Day 218/365 Please Pass the Mike & Ike’s

Do you ever feel overcome by an emotion that you know is entirely…messed up? 

On my lunch break today I ran an errand. I saw someone I’ve known all my life; a person who has not been well (physically, nor perhaps mentally) for years. I bobbed and weaved to avoid being seen and therefore having to have a conversation with her.

I used to care for her quite a lot, actually…and I still do I suppose, now more in a nostalgic way than with any sense of a real, remaining connection. The truth is, ever since my dad died, seeing her makes me feel angry.

I feel angry because my dad – my incredibly youthful looking 70 year old dad, who took such great care of himself – is gone, and yet this other person, who seems to have checked out years ago, is still here.

I told you – it’s messed up. I’m not proud of it. I’m just being honest with you, because I think you’ve come to expect that from me.

And so…

With a gradually dawning sense of irony, I sat there in my car shoveling Mike & Ike’s (apparently, my lunch) into my mouth in a parking lot, stewing about how unfair it is that people who take good care of themselves aren’t given any priority over those who do not.

First of all, we are owed nothing. Take good care of yourself because it feels good (or don’t, for the same reason) and you are not guaranteed one minute more (nor one minute less) on this Earth for doing so.

Second, every life has value. How dare I place more of it on my dad, just because to me, he was perfect. That’s bullshit and I know it.

Third, I have no way of understanding the path this person has been on, nor what she has been through. I have no right to judge. For all I know she is thinking the exact same thing when she sees me…

Why am I still here when Bill is gone?

For about the last ten years of my grandmother’s life, every time someone younger than her died, she’d say, “It just doesn’t make sense that I’m still here.” It seemed to me to be a combination of guilt…and, honestly (toward the end of that decade), a little resentment. She was ready. My grandfather had died twenty years earlier than she. When she died, I remember the last line of the eulogy my dad wrote for her.  He said, “I can imagine my father there waiting to greet her, drink in hand, saying, ‘Sugar, what took you so long?”

I really do believe that we each incarnate onto the Earth for reasons we can only begin to understand while we’re here. We all have our life paths or trajectories.  Some of us simply get to be here longer than others, which can obviously be hard for those left behind.

So…what then? I still feel how I feel, regardless of the fact that I know it is clearly wrong for so many reasons…reasons I am clearly capable of articulating and understanding.

Sometimes emotion trumps reason, and we just have to hope that time will heal us.

In the meantime, please pass the Mike & Ike’s…

Day 209/365 Me Too

In the wake of the NY Times article revealing allegations about Hollywood Mogul, Harvey Weinstein’s, many, many acts of sexual harassment and assault, people are outraged. I have been feeling a bit numb about it…not numb in the sense that I don’t care, but numb in the sense that I feel yet another wave of helplessness over the horrible things that we human beings are capable of doing to one another.

My feelings of helplessness are heavily compounded by this…

If a man can be recorded bragging about sexually assaulting women “because he’s famous” and “doesn’t even need to ask” before “grabbing them by the pussy” and he can be elected to the highest office in our country, how can we find anything related to the degradation of women shocking anymore? Isn’t it just a bit…hypocritical to be outraged? Millions of Americans gave Trump their vote – essentially saying this man is worthy of representing us all. 

He speaks for us. (Let that sink in.)

Many people have taken to social media about the Weinstein story. It is everywhere on my Facebook news feed – what he did, to whom, and who may or may not have known about it. As per usual, there are many who condemn the women who have (until now) kept quiet about their experiences with Weinstein. Hypocrisy is rampant there, too. Why would anyone be eager to admit to something so incredibly humiliating when chances are they will be scrutinized and maligned for it?

Wow, wait a minute.

Do you see what I wrote there?

“…eager to admit to something…”

Even sitting here writing, in complete support of those who have been the victims of sexual assault, I inadvertently used language that is victim blaming in nature.

Fascinating.

Last night I was looking through my Facebook feed and I saw that a friend had posted this message…

“ME TOO. 

If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me too.” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.
Please copy/paste.”

I sat there looking at it for a moment, and realized I was holding my breath. Yes, “ME TOO” but I wasn’t ready to follow suit. I felt too uncomfortable to step forward publicly and be counted. I thought to myself, well let’s see how this plays out. Maybe if it takes off, I’ll get some courage.  I watched as others posted this status – other brave women I am proud to know, and yet, I didn’t do it.

I clicked under the comments of each of these posts and saw many other women who, rather than posting it as their status, had written “me too” – there, hidden in the comments. Had they missed the instructions? Maybe. Maybe commenting on someone’s else’s status was a compromise between writing nothing and making the “ME TOO” their own status.

Still, I did neither.

Me, who has pretty much revealed every emotion under the sun to those who are reading, and yet I remained silent about my own experience. I became complicit in the culture of silence around sexual assault.

This morning I was reading an article about how important it is for people who have a “platform” to speak out about injustices, even if that isn’t their niche. I don’t have any delusions of grandeur about my impact, but I know that I do have some. My most popular blog entry was read by almost 3,000 people; my least popular, by 50. My impact is not necessarily far-reaching, but what I have learned is that sometimes people (even just one person) reads the exact right thing at the exact right time. Maybe my blog will be the one right thing read in the one right moment by the one right person.
So, I am going to muster the courage this morning to redeem myself for my absent “ME TOO” by telling you my story.

I was eighteen and a sophomore in college. For the first time I was living in a co-ed dormitory. It was only about a month into the school year, so we were all still getting to know one another. There was a football player who lived down the hall from me. I hadn’t really spoken to him much, but he was quiet and handsome, and he seemed nice enough.

I had been out at a party with friends, and I had had a few beers. A friend of mine drove me back to the dorm afterward. I had asked him to give me a call when he got home, so I’d know he’d made it there safely. I remember walking down the hallway to my room, and seeing this handsome football player standing outside his room. I smiled at him and said, “Goodnight.” I’m guessing it was obvious that I had been drinking.

I went into my room and climbed up onto my top bunk, pulling the phone up next to my pillow (yes, I’m old…the phone had a cord and was attached to the wall). I hadn’t locked the door to my room. I drifted off to sleep.

When I woke up, the guy from across the hall was heaving himself onto my bunk, and laid down beside me. In a split second I was effectively trapped between him and the wall. The room was dark. I couldn’t breathe. I remember thinking “If I resist, he is going to hurt me. If I pretend this isn’t happening to me, maybe it won’t.”

I didn’t scream. I didn’t yell at him to leave.  I’m not sure why.  Was I scared he would cover my mouth before anyone would hear? Was I afraid I was overreacting?

He asked if I would massage his back (sound familiar?).

Then, the phone rang…and I grabbed it.

“I made it home,” I heard my friend say.

My heart raced. This was my chance to get out of this. Still I was afraid to name what was happening to me – I couldn’t make the words come out.

Naming it might make it so.

My friend on the other end of the phone seemed like a far off lighthouse beacon that I was desperately trying to reach, as I fought to keep my head above water.  Yet I wasn’t fighting at all. I was paralyzed.

I don’t know how long I was silent.

“Are you okay?” my friend said at last.

{No, I am NOT okay!! HELP ME.} I screamed silently.

Somehow, he heard me.  He knew.

“Do you have company?”

“Yes,” I managed to say, meekly.

“Do you want company?”

In a flood of relief, I felt the emotion catch in my throat as I replied, “No, I don’t.”

“I’ll be right there.”

I had been tossed a lifeline, and I grabbed it. I hung up the phone and said, “That was my boyfriend, he’s on his way over.”

That was it. He was gone as quickly and stealthy as he had appeared.

Afterward, I felt ashamed that I hadn’t defended myself. I felt like a coward.  Even still, there was a part of me that thought – well, he didn’t actually do anything to me (aside from completely terrifying me).  This is the society in which we live – the culture we pass down to our daughters – that a virtual stranger can enter a young woman’s bedroom, climb into her bed while she is asleep – and the woman can be left feeling as though maybe she is overreacting. After all, who could possibly speculate about his intentions?

Maybe he was just in the wrong room.

Maybe he got lost on the way to the bathroom.

Maybe he just needed to borrow some floss.

Maybe by smiling at him and saying, “Goodnight” I had implied that I was up for a visit – in the dark, in my nightgown.

A few days later I told the RA (Resident Assistant) in my dorm about what had happened. She was a friend and I trusted her. She filed an anonymous complaint on my behalf. I’m not really sure what this entailed – whether it was literally “filed” somewhere or if some actual authority figure was told about it (I think not).

A couple of months after that, my friend the RA let me know that something more serious had happened with another young woman and this particular young man. He claimed they had had consensual sex, yet she had blacked out and had no memory of it. She just woke up in his bed, naked. She had liked him, everyone knew that. She had gone into his room voluntarily, AND she was 100% sure she hadn’t consented to sex. (Tip – that makes it rape). My RA wanted me to come forward and add my story to the conversation. What had happened to me gave credibility to the other woman’s story in the eyes of the powers that be.

The disciplinary committee at the University asked each of us to write a statement about the events in which we were involved. I wrote down what happened to me in detail. She wrote down what happened to her, and he wrote his accounts of each incident as well.

The police were not called.

The Dean told me later that I was lucky.  He said that the young man (the rapist) had inadvertently confessed in his written statement.  He had literally written that he was confident that the young woman with whom he’d had “sex” was, in fact, conscious and consenting because he repeatedly woke her up during sex…to be sure. 

That’s right – the University had in their possession a written statement in which one of their students confessed to raping another student, and they saw no need to take legal action.

Instead, the rapist was removed from the co-ed dorm and he was forced…to live in the all men’s dormitory.  (Gasp.) That was it.

Problem solved. Justice served. Hands washed.

I know that I am not to blame for what happened to the other young woman, but there is no denying I was complicit in my silence. Chances are I am not the only other woman who had an encounter with this particular sexual predator. Maybe if we had all stood up and vocally called him out, maybe someone could have been spared. At the very least I feel that I should have warned the other women in my dorm that there was a predator amongst us. But again, I second guessed myself. I worried that maybe I had overreacted. (Clearly, I hadn’t.)


Intellectually I understand that we as women (and MEN) need to find the collective courage to stand up and say –

THIS IS WHAT SEXUAL HARRASSMENT LOOKS LIKE!

THIS IS WHAT SEXUAL ASSAULT LOOKS LIKE!

THIS IS WHAT RAPE LOOKS LIKE!

Let there be no confusion! Call them out by name!

And yet, over two decades later, I hesitated to write a simple “ME TOO.”

FOR. SHAME.

NO MORE HYPOCRISY.

I STAND WITH YOU.

ME TOO.

Day 194/365 Stardust

Tonight I stood outside on the lawn of the house where I grew up.  I looked up at the stars from the same vantage point I have so many times before. The stars have always shone so brightly from here, in the (relative) country, away from street lights or city lights.

So many times I have stopped outside this house, looked up and marveled at the spectacle of beauty above me. For over four decades I have been filled with a sense of wonder from the very same spot.

For just a moment, gazing upward, it feels as though time and space are nothing…as if life and death are nothing at all…

Because we are all connected in a way that is so much deeper.

“There’s a flame of magic inside every stone and every flower, every bird that sings and every frog that croaks. There’s magic in the trees and the hills and the river and the rocks, in the sea and the stars and the wind, a deep, wild magic that’s as old as the world itself. It’s in you too, my darling girl, and in me, and in every living creature, be it ever so small. Even the dirt I’m sweeping up now is stardust. In fact, all of us are made from the stuff of stars.”
Kate Forsyth

Day 169/365 Son of a…

I battled a headache all day yesterday.  I was tired and quick to tears. I begged off on a party last night, just not having the energy to go.  This morning I woke up with a headache all over again.

“I think you’re getting sick,” Monica said.

“No, I’m just sad…and I have allergies, I think. Although I’ve never had allergies…”

We decided to go out to a local diner for lunch. It was great to see her, but all the while I felt as if Depression was creeping up on me – I could feel him breathing down my neck, about to tap me on the shoulder and re-acquaint himself…

Hello, you seem to have forgotten me. 

After lunch, I was anxious to get home. I puttered around the house a bit and thought about how I was going to give Depression the slip this time…the persistent bugger. 

Why was I so tired?

Feeling cold, I pulled on a wool sweater and socks…and huddled under a blanket.

Then, a few hours ago it dawned on me…because I’m so quick (and because it typically takes me anywhere from two hours to two years to admit that Monica is right, again)…

{Son of a Motherless Goat!}

I’m SICK.

The good news is…maybe it wasn’t Depression breathing down my neck after all.

Maybe it was just a damn fever.

Day 158/365 Island Adventure Part II

When I left off, the girls and I had gone off to bed. We were exhausted, and well…it was dark. Literally. There is no electricity here.

There is a queen sized bed in a loft, which one accesses by ladder, and there is a queen sized futon on the first floor.  The loft has only a rope “railing” (more of a decorative feature, really). I was more comfortable with the girls sleeping downstairs together (with Louie) and me in the loft.  So that’s how we started out.

I put a lit flashlight at the bottom of the ladder, knowing someone would make their way up there in the night. Although I asked them to let me know if they were coming up, I figured lighting the ladder ahead of time was a good plan.

I sat downstairs with the girls until they drifted off, then up the ladder I went.

I was exhausted. As I tried to drift off to sleep, I could hear Louie having quite an eventful dream downstairs on his dog bed. I bet he was rescuing a rainbow floatie in his sleep or something.

Anyway, my brain got to work thinking about all sorts of crazy things. I could hear the loons on the lake. (Beau thinks they sound like wolves. Comforting thought.)

What if one of the girls gets hurt trying to get up here?  How long would it take paramedics to get to us, anyway? How would I even describe where we are?

I fell asleep and awoke with a jolt. I had dreamed one of the girls fell off of the loft. My heart was racing.

Beau was calling me. She wanted to come up.

Wide awake, I now had to pee. As I descended the ladder, bleary-eyed, I realized it is far more likely the 44 year old would fall down the ladder than her two tree-climbing, monkey children. Despite all odds I made it down and back without incident.

When morning came I decended the stairs again, this time desperate for coffee. Then I remembered this was how I’d be getting it…


Yeah, this was going to take a few attempts to perfect. In the end I chugged a sludgy mixture (mainly to avoid a headache), and mentally crafted a strongly worded response to the Amazon reviewer who swore by this apparatus as her daily method of brewing coffee. She’s gotta be kidding.

I longed for a nap.

It was 8am.

We had breakfast and the girls were snapping at each other right and left. At one point they had an arguement, and then one apologized, and the other refused to accept said apology. Moments later she apologized for not accepting the apology. Of course her sister then refused to accept the apology for refusing the apology.

It was quite painful.

The last straw was when Beau was trying to fish, and apparently Ruby scared away every single fish in the lake.

Every single one, you guys. She has a gift.

Suddenly, it occurred to me that I may be infecting the entire island with my PMS.

For real.

Feminine energy is a beautiful and terrifying thing. I grabbed my treasure trove of essential oils and pulled out the one for PMS, appropriately dubbed Dragon Time.

I doused us all. Then I suggested a canoe ride.


We had a lovely ride around the lake, and by the time we returned to the dock for a swim, we were all feeling better. Ruby even proclaimed it her “14th best day ever”.

Not too shabby.

We really did have a great day.

It flew by…canoeing, swimming, fishing, drawing, reading together in this amazing hammock spot…there was even a singing competition after dinner.


We capped off the evening with a communal “bath” in the lake. The girls were beyond giddy that I allowed them to skinny dip. It is quite fun, I must admit.

Here’s to a better night’s sleep tonight, or at the very least, to a more satisfying coffee experience in the morning.

Day 157/365 Island Adventure Part I

A few months ago I looked on Airbnb for a rental in Maine. I typed in “Maine, entire home, waterfront, dog friendly, under $200/night.”

I didn’t actually expect to find anything under those parameters, but apparently Airbnb has no sarcasm filter.

Amazingly, something did come up in the search…

A tiny cabin on a tiny private island in the middle of a lake. Incredible, right?

Right!

One catch…

A person cannot be hung up on things like electricity and plumbing.

I looked at the photos and I was sold. A rustic cabin with a water pump and a sleeping loft. The girls would think they’d been written into a Laura Ingalls’ book.

Fast forward a couple of months and the girls and I (and Louie) are packed and ready for the four and a half hour trip to Monmouth, Maine. (Never heard of it? Me neither.)

I got off to a rocky start. I’m a last minute packer, and despite having gotten very little sleep the night before, and the awareness that we had to leave at 6:30am, I got into bed late. Once in bed I had a restless night.

I sprung out of bed, though, and consumed enough coffee to feel marginally human. On the ride up the girls were quiet, exhausted from having been woken up two hours earlier than they have been these past two months.

We found the meeting spot and the hosts weren’t there. I knew I was in the right place, though. Beau put Louie on his leash and decided to take him for a little walk while we waited. Suddenly I heard a crashing sound and looked to see a thick, forty foot birch tree come crashing down onto the dirt road ahead of them.

I don’t mean to be dramatic, but had Beau been forward ten feet, that tree would have killed her. We were all a bit shaken. It was a (nearly) crushing reality check that nature is unpredictable and we were about to be left alone on an island for three days.

We put on our brave faces, though, and the host arrived to ferry us out to the island.


The cabin is bare bones but adorable. We settled in quickly. They were totally serious about the whole “no running water” thing.


We got a lesson (not a demonstration, thankfully) on how to use the composting toilet. We were reminded to boil the water before using it to wash dishes, and not to drink it. We had brought a cooler with ice for our food, and the hosts had provided us with drinking water. Baths were to be had in the lake – use the biodegradable soap, thank you very much.

The host left and there we were…an island unto ourselves. 

We swam, caught fish and frogs, had lunch, and relaxed, all while peering off and on at the solar eclipse happening that very afternoon. (A friend had saved the day, supplying us last minute with three pairs of eclipse glasses.)

It was a beautiful and memorable day.

Late afternoon I was reading on the dock while the girls were swimming and playing on a rainbow colored lounging floatie we’d found in the shed. (I know, not very “Little House on the Prairie” but neither were the eclipse glasses. We aren’t purists, you guys.)

The girls suddenly erupted in a screaming match yelling, “You get it! No you! You!” I looked up to see the floatie…floating.  It was already too far for either of them to safety rescue it. So what did I do? I panicked (it was not our float to lose!).  Having already gotten  fully dressed, I dramatically flung off my clothes and lept into the lake in my underwear...to rescue an inflatable piece of plastic.

What?

I guess I’m either really awesome or really bad at “emergencies.”

Off I go after this float. The wind had picked up and I got out pretty far before I realized – This is how I will die. I will not reach the float. I will not make it back to shore. I will drown in my underwear in a lake in Maine because I couldn’t fathom replacing a $20 floatie from Walmart.  My children will be found three days later, motherless and wrought with a crippling, lifelong fear of floaties.

Finally, I grabbed ahold of the damn thing and dragged us both back to shore where the girls were sobbing. Having witnessed my swimming skills, they had also been certain I was a goner.

Later…

In an effort to restore my self esteem after having emerged from the lake in a wet thong, clutching a rainbow, lounging floatie and sucking some serious wind (like, for an hour) I decided I was going to cook us dinner on the fire pit (dammit!).

So the girls and I got a fire going, and we cooked rice and chicken for dinner right on the pit. My earlier humiliation went up in smoke, and I felt like a pioneer woman once again.


The three of us swore it was the best meal we’d ever had.

We had planned on s’mores and skinny dipping under the stars after dinner, but by the time we were done eating and cleaning up, we were all exhausted, full and content…so we opted for bed.

Besides, technically I’d already been skinny dipping anyway.

134/365 Help

“Can I help?” she asked, sidling up to me in the kitchen at Miskiania.

“That’s okay, I’ve got it,” I replied. I was making breakfast for twelve people and I wanted to just bang it out myself.

“Please?” she asked again, looking at me pleadingly.

“Okay, grab the whisk,” I said.

She beamed.

In that moment I realized before long she may stop asking if she can help, especially if I have a habit of brushing her off when she does.

Someday in the not too distant future I may be begging her to spend some time with me, side by side in the kitchen.

Before long I began to suspect that her altruism was largely motivated by proximity to bacon, but I savored the moment just the same.