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


“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


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.


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.  


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.

Thursday, August 17, 2017


Three years ago I started a small orchard with 2 pears and a peach tree. The first year the peach tree bloomed and sprouted hundreds of peaches.  Unfortunately some critters (I suspect squirrels) came in one night and pirated every single baby peach away.  The second year we had a very late frost that killed all fruit development.  This year the tree was a mass of beautiful pink blossoms which then created a mass of baby peaches.  

I was not very hopeful that they would mature without being absconded by some marauder but mature they did. Hundreds of them.  So many I had to brace some of the branches that were threatening to break under the weight.

Every day for the past 2 weeks I have been picking a huge bucket of them as they ripen.  But since they are not bred with preservatives they rot very quickly. So we have been in peach eating, giving away and processing mode.

Peach jam. Check.

Sliced peaches in canning jars.  Check.

Dehydrating peaches. Check.

Processing peaches is a very messy business and I am glad that the yield is finally starting to slow down.

But silly me, last year I was convinced that I would never get peaches to survive so I bought a second tree because I just liked the shape and flower of it.  So next year, critters willing, we will have twice as many peaches to deal with. Yikes.

Monday, August 14, 2017

For Eddie

There is a dog who needs some help.

He has suffered much abuse in his life.  He had his tail chopped off, was hung from a tree by a metal snare round his waist and left to die, and finally someone tried to kill him by hitting him over the skull with a metal bar with a spike on it.  They missed his skull and hit the top of his nose instead, hence the hole.  You can read more about him here https://sweffling.wordpress.com/2016/03/01/romanian-rescue-dog-2/

No living thing deserves to be treated with such violence.

Fortunately there are angels like Susanna in this world who love and  take care of those hurting animals, even when they themselves have heavy things on their plate.  

I have known Susanna as a blogging friend for a little while now and know her to be an extremely compassionate, empathetic person.  She so badly wants to help Eddie but as any of us who live with furry animals know, even routine vet care can be expensive.

Susanna has (reluctantly) started a crowdfunding page for Eddie. If you are able and so inclined, please kick in a few dollars*** for Eddie.


*** Susanna lives in England and therefore the funding page is in pounds.  I had no idea what the exchange rate was so I tried giving 30 pounds.  That turned out to be $39.10 on my credit card.  You can use that as a reference.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Full of Grace

After critters ate my entire first planting of green beans, the second crop is now ready for harvest.

Today's pickings

Visited Peachie in Boston where we went kayaking in the Charles River.  Very cool. We’ve decided that every trip should include a kayaking adventure.  

All the pink sailboats in the background were a kid's camp learning to sail.

Toured the inspirational Kennedy Museum and Library. I was not a big fan of the man, but greatly admired his politics.   

Back in the car for a quick visit to see my sister and family and finding a new route thereby avoiding all the Yankee Stadium traffic.

Had my yearly physical and was determined to be in pretty good shape. Cholesterol down, weight down, height steady and EKG strong.  Except for the increasingly irritating arthritis and possible reflux issues, I feel great.  I am hoping to make it to October which will mark the first whole year without a surgery in the last 5 years. Fingers crossed.

Good health is something I no longer take for granted and so I am particularly grateful today to still be able to enjoy friends, family and the great outdoors.

Monday, July 24, 2017

No Work and All Play

My body let it be known that it was time for some rest.  I enjoy projects but my arthritic hands, bursitis shoulder,  and decaying knees not so much.  So this past weekend:

I took my first swim in the lake. Truthfully, with all the cold rain we’ve had, the lake has been pretty chilly, but swim I did.  Not very far and very close to the shoreline, just in case.  I will need build up my endurance over time.

Beaner and a friend joined us for an easy, no stress BBQ that included farmstand, just picked corn on the cob.  Ultra sweet with butter running down my chin. Yum.

Took a quiet, easy kayak trip around the lake surveying the new construction. I tried to join a flock of geese but they would have no part of me.

the concrete structure is the dam that created the lake

Sat in my Adirondack chair and read an entire book - Little Big Lies - cover to cover.  An entertaining book with some very important messages about domestic abuse.   I am a pretty slow reader but this was a page turner.

I did stain the part of the reconstructed deck because, well, it’s just not a weekend at the lake without getting something done.

But I balanced that with a nap in my favorite hammock.  

Fresh air. Great summer food. Being in and on the water. Naps in a hammock.  Life is Good. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Lazy Days of Summer?

Summertime and the living is easy.

Unless you own a summer camp.

Fifteen years ago I built a deck for the lake house.  But to get around some zoning issues and the fact that the area is built on a rock shelf, I couldn’t put support piers into the ground. The whole deck (33 ft wide) floats and is supported by cement blocks.  Over time, as the northeast winters freeze the ground, the deck has heaved into a wavy, uneven mess.  This was the year to fix it.  First, remove 1000 screws that have wormed their way deep into the wood. About half came out. The other half had to be broken and/or hack sawed.  Then remove the supporting bolts to lower and heightened the corners as needed.  But of course, half the bolts broke requiring more hack sawing.  Bring in a couple more ‘heavier than hell’ cement supports (they were a lot lighter 15 years ago!) , cut and toenail in 12 joist supports and then screw all the top boards back on. It took us two 12 hour, backbreaking days to get it done.  It took me 3 days to recuperate from all my aches and pains. And unfortunately all that work and only 1/3 of the deck is done.  Then it will all need to be re-stained.

Two years ago Martha wanted to remove the carpeting in the dining area.  We peaked under a corner and saw wood flooring.  Great!   Until it all came up and we saw this.

Yep, they had run out of planks and so finished the floor with whatever non-matching wood they had left.  For the last 2 years Martha has been chirping at me to re-finish the floor.  I wanted to use wide plank pine, she wanted an engineered, easy to maintain floor.  We have looked for over a year and finally agreed on something so time to start that job.

Friday we were going to drive up and get the floor done together but on Thursday night we put out a skunk trap (yes, still dealing with a skunk issue at home) and actually caught one.  Unfortunately the pest control people could not come until Friday afternoon to relocate the animal so I went alone to do the floor while Martha waited at home, babysitting the skunk. By and large it was not a difficult job but very hard on my old weak knees.

Martha arrived just as I was doing the finishing touches (of course) and had a list of “smaller” jobs for the rest of the weekend.  Build shelves in the garage. Check.  Fix broken gutter. Check. Mow lawn. Check.  Meanwhile Martha was busy replacing some rusty old faucets, shampooing the carpets, painting shutters and hanging new lighting fixtures, a garage sale bargain. 

Occasionally we would take a break, sit in our Adirondack chairs overlooking the lake, sipping iced tea and wonder what it must be like to have a little mountain place to get away to and relax.  

We have no idea.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Full of Grace

  • After a week of very healthy eating and exercise, feeling good and dropping a few pounds.

I don't expect this rate to continue every week but hopefully it will reboot me into more mindful activities
  • Peaches still on the tree.  This is the largest they have ever been without them disappearing overnight.  I am beginning to get hopeful.

  • Everyone coming to the lake for the 4th of July weekend.  It’s always nice to be all together.

  • Answering an open request, Beaner and I were interviewed and gave a statement for this case. The Court got one right and we are thrilled to have been a tiny part of it.

  • Sold my first item on Craig’s List.  For those of you who are aware of my spouse’s borderline hoarding personality this was a big deal.  Plus $50 went into the 'going out to eat' fund.  I hope it is the beginning of some major decluttering efforts.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Full of Grace

The first of my bonus daughters got married in a beautiful, tear jerking ceremony last week.  I imagine that there will now be a string of weddings, much like we went through a rash of bar and bat mitzvahs, then Sweet 16s, then graduation parties. It is the next stage of their lives but it is making me feel very old. I have known these girls since they were 3. How can they possibly be old enough to marry already?

Installing a couple of new exterior doors and replacing all the rotten wood. We anticipated rot along the bottom where snow accumulates but on one of the doors the entire header was shot. So instead of an easy install we wound up having to remove siding, cut out all the rotten wood and replace a huge section of the garage header. It was a hell of a job that took days instead of hours, but I am grateful that we still have the strength and know-how to do these repairs.  And we feel we did something good for the house as well.

My peach tree has an over abundance of baby peaches loading down the branches.  I harbor no hope that the squirrels will leave me any once they are ripe but the whole process of trees bearing fruit both fascinates and delights me.

Along with now being able to pick a fresh salad every night.

And finally the monsoon season seems to have ended with a heat wave so I am walking my dog early in the morning and seeing the neighborhood in a whole new, summery light.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

When does a cucumber become a pickle?

Sometimes in a man’s life,
Stuff happens that makes everyone go quiet,
So quiet that no one
Even dares to talk about it.
Not to anyone, not even to themselves.
Not in their head and not out loud.
Not a fucking word. Cause everything
has somehow gotten stuck.
There, deep in the fields,
Under the trees and leaves, year after year.

Then suddenly it all comes back,
Just like that, from one day to the next.
No matter how long ago it was
There will always be someone
To bring it all back.
Because no matter what you do or think
One thing is for sure -
You are always fucked.
Now, tomorrow, next week, or next year,
Until the end of time.


Opening lines from the movie Bullhead

Any of you who have followed my blog for a long time know that I when I started writing I was in a deep throes of PTSD. I was completely at the mercy of whatever triggers sprung up and they would render me a quaking, blubbering, terrified blob for days.  Sometimes weeks.

I spent a torturous couple of years going through exposure and other therapies which brought me through that dark forest of terror and anxiety.  I am so deeply grateful for my original therapist who led me through that process but who sadly and unexpectedly died before we saw the finish line.  

Is there a finish line for PTSD recovery?

I never wanted to forget what happened to me. To us.  That would seem disloyal to Daphne and somehow be lying to myself. But my therapist convinced me that I could still remember and honor what happened yet learn to process my responses to it differently.  And for the most part, if I am vigilant about working at it, I have been mostly successful at that. The memories are still there but they no longer control me. I am able to live a pretty calm and normal life.

Then suddenly someone/something happens.

No matter how long ago it was
There will always be someone
To bring it all back.

There is only one person in my life now who knew me from that time and that is my best friend. I moved away so I would never again have to see that look of pity in people’s faces who knew.  Then my former boss called me from out of the blue having tracked me down through professional organizations. And there it was.  An innocent phone call, and wham!


I occasionally attend group therapy for folks with PTSD - sexual assault, veterans, one 9/11 survivor. No matter what the original trauma was, there is a common thread of knowing/fearing that some trigger is always lurking, waiting to yank you back down the hole.

One thing is for sure -
You are always fucked.
Now, tomorrow, next week, or next year,
Until the end of time.

I once asked my therapist “when will I be whole again?”  

She answered, “When does a cucumber become a pickle?”

It is a riddle I am still trying to answer.