How I Deal with Life.....

How I Deal with Life.....

Saturday, November 2, 2013

This is How the Heart Begins to Heal..

My dad hasn't even been gone three months yet, and my heart is still fresh and raw from the loss.

 I am slowly pushing the almost nightmare last year of his life aside and reaching, searching, sifting for the memories of the good times. 

My dad had the prettiest smile I have ever seen.  He was dark complected, black haired and brown eyed. When we lived in Texas everyone thought he was of Mexican descent, and when we lived in Crete they thought he was Greek. He would laugh about it, especially when they tried to speak Spanish or Greek to him and then not understand when he tried to explain to them that he didn't understand. The situation created a comedy of errors at times.

 He was an accomplished steel guitarist and songwriter. I have an entire folder of songs that he wrote.. One day when I was fourteen we sat down together and wrote a song about the 50's; die hanging on the rear view mirror of a '57 Chevy and rock and roll music. I helped him with most of the lyrics. Sadly, that is the one song I can't find, but the memory of us writing it together is seared into my heart.

 I loved him more than I think I have ever loved a man. He loved me back in the same fierce way. He was my protector, I was his only little girl. He was loving, kind, solid, dependable, funny, and calm. He took care of his family always, through the ups and downs, though the valleys and the mountain tops. He took his responsibilities seriously. Even in the end, while the Alzheimer's quickly ravaged him, he was worried if Mom and I had money, if we had eaten, When I fed him at the V.A Center he would want me to reassure him that I had eaten before he would even take a bite of his food.

He was not showy or overly verbal, but he made sure he hugged me and my brother as often as he could, through our teen years and well into our adult years. At the end of a hug he would whisper, "I love you" into my ear.  He wasn't perfect; he was in all ways human and he taught me how to be human. He taught me how to make mistakes, how to fall down, then how to get back up, learn and move on. This has served me well. I am largely what and who I am due to his love and his role in being every inch a "Dad" to me and my brother.

I'm still working it out, still cry myself to sleep some nights, often find tears slipping and rolling down my face at unexpected times and places. I know this is grief and that it has to be felt, no matter how much it bloodies and tears my gut apart. No matter how much it feels as if razor wire has curled up in the deepest recesses of my chest and is slicing me into tiny slivers. I know the pain will lessen, I know I have a life to live, things to do and places to see, music to hear, books to read, words to write. That is what Dad would have wanted. I will honor him by living my life in the best way I know how. I will be forever changed by this experience. But isn't that what love does anyway?


Goodnight, Daddy, I love you..



Monday, October 21, 2013

More TERI'S LIFE RULES To Ponder



In my vast wisdom that comes with age, as well as having royally screwed up, or as I like to call it “experienced life” a time or two, I can offer the following pieces of advice without hesitation.

 DISCLAIMER:: There is no money back guarantee. You aren't spending any money reading this, except maybe your internet bill, and I am not responsible for that shit. If the following advice proves faulty do not hire a fancy sue-happy attorney thinking you will win some stone-cold easy cash. 
I am a teacher. You will get nothing.

BLOW UP MONKEYS
1. After my five-year-old granddaughter got all pouty because some kid wrote on her blow up plastic toy monkey with a marker, I told her, "Miley, you are going to find that a whole lot of people are going to write on your monkey in this life. You just gotta let it go".  
 So if someone is writing on your monkey, let it go.

ROCKS
2. And those rocks? You know the ones you keep picking up throughout the day that in no way belong to you? Stop picking them up. They aren’t yours, and after you have picked up about six and seven good sized ones and placed them in your pockets those bastards can become quite heavy. They ain’t your rocks. Don’t pick them up.

HAIR
3. It doesn’t matter if you have a bad hair day.  It’s just freaking hair. Don’t let the state of a bunch of keratin ruin an entire day. It's KERATIN, people. Google it. Kinda gross, so prepare yourself.

MARRIAGE
4. Don’t even THINK about marrying someone that you known for less than one year. And by “known” I mean that the lust has cooled to an even 50 degrees F , you have experienced a bad stomach virus or food poisoning together, and you have seen one another mindlessly clipping toenails while watching television. Then, and only then, can you even begin to consider spending the rest of your lives with one another. Not before. Trust me on this. 
Plus, I read on the news the other day that 90% of all dust that we inhale consists of the dead skin of our family members. Marry someone you don't mind inhaling into your body on a regular basis.

MAKING PEOPLE INVISIBLE
5. Everyone makes stupid remarks that can hurt your feelings. If it only happens once in a while it means that person is human. Forgive them. If it happens on a regular basis it means that person is an asshole and you should cut them out of your life permanently. You don’t have to trash talk them. You don’t have to hate them.  You don’t even have to tell them you are cutting them out of your life or why. Just relegate them to the “Don’t think about it” portion of your brain. You know, that part of the brain where you have tucked away the memories of all those past medical gynecological exams? Then after you have tucked that person far away in your subconscious, get on with your life.  You will be happier. They will be confused for a bit. It’s a personal win/win.

HEART FRIENDS
6. I know you get busy. So do I. Work, errands, family, it all gets in the way sometimes, as real life tends to do. But you must phone or write your closest friends at least every two months and say “I love you”. Do it just because you can.

INEXPENSIVE ENTERTAINMENT
7.  People watching is a highly undervalued and enjoyable pastime. Especially when enjoying said activity in a shopping mall or water park, and especially when you are “people watching” those under the age of twenty-five or over the age of eighty, and especially while sipping on a Coke Slurpee. Think of those nameless strangers as human cat toys. And it’s mostly free to people watch. The Slupree will cost under $3.00. What a deal.

PARENTING 101
8. Everyone else’s child is a brat except yours. You will always know instinctively how to parent other people’s children better than your own.  And you will voice that fact loudly. It’s a parent rule. You are not an exception.

POLITICIANS
9. For well over two hundred years United States career politicians have been greedy, power-hungry, and had their hot little hands jammed deep in the pockets of corporate America and lobbyists. Again, it’s a rule. A politician rule. There are no exceptions.
 
 LISTS
10. Creating written itemized lists is a perfectly valid way to pass the time.

PACIFISM
11. Sometimes I am smart as hell. 
And, contrary to popular belief, I am not a pacifist. There is a time and a place to kick ass and take names. You just have to be intelligent enough to know when to kick ass, and when to say "fuck it" and go plant a shrubbery.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Voices In My Head Are Back

The below, "Chapter Nine", is a long overdue chapter to my little novella, "No One Gets Out of Here Alive".  The last time I wrote a chapter was back in April of this past year. In May I got a new job, started the process of moving and settling into a new school, and around the same time dad's Alzheimer's and Parkinston's took a sudden downward spiral..

When dad died on August 15 I found that all desire to write was gone. I didn't know where the stories went. I could no longer hear my story telling voice. All was silent in my head. The fictional voices were gone.

One friend kept messaging me, asking me for another chapter. I kept promising, but when I would sit down to write, the characters would refuse to talk to me. I kept telling myself, "Tomorrow I will write". As the days spread themselves like fog, I still couldn't hear the stories. The voices had gone completely silent.

"Tomorrow" became more and more elusive.  My sleep suffered. I was spending every spare moment at work trying not to think about dad, about the weight like rocks inside of my chest, about writing.  Thinking I could ignore it all if I completely exhausted myself at work, I'd work eleven and twelve hours, long after all the other teachers had left the school. Even so, I still spent two or three hours trying to fall asleep at night. My thoughts were becoming tangled from sleep deprivation. Every time my brain started recalling dad's smile or the sound of his voice I'd push the memory aside. I'd berate myself not to cry, not to think- just work, work, work.  And the voices inside grew fainter and fainter.

A week ago my persistent friend again messaged asking when I was going to write more of Matthew's story. Again I promised her, "This weekend". Two nights ago as I was trying to fall asleep I heard a voice, clear as a silver bell, in my head. Behind my closed eyelids in the dark of the night I saw the words appear fresh and crisp against a bright white background. I  heard and saw the beginnings of, "Matthew is my big brother..". 
Last night I wrote.

I have found the voices again, or they have found me. They are jostling for attention, crowding my brain, speaking to me every second. They are joyous and they are back. Hell, yeah, they are back.

I owe you a debt, Jo.  You were the swift kick that wouldn't let the voices just die.
Thank you.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Chapter Nine: No One Gets Out of Here Alive



Chapter Ten
Brendan Royal
 I don’t know where the angels live, but it must be real pretty if Matthew wants to live there. Matthew is my big brother. Once I seen him in a picture that dad keeps in his drawer.  In the picture Matthew is squatted down on a beach that has lots of sand. He’s grinning at the camera and his eyes are squinted  like the sun is hurting. He has on green swim trunks and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle shirt.
             
          Dad caught me looking at the picture and he cried. He wasn’t mad at me though. He told me all about Matthew, how he liked to draw, and how Matthew had hair like mine; thick, black and curly, He also had that gap between his front teeth like I do.  I wonder if Matthew hated that gap as much as I do? If he was here I’d ask him that. I’d also ask him what his Mom is like. Matthew and I have different Moms. My Mom is named Gretchen. I don’t  know what Matthew’s Mom is named. Dad didn’t tell me and I thought if I asked it might make him cry worse.
             
          I was just a little kid when I found the picture by accident. I was looking for some quarters so I could buy an ice cream from the ice cream man when he drove by. The ice cream man always comes by in the summer. Daddy was still at work and Mom was on the phone. I tried to ask her for some quarters, but she covered the phone with her hand, told me to “Ssshhh”, and pointed for me to go away. I had seen some quarters on dad’s dresser the day before, but when I went in Mom and Dad’s room and looked, they were gone. I thought they might be in his top drawer. I opened the drawer and pushed aside Dad’s socks. Under the socks was a small wooden box. I twisted the lid off and inside was a round silver medal with a baseball on it and the word “Cougars”, a small white baby tooth ( I knew that because I had lost two teeth by then), and a tiny little bracelet with the words “BABY ROYAL” written on it. The picture was under the bracelet. I looked and looked at it because at first I thought the kid in the picture was me, but he looked older than me, so it couldn’t be me. Plus I never had a Mutant Ninja Turtle t-shirt.  I was still looking at it when I heard Dad walk in. I didn’t get scared or nothing. Dad never spanks me, but when dad took the picture from me and started crying I was wishing he had spanked me.
             
          Dad told me about Matthew and how he was with the angels, and how he had been his first boy, but now I was dad’s boy. Dad put the picture back in the box and put the lid back on. He pushed the box back under the socks and closed the drawer. He leaned down, picked me up, even though I was getting too big to pick up, and hugged me so hard I thought he was going to break my ribs.  I didn’t say “Ow” or anything. I just let Dad hug me until he stopped crying.         
           
          When the ice cream man came later I didn’t have a quarter, so Johnny let me have a few licks of his ice cream. I didn’t tell Mom about the picture. I don’t know if Dad did or not. I sometimes sneak in their room and take the picture out of Dad's drawer when I know they won't catch me, like when they're watching the news after dinner.  I've looked at the picture so much that it's painted on my brain. Sometimes before I go to sleep I talk to Matthew. No one knows I talk to him, but it’s like I always got someone around and I’m never alone.  I sometimes get the feeling that he listens to me, but he’s with the angels and can’t answer back.
            
           When I grow up I’m going to find heaven and ask Matthew to come back.

The Kettle is Almost Boiling.

What with all the Chicken Littles running around D.C at the moment, I should be entertained, but I'm not..

Just for the record I am not a Republican or a Democrat.
 I am PRO choice, PRO legalization of marijuana, PRO Gay Rights, and ANTI Federal Department of Education and so called "Federal education standardized tests" that attempt to corral all children in one little homogeneous box (I am, after all, a teacher).

 I am also PRO universal health care in America WHEN a viable one can be found (I don't think the ACA as written is workable or will set out to do what it was meant to do: provide affordable healthcare for every American).

I am ANTI 1% (big Corporations and and Banking) who are just getting richer richer while the rest of Americans are simply struggling to pay the mortgage and put food on the table. And the struggle is becoming harder and harder with each passing year, and that 1% just keeps fatter than a pig before slaughter time.

I am that ever growing segment of Americans who doesn't fit into either party's rhetoric or political platform.

 Right now Obama, Pelosi, Boehner, Cruz, Reid, Chambliss & Ikason (two Republican senators from my state of Georgia) and all the rest of the Senators and State Representatives are pissing me off.  And I don't think I am the only one who feels this way.

THEY shut down the government, but their paychecks aren't affected? They furlough federal workers without even a nod of sympathy or empathy? They put the nation at risk of defaulting on loans due to their unwillingness to approve a budget? (Don't even get me started on the debt ceiling issue; we're screwed if we do, we're screwed if we don't).

THEY pass a health care law that they don't have to be a part of, but the rest of Americans do? And eventually we all will (except our lawmakers). My employer will not continue to insure me if they can get me into an exchange and save themselves money. But I will have to pay higher premiums and my deductibles will also increase. I will be approved even though I have a pre-existing condition, but how will that help me if I can't afford the premiums or the deductibles?

Most Americans are like me: not well versed in the ways of Constitutional law, but I'll bet you a  dime to a dollar we can smell something rotten in the state of Denmark. We don't have to pry the tinfoil off the bowl on the top shelf of the fridge and actually view the green mold to know that something is decaying.
Well, Washington stinks, folks.
Smells like rotten eggs and forgotten cantalopes left to fester in the July heat . Oh, the sky is going to fall, all right, but not in the way the D.C Chicken Littles are cluckling about.

It won't end with a bang, but a whimper.

We're all frogs sitting in a kettle full of water on a lit stove while we allow our elected officials, big corporations and their share holders (Wal Mart, Apple, Procter Gamble, Coca Cola, General Electric, etc), banks (J P Morgan, Chase Manhattan, Wells Fargo, etc); special interest groups (real estate, retired, banking, oil and gas, pharmacy. etc); lobbyists (Cory Alexander, United Health Group; Bryan Anderson, Southern Company; Sid Ashworth, Northrop Grumann; Abigail Blunt, Kraft Food; etc); and pork barrel spending (old energy sources continuing to profit as opposed to new energy sources, corporations profiting from unnecessary Defense spending as opposed to necessary ones) to turn the heat up slowly and cook us alive. We won't even notice until it's too late.

Stupid us for siding with the Republicans or the Democrats over OUR nation. They divide and conquer. We allow it. And other nations are watching. They see us growing weak with division. Not exactly a good time for us to appear weak on the international front.

Do something. Write your Congressman, write your President.
 http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml 

Write editorials for your local and state newspapers for publication.  Blast BOTH sides of this insanity. Raise a little hell. Climb out of the kettle of water while you still can. And next election vote every last one of them OUT who participated in this circus. Let's rename it the EJECTIONS and eject them all out of office.


Either that or shut up and allow it all to happen.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

September 11th- Twelve Years After...

I sat down tonight and watched a few clips of 9-11-01 video from that fateful day. The horror I felt was just as sharp, just as clear, just as heart shattering as it was twelve years ago. Can it really have been twelve years?  Has that much time actually passed in the seeming blink of an eye?  Can we really be that far removed from that nightmare day?

My new students this year, the senior class of 2017, have no memory of the planes crashing, the people jumping, the towers falling, the Pentagon in flames... To the Class of 2017, September 11, 2001 is merely another footnote in history. They live in a world that was made that day. They know no other world. And I cry because of that.

But I remember. And those who lived through that day- who shed rivers of tears while riveted to  television sets anxious for any information, who knew that the world had set itself on a different spin, a different trajectory- when they (I) are gone and turned to dust will that day have any meaning other than a line or two in some history book?

As long as I live my heart will hurt and ache every September 11th. I know this as well as I know that something changed that day that can never be undone.








Wednesday, August 21, 2013

MSgt Jimmy A Coley: A Good and Decent Man




I was called home last Tuesday morning from Nashville, Ga where I am now teaching. The doctors at the V.A told Mom that Dad wouldn't last much longer. I arrived at the V.A hospital around 2 p.m Tuesday. My mom's brother and his wife came in from Arkansas.

Tuesday night I slept in a chair in the hospital family/visitor’s room. On Wednesday night my brother and his family arrived from Atlanta (my brother had to fly in from Chicago where he was working). We couldn't get Mom to leave Dad's room, so my brother stayed in the room with them both all night Wednesday. I slept on the floor in the aforementioned visitor’s room, along with my sister-in-law, my aunt and uncle, and my husband. Dad was semi-conscious Tuesday and I talked to him, but I don't think he could really understand much at that point, other than that he was surrounded by love. My dad's mother came to say goodbye and she was able to spend a few private moments alone with Dad. Mom and Dad’s pastor arrived, and over the next two days he was right there alongside my family to offer comfort and friendship.

 By Wednesday morning Dad was no longer conscious at all. By then it had been seven days since he had eaten any food and four days since he last had any water (his swallowing reflex had disappeared). His breathing was labored and deep. I hugged him, told him how much I loved him, played music for him. Mom held Dad and showered him with kisses and whispered remembrances of their life together. My daughter, Lara, climbed in bed beside her “Papa” and hummed songs to him.
 Dad passed away Thursday, August 15 around 5:30 p.m. He fought it until the very end. My mom, Aunt Dorothy, and I stayed by Dad's side until he was gone. I can't even begin to describe what it's like to watch your dad leave this life...

 After Dad passed, those in the family who wanted one last time with him were given the opportunity to say their final goodbyes. My aunt and uncle took my mom home, then my husband, brother, sister-in-law, and I packed Dad's belongings. I left the hospital at 8:35 p.m on Thursday night, a good 55 hours after I had arrived.  I walked out of those hospital doors a completely changed person.

The funeral service was Sunday at Faith Baptist Church in Cochran. I was overwhelmed and humbled by all the people who came to honor my father. My brother and I both spoke about Dad, and then Mom and Dad's pastor spoke. Pastor Robbie's eulogy was indicative of the relationship that he and my dad shared. We played “For the Good Times”  by Ray Price and, per Dad’s request a few years ago, Brad Paisley’s “When I Get to Where I’m Going”.

Monday at noon we held a full military service at Andersonville National Cemetery for my father. It was by the far the most intense emotional experience of my life. Prior to the service, waiting for the honor guard to make their appearance, my father’s flag draped casket standing like a lone sentinel, I sat quiet and still between my mother and husband. The memories of my father sharpened and dulled in and out of focus. I looked up and saw a blue/black butterfly the size of a teacup flitter into the pavilion. I watched it flutter and land on one of the red flowers of the wreath my mom, brother and I had placed near Dad’s casket.  The butterfly then flew in and out of the pavilion between the columns before coming to rest on the far end of the flag draped casket.  



Amid the silence and the peace, surrounded by the white markers of men and women who had served their country, I paid silent tribute to my father in my splintered heart.

After the pastor spoke and offered a prayer, my Uncle Dan, who served with my father in Vietnam, stood up and gave an impromptu speech at the behest of my brother. My husband recounts the speech better than I can:

 Jimmy and Dan enlisted, one in the Air Force, the other in the Army, after getting caught stealing a boat, a judge "recommended" they join the service. Both served full careers and retired.  Jimmy was in the communications field, listening to foreign radio traffic in morse code. Dan was a grunt, later a helo pilot in the Army. They both were in Vietnam together.  In Vietnam, Jimmy was a radio/crewman on EC-47s, listening to NVA radio traffic. 

Dan was an infantry platoon leader. Dan had a couple of days off, and decided to visit Jimmy at his airbase at Pleiku. When it came time to leave and return to his platoon, where he was to report for a security mission on a small hill top near the Laotian border. Dan mentioned that his platoon was not full strength. He asked Jimmy if he could find him some air transportation for him. When Jimmy did, he also showed up with his bag packed and said he was going along, since his plane was down for a couple of days for maintenance. Dan now had 37 in a platoon that should have had 42. Dan found Jimmy an M-16 and .45. Remember, Jimmy was a "flyboy" and not trained as a grunt. When Jimmy met the platoon, in the normal custom, they all kidded him about being a flyboy, clean living, and now he would have to get dirty. 


That night, the hill top came under a heavy ground assault. Jimmy jumped in the bunker with Dan, and they fought side by side. The next morning, when the attack was over, everyone in the platoon had a new respect for Jimmy; he was now called "Sgt Coley," and they all shook his hand and showed their respect and appreciation for what he had done.  When med-evac birds arrived, many WIAs were flown to the hospital. There were many others “that were sent to a different place."  Jimmy rode the med-evac with the wounded, he wanted to make sure they made it to the hospital.
In the couple of days prior to the funeral, I was going through Jimmy's military belongings, getting pictures to display, collecting his medals, and awards. In addition to two Air Force Good Conduct medals, there was an Army Good Conduct Medal. This did not make sense to me. I figured it must have been a souvenir he collected somewhere. There was no mention of an Army Good Conduct Medal in his service records. It was not in a box- just folded up.  Later, after hearing Dan's story, I began to wonder about the medal. I told Dan about it. Turns out that when Jimmy left the hilltop, the soldiers gave him a box filled with various items. In the box was an Army Good Conduct Medal.



At Andersonville, the flag covering Dad’s casket was folded, taps was played and rifles fired. The flag, along with the rifle shell casings, was handed reverently to Mom.  It was then that I finally allowed my grief to surface. A pent up dam of the past few years' sadness and sorrow was unleashed and I cried so deeply that I missed seeing my Marine Corps uniformed youngest son walk over to Dad’s casket, snap to attention, and salute his grandfather.  I cried from the sheer ache of wanting nothing more in the world than for Daddy to wrap his arms around me and tell me that everything was going to be okay. But that will never ever happen again. I am fifty-one years old and I feel like a scared six-year old little girl.
I still want my daddy..


But I am proud of the goodbye that we gave Dad. My heart sings with the knowledge that Dad, in his last days and years, was gathered in a cocoon of love and care when he could no longer care for himself in the shattering face of Alzheimer's. Mom, who cared for my father tenderly and lovingly for so many years, is understandably adrift. When the Alzheimer's journey started no one in my family understood the price it would exact from all of us, or the toll it would ultimately take as it robbed us of a husband and a father, and even stole Dad away from himself. In the end, as I look back over my life, I realize how much Dad taught my mother, my brother, and I about the meaning of family. I will honor his teachings for as long as I draw a breath.

As my brother said as he looked down upon my dad's casket in the church, "Here is a good and decent man". No other eulogy other than that is needed.



Thursday, June 27, 2013

Random, Totally Unrelated Stuff



If heaven is not an enormous fully stocked library, I don’t want to go. Leave my dead ass in the ground.

My dog was put under anesthesia today and had a tooth pulled. I have been laughing at him because he keeps tilting to the right, losing his footing when he tries to walk, and falling down. I feel bad for laughing. Really, I do. Ha! He did it again.

Ever had a craving for a particular food? Today it was taco salad for me. I went to Kroger, bought all the ingredients, and made a gigantic bowl of the stuff. I have eaten two bowls now and I am sick of it. There is an assload of it left over in the fridge and hubby doesn’t like it..

Time to cull the books in the library. Running out of room again. Guess I can always toss the furniture in the library and build more shelves. Or just start piling books in random corners throughout the house.. Or stop buying books.. What in the HELL am I saying??
 I'll throw hubby's books out. Problem solved.. (Don't tell him I said that).

My mom found FOUR snakes in her house last week. They weren’t poisonous, but who gives a shit? THEY WERE SNAKES! Our small town police chief came and got three of the snakes out (one almost seven feet long, one a mere two and half feet, and one a dead foot long snake). Mom spent the night with me that night (said she was not sleeping in “that” house) and called an exterminator to come out the next morning. Next day the wildlife exterminator man found another snake curled on top of mom’s clean and folded clothes in the laundry room.  Exterminator man fixed the dryer vent the snakes were coming in through and searched the house thoroughly. He assured my mom the problem was fixed.
Yesterday  my brother planted two rubber snakes in mom’s house as a joke. My dear husband got them out today before Mom came home. I mean, she would have had a heart attack, literally. I tattle-tailed on my brother and now Mom is plotting revenge.
This could get good.

Went to a family reunion for my Mom’s side of the family this past weekend. I go every year because it reminds me that I am really quite normal in comparison.. Frightening, huh?

My dear husband's parrot, Pirate, hates me. He has hated me from the moment I met him almost eight years ago. He will probably live to be about forty to fifty years old. He is twelve years old now. I am fifty-one with a life expectancy of seventy-four years. Do the math. The bird and I are in almost a dead heat to see which outlives the other.

It has rained for five days straight. I would build an ark, but I am no good at "hands on" projects. Maybe I can build a raft. Or buy a blow up one. Or just drown.

I think someone snuck into my house about a week ago and beat the hell out of me with an aluminum bat.  If I find the son-of-a-bitch (I think his name is Arthur)  I'm going to nail his ass with my husband's Micronesian war club. And really, how many women can say that their husbands own a Micronesian war club?

I just read where Nelson Mandela is on life support. Why? He is ninety-four years old. Give the man a break. Let him go already. Damn... If I were him, I'd be SO pissed off.

I think it's strange how so many people think homosexual marriage is going to be the ruination of the so called traditional family. We did away with the traditional family long ago with the advent of quickie no-fault divorces and out of wedlock births. So how come everyone is getting their panties in a wad about families now?  I think we're about thirty years too late for that shit.

Oops.. dog fell over again.













Monday, June 17, 2013

Father's Day in the Land of the Lost..




Sunday, June 16 2013
            It is Father’s Day and my dad doesn’t even know what day it is. I visit him at the V.A hospital and when I kiss him and tell him “Happy Father’s Day" he tries to say it back to me like a greeting that perhaps he has forgotten.  He barely gets the word “happy..” out before the disconnect between his brain and his vocal cords short circuits leaving him puzzled and frustrated.  When my lips touch his cheek I can smell my daddy underneath the chemical soap they wash him with. He has been freshly shaven for Father’s Day, as have all the vets on the floor.  Dad’s dinner tray arrives. Mom places a nice clean towel over dad like a bib. She chops the chicken into tiny pieces. I pour milk into his mashed potatoes to correct the over dryness of the spuds.
            
            Staff  seem a bit short today.  Mom is taking care of dad. I go in search of my own to take care of.
            There is Mr Couey in his wheelchair, who many years ago served in the U.S Army. He speaks in one word communiqu├ęs. His eyes bright, yet he can’t open the Frito bag. I open the bag for him and place two chips in his  hand. He eats and I place two more chips in his hands.  This goes on until the entire bag is gone. He is thirsty and I offer him grape juice pierced with a bendy straw, He places his lips on the straw and in one long sip he manages to drain the cup dry . He ask for another. I slip a straw into a fresh grape juice, guide  the straw to his lips and again a miracle as the grape-juice disappears in one breathless sip. I push thick frosted chocolate cake into his mouth and he makes a pleasing sound as the chocolate hits his tongue. We develop a rhythm: two bites of chocolate cake, one sip of cold milk. He doesn’t want the peas and carrots, just the chocolate. The chocolate that brings forth memories of boyhood and romance and home.
           
             I move to Mr. Harrison, He is very hard of hearing. He sits alone in his wheelchair at a round table. On the table is a smorgasbord of food: peach pie, sloppy joe, vanilla ice cream, grape juice, milk, ensure,. His  eyes grow wide as he states loudly, “This is a whole heap of food!” I offer to assist him and he yells, “What? I can’t hear!” I tell him my name is Teri, then I repeat it louder and I see the perplexity furrow his brow. When I say my name again even louder, he finally hears me and gives me a shy smile.  I sit and feed him ice cream, then place a sloppy joe in his hand that will end up half on the lap towel and half in his mouth. When I wipe his mouth with a napkin he tells me “Thank you’. A thank you I don’t deserve. I should be telling him “Thank you”.
            
             Then there is Mr. Fuddell. He sits at a table by himself, a red, white and blue patriotic hat perched on his head. He shows me the watch he is wearing and I tell him it is very nice. I sit slowly beside him and ask if I can help him. He nods his approval. The fork I am holding makes its way back and forth from mashed potatoes to banana pudding. He wants one bite of one and then one bite of the other. Occasionally a sip of milk is called for, but it’s just baby sips. Mr. Fuddell is much too entranced by the banana pudding. As I leave to go check on Dad, Mr. Fuddell grabs my hand, brings it to his mouth and looking all the world like a gallant, noble, black Knight, he gently kisses the top of my hand and whispers, ‘’Thank you.’’
           
             I go back to where dad has finished eating. He is very tired a lot lately. Constantly slipping off into sleep. I don’t know if it’s the medications they give him or what- all I know is that he isn’t crying all the time, he isn’t angry and agitated, he doesn’t get frustrated anymore. He sees me and smiles and then nods back off to sleep in his Gherri chair. Sometimes while he is dreaming he smiles...
            He is losing muscle mass at an alarming rate. When I wrap my arms around him it feels as if the muscle, the tissue, the skin that  holds him together is slowly disappearing. I sing, “Mama’s Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” and this elicits a smile of remembrance and joy from him. He even opens his eyes and looks straight into my eyes as I sing. He remembers so much more than people understand. He still understands societal “niceties” and will greet  newly introduced strangers with a smile and a brief nod of his head in their direction. My father was always a gentleman, and he continues to be one even as he is losing himself to Alzheimer’s.
            
             Mama dips her head on the table and cries while dad sleeps in his Gherri chair. I want to weep, to grieve, but I can’t do it in  front of mom. I’m the pragmatic, strong one, although I am still a wee bit confused on who cast the ballots for the roles each family member has assumed during this journey of losing my father. Maybe the roles are assigned based on the way a person grieves. Maybe I am reading too much into it and in the end it’s all happenstance and blasted default.
             
            My dad has been busy unlearning: he has unlearned how to read, unlearned how to play guitar, unlearned how to form a thought into a sentence, unlearned how to dress himself, unlearned how to feed himself. But he has not (as of yet) unlearned how to love my mother. It is the one thing he has that still connects him to this life. When his eyes focus on my mom he smiles and pulls her in close for a kiss. He tells her that he loves her. Tears run unashamedly down her cheeks and she tells him that she loves him. They kiss again. A slow, tender kiss meant to last the ages. I turn away because it is almost too intimate a scene for their child to witness, even if I am grown. The moments are too private, they are not meant for other eyes. Just as grief is private, so are these kisses.
             
             I go home, find a dark corner after my dear husband has gone to sleep, and I finally let the tears out, the sadness. I touch my broken heart and can feel the shattered edges pressing under my skin. The shards that cut and cause so much pain. And I try not to remember how Dad used to be- that blade cuts too sharp. Maybe after all of this is over my skin will be tougher, the old memories will bring smiles, and if I sit very still and listen very closely I will  hear my father telling me, “It’s okay, baby, it’s okay. You can cry now. I’m here”.
 I just need Daddy to tell me that it’s all going to be okay and make me laugh again..                                                  


Friday, May 31, 2013

Alzheimer's is Winning. It Always Does.



I visited Dad at the V.A today, but for about the first twenty minutes he didn't really know I was there. He was sleeping in the Geri chair in the dining room when I arrived. I tried to wake him, I spoke to him, I hugged him, but he didn't respond much, other than random mumbling.

 Maria (one of the nurses) finally got him to wake up, and when he saw me he started crying. He stared at me and tears spilled over onto his cheeks. I hugged him, I kissed him, then I tried to divert his attention with sweet iced tea and Sonic onion rings, but he wouldn't drink or eat more than a few sips and four or five bites.
 I told him I was sorry that I hadn't visited, but that I had been sick. He wrinkled his brow and asked,, "You okay...?" I told him I was fine now. He nodded his head  and closed his eyes.

Dad dozed off fitfully and I held his hand. Every now and then he would startle awake and call, “Honey?”. I think he thought I was Mom. I would clasp his hand tighter and say, “I’m here”, and he’d settle back down for a few minutes. At one point he opened his eyes and became animated and started trying to tell me something, his eyes wide and red rimmed, desperate, but he couldn't even get a full word out. I could see he was getting frustrated, so I told him, "Dad, it's okay. You've already told me everything I need to know. You've told me everything important, and I remember. I remember everything you told me". This eased him enough so that he started relaxing.
He finally settled down and closed his eyes.

While he slept his body began slipping down in the chair, so two nurses grabbed his arms and pulled him upright. This woke him and upset him a lot. When the nurses walked off, Dad looked at me and said, "Leave me alone", quite plainly. I told him I wouldn't let anyone else bother him and then I just sat and held his hand while he drifted back off to sleep. I placed my head gently on his chest and listened to his heart beat and I breathed in the scent of him.  One day soon I know I’ll miss that scent. It is my daddy's scent and no else on earth smells the way he does. It is how I have always identified him. It calms me, it soothes me, it lets me know I am loved. 

His body is wasting away. Food no longer holds much interest for him. His arms are so very thin and the skin is stretched over his ribcage. He has no muscle tone left at all. His hands stay curled in on themselves like a baby's. The hair on his arms is sparse and his eyebrows are nearly gone. His teeth appear too large for his mouth. There are angry looking red and purple spots on his forearms. His scalp is dry and flaking. His feet stay swollen like balloons. His eyes are watery and unfocused. His days consist of lying in the Geri chair. He does not respond to television or music. He has no quality of life left at all.


I would give almost anything to have one last conversation with him. A real conversation like he and I used to have. A conversation about life, what's important and what isn't, how he feels, memories of his life. But that conversation will never happen again. It's in the past with so much else.


 Dad is being moved to a palliative care floor next week.

 I fucking hate Alzheimer's. 


Saturday, May 25, 2013

New job, New Paths..



The past month has been a weird one...

For the past two months I have been blanketing Georgia with job applications for a teaching position for next year. I have stayed awake until the wee hours of the morning filling out application after application online. I landed two job interviews this month, and lo and behold, praise Jesus and pass the biscuits, at the second interview I was offered a teaching position.  The job is two hours away which means, of course, I will be moving to a new town and driving back to my real home on the weekends, but the town where I will be teaching is quaint and friendly. The school is also offering me a chance at teaching autonomy so I can practice my “craft” and make a difference in students’ lives (I know that “making a difference” is an overused cliche, but cliches become cliches for a reason; they’re true).  I am not one who likes to be micro-managed. I know how to teach, I know how to get results, I know how to make learning a positive experience for my students. Give me even semi-autonomy and I will give back students who have learned how to think.. really think.  For life. I am amazed at the opportunity that I have been offered. Things just kind of work out sometimes, don’t they? In the most unforeseen ways.

I have rented a small house in my new teaching town, started planning on what furniture to take with me, and Dear Husband and I have talked about how we’ll make this work. A two hour drive is not far- I can be home in no time.. less than no time if I plug a little Beth Hart full blast into the CD player.. (speaking of which I saw her in Atlanta this month and she kicked some major musical ass).

The Beth Hart concert was day two of four days of feeling normal. After the concert I relapsed with my oh so glorious upper respiratory infection.  A week after the interview (I went to my job interview sick.. so sick that I really don’t know how I got through it) the principal phoned with the good news that the BOE approved my hiring. My daughter swears that once the principal sees me in my natural pingy, bouncing off the walls state he will wonder what happened to that sedate, pensive woman at the interview and will be looking for an out. But it'll be too late.... he will be stuck with me, but he'll learn to dearly love me, over an extended length of time. I promise.

Two rounds of antibiotics and a round of predisone didn’t kick Mr. Respiratory Infection’s butt. I finally had the proverbial rug pulled out for under my feet and I was forced to admit defeat.  After spending a mind numbing, National Geographic watching four days in the hospital where they blew out seven of my veins and never did give me any real answers, except to let me know that I don’t have TB, I think I may finally be on my way to recuperation. The IV antibiotics they flooded me with seem to have been the magic key.

So, I have a dream job at a charter school for next year and I have a nice little duplex that I can decorate any way I want. I will be a mile from my school so I can ride my bike to work if I want. All I need is a nerdy little wire basket installed. My Dear Husband is so very very glad that I will be taking my big ass green chair I have in the living room. He hates my chair. In fact, it may be the first item he loads onto the moving trailer.

So there’s life..
Dad is still battling the Alzheimer’s beast and I miss him so much I ache, Mom is still trying to fit into the new role that life has thrust uninvited upon her, my grandson is crawling and becoming mobile and independent, my rose bush is blooming magnificent roses, and I have a new wrinkle on my face. In other words, life marches on with little to no real predictability, except that the sun will rise tomorrow and a new realm of possibilities, joys, heartaches, tears, and laughter will present themselves to me for inspection.
Ain’t life a kick?

Monday, May 6, 2013

In Sickness and in Health OR "I Don't Feeeeeeeel Good".



I have been sick for the past five days. My throat so sore it has felt like a blow torch was shoved down and allowed to char cook my tonsils. My body has been achy. I have been running a fever. I have been extremely sleepy and lethargic. I have moaned, whined, and bitched to everyone who came within earshot, “I don’t feeeeel good.” I am sure my poor husband has just about had it with my self pity and kvetching. Today he stayed outside all day working in the yard. He knew I wouldn’t follow because I looked like shit; I haven’t taken a shower in two days and I don't even have on the last visages of makeup. But my dear husband still abided by his husbandly duties by peeking into the front door occasionally, asking loudly if I needed water or medicine, and then hauling ass back in the yard again before I could launch into my self pity “woe is me”  diatribe. Or maybe I just REALLY needed a shower.

The medicine that the doctor gave me to treat this whatever-it-is illness are the biggest pills I have ever seen. It’s like swallowing a big blue balloon. Or a blue ball. Or a donkey ball. I mean those pill are HUGE. So much so that I had my husband demonstrate that he still knew how to perform the Heimlich before I would take one.

On day three of said illness, right before it reached its very pinnacle and literally knocked me on my ass, I went to a job interview. Actually my illness may have contributed to what I believe was a very successful job interview. The feeling-like-shit thing actually suppressed some of my natural pinginess and ADHD behaviors that tend to scare people when they first meet me. And when I am nervous the pinginess gets worse. I get nervous at job interviews. See a cycle here? So my being sick may actually turn out to be a good thing. I’ll know in about a week and a half. During the interview I surprised myself with my calmness and the relative ease with which I stayed on one subject at a time. I am sure the interviewers thought I was a perfectly normal person.

Aside from the job interview the rest of being sick has been like being sick usually is: miserable. I missed two beautiful days- a weekend, no less. Well, maybe one beautiful day; it rained all day Saturday.  Okay, I don’t feel so robbed now- I only missed one beautiful day. I can make that up.  

Tonight I have started feeling so much better. Human almost. I am aware that I need a bath and mascara.  This keeps up and there’s even a good chance that I will be able to use the Beth Hart tickets my wonderful friend Scott gave me. I was starting to think the concert was a total wash and everyone on earth would be watching Beth Hart rock the house down Tuesday night except poor little sick me. If I don’t choke to death on one of those blue pills, I may end up having a memorable time at Old Smith’s Bar in Atlanta in two days. Party on, Garth. (I wonder if I can crush those blue pills and snort them instead? Snorting would be so much simpler).

Thursday, May 2, 2013

To Everything There Is a Season...




Today Maryland repealed the death penalty and Rhode Island approved same sex marriage.  A man killed himself in a Houston, Texas airport. A gold mine collapsed in the Sudanese killing scores of people. One World Trade Center in New York had its final spire put into place, almost twelve years after 9/11..

I guess the old saying about change being the only constant in life is true. Every thing is continually changing, and there's something indefinable about passing the half century mark of my life that actually makes me more aware of change. I am experiencing the first hints of feeling "out-of-step" with the world, something my grandfather once talked about. I didn't know what he meant back then, but the first gleanings are starting to take form in my brain. All of this is slowly ceasing to be my generation's world. The torch is being passed. I wonder how they will handle the world. With tender mercies, iron fists, compassion, intelligence?

Once upon a time, my father and I were outside in his yard one summer day and the conversation turned to time travel. I asked if he could travel to any time in the history of the world what time period would he travel to? I expected an answer like ancient Egypt during the construction of the pyramids, but instead he answered, “I’d want to travel a thousand years in the future. I want to see what eventually happens to all of this” and he swept his arms in a gesture of encompassing the world.  I looked around and above and into his eyes, and a spark was fired that referenced my place regarding my morality and my briefness upon this planet. Twenty years later, that spark is a full blown bonfire.  We live in a world of change, both large and small, knowable and unknowable.  And one day, it will be a world in which I will leave behind an infinitesimal, almost insignificant portion of myself.  My mark upon this planet.  And no mark is too small not to count in the whole of time.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

There is Nothing New Under the Sun... Except the Smallness of a World.





The swarm and unrelenting push and the constant barrage of the news and the media is making my world larger, but I don’t want it to be larger. I get lost in a world that is too large. The world is too much with me, so I stepped back and chose to remove myself from the matters of the larger, more confusing aspects. I have taken time to will my world to shrink, to grow smaller, but in seeking the smallness I have discovered the true largeness of it.
             
     In my own little patch of this immense planet I have found that the blue skies of a late spring afternoon yield a blue that no brush could dare duplicate. The way the sun slants across the sky and gently smudges the rays into a burnished gold stuns me in its simplicity and complexity. Every waking tree is busy pushing out fresh shoots, every new flower seedling unfurling to explode magically into purples and blues and crimson reds. These seemingly insignificant, but almost near miracles of an existence, occur year after year, decade after decade.
             
     Hiding away from screaming headlines of Boston Bombers, sequesters, rising health care costs, and deaths in Syria, I begin to take notice of what I have lately turned a blind eye to; a creeping caterpillar, a breeze that suddenly lifts like a sigh, the faint scent of newly bloomed jasmine, a raindrop shining on a dandelion leaf.  They each bring a new perspective to a year that has consistently spun me in circles again and again. They comfort me in their predictable adherence to the laws of the natural world.
              
      Away from the chaotic world of humankind, my eyes, my ears, my sense of smell have expanded to bring the softer world around me into sharp focus and clarity. The skies are more expansive, the shadows of the trees deeper, the sunlight more diffused.  Colors blend to create a Monet beginning. A Renoir backsplash. The rains push the scent of buried time from beneath the layers of packed earth and create a new promise. The flight of a single small sparrow against an azure sky becomes miraculous in its ease. Night sounds magnify into a twilight symphony that blend into an easy crescendo. All of these are new, yet not new. The world spins, babies are born, flowers bloom and then wither, men and women wish and dream, love tangles and untangles, horizons go on without end, and the sun sets gold, orange and red.  They happen over and over again. Timeless in their predictability. And none of them matter, and all of them matter.
             
     A year can go by so quickly, yet the happenings in a year can exact a furious toll. Some scenes of the past year, like ones from a play, I foresaw, but most I didn’t. Most knocked me down in their jolting fury. But I got back up. And my friends and loved ones got back up. The world got back up. And we went on because there is simply no other choice.
            
      This upcoming year, now that I expect the unexpected, will bring other changes I can't even begin to suppose: heartaches, triumphs, joys, tears, sublime quiet moments, and rip roaring deafening ones. On a grander scale wars will begin and end; nature will do her work both beautiful and destructive; debates will be won and lost; leaders will shift, die, or just disappear from our attentions; agendas will be proposed and disposed; and men will kill for no other reason than they can. And we will be troubled and disheartened for a mere tick of the clock. And in the time it takes the second hand to move, I will once again disengage from the largeness and the loudness of the world. I will step into the small/largeness of a world that does and does not matter; a world that changes so slowly that mountains are carved away by a single grain of sand and a baby’s tears form an ocean.
           

Thursday, April 11, 2013

1. Add-On to Bucket List AND 2. A Traumitizing Evening at the BBQ place


Things to do before I die, checkout, expire, cease to exist, bite the dust, pass away...

 
1. Decorate my bedroom like a Southern Living magazine spread... never mind what husband says.

 
2.  See the Grand Canyon up close and personal (well, not THAT up close..)

 
3. Watch all the Twilight Zone episodes in order in which they aired... (The Burgess Meredith episode "Time Enough at Last"  is CLASSIC bibliophile stuff!).

 
4. Write a fan letter to Stephen King then burn it because we all know he doesn’t read those things..

 
5. Rewrite Cinderella from the P.O.V of the Fairy Godmother... Bless her non-unioned heart- only one week vacation a year, two days sick leave per month, an ever increasing co-pay on her health insurance policy, and having to deal with dress demanding divas...

 
6.  For once, paint my toenails and not get nail polish all over the freaking place... Just once, dammit.

 
7.  Bake cookies while wearing a frilly apron. You know, a la June Cleaver?

 
8. Load up several paintbrushes, paints, markers, etc and set out on a cross country trek whereon I correct all grammatically incorrect signs from East to West coast...

 
9.  Test my strength of character by visiting a Barnes & Noble and exiting without buying a book.. not even one.

 
10.  Try to, for once, care (or pretend to care) that girly shoes matter to me..

 
I Might Have to go Into Therapy Over This...

And did I tell you about the guy I saw in Scott’s BBQ last night? Young guy with his wife and kid. He had this Frankenstein looking arm cast that extended almost from his wrist to his shoulder. The cast had a twist kind of turn screw thingie by his elbow and a metal rod running, what looked like to me, into the flesh of his arm. I just sat and watched him for a minute while he paid for his meal at the register, and the more I studied him the curiouser I got. And I started wondering, “How in the hell did he do that? I HAVE to know so I don’t do the same thing some day.”

 I thought he must have injured himself in some really cool way like parachuting out of a plane, pulling an old woman out of the twisted wreckage of a fiery crash, or trying to jump rope double-dutch old school style. right? And the longer I sat there the more I had to know..

 So I walked up to him and asked, ever so politely, “Excuse me, but how in the hell did you hurt your arm because I want to make sure I never do whatever it was you did.” He glanced at his arm, stuck a toothpick in his mouth and do you know what he said? Of course you don’t, but I am getting ready to tell you.

He said he slipped on a concrete floor at work and fell down. He fell down? What the hell? I said, “Are you sure you didn’t have an accident that involved a really kick ass Corvette?” He said, “No, I fell down.”

 I didn’t even want my Scott’s cheeseburger after that, and I really do love Scott’s cheeseburgers. They’re dripping juicy-homemade and make me want to slap YOUR mama..

But I ate my cheeseburger, and pondered about a world in which all it takes is one slight misstep, one action that counters the laws of gravity for some diabolical, surely sadistic doctor to drill holes in your arm and encase said arm in a device that has actual turn screws attached to it.  

I’m still traumatized...

 

Friday, April 5, 2013

I Am Woman: A Story of Seven.



I am woman. I am a canvas for his anger. He comes home in the evenings and flails at me, punishing my receiving flesh for the injustices he perceives inflicted upon him. I am envied by others for my status, home, new car, the white fence around my yard. He says if I try to leave he will find me. He will kill me. I know that he once loved me, but now his love resides somewhere hidden behind his anger and his wraith.
            I do not complain nor utter a word of discovery. I do not know how to complain or resist anymore. All I know is my fear. Fear that someone will discover the truth. Fear that I am the cause of my own abuse. Fear that the next time he will succeed in doing what he has threatened to do so many times before. That his hands will cut off my oxygen, my life. And everyone will ask themselves and each other, “Why didn’t she tell? Why didn’t we know?” But I will be still and silent inside of a satin lined stainless steel bed and I will be unable to answer. 

I am woman. I am raped and abused daily by the soldiers who line the refugee camp. I am a receptacle for their ejaculations, their urges. I am dishonored and made filthy. My body is no longer mine.  My husband is dead, killed by a stray bullet, and I am as a rose in a desert with no fence surrounding me.
            I watch as my children cry from hunger, the flesh melting from their frames a bit more each day, their eyes weak from lack of hope, their thin arms becoming as fragile as hollow bird bones. 
           As the fighting continues, more and more souls push into the camp. A tent city of colored rags and blue tarps expands and grows like a field waiting to be reaped, only there is nothing but despair to reap.
            The only warmth against the bitter icy nights are burning bits of plastics that give off ribbons of poison smoke. Children die either from noxious fumes or the freezing cold. Each morning I hear another mother’s sorrowful wails. 
            I disappear into the dust of war.


I am woman. I am university educated. M.I.T. Ivy league. Magna Cum Laude. My designer shoes are expensive, yet sensible. My black slacks and silk scarves are my only fashion statement.  Nothing outwardly flashy to draw attention from my dedication or intelligence. Tireless in my need for perfection, I work from dawn to dusk, crossing my T’s, dotting my I’s. The last to turn out the office light each evening, I plow through the paperwork and pat myself smugly on the back.  I exist on a glass ledge.
            I go home to an empty upscale brownstone. I eat alone at an oak dining room table from take-out trays that I hide afterwards, oh so ceremoniously, in the trash bin. I hide them from myself.  I don’t want myself to know that I eat alone. My arms ache to hold a lover, a child, anyone. But the long hours at work, the need to advance, to prove myself have meant a choice, A choice that I once thought I chose. I knew then that I couldn’t have it all. There is always a choice: career or heart.
            I stepped out of the brownstone this morning, and there on the doorstep was my deflated heart, almost unrecognizable in its defeat. I stepped over it, careful not to crush it further. I checked the mail the way I do every morning, and I found this: a sealed black and white invitation for a low interest platinum card. I suppose I am a success.

 I am woman. I was created to hide my face and body in public least I cause any undue temptation and lust in men’s hearts.  All my life I have watched as my mother, my grandmother, my aunts follow the same road to submission. At twelve years of age I was veiled. I thought I would suffocate, but after time a caged bird will learn to not see the bars of his cage.  It is true.            
            I bow to the role that has been decreed for me and my sex. I obey my father, then my husband to whom I was given like a family jewel to be bartered. My husband possesses me how and when he will. I offer no objections. My word is worth only half  as much as a man’s, but to what would I testify?  I am told I cannot travel without permission from my husband, but where would I go?  I am by law not allowed to drive a car, but my husband provides a driver, so how am I to complain?  I am not to leave the house alone, but it is for my own protection, isn’t it? 
            If I am to receive paradise I must submit my will in all things. I submit.

I am woman. I am being hunted like a rabbit.  He terrorizes my existence.  He leaves notes on the windshield of my car. In the notes he professes his love for me. He says if can’t have me no one else will. I file reports with the police, but they insist they are powerless unless he does something to physically harm me. I have a very official piece of paper in my possession that states he cannot contact me, he cannot be within 500 feet of me. So he stays his distance. 
            But I have seen him out of the corner of my eye when I have stepped out to check the mail or turn the sprinkler off.  He pops up in the drug store four aisles away, smiling at me in that way he has. I have glanced  up in my favorite restaurant to see him calmly watching me. Once he stepped behind me in a bank line and stood so close I could hear his exhales. He bides his time, but one day he will act. And when he acts, it will be too late.
            I change my daily routines. I no longer visit the grocery store near my work.  I vary my exit times from my house each morning. I gasp for air each time the phone rings. I keep the curtains drawn tight. My friends take turns staying the night with me. But they will soon grow weary of the vigilance, and the cat and mouse game will draw to a close. And I will wiggle uselessly in his jaws while the official piece of paper flutters to the ground and my blood soaks it red.

I am woman. This is the twelfth child that I carry in my spent body. My Holy Father insists that I cannot use artificial means to prevent children, that to do so would go against God and the church. That I would be damned.
            I do not know what God wants, I only know that my body is exhausted beyond all imaginings.  I only know that another pregnancy might place me in the earth. But my husband has needs. He turns to me in the night, in the dark, and I cannot refuse him.  This house that reeks of grease and despair, of children’s cries and hopelessness, of not enough food and too many mouths has becomes my prison. I look into the eyes of my children and how can I unwant them now that they are here? I might as well unwant myself. My children drown in a quagmire of poverty. I go on and on bearing the fruits of the seeds of faith and obedience until I grow old much too soon and I have only death’s early kiss upon my lips to look forward to.

I am woman. I leaf through fashion magazines. I watch television commercials. Shampoo, makeup, clothing, handbags, hair color, diet drinks, tampons, perfume... The perfection image of womanhood smiles back at me, high gloss, airbrushed into unblurred lines and Barbie doll shine. Her waist as small as a wasp’s waist, her teeth as white and fine as pearls, her body as taunt and hewn as hard flesh colored glass. Her breasts spill achingly from a purple Versace bodice like two high topped hardened scoops of ice cream. With a captured toss of her sleek hair she poses on Mediterranean beaches, windless twinkle lit city balconies, English gardens of violets and lavender. A wineglass in her graceful hand she peeks cloyingly and knowingly from around the naked shoulder of a lover as flawlessly defined as she.
            I gaze down at my thighs and study the small dimples that appear to pocket like small pellet gun wounds. The flesh on my stomach feels as soft and misshapen as a beached jellyfish. I have a chip in my left bottom tooth, one of my eyes is slightly larger than the other, I am pigeon toed when I walk, and my hair frizzes on rainy days. My lipstick smears, my eyeliner runs, and a doughnut can put ten pounds on me, so I eat it and then force myself to throw up. I starve myself one day. I gorge the next.
          I spend thousands each year on creams that promise to eliminate my crow's feet, tooth whiteners to whiten my teeth by three shades, shampoos to give my hair bounce and shine, mouth washes to make my exhales minty, hair sprays to tame my frizz, concealers to mask my undereye circles, and polishes to color my glue-on nails.   
         But it’s never enough. She smiles back at me from the magazine and I hate her. 

I am woman.

I am woman.

I am woman.