Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

The streets of our city are lined with flags honoring local fallen soldiers. Below each flag lies pictures of at least 3 soldiers who have died in Iraq or Afghanistan. I'm sure it is meant to be supportive, but to me it serves as a reminder of the horrors of war.

I can't help but thinking what a waste of life - on our side, and theirs. It makes me very sad to think of it.

We stopped by to see my grandma today, who was married to my grandpa for 36 years. They met in Germany where her step dad and my grandpa were serving in the Army. She was a military wife, who travelled with my grandpa for many years before settling here nearly 50 years ago.

My grandpa retired from the Army after serving in 3 wars, and went on to work at the local Veterans Hospital. When he retired, there was nothing left for him. He died much too young, an alcoholic, after trying to kill himself at least once. I do not believe he was happy or at peace. And I can't help but think that his military service had a lot to do with that.

My grandma asked my son if he knew what Memorial Day was all about and he said no. I told her we were not really pro-military. (We spent last night re-reading Why War is Never a Good Idea.) But I could tell it was important to her so I didn't get into it with her. She proceeded to tell him, and then drill him to make sure he'd heard her.

It is a very complicated issue for me on so many levels. I wish we would get out of Iraq and Afghanistan. I can not stand behind a military that kills civilians. I can not get behind killing anyone, for that matter. I do not believe soldiers are heroes. Victims at times, yes. But rarely heroes.

A hero preserves life, not desecrates it.

I think our military is far too quick to disregard life, including that of our own soldiers. So, this day just makes me really sad.

"Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding."

-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, May 30, 2010

There Can Never Be a Better Me

As we were saying, there is no psychological evolution. The psyche can never become or grow into something which it is not. Conceit and arrogance cannot grow into better and more conceit, nor can selfishness, which is the common lot of all human beings, become more and more selfish, more and more of its own nature. It is rather frightening to realize that the very word `hope' contains the whole world of the future. This movement from `what is' to `what should be' is an illusion, is really, if one can use the word, a lie.

We accept what man has repeated throughout the ages as a matter of fact, but when we begin to question, doubt, we can see very clearly, if we want to see it and not hide behind some image or some fanciful verbal structure, the nature and the structure of the psyche, the ego, the `me'. The `me' can never become a better me. It will attempt to, it thinks it can, but the `me' remains in subtle forms. The self hides in many garments, in many structures; it varies from time to time, but there is always this self, this separative, self-centred activity which imagines that one day it will make itself something which it is not.

- Krishnamurti to Himself Ojai California Thursday 17th March, 1983

Saturday, May 29, 2010

"When we begin to live from within outward, in touch with the power of the erotic within ourselves, then we begin to be responsible to ourselves in the deepest sense. For as we recognize our deepest feelings, we begin to give up, of necessity, being satisfied with suffering and self-negation, and the numbness which so often seems like the only alternative in our society."

-Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider

Friday, May 28, 2010

Crazy Heart

I just watched Crazy Heart. I had wanted to see it for a long time, since I obviously can relate to the subject matter. They certainly got the asshole part down of the alcoholic.

I ended up just sobbing at the end. I suppose it hit just too close to home. It was hard not to feel sorry for the alcoholic too, as much as an asshole as he was. But I am hoping, if nothing else, many people will watch it, and realize that sometimes, you just go too far, and there is nothing you can do to "fix" it. Life just goes on without you.

But, it is never too late to redeem yourself.

The Weary Kind

Your heart's on the loose
You rolled them seven's with nothing lose
And this ain't no place for the weary kind

You called all your shots
Shooting 8 ball at the corner truck stop
Somehow this don't feel like home anymore

And this ain't no place for the weary kind
And this ain't no place to lose your mind
And this ain't no place to fall behind
Pick up your crazy heart and give it one more try

Your body aches
Playing your guitar and sweating out the hate
The days and the nights all feel the same

Whiskey has been a thorn in your side
and it doesn't forget
the highway that calls for your heart inside

And this ain't no place for the weary kind
And this ain't no place to lose your mind
And this ain't no place to fall behind
Pick up your crazy heart and give it one more try

Your lovers won't kiss
It's too damn far from your fingertips
You are the man that ruined her world

Your heart's on the loose
You rolled them seven's with nothing lose
And this ain't no place for the weary kind

-Ryan Bingham target=_blank>Ryan Bingham - The Weary Kind lyrics

Feminism in Recovery

I have been thinking a lot about recovery lately and I think the 2 things that have helped me the most are feminism and volunteering. Al-Anon is a good starting place, but I don't believe it finishes the job - especially for women.

The volunteering is probably an obvious thing. When you help others, you forget about your own problems. But there were many years where I was so enmeshed in my own life that I didn't even consider volunteering. I wish I had done this earlier. It would have taken me out of my own head. It also would have put me in touch with more positive-minded people instead of isolating myself.

In terms of feminism, I started Women's Studies in college and it was eye-opening. I think that was one of the biggest periods of growth in my life. But as life progressed and I went on to get my MBA and marriages, somehow most of that went by the wayside. I stopped reading and being involved with the Women's Movement for the most part.

I think feminism is so important because we are not socialized as girls to see our worth.

It is especially important for those of us who are, become or were co-dependents because feminism is one of the only things that can truly empower us as women.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


"I have such a strong connection with my daughter. She reminds me of the girl child I once was. She is perfect. I look at her and I don't see any flaws. Everything I celebrate in her reminds me of my true nature. As I parent her in the way I wish I had been parented, the child in me is healed."

-Erin Louise Stewart


I rear ended someone yesterday with both my kids in the car on the way to school. Luckily, he was a very kind man. He was more worried about how my kids were doing than the damage I did to his car. For all my complaining about my enormous Suburban, that car is a tank. There was very little damage to my car whatsoever. His, on the other hand, looked pretty bad.

It turned out that the man was a Muslim from Jordan, so we had a nice visit in the midst of everything.

The kids and I were all pretty shaken up. They hadn't been in any sort of accident with me - and I haven't been in an accident for probably 15 years. So much for my perfect driving record!

But at least I have insurance and it shouldn't be a major deal.

I tried to get ahold of my husband afterward and couldn't reach him most of the day. I started to panic. As the day wore on and I didn't hear back from my texts, emails and phone calls, I imagined that he must be in jail or dead. I started swirling around in my head.

Luckily I had lunch with a great old friend and she kept me grounded. After that, I started swirling again on the way to meet my sister. I almost called my father-in-law several times, but stopped myself. There is nothing he can help me with.

I asked my sister anyway whether she thought I should call my father-in-law and she practically laughed and shouted NO!!! No contact with him ever!!!

She is right. But there are situations like that where I feel so desperate I would do almost anything. It made me realize that I still have a lot of healing to do around this. If I ever am to get in another relationship (which seems doubtful at this point!) I am going to have to deal with this. Even for my own sake and that of my children when they are grown - it is just too hard to go down that road. And, I have been here enough times I should know that. But when my husband is AWOL, even now, my mind goes to the worst possible place.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Growing up Female

"Eventually, our capacity to tell the truth was judged as rude and "not nice", and our capacity to think for ourselves as "troublesome" and "rocking the boat" by our families. We learned to question our thoughts and perceptions and to lie in a compliance-based environment that valued conformity to outdated gender stereotypes and "politeness" more than it did integrity. We kept our thoughts about the events of life to ourselves so there wouldn't be an argument. We strained to like everyone so we wouldn't hurt anyone's feelings. We pretended that we didn't know what we knew so their egos wouldn't be hurt; that we didn't hear what we heard so their secrets wouldn't be exposed; and that we couldn't do what we could do so that the masquerade about who was weak and who was strong would be maintained. The constant repetition of these childhood commandments censored our natural tendency to tell the truth and to think for ourselves. We learned to question our truth and to defer to the thoughts and perceptions of others, assuming something was wrong with us."

-Patricia Lynn Reilly, I Promise Myself: Making a Commitment to Yourself and Your Dreams

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


I have been surprised and saddened by the number of friends who have come to me lately with their stories of rape. It seems I am hitting that point in my mid-thirties where women are finally able to come forward and talk about these things openly.

It seems that through our teens and twenties, we are constantly embarrassed just to be women. Our normal bodily functions - periods, childbirth, etc. are all somehow gross and disgusting - let alone being raped or molested.

As I begin to spend more time with women, I see the commonality of all of our stories. The saddest part about rape to me is that women are by and large not supported if they do come forward. Our fathers, friends and boyfriends somehow turn it around back at us, as if we had done something wrong. Probably the biggest "excuse" for rape is what we were wearing. But rape happens in all countries - even Muslim countries where women are covered from head-to-toe. So this argument is bullshit as far as I am concerned.

Rape happens because we are socialized as girls to be weak and to wait for someone else to protect us. Statistically speaking, we know that this is not the case with rape. A woman is raped, and it is somehow her fault. The men who were supposed to protect us point their fingers back at us. Systematically throughout the world, rape is not punished. And until it is, rape will continue.

When I was about 19, a man tried to rape me. Luckily, he was not much bigger than me, and I was able to fight him off, at least from technically raping me. But he did violate me in other ways, and it was very traumatic for me. I was still a virgin and I certainly didn't want to give up my cherished virginity that way.

Looking back at my fundamentalist Christian upbringing today, I wonder if all those "True Love Waits" campaigns are not extremely harmful to girls who have been raped or molested. What caveat is there for them?

I wish we would spend more time empowering our daughters than shaming them. It seems like it takes nearly a lifetime for women to recover from our socialization.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Real Rosa Parks

"People always say that I didn't give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn't true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in...There had to be a stopping place, and this seemed to have been the place for me to stop being pushed around...I had decided that I would have to know once and for all what rights I had as a human being and a citizen, even in Montgomery, Alabama."

- Rosa Parks

El Shaddai

I had not really cried since my grandmother's death several weeks ago. Yesterday, the pianist who played at her service played El Shaddai on the piano and I finally broke down.

I grew up singing this song in church with my sister and my grandma always liked it. The last few weeks, I sang it to her many times. I think I have been so busy with the service and then the cleaning of her place that I haven't let myself cry. There was a lot to do.

I talked to my dad's wife about it today and she talked about how cleansing crying is. I rarely cry anymore, but I think she was right.

El Shaddai, El Shaddai,
El-Elyon na Adonia,
Age to age You're still the same,
By the power of the name.
El Shaddai, El Shaddai,
Erkamka na Adonai,
We will praise and lift You high,
El Shaddai.

Through your love and through the ram,
You saved the son of Abraham;
Through the power of your hand,
Turned the sea into dry land.
To the outcast on her knees,
You were the God who really sees,
And by Your might,
You set Your children free.

El Shaddai, El Shaddai,
El-Elyon na Adonia,
Age to age You're still the same,
By the power of the name.
El Shaddai, El Shaddai,
Erkamka na Adonai,
We will praise and lift You high,
El Shaddai.

Through the years You've made it clear,
That the time of Christ was near,
Though the people couldn't see
What Messiah ought to be.
Though Your Word contained the plan,
They just could not understand
Your most awesome work was done
Through the frailty of Your Son.

El Shaddai, El Shaddai,
El-Elyon na Adonai,
Age to age You're still the same,
By the power of the name.
El Shaddai, El Shaddai,
Erkamka na Adonai,
I will praise and lift You high,
El Shaddai.

El Shaddai, El Shaddai,
El-Elyon na Adonai,
Age to age You're still the same,
By the power of the name.
El Shaddai, El Shaddai,
Erkamka na Adonai,
I will praise and lift You high,
El Shaddai.

by: Michael Card and John Thompson

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Nothing Like Being Home

We celebrated my daughter's 4th birthday party this afternoon with her friends. It was a very fun event and everyone got along well. Afterwards, my daughter was supposed to go back with her dad, but she chose to go with me. He didn't push the issue this time and I think we were all happier for it.

I think that if we allow her to make this transition on her own timeline, her relationship with her dad will be better and she will remain a whole individual.

I am enjoying the time with her. We had a special dinner together and have had fun opening all her new toys. There is no one I would rather be with than my children. I had a nice time last night with friends - and a very great group of women. I feel blessed to have the relationships I have in my life. But at the end of the day, there is just nothing like being home with my kids.

My Beloved Islam

People often ask me about my faith, and I thought this was one of the better explanations of the desired qualities of a Muslim.

The essential rules and regulations contained in the divine books were demonstrated to society by the Prophets, the men to whom these rules had been revealed; with explanations, both verbal and demonstrative, the Prophets tried to establish a new human prototype and new societies. The first prototype was the prophets themselves, who not only carried out all these activities, but also received the revelation; this enabled the most ideal education to be demonstrated through the revelation. Here we will try to identify how Prophet Muhammad educated people for such a prototype.

1. According to Islamic belief, in the words of Prophet Muhammad: "If a person intends to do something good, and if they find the opportunity and perform that action, Allah will record from 10 to 700, or even more, blessings; if they intend to do a good action, but they do not find an opportunity, Allah Almighty will write a blessing for them for the intention. If someone intends to do an evil action, but then forgoes this action, Allah Almighty will record on blessing for them; if they intend to do an evil action and they do it, one sin will be recorded for them."1

When the words of the Prophet are studied carefully, it can be seen that the intention, regardless of whether an individual is inclined towards good or evil actions, is to remove evil thoughts and emotions from the heart. According to this, the Muslim prototype that is desired is one in which there are no subconscious evil intents, emotions or thoughts.

2. According to another statement by Prophet Muhammad every action "will be judged according to its intent".2 If the aim and intent are good, the inclination will be to the good and blessed. This is one of the lofty qualities that should be found in the prototype formed by Islam; the actions of a person who acts and programs their lives by taking into account Allah cannot be evil.

3. Prophet Muhammad said that a Muslim should be a person "who causes no harm to others with their hands (actions) or tongue (words)."3 Thus, he puts forward the idea that an Islamic personality is one that causes no other person any harm either physically or verbally; that is, they are someone who uses their material power and authority with justice.

4. A believer is defined as one who "is relied upon, trusted".4 A person who is not trusted by those around them or who may cause harm at any given moment is like gangrene in society. They make life intolerable.

5. In a statement by Prophet Muhammad, "if you love someone you should love them for the sake of Allah; if you do not love them you should not love them for the sake of Allah.5 Here we see that, as required by faith, love is connected to lofty and transcendental intentions.

6. One of the most important characteristics for an Islamic personality is to always intend to speak truthfully. In the Qur'an this is persistently emphasized: "O ye who believe! Fear God, and (always) say a word directed to the Right."6 In another verse it is said: "O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor..."7 This makes it clear that a Muslim is expected to defend what is right and just and to speak the truth, even if it is to the detriment of themselves or their relatives.

7. Honesty creates a desire to do good and doing good actions is a means by which we can enter heaven. If the world of ideas and thought is built on honesty, then a person is among the group of honest people in Allah's presence. Lies always mislead people, and support wrong actions, or even evil; evil leads a person to hell.8 If the world of ideas and the subconscious are built on lies then a person is among the liars in Allah's presence. The result of this is obvious. In the formation of the Muslim personality being honest and avoiding lies is indispensable; it is a basic principle.

8. One of the basic characteristics of the Muslim personality, in all behavior, be it in worship or in human relations, is to follow the middle way. Prophet Muhammad said: "Walk at an average tempo, walk at an average tempo so that you can achieve your goal,"9 thus revealing the secret to all success. According to this, no extremes should exist in the Muslim world of ideas; not even love or hate. Prophet Muhammad said "Do not love the beloved too much, because one day that beloved might become one you hate and you will be full of shame and remorse; do not hate too much, because one day that hated person might become your friend and you will be full of shame and remorse,"10 thus educating the individual even in how to love and hate.

9. Prophet Muhammad always acted with empathy in personal relationships, and he made such behavior a rule, saying: "Until you want for another what you want for yourself you have not truly believed."11

10. In another quote from Prophet Muhammad he stated that: "a person who others avoid because they may cause harm"12 is the worst kind of person. This is the greatest evil that one can do to oneself.

11. In a saying of Prophet Muhammad, "When people are not merciful, Allah will not be merciful,"13 the Prophet advises mercy, and states that in order to achieve Allah's mercy people must act with mercy and tenderness.

12. Another important point Prophet Muhammad focuses on in the formation of the Muslim personality is that a Muslim should be a facilitator, not a hinderer. This quality is an important component that affects the behavior of other people. In addition, aspects like being a deliverer of good news and not someone who causes hate14 are important characteristics of the Muslim personality.

13. One of the important principles that all Prophets inspired in their societies was modesty or shame; that is, feeling ashamed of an evil action. Shame, which plays an important role in the behavior of the individual, is a spiritual emotion that shows the degree of maturity of the Muslim personality. All the prophets expressed the importance and function of shame in a similar way: "If you are not ashamed, do as you wish."15

14. One of the characteristics that Prophet Muhammad gave importance to in the formation of the Muslim personality is directing people to good and ensuring that good and blessed thoughts always exist in the world of ideas. He expressed this as follows: "Being the means for good is the same as doing good."16

15. Prophet Muhammad also stated that a Muslim should be careful and not be harmed by the same thing twice. "A Muslim should not make the same mistake twice (should not be bitten by the same snake twice)."17

16. In the Islamic value system a great deal of importance has been given to a person being of benefit; it is even accepted that removing an obstacle from the path when walking, be it as little as a thorn, is part of belief and faith.18 Such an action must be intended as an act of faith, and the return should only be expected from Allah, with no other calculations or expectations.

17. In the words of Prophet Muhammad, in the Islamic value system, "no harm should be caused to another nor shall any harm be caused in return for harm."19 To repay harm with harm would lead to a rule of chaos and injustice in society, creating an environment of anarchy.

18. Prophet Muhammad stated that all members of society should be aware of living in brotherhood. " A Muslim cannot oppress their Muslim brother, they cannot hand them over to the enemy; if they fulfill a need (of another) Allah will fulfill their need, if they save another from difficulty Allah will save them from difficulty, if they cover up the fault (of another), Allah will cover up a fault for them."20 He thus stated the conscious dimensions of Muslim brotherhood.

19. In addition, the overall concept should be reduced down to the smallest unit of society, and those who are orphaned or alone should be cared for. The Prophet stated that one who sees an orphan, either from their own kin or from another family, and takes them under their protection will go to heaven with the orphan.21

As a result, we can say the following: the intention of the revelation was to take human nature, which had been corrupted over time, and to return it to its original identity. For this purpose, the Prophets who communicated the revelation gave equal importance to the education of the people. In every instance they educated the world with their thoughts and they tried to eliminate evil thoughts and emotions, rather evaluating everything in the scope of what were blessings for human good. In the period of Prophet Muhammad, a time when no sound moral values were left, the revelation supported and commended these sublime values while the Prophet interpreted them, adopting them and applying them to life; this is the ideal for Muslim society all relationships should be built on this fundamental perception.

- Cemal Agirman, PhD


"Even little kids get jealous of their toys and then tire of them."

- Elegy

Friday, May 21, 2010

My Name

The other part of the draft that I do not agree to (and was never talked about) is that the kids can take on no other sur-name.

There is no mention of me taking back my maiden name, which I certainly want to do legally. I have already gone back to it socially and every other way. I want nothing to do with that family name.

In fact, if I had it my way, I would have the kids change to my name too.

But now that they mention it in the documents, there is no reason the kids can not take a hyphenated name with both our last names. Why is his family name so precious? Because they have money? Because that is the only part of the kids they can claim?

I don't want to have anything to do with that dirty lot - and I certainly don't want my kids to either.

Fit Parenting

My husband will pick up the kids this afternoon and take them for the weekend. It should go better because I will not be there for the transition.

I woke early this morning and have been stewing in bed. I don't want to give up my children. I spent 7 years trying to protect them from their dad. Now I'm supposed to just hand them over?

I think "no fault" divorce laws are bunk. There is certainly fault here, and it does not lie with me.

I received my draft of the divorce documents yesterday and I do not want to sign them. I want the divorce, but I don't agree to all of the terms. The mediator put in several things that we never talked about.

The document starts out to say that we both agree that we are both fit parents. Fit parents? When did I ever say my husband was a "fit" parent?

Does leaving me here with the kids waiting for him to come home all night long make a "fit" parent?

Is it having to explain to them over and over again where their daddy is and why he doesn't come home or pick them up when he says he will?

Does bringing cocaine into our house and leaving it out where the kids could have killed themselves make a "fit" parent?

Does driving drunk with all of us in the car make him a "fit" parent?

Does relapsing again and again make him a "fit" parent?

Does wasting every last cent we had make him a "fit" parent?

Does exposing the children to his abusive father make him a "fit" parent?

I could go on and on....

What is considered fit parenting by Oregon Law? I would sure like to know, because it certainly does not meet my standards.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


"As a child I thought of him as a sick man and his bedroom as a sickroom. It made my childhood here very unhappy. As a child I used to think, about my father and my mother, 'These people don't know that I'm a person, too, and that I too need help. I'm not a toy they just happened to make."

-Ana, Half a Life by V.S. Naipaul

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Count Not

"Count not him among your friends who will retail your privacies to the world."

-Publilius Syrus

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

To Love

"To love is to allow what is different to exist and be itself. To love is to accept the otherness of the beloved. To love is to refuse to violate the mystery of the beloved."

- Patricia Lynn Reilly, A God who looks like Me


I am in a foul mood today. Really foul.

I just met with my husband and the bankruptcy attorney. I realize that this is the only logical step at this point, but I am just pissed off that I am in this position.

I have always been responsible with money. I have been a good wife and a good mother, while my husband was off cheating on me, blowing money and snorting cocaine and God knows what else. He risked our lives. He fucked our finances.

And I feel like his family should have stepped in and helped us. They raised him to be this way. They created this mess that I now live in. But do they do anything? No. They play golf and tennis. They sit there on their butts and make judgements about me.

They have no problem enabling his lifestyle. They have no problem paying for endless rehabs. But when it comes to the education they promised my children, or anything else, nothing.

I feel like their priorities are fucked. They are fucked.

Most of my days now are good. I have felt so happy and so free. I try not to dwell on any of this. But today, I am angry.

I know I can't (or shouldn't) expect a damned thing from my husband's parents. But I do. I would never leave my daughter-in-law in this position. I would never treat someone the way that I have been treated. All I can do now is try to erase them from my life and move on.

Someday, my children will know exactly who they are - and they will not be able to buy themselves out of that.

I am going to fix some lunch and do my Kundalini Yoga. I don't want to feel like this all day.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Reconsidering everything....

The second thing that came out of that lunch is something that has been evolving in me for a long time.

As women, we grow up hearing a lot of advertisements about makeup, skin care and "beauty". The assumption is that if we spend all this time and money to look a certain way, our lives will be wonderful. All of this amounts to so much wasted time and resources, and our lives are no better for it.

I don't want to play the game anymore.

Most of these products are pumped with chemicals and toxins. In fact, if you wear heavy makeup, especially from a young age, it will actually make you look older.

The incidence of skin cancer is through the roof. And I believe a lot of this is not from the sun, but the products we use on our skin - including most sun screen.

There are products without all this crap in them, and I am learning more about them. I mix my own oils, made with completely natural organic oils. This is a very inexpensive way to moisturize your skin. And it works beautifully.

I don't want to even spend the time dying my hair anymore. What is wrong with gray hair? Nothing! Is it worth seeping toxins into my skull?

I have a friend who is just a few years older than me and she does not dye her hair. She has similar gray proportions to what I imagine I have. She assumed she was older than me when I met, but I did not think that. I thought her hair looked lovely and she inspired me to stop dying mine.

My mother has a glorious gray main. For years she spent tons of time and money trying to get it dyed a certain color. It never held the color right and detracted from her beauty. I feel she looks lovely than ever now.

I think one of the biggest reasons that women spend so much time and money on these products is that we somehow feel we are in competition with each other. We are not. We need to spend more time supporting and loving each other. When more of us stop playing this ridiculous game, more women will find the courage to live their lives as they are.

Men do not spend the same time and energy on their appearance. No one thinks they need to. What makes us innately wrong the way we are?

I have never worn a lot of makeup, but lately I wear less and less. As I told my friends the other day, everything is on the table now. I am reconsidering all of it.

I want to spend my life in creative endeavors, doing things that support me and my children. Anything that does not support that dream is off the table.

Ladies Lunch

I went to a ladies lunch on Thursday at the home of a good friend of mine. I was planning to just pop by, as I don't usually do a 3-hour lunch. But the time flew by and I found myself enjoying it.

I have not been around people with money for a while. Perhaps I have been avoiding it in my own way. But I do love my friend.

It's funny - when I met her, I assumed a lot about her because of the way she dressed mostly. She is completely entrenched in upscale brand names. I remember I started doing that for a while and my sister commented that I was becoming a walking advertisement.

After a year of getting to know my friend, I found there is a lot that lies beneath the surface. She is a very sweet and dear person. She has had struggles of her own that no one would ever guess at.

I think women with money have the same or more hindrances as most women. But they are expected to be a certain way - act like a lady - dress well - keep their shape - take care of all the social obligations, which will promote her husband's career. And the majority of them live up to this image, especially when they marry into money. All of these expectations take up a lot of time. All of these detract from the full creative potential and individual economic well-being of the woman.

Money protects its own. If the woman does not live up to this image created for her, there will not be a place for her - and she will not have the skills needed to go out on her own. And in most cases, she will not be able to enjoy the same lifestyle if the relationship ends. Hence, she is in her own cage - a very pretty bird with no place to go.

For years I wore a size zero and most of the women surrounding me wore a similar size. It seemed normal, expected.

I am now at a size 4 and I was easily the biggest woman there. It was a strange position to be in after being away from it. No one said anything directly, but one woman did say she didn't recognize me when she first walked in.

I am glad to have my curves back. I don't want to be a size 0 anymore. For a woman who is 5'7", that size is just plain crazy. Many of the women at that party wore a 00 size.

Being that thin was never intentional for me. I think primarily it was stress and extended breast feeding. I felt the worst I have ever felt in my life - but in those circles, everyone constantly told me how amazing I looked. My family and friends kept me sane.

The biggest question the women had for me was how it felt to be without my rings. It was the first time people have been so candid with me about this. It was a very interesting conversation and probably not one I would have in most places. All of them had large diamonds as well. They wanted to know how I felt without mine. They could not imagine taking theirs off.

I thought that was a very valid and interesting perspective. A large ring almost enslaves you to a man. And, it becomes part of who you are - as they all affirmed. In many ways, a large ring speaks for you in ways words cannot.

I explained that it was difficult for me and it was a process. This was the first time I have felt that everyone in the room knew exactly what I was talking about.

It is one thing to say that you would just throw a large diamond off your finger. It is quite another one to wear one for a long time and choose to take it off. I loved my rings. They were beautiful.

But, I explained that I now prefer my fingers without any rings on them. And that I realized my ring represented a false promise, and a false life.

People see a ring like that and they make a lot of assumptions about who you are. And even if you do have a "good" marriage, I think many of those assumptions are false. At least they were for me.

Everywhere you go, the first thing people see is the size of your ring. It detracts from who you are as a person. I finally feel like I am me.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


Today is my husband's birthday. We had a busy day planned but agreed that he would come and get the kids for a few hours. He wanted to take them to lunch and then to see his parents.

My daughter had been dreading this all day. When my husband arrived, he tried to force the issue.

I told him my grandmother had a suggestion. Our daughter is still very young. Forcing her at this age will only make things worse. Take it slow - let her work into it. She's still very young to go with him alone - when she is ready, she will want to. Right now, if she doesn't want to go, just take the boy.

I thought this made a lot of sense. My grandmother had 5 kids and many grandchildren. I respect her.

But for an hour, my husband continued to push my daughter, taking her several times anyway from me, with her kicking and screaming.

I tried to speak reasonably with him. He just doesn't seem to understand. He just wanted to keep standing there and debating it.

He had also arrived late, so by then it was 2pm and none of us had eaten lunch. I told him that in and of itself was not a good thing for any of us.

Our son had gotten in the car, but after 15 minutes of that, he ran out and stood by my daughter and I. He had decided that he did not want to go either.

I felt sorry for my husband. It was his birthday. I know his dad will give him hell, which probably put more pressure on him. But I do not believe forcing the kids to go with him is good for anyone.

He still believes it is - and called me afterwards to continue the argument. I told him I'd like to see our son's counselor together and get her professional opinion. He agreed to go, but continued to badger me.

I told him I had to go.

My life continues to get better and better as I focus on other things. But these arguments are very draining. I still have a lot to do for a fundraiser today, but quite honestly, I don't feel like doing a damned thing.

I guess that will probably be the best medicine for me. Seems like that is usually the case.


The kids and I spent some time helping out at the church this morning with the grounds upkeep. I spent most of my time weeding. I got to thinking that weeding is a lot like getting rid of things you don't want in your life. I started out in the most obvious place, a huge patch of weeds surrounding a tree. There were so many there that I didn't notice all the other weeds elsewhere. Once I finished pulling those, the other weeds were more apparent. There were a lot - everywhere! And, next week, there will be more again.

It's easy to get frustrated about this, but that's just life.

For a long time we had gardeners - most of our neighbors do as well. I was thinking today how peaceful I felt working in the dirt. It's a shame many of us have gotten away from doing that. I think it's a good way to reconnect with yourself - and the earth.

There were at least 30 other people there helping and I was also thinking how nice it was to have so many people pitching in. It reminded me that people will help you with areas of your life that you ask for help in - if you just ask.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


I heard about Kundalini Yoga several years ago and decided I wanted to do it. I purchased 2 DVDs and they have sat there unopened ever since.

I have told myself I would get to them, and today I finally opened one and began.

I have had constant back and neck pain for years and take Excederine and Ibupropen every day, which really bothers me. I try to live my life without toxins, and I know both of these are poisons that do not contribute to my well-being.

I think this yoga practice will completely transform my life. I immediately felt renewed energy and power. My back and neck opeened up. I didn't realize it was so aerobic - nor did I realize how out of shape I am! I have never been interested in weight training programs or things that just seemed otherwise unnatural to me. This is something I definately enjoyed doing and I felt an immediate benefit. I am hooked after one session and plan to make it a daily practice.

Psychopathic Behavior

A therapist friend sent this to me earlier today and I thought it was extremely interesting.

Diagnostic criteria (DSM-IV): Narcassistic Personality Disorder

The essential feature of Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a
pervasive pattern of grandiosity (either in fantasy or actual
behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy that begins by
early adulthood and is present in a variety of situations and

In order for a person to be diagnosed with narcissistic personality
disorder (NPD) they must meet five or more of the following symptoms:

-Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)

-Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love

-Believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)

-Requires excessive admiration

-Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations

-Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends

-Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings
and needs of others

-Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her

-Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.

Antisocial Personality Disorder:

A) There is a pervasive pattern of disregard for and the rights of others occurring since the age of 15, as indicated by three (or more)of the following:

-failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest;

-deceitfulness, as indicated by repeatedly lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure;

-impulsivity or failure to plan ahead;

-irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults;

-reckless disregard for safety of self or others;

- consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations;

-lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.

B) The individual is at least 18 years of age.

C) There is evidence of Conduct disorder with onset before age 15.

D) The occurrence of antisocial behavior is not exclusively during the course of schizophrenia or a manic episode.

Anti-social + narcissistic = psychopathic.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


I went back through all my previous posts, going back over a year, today. It was emotionally draining for me to even read all of it. I considered taking it all down, but decided to leave it up in case anything here might be helpful to someone else in my shoes.

I firmly believe that the only way out of all of this is leaving the dysfunctional relationship behind - as much as possible. In my case, there are children, so my ex will always be somehow involved in my life.

But to live day-to-day as I had been living - even separated - is not conceivable to me any longer.

I don't want to end up like my grandmother, dying too young from cancer, after 36 years married to an alcoholic. She sacrificed herself to him and to her family. Most of her children became addicts. It was the only choice for her in her day, and I ache for her. I ache for all women who have been in relationships with addicts. It is hell. Pure hell.

I spent over a year in Al-Anon and I still read the literature and what not, but I don't believe that is the answer either. I believe 12-step groups are deeply flawed, especially for women, and I will come back to that in a later post.

The thing I saw meeting after meeting for 95% of people is not what I would call recovery. It was recycling the same garbage. Putting up with very poor behavior and then venting about it. Yes, it is an outlet, and yes, it is better than nothing. But after all this time, we need to do better. We need better programs that are progressive and deal with the specific needs of women.

The advice I would give to any woman who asked me what to do if she were in my shoes is to leave the relationship and work on herself. An alcoholic, "recovering" or not, will drain you. (My definition of recovery has completely changed as well over the years - again, for another post).

Recovery for me has meant joy - pure joy. Not repeating meeting lingo or being how someone thinks I should be. I feel that I have finally come home to myself. I believe that I am good and deserve to be happy.

For so long I was scared to leave. But it was the best thing I ever did - for me and my children as far as I am concerned. I am happier than I have been for a long time. I actually have energy to focus on things that I enjoy. I have renewed energy to volunteer, which has also been enormously healing for me. How wonderful to focus on someone that wants your help - that will truly benefit. An alcoholic can only help himself when he is ready.

I am sad for all the tears I shed and wasted energy I spent over the years. But I have learned.

The Power to say No

"Women's most feared power over men is the power to say no. To refuse to take care of men. To refuse to service them sexually. To refuse to buy their products. To refuse to worship their God. To refuse to love them. Every therapist knows that sex can be forced, but no power in the world can force love from any woman who wishes to withhold it."

-Barbara Walker, The Crone: Woman of Age, Wisdom and Power

Monday, May 10, 2010

Making Peace with my Mother

It has been very healing for me to look back at old photos these last few weeks.

I made peace with my mother years ago. I let go of the childish expectations and grievances I had with her. I learned to accept and love her as she was, which was actually a gift to me - and to my children.

However, there was still a small child-part of me that wondered about the depth of her love for me as a child.

Perhaps I was not ready to see it years ago, when my grandmother gave me the boxes of family pictures. I looked through all but one.

Last week, I opened the box that contained the pictures of me as a young child. Most of the photos were me with my mother. And the look in her eyes said everything I needed to know.

Because now I know her as a person, and I know that the look she gave me, picture after picture, was love and pure adoration.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Blessing for All Mothers

We said this prayer together at church this morning and I thought it was beautiful and inclusive.

Today we bless mothers who sat up all night with sick toddlers saying, "It's OK honey, Mommy's here.

Today we bless mothers who gave birth to babies they may never see. And the mothers who took those babies forever to be their own children.

Today we bless mothers who attended ball games, recitals, rehearsals, etc. etc. and said, "I wouldn't have missed it for the world," and meant it.

Today we bless mothers who show up for work with milk stains on their blouses and diapers in their purse.

Today we bless mothers who put pinwheels, teddy bears, or flowers on children's graves.

Today we bless mothers whose children have gone astray, who haven't the words to reach them, and yet have never put them from their heart.

Today we bless new mothers stumbling through diaper changes and sleep deprivation. And today we bless mature mothers who are learning to let go.

Today we bless all mothers: working mothers, stay-at-home mothers, single mothers, and married mothers. We also bless all women in life giving and nurturing roles. We thank you. We honor you. We bless you. Amen.

- adapted from a prayer of Dan Bottorff

This Mother's Day....

Battered Women Take Custody Battles to White House
By Mary Darcy
WeNews correspondent

Friday, May 7, 2010

Battered mothers often shy away from publicity. But this year, in a sign of their growing organization, some plan to spend Mother's Day in Washington in a White House vigil to draw attention to a court system that often gives custody to abusers.

(WOMENSENEWS)--On Mother's Day, busloads of battered moms and advocates for abused children will roll into Washington, D.C.

They'll hold a vigil outside the White House in an effort to persuade President Obama to take up their cause of reforming a family court system that they say all too often puts children into the hands of abusive parents.

For some it marks a new and somewhat frightening degree of public exposure. Some of the protesters will be shrouded in scarves, hiding from their abusers or a court system they fear will punish them for speaking out.

"They're whistleblowers," said vigil organizer Connie Valentine, policy director for The California Protective Custody Association, based in Sacramento. "The system doesn't look kindly on whistleblowers. It's a difficult situation because we have seen enormous judicial retaliation against mothers who step up in front of the problem."

Efforts to quantify the problem are just beginning but protective parents claim it is widespread. A study done by the Williamsburg, Va.-based American Judges Foundation in the early 1990s showed that in 70 percent of challenged cases, battering parents involved in custody battles persuaded authorities the victimized parent was unfit for sole custody, according to a spokesperson from the foundation.

Valentine and other advocates for protective parents call the family courts broken and corrupt and say the system not only puts children into the hands of abusive parents, it also bankrupts and punishes the protective parents who fight for them. At the same time, they say it's hard to reform the system because the people it hurts are hiding from abusers and anxious to avoid publicity.

Shifting Ground
But Valentine feels the ground shifting. "I think we're in the early stages of a civil rights movement for protecting children from physical and sexual abuse."

She said the Internet is helping battered mothers come together. "E-mail has helped. It's a good part of the reason for all of the advocacy," Valentine said. "Women are beginning to see that it's not their fault and that they are just pawns in the game."

Mo Hannah, psychology professor at Siena College, near Albany, N.Y., used the Internet to organize the first annual conference for battered women seeking custody in 2004, after her own difficult custody battle.

This past January marked the seventh gathering, which meets annually in Albany and is the major organizing and networking event of the year for protective parents.

"The first conference was about getting people to talk and validate their experiences," Hannah said. "But as the conferences continued it became very clear that we needed a national movement. Now the conference is just sort of an umbrella or structure that encourages people to share with each other."

Over the seven years, women have met at the conference and formed smaller groups, such as the Massachusetts Protective Mothers for Custodial Justice.

"Mass Moms," as it has come to be known, brings together women who have gone through custody battles with those currently in the throes. Volunteers accompany women to court and on lawyer visits and play a general shepherding role.

"We stand next to a woman who is fighting for her children while she pleads and receives orders," one Mass Mom told Women's eNews at January's Battered Mothers Custody Conference.

These volunteers have all been through their own custody battles and declined to be named for fear of retribution from their ex-husbands or the court system. Many have gag orders associated with their own cases. It is this type of fear of retribution that has helped keep the protective parents movement under the radar.

The California Protective Custody Association's Valentine understands the fear that keeps women from protesting and fighting the bigger battles.

"I waited until my own children were grown so we weren't affected by the family court system," she said.

Valentine says advocates and organizers need to study and replicate the successful civil rights campaigns of the past.

"Slavery was ended with a good law but slavery wasn't ended because a good law happened to come about. The law happened because huge masses of people put their lives on the line and fought for it," Valentine said.

This year "Mass Moms" is preparing to add some more public activism to their advocacy with a demonstration taking place in Boston on a date to be announced soon. In what they're planning to call "Confetti," the moms will symbolically shred court-appointed guardian reports--which they feel are particularly unfair to protective parents--into little bits and toss them at the statehouse to call attention to the plight of protective mothers fighting for custody of their children.

In New York City, a group called V.O.W., or Voices of Women, has been working within the court system to try to provide legal counsel and one-on-one help for women. On a wider scale its mission is to "promote long-term systemic change by documenting institutional failures, testifying at hearings, creating position papers and meeting with local and state officials."

Both Valentine and Hannah say this is the right time to take the movement to the next level.

"The new president is a fatherless man with a good wife and they will hear us," said Valentine. "And if they don't hear us, Vice President Joe Biden worked on the violence against women act and he will hear us. And if they don't hear us we will keep going until they do hear us."

Happy Mother's Day

I ended up spending yesterday completely alone, which was needed. I read and did some sorting out of things, mental and physical. I napped and slept well last night, which is unusual for me.

I am headed to church and then to spend time with my mom's side of the family. Both my great grandma and grandma on my mom's side are terminal, and all the local family will gather around them this afternoon.

I am glad I had this time to gather myself prior to that so I can be present with them and the rest of my family.

Happy Mother's Day to all mothers.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

"If you see something wrong, you should correct it with your hand and if you are unable to, then speak out against it and if you cannot do that, then feel that it is wrong in your heart."



I have been too upset these last few days to write anything.

My grandfather's funeral was ruined many years ago because of my husband and his father. I did not want him to come to my grandmother's service because of this and he did not.

Everything went very well until after the reception. My daughter had been sick so I had kept her home from school. By 3pm, she was spent. I carried her out to the car, but she had a meltdown. I do not usually wear high heels and there was a ridge in the sidewalk I tripped over. We both fell.

I tried to break her fall with my hands, so I got pretty banged up. But she still hit her head anyway, which was upsetting for both of us. I sat there for at least 5 minutes in a daze. No one was around us or heard us and I just didn't want to get up.

She fell asleep almost as soon as I put her in the car and I called the doctor's office. The nurse told me what to watch for. When we got home, I called her dad and gave him the instructions, as he was to pick her up after our family dinner and I did not want to forget anything. He told me that perhaps I should just deal with it. That was fine with me. I told him he should come pick up our son though because he gets upset when he does not.

I had made a delicious pot roast dinner. It had slow-cooked for nearly 10 hours and was probably the best one (actually 2) I have ever made. I had invited my close family over for a dinner after the reception. I thought it would be nice to have some private time together, and dinners were always very important to my grandma.

I set the table in the morning with her China and Silver she had given me years before. I made sure everything on the table had been hers, and it made the dinner very special for all of us.

Afterwards, I asked my sister's boyfriend to play the piano for us. He did and sang beautifully. My dad and sisters and I sang along when we knew the words. I was thinking in my head that this was heaven. I really felt happy and at peace.

Then my husband came.

I don't even want to write about all the details because they still upset me. But he decided he wanted to take my daughter and she did not want to go with him. Ultimately, there was a standoff between us and he threatened to call the police. I told him to go ahead. He was a convicted felon. What were they going to do? I was with my family after my grandmother's funeral and he wants to take my children by force?

My sister stepped in and said something like, "Don't you realize our grandma just died?"

My son ran inside with me. Ultimately neither of them went with him. My dad's wife started sobbing. She had never directly witnessed this side of him. I was crying, the kids were confused, my sister's and dad were trying to comfort everyone - and my dad and my sister's boyfriend went outside to talk my husband out of calling the police or taking the kids.

Somehow, he always manages to ruin everything. He turns every event into something about him, uncomfortable without drama. I am still angry.

He came back this morning and took both the kids. My daughter was sobbing and clinging to me. She kept saying, "I want to stay with mommy." She has called me crying, which just seems like more torture for both of us. She wants to come home.

And I can't figure out why he just won't let her.

What sort of relationship does he want to have with our children?

Friday, May 7, 2010

For the dying

My sister read this poem to Nano the day before she died. She was still able to hear it and we were all in tears. It was printed on the back of her bulletin at her service.

May death come gently towards you,
Leaving you time to make your way
Through the cold embrace of fear
To the place of inner tranquility.

May death arrive only after a long life
To find you at home among your own
With every comfort and care you require.

May your leave-taking be gracious,
Enabling you to hold dignity
Through awkwardness and illness.

May you see the reflection
Of your life's kindness and beauty
In all the tears that fall for you.

As your eyes focus on each face,
May your soul take its imprint
Drawing each image within
As companions for the journey.

May you find for each one you love
A different locket of jewelled words
To be worn around the heart
To warm your absence.

May someone who knows and loves
The complex village of your heart
Be there to echo you back to yourself
And create a sure word-raft
To carry you to the further shore.

May your spirit feel
The surge of true delight
When the veil of the visible
Is raised, and you glimpse again
The living faces
Of departed family and friends.

May there be some beautiful surprise
Waiting for you inside death,
Something you never knew or felt,
Which with one simple touch
Absolves you of all loneliness and loss,
As you quicken within the embrace
For which your soul was eternally made.

May your heart be speechless
At the sight of the truth
Of all your belief had hoped,
Your heart breathless
In the light and lightness
Where each and every thing
Is at last its true self
Within that serene belonging
That dwells beside us
On the other side
Of what we see.

For the Dying
by John O'Donohue

(from the book 'Benedictus: A book of Blessings')

Thursday, May 6, 2010

What Your Family Needs

Here is the song my dad wrote for my grandmother's funeral tomorrow

What Your Family Needs

My Mom & Dad lived a long good life
They were always happy to be man and wife
They never had a lot but what they had they shared
And if we had a problem they always cared

In their final days we gathered around
People were amazed at the sight and the sound
Of us all together holding hands and singing songs
I guess a lot of people finish life alone

That’s not right it's just plain sad
The more I think about it the more it makes me mad
When a loved one is hurting or passing away
I hope you’ll remember what I’m gonna say

Hold ‘em in your arms look ‘em in the eye
Tell ‘em that you love ‘em and have a good cry
When times are so rough that you don’t know what to do
What your family needs is you

Every man woman and child
Is only here for a little while
So love one another I know that it’s true
What’s good for them will be good for you

Hold ‘em in your arms look ‘em in the eye
Tell ‘em that you love ‘em and have a good cry
When times are so rough that you don’t know what to do
What your family needs is you

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Way We Die

Most of my experience these last 2 weeks with my grandmother dying were positive. People seem to look at me strangely when I say that, but it is true. I knew in my heart she would die. And I knew I wanted to be there. And so, while I had a few moments of breakdowns and despair, the majority of my experience was purely positive. It was pure joy to be able to care for my grandmother in her last days. It was a gift and a blessing.

She stayed most of the last 2 weeks in the hospital, and that was wonderful. She received good care and was well-liked. She never complained and was always kind with everyone, so I am sure that had a large effect on her care.

We were hoping she would not have to move. She lasted longer than we thought she would - she was stronger than any of us ever imagined in her frail state of 108 pounds.

After talking to many people, it became apparent to me that, for whatever reasons, hospitals do not like people to die there. So, while I know the social workers and administrators tried to stretch her stay out as long as possible, ultimately, she had to be moved to a "rehabilitation center."

I did not want to do this for my grandmother, but I knew she needed more extensive nursing care than we could give her at home with hospice.

The moment I walked in there, I hated the place.

It was a "nice" place as far as that goes. One thing my family does not scrimp on, is care for our family when they need it. We are not wealthy by any means, but we take care of our family as well as possible.

It instantly struck me walking down the hall (my grandmother was at the very end) that this was a place people were sent to die. And most of them were completely alone. It was a depressing place. I would not want to die there.

In her room, we created our own world. We shut the door, listened to music and talked while she was able.

The day she arrived, I had visited her in the morning before church with the children in the hospital. She had moved afterwards and my sister was there with my dad and his wife, so I did not go out again. I knew she was well taken care of.

I came Monday morning as soon as I dropped both children off school, which was at 9am. My father had been there late, so slept in a little.

When I got there, my grandmother was severely distressed. It was a state I have rarely seen her in, expect right before and after my grandfather's death.

I had to quickly compose myself so I did not lose it too.

She had been sitting there since about 4am without her hearing aides, so she could basically hear nothing, on top of being completely disoriented from her new surroundings. We had managed to keep on top of these for nearly 2 weeks in the hospital and it was never a problem.

I asked several nurses multiple times, and no one knew where they were. I searched her room 3 times to no avail, then texted my dad and sister to see if they knew anything. Neither did.

I tried to stay calm while my grandma became more and more upset. I asked her if we could purchase her a new set. She nearly started to cry and said they had to be ordered and they were over $2,500.

My dad called the center and they managed to find them. Apparently it was their policy to hold onto them overnight, but no one was able to tell us that for over an hour.

While we were still trying to figure that out, I tried to calm my grandma by asking what else she needed. She is a very clean woman. (I mean scrubbing until it hurts clean.) They had left her in there dirty for hours. I told her I would bathe her and started to do so. I had done it a few times in the hospital and it is nothing that I mind. But I know it was embarrassing for her. She is very modest. I had not seen her naked before this time. I kept joking with her and telling her it was nothing I had not seen. She would smile. She was always so gracious. She just kept saying, I'm sorry. I didn't want for you to have to do this.

It became apparent that they had left her in an old soiled diaper for some time. She was so humiliated about this I nearly cried. I could not let her sit there like that. I told her I would change it. She tried to stop me but I told her I didn't mind - she had changed plenty of mine. It makes me sad that she died with so much humiliation on her last day of awareness.

The nurse tried to say later that she had checked it earlier, but I have at least 5 years of diaper duty under my belt. I know an old diaper. What I did not know was how to change one on someone nearly as big as me who can not move much anymore on their own. It was a struggle, but we did it. She had to help me by moving around in all sorts of ways. But at least she was clean.

While I was bathing her, the maintenance man knocked at her door. She had been sitting there for 4-5 hours alone after she woke up. She had asked them to turn on her CD. No one seemed to be able to figure that out (it's not brain surgery). So she asked for the TV, to at least have some distraction. They told her they would have to find a remote.

So here I was bathing my very modest grandmother, and this man knocks at the door while she is exposed. She had already specified she did not even want a male nurse. I tell him I am bathing her. He walks in anyway and plays around with the remote.

I don't want to upset my grandmother so I texted my dad. Luckily she does not have her hearing aides yet anyway, but I don't want the negative energy.

So the Director of the place knocks and comes in. She starts giving me all these excuses, as apparently my dad has called her to complain. She then asks my grandmother very condescendingly if she knows when she removes her bowels.

At that point, I lost it. I told her to get out. She seemed stunned and just stood there looking at me. I turned my back to her and told her 3 more times. Please leave, please just leave.

My grandma asked what she had said, but I did not have the heart to tell her.

After that, she quickly went downhill. She pretty much fell asleep except for a few brief moments. One of my sisters wanted to talk to her on the phone from Seattle. As soon as she heard her voice, she perked up and began to speak, with a huge smile on her face.

She died the next day.

What is tragic to me about all of this is that my grandmother had family with her the majority of the time before she died. She was only alone during sleeping hours and then she had nursing care.

But I rarely saw anyone visit the other patients in the hospital or the rehab center. Everyone was alone. And that seems so inhumane and wrong to me.

I know that if I had not been there when I was, my grandmother's care would have been poor - as it was before I got there. It was only after my dad and I became outraged that everyone jumped to their best behavior. And her last 24 hours there were fantastic. But what about everyone else?

The best care should be the standard of care. And where were all the families of the dying?

It is something that has been haunting me - and apparently my dad as well - because he wrote a song about it that he will sing at my grandmother's funeral.

Death = Profit

It has been increasingly apparent to me with my grandfather's passing nearly 3 years ago and now my grandmothers, that death is very profitable.

In our culture, the most glorious burial is offered at a heightened profit. I would call it unethical advertising. In your state of grief, you are told if you really love someone, you will put them away this way.

This makes no sense to me. They are dead for God's sake! Does it really matter what sort of box they reside in?

In Islam, it is preferable to be buried directly into the ground. No preservatives are supposed to be used, so the funeral is usually very quick after the death. And it is a social and religious obligation to attend the mourning, if not the burial.

We have lost sight of that here with memorial services, elaborately planned weeks after someone dies, at great expense. We did that for my grandfather's service and it prolonged closure and healing. I am glad we did my grandmother's service sooner, but I was disheartened to see that they had used preservatives and chosen a fancy (metal of some sort?) casket. How will she ever return to the earth?

In Islam, if it is necessary to be buried in a casket - as is often the case in the United States where money rules - it is supposed to be the most simple and inexpensive cedar casket, that can be absorbed back into the earth.

What do all these modern environmentalists think about these caskets that will likely NEVER decompose? That cost upwards of $10,000? What for? What could be done with that $10,000?

Amazing things!

I'm sure the new trend will be expensive "environmentally friendly" caskets. How ridiculous it all is.

I told my dad last week I want nothing from my grandmother. When someone has given you so much of themselves, nothing monetary or of substance is necessary. I have my memories. I have my pictures. I have every letter and card she ever gave me since I was about 7-years-old. I have her love. I have her spirit.

I took her remaining jewelry that the family did not want to church on Sunday and let the women pick out one or two items they liked. It will be fun to see the remnants of my grandma on all the other women in the church who meant so much to her.

I hope when I die, my family respects my wishes as they are outlined in my will. I want to be buried simply, next to my grandparents, overlooking the country, with little fanfare. I do not want to be pumped with a single chemical - just as I try to live now. I believe our bodies are a sacred temple.

I hope that I live a life like my grandmother where my relatives are not fighting over my possessions after my death. I hope my remaining loved ones just feel lucky that they had me in their life. That is how I feel now about my grandma.

The Widow's Offering

I am so blessed with such wonderful friends and family. My grandmother just passed yesterday and just today my mailbox was already filled with beautiful cards and notes. My dear friend dropped by a gorgeous orchid along with a very sweet card. It means so much to be thought of and to hear the warm sentiments from so many different people about Nano.

While I was with her these last few weeks, one particular parable kept coming to mind - that of the Widow's Offering.

Mark 12:41-44 (English Standard Version)

The Widow’s Offering

41 And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. 42And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. 43And he called his disciples to him and said to them, "Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.

My Grandma Died

My grandma died yesterday. It was very quick and peaceful. I was able to be there with her, which is what I had hoped for.

She lived a wonderful life and died a wonderful death, with her family around her.

Our new pastor and many people from the church have also come by, called and emailed, and we are very grateful for that - as well for the many friends and family who have checked in these last few weeks.

The theme that has continually come up during my time with her is her grace and compassion towards everyone. I saw her be so sweet and kind with every person she came in contact with. Everyone in the hospital loved her. I know she felt so awful and yet she was never in a bad mood or foul with anyone.

I told our church secretary that the story of my grandma's life was caring about everyone else. Even in her final days, she was constantly asking about everyone, with so much care and compassion. And I was told when one of our church members came to pray with her, she asked her to pray for me because she was worried about me and the kids.

We have enjoyed the time singing hymns, reading from the Bible, reading poetry and listening to my dad's music - and of course, talking about everything. It is time that can never be replaced and I am so glad that we had it.

She loved all of us so much and I feel so grateful to have had such a wonderful grandma. In one of our talks alone she told me that she felt like she had a big role in raising us. And I agreed with that. She said, you had a rough run with things. And I told her I didn't think I could have made it through without her.

Nano always had a very strong feeling of right or wrong. However, I have to say that I have made some choices in my life that must have grated against every grain in her being. She never tried to control or sway me. She always respected and loved me through every phase of my life. And she never rubbed anything in my face.

I often think that you don't fully appreciate your family until you have your own children. And I have often guessed at the sacrifices she made for me, and I'm sure I will never begin to know the extent of everything she did. Because a true sacrifice is never advertised. It is just what you do for your family so that their life can be better. And all of us are better for my Nano.

Monday, May 3, 2010

I will survive on my own

Last night my son told me he thinks he knows what is going to happen now.

He said that he thinks I will get married to someone else.

I told him I did not want to get married again.

He asked me, then who will protect you?

I told him I would protect myself.

He told me that I needed to go get a Superman hat like the one my mom just bought him and wear it so that boys will like me.

I feel like I have failed him on some level as a feminist mother.

I did not think I had raised him with these values, but they are there. I'm really glad we got rid of the TV. Now that I think through it, there are very few role models for children of strong single women.

Nearly all the cartoons have a mother and father. I can't think of anything that doesn't have a mom and dad, married. Even in Up, a movie that I really loved, the boy was not fulfilled until another man took interest in him.

As we were driving to school this morning, he asked me to turn the stereo down. He said he heard something hit the car. When he got out, he took a tour around the car to make sure all the tires were OK before we drove off.

I don't want him to take on the job of my protector either. It is sweet, but he is only 7.

I need to work harder at showing him that I can survive on my own.

Leaving Home

I have been mentally preparing myself and the kids for the time that we will leave our home and move into something much smaller. I have come to terms with that for the most part. This is a large home to manage on my own, especially with the children, who need a lot of care and love - and also are prone to make messes the moment I clean something.

The irony is not lost on me that I have spent the last 2 years helping people stay in their homes, and I will lose mine.

I have spent the last 12 years helping hundreds of people improve their credit, and my credit is now tanked.

I have done all of this without cost to anyone or profit to me because it is something I believe in strongly. I used to think credit was an indication of character, and it sometimes is. But over the years I also found that many people were hit by forces they could not control, and I always tried to help those people.

Yesterday a man called to ask me to help him with his credit. I called him back and told him my grandmother was dying and I was not available. I know I am doing the right thing now, but I was also sad that I could not even refer him to someone else. I tried to explain that it was never part of my job, it was just something I did. Most mortgage brokers only care about profit.

Ironically, I also helped my husband improve his credit, which was very bad when I met him. But he seems to have no problem leaving me with this mess. He will always have his dad to bail him out and pay cash for anything. I don't have that option.

It is a hard thing to grapple with, partly because my ego is still attached to it. I took pride in my credit. I took pride in my home. And now both are gone.

But I do believe that better things will come. Credit is only a picture in time. It is never static and I can work to improve it. And I know I will be happier living somewhere else.

It's funny how losing things has shown me some of the lies I so eagerly believed.

I was so attached to my beautiful diamonds. It was so hard to take them off my finger. But now I rarely wear rings at all. I appreciate the simplicity of my fingers. I don't want another ring there. The rings now represent a false promise. My husband was never committed to me. The rings only represented that I was his. I was a possession. The rings were a reflection of him, not of me.

My children do not want to leave this home. It is all they have really known. I am sad for them, but I am trying to paint a happy picture filled with new possibilities and dreams.

I have been looking through many of the old pictures from my childhood. Some of the most comforting are of me in my grandparents home. My parents moved around after their divorce, but that home was a rock for me. I realized it was just the familiarity that meant so much to it - because it was their home and it was filled with so much love.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


Caring for my grandmother has been exhausting, but fulfilling work. I am very grateful for the time that we have had. Someone remarked to me at church today that I am such an amazing granddaughter, then she paused and said, I suppose there is a reason for that. I smiled and told her yes, my grandma had been the most amazing grandma in the world.

Things are going relatively well, but my husband has started up on things again. I asked him yesterday how many times he wanted to keep going over all of this.

It seems like he is constantly going over the same things over and over. And he just still doesn't seem to get it.

I want this time with my grandma. He is offended that I am not coming to him for emotional support. He has been making a lot of insinuations that I must be getting my needs met elsewhere.

It is always about him. He even manages to twist this into him being the victim.

All I want him to do is to keep his promises and obligations to this family. I know better than to look to him for emotional support. I am pretty clear at this point in my life exactly who I can count on that from, and who is incapable of giving it.

He has started blaming me for the divorce and is trying to make me feel bad for wanting this. He thinks staying together would be "better for our children." I told him, he was entitled to his opinion, but I don't share it. He continued to argue with me about it and I told him I was done talking about it. We will never come to terms on this.

For someone who keeps saying he is so concerned for me right now, I don't know why he continually has to bring up all this old garbage. In my mind, it was processed and decided a long time ago. I am doing my best not to blame him or hold on to resentment. But these silly arguments make that continually difficult.


Then a ploughman said, "Speak to us of Work."

And he answered, saying:

You work that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth.

For to be idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons, and to step out of life's procession, that marches in majesty and proud submission towards the infinite.

When you work you are a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music.

Which of you would be a reed, dumb and silent, when all else sings together in unison?

Always you have been told that work is a curse and labour a misfortune.

But I say to you that when you work you fulfil a part of earth's furthest dream, assigned to you when that dream was born,

And in keeping yourself with labour you are in truth loving life,

And to love life through labour is to be intimate with life's inmost secret.

But if you in your pain call birth an affliction and the support of the flesh a curse written upon your brow, then I answer that naught but the sweat of your brow shall wash away that which is written.

You have been told also life is darkness, and in your weariness you echo what was said by the weary.

And I say that life is indeed darkness save when there is urge,

And all urge is blind save when there is knowledge,

And all knowledge is vain save when there is work,

And all work is empty save when there is love;

And when you work with love you bind yourself to yourself, and to one another, and to God.

And what is it to work with love?

It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart, even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth.

It is to build a house with affection, even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house.

It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy, even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit.

It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit,

And to know that all the blessed dead are standing about you and watching.

Often have I heard you say, as if speaking in sleep, "he who works in marble, and finds the shape of his own soul in the stone, is a nobler than he who ploughs the soil.

And he who seizes the rainbow to lay it on a cloth in the likeness of man, is more than he who makes the sandals for our feet."

But I say, not in sleep but in the over-wakefulness of noontide, that the wind speaks not more sweetly to the giant oaks than to the least of all the blades of grass;

And he alone is great who turns the voice of the wind into a song made sweeter by his own loving.

Work is love made visible.

And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.

For if you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feeds but half man's hunger.

And if you grudge the crushing of the grapes, your grudge distils a poison in the wine.

And if you sing though as angels, and love not the singing, you muffle man's ears to the voices of the day and the voices of the night.

-Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet, "On Work"