Rabbit Holes

Today we walked the cliffs

I saw Stan the Great Blue Herron

The Spout of a Whale

Several waterfalls

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Wildflowers growing everywhere

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A double rainbow

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Five Wet Horses

100 Sheep and One Goat

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My Kids Playing On The Waters Edge

We Held Hands Like A Old Married Couple

We kissed passionately

Both felt good

We went to dinner

By ourselves

I felt content

We played family games

I had a glass of wine

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And I felt incredibly blessed and grateful…

So how come I still question

If this is real

This new “you and I”

And wonder if this relationship

Is really true

That what I think we have

Is what we really have

Or only what I wish it to be

Will I ever trust?

That we are together forever again?

How does one learn to do that?

Is it time?

A “feeling”?

Words?

A vacation together?

Just enjoying one another’s company?

Or is it a monthly visit to the doctor

For a prescription of xanax?

When do you know it is real again?

Or do you never really know?

So you just sit quietly

Huddled within your own mind

Unable to tell truth from fiction

Anymore….never knowing for sure…

If this what I have to look forward to

For the rest of my life?

This uncertainty at its finest?

And yet…

It feels good

This truce

But how will I ever know

If I can come out from behind

The firing lines

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Safe and secure

That my body will not be riddled

With bullet holes made up of delusions

Of what I think is true

Instead of what really is

Will I ever feel safe in this relationship again?

Or will I always wonder

If I should just jump down the rabbit hole

Instead.

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Pitter Patter of Little Feet

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Today after a wonderful day in the Florida Keys I arrived back at the hotel and saw my sweet grand babies. My daughter, Noele, drove 10 hours with a three-year-old and an almost two-year-old in the back of her car. She endured much crying, fighting, and a MAJOR puking incident just so she could see us again. Somehow, with all the mistakes we made as parents she turned out just right despite our good intentions. How that happened I will never know.

From the time she was a tween this mother/daughter team could always find something to argue about. Things like… which side of the toast is the correct side to butter, whether being a strict vegan was taking things to the extreme, and if boys were allowed to be in her room. Much to my dismay while I knew I loved her deeply, I didn’t like her  much and our relationship didn’t match the Brady Bunch ideal swimming around in my head.  I would see mothers (Carol) and daughters (Marcia) walking the malls together and it would pull at my heart. Seeing teens and their mothers enjoying a movie together hurt like hell. And those mothers who ran the Booster Club with their kids helping along side them…I knew it was never going to happen.

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B hunkered down. As a man who avoids conflict at all costs, having two of the women he loved most in the world living in a war zone with him serving as a NATO soldier trying to broker a peace deal was not an easy task. He never could understand all the slammed doors and word grenades being flung from one side of the house to the other and he visibly cringed when skirmishes erupted.

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When Noele was fifteen I never envisioned that we would have any sort of relationship until she kicked my casket into the ground. In fact, my biggest hope was that she would graduate early so she could move out of the house sooner and after a year away as an international exchange student, she returned home more stubborn and determined to ignore anything thing we had to say. And who could blame her? She tasted freedom for a year and wanted even more. The parental role I once relished became a nightmare and a battle of wills ensued in which both of us suffered heavy losses. Recovery seemed remote.

But then it happened. One day she grew up and into her own woman. It took a while and a first child for that to happen. The birth of my granddaughter brought several miracles along with her. No longer at odds with each other our commonalities soon surfaced and within those we found mutual respect and a deep well filled with love that was once bone dry.

These days we live at opposite ends of the country. We SKYPE almost daily so we can share tidbits of our daily lives and so that her kids “know” their Grammy and Papa. Noele willingly comes and takes care of her own children plus her brothers and sister so B and I can travel to far-flung places. I can’t imagine someone I would rather invest in a friendship with than my daughter. She values family, is generous with her time and is a good all-around person who has made me proud.

Tomorrow I will wake up with little ones running into my arms again. Squishy hugs and wet kisses will fill my day. We will squirm together, laugh together, and make real- life memories together. And its all because of her…my daughter…a once formidable foe who is now one of my best friends.

 

Great-Grandma’s Door

When B’s grandmother died 10 years ago we went into the barn where we discovered a beautiful old wooden screen door. It used to belong on the farmhouse of B’s great grandmother who had died well into her 90’s. We picked up that old door and took it with us and it has accompanied us move after move where it has always been taken out to the shed.

Now I am not one of those artsy-fartsy kind of gals. I can’t walk and chew gum at the same time. (Well, actually I NEVER chew gum because it is one thing that is completely non-biodegradable) So most things around my house are usually made by someone else, usually in a far off land by a person who probably works for slave wages. Yes, I feel guilty. So to absolve me from some of it; I decided to create something and that is where the door came into play.

Several years ago our dog decided that the we didn’t need a gate between the house and side yard so he destroyed it in about 2.2 seconds. Today, I created a new gate out of great-grandma’s door.  I think she would be pleased.

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On a totally different topic, today I took a picture of our cabin off of Google Earth. It is not a great picture but is shows the old cooks cabin up front and a little bit of our two story addition. The fire is edging closer everyday but there has been enough time that the firefighters have been able to create many bulldozer paths in an effort to stop the blaze should it get closer than the 3 miles away that it is.

Sadly, in this morning’s fire report I noticed that six cabins were lost nearby. I grieve for those folks.

Our Cabin from Google Earth

Yesterday, in a last ditch effort,  I decided to call the sheriffs office. I knew that the road up to the cabin had been closed but I wondered if residents were allowed up. While I would be disappointed to lose the cabin, its the things that reside within it are much more important to me. There is a huge old tool box that I use as a coffee table. My great great grandfather brought it with him on the ship from Germany in 1854. There is the drop-leaf dining table on which my 80 yo father had his tonsils removed by the doctor who made house calls. There is the bookcase that B made in high school and the old chest that was in his grandmother’s attic.  And there is the old wooden ironing board that I use as a long table below the window that looks out onto the cedar trees. Those are the things that are meaningful to me. They are family things that are precious and are irreplaceable…like family itself.

And so I will keep my fingers crossed for the cabin, for family treasures, and for the firefighters who are battling tough conditions, unbearable heat and exhaustion. For in the end, a cabin is just a building, but to the families of these 1,000 firefighters who are  trying to save these mountains and villages, they are waiting for something far more important. They are waiting to know that their loved ones are finally headed home safe and sound once more and that is what is truly important.

Hands

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When I walked into the room it was her hands that I noticed first. Fingers tapping, moving and pulling at the invisible threads of her tightly woven pink blanket. Hands that never stopped the entire time I knew her. Hands that told her story, even now, when she couldn’t.  She once told me, “Idle hands are the devils workshop” and as a result she made sure that hers were never still.

When she was young, it was her smooth hands that grabbed onto the teats of the family cow, filling the pails with warm milk every morning and evening for the next 12 years. Hers were the fingers that took the reins and drove the buggy two miles to the school that lay in the middle of Brown’s field; a half-dozen children crammed onto the seat beside her. And for years magical sounds floated from her fiddle as her fingers ran up and down its neck until Jason Riddle sat on it and silenced it forever.

Hers were hands that pulled squat potatoes from the rich brown earth and threaded earthworms onto shaggy sharp hooks in hopes of luring lunch from the icy-cold stream banks. She could always  be found with dirt under her nails except when she was pulling babies out of the wombs of her friends, neighbors and kin folk. Three hundred twenty-eight to be exact, always lifting them up and into the light of their lives, hands wrapped around the slimy bundles gently but just firm enough to keep hold.

They were fingers that where pricked with hundreds of needles over the years as she sewed dresses from flour sacks, made blankets from cat tails, and crafted the rag rugs that she was famous for creating; the colors dyed from the coneflowers, lilacs, and wild plum root that she gathered from deep in the woods. And they were fingers that knitted and crocheted hundreds of the blankets used by local babies, now stuffed in the back of closets and considered to be antiques.

Her fingers were the ones that shined shoes, swept the rough wooded floor boards, and tucked her children into bed and took them off to dream land as stories flew from her mouth while her hands painted the images in the sky.

These were hands, palms, and arms that were scarred from welding bomb heads at the Richmond Engineering Company during WWII. Hands that worked 12 hours shifts day-in and day-out; only to be told when the men returned home that the services of those nimble fingers were no longer needed. But still they were incapable of rest.

They were palms that prayed for everyone in town at least once, were always seated in the 4th pew on the right in church and were lifted on high as she celebrated her Lord. Fingers that could flick from Bible verse to Bible verse in a split second and could be counted to give your hands a sharp squeeze during the Pass The Peace part of the service; the part that came before the long-winded sermon of the minister.

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These were the now gnarled hands laced with nicks and cuts. One from the time she accidentally got her hand too close to the meat grinder when she was making her secret recipe sausage and one from the time she touched the wood stove with her bare hands. There were scars made from paring knives as she removed the peels from the Granny Smiths apples, the only apple deemed fit to use in the 1,000 deep-dish pies that she made during her lifetime. And of course, there were scars gained from chasing the chickens and beheading them for the countless Sunday dinners to which the homeless and lonely were always welcome.

I looked over at those still moving hands. It seemed strange to see the pink nail polish (Revlon #28 Hibiscus) perfectly painted on her nails; a concession she made to old age and institutional food; her fingers no longer needed to pull stalks from the earth and shake clods of dirt from round deep purple beets that used to dominate her garden. Two years ago she was convinced by the beautician that beautiful nails were the gateway to heaven and her age she decided she would concede her personal beliefs on the subject and do whatever it took to get there; even if in her day girls who painted their nails were hussies.

“You can go now,” I whispered.

It took a while but finally she did, her fingers still twitching, as the rest of her body slipped into an eternal sleep… her hands the last thing to become idle… the devil missing its chance again.

 

Traveling Fool

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I am traveling today back east to the Big Birthday Bash. As I sit here sipping my cup of coffee watching all the folks pass by, I cannot help but be amazed and transfixed by all the ethnicities and skin colors I see walking around me. It is a blessing.

Most often when I travel internationally it is not like this. The airport in Amsterdam has mostly caucasian folks, the airport in Seoul is almost all Asian, and in New Zealand, it is again, mostly white folks cruising along. I have found that usually airports act as mini countries giving you a superficial glimpse of the sort of people who live there and what the country values. Way to often, it appears that many countries value segregation to some extent, the United States included.

Here in the United States we like to try to hide our discomfort with “others” that are unlike ourselves. Yet, we do not have the luxury of continuing to pretend that racism does not exist here if we want to survive as a nation. Racism is disguised in so many subtle ways … housing, education and jobs. And in your face hate is alive and well especially when I recall the time we were in New York City and someone yelled to our family, “Take those _______ kids back to their own country.”

As I take savor this cup, I see evidence all around me, that we as a species can change. For I see a rainbow of kids who are talking and laughing with one another. I glimpse a transracial family like mine. I see a so-in-love black man and white woman holding hands and looking at each other with complete adoration in their eyes. I witness such a variety of people interacting with one another knowing that I never would have seen this 30 years ago.  I see people who are willing to give each other a chance rather than remain distant from one another. And as I sit here I am renewed in my faith in people and in my country.

I  have hope that one day soon I will visit an airport in another country that appears as diverse as the ones here do. It just needs to happen for the sake of our children. For the longevity of the world. And frankly, it is just more colorful and beautiful to see people out there in the world who don’t look just like me!

 

 

Words You Regret

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When we were young B was driving me to the airport and the engine in his car blew out in the middle of nowhere. He was mortified because at that point I was that dream girl he wanted to have. Forever. And a blown engine was not part of that equation of what to do to impress a girl. Nonetheless, he tried to remain valiant and cool so he put up the hood and poked around a bit, putting together this and that, in a futile attempt to get the car going again. As he worked I asked, “What can I do to help?”

“Nothing” he replied “Just sit there and look pretty.”

Being the 25 yo feminist I was, well, that just didn’t sit well with me. Sit there and look pretty. How dare he! What did he think I was, a piece of arm candy? And so I stewed about it a little before letting him know in no uncertain terms that I found that offensive and that I was more than just a decorative object.

Fast Forward 30 some years. Tonight B is cooking dinner and I ask him “What can I do to help?”

His response, “Nothing. Just sit there and look pretty.”

“Wow,” I thought. That sure sounds nice his telling me that I am pretty and all. And after all these years too. It really has a sweet ring to it.

“Remember you said that to me when your car broke down when you were taking me to the airport?”

“Yeah, I should have said it more but you got mad and told me you didn’t like it, so I didn’t think it was the thing to do.”

“I wish I hadn’t,” I said full of regret.

And with the benefit of hindsight I now realize how silly and hurtful that was to both B and I that I couldn’t accept his kind words. For 30 years I could have heard him tell me that I was pretty and I missed that opportunity. I could have heard him say “Just sit there and look pretty” with lust in his voice, with concern in his heart, or just admiring all that he saw and appreciating the complete package. Instead, I have missed 30 years of something that B could have said that was meaningful and playful to both of us. A shared memory of how far we have come and how far we could go because I was still his girl.

Regrets…I have a few.

Parolee

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Sometimes I this “maybe divorce” makes me feel like a convicted felon out on parol. It isn’t a comfortable feeling and makes me feel jumpy in my own skin. And if the truth be told sometimes I feel as if B is the Parol Officer which sometimes makes me resentful and angry at the system that I have allowed myself to be incarcerated within.

It must be hard for real life parolees. Living in the shadow of an officer who in the blink of an eye has the power and absolute authority to send them back to prison. One false move and their life changes whether they want it to or not. You can’t help but wonder if they are constantly looking behind them and in front, unable to live in the present, due to the stress of staying vigilant like I am. Not being able to let your guard down is a terrible way to live.

Frankly, I just want to be let out on good behavior. I have served my sentence and have made major changes in myself along the way and while serving this sentence has made me be more mindful and has helped me not to yell (which has been a good thing for both me and my family) I am tired of being under watch. I just want to be free to be me again without the fear of separation hanging over my head.

 

*After I wrote this piece I told B that this was how I was feeling. With tears in his eyes he said, “I’m sorry. That must feel awful to feel you are having to live that way.How can we change this?”

 

To My Child’s Teacher-The Hurt In Family Tree Assignments

To My Child’s Teacher:

I wanted to make you aware of something you may not have considered in regards to these “Where I Came From/Family Tree” type of assignments. My daughter does not have a birth picture as most international adoptees do not. This can be very painful to some adoptees when class assignments such as this come around. My daughter was born in Korea where children are adopted in a very legal and orderly manner with children being placed with agencies after birth. Yet, part of her past is missing. And some kids from China are left in public places as it is against the law for parents to abandon a child and in that culture the gender of choice is male. Therefore, often girls are abandoned. In addition, due to the one child policy; abandonment happens to females in high numbers. These children often struggle with the fact that they were “left” somewhere.

In addition, having to include a story of their birth is very difficult because many children who are adopted have no clue about the story of their birth. They can’t say things like my mother ate pickles during pregnancy and cried and cried when I was born. They have no idea of the circumstances of their birth except that in many countires it is one of disgrace and shame. Instead of their birth being a happy time many adoptees feel that it is a time of sorrow where they lost their identity and their heritage.

My daughter cannot answer the questions of the hospital where she was born and who came to see her and how her mother felt. We can answer those questions from when we first saw her picture at three months and when she came home at almost 8 months but this seperates her out from the other kids. In addition, we only encourage her to share what she knows of her birth story with people she wants to and frankly it is not appropriate for just anyone to know nor it is not everyone’s business to know the circumstances of her birth.

These kinds of assignments can be hurtful to adoptees or children who come from “different” families other than a two parent mom and dad type of family. Many kids now come from gay families and may not be comfortable sharing that. Many kids now come from single mother with unknown fathers and may not be comfortable sharing that. Many children come from foster families and had abusive first parents who may have told them over and over things like, “I wish you had not been born.” Many times the birth of a child is not a “happy” time in a family and a child may know that. While the jist of these assignments are made with the noblest of intentions, in reality, these types of assignments are often uncomfortable and hurtful for children not just because they single them out but because their past is full of loss and pain.

Just wanted you to consider this from another point of view.

The Things That We Keep

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I lift a battered and worn cigar box out from beneath a massive box of family photos, 150 year-old letters and diaries. It and all the treasures it contains belonged to my G-Grandmother, Eva, born at home in 1873, somewhere in the woods of Ohio. I marvel as I hold in my hands a small remnant of a piece of pink and blue calico cloth; a dried flower; several old cards with cherubs on them; calling cards of long forgotten friends; and a poem written in script so precise that I can actually imagine the school teacher standing over an eight-year-old Eva making sure that each swirl is aligned correctly with the next.

All these precious things still remain while Eva has been gone for almost 75 years. It makes me wonder more about the type of person that Eva was. It makes me question why these cigar box momentos were so special to her? It makes me ask why don’t we tag these love affairs of the heart so the next generation understands what was important and meaningful to us? And it makes me ponder why it is we hold onto the things that we do?

Therapy this week has been tough full of the good and not-so-good. It has left me questioning myself about why I hold onto the things that I do. Why do I take a piece of this from my past and carry it with me while leaving behind a piece of that? Why do I continue to hold onto anger that helped me survive as a 15-year-old runaway but is no longer useful to me today? Why do I choose to stay rather than leave? The answers to some of these questions remain elusive and hidden in the Place of Mysteries that is nestled in my own mind. Yet, I know this much to be true…that the things we hold onto say more about us than our words and that sometimes we need to examine why we hold onto the things we do. Fear, neediness, love….just what is it that drives us to keep things in sacred spaces and at what point are we free to let them go? Are “things” and emotions meant to be forever or do they have expiration dates? Or are these precious items, thoughts and feelings best left to remain in a small battered cigar box for the next generation to find and wonder…why?

 

 

Trying To Find Our New Roles In Life

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Throughout our lives we have roles we take on. Some have been forced upon us and some we take on willingly. Many of these roles we discard as time goes by, some we reinvent in a slightly different form, while some we seem to keep until the day we die. Somehow the latter seem to be the ones that we like the least and yet we retain them the longest.

This weekend was difficult for us. I think that when you are over 50 and going through a “maybe divorce” that one of the biggest issues is the discarding of roles and the discovery of new slots out of which you are now going to behave. After operating from one set of expectations for thirty years it is difficult to recognize and accept new patterns of doing things and unfamiliar ways of thinking. Years of acting one way are difficult to channel into something else and difficult for “the other” to accept.

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I know that in your 50’s it is suppose to be a time of gains. Money, richer relationships, second homes, etc. For me, it feels like a time of discarding stuff including those parts of myself I no longer need or wish to operate from. As I take out this “stuff” I am forced to really look at it and contemplate whether it is of value to me anymore. As a result, I am feeling lighter and freer than I ever have before. But that doesn’t mean it is easy especially for the other person involved. Honesty, in the form of being true to myself, has moved to the forefront of my life which at times hurts B. And while I dislike seeing B feeling uncomfortable and knowing that I have caused his discomfort; at this point in my life I am not sure that I care anymore as long as I know that the truth of who I am…who he is…will make things better in the long run. But what exactly is BETTER? What does that mean?

I guess I won’t know the definition of BETTER until we reach the end of whatever all this is. And I’m okay with that because either way whatever changes I have made I suspect will have led me to a more authentic me.

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And this relationship? It will either be or it won’t but in the end I will be all that I have envisioned and right now that is what feels important.