a slice of my heart

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Pierce the hole and let a little light in

I watched this most wonderful video on You tube last night.  I love You Tube, I've been learning all sorts of cool ways for making things better in your life, like putting plastic wrap over the ends of bananas because it keeps in the air and they last a much longer time and it's true, it really does keep them fresh for about four days longer than normal!

Anyway, it was a short video about a young Chinese girl who had become blind because of a stupid mistake in medication by a stupid doctor. She became very depressed, withdrawn and isolated herself because things like that have a pronounced degree of shame and fear attached to them in her country.  She had one friend who was also blind but this friend had a sister who knew a young man just about this young girls age who was deaf and mute. At first they didn't want to meet because they thought there would be no way for them to communicate, but they got together anyway and were doing sort of OK even though they really couldn't quite understand each other.  Then someone they knew, (I don't remember who - doesn't matter) told them about a company called "Care Line". What they do is hook up people with these sorts of impairments by giving the sighted, but deaf and mute person a phone that can send a  text message to the blind person that will be received with voice.  The blind person can then send a voice message to the deaf and mute person that will be received as text.   How cool is that?!

And then....they fell in Love.

The companies motto is "Communication  pierces a hole in the darkness and lets a little light in."
How very true.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Seen through the window. A memoir.... **and how we change things

My mother drove me there, I wouldn't get my license for another four years. I was 19. It was the end of November, and I had been sick since the beginning. I stayed in my brothers old room in the basement most of the time, it stunk, which left me perpetually ill.  My mother didn't want to take the chance that someone might come to the door and see me. She worried about it constantly. So it was the basement and the kitchen. Living room only at night because usually no one ever came to the door then. She made phone calls and decisions because it was what was best for her, for the family...and the neighbors. I'm not sure, to this day, whether it was considered at all, what was best for me or my child. She was in control and no body else was.

It was one of those grey and rainy days where everyone looks like something is wrong . We parked at the curb. The house was huge, and it looked like one of those houses where there used to be a mother and a father who talked to each other and children who took lessons and didn't fight every minute of every day and they all wanted to be there and there had to have been a lot of them because there were 6 bedrooms.  And there would have been a cook and a room for her just off the kitchen, and a room for a governess on the second floor, with a fireplace. (The rooms for the cook and the governess with the fireplace were actually there!)  Most of these grand old houses had no garage because they were built when cars were rare, there were horses. I was afraid to go in. Being afraid was just who I was, I'd never been anything else, I'd never even known anyone who wasn't afraid. I thought it would be like high school, and that no one would talk to me. I'd be left out because I didn't belong, I didn't belong so many places. Inside it was warm and smelled of cookies and the elderly woman that came to greet us looked like Heidi's grandmother. Plump and short and smiling. Her white hair was coiled around her head in a braid, like a halo. She had little wire rimmed glasses on and an apron and a smile that looked like it never left her face, and it didn't. It was like being in a Frank Capra movie for a moment, and I had no idea who Frank Capra was. Her name was Mrs. Horner and she made me feel like she wanted me there.

A whole lot of my life has been like a goddamn movie. Like it was scripted. One of those things that if you didn't know it was true, you'd think it could never have happened... to one person...to one skinny, pale, lonely and pretty damn stupid girl who did not live within it, but only existed there, unable to see or speak.

There were shy introductions and a short conversation, I'm sure we had tea and some of the cookies, it only makes sense. Looking back, I think she probably made cookies every time a new girl came.  It was a welcome that set the tone for my stay. It was a warm buffer for all the pale sadness that would persistently and quietly interrupt each day for all of us who were there.

My room was on the second floor. The staircase was wide, 6 people, 8 people abreast?  with two landings, I'd never experienced anything so grand. I always felt kind of regal walking down it, like I was important and that someone, who could hardly wait for me, would be at the bottom.  I wasn't prepared for what I saw when I opened the door.  A line of 5 beds in a long narrow, dim room. All empty. Had it had patterned wall paper, pretty curtains, happy voices and where had they all gone? I took the bed nearest the bathroom and a small window. I remember laying there that first night and staring down the length of those empty beds and feeling a loneliness that went deeper than what I'd always known. I slept with my back to them that first night, and many others to follow, my knees pulled up to my chin. I was cold but I never moved, I never got up to get a blanket from the next bed.

She left me there in that quiet, shadowed room. She might have hugged me, but it wasn't her way and I'm sure I was crying because that was my way.  But she did leave something behind, silence.

 I came to feel, not long after those first colorless days, that things came into focus a bit, pale but slowly beginning to color.  Bit by bit I felt that I'd stepped out of the mistake, the place that didn't make sense and didn't protect me and the loneliness diminished a tiny bit, and that I and my child were protected here and it did make sense, as much as anything could at that time. In the end I would have given anything to stay there forever, with her. Eventually things got better for me as rooms were vacated. I was there for 8 months, 7 in this new one, across from the long tiled bathroom with the claw foot tub where I once laid in the hottest water I could stand to try to induce.  It had windows that opened out, not in, to green and fresh air. There was a window seat that you could sit on, which I only did at night so no one could see me, my mothers voice a tiny whisper in the back of my head.  It was the only room with one bed so it gave me something I'd never had, privacy.  I would lay in bed and watch her turn from side to side, like a wave on the ocean until she found the right spot. She'd push a little foot so far out that I could almost count her toes.  I would stand naked in front of the mirror and marvel at her size and at my body, which for one of the few times in my life made me feel beautiful, made me feel like it was valuable, it could do something - something good. A body that told me someone was with me and that I was with her. I remember standing with my back to the mirror and looking over my shoulder and thinking that from this angle you couldn't tell that I was pregnant -  wanting to go back to that and wanting it to stay this way.

A friend came once and we drove to the beach.  I held my hands on my big round belly and I showed her the ocean. I wanted to give her the whole damn-big-wonderful world.  The ocean was the best I could do and I felt some peace.

 My mother came often to visit, I'm not sure if it was dutiful or to save face, or that maybe she actually wanted to - but we rarely talked. Sometimes she'd drive us way out to the country where we probably wouldn't see someone we knew.  We'd go to little antique shops, that was her favorite thing to do, antiquing.  She'd show me the things she liked and I'd shake my head - because we rarely talked. She made friends easily and enjoyed visiting with one of the other mothers in particular when she came to the house because they were so much alike. I'd go to read or something and she would call out to me when she was leaving, I'd come down and hug her because I knew I was supposed to. She became quite close to the social worker.  Milly was chubby and posh and had perfectly coiffed blond hair.  She wore a lot of diamonds and drove a baby blue Cadillac and always ran up over the curb when she parked, I can't remember her ever not smiling, except when we told our stories. She smoked and had that foggy kind of laugh, I thought it was so cool, I wanted to laugh like that. She was good at her job because she wasn't there to counsel us, she was there to distract us. Even though we were scared to be seen, there were some dinners out at her personal expense, lavish desserts brought for late afternoon conversations, stories about her life, our lives, happy conversations so that we would forget what we usually couldn't. She often went to mass with us, the ones who were Catholic and felt pressured to do so. When she didn't go with us there would always be a nun who'd instruct us to sit at the back of the church and then would tell us she'd pray for us. Once one took my hands that I held together in fake prayer, into both of hers and said, "I consecrate your birth to the Blessed Virgin", the irony.  But I hoped it was true.  We all wore wedding rings, I think Milly might have supplied them and I know it was to give us a bit of dignity, but it usually didn't work and there was always a twinge of shame in it because we knew it wasn't fooling anyone. You can't take 5 pregnant scared girls out into the world and think no one notices, or knows.

 Our stories were all different but all exactly the same. The same fears, the same questions, shame and guts, with a connection to each other's that was good for some and didn't exist for some.  The thing that helped us all the most, was food.  Food is powerful, it can comfort when you feel helpless, when there is no one or anything else to offer comfort. A lot of us would come to the table with red eyes and emptiness, eager for that distraction. I don't think any of us had ever eaten like this. Foods that most of us could only have longed for before, more than we could ever eat and a completely unknown privilege of being asked what we wanted and being given it, as if it was the most normal thing. It was fun and it made up for a lot of other times when each of us, often and in our own way, would withdraw into a stillness and a quietness that enveloped us, because we knew what was coming and even food couldn't hold it at bay.

There were 8 of us, a couple that I don't remember, they left so soon after I got there that they just flash past my eyes, all blurry and ghost like. And five that are a part of my memory that can't be lost because they were so important, they occupied a time in my life that haunts me but that I don't want to forget, that I shouldn't forget. I hold onto it out of gratitude and respect and love. I loved them each.

The first one was a dark haired girl who left about three weeks after I came, I've lost her name and I've always felt that was such a mistake on my part, I wish I'd paid better attention.  She was very sad, more so than the rest of us and she never let go of her anger, she wasn't going to let anyone think this was OK.    She gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl, she'd known from the beginning that she was carrying them.  I know the bond for all of us was, and remains, unbreakable, just like any mother's, no matter what the outcome. But it must have been especially strong if you're feeling it for two.  She insisted, with a command that couldn't be broken, that she nurse her babies before they were gone, and she did. We were all so naive then and it shocked us, but I was just smart enough to be humbled by a courage that I'd never seen before.  She was brave and I couldn't quite take it in. It awed me and it frighten me. I didn't really know what to think except that it was right and I don't think I've hardly ever made a decision in my life that felt as right.When I think of these times I remember her first. I hope, more than for any of the rest of us, that she found peace and a life that left her as little scarred as possible.

(all names have been changed)

Of the other 4, there was Amy, strong, blond and blue eyed, a giggler, the girl that got chosen first for cheerleader, the girl that always told a joke to stop the darkness. Through her sadness I think she kept the habit of this shield because it was the only way she could cope. We tried to stay friends afterwards but in the early years it's something you want to forget and you can't if you still see it in someone else's eyes.

There was Maureen. She was slight and shy and had an endearing sweetness about her. My mother and hers became close friends, she was the one that was most like my mother.  Maureen was like me, we had little courage and that made us close because there is a great need to comfort when you're so young and you recognize yourself in the other.  Maureen's baby was born with his brain exposed having not developed the back of his scull. His backbone was exposed as well and he died after two weeks. She stayed on at the house for those terrible weeks to be near him. They said he wasn't in any pain but none of us believed it.  I wanted to go with her to see him on the few times that her mother would take her, because I knew it would help her. But our mothers both wouldn't allow it.  It's hard for me now to imagine an adult having so much control over a daughter in this situation, but that's what it was like. She didn't say much during those two weeks and when she did it was always in a whisper as if she didn't have the strength to push the words out.  She told me that she felt that she had done this to him by always keeping her belt tight at school so that no one would know.

Jane was a long haired hippy, wearing flowing tapestry that made her look free, like no one could hold her back. She walked with long strides as if she was late for something.  She rarely spoke to anyone but we weren't offended because we knew it didn't reflect on us, it was actually a strength that kept her above the pit. She was the only one of us that had no doubts about her decision.  She knew it was right for her baby and for her and I hope that she continued to carry that thought, but even so, it hits you down the road no matter how right you think you were.  She had her baby at night and was gone the next morning.

Maria was special.  She was Mexican, short and sweet and more innocent than any of us. She didn't speak but a handful of English. I'm very good with things like sign language so she and I could talk. We could even tell jokes in sign.  She cried a lot, especially at meal times, I think she missed her own food, and would lay on the couch with her back to the dining room.  She was visited by an older man, I could never figure out who he was, even with signing she wouldn't tell. They would speak rapidly in Spanish and she would sob through her words and she would hang on to him when he left and cry for him not to go. After she gave birth she wanted to go home to Mexico as fast as she could.  I think her leaving was the hardest for me because we became close in not only our pain, but the intimacy of silent communication.

Renee was the beauty. She was funny and, unlike a lot of rich girls then, she was generous and kind always doing some thoughtful little thing for someone . Her parents lived out of town and when her labor began, I was the only one left at the house to accompany her to the hospital. I remember we went in a taxi and it was the first time I'd ever been in one. Mrs. Horner called for it because I didn't know how. I was holding her hand when her water broke and I was so sad for her because I knew I was not the one that should have been there. When she left she left me her pretty clothes. I've always wished I had kept the blue blouse to remember her.

I was the last to go. Catholic Charities was shutting down this program and I was two weeks late. Two weeks beyond the close date, two weeks without Mrs. Horner, two weeks completely alone in this huge house that I knew would soon not protect me nor my baby any longer. I never felt frightened.  Milly would come in the evening and bring me dinner and sit and watch television with me until about 10:o'clock. She'd leave asking me if I was OK and I always said yes, because I was, it was my home. But now it seems unbelievable that a 19 year old pregnant girl was left alone at night in that huge house.

My water broke late one evening just before Milly left, luck is not the right word.  She took me to the hospital where I spent the next 6 hours alone on a gurney in a pain that took me to a place I couldn't have imagined, with my arm tied down to keep an IV in.  The nurse had pushed the needle in so hard that it was bent when they pulled it out.  I delivered in the dark of 5:AM.  There was no doctor. A nun in a white habit delivered me and the attending nun walked to my side afterwards with a small, wrapped bundle and said, "Oh, look at your beautiful ba...". She was stopped in mid sentence and the delivering nun said in a whisper, "No, they're not supposed to look." Drugs kept me silent.

I only got to see her for a few minutes, later the next day. There were loud and frantically angry words between my mother and me, but I won, because for once I wouldn't give up.  A nurse, lifting a curtain so that she was not revealed, held her up by one hand on the other side of a window. Her dark haired little head hung over to the side a bit. I never saw her eyes because they were closed but I did see her yawn. It's always haunted me that that nurse was so careless in the way she held a new born infant, my new born infant.  Many years later my mother told me that she wouldn't give in to my screaming, my bargaining, my plea's - despair, because she thought there was something wrong with her tiny neck and she just couldn't bare that. When a young woman is abused, is owned, she can't see her strength, her rights, because she doesn't know she has any.

My mother took me back to the house a few days later to get my things.  In those days new mothers were kept in the hospital for awhile to rest. But you can't rest when you don't know where she is. When you are someone you've never been before and you don't know how to fix any of this.

We wrapped my swollen breasts tight in a towel and safety pinned it in place. My mother handed me a little white pill so my milk would dry up. I couldn't utter a word.  She went to the car and left me there with the scenes that whirled through my mind. I packed my things in the blue cardboard suitcase that I'd been given when I graduated and walked by all those empty rooms.  It's not a cliche to say I heard their voices, and mine. I saw them laughing and crying. It was July and the sun was shining through the windows.   I stood there on those stairs for a moment as if I was trying to take it all with me, the house, the girls, every memory and all the days that had been safe, all the days that had been frightening and lonely, all the days that she had been with me.   I walked out the door, a big glass door with an old oak frame and bent to drop the key in the brass mail slot at the bottom.  I slipped it through and as I stood, I saw my full reflection in the glass. I starred at myself for a long, few seconds knowing that I was leaving so much behind in so many ways and that I was leaving myself behind,  that I had been changed, but I didn't know who I was.

The next five days were spent in tears and screams and those endless futile bargains, too many to recount.  What was a horrible, horrible dream had now turned into a nightmare and I couldn't fight my way out of it.  I said I wouldn't sign the papers unless my mother and Milly promised me that I would get to hold her before I did. But they didn't bring her. They said it was best for the baby.

You look for them everywhere, in the face of every baby, every little girl and every young woman. All mothers who have lost their children in this way do. You can't stop and you don't want to. You need to find them, you will always need to find them.

I did find her after many years of dead ends thinking that it would go on forever. I was able to  because of the most amazing quirk. I used to go to Goodwill almost every day after the nervous breakdown, that sounds so cliche, nervous breakdown, we should find another word.   I'd just wander and wander and sometimes find a little thing that made me feel good for some silly reason. There was a pretty little blond girl that went there almost as often as I did.  After months of passing by each other with shadows of smiles, she said hello, that was the only way it was going to happen.  She said I was the saddest person she had ever seen, and she knew from sad. After a few months, during a casual conversation, the light got blindingly bright when she said she knew someone who knew someone who might know.  And they did.  GW...GW !  You see?  Can anyone believe this?  My life has been surreal.

 I found her four years almost to the day after she had died in an accident, two cars sliding into each other on a rainy November night in 1996.  I had told my therapist, quite a while before, that I hadn't been able to feel her for a long time, like she wasn't in this world. She didn't get it, she wasn't a mother,  but I swear to you, mothers know, they just fucking know. She was 26 years old and left behind two children, a 3 year old little boy and a 1 and 1/2 year old baby girl, and me. I met them only twice when they were little,  a 5 and 1/2 year old skinny little girl in pink who said to me when I took her hands in mine, "I wish my mommy could be here today, she would be so happy", and a quiet, shy 7 year old boy in a baseball hat who had the same dimple in his chin that I have.  It's never happened again and I don't expect it to unless they should decided. It's complicated, living is complicated. And we have very little control.

 My darling, dark haired daughter had lived 4 blocks away from my grandmother, and they had probably attended the same church.  She lived about 2 miles away from me. I've seen pictures of her and she looks like her sister, Elizabeth, and also like my sister but only when she looks serious, and at certain angles, like me.  She was given the name Elizabeth. My middle name is Elizabeth and my  daughter, her sister, is named Elizabeth.  I named her Gabriella on the birth certificate, my daughter and I call her Gaby. I wonder what could ever have happened to that small piece of paper.  Even though she was adopted by people who really wanted her and were able to give her a good education and everything a young girl could want, she led a hard life. She was an addict and an exotic dancer and had given up custody of her children.  Sometimes I want to blame myself. Tell myself that she longed for me so much that she couldn't find peace. Couldn't understand what had happened and where I was, any more than I could understand what had happened and where she was.  But I try to tell myself, or maybe assuage my guilt, that she was bipolar, like her sister and her mother.  That it was only chemistry. That we, all of us, who live with this suffer, and that I couldn't have taken it away for her. I couldn't have saved her. I blamed my mother a lot for many long, hard years. We would never be who we were supposed to be with each other, but that had all begun long before this.  It's nobodies fault, but we figure that out so far down the road. My mother and I untangled the knot just before she died and we both felt it was the biggest accomplishment of our lives together.  But I'll always think that it's my fault. That no matter what made her life unhappy, it is my fault. Even though I know it wasn't.

 She turned 46 this year.  She was born on 7/17/70. I know it's corny, but whenever I see those numbers together, 717, I think of her and send a little kiss and she smiles back.  We find ways to comfort our selves and embrace the invisible.  And as mothers, we see the invisible.

I wish there was a way to thank all those girls, to thank Mrs. Horner and Milly, who have both passed on now. We helped each other through a time that no one else could have.  I love them. And I miss them.  And I thank them with all my heart.

And I am very, very grateful that I have two beautiful daughters and that we all three love each other deeply.  They are my greatest joy.

**  At that time, birth control was not widely available or even known to most young women, and open adoption was an idea that was just becoming a discussion. Planned Parenthood was virtually unknown here, and abortion was still something only whispered about. Young women had virtually no choice and most of them didn't even know they had the right to choices.

It's getting better, but still those choices are difficult at best and made more complicated by a society that does not have it's priorities straight and doesn't see the whole picture. Abortion, adoption, open adoption, informed and available birth control and the right and even the ability to keep a child are still difficult and often there is no help after the decision has been made, especially for low income, abused and uninformed women. It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a village to support a woman in whatever decision she chooses to make.  All women at this time within the United States have choices at this point. But will it remain that way?

The only way, the only action, that can make my story any easier or the stories that came before me or after me or are yet to be made, is to VOTE, to give women dignity. Vote to keep abortion legal and for all the other rights that we, as women are entitled to.   Please don't think, that one small vote, or sitting on the fence doesn't matter. Or that she'll win, you don't have to take action. And maybe even as important, is don't stop there. Give your support to the women who are in these life changing situations, and not only through your vote or your words, act on your support, give help when the choice has been made, what ever it may be, and in the best way you can,  because the vote is only the beginning and things don't end with the choice.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

I do get up to normal things too

(I like pictures)
Life is pretty quiet here. One fun thing that has been going on is that my daughter is starting an online business. It is so much fun for her and she's been lit like a rocket coming up with innovative ideas for it. It's been a laugh a minute around here, every day another round. Sooo good to laugh! I can't say what it is for several reasons but it will definitely draw a unique audience.  And in the meantime, she has been playing with stick on tattoo's....  
She put the tape on so that they wouldn't bleed and then....varnished them so they wouldn't wear off, I expect her to have kidney failure within a week....remember this is the girl that told the prospective employer that she was a      bee keeper!

I had my last hurrah at the park a couple of weeks ago. It's a park with a trail that winds around a man made lake in which you can fish. I lament the lose of my beautiful wooden fishing pole when we moved. I'm gonna' lament many of those things for an obnoxiously long time. It's usually got quite a few walkers, but then I got the bright idea to go across to the children's park which is oddly often empty (where have all the children gone?)  There is a big expanse of grassy slope there and it is so quiet, it's perfect for reading and has the requisite shade to do so.

Ahhh, shade. 
I always bring an extra book, just in case the first is boring.

I'm pretty sure you can't see it, but those two little girls are carrying a crossbow and they were both so focused and excited like only the young can be.  I'm not sure whether to be appalled or cheer them on. Blow these up and you might be able to see it, I'm just trying to conserve space here.

I wish I knew the trick to get pictures side by side on blogger, but I don't think there is a way.

My geranium did a gobsmackingly beautiful job (2 little 4" starts!) I've put my wellies there to give you an idea of the size. I grow them every year to remember my Grandmother. She always planted a long row of them in front of the farm house, gorgeous.
I've been working on another shell sculpture. It's a smaller, and because of it's size, not so elaborate version of the first one I did, in the post..."I did it again..whoa" back in April. ( I have no bloody idea how to do those link things...sigh.
I don't know the name of it yet...something about guardians. There are three birds looking right at the baby, maybe to protect it?  Inspired by "Madonna with goldfinch" (Canon Van der Paele) by Jan Van Eyck. Sounds very pretentious but I love that painting.

Also been reading my fair share... these go back to the library tomorrow....the others, I have shamelessly renewed too many times for various reasons.  I have been having so much fun reading Alice Kahn. She writes hysterically about bits and pieces of life in the 50's up to the 90's. Kind of in the style of Nora Ephron (bless her heart). I mean a laugh out-loud-in-a-coffee-shop kind of way. God knows I need a little humor.
I got a little crazy at the second hand store and bought these. (two of them so you can put them on either side of the front door)  They were about 5x's (maybe 6! maybe more!) cheaper than my daughter and I thought they were going to be, so we acted like it was perfectly normal and paid and ran for the hills. They are so unusually large that I think they might have been temple dogs?) I still can't believe I have them. Fu Dogs are protectors and god knows I need that too.
And then there's my girlfriend, Marley.
We always have a great time together. We analyze and hypothesize and bitch and laugh at the absurdity of almost everything and try to figure it all out, an endless pursuit, and then pray to Quan Yin to make us better people, and then eat like pigs, well, she does. And then we take naps and wake up and do it all over again.
Oh, and there was some dancing and listening to Edith Piaf and that group, Dangerous singing "The sounds of Silence" that Birdie posted...Love you, Birdie, thank you. And I've been going back to the Beatles recently...I need life to be simple sometimes. Sometimes? God, I need it to be simple everyday, and it is, and it isn't.

Whew!! Enough already!
Take good care, Liv

Oh, PS:  I have been sick with a cold and a sinus infection and then another one since July 15th. I know, Guinness Book of World Records! Antibiotics and nose spray and thinking I am going to die. It's way better now, but, shit! it's still not over. Am I a bad person?? What happened here?  Anyway, that's it...I'm normal.
Well, almost normal. I didn't mention anything about trump-butt.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Maybe my mind is way too visual

I don't know.  I've been thinking of writing this post for a long time, but I've always been too scared.  I guess I thought people will think I am a "goody two-shoes" (funnny saying). Or maybe that I am preaching or pointing fingers or simply being critical...oh, self righteous comes to mind.  But I'm pretty sure I'm not, I just want to express what I think - and I think a lot.  My daughter says that's not such a good thing. And lord, I just wrote a post that ended with the thought that we don't need to apologize for, nor edit what we think. That applies to me and everyone else that I am abstractly indicating here.

I have a very visual mind.  I've always been that way.  When I was little I could see intense images when someone told a story, to the point of getting a chill, physically, when there was a story about cold or rain. Or having to shield my eyes or blink when there was talk of a hot summer day that someone remembered. It's weird. I don't always like it, but sometimes I do, very much. And I can get pretty agitated with images when there is a mention of violence.   Although I like to watch Kung Fu  movies...so gheez, go figure.  Don't think I haven't been told I'm contradictory.

So anyway, lately, well, a long lately, I've been bothered by two words. Two words commonly used so it's hard to get away from them.

Douche  (bag)

They're used as expressions of anger, violence, disgust, condemnation, frustration, to humiliate or maybe to express in an abstract way something that the sayer just can't find other words to describe. And I suppose maybe even in humor, oddly.

I see very intensely someone fucking a mother. Your mother, my mother, their mother...mothers.  I can understand a man saying that who hates women in general or, tragically, his own mother.  But mothers are sacred. Is that fact suspended? Is it negated in the moment, is it forgotten or is it simply not believed at all?  I wasn't especially close to my mother, we suffered a lot in our relationship. I can not say that I hated her,  (and I'm not delusional enough to think that I don't hate, I do hate somethings)  but no, I would not want that to happen to her, in violence or anger and certainly not to humiliate her. I'm not sure why women say it.

And douche, douche bag.  Once again, it's about women.  This is something private, very private that women do to take care of their bodies.  Especially in terms of menstruation, a sacred thing in my opinion, and maybe necessary after birthing and then there's sex.  It is private, something that I think should not be discussed with any motivation of anger or disgust or whatever else that is negative and seeks to dishonor women.

I see them, the mothers, the women, when I hear those words.  I see it happening to them, a violent sexual act. I feel their pain, physically.  I feel a woman's embarrassment when such a private activity of cleansing is exposed.  My body actually gets hot with the implied shame.  I feel intensely the vehement disrespect when a man uses them, well yeah, even sometimes when women do (who I think are maybe not even thinking of women)  Whatever...  All I'm saying is that it stops me. Stops my thinking for a moment and replaces it with feeling. A feeling I don't like.

Everybody has a right to say whatever they want in whatever meaning or intention.  I'm not arguing that. And I certainly use the word fuck, it's part of my everyday language, but I'm getting a little tired of that too.  And my daughter never uses it, astounding to me given the fact that she's heard it all her life.

Women seem to be using them a lot now, like I said, I'm not sure why.  I'm not sure of the intention behind it when it comes from a woman.  These words have obviously become a part, even a casual part, of our vernacular.

I don't know, maybe I'm a prude (what exactly does that word mean..?).  Maybe I'm just not with the times. I adore some people who use it and I am frightened by some who do.  Perhaps I am too sensitive, that's probably the most used description of me.

I know those words are not going to disappear from common use.  I'm not trying to change that, although I would like it to change.  But I also know I can't stop being such a visual person and sometimes it's a real fucking drag. So these two words make me very sad.
Just sayin'.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Brilliance Lost

It's very difficult to do a blog post about someone you Love and have lost.  Especially if they are someone you never really met, never really knew, because how much do we truly know and Love  each other in this blog world? I think we'd be surprised.

This is Ellie, Eleanor Anne O'Connell Decret.  Ellie died on August 30th, 2016.  She died almost to the hour that princess Diana died (US time to Paris time) - and she would have fucking loved that.

Ellie was from Santa Barbara and had been living for many years in Paris, with her French husband, David Decret and her sweet (really) daughter Grace.

I came to know her, again - love/know - feelings in this medium sometimes feel more real, more concrete and certainly more meaningful than some in our tactile world - through her brutal (read that as gut punch brutal) and funny, generous, thoughtful and deeply appreciative writing.  She was a decorator and antique dealer (Cira, her Malibu antique shop), and had the most cutting eye for great design and a zeal for bringing it to the forefront so that others could learn and appreciate. Even through this devastating disease, she kept an online antiques shop and was dedicated to it.  She loved beautiful things and made no apologies.  She wasn't afraid to say the material world enchanted her. Ellie came from what most of us would consider a very posh background and had many connected friends. Not only did she have her shop in Malibu but she also had worked for Assouline (luxury book company) and 1st Dibs.

And Ellie had ALS.

I could speak volumes about her struggle to try to beat this unbeatable disease. About the way she kept her extraordinary sense of humor, truly it was legendary, to the very, very end. Throughout her illness,she was rude and acerbic, impatient and humbled. She sought Gods guidance and strength and she was pissed off when she couldn't get it, which happened way more often than not.  She was fierce in her determination to fight this devil of a disease and relentless in her research and experimentation with diet (she was a junk food aficionado, so that's not easy!)  and meditation and, again, that gob-smacking sense of humor. You could probably hear the laughter ringing around the world (she had over 3,000 readers) every time she got out there and wrote to us.  Everyone fights for something in their life, but not many fight to bloody fingers trying to climb out of darkness, and that's what ALS can bring, because the minute you get it you know you are going to die and it isn't going to be pretty.

ALS moves quick, in six years Ellie was completely paralyzed and barely able to speak.  There where many times when she could not even swallow (a feeding tube was necessary) and towards the end, could not breathe at all without a breathing tube. When she could whisper, she would dictate her blog post. She was relentless in her drive to give to and take something from this world, to connect and express herself. And still she could crack us up with her attitude about all of it.
Ellie had been letting us all know for quite some time that she wanted to go.  And she wanted to go on her own terms. Everyone had had enough, her family, her friends, her readers, and most especially, Ellie. Enough of the fear, the pain, the anger and the bloody battle. She came home from Paris to die and within a month she did... on her own terms, with all those who loved her surrounding her - and the thousands of cards and letters from the people who loved her through her blog (that would include me) because they meant the world to her, I think they kept her going for awhile.

If you've made it to the end of this knowing that just because you receive beauty and wealth,  prestige and power in this life,  it doesn't mean that you are not entitled to the same empathy and tenderness and embrace as anyone who is not in that position, as many of us are not and will never be, then you have learned one of the most precious lessons in life - that we are all the same, we are one, and no matter what, the fear and sorrow of leaving this world is exactly the same. And the hard won understanding that nothing in this world, no matter the price nor the beauty, is of any value except the giving and receiving of Love. Ellie knew this, I think it had been an underlying value all her life.

In her last blog post, she ended with an enticement, as she so often did.....Hold on, I have so much more to tell you.

That's what she taught me, that's why I loved her. Tell it. Don't worry about how it sounds, don't worry about how they will take it. Just be who you are, no apologizing, no editing. This is who she was, this was her legacy.  And Love, she left behind a whole fucking lot of Love.
If we're lucky we can learn from her life.       So tell me. Tell me more, I want to know.

With Love for my friend, Ellie O'Connell Decret, rest in peace.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Where can you possibly go after LA

At the end of the fourth chapter of the trip to India, (you'd have to scroll down to read them, and if you did/do, god bless you) you remember that I got deposited in a bit of a plop in the also magical city of LA.
But the wheel keeps turning and you've go to move on when your head and your feet are both pulling you forward....and pretty much you have no other choice.

I was seeing another boy (yes, I was pretty much the slut my mother always liked to tell me I was) who's family lived in Beverly Hills, so odd, because that is my mother's name and for a year I stopped thinking of her and, thank you God, the connection didn't ever click for me
His parents wouldn't let us stay in the house, dirty crazy hippies, but he was able to convince them to let us and another couple - I can't even see their faces - camp in the two car garage. Mattresses on the floor, ubiquitous tapestry spreads on the beds and a little cleared out space for eating (street stand) food. Pot smoking is portable, sitting-standing-laying, choose your comfort.

His name was Jim with the curly blond hair, a sparse goatee and blue eyes that come with being a California native. His father was a dentist to the stars and just wanted us to get the fuck out of there. So where can you go, but the other California. The big island of Hawaii.  Jim had money and friends there and I can only assume that he paid for me because I sure as hell didn't. We arrived on separate planes and for some reason he wasn't there to pick me. It's dusk in a different paradise and paradise-or-not, swirly panic can blot out all that beauty.

A "we're-all-one" couple picked up on that and zip, I was in a jeep headed up a steep, foot-deep- pot-holed road, to a tiny A-framed guest house with enough room for my sleeping bag, two bananas and two avocados in a metal pot and another to pee in. I swear to god I never left that hut for 48 hrs. except to lean out and dump the pee pot, I was like a yogi on a mountain top. I was stuck there for those two days and only had company in the form of an ox (I guess that's what it was because it had horns) that kept wandering under the hut-on-stilts to scratch his back on the underside. At first I thought it was an earthquake.  A peek under the floor and two sets of eyeballs assessing each other and we were silent but wary cohabitants until I could get the hell out of there.

I finally got down that pot holed road to the little grocery store in Kealakekua, found Jim, who I swear, swear, swear had just walked up there to buy something (this kind of thing was such a common experience in those days, that you came to think of it as the norm) and down we go to Napoopoo Road (NO, I am not shitting you! cue the Beach Boys...)  to where we wound up living for awhile with some friends of his and their mini-hippie baby. She was the happiest little girl as we all were, indulging in the liquor of sunshine and freedom and the euphoria that comes with that when it is all free.  We were squatters on an overgrown, abandoned coffee plantation, with still intact workers huts dotted in a little enclave connected by bare footed paths. Workers huts only had three sides and waking up to an ocean only seemed right. This was the view when you sat up in bed in the morning.  Not bad.

Jim made a lean-to off an old tree and that's where I lived in gloriousness for the next three months. He stayed on there for years and finally moved to Bali. One lucky boy.
                                 Our home. Probably about 7' x 9'. It was so sweet there at
                                  night with a little oil lamp and books and stories.
This was hysterical! It's the little kitchen that only two silly, goofballs could conjure up. You'll notice it's on a slant....there is a piece of corrugated tin there on the right in the first photo, to stop the avocados from rolling down the hill.  We would walk up the hill in the evening to pick avocados and then down the hill in the morning to pick mangoes and guava and papayas. The red bag hanging there is for the avocados and fruit that had to be hung so that the rats wouldn't get into them. California Boy always said that all the snakes in Hawaii had been killed out and what it did was allow the vermin population to over grow.  I never saw one, but there were still, sometimes, nibbles even when things were hung.
The boy, his long curls tied back. He was sweet and fun and cared about me so much more than I ever realized. 
Trying to make a garden in the jungle. I'm dressed in his clothes to mosquito proof myself, didn't work, you just have to get used to them.  I look so naive, so young, so needing to be loved and not believing it was possible, in fact it took me about 3 more decades to actually believe that I was indeed lovable.
I cannot understand how I had as many pleasant relationships as I did, except that I never wore a bra...

Bob and Leisha lived down the hill in a very posh workers shack. It had two room and a loft and a tiny little kitchen, way, way better than ours so a lot of meals were consumed down there. Actually, truly cooked meals...see the hanging frying pan.
Bob and Leisha also had some other friendly visitors, spiders.  I don't know what they were called but they were like very big tarantulas, (about the size of a large teacup) but that's not what they were - at least I don't think so.  You would be sitting around chatting and all of a sudden you realized that one was crawling up your arm and then up on to your shoulder and over your head.  They would eventually make it to the wall and up onto beams on the ceiling and just camp. You could see where they had shed their skin from the last year and then moved on to another spot. I learned to get used to it after the first freakout, because they were actually harmless. Eventually their legs skittering up your arm would feel velvety. It was nice to know that you could live in harmony with a creature that in any other circumstances you would find horrifying.

Note the ubiquitous tapestry clothing. It's what everyone wore, except when naked and that was often how hot, sunny days were lived.  You could escape the mosquitoes if you were in wide open spaces and some of the people there had very large open decks. Maybe boss-mans shack?

It was such an idyll that there aren't that many memories other than just glorious days and long conversations where we came to think we finally understood the world and the purpose of it all. And lots and lots of love and kindness and sharing, because that's the way life was supposed to be.

I do remember coming very close to drowning a couple of times, actually being swept out to sea while sitting in a tide pool and then swept right back in, it was a mix of terror and euphoria all at once. (I cannot swim, although I've been thrown into pools, the ocean and even once, a dam!)   Also, visiting Kilauea - at that time you could walk right up to the edge of the crater and amazingly look down into a churning cauldron of bubbling and erupting red lava. It was astonishing.  You could never do that now.  I have a picture of that too, but I don't feel like hauling it out...ha.

 Oh yes, we also stumbled upon the abandoned house of what must have been the plantation owner. It was like something out of a movie. The main room had a bed in it, one of those rope beds that could have easily held 6 people. Why would 6 people sleep in the same bed?  There was all kinds of imported furniture from marble topped mahogany shaving stands to beautiful hand painted wardrobes.  All china and glassware was intact as well as canned food.  It was like everyone had just walked out of it about 50 years ago and nothing had been touched. I remember taking a few small items, a plate and some egg cups.  Oh come on, you know you would have!  I have no idea what happened to them, but then, there are a lot of things in my life that have slipped away when I wasn't watching, many years of not watching.

I'm so happy I had these memories, of India, of LA and the paradise of Hawaii. It was the luckiest time of my life and sometimes remembering it all erases, for a bit, some of the other times of my life. So yes, I am indeed a lucky girl.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

One fucking strong woman!

SIX MONTHS.  Did you hear that?  Six fucking months! Finding the fountain of youth, winning the lottery, curing cancer, becoming the second woman president of the world, being the first woman to build a house on the moon??  Nah, they don't even come close.

Six months is IT.  It's the motherload diamond that you thought you'd never find, and it belongs to her, after 25 years sifting the sands of the Sahara.

She is the smartest (yes she is!) woman in the world. She is smarter than you by a mile, (so say I with my chin thrust in the air) she wooshes  past me like Usain Bolt (2016 and ever) - I look like a stroller on Sunday.

She is funnnnnny, shit, she is fucking funnnnny! She makes people laugh even when they think they are tough or lost or refuse to, she can crack 'em. She cracks me to wide-open-mouth laughter everyday (and even a lot back then). Although my stupid antics made her fall off the couch once and I didn't even care what crazy thing I'd done, it was just so wonderful to see her laugh till she almost thew up (we all know that's where you want them to go). She can do it to you, easy.

And beautiful?                                                    
Well, what can I say?  5'10" of woman.  She loves babies and dogs and if you're lucky, you.

And she's made it six months. That's really the best mark. A year, two, even 5? Six months is magical.  Because it's the first. The first milestone in a journey you'd almost given up on. It's that eyes wide open! first celebration that will have more meaning than all the rest.

She slept till noon, peaceful, well earned, without burdens (well, that one anyway, the others don't get light today).  And we're going to dinner and she'll eat whatever she wants and I will too. No tight pants tonight!

Do I sound proud? Well it's not just that. She is the kind of example we're all looking for, someone who carried a burden, while saddled with others and clawed and screamed her way out of it. She never lost who she really is. So when you think you can't do it, when you are afraid of anything, when you think you'll lose yourself, when you are ashamed of whatever your burden is, when you think you just fucking don't have the strength, when you   are   just   fucking   ashamed   of   yourself, remember this woman.  Because she thought all of those things of herself. She did not believe until the very last moment when she sucked in her breath, that shamed breath, and swallowed it all the  way deep down into her gut and picked up one foot, just one foot and stepped into that unknown place, that place that scares the mother loving fuck right out of all of us and saw a speck of light. Remember this woman because she is you, she is me, the kind of woman I want to be. And we are all trying to get free.

So that's what we're celebrating tonight, not the light, it was always there, we're celebrating that one step.

Bring on the cake!

PS: Yes, this is my daughter!!