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

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


Bacon, $6.49 per pound, on sale for $4.99.

No thanks, and it was a more perfect shock because I cannot remember the last time I bought bacon.

All right, some healthy nuts, then.  Almonds, $8.99.  So, look at the macadamia nuts.  $19.99 instead of the 12.99 per pound when I last bought them.  No half pound for me.  How about some pistachios.  On sale for $7.49 a pound.

Well, I will just have to buy some cheap meat for protein.  Inexpensive cuts are $8.99 and then go all the way up to $13.00.  Even the beautiful ground beef started at $4.99 per pound.  It has been a long, staying with beans and pulses and grains combinations.

Citrus?  Oranges? Fergetaboutit.  Green peppers, leaf lettuce, cucumbers, carrots...whew...I can get those.  Apples.  Yes.  Back to grab a bag of the least expensive oranges.

Chickpeas for hummus.  Cottage cheese, but no eggs at that price.

And, it went on and on through the aisles. 

I should never start my grocery shopping at the regular markets.  No matter that I was exhausted from the dentist and a full day of meetings and fixing stuff.  All I wanted was some basic food and a couple of luxury items.  Frankly, I think a quick sandwich from the drive-through would have been better than trying to buy enough food for the week with the money I had.

For what I settled on to actually buy, I overspent.

So be it.

I have enough food so that I will not have to shop again until next Monday or Tuesday, and it will take place at the discount market, where I can shop without panicking, where I know in advance what the prices will be and where I am comfortable setting down my cash. 

I do have to admit that the food there, especially the fresh produce, was glorious.  All shiny and crisp and the variety was amazing.  So many varieties of apples and lettuces and, gosh, all of the sweet pepper varieties.  The meat...lordy.  It was obviously of much higher quality than at my regular market and I am certain that the prices there properly reflected that.

I passed up on so many of my regular purchases because of the prices, even though the quality of every single fresh food was amazing.  I am envious, really envious of those who can shop there regularly. 

In most cases, those fresh foods are pretty much the same in terms of nutrition, most likely exactly the same.  Still.  Canned and frozen food is the same everywhere, both in quality and nutrition.  I did not have to buy any of that stuff, as I keep a humble pantry.

I am pretty much a totally glass-full kind of girl and I embrace and honor the abundance that I have in my life. 

I never should have shopped there, because although I will enjoy the things I bought last night, I now have that contrast coming when I go back to my regular market.

The worst part is that this is an entirely and insanely first world problem.  Even my regular, discount market contains hundreds more items at a higher quality than is available to most of the world's people and their families.  I am feeling like such a selfish and entitled brat. 

Factor in that I can buy cake once in a while and my bratty levels increase exponentially.

Allrighty.  I will get over feeling deprived or whatever the heck this is.  I am hoping that this experience will help me be more realistic and grateful for everything I have, which is really, really a lot.  More than most people and certainly more than I need or deserve.  The world is full of people who experience serious food insecurity and I will never have to worry about starving or even going hungry for long. 

I have resources to pay for dental work and for all the food I need.  And, cake once in a while, chocolate more frequently.  Last night was big-girl-panties time and I missed that opportunity to be my best self.  But, today is another day and the chance to put all of this into perspective and I am doing that.  Yay for abundance and knowing the blessing that is and boo for entitlement.  Balance, here I come.

Saturday, April 26, 2014


If you try to be frugal and watch what you spend on everything, except for groceries, something that is easy to rationalize away because you work a lot of long days and easy food makes sense.  It does.

But, then when you go to the bank to see if you have a couple bucks to take out to buy more groceries, and maybe (finally) buy some curtain panels for at least five of the windows along with some of those squeezy expansion curtain rods that do not need you to make holes in the walls, you find that sort of ignoring your checking account and being frugal...except for groceries...means that if you do not keep track of how much money you have you find that you have more money than you thought.  Two and a half times more than you thought.
So, I can get my teeth fixed.  I have an appointment on Monday for the preliminary work and I will be able to pay in cash, the balance after they factor in the money that I have been giving to them to save up for this dental work.
If you finally have a day off, a Saturday, and you plan to meet your friends for coffee and you wake up with a scratchy throat and it is only a tiny bit of a struggle to swallow, and you e-mail/e-phone/electronically do something to communicate with one of those friends that you are going to stay home and rest, and you do that, you will be very grateful that you stayed home.  I promise.
If you have an opportunity to stretch your skills, or develop new ones, and you think you are too busy and tired to join in and then you suddenly are inspired by what someone else does and change your mind and join in the fun-new-skills thing, you will be happy.  Yeah.
If you do your best at one of your jobs and keep trying to learn more so that you can do what you can to improve what you do, maybe you cannot save even the teensiest bit of the world, but you can have a nice and supportive effect on at least the day for another person.  That happened to me six times this week.  I am astounded, as most of the time I do my best at that job and the satisfaction is that I am always trying to do my best, and that truly is enough, but when someone gains an insight or trusts you enough to share some stunningly painful experiences in an effort to ask for change in her/his life, well, that makes the day, for me, just fine.  This week was majorly life-changing for me, work-wise.
I love films and borrow a few from our Library every week, and enjoy them, even the ones that I do not end up liking very much, and still it seems that I am finally old enough to be bored by some special effects.  They were good effects, just not good enough to make it worth finishing the film.  Sigh.
Doing a little bit of something you do not like to do might be satisfying enough to keep on doing it until it is done, or it may not, but at least that little bit is done.
There is little that a nice and pointless snack and/or a wee nap cannot improve.  Oh, maybe the nap might not help if you miss an appointment, and although that has not yet happened (missing an appointment because of a nap) I will keep it in mind.  After checking my schedule, of course.
 Some nice cake can often help when a nice snack and/or a nap do not work.
I was offered an opportunity to adopt a cat this week.  It seems that I am still not ready, because he could be the perfect cat for me.  Three years old, cute, and he comes with a litter box.  He also has a sad story, but I have a couple of weeks to help find a home for him before he is evicted from the apartment where his former family abandoned him.  The building owner is allowing him to live there until he finishes all of the repairs needed from the previous tenants.  He is really cute.

I missed napping, watching The Book Thief.  It was nearly as good as the book, but there was Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson, so I should have expected that.  What is that quote about when you finally understand your enemy that it is also when you begin to love your enemy?  That has to be close, and I am reminded of it during this film. 

There was an opportunity to see the people behind the prejudice, deeply held cultural beliefs and our natural inclination to choose sides.  Not that those things are always possible to avoid, but it was nice to come away from the story not hating anyone, even though there is ample chances to do so.

I am hungry, but all I have here is food that needs actual cooking.  Nothing easy.  No snacks of any kind.  Positively no cake.  Erp.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

who i am

Or, maybe want to be.  I just found this code/something that is used by the GirlGuides in the UK.

I have changed it only a little, mostly because we are not young girls anymore.  Still, the heart and intent is pretty much what I am feeling, just in a better way than I can express.

    We are for all women
    We give women their own space
    We give women a voice
    We change as the lives of women change


Most of the time I am fine.  My new-now life is grand and I appreciate every moment.  It would be a nearly perfect life if not for holidays.  In that other life, our house...I almost typed home, but it was that only in the way that we tried to make it.  Despite the effort of both of us, it never quite made it there.

Holidays were the times when the wishes and pretending were real.  As miserly as he was, holidays were the exception.  Well, holidays that included lots of outside people.  Family.  It is only now that I realize (like, really, right now, in this exact moment of heart-wrenching clarity) that he never allowed for his people to be there.  That does not mean his family, because they were always around, but his people, the ones he truly cared about, were his friends and co-workers, most of whom I am guessing were also friends.

This is not what I want to write today, but, man, how is it possible that this is a brand-new realization for me.  Nothing even close to this has come to me in any counseling.  He had a card club with some of his work friends.  They would meet at each other's houses each month.  The wives would make elaborate appetizers and meals, serve and then disappear.  My guess is that sort of thing happens in homes all over the place and has for as long as there have been people with co-workers, homes and some kind of game.  Anyway.

Yeah, anyway.  I have been struggling at my new job.  I feel dis-empowered there.  Well, I do, if that is a real word, but I have come to understand that I am not able to back up parts of the program that are my responsibility.  It goes round and round.  I remind the women of their house responsibilities, they do not get done, I remind and then am reprimanded when things remain undone.    I like circular, although this one hurts because I know that I am not doing a good enough job.  It also feeds knowing how ineffective I am about so many things, but there, at the shelter, it is important to not be ineffective with people who count on you

So, when asked what I was going to do about it my first thought was one of my two default behaviors.  The first is humor, but there is nothing funny about this right now.  It will be hysterical later, though, I am guessing.  The second is to run, like quit and wander until something else comes along. 

Although neither of them serve me, I do them.  And, neither of them are helpful here because I love that job.  I love every part of it, even all of the paperwork.  I love the counseling aspect and the opportunity and ability to connect with our women and their children.  I love being the person who helps them find their own solutions to some of the crap that brings them to us.  I love sitting and giving them that safe place to say anything, knowing that it stays between just the two of us.  Oh, sure there are parameters and their understanding that sharing some things will be shared.  I often think that they choose that method to make known things that they find difficult to talk about.  I love being able to advocate for them when they let me know that is what they need.  I love being the place to vent about all kinds of stuff, problems with their abusers, the other women in the shelter, how boring the food can be, how difficult it is to find the resources they need to get back on their feet, find their way to a now-new life of their own.

I love that it becomes easy for them to trust us.  I love working with the women who simply cannot find a way to trust anyone, but are still willing to talk, knowing that they are safe doing so.  That is pretty sacred and cool.

So, I did the right thing and talked to my immediate supervisor about how I am feeling completely ineffective, and I trotted over to the shelter before I could lose heart.

I shared, mostly spewed, all of my frustrations about how I am just not doing a proper job, and that I hate reading about how I did not do/finish/facilitate/complete something concerning work with the women.  B listened and then shared that everyone is having the same difficulties.  Everyone.  The exact same difficulties.  Everyone.

WTF?  I am not saying it is systemic, but everyone?  And, at pretty much the same level of incompetence and frustration and feelings of self-defeat?


So, the conversation continued, with much sharing and a definitive discussion of documentation and follow-through.  I left feeling much better, especially since it was my intention to offer my resignation at that meeting. 

I still work there and I have a renewed energy, which has helped me set some tentative boundaries with the women.  One of the feedback issues about which B has talked to me is allowing the women to dominate most of my time.  She must have discussed it with R (DV Therapist) because she talked to me about last week, too.  So, I did that.  One of R's suggestions was offering a time limit when someone came to chat.  I may do that, but my preference right now is to share that I have some other work to finish and then remind the woman at the point when she begins to repeat herself.  So far that is working.

Another boundary is that they are still welcome, heck, I even encourage them, to vent about house issues and what they perceive as problems with other house residents.  Share it and it loses its power.  What I stopped yesterday was the beginning of an intense examination (as in ripping to shreds) if another person.  It is happening with only one resident and despite my attempts to change the subject, she just barrels on.  When given a time limit to share her current activities, she barrels on.  When reminded of the time limits, she barrels on.  She also continues to talk her way out of the office, through the outer office and down the hall. 

When she started on her roommate, I said that we would not be discussing her roommates .  She continued and I interrupted to say that we would not be discussing this person.  She continued at least seven more times...I counted, whilst being attentive :)...and I replied the same each time.  She made a simple, neutral, non-judgmental comment.  I smiled.  She was shocked, and probably a little offended.  I was fine, because we now have a boundary.  I am sure it will be tested; I am ready for that and happy to reinforce it because it is best for both of us, most especially the resident.

I just have to share that I am feeling more confident about my abilities today because my intent in working there has been subtly altered by my conversation with B.

I stopped back at the shelter on Thursday afternoon to deliver a couple of food donations I received and the advocate on duty asked if I could stick around to talk.  She told me that she was ready to walk out.  I sat back and listened and what she shared is almost exactly what I had share earlier that day with B.  Holy crap.

We talked for a long time, in between helping the women, fielding phone calls and drop-ins and all the dozens of moments of a shelter day.  The exact same thing happened when I went to work yesterday.  A brief conversation with the advocate who had completed her shift.  Two other advocates initiating the same dialogue. 

I have no idea where any of this conversation and concern might be going, but if it serves only to give relief to us, then that is just fine.

And, I found some of the Asian noodles I bought to make a dinner for the women, which I will probably make with them the next time I work.

An interesting aside is that the advocate from yesterday asked me an interesting question.  I had asked to women to think about what favorite foods they would like to have once in a while, especially as related to Easter Sunday, and I had provided the extra ingredients not available through our commodity food deliveries.  There was a crate of fresh foods and other ingredient mixes I made for them and she asked why I do that, bring in fresh foods or do art with the women.  Was it for them or was it for me.  I thought for a moment and answered that I did it for both, for all of us. 

But, I had to think about it more, I found, when it dominated my moments of down-time during the day.  Why do I do that?  And, I know.  I have greater resources than many of them.  More than some of them will have for a long time, as they regain their lives.

The shelter gave me refuge when I had nothing and no where to go.  They gave me a place to recover, to be safe and to find the strength to have my new-now life.  I have a responsibility to repay that out into the world, and into the shelter and its residents.

It is my responsibility to give back, and part of that is to increase the women's comfort by the teeniest bit that extra foods provide.  Through all time, food sharing has been one of the strengths of society building, one of the core tools to bring people together, for health, for family and community, for peace-making, problem solving and soul support.

Living in a shelter means giving up just about everything. Some things by choice, but most by necessity and for safety.  Had A not asked me that question, I would not have had to think about why this is so important to me.  A small amount of a familiar and comforting food can make all the difference it needs to make.

Fancy sugars and spices to transform commodity apples into warm and fragrant crisp.  Fresh vegetables and eggs to elevate corn bread from cornmeal and water.  Fresh butter as an occasional change from big tubs of margarine. 

Heck, fresh eggs for anything is a precious and rare ingredient, highly coveted, a very high value resource.  A couple of eggs.  We struggle with the issue of eggs all the damn time.  They are expensive, big picture-wise, and the use issue comes in because they are not available as a commodity item and we have to buy them ourselves.

I cannot eat them lately.  They cause intestinal distress, so I do not buy them.  I was thinking yesterday that there must be a way to buy more every week from my own budget, and then I get caught in the big-picture stuff and understand that balance is the most important thing on which I need to work right now.  Maybe part of shelter living is to adjust to not having everything you want to be a part of your life.

I know that shelter living and shelter supporting, working and advocating is how I repay the help I have received.  I do repay, but the truth is that all of this is essential to me and my own healing and recovery.  My therapist was concerned that being there, on the other side of the desk, would bring triggers to the return of my past experiences and how I struggled through all that time.  Depression, PTSD, more depression, self-doubt, self-loathing, even more depression.  It has not, and it bears mentioning that the experiences of other people, especially women, do not trigger me in any way.

I will continue to buy extra stuff, mostly food, for the shelter and its well-being.  I will continue to set appropriate boundaries for myself and for our women.  I will be a support for my fellow advocates and I guess that I will write about the holiday issues that brought me here tonight some other time.  I think that I will indulge in one of my high value resources and make toast...real butter...and some hot cocoa. 

And, I am going to keep in mind that what comforts us is as unique as each of us are.  I am hoping that I develop more comfort supportive behaviors and techniques to support my need to feed our women. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Dear Diary

Oh.  I have not abandoned you, dear electronic friend, just too busy and full of energy and not nearly enough inspired to sit down here and spew.

Life is moving very quickly.  I am glad to have work that uses my training and all that jazz, and the work is energizing and wonderful and more satisfying that I could have ever dreamed, even though my dreams for this work were, and continue to be, huge.  Ginormous.  More than ginormous.

I guess that the most important aspect is the responsibility that comes with being in charge of and responsible for an entire house of stressed women, as well as their children on occasion.  The greatest challenge is the time and effort and resources that are diverted from those women who are struggling with domestic abuse, rape and other related issues, by those other women who are using our shelter for other reasons, mostly generalized homelessness, whatever that may be and which is something that is impossible to assess, diagnose and use to find alternative placements and housing and decent resources. 

Right now there are several women who seem to be without the intended personal experiences for which our shelter was created and who are using our shelter for other reasons.  So be it.  I cannot imagine how admittance to our shelter could be managed any other way than it is.  Meanwhile, that reduces the space we have to accommodate women and children who may be in greater and shelter-intended needs.  Assuming that it were even possible to accurately and properly assess whatever the hell that may be.

It is an endless, complicated and interesting process, and I cannot adequately express the admiration, respect and adoration I feel for those who began this shelter and continue, year after year, decade following decade to do this work with open hearts and creativity and just plain dedication to improving the lives of women who, at least in the moment, cannot help themselves.

The reasons and circumstances that bring women to our doors are as individual as each woman.  The fear and confusion, the danger and need, all of that I understand, because those things and more are what brought me to their doors just a bit over two years ago.

Having that sanctuary and the blessings of those women running the place was...what was it? 

It was unexpected in a life that believed that it was only a matter of time before I was going to be killed.  Each day seemed like my last.

It was unbelievable because when in that other life, I believed that I had not any alternatives, that even if I managed to escape, that because I had kept everything my own, personal, hellish secret, that no one would ever, could ever believe the reality of my life in that other life.

It was frightening because I had learned to avoid trusting anyone or anything that was not connected to a person who was untrustworthy.  That is life for an abused woman.  That is the reality.  That is what happens when you are led to believe that there are not options, no relief and certainly no hope.

Hope and opportunity and just plain and decent treatment simply never occurred to me.  It seems impossible now that that was my life.

And, that is why I feel dedicated to bring relief to every women who enters our shelter, regardless of the impetus that brought them through our doors. 

I am digressing, but to be able to say "our doors" is the most amazing part of this.  I think that I did my best to be a good resource to other women whilst I was living in our shelter, but to now be on the giving side of what I received from our shelter is a gift that I think I might never be able to adequately repay.

And, that is why I am doing my best to keep my heart open to every person that I meet there, every person that comes to live there.  Every person who enters that sanctuary for whatever reason she may have, and whether or not it is part of the intended purpose and mission or our shelter, I trust, as I am guessing that everyone else there does, that there is no randomness in this whole thing, that every woman who passes through that doorway is entering the portal to find, to receive and to benefit from whatever we are able to offer.  What an amazing and life-altering surprise to find myself part of the we.

This past weekend was challenging in lots of ways.  I did my best to work with a couple of the women and that is really my hope, my every day and continuing hope, that I will always be able to use my life to inform my intentions and my actions for the work I do there.  I am only what I am, what my experiences have brought me to be in the here and now, and even though I am living and working this job as part of my process of healing and giving back, there are going to be plenty of times when what I do and/or say will fall heartbreakingly short of those goals. 

When that happens, well, then I get to help myself in as close to the way that I intend to help the women and their children and anyone else who enters this safe place, this sanctuary.

Our shelter. 

I have never been prouder and more self supported and blessed to utter any other words.  Well, except for the days I welcomed my daughter into my life, then her husband (my most special heartson), followed by their (our) precious boys.

But, today, our shelter, my shelter.  Man.