Saturday, September 29, 2018

The Common Denominator #metoo

Let's try this again:

The common denominator of sexual assault is not the behavior of the victim. Sexual assault happens when the victim was at a big party, a small party, a party with alcohol, and a party without alcohol. People are sexually assaulted on their way to work, at work, and coming home from work. Sexual assault happens to children, adults, and the elderly of every ethnicity and religion to every time of day and season of the year by people they know and don't know.

The common denominator of sexual assault is the perpetrator, a person who puts their pleasure above another person's basic human rights of health and safety. We will never end sexual assault by holding victims accountable and giving potential victims the illusion of safety if they avoid certain behaviors. Ending sexual assault will only happen when the emphasis is on changing the behavior of potential perpetrators through learning about consent and the consequences of their actions. They are the only ones who can stop it. And we are the only ones who can stop them.

And by the way: #metoo

Rise untethered.
Move with intention.
Be grand.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Healing up!

Just to update on one of my previous posts:

I had the minor surgery. It went well. Unfortunately, I didn't even have time to prepare mentally for when I needed to be in control of a trauma. I came out of anesthesia a little earlier than expected and simply woke up howling in pain, the mask was still on my face, they took it off, but then I couldn't breathe, couldn't speak, and went into panic and shock. The nurse was fantastic, talking to me as she administered a little pain meds, my cortisol, and valium so I could breathe normally enough to give me more pain meds, but by then my body was convulsing and she wrapped me in some huge blanket things with only my face peeking out. She stroked my face and stayed with me until my vitals normalized and I stopped shaking- about 40 minutes.

So the Compassionate Witness thing didn't really help there. But I had outside resources, namely, the nurse. She said, as I was freaking out, "I have four kids. I'm going to take care of you." And then I was taken to the recovery area where my husband was waiting. Within an hour I was able to whisper answers to their question (my voice was gone from the breathing tube and howling) and walk to the bathroom so they sent me home, where I'm healing quite nicely.

The difference in the speed of healing between this surgery and the last is profound. Yay! Onward!

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Independently Choosing To Stay

On the most basic, statistical level, married men live longer than their single counterparts. The opposite is true for women. Staying married should be a thoughtful choice for us. I am on my 24th anniversary of starting to date my husband. Dataversary? Getting married was anti-climactic for us, we were already living together with a baby by then. But the first night we kissed and became a couple is our special memory. And every year there is a part of me that wonders about it.

Marriage is a constant choice. Every anniversary I am confronted with the years ahead and the question of whether or not I want to spend them with this person. Sadly, for much of our time that choice of "yes" was based on fear. Being a single-mom with only a high school diploma with no happy alternative home options, made me vulnerable. We lived far away from my family. Then we chose to have a second child. It was at this time that someone asked me, "Are you happy?" And I answered, "That's not something I can ask myself right now." This doesn't mean I wasn't happy, but I couldn't take the chance to find out and risk the secure place for my kids.

My mother was a single mom of two and struggled until I was in second grade and she remarried a rich, abusive man. We were pulled out of poverty, but I can't say we were happier. Luckily, I can honestly say my husband is not abusive (or rich.) He never exploited my dependence on him, in fact, he never demanded anything, barely asked for much. Still doesn't. I chose to have our babies, I chose to stay home with them teaching music on the side, I chose to homeschool, which kept me outside a lucrative career.

My disabled and recently divorced mother came to live with us while the children were young. Although her presence and babysitting helped me start school again, she would never have been able to support us financially if I left my husband, or physically able to watch the kids if I had to work full-time. During the years I was getting my degree I was still completely dependent. I chose my path and he supported us unfailingly the whole time.

But was I happy? Was he? There was a brief few months we wrote each other emails, I'm not sure who started it, detailing our feelings. It wasn't helpful and we decided to stop. It had become a blame game. But I stayed. And he stayed. And we definitely had happy times. Many of them. We just didn't want to talk about it. Is that a healthy relationship?

After graduation, I continued to homeschool my kids, but as they were older and didn't need my time as much, I started a business. I was finally feeling like I could be an independent person, support my family if I needed to, not rely on someone else, make a free choice to stay or not stay without fear. Alas, this is also when I started to get sick.

It was gradual, but eventually devastating. Over ten years I slowly degraded until I could barely work, I continued to homeschool but couldn't do everything and farmed out their schooling to classes and other organizations more and more, simply being a taxi cab. I was completely dependent on my husband's health insurance as I went around and around trying to get help.

My business failed. I could barely do my parental duties and household work. I was more dependent on my husband than ever. Now not just financially but physically as well. I was depressed and vulnerable. It got so bad I finally realized I was slowly dying and would be dependent forever. Ironically, that is when I made, perhaps for the first time, a whole-hearted choice to stay in the marriage. Not because I had to, but because I wanted to.

This person had never let me down. Little things? Sure. Big things? Never. Even though I was so sick, I kept the hope that one day I would get better, so better that I could finally be there for him. Let him know I wasn't staying because I had no other options, because my life depended on it, but because my heart did. It was at this time that he told me that he didn't need me to do anything for him, that he just wanted me to be there. He didn't want me to feel like I had to live up to some standard. He married me, not because he needed me, but because he was happier when I was around. That may not be the most romantic thing ever, but it was exactly what I needed to hear.

I chose to stay because he was the best partner ever. I always loved him and he loved me, that was never an issue, and something we always said and showed each other in gentle ways everyday. But creating a lifelong partnership is hard work and tough commitment. And I was ready to keep trying, God willing.

He was.

I was finally diagnosed with Cushing's, and on the way to recovery as I type this. Within a year of a life-changing surgery, I knew I would continue to improve well enough to work again and be financially independent if I chose. This all coincided with our two children leaving home and living their own independent lives. I am finally free to choose without fear.

And on my important anniversary, the one where I started dating the man who would ask me to marry him a scant month later (I said, "No way! We're too young!"), I now happily say, "Yes."

Friday, August 24, 2018

Compassionate Witness

I'm writing outside on my stoop while listening to a chainsaw at 7am, drinking my tea (White Cab from Short and Stout). One of my neighbors is cutting an enormous cottonwood. There are several trucks and the one guy is in a bucket high, high up, sawing away branches. Someone I know is recovering from open heart surgery. Doctors have to saw through the breast bone to get inside. Hearing the metallic whir on those branches right now makes me wince.

On Monday I'll be going in for another surgery. It's minor, an epigastric hernia. My belly is always sore, so I'm getting it fixed now before it gets any bigger. Years ago when it first came to my doctor's attention, he said it would be "in and out" procedure. Well, twenty years later, it's big enough to require general anetheisia and three more holes in my abdomen.

(On a side note, I got the original hernia after being pregnant with my son. As I get it fixed, he's going off to college.)

This morning I awoke with a dusting of fear, remembering my surgery for Cushing's last October: going into shock in the recovery room, how incredibly painful those first few days and nights were, how I caught mono right away and spent months recovering from that while going through withdrawl from the cortisol. I know it's not the same, but I also know it's gunna hurt. Lying on my bed, noticing my pulse quicken, my skin became hot, and I worried I might have a panic attack. I turned on my Insight Timer app and scrolled through the Meditations for Anxiety section, choosing one on dealing with trauma by Christina Sian McMahon. It was helpful.

She talked about trauma as being an overwhelming experience because you have no outer and inner resources to cope. Outer resources being someone or someway to save you at the time. Inner being able to deal with it in a healthy way in the moment. There are two kinds of trauma: big, sudden events and smaller build-up events of similar nature. I guess my trauma is both: the adrenalectomy was the big one, and the after effects were all related but smaller. Either way, the memory is blowing this upcoming minor procedure waaaaay out of proportion.

After the brief talk, she led a meditation exercise to bring up a minor trauma "to start with." I chose the moment when I came out of surgery and went into shock. Maybe that wasn't the littlest one, but that was the one that was causing me the most trouble. I went back into that moment:

I was wheeled into the recovery room completely out of it, drugged up and unable to process everything around me, people poking and prodding, everything hurt, my belly felt odd. And then I watched the nurse put medication into my IV: a huge dose of cortisol. I needed it because my body doesn't produce it myself. And then... "I feel really weird," I mumbled.  My husband and father were there with me and started getting upset, pointing to my vitals and telling the nurse "her vitals are dropping!" I closed my eyes and heard some chaos, then a strong voice commanding me, "Rebecca, open your eyes." So I did. The nurse starting asking me questions but I couldn't speak. In that moment I was completely helpless and felt even worse than before.

I recovered pretty quickly, but the memory has stayed. I could barely move or think and then the world dropped out from under me. After my upcoming minor procedure is done, I will be given the same huge dose of cortisol because I'm still not making enough on my own to survive that kind of physical stress. My fears are founded. But I don't want the psychological trauma.

In the meditation exercise, I went back to that memory, my emotional place of terror, and became a "compassionate witness", observing my emotions and validating them. I pictured myself holding the head of memory-me, forehead to forehead, and saying soothing words, "It's okay to feel this way. You can be afraid. Everything you are feeling is just right. You are loved. You are loved. You are loved."

The point of the whole thing is to practice with this "compassionate witness" so that when something traumatic happens in real life, it jumps on stage, noticing what is happening and soothes in the moment. Building my inner resources so I can deal with stress. Going into my upcoming surgery, I will keep my inner help in the wings, ready.

We'll see.

Rise untethered.
Move with intention.
Be grand.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Writing Update doobeedoo

Hey peeps,

I was writin', then vewy vewy quiet, and then suddenly writing again! And now quiet again. Updates:

As I got sicker from Cushing's I was no longer able to keep up this blog. Then after my surgery in Oct 2017, my brain started to function better and I started writing again. After a few posts here about my illness, I decided I should write a memoir about the whole experience (actually, my friend Allison suggested that), part therapy, part wanting to help others avoid what I went through. Or at least know they aren't alone.

I'm also writing a romance novel with my sister as total therapy to focus on something that has nothing to do with how crappy I feel or the state of the world around me. Anxiety is a killer. is still humming along. I'm no longer a Core Contributor, but continue to keep my feet in the water.

I'm on the Albany Tea Festival planning committee and we're working on a bigger, better festival this coming Fall. Woot!

Due to pain issues, guitar isn't happening. However, I'm practicing the piano more. No composing, but considering I have like, 300 songs in my file, I think I'm good. If I get bored (crazy laughter) I can always record the songs that never made it onto previous albums. No plans to perform soon. Not up to that energy level or anxiety. Nope. Nope. Nope. If you're bored, you can listen at cdbaby or bandcamp. Or if you want to see my FACE, old YouTube videos (under fw5blue) should do it. Did you hear the improv Lincoln in Hot video? I thought not...

Barely. I'm only working with my private students at the moment, and cut down for the summer to rest more. Finances are tight, so don't expect any fancy presents.

Recovery is continuing at a steady pace. I have to keep my cortisol levels high enough not to go into shock, but low enough to make me miserable and wake up my remaining adrenal glad. But I look closer to "normal" than before, and I'm sleeping better (though not great) so signs are positive.

I get overwhelmed by people, so have been keeping a low profile in real life, however, I'm active on social media because...I'm sure there's an addition on some level, but whatever, get high with me on twitter (@rebeccaangel) and instagram (fw5blue) mostly.

Olympic Dreams:
I do hope to attend them one day. Doesn't matter Winter or Summer. I like watching amazing people. Oh, you thought as a participant? (crazier laughter)

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Teen Parenting Olympics

James Breakwell, a very amusing parent and writer, posted a Parenting Olympics list that showcased the variety of skills needed to raise the younger set of progeny. After I read it, I replied to him:

 Very funny, though it seems that this contest rewards skills aimed at keeping your child from killing themselves, which is the point of parenting in the early years, in contrast with the later years being trying to keep the parent from killing the child. A very different sort of Parenting Olympics.

Parenting teens and young adults has its own unique trials that I probably shouldn't post about in case those with the younger set imagine a time when their kid has the abilities to drive to the grocery store, fluently read the shopping list, pay with their own credit card, come home on time, put all the food away, and make you dinner- that it would ever happen. Or that you would want it to.

And that is the tricky part of Older Parenting Olympics; it isn't a contest of physical skills or even stamina, it's a mind game, a Battle of Wits, if you will, between you and your own immature self. Yes, you thought it was between the parent and teen, but alas, it really is a test of your ability to act like an adult in every trial instead of the petty, selfish, oblivious, sensitive teenager you still are inside.

The contest would be a series of questions with several factors to influence your decision with no right answer and whatever choice you make will result in a follow up challenge that you will ultimately fail because you didn't see it coming. Actually, you never see these things coming. Let's get to the challenges! (Replace genders as needed.)

Challenge One: You son asks you to pick up his original piece from the school's art show.

You are very proud he was in the art show.
If it isn't picked up, he may not get it back.
You had already said you would pick it up when he asked you last week, even giving you the permission slip to do so.
He got the date wrong and it's not next week, it's today.
You have a free schedule today.
You have a free schedule because you are sick and cancelled work which you rarely do because, well, money, which goes for things like college tuition.
It's available for pickup from 9am-noon and he is texting you at 11:15am.
He is texting you from the beach on spring break.
You are in the midst of Not Spring in upstate NY.
He said please.

Your Answer: You get it for him.

Follow up challenge: This results in a heart emoji sent back, which doesn't seem to cover it and you secretly hope he gets a little sunburn that day, then worry that he isn't using enough sunscreen for real because last time he was at the beach he got sun poisening. You have an "emotional restraint challenge" of not texting a reminder about wearing a hat, and not feeling guilty about the previous petty revenge fantasy.

Sort of reward: He then also texts that he will make you dinner when he returns as a thank you. Feelings are mixed.

Surprise challenge: Later that evening your co-parenter both agrees and disagrees with your decision starting a "conversation" about letting kids fail so they learn to be independent. No one wins.

Challenge Two:

Your daughter is going on her first big trip. She is leaving for the airport early in the morning so you want to say goodbye tonight. Entering her room you see her finishing up her packing. You notice she is nervous. You are too because there are "issues." Say all the right things.

Your Answer: "Don't forget to say goodbye to Grandma."


Follow up challenge: She turns to you with The Look. This is the same look before the tantrum at three years old, the running away at nine, and the flip outs at fourteen. You try not to tense. You have trained for this event for many years. The key is to remained relaxed, but focused. You still tense. She responds, "No. Why do I have to?" Is this a rhetorical question?

Your Answer: "Grandma will notice that you are gone for days, and it's rude not to say good-bye, and she will worry because she cares."


Surprise Challenge: She snaps back, "But I don't care about what anyone else is doing!" How do you respond? The judges of the Older Parenting Olympics are looking for creativity and a good story to tell your grandchildren.

The honesty of her response is staggering.
Equally staggering is that you know she thinks this is a very good and fair reason.
You were an idiot at her age.
Your parents still love you.
You want her to have a good trip experience.
If she has a good trip experience she will go away a lot.

Your Answer:
You walk away. A couple hours later, ready for bed, you stand in the doorway of her room where she is going over a travel guide. You say, "what are you most looking forward to on your trip?" She looks up smiling and comes over to show you a couple cool places she wants to see. You hug and kiss. Two days into her trip she texts you happy photos and little message, "btw, I did say goodbye to grandma before I left."


Disqualification! Later you share this story with other parents instead of the hundreds of complete failures. You don't care.

Closing ceremonies:

I realize the Older Parenting Olympics may seem a discouragement to those with younger kids to continue the race course, but I assure you the "medals" are worth it:

Bronze: You are out with you older child and they make a joke that is actually, seriously funny. Not because they are cute or clever, but they have the same sense of humor as you do, see the world similarly, and most importantly, wanted to share it with you because they know you better than most people ever will, have seen your best and worst sides, and still want to make you laugh.

Silver: You drop them off at some random place and offer a quick good-bye, hoping to get home in time for XYZ when they say, "Thank you for everything you do for me. I love you." Those exact words.

Gold (ish): They keep coming back home. (This may be the booby prize, but that's up to you.)

Actual Older Parenting Olympics:
What? You thought that was it? Oh, no. That was just the qualifying round. The actual Olympics start with the realization that it was so much easier when you had a way to help or at least interfere because most days all you can do is bite your lip and watch as they fail in real life in ways that matter much more than an art show or being polite. In ways that break your heart as they have theirs broken again and again, and you wish the Olympics would just end already. Wasn't there a cut-off? Eighteen? Twenty-one? When does the worry stop? Never. Instead of medals you get a friend, maybe a grandchild or two, and hope for the future in this person you know but don't know, is you but is not at all you, is special and is very, very special always. Forever. All I can promise is that you get the only medal that matters, love.

Rise untethered.
Move with intention.
Be grand.

Friday, March 23, 2018

March Sucks. Here's Some Tea and Inappropriate Laughter

God, I hate March. Macbeth, man. He should have known. I'm like an ice-cream server with a group of teen girls trying to decide on their flavor. Are we winter? Spring? Snow? Freezing rain? Sunny? Cloudy? Long-johns? A t-shirt? MAKE UP YOUR FREAKIN' MIND BEFORE I SCOOP YOUR ASS!!! Sorry, just had flashbacks to my days of serving ice-cream in a dining hall.

Hold on while I make myself a cup of tea. Perhaps a chamomile blend.

Ah, much better. Now where were we? Yes, March, the little *&%&%^^$#@!!! Instead of my usual ranting and musing about how crappy I feel, I will give you three memories of when I was laughing inappropriately. We all need the respite.

The Wiz Costume Kerfuffle
My sophomore year of high school was the musical The Wiz. My friend Yvette and I were chorus. We grumbled about it, but still enjoyed ourselves. My best friend Allison was Evilene, the wicked witch, and she rocked the part. In one scene, I was with a group of slaves shuffling around the stage when Dorothy and her posse come in and flush the witch (literally). Yvette had her one and only line of running onstage to announce the visitors. Unfortunately, she was in a big number right before and had a quick costume change. Those in theater can see where this is going. One performance, I was moving boxes onstage and groaning or something when Yvette missed her cue. We slaves continued to groan while Allison improvised yelling and cursing us until finally Yvette stumbled onstage. She was slightly hunched over and missing an arm? I knew it was unprofessional of me to stare, but as I grabbed a box in her direction I saw that she had had some trouble with her costume and it was somehow on sideways with only one arm able to come out, and the other hitched behind her, forcing her to look like the Hunchback of Emerald City. I quickly turned my back to the audience and burst out laughing, muffling it as best I could with my sleeve. Allison obviously saw Yvette, heard me, and shot me a murderous look because she couldn't break out and laugh since she had lines and had to carry the scene. A part of me realized I should pull it together for the play, but most of me just didn't care. It was a high school performance that was mediocre at best, maybe fifty of our family members were in attendance in a theater that could fit two thousand (not kidding), I was unimportant to the plot, and was only doing it to have a good time. Laughing at my friend's mistake, and trying to get my other friend to break character seemed like the BEST time. And it was. Afterwards both of them yelled at me and I laughed even more. To this day if either of them bring it up, I guffaw.

Mystery Science Theater Psycho
Freshman year of college I started dating a cutie. He had a similar sense of humor and we reveled in making each other laugh. Since there was no movie theater in the small town, the college would host movie nights over the weekend for $1 a ticket. They played a random assortment of films, including, one evening, Psycho. My cutie and I went to the Friday night showing and it was a freaky film. I jumped, he held me, it was a swell time. We decided to go Saturday night too (considering there was nothing else to do) and brought along some friends, maybe a dozen people all together. Oh. My. God. My cutie and I were horrendous. Creepy the first time around, the second viewing was just a series of "old timey" movie shots. We never stopped making jokes. Every scene had something to make fun of it. We got looks, we got shushed, and considering these are college students, that says how much we were being disruptive. But cutie and I were on a roll; there was no stopping us. Of course, I can't think of a single joke now, but trust me we were SO FUNNY. I'm sure of it. Maybe. Well, we were laughing a lot anyway. Cutie became Hubby and we still love Hitchcock films. Don't you want to watch one with us?

Getting it on Behind the Sarcophagus
One Spring, my sister was performing Beethoven's 9th Symphony which has the most well-known tune in classical music, the Ode to Joy sung by a choir, celebrating life, written by a man who was dying. I went to see the performance, deciding to crash with her for the weekend as well and pretend I wasn't a homeschooling mom of two, trying to finish my degree, with little social excitement. The concert was Saturday, and Friday evening my sister took me out to the Upright Citizen's Brigade, which is a comedy club in NYC. Also in attendance were my high school buddy (and former Evilene) Allison, and my sister's friend, a guy...can't remember his name but he was pretty cute. The comedy club was gold. I laughed so much I seriously considered leaving so I didn't pee on myself. The next evening we all attended the concert. It was beautiful, I'm sure. I can't really remember any of it because Allison, the guy and me were passing notes the whole time making jokes that, of course, we couldn't laugh out loud about, which of course, only made them funnier. The concert took place in a cathedral with the sarcophagi (that's correct!) of Bishops or martyred peasants or whomever surrounding the pews. At one point, the guy passed me this note: Wanna make out behind the marble Bishop? I knew I was not going to be able to hold it in, so I bit down on the heel of my palm, hard. And still snorted a little. Oh, did I mention the concert was a benefit for Holocaust survivors? It was.

My tea is all gone. But I feel better. I hope this brightened your March day.

Rise untethered.
Move with intention.
Be grand.