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Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


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When the Family Fails

I want to share a story while providing some sense of privacy for the people who are at the center of this tale…..they are human like the rest of us. Like the rest of us, the choices they have made and continue to make seem to serve them but they are not happy people, so perhaps even they realize something is very wrong with their life path.

My birth family had its issues. My parents were very close, at times to the exclusion of my sisters and me. See, mom was not healthy. I have no idea what her diagnosis would have been but each of us kids have had our adult issues because what we were TOLD and what we OBSERVED were two different things.

My parents did a lot of good things for us that, for me, offset the negatives a lot. They took us camping around the United States. They encouraged us to learn musical instruments and we were all active in Girl Scouts. We received our religious education and while we did not go to Temple each Friday or Saturday, we went enough for me to understand my heritage and that doing good deeds was a part of making a good life.

But I always knew some of the things mom said were not based in the reality where I was living. I spent a few years in my early adulthood breaking many of those “rules”, proving my life would be just fine even if I rebelled.  I stumbled, and I picked myself up and I learned very quickly that no one, not even my parents would ever ever rescue me.

My sisters and I have compared notes over the years and they did not have the same perception I did. The rules were the rules and there was a lot of guilt over breaking them.  We had failed marriages. We had addictions. We grew through them and beyond them. We still probably continue to stumble sometimes but we have never ever said “stay away from me” because we are family.

dysfunctional-family

source: Lucky Otters Haven

Meanwhile, around us are a kazillion other families, each trying in their own way to do the right thing with their kids. But we know our society has been failing. We have kids who are out of control. Adults now, they want what they want when they want it. They don’t know how to plan for a goal and deferred gratification is a concept that they never learned.

Many adults were not taught life skills by their parents and do not know how to cook a healthy meal. How to plan a budget. How to get along.  How to TRY to get along. They feel what they feel and everyone else who feels differently is wrong wrong wrong. Even sick and maybe should be hospitalized.  Attack and deflect if you can’t get along…..make it the other person’s fault and never never assume any responsibility.

And it goes to the parents….and then to those adult children who continue the cycle by striking out at anyone who ruffles the waters, who disturbs the system that holds the status quo together.

Image result for shutting the door in someone's faceI have a friend I met over 20 years ago who needed a place when her family told her “don’t come here” and so, she came to me. Now, I know with my own mother, most people looking at our family never imagined we had anything less than “happy” going on behind our doors, but that’s the way it was. So I can imagine that it is hard for a 50-70 year history of aggravation to be set aside to rise and be a family, especially when there is a strong person in charge. Even if she is not healthy.  Especially if she is not healthy.

I understand how hard it is to confront an irrational person, even when it is apparent to all around her that things are not right. Weak people tend to hide. They do not want to be the next target.  So they are compliant and accept the way it is, and anyone who tells them otherwise, like me and this blog, is wrong.

Too many people would rather sweep issues that are difficult under the carpet in the attempt to ignore them. Too many people come on aggressively when they feel a horrible conflict with what they “should” do and what they “must” do.

And so, we see homeless people. We see people on drugs trying to make their world calmer, less scary.

When all they need is love and acceptance.

I know they will read this. I know it will not help calm the waters, but you know what, NOTHING I do would help. The only change that could happen has to be from them.

There will be tears. There will be anger. And you know what, it just is more of the same. A pattern that has gone on for over 70 years. People educated in psychiatry would be quick to tell me this blog is not wise.

But it is time for someone to speak up. Before more families do this to each other.  Maybe someone somewhere will recognize that they need some meds or counseling or something to heal the pain that grew. Image result for love and acceptanceMaybe……I hope so.

 

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The Moral Majority Has Failed the Test

In 1979 Jerry Falwell, with thousands of followers, started a new political party in the hopes of presenting candidates with good Christian morals.  The issues that attracted followers: anti gay, anti abortion, anti school segregation, anti science teaching among others. The Moral Majority prided themselves as being pro Family and yet, many of the leadership were found to be having affairs or liaisons. So, despite strong evangelical Christian support, the party dissolved late in the 1980s. The people who supported Falwell waited silently for their next hero.

Perhaps they never really got silent but their more recent activities begins to beg the question about the basis of their Christianity.

Look, you know I’m Jewish but I would bet you that I pay more attention at church than cradle Christians whose memorized responses do not require any brain involvement. My Christian husband asked me to attend with him 10 years ago and I said I would as long as I was respected.  My introduction began at Ascension Episcopal Church in Pueblo where I marvelled at the similarities; of course! this was a denomination not far off the Catholic shoot and that church was derived from Judaism. Funny how the symbolism, while morphed a bit, still exists.  In West Virginia we attended St. John’s Episcopal Church in Huntington and once again, not only were people respectful, they sought me out at times asking if I would join a study group because they knew my viewpoint, being different, would spark more interesting discussion.  And now in Oregon we attend the McMinnville Cooperative Ministries, a combined church of Lutheran and Methodist congregations.

I listen. I study. I ask questions. And you know what?  The teaching of Christ in the churches where I have worshipped seems to be very different from what I see proclaimed by the evangelical Christians who walk a very different pathway.

  • They say they are pro-life but they have no tolerance for children who are hungry or homeless.
  • They proclaim their great patriotism but their pride in our veterans seems to appear only on two days of the year and there is little concern about the number of veterans committing suicide or those that are homeless.
  • They fight against bathrooms being used by people who identify themselves by their chosen gender, not their birth gender, and yet, we have a President who has happily walked in on young women in stages of undress during “his” beauty contest.
  • They argue against homosexulaity and then we find that some of the loudest voices have been arrested for inappropriate behavior in a public place.

Now we have this judge, twice removed from the Alabama Supreme Court who is running to fill the Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions when he was named Attorney General in this administration.  Roy Moore has been accused by several adult women that he inappropriately touched them sexually when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. One girl was 14-years-old. And this morning, another woman has come forward who has announced she, also, was 14-years-old when this man took her innocence. Image result for supporting sexual abuse

I’ve read a number of essays that this is not uncommon with evangelical Christian men. They want to have relationship(s) with women that they can mold, women who will not be mature enough to know that a healthy marriage is one based on mutual respect.

While this is also very common in other societies with fundamentalist religions, few more educated communities expect women to be subservient like this.  Few educated societies permit children to become married. Fewer still think sex is an appropriate activity for budding adolescents.

As much as this angers me,  what bothers me more than the men and women who believe this is a good way of life are the many people who say they will still vote for Roy Moore despite the behavior they don’t like. They will vote for him because he is a Republican. That voting for a Democrat is worse.Image result for unthinking followers

Now, before any Democrat starts feeling superior, the same is true in that camp. Here locally we have a woman beginning her campaign for a state house district. Personally, I can’t vote for her because I do not live in her district, but I have gotten to know her and I know she would have my vote if I could. Even though she is a Republican.

There is not much difference between the warring factions in the Middle East killing people because they do not agree on who was Mohammed’s heir and people who are so fixated on the NAME of their political party that they never put any effort into thinking about the person running for office. Or effort working for that party to help make sure it runs honest candidates who WILL represent the common people.

Look at the issues, yes. You don’t like abortion, I understand. But the clinics do more than that…..don’t shut your eyes to the good that is done.  Don’t be so narrow in your outlook that your hate encompasses good.

Look at the experience the candidate has had to help you understand if they know the important aspects to do the job fairly.  It is very clear that Trump meant it when he said he plans to shut several federal departments; his appointments for their secretaries were selected carefully so the most damage could be done. While many people like the concept of “small government” few people like the idea of letting corporate interests destroy public lands for private enterprise.

Look at their ethics and decide if they are like yours.  You don’t rape little girls? Then don’t vote for someone who prefers his meat tender and juicy and well below the age of consent. And yes, “meat” is rude but surely you don’t think what Moore was doing was a meaningful relationship and one you would enjoy?  He did NOT mentor these children; he raped them.

If you vote for someone who admits sexual predation like Trump, you have something missing in your thinking process…..or you also believe women are playthings.  If you think the idea of children and unconsenting young women being sexual objects is not healthy, then you need to speak up when an abuser proclaims they want to represent you.

Image result for fake christiansSo, simply, I’m holding my “from the outside looking in” card and tell you that these people are not learning the teachings of Christ. Being an imperfect human being I can understand. I can understand that just about all of us have done things that have been unwise. But being proud of reprehensible behavior I can not understand nor support. And anyone supporting it blindly will only continue the deterioration of the American culture.

Yes, that will. Not the immigrants, legal or illegal. Not the LGBTQ community, not the NFL players who kneel to add their silent voices to the protest that not people of color do not have the same equal access to the law that is promised.

Nope, those are all part and parcel of this great land with its wonderful Constitution. But the society will continue to circle the drain if all citizens don’t start thinking about how their actions affect everyone.  Or lack of action. The time for Monday morning quarterbacking is over.  Your choice to act or stay silent is your legacy to this American culture.

Image result for choosing to do nothing is a choice

 


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I Did Okay

About thirty years ago I had an epiphany. My job was not the activity I did that provided income. My job, it hit me, was to raise those little munchkins I had birthed to become healthy and happy adults who could function as contributing members of society.

It wasn’t an easy road, as anyone who has walked it can attest. Having a spouse who had a completely different parenting philosophy was harder, believe it or not, than when I was a single mom.  But trying to parent alone can be a constant struggle against fatigue and a slippage of consistency.

I’m not a deep analytical thinker generally but as a kid, whenever I chafed at the rules and restrictions imposed by my parents that seemed unfair, I thought about why. What was the purpose of the rule?  Was it fair? Could my parents have achieved my compliance more readily if they had presented the need for a certain behavior a different way?  It seemed to me that the answer was yes, life was unfair to me then. easier to build a child

I knew my parents, overall, were okay. I understand better now that they had their own issues and that they did what they thought was the best thing for my sisters and me. And despite some developmental restrictions I had to learn to overcome as an adult (i.e, how to deal with anger in a way where it would not blow up into World War III) they gave me a lot of experiences that many other kids don’t get.

Our family was in no way child centric, but my parents were involved in activities that provided for my exploration and growth. Scouting, encouraging my love of reading, camping and travelling, helping us learn to swim, and PTA were things they did. There were inconsistencies about religious training and practice which I now recognize was a struggle between the way my dad and mom had each been raised. They encouraged my participation in the music education program starting in 4th grade, something I did with my kids and learned quickly to appreciate that my parents had provided that model.

What’s fascinating is that when I discuss memories and issues with my two sisters, their experiences sometimes were considerably different from mine. If that can happen in the same environment, the whole nurture vs nature concept shows up more clearly.genetics-nature-vs-nurture-4-638

Looking back it is easy to see that each of my kid’s personalities was evident right from the beginning.  They were who they are even as infants and toddlers. The way they expressed themselves, their willingness to explore or need to stay close, and their responses to me were challenging and wonderful and scary, all at the same time.  I recognized that this was my biggest responsibility in life and I knew I wanted to give them something better than I had had.

STEPI knew I wanted to parent differently but also knew that unless I made an effort to learn a new way, the guidance I heard in my head and heart would be the way I had been raised. I was fortunate that my older two kids attended an elementary school in  the “poor” neighborhood of a town in Connecticut where education was held in high esteem. (in other words, we paid higher taxes for the school system there than any other place I have lived.) The principal of the elementary school was a consummate grant writer and we had an amazing array of programs, offered free. One was a parenting class called Systematic Training for Effective Parenting.  While child raising practices have moved on, this served as an amazing framework for me to teach my kids about fair communication, accepting responsibility, and understanding that there will be consequences for misbehavior.  One of the best parts, particularly after a year or two of practice, was that we all had fewer angry meltdowns.  Me too.

I know it would be interesting to read their perspective of the experience. Now adults in their 20s and 30s, I suspect I would hear about all the horrible things I did to them. But I also think there would be many more positive issues. (I recognize that statement might be self serving. LOL)

I just came back from a long weekend to celebrate my youngest’s 23rd birthday. The joy I felt was better than any drug. I could easily see that despite a pathway taken that was not the original planned, he is doing fine. He is healthy. He is supporting himself (well, almost). He has good friends who also are finding their way along their own pathways.

One important difference, I think, between my parents and me is that I do not expect my kids to live their life the way I would if I had their opportunities.  This son struggled in school, a surprise to all of us. Yet in today’s economic turmoil, a college education is not proving to be the answer it was to my generation, so understanding there are other ways to earn the money to live is part of my letting go.  After all, earning a living is NOT the same as building a fulfilling life. My hope for this young man is the same as it was when he was born and he is well on his way to being the healthy, happy, functioning adult I tried to aim for with my parenting.

 

 

 


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How It Happened To Me

I met him when I was 10 years old; he was 16 and to me he was totally cool. He was dating my oldest sister for a short time and after a few months she felt uneasy so broke off with him.

We had an issue with communication in our family. My parents wanted us only to express “positive” emotions, so her concerns about him were never brought up.

Meanwhile, my mom had essentially noticed he was a bit of a lost one who could benefit from a healthy family and so, “adopted” him. My sister never said much of anything whenever he showed up for dinner, but she always had a lot of homework those days.

He went off to VietNam for not one but two tours as a Green Beret. Special Forces, rah rah. Mom was so proud. He never told us anything, just brought gifts for each of us whenever he returned to the hometown and ended up at our dinner table again.

So, when he proposed 12 years later, I sort of knew him but only realized later that I had no idea who he was. I thought since he cherished his “home away from home” at our house, he understood and believed in the kinds of ethics and love we exhibited.

I was eager to get away from New Jersey and he offered a route away. I was such a fool. Naive. Innocent.

And so I jumped in, prepared to love this man until death do us part.

But on our first few weeks of marriage he wanted to invite another woman to join the two of us on his boat on one of Nashville’s lakes. I suggested he should not; that we could enjoy some “special time” in a secluded cove, but he was not on the same wavelength.

I had a friend from college visit and after dinner I drove him to where he was staying the night and he asked me how I was. He saw clearly that something was not right. I denied it. All was fine.

Still in the reserves he would go spend his weekend up at Fort Campbell where he worked in the hospital. He was trained as a medic and had dreams of becoming a physician’s assistant but had no sticking power in his studies. He would leave the house to go to school but I noticed he never worked on any homework. One day a woman called asking for Sargeant X. I gave him the phone and he took it into the bedroom for a private conversation that included a lot of laughter and lasted over an hour. When he came out he told me that she wanted to know who had answered the phone. He had not told her he was married. npr_abuse_

One day while riding in his sister’s car we were struck by a truck. My head hit the side window hard but I recovered my wits faster and told her to put her foot on the brake as we were headed to a ditch. . When I called the place where he was hanging out (he should have been in school) he told the person who took the call to tell me he was in class. I told her to tell him we had had an accident and where it was. Believe it or not, he was there in about 15 minutes, an illegal driving speed was evident.  But he did not go to me. He enveloped his sister in a warm and caring hug.  She had started sobbing as soon as she saw him, and told me to get out of the way.  On the way home he told me her stomach was upset and I needed to make chicken soup…from scratch…and have it ready fast.  I was glad I had some in the freezer.   But he never asked how I was and since I had a raging headache for 3 days, I probably had a concussion.

I needed my wisdom teeth extracted. He came to pick me up about 2 hours after I called him I was ready and then dropped me at home and took off to join “the guys for a drink”.  I truly felt unloved.abuse power wheel

But I was raised that all issues in marriages can be worked out and that there would be no such thing as divorce in our family. So I tried all different things. I tried being nice and sweet. (okay, it was not as hard a stretch at age 23 as it might be now…quit laughing) I tried to be firm and strong back at him. He only raised his voice and got angrier.

My sister, his old flame, came to visit with her husband. She told me later that he hit on her, but at that time she shared a technique she had been learning while pursuing her master’s’ degree in psychiatric nursing. The treasured “When you do such and I such I feel this way” which is a fairly non confrontational alternative to “What the hell are you doing treating me this way!”  He got angrier with that one also.

There was no way to escape his anger. Basically, there was no escape.  He had the car and a motorcycle and never gave me a set of car keys.  He often would leave the house on a weekend day on the motorcycle, taking the car keys and not tell me when he would be home.

All this is classic emotional abuse. It was my fault there were red lights. It was my fault it rained. It was my fault if I did not automatically intuit what he wanted for supper. But I kept hoping things would get better.

My period was late one month, something that never happened. Yes, I prayed. I knew children with this man would be a mistake. The prayer worked a couple of days later.  Thank you Lord.

And then he announced we were going on a honeymoon, about 15 months into our marriage. He wanted to go scuba diving at Grand Cayman. Cool. I also learned to scuba.

But I anticipated a new beginning. I bought a new negligee and was ready to play the  excited and eager bride. He had selected a place to stay on the eastern side of the island, far away from all the touristy things. I loved it. It was a small place where each room had a slider out to the beach.

I suggested we go for a walk on the beach and he angrily said no. He then proceeded to rape me.

Some people believe that in a marriage there is no such thing as rape. I anticipate a lot of women snorting when they read that statement. We know, so without getting graphic, let me explain.

When you want to make love you spend a bit of time making sure your partner is relaxed and then titillated. That caresses and kisses help build the energy and help the juices flow.

When you have a man who has no concern other than where to put HIS body part, it can be a long, dry, painful experience.

The next evening, when he expected the same activity, I smiled in what I hoped was a sweet way and suggested we make love.n-WOMEN-VIOLENCE-large570-427x178

He hit me.

Immediately I knew he could kill me.  I grabbed my clothes and went out on the beach. I sat there, waiting for him to come out, to apologize, to realize he had chosen something very wrong.

After 3 hours I went in. He was snoring.

The next day he told me he would prefer if I would leave. From Grand Cayman. When he had the money and the tickets and was supposedly the man who had promised to care for me.  I stayed.

Grand Cayman has a bit of a volcanic section called Hell. It has a post office and I actually had enough chutzpah to send him a postcard at home that said simply, “The next time you tell me to go to Hell, I will remind you that you drove me there.”

He was not amused.

Everything came to a head about a month later when my parents came to visit and he was rude, even to my mother, someone who had always given him love.  She said to me “I don’t understand how you can stay with him” and the gates permitting me to leave opened.

I left the next day, after my parents were gone. Three weeks later he came over to my friend’s house where I was staying and tried to rape me again. I was able to get him to leave.

Valentine’s Day came and went with no comment from him, not even a “I know we’re in a tough place but we can work this out.” I filed for a divorce the next day.

I had nightmares for years.

So when I see women in a similar situation, particularly women I know and consider friends, I don’t avoid the issue. I want them to know I have been there and they need not stay there.

Most never make a move. Most continue the same way.

Someone posted today on facebook that about a third of all women have been the victim of domestic abuse. I think that number is low. no silence

 

 


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Who Needs Help Like This?

Going through my email this morning, one subscription, which usually provides info like “the 10 best burgers in the country” or “Asian restaurants you MUST try in Portland” offered a different kind of temptation today.

The 27 Best Bad Decision Bars in AmericaYou know that bar down the street that has board games and does British comedy trivia every Wednesday night? The one your Mom called “quaint?” These bars wipe the floor with that bar. Here are the 27 best bad decision bars in America — all places you’re guaranteed to do something stupid in.
Really? Like we need that kind of marketing?
No thanks, I’ll get into trouble all on my own….and no, I will not provide the link.