Trying To See The Light Through The Flames

I have to admit I am still searching for the light that is missing in this box into which I have crawled. Sadness seems to be the one emotion that I still feel. I am weary of being with a man who no longer loves me. The weariness lives in the marrow of my bones sucking them dry the richness of life squeezed out of them.

This weekend I was suppose to have a girls get together at my house on the coast. Everyone bailed. There was one reason or another and with this; I realized that there was not one person I could depend on. Not my husband, not my kids, not my friends…and I vagely thought about how I had better start depending on myself alone. So I headed up to the house. Me, myself and I.

As I got closer to San Francisco the air became thicker, filled with the smoke of the fires burning in Napa, Sonoma, and Santa Rosa. Some of my favorite places in the world up in flames. You could smell charred houses, burnt grapes and the bodies of those who were unaccounted for. Lives once vibrant and hopeful now trying to figure out what they will do without their homes,without their jobs and all their earthly possessions gone. Ninety six thousand displaced people all living in survival mode.

I took the back way on Hwy 1 instead of my usual route through Santa Rosa knowing that the I did not want to witness all the devastation. Nor did I want to get trapped on a highway that could become an inferno. So I drove along the blue waters of the coast, skipping all the unpleasantness except those kinds of thoughts rattling around in my head.

I arrived here in time to watch the sun set on the ocean with bats dancing to Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake in the nighttime sky and the waves of the ocean beating like drums as they broke against the rocky shore. I grabbed a bottle of vodka and drank to 30 years of marriage that is in the same predicament as  Thelma and Louise hitting the gas and driving off a cliff into uncertainty.

The next morning was beautiful and as I walked the cliffs I started to feel like myself again as the mist in the air washed over me, cleansing my soul. As I ambled on, the winds began to pick up and I thought about all those firefighters 50 miles away who would soon be battling them along with the intense heat of the ash as it rained down from the sky.

Soon an old lady came into view. I judged her to be about 80 and she was carrying a jet-black cane over her head. We passed one another with a smile and a nod; each continuing our own way with our own thoughts. A mile later we met again as we retraced or steps but this time I asked her “Why are you carrying your cane over your head?”

“To remind me how strong I am,” was the answer.

“Why do you need reminding of that?” I asked “you look strong enough to me that I wouldn’t want to take you on in a back alley somewhere.”

She chuckled as she began to explain that she was a fire evacuee staying with a friend. On Sunday, in the dead of night, she was awakened by the fire fighters from the station two doors down who were banging on her door.

“You have got to get out. You have got to leave now,” they ordered.

She wrapped a house coat around herself, grabbed a pair of pants, a shirt and her shoes,  went into the bathroom and grabbed her toothbrush. Then she picked up her purse, called the dog and left her house.

“It’s all gone now,” she tells me with not an ounce of pity in her voice.

“Why did I get my toothbrush?” she looks at me and asks the question as if I might provide an answer that would satisfy her.

“I needed my medicines but left those behind. Yet, I took time to get my toothbrush. A $1.50 toothbrush,” she says with a shake of her head and a laugh. “Crazy isn’t it!”

She tells me that her Grandmother’s china is gone along with her deceased husband’s favorite books, her wedding dress, and everything else she owned in the world. Pictures of her children on their first day of school, her collection of salt and pepper shakers, all her clothes and her piano at which she sang to start every morning.

“But I will sing again,” she assures me with a smile. “For I am strong and I am happy and I am ALIVE!!!!” she says with a great belief in herself  and sense of joy that literally takes my breath away.

“I will begin again and who knows what I will become? Opportunity is banging at my door just like those firemen did,” she says with determination and grace as she heads off down the trail.

“It’s never too late to re-create yourself,” she yells back at me with a smile.

Later that day I offer my house up to any family who might need it. I talk on the telephone to a man who skirted the police blockades just to return to his house and sift through the ashes that now contain the contents of his entire life.

“I found my son’s bronzed baby shoes,” he informs me along with a few other trinkets of a life that felt meaningful and alive to him.

“We will just have to start over,” he tells me a sob stiffelled in his throat.

And although he cannot see me I find myself nodding my head at his words. For many times in our lives we are forced to start over, not of our own choosing, but because of forces that intrude unexpectantly. We can choose to see sorrow as an opportunity or we can wallow in our own misery until the end of time ultimately robbing ourselves of our accomplishments and the ability to morph into something we might not have expected… Someone better. Someone Kinder. Someone Wiser. And Someone who depends on themselves for their own happiness and to create a satisfying life no matter what is thrown in our way.

Today I met so many amazing people…. survivors and volunteers alike. And in these meetings I came away blessed. I hope they will be too.

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P.S. Thank you to all the fire fighters, healthcare workers, inmates, sheriff departments and all the volunteers who have saved lives while risking theirs.

 

 

 

 

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Coconuts

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One of the things I love about my volunteer position at a local hospice is that I get to spend time with “The Older Generation.” I love to hear their stories, the places they have been, and the tales of wisdom that they have learned about what makes for a good life. Most often I laugh hard on the days when I am spending time with these wonderful and whitty folk. Their joy at the simple things in life, as they are rounding the bend on theirs, makes me mindful of the beauty of letting things go back to basics in all areas of our lives.

Today, I was talking to one of my favorites. She is an older woman born on an island in the Pacific Ocean and loves to talk about her early life which was idyllic until the Japanese invaded during WWII. It was then that she learned about the difficulties in life. Starvation, slow torture, and bayonets. She watched as people were killed on the streets of her hometown; her friends and relatives not spared by the brutality that one human being can inflict on another. But what she really could not wrap her brain around is that the enemy were people just like her and those she loved. People that would no more hurt their own neighbor back home yet were inclined to resort to heinous acts during heinous times.

One of this lady’s most memorable war-time events occurred when she was just 13 years old. On that day, the Japanese arrived in town and began raping the women and killing men. The townspeople were unarmed and had no way to fight the invaders. They were totally at the mercy of their captors.

As the Japanese entered the town my “friend” and her two sisters were instructed by their father to flee towards the mountains. As they ran they heard voices behind them and realized that they were being pursued. Unfortunately, one of the sisters was separated from the other two girls who managed to climb up into the arms of a coconut tree. There they hid in the palm fronds for two days and watched as the enemy searched for them with instructions to kill if they were found. They also heard their sister’s painful cries as she was being victimized. It is, my friend assures me, a sound that one never forgets even all these years later. “I still has dreams,” she whispers and wakes up screaming and in a stinky sweat.

Here in the United States we do not know much about the sufferings of war. We are rarely put into a position where we genuinely fear for our lives and most of us if faced with that would probably shit ourselves due to panic and fright. We don’t know about eating tulip bulbs as the Dutch did during the war nor do most of us know how to forage for food in the woods. Most of us have never really had to worry about our neighbors turning as in as spies or leaving our homes with only the clothes on our backs.

That’s why when I hear the saber rattlers urge our countrymen to war I become concerned. Our country is not prepared for war. We are a country of wimps who watch from the sidelines but most often do not play in the actual game. Let everyone else send their kids just don’t send mine. This is especially true for the rich whose children get deferments while the politicians who help to obtain them line their pockets with Daddy’s money.

War is a dirty business and everyone, everywhere, is changed by it. And usually, this trnsformation is not for the better. So before we go talking about bombing North Korea we need to ask ourselves who is going to benefit from this situation? Is it going to be Joe Schmo or is it going to be companies like Halliburton? What resources do we lose when we attack another country and what do we gain? Who are the winners and losers and what is the cost going to be both economically and spiritually. Usually, if we do the math, we realize that as individuals and community we all lose wether it be our lives, our humanity, or both.

How many more people in history will have to hide in basements while bombs drop around them and how many more will have to cower in a coconut tree just to survive? Isn’t it time, that we as a species grow up and learn that war leads to nothing worth having and little worth saving? Isn’t it time that we work with each other instead of against?

I don’t know about you but I long for peace. Peace for this world, for my children, and peace of mind for me. Yes, I want rainbows and unicorns. I want bunnies and bubbles. I want children to feel secure and for everyone just to get along. And while I don’t know much, the one thing I am sure of is that war will not provide peace. It will not feed the starving and it will not make our children feel safe. It’s time we give peace a chance…again…and this time we need to mean it.

 

 

Slow Death

 

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I have swallowed dirt

As you have drug me

Down this road called DIVORCE

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I have eaten pain

Which is razor-sharp

For Breakfast

Lunch

And Dinner

Stabbing and slicing

My mouth bloody, gums raw

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I have swallowed my pride

As I have attempted

To be that confident 20 something woman

I once was but am no longer

The one who gave you fireworks with each kiss

But now just lights an occasional Sparkler

Which burns out

Just a fast as a child’s temper tantrum

In the face of a Hershey’s kiss

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I have drunk in the distaste

You have for me

Like vomit…

It stinks and is rancid

Eating up my insides

As it slithers down into my gut

Which now lives in perpetual

Anxiety

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I have tasted your anger

For past deeds done to you

That I had no idea hurt

Because you were never truthful

About the feelings you had

That are now erupting from you

Like all the acid ash released from a volcano

That covers me with sadness, distaste and dislike

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I have choked on all that you expected of me

The changes you wish for

That smother my free spirit

And are against all I stand for

Things I cannot agree to

No matter what

You still feast upon my body

And soul

Saying you have no passion

Which strips away my dignity

And tears my confidence to shreds

Right now you have the power

But slowly I am beginning to grab mine back

And when I do

The Phoenix that rises from the ashes

Will breathe fire

As I claim all I am

All that I hope to be

And leave you will the shell

Of that person you destroyed

I will then be whole

And you will be left with my dust/bones

To bury inside your unconscious mind

And it will be too late

To make up for all you have done

While creating something

So much stronger

Than you

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A Love Story

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A story courtesy of my therapist with quite a lot of embellishment on my part.

Once upon a time there was a couple, who like most couples, were as different from one another as night and day. The man was sturdy and pragmatic; a man of few words. He loved to take things apart to see how things worked and LOGIC was his middle name.

The woman had an openness with people and was sentimental about those things she deemed important. She was a lover of words and was as bohemian and adventurous as her husband was stalwart and they lived together in a rather small house, that was dominated by a rather large hutch, that the wife inherited from an uncle she met once when she was four years of age. As often happens in these cases, a large piece of furniture like a hutch can rarely be left to stand empty; so the wife slowly began to fill it with cups, which after several years became a collection of sorts.

The first cup that was bought came from a grand old lodge in the Adirondacks where the couple spent their honeymoon. It was a good solid cup in a rustic and homey sort of way. It cost $20 which seemed wildly extravagant in those days but she loved it and so her husband surprised her with it when they got home so “our honeymoon can continue forever,” he said.

The second cup, the one with a small chip on the handle,  was picked up at a flea market at a small country church. The couple had stumbled upon it on their way home from the annual pilgrimage to his parent’s farm which was located in the boon docks of the state. It was a place people rarely visited and home to more cows than people but the imperfect cup needed a family and so it came home with them and their new puppy, a mottled brown dog that they named Boonie.

About a year later the third cup was won at the local county fair by the husband after he successfully threw a ring around a bottle. It surprised them both because neither had known that the man had a talent for this particular kind of endeavor. It was an ugly pea-green color that was too big to hold a decent amount of coffee without going cold and it was too small for a pint of cold beer but nevertheless it was given a place of honor on the shelf.

And so it went…a fourth cup soon joined the third and the fifth came after the birth of their first child. Soon the top shelf was filled with cups of all shapes and sizes and every morning the wife was delighted as she opened her hutch and studied the cups pondering which one she would use that day.

As the years went by upon occasion the wife began to ask her husband  to buy her a cup when he was away on business. But he was a pragmatic sort of chap and didn’t see the need for yet another cup in the house. He always used the same cup day in and day out and saw no reason to change. He was baffled about his wife’s cup “obsession” and began to resent the money she spent buying them and the time she spent taking each cup down for a decent dusting and so he refused to indulge in his wife’s request for more cups.  But sometimes when he went out-of-town on business he would remember her request and bring her home a piece of homemade candy or something that the area was known for instead; but he never brought her a cup. And while the wife appreciated his gesture it sometimes hurt her feelings that he would not give her her hearts desire…a cup that he had taken the time to pick out just for her just as he had on their honeymoon. Then after a while she began to wonder if he even loved her at all because he wouldn’t give her a cup when he knew how much she desired this of him. And while she knew her worth could not be measured by the appearance of a mere cup sometimes it felt as if its absence spoke volumes about how her husband saw her and it validated her belief that her husband didn’t love her enough to do something as simple as buying her a cup. Slowly their connectedness to each other began to diminish due to her resentment and his withholding.

One day, as the woman was dusting her collection, her husband asked her, “Why is it that you seem to delight in taking each cup down and dusting it? It is a lot of work to keep those cups clean. Why do you do it?”

“I do it because everyday when I open the hutch our story together continues. When I reach for this one, she said, pulling out a dark purple cup covered in roses; I remember the first time we went to the public gardens over by the shore. I bought it because it reminded me of how you picked that lily and handed it to me with a flourish. Then we left immediately, afraid we would be thrown out of the gardens forever and hauled off in the paddywagon. We laughed hysterically as we made our getaway….remember?”

Her husband chuckled. Yes, he too had fond memories of that summer’s day.

“And this one with the hearts on it is from the time you surprised me with tickets to see my favorite band.”

“Let me guess. Was that the time I took you to see Heart?” he said with a laugh.

“Of course” she said with a smile.

As his wife shared her memories about each cup her husband realized that he had not understood his wife’s delight in each cup because he did not understand the story. His unit of measurement of love was different from hers. While he had just seen cups; she saw more and she remembered the closeness and the joy she felt when she was with her husband and bought a cup in remembrance of those special times together. To her the cups were proof of their love story and for that reason she treasured each and every one.

The next morning the man watched as his wife opened the doors to the hutch and pondered which cup she would use that day. Her face lite up with delight as she removed the tiny white one adorned with four-leaf clovers and his did too as he remembered the trip they took to Ireland for their 20th anniversary.

Several weeks later the man headed off on yet another business trip. But this time when he arrived home he decided he would surprise his wife with a cup. So he searched high and low until he found the perfect one at an old antique shop on River Street. It reminded him of the weekend they had traveled the South searching for the perfect painting to go over their mantle but brought home a four-poster bed from Georgia instead. A bed that had brought each so many nights of pleasure since the day they hauled it, huffing and puffing up the stairs and through the hall to their room which lay furthest west from the front door.

As she unwrapped the box her husband felt a kind of happiness he hadn’t felt in a long time. It was a sort of hungry anticipation for seeing the delight he knew his wife would feel when she saw the cup and he wasn’t disappointed.

“Georgia?” his wife said as she admired the cup and her husband’s good taste.

“That was one special weekend, wasn’t it?”

“I think about it every night we lay together in our bed,” she replied with a shy grin.

These days, when he goes away, the husband, upon occasion,  looks for the perfect cup to give his wife. Sometimes he comes home with one and other times he doesn’t because he hasn’t found one that would be meaningful to them. But when he does arrive with the perfect cup in hand he savors the simple delight of his wife has when receiving her cup, while his wife savors the connectedness she feels with him as they discuss each of his finds. Because once the husband understood the entirety of the story sitting within the hutch it allowed him to give his wife her hearts desire and she began to see the other things her husband did to nurture their relationship. Their story was no longer about the absence of a cup. Instead, it was a story that morphed into the connectedness and delight  the couple felt towards one another that was renewed once each understood and appreciated the other’s story and soon they begin living with hearts wide open towards each other just as they had when they were first married .

It never really was about the cups after all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letting Go Of Suffering

I have to admit that I have struggled since I wrote B the letter I shared in my last post. In this letter that I wrote to him, I told him exactly what I needed to hear from him…love words. I have yet to receive a comment from him about what I wrote nor have I heard the words that I long to hear. Frankly, it hurts and it has been bothering me for the past few days. Instead of enjoying what I have been given here in Michigan; I have been ruminating on what I don’t have back home.

Luckily, I woke up this morning to find something meaningful on my Facebook wall and it was exactly what I needed to see. It read:

“If you focus on the hurt, you will continue to suffer. If you focus on the lesson, you will continue to grow.”

What wise words! Suddenly it took the sting out of this disappointment that I had been feeling for the past few days.  I realized that by allowing the hurt and disappointment I was feeling to cloud my day; I was indeed suffering and I was creating this suffering of my own accord. In fact, I was suffering more as every hour went by wishing for some sort of something from B…anything. So instead, I began to focus on the lessons I might find through this instance and found that there were many lessons that I could learn from if I chose to do so.

  1. The first lesson I discovered was that by acknowledging my feelings and then casting them aside I didn’t have to urge to carry them around with me like a suitcase stuffed full of heavy negative emotions. Yes, I was disappointed. Yes, his lack of response made me feel abandoned and scared. Yes, his withholding something from me that I plainly laid out that I needed from him made me feel anxious and wonder if he would still be there when I got home. Yet, by learning to view these feelings dispassionately; I was able to put the suitcase down and walk away from those hurtful actions and the resulting feelings I was experiencing. The lesson was much much valuable than the suffering could ever be.
  2. The second lesson I thought about was that I didn’t need B to acknowledge my heartfelt letter to be happy. Instead, I went about my day appreciating all of the people and things that I found around me. I was happy and didn’t need his lack of response to elicit any sort of reaction one way or another within me.
  3. The third lesson I concentrated on was that B will never be able to give me what I need because that is not who he is and that I have to learn to find happiness in what he can give instead of what he cannot if I want to  stay married to him.  B saying loving words is about as probable as a frog being able to bark like a dog…it isn’t going to happen.

 

After these discoveries I spent the day with my 82 yo father and 92 yo aunt. We went down to Lake Michigan and enjoyed the water, the waves, and the boats as they cruised through the canals.

I really treasure spending time with these two when they are together because they bicker like little kids. Nothing long and hard but just snippets like from when they were children. The things that they gripe about tickle my insides and I always break into a big smile as it happens.  Why, I wonder, is it easier to listen to them than to my own children when they go at it?

As I watched the two of them it occurred to me that my aunt has gotten to the place where the small hurts no longer effect her. She realizes that we all have flaws and for the most part she recognizes that we all do our best with what we have within us at the moment. But she wasn’t always like that and that in itself gives me hope that I can still change into the person I envision myself being. Someone who is at peace with the world and more importantly herself. Someone who grants grace rather than find fault. Someone who does not expect things from others and is disappointed when they don’t appear. Someone who wakes up each day grateful to have the opportunity to learn and grow some more.

So as the day winds down I am counting my blessings. Glad that I am here with two people who are willing to share what they know and the love that they have for me willingly.

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Voices In My Head

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Okay, I know this will sound kind of psychotic, like I am hearing “voices” in my head. But lets face it, we all do. Whether we call it our conscious,ego or intuition; there is something in our heads that from time to time influences and directs us. Usually, listening to this voice can be a good thing except when what we are hearing is negative self-talk about ourselves.

When I first started this “maybe divorce” journey I immediately took steps to change my attitude and my outlook on life. And it helped a lot and for quite a while. But lately I have realized I am slipping back into the negative self talk and decided that I needed to revisit those practices that I began which quieted this negativity. So I am back to “CANCEL, CANCEL, CANCEL”  when I hear negative self-talk, followed by the exact opposite of the negative said three times. It might look like this.

“He doesn’t love you”

“CANCEL, CANCEL, CANCEL”

“HE DOES LOVE YOU, HE DOES LOVE YOU, HE DOES LOVE YOU” or instead I just stop and look around taking note of what I see around me.

“OH THE CLOUDS ARE BIG AND FLUFFY WHITE TODAY. LOOK AT THOSE BIRDS SITTING ON THE TELEPHONE WIRE. MUST BE 20 OF THEM”

I refuse to give this negative self-talk the time of day.

So far this correction of my negativity has been helping to decrease it. By paying attention of what my inner dialogue is saying to me; I am aware of how negativity begets negativity and how negative internal dialogue influences your external life. Once again, I am reminded that living with negativity is such a caustic way in which to live on a daily basis.

As I contemplated this a few weeks ago it occurred to me that I am my worst critic. The “Constructive Criticism” or negative self-talk I indulge in is often cruel or mis-guided. It seems strange that I so readily accept it of/for myself. Because, frankly, if another person treated me the way I treat myself… if that person said the words to me that I say to myself… well, I wouldn’t put up with it. In fact I would probably tell that mean gurl:

“SEE YAH. DON’T LET THE DOOR HIT YOU IN THE ASS ON THE WAY OUT!”

Yet, for some reason, many of us give this negative person who dwells within us too much power. We believe that THEY are on our side and have something valuable to say when in fact they don’t. We treat THEM like they are some sort of expert on how we should live our day-to-day lives. We give THEM the power to guide us regarding how we react to most everything we encounter during our day, when, this type of negativity does not need to be in charge of ANYTHING in our lives. In fact, when we hear it speaking, unless it is doing so with kindness and compassion, we should ignore it. We should refuse to believe anything it is telling us.  And we should “CANCEL, CANCEL, CANCEL” until we cannot hear it anymore.

Why? Because it is only natural that when we talk to ourselves with loving kindness that is how we will treat others. And if we can’t be nice to ourselves it is doubtful others will be either.

So today, be mindful of what you are saying to yourself. Listen and figure out if what is being said is coming from a place of compassion or one of self-loathing. And if it is not coming from a place of gentleness then walk away and leave those words behind. For there is only one you and you deserve to hear about the best of you and not the worst.

So be it.

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Attaching With Nothing In Mind

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Okay, I will admit it. I have a slight attachment issue that stems from childhood that I am working on with my therapist. This issue makes trust more difficult for me than the average bear.  It puts doubt ahead of belief and fear ahead of calmness. Needless to say, with the odd things that have been happening of late regarding my marriage; my attachment issues have been magnified. Not to the point of  extreme anxiety but enough to make me feel uncomfortable that I can trust what I see in this relationship.

You would think I would have attachment down. After all, I adopted four children and worked extremely hard on creating an environment in which attachment could occur as easily as possible. I read every book ever written on it. And I followed all the advice on how to attach to a child who has been through trauma. Turns out, I should have been working on myself in regards to my adult relationships too.

This week I told my therapist, “Let’s get on with this. Let’s not dance around the edges of these attachment issues. Let’s tackle them head on.”

“You have been,” she replied. “You are learning to attach to yourself again.”

“I want more.”

So she gave me this assignment.

Just work on accepting the moments that are good. When B reaches for my hand, don’t question the act; just savior the moment. Notice what it feels like in that moment. Accept the emotions that you feel. Don’t analyze, just enjoy.

Well, of course, I had to push back.

“Why attach myself to someone who may not want me? Surely, if we divorce it will make it hurt all the more,” I moaned.

“You need to do this for yourself to feel closeness if only for a minute,” said THERAPIST. “You become more attached to yourself when you are able to let down your guard and discover yourself through your relationship. This process opens yourself up to you. You owe it to yourself to go work your way through it so you can become a stronger you.”

And so I am giving it a try with my whole heart. Just accepting his love, his touch, his words without over analyzing, questioning, or doubting. It is hard after being together for so long and both having a way that we interact with one another.

I’ll let you know how it goes as I try to trust myself and this process.

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Pioneer Woman

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It is hot here. I mean so F***ing hot that you could cook an egg on the side walk. Like 110 degrees hot and I am complaining like there is no hell for me in sight. Why? My air conditioner went out. Yes, while it is 110 outside, it is a balmy 101 inside and there is no relief in site. Meanwhile I am sweating like a dog trying to install a ceiling fan. That is not going so well either. It has been three hours and it still isn’t up but my blood pressure certainly is! I’ll probably die of my head exploding rather than heat stroke any minute. All of this begs the question….how did those women do it 120 years ago in the Southwest? I mean seriously…how?

Now I consider myself to be somewhat of a tough old broad. I can do a little plumbing, drive a nail or two and can give an evil eye to someone to raise the hair on the back of their neck. I can survive an “almost divorce” and come out of it almost sane. But when I think of doing laundry on a washboard in the sun, tending to a huge garden big enough to feed a family for a year, canning all that food, beating the rugs, sweeping the floors and making dinner in an oven that raised the raised the temperature of the house 30 degrees, well, sometimes I think I truly don’t know the meaning of tough.

Once upon a time women really were tough. They came overland by covered wagon with all their worldly possessions on board; unsure of just exactly where in the world  they would end up. My GGG grandmother’s dresser sits as a testament to her wagon travels in my daughter’s room.  Clarissa was a smart one, I’ve been told. When she married she received a cow for a present which she promptly exchanged for a handsome wood dresser. It was probably a good exchange for any woman during that time. For Clarissa knew if she kept that cow, she would be the one put out of the wagon, walking along beside the beast while prodding it along to lands unknown.

We now live in a world where we no longer know how to grow our own food, grind our own grains, make our own furniture, or have the stomach to butcher our own meat. Which makes me wonder what would happen if the world as we know it ceased to exist. Would it be dog eat dog or would people band together to act as a community in a land that really hasn’t known what one is for a very long time? I would like to think that community would prevail but with all the violence in a world where people tend to look out for #1 to the detriment of neighbors and friends; I cannot be too sure.

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And so this not-so-tough old broad worries sometimes. I worry for my children and my grandchildren making it an a world that gets more confusing everyday. I fear the madmen of the world who would just as soon blow us up as take the time to do what is ethical and just. I an concerned that companies are willing to destroy our environment in the quest for the almighty dollar. I am uneasy that antibiotics are fast becoming resistant and that coral reefs are bleaching out and dying. But most of all I worry that I haven’t done a good enough job making my kids tough enough to survive with less material things and more experienced in the arts of carpentry, making their own soap and butchering a cow should hard times fall upon us.

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Yes, I am a tough old broad…but is my family tough enough to live off the land should they have to?  Could they survive on the six months of dehydrated food that I keep for just this occasion? Could they do the back-breaking work that so many women are forced to do to eek out a living in these times? Dirty, hard work that I have watched women do while I sit in the back of an air conditioned car during my travels. Work the likes of which I most likely will never experience.  And would the few books I have on making your own chicken coop and creating a below ground garden help? I hope I will never have to find out the answer to that question.

 

 

An Eye For An Eye

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Ever since I saw this story in 2009, I cannot help but think about it and the ramifications. The story is here:http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/02/19/acid.attack.victim/index.html?iref=mpstoryview

The story is about a young woman named Ameneh who lives in Iran. She was unfortunate enough to have a young man sit next to her in college. He purposely brushed up against her and she was outraged. It was then that he began a two year pursuit of her. He harassed her and threatened her and even asked her to marry him. She however refused his advances.
One day after work she was approaching the bus stop when she heard someone behind her as she turned around she saw him and the next thing she felt was intense pain. He had thrown acid on her face. It immediately burned her entire face, her eyes, her arms and hands. Her mother kept the clothes she was wearing which shriveled and burned too. She was left permanently scarred and blind.

She has asked her government to blind her attacker with acid in the Islamic law tradition of “an eye for an eye” known as qisas. My understanding of qisas is that when used the punishment cannot not exceed that done by the perpetrator. Recently the courts in Iran have denied her attackers appeal and he could at any time be blinded. It is my understanding that he would have acid dropped into his eyes not sprayed on him in keeping with what qisas demands. She says her request is not one of vengeance but so that he can never do the same to another person and basically to show men that they cannot get away with this type of behavior. Human rights activists are outraged. I for one have been sitting on the fence quietly digesting the facts of this case and trying to come to some conclusion, none of which appear very satisfactory to me.

In researching this issue I was stunned to find out that in Bangladesh alone there have been over 2,600 acid attacks since 1999 against woman and young girls. According to IRIN, The UN Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs most of these were a result of land disputes, refusals of love declarations/proposals or problems with dowries. According to human rights groups these sorts of attacks are common in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Iraq and India. Often times women who take their cases to the courts find that they are met with disdain in which they are told that if they had only agreed to what the man had wanted they never would have had this problem.

In many countries women who have failed to dress modestly, meaning that their legs or heads may not have been covered or improperly so according to an arbitrary set of standards; have also been victims of acid attack.

Especially chilling is the story of the 11 girls and 4 teachers attending the Mirwais School for Girls in Afghanistan. On November 14, 2008 three men on motorcycles sprayed them with acid. The act was meant to intimidate the girls of the valley to remain uneducated and to stay away from school. In an incredible show of bravery almost all have returned to school refusing to be intimidated.

In 2002, parliament enacted two laws against acid violence: Under the Acid Control Act of 2002, the unlicensed production, import, transport, storage, sale, and use of acid can result in a prison term of 3-10 years. Those who possess chemicals and equipment for the unlicensed production of acid can get the same prison term.

One doctor sounded an optimistic note: “Since then, acid violence has been showing a rapid decline,” said Shamanta Lal Sen of the burns and plastic surgery unit at Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH).

According to ASF, 221 and 192 people were subjected to acid violence in 2006 and 2007 respectively. In 2000 and 2001 their number was 234 and 349 respectively.

Combating the crime of acid throwing is not easy as it appears to be a fairly common occurance in some countries. And little is done to the perpetrators except for them being ordered to make a minimal financial payment as a form of restitution. Two thousand dollars hardly begins to compensate for the intense medical care required when skin is melted and burned to the bone. Further, in a country in which beauty means so much and disability renders one invisable and obsolete, permenant disfigurement is tantamount to sentencing one to death because eventually there will be no one or no system to take care of the victim. First the victim is victimized by the attacker, then often by the courts and finally shunned by society as a whole. And the offender knows all of this and delights in it.

If it is true that prison terms have reduced the number of acid attacks then perhaps it is possible that even tougher mandatory sentences would help to decrease the number of incidences. But then again,perhaps, if Ameneh Bahrami is right, the blinding of her perpetrator may have more of an effect on stopping acid attacks than any laws presently on the books. Furthermore,if she does nothing and he attacks again her refusal to take action will make her accountable to the next victim for their injury.Lest we try to forget the man who is to be blinded is not an innocent man being used to advance a cause but he is the man who knowingly plotted and planned to disfigure and rob an innocent young woman of the life she knew and loved. He succeeded.

According to a story in the Washington Post… More than two weeks ago, Movahedi was led into court by two policemen. He showed no remorse when the court ruled on the case. When the judge asked whether he was ready for his punishment, Movahedi said that he still loved Bahrami but that if she asked for his eyes to be taken out, he would seek the same punishment for her.

“They must also completely empty out her eyes, since I’m not sure that she cannot secretly see,” he said. “The newspapers have made this a huge case, but I haven’t done anything bad.”

Ameneh Bahrami has the right to ask for an eye for an eye and has sound reasons for doing so. First and foremost her attacker STILL doesn’t believe he has done anything bad as quoted in the article by the Washington Post.

Preventing harm to others is Bahrami’s goal and it is a noble one in a country where there is no justice for women. May her goal of eliminating acid attacks be the outcome of her quest and may women everywhere never have to fear such a barbaric act being perpetrated on them or their loved ones.

As John Stuart Mill has expressed, “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant.”

 

 

Trust

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T – Truthful

R- Reliable

U- Uphold

S- Steadfast

T- Take For Granted

 

This has been a week where I have been put in the position of feet to the flames in regards to trust.  I have been in a situation where I have had to CHOOSE to believe or not. A test for my soul, my heart, and my head.

You would think that trusting would be easy. After all, we enter this world as trusting human beings and if we are lucky we maintain that trust in ourselves and humanity at least until we get into school and we find out what “mean girls” are. But then, as we age, life begins to teach us that trust is not as easy or forthright as we once imagined it to be. It no longer is blind or innocent and often for many of us it becomes something that has to be earned rather than something that is freely given.

This week as I contemplated the issue of trust I decided I needed to understand just what that word meant to me. I discovered there were some essential ingredients that I feel must be evident if trust is to be maintained.  These are:

Truth- For me trusting means that your words and actions must be truthful. NO games, no secrecy, and no purposeful omissions. I want to know that what you say and do is based in truth.

Reliable- I must know that I can count on your words and actions to mean what you say they will mean and that those words will be acted upon and be done.

Uphold-In the old English sense of the word it means to maintain in good condition;to take care of.  It means that you will be constantly doing things to take care of our marriage. To me this fundamental if a relationship is to grow and thrive.

Steadfast- Unwavering in purpose, faith and attachment. Firmly fixed in place or position. You are not going anywhere.

Take for Granted- To accept without question and being able to believe what is said or done is true.

I suspect there is a whole lot more to trust than the things I have written and I know that trust is not just a one way street. Trust also involves making yourself vulnerable by believing in your partner when circumstances appear that it would be in your best interest to protect yourself. It means opening up your own heart, taking off the armor, and allowing possibilities to drift into your life when it makes you uncomfortable. It means looking for the best in the person or situation rather than the worst.

In theory, I believe that trusting with all your heart and soul is the best thing you can do for yourself and your relationships.  I would rather have my heart broken than to never have tried to trust.  But in practice, trust takes two, and you have to know that your partner is trustworthy in all realms of your relationship in order for it to survive.

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