Identify what is most important )0( Eliminate everything else
The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world. Dr. Paul Farmer
The suffering of others is not alleviated when no one knows about it.
There is no one right way to live. Daniel Quinn Ishmael
The only thing that you need to start an asylum is an empty room and the right sort of people.
We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be. Kurt Vonnegut

Sunday, June 30, 2013


I have had inequality on my mind a lot lately.   My failed marriage, my struggles with finding connections with friends, removing people from my life, the whole freaking money problems, the lies my ex tells about me and how he sent one of his friends to ambush me at work.  It is difficult to avoid feeling the unfairness of it all.  The lack of justice.  Expecting fairness and justice is an exercise in heartbreak.  I need to create those for myself in this new life.  And, it is no surprise that it is safer to think about all of this because the mess of leaving and the divorce are on the cusp of being over.

My life is extraordinarily wonderful now.  I am moving forward, seeking education and opportunities.  I am the maker of choices that are mine and not the old compliance to what someone else wanted me to do or be.  This comes with new stresses and I am dealing with them as best I can.  To be honest, having this new life is a little unsettling.  The new and the beginning of things are pretty much the full content of therapy sessions and what I share in my groups.

I am not dwelling or obsessing, I am working.  I keep telling myself that.  Some days I feel so wonky and unsettled, which I guess I should expect to be for a while.  PTSD has a long recovery time.  Still, I sometimes become impatient.  And, one of the ways I am trying to cope is with meditation and reading, and whilst I did not read about them recently, the Shakers have been on my mind.  What I remember about them might not be accurate, and I suppose I should spend some time finding out if I am remembering well.

The Shaker Quakers.  Who shook.  Who danced in their worship.  Who exalted the spirit and the body, with rhythmic movements, dance and song.  Who respected all living things.  Who are properly named United Society of Believers in the Second Coming of Christ.  (Disclosure:  I could not remember exactly what they called themselves and looked it up.)

The desire for religious freedom brought many people to this country, along with all manner of wannabes and hangers-on, people who had no agenda or need beyond their own, personal need to make a change of geography, often to avoid moral or legal entanglements.  But, that is another story.  And, I have to wonder if my ancestors came from that latter group of miscreants.

I have always admired those early Shakers for two main reason.  The first is that they held the belief that God could carry the natures of both male and female.  The second was their equal treatment of all people, a kind of nearly effortless acceptance and support, something that seemed to come naturally to them.  An important aspect of the time was societal and personal issues concerning black people, and they sheltered fugitive slaves and helped them travel to safety in Canada.  In their practices of equality, slaves were not the only beneficiaries, women were as well.  I have read that their belief systems and actual practices supporting groups of people not honored by other people and belief systems did not endear them to others in their communities. 

I have been thinking about the Believers, as they called themselves, a lot.  Their spiritual and life practices resonate with me, have since I first learned about them.  I think that my knowledge of them may have helped form and support many of my core beliefs.  You know, that whole I am not alone in my weirdness and differences from those around me, and that is fine and it is fine with me that other people have their own wonkiness.

I grew up in a racist family.  I mention this only because of recent news stories and because those experiences formed me as well.  From an early age I heard every type of racial, cultural, gender, age and appearance slur, comment, opinion and rant.  Everyone who was not in the group that mattered was judged and found seriously lacking.  That part of my life is too complex for sharing now.  I know that I will have to face it someday.  Just not today.

As for what is being reported, from the death of Trayvon Martin, to celebrities making racist remarks, to the Supreme Court, to our prayers and support of Nelson Mandela, all are important issues and I think that the most important aspect of any of this is that it is an opportunity to open dialogue about prejudice, generational racism, any belief or behavior that attempts to invalidate the existence of anyone person or group.

Race.  Culture.  Age.  Gender.  Appearance.  Belief system.  Anything.

Bullying.  Aggression.  Assault.  Belittling, demeaning, minimizing.  Being or doing anything that is different from the person making the judgement.

When I was a child, I knew that I did not hold the beliefs of my parents, their families and friends.  Powerless, I had no way of expressing how I felt, much less understanding why what I felt was so different from those around me. 

And, this next thing is a confession about one of the most shameful things I have ever done.  From my early environment, I grew up, moved out and moved on.  Got an apartment and a job and made friends, most of whom were different from me and my background.  When my ex and I were planning our wedding, and I was writing the invitations, he recognized one of the names.  It was one of my black friends and he became upset.  He told me that if any of my non-white friends (I am paraphrasing here because I do not, have never, used that kind of language) showed up at his wedding, that he and his friends would beat the blank out of them and teach them a lesson about trying to mess with things they should leave alone.

So, instead of realizing how well he had begun to groom me (something I did not understand until last year), and taking control of my life, hell, even taking a stand,  I murmured something about wanting my friends there too, and then just let it go.  When it came to sending out the invitations, I manifested the lack of character and backbone that became the standard for the rest of my life, and I did not send invitations to any of my friends.  I was not willing to have to face my friends that were unwanted and had been threatened.  I knew that if they came there would be trouble. 

So, I did not invite them, did not invite anyone.  I ended contact with everyone I knew and quit my job so that I would not have to face what I had done.  Despite the fact that my family kept their biases private, mostly so that they would appear to be accepting of others, learning that my ex's family were just the same did not influence my decision to go ahead with the wedding.  Even then I pretty much did whatever anyone told me to do. 

In order to marry, I abandoned my friends, people who have been loving and supportive and allowed me to be the same for them, and any principles I held.  I had absolutely no moral backbone.  No matter what my beliefs were, I was unwilling to stand up for them. Seriously, how stupid am I.  How desperate to marry.  I just walked away from everyone. 

The shame I felt back then is nothing like what it has become over the years. 

Who am I?  I think that I am a good person.  I do not steal or lie (very much, just the social lubricant kind of lying).  I do not cheat on my taxes or vandalize.  I do not litter.  I do not gossip very much, and I hold some shame about that as well, even though I gossip only about funny stuff.  I am not using that as an excuse, but at least I do not try to hurt anyone.  It is about the aspect of trying on which I concentrate even though I know that gossiping about anything is just plain wrong.  Working on that.

I am kind.  I try to treat everyone well and with respect.  I understand that part of my striving to be a good person is because of all the mistakes I have made in my life.  I am capable of the most distressing behaviors.  I can say the most insensitive, cruel and careless things.  I can speak before I think.  I can put my wants and needs above those of other people.  I can be envious and jealous and resentful.  In general, I can be a complete asshole. 

I have been all of those things, and more, but no more.  For most of my life I have worked at being a good person, and when the occasional unkind thought pops into my head I keep it there.  It no longer leaks out of my mouth or manifests in my behavior.  I try to live with as little sub context as possible.  I am successful more often than not.

Wanting to do all of this, wanting to be a decent person, a good citizen and tossing everything in the meditation bufcket has taken my thoughts in many directions and has brought the Shakers and their practices back to me.  I remembered one of their songs or church prayers about simplicity.  So, I went to look in my messy files of inspirational quotes and sayings and found a scrap, but it was only three lines.  I knew there were more and went searching again.  I found the words at the same site I found the name of the Shakers.

Every thing is better now, but  I have lost my center and, I think, all of my beliefs.  I used to believe in a higher power, a creator, you know, something larger than the self.  It has been decades since I belonged to a faith community, but I have always been a deeply spiritual person, immersed in faithful practice.  Even without the connections to a church or formal religion, I have been satisfied with what I do practice.  Now that all of it is gone, I am surprised at the empty place where faith and belief used to reside.

The place where I have therapy is faith based.  One of the directors provides spiritual counseling and when I was there last week, I talked to her about it and asked if we could talk sometime.  I have an appointment this week and might be looking forward to that as much as I am anticipating my training next week.  The chances are excellent that I will not go all charismatic or become born again...the first time was quite enough.

I want, well, I want everything.  Just everything.  Now that the fear and disability of that other life is diminishing, I can see that just about anything is possible and I want it, I want all of it.  Regaining the faith that most likely helped me to survive is so important to me.  I wonder what might be possible if I were able to believe again.  In anything.

This is the Shaker song.  It is called something more, but I cannot remember and I am finished looking up stuff for today. 

'Tis the gift to be simple,
'Tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight
'Till by turning, turning we come round right.
Shaker Elder Joseph Brackett, Jr.

Two excellent links on the Shaker Heritage Society of Albany, New York web site.

History of the Shakers

History of Watervliet

Friday, June 28, 2013

well, well, well

I just finished e-mailing back and forth with my attorney.  We e-mail because it costs me less in fees.  Go figure.  Typing takes longer than talking, but it is cheaper.  Anyway.

The result of this is that I have some of my share of our resources involving the investments, at least the major one.  Whilst that one account has had funds withdrawn, the other accounts have been effectively gutted, as have all of the bank accounts and other resources.  I am receiving less than that to which I am entitled, but it is a significant amount, at least to me.  This means some equally significant changes in my life.

I do not have to worry about paying my bills.  My rent, utilities and groceries will no longer be a stress issue.  In fact, my diet will really improve, as I will be able to buy foods that are more supportive of my diabetes and heart condition.  Yay.  I will be able to buy more fresh food.  Yay.  I may even be able to treat myself to some frivolous stuff once in a while.  I will have to be as frugal as always, but will have better control of my blood sugar levels.  Yay.

I will not have to keep all of the lights turned off after dark, and I can raise the temperature in here during the winter.  I can run the ceiling fans when it is too warm and run the little air conditioner I bought when it is too hot.  Lots of comfortable sleeping in my future, for CoolCat as well.  He has taken to sleeping on the cooler floors and, frankly, his comfort is more important than mine because he cannot make a choice about any of this.  He is my captive audience where comfort levels are concerned, and now we will both be much more comfortable and happier.  I might even put that air conditioner in the window today.  Yay.

If I get sick, like have some expensive health issues, the part that is still in the investment fund can be tapped without penalty.  Yay.  I can finally go to the dentist and have my teeth fixed.  I had been saving for that when I left that other life, but had to use that money to hire an attorney.  My mouth is going to be so happy.  And, since I have taken myself from working for the next several weeks, I will actually have time to do that.  Yay.

I will be able to keep the car.  Will be able to visit my daughter and all the boys more often.  Yay...yay...super yay!!!  I can put more than one tank of gas in the car each month. Yep.

I will not have to choose between my own health care and CoolCat's.  I might have the opportunity to attend some summer fun, like the county fair or a church festival or two.  So nice.

I will be able to afford to keep my Internet service, something I was working on yesterday, trying to find a less expensive provider and failing at that search and beginning to mourn the loss of what is one of my most readily available and important connections to the outside world.  Sure, my friends are great, but the computer provides me with so much, well, fun.  Research, too.  I prepare information for my clients when I am not at work, so that is important.

I can move up to a more convenient cell phone.  For ten dollars more each month I will be able to afford a phone with unlimited minutes.  As soon as I have consumed the minutes remaining on my phone, I will be choosing a local, more cost effective provider.  I can hardly wait.

I can, finally, give generous tips to the group of handymen who helped me last year when I was readying the house for sale.  They charged me a fair price, but the work of hauling all of that hoarding crap out was, well, it was just the worst of the worst possible experiences for people who are accustomed to doing this kind of work.  There were five men who worked their damn asses off and each of them are going to receive a hundred bucks from me this week.  Well, it is Friday, but I have left a voice mail message for him and I will be making arrangements to see them next week and give them the money.  Of all the 'yays', this one ranks right up there.

I am sure that plenty of other things about my life that will be improved from this new development will occur to me from time to time as the circumstances of something present themselves, and I predict more "Yays" to come.  Each one will be a surprise, a pleasant delight, a moment of abundance, an opportunity to end some fear or inconvenience, a long and luxurious period of gratitude.

And, the best part is that during this final mess, my ex was still trying to present bogus bills and expenses and insists that I owe him #265.00/US.  Seriously?  After everything that he has done, this is his parting shot?  I have to share that when I read that a few minutes ago, that I laughed out loud.  Then, I sobered because it triggered memories and feelings and fears that I have been thinking were left behind.

Clearly, I still have much healing to do.  That part is interesting.  PTSD is an equal opportunity disorder.  You work and work and strive for healing and recover and when you least expect it, something happens and you are right back, directly moved back into those experiences.  I have been working for the past five or six months on reducing my nervous, involuntary movements, sort of like tics.  I am not so concerned about being my usual crazy self here at home, but I would dearly like to at least appear less crazy in public.  I have so many movements, leg bouncing, foot wagging, hand fussing with hair, clothes and jewelry.  I am like a fucking one woman band of silent annoyances. 

Unfortunately, even when you are invested in stopping or modifying these things, the PTSD will not allow forward movement when I want it.  Healing happens as it happens and it appears that I have years of this crap ahead of me.  So, the interesting part is that whilst I have significantly reduced all of the movements by concentrating on the full time, the stress still is there and needs release, so I have begun stuttering again.  Were it not so embarrassing, it would be funny.  Truth be told, I do find it amusing sometimes that my will and intent are at such odds with my body. 

My therapist assures me that the stress trigger and how that manifests in my body will be a steady, although slow, process.  Man, I hope I live long enough for that.

A few steps in the direction of healing were to write back to my attorney, tell her to stop investigating the missing funds and to give my ex the $265.00.  This is a tiny price to pay for having this be done.  I hope he enjoys every penny of that money, as least as much enjoyment I am having just giving it over to him.

My attorney assures me that there is nothing left for him to use to delay or change what is happening and I will receive what I am to receive in the next month or so. Oh, and there was apparently still some money in the trust account at her office, so that will be divided next month.  It is only a few thousand dollars and my guess is that it might cover most of the legal fees for the past month.  She has earned every single cent of that money, and I have received every cent of benefit from it.

In her final e-mail this morning, she began it saying that she was personally proud of me for having come through this entire process as I have.  That is worth gold.  I am proud of me, too.

Thursday, June 27, 2013


Again, a source of struggle.  Wanting to do the right thing, be the right person and not having the energy or heart to do anything close to that.

I am nearing the end of the first week without actual work schedules.  So far it is weird and I keep forgetting what day of the week it is.  That is what free, unfettered time is doing to me.

One of the things I wanted to do was to have contact with a few friends with whom I had some issues during the past year or so.  I am taking one, an older woman, out for one of her favorite excursions.  It is a 12-hour-plus day and when I was still providing social contact for her, well, it just wore me out.  However, I am staying positive about this day out and I know that we will have a good and very interesting time.

The other woman was always a little bit nosy, but, really, who among us is not some of the time.  When I finally left that other life, she kept calling me and drilling me about the gory details.  I explained that I preferred to not discuss any of it, and when she kept on I stopped answering her calls.  Then, I had to get a less expensive phone and she no longer had my number and did not know where I had moved.  One day I was having lunch by myself and she came up behind me.  She was there with another friend and when she pulled out her address book and asked for my telephone number I gave it to her.  Yeah, I know.  In my defense, she told me that she had planned to show up where I work on Wednesdays, so giving her the information seemed a better choice.

The problem, as with most things on which I have to work, is that it is difficult to say 'no' to anyone for anything.

Part of that is not being able to say 'no' to anything in my other life.  He would ask me to do something and I would do it, or not do it.  Demurring, much less refusing, was not tolerated.  Once you go down that path, it is impossible to turn back.  If you try, the violence escalates, so you stop trying.  It is safer.

But, it drifts into other parts of  your life.  That whole syndrome is the inspiration for the notion that if you want something done, that you ask a busy woman.  As an aside, domestic abuse is supported and bolstered by those kinds of societal influences.  No one ever says to ask a busy man, probably because the work and recreational activities of men are considered to be more important, inviolate.

Anyway, I am giving these two friendships another try, because I need to be sure that it is good for me to let them go, and the difficulty with them is not simply because I have been so stressed for so long.

Saturday will be the usual marathon with the first woman, and I will be meeting the second woman on Monday, and her suggestion for lunch is the same restaurant where I last saw her, the day I gave up my phone number.

Sure, I want to see if there is anything left of decades of friendship with these two women, but more importantly, I need to know how good and faithful a friend I can be.  I need to find out if I am a decent person.  Neither of them know that I have negative feelings about them. 

They may suspect something, if only because the mess of the past months is really not sufficient reason to have prevented me from contacting them.  When I spoke to the second woman tonight, to invite her to lunch next week, she said that she was glad to hear from me, and that she thought she might not.  The day that I gave her my phone number I told her that I did not have many minutes on the phone.  Unfortunately, she heard what I was really telling her and she shared that with me today.  She said that I had told her that I would call her and that she should not call me.

I did not use those words, but that was exactly my intent.  I suck. 

So, I am very glad that I called her this evening and that she immediately accepted my invitation.  I am glad that I will be seeing her and spending a long and luxurious lunch together.  Frankly, I do not deserve her kindness and her generous spirit.  What I did to her that day was unconscionable.  Even with the enormous stress of that time, my behavior was despicable.  I am feeling justifiable shame and it is my most fervent hope that I am learning something from this. 

And, I hope that she considers us to be close enough friends that she is able to forgive me, because once we have ordered our lunch and are sitting and talking, I will apologize to her.  At the very least, she deserves that, and if she chooses, cannot, forgive me, well, then I deserve that.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Out of all the options you had for this entire process, for all the terrible stuff, for all the delays and obfuscations, the just plain meanness, would it kill you to say that you are sorry?

You just never know unless you ask.


This is the beginning of five weeks off from all of my volunteer gigs.  In the middle of this time I will be training for the certification that will help me with the whole job thing.  There is not any guarantee or even any leads to jobs, but this area is relatively new and agencies and services are in need of certified specialists.

I have a few places in nearby cities where I would love to work.  Some here in town, too, but there are not any openings.  Those jobs have recently been filled with great people, and unless they decide to move on, the likelihood of a local job is nearly nonexistent.

So, I had better find a job soon after certification testing in October so that I can keep the car so that I have a car when I find a job.  If I find a job.  This could totally not work out, so it is kind of interesting and nice that I am willing to put all that money and time and a ton of hope and heart into doing this.

Should this be a fail, it is not all failure, because I will be able to use what I learn in the volunteer work I am already doing.  As for my volunteer gigs, that is changing in the fall.

I will still be working with people for résumés, job hunting and all of the social services resources.  That continues until I am no longer able to get over there and work.  If all of this results in a job, it is simple to change and schedule the library days around any work schedule, even a random one.  It is a very flexible gig.

I will not be returning to the state gig.  We had discussed doing that for the fall, but I am not a good fit there.  There are core differences in how they do the work and how I do the work.  The woman who runs that division is supportive, but she keeps trying to alter, bit-by-bit, my process.  I am not that malleable, and whilst it can be amusing when it is not annoying, it is not fair to allow her to believe that I will ever do everything exactly the way she would like.  Their process is significantly less personal than mine, which is fine and appropriate given the literal hoards of people they serve.

Me?  I am just a single person with almost unlimited time to settle down with someone, use time to work through their crap and eventually get down to work.  A room of thirty needy job seekers does not support the ability for a half-dozen staff members to hunker down and spend lots of time with any one person.  They do an amazing job with the resources they have.  Truly, among state agencies around the country, they are the best.  They do a superior job and most states would love to have the program development we have here.  But, it is not a good match for me, and I prefer to remain friends and associates with them.

I most likely will not be returning to mentoring.  My mentee no longer needs me like she did when we began.  We continue because we like each other.  We talk, make art, discuss books and generally just hang out.  I am not sure how, or if, I will end this relationship.  Maybe I will feel that missing her is not worth it, and we will continue as before.  I just do not know.  What I do know, is now that she no longer needs my help, I am not interested in starting with a new student.  The need for mentors is great.  There are ten students needing help for every available mentor.  Even now I feel badly about this.  The decision does not need to be made for several months.  That is for the best, I think.

I will not be continuing with the two older women for whom I provide friendship and social contact.  One of them has moved into a nursing home.  Her health has become more and more delicate and I am sorry to lose contact with her.  The second woman is in the process of moving to another state to live closer to some of her family.  There are three separate parts of the country to consider, and that is going to take her some time. 

She and I are spending a day together this week.  I promised that it would be the day-long excursion that she likes so much.  There will be lunch, then shopping.  Then shopping.  Followed by shopping. More shopping.  All during the shopping she will be talking to people, engaging them in conversation.  Store clerks, security guards, strangers, but most especially the people who work at the cell phone kiosks at the mall.  She may miss an inline store or two, but not a single kiosk will escape her smiling face, her kind and generous nature and her gift of gab.  After a day with her, I cannot help but feel that most of those people come through a little happier, lighter in spirit and maybe even feeling a little more loved because she stopped to ask about phone service (She has a cell phone, but has been unable to find exactly the one that works for her.), and stayed to chat.  I do not know, maybe they feel inconvenienced by her, but she is one charming little old babe and it is a pleasure to accompany her on those days. 

The day ends with dinner, but not before 9:00 p.m.  Some nice food, more conversation and then talking all the way home from that city and a bit more in her driveway.  These long days are infrequent, or at least not as frequent as she would like, but they are exhausting and I try to engage her in other activities most of the time.  Once a month is just about all my body and budget can handle.

I am planning on continuing with two support groups.  I have been asked to start a support group for combined issues, and I am considering it.  Not anytime soon, but, maybe.

I want to be able to spend more time with my daughter and all the boys.  If I get a job in the part of the state where she lives, she would like me to move there.  I would like that as well, but the bulk of my work is here.  I am so conflicted.  My grandsons are growing up so quickly.  Living this far away means that I am missing so many daily and weekly things.  Time keeps on slipping, slipping, sliding and skipping into the future.  More conflicted thoughts, wants and needs.

What else.  I would like to get back to some kind of regular art.  It has been so long that doing anything like that is gone.  I might not be able to find my way back.  I have been invited to participate in a large, public exhibit event next summer.  To do that means making stuff.  Conflicted.

I am not making any true plans, but it is important to consider all of the things I want to do now, here in this new life.  My choices are unlimited.  More importantly, they are my choices.  Yay.

Monday, June 24, 2013

how to say goodbye

I am not sure how to do this when a friend dies.  A friend died last week.  At the age of 38 she self-medicated to death.  Alcohol was the immediate cause, but was aided by decades of using every substance she could find in efforts to relieve her pain.  I am being very judgmental here, but W's mother, with her own excessive drug use and abandonment of W must surely have been a factor in many of the decisions W had to make in her life.  She leaves behind a daughter who is connected to no one except for W's boyfriend, who is an exceptionally decent and loving person.  But, even he did not have the power to help
W overcome a lifetime of the other crap.  We became friends when we worked at our art in a gallery/school place.  Over the years I was more mothering-focal resource than true friend.  I heard from her when she needed something.  I gave when I could, declining when the request was more than I could emotionally bear.  I became a minister when she wanted me to marry her and her boyfriend.  That did not work out, in my feelings that was fortunate, but I can still marry and bury people, and baptize.  She is not truly gone, just not here anymore.

I believe in an existence larger than our fleshy lives.  My daughter used to tell me that I was rationalizing about some of my beliefs concerning life.  That was fine, still is, as she was much younger and still discovering her own beliefs.  My best guess is that she still thinks me kind of whacked, something I am not willing to verify.

My belief is that we exist prior to living here.  Before our birth into this life, we have full knowledge of everything we need to ever know.  We have access to wisdom that transcends those who might be considered wisdom figures.  Then, after the flesh melts away, we return there, to that place. 

I believe that we choose our life here, the good, the glorious, and, perhaps, most especially the sad and painful and horrible.  We choose joyfulness because that is one of the two precepts of living.  We are here to be happy and we are here to be of service.  I am not all that proficient about finding and holding on to happiness, my skills in that arena are lacking some essential energy, some fire for living fully and embracing good stuff, fun things.  Maybe I am not looking in the right places.  Maybe happiness is not to be part of the experience of this particular life.  I think that I am wrong about happiness.  I think that it is there, just waiting for me to get over myself and plunge into wherever it is. 

A few thoughts about other lives.  Reincarnation, if you will, something I am not sure about.  I never believed in it, although I carried beliefs about all sorts of things that are much more unimaginable.  I have ridiculous beliefs, and proud of it.  Like marriage.  Anyway, I thought it all rubbish until I remembered two previous lives.  I do not have much of an imagination.  Oh, sure, I can recount what actually happens to me, often eventually making some good sense of it, and I can immerse myself into books like nobody's business.  I know that other people love books, too, but there are moments when I feel like I am the only creature who is able to fully experience the lives of the characters. 

But, creating my own fiction, my own darling and precious and fucked-up characters is beyond my ken.  And, believe this as well, I have tried.  Autobiography, relating actual events, helping other people put down and make sense of their own life stories, all of that I can do.  Empathy is my imagination.  Fact, even extraordinarily difficult and painful fact is my strength. 

Even adding or crafting bits of fictional flotsam is beyond my comfort and abilities. 
Even trying to craft fiction simply becomes another life experience that never moves beyond the writing of words, the stressing of whatever imagination I might have, struggling to incorporate truth into the pages, and is an exercise in failure.

Stories of life after life experiences were just stories, fictions to me.  Then, I remembered two complete lives.  It happened during one of the many periods when I was doing inner work in order to be a good wife and trying to understand how I was failing my husband.  I did that a lot.  I mean, we all know that I never got that right, but I hope that I learned something about myself that can be helpful to me now.

Those two lives are much too tender to share.  There was good in them, as well as important struggle.  There was heart.  In one I was loved, in the other I was despised during a period in time when who I was was a much despised kind of person.  The clarity of remembering, the details and the flow of ordinary days and ordinary tasks and even more ordinary other people is the best part of those lives.  They came to me fully realized, fully experienced, and I knew that I had been those people, lived those lives, just as fully as I had been living the day before the memories came.

I have chosen my life, this fleshly experience, and I know that W has done the same things, as has her mother, and her daughter, and mine, and all those who attend us and follow us. 

It may be difficult to hold belief in one's ability and wisdom to choose how a life will be lived, how to manifest all of the changes and choices needed to learn something.  Or, to have determined how one's life might proceed and then modify it, make other choices, exercise one's free will, and yet try to stay true to the original plan whatever the hell that was, being as I cannot recall any of the details.  Maybe the best I can do is to stay intentional, attentive, doing what I can.

I know what it is like on this side of the experience, but I wonder what kind of  person, being, consciousness would be willing to take on the role of creep or miscreant or abuser in the life of another person.  Because, if we truly choose all of that future life stuff, then there has to be, what, some kind of mutual agreement to be the receiver and the giver. 

Exchanging good life experiences surely must be much easier than exchanging bad crap.  Surely.  But, what quality of life, what part of wisdom sets up the construct for lives with lessons.  Most religious practices offer much the same teachings.  Things happen for a reason.  I wonder sometimes where I began in that realm.  If I have made any progress at all.  If I have any chance of doing so. 

I have another friend who witnessed something that my husband did to me.  She tried to talk to me about it, but I denied the whole mess, and made a joke about there being a lesson in there somewhere.  There was a long pause in the conversation, and I was making ready to leave and she said, "Maybe the lesson is to know when to give up."  Well, I never did that.  I am not a giving up kind of person.  Perhaps I should be, but I just am not.  And, when I did leave, it was not because I finally gave up, it was because, well, we know why.

It was making a choice to live, when it was so much easier to stay there and die.  I am still saying goodbye to that other life.  The legal stuff is nearly over, but my goodbyes are legion and I will be bidding farewell to all sorts of things for a very, very, very long time.

Goodbye, W.  I am sorry that we could not be better, different together.  I miss you and wish you well and wealth and wisdom in your journey. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013


The boys, the little ones, are adventurous eaters.  They have had the opportunity to taste stuff from the cuisines of countries they will never visit.  Or, maybe they will travel like that someday.  Who knows.

They have eaten goat, herring and more at our favorite African restaurant.  They will try anything hot.  Must be genetic, as spice and heat are favorites, yummy and healthy.  Despite all that, they prefer mild curries, stews and soups.  When they come here, they almost always have their absolute favorites, which are more traditional child favorites, like mac and cheese, which they will eat any way, but prefer from the little boxes, any of them. 

They like cheap hot dogs.  Great, because those are one of my guilty pleasure.  A favorite treat for me is the dollar dogs from the gas station.  One of my son-in-law's sisters loves them as well.  Wonderful, as before she shared that, I was alone in my love for them.   Glistening with grease, rolling around on that rolling thing, soft white bread buns, sloppy relish, mustard and lots of jalapenos, they are my go-to-meal whenever I have the chance.  I could go for a couple right now.

Anyway, my daughter had, and has, the same attitudes about food.  There is not anything she was ever reluctant to try.  Even sushi, which she really does not like all that much.  When the little one graduated from preschool recently, I again suggested sushi for lunch, the offer was declined and we went to McDonald's.  Interesting experience that.  They love the fries and being able to mix their own soft drink combinations.  They also like playing in the playing place.  I usually have coffee or a salad or coffee and a salad.

My daughter asked if I had ever had one of their wrap sandwiches.  I had not, and she told me that they are good.  So, I ordered one and it was really good.  Grilled chicken (or something really close to chicken, but still grilled), not greasy, cooked/warmed just right.  Lots of delicious salad greens, some kind of sauce and a decent tortilla or wrap or whatever they call it.  I was really surprised.  At four bucks it is on the upper limit of my budget, but I am actually looking forward to having another someday.

But, my favorite meal truly is sushi, especially so because it is easy and inexpensive to make and, except for all that brown rice, is way too high in carbohydrates to be supportive of my diabetes.  They boys will never go out for it, so I made and brought some when I went there to spend time with all of them.  Taking them over for the weekend was my Father's Day present for my son-in-law, along with some money for treating themselves.  I made stuff and stopped at a nice market near to where they live and fed them for two days, too.

I love cooking with the boys.  Yesterday they made their own burgers, vegetables and salad.  Earlier in the afternoon they made chocolate pudding with tiny chocolate chips, which we had for dessert last night.  They helped me make hash browns, all kinds of eggs, ham steaks, bacon (which I burned...sorry), melon and mangoes and we had the rest of the tiny rolls from last night's burgers.

For lunch yesterday, we had lots of vegetables, dip they made, hummous I made, and fruit.  And, sushi.

They and their friend from across the street were game to try some of it.  Wary, they took little tastes.  I reminded them that they did not have to try any of it, but if they did and they did not like it, it could go directly into the trash can.  They especially like that they can spit out what is in their mouths and do not have to chew and swallow anything that disgusts them.  Makes me chuckle how important that part is for them.

I had made only non-scary rolls, choosing only the vegetables they like.  Some had crab meat, as well, something they all like very much.  I ended up being the only person to have any, and helped them make sandwiches for their lunch.  Still chuckling.  There was interesting table conversation.

Me:  O.K., X, what do you see in there?
X: Well, I see carrots.  He then pulled out the carrot shreds and ate them.
Me:  And, you like cucumber.
X:  Nope.
Me:  And, there is the rice.
X:  What is that black stuff?
Me:  Sea vegetables.
X:  That's not that salty seaweed, is it?  It looks like that salty seaweed stuff.
Me:  Yes, you are right, that is seaweed. 
X: No thank you, Grammy.
Me:  Cool, you still like the rice.
X:  Not any more.

Pretty much the same talk with my other grandson and their friend.  The friend could not believe that she would be allowed to spit out what she did not like.  I am not all that invested in those kinds of manners when we are trying new foods; it just seems mean to make someone finish eating something they were willing to try but do not like.  I guess that sushi will continue to be my solitary pleasure, and the process of introducing it makes sure that they will continue to be willing to try just about anything, and continue to add new tastes to their life.

Sushi is not only delicious, I feel all metaphoric when I am eating it.  It contains foods in conditions that are not familiar to the foods of my childhood.  It has fish of all kinds, some cooked, some not.  I also like sashimi.  I also like seaweed.  I have a huge jar from the Asian market that is little packages containing four thin sheet of nori.  I add it to dishes and enjoy eating it just as it is for snacks.  All of the cleaning and chopping and ritual involved in making sushi comforts me.  I like the preparation and layering, the rolling and slicing.  I like that it is immediately available to pop in my mouth, and I like making it for myself because American preference is for larger rolls.  I might be alone in this preference, but I like being able to take the whole slice in one bite, rather than having to take three bites as I do with restaurant sushi.

I like the combinations of flavors, the freshness, the crisp vegetables, the crispy tempura shrimps, the creamy tofu, bright greens, marinated rice, salty seaweed sheets.  I like the taste and feel of sushi grade fish in my mouth.  It feels like eating the best and most nourishing part of the sea.  I love searing my palate with wasabi and then recovering with thin, slightly hot slices of pickled ginger.

That first taste, that first bit in my mouth is mind altering.  It is like tasting creation.  I know that cooked rice was not one of the first harvested foods, but creatures fresh from the water, plants and  beached kelp were part of the first foods that early people risked eating.  I can only dream of fish, pulled from clean, clear and healthy water, cleaned (or maybe not) and sliced or pulled apart and eaten.  I wonder if there are many parts of the world where that can still be done.

I like how sushi rolls look.  Disparate parts brought together, beautifully arranged, ready to enjoy and feed my body and my mind.  Maybe even my soul.  Surely my willingness to be adventurous, brave, embracing courage as a life practice.  Absolutely my love of arrangement and order.  Mostly the taste and satisfaction of feeding my body what it needs. 

It is midnight.  I slept most of the day.  I am hungry and there is little food in the house.  It is too late to fetch gas station hot dogs; they stopped making those hours ago.  All of the sushi ingredients, except for the nori, are gone.  It is too late to make popcorn, my favorite dinner, because the noise and scents will bother my neighbors.  So, I guess it will be porridge, oats.  I really like oats.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


I am feeling vulnerable and with such a fullness at the same time.  Tonight was the DV support group.  Three new members, two gone, three others missing in action somewhere.

This is the group for which the shelter organization wanted me to start a book club.  They were excited, I was excited, some of the women were excited, when we first began discussing it.  None of the original women are still there, which makes sense because that was months ago.  Women and their children are an ephemeral presence.  It is wonderful when they move on, find housing, jobs and a way to live their new reality.  Less wonderful is when they return to their abusers or their other addictions. 

Tonight was dominated by the usual people and that is fine, as it allows the rest of us to enter the dialogue when inspired to do so, or just sit back, listen and think.  I am thinking that if I qualify for the certification that can result from the training next month, this will be the end of sharing anything that happens in any group to which I belong. 

I know what the requirements are for sharing what goes on in support groups, having been a member and then facilitator since the mid-80s.  But, if I do this new work, I will not be able to share anything, not even if I develop cryptographic protocols.

There is not any way to build trust if the people with whom you are working know and understand that, for a writer, pretty much everything is grist for the mill.  Think:  Oliver Sacks.  I am no Oliver Sacks.  I am just a hack writer, have not been published for a dozen or so years and after all that time, no one even knows who I am anymore.  Well, that is aside from the issue of trust and confidentiality.

I am writing all of this stuff, as well as other materials, as my own story.  During the process of all of this writing, it is my intention to learn about myself, clearly address my shortcomings and failures.  It is important to me to chronicle the process of learning, recovery and healing, all life-long pursuits.  Truth is that even if we put down what and who we are, what happened to us, the consequences, and whether we write fiction or fact, we do it only for ourselves.  An interesting aspect of how I will craft this is that fiction is often a more accurate representation of a personal truth than non-fiction might be.  It is my sincere hope that I do not come to regret addressing that.

I have a friend who has a blog, and wants very much for it to be a source of income for her.  She is an excellent writer, much better than I am, and she is sure to be successful at anything she does.  I am good enough to be me, nothing more, but I write for myself.  When it comes time to organize what I have been writing for the past several years, it is going to be a revealing experience because I do not go back to read what I have written, not before I post or put aside my journals, not later. 

Last year I ritually burned all of my writing from the previous fifteen years.  I resisted the urge to dip into any of the pages, lest I fall back into the emotions and struggles I remember from those times.  My experience now is built on all of that, informed by it, but it is not what I felt then.  That is why I had to let it all blaze and drift up into the air.  It was very cleansing at a time when leaving nearly everything in my life behind was a daily struggle and agony for me.  When L (my other cat) died in the midst of that time, I lost a part of myself, and as strange as it sounds, that sorrow helped me.  Now I just miss her, but then, the loss was a blanket in which I wrapped myself, a kind of protection from the other losses.

I wonder what I will do when I no longer have all of the crap from my other life as a source of material.  I wonder if no huge complaints means significantly less inspiration.  Maybe not, being such a whiny person and all.  Yeah, plenty of writing in my future.  Like I could actually stop.

However, my work is now officially off-limits.  The change in the professional and confidential nature of my work means that I will no longer be writing about any of my clients in any way.  My personal notes remain private.  I suppose that I could wait until they had all passed on to the great beyond, but I am significantly older than most of them, so that will not work.

 My bottom line is that I write to heal myself, to recover.  It is enough.

Saturday, June 15, 2013


Well, this is the plump time of the year for such things.  Graduations.  Weddings.  Showers.  Births.  Father's Day.

Oh, that last one is bittersweet this year.  Well, it always has been.  Years upon years, eons actually (as calculated in bad-marriage-years) of a time to celebrate the blessings of having a loving and devoted father, dependable husband, all of a package that. 

I never missed an opportunity to honor him, joined by our daughter when she was still so tiny.  As she grew her absolute and unconditional love and attachment to him grew.  I cannot say when all that began to change, mostly because I was in denial about her increasing unwillingness to deign to someone who gave her nothing in return.

I never honored her feelings about her father, never addressed what he did, all the things he failed to do and kept on hoping that things would change.  If I could only find how to do things right, do better, be better, then everything would fall into proper place.  I would do no wrong, he would love us and we would all live happily ever after.  Despite everything I have learned these past few years about myself and the dynamics of that relationship, there is a part of me that accepts all of the blame for everything that was wrong.  The truth is that I should have been stronger and done something about all of that much earlier. 

I protected her from the worst; time has proved that, and despite other failings that came along with that, I will never regret our daughter does not have to carry the burden of that as well.  But, and this is huge, I was delusional to think that I was doing the best for us.  I was not, and I cannot go back and change anything.  I am stuck with the consequences of all those choices.   I will carry that shame into my next life, and all those following.  A Karmic debt that will never be paid.  Not ever.  Still, after everything, I wonder if anyone will help him celebrate in some way tomorrow.  I can no longer honor him, but perhaps someone else will.  I hope that he can find happiness in his own way, that he will not be lonely or alone.  I want those things for me and so I want them for him as well.

And, whilst countless families will celebrate good fathers, and most likely, just like we did, some not so stellar fathers.  Blessings to all of them.  My son-in-law is a great father.  Not perfect, which is a good thing because if he was we would all be so envious and a bit chagrined about our own imperfection.  I love him like crazy and he is just as fond of me.  So, good on that, even though I forgot to get him a present.  He gets token wine, but the bigger gift is that I take the boys for an overnight. 

I have a good excuse for forgetting.  We celebrated the little guy's graduation from pre-school.  I, being a grandmother, love all of those milestones.  I do.  Really.  Just feeling conflicted today.

I am personally in a slightly celebratory mood,  The training and all that.  All the fun we had yesterday.  The weeks I am taking off for time to do, to catch up on all the neglected stuff.  My safe, albeit messy, home.  CoolCat, that brilliant companion.  My work.  Finally receiving some of the joint resources from that other life. 

There is sadness and the gradually diminishing sense of loss.  I think that if I ever stop feeling some bits of that, well, perhaps I have moved too far in the wrong direction.  I have earned the right to feel whatever I want.  Or need to feel.  The difference now is that all of that is my uninfluenced, independent and wonderfully flawed choices.  Celebrating this part is not an option.  I am content, satisfied even, to simply honor that small, surprisingly small and empty space that should have been filled to the brim with my hopes and dreams and good intentions for having a successful marriage and an imperfectly happy family. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


The recent good stuff is continuing.  A virtual flood of goodness.  Thank goodness.  The relief from worry is just, well, I hardly know how to express what a relief it is to not have to stress about paying every bill and using too much electricity, not eating as well as I should in support of my diabetes, and never being able to share one bit of how difficult this is.  The worrying part is not over, and will not be until I find a job and maybe, actually, get at least a fraction of my share of the assets from my marriage.  I keep saying this, telling myself this...that I fully expected to come away from everything with nothing.

I have done a decent job of living with this reality, embracing every part of it because doing so means survival in the most successful ways.  I am trying to not invest much hope about what might be coming, but it is so hard when other things are moving forward so nicely.

I was able to share information about the training and the scholarship today at work.  You know that people like and respect you when they act just as giddy as I am feeling.  My directors both support this new direction and are in full support of a short hiatus from my work there.  I am taking five weeks, for the training and the after-work, time to spend with my family, which is pretty much my daughter and all the boys, taking a day to travel to another state to drool over fabric, and take lots and lots of naps.  I have yet to finish unpacking and organizing my work room.  Lordy, I have a work room!!!!  It is all mine.  I can do whatever I like there, whenever I like.  Man.

There is nothing like a patch of good news to lift the spirit.  Amazing.  If things go south again, I will promptly, probably without taking a breath, launch myself back into despair and whining and moaning and groaning and everyone is invited to my eventual pity party, except that I really cannot handle guests, so let me know if you want to help me devolve into a pessimist again, and I will cram a slice of cake into an envelope and send it to you posthaste.  Messy fun.  My favorite kind.  A sharing and a science project all in one.  Multitasking.

Work today was interesting.  Clients who had homework (yes, I am that focused at work) cancelled their appointments today.  I have one extremely challenging client who gave a Reference Librarian trouble last night cancelled and still showed for her appointment.  We spent some time talking and I finally had to reinforce the ground rules, the boundaries we talked about last week.  She insists that I am the only person to whom she can tell things and I explained that there were issues here with her for which I am completely unqualified to help.  We now have a list of five topics that can be discussed and upon which we will work, and any digression or lapse into her files of complaints about her life and everyone in it, will result in the end of our session and the end of our working relationship.

We had this conversation where the ref staff could witness what we were saying, which she did not like; I guess I would not like it all that much either, but it is an indication that she understands that she is abusing and misusing the time I am able to spend working with her.  It had to be done, but I am feeling personally, as in to-the-bone, sad that it had to come to this.  The simple fact that she is eager to share all of her stuff means that she trusts me, that I have become a safe place for her.  It is my hope that she will be able to stick to our necessary agenda and that I can save some time at the end of our session to just sit back and encourage her to share whatever she likes.  I have her scheduled for the last appointment of the day, which means that we can run long as much as we like.  I would like that very much.  I truly cannot help her with her mental health issues, but I can be that safe place for her to vent and talk and then talk some more.  We will see.

The rest of the day was some truly kick-ass work, as well as a couple of interesting surprises, most of which I cannot share, but I came out of them looking pretty darn not stupid.  Yep.  I am not saying that I came out glowing or anything, but there might have been a noticeable elevation in the quality and sparklyness of the light in the general area.  Just saying.

Therapy tomorrow.  More whining, I am certain.  More giddiness about the training and other stuff, I am also certain.  Fresh cherries on my oatmeal for breakfast, followed by some macarons.  Bless the market that started carrying them in the frozen food section.  Bless me for not buying them more than every six months or so.

I am so weak about extraordinary food. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


good news.

I received an e-mail from the training people, asking me to verify my attendance as quickly as possible, as they have a long waiting list, hold these trainings only a couple of times a year, and they did not want a place empty at the training.

I replied immediately, and thanked the woman with whom I have been corresponding for allowing me a spot in this thing.  She wrote back, and she is so nice, which I guess one should be expecting from people who do this work, but it was still very nice and I appreciate just everything about this so much.

If my therapist had not suggested this to me, I would never have even known it existed.  Or, perhaps I would have at some time in the future when I really was too old to do anything with the information.  But, the first thing happened and I will just have to wait another decade to find out what other thing(s) I should have done, or at least investigated, now.

So, that is a further thought bubble about how stunned and happy I was last week.  I was feeling a bit disappointed about the scholarship, but I knew, going into this process, that there were few scholarships given.  I did my best and if it did not result in a little financial help with this, the process of gathering my thoughts and putting it all down and sending it off was so helpful to me.  It brought me in the right direction for figuring out how I feel about all of this, how I have invested much of my self in helping other people with similar issues.  Frankly, doing this work is the pay-off, the sort of purpose of having gone through everything in my life.  I have my mental health issues, the abuse, being a parent, the whole surviving thing and being able to use that, to have learned from all of it, being able to share my experiences and make connections with other people, particularly women and children, is satisfying in a way that is difficult to express.  Maybe having these kinds of experiences and surviving them, healing and all that jazz is essential to knowing how this feels, what it means to me.

I was talking to my daughter yesterday because Google celebrated the 85th anniversary of the birth of Maurice Sendak.  Our conversation was about how my oldest grandson launched himself through a glass door and the interesting emergency room adventure that followed.  He is fine, is properly patched and stitched and bandaged, and had a cool space blanket from the hospital that they used to keep him from getting shocky.  He got to take his wounds and the blanket to school for show-and-tell.  Probably the most awesome show-and-tell of all time.  Yay, Little Dude!  He was wearing his bike helmet, which most likely saved his face and head from the glass. 

It is usually his younger brother that needs the emergency room, but both of them made it longer, got older, than their mother was when she first visited the emergency staff.  They are so much like her that it is scary, sometimes in an interesting way, but often just plain scary.  

I finally was able to share with her all of the great stuff from last week, the state volunteer gig, the training thing, and a very brief and detail-impoverished telling of the financial stuff.  This is the first time that I have shared anything about anything with her, so it felt risky and a bit shameful to tell her about that.  I have always been worried about sharing anything that could further distance her from her father.  He has an excellent job of doing that and I do not know how I could live with widening that gap.  There is always a chance that he might change, somehow, and be willing to mend their relationship.  I am not giving up on that hope.

My therapist has always insisted that she know something about what the whole other life mess, but I still think it is a bad idea.  Sharing even this little bit felt weird to me and the only reason I did so was to help explain how cheap I have been lately, particularly about not wanting to drive up to her house for the past several months.

Such a mess, such a mess.  It is difficult to do the right thing.  I am not always successful, but I try.  It has to be enough.  At least my therapist will be pleased at this pathetic attempt at forward movement.

Anyway, we talked about the training, no scholarship and that the entire experience is going to be totally kick ass.  Half an hour after our conversation, I received another e-mail from the training woman and I was certain that it was a condolence message about not receiving help with the fees.  To my surprise and further amazement, I have been awarded a scholarship.  Once I recovered, I called my daughter, gave her the great news and then repeated with my therapist.

I have been worried and stressed and fearful for so long about how I was going to manage financially.  I know how far I have come in my recovery and healing, but the money issue has been a constant struggle.  As my living costs and all of those huge legal fees kept building, and my savings kept shrinking, the stress sometimes seemed too great.

Now, that part is most likely over.  I am, and have always been, super frugal, and I do not expect that to change.  That lifestyle kept me going in my other life and it has helped me to continue to survive.  The training for certification will go far in helping me to find a paying job.  I will continue my regular volunteering gigs, but it is going to be glorious to have a paycheck.  I am not dwelling on the necessity of moving to a larger city, but if that has to happen, then that is what has to happen.

Tomorrow I share the training thing with my boss(es) and arrange to defer clients until August.  I need the time off, even if I were not learning how to be a better leader and facilitator and all-round more decent person. 

It is all so wonderful.  Then, there remains this residue of loss, which I totally understand, but there is still so many parts of that other life that need mourning.  Is what it is.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

'bout time

Finally, some good news.  Not just one nice thing, but three...count 'em...threeeeeeee!

First.  I was accepted as a volunteer in our state's health insurance assistance program.  That means I will be trained and available to help our county's ombudsman during the renew/switch period from October to December, not sure the exact dates.  I have decided that I do not want to be trained now to do that exact job, but prefer to handle the pre-interview interviews.  I am tired of leaping right into the middle of something.  It is going to be very nice to be the person who gets to help and calm old folk like me during that stressful and difficult to comprehend process.  Yay.

Second.  I was accepted into the training thing about which I have been vaguely referring.  Now that I am securely in process...have I mentioned being accepted???? Yay...I am comfortable sharing what it is, as I am beyond the point where I have to pretend to not be disappointed and accepting of the process and how things always work out the way they are supposed to and how there is sure to be another opportunity down the way to do this or to have the time to do something else.  So, anyway, it is certification to be a Peer Specialist, with a concentration on mental health issues.  I got those.  You got to have them to even apply.  Yeah, you must have a mental health condition  and be willing to be totally public about it.  I got that covered, too.

This was suggested by my therapist.  She shared that I have come so far in my recovery from, well, from everything and that I am already doing pretty much what a peer counselor does.  I was aware of peer counseling and my fairly immediate plans were to ask for some kind of informal training and the opportunity to volunteer someplace.  But, this certification means that I could actually be employed, doing what I am already doing as a volunteer.  Better yet is that what I learn during this training is going to amp-up and support the employment/social services work I have been doing for four years.

But, it means that I have better resources to find a job doing something I love.  I have been actively searching for a job for more than three years, without any success.  Whilst that is personally distressing, that process has been very informative and helpful when helping my clients with their own employment struggles.  So, even it this does not result in a greater chance to find a job, everything that happens with this is going to help every other part of all of my volunteer gigs.  Yay.

Oh, just yay...yay...yay!

Third.  This one is bittersweet, but mostly totally kick-ass.  My ex and his investment people have refused to comply with the court orders placed at the time of divorce, which is now more than ten months.  Obfuscations, denials, delays, lost paperwork, "oh, gosh, we are just having so much trouble connecting with you and your lawyer...", and plain, old deliberate non-compliance.  A few months ago my attorney convinced me, reluctantly, to create new court orders that would address the non-compliance issues and those created by my ex for gutting the investment funds.  I let her do that, but I could not bear to be part of the actual process.

As of yesterday, the investment people have finally complied, but with the original orders, completely ignoring the new ones and ignoring that the accounts carry a fraction of the assets they did last year when the original orders were placed.

I told my attorney this would happen.  I told her that they might...potentially...reluctantly and finally follow the original orders only when faced with fines and the threat of jail time.  Like any of that would ever happen.  Sheesh.  I told her that the weird paperwork they sent two weeks ago was designed to do exactly that, circumvent the new court orders.  I told her that the two primary directors of the funds were friends of my ex and that he often called them or went to their offices, or they called him, just to chat. 

I was told that it was only my ex who was creating all of these problems.  I was told that the investment people were professionals and that they would never do anything illegal.  I was told that finishing all of this was in their best interest, as when it was settled, they needed to make money off of the funds they invest for their clients.  I was told that I simply did not understand the weird paperwork and that all of the empty, incomplete spaces on the paperwork was nothing about which to worry.

Barely half of the portion that I would have received when the investments were to have been divided ten months ago were, this week, deposited into an account for me, one for which my attorney and her assistant and I finished setting up six months ago.  Maybe longer.  Thousands of dollars in legal and filing fees and they still allowed my ex to keep removing money from the accounts for all of this time.  In violation of other court orders that determined that those accounts were to be frozen.

I am properly grateful to have anything.  I am trying to just let go of any belief in justice or fairness or any of them doing the right thing.  That has never been my experience with my ex, so there was never a time when I expected anything decent from him.  That was compounded by the fact that I got out of there alive and that I now have a life, an actual life, that I never, ever, ever dreamed possible.  CoolCat and I live in relative safety.  My ex is too cowardly to attack me personally, but has no qualms about sending his friends to do the dirty work (can only imagine what he has told them about me that allows them to assault me at work, but that is another story, one that is not worth more than this sentence, time or energy...good-bye, you creeps).

I really am grateful.  It is essentially over.  I never expected to pry any of my retirement or investment money from him, and now, whilst it is only half of what it should have been, it is a lot of money by my standards.  My therapist knows the exact amounts of this whole mess, and insists that it is my interest to insist on a fair accounting, that to do otherwise would allow my ex to win.

Win what? 

Win money?  Who cares.  I was willing to walk away with CoolCat and what I could throw in a trash bag.  As long as I have clean big-girl-panties, I am fine.  I have that.

Win the satisfaction of fucking me over one last time?  Fine.  Cool.  Cool and groovy.  It means the last time for me, too.  I cannot envision how this could not be completely great for me.  This final screwing means that I am finished having to deal with him and his family.  Now, that is a win that means something.

Win the adoration of his family and peers for having avoided doing the right thing?  They do not know that avoiding doing the right thing is one of the things he does best.

Win respect for making sure that I live below the poverty line and will experience financial difficulty for the rest of my life, a life of being a stupid, ugly, horrible, mean, disgusting, thieving and useless person, someone who never cared for him properly, never gave him the respect he deserved, was never able to do the simplest things correctly, never knew the right way to be a proper, Christian wife?  I know who I am, and knowing how he has always misrepresented me is nothing new.  I am not saying that I ever became used to, or accepting of how he lied about me, but it was what it was, and unless I had somehow found the strength to leave him earlier, it really was just what it was. 

I think that if anyone wins here, and frankly I do not believe that there are ever any winners in this sort of thing, that I might be slightly ahead in that race. 

If I were entered in the race. 

Which I was not.

If I participated in the race.

Which I did not.

I am also not gloating about how what has happened is pretty much what I predicted to happen.  The huge surprise, and I am still kind of stunned by this, is that I have received anything at all.  So, that can only be good. 

What is even better is that I am fine.  Even without that money, I would still be fine.  I work with clients who are employment impoverished, families who experience food insecurity, the homeless, the mentally challenged, the formerly incarcerated.  I am freaking lucky and I know it.  I know it every single moment and I do my best to see that my clients absolutely know that they are respected and that the team, of the two of us, is going to work as hard as we can to help as much as we can.

I went to breakfast with my friends this morning.  I rarely go because they meet in another city and gas is so expensive and I can eat for part of a week on what I spend on the least expensive breakfast.  Four of the women are staunch Republicans, and at least three of them hate having an African-American president.  That this country could have failed to keep a black man out of the white house (except as lower level staff, as one succinctly phrased it), is a sure sign of the decline of democracy as we know it.

They are all incensed about the coming changes in health care, particularly as it pertains to poor people.  I often hear about how the Southern states here are still steeped in racism, bigotry and prejudice.  I listened to a support group member rave on about this subject just this week.  Anyone who thinks that racism and all the rest are not a factor of daily life here in the North is either lying or delusional.  Certainly uneducated.  Mostly biased and delusional. Just saying.

All of this health reform is making it possible for racists and bigots to safely and publicly voice their prejudices and biases and hatred of anyone who is different from them.  One of the woman lit into me, mostly, I am guessing, because she knows how stupidly and ignorantly liberal I am (her words).  Makes me smile, even now.  She started in on her usual ranting and then looked at me for a response.  Seriously, she really should just leave me alone.  Poke me, insult me or call me names and you deserve what you get.

So, I mildly (yes, I can be mild) asked her if health reform were thrown out what would continue to happen to those families who cannot afford health insurance or medical care of any kind.

Her response was that no hospital can legally turn away anyone.  That is mostly true for emergency rooms, and when I said that, she went into one of her other rants about how badly poor people and minority people parent their children and that she would never go to an emergency room because it would be full of "those people."  I asked where they should be going and she said that she would never take her child to the emergency room for the sniffles because that is what "those people" are doing there.  I asked what people without her/our resources are supposed to do when their children are ill, and she again stated that she would never take her child there for the sniffles.  I asked what she would do and she said that she would go to the pharmacy and buy over-the-counter medications.

So, knowing that this was going nowhere, I told her that this is the demographic with whom I work.  Those who cannot afford health care or insurance of any kind, and what her suggestion was for them when they or their children are sick, and the bus might not take them anywhere near to a pharmacy, but several bus lines went directly to the hospital campuses.

She then shared that providing medial anything to the poor and "those people" would only increase her own health care costs.  I shared that she is already carrying the burden of that because people are forced to use the only medical resource that cannot legally turn them away, the emergency room.

She called me a name and did not talk to me for the rest of the time we were in the restaurant.

I do not have all of the answers, hell, I do not have most of them.  What I do have is a responsibility to be a fully invested part of whomever/whatever can provide basic health care and other essential services to those who cannot provide them for themselves and their families.  I cannot stop or even give ideas about how to stop abuse, which is often a significant drain on what social resources are available.  Until we find a way to convince all humans to pull up their big-person-panties and just freaking do the right thing, waste and fraud and theft of resources of all kinds are going to continue.

Shame on those of us who defraud and steal and waste what is not theirs to waste.

Shame on those of us who have as much as we need, have more than we need or have more than we could ever spend on what we need and what we want, and do nothing to help those who most need help.

Shame on those of us who demean the practices of anyone who does not do things the way we do them or the way we think things should be done.  Shame on those of us who criticize, with righteous indignation and moral superiority, anyone who does not meet our standards of behavior, dress, attitude or how they do not properly recycle or use convenience foods.  Or live, or keep their houses clean or do their laundry or drive the wrong vehicles or vote the wrong way or do not home school or send their children to the best schools or do not raise their own food or husband their own food and fiber animals or make their own clothes or spin their own yarn.  You know, like that.

Shame on those of us who do not do whatever they can, whatever is in their means to help the less fortunate, the less successful at living and providing the lives we have.  Shame on those of us who, in our abundance, do not help where we can, clothing drives, serving meals, making donations of time when we have nothing else to give, or avoiding judgements and criticisms and denial of basic human needs to people who are different from us in ways that we do not understand.

I do not have much money, but I do have time, and I have heart.  On my way home from breakfast this morning, I stopped at Walmart to use two gift cards for a second set of sheets for my bed and some groceries.  I found lovely sheets and was still going back and forth about buying them.  Then I thought of one of the women from the domestic abuse shelter who finally secured her own housing; she now has a apartment, with little in it.  I know the processes of the organization who helped her and that she would need a second set of linens.  So, I put back my sheets and went to search the clearance section and chose a set for her and one for myself, because I could do that.  I also grabbed a nice pillow for her, because a nice, new pillow is a great thing when you do not have much else.  I was able to take care of both of us, for less than taking care of only myself would have cost.

And, it occurs to me that despite all of the struggles and danger and fear and even more struggles of the past several years, I have pretty much been doing nice things, doing the right thing, most especially when it would have been so freaking easy to not do the right thing.  So, having this weird and unexpected settling of the whole financial mess really is fine with me.  I have more than I ever believed I would have, and that is a nice way for this part of the larger mess to end.

More importantly, I did it, I came this far, I survived without betraying who I am, you know, the idealized person we believe ourselves to be, that lovely person that we hold in our hearts, and hope that we will manifest when things get tough, messy, difficult, dangerous and just generally fucked up.

Had I been proactive about any of the choices I made when leaving that other life, I would carry shame about how I was not able to hold onto that idealized person I believed myself to be.  I would have betrayed that J, I would have weakened her for the next time of struggle and difficulty.

I have come through this with my beliefs, my ethics, my standards and my dignity intact.  That makes me the biggest winner in the history of winners, and it is my belief that I am only one among legions of other people who are striving and succeeding in living lives that honor their best selves.

I have all of this settled as much as it will ever be and I am looking forward to my training with so much joy and energy that I can barely contain myself.  Yay.  Once I get this done, and have passed the certification testing, I am planning on taking, near the end of the year, another national certification that is more centered around homeless issues.  Then, next spring I hope to enter the more heavily layered process to address the issues that face our veterans.  That certification (and licensing, I think) will take me the better part of next year, so I am hoping to qualify for the earliest training sessions.

Monday, June 3, 2013


Tomorrow will be the last week I spend with my mentee this school term.  We have been together for three years, and this term I followed her to middle school.

We began this program in on the elementary level, planning to follow fifth-graders (elementary is grades K to 5) when they transitioned to middle school (grades 6 to 8).  The idea was that because this is a significant change in how students experience the school day, how school functions, peer changes and more, that having a mentor available for students who needed one would be a good idea.  Student families self-choose to be part of the program.  The reason a mentor is wanted is, frankly, irrelevant; if the parents feel that a mentor would help their child, then we try to provide one.

That first year was interesting.  After notification at the administrative level, all fifth-grade parents were informed that mentors were available for anyone who wanted one.  Those interested only had to request a permission form.  Many families expressed that interest, obtained the forms and not one returned it.

So, the information was then presented to the fourth-grade families and we had more requests than we could fill.  Inadequate planning.  The woman chosen to run the program is a former school principal.  I am supposed to be her assistant, but with my other life and crafting this new one, I have not been much help to her.  I did make photocopies at a meeting for her.  Once.  Oh, well, perhaps next term.

There are only two of the original mentors, me and another woman.  She and another woman were unable to follow their mentees on to middle school.  One has gone back to the elementary level to start with a new student, and the other one was disappointed at losing her student and has left the program.  There have been seven or eight new mentors, but things have not worked out, for one reason or another, and there are still students who need mentors.

This is puzzling, as the national program of which we are a part does very well in training mentors, matching them with students and retaining them.  I have no idea what is wrong with us.  Only two of more than a dozen of beginning mentors are still with the program.  Well, the supervisor makes three, but she does not have a mentee.

I like being a mentor.  I am really good at it.  I do not, however, follow all the rules.  Huge surprise, huh?

I am dedicated and committed to being:
  • A good role model
  • Reliable
  • Creative
  • Consistent
  • A true and steadfast friend
  • A safe person/place, where anything can be shared
  • Any resource my mentee and her/his family needs or wants me to be
  • A decent participant in the program
Unfortunately, the center director wants mentors to exceed their boundaries by becoming more intrusive in the lives of our mentees and their families.  That, I refuse to do.  I know that his issues are because of the changes in obtaining and keeping grants.  The criteria and reporting and validating standards change all the time, and are becoming increasingly more complicated and stringent.  The main focal point right now is proven improvement in grade point averages.  The students for whom that is appropriate and quantifiable criteria are more properly served by tutors.  Completely separate needs. 

Students need mentors for many more reasons than grade point improvement, most of which are not tied to learning.  This is brought up at every monthly meeting.  And, every time, I ask how we are to do that.  And, every time, the director tells us that he does not know, only that it is one of the requirements.

I am guessing that the only reason I am still a mentor is because there are now only two of us, and I have been doing it longer than anyone else.  Not exactly job security; I am sure my days are numbered.  Until then, I will show up every week, spend time doing what my mentee needs, tutor when needed and have as much fun as possible, which is making art, closely followed by just sitting and talking.

Previous years, one of our last day things was that I brought her favorite sandwich from her favorite restaurant.  That worked great because the time we spent together was during her lunch hour.  This year we meet during her study period.  I have not yet figured out how to bring the food and keep it from getting all cold and icky.  I have until 9:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.  I am probably doomed, and will have to come up with something else.

Thank goodness I decided to organize my work room yesterday.  I found enough beads and stuff to make her a bracelet, key ring and one of those charm things for her cell phone.  I gave her more art supplies last week, just in case something happened this week and we could not get together.  I am going to miss her this summer and am looking forward to seeing how she has grown the next time we meet.

Sunday, June 2, 2013


I have not been able to completely shake last week's twitchiness.  I got ready to meet my friends for coffee/breakfast yesterday, got in the car, started out of the driveway and backed into my parking space.  Came in the house, got into my house clothes and called S to say that I would not be coming.  Said I was not feeling well, which is not a total lie, because I felt like totally twitched-out crap. 

I told the same thing to my daughter today. 

It is true, it is just not some kind of cold or flu that they assumed I had.  As long as I do not have to lie, they can make any inference they like.  As long as no one shows up with chicken soup or cookies, no foul, no penalty.

So, needing to do something that did not involve leaving the house, I decided to spend today organizing my work room.  I hauled some of the stuff from the storage place and moved things around enough to begin setting up the shelving units and I am exhausted.

I am also happy because I found art materials that I thought were long gone, as I did as much donating and divesting and tossing as I could last year.  Not having a place to live, as well as a small storage unit, all that stuff, as sad as the process was, simply had to go.

I suspect that there is still much more to donate out to one of the shelters and the school where I mentor.  I am ready and willing to let just about anything go and am not dreading this new round of divesting.

I still feel like a wreck, but I put that energy to good use today.  Feels good.