This morning while I was getting dressed this morning my husband said “TGIF!” and I said, “Really? You’re sure it’s Friday?”

His professional life still has standing meetings that keep him aware of the calendar in a way I that I clearly lack.

Holidays are also sneaking up on me at this point.

Tonight is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and it always reminds me of my husbands grandfather, Norman. I only knew him for a brief 6 years before he died, but I loved him and miss him still.

Norman was a story teller with a forceful personality. He was equally kind and caustic, friendly and demanding, and because I was new to the family, I could enjoy his flaws and find his quirks charming.

My husband and I went to dinner with Norman at least once a month back then, and then more frequently after his wife Frim passed away. Eventually I started cooking meals for him at his house and this always included sweets.

A favorite of his was the Crowned Apple Cake for Rosh Hashanah. It looked dramatic and was dense with apples and honey. It made for a sweet New Year and a happy memory. 

Rosh Hashanah always feels like the start of the “baking season” filled with birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah, and ending with my daughter’s birthday in January. 

Now, in the time of Covid, when caring for ourselves and others means NOT gathering, it’s hard to mark the holidays and rituals. Milestones like graduations, weddings, and births come and go with muted celebration and little fanfare.

And while I regret the lack of celebrations, I am most distressed by our inability to mourn in person.

It is almost impossible to lessen someones grief. All we can do is show up, pay respects, and mourn with our people during the most brutal of milestones. Bear witness and bring food.

And now we can’t.

I know we will get through this pandemic and it will be a marker in our history and memories – a before and after time. And hopefully it will forever help us remember what is truly important in our lives.

For me, as I am sure it is for most folks, most important are those I hold dear. The family and friends that I long to hug, and celebrate with, and comfort through all the milestones and all the rituals.

I look forward to the day we can be together.

Until then, to my family and friends, and to all those who celebrate across the world, L’shanah tovah.

I wish everyone health, happiness, and a sweet New Year.

 

I am predicting the tag I will use the most on this blog during the next four years will be GOPfail.

The expired Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is back in the news cycle. The objections around VAWA are as political and idiotic as the defeat of the UN disability treaty back in December.

Seems the Senate hopes to get greater House support now that they removed the provision to protect illegal-immigrant women suffering from domestic violence or sexual abuse by granting them additional visas. However, Republicans also object to including language that prohibits discrimination against LGBT folks.

I am continually disappointed that laws and protections designed to normalize treatment of all humans in the US are routinely undermined. I fail to see how condemning domestic violence in the LGBT community can be perceived as supporting or encouraging “the gay agenda.” Then again I fail to understand a lot of the GOP platform.

I am re-posting an experience I had with a black eye last year. It speaks to many of the issues that come up in these “There but for the grace of God” moments.

12 March 2012 – Black Eye

I have a black eye.

I woke up the other morning with a shiner like I caught a softball with my nose. No trauma, no injury, no logical explanation. I went to see an internist who had no idea what it was, who sent me to an ophthalmologist who had no idea what it was.

After extensive questioning they could tell me what it wasn’t – it wasn’t a sinus infection, an “allergy shiner”, or related to vision, optic nerve or glaucoma. Nor was it related to any vitamins or medicine I take. They also asked if there was any domestic violence in my home. There is no violence in my home and I told them so, but I also said I appreciated that they asked.

This has been an odd experience for me, and hard on my husband to know that strangers think he hit me. Even though he doesn’t know them, and isn’t with me every moment, he knows the world has judged him. Reactions have been interesting. Some women glance at my face and look away. Some stare fixedly. Some see the black eye and then give me a dismissive once over. People seem to be creating a story about how I got a black eye, yet no one asked me how I got it.

Why wouldn’t anyone say anything? I bet the majority of look-away-quickly people assumed my husband hit me. And maybe the long stares wanted to to see if I “had work done”. The once-over folks felt judgmental – like I must be someone who “allows themselves to be hit”.

While the assumption makes me uncomfortable, I would have been amazed if any stranger (or acquaintances like women at my gym) had asked about my eye or even said “I hope you are OK.” But so far there has been four days of silence.

I remember when my one sister was living with her (physically and mentally) abusive husband. I talked to people at the local domestic violence shelter and found out what to say and how to say it. “You do not deserve this. It is not your fault. He does not have the right to hurt you or make you feel bad. I will help you if you chose to leave.”

It took almost fifteen years for her to separate from him as she left and went back to him a dozen times.

I started to wonder what I would say if I saw someone with a black eye. Today. In my current crunchy, suburban life where things like that aren’t supposed to happen. But they do. We know women (and some men) are physically and emotionally abused everyday. The statistics are awful – One in four women and one in nine men are physically abused by an intimate partner during their lives.

We need to ask ourselves tough questions. ‘What would I say and how would I say it?’ And ‘When is it my responsibility to say something?’ Or more importantly, why isn’t it everyone’s business to end domestic violence?

I know I jokingly put up a photo of my cat and a cake the other day because google stats for cat photos and cooking blogs are insane, but now I really am writing about my cat. My other cat Terry, the younger, more affectionate one, had an emergency run to the vet to get a wound stitched. Also known as a “small surgery” which seems to better justify the size of the check you write. Continue reading

I have a black eye.

I woke up the other morning with a shiner like I caught a softball with my nose. No trauma, no injury, no logical explanation. I went to see an internist who had no idea what it was, who sent me to an ophthalmologist who had no idea what it was.

After extensive questioning they could tell me what it wasn’t – it wasn’t a sinus infection, an “allergy shiner”, or related to vision, optic nerve or glaucoma. Nor was it related to any vitamins or medicine I take. They also asked if there was any domestic violence in my home. There is no violence in my home and I told them so, but I also said I appreciated that they asked.

This has been an odd experience for me, to say the least. It has also been hard on my husband to know that strangers think he hit me. Even though he doesn’t know them and isn’t with me every moment, he knows the world has judged him.

The eye looks nasty, and even after careful application of makeup, it is clearly visible. Reactions have been interesting. Some glance at my face and look away. Some stare fixedly. Some see the black eye and then give me a once over. What people are clearly doing is creating a story about how I got a black eye. Yet no one looked me in the eye or asked me how I got it.

Why wouldn’t anyone say anything? I am sure the majority of look-away-quickly people assumed my husband hit me. Some of the long stares were probably looking to see if I had work done. Some of the once-over folks were clearly judging me as someone who “allows themselves to be hit”.

While I would have been appalled at the assumption I would also have been pleased if any stranger (or the mild acquaintances like the women at my gym) had asked about my eye or even said “I hope you are OK.” But so far there has been four days of silence.

I remember when my sister was living with her (physically and mentally) abusive husband. Knowing how he treated her, and being profoundly upset by it, I once talked to people at the local domestic violence shelter and found out what to say and how to say it.

“You do not deserve this. It is not your fault. He does not have the right to hurt you or make you feel bad. I will help you if you chose to leave.”

It took almost fifteen years for her to separate from him. She left and went back to him a dozen times, and I have no idea what her situation is now.

I started to wonder what I would say if I saw someone with a black eye. Now. In my current crunchy, suburban life where things like that are not supposed to happen. But they do. We know women (and some men) are physically and emotionally abused everyday. The statistics are awful – One in four women and one in nine men are physically abused by an intimate partner during their lives.

We need to ask ourselves tough questions. ‘What would I say and how would I say it?’ And ‘When is it my responsibility to say something?’ Or more importantly, why isn’t it everyone’s business to end domestic violence?

I confess I am a fan of WebMD.

It is an invaluable tool for those among us that embrace self-diagnosis and self-treatment. You just click open that symptom checker and start choosing body parts and you are on your way to determining if your condition is, for instance, a tick bite or mango flies. Very simple.

My husband does not agree with this practice. Its pure speculation, but I do believe that my use of the symptom checker actually causes his blood pressure to spike. He grew up in a medical family. His grandfather was a doctor and treated the entire family.

I grew up in a non-medical family where sickness was viewed as weakness and my father treated everything with a butterfly-bandage and an ice pack. I have a long history of self-treatment, so my first impulse is home remedy.

But now I have the privilege of having health insurance. I have sick time I can use to leave work and go to the doctor. I have friends who will look after my kid at a moments notice. And most importantly, I can count on my husband for sympathy and support.

So I will go to the Doctor and get a professional opinion. And only look at WebMd when he can’t see me.

The school shooting in Chardon is tragic.

I cannot imagine what it is like to be a parent of murdered child. Or a student who no longer feels safe at school. Or a teacher with a double burden of personal safety and protecting their students. I cannot imagine.

I have heart clenching terror when I put myself in their shoes, but I would not insult them by believing that I can know what its like.

I grew up around violence and with lots of kids who experienced “broken homes” similar to that of the shooter. That violence was mostly directed inward – to the self, to relatives, to girlfriends. Even street violence has some logic to it. Robbery, gang fighting, drug wars. This modern, execution style violence has no logic that I can follow.

A unifying fact that cannot be denied is the use of guns to commit these crimes. The NRA and gun enthusiasts will begin their howling about how “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” even before the victims are buried. The arguments that a person bent on violence will use any weapon (“knife, bat or words”) so blaming guns is illogical, is specious until there is evidence of a “mass stabbing” at a school.

The truth is people with guns kill people.

Handguns are like no other weapon. Their only purpose is to kill people. Whether you call the person you are killing an intruder, an enemy or a classmate, the purpose of the handgun is to kill people. How is the access to guns not part of the problem? How does restricting handguns and assault weapons infringe on the right to bear arms or hunt? This is not what the 2nd amendment is about.

Do people even notice that there a two-page pull out section in the paper today advertising handguns for sale at Fin & Feather? Camo and deer blinds I get, two solid pages of handguns (.38 specials etc.) ranging in price from $150 – $1,500, I don’t get. Why is this acceptable?

I hope in the months to come the media coverage does not focus on those people who vociferously proclaim they will now buy and carry their own handgun in order to feel safe. None of those students who were shot in the back or the back of the head, had any chance to defend themselves.

Knowing one more person owns a gun does not make me feel safe.

Went to a funeral last night.

The grandmother of my oldest friend died at 92. This was the kind of death that people call a relief because she had been ill and incapacitated for the last five years or so. Hospital bed in the middle of the living room, diapers, oxygen and IV.

Watching people die is never easy. The impulse is to hold on to them as long as possible, and so my friends self-preservation doesn’t factor in. Like a frog boiled in water that is heated slowly, she was unable to see the toll caring for her grandmother took on her.

My friend has had a hard life, and will likely continue to have a hard life. Her brother died last April at 46 of a heart attack leaving her the sole care-giver for both her grandmother and her mother, who is on disability. She will keep going and support her Mom but at this point its not clear which of them will bury the other.

It is difficult for me to see folks who still call me by my childhood nickname. My friend is effectively the last one who really knows me from the past. Who I was before I crossed the river to the never-never land of the suburbs. It might as well be Mars.

The chat turned to kids as it does once everyone has them, and my friend remarked that I had lucked out because my kid is so well-behaved. No drugs, no drinking, no smoking or running around in the middle of night with dangerous boys – everyone laughed remembering just how much of that we did. I said ‘Yeah, I am very lucky indeed’.

Another friend started asking me how I “broke that cycle that we are all in” with my kid because she was really worried about her niece. I said ‘the difference is my daughter has nothing she needs to escape from that can’t be accomplished with a good book’. I got a blank look.

I told her when we were kids we were escaping from crappy lives into whatever danger or reality altering substance was available. A giant game of chicken because, so what?, past present and future all looked the same. I got a nod.

Finally I said to her, ‘You know what? Tell your niece her life right now is not forever and she can get out if she wants to. She just has to want to’. I got another nod.

I wish I could remember when or why or how I decided I had to get out and do something different. I would like for there to be some epiphany I could share with others and be all inspirational like Geoffrey Canada. But all I got right now is – You gotta want to.

I hope thats the end of the funerals for a while.

Parenting is a slippery activity.

My predictable response to uncertainty is to dive into a book. Do a literature review, compare methods, extract any and all usable data, conduct focus groups (over cocktails, when possible) and develop a plan of action. It all started (for this topic) with Dr Spock and those “What to Expect” books, and progressed to “Queen Bees and Wannabes” and “How to Hug a Porcupine” (which I recommend). And no book can reduce the emotional toll of never being sure if you are getting it right.

What I really need is a logic model (see draft below) so I can evaluate my parenting and see if it is producing the desired outcomes & goals. This would be an even more useful tool if the desired goals would remain consistent from day-to-day.

My current goal is to survive school play tryouts.

For the most part, my daughter is easy. Gets good grades, helpful around the house, not too sassy, no outrageous behavior and so on. The exception is her ability to worry herself into a frenzy playing “What if”.

When I can detach, I call this “Worst Case Scenario: Middle-School Edition.” It actually has a lot of potential as a board game for adults. Relive your middle school nightmares with interesting modern twists like texting, IM and red bull.

The current “what if” scenario is focused on the school play tryouts for “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown.” A solid week of anxiety, practicing, weeping and stomping and the audition is not until Monday. Yesterday the director revealed that there are only 6 parts for the 40 kids auditioning and no chorus spots to tuck the rejects into. The odds are not in her favor.

On the upside, after years of this anxiety/worry behavior, I know that at least she recovers almost immediately from rejection. All Pre and no Post.

It promises to be a long weekend.

Since I now have both feet firmly in the second-half of my life, it seems like a good time to examine the first half, so I decided to start working with a therapist.

I have tried this route before, in times of crisis, with mixed results. Talking to a therapist is always a dicey business because they, like all humans, come with a complete set of their own crap that sits down in the room and shapes the discussion like we are a threesome. The best you can hope for is that their agenda intersects with what you need at the moment. Not usually the case, but it can happen. I am hopeful.

My childhood – those years before you have real agency in life – is stored away in a locked box with enough slush of detail left over to be turned into blog fodder or a funny story. That is usually enough. While I’m curious about looking closely at the stuff I deliberately shut away, I’m a bit anxious because I know good instincts are usually about self-preservation.

I am curious. Curious to see if looking at the past – my kaleidoscope of fractured memories – will reduce its power over the present. Maybe willing those boxes locked sucks more energy than its worth. Who knows. Like a good Gothic romance, could be the rooms in the abandoned house locked so long ago are just… empty.

I am anxious because – what if it really was that bad? Then what? Lots of folks have had a crappy childhood. I’ve spent my whole life telling myself, and others –  ‘It wasn’t that bad. My folks did the best they could with the tools they had.’

Granted, this may have been lingering Stockholm Syndrome given that their toolbox was full of hammers, but I moved on with my life. I left the neighborhood and the expectations of my family, and they said “Who needs ya anyway” and cut me off. Nineteen at the table for thanksgiving became three. There really is no going back once you jump class lines.

One of the stock phrases my mother used when one of us went looking for sympathy was “Some people don’t have any legs”, meaning, it could be worse so quit your whining. I am not looking for sympathy by understanding the past, I am not peddling a story of “triumph over adversity”. I have a fine life. And I have my legs.

Yesterday my daughter starts complaining that her stomach aches and she doesn’t feel well. No other symptoms, no nausea, no gastric distress, no tender places, no fever, nothing. So I give her some honey chamomile tea and then we lay on my bed with a heating pad on her stomach watching Mary Poppins. Miraculously this cure worked, the stomach ache disappeared and she was back outside playing with her friends. Tea and sympathy – I should send it to Dr. Roizen for his wellness institute.

I have to admit my husbands influence in the adoption of the sympathy cure. He comes from people who know from heating pads. His response to illness is to stay home, get in bed within reach of tissues, thermometer, books and lozenges and watch TV. Its sensible. Its rational. Its what you are supposed to do in order to recover. This was all news to me.

Illness was another form of weakness to my parents, especially my father who never took a sick day in his life until he was dying of cancer. A combination of depression-era frugality and superstitious fear (“people go to hospitals to die”) meant that you had to prove you were sick. Being unconscious or having bone break the skin were legitimate, as was bleeding that my father could not stop with a butterfly bandage. (He fancied himself Baden-Powell and would have secretly loved an invasion of some kind so he could use all his deep woods, survivalist skills.) Flu didn’t get sympathy unless the fever was over 101, and any cold without fever was whining. A physical complaint registered, that did not meet the above criteria, was invariably met with “Qwitcher fakin”.

Hard to argue with that. My mother had a secondary approach when she thought you might actually be ill or in pain, and that was “offer it up to Jesus.” You sometimes hear people say things like this in movies, but trust me they really do say it in real life. “Jesus suffered on the cross for you, you can put up with a little headache.”

I wish I were making it up. My mother continued to “offer it up” even after her mastectomy. She came home from her surgery with no pain killers because she didn’t want to get addicted (or give her sons the opportunity to lift them.) She spent several dreadful hours at home, praying in her bed before she allowed my sister to run to the drug store and fill her prescription. I hope at least several unbaptized babies made it out of limbo on that bit of suffering.

My husband cannot believe some of the stories I tell because they are so radically different than his experience. And they will never be a part of my tender-hearted daughter’s reality. She will continue to have attention paid and sympathy provided and visit doctors regularly whether she is bleeding or not.