Tuesday, December 02, 2014

We aint got money, honey, but we got rain: Charles Bukowski

We Ain't Got No Money, Honey, But We Got Rain by Charles Bukowski
call it the greenhouse effect or whatever
but it just doesn't rain like it used to.
I particularly remember the rains of the
depression era.
there wasn't any money but there was
plenty of rain.
it wouldn't rain for just a night or
a day,
it would RAIN for 7 days and 7
and in Los Angeles the storm drains
weren't built to carry off taht much
and the rain came down THICK and
MEAN and
and you HEARD it banging against
the roofs and into the ground
waterfalls of it came down
from roofs
and there was HAIL
exploding smashing into things
and the rain
just wouldn't
and all the roofs leaked-
cooking pots
were placed all about;
they dripped loudly
and had to be emptied
again and
the rain came up over the street curbings,
across the lawns, climbed up the steps and
entered the houses.
there were mops and bathroom towels,
and the rain often came up through the
toilets:bubbling, brown, crazy,whirling,
and all the old cars stood in the streets,
cars that had problems starting on a
sunny day,
and the jobless men stood
looking out the windows
at the old machines dying
like living things out there.
the jobless men,
failures in a failing time
were imprisoned in their houses with their
wives and children
and their
the pets refused to go out
and left their waste in
strange places.
the jobless men went mad
confined with
their once beautiful wives.
there were terrible arguments
as notices of foreclosure
fell into the mailbox.
rain and hail, cans of beans,
bread without butter;fried
eggs, boiled eggs, poached
eggs; peanut butter
sandwiches, and an invisible
chicken in every pot.
my father, never a good man
at best, beat my mother
when it rained
as I threw myself
between them,
the legs, the knees, the
until they
"I'll kill you," I screamed
at him. "You hit her again
and I'll kill you!"
"Get that son-of-a-bitching
kid out of here!"
"no, Henry, you stay with
your mother!"
all the households were under
seige but I believe that ours
held more terror than the
and at night
as we attempted to sleep
the rains still came down
and it was in bed
in the dark
watching the moon against
the scarred window
so bravely
holding out
most of the rain,
I thought of Noah and the
and I thought, it has come
we all thought
and then, at once, it would
and it always seemed to
around 5 or 6 a.m.,
peaceful then,
but not an exact silence
because things continued to

and there was no smog then
and by 8 a.m.
there was a
blazing yellow sunlight,
Van Gogh yellow-
crazy, blinding!
and then
the roof drains
relieved of the rush of
began to expand in the warmth:
and everybody got up and looked outside
and there were all the lawns
still soaked
greener than green will ever
and there were birds
on the lawn
CHIRPING like mad,
they hadn't eaten decently
for 7 days and 7 nights
and they were weary of
they waited as the worms
rose to the top,
half drowned worms.
the birds plucked them
and gobbled them
down;there were
blackbirds and sparrows.
the blackbirds tried to
drive the sparrows off
but the sparrows,
maddened with hunger,
smaller and quicker,
got their
the men stood on their porches
smoking cigarettes,
now knowing
they'd have to go out
to look for that job
that probably wasn't
there, to start that car
that probably wouldn't
and the once beautiful
stood in their bathrooms
combing their hair,
applying makeup,
trying to put their world back
together again,
trying to forget that
awful sadness that
gripped them,
wondering what they could
fix for
and on the radio
we were told that
school was now
there I was
on the way to school,
massive puddles in the
the sun like a new
my parents back in that
I arrived at my classroom
on time.
Mrs. Sorenson greeted us
with, "we won't have our
usual recess, the grounds
are too wet."
"AW!" most of the boys
"but we are going to do
something special at
recess," she went on,
"and it will be
well, we all wondered
what that would
and the two hour wait
seemed a long time
as Mrs.Sorenson
went about
teaching her
I looked at the little
girls, they looked so
pretty and clean and
they sat still and
and their hair was
in the California
the the recess bells rang
and we all waited for the
then Mrs. Sorenson told us:
"now, what we are going to
do is we are going to tell
each other what we did
during the rainstorm!
we'll begin in the front row
and go right around!
now, Michael, you're first!. . ."
well, we all began to tell
our stories, Michael began
and it went on and on,
and soon we realized that
we were all lying, not
exactly lying but mostly
lying and some of the boys
began to snicker and some
of the girls began to give
them dirty looks and
Mrs.Sorenson said,
"all right! I demand a
modicum of silence
I am interested in what
you did
during the rainstorm
even if you
so we had to tell our
stories and they were
one girl said that
when the rainbow first
she saw God's face
at the end of it.
only she didn't say which end.
one boy said he stuck
his fishing pole
out the window
and caught a little
and fed it to his
almost everybody told
a lie.
the truth was just
too awful and
embarassing to tell.
then the bell rang
and recess was
"thank you," said Mrs.
Sorenson, "that was very
and tomorrow the grounds
will be dry
and we will put them
to use
most of the boys
and the little girls
sat very straight and
looking so pretty and
clean and
their hair beautiful in a sunshine that
the world might never see

Thursday, August 21, 2014

curly hair, People of the Lie by M. Scott Peck

Recently, hot curlers popped into my thoughts. Do people still use hot curlers?

As a child, my mom was determined that I have curly hair. She put my hair in bobbie pins every night, before electric hot curlers and curling irons (do they still exist too?!!) were around. At least around our world in Irish Southside Chicago. Every single night, I had to stil on the floor in front of my mom and let her pins tight curls in my hair.  Every morning, she pulled out the pins, criticized me if any had loosened in the night and styled my curls.

The curls would not last until I had walked the few blocks to school. I moaned, groaned, begged and pleaded to escape mom's determination that I have curly hair but she never relented.

The habit became so ingrained in me that by high school, I put my hair in curlers, altho not yet electric ones, every single night. Again, the curls would have fallen apart by the time I go to the bus stop, not even lasting until I got to school.

Then hot curlers, the kind that came in boxes, each roller sitting on a hot tiny stick that heated the curlers, which, presumably, held more metal. Those curls would last awhile.

In M. Scott Peck's book, People of the Lie, in which he posits his theory that evil should be a psychiatric diagnosis instead of a judgment on a damaged, supposedly 'evil' person's values and morals.  I like the idea of seeing evil as an illness and not a state of being.

I bought and read People of the Lie because I had gotten a lot out of Peck's book, The Road Less Traveled.  I didn't really know what it was about. Once I started reading it, I read it straight through, staying up all night, in spite of the fact that I had a child to get to day care the next morning and a court appearance to get to by 9. I could not put the book down.

At the time, I was in the midst of an ugly custody battle from a physically and intensely emotionally abusive man. Our PhD marriage counselor said my wasband was the cruelest person he had ever met. He said "Most people have a certain threshold beneath which they will not sink. As far as I can tell, and I have been a psychologist 20+ years, this is the cruelest person I have ever met. He seems to have no threshold. He has done things to Tree that I have had a hard time believing but which definitely were true."

You better believe a book about evil kept me up all night. It was like reading my life.

It took some years before I associated some of Peck's anecdotes with my parents.

Note:  I have not read the book since 1983 but I remember it vividly. One of the saddest anecdotes was the story of a little girl born with blonde hair to an Italian mother. Her mother dyed the child's hair black throughout her childhood because the mother had wanted a dark-haired Italian daughter. That mother ignored who her child was and tried to impose a different persona on her.

Another example I will never be able to forget:  Peck once treated a teenager, not the parents, of a boy whose brother had committed suicide with a shotgun that the parents had given the brother for Christmas. The next Christmas, the parents gave the same shotgun that Peck's patient's brother had used to kill himself to the son.

Dying a blonde haired girl's hair black throughout her childhood is evil, in Peck's view. Giving your one surviving son the shotgun his brother used to kill himself as a Christmas gift is evil.

Something was wrong with my mom. All her children were very damaged by her.  For a long time, I thought I was the only one she was cruel to, for I was the only girl until I was fourteen and my sister was born. I thought my sister got favoritism as the baby in the family. And my sister did get treated a bit better than me. But I gradually learned my sister also felt mom had been emotionally abusive. All my siblings feel that way.

And my mom, I totally believe, did not wish to be so hurtful to her children. Like just about all parents, my mom wanted to do her best for us. She did do her best. Her best sucked.

Shaming me my whole childhood for having straight hair may not have been evil but it dismissed who I was.

Mom also took me to get permanents a couple times, in her relentless quest that I have curly hair as she had. Mom's hair was softly wavy, not tightly curly. And mom wanted my hair to look like hers.

My hair is straight as a stick. So is my daughter's.  My daughter doesn't look much like me. When we used to be seen together, more than a few people asked me if she was adopted because she does not look like me. She got my very straight hair but she is a brunette. She got her coloring from her dad:  big, dark brown eyes, a light olive complexion that tans well, as opposed to my Irish light tone that burns burns burns.

The curly permanents literally washed out of my hair. After the first fail, the beauty shop gave me a second permanent. When that one washed out of my hair, which was too fine to hold the chemicals, the shop refunded mom's money and refused to try again.

The beauty shop accepted that I was not destined to have curly hair. My mom never did.

I am wondering, just now, if mom's curly hair obsession is analogous to that woman who dyed her blonde daughter's hair black.

What did Peck say?  he said that people of the lie, people sick in darkness/evil, can be surprisingly unfeeling, unaware of the darkness of their behavior. He talked to the parents who gave their livng son the same shotgun his brothe had used to kill himself and those parents could not grasp what might be wrong with having given their surviving son that shotgun. The Italian mama who dyed her blonde daughter's hair black throughout her childhood could not grasp what was wrong with doing that.

I know, for certain, that my mom never wished to harm me. Well, except for the time when she pretty much lost her mind and brutally beat me 100 times with my father's leather belt.

I see that my writing skills are improving. Altho I had not edited what I have written here I see instantly what I should edit out, see how I lose the thread of my piece, take to many side paths and diminish the power of my story.

Was my mom evil?  Only in the sense Peck used the word evil. She was sick.

Growing up with such a damaged mother, I seem to have failed to develop, until now, radar to detect people who are heedlessly unkind to me for no discernible reason. And, until fairly recently, such people would be the ones I would become desparate to earn their love and approval. If someone was angrily abusive to me, their anger was like a gravitational pull, compelling me to dance like a circus pony hoping to win their approval. And such people are always delightfully charming. If I were a devil, I would be very charming.

Lucifer, after all, entices humans into sin with light. Lucifer is all charming delight until you are enthrall to him and then he hurts you. That Broadway play, 'Damm Yankees' captured the lightness of Lucifer's lure brilliantly. My sister once played Lola in a high school production of that play, so I have read it and watched the film, supporting her vicariously.  I remind anyone reading:  Lucifer makes a delightful, enticing, seemingly light-filled offer to the ballplayer who wants to win a World Series. Lucifer promises him he can win a World Series but then his soul will belong to Lucifer. And Lucifer enchants also with the 'light' of Lola's sexy luring.  Lola is part of the 'light' Lucifer uses to get that ballplayer to sell his soul.

Many people sell their souls to evil, although not in overtly negotiated contracts.  Oh no.  Humans slide into darkness one small step at a time, one angry outburst, one blast of verbal abuse. Step by step.

I have been in thrall to darkness a few times. I think I have finally figured out how to avoid darkness or evil. Kindness. Compassion.  Empathy.

And most importantly, at least for me:  I never, ever forget that how other people behave is never about me. Never.

I am kind and good. Trust me to be kind and good and I am. Filter me through a lens of negative expectations and I falter. I make mistakes. I lose touch with my goodness and slip and slide in the slime of darkness, of evil.

I do not use the world evil here the way most people think of evil. I use it to indicate some darkness in a person that crops up in how they behave towards others, towards me. If anyone ever treats me with disregard of my feelings, wants or needs, I consider that darkness. Or evil. And I flee.

Fortunately, once I earned this understanding, my whole world shifted. Light started streaming into my life. New friends. Love. Kindness.

I think I will always be vulnerable to Luciferic charm. I pray I have learned some lessons that have staying power.

I was glad those permanents washed out of my hair.  I never wanted to have curly hair.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

the time my grandma bought her first pair of tennis shoes

I was staying with my maternal grandparents for several weeks, the only grandchild for that period of time. An aunt and uncle, with cousin, had driven me from Chicago to South Dakota. I got to stay alone with my grandparents a few weeks and then my mother would come to visit, bringing my brothers.

It was the only time, other than my last visit to her when she was dying and I was a young adult, that I got to visit my grandma all alone. Grandpa was there but my maternal grandpa completely ignored children.  This was a big deal treat, to spend a few weeks with my grandma.

This special visit happened, maybe, around 1960. My grandmother had always worn black tie shoes with a small heel that lifted her a tiny bit. Grandma shoes. Sensible. Good arch support. Ugly, at least to my eyes.  My mom was always trying to make me select sensible shoes that I would reject, turning up my nose and saying "Uck, those are grandma shoes." She would say "Your grandmother wears them. They will last a long time and you are hard on your shoes."  "Grandmas wear them. You don't. I won't."  We had that little exchange pretty much every time my mother bought me new shoes, forced to do so because, dang it, my feet had grown again.

I have always been an intense letter writer. Before I learned how to write, I used to write pretend letters, scribbling on lines up and down the page, pretending I was writing. And in my mind, I was telling stories, writing real letters. I knew no one could read my scribbles. I couldn't wait until I could write.

Once I learned how to write, I wrote to every distant relative I had, which were not many. Everyone from my dad's side of the family lived in Chicagoland. Although I did maintain a correspondence with my Chicago grandpa, who lived just across town, throughout my childhood. He always answered, very briefly. His answers were the excuse I needed to write again. I might have written, Dear Grandpa, Today me and Tammy (my best friend that he knew all about) and I played dress up.

When I was staying at grandma's, I wrote letters to my parents in Chicago. I wrote and told them grandpa had bought a pair of tennis shoes at the dime store.  I can still see those tennis shoes. They were navy blue, with white laces and a white band around the bottom. Very basic. Not well shaped atheletic shoes like today.  Grandma said she bought them because they were cheap and she would cut holes in each one for her corns. And she did. And she wore them the rest of that summer. Tennis shoes were newish, at least new for the middle class. They had not always been in the dime store. And there was no such thing as an athletic shoe store in those days. Mitchell had a JCPenneys but grandma mostly shopped at the five and dime. Cheaper she said. And, yes, my grandma was cheap.

I have always been a truthteller.

Yet my mom wrote back, "Good heavens, you have a wild imagination. Your grandmother would never buy tennis shoes."

I was hurt that my mom disbelieved me.  I wrote back to her and said "She did, honest." And I described them.

When mom arrived to claim me, and visit her parents, the first thing she said getting out of the car was "I want to see if your grandmother really bought tennis shoes."

Of course she had. She was wearing them, the holes on the side cut out for her corns.

Grandma did not wear them out in the world. Only at home. And maybe a run to the grocery store.

My grandma Joy did not have a cool bone in her body. She wore old lady dresses, old lady shoes and old lady hats. She was really into her hats. She had quite a collection, spanning most of the 20th Century. When she did, her daughters, including my mom, donated them to the local college's theater department for costumes. I was disappointed that they did that. I would have loved to have had her hats.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

a long, warm robe for college

I had a part time job at a local branch of the Chicago Public Library in high school. I loved that job. The work was much easier than being at home and doing all the family's housework, cooking and ironing. And I got paid at the library.

Since I earned money, however, my mom announced that I had to pay my own Catholic high school tuition. Almost all my money went to paying that tuition bill. I would go into the office after each pay day and slowly pay it down each year, plus I worked in the cafeteria at lunch to reduce my bill.

My mom also completely stopped paying for anything I needed. If I wanted new clothes, I had to buy them.

I had thought my part time job in high school would allow me to save for college. Nope. Mom said that I was helping her finish college and she would then help me pay for college when she got a job with her diploma. I was in my forties before I realized that mom had been motivated to finish college before I left for college, something she said a million times during my high school years, was because when her slave left for college, she would be in a jam. Mom did not believe in giving her sons any of the households chores she gave me. Housework, babysitting and cooking was girl work. My brothers only had to take out the trash. My four brothers only had to take out the trash.  And help with the dishes. I tried to make the case for letting me out of doing dishes if I cooked dinner but mom said that would upset my brothers, seem unfair. Unfair?!

I didn't need a lot of clothes because I wore a uniform to school. I did need some, however. And it was a constant struggle to pay my tuition and find money to buy some clothes. I actually sewed a lot of my clothes in h.s. I didn't do it because I liked sewing. I did it because it stretched my dollars further. And, oh yeah, I would do this sewing surrounded by my baby sister, my two toddler brothers and dinner on the stove needing me to keep an eye on it.

Mom said she was not using me, that families pulled together. I once remarked that why didn't my brothers have to pull together as much as me. My mom considered that remark sass. If you sassed my mom, you were punished. She couldn't give me more household work cause I was responsible for all of it, unless dad was home on the weekends. My dad helped out.  I wonder, seriously, what my mom did al the time. Well, she went to college, had a part time job to pay her tuition and had to study, which she must have done on campus for I never saw her studying at home. Still, what did she do?

Gosh, I have veered off course so far.

In my senior year, I focussed all year on getting things I imagined I needed for living in a college dorm. I saved up to buy a hairdryer to take with me. And bought few things. I began college in 1971 when wearing Levi male jeans from The Gap, which only sold male clothing when it first opened, at least where I lived and t-shirts was standard college fashion so I didn't need to buy many clothes for college.

I obsessed about having a warm, quilted robe for the dorm. It had to be floor length. And it had to be quilted. I don't remember why I was focussed on floor length and quilted. I just was.

I remember exactly what i paid for the robe I finally scraped the money together to buy. Thirty bucks plus tax. And I remember very specifically asking my mom not to wash my new robe. She had a tendency to toss things into the washer a bit carelessly in her desire to not waste water on a less than full load. For some reason, mom always did the laundry. I just ironed. And for some reason, I asked her not to wash my new robe because it said, on the care label, to not dry in a dryer. I told all this to my mom.

My mom never paid much attention to me, unless I had not finished her chores.

Now I believe m mom was very unhappy and she focussed much of her unhappiness on me because, until I was fourteen, I was her only daughter. When I was born in 1953, women had less options than they have now.  My mom had me in South Dakota. In my childhood, she said she had me in South Dakota to be near her mother, for my grandmother to help her with my 1.5 year old brother. It wasn't until I was married and a mother that I learned mom had me in South Dakota because she wanted to leave my dad and sought her parents help. In 1953, a college drop out woman with two babies had few options. There weren't daycare centers like now. And then in 1954, eleven month exactly after I was born and 9 months ezactly after mom returned to our father in Chicago, my Irish twin brother was born, also in South Dakota.

Both times, my grandparents said it would be a sin to help my mom break the Catholic sacrament of marriage.

Now I have empathy for my mom.  Now I remember that in my senior year of high school, with my mom cracking down hard on me to pay for everything, she was saving up to pay her divorce lawyer and moving company. She did not tell her children she had filed for divorce. I think part of the secrecy was related to keeping me working for her so hard and part of it was dysfunction. And my dad could have told us. He later said he didn't tell because he never believed she'd go through with it. He said he thought she filed to get him to straighten up. Man, I didn't learn what dad needed to straighten up until my daughter was born. My dad was a compulsive gambler and sometimes gambled away his paycheck, leaving my mom struggling to feed a family of 8.

Now I understand why mom made me use all my part time job money on what I needed. She didn't have money to give me but she hid dad's gambling, the elephant in our living room. And, as children too often do, I blamed my mom for just about everything. Why are kids so hard on their moms?

Of course mom ruined my brand new robe for college. I had never worn it. I was going to wash it, to wash off the sizing put on new clothes so they look their best in the shops and then save it for corm life.

My mom must have been overwhelmed to have ruined that robe.

She did give me money to buy a new one.  I bought the exact same one and used it happily for many years. It zipped up the front, had big pockets and was perfect for hanging out in the dorm study rooms, the dorm lounges and my room.  She apologized and admitted she had been wrong to ignore my request that she not wash it. She had been trying to fill a load so as to not waste water.

I get that now.  I get so many things.

What I don't get, and I am not sure I ever can get it, is how to take care of myself instead of putting too much energy into taking care of others.  I was raised to focus on other needs. I was vividly alert to both my parents moods, which were always labile and easily inflammatory.  I did everything I could to antipcate both parents' needs to try and avoid blow ups. I didn't know about the gambling. I didn't know about the many times my mom turned to my dad's father to ask for money to feed her children.  now that I know about mom asking grandpa for money, and knowing my mom as I did, it would hve cost her dearly to have to ask for money from grandpa. Fortunately my grandpa was very kind. Fortunately he knew aobut dad's addiction.

Boring, moping story, eh?

Funny, I have no memory of slipers for dorm life. I must have had slipopers. Rights?

Monday, June 09, 2014

public breastfeeding solution

ecosophy: returning to indigenous reverence for sacred?

"The ancient Greeks were like many indigenous cultures have been, and like some still are, in their recognition of levels—individual, family/household, society, cosmos—as repeating the same patterns and principles as embedded living systems at different scales. As the perennial philosophy has it, ‘As above, so below’—now even becoming part of western science via the fractals and holograms increasingly used by physicists and biologists in describing nature.

Ecosophy can not only unite our separate categories of economics, ecology, finance, politics and governance, but can also unite science and spirituality, and bring human values into the entire human enterprise. In its core focus on wisdom, it must especially draw upon the feminine concerns with well-being, with caring and sharing.."

— Elisabet Sahtouris, evolution biologist and futurist

From Ecosophy: Nature’s Guide to a Better World in Kosmos Journal http://tinyurl.com/o7nb728
— with Meena Thakor.

if you think sex is nothing, you gave up too soon

If you think sex is nothing*, think about this: 

If every one experienced real tantric sex just once (when you transcend space and time and your whole being is profoundly healed and refreshed from deep immersion in the Source of Life) all porn, sex toys, fixation on appearances, and misguided obsessions would be obsolete.
A friend said this.

For me, what is described as tantric sex is transcendent sex, the only kind of sex that interests me. It is when two beings meet and try to connect with one another's radiant essence.  Anything less than this kind of sex should have another name. 

I especially like the above quote because I believe transcendent sex is also healing sex. I believe sex has become degraded in this culture, trivialized. Many think sex is nothing but physical pleasure.  It is more than physical pleasure. It is sacred, should only be undertaken with people one has deep, reverent love for and with people one wishes to touch their radiance, their souls.

I have read that the proliferation of porn on the internet is damaging people's ability to have transcendant, sex. Or, maybe, just good sex.  I have never looked at porn on the internet, not once, not even a google. Geez, if I googled porn, I bet I'd get ads for porn as I surf other topics!

I heard a speaker at the OM (orgasmic meditation) extravaganza in Oakland talk about transcendent sex. She was hawking her book on transcendent sex. Listening to her was the first time I heard my kind of sex described, first time I learned that what I have experienced, and want in my sex life, happens to others.  That's what I want.   Transcendant sex. It's humans loving one in another at deep levels, an effort to touch the other's being. It is not ultimately possible to touch another being's being but it can be very pleasurable trying, to try to achieve energetic union.

Any other kind of sex amounts to animals rutting.  I've had that kind of sex. That kind of sex is nothing.

Transcendent sex can be scary because one reveals one's self and sees the other's self. That's scary. With love and trust, however, it is awesome.

If someone says 'sex is nothing', that someone is a broken being, damaged in his or her sexuality. And they likely are having sex with the wrong people for the wrong reasons. Rutting like animals is not one of the reasons for humans to have sex.

*Someone told me, when I expressed an interest in resuming having a sex life after a period of celibacy, that sex is nothing. This person proceeded to go into sad, elaborate detail about how nothing sex was to hum and how I should not desire sex because it is 'nothing'. "Once you have it, it's nothing. It doesn't mean a thing." Maybe it's nothing if one has mechanistic, obligatory animal rutting sex. My kind of sex is not nothing. It's transcendance. Sacred. Reverence for the sacred in one another.

give up gluten: here some reasons why


this world is gobmsmacking glorious

I just finished my tiny amount of tayberries. Tayberries are about twice the size of most raspberries, longer, not fatter.  They definitely have a distinct taste. I'd definitely eat all the tayberries, organic ones, I could get my hands on. I would also eat as many raspberries, blueberries and strawberries I can afford.

I have decided that each week at my farmers market I am going to buy one thing I have never eaten before.

I will start with beets. I have had a bite or two of beets. I do not like pickled beets and that's the only kind I ever have had.

I read recently that beets have many good things in them for diabetics. They aren't bad carb, like sugar. They are good carbs.

My market had red beets, yellow beets and pink ones last week. I will buy one of each color.

I want to savor as much of the abundant bounty of our commons, Mother Earth, as I can. Nature provides everything needed.

Although, to the best of my knowledge, nature does not provide any healing foods for the Type I diabetic, no food will provide the insulin my body no longer makes.

Before the creation of artificial insulin, the average life span for Type I diabetics after diagnosis was one year.

I try to eat everything I learn about that helps my pancreas stimulate some insulin. Stevia does. Chard does.

happiness can be . .

I don't like doing laps after the sun goes down. I have never gone swimming from 4:30 to 9 (not the whole time, duh!). In bleak mid-winter, I would not like doing laps after nightfall.

Yowsa. I went last Wednesday because my writer's group keeps me from swimming near noon. So I just wasn't swimming on Wednesdays, walking home from N. Berkeley to compensate. 

I like the walk and will continue it.

But, ta da!, the sun shines brightly at 4:30 p.m. and the pool is nearly empty, which I like.  I will probably swim at 4:30 more than just my writer's group day.   One group. I belong to another.

Yippee skippee. 4:30 swims in an almost empty pool, the sun still shining is happiness. Joy.

sun kissed from swimming

Lap swimming outdoors in any weather conditions is bliss. I like cold, rainy, even foggy days. I love how a mist will rise off the water, which is heated so it is slightly warmer than the air. I also love hot sunny days like today when the jump into the water feels freezing. Within a few strokes, the water is perfect and the sun is magic.

My whole body feels kissed by the sun. I love this feeling. Hours after I get out of the pool, I feel the sun's kiss on my skin: arms, legs, face. I think even my hair feels sun kissed.


Sunday, June 08, 2014

feeling chagrin

Now that I am eating only healthy, organic, unprocessed (unless you count any food prep work I personally do), losing weight steadily, exercise daily, carefully manage my diabetes and grow increasingly committed to eating healthy foods for the rest of my life, I feel much chagrin. Why did I wait so long to love myself? 

One of my doctors asked me, this past week, what was going on with me when I got to my all time high weight and just stayed there for many years, I told her my truth. I was not aware that I was morbidly obese. I knew how much I weighed. I knew what size clothes I had to buy.  I still have two pairs of old sweatpants from my all time high weight. I keep them around because they have pockets to put quarters when I do the laundry, but also because I love wearing those super baggy pants, love being reminded of my weight loss.

I gave away all my high weight clothes long ago, like 8 years ago when I lost the first wave of my weight loss. I believed that hanging onto my old 'fat' clothes would send a message, perhaps unconsciously to my self indicating I knew I was going to regain the weight so I should keep those old fat clothes. As soon as I thought that, I got rid of the ASAP.

I also bought some clothing that was too small for me, incentive to lose.

And, somehow, I managed to hang onto a few pieces of clothing from long, long ago before I became morbidly obese.  I became morbidly obese in my early thirties.  I weighed 146 pounds after I gave birth to my daughter in June 1982. 146 for a 5'6" woman isn't skinny but I am also very full bosomed and I had just had a baby.

Alternatives to big pharma drugs

There is almost always an alternative in nature for the things chemical drugs supposedly provide.

Why don't more doctors get active in alternative, natural healing?

toasted berries on the flour-less pancakes?

Take some berries, place on parchment paper on a baking sheet, bake at 350 for about 20 minutes.  You can add a touch of honey but blueberries don't need it. I like the tang of a sour strawberry. If you roast strawberries, which I did this morning for my banana-egg pancakes, you can put them hot on the pancakes. Warm roasted berries on the flour-less pancakes or cold:  delicious, gluten-free, sugar-free and dairy free.

I usually roast more berries than I can eat in one sitting so I store them and eat cold roasted berries. I think sugar-free roasted berries are healthy 'jam'.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

my pendulum says . . .

I have a pendulum I treasure because it was gifted to me by an elder in the Spirited Work community, the founder of Spirited Work.  Spirited Work was an eight year experiment in Open Space Technology community. We met for four-day weekends, four times a year, in cycle with the seasons and using Angeles Arrien's book The Four-Fold Way for the themes of our gathering. We met using Harrison Owen's Open Space Techology during our retreats but the whole community connected using Open Space throughout the year.  It was a nadir in community life for me and I miss it.

Of course I have great reverence and respect for its visionary creator. So of course I treasure the pendulum she gave me.

My pendulum is not giving me answers I want.  I've got the gimmees again.  This time I don't want stuff. It is quality of relationships and community that I want. Gimmee gimmee.  Want want. I know that wanting unleashes negativity in me, prodding me to focus on what I don't have instead of what I do.

My pendulum indicates I will not find the love I long for. Darn. Change the questions but what questions? Trust?  Meditate?

Wah. Gimmee gimmee.

Gosh, I guess I qualify as an elder these days. The woman who gave me my pendulum is in her eighties, though. A wise crone.  Although I also qualify as a crone, albiet not a wise one. I have one whisker on my chin, like any aging crone/witch should.

tell your stories

You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.
- Anne Lamott

tayberries, kale, strawberries, tomatoes, rainier cherries

plus peaches, maitreya mushrooms, eggs from pastured chickens, avocados, sorrel, 3 small peaches, organic local asparagus and a piece of polenta w/kale from the organic baker at my farmers market

I remembered, half way home, and it's only about 3 blocks altogether, that I wanted chives. I didn't go back. I felt lazy in the moment of decision but I have a date later, so I was marketing as early as possible.

I was going to do one quart of garlic and chive fermented asparagus and one with ginger. In the instant I decided not to turn back, I decided I'll settle for two quarts of garlic-flavored fermented asparagus.

How did I miss how easy it is to ferment, or pickle, vegies?

I asked what tayberries are. The vendor said they were a hybrid from raspberries and ollallaberries.  Joking I said "So they are genetically modified?!" as I handed him my five bucks for the tiny basket of tayberries. He could see I was kidding around. He good naturedly said "Well, they are hybrids, but hybrids aren't genetically modified. Hybridization happens naturally in nature and crossing plants is not the same as genetically modifying them."

My tayberries might be the largest berries I have seen other than strawberries.  I bought the tayberries as much for the name as for their purplish pink plumpness.

And the foods I bought were just a few of the many other fruit and veggies on sale. What a glorious world. Think about it. I could also have bought organic blueberries, apples, spring greens, all kinds of lettuce, chard, potatoes, beets, fennel, summer squashes of many kinds.  I was tempted to buy some zucchini but I am in a food rut.

In my food rut, I eat the same few things. My variety comes from the amazing bounty of summer fruit.

more on apple cider vinegar's health benefits


apple cidar vinegar: miracle health food


I eat (drink) some apple cidar vinegar daily.

Typically, I add a tablespoon or two apple cider vinegar with water, dash of cayenne, dash of stevia, and some lemon. I drop slices of lemon in my water bottle.  I have come to love this drink.  I only drink water, my custom spice blends of chai with coconut milk and this apple cider vinegar drink.

I dropped coffee. I don't really like coffee without cream. I initially gave up coffee to lose all the cream I was drinking.  I never just used a 'splash' of cream.  I don't like the taste of plain coffee.  However, I have been reading that coffee has several benefits. So I might try coffee again. I could try it with cocomilk, eh?

We'll see about the coffee. In the meantime, I am loving my apple cider vinegar drink.

a no-brainer

If we live in a loving universe, it should be a no brainer to believe that nature has provided us with what we need to be healthy and happy, to have all needs met. Not all wants, but all needs.

It angers me that we have allowed Frankenstein corporations take over human culture in a drive for wealth and power.  Frankenstein corporations invest millions, even billions, in drug research. We, the people, through our governance systems, should be investing millions, and billions if billions are required in understanding how food can heal, how we can heal the rape and damage done to the earth.

Food is the way to health. I am sure of it. Food and an awareness of the goddess-course, or love, or spirit or whatever one chooses to call the supersensible.

Of course the Loving Cosmos has provided for all our needs on this planet. Let's get those needs met with reverence for the sacredness of nature, the way indigenous cultures always have.

I see Western culture very slowly catching up with indigenous cultures.  "New Age" beliefs are basically what indigenous cultures have known for millenia.

Friday, June 06, 2014

a good hug

"The average length of a hug between two people is 3 seconds, but researchers have discovered something fantastic. When a hug lasts 20 seconds, there is a therapeutic effect on the body and mind.

The reason is that a sincere hug produces a hormone called "oxytocin", also known as the love hormone. This substance has many benefits in our physical and mental health, helps us, among other things, to relax, to feel safe and calm our fears and anxiety.

This wonderful calming is offered free of charge every time we have a person in our arms, when we cradled a child, cherish a dog or cat, we're dancing with our partner, the closer we get to someone or just hold the shoulders of a friend."

I don't remember where I picked this up. I try to attribute any quote.

I recently got a great hug. The man wrapped himself around me and hugged me hard. It almost hurt. I almost felt my breath get squeezed out. It felt great, though, because he was showing me he cared, that he loves me.  I had just told him something, a story from my life that left me feeling raw, vulnerable, crazy, damaged. I cried. The more I cried, the harder he squeezed.  It was great.

flour-less pancakes

This recipe fits my anti-inflammatory nutrition goals. I am having this for brekkie.

I am supposed to eat about half protein and half fruit or veggie for breakfast. And I am suposed to eat protein as soon after I get up as possible.  I often have an egg and a banana. Mushing them and turning them into pancakes will be welcome variety.

Guess I''ll cook them in coconut oil. Olive oil doesn't really go with 'pancake', eh?

when will I be loved like this?

Thursday, June 05, 2014

it's raining men

Three men asked me to go out with them today. Asked today.  Each of these men are acquaintances I barely know for whom I feel no wish to take the acquaintance beyond friendship. So what did I say?  Nothing.  I did not acknowledge the invitations.  "Let's go to Jupiter's, have a drink and shoot the breeze."  I could be mistaken. That invitation might not have been a 'date', just two acquaintances going out. 

Jupiter's is a pizza place a block or so from where I live. It seems like a dingy bar to me. I don't drink. I don't eat gluten or dairy, central pizza ingredients.  I wanted to say "Jupiter's?  Ugh. No way."

Instead, I acted like I had not heard him.

The Jupiter guy has asked me to go out to eat with him several times, to go to movies with him more times than I can remember. I wonder if he stepped up to a place serving alcohol to see if booze would interest me.

I think he said 'let's shoot the breeze' to appear nonchalant but maybe he wasn't asking me on a date.

Another guy from one of my storytelling groups asked me to meet him for a drink, suggesting 'the bar scene' in Oakland.

I have almost never gone to bars.  Very briefly in college, I hung out with another coed who liked gin and tonics. I'd go along because she would plead with me to keep her company. I even said "Why don't you just buy gin and tonic and drink here? She did not flirt with anyone. She was not in that bar on the prowl. Maybe she was an alcoholic.

My ex liked to go to bars. When we first dated, I would go but gradually I stopped. After we were married and had moved to his hometown, he met an old friend of his at his friend's hangout bar. This friend was definitely an alcoholic and I thought my ex was.  Then again, I am such a teatotaler that I tend to judge most drinking as a sign of alcoholism. Anyway, my ex and I went to a bar and he ignored me to talk to his old friend. I had suggested he go on his own but he said that wouldn't look right to leave his wife home. The friend didn't bring his girlfriend.  So I sat at the end of a dark bar ordering one G&T after the next until I was hammered. Really drunk.

Gradually, I noticed a man old enough to be my father next to me. He bought me a couple drinks, but not to flirt.  When I told him I didn't really like gin, vodka, whiskey or any booze in particular he said he had good news for me. He said alcoholics all have their favorite booze. If you don't like any booze, I wouldn't be worried, he said, about being drunk now. I had expressed concern that since I was quite drunk, maybe I was an alkie. He actually asked me lots of questions, like a screening for alcoholism.

up is down and Mad Hatter tea parties.

I see steep rises in the polarization of opinion.  Not just with Republicans and Democrats, although the way that American prisoner of war is being villified in the press seems exceptionally low. And it's not just Repugs.

I see steep rises of opinion between people.

Increasingly, I hear people taking absurd, if not irrational, positions and doggedly sticking to their absurdities without hearing any reason.

Maybe it's me. Maybe everyone is making sense and I am deluded when I think I have a sensible take on anything.

It's like the whole world is having a Mad Hatter tea party.

¡Pronto llegará el dia de mi suerte!

¡Desde antes de mi muerte, seguro que mi suerte cambiará!


Wednesday, June 04, 2014

fat women R desirable but in secrecy & shame

I went to the Orgasmic Meditation Extravaganza.  I did not participate in many of the many events because I was pretty sick that weekend. I had paid so I tried to go but I didn't last long any of the times I showed up.

One day, I found the quietest, least occupied corner in the whole, very noisy building* to eat my raw salad. All the food on sale at the event had gluten, or dairy, or sugar or combos thereof. I always bring my own food nowadays.

Now I have had many men offer to OM me, including some very attractive ones. But I know there are many men who would never in a million years offer to OM me. OMing is not having sex but I think many, if not most folks attracted to the OM movement are really trying to date in a hipper, more contemporary pattern. It's dating. So there are males, males I consider predatory, who will only OM and date that small percentage of very attractive women that most men want.

So I was sitting in an alcove under a stairwell eating my salad, trying to decide if I had the energy to stay for the afternoon.

At this event, there were rooms set up for OMing and I had a few men offer to OM me. I always get some OM offers when around OMers.

I think I can pick off those men who are only interested in the most attractive of all women. Such a woman was sitting hearby me. She was very beautiful, very slim, fashionably but hipster-ly dressed with cascading blonde hair, perfect make up. She was close to fashion model or movie star hot.  I don't know why but I took one look at her and knew she OM's with her sexual partner only.

One guy, also attractive but not as hot at the gal I am writing about, came up to her and asked if she would like him to OM her. she politely turned him down, telling him she had a partner and she only OM's with him.

If that guy was looking for the experience of OMing, I would have done just fine. A clitoris is a clitoris. But he was looking for a hot woman to date after he OM's her.  He didn't even look at me.

There are a lot of men that don't see fat women. I mean they really don't see them. I see them. I see them going blank when I enter their field of vision. The man who asked the gorgeous woman across from me is such a man. I am certain he did not even see me. He does not registered fat women.

Although having said all this, I am getting close to being not-fat. My body mass index is no longer in the obese range and is approaching healthy range.  I notice more men paying attention to me, asking me out, attracted to me. I almost hate men for not loving me fat but willing to condescend to me as I slim down. Not quite, but almost.

There were several men in the building who had offered to OM me at the OM Extravaganza so I didn't need that guy who would only approach the top hotties. Fuck him and fuck all men who erase fat women. And fuck men who do not invite fat women to meet their friends and family.]

Just imagine going to a New Year's Party with a non-hottie fattie. I'm not ugly. I'm just not thin.  I notice being shut out of someone's life, like when they only see me at coffeeshops but never ask me to do anything with them, especially, horrifically, to do something where, horror of horrors, other people they know might see they have a fat escort. Not even a girlfriend. Some males who make clear their complete sexual disinterest in my fat body will still not be seen socailizing with me as a pal.  It might reflect negatively on their image in the world. Fuck them.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Sister Francesca

Nowadays, I think many Catholic nuns use their real names. When I was a child going to Catholic grammar school, all the nuns, at least in the order at my school, chose new names when they became nuns. Many of them chose the names of male saints, like Sister Mary David or Sister Jerome Marie. They liked to honor the Blessed Virgin, I guess, but also liked the chops of a male saint's name.

Sister Francesca was my older brother's second grade teacher. I had little interaction with her. I believe most of the nuns were aware of me because starting in the second grade, all the way through eighth grade, I stayed after school every day to clean, then prepare the altar for the next day's masses.  When I became tall enough, I also helped lay out the vestments for each priest who would be saying a mass the next day. The vestments had to be laid out in an elaborately precise way, placed with the last thing the priest would put on on the bottom and the first things he put on on top. They had to look beautiful and the beautiful layout gave me a sense of reverence. Sister Mary David explained to me that all the vestments had been blessed so I should treat them as blessed things. I learned the names and meaning of the ritual vestments under the robes people see at mass. Cords, belts, strings, layers. I don't remember any of the official names now. At  the time, I treated each item with the reverence due things that were not only blessed but used by priests. Near as I could tell, all the nuns revered all the priests.  Everybody I knew revered the priests.  Everyone I knew was Catholic and, for the most part, of Irish descent.

Sidebar:  my gay baby brother also grew up going to Catholic school, and was an altar boy, as all my brothers were.  Now Dave gets a good laugh when he remarks that he was a twink from the day he was born, around priests daily when he was an altar boy and no priest ever hit on him. Not one. Then he laughs his radiant, light-up-the-world laugh. And if you hear him say this, you laugh too. And you think, or, rather, I think, "I am so glad no pervie priest got my baby brother." 

For a few summers, when my mom was bullying me to become a nun and she had told the nuns at school I was going to be a nun, mom actually made me go to summer mass every day of summer vacation that I was in Chicago. During the summer, there was only one daily mass, at 7:30. And typically, only the nuns, who all went to mass together at the 7:30 mass, with weekday masses being quickies compared to Sunday. No sermon on weekdays.  The nuns invited me sit with them,  so I had to, being too shy to say no, especially to nuns. The nuns were supporting my vocation.

The whole parish knew about my putative vocation. Sometimes at Sunday mass, my vocation would be one of the things everyone at mass would be asked to pray for.  I hated the attention because I knew I did not want to be a nun but my mom kept pushing. I'd sit there dying on the inside, praying feverishly for God to get me out of this nun thing.  It was such a large parish that only my actual friends and actual teachers knew me, plus nuns, so the request felt anonymous. I cringed anyway.

Our parish was huge. Our church was quite large and it filled every seat for three or four masses every Sunday. Additionally, the parish had built,  so they could build the huge church, a church in the basement of the school. That basement church always had a couple services on Sunday. The crowds that packed my parish's Sunday masses still amaze me. I believe my childhood parish no longer is nearly as big. The school, on itsww website, only had one class per grade. It had three classes per grade when I attended. It was the Post-War Baby Boom and a time of prosperity for the middle class.

Yet Sister Francesca was aware of me. I was like the mascot for the nuns of our parish.

Mom often said "My mother gave one of her children to God, so I am giving you to God." I would think, but did not say, "Why do you have to give me away? You have four boys, give one of them away."  Mom's baby sister, my Aunt Jody, Sister Ignatius, or maybe it was Sister Ignata, when she was a nun, was the child my grandmother had given to God.  I rarely saw Jody. I loved her from afar, for she was my godmother. She took her final vows the day after my baptism. Both my baptism and her marriage to God took place in Chicago, where I grew up.

I also hated Jody, blaming her for my predicament.

When I was in grammar school, the nuns still wore black robes resonant, now,  to me, of burqas. By the time I was in college, nuns wore regular clothes.

One summer in college, I took a couple college classes as a nearby Catholic college to use some of my Illinois grant money. I went to college in WI so I could not use the grant money. Each summer, I would take classes for free, and take classes I never would have taken at my 'real' college.  The summer I went to St. Xavier College, near my dad's home, I took a pottery class, throwing clay into lumpy pots all summer. I never would have used up credits at my 'real' college for pottery class. Altho why not, I don't recall.

I took two classes, clay in the morning and Judaism in the afternoon. Judiasm I took because my choices were few.  And I wanted to use as much of my state grant as possible.

In between classes, I would hang out in the student union. One day, sitting on a sofa, with a middle aged woman on a sofa nearby whom I ignored, the woman spoke to me. She asked me if I was a Fitzpatrick and if I had gone to St. Gall's. I was astonished. How did she know I was a Fitzpatrick?  She said "You still look exactly the same and all of you looked alike. I spotted you the first day of summer school."

I was astonished, truly, because I had  believed I had moved invisibly through my childhood, that no adults ever noticed me. True, I was also known for my vocation. I imagine lots of folks knew who I was, especially all the nuns, but when I was a kid, it didn't really grok for me that other than the cringe-inducing moments at Sunday mass when the packed church was asked to pray for my vocation, I had no awareness that anyone paid attention to me. Plus it was a huge parish and a huge school, with three packed classrooms per grade. In the post war baby room, Catholics had tons of babies. The school is much smaller now. And mostly Latino. I had white blonde hair then, blue eyes and a sweet demeanor. All the kids in my family, except for my dark-haired older brother, had blonde hair,  and blue eyes. Well, Dave got green ones. The black and white lawyer in me has to clarify the color of Dave's eyes, eh?Plus I did not dare be anything but angelic around nuns and nuns were all over that school.  I had never quite realized anyone, ever, had noticed me.

Sister Francesca had.  I had no idea, when my life revolved around that parish that anyone but my family and best girlfriends noticed me. And Patrick Snooks, Bucky Cywinski and Frankie Vacco, boys who live on my block that I knew before I started school.  Bucky's real name was Richard. All the nuns called him Richard and no child dared to call him Bucky at school. Bucky, however, said he liked Bucky and hated Richard. Bucky had the full buck teeth any human has ever had. As we grew older, all the kids on my block, and there were quite a lot of kids on our block full of no-birth-control Catholics, debated why Bucky's parents did not get him braces. Both his parents worked, unusual in our world. He was a late-in-life surprise baby, with a much older brother. It seemed to me that, like me, no adult paid much attention to Bucky. He was a sweet, gentle boy. I asked him more than once if he was sure it was okay to call him Bucky because I liked him and I did not want to hurt his feelings. I didn't ask too many times, because maybe asking again and again would hurt him. I took him at his word. It was hard to buck the ride of his nickname. Come to think of it, Bucky had that nickname before he had buck teeth.

Sister Francesca was leaving the convent, she told me. She was finishing college, which she had not done before she had taken her final vows and started teaching. Her order had always promised to give her a college degree so they were making good on that promise.  When I was a kid, Catholic schools did not have to hire licensed teachers. I think this is still true for most private schools in most states.  Sister Francesca shared a few vaguely pleasant memories of my family. We nodded to one another throughout that summer session but never really talked again.

Once you feel that duty to behave well around nuns, it doesn't go away.  As I listened to Sister Francesca reminisce about me and my family, I did not tell her what I remembered about her. She was seen as a holy terror. All the kids were frightened of her. All first graders would pray, as the time came to be told our assignments for the following year, that we wouldn't get Sister Francesca.  Instead, I told it it was fascinating to see what she looked like without the veil and the nun outfit.  I also told her that although I had not recognized her as a nun I had once known, I had spotted immediately that she was a nun.

She glanced around at herself as best she could and said "How could you tell? What do you see that signals I was a nun?"

"I don't know, Sister,"  I said.  "I just knew the moment I spotted you here that you were a nun. Even though you are an ex-nun, you still give off the nun vibe."

She asked me how she might dress differently to stop giving off the nun vibe. I shrugged and said nothing, acting dumb and being polite to a nun, as I had been trained.  Laughing, trying to make my words sound light, I said "Maybe once a nun, always a nun."

I was about 19 then. When I was in my early forties, I got another graduate degree. I took one class with an ex-priest. We hit it off. I had spotted the fact that he was a priest right away. He had been going to the school, he said, for three years, for he was working on a doctorate, and no one had spotted his religious history. How could I tell?

By then, I had lost some of the shackles of respecting nuns and priests, just a little. I said "I don't know what I saw but I knew the first instant you spoke to me that you either were a priest or had been one."

He was a bit upset for he had been hiding his background. He asked me not to tell other students and I didn't. He was nice about it. He got a nice laugh, actually, being 'seen'.  He was a brother, and still a brother. Not exactly a priest, but basically the same thing.

How did I know that these people had been in Catholic religious orders? Vibration. My empath ability. I feel things vibrationally and I think I felt their religious order vibration.  I guess.

Like I told that brother I met in grad school, I don't know how I knew these people in street clothes were a nun and a priest. I just knew. I felt it.  I knew.

Minuet in C

I took piano lessons for eight years as a child.  I loved playing the piano until my first piano teacher, a nun and music teacher at my Catholic grammar school left the convent and lost her Catholic school teaching gig. I loved my piano teacher. I loved being able to leave class for my weekly half hour lesson, walking down the silent school halls to the music room and having that one on one attention.

I am surprised I can't remember the name of my first piano teacher. I adored her and took in her focused attention like a child dying of thirst. No one paid much attention to me, not adults anyway.  I had two lessons a week, one in music theory where I learned chords, scales, rhythm, how to read music.  She taught me how to transpose whole songs from one key to another.  I don't remember all the stuff I learned about reading music and converting the instructions on the sheet music into how I played but I knew all that stuff then. I didn't understand why she taught me all those things until I got sentenced to lessons with my next teacher.

Mom switched me over to a cranky, stern, cold woman who gave piano lessons in her home, in a dark, poorly lit room.  That piano teacher had me play music I didn't like. I quit piano lessons, after begging my mom for some time to either find me a teacher I liked or let me quit. I quit when my cold teacher announced she did a recital with all her students once a year. I liked playing recitals. My nun music teacher had always had recitals. I loved performing in front of my proud family, getting polite applause. This new gal, however, informed me I would be playing a duet and I was to play the left hand.

I kept expecting her to pull out a ruler and rap my knuckles when I displeased her, which I seemed to have a knack for.  She often remarked that she was used to teaching students from the beginning and she thought I had been poorly taught until then.

I may not have impressed the new teacher with my ability. She impressed me with her ignorance of rhythm. At the beginning of every piece, there are anotations that tell the player what key the song is written in and at what pace it should be played. If it is written in B flat, then you play different keys then if it is written in B minor, or G.  Or C. My first teacher taught me this stuff. I don't know someone could really play the piano if they didn't know this stuff.  If one doesn't feel the rhythm in what they play, they aren't destined to play. The new teacher seemed oblivious to the annotations at the beginning of a piece, at least oblivious to the rhythm the composer annotated at the beginning of a piece. She pushed me to play every piece as fast as I possibly could. Even when I pointed out to her that certain pieces were not supposed to be played as fast as she said, she insisted she was right. She even ratted me out for insubordination to my mom. And I was right. I knew how to read music, not just the notes, but the key and the pace at which it should be played. My mom loved hearing I had been insubordinate. My mom loved to accuse me of sassing her when I stood up for myself in any way.

I wish I could still read music as I once could.  Now I can remember the trickier finger poses required to play some of the sharps and flats. You had to know how to move your hands to get to the next note, at the right time, in the right position. And then the next one. The new teacher never once talked to me about how to move my hands. She never reminded me of the pace. And she wouldn't let me use the pedals, even when the sheet music told the player when to use them. I don't think she knew how to read music as well as I had been taught to read it.  She just pushed me to knock out her boring songs as fast as I possible could with no discernible rhythm. I was no virtuoso but I knew the difference between 3/4 time and 2/4 time. I don't know the difference now.

If you don't know piano duets, you might not know that the left hand in a duet plays chords, not melodies. It was the melodies that I played piano to hear and feel. I didn't mind playing chords for solo pieces but no way was I going to play background music for someone assigned the melody of a duet.

I discovered a bit of my own power. I told mom I would never go back. She argued some. I brought dad into the discussion and he said if she wants to quit, let her quit. "If she's unhappy with this teacher, find another one or let her quit." Mom claimed there was no one else. We lived in Chicago. I do not believe there was no one else.

That cold piano teacher did assign me one song I liked during the months I studied with her.  Another thing she did:  she would only assign a few stanzas per week so it took weeks, sometimes months, to learn a whole piece.  Since I didn't usually like the music she assigned, I was happy to only play small pieces of it week to week. And get this, this woman never had me play a piece all the way through. Looking back, I conclude that woman did not understand music. Not in a meaningful way. She approached playing the piano mechanistically. Music is about vibration and spirit. Not letting me play pieces all the way through was like a bird beginning to soar and then crashing into a window. Maybe not that dramatic but it was a flat, non-energizing way to play piano.

When she gave me Bach's Minuet in C, I loved it.  I can still remember the first time I tried to play it. I was instantly drawn to the music. I practiced more that week than I had since my nun piano teacher left my school. I learned the whole piece. I got fairly fluent in it. And I also felt guilty, feeling like I was doing something wrong because I had not been assigned the whole song. At my next lesson, however, I only intended to play the few assigned stanzas.

This piano teacher was not completely tone deaf. She heard instantly that I had learned the piece well. When I got to the end of the assigned stanzas, when it was time to look at the next page of music to play on, she said "You might as well play the whole thing". She spoke in a tone that made it sound like I had done something criminal. I swear to goddess she sneered when she said 'go ahead, play the whole thing." I had soared with the beauty of Minuet in C. I had played many more hours that whole week from joy.

Minuet in C was one of the best moments playing music I ever knew. I happily concluded that I had finally shown that teacher that I could play more complicated music than she was giving me.  I assumed she would start assigning me whole songs and give me better songs. I believe it was the very next week when she told me I was going to be playing the left hand in a duet for her recital.  I believe it was crashing after my soaring joy from Minuet in C that gave me the courage to stand up to my mom. And the courage to enlist my dad, something I rarely did, mostly because he was not around much and he mostly left me to my mom, being a girl. Gender roles were less flexible than they are today, even in families, at least the  gender roles in my family. I had four brothers and no sister until I was fourteen. Mom and Dad both told me only I had to do lots of housework, dinner preparation on school nights and endless babysitting for their endless sons. They couldn't, they both explained to me, ask boys to do girl work.

A girl in my class at school had always studied piano with my second teacher. I was shocked one time when she played in front of me. She played a piece I knew but which was barely recognizable because my classmate played it as fast as she possibly could, as that teacher pressed her students to do. My classmate was her star pupil. Believe it or not, I was too polite to tell my classmate she played the piece too fast. And I never told the teacher she didn't seem to understand the rhythm notes on the sheet music.  I told my mom who was, like most of the adults in my childhood, except a couple nuns at school, dismissive of me. I was just a girl at home, not a boy.

I was oppressed. In a way, that oppression strongly shaped who I am still.

I had also asked my mom to talk to the piano teacher about the left hand role. Mom refused, telling me I should respect my elders and trust the teacher's judgment of my ability.  I had proved my ability when I played Minute in C. The teacher, however, asked why I was quitting and when mom told her I wouldn't play the left hand of a duet, she offered to give me another piece. No way.  I had found my out.  And dad said it was okay. In those days, dads totally ruled the universe of their family.

I missed the piano for a long time.  Mom occassionally brought up more lessons, telling me as soon as she found someone, I could start up again.  Now I realize Mom only looked in our parish for another piano teacher. When she said 'there was no one else' to teach me, she meant there was no other piano teacher in our parish, in our small patch of Chicago's South Side.

Someone in my apartment building plays piano. It is a student. I believe it is a Chinese girl, whose parents don't speak much English but always nod friendly to me. She's maybe 12 now.

Once at a community meeting or party or something, I remarked on the student piano player. The woman who lives next to me,  also lives just across the courtyard from piano practice, and she exclaimed "It's more than a student. That's a real piano player, a skilled musician."  This next door neighbor doesn't seem to like me so I did not tell her that she must not know much about piano playing if she thought the music we hear from the piano across the courtyard was a sophisticated player's work. 

I don't think the girl on my floor is going to be a concert pianist. Her playing has not appreciably improved in the five years we have all lived here. Well, she's better. And she practices a lot.  I have not yet heard her play a piece with soaring joy, with fluency, working the pedals at all the right points, moving in an even tempo throughout a piece. She's a student.

I hope my piano playing neighbor has a Minute in C moment.

My daughter played cello. Her school insisted all the children play in the string ensemble, take lessons.  When she was in h.s. and doing a lot of dancing, with regular dance recitals throughout the year, as I sat in the audience for a recital, her favorite dance teacher sat next to me. We chatted a bit about Katie. I mentioned, for some reason, that she played the cello. Her teacher said "I didn't know she played the cello. That explains a lot about her dancing. She feels music and it shows when she moves."

I wish all the apartments in my courtyard with children had music practice floating out windows. I  wish I heard many kids, many instruments practicing. There is only one person who practices music lessons in the courtyard. The Chinese girl who takes piano lessons.

Music is a way to more closely connect with the vibrations of this amazing cosmos.

I spent one semester studying in Mexico. I went with a good friend who was much more accomplished on the piano. She had continued playing through her high school years and practiced daily back home at college. When we were in Mexico, we discovered that the only bar women could go in, which was in the hotel on the main plaza, had a piano. The bartenders were happy to have her play all she wanted.  I loved going along and listening.  We would go in the afternoon so men did not bother us. And we would gone stoned. Very stoned.

She played Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring with the joyful fluency I had once played Minuet in C. Both Bach pieces, of course.  I was humbled to hear her skill level and thrilled to hear that song played over and over. She couldn't get enough of it, so she always played the whole piece, knew it from heart.

Isn't that a lovely expression:  to know something, or someone,  by heart.

I had another nun buddy, a nun who had been my kindergarden teacher and then my second grade teacher when she was reassigned. I'll write about her another time.

I also was forced to take flute lessons for a couple years. My grammar school had quite an elaborate band program. Our band performed at McCormick Place, a massive event venue on the Chicago lakefront.  I hated the flute and disliked my flute teacher. I guess I only disliked her because she gave me flute lessons.

Hated the flute. Loved the piano.

I guess my parents, especially my mom, placed a high priority on music lessons. I think all my siblings took some kind of music lessons.

Now I remember. My mom played the piano pretty well. The piano was just outside my bedroom. When I was still young enough to nap, I loved to have mom play "They call me little buttercup". She would sing with operatic flair, very dramatically. 

The song went on:  dear little buttercup, sweet little buttercup, though I will never know why. It's dear little buttercup sweet little buttercup," then something else I don't remember. I did feel loved when mom played and sang for me. I stopped feeling loved by her when I was seven. Something awful happened.  I think I still have some PTSD from what happened.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

I did quite a lot of cooking growing up

My mom did not like to cook. She did not like to tend her children or house clean. as the only girl in the family until I was 18, I cooked, cleaned and tended her babies.

Mom also liked to try new recipes, things she considered exotic and I suppose for our South Side Chicago world, many of her 'exotic' ideas were exotic.

Mom would choose a new recipe, like egg foo young (yung?), hand me the recipe and money to buy the ingriedients and order it for supper. This would be, of course, on an evening when my dad not home for dinner. My dad never, ever ate eggs; he was violently allergic to them plus he was a very fussy eater.

My point is from age 7 until I left home for college, I cooked dinner for my family and from about age 13, I did all the grocery shopping with two babies in two in a gigantic double stroller with room for one grocery bag. That meant we had to grocery shop daily but the kids and I both enjoyed being outdoors. I cooked weeknights. Dad covered the weekends.

Our meals were mostly mundane:  meatloaf, potatoes, green beans (never once did fresh green beans enter our meals in those days!); oven fried chicken, potatoes (what can I say, we are Irish Americans!, we ate potatoes at almost every dinner) and maybe corn.  We had desserts when I had the time to make them. I didn't just have to haul kids and groceries after school every day through high school, I had to houseclean. Mom was going to college. How many times did I ask her "why can't the boys do some of this?"  AFter all, I have one brother a year older and one a year younger, old enough and perfectly capable of helping out. all they ever had to do was help with the dishes, which was also one of my chores. I argued, pre-lawyer-advocate, suggesting that since I shopped and fixed dinner, perhaps it would be fair to give me a ps on the dishes.

I vacuumed our house every single day. with six kids, a house needs to be vacuumed that much.  I remember feeeling some trepidation fater halloween, because vacuuming meant vacuuming up candy wrappers and I feared the vacuum cleaner would break down from all the wrappers. What did my siblings do, just throw their trash whever they were, knowing Cinderella sister would tidy up?

Mom did not put me on much laundry duty, something I never pointed out to her. I was afraid that if I asked her why she didn't have me do the laundry, along with everything else while preparing supper*, why did she give me a pass on laundry, that's she say "Now you will do the laundry too."  I still, in a way, can't elie ve I was spared that burden. Not always. Sometimes I did laundry but my mom actually tended to do it on the weekends. During the week, she was gone from dawn to dinner time or even later. Studying is an excuse that covers anything, like the men she dated before she landed her net husband and filed to divorce my dad.

And those awful parents, both of them in this instance, never told their kids they were getting divorced. Later mom said she was afraid I'd stop working for her. And dad said he hoped until the lst minute that she was just trying to get him to shape up (that meant stop gambling).  He never even hired a lawyer, he was so sure the divorce petition was a bluff. but it wasn't.

In court, dad said to the judge "Your Honor, all I care about is that she not take my kids out of state. Could you put that in the divorce?"  Mom was on the stand and the judge asked her to promise, under oath, that she would not remove the kids she was taking out of state.

An hour after the hearing, a big interstate moving truck pulled up and hauled away most of our furniture. In her new life, get this, she tried to pretend her two youngest children were the only children she had so she did not tell her four older children where she lived for a long time. We all missed our babies but they had really been like my babies. I cried about them every single night at college, being a drag to those around me. 

I didn't do everything from scratch cooking when I cooked for my family as I grew up but I did a lot. I rememer that the egg foo young patties in the grease looked like mounds of puke. I had worked long hours to make them chopping everyting, like water chestnuts, chives, and whatever went into them. But I couldn't tate them. They looked, truly, like puke. 

Mom belonged to a ladies club that met at a different member's house each month. When it was her turn, she chose elaborate menus. For egg foo young, she served sake, evening buying  a set of sake cups to impress the ladies. The 'ladies' would all come into the kitchen to rve about my meal, being polite, good mothres themselves. They all said "My daughter would never do this for me."  I was emarassed and proably blushed very red when they thanked me. I knew egg foo young was Chinese and that sake was japanese. I was embarassed about that. I didn't have the heart to tell the women the egg food young looked like puke as it cooked. My mom would have killed me.

But not my dad. He would have taken one look, agreed they looked like puke and thrown the stuff out and made something else.

My dad was not around much in the evenings in my last couple years of h.s. Perhaps in an effort to hang onto my mom, he worked a second job.

Later, much later, my dad said the only regret he had in life was that he had occasionally worked two jobs. he said he should ha ve spent the time he spent on those second jobs just hanging out with his kids, that those jobs stole his kids from him.

We had no parents. I was the closet thing the six of us had to a parent. If someone needed a shirt ironed, I ironed it. As mom ointed out, and this started when I was seven, there was no reason I could not do some ironing once I had dinner started. And this was before permapress. I didn't have to wash clothes but I had to iron six white shirts for each of my four brotheres and my dad:  five for the weekdays and one for Sunday, and five whitte blouses for my uniform. I had to wear a uniform to grade school and coillege. The boys just had to wear white shirts and specific color ties.

I hated ironing the yoke the most. And mom inspected my ironing by checking those cursed yokes.

I have not ironed anything in, maybe, 30 years. I don't think I ever ironed for my kid. I didn't buy anything that needed ironing. I had my fill of ironing before I graduated from grade school and the ironing lsted until college. Then I was done.

Now, I have one nice white dress shirt, one I quite like. it would look much nicer ironed and I think I haev a small a tabletop ironing board and an iron -- somewhere. I have never unpacked the so they ust be in my close fll of unpcked boxes. If they are here.  Like I am going to dig out the ironing board and an iron for one shirt. No way, no frakking way.

Friday, April 25, 2014

mark it on the ice

I miss my dad this evening.

My dad had a gambling problem.  One story will illustrate how serious it was.

In 1958, my parents had a baby born premature.  Mary Ann. Her lungs were not fully developed. Nowadays, Mary Ann's survival would be all but assured but in 1958, modern medicine did not know care as well for premature babies as they do today.  Mary Ann wasn't all that premature, esp. compared to the miracles for very preemie babies these days.  I think she was born half way through the sixth month of her gestation.

They kept her in the hospital for most of her two months life.  She came home for a few days.  One night, our parents awakened all of us -- there were my two brothers and me at the time -- and we all knelt in the dining room, just outside Mary Ann's bedroom, which was also mine, and prayed for her while we awaited the ambulance that took her back to the hospital.

During her short life, after my mom came home from the hospital -- in those days, people stayed in the hospital much longer than they do now.  My folks had great health insurance, as did everyone else we knew. Gosh, health insurance has changed, eh?  My mom stayed with her in the hospital a long time so she could breast feed her. Mary Ann's little life was so precarious that everyone wanted her to have the benefit of mom's breastmilk. When my mom finally came home -- someone had to tend to her other children -- my mom pumped breast milk and my dad took it to the hospital every single day.

During this time, with dad taking several busses across Chicagoland because my folks did not own a car yet,  I often mentally accompanied him on his route. I had always paid close attention to travel, directions, patterns.  At age five, I could have directed most adults better than they directed themselves all over the city. So I knew the route my dad traveled to get to that hospital and I mentally accompanied him, waiting with him when he transferred, noting the darkening afternoons as Mary Ann's live emerged into that fall.  I keen in sadness for my dad's journey, for some reason. He seemed so heroic to me, so loving.  I was sad that he did not have a car, aware, I think, that my dad was ashamed that he could not yet afford one.  I flashed a little anger that my grandfather did not drive my dad on this errand.  I railed at god for making my baby sister sick -- a sister!!! -- and me with two brothers!! -- and for placing this burden on my folks. For some reason, I didn't really see my mom's sorrow, only my dad's.

And I remember longing to meet the baby.  In 1958, at least in Chicago, children were not allowed to visit babies in hospital nurseries.  Only fathers were. No adults could visit the nurseries but the fathers. Adults could visit patients but not the new babies. This has changed.

Once in college, around 1973, a boyfriend had an appendectomy.  I walked all the way to the hospital, which was no where near our campus to visit him. I brought magazines and treats. Bob was full of self pity. Bob was always full of self pity, as I recall.  I don't know what I saw him him. Well, he was not a major boyfriend. But now I have just remembered what I liked about Bob:  Bob had a big crush on me  Don't worry, anyone reading. If the goddesses ever approach me, seeking my help to design a better world, I will repair many of the problems related to romantic love.  There will be no more unrequited loves, no  fairies in the forest sprinkling fairy dust on innocent humans and tricking them into loving someone who does not love them back. Everyone will know love, be loved exactly as they long to be. Although, having said this, I think the universe is already designed this way. I think we humans muck it up.  I think it is always possible to be love. To be love, to be loving, to be loved.  We can blink twice and thus it will be so. Or we can go on struggling.

I digress. This was about Mary Ann. No it wasn't. This is about dad's gambling.

I think the main reason the doctors let Mary Ann come home was to give her siblings a chance to meet her.  How it cut me knowing I had a helpless, sick new baby sister across the city, alone among strangers, literally fighting to take breath.  How I longed to hold her and love her.  I don't remember holding her.  I don't remember seeing her alive. But I must have. She was definitely home for a day or wo. Or maybe I have made that up. Maybe we all got up and prayed in the dining room because the hospital had called to tell us Mary Ann had taken a turn for the worse.

I have no one to ask. My mom's mind is gone.  My brother Chuck the fuck might remember. He was a little older. But he is Chuck the fuck. I won't ask him. His name says it all, right?

During Mary Ann's short life, my grandfather had spent a lot of time with us. He was out back up babysitter with mom in the hospital. And he was also our backup income when dad gambled his paycheck on the ponies.

My dad was a sucker for harness racing.  He took me to the racetrack with him a few times when I was very young, like ages four, five, six.  My mom used to insist that dad only leave the house with one of the kids with him, hoping that having his child with him would shame my dad into not gambling. But this did not work. He just took my brothers to the track and told them to keep quiet. My brothers would keep dad's secrets, too, but dad couldn't hide the missing food money so mom would find out.  My grandpa always stepped up. He would come over and hand money to my mom, making a big show of not giving it to my dad, not risking it to the ponies.

So mom started to send me out with dad. When dad said he wanted to run an errand, visit an old friend, mom knew he wanted to go out to the track. Or at least go to a tavern with bookies. She assumed, wrongly, that our gender solidarity would cause me to rat my dad out. But I loved my dad much more than my mom. We all did. Moms get it hard, don't they?  Kids hate their moms far more often than they hate their dads. It's not fair. But I kinda get it.  Your mom is going to love you no matter how bad you treat her. It is less risky to shit on the mom. That's my theory.

My kid's father all but abandoned her. He paid his child support, although I had to take legal action a few times to enforce it. But my kid only knew that he stepped up, he paid. And the fact that he did not exercise his visitation rights, did not even, sometimes, place a fucking phone call to her on Xmas day, let alone, um, send her a Christmas gift?  That was my fault.  I kept her from him.  In his very rare interactions with her, he would say "I wanted to call you on Christmas but your mom got an unlisted phone number".  Or whatever crap he said.  In order to get my child support, 'the system' always knew where I was. as a lawyer, her father could always find out where I was. Not that he needed to find us.  I kept in contact with him. I sent him countless letters begging him to show up in her life. I wrote letters to all her relatives on his side, begging them to be family to her.

She had a paternal aunt that had moved to Florida. I wrote to that witch and told her that my Katie needed her family, that it was not my wish to keep her from having a relationship with her father's kin.  I offered to fly Katie to visit that auntie, even though the aunt is a very successful medical doctor. This aunt owns several small day-surgery clinics. Her husband manages the businesses. She's not just a prospering doc, she is a wealthy business owner.  The kid's father bragged to the kid about her aunt's wealth, the indoor pool on the oceanfront home her auntie owned.  He sent her a photo of that pool.

Swimming pools were a big deal to all of us. Me, the kid, her dad, we're all lap swimmers. Or were. I don't know if my daughter still swims.

I digress.

I am sad and angry.  I hate my life.  I hate me.  I wish I could hate myself dead.  That probably sounds way crazy, does it?  I tried to hate myself dead. After my big, serious, carefully planned suicide attempt failed in 2003 -- I was determined to not turn fifty without my kid --

My dad stopped gambling when Mary Ann was born and was so sick.  The adults in my world of 1958 never talked openly about dad's gambling. We all pretended he didn't gamble.  A classic elephant in the living room dynamic.  But I heard them talking when they pretended we did not hear them.  I heard my dad promise my mom, over the phone, cause she was in the hospital with our sick, dying baby, that he would never gamble again. And during the two months of her life, he did not gamble.

On the day of Mary Ann's funeral, grandpa came over. He was going to drive us for the funeral. But he also had to give my parents money for the funeral.  He handed the money to my dad. I was only five, just a kid, supposedly clueless, but I knew that wads of cash in my dad's hands were always at risk.  I knew the race track was far away but I knew dad could gamble at the corner tavern.

Do cities still have dingy corner taverns like Chicago had when I was a kid?  I'm talking about dark bars, with one long dark, usually black, bar on one side, a very few tables with very few chairs along the wall opposite the bar/ Mirrors behind the bar. The only light fixtures were beer light fixtures. Or so it seemed to me. For yes, I had been in these taverns in my mom's fruitless attempts to shame dad into not gambling.

It must have hurt wicked hard to see your man gambling away the money you needed to feed his children.  It is so unfair that we loved dad more than mom. But I'll tell you why.

My dad was nicer than my mom.  My mom acted like she begrudged me everything. She sent me the message, seriously, when I was so young that I had not yet figured out how to roll over in my crib, let alone raise my head.  She did not want me to ask her for anything.  She probably did not literally say these things but humans communicate with one another without using their voices. In Madeleine L'Engle's great young adult novel, A Wrinkle in Time, L'Engle describe 'kything' which is people tlaking to one another mind to mind. In the novel, kything unfolds in language but I think that 'in reality', what reality is, people can convey their thoughts to one another and they do. They do it all the time. But science has not yet identified this sense so we don't count it.

My mom told me, kything, when I was brand new, to want nothing and to need less.

I have internalized that stricture my whole life. I am 57 and I still feel like I am not supposed to want anything, not supposed to need anything. Want nothing, need less.  Want nothing, need less. It was practically the goddamned mantra of my childhood.

But as a kid, you love your mom and you don't know different.  You don't know that other moms, maybe, want their kids to come to them and ask for nurture.  In our family, the message was clear:  leave mom alone.

And what did she do?  I used to wonder, long and hard, about what my mom did.  When she had a newborn, sure, she kept the kid alive.  But when my brother Tom was born, when i was 7, my dad sat me down for a private chat in my parents' room, which we were not normally allowed to enter. He used that parent bedroom to give the event more portent. He said as the only girl it was my job to help mom now tht she was preggers again.  He was counting on me to step up, to do whatever i could for mom. And I did And when Tom was born, I did a lot for him. But I was only 7 so I did not completely take over. When Dave was born, I was 10, it was just about summertime, and I had expereince from caring for Tom.  I took care of baby Dave dawn to dusk that whole summer.