Monday, April 2, 2012

April inspiration

I've often been encouraged to write. I mean to really buckle down, focus, and just fucking write. Oh, but then I get all wrapped up in my head and my self destructive policies and maybe even politics. There is something lonely about writing. There is something vulnerable. And maybe the fear is this - everyone will know what I'm thinking, everyone will know what I've done... they'll assume it's true, they'll think they know me, and I'll feel naked and exposed. Or maybe they'll hold onto one phrase, one story, and capture me in a moment that feels so confining and claustrophobic.
So it holds me back, a little.
But then, I read the work of Cheryl Strayed, who happens to be from Minnesota, who happens to write the best advice column I have ever read IN MY LIFE - Dear Sugar at, and who happens to be so painfully honest that you love her in ways you can't imagine. It's for many reasons, but primarily for me, in this moment, it's because her writing is her way of teaching. She's so open about what she feels. She is so skillfully able to put into words what she has done, what she is doing, and how she feels while she's doing it, that you can't help but feel safe. Her honesty makes you realize that other people feel dark and depressed and beside themselves, sometimes briefly, sometimes for years. It makes me think of the honesty of Joan Didion in her book, "The Year of Magical Thinking", a book I know I have referenced before. Sometimes scary honest.
I have often thought, that after my ex husband cheated on me, that I was out to prove to humanity (really myself) that sex didn't have to be an emotional experience, that sex could just be about that - primal and carnal, without any love. I finally have enough distance between my marriage and the present that I'm able to look at all of this.
Because of our up-bringing and sex being viewed as a terrible sin unless it is within the confines of marriage, my ex was the first guy I had sex with. We did have sex before marriage, of course, but I justified it by knowing we were engaged, we were committed and I loved him with all my heart.
I keep thinking of a line from Eat, Pray, Love where Felipe visits Ketuit and Ketuit feels Felipe's heartbreak immediately. Ketuit says something to the effect of "heartbreak means you tried really really hard at something."
And that was the raw truth to it all - I tried really really hard at something. I loved my husband with all my heart. I didn't hold back. In spite of all of my fear, I was fearless, and I trusted him.
Was it misplaced? Maybe. I believe he loved me in the best way he knew how.
But the short of it all is it hurt me, and it both scared and scarred me.... to the point that I had something to prove.
First of all, there is revenge sex... and this is very common when you find out you've been cheated on. I won't go into detail tonight - it's pretty self explanatory. It's the ultimate way (so you think) of saying "Fuck you" to someone who already said "Fuck you" to you, only it took you by surprise, like the worst punch to the stomach you can imagine, maybe even a punch to the stomach while you're sleeping. You get to find out that everything you thought was real and true for months and years, was really a lie... and then you get to feel really messed up in trying to figure out that some of it was true and some of it was a lie, or that all of it was true but this person has a different definition of what love is - and then you give up and you move on because it really hurts and it really sucks, and it's over... no matter how you view it, it's over.
So, in a couple of years, I found myself in the company of about 14 or 15 different men (I would have to go back in my journals to give an exact count). I'm not saying I had sex with all of them. I just really really wanted their attention and I wanted to feel desirable. I had names for them too, much like Cheryl Strayed did - not their real names but a way to describe some odd trait, like "cherry chapstick" for the guy who compulsively applied cherry flavored chapstick... or the puppeteer who smelled like oranges and had gift cards that didn't work, so I had to pay for dinner. You think I'm making this up, but I'm not. I can't believe I was that desperate.
And, trying to fill this hole my ex had torn in my soul, made me make some pretty bad choices... I just mean it's pretty obvious how I felt about myself and how little I was willing to accept.. until I moved on. I also know I caused pain in the meantime because someone in the state I was in, has or had no business messing with other people's feelings. For that I'm sorry, and for that maybe some karma is lingering in my path as well.
But it's truly a normal response to emotional trauma.
And then you heal. Because you can and you do.
You're wiser and more aware of yourself and those around you. You think before you act, maybe not perfectly, but you're not out to prove anything to anyone. You no longer have to try to "trick nature" and prove that you are the one person who can have sex without emotional ties. You no longer have to act stronger than you are. You just have to be honest and real.
So, thanks to Cheryl Strayed for her beautiful, heart felt writing that brought these emotions of my own to the surface, and allowed me to engage in self reflection. I'm impressed by her bravery and I'm inspired to share more of my own story.
Good Night!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring springiness

Happy belated St. Patrick's Day- it was an especially fine one, with the weather being so nice. No time to obsess or fret about global warming. That can be for another day. For now, it's been great to be outside. Saturday morning, my boys and I ate breakfast outside on our yard furniture. The air smelled so good and the sunshine felt so warm and loving.
It has been a busy year so far. I can't help but say, "Where did March go?" even though that makes me sound old.
These next few months are my favorite time of the year, and I feel almost an urgency to soak it all up.
As of about a month ago, the father of my children is at basic training. He seems to be doing really well. We haven't heard from him via the phone for a couple of weeks. I know phone privileges are scarce, especially in the thick of the training.
However, he's been a decent letter writer. It's pretty endearing to see his letters to the boys come through, with his painstaking printing. I know he misses them, and they miss him. I think it's a great lesson in love.
While it definitely is not ideal that he left at such a critical time in their childhood, there is also the point that we all are on our own journey and we are all figuring things out as we go.
To help my nine year old grasp some of these big grown up concepts, I'm reading "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho aloud to him. I have read the book before and highly recommend it. I'm hoping it will help him to form a framework around all of this. It's a story of a shepherd boy pursuing his "personal legend." I especially like this line. An older, wise king says to the boy, "The world's greatest lie is: that at a certain point in our lives , we lose control of what's happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That is the world's greatest lie." We could even take it a step further and call it inertia. How many people are just going along with what they are doing because they're afraid to make a change, or they don't believe they deserve to live their dream? (myself included) So, in a philosophical sense, my ex-husband is living his dream. And, it doesn't mean it's pretty and it doesn't mean it's not messy. But he knew he needed to make a change.
Now there will be consequences or results of this decision, as there are with every decision. But allowing my boys to wallow or feel sorry for themselves because their dad made this choice is not a path I want to take, and it's not an attitude I want them to have.
I explained to my youngest that love for someone (his father) is like a puzzle. It doesn't have to be all one feeling- there might be a piece that is angry at his father for leaving, a piece that is sad because he's not here, and maybe a piece that is proud of his father for serving this country. And that is what it is- so many pieces to make a whole.
One part of a letter my ex wrote to my youngest talked about how proud he is to serve this country, to wear this uniform, and to give back. He said, "So many people take without thinking about it." And that is very true and thought provoking. Whatever avenue we might choose, it's important to give and to think of other people... at least sometimes.
So, as of today, that's where things stand. He will graduate from basic training in May, and we will be there to support him. It doesn't mean it's easy all the time. It doesn't mean that there aren't time when I feel completely annoyed with his decision. But most of the time, I understand. I want my kids to learn that. I also want them to learn that it is never too late to live their dream.
Life is a series of changes, and it's also a constant lesson in letting go, which sucks most of the time as none of us like to have our flow disrupted or our comfort disturbed. But holding on to the past doesn't do anything except waste the precious present.
In other news, the man who assaulted me has been arrested. His trial date is in early May. I'm relieved about that. I do feel the need to do something with my experience to help other people. I will continue looking into that. For now, I have my hands full with taking care of my two growing boys, volunteering at their schools, on the PTA, and in general keeping this house running on my own, which is no easy task. If I look too far ahead, I feel overwhelmed- so the practice is always to try to live in the moment and take it one day at a time.
Happy Spring!

Sunday, January 8, 2012


feels better already.
I realize now, looking back, that 2011 was a really tough year for me.
I know I mentioned a sexual assault in a previous post. And the case is still pending. Yes, it was that serious. It involved being drugged, although that can never be proven- the beauty of a date rape drug. It was in a situation you would never suspect or expect. I didn't. I was at a wedding in a small town.
My aunt wanted to go to a wedding she was invited to and unfortunately her vehicle was being worked on - she asked if I would be her plus one. I thought it would be fun to go, so I went.
Of course, it is a very long story, but it ended with me going to the ER the day after the wedding, after finally making sense of what may have happened.
A case began, with a detective researching all of it, taking statements, viewing and reviewing the surveillance interviewing witnesses, interviewing the security guard who intercepted him and helped me to my feet while I was laying on the grass after it was over, interviewing the guy who did this to me. Luckily, and I'm serious when I say luckily, there is video surveillance. Of all things- how unbelievable.
There is video surveillance of the parking lot where he walked me out to his car. There is video surveillance of me falling on my back 3 times. There is a "movie" of him laying down next to me on his back, rather than kneeling over me like a normal person would. It indicates that he clearly wasn't surprised by my behavior and he didn't want to attract attention to the situation by kneeling over me to make sure I was okay. I feel very lucky that I did not get more hurt than I did, although I was very sore the next day.
There is much more to the story, and I am currently working on a bigger more detailed story.
As it stands now, they haven't pressed charges against him yet. (I have learned so much about the law - I don't press charges. The county attorney does once the case has been constructed, created and is thought to be pretty solid)
Anyway, it is always difficult to see what you're in while you're in it.
But about a month ago, I thought, "Wow. I am really in a funk. I feel like I probably need to go back to therapy." And I did.
And now that I am feeling better, I can see how totally rotten I was feeling. I was so depressed. Ever since the assault, I had really felt "fuck it" about everything (except my kids) - but getting out of bed in the morning became the biggest challenge of all. I can't believe how bad I was feeling. It was hard for me to care about paying my bills and all the mundane things of life. I didn't miss a day of work, which is totally messed up on a different level. I couldn't. And I think it created resentment in me toward my boss that I will never recover from.
Now I still have feelings of anger. And I get the creeps about this guy. I didn't know who he was before that night. But I know who it was because he was the photographer. What a perfect set-up- you can watch people all night long and nobody notices you watching them because you're behind a camera. Everyone investigating the case figures he has done this before. He was so brazen about all of it. He didn't know about the video at the time he made his statement, so he admitted to things, saying it was consensual and that I was just fine and able to consent.
So it goes on.
I'm not sure what the outcome will be. It has taught me another brutal lesson in the lack of control that we have. I am so careful when I go out. I'm so careful if I'm meeting someone for a date. I'm so careful with friends, coming home at night.. all of it. I've been a city girl for years now and single for a decent chunk of it. I know how to watch my back.
But at a family event, where there were babies and grandparents, and where two young people were promising eternal love to each other, a perpetrator infiltrated the event, and I didn't see it coming. How could I have?
So the lesson is there are people with wicked agendas and they walk among us.
I feel lucky to be alive. I feel lucky that I am not locked in a closet somewhere.. and I am grateful that I may have prevented him from doing this to someone else because I came forward - and that was not easy.
I am optimistic that I am recovering well. I am optimistic that he will pay for what he did. I'm optimistic that I may do something helpful with this - education, support groups, advocacy, etc.... there is a lot of opportunity.
And, as with all traumatic events, it is behind me.
And this next year looks sunny and bright. I'm excited.
This January warmth adds to my optimism.
Happy New Year!

Monday, December 5, 2011


When I'm feeling a little self absorbed, which can lead to melancholy, I usually happen upon an article or three that make me grateful for my life and for who I am. This is the first headline I read tonight, and it didn't take me but a second to say, "Wow.... the things we inflict on each other as humans. I'm so grateful to be where I am tonight, safe and warm, with two amazing children and many loved ones in my life."

Cleveland to demolish serial killer's home
By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 8:59 PM EST, Mon December 5, 2011
Eleven bodies were found in and around Anthony Sowell's house in Cleveland, Ohio.

(CNN) -- The city of Cleveland, Ohio, on Tuesday morning will demolish the house where serial killer Anthony Sowell hid the bodies of his victims, officials said.

A jury convicted him in July for kidnapping, abuse of corpses and the aggravated murder of 11 women around Cleveland from 2007 to 2009. In August, he was sentenced to death.

The convictions ended a saga that began in October 2009 with the discovery of the first two victims' remains in Sowell's home in Cleveland. He eventually was accused of killing at least 11 women ranging in age from 25 to 52.

Sowell's inconspicuous two-story home sat in a dilapidated Cleveland neighborhood known as Mount Pleasant. A stench hovered around the area, but no one initially realized it was the smell of decaying human flesh, instead assuming that it was a byproduct of a nearby sausage factory.
In a letter to the families of Sowell's victims, Blaine Griffin, executive director of the Cleveland Community Relations Board, said the demolition "is an important step in helping our community heal and move forward."

"In order to prevent actions that would be disrespectful to the memory of your loved one, your family and our community, the demolition will be performed in such a way that no piece of the property will remain," Griffin wrote in the letter.

CNN's Maggie Schneider contributed to this report.
Reprinted courtesy of

I have to take a moment to think about the horrific tragedy the victims and their loved ones experienced. I think it's a great gesture to destroy the house in its entirety. After all, even if it was in liveable shape, who would want to live there?

The lessons in how little control we have over the actions of others and how destructive some of those actions are always make me uncomfortable. I don't like thinking about the lack of empathy, humanity, or love that so many people demonstrate - from small things to big, terrible things like murder.

And yet, for all of the "evil" and bad, there is so much good.

There is a benefit at work for my former coworker who was diagnosed with cancer. We have all volunteered to assemble inspirational tea-light candles. We are all working a shift in the skyway to "sell" them, and we have all bared our creative souls by making posters or writing a story for the online work newsletter. And, even more touching, will be the outpour of donations we receive. People have already responded so positively to the newsletter.

And for these victims of a mind boggling serial killer, their city is demolishing the scene of the crimes... as if to say, "The place of these horrific events doesn't deserve acknowledgement."
For the families of the victims, I hope this provides some amount of peace and closure.

Good Night.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Long time no write

Well, it has been months since my last post, I admit. I'm not going to apologize or make excuses. I'm only going to say that I'm going to do a better job at writing more often. It's good for my soul.
Part of the reason for my absence is yet another lesson in being a self contained, internal locus of control type human, rather than one who allows others to influence me too much - yes, as always there is a balance between being open to feedback and being like a feather in the breeze.
I was writing rather regularly and frequently and then, a reader of my blog told me she wished I would write about more positive things, not wallowing or talking about my divorce, break ups, and other things that make me, well me, and make up the fabric of my story. So, while I appreciate the feedback and do welcome it, I realize that I took it too literally and it made me lose my writing voice a little bit. My voice is my voice - sometimes angry, sometimes bitter, and sometimes in love with life and all who are part of it. Maybe I'm manic, but take me as I am. Dear Reader, I'm not angry with your feedback and I don't hold a grudge. I believe in being honest. I'm just standing up and saying, corny as it is, thanks for the advice but..Please don't take it the wrong way - it's my lesson more than anything... my ongoing lesson in being comfortable and maybe even a little happy with who I am, head to toe.
The beauty of self expression and freedom is that there are times when I want to wallow, or times when I'm feeling reflective, more than others. Sometimes I am full of ideas or plans, restuarant critiques, and other times I want to talk about the woes of dating or the trauma of divorce. The beauty of being who you are, in its purest form, is that it is uniquely you, and it will appeal to some people some of the time. Take it or leave it.
So, I'm back.
I need to do this because I have so much to say. As life goes on and on, so many things happen in a given week, so add months to that and there is a lot to tell. I won't get too bogged down. I'll just take it one memory at a time. These past couple of months, I was sexually assaulted, I tried online dating for a month, am now officially divorced, had my ex-husband leave for the army and come back all in one go, due to unacceptable details in our divorce decree, and have almost walked away from my job. It has been really interesting to say the least, but this is how life goes.
I went on a walk around Lake Harriet early this morning with a friend and we talked about wanting to collaborate on a book. We really should. She has an amazing story - stories within her story, actually. And the same is true of me.
Since I have not written for months, there is a lot of ground to cover. But I'm going to start out small.
The small is the hilarity of coincidence - call it what you will - some say there is no such thing as coincidence and I haven't committed to either side of the argument.
Anyway, I may have written about this in a previous post. In May I gave my phone number to a bartender. Weird. I had never done that before and I'll admit to having had a few drinks - daytime drinking always gets me. So, after much prompting and pressuring by my friend, I left my phone number on the receipt. I was shocked when he actually sent me a text the next day. I never expected to hear from him. Now, I have to go back and check my old posts because I'm curious about how much detail I went into in this post. Damn. Imagine my disappointment in discovering that I skipped from January to July in blogging. That'll teach me to be better about regular writing.
Okay, I have to lay some ground work. He did text me. We went on, I think, 3 or 4 dates, which included sleeping over at his place. We were intimate. On the last "date", he brought "The King's Speech" over and we watched it, snuggling on the couch. Then we made out. After sort of having sex, (it was really really quick), he freaked out and left. Before leaving, he ran around my apartment looking for his shoes. The freak out prompt may have been that I told him he smelled good. He said, "Stop saying that. You're freaking me out." He also said, "I can't stay here. I'm sorry. It's just one of my many hang-ups and you know I have quite a few." (I had gotten a couple of inklings of OCD-esque behavior, but none of it was alarming or seemingly abnormal) - until this night... I helped him find his shoes, while I was wrapped up in a shirt, still naked. He did pause to say, "Are you naked? Cool!"
I was understanding- after all, I don't really like to sleep at someone else's house and have almost had a near freak out myself, just waiting for morning to burn it out of there before breakfast, coffee or awkward conversation. It didn't seem like that big of a deal. So, as he ran down my stairs to get his bike and leave, I thought I was being funny and said, "Good thing I don't have low self esteem." And that my friends, was the end. I never heard from him again. I waited a couple of days and sent him a text that said "Whatever made you freak out, don't worry about it." No reply. No explanation. I may never know. Haven't really cared to know as, quite honestly, there is something really wrong with a guy who has to flee like that and can never offer an apology or explanation.
So, as fate would have it, tonight at the deli counter of the grocery store, I turned around because there was someone behind me. I looked. And then I did a double take because it was him. I said a simple, "Oh, hey" and he looked momentarily displaced. I turned back to the deli counter helper and then the old escaping bartender disappeared. Imagine his memory engaging itself and the horror of recalling his adolescent behavior.
I think it's pretty amazing to have run into him after so many months. I don't have his phone number anymore. I was sure to erase that. But it was hilarious. I wish I knew what had happened in his brain so I could wrap the story up all nice and tidy like a Christmas present, but maybe speculation is the best gift of all.
Happy reading! I am excited to be writing again.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Two for One

Two posts in one day, but honestly, I have bragged her up before --
Please check out Sugar's most recent advice.


Quiet Time and Musings

Happy August, mid-way through.

We have had such amazing weather lately. I've been doing a lot of walking around the lake. I've also been doing a lot of writing offline, just filled up another journal.

I have been doing a lot of thinking and reflecting, a bit of soul searching I suppose.
It has been really helpful.

There have been a lot of changes in my life in the past couple of years. I know this is not new news. (isn't that redundant?)

One that has been on my mind a lot is my current relationship with my parents. I am once again not having contact with them. There is obviously a long, rocky history there and it is a lot to try to summarize in a blogpost, but last night I spent some time writing my dad a letter and even if I don't mail it, it gave me some peace. I want my parents to know that I love them very much. The ongoing conflict I have is to balance this love with protecting myself from their behavior.

My dad is a very angry man - he has been my entire life, his entire life. The hard part is when he's angry, he doesn't know how to stop. You can ask him to stop, but he won't. And he doesn't have a grasp on behavior, as in how you treat the people you claim to love.

Case in point- he recently drove 3 1/2 hours without calling me or talking to me to ask if he could visit me and hid around outside my house for parts of 2 days, hoping to catch me in the act of something. What? I'm not sure. It sounds like something I'm making up, but I'm not. I actually think I understand where it's coming from, although that doesn't make it not crazy.

It stems from the fact that I was raised as a Jehovah's Witness and left that religion. There is a mentality among Jehovah's Witnesses that if you leave the group / organization / it must be for no other reason than to pursue a life of heroin addiction or prostitution. So, I think for whatever reason, my dad may have been trying to prove to himself that this is what I am doing. It really is illogical, so don't spend a lot of time trying to figure it out. And the reason he wants to prove to himself that it's what I'm doing is because it would make me unfit association, and therefore would justify the act of shunning that my entire childhood community and my own brother participate in. My parents have not totally shunned me because they like the opportunity to try to preach to me and re-convert me. This has been another reason for me cutting off contact.

This recent act was a breaking point for me again. It is scary to think about someone having these delusions. It's happened before, but it has been awhile. How do you bridge a gap, or really a chasm between how two people view this world, him and me?

So it was cathartic for me to try to explain my love for my parents along with my fear of them in this letter. I was able to make some sense of my own feelings, which is all I can do.

In the meantime, my dad has leukemia, so it adds a burden of guilt to me. Part of my brain and heart tell me there is nothing I can do and it's not my job to try to fix anything people do - my dad has chosen his life of anger and discontent thru and thru - but the other part screams "Fix them! Help them to find happiness!"

Right now I'm reading a book about Karma and Reincarnation. I am open to all types of beliefs - I have studied Christianity extensively, I've read the book of Buddhism more than once, I have taken world religions classes in college, and I guess I would sum myself up as a possibillian. -- more to follow on that in a future post.

Anyway, take reincarnation however you will, but whether or not you believe in it, much like Christianity, there are things we can learn and apply right now in this life, whether or not this is the only life we will live and simply return to the ground like animals do.

In this book, the point is made that we work out our karma through our relationships with other people, especially our parents and siblings. In other words, we are each other's greatest teachers.

Here is a quote from the book I'm referencing, "Karma and Reincarnation" by Elizabeth Claire Prophet and Patricia R. Spadaro : "One lesson that comes across loud and clear in reincarnation studies is that no matter what family you are born into, you alone are responsible for who and what you are today. We think we inherit our genius and our limitations from our parents' genes, but in fact we attract to us parents whose genes will fulfill the formula of our karma for this life."

It's an interesting perspective. It made me think about what my relationship with my parents can teach me. How can it make me a better person? It already has, I think. And also, enough with the blame game. Sure, there is damage we all incur from the way we were raised, but to continue to dwell on it and let us define us only hurts us. Thinking of this logically - there are people who spend more time grieving and being angry about their childhood than the time they actually spent in it. That feels unfortunate to me, and a giant waste of time. Acknowledge it and let go.

Dealing with a group of people, my parents included, as part of Jehovah's Witnesses, taught me so much empathy. There is a lot to be said about the power fear can have over people. This particular group offers promises of never getting old, living forever on a paradise earth where there is no more sickness, death or suffering. There is perfection. The concept is taken from the Bible, but other Christian religions interpret that as applying to heaven. In contrast, those who don't believe or don't worship God in the way they feel is the right way, will die without hope of living again.

When I was studying Psychology, I learned about Lawrence Kohlberg's theory of moral reasoning. He proposes 3 levels, with 2 stages within each level.

It is a lot to dissect, but in short:
Level 1: Preconventional morality: People act under external controls. They obey rules to avoid punishment or reap rewards... typical of children ages 4 to 10.
Level 2: Conventional morality: People have internalized the standards of authority figures. They are concerned about being "good", pleasing others, maintaining the social order. This level is typically reached after age 10; many people never move beyond it, even in adulthood.
Level 3: Postconventional morality: People now recognize conflicts between moral standards and make their own judgments on the basis of principles of right, fairness and justice. People generally do not reach this level of moral reasoning at least until early adolescence or more commonly in young adulthood, if ever.

I'm truly not doing his research justice by this quick recap, and yet the point that has always stuck with me is the description of Level 1. When we allow someone else to set up our morality for us, to judge the world in black and white, right or wrong, without considering so many of the nuances for us, we are really stunted.

Handing over your power of reason and your emotions to another person or a group is really detrimental.
I'll end with this favorite quote by Buddha:
"Believe nothing, no matter where you read it or who has said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense."

Enjoy the sunshine!