Me: Give me the mom answer.


Beanie: The pants are fine.


Me: Okay, give my the kid answer.


Beanie: Those pants make your ass look hot.



How am I ever going to let this treasure of a child go away to college?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Meme

1. What's your favorite Dr. Seuss book?
Green Eggs and Ham

2. If you could live in any home on a television series, what would it be?
I really don’t watch much television but now if I’m home, I will watch Modern Family. I would like to live with Cam and Mitchell. Well, maybe just with Cam.

3. What's the longest you've gone without sleep?
Twenty four-plus hours. College and babies do that to you.

4. What's your favorite Barry Manilow song?
Not a fan at all but if I had to choose - Ready to take a chance again - as it nicely captures a point in my life when I chose to let myself be happy again.

5. Who's your favorite Muppet?
Sesame Street: Elmo
Non-Sesame Street: Rizzo the Rat and Bean Bunny

6. What's the habit you're proudest of breaking?
Smoking.

7. What's your favorite website?
The web cam from the beach where I grew up. I usually have it minimized in the corner of my computer so I can watch the beach all day long.

8. What's your favorite school supply?
Sticky notes

9. Who's your favorite TV attorney?
Again, I don’t watch much TV.

10. What was your most recent trip of more than 50 miles?
Boston - Took my daughter for a college visit.

11. What's the best bargain you've ever found at a garage sale or junk shop?
A first edition, gold leaf copy of Elizabeth Barrett Browning poems. 25 cents.

12. Where were you on September 11, 2001?
At work. The fire guys have a tv in their office and I watched events unfold from there. One man, knowing I am from NY, quietly reached out and held my hand. When the first tower came down, I went home to start checking on family who live and work in Manhattan. All my family was safe but a close friend of ours lost her brother.

13. What's your favorite tree?
Hard to choose. We have a beautiful dogwood in the backyard that puts on quite a show of white flowers in June and then red berries in fall.

14. What's the most interesting biography you've read?
I really enjoyed John Adams: A Life.

15. What do you order when you eat Chinese food?
Some kind of garlic shrimp and fried rice.

16. What's the best costume you've ever worn?
My girls had a halloween, mystery dinner and I dressed (and served) as a butler.

17. What's your least favorite word?
Rape

18. If you had to be named after one of the 50 states, which would it be?
Maine. I’m kind of used to one syllable names.

19. Who's your favorite bear?
Winnie the Pooh and of course my youngest daughter who we always called Peachie Bear.

20. Describe something that's happened to you for which you have no explanation.
Threatened to be kicked out of church.

21. If you could travel anywhere in Africa, where would it be?
Egypt. I would love to see the pyramids.

22. What did you have for lunch yesterday?
Toast with humus and a pear. (Yep still on the diet)

23. Where do you go for advice?
Depends on the problem. Mostly my mom for family or household stuff. Friends for most everything else.

24. Which do you use more often, the dictionary or the thesaurus?
The dictionary.

25. Have you ever been snorkeling? Scuba diving?
Snorkeling, yes. Scuba diving, no.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Incomplete

When you look at me, am I incomplete?
Am I missing something everybody else can clearly see?
when you look at me...
- Sarah Bettens, Grey


Much of my therapy lately has centered around my ever growing awareness of being incomplete.

For many, many years I thought that people looking at my life would be envious. A have a very satisfying career, a long term relationship with a woman who loves me, two beautiful and accomplished daughters, a warm and loving home, great friends. I have it all.

Yet I have always known, somewhere deep down, that this is a house of cards - a very shaky structure that remains upright only by balance and friction. And once things are out of balance, the whole thing collapses.


It was with this knowledge that I put myself back in therapy. I wanted my life to be built on a better foundation, one that could not be easily knocked down by one rape trigger, one insensitive comment, one memory, or any other external incident that would often throw me back into that hole or have debilitating effects on those who care most about me.

Using this analogy, my therapist assured me that we would take apart the structure and rebuild it, stronger and healthier. She did not give me any false illusions that it would be easy or without hazards. She told me we would have to break it all apart, painfully, look at each card, every memory, every response, determine whether it was worth keeping or can and should be discarded. Ugly and scarred cards that could not be discarded would have to find a way to fit in better, supported by beautiful and healthy cards. And when it was all back together, my life would be stronger and better able to withstand the assault of outside influences and my own destructive patterns.

I am now in the midst of the hardest therapy stuff I have ever encountered. Partly because my house, my self, all those parts that I have always clung to, have been scattered to the wind and I am desperately running around trying to pick them up (still wanting to cling to things even though I know some of them to be unhealthy). But mostly what is hard is the realization that things have been stolen from me that are necessary for a truly healthy foundation. Gone forever. Things I can’t even name, but I know they are missing. And no matter how many times I tear it down and try to build it back up, I will always be missing pieces that are essential.

I do not mean for this to be a morose post. It is not my mood or my intention at all. It is just me, grappling with a new revelation, a clearer understanding of my brokenness. For many, many years I have tried to convince myself that I was whole again. Now I see that I will never can or will be. And I am trying to come to terms with what that means for me.

When you look at me, am I incomplete?
Am I missing something everybody else can clearly see?
when you look at me...

Friday, August 13, 2010

Weekend Recap

I am just coming off a 5 day visit with the women of my family at our lake house. We have been doing this for the last 5 years and I think this was the best visit ever. I noticed some changes as we have all gotten older:

- Now that my daughters are older, their relationship with their older cousin has gotten closer. The three of them had their heads together most of the weekend, giggling, telling secrets, driving into town to do some shopping.

- I asked my niece to drop the “aunt” and just use my first name. She is now more of a friend than just my sister’s daughter. I like it.

- Now that everyone knows their way around the house and the town, I didn’t have to do a thing. Everyone took care of their own needs, got their own drinks, towels, etc. When Peachie had to come back home for a sport’s meeting, she drove herself there and back. I really didn’t have to do a thing all weekend.

And some things never change:

- My sister showed up stating that we were going to do a triathlon everyday - walk around the lake, kayak and swim. Not quite. We accomplished more of a daily uniathlon. Just like every year.

- I still have to suffer through the jibes of an older sister - when I brought a plate of english muffins out for breakfast - “I see your cooking skills have improved - now you can actually toast them”

- and the probing of my mom - Have you found a church yet? No. Are you ever going to finish that PhD? No, I don’t think so. (Why, no matter how old I get, do I often feel like an inept little girl in my mother’s eyes? )

And every night when we went to bed, she would tuck the covers around me - sweet dreams baby girl. You too mom. Don’t forget to say your prayers. Yes ma’am. (And sometimes it feels so good to be that little girl)



This weekend I am going on a short backpacking trip, just one night. I can’t believe it is already mid August and this will be my first trip into the Adirondacks. Where has the summer gone? We are going to one of my favorite places - a less than 5 mile hike to a beautiful mountain lake that has a sandy beach. I can pack light and detox from family and junk food. I will spend the weekend watching peregrine falcons and go skinny dipping under the stars.



Have a great weekend!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Women’s Weekend

From Sunday to Wednesday the women of my family will all be coming up to our lake house for our annual get together. Me, Martha, our daughters, my mom, my sister, and her daughter. My sister loves this weekend because she doesn’t have to wear underwear or makeup or cook. This, of course, is my life all the time so it doesn’t seem as out of the ordinary to me as it does to her.

What I love is that the three generations really get to talk to each other. Not like the holiday visits where the host is always in the kitchen, and everyone else trying to help, and the conversation barely touches the surface - How ya doing?, How’s the job? Eat dessert and its time to go.

For four days we will eat fudge for breakfast (under my mother’s disapproving eye). Every morning my sister and I will take a long walk around the lake (to work off the fudge) and chat about the meaningful (and less) things in our lives. The girls will play cards and checkers with their grandmother. My daughters and my niece will take the kayaks out for hours and share their secrets together. My mom and I will sit in our adirondack chairs, sipping our afternoon tea, and talk about the mysteries of life while watching the ducks swim around the lake and neighbors wave as they sail past. Every evening we will give in, put some real clothes on, and go into town for dinner, because, of course, I do not cook. And my sister will take my girls around town to do some shopping. We will come home, and toast marshmallows under a star filled sky and then watch chic flicks - traditionally Mean Girls and at least one Audrey Hepburn movie. And my mom and I will sleep in the same bed and tuck each other in at night.

It is one of my favorite weekends of the year.

A few pictures of my hard work last week -


I am so looking forward to some relaxing time . . .

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Report Card

Probably the biggest thing my father taught me was the value of education. He did not have a chance to go to college when he was young as he was his mother’s sole support. I watched him earn his degree part time while working full time and supporting three kids. A man who grew up poor, he would always say “education is the one thing they cannot take away from you”.

I tried to instill the same sense in my daughters. They knew that school was their top priority and in order to have other privileges or play sports, the school work had to come first. And they have come through with flying colors, and grades.

The other day I was in the attic looking for a storage trunk Beanie wanted to borrow. And in that trunk I found a folder of all my report cards that my father always saved. I sat down, kind of teary thinking of my dad, and started a long walk down school memories.

For some reason I thought I was pretty smart in High School. Apparently not. I failed my French regents? A 79 in physics? Wow, my daughters would have been grounded with those grades. And of course I made the mistake of showing them the report cards and now I have lost some credibility with them. In fact, they are still making fun of me.

My absolute favorite was my kindergarten report card. It is a strange predictor of my life to come. I got an A (almost always) in things like ‘I listen attentively’ , ‘I follow directions’, and “I take turns and share”. Yep, still do.



I got a slow start (N - not yet) in “I am interested in number and reading activities" but quickly caught up. And I am still a slow reader and problem solver. But I get there.

The one thing I never got better at (P - part of the time) is ‘I rest quietly’. Being at rest is still a problem for me.

How sweet to unearth this wonderful snapshot of me years ago. And to realize how as much as things change, they still remain the same..

Friday, July 30, 2010

Butch Weekend

This will be a working weekend at our lake house. We need to have a new well drilled - our old, dug well apparently long past its useful life. But in order for the well driller to get his rig onto to property, we had to have six large trees removed. Most of these trees were interfering with power lines so the power company came and carefully took them down for us, but they did not remove them.

Although I don’t consider myself very butch, I do like that side of myself. I enjoy doing manual labor projects and particularly woodworking. I used to build furniture in my garage workshop until it got covered up and taken over by the girl’s sports equipment.

So this weekend I will be donning the work boots and muscle shirt (sans muscles) and firing up the chain saw. Hot, sweaty, butch work.

And just for balance - I also made new curtains for the back porch.


Have a great weekend!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Weird Week

This past week has been trying.
First was the graduation party, which was fun but having a house filled with people for the entire weekend was very draining for this introvert.

Monday I had a difficult therapy session that fed into one of the worst nights of flashback nightmares I can remember having in a long, long time. Felt totally deflated for days afterward.

Then my boss made a deal that wasn’t very well thought out, which when made public, created a storm of criticism. So my boss told the leader of the neighborhood opposition to send all emails to me. WTF? I have been inundated with calls and emails hammering me for something I had no part of, did not agree with, and then had to respond to with some kind of diplomacy. Yes, this is why I make the big bucks ::sarcasm::

In the wee hours of Thursday morning I got a call that my mother had been rushed to the hospital with back and chest pain. Made the drive down to see her. She was sent for a multitude of tests but they could find no cause. She was released on Friday and is feeling much better, although hesitant to not know the cause to begin with.

Came home, pretty much exhausted, but looking forward to a quiet weekend at the lake. Then found out that my daughters had invited a bunch of friends to come up too. Not being able to face another weekend of teenagers, I begged off and stayed home. Alone. Oh, sweet heaven.

Batteries recharged.

But last night I had trouble sleeping because the room was so bright with the full moon. A full moon? Not a good omen for the week to come.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Tale of Two Churches

During my life time, I have been a member of only three churches - the church I grew up in which formed my foundation in my faith, the church I joined in my first job location whose minister and sanctuary got me through the roughest time of my life, and the church I joined when I was settled into my second career location, who then kicked me to the curb. The first two churches were United Methodist churches (UMC), the last one a Reformed Church in America. (RCA)

I have thought long and hard about the differences of these experiences. Especially in light of what direction I want/need to take in terms of a faith community. Here are some of the most striking differences. These observations don’t reflect the philosophies of the denominations (I don’t think) but only the individual churches and their leadership. It’s just in writing it down, it is easier for me to define what I will be looking for in a new faith community.

Atmosphere

UMC - a 180 year old building, open, airy and bright and opens directly onto a street and invites people in. Remains unlocked during the day (doors wide open in nice weather) so that anyone can enter and use the sanctuary.

RCA - A 50 year old building, dark, cave like sanctuary (although there were times I truly liked that). The sanctuary is an internal room in a larger building that is accessed from a parking lot. Locked at all times. Except Sunday morning.

Hiring pastors

UMC - some higher-up assigns ministers to individual churches based on the needs of the church and the strengths of the minister. Congregations have no say. Yet in all the 60 years + my mother has belonged to that church, there have been a total of 4 head ministers. All beloved.

RCA - when a pastor leaves the church an interim pastor is assigned while the congregation discerns the direction they would like to go. The congregation then begins a pastoral search. In the 15 years I belonged, there were 2 permanent pastors, 4 or 5 interim pastors and too many to remember ‘other people’ filling in. In fact, during my tenure, the position was vacant for longer than it was filled. The present pastoral search committee has been at it for over 3 ½ years and still can’t find anyone they feel is a good fit and/or is willing to serve there.

Mission statement

UMC - Our arms reach out into the community and our hands help around the world

RCA - to glorify God by bringing people to Jesus Christ in an atmosphere of love through involvement in our community of worship, education, fellowship and mission.

It has struck me the difference between reaching out into the community, an involvement in our community. The first being a call to go out and do good works, and last saying that to bring people to Jesus they have to be involved in helping this particular church.

Examples of how their mission works -

UMC - Office staff consists of women from an independent organization my mother started, to aid single mothers and abused women get back up on their feet. The church employs them to teach them basic office skills and train for permanent employment.

RCA - interim pastor fired the secretary, a month before Christmas, a single mother of two small children, after four years of service. She was told she was not capable enough and didn’t dress up to snuff. Was also told that the elders would help her find new employment. She never heard from one person from the church again. She remains unemployed.

UMC - hosts and serves at a soup kitchen every Sunday after services. They also run a food pantry from the church. They do this in conjunction with other area churches so that every day of the week is covered.

RCA - hosts a scrapbooking ministry where a woman comes to the church once a month to teach scrap booking and sells supplies.

Growth

UMC - suffered a decline in membership and financial aid a decade ago. Decided to forego all but structurally necessary church improvements and focus on service to the community. Church has now grown, especially young people. They are considering adding yet another service.

RCA - had a strong surge in growth when a dynamic, inclusive pastor was there for 4 years. But he was railroaded out and the church lost a third of its membership. I hear there are some new members joining but they do not outpace the death rate of the mostly elderly membership.


I think both churches went through periods when they were not healthy. But whereas the UMC decided to turn outward - i.e. serving those in need, the RCA church turned inward, serving themselves. In fact the current RCA interim pastor sent out a flyer stating that there would be “a new emphasis on creating a healthy church before we worry about the world, meaning we are ready to pour funds into creating an updated facility.” The updated facility means a new security system (where there has never been a security problem) and multi media equipment.

That is when I knew I would never return to this church under the present leadership.

It is interesting to me that two mainline protestant churches can be so different in their interpretation of the definition and work of a church. The UMC taking a gospel, service approach while the RCA is taking a business model approach.

Just doing this exercise helped me realize why I was never quite comfortable as new leadership took over my RCA church, and why I have always felt wonderfully renewed when returning to my former UMC church.


We have never gone to church in the summer as we are usually at our camp on weekends, being renewed in God's beautiful creation. But now, after a good mourning period, I am feeling the need to find another spiritual community. As I began to jot down my thoughts on this a few weeks ago, the NakedPastor posted this cartoon that summed it up quite nicely.



Yep, I don’t need an exclusive social club where they circle the wagons around their idea of God and take care of themselves. I need a community where I can go say ‘thank you’ for everything I have and then go out, do it for others and see God in everyone. (And a little weekly reminder on staying on a good path doesn’t hurt me either)

I’ve stopped seeing the sacred as a place I go to worship God, but as the place where God shows up in a variety of ways. - Julie Clawson

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Graduation Party

Prelude:

The morning of the party Martha gave me the lecture - “you are not to just disappear. Do not go off for hours reminiscing about your glory days with the 3 musketeers (my friends Ren and Laurie were both coming and we have not been all together for quite some time) And please make an attempt to be social”

Yes, she knows me too well.


The party went off well. It was a very hot day but we had rented a large tent so most people were able to stay in the shade. Almost everyone came, but fortunately, in shifts. At the beginning most people sat with the folks they knew - Beanie’s friends grouped together, Martha’s relatives took over one table, neighbors chatted with neighbors, and my work colleagues sat as one group. The queer ladies were the first to mingle with others they didn’t know - but mostly with other queers ladies.


I tried very hard to circulate and chat with everyone - except for the table of basketball coaches, where Martha spent most of her time. Basketball is all they ever talk about and they speak a language I don’t really understand.

As time went on, folks did start to mingle more. One of my favorite images was seeing by born again secretary sitting around the pool, dangling her feet in the water talking to 5 or 6 gold star lesbians. I don’t think she even realized.

My 84 year old neighbor runs a driving school and was going up to everyone saying “I taught you to drive.” Even many of the adults (and some of their parents) apparently learned from him. My neighbor, the county sheriff, seemed to know way too many people there : ) And many of my colleagues knew some of my neighbors, so that worked well.

All the adults had left by 8:00 and the yard and pool were taken over by the kids. But then unfortunately, the skies opened up with a spectacular lightning/thunder/drenching rain/hail storm. All these “top of the class”, best and brightest young people thought they could still sleep out under the tent. You know, the one with the huge metal poles in the ground. Duh. (I do worry about them)

All of the beds in the house were already claimed by out of town adults staying over so the kids took over the rest of our very tiny house, including the garage.


When I got up Sunday morning, my house was wall to wall bodies. I set up bagels and fruit under the tent and eventually folks got up, ate, and left. Martha and I spent the rest of Sunday cleaning up, returning borrowed items, putting away way too much food. We fell into bed at 8:30 last night, and I am still exhausted today.

Beanie said her friends said it was the best grad party yet. And I guess that’s really all that mattered.

Postlude:

Came in to work this morning and one woman told me it was a great party, told me she had heard ‘interesting’ stories about me *wink*, and then patted me on the butt.
You see, this is what I wanted to avoid. Some chapters in my life just shouldn’t mix.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Forgiveness

I saw this poem on Patti Digh’s blog yesterday. I was so moved by it, I thought I would pass it along.


Forgiveness

Forgiveness
Is a thousand pains
Placed one by one
In small boats
Kissed tenderly
And sent out to sea
Sometimes a few float back
The exquisiteness of the pain
Remembered
Kissed yet again
Then placed in its boat and sent out
As many times as it takes
Will they ever stop coming back
I can’t know
I can only send them out again
One by one

-Laura S. Walters

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Social Experiment

This Saturday we will be hosting Beanie’s graduation party. And for the first time, people from all areas of our lives will be together in one place -

Coming are

- 1,000 of Beanie’s closest Facebook friends : )

- all of her basketball coaches going back to third grade.

- a few of her favorite teachers

- families of her closest friends

- all of our neighbors

- folks from Martha’s work (most of whom I have never met)

- folks from my work

- most of Martha’s small extended family

- no one from my family as they will be here in a few weeks for an extended stay

-friends of me and Martha (mostly queer)

- my closest friends from my life before Martha (all queer)

- Martha’s closest friends from her life before me (mostly queer)

- folks from church (kidding - no one from church was invited. Sad. )


And I was thinking that all of these groups of people operate in parallel but separate universes in my life and very rarely ever intermingle. Occasionally some of our queer friends would go to one of Beanie’s games and we would introduce them to some of the parents. A few times we have had a spur of the moment BBQ and invited our closest friends that included gay and straight people.

But the reality is, our queer social life has been very separate from our life as parents, which is separate from our employment, which is separate from family. All of these communities exist in their own separate realm. And I think I am probably a different person in each situation - very relaxed when with my oldest and dearest friends, serious and responsible as a parent, a professional when working and a mixture of all of them when with family.

On Saturday all of my worlds will collide in my backyard. My born again secretary, who only recently relinquished the idea that I am doomed to hell, will be introduced to a whole gaggle of gay folks. Probably more gay folks than she will ever meet in her entire life. The PTA moms who will show up in their designer outfits and perfectly coiffed hair will share tables with inked and pierced dykes. My co-workers, who have only seen me in professional attire will most likely see me in a bathing suit playing pool volleyball. And my unmarried/childless queer friends will undoubtedly shake their heads and wonder when I became part of the establishment.

I am not sure I am going to enjoy this.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Needing Advice

Last night my oldest daughter shared something with me. And then she asked me not to share it with Martha. Because, she said, Martha would freak. And she is right - Martha would go ballistic.

But now I have a dilemma. This is something I should share with Martha. I really should. But I don’t want to break Beanie’s confidence. And I want her to contitnue to feel safe in talking to me.

So I am caught betwixt and between. The confidentially of the child or the right to know (should know) of the parent? Anyone have any experience with this? Any pearls of wisdom? I tossed and turned all night. Any and all advice would be appreciated.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Weekend Highlights

My family arrived in stages at our lake house and we were finally all together under one roof for the first time in I can’t remember how long.

We are is the midst of a heat wave in the northeast. I stripped down to what would barely pass as legal in public and stretched myself out directly on the heat of the brown stained deck. Much like an iguana on a hot rock, I laid there basking in the hot July sun. All stress just draining out of me.

At the lake we have no internet. We get, on a good day, three TV channels, and cell phone service is non-existent unless you stand on the roof and hold your phone at an odd angle. For a few short days, there is no outside world. This must be what heaven is like.

On the 4th, Beanie’s boyfriend and Peachie’s ex-boyfriend (not sure what that’s about) came up and we had a barbeque. Our next door neighbors joined us. Friends and family. Doesn’t get any better than this.

As the weekend progressed, it got hotter and hotter. And I plopped myself in a tube with my butt, arms and legs dangling in the still cool mountain lake.


I ate. A lot. Corn on the cob. Strawberry shortcake. Toasted marshmallows. But the absolute best - our friends made grilled peaches served with ice cream. I can't even remember how many of those I ate, while sipping white wine. Yum.

All right, the diet is not going as well as I had hoped. But everything else is. I am relaxed, sun soaked, and ready to face the week ahead.

It is expected to hit 100 degrees here today. Stay cool.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Survivor?

Survivor. It is a term that doesn’t sit well with me. Rape survivor. I suppose in very basic biological terms, I did survive. My body gets up every day and performs the basic functions necessary to get through each day. I am an attentive partner, a loving parent, a productive employee and a caring friend. Yet the “I” that survived is only a part of the “I” that was once me. And that was the topic of my recent therapy, and my ‘homework’ assignment - to name the parts that did not survive.


Feeling safe. I grew up in the cocoon of a wonderful loving family, a friendly neighborhood and a caring faith community. I never remember not feeling safe. I could go anywhere and do anything, anytime. And did. Now, I don’t think a day goes by when I feel safe. It is a difficult sensation to describe - the always looking over my shoulder, the always sitting with my back to a wall, the sweat that beads up when I hear strange voices, the sense of shadows, the mistrust when I meet a man for the first time. I don’t think you really notice feeling safe. But you definitely notice when it is missing. I have learned to manage it.

Joy. I can no longer feel joy. I can be happy. I can be moved to tears. But that totally letting go kind of happiness is gone.

My inner child died. Dancing with abandon. Giggling for no reason. All those child like, uninhibited things are unimaginable for me now. The lighthearted girl ran away terrified, and never came back.

But the worst thing is something I still can’t put a name to. That feeling of not only being violated, but having a cheering, leering, laughing audience to it. That killed something so fundamental in me, some critical part of my identity, I can’t describe what it is that died. Yet, sometimes when I look in a mirror, I don’t recognize the person looking back. There is a hollowness there that frightens me.


Still, not all was lost. I am proud that I have been able to rebuild a productive and loving life. I have mourned some of those parts and I have managed to work around them. Much, I imagine, like a person with an amputated limb. You find ways to live productively with what you have left. I was slowly able to allow people to touch me again. I have allowed myself to trust people. And fortunately I have rarely been hurt (except ironically by religious people) I force myself to go out in the world and live in it. I love. And I am loved. I have an abundant life.

I do not feel like a victim. Yet I do not feel like a survivor. Mostly I feel like a stranger. Even to myself.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Updates

I have a hand full of blog posts that I started and didn’t finish. Now they are outdated. Life has been very, very hectic but with mostly good stuff. So here are just some highlights to play catch up.

Beanie graduated High School on Saturday. It was a rather unemotional culmination to the whole school experience. She did not cry. I did not cry. Very unlike all the sports awards and banquets where we all sobbed. Sports she will miss. School work, not so much. Still a nice, dignified ending ceremony. And she did not trip up or down the stage. We all lost that bet.

On Sunday Martha and I drove our younger daughter across the state to attend a week long leadership conference. She was chosen from a regional selection process to participate. Another proud parent moment. We drove 4 hours there, dropped her off, and drove 4 hours home. The more active my kids are, the more I sit. Definitely not good for the butt.

I have not seen Beanie since the graduation. She has still not returned home from parties. Although she does text once in a while to let us know she is alive. And I am glad that the kids camp out at the house where they are partying. We have no tolerance for drinking and driving.

Today Martha (who does not work in the summer) and Beanie are going up to our lake house to spend a couple of days together. Or perhaps to just sleep off the partying. Yes, I am jealous.

All of a sudden I have heard from a number of people from my former church. Nice ‘how are you?’ emails and congratulations for Beanie. Not sure what happening there.

Finally, I had a very emotionally tough, but productive therapy session yesterday. And I am grateful to now have the house to myself. I am needing a little quiet, reflective time. Listen to whatever music I want. Eat junk food. Allow myself to feel sad for a while.

And sit down to write about it, which I know is an integral part of my therapy. I need to tap into some emotional and energy reserves and just do it. Unfortunately, the temptations of a nap are more likely to seduce me. . .