Preservation/Transformation

Courtesy of MorticiaManson.com
I want, first of all, to thank this lady for the use of her "Frozen Charlotte" photo.  I have               one too, and mine is a little different, having wings and no body, but a head and a flat
piece of metal with a piece of writing paper inside so that a message of condolences
could be given to a parent or relatives who had lost usually a child or baby.  These
Frozen Charlottes were a late Victorian art form for Children mostly and they had bodies
with solid forms and no movement at all. The fad lasted into the 1920's, but the idea
of people preserving memories of children that had died very young or perhaps were
stillborn persisted into the 1950's.  One of my best friends had a photo taken holding
her stillborn baby, I am sure something she would always preserve.

A friend with stage 4 cancer made mine for me and for years it has sat on the edge of
a ledge with my collection of angels and beautiful crosses.  I am spiritual, but I
don't attend churches, and I have always loved these things.  But for years, these lovely
things in my collection have sat protected on shelves and on top of a shelf and hanging
on the wall.  They sat there, inanimate and going largely forgotten but still loved,
as happens with many of our collections. 

As I took them down one by one to pack up to go to our new home, a transformation
began to take shape in my mind.  I intend to put my Frozen Charlotte and all the birds
of all kinds I have collected for years into my peach tree, where they can move with
the breeze and bring life to the area.  As for my angels and crosses, I intend to put them
up on a high cement wall behind our home that separates us from neighbors way
above us.  It will become my Garden of Angels, and when one of our beloved pets
passes on, I will have a box to put it in and bury it there and it will have an angel or a cross above it.  In this way, I can keep my family with me, and someday when I pass from
this plane, I told my significant other, Richard, to put a cross down near my family for me
too.  I am donating my body to Life Science, and I really believe in that, for it will be used
for study if not for replacement parts for others, and when they are through studying
or using it in important ways, they will cremate it at no charge for me.  Richard will
do the same, and if a person is a male or female vet, they can have their ashes transferred
to a VA cemetery. I have their number and they come and pick up the deceased at no
charge to anyone.  In this time when life is changing so much for all of us, perhaps one
of the best ways we can manage is to find ways to help others.  I am glad to see that happen.  

Something about transforming things into a sort of living "Garden" really appeals to me. 
Over the years, I have received a lot of bullying from grade school to being a senior,
but I am letting go of that too as my personal transformation.  Like my Garden of
Angels, I want to live a life free of unnecessary worries and anger at others for having
power over me.  No one has power over me except me, myself, and I.  I am ready for
the future and whatever comes from it.  Being a lifetime victim serves no one, and
definitely not me.

Some of my goals right now are to become a volunteer for CASA (Court-appointed
Special Advocate) for foster children.  I just finished reading two books I could
not put down by David Pelzer, who was one of the worst cases of child abuse
to ever happen in California, and I have read another tragic story of another foster
child who became a victim of the system, which happens often.  If I were not older
than dirt, I would definitely become a foster parent myself, but since I am a senior, I
will be an advocate instead.  I have already done my training and they have advocates
in every state almost.  I also want to become a volunteer tutor again for special needs
children and young adults and ESL students, as well as illiterate adults.  And I want
to finish some of my art projects to donate to worthwhile charities.  There are so many
needs today, so I feel that is the best use I can make of whatever art I can finish.  And
I want to finish a book I am compiling of all the poetry I have written over the years
and hopefully benefit some worthwhile cause with my earnings.  Having goals
in life is important.  Whether we can realistically finish them all or not, the key
is to have goals and dreams to reach for as we go forward in time. 

You all likely will not hear from me again until we are through moving and I think
we take possession of our home on the 29th, but whether we have our computers
hooked up or not is unknown right now.  Because we are just moving in, we have
to show proof of our title and our ID but they say they can turn everything on
in one day.  We will see.  It will all work out and things tend to do.  Love and
hugs to you all always,  Anne

This is the Way the Earth Rolls

Who remembers this great album and movie?

Today with all the news bombarding us and politics getting more and more ugly, and everyone seeking to understand something that simply is, and perhaps we will never understand it even many, many years from now, this cartoon seems more true than ever.

I thought of a man writing about how he was so concerned for his three-year-old granddaughter because she had open heart surgery, and many, many health issues through her little life. And I wrote him and told him that instead of focusing on the ills from which the child is suffering, why not let her know what a great will she has to live, and how she is a hero, and he is going to be happy to be there when she graduates from high school, goes on to college, and becomes some great person in this world – a genuine hero! What would it hurt? Is it confirming she is going to die, or does he really want to see her live. Then affirm life, not death, and let her know every single day what a strong fighter she is, sort of like a Ninja warrior. It can’t hurt anything, and affirming life, even in these difficult times, rather than affirming death is the best thing for all of us. Do we really want to die?

I have been through cancer, and so many traumas when I came to close to dying, but I am a strong fighter and no matter how bad things got, I guess I wanted to live the most. So I found many ways to affirm life, and when I was in my worst days, I gave myself challenges to do, like looking for a good saying every day and pasting it into my little diary, or I did a sort of collaging of life images that expressed my feelings in any given time, and it helped me get through another rough spot in life. I created art, and I wrote poetry, or I experimented with other things like mixed media art, singing and dancing. Or perhaps I played with my dollhouses and colored in my coloring books, something I did not get to do in my childhood. It is never too late to be a child again or perhaps for the very first time. Just let go and be who you were meant to be or who you always wanted to be.

Never give up until they are shoveling dirt over you. When it is your time, you will leave this world, but nothing says it will be forever. We don’t know what lies on the other side, and all the souls have to go someplace, so why not think about it that way and forget the forever aspect of it all. The world is constantly evolving, and so I know that there is no true end to things; it only happens in our minds. Take this time to make things right in your life. Rebuild fences and be a true friend to everyone you know and love.

May every day you live be a true miracle. Peace and goodness to all of you. Anne always

Empowerment

Courtesy of Quotefancy

I was thinking this past week that I have always felt powerless in the presence of people who seem to have more power than I do. I know, this may sound silly, but when you grow up with people who have absolute control of your everyday life and not in healthy ways, it is easy to lose a sense of your own power.

In my case, Richard and I live in a senior mobile home park owned and run by the most evil people I have known for a long time, though I must admit they are not the first ones. In fact, every senior mobile home park I have lived in has been a senior’s worst nightmares. And yet, for many seniors it represents a place that may be affordable on a limited income, as well as having neighbors in your social and economic position. It may represent safety and well-being where there are people close all around you who will surely know if you are in danger or you are perhaps ill. And there is usually a “clubhouse,” where there are monthly activities – perhaps coffee and donuts on the day you pay your space rent, and potlucks at different times of the month. And with things such as we are going through now throughout the world, it can represent a kind of sanity when all else is failing us.

So how could anything like this not be a senior’s dream? But let’s take a good look at what happens with a great many parks, for sure the ones in my own town of Yucaipa, CA (in San Bernardino County within the Inland Empire of Southern California). Looking at the history of the parks here (and this is true in many places in the U.S.), one of the things we have here are people who come into the area, knowing very little if anything about the needs of seniors. It is a cheap investment by the standards of those who buy the parks. They skirt any rent control that might exist in an area, coming in intending to raise the rent “for improvements they are making or going to make.” The reality is that the City itself has very little control (and does not want the involvement with having to be saddled with making sure things are working right). They have other more important needs. The park owners are bringing money into their communities, and they don’t want to stop that development. They spend their energy creating more sophisticated and luxurious communities that bring more money into the community and they cannot be really blamed for that. All communities want to keep improving their communities; it is all about good business.

The first issue that mobile home residents have no say-so in is the hiring of park managers. There is no background check required, no real experience necessary (they are trained for a very short time).

Basically there are no requirements by the HCD (Housing and Community Development) which is part of the state government, supposedly charged with protecting the rights of mobile home residents including making sure that that those who purchase their homes and pay them off get their titles when that process is done. The reality is that this HCD has never been given proper legal authorization to make sure things go smoothly for the residents, and as a results, landlords such as the ones I have will wait until the home owners die while they still are trying to get their titles. And most seniors don’t know fully their rights or the way things work.

Most seniors are unwilling to do what they need to because of fear that the owners will take revenge on them or they are too ill or perhaps disabled to try to do anything. My home was sold to three other seniors before me, and all of them died without ever getting their titles. Of course I could not have known this when I purchased it, and the landlord did not tell me. Yet he had worked for this park for some 20+ years, so he fully was aware of the nature of the owners. But like many park managers or landlords, he does what they want him to do; it doesn’t matter if it is illegal or unethical. He wants to keep his cozy regular home in the park and get paid for doing nothing except collecting the rent each month and telling the people who are renting to clean up their own properties (which the park is supposed to do unless you own your place).

There are so many other areas of elder abuse I have seen and experienced with my own eyes in these parks, and I am one of them also now since I too have been unable to get my title for my home despite my many attempts to get it from the owners, and also having gone through every local level – the HCD, the City of Yucaipa, Legal Aid, Elder Abuse, Code Enforcement, and many others, all to no avail for some 1-1/2 years (or close to that). Two of my neighbors also have similar problems: one who has not had his for nine years, and the other one who is being expected to pay back taxes on the land to get his title when it has not been in his name at all. And that is the HCD saying he has to do that.

I became extremely depressed these last months. I want to get my significant other, Richard and myself out of this park and into a small home in Arizona with its own land. California is not a good place to live anymore. Frustration with feeling once again that I had absolutely no power was a truly a biggie for me.

Then one day when I was looking at many of the criminal justice publications I receive on the Internet, I came across a National Elder Fraud Number. Without waiting a second, I dialed the number, and for once, I began to get answers at a higher level of State and Federal places that can help. Also, the people who run this organization are mandated reporters, and this time the reports are not going under the shelves. I have been given the numbers of a lot of agencies at a much higher level from which I will be able to help. Also, the people at the National Elder Fraud are coming from another part of California to visit me and to make sure that everything is followed up.

For once, I felt empowered with my newly found knowledge. We can never have too much of that regardless of our training or our needs. And we should never give up just because someone says so. I trusted that landlord, and I gave him $4,000 up front down and paid the other $4,000 over the years $100 a month along with my monthly space rent and utilities. I never missed a payment, and I had to pay the insurance too for the home, not realizing I would not get much at all without that title. That might not be much for a lot of people, but for me, it was my last savings I had since I had to stop working because of the cancer and the PTSD.

Right now our country is in probably the worst situation we have had since WWII politically, health-wise, and education-wise. People are panicking and acting totally irrational and it is because they don’t know what to believe. They think they have no power to do anything about it. This is NEVER true. There is always a higher resource, and in this case, it might take us awhile to find it, but I think we can all empower ourselves by at least trying to find something else that can help this situation.

I know that I have read several articles by Steve Tanham, Sue Vincent, as well as Stuart France, founders of The Silent Eye Mystery School, and I have learned a lot of things I could not otherwise find on the Internet such as the very nature of viruses like that of the Corona Virus and bacteria since the beginning of time, and many really good articles related to the values we hold in this life.

I also want to acknowledge Patty Fletcher and Claire Plaisted for keeping things going for all of us bloggers and authors during this challenging time. Thank you one and all by giving us higher resources we can learn from and take back the care and maintenance of our own lives. Just as that money for my home is the last thing I own that can help me and my hubster move forward, so are your bodies, minds and souls the most critical things you have in this life. Take good care of them and treasure each and every moment with your loved ones that you can enjoy now.

I still think of my friend Sue Vincent and her amazing son, who was wounded severely enough to kill someone, but he has recovered slowly over the years, and there they were out planting flowers by their little pond, and Nick, her son, insisted on carrying some mulch for the garden for him mum. Take back your power; it is waiting for you.

Fear in its Many Faces

Fear – Image courtesy of Pexels

In my younger years, it seemed the 1950’s when people began to build atomic bomb fallout shelters in their backyards, but apparently it was in the early 60’s and Kennedy was one of the people advising people in the U.S. to take precautions against an atomic bomb or equally devastating event. It quickly spread into other countries, and even Switzerland, known to be primarily neutral through everything, began to tell their people to build.

I so remember how people were so paranoid about their own neighbors and the possibility that if THEY did not have a bomb shelter, the neighbors might want to take refuge with their families in any existing ones. About the same time (and again, this is likely my poor memory thru 78 years of living), suddenly there was paranoia about people in the U.S. being Communists. The entertainment industry was under great suspicion, and many famous entertainers were suffering “under the gun.” I don’t believe anything came from any of it except to further harass and control human beings because of total paranoia about a potential belief that there was an existing threat.

I saw a little column today listing everything that has caused massive fear/paranoia over the entire globe each and every year. Isn’t it incredible that so many people live their lives in such fear? Is it our nature as human beings, or have we all been brainwashed over the centuries? Remember the Y2K scare that all the computers were going to fail? Many churches were preparing to take in hundreds, perhaps thousands of new members as the year approached. Some were giving all their money to churches in hopes of perhaps staving off the horrors.

The same thing is happening once again as people are rushing to the stores in utter panic over the so-called Corona Virus to buy supplies like bottled water and toilet paper to the point where they have depleted some stores’ supplies. Have people died? Certainly. People die every year even from common viruses. They die because their health is not great to begin with, or they are particularly susceptible in some other way, and this is true of every single virus (and there has been one almost every single year) that comes along.

As Churchill once said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Who are the true beneficiaries each year from these fear seasons? I venture to say that next year this fear of Corona Virus will be a fear of something else.

As for me, I have lived through every single horror a person can live through, and here I am still standing at 78. Thank you one and all. Make your days and years count. Don’t live in fear. When it is your time to leave this plane, you will, regardless of your age, gender, overall health, etc. Live life productively as we are meant to do. Study, learn, create, serve others. You will see how good life really is and what magnificent creatures we are.

Creating a Rainbow

Hiker in view Rare Rainbow Halo
Broken Specter, the real name for the rare weather phenomena in the U.K.

“A hiker captured these magnificent images of a rare weather phenomenon that looks like a “rainbow halo” on top of an English mountain. 39-year-old Adrian Conchie was walking on a fell in the Lake District when he looked down and clocked the spectacular display, known as the Brocken specter. The dad-of-one described the moment, which took place at 11:30AM on New Year’s Eve, as “magical” and “absolutely incredible”. According to the Met Office, the Brocken specter appears when a person stands above the upper surface of a cloud—on a mountain or high ground—with the sun behind them. “When they view their shadow, the light is reflected back in such a way that a spooky circular ‘glory’ appears around the point directly opposite the sun,” the Met Office said.

Conchie, who runs an engraving business in Knutsford, Cheshire, was on an 11-mile hike at Swirl How near Coniston when the Brocken specter appeared to him. “I had always wanted to see one after seeing pictures online and hearing about how amazing they are from friends,” said Conchie. “When we got to the summit I looked down and there it was—it was so vivid. “I thought it would disappear there and then but it stayed for a few minutes, it was a really magical experience.” Miraculously, Conchie and his friend Bryony stumbled upon another Brocken specter later that very same day up a nearby mountain called Wetherlam.”

As I read this account, I thought about how much we depend on our senses to connect us with everything we encounter in the world, and yet, the truth of it all is that our senses can and do lie to us. When we see any rainbow, if we were able to run up to it, we would find nothing there when we got where it appeared to be.

I can remember when I was younger, after I would go to bed, and sometimes in the night I would fly. I am certain I could fly. I could take off straight from the ground, and quickly fly faster and higher than anyone could even get close to me. To this day I have been certain I was really flying, though I know in my everyday mind that flight is not something we could do. Yet when I landed in my other consciousness, I felt a bump as I touched ground each time as surely as if I had come down safely but a little less than smooth, perhaps as I might have with a parachute. But the thing is that I never had wings; I just flew with my arms out and I felt the air against my arms and my body extended gracefully.

Was my ego present when I was flying or seeing things that seem so rare and yet so real? I don’t think so. I don’t think it was dreaming any more than the man was dreaming who saw the Rainbow Halo.

Perhaps we limit our abilities when we stay stuck in our egos. When I am lost there, I can feel measures of negativity and lack of confidence in what I am doing, and I want to escape. But when I let go of ego, but still stay in control of the alchemy of all the parts that make me who I am, there is so much more waiting to be discovered. Perhaps I have the ability to create rainbows.

If all of this is a dream, I don’t want to awaken. There is so much to be discovered, and I must gift myself with time to go flying again.

For the Children

pexels-Source 1photo-556669

I absolutely love working with children and teaching them new things. Many years ago, likely in my 30’s, I served as a volunteer to teach illiterate adults how to read. It never had occurred to me that when people grow up not knowing how to read, many of them have also missed most of childhood’s best parts. They have missed not only the wonderful children’s books, generally because they had no one to read to them, but they have also missed out on a lot of wonderful childhood experiences, like being able to go trick or treating or making a costume for Halloween, or having someone help them to learn how to carve a pumpkin.

I know many of you wonder how this could happen. Think about the migrant workers, the homeless people (and yes they often have children living with them), and even my own parents never finished high school. So I went to school, but because I could not depend on my parents to be able to help me with my homework, I honestly struggled with understanding how to do my homework, and when a child cannot do well in school, they often also struggle to fit in socially.

I was bullied a lot because I wore clothes from thrift stores, ate day-old bread from the special store that was so cheap in those days, and I did not know how to make friends or talk to others. To top it all off, I quit school in my first year of high school. I had gotten married instead of choosing to go to Germany with my mother and father during the time of the wall I believe. And so I found myself pregnant, and in those days, pregnant girls did not go to school, at least not where I lived.

But some miracles happened for me. Despite the fact that I was extremely shy and had difficulty with school subjects except for writing, I really did love to read. Thank goodness it was something I learned on my own early on, partly from not wanting to go outside and play with the other children because they bullied me at home as well as at school.

Although my mother had taught me absolutely nothing about having children or anything that was physically personal, when my daughter was born, not only did I breast-feed her and my two boys at a time when women really were not doing that, but I read to my children every single night, and I decided to teach my daughter to read when she was close to two years old. I made some little index cards, and on one side, I wrote a word such as hand in big letters, and on the other side I drew a picture of a hand. I showed her the word, and then said the word, and then showed her the picture of the word, and I would also hold up my hand and say the word. No one taught me how to do this. I just figured it out on my own. Now she had a hunger to learn, and I am telling you honestly that she was trying to potty train herself at six months old in one of those little chairs for that purpose, so I guess it was the same way with learning.

One night I had put her to bed, and I had given her the little Golden Books that she liked to have me read to her after I had read her a story. Out in the living room after awhile, I heard her talking in the bedroom, and went in to see what she was reading. She was holding her book and “reading” all the words and turning the pages at the appropriate times. I could not believe what I was hearing! How could she be reading these words when I had not taught those to her yet? I sat beside her and asked her if she would read me the story, and I watched her carefully and to this day, I remember her not missing a single word, but I realized that she wasn’t reading all the words. She had memorized those stories page by page!

I would not be able to follow my children’s education. I will just say that it was truly a traumatic event for me, and shocking for someone still so shy and lacking confidence to try to stick up for myself. I had never smoked, never done drugs, never drank alcohol, or did anything but to be a mother. She was four when they all disappeared. I did not know where they were until some 28 years later, when I located at least my daughter through the Salvation Army, at that time for just $10, after barely two months. I had not been able to provide much information as I suffered from severe amnesia and PTSD. I discovered that she was a published writer, an artist, and even a fine quilter (I did those things too), plus a lot more that I never did (such as riding bicycles in marathons, etc.) She was only four years old the last time I had seen her. We were reunited but I never saw the boys again. They were too young to remember me.

In later years of my life, I would get a degree in Archaeology and just a few years ago one in Criminal Justice, and I would have careers and even my own businesses. But my favorite career of all has been working as a substitute paraeducator, aide and uncertified teacher for special needs children with physical/developmental and emotional challenges. And I became a volunteer senior tutor for illiterate adults, a tutor for children and adults, as well as a mentor/advocate for challenged adults, particularly for artists trying to establish careers.

It was during those years that I learned how illiterate adults not only frequently cannot read if at all at the lowest levels, but they have also missed out on their childhood memories – parents reading to them, helping them to celebrate rites of childhood, or getting to do things many of us take for granted such as trick-or-treating, or even getting to carve a pumpkin or make a costume. In my case I was shy and my parents could not read at a high enough level. They too had missed out on those experiences many children do have so they didn’t know how to do those with us either. We did do some things, but because I was so shy, I didn’t do as many as my brother did.

I think for the remainder of my life, I will tutor illiterate adults when I have an opportunity, and help them experience the things they missed out on earlier in life. And I will volunteer to help others who have some form of physical or other challenges as well. I can honestly say that I don’t regret any part of my life, even those times that were painful spiritually and otherwise. It has all been good. I could not have the compassion I do now for others if I had not struggled my own self. And I will remain a student of the world for the rest of my life too. I love learning, and often as I sit pouring over something I have read, I look back in my mind’s eye and see that little beautiful daughter of mine delightedly memorizing and “reading” herself one of the stories she loved.

Talking About Art

Anne’s VERY early quilt of Pumpkins. The most innovative thing is that I used men’s shirts for the borders – WOW!!!

Is my pumpkin quilt art? Why isn’t is as valuable as as earlier work I made that had a higher value? I am known for my art now (this is fiction, not truth). I have won awards in big name exhibits and shows (also fiction).

I think you can see in the piece above some of the answers. But is this true of all art? Absolutely. Art can be and eventually is inconsistent in overall style or quality for most artists who have big names. They put their ALL into pieces for a time, and then perhaps they burned out, or because they already have big names, they could ease up a little and still command good prices. Not true. All artists, not just the big names, have times in their production when their work either changes styles, perhaps to a style that is less labor intensive, or perhaps they don’t produce as often as they were. It can happen in a lot of different scenarios. The thing is that if we are realistic and honest about it, not all art by an artist is the same quality nor does it necessarily command the same values. It is human nature. Now we may see great works of art and believe that a very famous artist DID produce the same quality all the time, but remember that many artists have had workers who worked with them on a particular painting or sculpture.

We have artists like Basquiat, and Andy Warhol and I am sure any of you can think of others. Perhaps you liked their rebellious response to fine art. Perhaps you see it as something new and refreshing. To be sure. But was it? I mean, Campbell Soup labels have been around since I was a child. So every time your mom bought a can, did you stop and think, “WOW! Now that’s art!!!” Both these artists had their names made by gallery owners and publicists who sold them to the public. It’s their job and they did it very well. Both the artists led colorful, unconventional lives. Now people in the art world often like this. It is the opposite of anything they might do or be in their own lives, and there is something about such lifestyles that attracts them to it. It’s kind like fashion. What attracts people to want to buy fashions worn by women with absolutely no facial expressions, who appear all to be suffering from anorexia, wearing, say sweaters with sleeves two feet longer than their arms as they walk rigidly down the runways? Are the people in the audience anything like this? Anything about this scenario remind you of “The Emperor’s New Clothes?”

I attended a minimalist painter’s exhibit many years ago. The comments of the audience taught me all I needed to know, plus my eyes confirmed what I saw. People were commenting on the brilliance of this painter, and how it took him six months of being alone in his studio to create a single line painting – that’s right, a single line on an entire canvas. Some art collectors really don’t know that much about what they are collecting. They collect pieces because someone tells them those pieces are valuable and will continue to increase in value. And like some people who want to be part of the “in crowd,” they pick up ideas here and there form others or from galleries, whose success is based on the sales they can get from their exhibits, and they know well who will bring people out and whose works will sit there. They have to constantly try to bring in new works of a type that are different from what people are used to seeing. And they also know that if the pieces have higher prices on all of them and the represent the work of one or perhaps two painters or sculptors at best, they will likely sell better in communities that are “art savvy” because people will respect that if they are looking for something to invest in.

Around Christmas, I will put up a photo of a piece I created years ago and then took it all apart even though it had been accepted into a good venue. The truth was that I didn’t accept it because I considered it was not as good as other pieces I had created earlier, or pieces by other artists that were accepted. Today when I look back on that piece, I often feel sad because it was what my mind was thinking of in terms of creativity at the time, and it said what I wanted it to say in the way I wanted it to.

Respect your creativity at any given point in your life. Comparing it to other pieces is not a healthy activity. You need to respect the fact that you had the courage to get out materials and create something at that moment. You are not a failure because a piece of art or a piece of writing doesn’t measure up to other pieces you or others have created. The only failure is the failure to even try at all. Go ahead. Be brave. Show off your worst writing example or your worst painting or sculpture. Don’t look at your art in terms of awards, money or other superfluous things. Make creativity your joy just the way a baby feels joy at discovering its hands. Maybe someday those hands will create great paintings, or perhaps play incredible sonatas, but for now, be ok where you are and with what you have done. It is all good, even the simple little pumpkin quilt.

Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda

Anne’s Journal Quilt made when Mother Died

It is easy to fill our lives with our “shoulda, coulda, woulda’s. I suspect that most of us do this at some time or other in our lifetimes.

I was born in an era when women were still struggling to be women who had a lot of choices in life. When I was starting high school, my mother took me to register for my classes. There was a choice to choose a college route or the regular route. I wanted to go to college and become a nurse, likely a military nurse since I had grown up in a military family that went way back. My mother said no. She said I needed to become a secretary and find a man and get married. Really! It is hard to imagine, but that is what she believed. She had gotten married and I don’t think my mother or father finished high school. She had some problem with her mastoids when she was about my age, and in those days, was in the hospital for awhile and had surgery for it. So she and my father got married when she got well.

My father had come home from school one day when he was I think 16 or 17, and his family had moved away and abandoned him. He had other brothers and a sister who had killed herself. I really don’t know the whole story, but he lied about his age, because it was during the Great Depression, and he joined the military. He got his room and board, but in order to be able to join, he had to give all his money to a poor family who never ever thanked him.

That is most of what I know about my mother and father. So I did all the things I was supposed to and hated every minute of it. Secretaries in those days took shorthand, typed letters and used carbon to make copies and a machine I can’t remember the name of to make copies. They fetched coffee for their bosses every day and for meetings they fetched it for all the men at the meetings. And once in awhile, men treated women disrespectfully, touching them in ways that were inappropriate, and getting away with it because it was the times.

Then suddenly women’s lib came along, and so did wearing pant suits, and women were threatened with being fired if they wore those in the office. Gee, no more legs to look at or exposed body parts to be touched. But women persevered. I divorced an abusive husband, but I suppose in reality he was no more abusive than most men who believed their women should stay at home and have dinner ready for them when they walked in the door, raise their children and do their washing and ironing, and stay in the home except to take the children to the playground. Money was given to the wife to get the groceries, and sometimes the woman might get money to buy a donut or small toy for the children but there was no money for anything that might have taken care of things she might like to have.

I DID get to go to a University finally. And I DID get a degree in Archaeology. And I did work at interesting related work in Mexico and Arizona until I became ill with Valley Fever and Paratyphoid, and then I decided to do other less physically dangerous work. But I had a lot of fun along the way. One day somewhere along the way I grew up and became a bonafide human being who could buy things for herself, and who could dream of things she wanted to do and to become, and she could actually do them. She could say no to men who did anything inappropriate, and she could be her own person in general. I got married again a couple of times over the years and had some really interesting and accomplished men – an archaeologist and an anthropologist. And I learned more of the world and who I was as a human being. No more Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda. I grew into a woman who had exciting careers and who had her own businesses. And step by step, little by little, I became a fully evolved human being.

It has not been easy along the way, but that is what gives us strength in the end result. I am now 77, and I have a man in my life – my significant other, Richard – and he is none of those men I married before. He is a human being – a simple man with simple tastes and a really big heart. He doesn’t talk a lot, but when he does, what he says is real. And he has shown his goodness in so many ways without even saying anything about it. He is not a Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda man. He lives from day to day, happy with the simplest of things. I am free to be who I am and he is free to be who he is. Sometimes the simplest things are the best things in this lifetime.

I will never live in the Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda world again. I decided to get another degree at 74 and graduated in 2016, the same year I had breast cancer. It was Criminal Justice. I was going to be a mentor/advocate for juvenile delinquents (and I have worked with them before in other ways) but other things changed all that, so instead I am a CASA court-appointed volunteer mentor/advocate for foster children. I don’t have an assignment currently, but when I am not a caregiver for my Richard, I can do that if I choose. I am who I am and I am happy with that now. I don’t need to blame anyone else now for what I did not become. Perhaps that was never meant to be. Perhaps, just perhaps I was meant to be on the course of life I am now. It is all good, even on its worst days. I will look back on them tomorrow and be glad that I have seen many sides of life. I will be glad for the little things – a beautiful sky, a gentle breeze, a hand that reaches out and holds mine . . .

Standing Tall

“Strength”by Anne Copeland

Life doesn’t always give us strength when we need it most. We may be ill ourselves and still have to take care of our significant other. Or perhaps we have to deal with legal issues that we are ill equipped financially or otherwise to deal with. Or a child has run away, or gone missing. There are as many things as we have to deal with as we could come up with, sometimes multiple issues at the same time.

When my significant other came home from a major cervical surgery, I was ill and had been for months with chronic bronchitis. He was not ready to be released without some form of nursing care or rehab; he could not lift his own body up from bed as his right arm was paralyzed, and he could not cut up his own food to prevent choking, or to even bathe himself or use the bathroom by himself. I am sure there are others who have been in the same situation with loved ones.

Each day I dragged myself out of bed, and did whatever was necessary to help him. During this time, I also had to get him to multiple medical appointments and back to the spinal clinic in another town about an hour away. As we were about to enter the clinic one day, I suddenly remember the lights going out and falling on my face in the dirt. Luckily some good folks came and helped me back up; my significant other could not possibly help me and he was clearly upset and terrified. My nose still feels as though it was broken and I hit my head pretty hard, and hurt my knees as well. Other than going to emergency and waiting for perhaps 10 – 12 hours, I chose to just try to make the best of it all. I cannot leave my significant other at this time.

The fault is not that of his doctors or mine. It is the Medicare and MediCal insurance that is not giving us what we need. When I had a bad infection, even though the medication was prescribed by a specialist, I could not get it for two weeks because the Pharmaceutical Department of the insurance had to approve it as it was not covered. In my younger years, I was a Regulatory Compliance Specialist for a major pharmaceutical company that made plasma derivative products, so I guess I know a little bit about that issue. During the two weeks that I was ill, the infection got worse, resulting in my still being ill after a couple of months. I file grievances on both issues, and I will follow through on it even though I am still having a difficult time as is my significant other.

The point is not to tell my own story for others to feel sorry for me. The point is that sometimes we have to stand tall when we are feeling weak. We need to remember that even though it is not easy, we have to stand up for our rights, and for those of others. No one said this life would be a bowl of cherries; there are challenges every single day of one type or another. And we don’t need to lose our love of life and the world. We need to remember that when we have our worst challenges, there are always others who are far worse off. Try to help someone else who is worse off than you are, at least giving them words of hope if nothing else. And try to stay strong in the face of many barriers to everyday life. Remember that no challenge lasts forever. STRENGTH is our friend.

Something’s Gotta Give . . .

Fiber art piece by Anne Copeland.

Ah, that first bloom of love, when everyone is on their best and each of us seems like the perfect person that we have been looking for. They are, at this point in fact, exactly how we have imagined a lover.

That bloom can last a day, a week, a month, and sometimes even a year or so. But it seems that all of a sudden we are looking at them with different ways. We could not have seen that the male perhaps needed a mother and caregiver more than he needed a girlfriend, or that the female was such a horrible person to deal with – never giving a fellow a break, and expecting too much of him related to sharing responsibilities around the house, and in bringing in money to help with shared expenses.

Relationships are seldom equal on both sides 100% of the time. The scales are often unbalanced for one side or the other part of the time, but it works out fine if the unbalance seems to equal out.

And sometimes unforeseen things happen to all of us – an illness, a heart attack, an accident or some sort of disaster. It can happen to both people at the same time, or one can suddenly have the issue, and the other one has to make a choice to become a caregiver or be in charge of one.

There are people who give the rest of their lives gladly to their mate, taking are of them and helping to advocate for and to protect them from others who might take advantage of them during that time.

Others, the minute the mate becomes ill or has some sort of catastrophic event that is going to require being a caregiver, find it necessary to withdraw their support for whatever reason. Many women who have been dealt the cancer card encounter this situation, but I am sure as many men also have similar experiences with other physical or mental issues.

Those of us who try to follow through and take care of our significant others often run into problems. Sometimes the other person doesn’t really want to get better. For whatever reasons, that person may keep trying to remain an invalid even when in reality he or she could get better with a little effort. Perhaps that person had to take responsibility for others most of his or her life; or perhaps the person just wants to have a form of control over his or her mate. At any rate, this is when one of the other person has to make a decision whether to stay or to walk away. It is never en easy decision in either event; the longer the two have been together the more difficult it can become.

How long should a person stay and try to work things out before walking away? At some point in our lives, many of us will encounter a similar situation. There is no easy answer. But we have to respect and honor our own selves first and foremost. If we allow ourselves to keep doing something that provides no nourishment of any kind for our souls, pretty soon we will not have any soul nor any energy left to support our own selves. And the other person will not be benefiting from this either. Something’s gotta give . . .