I Never Thought I’d Write This Phrase…

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ABSOLUTE JOY.  My mom, Laddie Davis, 15 years of age. Franklin D Roosevelt was President.

I’m crying.  I can’t seem to stop.  The tears are literally squirting out of my eyes, hitting against the inside of the lenses of my glasses.  My body aches this morning in every joint and muscle.  I am going to church for an 8:15am Contemplative Worship practice.  I’m probably going to blow snot through the whole thing.  I DO NOT CARE.

I’m grateful that my mother is dead.

I type that, and then sit and stare at the sentence for a few minutes.  “Is that true?”, I ask myself time and time again.  My mom was one of my soul mates and my dearest friend.  And yes.  I’m grateful that my mother did not live to see Trump become our president.  I relieved she didn’t learn that a large minority of people in this country are so soul-sick that they revel in another human’s pain.  That mostly white American people grouped together around a bully of a man and laughed at his imitation of a sexual trauma survivor.  OUR PRESIDENT MOCKED A WOMAN’S DEEP TERROR IN FRONT OF OTHERS, AND THOSE PEOPLE LAUGHED.  I guess any attention is better than no attention, for that man.  How deep is his own terror, to perform as the President of the United States in such a manner?

How do we stop bullying in schools, when our President models that behaviour on TV?

Today, I pray that we all find someone or many ones to hold us and tell us we are loved, that we are worthy of love given and received.  Today, do not be alone.  Go out amongst people, and find someone to play and laugh with, as if your life depends upon it.  Because it probably very well does…

The journey continues…

 

 

 

 

 

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Is That What ‘Grown-up’ means?

I owe a big ‘thank you’ to Orrin Hatch.  I didn’t think that i could be more, a-hem “woke” after my takeaways from the #HungryForJustice #FamiliesBelongTogetherAndFree Ashland political action in August of this year.

But I don’t know what inspiration will fire a personal revolution. “Give me liberty, or give me death!” really set off some fireworks.  For me, it was this phrase: “When you grow up I’ll be glad to.”

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It doesn’t roll off the tongue.  It’s not even grammatically correct.  But that phrase has pushed me to my next level of political action.  That, and Trump’s pandering to his audience by mocking victims (haven’t we had enough of that bullying, boorish behaviour?)

THE 1976 MILK CARTON SIT-IN

in 1976, at Westmont High School, the jocks had staked out the Quad as their sanctuary.  It had been that way for years.  The Quad was a (predictably) four-sided outdoor arena located in the middle of the school grounds, with a stage at one end and the library building at the other.  The jocks and rah-rahs hung out there during breaks and lunch times.  It was the hub of the social popularity scene.

I and my friends spent our time out on the field, where we could smoke cigarettes and pot, sit on the grass, and dream of a different world.  We were the stoners, the freaks and the misfits.  Many of us were baby hippies, emulating our older siblings who were actually teens in the late 60’s and early 70’s.  They were our catalyst for ‘wokeness’.

We read Be Here Now by Ram Dass and Steal This Book by Abbie Hoffman.  We experimented with drugs, with sex, and with life itself.  We had witnessed the killing of both our political and spiritual leaders; the decay of the Vietnam War projected into our homes on a nightly basis; deaths of our older brothers, cousins and neighbors because of that war; the multi-faceted betrayal of Watergate; and nowhere did we see a saviour that would make this place right.  Our dis-ease and sense of broken trust found no succor other than in each other.   We did alright.  Most of us survived.

One day, some of the field people decided to change things up and sit in the Quad.  They were unceremoniously pelted with milk cartons by the football players, while their rah-rah girlfriends cheered and laughed.  My friends showed up and did it again the next day.  Once again, pelted with milk cartons and laughter.  No adult person stepped in to stop this.

When my friend Debbie and I heard about that, we decided to act.  We borrowed her Mamu’s mimeograph machine that she used to print the newsletter for a fanclub she was involved in, and we printed up flyers calling for a sit-in at the Quad.  Parents joined us.  A news reporter showed up.  It was a thing.

Afterward, the leaders of the sit-in were rounded up into the Principal’s office.  Mr Buonocore lectured us, threatened us with suspension.  As far as I know, no punishment was meted out to the carton throwers.  They weren’t a part of this meeting.

At one point, when he said, “This revolution stops now,” I yelled, “It’s evolution, not revolution!”

And he said, “Young woman.  Maintain your dignity.”

To which I yelled, “I have no dignity!”

YOU HAVE YOUR DEFINITION.  I HAVE MINE.

And so the story goes.  It’s been that way, inside my soul, ever since.  If I must “maintain my dignity” and “grow up” in order to engage with leaders, I’d rather not, thanks.  I gave it a shot for a while, in the 80’s.  I was married to a kind, successful man, we owned a house.  I had a good job.  Wore the right shoes, had jewelry parties, and hosted brunches.  But I couldn’t hold it together.  Too much personal soul sacrifice…And I had to drink A LOT of alcohol, in order to just maintain that.   Damage was done, by and to me behind that inability of mine to be true to what I knew as the call for Compassion, and Justice.

My mom had to have black coffee and Excedrin for breakfast every morning, before going to work.  I’d sit at the breakfast bar and eat my Trix, my purple stuffed rabbit by my side, thinking, “If THAT is grown-up breakfast, I never want to grow up…”  As a teenager, I learned to appreciate a good cappuccino served in a goblet at The Upstart Crow Coffee and Book Shop.  I learned to sweeten my coffee, add extra milk, and a splash of cinnamon.  But it was still bitter coffee.  Rather than Excedrin, I took cross-tops.

In my own particular idiom, I became my mother…I became an adult, willing to drink the bitter brew in order to cope…

I’m done with bitter, as the ideal.  I took a break from writing this to walk my dog, Stella, this morning.  As I walked in the crisp autumn dawn, listening to her sniff with delight, the thought of other people’s cynicism, condescension and smug self-satisfaction drove me to marching steps.  Stella kept up, and at times ran ahead, pursuing her own interests as far as the leash would allow.  I realized I was at another crossroad of the question, “What can I live with, and without?”

Compassion stepped in and quitely rebuked me, “Isn’t it interesting that the very qualities you are berating in another, you are in fact evidencing at this moment in yourself?”  Thank goodness for training in self-examination, meditation and prayer!

Remove the log in your own eye, before you condemn the mote in another’s, Laura.  But don’t let that psychic surgery slow you down.

So, this is what I know:  I am not dignified.  And I will not ‘grow up’.  I am my own authority.  And I’m ready for the next phase of evolution.

The journey continues…

 

 

The Tangle: The Dark, The Light

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TANGLE by Laddie Davis, watercolor and mixed media papers

The Only Story I Have

I was raised in a Christian community: white, working class, middle class, and upper-middle class combined.  On the street where I grew up, most moms stayed home with their children.  A few had jobs outside the home.  My friend Liz’s mom, Helen, was a nurse.  That was a good job for a mom.  My mom worked at Lockheed Missiles and Space Corporation, as did my father.  I would brag that my parents were helping to put a man on the moon.

My mother was outspoken, intelligent, and beautiful.  She used to say, when people would talk about feminism and equal rights, “Why would I want to be equal to a man?  I’m clearly so superior.”  But she trained men to be her boss, middle-aged golden fly-boys who had just retired from the Air Force and were kicking around the boy’s club, looking for something to do.  Mind you, my mother and the rest of the women in the department did the actual work, while men had meetings, drank in their offices, and tried to bed every woman or young man they could charm or brow-beat into submission.

My mother went back to work when I was baby.  I never asked her why.  By the time I was about ten years old, I knew without having been told that my father was not a reliable wage-earner nor did he fit the picture of an ‘adulting’ adult.  He was creative, intelligent, musical, witty, and dangerous in a way that had more to do with his inability to make appropriate decisions than because of any inherent unkindness or evil.   He was unskilled in ‘making good choices’.  He suffered from severe PTSD brought on by experiences in WWII, and harms done to him as a child growing up with an angry step-father, who himself was victim of a severe brain injury.

The Sound of Silence

When I think of my childhood, I think of the song by Simon and Garfunkel, “Sounds of Silence.”  I grew up in a verbally silent home, but we did have the sound of music.  So much music being made: guitar both electric and acoustic, piano, organ, accordion, saxophone, dulcimer, lap harp, mouth harp, french horn, and vocals.  And me grappling to name the feelings evoked by all of it.  I also had books.  Lots and lots of words coming to me at an early age, as I was a precocious reader.  I remember reading Brave New World as a pre-teen.  My father voiced disapproval, but my mother said it would be instructive.  It was.  I learned that mankind could be doomed…and that I had a personal responsibility to do my part.  But I didn’t want that responsibility.  I wanted to be a kid, for a while longer…

One of the ways in which I was not allowed to be a kid: my father sexually abused me through much of my childhood.  He did it with love.  The conscious journey of coming to accept the truth of those experiences didn’t start until after his death in 1991.  With the work of many years, I have come to hold two facts in my mind regarding my father:

  1. My father loved me.
  2. My father sexually abused me.

Now, at the age of sixty, these two statements can lay side by side in my mind without me splitting apart and disentigrating.  Whatever harms done to and by my father, something about the way he showed love for me helped him stay on this planet.  I do not say that to excuse what he did.  If he had been more skilled, if help had been available for all his conflicting feelings and ideas, and had he received the necessary help for his PTSD, I think he would have made a different choice.

Do What You Want

One thing my father said over and over to me, while I was growing up,” Laura, you can do anything you want in this world, and be anything you want, as long as you are willing to pay the price.  When your time comes, and you stand before your Maker, neither your bank account, your car, nor your home will be considered.  Instead, the Maker will look into your heart.  And it’s what is dwelling there that will be judged.”  That belief sunk deep into my soul.

I was lucky.  My babysitter for the first few years of my life was also my Sunday School teacher at Campbell Church of Christ, Campbell, CA.  She was the most pretty lady I’d ever seen, with black hair, white skin, red lipstick, a soft easy laugh and a skill at cooking simple and delicious southern-style food.  She was also our across-the-street neighbor, who had three children: two girls and a boy.  In our family, and of about the same age, there were two boys and a girl.  Ron, the boy a few months younger than me, and I played together almost everyday until we started Kindergarten.  Then he was tracked with other boys, and I was left to figure out how to be friends with girls.

I was at a loss.  When Ron and I disagreed as toddlers and preschoolers, we fought it out until his mom, Evelyn, made us kiss through the back of a chair.  It would make us laugh, the pure silliness of it, and we’d go back to playing.  In Kindergarten, I was to learn a different skill set.  I closed down, and became observant.  What I saw was him getting all the attention and time, enrolled in outside activities and sports, while his sisters were expected to do household chores and make life generally more comfortable for their father and brother.

So, two completely different family systems informed my childhood: one where both parents worked outside the home,  where sexual abuse was taking place, and the children were being raised haphazardly by a patchwork of care-givers and latch-key-kid-ism.  And then the other, a ‘traditional’ family, where father worked, mom stayed home, girls supported mother’s work and the boy played.

The J Bomb (Jesus Loves Me!  And you.  And you.  And you…)

Through my  childhood, until I began drinking at the age of twelve, the only truly consistent healthy relationship I participated in was with my church.  Sunday School was heaven.  I knew I was loved by Jesus, whom had never met me but nevertheless he loved me like the day is long.  And not just me!  Jesus loved everyone!  “Be they yellow, black or white, they are precious in his sight.”  I knew that to be true.  We were told to be like Jesus.  And I really, really longed to be…but…John F Kennedy was assassinated.  And Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy.  People were dying and people were crying and no one was telling ME anything about what the heck was going on.  Just a lot of angry, sad people out in the world.  And not a lot of talk about What Jesus Would Do and then people actually doing it.

And at some point, my mother told my father to leave the house.  My best friend and my number one co-conspirator was gone.  I was six.  I was crushed, and at the same time, I felt…different.  I slept better.  I saw my mom blossom.  I witnessed a calm that I hadn’t experienced and knew, somehow, the tension that had been thrumming in the silence of my home was stilled.  We had no words for these things.  But the music changed in the home and my mother began to teach me to play the piano.  She wanted me to read music.  I was rebellious, though.  I would only play by ear.  By the time I was twelve, I learned the whole of the Theme of Exodus, both hands, by ear.   My mom just shook her head.  Hers was, she thought, the easier, softer way.  She may have been right…

She eventually wrote a poem about trying to teach me to read those marks on the page, that elusive language.  I was so stubborn, though.  Still am.

Piano Lessons

The Patriarchy At Work…

Within a short period of time after my father moved out, my eldest brother got caught smoking pot at school, and was put in Juvenile Hall.  The authorities wouldn’t release him to the home without a Man of the House there, so my mother went to my father and begged him to come home.  My oldest brother’s tussle with the law was the catalyst for my abuser’s return to our home.  That’s the patriarchy at work.

But the church, Sunday School, and that love from Jesus saved me, until my expanding inquiring mind started reading more and ranging farther.   Self-education is the very devil!  At the age of twelve, I had started drinking alcohol.  And pretty much stopped going to Church, because as much as I believed the message of Jesus’ one commandment, “Love one another”, I did not often see that at work in the world, and I couldn’t reconcile the silence in my home to the reality of what I experienced and I. checked. out.

My father left for good when I was fourteen, between my freshman and sophomore years.  But the damage, by then, had been well done.  I had been ‘dating’ 27 -30 year old men when I was 13, men I met tapping shoulders outside the liquor store near the Saratoga bowling alley.

Where were my parents, people ask?

I DON’T KNOW.  They were busy…they were exhauted, and not setting many rules.  But when the police would bring me home after hours, and drop me off on the front porch, my parents were there to at least open the door and let me go to bed.

I did not have the ability to ask for help.  Who would I have asked?  The teachers and counselors at school must have noticed that a straight A student in the 7th grade became a D student in the 8th.  But no one said a word, except to suspend me for a week in 8th grade when I was caught selling amphetamines to fellow students, for my older brother’s friends.

The society I saw unfurling before my eyes was unjust, unfair, the rich got their ice in the summer, the poor in winter.  I’d read about Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch.  The message I received deep in my heart was that wealthy people were bad or sweetly clueless, poor people were either good or ignorant, and it was my job to be of help to others.  The way I chose to help, in high school, was by volunteering to take people on their first LSD trip.  I knew there were parameters of safety, and I knew how to set them.  I knew there was more to the world than what we could see and understand in our unenhanced thinking brain.  I also gave money to food banks, and to drug dealers, and I listened to my friends when they needed to talk.  And I observed, observed, observed.  I looked for love, and found creature comfort.  I made a mess of my life, and harmed others in my ignorance.  And I eventually straightened out my own mess, with help and support from others.

Unapologetically, What A Friend I Have In Jesus

Over the last five years or so, I’ve come back to Jesus.  Not any one church’s Jesus, and not Saviour Jesus. Just Jesus.  The real man Jesus, or perhaps I should say Joshua, who said, “Blessed are the meek.”  Who said that God loves his one lost sheep more than the always faithful ninety-nine.  Who said our duty is to the less fortunate, and who clearly stated that there would ALWAYS be unfortunates, so don’t rest for too long.  There is more to be done.

I have a friend whose watchwords are Peace and Harmony.  She incorporates those two principles into her daily life in every way she can.  Her life is an embodiment of peace and harmony.  She is always coming home to those two ideals.  She doesn’t have a perfect life.  Family storms occur.   She gets disappointed.  She has opinions.  Things happen, but her main intent is to return to Peace and Harmony.

My watchwords are these: Compassion and Justice.  It’s taken me sixty years to learn that those two principles have been driving me, for good and bad, since I was a tiny girl.  Now that I know what guides me, I make different choices.

The Good and the Bad, The Dark and the Light

All this to say that, I know people who use the word ‘Christian’ like it is a curse.  They post news stories about ‘Christians’ who do horrible, offensive, harmful things, highlighting that person was a ‘Christian’, and using those stories as proof that ALL Christians are bad, that Christians are evil, that Christians are hypocrites.  Those people who post those stories and say those things about Christians are bigoted.  It’s not an insult, it’s a definition.  Look it up.

With the Kavanaugh story, the other news being thrown around: Republicans are horrible.  Democrats can save us.  Maybe…maybe…or maybe we all need to save each other.

My father was a Democrat.  As was my mom.  Neither ‘saved’ me, although I truly believe they did the best they could.  After my father died, my mom went to therapy with me, not for some tell-all bender of a public story.  But privately, together, we did the work of naming and reconciliation.  My mom and I, at the end of her life, were not held captive to the story.  We sorted it out, and we loved each other, and we formed a new relationship of the here-and-now.

Human frailty, like everything human under the sun, is not allied with politics or religion.  It is personal, and people, ALL people, even orange people, can be forgiven, if a person wants to forgive and let their own anger off the hook.

Compassion.  Justice.  They are, interestingly, the principles of the 8th and 9th step in the steps format of Alcoholics Anonymous that I follow.  Which means I had to learn the first seven principles to fully understand my relationship to Compassion and Justice.  And then I move on, into the 10th, 11th, and 12th.  Then on around to the 1st step again, on and on, over and over, another season of growth, light and dark playing out, as it always has and perhaps always will.

And this writing below, the catalyst for the writing above, today:  From Fr. Richard Rohr:

Jesus is a “lunar” teacher, patient with darkness and slow growth. He says, “The seed is sprouting and growing but we do not know how” (Mark 4:27). He even shockingly says to let the good and bad seeds grow together until the harvest (Matthew 13:30). He seems to be willing to live with non-perfection, surely representing the cosmic patience and freedom of God, who is Infinite Love and Life that finally fills all the gaps. When you are God and you know you will ultimately “win”—because Love will always win—you do not have to nail everything down along the way. You can work happily and even effectively with “mustard seeds” (Mark 4:31) and with “the good and bad alike” sitting at the same table (Matthew 22:10).

I have a table, set by that man Jesus, where the good and bad alike are welcome.  Just as we say in AA’s 7th step prayer, “God, I am willing that you have all of me, good and bad.”
It’s a self-sorting table, though.  Earlier this year, I decided to give up identifying who was Good and Bad.  I slip back into it, at times.  But often, I just need to pay attention to my own scope of present influence and responsibility.   Like walking my dog when she needs to go pee, and paying my bills on time, and being available to a friend, if I can be.
At this figurative table, you may come, you may go, you may say whatever is in your heart and mind to say.  But in the end, with what small skill I have, the guiding principles at this table are Compassion and Justice, for self and others.  And everyone has a voice.  EVERYONE.  If you can’t follow the guiding principles, I will remind you…
I don’t claim to have a corner on the definition of Compassion and Justice.  I’m always willing to grow and learn and be wrong.  But, as a wise woman said to me, “I am my own authority.”  Ultimately, I decide what I choose to believe.  I no longer look to another to tell me.  I am no longer seeking self in others.
I enjoy a good soap opera, from time to time.  I just won’t live in one, any more.  If you think you know me, at this point in my life, you probably don’t.  If you’d like to get to know me, come take a seat.  I want to hear your story.  The person I am today will listen, wholeheartedly.  I expect the same in return.  I’m willing to engage in the difficult conversation.  I am not willing to remain in a lie to keep another person comfortable and my ‘friend’.
I know that you have a valuable story to tell, as well.
The journey continues…

Introducing…Laura (who likes tea).

IMG_5567Today, I had the experience of being WITNESSED.  A woman saw ME for who I was right then, sitting and talking with her, and she had the wholehearted ability to reflect that back to me.  It was such intense moment that I felt lightheaded and almost sick to my stomach.  I felt my heart actually slow down…

I think I’ve been longing for the sensation of being SEEN since my mother died; someone just taking in what my life looks and feels like today, no judgment, no consideration for what value I hold, or what use I may have, but just reflection of who I am.  This woman is very skilled at it.  I’d like to be that skilled but I’m still a student…

The Paradox of The Longing To Be Seen vs. Importance of Being

With that longing to be seen in mind, I’ve started using ‘public’ as my FB post status more and more. I’m trying to step out of the echo chamber of my little circle of ‘friends’ (that term is so inappropriate to what we are on FB, which is ‘connected’), and I’m interested in what may happen when I don’t just rely on my chosen FB connections…what may happen is nothing.  Nothing at all.  I’m in a ‘grand experiment’ stage of my life.  It’s all grist for the mill.

I understand that a Public status makes some folks less inclined to comment on my posts, as they don’t want to be public in their opinions. I respect that.   For what time I have left and while I use FB, I’m living a little more out loud and a little more transparent. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s mine. Other people’s opinions about my choice are interesting to me, but won’t sway me, necessarily.  To quote a woman whom I greatly admire, “I am my own authority.”

In the big scheme of things, I’m not even a bump in the broad arc of humanity…I’m very clear about that, if nothing else.  It becomes more clear every passing moment.  Adversely, it imbues great responsibility and care of others, because the more I realize that I don’t matter, the easier it becomes for my ego to be careless with other people’s feelings.  If I don’t matter, then surely you don’t matter, either…

Therefore, let us all care for each other, rather than only caring for ourselves, our own ‘little designs and schemes’.   Henri Nouwen said, “When care is our first concern, cure can be received as a gift. Often we are not able to cure, but we are always able to care. To care is to be human.”  And more than anything else, I desire to be human.

Is This What Anger Looks Like?

Someone remarked to me the other day that I often seem angry these days. That remark made me laugh, as I feel lighter than I’ve ever felt before. I think they were actually saying that I say NO more often than I ever have before. What I think I am is this: very aware as to what is mine and what is not mine. And I’ve decided that significant people can have their shame back. I’m no longer willing to carry that burden of shame that some have pushed off onto me, or that I felt encumbered to pick up.

The old Laura must have appeared to be very happy (although I don’t think that’s true), if new Laura appears angry in contrast. I’m certainly more thoughtful and less inclined to bullshit, either giving or receiving it.  Either way, this is who I am now. People can choose to get to know the Laura that Parkinson’s is co-creating with me.  Or not.  We all have choices in life, for which I am grateful.  If I’m feeling stuck, I make another choice.

Responsibility In Relationships

I don’t want to ‘ghost’ anyone, though, which is one possible response to my discomfort with another person. I understand that ‘benign neglect’ is the best some can do in the moment. However, stepping away from a significant relationship, whether spouse, partner, friend or sponsor/sponsee, comes with responsibilities, just as maintaining the relationship did. Willingness to engage in the uncomfortable conversation is a hallmark of less ego, more trust.  If I step away, rest assured I will surely tell you why. It’s the integral thing to do, for me. We are given the gift of communication for a reason, and I intend to use it until I’m dead and gone.  And maybe after I’m dead and gone…who knows?

I come, I come to, and then I come to know…in my own way, and as best I know in the moment.

The journey continues…

 

Choosing To Live Unhoused…

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Stella and I have been living in my van this week, up on Mt Ashland.  The weather has been perfect, and I’ve only seen one or two people, most days I’ve been up there.  Heaven on Earth, for this solitude of a human being.

The Vehicle

In the Fall of 1995, My mom purchased a new 1996 Dodge Grand Caravan ES minivan.  It was white, the most common color car in California, with a tan interior.  She told me that white is also the least expensive car in California, or perhaps anywhere.  I found the sales receipt for the van while I was clearing out her home, after she died.  She paid for it in full, more than $29,000.  My mom did not like to owe any money, so she just wrote a check.  That alone boggles my mind.  My mom and I are completely different animals where money is concerned.  She had all the common sense around it.  I have had relatively none.

I inherited my financial intelligence from my dad.  Here’s a peek into my dad’s money management skills: when I was a toddler, my father wanted to buy a piano for my mom to play.  She had studied piano through most of her life.  My father played almost any instrument with ease and skill. He’d just pick up a guitar, or an accordion, or a saxophone, and start playing.  But my mom was a gifted keyboard player.  She had dedication, long years of practice, and passion.  My mom put the kibosh on the piano idea, though, saying we couldn’t afford it even with both parents working.  A mortgage and expenses involving two adults and three children ate up any discretionary income our family might have had.  But my father NEEDED to get that piano for my mother.  It was an idea that would not let him rest.  He had a vision of all of us making music together.

He convinced a woman friend of his to pose as my mother, accompany him to a piano store and to purchase a piano on credit.  The friend signed the paperwork with my mother’s signature.  The piano, golden brown wood gleaming, ivory and black keys seeming to smile devilishly, was delivered while my mother was at work, and when she arrived home that day she not only had a piano, but she had more debt and a cheat of a husband.  It’s a good-news, bad-news sort of story…

My mom played the angst out of that piano, though. One of my most poignant memories of childhood was watching and listening to my mother play ‘Moonlight Sonata’, her back bowing and straightening to the music she pulled from the depths of that instrument.  She gave lessons to me for a short time, using beginner’s piano song books.  She wrote a poem about trying to teach me to read music.  I refused to learn that language, instead picking out every song by ear.  That highlights another fundamental difference between my mom and me.  She studied EVERYTHING before attempting something new.  I jumped in, with no plan or forethought.  We are both charming in our methods, although she was more disciplined than I ever shall be.

When she passed away in 2007, the van had about 40,000 miles on it.  I bought out my sibling’s share of the vehicle, and have kept it.  My brother sounded so surprised when, a few years ago, I told him that I still had mom’s van.  Her grandkids still call it ‘Grandma’s van’, even though I’ve now owned it longer than she did.  Knowing myself as I do, I thought that it would be a good investment to have a vehicle that I could comfortably sleep in, ‘just in case’.

In the eleven years I’ve owned it, it has proven to be a good investment.  It’s served as a work vehicle for remodeling, major gardening projects, and moves to new addresses.  It’s acted as a sort of storage container for all sorts of items.  It’s been a vehicle for out-of-town visitors to utilize while visiting, or friends who need a temporary means of transport while theirs is in the shop.  A friend who was visiting the States for an extended period of time used it as their primary wheels for many months.  I’ve camped in early Spring in the Mojave and stayed at a variety of State Parks, sleeping in the van rather than pitching a tent.  I’ve learned how to make it comfortable, and being in it helps me feel more connected to my mom, whom I believe to be one of my soul mates.

The van is a luxury that could become a necessity.  I’ve tried to take good care of it, as my mother did, but the white paint has begun to peel, and occasionally the windows will stop rolling up.  Usually right before a rainstorm.  For a while, it would lock and unlock its own doors at inconvenient moments, once locking Rachel out at 11pm while she was camping at Emigrant Lake. A few years ago, the computer in it died and it instantly became a 3,000 pound paperweight.  A thousand dollars and a new computer put it back to rights.

I decided to put stickers on it, after I moved to Ashland, OR from Santa Cruz.  I’ve been adverse to bumper stickers most of my life, and I am also usually opposed to wearing articles of clothing that boast brands, words, or ideas.  I don’t want to be anyone’s billboard…but I’ve softened in that area, these last few years.  As Emerson said, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”  So some hiking and environmental advocacy stickers, a few civic-minded stickers, a gay pride sticker, a grateful dead sticker and an American flag sticker have all been applied to the van in the last few years.  The van has character.  I’m hoping that it will soon have even more, as I’ve offered it as canvas for a 7/8th grade painting project.

The Move

It’s no secret that Rachel and I have not been getting along well lately.  Health challenges that I’ve begun to experience around Parkinson’s have caused ‘the other woman’, Finance, to rear her Medusa-like head.  But a couple who has relationship longevity in mind cannot avoid Finance’s gaze for long and expect to have a healthy, communicative experience.

Last Monday, we hit a breaking point in our ability to maneuver all the changes that Parkinson’s’ is wreaking in our life together.  I knew it was time to hit the Pause and Reflect button before irreparable damage was done.  So I took one of the rear passenger seats out of the back, installed my fold-up cot, packed some camp kitchen gear, some reading material and clothing, and went up to Mt A for the week, driving down into town for business and work, as needed.  I’m grateful to my friend Paul, who just weeks before purchased a portable RV toilet that I’ve been keeping in the back of the van.  If we can send a human into space inside a suit that can handle their waste, I surely am ok driving around with a contained waste system in the back of my van.  I’m always ready for a new experience.

One of my favorite teachers, Richard Rohr, states that Transformative education is not asking you to believe or disbelieve in any doctrines or dogmas, it is saying “Try this!” Then you will know something to be true or false for yourself.

I set out to learn if I could live in my van, if I could be transformed again as I have been before, and what it means to be unhoused.  But that’s not really what i’m writing about here.  I WILL write that story, later, but today, this is what is pouring out of me…

I took Stella with me for company, and also to get her more used to traveling in a vehicle.  She’s a little more timid than I’d like, but such a good companion.  We spent a lot of time walking trails, and snuggling in the van.  I had no access to the internet as I stopped paying for a data plan phone a few months ago.  I spent meals actually paying attention to my chewing, to the taste and texture of the food I was putting in my mouth.  I spent more time in meditation, prayer and writing than I have in months.  I watched the sun, moon, planets and stars travel across the sky.  I performed yoga stretches in the morning, and took Stella out for 2:30am pee breaks, which always entailed a rousing encouragement speech of  “There are no monsters outside the van.  You are safe and you can deal with anything that may occur in the next 15 minutes”, before I turned on the running lights, unlocked the door and actually set foot outside.  I’m saying right here, the news of the woman who was attacked and killed by the cougar in northern Oregon last week wasn’t really helpful to me in working up courage to step outside my little metal can into the dark, with my eight-pound cougar-snack of a dog.

Memorable Experiences Abound

I had the experience of driving away from Grouse Gap at 5:00 am Friday morning, on FR 20, rolling slowly past trees, bushes and rocks with only my parking lights on.  As Stella and I moved through the pre-dawn landscape, I listened to Eddie Vedder sing “Guaranteed”.  As he sang the lines Wind in my hair, I feel part of everywhere/Underneath my being is a road that disappeared/Late at night I hear the trees/They’re singing with the dead/Overhead, a star shot across the sky and fell straight down in front of us.  Magic.

A few minutes later, now traveling down Mt Ashland Road with my lights on, still moving slow, we listened to Cloud Cult sing the song “Purpose”.  I love this song as I love most Cloud Cult music.

There must be forgiveness here ’cause most of us have our weaknesses
(Tell me what are your weaknesses)
I don’t know myself and I’m afraid of you
I’m happiest on chemicals
The goings come and the comings go
Forgive me I’m just an animal.

Just as I began to sing the last line, I rounded a corner to find a deer walking across the road.  I was driving so slowly that I didn’t need to brake.  The deer continued its leisurely walk and I forgave us all for being ‘just animals’.  Cloud Cult continued:

There must be healing here ’cause everybody here has been damaged
And we’ll wear it like a tattoo
Every scar is a smile
To hell with the going down

There must be afterlife here ’cause we all pray for resurrection
You see the end comes quick as a bullet

My end is coming, and I don’t know from what direction.  But until it does, I’ll remain open to living life as it suits me.

What I Learned…

Being homeless is daily hard work.  I have a friend who has lived in her van for two years, although she just picked up keys to an apartment of her own this week.  I’m exhausted, having done it for only 5 days and 4 nights.   I realize that Parkinson’s and a hermit’s soul makes this just a little more work for me.  But still, a lot of energy is expended just trying to find a place to peacefully, privately rest for a while.

While driving to a doctor’s appointment last Wednesday morning, I thought about the journey I have been on since birth, to have ended up living, albeit temporarily, in my van.  And there is no deep profound meaning to any of it.  Rather, it’s just a series of choices and turns and events and diagnoses that put me there.  There is no Celestial Indictment of goodness or badness.  It quite simply is where I am at this point in time.

I am no more a success or failure than any of my friends who rent a home, or own one or more homes.  I am just as they are: human.  I was born, I will die, and in between those two events, I hope that I do something that made another being’s life easier and more meaningful.  If not…oh, well…

In the huge scheme of time, history, and humanity, I’m not even a silent pffft.  But I’m glad that I am alive, in this earthsuit, having this experience.

And the luxury is this:

I moved out of the van back into the duplex I share with Rachel and Jorge, due to a ‘procedure’ that I’m going to have on Monday.  Prep for the event requires some dietary restrictions and access to good plumbing for an extended period of time.  I could have gone to stay with a friend, but chose to go to the home where I’ve paid rent for the month.  Stella is happiest there, and in truth, so am I.

Rachel and I will work through our dis-ease with each other.   I don’t know what it’s going to look like.  But I do know this:

a) I can live in my van, somewhat comfortably.

b) I am taken care of, at all times and in all ways.

c) I have a glimpse of what it feels like to be unhoused.

The privilege that the housed population enjoys is beyond imagining.  I see people differently because I chose to move into my mom’s van for a brief period of time.

My mom is still my greatest teacher and mentor.  In 1986, she gave me the book titled “Necessary Losses” by Judith Viorst.  I was 28 years old and had just had a hysterectomy.  No more children for me, although my then-husband and I had tried for several years to bring one into existence.   I read the book, and a bit sunk in, but I was still drinking pretty heavily and wasn’t ready to take in the thought that life means loss.  And most of all, Love.  Life means Love.

Years later, I came across this poem in the New Yorker magazine.  It summed up loss quite fully, for me:

The Goddess of Despair

Against such cold and mercurial mornings,

watch the wind whirl one leaf

across the landscape,

then in a breath, let it go.

The color of the opaque sky

Seems almost not to exist.

 

Put on a wool sweater.

Wander in the leaves,

underneath healthy elms.

Hold your child in your arms.

 

After the dishes are washed,

a kiss still warm at your neck,

put down your pen.  Turn out the light.

 

I know how difficult it is,

always balancing and weighing,

it takes years and many transformations;

and always another loss to stop for,

 

to send you backwards.

 

Why do you worry so,

when none of us is spared?

~Jill Bialosky

 

The journey continues…

 

 

Facts Don’t Mean Nothing

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The statements made in the meme shown above are all facts.  Die-hard trump supporters, racists, and stubborn people do not give a crap. 
Stop thinking they might!

This meme made me feel good, though!

Reality shows us that facts rarely change a person’s opinion.  Case in point: we all know why Kaepernick took a knee.  He stated it clearly, and many have echoed and supported his statement, over and over and over.  And yet, THOSE PEOPLE who listen to trump, as though trump has something of value to say, now have another dead horse to beat!

Yes, that’s a terrible phrase, but picture it…you’ve hit that horse again and again, until that horse is an ex-horse.  But you just keep beating on it, regardless.  You know it’s dead.  I know it’s dead.  We ALL know it’s dead… but you’re still whaling on it.  Aside from the obvious, that someone should have called the authorities on you the first time you struck the animal, it’s time to just put down the crop.  That poor one-trick pony just couldn’t do that trick one. more. time…

Facts won’t persuade even the intelligent.  What can possibly do that, though, is personal story.  What is your “Why”?  Why does it mean so much to you that Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the National Anthem, before a football game?

My “Why”.

I don’t admire American Football.  And I do not watch it.  It’s personal protest, and affects no one but me, unless I decide to share my opinion with you, and you take my opinion personally.  Not my issue… but here’s a tissue.

But I used to live for football season.  As far as I was concerned, there were 3 seasons to get thru: Winter, Spring and Summer.  And then there was FOOTBALL SEASON!

Back in the ’80s, my later ex-husband had tickets to the 49ers.  Our first Christmas together, he gave me the Official NFL Rulebook for Christmas.  He wanted me to learn the rules so that I could understand and love the game as he did.  And so I’d stop asking him questions during the games, because he missed a lot of action those first few games he took me to, with me asking, “Why? What? Who? How? When?”

We, and our wedding party, spent the day after our wedding at a Niner’s game, September 25th, 1983.  The Niners beat the Atlanta Falcons 24-20.  Wait!  It’s NUMBERS MAGIC! We got married on the 24th!  The Niners won with 24 points!  Obviously, the Niners were going to the Superbowl and our marriage was a match made in heaven!

Wrong on both counts.  The RAIDERS, (my first football love, when Jim Plunkett was at the helm) won the Superbowl that season.  My marriage only lasted as long as my husband could put up with an untreated alcoholic, which was about 6 years longer than he should have.  We divorced in 1989.

The fall from grace for football, as far as I was concerned, was when player’s behaviour stopped being about setting an image of care and integrity, and became more about excess, illegal activities, violence against women and animals (apparently not illegal according to some), ridiculously high ticket prices, white owners getting richer and richer, and fans spending obscene amounts of money on tickets, food, apparel and paraphernalia, while schools weren’t able to buy textbooks for students.

WE ARE STILL NOT ABLE TO BUY TEXTBOOKS FOR KIDS IN OUR SCHOOL.  THERE IS NO BUDGET FOR TEXTBOOKS.  IN A SCHOOL.  I AM SERIOUS HERE.  I WORKED IN A SCHOOL FOR 3 YEARS, AND HAD INPUT INTO THE BUDGET EVERY YEAR AS I WAS THE OFFICE MANAGER AND KNEW WHERE WE WERE SPENDING MONEY.  THERE WAS NO BUDGET LINE FOR TEXTBOOKS.

Imagine there being no budget for footballs, in the NFL.

America has made a choice: entertainment over children

America made a choice: entertainment over children.  I walked away from football, with a bit of a broken heart.  And a feeling of disillusionment for all the good souls that I know who still support the institution.

But then, Kaepernick took a stand.  By taking a knee.  A respectful, silent knee.  And he was wearing red and gold when he did it…be still, my heart…

I’m not going back to watching football.  I like it less than I did in the 80’s.  It’s just not the game it was.   It would be like trying to date my high-school sweetheart.  Good memories, but the reality is, we’ve both changed (boy, have we changed) …and he just wasn’t all that good in the sack.  He sure looked pretty, though.

However, I admire and support Colin Kaepernick.  He’s a true role model for children.  Kneel for what you believe in.  You’ll stand taller than anyone else in the room.  And you don’t have to wear Nike’s to do it.  JUST DO IT.  Be willing to kneel for what you believe in.  Don’t let a white man take away your right to kneel, reverently, judiciously, earnestly, humbly…

I heard a woman once say that she won’t get down on her knees to pray.  She won’t get down on her knees anymore, before anyone.  I understand her point.  But I’m not letting anyone take away my right to kneel.

Reframe that image.  Kneeling is one of the most courageous acts a person can do.  Just ask Colin Kaepernick.

 

 

In The Dark Hallway

Facebook is keeping track of my life for me.  Thank goodness, because I’m certainly not up to the task!IMG_0999

A few days ago, a photo of my granddaughter, playing on the slides at her local park, popped up.  The photo is a year old, and it was taken during the last weekend I was to spend with her for seven months, August 12th, 2017.

I was at the hospital when she was born.  I took her mom to the hospital when the doctor said they were inducing labor.  I took care of L, as she is called,  5+ days a week for the first nine months of her life, and then at least 2-3+ days for the next nine months.  When she was a year and half, I moved from the Bay Area to Ashland, OR, in search of a better community.  And the slow disintegration of her mom’s desire for me in her life, now that I was unable to provide free daycare, nor willing to lend her any more money, began.  And that’s just what it LOOKS like.  What is really going on?  A deep healing.  My daughter is healing her wounds, with the only tools she has: anger and retribution.  Goodness Bless her.

Leaving Santa Cruz, CA

I had not wanted to live in the Bay Area for over 15 years at that point in 2013, but had stayed due to love of my parents, and then my former-wife.  My parents died, the marriage ended. I was free to leave.

And then, just as i was ready to plop money down on a chunk of land in New Mexico, my daughter, who hadn’t talked with me in any meaningful way for over 5 years, showed up on my doorstep, saying “I’m pregnant.  I’m single.  I’m 34 years old.  I need your help with raising this baby.”  and I cried and said yes.

I cried, because i don’t like kids.  At least, that’s what i thought at the time.  They make me nervous.  So easily harmed and so difficult to repair.  I’m like a bull in a china shop with people’s feelings.  and i assume we all have tools to heal ourselves.  But…some don’t.  Some folks, for lack of education and love, are just harmed over and over and over.  Or for lack of ability to say, “HELP!” and then help themselves.

But the woman who I had been dating for a year encouraged me to step into the role of grandmother.  I certainly DID NOT WANT TO AT ALL.  I’d been a terrible mother. I think.  But i gave my daughter a fabulous grandmother, in the form of my mom.  So maybe, i could channel my mom and be a fabulous grandma.

And I was:

IMG_1001Me and Miss L, first week she was with me all day.
Yep, that’s the back of my neck…Rachel took this photo.

Everything changes…

Anyway, my daughter lost her mind, and in late August 2017 said I couldn’t come down for L’s fourth birthday.  and then “no more visits”.  I think she’s mad because L didn’t leap over the moon about her big Disney reveal that happened the Sunday afternoon i left, August 13th, 2017.  My daughter wants to make that my fault.  But I’d say, as one event planner to another, “BAD TIMING, planning-person!  The child is sad and tired that Grandma, who cared for her almost every day the first year of her life, is gone again.  Maybe do your big video-taped Disneyland trip reveal another time?” But that’s just my own common sense talking.

Only Facetime visits every Saturday since September 2017, (not including a brief four hours in March of this year, unexpectedly offered by my daughter, who was probably under the influence of a glass of wine or had a business appointment during that time).  Except when she wasn’t available due to my daughter’s work schedule.  Or if I was sick,  because even when i was camping in the back-beyond, i’d get up and drive to a cell signal to make my phone call on Saturdays.   I’d find a pay phone.  Whatever it took.

However, when my daughter forgot that we had a standing Facetime date, like she did May 26th of this year, i didn’t fuss.  My daughter is changeable.   I called at the usual time, but L was eating pancakes at our favorite breakfast place.  And i heard my daughter’s voice, “Sorry, mom.  I forgot that you’d be calling.”  Something we’ve been doing every Saturday, pretty much, for months.  Forgot?  Should i be worried?

Right after that, when i wrote my daughter to say i was getting more sick with Parkinson’s, and couldn’t make the call on June 2nd with Rachel out of town, Megan contacted Rachel, my partner, and said she wanted no contact with me at all.  No more Facetime calls.  So now, no visits.  No Facetime.  No connection.  I write letters and mail them.  I hope my granddaughter gets them.  I take photos of them, and store them in a digital file for her, maybe someday.

No Transition BAD

My daughter has troubles.  She’s working through them.  And dragging my granddaughter along behind her.

I’ve never met a child who was, with no transition, severed from a beloved family member and wasn’t harmed by that severance.  My granddaughter will be no different.  Like her father before her, my daughter can blame me all she cares to for any perceived misbehavior my granddaughter offers up.  But the reality is the primary care adult is responsible for being the external regulator for a child, and is also responsible for teaching the child how to regulate themselves.  Bravo Channel 24/7 and an iPad at bedtime can’t do that.  Only a loving human can.

My daughter has a lot of work to do.  I can’t do it for her.  I’m just sad that she’s choosing to do it in the presence of a 5 year old, who looks to her for guidance.

Some people think i shouldn’t talk about this publicly.  I say, “When this happens to you, you decide how you’re going to handle it.  Until then, thanks for sharing!”

Meanwhile, i love looking at the photos my peer grandmas post on Facebook.  I am being buoyed up by tangential grandma-dom.  Grandmas are gonna heal this world.  No doubt in my mind at all.  With the help of some Grandpas.

Just for today…

I was talking about this with a friend, via Facebook, and she offered me some words of wisdom. When you’re in that long, dark hallway, waiting for the change…and wondering where is God/Goddess/Justice?

“…it can be hard to fully drop into, “This too shall pass,” when there is no promised timeline. The awareness of the fleetingness of life, ages and stages, time that you can never get back…It’s just rough, it’s hard. And then there is this desire to be able to function on a higher plane and trust the process, determine our own side of the street, powerlessness, and whatever we are asking ourselves to live up to or are striving to be. What an order!” ~ Lisa Woodhouse

Don’t give up, because you have community. If you don’t have community, I know where you can find some, if you are willing…

The journey continues..