the printed thoughts of a woman on a journey towards awareness, truth, acceptance, clarity, and forgiveness...with some fun and fearlessness thrown in

Sunday, January 31, 2010

catching up

It's been over two weeks since I've sat with the keyboard to write, and it feels like ages. I've wanted to sit down and write several times, but just didn't have the time or the energy. I've thought about it as I lay down to go to sleep. I've wanted to put down my work and do it. I have felt a pull to write much like an addict has to use. I have no idea now how I survived all of those years without writing. I used to say that I was a writer with a severe, several years-long case of writer's block. I have always thought of myself as a writer, but I feared that after so long away from it, I had lost my ability to write. I'm still waiting for the stories to return, for the characters to inspire me, for their voices to fill my ears and to direct my hands, for the places to grow inside my mind's eye until they are almost tangible to me. I am still waiting for that to happen, but I'm not stressing over it. I believe that it will. So, until then, I will continue to write about what I am doing, thinking, and feeling.

The last couple of weeks have been so busy and so emotional! My workload has picked up this month, so I've been a bit more behind than usual. I don't know why, but I get stressed out whenever I accrue even the slightest bit of a "to do" list. I like to complete tasks and put them away. I don't like to have things waiting, with unanswered questions and lingering actions. Because I work as a part of a team, what I can do is often determined by what others get done. At the present time, the two PO's that I work with have a growing list of clients whose probation may be violated, so all I can do is wait for the go ahead. I will also soon be covering for my supervisor while she is out on a maternity leave. This means that my work from home days will now be devoted to working in another office, with another team of PO's and therapists, learning new probationers names and offenses, and connecting with new victims, complete with a hour plus commute each way.

I'm really feeling the need to whittle down my outstanding workload, because I'll be leaving this Friday for a 4 day trip to New Orleans. That's right! I will be in my hometown, the greatest city on Earth, during this historic weekend. My favorite team of all time, the New Orleans Saints (Who Dat!) won the NFC Championship game last Sunday night. A field goal kick in overtime literally saved me from what I am sure would have been a fatal heart attack and carried the Saints into their first ever Super Bowl. I spent the next couple of days in a haze, waiting to find out that it had all been a hoax, feeling hungover and out of touch with reality, but soon snapped out of it. By Wednesday night I had booked our flight, reserved the dogs' space at the kennel, and confirmed the petsitter for the cats. We will get to experience a little bit of Mardi Gras, taking in Alla, my childhood favorite parade, and we'll be there to breath in the atmosphere of the city at this most amazing time.

After Katrina, the people of New Orleans, those who still live there, those who left after the storm, and those who have been away for years, need something positive. The Saints have been a source of hope and renewal for all of us. They have embodied the spirit of the region and they have provided respite from the reality of destruction and loss. Like the city, rebuilding after the hurricane, the Saints have become a true Cinderella story, the beloved underdog, David facing off against Goliath. And, I (as always) want to be in that number when the Saints come marching in!!!


Friday, January 15, 2010

taking responsibility for myself

Nearly three years ago I took a job that scared the absolute shit out of me. As a Victim Advocate in a probation office, I would be required to attend the treatment groups of sex offenders. I knew how to work with and for victims, but I had no clue what to expect from working so closely with sex offenders. I imagined a dark room full of seedy, smarmy child molesters and rapists, something akin to an AA meeting in a cramped church basement--big, sweaty men in rickety chairs, an old coffee pot brewing in the corner, and the air thick with cigarette smoke. Of course, the groups are nothing like that. In fact, they're quite sterile, professional, yet relaxed...boring, really. Getting to know the men in these groups, and, in many cases, their family and friends, I was reminded that real monsters are less common than TV and the movies would lead us to believe. We are all human and, thus, all fallible....and, perhaps, all forgivable.

On top of learning to see others in a more holistic way, I have learned in my work with sex offenders that healing and growth cannot begin until one truly takes responsibility for his own actions. The first step in taking responsibility is being honest. Denial can run rampant in the sex offender community, as one might imagine, but we are lucky in that we can utilize polygraphs with deniers. Can you imagine? How cool would it be to be able to use a lie detector test with the people in your personal life? From your significant other to the office gossip, you would be assured that you were being told the truth at all times.

Of course, it's impossible to hold those in our lives to complete honesty, so sometimes we have to accept that they won't be honest and, therefore, that they won't take responsibility for their own words or actions. I've come face-to-face with this reality lately. Even when confronted head on, some remain unwilling to tell the truth, which simply triggers what I've named my "bullshit alarm" to sound. I've found that the alarm is particularly sensitive to misplaced blame and the refusal to acknowledge one's own behavior. Is it really that hard to say, "I screwed up," "It was my fault," or "I did it, and I'm sorry?" Is it worth it to keep up the charade? At what cost do you make that decision? And isn't it just plain exhausting?

No matter what choice those around me have made, I have decided to be honest. Don't ask me a question unless you want to hear the truth. My choice has been both a blessing and a curse. It's brought me closer to some and has driven a wedge into some of my relationships. I stand behind my choice, though, and don't see how I can live an authentic life without being authentic. I've attempted to model honesty in my personal and professional interactions, and I have been proud to see some follow my lead and embrace honesty, but I have seen others react with withdrawal, whining, and even venom.

I've struggled since the other day with what to do when someone seems unwilling or unable to own up to his/her role in hurting me. A big part of me feels that I should remain adamant that I am unwilling to forgive and forget without that person taking responsibility for his/her role. Another part of me argues that by holding out for that person to make a move which seems highly unlikely and uncharacteristic only allows him/her to control the situation. If I take responsibility for my own actions, words, and deeds, I need to take responsibility for my reactions to others. By waiting for another person's decision, I am not fully taking responsibility. In fact, if I can forgive, even when it seems unforgivable, if I can move forward, even without closure for the past, if I can remain in control of my own feelings, even when others may not handle them with care, then I am truly living a life of responsibility...responsibility for myself--for my thoughts, my feelings, my actions, my words, and my impact on those around me.

I'm not perfect. I am far from being the person that I would like to be, but I continue to try. I only hope that others will recognize that and will try just as hard.

"The men who try to do something and fail are infinitely better than those who try to do nothing and succeed." ~Lloyd Jones

trust women

On May 31, 2009, Dr. George Tiller was gunned down while serving as an usher for a Sunday morning service in his Wichita, KS, church. Dr. Tiller operated a women's health clinic, one of only three nationwide that performed abortions after the 21st week of pregnancy, so-called "late-term abortions." Most of Dr. Tiller's patients made their excruciatingly difficult choice after learning later in their pregnancies that their unborn children suffered from severe, and sometimes fatal, birth defects. Some even had to choose between their own lives and the lives of their unborn children. For providing this medical service to his patients in desperate circumstances, Dr. Tiller was granted a death sentence. But, there was no trial. There was no testimony. Dr. Tiller's murderer, Scott Roeder, who will be afforded a trial of his own, served as Dr. Tiller's judge, jury, and executioner. Reports claim that Roeder will argue that his premeditated murder of Dr. Tiller was "justifiable homicide." That hardly sounds pro-life to me.

Dr. Tiller was known to wear a button that stated, simply, "Trust women." So, today, on the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, on the eve of Scott Roeder's trial, and in honor of "Blog for Choice Day 2010," I want to share what those words me to me.

Trust women. Those two small words strike a very powerful chord in me. As a woman myself, I can't say that I always trusted myself, let alone other women. I didn't always know how to connect with other women. My own insecurities caused me to distance myself from them and often made me appear "snobby." I thought that this meant that I formed friendships with men easier, but I know wonder if it actually taught me to use my gender and sexuality as a means of connecting with men. I'm still not a "girly girl," and I can't relate to other women when it comes to topics like shopping, motherhood, or fashion, but I'm more comfortable in my own skin than ever before, and I've learned that our shared experiences as women tie us together in a way that we can never relate to men.

I had a great conversation with a female co-worker yesterday. She was frustrated over the lack of understanding that her male co-workers demonstrated regarding violence against women. She wondered if they could ever truly get it. I said that I didn't think they could. And, I believe that. As females, we grow up experiencing the world as an inherently dangerous place, with strangers and intimates capable of hurting us at any moment. We are taught about personal safety at a young age, and we internalize our responsibility to always be on guard. Walking to our cars, being alone in our homes, sitting at our office desks, even sleeping in our own beds, we are constantly aware, even if unconsciously, of our vulnerability.

Men, on the other hand, are conditioned to believe that the world is theirs to conquer. What we fear, they approach with a sense of entitlement and ownership. Does a man ever think about how he carries his keys as he approaches his car? Does he check the backseat? Does he ever worry that someone will force him/herself upon him? Does he worry about angering his partner for fear that violence could result? For that matter, does he ever struggle with the fear of losing his identity when he marries (and changes his name), with choosing between his career and his children, with trying to live up to the unrealistic standards portrayed by the media and espoused by his culture? Can a man ever really know what it feels like to be a woman?

During our conversation yesterday, my much younger co-worker said, "The sad thing is that they're right. It IS a man's world." I couldn't argue with her. While racism is still actively alive in our culture, I think that the threads of sexism are woven even deeper into our fabric. The citizenry of the U.S. elected the first black man to the presidency before the first woman. The numbers spoke for themselves. A strong, confident woman still must defend herself against the label of "bitch" when she aspires to do what men are doing. God forbid!

I trust myself, as a woman, to know when there is something wrong with my body. When I began experiencing strange symptoms and bodily changes, I searched for many years for a diagnosis. I was told that I had "fork-plate-mouth syndrome" when I started gaining weight at a fast rate. I couldn't control my weight despite medication, exercise, and a controlled diet. I knew it wasn't normal. I knew it wasn't just aging. I kept asking. I kept searching. After several doctors, a spinal tap, ultrasounds, and countless MRI's, I was finally diagnosed with a pituitary tumor. My problems didn't stop there, though, because when I started gaining weight YET AGAIN, I was told, "Yeah. It's hard. We're all on a diet in the office." The pounds kept coming. I searched some more. I asked some more. I was finally told by a renowned specialist that not only could the pituitary tumor affect my metabolism and cause me to gain weight, but that the medications prescribed for the tumor could do the same. Duh! That was what I had been trying to say all along. But, none of my doctors have ever believed that I could be right, that I could know my body better than they could. None of them trusted me!

I trust the women in my life with my deepest, darkest secrets, feelings, and fears. I trust them with my fun, my laughter, and my heart. My trust them with my love, my soul, and even with my life. I have jumped out of airplanes with them. I have cried with them. I have smuggled boycotted coffee with them. I have been pissed off with them. I have marched with them. I have had a blast with them. They are my sisters, some biologically and some spiritually. They are my mothers, not by birth, but by virtue. They are my teachers, my friends, my mentors, my inspiration. I trust these women, and I hope that they trust me.

And, I trust men, like Dr. Tiller, who trust women. I trust men who believe the victims of sexual assault when they report, when they testify, and when they want justice. I trust men who want a woman to be his partner, his equal, his mate. I trust men who speak out about violence, even when it has not affected them personally. I trust men who do their best, despite our biological, emotional, physical, sociological, psychological, and experiential differences, to truly connect with women, to empathize with women, and to support women.

Trust women. Trust yourself.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

operation freefall

On April 24, 2010, I will be making my fifth tandem skydive as a part of Operation Freefall.

Operation Freefall started in 2001 when, on the anniversary of her rape, Speaking Out About Rape, Inc.® (SOAR®) founder, Kellie Greene, made her first skydive. When Kellie did this, she took a day of personal tragedy and turned it into a day of triumph. She reclaimed the day that had been taken from her and turned a dreaded annual memorial into a keenly anticipated celebration. Operation Freefall is the only event of its kind to increase awareness of sexual violence. The event is held simultaneously across the country on the last Saturday of each April, and it benefits both SOAR and local community-based anti-sexual violence organizations. In the past nine years, Operation Freefall has raised over $1,000,000 with nearly two-thirds of that going back to local communities.

Kellie Greene is both a mentor and close friend of mine. I know firsthand that the work she does has a positive impact on survivors and their loved ones. She has changed my life!

I hope that you will support me in my fundraising efforts. I have pledged to raise a minimum of $1,000 before March 15, 2010, and I have a long way to go!!!

Check out my fundraising page at You can watch a video of last year's jump, read more about Operation Freefall, and make a
secure on-line donation. Thanks for your support!!!

Blue Skies!!!


Saturday, January 9, 2010


We went to see the movie "Up in the Air" today. The movie stars George Clooney as a guy who flies from city to city, contracted by companies to terminate their employees. He grows from someone who is happily unattached, unencumbered, and unemotional into someone who longs for connection. It was a funny, touching, sometimes discouraging commentary on how we choose to relate to others in our increasingly impersonal society.

I was surprised at the feelings that the movie stirred in me and at the different ways that Mitchell and I reacted to the movie. As we walked through the cold, he said, "That was a depressing movie."

"Depressing if you're him, I guess," I said, referring to Clooney's character. "I think it's supposed to make you feel glad that you're not him."

And that's how I feel. I'm grateful for the deep and meaningful friendships that I have. I have everything that I want and need in my home. I have a job that I love, and I stay busy volunteering for organizations and projects that I am passionate about. I am proud of the life that I've built and of the person that I have become. I have a loving family of four-legged children and a partner who makes me laugh, supports my ideas, helps me feel safe, and loves me just the way I am. I feel lucky to have lived in many places, experiencing this country from different perspectives and building relationships along the way. I don't know where the future will take me, but for now I like where I am. I am content.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

1 question

While enjoying one of my favorite pastimes, i.e. randomly surfing the Internet, earlier this week, I came across the website of a self-described "spirit guide artist/clairvoyant." She offers the opportunity to ask one free question of your spirit guide via email. Figuring that I had nothing to lose, I shot off an email. I asked, "How should I proceed with my parents?" (You know there's a story there, but I will save it for later. The tale has yet to completely unfold.)

The response came just 12 minutes later. I guess both the clairvoyant and my spirit guide had pretty open schedules that day. Lucky for me, huh? The answer was simple, if not a bit vague. My spirit guide said, "Love each of them for their own qualities, stay open, let go of the judgment, and stay on a Spiritual Path."

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a bit perturbed by the suggestions. Perhaps I was hoping for something more like, "Screw them! They don't deserve you!" or, "Stick to your guns and wait for them to take responsibility for their roles in the situation." I must have read and re-read the email about six times. I was annoyed that I was being asked to be the "bigger person." The part of me that believes that life should be just, even when it's not fair, was pissed! I had wasted my one free spirit guide question on this??? I wanted a do-over!

Still, I didn't delete it. I decided to think about it and to see what, if anything, it might mean to me later. It had touched a nerve, so I knew that it could have some validity somewhere. I also couldn't shake the feeling that something in its essence reminded me of my grandmother's unwavering plea to me regarding my difficulties with my parents in years past. She used to say, "Just be sweet." Me, sweet? Hardly a word I would use to describe myself, but if Nanny saw it, it must be there...however deeply buried.

I don't know what happened, but while I was washing dishes this evening, I thought about that email. It's not unusual for me to have moments of clarity while performing mundane chores, so I went with it. I thought about how I wasn't exactly ready to follow each piece of advice offered by my free email spirit guide with my parents, but I decided that each was something that I could strive for in my interactions with others in general.

Therefore, I declare that my New Year's resolutions (or intentions) will include:
1. Loving others for their own qualities.

2. Staying open.

3. Letting go of judgment.

4. Staying on a Spiritual Path.

Thanks, free email spirit guide. And, thanks, Nanny.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

tracks in the snow

I came home yesterday to find two packages inside my breezeway. One was part of a Christmas gift for Mitchell which had been delayed in shipping, and the other was a late Christmas gift for me from Mitchell. It was fun to have a mini Christmas on January 4!

Picking up the packages, I could see outside the breezeway windows that the delivery person had left prints in the snow leading up to the door. I instantly felt guilty for not having cleared the path, since that has become mostly my chore since moving here. But then I thought about how it was somehow satisfying to have a record of those who have visited.

I'm no big fan of snow, particularly the cold and icy blanket that covers the ground here in New England for three months straight, but I love finding the tracks left behind by the animals that walk through our yard. Making my trek out to the mailbox the other morning, I saw the evidence of a squirrel chase which started somewhere on the other side of the bushes next to our house, crossed our driveway, and culminated high in the branches of the big tree out front. I had to go out to the edge of the backyard this morning to corral Bennie back into the house. She's been snacking on the remnants of my gingerbread house which was discarded in pieces on the compost pile. As annoyed as I was at her stubbornness and selective hearing (a true Beagle), I somehow noticed the tracks left behind by a bunch of crows who had been in the yard just about an hour before. I could see a few clear, "classic" bird footprints, but most appeared as slight drag marks through the snow....the tangible proof of the birds' ability to exist simultaneously in both the terrestrial and the ethereal plains.

What is it about tracks in the snow that is fascinating me so much today? I guess I'm seeing them as a metaphor for the imprint left behind by the people who have come through my life, leaving me with the gift of memories or the scars of wrongs done. I have recently witnessed and experienced the aftershocks of a person's sudden departure. Even though I believe that the departure is best for all involved, there's no denying that there remains an influence and that everyone involved will need some time to heal from the damage done.

This time of year is full of anniversaries and reminders of loss in my life, but it also reminds me of birth and renewal. I know that death is a necessary and integral part of life. I know that there is a balance to nature. I know that in order to make room for the new, we must often do away with the old. Like footprints in the snow, nothing is forever, so we must enjoy what we see today and keep our eyes open to the possibilities of each next day.

I am hopeful for all of those involved with the aforementioned personal situation that each will be able to leave behind what was, move beyond the illusions of what could have been, and begin life anew....a life ripe with possibilities for self-discovery, independent expression, personal fulfillment, healthy living, and love. The path may be snow-covered and treacherous. It may be necessary to switch directions, to hop over obstacles, to fly above distractions, or to climb back from your stumbles. In any case, there is a journey ahead. Enjoy it when you can!

so it begins

Inspired by the recent death of another blog and my apparent role in its demise, I have decided to begin writing for myself. Yes, writing for myself, though this may be read by others. Writing has always been an outlook for me, as well as a means of reflection, so this blog will be an opportunity for me to do both. I may talk about the mundane or attempt to delve the profound. You are welcome to read and welcome to comment.