Monthly Archives: February 2013

“Slow down,” said the Turtle. Over and Over Again..

    Image    “Have you ever watched a turtle?” An Oneida woman asked me from behind the counter of the at Shako:wi Cultural Center, Oneida, New York.

     “Not really,” I tell her. The subject of turtles has been a recurring theme lately. I tell her this.

     She smiles and nods. “Turtles are slow, steady and strong.” She gives me a tour of the center, showing me wonderful pieces of Oneida history and craft work. My gracious host tells me she is Turtle Clan. “Is there something you were looking for?”

     “I am looking for a book on the teachings of Deganawidah and Hiawatha” (a Haudenosaunee prophet and his companion I admired from a book called, Travels in a Stone Canoe by Harvey Arden and Steve Wall). The center has what I am looking for.

     I’m interested and I pick up a book on this and one on the Oneida creation story.

     “It’s the turtle that grows and becomes the island of North America,” she says.

       I tell her I have been reading and rereading a book by the humanitarian, wisdom-keeper Oren Lyons called, The Art of Being Human.

      She smiles and we talk about the Onondaga man (he is also Turtle Clan) and his influences before I say my goodbyes.                                              

Image   Stained glass window in Shako:wi Cultural Center

     Several months later, I am a guest at a Lenape Inter-tribal Winter Solstice gathering at the Eicher Indian Museum in Ephrata, Pennsylvania. We are in a large stone and log cabin that sits next to a meandering stream. It’s three in the morning, half way through singing the nearly six hour Walam Olum ( the Lenape creation story, which takes about six hours to sing in alternating verses of Lenape and English).

     I am sitting against a wall surrounded by a sea of sleeping bags, pillows and people. The drum has been loud and consistent for the past three hours, reverberating off the walls drowning everything but the loud singing. I am told that the drum unifies us, brings all our heart beats together as one. As I look around the lake of people I believe this. We all move the same.

       A paper is handed to me with the English translation to the story. I read and stop when a see the words, and the turtle became the foundation of the earth.

      Turtles again! I stop singing and get up. I need to go outside and get some fresh air.

      I work my way to the door and outside to the roaring fire used earlier for part of a blessing/forgiveness ceremony. It’s freezing; there is frost on the grass. I am not wearing a coat and my tee-shirt is wet with sweat from the heat of the building and excitement of the night. I’m standing next to the three foot flames shivering violently. I can’t go back inside yet. I really need to think about why turtles are prominent in my current life.

     A tall, dark skinned man wrapped in a wool blanket walks over to my side. He unwraps his blanket and without asking throws it around me. “My name is Walking Bear.” He tells me and pauses a moment watching me.  “You looked a little cold. Drum too loud?”

     “I just needed a break,” I tell him. “Thank you for the blanket.” He nods.

     “What do you know about turtles?” He asks me.

     I turn and look into the flames, listening to it crackle and spit almost in rhythm of the drum inside.  “Not a lot, why?”

     “I saw you inside. Sometimes you reminded me of a turtle. Other times, this evening, you seem to have forgotten how to be a turtle.”

     Remembering my conversation with the Oneida woman at the cultural center, I reply. “Turtles are slow, steady and strong.”

     “Ah,” he responds. Turtles are very important in many native cultures for their ties to the creator and for being the foundations of mankind. If it weren’t for the courage of the turtle, you could say, we wouldn’t exist. What is your name?”

     This all feels like an odd dream. “Deborah.” I keep looking into the flames.

     “Ah,” he says again. “That’s Hebrew for the Busy Bee. You know a person can be too busy?”

     I don’t agree. Since my near death experience I have spent almost every waking hour trying to show my return from the brink was worthy. I was given a second chance at life and I wasn’t going to waste a moment. I was told during my near death experience that once I was healed I would be engaged in a mission to help others.

     For the past decade, I have been working extremely hard to force that healing. Terrified, I’d die again, only to find out it was all a mistake. They should have sent back someone else. This man does not know any of this. I keep quiet.

      “I think you should seriously consider turtles.” He continues. “They can carry the horrors of the world on their backs and remain strong, attached to the creator who made them. You appear to have the turtle shell.  As we stand here by the fire I can see it. I saw it off and on inside the gathering.” He pauses and I turn to look at him. I still don’t know what to say, so I say nothing.

     “ You’ve seen the creator, haven’t you?” He doesn’t know me, my near death experience, my work with trauma victims and my own hellish nightmares.

       Someone calls him. He nods again at me and walks back toward the building.   

      I don’t see him the remainder of the event. I leave the blanket on a table inside the cabin when I leave after breakfast.

     I start looking up turtle totems, turtle animal behaviors, turtle legends and drive my friends crazy. They keep telling me I have to slow down. I can’t, I think too much is at stake.

     I don’t learn anything new. If anything I am the anti-turtle. I find the idea of becoming a turtle a waste of precious time. I thought there was some secret message from God in these events but I don’t see it.

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                                          Eicher Indian Museum, Ephrata, PA

      I’m in Oriskany, New York on vacation with hubby in our RV. A large turtle walks onto the street in front of us and stops, looking up at us. It’s a turtle – RV standoff.

        “That turtle has something to tell me!” I excitedly tell hubby. I grab my camera and jump out of the RV.  I immediately lay out on the road in front of the RV eye to eye with the turtle. I don’t know if it’s a terrapin or a turtle and I don’t think it matters (I find out later, terrapin is an Indian word for little turtle).

     I beg in a whisper. “Turtle, please help me. Everywhere I go people talk to me about turtles. I’m seeing turtles everywhere. My college mascot was a turtle!  What’s going on?”

      Of course he didn’t answer. I shot a couple pictures. I watch and wait for a long time (in my opinion) while he watches me. I don’t know what I think will happen.

     The turtle finally, turns around and walks off, continuing his journey across the street each step deliberately placed and slow. I keep watching to make sure he was safe. It was a bit anti-climatic.

 

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      It’s now the end of the summer and I’m in Corning, New York to give a presentation on the choices we make in our daily lives. I have a dear friend, another presenter with me sharing a room at the hotel.

     This is the first time I’ve been in front of an audience in over twenty five years. I used to be a performer. For nearly fifteen years my life revolved around countless hours of practices, rehearsals and performances. Trying to be perfect on a consistent basis was paramount for my performances, keeping haunted memories at bay and the illusion that everything was grand.

     This presentation has no rehearsals. I have minimal ideas how to say what I need to say. I’m freaking in the hotel room. I’m talking fast and non-stop, moving quickly, bumping into furniture, waving my arms around like a fool and feel like I’m going to die of a panic attack.

     My friend turns to me and demands. “Holy crap! Go run a warm wash cloth over your face to calm down. You’re driving me crazy!”

     I’m mortified and crushed. Obediently, I go into the bathroom and pick up a wash cloth from the sink counter. A little turtle charm falls out.

     I stare in awe at this silver charm with tears in my eyes. It’s a miracle. It’s exactly the reminder I need. Slow down!

     I rush back to the bedroom waving the charm by the little ringlet at the turtle’s nose. “Do you see this?” I ask. “How in the world did the cleaning staff know I needed a turtle? How did the turtle find its way into the wash cloth? I know what I have to do, I have to slow down!” I exclaim and throw myself on the bed. “I can’t believe the creator sent me a turtle!”

     My friend comes over, picks up a pillow and smacks me upside the head. “Did it ever occur to you that I put the turtle in the wash cloth?” I look up at her.  No, it hadn’t  “Did it ever occur to you that I knew what you needed and I was the one performing the miracle? No, you didn’t   No, you think it’s the cleaning lady, it’s the creator, its Tony the Tiger! Who would better know your needs then me and I have news for you, I’m not wearing gossamer wings.”  She moves around the room flapping her arms as wings but still looking exasperated.

     She’s angry, I’m calm, the turtle went in my pocket and the presentation went off without a hitch. After I’m finished, I look over at her and smile, pleased with myself. She looks back, flaps her arms and sticks her neck out like a chicken pecking. I blush.

    Had I been moving too quickly, I would have missed that. What a disaster that would have been.

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                                “Slow down and pay attention,” says the turtle.  Yes sir.

      Months later, I’m at work and long ago forgotten about my turtles. I’m exhausted, can’t sleep, drinking multiple, massive cups of coffee and chasing them down with energy drinks to keep going. I’m taking on more projects and responsibilities and attempting to do all of it to the max humanly possible. I’m forgetting important dates and how to scramble eggs. I’m sick all the time and my nerves are shot.  I no longer think there is a God. 

     It hits me; I can’t do this work anymore. I start interviewing people for my replacement. An ex-Roman Catholic priest who came out of the closet, left the priesthood to help others is my replacement. He doesn’t need the money. He saw the ad in the paper and was called to be here.

        The last two weeks of my employment I’m supposed to train him. Instead he trains me. He gives me a crash course on spirituality, self-care, and making positive changes.  He taught me volumes and I taught him pages.

     On my last day, he shows up with two gifts. One is a self-made cross stitch picture, which says; To help another person is to touch the heart of God. The other is an Oneida creation story print of….. the turtle as the backbone of the earth.

      We’ve never talked about turtles to my recollection.

     “You have a turtle shell, kiddo,” he says. “ You’ve heard the rest. You need to make it yours. Find your inner turtle. You really don’t have a choice. I can’t stress that enough.”

     We say our goodbyes. I leave. He leaves about two weeks later saying he no longer needs to be there.

 

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      It takes me four more years to understand that I am the anti-turtle, always speeding about, taking on the world.

     I’m an over-achiever, dedicated, altruistic and determined. I’ve been this way my whole life.  What’s the problem?

     The problem is the human body is not designed to handle all the adrenaline it takes to do those things. The ex-priest was right. Despite all the turtle coaxing from the universe, I kept going until there was no choice. Forced to slow down from chronic exhaustion and an immunological disorder, I wait like a turtle in doctor’s offices, hospitals and pharmacy lines.

     I often wonder, had I listened to the message of the turtle years ago, where would I be? I can’t go backward. Slowing down has allowed me to hear the natural rhythms of life and spirit. There is so much of the human experience I was missing in my hurried behaviors.

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             “Slow down and be like a turtle,” the man said.  Something we all should do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The is a must see for any Lord of the Rings, Hobbit fans! I can’t believe I just sat through a safety video! If only I lived in the Shire… (minus the threat of invasions, rogue wizards and motley trolls). Okay, maybe I’d rather live in Rivendell. Enjoy the video and remember to put your tray in the upright position. March 19th is the release date for The Hobbit DVD!

The Age of the Boomerang Family – When Adult Children Return Home 10 Tips for Survival

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Psycho Cat’s Revenge

 Had I known ten years ago what I know now, I could have saved the expense of seven boxes of tissues and instead took a trip around the world. It never occurred to me my three, great kids would graduate high school, leave, start their own lives and then return to the parental nest.  

      I sadly, proudly, watched each child do the Pomp and Circumstance waltz down the aisle for high school graduation. College, marriage, big lofty plans, duly blessed and applauded.  It was now time for me. I called it semi-retirement.  Only it didn’t last.

      Daughter #1 returned first after her husband decided there were better fish in the sea. She returned with her two little ones, a dog and half of the marital assets.  Boxes, furniture, toys, baby items were everywhere in our small house.

     “We have to move,” I said to hubby. “There’s no way we can live here like this.”

     “We’re not moving,” he replied.  “We raised three kids in this house. It’s just daughter #1 and the two grand-kids, that brings us back to five. We’re not moving.” He apparently was oblivious to the need to turn sideways to get down the hallway to the bathroom or the inability to reach the dining room table.

     Two weeks later our house was for sale. The real estate woman asked us what we were looking for. The responses went something like this.

                                         Me

                                       Hubby

Lots of bedrooms, at least five

Three bedrooms is plenty

At least two full bathrooms

We’ve always been fine with one bathroom

A big country kitchen

A kitchen big enough for the table

I big fenced in yard

A small yard, I’m too old to mow all that grass

A large family room and a living room

Why? We’ve never had a family room. We did just fine with one TV set and a couch in the living room

A fireplace

You’re expecting way too much, although a fireplace would be nice

A first floor laundry

Don’t get your hopes up. Those houses are expensive

A master bedroom and bath on the first floor

There is no way you are going to find that

A nice screened in porch, maybe a gold fish pond and a swimming pool would be awesome

How in the hell do you expect us to afford all that? Do we need to do a reality check?

The house has to have a great personality

That means she wants an old house, preferably run down with a resident ghost, a couple secret passageways and maybe a body buried behind a wall

     The Realtor looked at us and said, “I think I have the perfect place.”  She left the room.

    “What the hell are you thinking?” Hubby asks, his blue eyes blazing. “We aren’t made of money, you know.”

   “They’re all coming back home,” I said. “I can feel it. I can’t explain it, but I know the other two are also coming back. We are going to have seven people trying to live together and we need one hell of a big house. They’re going to bring all their stuff. We don’t have room for all that.” He looked at me blankly. “There are babies and puppies and kittens and…”

    “Enough! There will be no babies, puppies or kittens. They’re not all coming back home. I don’t want them too. This is my time, our time. Do you realize we’ve never had a time with just the two of us? We even dated with kids.  I repeat, they are not coming back home and I really don’t think Daughter #1 is staying very long.”

        The Realtor found us a one hundred and ten year old house with five bedrooms, three full baths, a living room with fireplace, family room and dining room, a first floor master suite, a screened in porch over-looking a fenced-in yard with a fish pond and a resident ghost.

      It was perfect, except for the resident ghost(s) who I think were upset by all our activity.  After a couple years, they decided to settle down. I think they might have realized the house was too crowded and moved on.  The only thing I found in the wall was a cat collar – which made me think of Vincent Price and Edgar Allen Poe.

     Oh, and we bought a nice, extra-large, 4×4  vehicle that would fit everyone comfortably, including two car seats. I thought it was some kind of mutant Jeep.

     “It’s a mini-van,” hubby corrected me. “It’s a front-wheel-drive, 6 cylinder, the-guy-driving-this-has-no-balls, Kia, Sedona mini-van.  This is the time in my life when I am supposed to be driving a red Corvette.  I’m not driving this, unless you tell me otherwise.”

     “Well,” I replied. “I do work further away and the little red car gets much better gas mileage.  Are you sure that’s not an extra-large 4×4 Jeep?”

  Daughter #2 moved back from her home in Arizona with her two cats the first Christmas in our new home.  It was another marriage debauchery.  She did not have her own belongings, nor did she have winter clothing, medical insurance for her back injury or a job.

Daughter # 1, the kids and the dog were still with us. Instead of moving on, she decided to go to college. Something we agreed was a good idea for her and the babies in the long run.  She was going to be with us for at least four years.

Daughter #2 found a job but with all the legal expenses and student loan bills, was not enough to catapult her back out the door.  We painted her room a rich plum color, her favorite. She and the two cats were going to be with us a couple years. We bought additional dishes and a bigger living room set.

    Our son, a musician living in Boston, was the last to boomerang. His funding stopped. He had to pull himself out of Berklee School of Music which just as devastating to me as the girls broken marriages. He came home with a trap set (drums), large enough to take up a third of the family room, three guitars, one keyboard, various amps, microphone stands and electronic production studio equipment.  He also had furniture and other non-music related belongings.

     If you are counting, that makes seven people, three cats and two dogs. This does not include everyone’s dates, friends and strays who have found a home here (this includes kittens, puppies, a frog, extended family members and a couple stray college students who lost their way).

     Needless to say, coordinating sanity through all this has been both a blessing and a challenge. Statistics are showing that more families are becoming boomerang families.  There are some valuable lessons we gained in making this work. Talking with other successful boomerang families has shown me, these tidbits work equally well for other families.

 

10 Tidbits to Help Curb the Insanity of Today’s Boomerang Generation  

1. Up-date your relationship status: You call them kids, they call themselves adults.  Falling back on the old parent-child dynamic that used to work will work no more.  They have lived on their own and have their own ways of doing things. It’s family meeting time. You are going to have to explore, get to know your adult-child and negotiate how to best blend yours, theirs and ours. Your adult-child is going will also need to do this.

2.  Rules: They maybe back but it’s still mom and pop’s place and the kids are only there (typically) temporarily. Make sure everyone knows how you want and expect the household to run. It’s okay to throw out old rules like curfews, or no dinner if you’re on the phone too long. They usually don’t apply to adult-children.

3.  Logical consequences: You have rules, now you need logical consequences for the, in the event of….  Going to your room or time out is probably not very effective. When I say logical consequences, don’t do something asinine like, I’m kicking you out because you left a dish in the sink. Be real. Be specific, realistic and make sure everyone knows. Think about sitting down as a family to iron out the consequences. Any ownership you can give the adult-child will make things better. Whatever you decide, put it in writing – contracts are great! No one can come back and say, but you didn’t say… I didn’t know…

 4. Future goals: Are they going or planning to go to school? Getting a job? Saving money? What are they doing? If there are future goals, the adult-kids are less likely to sit in front of the TV set day after day watching reruns of Saved by the Bell.  Keep a check on this, NOT nagging, to make sure they’re goals are obtainable and their morale is upbeat.

 5. Rent, money and household responsibly: This has to be addressed family by family. (REMEMBER, if they could pay the average going rate for rent, they would not be living with you. Most adult-kids really don’t want to be living with their parents. It’s just not cool.  I can tell you what parameters successful boomerang families have used.

If they are in school full time, no rent.

Rent is based on the adult-child’s income and expenses. Again keeping in mind they need to relax, get themselves things and save for getting out of your hair.

Depending on the situation, parents may choose to hold rent money in an account and given it back for an adult-child’s  big- ticket, purchase or down payment.

If they can’t pay the rent: Sit and discus this. Is it poor money management? Unanticipated expenses or hours cut at work? Options are either cancel the rent for that month or tack it        on, over time to the other months.  If it’s decided that the money is being forfeit, negotiate        with that adult-child to compensate the family (more responsibly perhaps). Push for open       disclosure if they know a money crisis is coming. It’s better for you and them.  Proactive is       always better than reactive.

Bank of Mom and Dad is open for emergencies (health, car repairs, tuition) or not. Every family has to decide what they consider an emergency and how much, if any, the bank of mom and dad can help. Let the adult-child know up front.

Money borrowed from the Bank of Mom and Dad should be returned, like a loan payment. The money lent can be returned on a particular payback schedule or all at once. All this info needs to be made known before the money is borrowed. Make a contract and everyone involved signs it.

Everyone is responsible for their personal areas, their dishes, clothing, cars and whatever else you have discussed as an adult-child contribution.

6.  Boundaries: Under what circumstances can adult-children borrow parental items? Who gets say over the TV set and when? How much of a closet or bathroom storage space can a person use? Doors closed and locked or open door policy? You want to set up for any situation where there could be conflict between the daily operating system of the family. Who gets the shower first? What day can what person use the laundry?  Can an overnight guest stay? How long?

     Depending on how many people are in your family will determine how specific boundaries need to be. DO NOT assume the boundaries you used when the adult-children were growing up are remembered or still apply. Don’t assume anything! Have a family meeting about this and get it in writing.

      The most typical offence in our house is taking things like stamps, pens, brushes, make-up and other small things without asking or putting them back. The other really big offense is eating someone else’s food.  There is nothing like five grown adults arguing over who brought home the bacon, literally.  So, our food rule is, if you don’t want to share for whatever your reasons, write your name on it. If you see a name and it’s not yours, leave it alone.

 7. Grandchildren and pets: You will have to decide how much of your time and money you want to devote to any grandchildren and pets living with you. Just make sure the parent of those kids knows what to expect as a general rule. Also, VERY IMPORTANT, these are your GRANDCHILDREN, not children. They have a parent (unless your adult-child is incapacitated and you are in charge of the grandchildren).  

     DO NOT PARENT THEM!!!!!!!!!!! DO NOT DISCIPLINE them unless you have very, very clear directives from the parent or the parent is not home and there is no choice. PLEASE, PLEASE figure this out in advance. Why?

     Your adult-child may not be raising their children the way you raised them. They may have different rules, consequences, be stricter or more lenient.  What they feel is important as a parent maybe different from what you felt.

     There are several Oh NOs! That can happen if you disregard this tidbit. The grandchildren get very conflicting messages and can’t cope and act out. They don’t know who their allegiance should be with and who to listen too.  Your attempt to correct up and above what your adult-child is doing tells the grandchildren to sidestep the parent’s authority. A parent, even one you think is not doing the greatest job, should have the authority.  

     By parenting the grandchildren you are also sending a message to your adult-child that says, basically I disagree with your ways and/or I think you can’t do this. It forms animosity and strife.  Unless you live in a sprawling mansion where everyone can have their own wing, you really don’t want animosity and strife.

     If for some reason, you really have a hard time with your adult-child’s parenting, sit them down (without the grandchildren) and talk about it. REMEMBERING your adult-child is the parent in this conversation. You are the grandparent.

     While you both are talking, find out what methods of correction are seen as appropriate by the parent.  ALWAYS, if the family is together and a child needs correcting, ALWAYS bring it to the attention of the parent!!!!!  For example: “Hey Sweetie, do you know your son is eating cat food out of the box. You might want to look into that.”  Obviously, if the child is in danger, take care of it. Don’t be a ding-a-ling.

     If the parent has set up rules and now you are watching the grandchildren, keep to the rules. When Johnny says, “Grandma, can I have ice cream?” The answer is, “Mommy/Daddy says no or wait till your mother/father get home.”

    If grandchildren are living with you, discuss medical and school arrangements. There will probably be times when you will be watching a child and need to take them to the doctor or pick them up from school. If your adult-child has not listed you or other family members as primary people, your hands are tied, even in an emergency.

 

8.  Don’t argue; communicate instead: Having the adult-child return home is stressful. It will continue to be stressful. The best defense against this is open communication. I can’t stress this enough. Keep the relationships strong, supportive, and ALWAYS evaluate yourself before you address an issue. The question to ask yourself is:

      Is what I’m about to do or say going to help this problem and my relationship with son /daughter/spouse? Or will it push us apart?

      If the answer is pushing us apart, re-think your strategy before proceeding.  Also, remember there are more ways to do something than your way. Can this issue be let go? Pick your confrontations and turn them into opportunities to deepen your relationships, not tare them down. No one wins when loved ones are pushed apart.

     Another communication devise is the central messaging system. The more complicated the family’s schedule, the more important this is. We use a dry erase board and strategic notes left by me on the front door or kitchen where I know everyone will see it.  Here are some examples of central messages. Who will be home for dinner? Who is getting the grandchildren? Your dad wants everyone to have their cars out of the drive by 5:00 pm.

     I am also known to write impromptu notes around the house such as: “If you don’t have time to clean your dishes, you don’t’ have time to cook. Eat someplace else.” I don’t have to find the culprits. It’s a blanket coverage note. It always works.

 

 9. Don’t get involved in their drama: You can’t fix your adult-child’s lives or the negative reactions of their actions/decisions.  It may be tempting to do this. Isn’t that the way a good parent behaves? Yes, when the children are growing up not when they are grown up. Be there for them if they need you. Listen and share your worldly wisdom if asked. Try to stop yourself from giving unsolicited advice.  Tell them you will do your best to help them figure things out but ultimately, it is their issue, their problem.

 10. Take care of you and yours: This is a very hard and vulnerable time. If you are in a relationship with a significant other this will test your resolve.  Make sure you eat nutritionally stable meals, get enough sleep, get out and have fun at least once a week. If you are in a relationship, have a weekly date night, either the two of you or with friends. You don’t need to spend money to do this. Be creative. But get away from the house and try to keep from discussing home issues while out. Take a bit of time, daily if possible, to catch up on the news of the household so you are both in the loop.  If you are not in a relationship, find a friend who is a good listener and can let you hang out. Everyone needs someone to bounce things off of. 

     Boomeranging can be stressful but a lot of fun and rewarding. Once settled in, you will find family relationships can be richer. There is normally someone home to help another family member when needed. If there are grandchildren, you get to enjoy them up-close. You get to experience all the joy of grand-parenting with the ability to yell upstairs, “hey adult-child, Ghost Hunters is on. I’m done, take the kids back.” 

     Enjoy your time together and be happy.

  

 

 

The Show Must Go On – The Birth of an Adrenaline Junkie

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Loosen up; she says with a chuckle, you’re wrapped way too tight

With a grin, I know this but can’t stop

With extreme highs and lows I eat and sleep this

Loosen up, she says, and I hear her wisdom though she does not know

With regret and remorse my body won’t let me rest

 

Sisters laughing and pretending to be the fab four

A Hard Day’s Night left us screaming in the aisle

A hard day’s life when she suddenly died

Sisters at a cemetery, one of them reposed in the ground

A hard day’s night becomes a hard day’s life

 

Blonde on a kid’s show freezing in front of the camera

Sets that fall down and costumes that rip

Sets bright with large splashes of blinding light

Blonde kid so shy she hides in a dark world of her design

Sets up a place for an insidious void that convolutes

 

Universal horror monsters alive on TV late Saturday night

My first role, the fat witch on a flying machine

My attempts to memorize lines and moves

Universal applause and laughter when I fall off the stage

My parents smiling, happy, it’s all for my sis

 

Twirling a baton, I’m the youngest in the group

Talent and determination turns heads

Talent keeps everyone too busy to think

Twirling, is life’s temporary amnesia from blood and death

Talent, cursed or blessed, we still have Sundays at the cemetery

 

Learning to skate, meet Peggy Fleming, I’ve decided my path

Bruises, practice, auditions, rehearsals

Bruises, sprains, get up and do it again

Learning to tough it out, I’m the youngest in the show

Bruises, box dinners, homework and life in the car

 

Costume calls, pins and needles, hat is too big

Dress rehearsal is very boring

Dress is too tight, it’s the wrong size

Costume seamstress yells at me for getting taller

Dressed and made up by strangers

 

Homework on the run, another rehearsal, another dinner in a bag

Quick costume change, pushed out on stage

Quick roar of the crowd, flashes of light

Homework, remember how to stop skates from catching costume

Quick thinking prevents Ziegfeld Follies’ hat from toppling

 

Another day, another show, skate broke, costume ripped

Lead male skater is so dreamy

Lead female skater is such a bitch

Another dress rehearsal three hours too long, tempers flair

Lead me home, too achy and tired to think

 

End of the show, time to return back to the baton

Start at five and practice till school

Start homework on bus, practice till bed

End another day with drums pounding rhythms against my skull

Start tomorrow drum line pounding, choreography to learn

 

Stand before the directors, while they choose this outfit not that

Coaches for percussion, music and dance

Coaches for choreography, military baring and baton

Stand before the manager showing the upcoming schedule

Coaches not buses to carry all our crap

 

Run around and date actors, dancers, musicians and performers

Practice till my fingers blister and bleed

Practice till I can physically practice no more

Run around and find the most outrageous things to do to feel alive

Practice equals louder applause which equals perceived love

 

Awards come in a landslide of marble, gold and ribbons to many to count

Audiences bigger and applause profound, I want more

Audiences demanding greater feats, I’m willing to give

Awards for outstanding entertainer, how much higher can I go

Audiences are a fickle lover, self centered and giving

 

More, the press says, can we have your picture, please

Little one wants to grow up to be like me

Little one wants a hug; a group photo would be nice

More insanity, I love this but I need to find a release

Little pieces of me fly off into space, spirit catches giving me grace

 

Harder practices, demanding routines and radical ways to cope

Applause now an addiction, I can’t stop even if I wanted

Applause is drowning water, no longer quenching my thirst

Harder demands on my body, mind and soul, but I can give more

Applause has become the only way I feel alive and loved

 

Left, right, left, your positioning is not quite right, do it again

Redo the entire concepts of acceptance, love and peace

Redo the bandages on my bleeding blisters and take another pill

Left lying on the cold practice floor to fall asleep, nirvana

Redo the muscle rub while remembering the death that started it all

 

What do you mean you lost your step in stanza four

You call that making love to the audience

You call that a top notch performance

What’s wrong with you, we all have something at stake

You need some kind of help, something’s not right

 

Judges pass bribes, try to mess me up and get into my pants

Friends listen to my suicidal rants on the phone

Friends say I’m arrogant and need to pull in my ego

Judges demand more of me because I’ve been around

Friends back away, some say goodbye, they can’t relate

 

Dreams in dark music, applause, self hatred and death

Survival says be one with the stoned guy on the bus

Survival says join him and never look back

Dreams full of rage and remorse; I’m not good enough to last

Survival is swimming out to sea and never coming back

 

Ambulances are always ready at the end of my performances

Pain, strain and exhaustion, I collapse

Pain and hospitalizations, weekly events

Ambulance drivers joke, here she comes again, poor kid

Pain is having blown veins from too many IV pushes

 

Cemetery where my sister rests is inviting, I love to sleep there

Terror fills my soul, soon the applause will end

Terror is a free fall with no one there with a net

Cemeteries are great places to recover when in withdrawal

Terror is raging out of control and no one knows why

 

Rage is what I felt destroying my bedroom, leaving trophies in the wall

Traveling to Africa gave me new purpose in life

Traveling taught my internal camera how to see

Rage is what I felt about human suffering in the world

Traveling made empty audiences transform into humans in need

 

Begin college studying radio, television and film production

Fall into the world of anthropology and social work

Fall into finding paranormal ways to get my rush

Begin filming documentaries and stills for museums

Fall in love and make passion the new addiction

 

Digging in the dirt as an archaeologist assistant and living in a tent

Filming documentaries and stills is not enough

Filming and showing bizarre personal creations stirs my soul

Digging round for any evidence of my sister, the paranormal

Filming detaches me from my pain and shows others its gore

 

Deadlines for films, photo shows, exhibits and pass the popcorn

Give us just one more set by tomorrow

Give us a rough draft, get it right

Deadlines take the place of coaches and managers

Give me an audience to entertain, some caffeine, a pill

 

Drunk driver eviscerates my life, decapitates my friend

Medical torture, no time for anesthesia, you’re going to die

Medical surgery not going well, I see the monitor flat line

Drunk driver gives me a Near Death Experience and new birthday

Medical trauma fuels my rage and an addiction nothing will quench

 

My experience teaches me much including the delicate nature of time

Flashes of performing memories past embrace me

Flashes of my past performing show me a universal stage

My uptight nature gets in the way of spiritual awakening and growth

Flashes of my mangled body assault me and I rage again

 

Now I embrace, explore my surreal reality and help others find theirs

Education, degrees and life aid my helping those in emotional pain

Education, writing, photography and outreach in constant production

Now If I can only loosen up and not be so wrapped tight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mysterious Object Found

 

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I found this thing on Friday afternoon and on a whim left it on the dining room table to see what kind of responses I would get. The majority of the family who decided to voice a comment thought it was a rock. The fact that only three of six people commented on this object being in the center of the table was interesting enough. Were the rest that unobservant?

One daughter wanted to know the significance and importance of this particular rock. Why was it being honored to sit in the middle of the dining room table? We don’t have a kitchen table, so this table is the only table one can sit around and do anything.  

I told her I wasn’t sure and was trying to figure it out. She accepted that answer, odd as it was, shrugged her shoulders and moved on.

This morning, husband says, “You know, I think it’s a fossilized turd and knowing you, that would not be beyond the scope of possibilities. “

Harrumph.

Do you know what the mysterious object is?  It’s a potato. I think my kitchen needs some attention. 

Monkeys in New Jersey Attack Tourists, News at Eleven

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No monkeys were harmed in the actual events or reproduction of this photograph.

It was a two door, 1971, lime green Datsun B-210 with a black vinyl roof. Custom detailed with dual, on-the-floor, port holes for your road viewing pleasure. An additional emergency pull-rope release added onto the driver-side door for times when it’s not cool to use a handle. And a specially designed hood bent into the majestic shape of a steep mountain.  Perfect for quick engine checks and radiator ventilation without having to fool with antiquated, interior, hood releases. The five pound Massachusetts’ granite, air-filter and cover-attachment-system fit perfectly under the shape of the hood.

Roach clips, never used, with hot pink feathers are swinging to the riffs of Keith Richards’ bass guitar and Mick Jagger’s edgy vocals. It’s Sue’s car. To the world, I am a Lennon/McCartney girl. Behind closed doors, I’m a Richards/Jagger mistress. I have a Sweet Pollyanna Purebred reputation to uphold.

We’re in New Jersey on a sweltering hot, July morning after a heavy rain. The smell of evaporating water on asphalt whiffs through my passenger side, floor porthole. I watch the macadam and occasional puddle fly by my feet straddling the hole.

“Let’s go see the monkeys at the drive-thru safari,” I suggest.  I’d seen a sign just outside of New York City.  “We’re only twenty miles away.”

“Sure, why not.” Sue replies. Susan is a tomboy. Something she readily embraces. This is evidenced by her grungy rock band tee-shirts, faded jeans, cowboy boots and hat, slightly greasy dirty blonde hair and automotive grease under her fingernails. She was always tinkering with the car.

I used to be a tomboy but exchanged it for grace, poise and the showmanship my performance persona demanded.  I envy Susan’s grunge while I sit here in a crisp white pair of shorts, turquoise and white spaghetti strap tank top, with appropriately and pain staking matched jewelry. My white Jack Purcells are as spotless as my fingernails which have never touched motor oil.

The car wheel hits a puddle, splashing muddy water into my floor porthole. My crisp, clean whiteness is now a muddy, drenched mess. Water is running off the end of my pampered, Maybelline, light beige covered nose.  It took me fifteen minutes trying to find my reflection in a campground mirror this morning to get this nose well blended!

Susan looks over at me and asks. “What the hell? How did you get all wet and muddy?”

“Oh I don’t know. Something about a hole in the floor that needs fixed.” At least my Nikon camera and accessories didn’t get wet. I look around for something to use as a towel but only find our mildewed tent, sleeping bags, duffle bags, firewood, a half empty bag of potato chips and an unopened box of Twinkies.

“Serve’s you right for wearing white!” She laughs, pulls the 8 track tape out of the dashboard, shakes it and puts it back in.  I have no idea what this ritual does but this will be the sixth time I’ll hear the song, I Can’t Get No Satisfaction, in the past two days.

A kid with pimples greets us at the safari gate.  He announces to no one, “Twenty dollars, stay in your car, the windows can be down except in the monkey enclosure, don’t feed the animals, the animals have the right a way, don’t stop in the monkey enclosure, take all the pictures you want, have a nice day.”  He takes a breath. We drive on to join a long line of slow moving vehicles.

Our windows are down so I can take pictures without a glare. I tend to see everything through a camera lens.  I go almost everywhere with my gear ready for that opportune moment.  Several cars ahead, I see two mammoth gray ostriches weaving between them.  Occasionally they case a car, seemingly looking for trouble.  This could be that moment.

“Hey look.” Susan says as she points to the birds. “They’re getting really close. You might actually get a good picture.”

The birds are now several car lengths away. I look at my camera and realize I don’t need the telephoto lens so I bend down to get the 50 mm.

“Um,” Sue says. Her voice sounds a bit distressed but not enough for me to sit up.  “Um, don’t, okay, just don’t get, um, I think we might have a problem.” I cock my head toward her to figure out why she suddenly forgot how to formulate sentences. Her face is oddly drained of color.  “Right now,” she continues in a near whisper.  “Don’t move, Debbie. We have a serious problem happening.”

I slowly turn my head to face the largest beak I’ve ever seen followed by two, large, black eyes on a face covered by prickly hairs. I definitely remember the animals have the right of way.

The beak, eyes and prickly hairs jolt past me heading for the back seat. It’s followed by an incredibly powerful, prickly haired, neck and a body of varying shades of musky smelling, gray plumage that completely covers my window opening. I’m pretty sure the 50 mm lens is the wrong one. What I really need is an extreme wide angle lens.  But that‘s okay because I don’t think the ostrich is in the mood.

The gray plumage and powerful, prickly haired neck whip back out my window with the half-eaten bag of potato chips covering its eyes and beak. It’s really very stunning. The red and white of the family size, chip bag, against the increasingly frantic varying shades of musky smelling, gray plumage now in full regalia is so avant-garde.  I can’t decide what strength and angle of flash to use on all this gray plumage with the very overcast, gray sky in the background. This would be a great shot in subtle shades of grays, blacks and white in the style of Ansel Adams.

“Put the window up!” Susan yells. “You’re gonna get in so much trouble for feeding the animals!” I really didn’t need to get into anymore trouble. I nervously try to push strands of my honey blonde hair behind my ear without success. It’s cut too short.

I look over at Sue’s white knuckles wrapped around the steering wheel. Her breathing is labored but is curiously in rhythm with her head shaking left to right and back again. It’s not my fault the damn bird likes chips. Not that it matters. I glance around the back seat for damages.  Except for a few remaining terrified chips scattered hither and dither, all seems normal.  The chips were destined for consumption anyway.  What’s the problem?

“Well,” I tell her, “at least they didn’t get the Twinkies.” I can see from Sue’s expression there are no words to express her feelings on the topic. We start moving forward again.

The monkey enclosure looms ahead with its two-story cement walls topped in high voltage wire. Cars are only allowed through the massive wood and steal double doors at select intervals. Two armed animal control wardens monitor the opening diligently.

“They did say this is a monkey enclosure, right?” I ask. Sue nods yes and pulls the car up to the stop line before the immense, fortified doors. I recheck the settings on my camera.

A warden steps up to Sue’s window and says, “Door’s locked, windows up, don’t stop, no exceptions – got it?”

The massive doors open wide enough to swallow us and no wider. We pull through and they close quickly behind us. I look around expecting to see a cross between Godzilla and King Kong. I see nothing but the road we’re on and a well manicured lawn with lots of low shrubby trees. There is a red car about three hundred feet ahead of us moving slowly..

A large, gray-brown male macaque steps out from behind a tree onto the road ahead of us and sits down. Sue stops the car. His steal, green eyes watch us, the animals in the cage. He’s in no hurry to move.  Peripherally, I see movement and turn to my right to see macaque mother’s with their babies.

“Check it out!” I tell Sue. “ Aren’t they cute?” I want to shoot a picture but my window has animal slobber all over the exterior.  “What does it look like out your window?”  She doesn’t answer and I turn to find out why.

On her side of the car, the one with the convenient, emergency, pull-rope door release, a line of fidgety, gray-brown fury bodies with green eyes watch us.

“This can’t be good,” Sue says. She turns the tape player off and we wait in silence.

The large, gray-brown, male macaque responsible for stopping the car jumps onto our mountain shaped car hood. He yawns, shakes his head and urinates all over the window.

“That’s something you don’t see every day,” I say and take a picture.

“This isn’t gonna to be good. I think we might have a problem,” Sue whispers.

Urine-monkey stands, flaps his arms, and opens his mouth displaying sharp incisors and screeches like a banshee.   Suddenly, al I see out any window is a gray-brown, fury, moving carpet. The car shakes and bounces reminding me of an amusement park ride. I struggle to turn and look out the back window and see black ash rain.

“Sue, is that your black vinyl roof?” I ask.  Thousands of pieces of black vinyl roof slide down the back window.  I brace the camera against the rocking car seat and shoot a couple shots of the storm.

“Oh hell! No!” Sue yells. I spin around, jostled off balance as I go. “ They’ve got the rope!”

I lean over to assess the situation. Five monkeys are in a line pulling on the convenient, emergency, pull-rope release. It’s the exterior part with the knot we untie to release the door. Sue has the other shorter, interior end in hand. It’s obvious they have more leverage then we do.  I can’t grab the rope.  Sue is in the way. So, I move back to my side of the car. Counter balance, I figure.

My side of the window is now void of fur and I have a clear, abet smudged shot of the baby monkeys with their mothers. What the hell? I shoot a couple shots at different focal lengths and apertures, trying to adjust for the rocking motion of the tug of war occurring on the driver side of the car.

“What the hell are you doing?” Sue yells at me. I spin and look at her.

“I’m taking pictures.” I say and notice her eyes. Their size and her panic enhance their green and brown color making them look wickedly, earthy in this light. I shoot a picture.

“They’re going to kill us, you know.”  She struggles to wrap the small section of rope around her arm like she was wrapping a garden hose.

“I suppose this is not a good time to tell you I think disassembling and reassembling the car door last night was a bad idea on your part?”

A blue mini-van filled with kids passes. My window is once again covered in fur but I see camera flashes.  I realize the mini-van has a better point-of-view then I do. What good is expensive camera equipment if your point of view is wrong?

I’m distracted by the sensation that my shoe is moving on its own accord. I look down. Little hominid fingers have hold of my muddy, Jack Purcell shoe laces.  Crap, I forgot the porthole.  I yank my foot up but quickly halt. There is an arm and a shoulder attached to the hand and I’m pulling them inside the porthole. This would make one hell of a short video if I had a camcorder with me.

“Do something!” Susan yells. “Now! Put the damn camera down and kick that beast back to hell!  I listen and obey.

The car stops rocking and the windows are fur free. The porthole is empty and the rope release on the door is limp. It’s no longer raining black ash.   I take a picture of the empty, now larger porthole between my feet. I look up to see a warden in a bright yellow jeep beside us. He looks perturbed. The monkeys act aloof and I don’t know what I look like, but Susan looks like hell.  He motions for us to follow him and we do.

“Go to the clerk,” he says. “She’ll take care of the damages.”

We park the car; examine all the thin, side, metal trim now jutting out at odd angles, the driver’s side door no longer sitting flush with the frame and the hole in the black vinyl roof.

“My poor car,” Susan says.

I look at the misshaped hood, the remains of the rope hanging off the broken door and my muddy Jack Purcells, complimentary of the floor porthole.  “Yeah, it’s a shame.”

“There is no way the clerk is going to believe this,” Susan says. “Well, we might as well find out.”

We walk over to an office and I proceed to gingerly, almost embarrassingly explain our situation. I know they are going to look at Sue’s car and think we’re idiots.

“Damn monkeys,” the clerk says. “I bet your car is green. There is something about green cars. Take your car over to the park police. They have to make a report and photograph the evidence.”

We drive the car over to the police station. A pudgy, black officer steps out with an antiquated Polaroid camera in hand.  “The monkeys did all this?” He asks while circling the car, stopping to look at the Massachusetts’ granite under the bent hood and the missing car floor from my open window. He looks directly at me.

I’m horrible at lying. Ever since I can remember people have told me, don’t play poker! “No.” I tell him.

“So, what damage did they do?” He’s still looking at me. I shoot a look over at Susan who’s shuffling her feet nervously.

“The roof and the metal, jutting out thingies,” I say.

“Thought so,” he says. He takes a couple Polaroid shots and waits for them to develop. “Are you two far from home?”

“Five hours, maybe,” I reply. Not sure why this is important.

“This car is a death trap. You know that?” He’s still looking at me. It’s not my car. I keep quiet.

He comes over to my side and shows me a very tiny, poorly exposed picture of Sue’s car. “This doesn’t quite do the car justice, does it? I bet if you used your camera, we could really see the damage.”  He pauses, looks at me, Sue and then the car. He sighs, pulls out a pocket knife and slashes the monkey made hole in the roof and pulls it back exposing the metal. He snaps another picture and looks at me. “I think this might get the point across.”  What am I supposed to say?

He takes Susan into the station to fill out paperwork while I stand guard over the car. I’m not sure how we’re going to get the car home with all that metal hanging off the sides. Sue comes out with a smile on her face. They paid her twice the amount of money she originally paid for the car – six hundred dollars.

“Ready to go home?” She asks.

I look over at the metal protrusions. “What about these?”

“That’s not a problem.” She pulls the metal completely off each side of the car and shoves them in the back seat with the moldy tent and Twinkies.

We drive back to Maryland in silence. I know my pictures will all be blurry and I’m bummed.  We pull into the driveway and as we unload the car it hits me and I stop moving.

“What?” Sue asks.

I turn and look at her. “I should have put the camera on automatic instead of manual.”  I can see from her expression there are no words to express her feelings on the topic.

Listen to the Sounds of Nothing to Hear Everything

Monument Valley     What does it mean to be alive? Obviously, I’m not referring to the status of a person’s brain and cardiac functioning.  Every so many months I find myself saying, I need to do something so I know I’m alive.

This particular time I was face up in a cemetery under some unknown person’s headstone with an associate in dire straits when she announced. “I don’t feel alive anymore. I have to find out why.”

And so it begins. Another restless zombie looking for answers. I nodded in understanding and set out on my own quest. I took a road trip across the country.

Monument Valley National Park is actually part of the Navajo Indian Reservation (as well as Hopi, Ute and Zuni) and encompasses the corner of four states, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado.  I had never been there but was compelled to go. There is a dirt drive where you are allowed to take your vehicle. It takes you to a small portion of the park. I wasn’t interested in that.  I needed something more for reasons I can’t explain.

I hire a Navajo (Dine’) guide, got in his jeep and headed out to explore lesser traveled areas.  We are about two thirds of the way through the tour, almost axle deep in rich, orange sand when he stops the jeep and turns off the engine.

“What do you hear?” He asks me.

“Nothing,” I replied. There are no noises. No birds, humans, or sounds of any civilization what so ever.

“Exactly,” he said. Smiling, he turns the jeep engine back on and we continue swerving through the sand until we get to a massively tall, orange, rock alcove.  Stopping again, he hops out of the jeep and says, “Come on.”

We head into the alcove and he instructs me to lie against the slopping, rock wall next to him and I do so.  There has to be a twenty degree difference between the air inside and in the sun. The rock is so smooth and cool I close my eyes and desire to become one with the rock against my skin.

“What do you hear?” He asks me again.

I hear him breathing. I hear me breathing and realize the alcove walls are magnifying sound. He starts to sing in words I’ve never heard before and a rhythm that soothes my soul.  The sound of his voice reverberates beautify around the alcove and I hope he never stops singing. But he does.

“ Isn’t that something?” He asks.

I’m too busy finding my voice. My heart and soul still flooding from the experience and I can’t find my voice to answer. I don’t have to. He knows.

“We have to get back,” he said. Sadly, I know this but don’t want to leave.

We return to the Park Visitor’s Center and I’m still in awe. He just smiles and shakes his head in approval.

Heading out of the park, I turn down a road leading to an over-hang. It’s supposed to be a great place to see the remains of cliff dwellings. I stop and park the car.

As I’m walking down a path to the cliff edge an elderly Indian women with a teenager in tow stop me. She is holding a glass bead and juniper berry necklace with a wire dream catcher as a pendent. She says something in a language I do not know. The teenager smiles at me. The old woman is her grandmother and she has a gift for me.

I think she is trying to sell me the necklace. I wouldn’t mind owning it, but I’m suspicious and wonder if somehow this is a tourist trap of some kind.  I must look suspicious because the woman is more insistent and the girl more adamant I have to take the necklace. I take it saying thank you and they both smile.

I continue down to the cliff edge and shoot a bunch of pictures. The view is magnificent. I know there is no way any of my shots will express what I am experiencing.  Despite this, I shoot a couple more before returning up the path to my car.

The two women are no longer around. I do find a tin can with various dollars and a few coins sitting on a blanket. I toss a twenty dollar bill in the can and head to my car feeling like I just committed a mortal sin.

I couldn’t sleep that night. I was so alive. It took me days to realize lessons that were basic instructions for living.  To feel alive, listen to the sounds of nothing and hear everything. The gift from a stranger is more powerful than a gift from someone you know. The necklace hangs on the wall in my house.

Zombies Walk Among Us

St. Louis, Missouri

St. Louis, Missouri

They say zombies are the remains of the living-dead who walk the earth searching for flesh to quench a hunger. I say zombies are the remains of the dead-living  who wander the earth and beyond searching for something to stop their unquenchable restlessness.

Hauntings do not just occur in houses, cemeteries and places where horrific events have occurred. They also occur in the mind.  Many people haunt themselves.  Others have help from their daily realities.  Then there are people whose hauntings come from an unimaginable terror.  One that does not go away when  they close their eyes and intensifies after dark when the vulnerability of sleep sets in.  It forms a restlessness not only in the body but the very soul. It seeps in at the most innocuous times and behaves like a spirit communicating with a medium. No one else can see it, only the result of it’s actions on the victim.  It’s real tempting to run.  I’ve clocked many miles and searched many dark corners only to find it can’t be outrun.  Armed with every demon hunting tool I could learn I did what I should have done in the first place. I hit it head on and and only stopped long enough to check a map, grab a bite to eat and laugh till my sides ached.

Welcome fellow zombies and couch zombies to reality – the other reality.