28 March, 2009

Groupies

Dear Daughter, 
We had a light dusting of snow. I drove by the place we were sitting before you left for London, when we spotted Frances McDormand. You and I were at the "Kiddie beach".  She was walking around the lake with Joel, remember? And you got all excited and wanted to run after her. Now everytime I drive by I think of that day and our serious, deep, philosophical conversation which suddenly deteriorated into total fantasy and frivolity. I just watched the scene from "Notting Hill" where Anna goes to William's sister's birthday party. It is so fascinating to watch the groupie dynamic and wonder what is up with all of that blind devotion. I suppose it "is what it is" but what the heck is it? Infatuation, fantasy, a projections of our own illusions...How do we mature through it to something a little more workable, compassionate? How can we come to the point where we just see the whole, complex creation in it's changing form and not try to direct the perception or control the process. I think of Bonsai and how we are shaping the tree to a particular, specific esthetic. We wire the trunk to imitate the form of a wind swept plant struggling to survive in an unfriendly environment. When I look at my little bonsai I am reminded of the condition of scoliosis and the lateral twisting of the spine. We can't prove the cause of scoliosis. We can simple identify the patterns of occurrence: detected in adolesence, in an emotionally stressful environment, could be school, peer groups or family situations. There is a spiraling that begins to show itself, a moving in on itself, a sort of attempt to shield or protect itself for whatever reason. When facing an adversary what do we do: confront or turn away? How do we turn an adversary into an asset? Is that possible, is it desirable? Or are we meant to simple recognize that the adversary is what is, and be in that somewhat distressing relationship. And know that there is value in the opposition, without resolution, or judgement. I have heard that you are in Brussels, on your way to Amsterdam, London and Paris for Alex, then home in time for Easter. I am so looking forward to seeing you in the flesh, and holding you in my arms. Until then, taste everything, smell everything and dance everyday. 
Yur Mum

26 March, 2009

Break through

Last Tuesday's Guardian ad Litem training session continues to unfold. The audio tape of a young girl's call to 911 for help triggered not only my adult experience with domestic violence, but also my experience as a child. I flashed on the incident in which Mike came to my sister and I and begged us to come into bed with him because he was afraid our Dad was going to hurt him. He had been the one to make the call for help when our parents got into one of their "incidents". I remember my Mom screaming for him to call our grandma. I realized today the depth and the quality of Mike's terror. He figured that our Dad wouldn't hurt him if his sisters were in the room. He was safer with us than by himself. He slept in a bedroom which shared a closet with our parents room. He must have heard everything that happened in their room. My sister and I slept down the hall, far enough away that we were out of earshot. I remember hearing my Dad's parents arrive and every one's voices getting much quieter. From my bedroom I called for my Grandma, but my Grandpa was the one who actually came upstairs to check on us. I don't remember how or when we got in our own beds. It was the only time I can recall that I had direct contact with that Grandpa. My memory is that he was gruff, distant and harsh. Except for that one time when he appeared tender, nurturing and sad or apologetic. 
As the timeline progresses forward I remember my two year old son standing between his Dad and I, while I tried to cover my head to protect my face from his blows. And I remember my glasses flying across the room, looking down and thinking, "He's going to get hurt. Go!" I was in shock, and numb, yet wanting to reassure my kids I tried to act normal and deal with their needs, before I attended to my own. I got them ready for bed, going through the usual rituals. Assuring them that they were safe now, without knowing if it was true. After I was sure they were asleep I went to get help. Looking back on it now, I realize I was numb, exhausted and not thinking clearly at all. 
When I asked my Mom about the incident in which Mike called our Grandparents she remembered her father-in-law asking her what she had said right before my Dad started hitting her. He advised her not to say it in the future. My mother became an expert in hostile silence. The silent treatment: if you can't say anything nice then don't say anything at all. It doesn't work for kids. They don't understand and they just think it's their fault. And she used me as a scapegoat and a hostage in her war with my father. Just as he used Mike against her. A family divided. I identify the coping mechanisms: alcohol, drugs, television, workaholism, compulsive obsessive behaviors, all combined with poverty and a very real struggle to feed and cloth us. It is no wonder she just wanted to get rid of me. And no wonder she resented my demands. Perhaps my expectations were unreasonable, but at the time I was a child. Do I have unreasonable expectations now? Of myself? Of the people around me? Or do I just like challenges, testing the limits and is that such awful trait? Something to be ashamed of? 
The only way out is through. Domestic violence isn't going away. There are valuable lessons to be learned from the process if one is willing to take advantage of the opportunity. Gandi says we must be the change you wish to see. Embodiment of the lesson of domestic violence in as much depth as we can muster/master. It is our only hope for illuminating the journey for those who are coming behind us, through the same dark tunnel, and into the light.

24 March, 2009

Day 6: Guardian Ad Litem Training

Hey Girlfriend,
The ice is melting. It is healing to watch the awsome inevitability of the progression of the seasons. The shift from darkness into light. From fear into release. I have been working with the phrase "I release you..." In Craniosacral Therapy we release the horizontal diaphragms, and when the release happens there is frequently a little shudder or vibration and a deep relaxation. I have glimpses of compassion which spill over into compassion for my kids and then for all kids of all ages who have experienced the violent attempts of their Dads to control their Moms. The terror and trauma which repeats the intergenerational pattern of domestic violence overwhelms me. And I am so grateful to be out and alive and free to flower again. To unfold, and explore my passions, and to love my children without shame or guilt or apology.  My pattern is to focus on the things I didn't handle as well as I would have imagined. The things I think I did wrong. When today I recognize the "things I did right" I feel overwhelming gratitude which leaves me speechless. 
"The necessary context for children's recovery from exposure to battering behavior: A strong bond to the non-battering parent. Children who have experienced profound emotional distress or trauma are largely dependent for their recovery on the quality of their  relationship with their caretaking parent. Assisting battered mothers and their children to heal their relationships is one of the most important aspects of promoting recovery." 
Amen.
Alleluia.

23 March, 2009

modified sun salutation

videoSun salutation is an excellent exercise for focusing on the breath and balance while loosening the spine. It is a lovely way to start the day, something of a thank you note for the gift of another day and, if the sun is shining, even more reason to feel gratitude. For anyone with conditions which affect the functions of the nervous system it is an important tool for slowing the progression of the symptoms. It is effective in strengthening balance. Each repetition is about 60 seconds or 10 repetitions can be accomplished in 10 minutes. You could continue the repetitions for 30 minutes for cardiovascular benefits. The video posted here is a simple variation originally designed to be performed standing in water, armpit deep at the side of the swimming pool. The sequence can be performed very slowly, with up to 3 minutes holding in each pose, or even more rapidly than in this video. There are 12 positions starting with Mountain Pose and an inhale breath.  

1)  Stand behind a stable chair in Mountain Pose, then exhale as you
2)  Flex knees to squat in prayer pose. Inhale while you tuck your tailbone and move into 
3)  Mini Back bend with no discomfort in back of neck or lower back. Exhale into  
4)  Forward Fold hinging from hip joint, head and neck relaxed, hanging loose. Inhale and 
5)  Step left foot back into Lunge, heel may be up or down. Exhale as you place
6)  Hands on back of chair for Plank Pose, spine is a diagonal line, inhale. Step close to chair,
7)  Push up and away into Cobra. Exhale as you  
8)  Pull hips back into Downward Dog. Inhale and   
9)  Step right leg forward into Lunge. Exhale for second 
10)  Forward Fold. 
11)  Mini Back bend
12) Prayer Pose.
and finish or begin again with: 
1)  Mountain Pose.

memories of a happy childhood

The new conservatory at Como Zoo is spacious and healing. There is an element of surprised integrated with the familiar older areas of the facility that we liked very much. The central area, with the little fountain of the water nymph dancing is a place my son wanted to stop and reflect. He began to list all of the times he remembered coming to the conservatory and the things he had discovered. The picnics, the goldfish, the magical sensation of being surrounded by greenery even though we had to struggle through the snow and freezing temperatures to arrive through those glass doors. He was over two on out first visit. We had returned from our two year journey as homeless travelers, living out of a suitcase. It was October before he slept in his own bed, his first bed. And he remembers. It was a time he was fascinated with Magic Flute, and Prince Tamino, chased by the dragon. We spent hours re-enacting that opening scene, the sword, the cape-like cloak, and the rescue by the handmaidens of the Queen of the Night. Papageno's appearence and the bird catching activity. 

16 March, 2009

Rage

Where does it get you? Out of the nursery, into the real world...is it injustice? Is it vengeance? All I know is that the only way out is through, so I keep moving through as steadily as I can. Letting the rage come up, feeling it, noticing it, but trying not to judge it. Just knowing I want to get through it and the sooner the better. I watch myself struggle with the beast, knowing I don't want to live there, yet feeling helpless in the unexpected recurrence. "I don't want to go back" becomes my mantra. I close my eyes and visualize a scene from a movie in which Morgan Freeman faces a bear. He doesn't back down, doesn't back away. He simply holds his ground in spite of his fear...and anger...and vulnerability. Vulnerability is the aspect of my rage that is the most uncomfortable. The sense of opening myself again to abuse in spite of my past experiences, and then the sense of being betrayed once again. I betray myself when I expect a different outcome. My old patterns range from turning the rage on myself in self-destructive behavior or becoming hype-irritable and turning on people around me. Time to try something new and different...but what? Intellectually I know it is unreasonable to expect a life without injustice, misunderstanding, miscommunication or offending at least one other person. It still feels so personal when it happens, my ego shrieks don't do this to me. And it happens anyway, and there is no going back, not even any real desire to go back, just the horror that it has occurred and my humble attempt to get through it. Perhaps this rage was triggered by court observation this morning. The father's refusal to deal with his issues of depression, chronic pain, grief, violence. Possible homelessness...Not showing up for the review? How is that in the best interest of his daughter? Or himself.

15 March, 2009

walk like a man

videoI watch my son with wonder. He courage amazes me, as does his compassion. He has shaped his own life and searched to discover role models for himself in surprising places. Somewhere along the journey he has become close to his maternal Grandfather in a way I did not anticipate. I saw my brothers struggle with their relationship with their Dad and their struggle continues to this day. They grew up watching the violent relationship of our parents. My son has never known my parents as a married couple. And I observe my son confiding his dreams and fears to his Grandpa with respect and admiration. His Grandpa has logged an impressive amount of hours in 12 steps groups. At one point he was there most nights of the week. I don't know how effectively he actually worked the program, but he showed up for the meetings. And that alone is more than my son's Dad was willing to do for him. Showing up is the first step. 

English tea

High tea comes in all shapes and forms. Today it was a picnic at the U of MN Landscape Arboretum. This is a place I have been many times with my daughter looking for the perfect future wedding site,  or just parent/child bonding, sometimes enjoying low stress nature therapy, just dreaming, scheming, healing. Occasionally, we would be negotiating my (knock on wood) grandparent time, in case I ever have grandchildren. I will definitely be taking them to the arboretum...But my son had somehow fallen through the cracks. He had never been here, bless his tree-hugging soul! I had fleeting moments of shame and guilt and even questioned my parenting skills, when he informed me I that of all the places I had taken him including Mystic Lake, Reno, Chez Panisse, and Golden Gate Park, he had never been to the arboretum. A sad oversight which was corrected this afternoon. We stopped at Sofitel to pick up brioche and bagette. Our next stop was at Lakewinds Co-op for Beelers (the very best) sliced ham, camembert de chevre, St Andre (triple cream), baby field greens, a few organic cookies, and sea salt and vinegar potato chips (or crisps, as we say in London). Our high tea feast was spread out in the dining room as the outdoor areas were still covered with melting ice and snow. We ordered cups of hot china green tips and settled in for some serious celebrating. In less than 5 weeks he will be gone. It's going so fast. As I watch him eating his ham on baguette with dijon mustard, he appears to be morphing from my baby-faced-boy-with-cheeks-of-tan to an independent, competent, confident young man. Capable of planning what to take on the boat, traveling through Boston to Maine and finding his way in the world. Doing his job quietly and efficiently. Honoring his commitments. While I cannot take credit for his success, I am so grateful to have the privilege of participating and observing his ongoing journey. And sharing one more teatime repast in his smiling, light-hearted company.

hello/good-bye

One day at a time we move closer to departure. I have a stream of mixed emotions moving through me like a roller coaster, but the underlying sense is unending gratitude. Gratitude for health, financial opportunities, for support, for creativity, and discipline. For the interest, education and the skills to succeed. And to the awareness that our time together is quite likely coming to a close. Perhaps a temporary close, but in any case, the end of a phase in our relationship as parent and child that has been bittersweet. My son has gone through a conscious transformation of his physical structure since February 2008. Starting at 243lbs, he moved to 213 lbs by June 1st. And by September, 2008, he had reached 200 lbs. His current weight of 170. He has lost over 70lbs! On his own, he has memorized calorie counts, designed and fine-tuned his workouts and measured his portions. Honestly, I can't say what has inspired and motivated him. But I am impressed with the longevity of his commitment in a world where it is all to easy to just give up, go the easy route, and eat anything and everything that is around. I struggle with my own compulsive eating tendencies and my reluctance to control my portions. In that light his accomplishment is even more impressive. He has taught himself to find other ways than food to celebrate his achievements. He has considered the possibilities, definitions and frequencies of eating disorders. Unhealthy relationships with food.
As a baby, toddler, and preschooler he was very active and never had an ounce of excess fat on his body. It was when he entered kindergarten, ate school lunches, and was forced to sit inside for longer periods of time that his weight and eating began to be a problem. Now that he has finished school and is on his own, he has empowered himself and created a lifestyle that lends itself to  conscious health. This will serve him well in life on his new home, the eco-cruise ship, "Wanderbird."

13 March, 2009

boy/man


Before he was born I felt ill-equipped to be his Mom. I didn't feel like I knew enough to parent a boy into manhood. After all, I was a girl before I became a woman. I couldn't imagine being in his skin. So, I practiced imagining I was in his skin. The more I practiced, the more information came to me. And by the time he was born I had developed trust in the process. Now, whenever I hit a fork in the road with him, I just step back to imagining I am in his skin. Seeing what he sees, hearing what he hears. I don't have to do or say anything, just be with him and he does the rest. I admire his discipline, and his methodical approach to life. He has a plan, but not actually on paper, not even something he can put into words. Just a general outline of his ideas, his journey. We went on a road trip to Napa Valley to celebrate his 21st birthday and the completion of his culinary training, in a convertible 1998 BMW Z3. It was a privilege to share that with him. It was his first experience traveling as an adult. Driving with the top down during the most lovely summer days of June. What could be better? The sun, the sky, the ocean and the open road. No worries. What a contrast from our first trip together. He was 4 months old, we were homeless and on our way to stay with his grandparents in Easter bloc Poland until we "sorted things out." And now, he leaves for Belfast, Maine in less than 6 weeks. This is his time for adventure and travel. I will miss him, but I am immeasurably excited for him. I may have to go visit in September. "Wanderbird", a Dutch fishing vessel will be his new home. The website is inviting and I imagine myself sitting in the sunshine, with a cup of hot tea and freshly baked scones, scribbling away. Weaving my stories. Relaxed and happy. Salt in the air, moving up the coast toward Labrador. Down the coast to Boston. Dreaming, drifting, loving.

http://www.wanderbirdcruises.com/ourvessel.html

12 March, 2009

day 3: guardian ad litem training

Increasingly detailed information re process starting with the moment a call is made to child protection. This is an extensive department and one wonders how effective it really can be when people are constantly working on overload. The USA and Somolia are the one countries which do NOT recognize the Rights of Children Act. Interesting combination. Today the term "court appointed" finally sunk into my consciousness, in a deeper, more visceral way. The authority to view various records is an impressive tool. And I admit, this is the first day I considered backing out simply because the demands of that kind of responsibility loomed overwhelming. Before this my question was always, "do I have the time to do this job?" This is a huge leap of faith on so many levels for me, on top of my own personal experiences coming up. It is tempting to blame myself for not exploring and using some of the services we will be recommending for others. And it reassures me regarding making calls on behalf of my own nieces and nephews in unhealthy situations. Orchids have it easy compared to my experience today. I just remind myself that showing up relaxed and alert is the first step, and that everything we need will be provided to us, all we have to do is ask, and sometimes we don't even have to ask. The necessary tool or opportunity will appear.

11 March, 2009

maple oat scones

Maple oat scones with clotted cream and mango raspberry jam. My impression is that the oatmeal will balance the cholesterol in the cream. And that the cream will balance the sugar in the jam.  The hot jasmine tea will balance the unexpected drop in the outside temperature. Rustica Bakery is close and a constant temptation for me. The olive bread is my favorite savory snack and I usually have a backup loaf in the freezer for unexpected guests or to take to my hostess when I am the unexpected guest. One is always just a little more warmly welcomed with something like olive bread in hand. Rustica had a fig pastry today, which was new to me. I am a devotee of figs when they are on my radar. My place in the Napa Valley had a fig tree in the back yard and the magic of harvesting the fruit lingers in my memory even after 25 years. That memory is the gold standard against which all other figs are measured, and their memory has been enhanced by that time of my life. I was young, carefree, and very much in love with being a dancer. At that time I was choreographing and performing, dancing full-time in my own company, enjoying only amazing wine, truly bottled sunshine, and an exotic collection of foods for a girl from a small town in Southern Minnesota. The sense of endless summer seduced me into staying much longer than I had planned. And, in those days, my plan to follow in the footsteps of my teacher were compelling. It was one of the things which had brought me to California in the first place. As a choreographer, I believed I would be welcomed into the dance community in a way I had not experienced in Minnesota. And I hoped I would have the artistic support I was so hungry to find. It is only now that I realize this: finding a mature fig tree bearing fresh figs growing in my backyard, next to my bedroom window was more artistic support than I would ever need to satisfy my hunger. We are all surrounded by indescribable beauty, such majesty, and still, we forget. So, let's sit down, have a scone and remember.

10 March, 2009

day 2: guardian ad litem training

An overwhelming amount of information and statistics. Amazing. Last year 16,ooo reports were received by child protection. 7,000 of those reposts were actually investigated. 5,000 were diverted to other resources and programs. There 700 petitions filed. 33% were child neglect, which is the biggest concern as neglect has largest and long term impact on brain development. 25% were physical abuse, 24 % parental drup abuse/endangerment. 12 % abandonment and 10% sexual abuse. Sobering numbers, to say the least. What a mess this can turn out to be and trauma and pain. Yet the other way is just as painful. The secrets and the isolation are equally or more damaging. Either way kids are dumped right into heavy questions of personal value, safety, survival and trust. The training triggers my own personal experiences with this process and I question my own decisions regarding child endangerment and responsibility. My own denial and blindness to creating an unhealthy enviroment for my children. I was overly concerned about my own safety and not nearly concerned enough about my chldren's safety. It was what I was taught. And now I am learning something new and hope that others may benefit from my efforts. I a vocal, active advocate for my children in school settings and healthcare issues. Yet I failed to recognize the warning signs of the trauma of domestic violence. Ironic.

06 March, 2009

Crocus song


I am life. 
I find a way. 
I am beauty unbound,
I am love unmeasured.
Nothing stops me: 
snow, dogs, 
dog poo, mud, rain, 
ice, dead leaves, 
impacted dirt, 
fog, garbage, 
people polution, 
your footprints, neglect, 
abuse.
Give it to me.
I'll do my best,
and more,
because I am life.
And I find a way.

05 March, 2009

day 1: guardian ad litem training


Nervous, wondering if I would "fit in", what kind of people would be at the training, am I competent to meet the expectations of the assignment. All kinds of things and ideas come up when we step out of our comfort zones. After all it hasn't always been safe to make mistakes in my world. Sometimes there were intensely painful consequences when I made mistakes. And I lived in denial that they were mistakes. Honestly, maybe they were simply a means of rebalancing a system of learning. When I set out to learn a new skill I tend to become intensely focused on mastering that particular process or material. And then, as I gain confidence in my ability to exercise the new material, I relax with it, and enjoy the process, taking in more of the subtle nuances and integrating my new skill with other, older skills. 

04 March, 2009

West End

Evening of the last day: Quiet, reflective. We spent time musing about our various conversations many of which were about money and living fearlessly, trustingly. And about traveling together. The places we would like to go, share, and see together. My flight out was delayed for three hours so we had extra time to commune and converse. I know as we were talking that I would miss my connecting flight and the airline would put us up in a hotel getting me on a flight very early the next day. As it turned out it was very healthful to have a night without laundry, mail opening or cleaning after crossing an ocean. The perfect opportunity to adjust to the time shift and feel a little more normal in less time. Clean sheets, and a hot bath were wonderful before falling into a deep sleep. Everything was literally taken care of for me.
It was an unexpectedly joyful parting. With a sense of having done and said enough, not everything but everything that was important, compelling. Enough.
And I think we both sensed a shift in attitude, in concept, in philosophy. A change in how we want to live our lives. In what we want to include and what kinds of experience we don't need to keep repeating anymore. Deprivation, scarcity, abuse, bullying, other experiences along those lines. Self-condemnation.