Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Celebration of Books

I don't remember how I got on the mailing list for the Center for Writers and Poets.  I may have signed up when I went to hear Anne Lamott a bunch of years ago.  I may have even sent a donation when I was flush.  I get their mailings but pay very little attention to them.  But the writers they had at the conference last weekend they called Celebration of Books attracted me.  It's even very cheap.  I didn't make it through the whole thing, to my very deep regret.  I wore out - my back was hurting bad and I felt like I was going to throw up.  All of that sent me home at noon on Saturday and I missed Rita Dove - Pulitzer Prize winning poet.  But I definitely got a bunch of inspiration and information from the Friday night and Saturday morning presentations. 

Sue Monk Kidd (author of "The Secret Life of Bees") and Michael Cunningham (Pulitzer prize winner for "The Hours") talked on Friday night.  They talked about what it took to be a writer - the difficulties mostly, and to my amazement, even though I'm an unpublished writer, I have had all those difficulties and emotions.  The message was you just have to do it anyway.  It's a calling, not a choice.

On Saturday morning the youngest member of the Little Rock seven who integrated a Little Rock high school in 1957 talked.  She has just written a book about her experiences because in this new environment we're living in, some people are denying that it was really as bad as people think - sort of like the folks who are saying the holocaust never happened.  I remember seeing on TV the little girl walking up to the high school with crowds of white people screaming, "Nigger," etc. and spitting on her.  I was a junior in high school and this was my first introduction to what I now call "the evil world."  In my little southern Missouri town, people might be prejudiced but they didn't act like that.  I was heart broken to see that human beings could treat a child like that.  I cried and cried.  I shed a few tears on Saturday morning too.

After that I went to two breakout sessions - one on mothers and daughters collaborating on memoirs which intrigued me a lot, and one on memoirs.  I learned so much, I cannot say how much.  All but one of the writers were women and they talked about how difficult it was for them and the barriers they had to overcome to be writers - a lot of the obvious stuff - child care, home care, husband care - "just a housewife syndrome" I call it.  But the real barriers were internal - the belief that we're not good enough to be REAL writers etc.  I was blown away again. 

In both sessions all of the writers talked about what to really reveal about ourselves in our writing.  Who is going to have hurt feelings?  Who is going to be mad?  Do we get permission first?  How badly will readers view us when we reveal our inner selves.  The agreement was - you've got to tell the truth.  Sometimes you may moderate to save someone else (but it's better if you don't.  Just be brave and take the consequences), but not to save yourself.

Every writer I heard said the point of writing is to allow others to experience other people's reality - it promotes empathy and thus - perhaps - helps make the world a better place.  So it's absolutely necessary to tell the truth.  Being a servant of your own work is necessary, but also writing to serve the world is also necessary.

Heavy stuff.  I'm motivated but more afraid even than I was but also more determined to do my writing anyway.  I just finished another story.  Good for me. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

The God Shaped Hole

We sang this song at Heart to Heart:

Every point of view has another angle, and every angle has its merit, but it all comes down to faith; that's the way I see it.  You can say that love is not divine and you can say that life is not eternal; that all we have is now, but I don't believe it.

There's a God-shaped hole in all of us and the restless soul is searching.  There's a God-shaped hole in all of us and it's a void only God can fill. 

Does the world seem gray and empty longing? Wearing every shade of cynical and do you ever feel that there is something missing?

There's a God-shaped hole in all of us and it's a void only he can fill.

In the program, we talk a about this hole in our gut that we tried to fill with booze, drugs, sex, work, whatever.  It doesn't work, of course.  But the good thing is that the pain drives many of us to the solution. 

Sunday, September 26, 2010


As usual something spooky and interesting happened as I picked up my name tag at Heart to Heart.  The minute you get to Heart to Heart, interesting things start happening.  There's great significance to signing in at the registration desk because that's when you get your "word" for the weekend.  This word represents something you already are and need to acknowledge or something you need to work on during the weekend.  You just randomly pick up a name tag (which are usually hand made and very special).  Name tags are face down so you can't see the word written on each one.  The one you pick up has your word for the weekend.  This year mine was "fearless." 

On Friday night each year there's a candlelight ceremony with everyone sitting in a circle and passing the light to each other's candle.  Each person states what they want to receive from the weekend as they light their candles.  Usually I just say what occurs to me in that moment.  After 15 years of attending this retreat, I thought, "you know, I might just decide ahead of time - after prayerful thought - what I really need from Heart to Heart." And what I decided I needed was "courage."  Courage to continue to write my memoir in spite of fear of putting myself out there. So my name tag said, "fearless."  Hmmmm.

Then Friday night and yesterday morning I attended OSU's Celebration of Books - a conference for writers and poets.  I was blown away - emotionally and mentally - and I will elaborate in a another post.  But what struck me was that every writer said that they had to gather up all the courage they could to write because you are exposing yourself to the world every time you put your writing out there into the world.  Hmmm.  Guess I'm not alone in writing with fear of letting anyone read my writing.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Here's a radical idea -when someone accuses someone else of doing something bad without any evidence, where does he/she get the idea?  Maybe from knowing what he/she would do in that circumstance?  Projection?

For the most part, I've not had to deal with much of this kind of stuff in recent years.  However, when I have had to deal with it, I've always been astounded at being accused of doing something that never even crossed my mind.  So I think about this problem from time to time, trying to understand what could have happened.  I've been taught to look within myself for the answer - what did I do that would give the person the idea that I would do such a thing?  Also, what goes on within me when I think someone else is up to no good and I have no evidence?  I really have no way to guess except to try to think what I might do in that situation.  Actually, I've sort of given up on guessing what other people are doing and what their motives are.  It's actually completely impossible.  But since that would be my only method of guessing if I were guessing, maybe that's what everyone does. 

Maybe when I've been accused of doing something that I can't even imagine doing, my accuser is just guessing by imagining what he/she would do.  Hmmmm.  Projection is a scary thing.  Looking back - in my last job I was accused of lying more than once by one particular person, and that person really saw no problem with lying herself.  Hmmmm.  Maybe I can quit trying to figure out what I did and just chalk it up to projection.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Giving up or giving in is not the same as letting go.

Giving up or giving in is not the the same as letting go.  This is not an exact quote but is close to what Melody Beattie wrote in the latest daily reading in "52 Weeks of Conscious Contact."  I'm aware of how hard it is to separate the concept of letting go (usually followed by "letting God") from giving up or giving in.  As a sponsor I've worked with people who think their only choices are to try to get the alcoholic in their lives to quit drinking or just give up and figure the person is just going to drink until he/she dies and that they might as well just go to the liquor store and buy them some more.  The concept of letting go is totally foreign. 

From the outside it might look like they have given up or in because all the hoo hah about trying to get the person to stop ends.  But what's happened on the inside is that they have given the alcoholic into the care of God.  They don't know what will happen, but they know it's not up to them to fix the situation anymore.  When they give the person into the care of God, they don't go to the liquor store, bail the person out of jail, or pay the person's rent (they don't pay the consequences that result from the the drinking for the person).  They shut up the lectures.  They go on and live their own lives and treat the alcoholic lovingly.  They make space for God to work. 

This letting go thing works on anything I'm trying to change in someone else.  I don't pay their consequences for them, I don't lecture them.  I live my life and treat them with love and respect.  Sometimes I have to get out of their way to protect myself.  But I am at peace. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

25th Anniversary of the Lawsuit, Part 2

After we won the lawsuit and the judge ordered the State to provide services in the community, we were too exhausted to actually celebrate.  But it was exciting to participate in setting up a whole new system for services in the community and to see our kids begin to have real lives.  All the experts from other states that had worked with the court led us to believe that our kids were about to live in paradise. 
It turns out it was one heck of a lot better than the institution, but there were a ton of problems. 

Here are some examples of what we gained by going through all that hell -

My son has a part time job and this year for the first time, he actually is paying for most of his living expenses even though he doesn't make even minimum wage.  He works at a recycling place and sorts cans, plastic and paper.  He definitely gets enough to eat - he gained 30 pounds in the first two months after he moved into the community; he's now a normal weight for his height.  Within a year his IQ went up 20 points.  He can read and write a little.  He gets to go to movies, dances and other social events with friends.  He has learned to play the keyboard and drums.  He takes swimming lessons.  He goes to church every Sunday and will tell you that he knows God loves him.  Every year he goes on an inexpensive vacation with his roommate and a staff person.  This year they went to St. Louis for a few days.  He lives in a regular house with a roommate.  His roommate and he are friends and have lived together since they moved into the house in 1991.  I can truly say he is a happy man.

My daughter's life has been a little more difficult due to her seizure disorder and side effects from seizure medication.  However, her health is 100 times better than it used to be.  She has lost the frown that used to be her perpetual look.  She too has had swimming lessons  She loves to be outside as she always has, and anytime she wants to she can go out the door of the house she lives in with the roommate she's had almost since she moved into the community to the back yard instead of being locked in a dark room with 24 other women.  She gets to go to the park, for walks in the neighborhood, the zoo and the aquarium.  This year she started taking horseback riding lessons which she absolutely loves.  I can truly say she has a very good life and enjoys it.

Another good thing about these good lives is that the cost of providing them is WAY less than it was in the institution.  So much for limited resources - the cheapest thing is to provide good lives that include paid work for those who can work.

Because families could/can choose providers, we have been able to solve a lot of the problems.  But some problems followed us from the institution and have either been impossible to solve or incredibly difficult to solve.  Here are some examples:

1)  In the beginning there were over 50 service providers to choose from.  Everyone had a case manager and a program coordinator as well as therapists of various kinds if the person had a need.  After awhile we discovered that most of these folks had absolutely no training of any kind about disability or how to provide services.  They made tons of serious mistakes.  They made even more silly mistakes.  I discovered, for example, that most of the women caregivers that worked in my daughter's house had absolutely no idea how to take her temperature to see if she had a fever.  They all thought that when they gave her a Tylenol when she had a fever and it went down, that she wasn't sick anymore and didn't need to go to the doctor. 

2)  Since there was no training, people just operated on what they thought up and on the prejudices they had about people with disabilities - like punishment is a good way to deal with difficult behavior, people with severe disabilities don't have emotions and can't experience physical pain.  Since they were the caregivers,  they should tell the person with disabilities what to do all the time and the person should obey.  Even later when the judge ordered that training be provided, most providers ignored what they learned because they experienced it as criticism for the way they had been providing care and refused to do anything different.

3)  A new system of services had to develop ways of doing business that some providers understood and some didn't.  One of the providers for my daughter did not know that they could be reimbursed for clothing, some medical expenses, adult diapers, etc .  They thought that her $500 a month disability had to pay for food, rent, clothing, etc. and that the State would only reimburse for the staff.  That ignorance led to my daughter and her roommate being without a lot of the necessities of life which in turn led to...guess what?  Yup - they said I was "unrealistic" in what I expected.  One of our lawyers backed them up!!  I talked to other parents and all of us worked on finding out what was wrong.  We studied the system of reimbursement and trained the service provider.  But there were a lot of hard feelings and I think that lawyer still thinks I was psychotically demanding.

4)  Medical doctors in the community were better than the ones at the institution.  But not many of them wanted our kids as patients.  So it took a long time to find good doctors that cared.  In the meantime health problems went unsolved.  For example, my daughter has a seizure disorder and every few years has a major seizure.  I guess a medical book somewhere says to give Dilantin so that's what they've always done.  Even though I told them that she can't take Dilantin, that it sedates her to the point where she can't walk, sit up, or eat and that it causes her to have many small seizures (what do I know, I'm just a parent), they give it to her anyway.  It has taken me as long as two years to find someone who will take her off it and by then she has lost massive amounts of weight, been in the hospital several times for aspiration pneumonia and has lost most of her muscle tone.  Finally, two years ago, we found a neurologist who understood.  She's still "rehabbing" from the last experience with Dilantin.

5)  One of the saddest things is the lack of programming.  Care staff just does what they want to do and blow off what they don't want to do.  The agencies don't do much about it because the job pays so little, it's very hard to find someone to hire.  So they settle for people who will generally show up for work and who don't abuse the people they're caring for.  If a staff member does get fired, he or she can easily get a job with another agency.  So, my daughter has been living in the community since 1991 but still has no communication system even though a system has been set up for her many times and experts from out of state have consulted.  The staff just won't do it.  They don't believe its necessary and it's too much trouble.

6)  My son has autism and severe mental retardation.  He probably also has schizophrenia.  These disabilities cause him to react with great fear if he's yelled at.  This has caused him to get fired from two or three jobs because the staff working with him thought punishment - especially yelling - was how to get him to do his job better.  When he's afraid he screams and cries and tries to run away.  Not a good thing on the job.  Actually, he really wants to work and to do well at it.  If you patiently show him what you want him to do and keep reminding him, and keep praising him, he will learn and never ever forget.  He's a hard worker and very proud of doing a good job.

Here's what I think - the root cause of the problems is the prejudice against people with disabilities - especially people with severe disabilities.  I think we (people in general) should either just admit that we believe these people are worthless, aren't really human and would be better off dead so they don't cost money and trouble, or we should treat them as the human beings they are and help them have a decent life.  The way we operate now is we provide most of them with a miserable life - terrible medical care, abuse, poverty and boredom and so they die early - I guess making a lot of people happy.  To me that's just murder in a slow torturous form because we don't want to admit the truth of what we really believe.  I'm sticking to my belief that disability does not take away humanity and that everyone has value and that everyone needs love and care - no matter how "unrealistic and unreasonable" that may seem to some.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Anniversary of the Law Suit - Part 1

You wouldn't think that someone like me would sue the State of Oklahoma on behalf of her foster children with disabilities - someone like me who HATES criticism and conflict - who would rather live in a cave than have to face the public with something controversial.  I can't speak for the other five parents who sued with me - maybe they are just braver or crazier than I am.  One of them said after the suit was over and we had won, "We were psychotically optimistic."  Very true.  But we did it.  There was nothing else to do.  We had tried everything we knew of to get changes made in the institution our kids lived in - just to make it safe.  We talked to DHS officials, state legislators, and anyone else who would listen.  There were plenty of promises made but nothing got better.  Some state officials told us it was hopeless.  DHS officials told us we were a vocal minority -  that no one else saw a problem. 

This year is the 25th anniversary of the year we filed suit, full of fear and trepidation, but determined.. This year the place is going to be torn down, blown up - whatever.  The State of Oklahoma has tried for all these years to sell it but no one bought it.  I think it's full of ghosts of the people who died there.  Officially, no one died there, of course.  People are so devious.  I've learned not to believe anything any more.  The way they made sure no one officially died there was to have their own ambulance.  When someone died they put the body in the ambulance and took it to an emergency room, so officially the person either died en route or at the hospital.

Our kids weren't in that place because we wanted them to be there.  They were there because we had no other choice.  All of our kids were severely disabled.  Most had multiple disabilities.  There were a lot of severe behavior problems.  Some of them had been kicked out of the school system because of difficult behaviors even though that was illegal.  The teachers had no idea how to cope with them.  One of them locked a boy in the closet a lot.  Another one carried a fly swatter and repeatedly used it to try to control another boy. 

Most of us had been to every doctor, psychologist, etc. that we could find to help us figure out how to care for our kids but those folks seemed as clueless as we were.  As they got older and bigger and harder to deal with, some of us had Plexiglas windows in our houses to keep windows from being broken, and there were locks on cabinets and closets to keep the kids from getting hurt.  Almost all of us had other children and the demands of the ones with disabilities were keeping us from being good parents.  One by one we decided to give up and let our kids go to the institution - which is what professionals had been telling us to do almost from the time the kids were born.  I was divorced and when my ex-husband remarried, his wife did not want him to help care for the kids so he brought papers to me to institutionalize our youngest daughter and urged me to sign them which I eventually did.

This year - the year of the anniversary of the lawsuit - when I mentioned the anniversary, a friend of mine said, "I heard that the plaintiff parents in that lawsuit were just unrealistic in their demands."  I almost strangled her.  But my program has taught me "restraint of tongue and pen."  So I didn't say much of anything.  But that sentence has been rattling around in my head ever since.  It took its place in history since I've heard that sentence over and over and over again.  I heard it from the state officials who thought the institution was fine.  I heard it from service providers who were providing care for our children in the community after the lawsuit was won and they were able to leave the institution.  I heard it from one of our own lawyers - and that made me the maddest of all.  In fact, I still get mad when I think about it.  It's incredibly sad that my friend, who knows nothing about the lawsuit, was never in the courtroom, who knows nothing about people with disabilities, would repeat a sentence to me that she heard somewhere.  Is that what the public knows about the lawsuit?  That the plaintiff parents were just unrealistic and unreasonable?  Breaks my heart.

Now that I'm writing a memoir, the story of the lawsuit will be part of it.  But today I'm feeling angry again about being called unrealistic, so I'm going to write just a portion of the story - the list of things we thought were wrong both in the institution and in the community.  I think I will feel better if I do it.  I will print some copies and give it to the next person that says something about being unrealistic and ask them to tell me after they've read it whether they are sticking with their story.

This group of problems at the institution were presented in court and verified by people who worked there, plus some more problems we weren't even aware of.  The State didn't actually argue that they were untrue.  Their defense was that they were working to fix them.  The court gave them over a year and brought in experts from around the country to help.  After nearly a year had passed, nothing was even a little bit better and the judge ordered the institution closed and community services be provided for the residents of the institution.  Here are just some of the problems we discovered after our kids went there:

1.  My friend's son was brought, on a gurney, to a hospital emergency room in a coma and shoved in the door.  The institution staff left without a word.  There were no papers with him to even identify who he was.  He was dehydrated and had aspiration pneumonia.  There were acid burns all down the side of his face from lying in his own vomit.  Probably the staff thought he was dead, since their practice was to drop people at emergency rooms who were already dead to keep deaths from showing up on their statistics.

2.  When we picked up my foster son to visit at home, he regularly had on clothes that were way too big for him.  His pants were usually tied on him with rope.  He regularly had a fungus infection of the scalp (caused by being perpetually dirty.)  One of his front teeth was broken off.  No one knew how it happened.  He frequently had cuts on his hands, arms and head from breaking out windows.  He cried desperately when we had to take him back.

3.  My foster daughter had both her front teeth knocked out - and, of course, no one knew how it happened.  Her clothes were not hers.  They were torn, full of holes, didn't fit and were filthy dirty as was she.  She had frequent staph infections all over her body which were treated with fermented radish water - prescribed by a doctor from South America who said it was an effective folk remedy from his country.  She too was desperately unhappy when we took her back after visits.  She would try to grab the steering wheel in the car to make us go back.

4.  All of the parents in our little group reported that their kids were in clothes that didn't fit and that looked like they had been dug out of the town dump. They were all being mysteriously injured. They reported that their kids were desperately unhappy.  Later we learned that one of the perks of working at the institution was that they administration looked the other way and allowed them to steal the residents' clothes if they brought other clothes to replace them.  Where staff got the replacement clothes I can't imagine.

5.  One of the doctors at the institution decided that my daughter didn't need the brace she wore on her right leg to keep it straight.  She has cerebral palsy and the tight muscles kept her leg from being straight which in turn kept her from walking comfortably.  Naturally her leg became more and more bent, which caused her to walk in a lurching sort of way, which in turn caused her back to become crooked.  They also decided she didn't need allergy medicine which caused her a lot of misery from allergy symptoms.

6.  After my friend's son almost died, we applied to volunteer in the unit where he lived.  Our motive was to try to understand how something like that could happen.  It was very hard to get permission to do this because parents were not allowed to see where there kids lived.  One of the parents, determined to find out what was really going on in the cottage where his son lived, sneaked up to the window of the cottage.  Staff saw him, called security and he was escorted off the grounds, with the warning that if he did it again, he would be barred from visiting again.  So it was a big deal to get to volunteer anywhere where parents were not allowed.  We were helped by the ombudsman that had just been appointed. She was a social worker that some of us knew because she had worked at a medical center where some of us took our kids.

When the administration agreed to let us volunteer, we were all put through training.  Everyone but me freaked and never came back.  I would be willing to bet that they hoped that would be how we'd react.  It didn't take more than a quick look around to understand what had happened to my friend's son.  There were 48 adults in the unit - all in huge metal cribs, some with plastic tops.  There were only two staff on duty.  The smell was overpowering - feces, urine and vomit.  Although adult disposable diapers were on the market, we were told that the institution couldn't afford them.  So staff sewed cloth diapers together to make them big enough for adults.  Dirty ones were just thrown in a huge pile in the corner.  Cockroaches were running everywhere.

The staff did not wash their hands between diaper changes.  There was one sink with bar soap but no one used it.  Of course, using bar soap is a great way to spread disease.  This might account for the recurring epidemics of shigalla (severe diarrhea caused by bacteria) that took over ever so often.  None of the staff seemed to know the names or identities of the residents.  I wondered how in the world they could know who to give what medicine.  They also fed people lying down.  They thought it took less time.  Actually, it just promotes throwing up.  Digestion needs gravity.  It explains my friend's son's aspiration pneumonia.  He probably threw up while lying down and breathed in some of it.

Oh my God!  Why didn't you all just go get your kids and take them home when you found all this stuff out?  What kind of parent would just leave their kids in a hell hole?"  I am imagining that a lot of people would think or say this.  We said it to ourselves.  So I should probably elaborate on what I said before about our having kept our kids at home as long as we could.  We didn't just keep them at home until it got difficult or until we were exhausted or until we were about to go crazy.  We went WAY past difficult, exhaustion and crazy before we gave in.  We really could not go on another day.  So we knew we had no choice but to leave them there and try to find some other solution.  Personally, I cried most every day and slept very little.

Well, didn't you bring these terrible things to the attention of people who could fix them?  I probably need to reiterate here that we wrote letters, met with people, begged, pleaded and yelled.  We were met with indifference, sometimes threats (if you don't like how we're taking care of your kid, you can just take him/her home and do it yourself), and personal attacks (like, you don't care about your children or you wouldn't have abandoned them here, etc. etc.)

What I did do to alleviate my kids' misery while we waited to see what the judge was going to say:  I took on some extra jobs so I could hire some help to allow me to bring both my son and daughter home more often.  I took my daughter to a doctor in town who worked with me to circumvent the doctors at the institution.  She gave my daughter an allergy shot once a week, and a birth control shot once a month.  I didn't request the birth control because I couldn't imagine that my daughter was sexually active.  But the doctor explained that she had several girls with severe disabilities in her practice who were residents at the institution who were raped and got pregnant.  Good God!!!  The doctor also prescribed a disinfectant for me to bathe her in three times a week when I brought her home and that took care of the staph infections.  My son was very tall and very thin because all you got to eat was what was on your tray for that meal.  He was perpetually hungry so I took him to eat pizza, hamburgers, and fish three times a week.  I also took both of them swimming once a week.  I asked all my friends to let me have any clothes in my daughter's size that they didn't want anymore.  I shopped garage sales and re-sale shops.  As a result I was able to bring her clothes every few days with her name written in them in indelible ink.  When I brought a new batch of clothes, the ones I had brought a few days before were always gone.  Eventually though, the staff in her cottage must have outfitted their kids sufficiently since clothes began to stay there for awhile.

Here were my unrealistic expectations:  That my kids would be reasonably clean, get at least some decent medical care, not be abused (certainly not raped!), get enough to eat, be supervised well enough that they would be protected from hurting themselves or being hurt by other residents.  I knew they would not be happy because they would rather be at home with their family.  I doubted that they would get much useful education. Since the teachers in the public schools didn't know what to do with them, I didn't think the teachers at the institution would either. 

Here's why my expectations were unrealistic even though I didn't know it.  I didn't know these things until much later:

1.  Neither the staff nor the administration had any actual training in disability or anything else that would allow them to work effectively in that place.  They had a lot of erroneous ideas - like feeding people lying down was efficient and safe. Like cerebral palsy is a disease that progressively gets worse.  Like punishment is the best way to handle people with difficult behaviors.  Severely disabled people don't have emotions and cannot feel physical pain.  Severely disabled people cannot learn anything.  The way we run this place is the only possible way to run this place.

2.  They were just people off the street who had the same incorrect ideas and prejudices about people with disabilities as anyone else.  Prevalent were ideas like these:  These people would be better off dead anyway.  They are worthless, not really human.  They contribute nothing to society.  They just take up resources that are limited and that should be used for people who contribute to society.  Their parents are bad people for putting them here anyway.  If they cared they would take care of them themselves. 

So no wonder they thought we were unrealistic.  But it's still breaks my heart that there is so little understanding of what that lawsuit was about.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

More on Alice

I love the titles of a couple of Alice Walker's new books:  "We Are the Ones We Have been Waiting For"  and "Hard Times Require Furious Dancing."  The latter is a book of poetry and the former isn't that new - it was a best seller in 2006.  I must get it from the library.  I want to read them AND I feel certain that I already know what she's going to say.  I have a vision of the furious dancing required by hard times.  It is the opposite of sitting around whining.  Scary as it is, we ARE the ones we have been waiting for.  If it isn't us that's going to make things better, who is?  It's not those folks in D.C.  The poor things are just trying to guess what we want to hear so they can get re-elected.  Who would want to live like that?

Alice says that her purpose is to send love into the world.  The interviewer asked why she chose writing to do that, and Alice said it was cheaper than painting or making music.  In the beginning she just carried a notebook around with her and now she carries a macbook.  But it's the same thing - it's cheap and you can write at anytime, anywhere.  So, maybe I will start carrying my macbook around with me in my backpack.  I already carry a notebook.

I've checked out Alice's blog and she is writing a chronicle about her chickens.  They have wonderful names like Agnes of God, ertrude Stein and Rufus.  Rufus is the rooster and he picks on the hens.  They hide from him behind Alice.  She calls herself Mommie in the chronicles and she really is their mommie and they know it. She took Rufus to a friend's house where there were kids and dogs for him to contend with to see if he would be less of a bully when she took him back.  For sure the hens were a lot happier with him gone and were not happy to see him when she brought him back.  Unfortunately, he was still a bully when he got back.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


I just read an article in "Writer's Digest" - an interview with Alice Walker who wrote "The Color Purple."  I absolutely love her - almost as much as I love Anne Lamott.  When I saw her picture and read her words, a lovely feeling of joy and peace came over me.  She's about my age and appears to me to be one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen.  Her philosophy of writing -

"If there is a
it will
In the middle
Of our
Only once
Maybe more
& Announce

I often feel guilty about sitting and thinking so much instead of writing.  But I also hate what I write when I write just to be writing.  Alice says she just makes space in each day to write and is open to it.  I feel better.  Except I have this deadline....I guess if you've already written a big bestseller that was made into a movie with Oprah in it and a broadway show, it's okay for you to sit around and wait for a story to cough.

Alice said that she keeps a weblog and has no idea if anyone reads it.  She said her part was just to put it out there and she loves it that this is a way for her to share for free.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sunday School Liberal

It's election time again and I have to stop watching the news.  The craziness, the evil lies repeated over and over, the blind hate, the threats of violence, the unbelievable ignorance, are heartbreaking.  It's the worst I have ever seen in a period leading up to an election.  It's been building for a couple of years, though, getting worse and worse and now still getting worse.  I am deeply sad.  I have pretty much lost faith in us humans.  We'll believe anything if it's repeated enough.  Our self-righteousness is fed by hate.  What a way to run a country. 

I guess my politics came from my early exposure to Bible verses when I was just a tiny girl.  What I heard was stuff like loving your neightbor, helping widows and orphans, loving children. Give rather than try to get.  Treat everyone the way you would want to be treated.  Visit sick people and prisoners.  Focus my life on loving God and other people.  Give respect to leadership even if you disagree.  Pay your taxes.  Take care of the poor.  I'm pretty sure all this stuff is in the New Testament.  It's so strange to hear people who are declared fundamental Christians say things that sound the opposite to what I learned.  It's also strange that I don't consider myself a Christian since I know none of those people would claim me with my Sunday School beliefs. 

Monday, September 13, 2010

We All Just Want to Be Loved

A friend of mine and I were leaving a meeting when she asked about a mutual friend. I said all was well if you didn't count a broken heart. She shook her head and headed for her car, calling back over her shoulder, "We all just want to be loved." Some things are just so simple.

The Heart to Heart weekend is all about letting the broken women participants know that they are loved and blessed. By Sunday morning there are several women who have had the beautiful experience of knowing this and who go home changed forever, eager to love the people in their lives.

Thursday, September 09, 2010


Ever since we did the book study on the 6th and 7th steps, I keep having these revelations about my behavior patterns and the thoughts and feelings that go along with them. I almost have a resentment that I haven't seen some of this stuff long ago. Better late than never - I'm trying to be grateful. So, I have recently noticed that I put off getting ready until the very last minute - actually I wait until it's almost too late and then I scurry around like a limping mouse trying to finish everything. I get in the car dripping sweat from the effort, my heart pounding with anxiety lest I be late again. Actually, I've known that I do this for my whole life, but I guess I just didn't see it as something that could be solved. I don't know what I thought. But suddenly I realized that the part of me that wants me to die miserable is responsible for the tortured process I go through. It's perfect. It makes me truly miserable. So....here I am the day before I leave for the wonderful Heart to Heart weekend with almost all of my packing done and I expect to be completely finished shortly. I'm not even going to be held up by the fact that my washing machine quit working while it was full of water. A new day has dawned in my life!!!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

If You Spot it, You Got It

Such an irritating truth that I learned in the program and then have heard it in a lot of other places too. Anything I criticize or judge someone else for, I have or have had myself. It's called "projection." Takes all the fun out of self-righteously taking someone else's inventory. I've been mentally going over some resentments I have, identifying the judgment I have of the other person and then looking at myself for the same behaviors, etc. Unfortunately, so far I haven't been able to escape - in some form or another I have them all. Grrr. Either I have to accept them in myself or correct them in myself. A rather annoying spiritual principle. Spiritual axiom: Whenever I am disturbed, no matter what the cause, there's something wrong with me. Although annoying, it also brings peace.

Monday, September 06, 2010

365 Project Trip to see Eric in Montana 8.2010

Trip pictures - I love my digital camera. It drives Liz crazy when I do this with her in the car, but a lot of times I just stick the camera out the window and snap a picture without looking. That also works sticking the camera against the windshield. If you don't like the pic, just delete it. Cool!!! Sometimes thing look a little crooked as a result but you can still get the gist.

A bunch of people standing and watching the steam rise from a hole in the ground. On the other side of them is the ice cold lake. A horse of many colors at the Believe It or Not Museum in Jackson Hole

The view out of the window at our friend Annie's house near Jackson.
View of the Grand Tetons

The view from the restaurant grounds at the Grand Teton park. I think these are the best mountains I've ever seen.

Eric and Annie looking at the view.

We ate at a pizza place that faces this lake.

Another view from the pizza place.

Old Faithful.

Here's Eric videoing Old Faithful. He's grinning because he's planning to beat the crowd for ice cream cones.

Old Faithful has fizzled.

More scary steam coming out of the ground.

Here we are at the water fall in the canyon in Yellowstone.

A better view of the canyon waterfall in Yellowstone.

Looking down into the canyon.

More steam!

Eric looking at the ever present buffalo in Yellowstone.


The Buffalo Bill Cody dam.

Lake at the dam. Another view of the lake at the dam.

The tunnel before the dam.

Coming into the tunnel.

Amazing weathered rock formations.

We're coming around a mountain.

Eric's house.

Sweet Medicine Drive where Eric lives.

Looks like it might rain.

Faraway mountains.

Wyoming cliffs.

Building in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Kansas sky.
Building in Cheyenne.

Kansas windfarm.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Home again, Home again, Jiggitey Jig

I actually got home last Friday afternoon, late. Since then I've been sleeping a lot, eating and generally doing not much. I think I'm coming out of the fog now and may even download some pics. It turns out that my laptop actually does work. I need to work with it some more so I can learn how to use it better. If I had gotten it working, there was a lot of writing time I could have used on the trip.

The person who has been acting as my writing coach has given me the assignment of organizing the stories I'm writing into some kind of order and then planning the rest of the project on a story board. I got that assignment yesterday and have begun the set up. She also said a good deadline was to finish the whole project by December 1st. That would be a good Christmas present for me! However, that means I would have to write several hours a day, every day. Hmmm. I have no idea what it would be like to actually finish. Plus then I would have to "put it out there" and see if anyone wants it. That's even scarier. But... I really want to do this. So....

Blog Archive