Tuesday, September 1, 2015

An Exercise in Slaying the Perfectionist

I'm suffering from perfectionism right now.

I haven't blogged for many many months and it's because -- I think -- I've made a mountain out of a mole hill. Blogging is just journal writing, with a little more focus. But somehow I've built it up to being this big scary platform-building professional thing. And it's not. It really isn't. It's just a diary.

Sort of.

So, I made a deal with a member of my Mastermind Group that I'd blog for seven minutes today and post it. And then text him that I did. Accountability, yo.

Newsy Updates:

My garden is out of control. The front yard has gone all ghetto (which means it needs to be mowed and weeded and the carport needs to be organized, dusted and swept.) It's embarrassing to walk up or drive up to my house. The others around me are charming.

I might be insane enough to can some dill pickles this Saturday. I'll let you know if I do. And I'm going to start up the kombucha and jun again. Hooray!

I went on my first ever writer's retreat, which was divine. I had days and days of reading, napping, and revising my manuscript of Herbal Junction. And I got to re-connect with a lovely lady that means a lot to me.

My teens are starting up high school again next week, and I'm so glad to get back to my more regular routine. I love FALL!

What are your newsy updates?

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Day in the Life of a Writer

This post is not because I think my life is so super interesting, but rather because lately I've been wondering what other writers' days look like. And in my wonderings, I started looking at my own days.

My hope is that this post will spark others who blog to capture what An Ordinary Life of a _______ looks like. [Insert: plumber, ballerina, lawyer, landscape artist, et cetera.] There are always people who are interested in your lifestyle choices and how it works for you on a daily basis.

For instance, when I home-schooled my children, I poured over home-schooling/creativity blogs to gather ideas of what to do with my own kids at home.

Maybe it's because we are all voyeuristic and nosy, but the fly-on-the-wall-cam is one most people I know would sneak peeks at from time to time.

So, without further adieu, here's what last Friday looked like for me:

  • alarm rang at 6:10 a.m.; hit snooze twice
  • let dogs out; woke son for school
  • showered and dressed
  • fed dogs
  • made lunches for three people
  • checked the garden to see if it needed water
  • made myself tea and toast; checked emails
Okay, that was the boring part. Here's where it gets more writer-ly:
  • drove my son to school, then went to a coffee shop to meet a friend for chatting
  • read a couple blog posts and articles; re-posted them on my author social media sites
  • opened up Scrivener files and wrote on novel manuscript while I waited for my friend--1000 new words!
  • visited with my friend for an hour
  • went home and snacked; read a magazine article and Facebooked a teeny bit (Honest!)
  • worked on a manuscript review for a client for two hours
I tried working in the office, but the dogs stood and stared at me until I joined them on the couch.

That was my "work" part of the day. Here's the crazy mom part: (Please note that my work day is considerably shorter than the crazy mom part, which begs the question, "If the majority of my day is spent doing one thing, how can I call myself another thing? I don't think my business cards would be as accepted if they said Valerie Willman, crazy mom.)
  • picked up my son and his friend from school
my son, the plague doctor

  • stopped at the farmer's market on the way home and picked up my raw juice order
  • when home, called the vet because one of the dogs ate my vitamins and supplements that I'd set out to take that morning, and forgot
  • vacuumed all the floors in the house--except my children's. You just don't go in there.
  • took a ten minute break with wine
  • greeted oldest child fresh home from school and watched them perform a dance routine they are learning at school
  • lead son and his friend in a snack-finding mission
  • unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher and wiped down the counters
  • fed the dogs
  • started dinner
  • texted with a friend trying to get a group of us to go to the movies that night
  • watched oldest child again (different dance routine section)
  • aided oldest child in snack mission
  • checked on dinner
  • started baking bread in the bread machine
  • contemplated mopping the muddy dog prints off the solid surface floors but yearned for the hot tub long enough that the urge to clean was mostly passed
  • swept the carport instead, and took out all the trashes
  • wondered if I should clean off the dining room table, but--it being 6:00 p.m.--decided I was too tired for anything boring like that and yearned for Netflix and Hulu alternatives.
  • Remembered the hot tub...and then that I was taking my oldest to a play a student friend was performing in, and that I still intended to henna my hair that night. Nix on the hot tub.
  • Drank more wine in hopes of an evening plan forming.
  • Acknowledged the swiss chard still needed to be prepped for dinner and silently whined to myself. I took another sip of whine--I mean wine.
Here's where I deteriorate into madness--but in a jolly sort of way:
  • Craved chocolate; had a small can of peaches instead.
  • Craved chocolate and ate two handfuls of chocolate sprinkles out of the baking cupboard.
  • Noted that this was all because I wanted to get in the hot tub, but couldn't yet--hot tubbing requiring nudity, and nudity and driving my kid to the Wildish Theater didn't mix.
  • Checked the chicken and rice again.
  • Tried to find a game for the younger teens to play. They ignored me and listened to weird military cadences on their smart phones. They decided to give the Wii a try.
  • I pulled the chocolate sprinkles out of the cupboard, because I hadn't actually eaten them yet, just written about it because it seemed like something I'd so. Recognized that since I hadn't actually eaten them, I could still make the healthy choice to NOT eat them, but told myself that since I'd already written I had, I needed to be true to the original sentiment of the daily entry, and ate them. (That's impeccability of word for you. Isn't that one of the Four Agreements?)
  • One dog looked at me as if asking to go outside; I remembered about the chard again. I didn't want to make it. None of the kids would eat it, I was sure. Did I want to make it just for me?
  • I let the dogs out.
  • I went on a hunt for batteries so the boys could both play with the Wii.
This is what peace and quiet for crazy moms looks like.

  • Closed the back door. Remembered my propensity for locking dogs outside and checked the house to make sure all three were inside.
  • I marveled at the teens all talking and hanging out together without freaking out and smiled at my 14-year-old's deep voice, then worried that he said "bitch" to his video games too much.
  • Checked the dinner again. It was done.
  • Decided it was too late to make the chard. Felt lowly and guilty for not eating my healthy greens and hoped that my healthier partner wouldn't find out I ditched my veggies out of laziness again.
  • Informed the kids that dinner was ready and convinced myself that my parenting duties were fulfilled for the day and I could be done. WooHoo!
  • Closed the back door, because somehow it was open again.
  • Checked the house for all three dogs again. One was missing. I let him in. He was looking in the window of the living room for me. <3
  • Ate dinner while watching the last half of a West Wing episode I'd already started.
  • Dropped off my oldest at the play.
  • Knew that this would be a perfect time to henna my hair, but wanted to watch another episode first.
  • Craved chocolate again, so I shifted from wine to hot chocolate with marshmallows. 
  • Watched two episodes of West Wing waiting for my kid to text me they were done with the play.
  • Washed dinner dishes and wiped counters again.
  • Changed t.p. roll in the bathroom and took recycling out.
  • Henna'ed hair.
  • Picked up oldest from the theater.
  • Sat in hot tub.
  • Showered to wash the henna out.
  • Went to pick up partner at airport at midnight.
  • We visited a little, then brushed our teeth and went to sleep.
Imagine this, only at 1 a.m.

I was pleased with the day. It really was one of my favorites. I think this was because it was so well balanced. It was long, and I didn't sit down much--except for the West Wing part--but most of the aspects of my life were lovingly attended to. 

I was creative and worked on my book. I socialized. I worked on client work. I hung out with my awesome kids. I cleaned and cooked, looked after my dogs and garden, and still had time for personal grooming and relaxing. It was great! Here's hoping to re-creating that type of balance in future days. [sound of wine glass clinking with a hot chocolate mug]

What do your days look like?

Monday, May 11, 2015

Grief Story #7: Kath Ellen

Losing My Mother's Love
by Kath Ellen

My mother loved me, and I loved her. What we had was special. I didnʼt want to lose my mother. I didnʼt want to lose my motherʼs love. I depended on her love.

Of course, she had an angry side, too. The one that yelled and reached for the
yardstick and spanked me, the oldest, the girl who must be punished for any
ruckus. Mom did nice things for me, took care of me in so many ways: she
cooked and baked, washed, ironed, helped me with my homework, and gave
me practice tests so Iʼd be a success in school. 

She monitored and judged my communications.

“Donʼt give any information.”
“Don’t say anything.”
“Don’t talk about what happens at home. It’s private.”
“People always value a good listener, so be a good listener.”

I believed that she was giving me training in good manners so people would like me. Every day of my life I heard her say a dozen times, in warning, “What will people think?” What others think of me and of us held great importance. There
was no one to play with. My sisters were too much younger. Mom found the
neighbor kids unsuitable for me. I could sometimes play at a classmate’s house,
but then Mom stopped the connection before she would have to reciprocate as
hostess. She didnʼt want any kids coming over. She didnʼt want noise or mess.

It was a lonely childhood for me, but at least Mom loved me. At the end of each day, Mom sat on the edge of my bed,
asked me to tell about my day, and had me say my prayers. “I love you, Honey,” she said, before she turned out the light.

Church had a high priority with Mom. We went every Sunday and every Wednesday. We read the Bible every day, knew all the stories, memorized verses. The church told us what was right and what was wrong. Mom added to the list. Mom considered herself perfect, and continually reprimanded and corrected me, so I could become perfect, like her. I was her project, and she was determined to turn me out as an excellent student and a lovely little lady.

I cooperated.

I studied hard, nervous before every test, nervous about facing the repercussions at home if I didn’t uphold the family honor by getting all As. I did get all As. I brought honor to my family. Her religious beliefs did not allow Mom to feel proud of me, so she thanked God that I got all As, thanked God that I was bringing honor to His name.

It didn’t pay to disagree with Mom or argue with her. She held all the power. Her word was law. What would she do to me if I disobeyed? Well, she spanked me, of course. That stopped when I was ten and the stick broke during a spanking. 

Later something worse happened. It was two years later, when I was in eighth grade. In those days I usually walked home from school with Carolyn. At home after supper Mom and I would be washing and drying the dishes together and talking, and occasionally Iʼd say, “But Mom, Carolyn…”

One evening Mom exploded: “Carolyn, Carolyn, Carolyn. I want you to stop talking with Carolyn. You are not to talk
with her any more. Do you hear me? I forbid it.”

Did I mention I was a lonely kid?

Carolyn was the best part of my life. There was no way I was going to stop walking home with her. Mom ostracized me. She wouldnʼt talk to me, look at me, or interact with me in any way. Ow. That hurt so much. Remember, I wasnʼt allowed to talk to others out in the world, so I was pretty much invisible to most people. And now at home I was invisible to the person I loved most. And she was not loving me.

I was starving without her love. For two weeks the silent treatment lasted. And who gave in at last? You can
bet it wasnʼt Mom. I was so heartbroken and tortured that my beloved Mom wouldn’t speak to me. Of course I gave

During all my years of being a teacher, I organized lessons, taught with joy and creativity, and educated and nurtured my
young students, plus shared professional knowledge and skills by giving training workshops for other teachers. And I still
went home for family Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter dinners, family birthday parties and celebrations. I still
loved my Mom.

She still corrected me: “Honey, why don’t you just xxx xxx xx?” So I tried to be perfect, like her. She was my role model. And she told me, “I love you.”

My first years teaching, I shared an apartment with Anne and Fay. We had so much fun! I loved our life together as
independent young teachers. But after the second summer vacation, Anne didnʼt come back from her trip home to
see her mother. Anne wrote me a letter saying sheʼd gotten married. I was stunned, and then grief-stricken. Fay
had a boyfriend and moved out, too. I was left alone. Lonely all over again.

So I went home to Mom. I lived at Momʼs again, under her roof, under her rules. When my younger sister E became
a teacher, the two of us got an apartment together. Again, I was so happy we were on our own. Of course we called Mom to ask for recipes and advice. We went to our family church on Sundays and then to Momʼs for Sunday lunch. I couldnʼt
have imagined my life without my sister E or my Mom.

Then my sister E married and moved away. A huge loss for me. A huge grief that no one wanted to hear about or
acknowledge. “You should be happy for your sister!” I couldnʼt get past my own devastating loss and aloneness. Bereft.
And shouldering my sorrow all alone.

I was lonely my whole life. I was lonely in girlhood, lonely as a teen, lonely as a young professional, lonely as an older
professional. But at least Mom loved me. At least I could always go home for holidays. I followed the family rules and the church rules, and I was accepted by my family and my church.

Cloistered in a narrow belief system with strict policies and self-contained social events, it took me decades to find out
that there are lesbians in the world and always have been. After I first read about lesbians in a news article, I began
to read everything I could find about them, about us, for I found all the descriptions described me. 

I love women. The people I feel closest to and want to spend time with are women. The people I fall in love with are women.

It was time for me to stop agreeing to pretend to be someone Iʼm not, to stop being so polite, to stop trying to please the church and my mom. It was time for me to find out more about “my people,” lesbians, by reading, and then by meeting some. I found they are intelligent, fun, witty, brave, independent, loving people, and they accepted me without any requirements, no rules and regulations, in fact, imperfections.

How would my mom take it, hearing my news? She sat with a frozen stone face when I told her Iʼm lesbian and asked,
“Are you sure?” She was polite for some years. All the family members were polite. She pretended it wasnʼt true. They all
pretended it wasnʼt true. I went home for holidays. We cooked together and cleaned up together. We talked about the
food, not about our lives. But of course, we had never talked about our lives. It wasnʼt allowed. Polite listening but no
honest sharing was the policy.

Do I miss them? Itʼs the biggest grief of my life. Five years now. No communication. I always knew, instinctively, in my gut, it would be like this, even as a little girl. If you donʼt follow the rules, you canʼt be in the family. Donʼt upset Mom. Donʼt cross her. The silent treatment I had endured in eighth grade let me know that there are consequences for disobedience and for non-conformity.

I feel sorry for people when they tell me their moms are dying or have died. I do. That is a very big loss and leaves a
gaping hole. An important source of love is gone. My mom is still alive. My sisters, too. And they canʼt love me as I am. They donʼt like lesbians just as a general principle. Not that they even associate with any. They havenʼt ever
actually talked to a lesbian. Because they wouldn’t. They couldn’t. They vehemently don’t want anyone to be
lesbian. Itʼs just wrong to be lesbian.

See? Sigh.

So they donʼt love me. It hurts me that I have lost their love. When I think about them, aching for a love that is dead and
gone, my insides sob and wail. Itʼs a huge loss of love. Thatʼs my past. And I am not there. Every day I have to
remember to choose to live in the present.

Actually, I have a great present. I am having the life of my dreams. Iʼm retired. I live in a gorgeous place. I have
a circle of friends. I read, study, travel, garden, sing, make art, make noise, make messes, and then clean them up. I
make myself happy doing what I love and being with those whom I love.

There are many people who used to be in my life and arenʼt any more, and I miss them. But the hardest loss of all was
when my mom stopped loving me. Sheʼs still alive at 95, holding fiercely to her beliefs and her perfection. I wish I could say, “Donʼt worry about me. Iʼll find another special love.” But sometimes I wonder. I falter. Then I take a deep breath and try again. I give friendly greetings to people I see. I see how nature shows me that beauty is all around. 

What makes me happy every day is that at last I am free to be myself, just as I am, maybe not perfect, but authentic and very, very brave.

Kath Ellen is enjoying an active retirement in Eugene, Oregon

Monday, May 4, 2015

Grief Story #6: Trish Butcher

My Grief Story
By Trish Butcher

There once was a girl,
Born to a mermaid and a hero,
She was well loved by all and the sun
shone on her birth.
Another child was born in time,
And love rained down from the girl to
her sister.

The mermaid and the hero were from
different worlds,
And strife began to tear them apart,
One day the hero flew away, leaving the
child broken hearted.
Of this the mermaid said nothing.

The child felt a deep emptiness without
her hero,
And the mermaid was often away
Providing food and shelter for the
And the child was often lonely.

As the young girl grew into a young
Caring for her sister while the mermaid
was away,
She began to hide her loneliness
In the company of those who dreamed
only of themselves.

The young girl and the mermaid began
to quarrel
For the girl believed the mermaid to be
the fault of her sadness.

Finally the young girl found the hero
And begged him to care for her once
The mermaid was hurt
But sent the children away with the hero.
He knew nothing of girls and caring for
And the young girl saw that he was not a
hero after all.

In early maidenhood, the young girl met
a boy.
He invited her to a festive gathering,
But the boy disappeared and she was left
Surrounded by young men, careless and

They tricked the girl into a deep sleep
And in the night took her innocence.
The fallen hero shunned her
And so the girl never spoke of the trick
that was played.

Pushing her pain down, the young girl
returned home to the mermaid,
But the mermaid had left their home
with no word.

So the girl roamed the village on her
Seeking safety but finding only hardship
and despair.

Finally the girl went to a temple for help
For she was too sick to go on.
The priest helped to find the mermaid,
And they were reunited.

The mermaid had found a new love
And the girl lived with them for a while.
But the trick had left a deep aching in
And she sought to soothe through

One night someone gave her a deadly
And she fell into a deep sleep.
She journeyed through the white tunnel
to heaven
And the physicians pronounced her

During the sleep, the girl saw great
And was given the answer to all
questions in life.
She awakened as they prepared her dead
And spoke of God to those attending her.

But no one believed her words
And instead they thought her insane.
The mermaid was ashamed
And turned her back on the young girl.

The girl was saddened and confused
And desperately wished for the
mermaid’s love,
And so she joined the most perilous of
all armies
To prove her worth and redeem her soul.

In this army she did not fight wars with
other tribes
But instead fought a war with herself,
For the soldiers were like the boys at the
And much harm was done.

Time went by, and the woman sought
She would do anything for it,
Even for those unworthy.
And the young woman was lonely.

Then a plague came upon the land and
took the woman’s sister.
In her grief the woman blamed the hero,
And in so doing the hero flew away once

To mask her grief, the woman worked
very hard
Believing coin and success would save
But the gods would have none of it
And after a time, the woman fell into a
deep and sudden sickness.

The sickness took the woman’s work,
The sickness took the woman’s home,
The sickness took the woman’s lover,
And the woman entered the land of

Seeking solace and a new life,
The woman traveled to land in the north,
The land was dark and cold
And the woman was sick and lonely.

After a time, the woman wandered into a
Full of people she recognized
But not in the usual way.
She found solace and comfort there.

One day on her way to the temple
The woman was drawn to a great love.
There was a great spark between them,
And they laughed and frolicked together.

For a time, there was perfection
And the woman enjoyed a great, great
Even though the tricks played still
plagued her
The woman was sometimes now not so

After a time, the darkness again
And a deadly sickness entered her
lover’s body.
She prayed for her lover’s healing
But her prayers were answered with
deadly silence.

Her lover was taken by the sickness
And darkness entered the woman’s
No one understood her pain
And the woman was lonely once more.

The cold and darkness enveloped her
And her sadness knew no bounds.
She turned to wine and solitude
And in nothing was there comfort.

The years went by and the woman
And hoped for love again.
But none could reach her as her sweet
lover had,
And the woman was still so lonely.

The hero, hearing of her sickness and
Returned and offered his heart.
Their joy of reuniting was great
And they marveled at their oneness,
Which had grown even in their

The woman felt a sense of completion
And was grateful for the hero’s return
But the time was short lived, for the hero
had grown old.
And his time on earth was done.

Sadness enveloped her once again.
She grieved for the lost years between
And grieved for the years they shared.
Her heart knew no comfort.

Even the people of the temple could
offer no comfort,
And for a time the woman turned away.
In darkness and solitude she longed for
But it did not come.

The woman wondered at the sadness of
her life.
Why she had come to this land
Far, far away from her beloved mermaid.
Time stretched and pulled and lingered,
And the woman lived her days,
One upon another
Drifting into sameness.

After a time around the sun
The woman returned to the temple.
At first she could not bear the glances of
For she felt shame in her grief.
And the woman felt lonely even in the
crowd of the temple.

The woman prayed as she often did
And this time, support rained down upon
She began to be gentle with herself
And allowed the help to come.
Her pains had taught her to know herself
And sometimes she was not so lonely.

Time went on, and the woman grew
She began to believe in the goodness of
Nourishing her faith in a garden of trust,
And even the tricks played on her began
to lose their power.

The woman now knew herself well,
In joyful times and in sorrow.
She began to do for others,
Cultivated the earth of her soul,
And was true to herself in spite of her
She now knows that all feel lonely at
And sometimes now, the loneliness is gone.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Grief Story #5: Pete Benson

Grieving the Past and Future
Pete Benson
February 2015

This body of mine has always been a pretty good one: I have enjoyed good health and good intelligence. I have kept the body in good condition over the years through a variety of physical activities--bicycling, hiking, and contra-dancing among others. I remain as intellectually active now as ever. I started learning Russian at age 50, so I could become a translator, and I still accept translation assignments. I authored and published a book when I was 67.

Thus, as my 70th birthday came and went, I could still keep up on the bicycling and on the dance floor with most guys in their 40s. The only giveaway of my true chronological age is my skin, which shows the wrinkles and spots typical for a person who's spent much of a long life exposed to sunlight. I'm also more bald than not-- but my hair started thinning noticeably when I was 18, and had progressed to a substantial bald spot by the time I was 30, so perhaps that does not count.

When I was 73 (a year and half ago), I was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). The doctor giving me the diagnosis pointed out that the word “chronic” in the name is the “good news”; that because the disease progresses slowly, something else is likely to carry me off before the CLL does, in view of my age.

Okay, no big deal, I felt.

Then I found myself unable to bicycle up moderate hills that previously were not a challenge for me. I could no longer manage the rather aerobic contra-dancing, which I could previously do all evening without a break. I was often too tired for sex in the evening, although previously I had continued to enjoy an active sex life with both my wife and (being polyamorous) with a secondary lover.

CLL introduces faulty red blood cells into the blood stream, crowding out the healthy cells, which are the carriers of oxygen to the muscles, organs, and other tissues. In spite of a lifetime of cardiovascular and pulmonary conditioning, I found myself panting for breath after only modest exertion. More recently, I have often been short of breath for a number of minutes after no exertion at all or after a meal, as blood and oxygen are diverted to the stomach. I must now sleep or otherwise be resting in bed from 10 to 13 hours out of 24, usually. My body weight has dropped more than 10 kilos in recent months--without my trying. Much of that, I'm sure, has been muscle mass, although my belt cinches to a tighter
hole now, reflecting some welcome loss of my modest paunch.

CLL also damages the immune system, making me more vulnerable to infectious diseases. In December 2014, I developed a cold--rare for me in itself. The cold did not clear up, but deepened into a more substantial respiratory distress. I ended up spending eleven days in the hospital in January, where the respiratory distress was diagnosed as
pneumonia. It nearly killed me at one point.

I should note in passing that there is a glimmer of light in this picture: My oncologist has promised to put me on a recently developed new pharmaceutical for CLL chemotherapy, which he says has shown very encouraging results in its initial clinical trials. He tells me the odds 12 are quite good that within six months I'll be feeling the way I did 3 years ago--i.e.

I am also watching my partner and wife, Deborah, as she slides downhill in her own health. She was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease seven years ago (at age 54, rather younger than usual for that disease). She now walks with very slow, short steps with a cane (the “Parkinson's shuffle”) and has constant generalized pain and progressing numbness in some extremities. She also tires quickly.

My grief is therefore primarily for my lost vigor, and loss of the things that I have most enjoyed in my life, and for the loss of much of what I have enjoyed sharing with Deborah. There is also a prospective grief, as Deborah and I both realistically anticipate the end of this physical life for both of us, probably in the nearer rather than more remote future, and prepare for it by getting our advance directives and testamentary wills in order, getting rid of many of our possessions and other things.

Deborah and I both know (don't just “believe in,” but know) that consciousness is the basic reality of the universe and that our existence will continue in another realm after these physical bodies (designed to cease functioning after some time, after all) have served their purpose and have been sloughed off. So there is no fear of physical death, nor even trepidation or anxiety. Indeed, we have already visited these realms during this physical lifetime as part of some shamanic training that we both received, as well as other experiences.

The feeling is perhaps comparable to that of college seniors as graduation time approaches, knowing that they will never again see most of their friends and lovers even as they excitedly look forward to their adult lives out in the general world following graduation. Their knowledge and anticipation of what is to come does little to lessen the poignancy of the
impending loss of their life as students.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Grief Story #4 contributed by Jade Sawyer

Fourth installment of the community grief story project.

Grief Journey
By Jade Sawyer

Thank you all for bearing
witness to this journey…
concentric, or is it a spiral? I know
it wasn’t linear.

The first huge bolder of
pain was coming home from school
to find no one home but my
brother, who was acting really
weird. It was obvious that he was
clueless as to how to explain what
was going on.

In pieces, like a torn sheet
of tissue paper, things were sorted
out to me. The state police had
come and taken Mom to the State
Hospital, not for what she did
wrong but for what she wasn’t
doing: a catatonic state where she
had just broken down and was no
longer functioning.

Back then a police person
had to transport and sign in a
patient. I would have told you she
was gone for about three weeks
but it was more like two and a half
months. I was numb, I can’t tell
you who cooked or shopped or did
laundry. The central hub of our
lives was absent and none of us
were very functional.

Three years later, my
father, the light of my life, had his
first heart attack. I heard
pedestals crashing. First Mom and
then Dad. I knew I couldn’t count
on either any more as main
supports. Dad rehabbed, even
played tennis but three years later
died from a massive heart attack.

The first time I was taken
to the daughter of the doctor, a
family that were strangers. I
FAMILY. The 2nd was the longest
40 minutes of my life.

Ironically, I was in the living
room of the house where my best
friend’s family used to live before
they moved. Gone were the easy
chairs and the memories of making
forts & having popcorn watching
Disney. No, this had formal and
cold décor, and I suffered a very
long wait. Once again I had been
dropped off for protection but
felt more like abandonment to me!

Finally my mom came in. Her
face matched the white drapes (I
knew what she was going to say and
how hard it was for her.) “Your
dad’s gone. The last thing he said
was, ‘give my love to Janie’.”

She became horizontal after
that. When I describe her that
way in a 12 step meeting, someone
will inevitably come up to me after
& say, “Thank your for putting it
that way. My mom was horizontal,
too.” Mom never really recovered
from Dad’s death. Friends & family
were there for us for a while but
support eventually falls off. I don’t
know who shopped, cooked or
cleaned. I do know that at some
point each day mom would cook
herself a steak and then not long
after eating, she lay back down on
the couch.

My two oldest brothers had
gone on to college and I eventually
had my license. My 3rd brother and
I would just check in as to who
most wanted/needed the car and
head out. “Jet” I used to call it.

Sometimes I still do that. Rather
than stick around until my
responsibilities are met as a
householder, I jet out!

I stayed numb for a really
long time. When I was in my first
summer school towards a master’s
in teaching, two of my three
brothers showed up at a dance
where I was celebrating my 21st
birthday. Gary, my favorite, came
in and I was totally exuberant and
just a little bit drunk. He asked me
to come outside and there was
Alan, #2 brother in the car. It was
a quiet, beautiful summer’s night
but it soon darkened with Gary’s
explanation as to the purpose of
their trip. They had driven all that
way to tell me in person that Mom
had died from her drinking,
complicated with the heavy
medications she was taking. My
oldest brother found her at home,
having passed a few days back.

Before Mom died, loving
adults had counseled me to “Go on
with my life, pursue educational
dreams.” I had stayed close by
home, turning down some schools
with more status but also more

My undergraduate school
was a blast. Fabulous teachers, a
full scholarship, and spoiled rich
kids who knew how to party !! I
would go home on weekends, check
on mom, and often borrow the car
for the weekend. Super stressful,
difficult classes gave way to
fraternity “mixers.” Lots of alcohol
and my sorority mixed with one of
the fraternities. Trust me I’m not
the sorority type but that was how
people found their niche, status,
and alcohol!

Now, I was to be careful
because sometimes my dad would
drink too much and at the end Mom
became a late stage alcoholic.

When I found cannabis, there was
a match made in heaven: stuff all
my feelings, enjoy music, dancing
and change from “a 3 to at least an
8”. The major stressors of my
senior year fell away and I was
able to maintain the grades I
needed as a scholarship student.

FAST Forward to 1984! I
decided (or God did) that it was
time to get clean. And in 9/14/2014 
I celebrated 30 years.

This is a big deal but I tell
newcomers just don’t drink or use
and don’t die!

In the 12-step community,
one both sponsors newer people
and has a sponsor. I’ve lost several
…first a wonderful woman with a
brain tumor that was cancerous,
MY ACOA sponsor. When I woke
up and started working AA, my
sponsor in that program died after
just a few years of our working
together. I just lost Mary TW,
who had over 40 years of sobriety.

As I age and grow in sobriety, my
own mortality becomes more and
more apparent. I try to simply
wear it on my shoulder, like a great

My best AA friend just died
three years ago and we were both
good teachers for each other. I
miss her very much. She thought
she had beat bladder cancer having
had a brilliant doctor construct a
new bladder for her but the
cancer reoccurred. A small circle
of us would meet at her magical
home in Cheshire and have
gratitude meetings!

The greatest privilege was
to sponsor a newly returned
woman, a “retread” as she called
herself. She found she had a brain
tumor after falling, and losing her
speech. She completed her 4th
step, one that can be a long and
arduous process, in 48 hours. She’d
always say, “love and light, that’s
all there is !” I got to sit with her
on a nearly daily basis post
surgery. I’ve never been clearer
that I was exactly where I was
supposed to be doing exactly what
I was supposed to be doing. The
tumor was in that area of her brain
where speech function occurs. She
became embarrassed and only
wanted her mom, myself and her
housemate, who was working full
time, to be with her, so I carried
mornings, daily.

Her surgeon got as much as
she could and then shared only half
truths with her post op. I let her
know closer to the truth, as we had
a pact that I wouldn’t dress
anything up. I didn’t share exact
things but did let her know that it
was likely that the tumor would reoccur
at some point.

The surgeon told my friend’s
mother, and a few of us, that
Marilyn would seem normal and
then after 6 months, go down hill
really fast. It was much shorter
than that- more like a month. I
was able to literally orchestrate
people from her church to come in
pairs, only five minutes each, or
less, to say goodbye and/or
express their love.


She passed the morning of
my expected return from a
conference at the coast. Her
mother, too didn’t arrive in time,
which her mom described as “just
like her.“ So many teachers have
agreed to come into my life to
bring their lessons and when it’s
time, they cast off their bodies.

I still miss fishing with my
dad, rowing the huge boat for him
as he said (it scared the fish
away), gardening with my mom,
reading the big book with Marilyn
and cracking up as we identified
with some of the descriptions and
characters - probably the most, my
spiritual connection with Susan.

What I know now is that
when I am missing someone, that’s
his or her presence. That they are
with me. Spirit has brought me to
here to CSL and the wonderful
teachings, treatments, and classes.
As Holly Near says in one of
her songs, “My past has brought
me brilliantly to here” !!!