Sunday, June 12, 2011

Chortle - Adventures with Animals


Pronunciation: \ chȯr-təl \
Function: verb
Etymology: blend of chuckle and snort; coined by Lewis Carroll in Through the Looking-Glass
Date: 1871
1. to sing or chant exultantly
2. to laugh or chuckle in satisfaction or exultation

It began early one Tuesday morning when I was dropping off food before work at the house. On Tuesday evenings I go to the house in country and make dinner for the boys. (With Jacob in the Air Force and Jared 24, I guess at some point I need to stop saying “the boys.”) It’s a way for me to stay connected and they do it for the free food.

As I got out of the car I heard what sounded like a goat bleating. I quickly dismissed it, thinking it must simply be some odd bird upset in the early morning. But then I noticed that the dog door that leads from the mudroom/laundry room to the outside was nailed shut.

I woke Jared and he explained that we were now providing foster care for a goat. A friend of Jared’s had the goat in the bustling Willamina metropolis and was told by law enforcement that it wasn’t an approved domestic animal for the city limits. We, with 16 acres in the county, have no such restrictions. Worried about the dogs (Indie a large mixed bread and the ever annoying pug) not accessing the yard, I was assured by my son that this arrangement was only temporary.

By the following week my boys, along with the two brothers who own the goat, had acclimated the dogs to the goat – to some extent. As long as Marty the pug was not around the goat and Indie tolerated each other. Once, however, you added the pug, it became a circus of running, barking dogs and leaping, bleating goat. Great exercise yes, but not a permanent solution.

All was going well with Indie and the goat sharing the yard and doggie door as long as Marty stayed inside. Granted the goat leaves droppings everywhere – including the laundry room floor and the dog bed, but there was no major head butting going on. That was until I needed to do laundry and walk outside to get reception on my cell phone.

The goat was resting on the dog bed when Marty came through the house door. Hearing the barking Indie joined the melee. I was outside and when I mistakenly opened the door to separate the combatants they all ran out - goat down the driveway followed by both dogs. Flipping my phone open I dialed Jared to tell him I had lost the goat.

Interestingly enough it was the goat that came when I called. He came through the door and into the house chased by both dogs. I yelled to Jared I had to go and follwed the parade into the house. All three went straight through the kitchen and living room to my bedroom. The goat ended up standing on my bed followed by both dogs.

The goat was going nowhere. So, after locking the pug in the bathroom and getting Indie outside with a dog bone I returned to push, pull and coax the goat off the bed and into the kitchen. That is where he pooped all over my freshly mopped floor.

Goat sitting – at least where the goat uses the dog door – isn’t really working for me.

What Worked for Me Today
Remembering to Laugh - and recalling a myriad of odd animal adventures in our family.

Men Who Stare At Goats - available streaming on Netflix

Friday, June 10, 2011

Vernacular - Learning the Language


Pronunciation: \ ver-nak-yuh-ler, vuh-nak-\
Function: noun
Etymology: Latin vernācul ( us ) household, domestic, native
Date: 1623
1. the native speech or language of a place.
2. the language or vocabulary peculiar to a class or profession.
3. the plain variety of language in everyday use by ordinary people.

When Jacob first said he had to go to MEPS, I wasn’t the only one who was confused. My housemate, a former marine, did not know what it stood for. Of course, in my odd brain, one of the things that came to mind was Beaker, the Muppet character who only says “meeps” (MEPS is pronounced with a short vowel /e/).

Military Entrance Processing Station – MEPS – is a nondescript building not far from the Portland Airport. No matter what branch of the military you are joining you process through this facility. Entrance tests, medical exams, orientations, all take place here. All recruits also sign their contacts and swear in at MEPS. So I am learning the language.

Jacob was one of seven Air Force recruits to leave on Tuesday. The day was stereotypical in many ways (hurry up and wait). Family needed to arrive before 8:00 a.m. to witness the swearing in ceremony. I of course was there just after 7. It gave me the opportunity to meet the other Air Force recruits since the swearing in didn’t happen until 10:30 a.m.

The teacher in me kicked in as well. One recruit was having a very difficult time remembering the Air Force Core Values. In that moment I said “ISE” (pronounced “ice’). He smiled and said I think that I can remember.
Integrity First
Service Before Self
Excellence in All We Do

There is a lot more for me to learn. I have time, however – six years to learn Air Force speak. Today I am very thankful for my first phone call from Jacob. He sounded great – describing “zero” week, knowing that the next weeks will be harder. No care packages allowed, but letters are welcome. I finally have something to do – and I can stop carrying my phone into the bathroom with me.

What Worked for Me Today
Having the phone at my side!

Watch Beaker sing!
He’s actually using words in the one below – a Cold Play song.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Ululate - Letting Go


Pronunciation: \ UHL-uh-layt\
Function: verb
Etymology: from Latin ululāre to howl, from ulula screech owl]
Date: 1623
1. to howl or wail, as with grief

Yesterday my son raised his right hand, took an oath and gave himself to the United States Government. I am not sure that he is the one who should have been asked. Perhaps, just perhaps, if we asked the mothers and sisters and girlfriends in the room, perhaps the answer would be different.
It is difficult for me to have Jacob gone on many levels.

Politically I have been opposed to registration for the draft since I was in college. I have developed the belief that either we all serve, or no one serves – a model not too dissimilar to Israel. Unfortunately, that has not meant the lessoning of hostility or the need for the military, but it has leveled the playing field.

I am also jaded. I begrudgingly had to admit that at least the contract that Jacob signed was honest. In my words (not theirs) the contract read “We may hand you a gun and tell you to kill people.” These first two arguments are the same for any child looking at the military.

That is just it – child. Jacob is my son. I did not give him to the United States Government. They do not have my permission to take him. They did not ask me.

So I join a group of people – not just mothers – but fathers and brothers, sons and daughters as well, whose loved one can’t come when we need or want them. They can’t answer the phone. They aren’t home for birthdays and holidays, picnics or trips to the vet.

We are not there to hold them, feed them, laugh or cry with them. We cannot watch over them when they are sick or scared, bored or challenged.

We wait. We get up and make coffee. We go to work. We clean the house. We go on. But we go on with an empty place at the table and an ache in our hearts.

Yes, this is day one. And though there are hundreds more like it to come – this is the only day I have. So I pray for Jacob, giving him to G-d , and get on with my day.

What Worked for Me Today
Writing - Prayer - and a massage at 10:00 a.m.

Main Web Page for Lackland AFB in Texas

Basic Training Website - I couldn't get past the first video.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Inherent – Knowing What Feeds My Soul


Pronunciation: \ in-heer-uh nt\
Function: adjective
Etymology: Latin inhærere ~ be closely connected with, adhere to
Date: 1570–80

1. existing in someone or something as a permanent and inseparable element, quality, or attribute
2. involved in the constitution or essential character of something

In attempting to explain my concern with an institutional decision, I shared with two people this week that my anxiety stemmed from my inherent insecurity. They both laughed.

Several years ago, I shared the same thing with the person to whom I was married. He looked straight at me and declared “You are not insecure!” Then, and now, it hurt and caused some confusion.

What happens when you are vulnerable and honest with those around you and they do not believe you? What option is left?

The question is no longer apropos, although it is my “go to” response – along with other mental regurgitation. “How do I make them understand?” “How do I protect myself?” “Why don’t they….(insert verb)” Those responses are incubated in my fear and insecurity. They give birth to the desire to control, and incongruently, the move to isolate myself.

That internal dialogue and resulting actions, don't work for me anymore. I have learned that I do not need to find another option when I have been appropriately honest. The reactions of others are just that –their reactions. My acceptance of their misunderstanding isn’t approval, but simply acknowledgement. When my world shifts because of their responses, it is because I have allowed it. My expectations have gotten in the way.

What does work when others don’t respond the way I want?

1. Seek God’s guidance by turning my will and my life over to the “care of God as I understand Him.”

2. Do the next right thing with "THINK" - Is it Thoughtful, Honest, Intelligent, Necessary and Kind? What is painful can still be presented in kind and respectful manner. What is necessary isn’t always serious. Humor and play are as vital as rest and exercise.

3. Let go of the outcome. If I have been honest, done my best believing it is the right thing to do, then there is no sanity in attempting to manipulate the outcome.

4. Accept life on life terms. There will be joy and there will be pain. Both will come and both will pass. This requires being present in the moment.

5. Practice gratitude.

Today’s misstep was to dwell on the responses of others. A minor adjustment in focus, physical movement, along with meditating on what is good and true in my life allowed me to get “my head out of the bucket.”

The gratitude list is long – but tonight it centers on the incredible joy of listening to John Harr play music.

Challenge for You
1. What comments have you allowed to shift your outlook?

2. What part of THINK (Thoughtful, Honest, Intelligent, Necessary, Kind) do you find most difficult?

What Worked for Me Today
When I used to drink orange juice from a crystal goblet my son would ask “Is that really necessary?” Yes Jacob, sometime sfor me it is.

Live Music

Check Out John Harr

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Symbiosis - A Thousand People Made My Lunch


Pronunciation: \ sɪm biˈoʊ sɪs \
Function: noun
Etymology: Greek
Date: 1615–25
1. the living together of two dissimilar organisms.
2. a relationship between two people in which each person is dependent upon and receives reinforcement, whether beneficial or detrimental, from the other.
3. any interdependent or mutually beneficial relationship between two persons, groups, etc.

When an idea presents itself to you through multiple venues and in various forms, it is time to stop and pay attention. I am struck by how often the themes of mindfulness and gratitude have popped into conversations, research, the news, prayer, and writing. I have addressed both here in the past.

Over the next few weeks I shall explore these ideas more fully and examine how they fit into day to day life. Maybe it’s Zen or weight loss. Perhaps it is being “green” or political in nature. It may be middle age rumination, but it is without a doubt spiritual.

In my reading about mindfulness, food is mentioned a great deal. In her latest book “Women, Food and God”, Geneen Roth stresses being mindful when eating any meal – no distractions (reading, music, TV or upsetting conversation).

In a recent article on Huffington Post, a Zen class in Clatskanie, Oregon was highlighted. The instructors teach people how to be mindful of all aspects of their meal. The suggestion, one I have heard in many places, was to not only savor what you are eating but to mindfully consider how many people were involved in the food you put in your mouth.

That brought me to today’s lunch: Romaine lettuce, green onions, raw zucchini, tomato, mushrooms, baked chicken (prepared by Albertsons) and goat cheese. (Leaving the prepared salad dressing aside for the moment).

Each ingredient had a farmer. Given than I purchased most of these items at a grocery store, not a farmers market, I am guessing the farmer had help. (Not one guy growing mushrooms under his cellar stairs). Once she grew (or raised) the food, it had to be picked or milked or slaughtered. Then the lettuce or chicken or cheese had to be packaged and shipped. Once at a store someone placed on the shelf.

You can take it a step farther. The farmer needs seeds, or feed and certainly gas for the equipment. The shipper requires laborers, drivers, dispatchers, and payroll people. The grocery store has cashiers, stockers and managers. To keep all these people and places running there has to be power. Now look to the power companies, the oil rigs, natural gas drillers, coal miners or perhaps as far as Kuwait or Libya

Thousands of people worked so I could have a salad this afternoon.

This fact is made more startling by the fact that in many places in this world, individuals must grow or raise the food they eat. They themselves slaughter, harvest, grind and cook. They scavenge for wood to cook and walk for water,

I am humbled by my lunch.

Challenge for You
Try mindfulness and gratitude with one meal. When you sit down to eat (yep sit down at a table, the car does not count) turn off the TV, radio or music. Don’t bring a book or the newspaper, the computer, phone or even the back of the cereal box to the table.

Put down your fork after each bite. Don’t put any more food in your mouth until what you have is slowly chewed and swallowed.

Start counting. How many people worked to make your meal? Start at the beginning (raising or growing what you are eating) and work your way to the store. Let me know what you discover.

What Worked for Me Today
Mindful Lunch

Huffington Post
"In Buddhism You Are What and How You Eat"

Geneen Roth

Friday, January 21, 2011

Resilient - Not wishing for what was - but what what can be.


Pronunciation: \ ri-zil-yuh nt \
Function: adjective
Etymology: Latin resilient- of resilīre to spring back
Date: 1635–45
1. springing back; rebounding.
2. returning to the original form or position after being bent, compressed, or stretched.
3. recovering readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyant.

I have not lost hope. Not in myself, in my skills, in my children, in my students, in my colleagues, in my God. I am resilient. I am strong. I have learned to feel, to let go, to abandon myself to something greater. How I love a paradox! It is my very weakness, my very pain that demonstrates my strength.

At work, there are more challenges ahead. Changes that will require stamina, creativity, flexibility, patience, and perseverance. There is little time to whine about how I wish things could be. There is an urgency pressing to create something new.

I am humbled by the resiliency of the children. I had my own odd childhood, as so many of us did. However, it did not contain the physical and emotional wounds some of my students have lived through and face even today. Yet they come. They ask. They challenge. They cry. They stumble. They discover. They share. They learn. They argue. They laugh. They hunger. They come. They come to us and we must meet them where they are.

I have not lost hope. It is there in the compassion of the teachers. It rises from the laughter and from within the struggles of my students. It is there in the vision and belief that we can create something different, something better, something stronger.

We will do more with less. We will complain and argue, but we will come prepared. We have not lost hope. We are resilient.

What Worked for Me Today
Staying Grounded in Today
Acknowledging that I can feel conflicting emotions but knowing that I do not have to be all of one or the other.

We are not alone in facing significant budget cuts.
Lake Oswego needs to Cut $5 - 8 Million
Lake Oswego cut 16 teachers last year and are considering closing a school this year.

Gaston May Close the Entire District

Roseburg Needs to Cut $3 million

Eugene Needs to Cut as Much as $35 million

North Clackamas faces $10 Million Cut
David Dougas $12 Million Cut

Monday, January 17, 2011

David James Rogers - August 2, 1959 ~ February 21, 2010

I have a home with Him
I have endured with Him
I have grieved
I have laughed
I have gone out
I have come in

He holds me
He comforts me
He straightens my path
What hope have I alone?
He is my Lord and I will nbever be alone
He is my comforter
and my best friend
He knows me
He has a secret name for me
He calls me blessed
He calls me beloved

Ritual - For me, for him, for others.


Pronunciation: \ rich-oo-uh l \
Function: noun
Etymology: Latin rītuālis, rite
Date: 1560–70
1. an established or prescribed procedure for a religious or other rite.
2. a system or collection of religious or other rites.
3. observance of set forms in public worship.
4. a book of rites or ceremonies.
5. a book containing the offices to be used by priests in administering the sacraments and for visitation of the sick, burial of the dead, etc.

Doug called and asked that I come Monday night rather than Tuesday morning. He was unsettled by finding David and the state of the room. He turned to me. What happened that night, to me, was an act of respect. I did what I did because I loved David. I did what I did so others would not have to. I did what I did because I needed to. There is no regret. My actions closed the circle.

David died of an acute subdural hematoma. He fell at least twice in his bedroom. He bled significantly from the severe cut on his head. However, it was the internal hemorrhage that killed him over the course of 3 to 4 hours.

When I opened the door to his bedroom I pieced together what had happened by blood around the room and the dozens of Absolute vodka bottles strewn across the bed and floor. He fell at least twice. The first time he hit his head against the edge of his desk. How soon he was able to sit up I cannot tell, but he leaned against both the speaker and the side of his bed. The uncovered speaker was soaked with blood as was the box spring. There were hand prints and smears across the furniture and the walls. There was a bloody hand print on an Advil bottle and pills spilled across the floor.

He must have gotten himself back to bed, for there was blood on the pillow, sheet and on the curtains that hung at the head of the bed. At some time, he got up and fell again. This time he did not get up. The next day, the coroner would confirm my views with the preliminary results of the autopsy and his own investigation of the scene.

There was work to be done. That night I stripped the bed, sacked everything and took it out to the front porch. I picked up all the bottles and put them in recycling. Then I began to clean. I washed the walls, the desk, the speaker, the floor. I would repeat this until I could not see any more blood. I worked on the box spring, but I could only fade the stain. I folded his clothes, straightened the living room and finally lay down on his bed. By now it was 4 a.m. There would be more to do, but tonight I was where he was when he died.

Tarry – Sometimes I wish I could stay in the in-between.

Pronunciation: \ tar-ee \
Function: verb
Etymology: Middle English taryen to delay
Date: 1275–1325
1. to remain or stay, as in a place; sojourn
2. to delay or be tardy in acting, starting, coming, etc.; linger or loiter.
3. to wait.
4. Archaic . to wait for.

Between the Thursday of MLK week and the early morning hours of February 22nd I did not speak with David. I called multiple times and left many messages. I sent him a funny little card with a tricycle on the front. “My next ride will be a three-wheeler.”

On February 5th he left me a voice message.
Hey thanks for the card. That was really cool. I just… I love you and I miss you. And things are a little rough here right now. I am really struggling with a lot of things. But I think about you often and I do love you. Anyway , thanks for thinking of me and sending the card. Bye.

I called him right back. But he did not answer. Even today I question why I didn’t just drive down to Eugene. I have to believe that Al-Anon is right - that I am powerless over someone’s sobriety. It has to be true, because the burden is too great – the what ifs too haunting.

What I know is that he moved Doug back in with him. Doug, a gentle soul, but truly an old hippy, had lived with him before. Doug helped him get into Detox. David stayed there for about a week. He had gotten a 24 hour sober chip. He wouldn’t go into treatment, preferring to return home. He stayed sober for two days. He never went back to work. He kept to his room, watched videos and drank.

David had asked Doug to check on him every day – something Doug did. On Sunday morning, February 21st David was awake and moving around his room. Doug was gone most of the day and that evening. When he returned he found David on the floor of his bedroom. He was cold to the touch. The paramedics, then the police, then the coroner came.

Then Doug called me. I would learn more, face more, when I drove down Monday night. I would talk to the coroner, I would clean the room, I would take care of the family. But it was Monday, and I went to work because I did not have a sub.

Increments – I had to leave.


Pronunciation: \ in-kruh-muh nt \
Function: noun
Etymology: Latin incrēmentum an increase
Date: 1375–1425

1. something added or gained; addition; increase.
2. profit; gain.
3. the act or process of increasing; growth.
4. an amount by which something increases or grows
5. one of a series of regular additions

What I remember most about Monday and Tuesday is that I felt tattered and more frightened that I had ever been, for him and for myself. I would stay as long as he had a plan but I was free falling – no parachute – no net. I had the presence of mind to call people from Al – Anon. I went to meetings morning, afternoon and night. I prayed. I cried. I listened.

He slept, with the aid of Benadryl, through most of those two days. He got the shakes. He had a headache that wouldn’t go away. He didn’t eat much that I remember. But we talked. He said he had lied to his sponsor and to me. He had begun drinking last summer. Just a glass of wine or a beer – never at home – always in control. Then one day he bought beer and brought it home. It didn’t erase the pain and fear. The next night it was vodka. He lost the fantasy. He had to ask himself “Do I really believe I am an alcoholic?”

He would tell me stories of his childhood – awful, brutal, cruel stories. He talked of what was gone and what he now stood to lose. He would seek reassurance that I still loved him, that I wasn’t repulsed by who he was, what he was doing. This was his story and I was his witness.

Wednesday he asked if he should tell the people at work. He feared the consequences, the loss of his job, but more than that the loss of the respect. AA and all 12-step programs demand “rigorous honesty.” All I could do was share my experience, strength and hope. I simply said that without honesty I would remain “as sick as my secrets.”

He went to the directors, and they gave him two weeks off of work with pay. They were gracious and he was touched at their caring and support. Then he pulled a bottle of vodka out of a bag and said that the doc had recommended that he “taper off” and not go cold turkey. He said she was concerned over his shakes and heart palpitations.

Sick attracts sick and I did not challenge him. I just thought that the doc must be one of the most incompetent physicians in the world. He’d already been sober for two days. If something was going to go wrong it would have already happened. I believed him.

He once again woke in the middle of the night. He woke me and simply said “You know alcoholics lie.” I said yes. The doc had not told him to taper off. In fact she had barely spoken with him. It’s hard to describe the relief I felt. In fact my response was literally to say out loud “Thank God!” It shocked him. I truly liked and respected his boss –the doc – and I was glad to hear she wasn’t crazy.

I no longer remember the rest of what we talked about. More reassurances, more stories, but he was going to drink. I had to say, then, I must go.

At dawn I wavered. I told him I loved him. He held me. If he had asked me to stay, I am not sure I would have been able to say no. But he didn’t. In fact, he told me he loved me and said “you have to go.” And I did. It would be the last time I would see him alive.

Dissonance – Torn between all that was wonderful and the pain of the story.


Pronunciation: \ dis-uh-nuh ns \
Function: noun
Etymology: Late Latin dissonantia
Date: 1565–75
1. inharmonious or harsh sound; discord; cacophony.
2. Music . a. a simultaneous combination of tones conventionally accepted as being in a state of unrest and needing completion.
b. an unresolved, discordant chord or interval. Compare consonance def. 3. disagreement or incongruity.

In telling what happened last year, I struggle. I want to stop. I don’t want to go on. I want to share about times that held laughter, intimacy and love. I want to talk about falling off my bike, bouquets of flowers picked from alleys, quiet evenings and mad cap adventures. There were hours spent talking of faith, recovery, family, planning the future and just as many debating food, books, music, clothes and art.

Yet I know, that I must relate the details first. It is part of my healing. It is necessary so that I believe “Nothing I did or did not do would convince my loved one to get sober……..Nothing I could do would make or break another person’s sobriety.” ~ Courage to Change

His grandson came and stayed the weekend with us. We went to the Science Museum and out to eat. We played spies all weekend long. His grandson insisted that we have code names. David picked “Muerte” – death. I chose “Phoenix” - rebirth. I learned firsthand that weekend why people make choices with their alcoholics, based on children.

Though during the day David did not drink, he did in the evening. The first night he fell in the living room, knocking over the lamp. He was confused but fine. The lamp was not.

We got into an argument over his grandson. It was just 7 or 7:30 p.m. and David had gone to bed drunk and he wanted his grandson to come to bed as well. I refused. We argued. His grandson pleaded with us not to fight. It was awful. David finally fell asleep and I stayed up with his grandson until about 9 p.m. By then we too were exhausted.

Sometime in the early morning hours, around 2 or 3 a.m. David got up. He came to me and asked me to tell him everything he had done. We talked a long time that morning. I answered every question, and there were many.

Sunday would not be much different than Saturday, except that the drinking started a little earlier. And he bought us bikes. He and I had been riding bikes for a while, except the used one I had didn’t really fit. I fell a lot – last time ending up having to see a doctor. I wanted a bike on which I could sit and still touch the ground. Now I had one.

That night he told me he drank more when I was there, because he knew I would take care of his grandson. I didn’t own it then, and I do not own it now. This night he fell in his room. Hurting his hip he was unable to get up without my assistance.

On Monday he asked me to stay – to help. I told him that I would as long as he had a plan in place. I would stand beside him as he once again took those first steps toward sobriety. Haltingly I set boundaries.

He had tried to convince his daughter-in-law to let his grandson skip school on Tuesday and stay another day. This was so reminiscent of all the old tries at sobriety I explained I would not stay if his grandson did. It didn’t become an issue.

When it was just the two of us, David explained he expected me to be in charge of his sobriety. He ordered me to get a list of all the AA meetings. I was then to tell him to go and drive him to them. Another boundary – I said no. He knew exactly when and where the meetings were. If he wanted me to go with him, as I had many, many times before, I would, but I was not ordering him to any meeting.

He never went to a meeting. He ignored the calls from his sponsor. He made it two days - staying sober Monday and Tuesday.

What Word for Me Today
Getting up and going to the gym!
Off to treat myself to breakfast!

New Song...
Adele's Rolling in the Deep

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Partial – Events within an uncertain time line


Pronunciation: \ pahr-shuh l \
Function: adjective
Etymology: Late Latin partiālis incomplete
Date: 1375–1425

1. being such in part only; not total or general; incomplete: partial blindness; a partial payment of a debt.
2. biased or prejudiced in favor of a person, group, side, etc., over another, as in a controversy: a partial witness.
3. pertaining to or affecting a part.
4. being a part; component; constituent.

In her book “The Year of Magical Thinking” Joan Didion takes, what I had thought when reading it, an extraordinary amount of time discussing the time line of her husband’s death. The event itself is crystal clear, but the time line – what day he said what; the exact time the paramedics arrived and left; who came to the house and when. All of these structural details were fragmented while being punctuated with the numbing details of the actual events.

In looking back at January and February 2010 I now understand why she fought so hard to place events within a temporal structure. The fear of not remembering is greater than remembering.

I can no longer tie every event to a day or a time. Some inevitably bring their own dates, but others blur. I am not sure if I went to Eugene between New Years and the MLK weekend. I don’t believe so. I am not sure if it was in between these two times or during the week I stayed in Eugene that David asked why I came when I knew he was drinking. I told him it was because I had been with him for years when he was drinking, but during those years I did not have Al Anon. This time I would be his friend but have my own recovery.

It was about 9 p.m. when I arrived late that Friday night of MLK week. I had talked to him a little more than two hours earlier. He was clearly drunk. He had not been returning my calls, but this night he picked up. He said I could come.

The house was dark when I arrived. I had a key to the house, something he had given me years before. He was in bed and very, very drunk. I woke him, told him I was there, and set to get my things from the car. He stayed in his room as I fixed up the couch. Twenty minutes or so later he came charging from the room. He had not heard me come back from my car and he was convinced I was in some danger. He did not see me but stumbled to the door to rescue me. It was with confusion, that after I called to him several times, he realized I was in the house and safe.

His fear for my safety turned to fear that I would reject him. I would not. He fell asleep as I held him. He fell asleep as I prayed. And the next morning while he slept, I would leave and attend the first of many Al Anon meetings that week.

What Worked for Me Today
Getting up, getting dressed and going out to breakfast.

Crescent Cafe
526 Northeast 3rd Street, McMinnville, OR 97128-6213 (503) 435-2655 ‎

Vestige – The edges of some memories fade but the centers burn with vivid clarity.

Pronunciation: \ ves-tij\
Function: noun
Etymology: Latin - vestīgium footprint
Date: 1535-45
1. a mark, trace, or visible evidence of something that is no longer present or in existence
2. a surviving evidence or remainder of some condition, practice, etc
3. a very slight trace or amount of something
4. Biology . a degenerate or imperfectly developed organ or structure that has little or no utility, but that in an earlier stage of the individual or in preceding evolutionary forms of the organism performed a useful function.
5. Archaic . a footprint; track.

We spent Christmas with our families - David moving between homes and children, couches and rooms. I too shuffled between the new home and the old, trying to hold onto the familiar in the midst of the unknown.

As we had done in the past he and I were set to work the New Years’ Eve Concert at the Historic McDonald Theater in Eugene. We provided first aid and crisis to the crowds that came. The year before a drunken pharmacist had decided to do a handstand on a second story railing. This night would have no dramatic falls and we would enjoy the music and ring in the New Year.

We were invited to a New Years’ Day Bowl game party the following day. If I allow myself, I can access the visceral anger that is imbedded in the memory of that afternoon. We brought his grandson to this family event. The house was filled with children and food and liquor. There was much cheering and moaning as we watched the Ducks play. The children put on a fashion show, dressing up even the little boys in fancy dresses and fairy wings.

From beginning to end, I was hyper vigilant. Once he poured that first drink I always knew where his glass was. I watched when he would get up and when he would return. I knew how much whiskey was in the glass and how long it took him to drink it. I counted the drinks – one – two – three – four over the course of the game. My jaw set tight. I had become one of those people – the wife – the mother – the sister – the daughter - the friend of the alcoholic who obsesses over the alcohol.

He maintained. He was social, appropriate and engaging. The truly, odd part of this entire day was that he hated watching sports. He knew nothing about football or college teams. This day was about being a social drinker. He would show me he had it under control.

He asked me to drive home. I felt in the moment that I had no choice, as we had his grandson with us. I did not want to cause a scene or put the child as risk. I had my own Al Anon recovery, but I had practiced while he was a sober alcoholic. This was the start of living with an active alcoholic and still maintaining my own sanity. That day I didn’t have the courage to ask someone else to drive me back to his house. I didn’t have the strength to let him to deal with his choices.

On the ride home, he turned to me rather satisfied, commenting that he had had a good time. He then said, “I was able to drink and it didn’t become a problem.”

What Worked for Me Today
It’s too early to tell.

Friends and Family of Alcoholics
Al-Anon is a 12-step program of recovery for the friends and families of alcoholics. The focus is on ourselves – not the alcoholic. Alcoholism is a family disease and it affects anyone who cares about the alcoholic. If you are troubled by someone’s drinking, whether they think they have a problem or not, please consider visiting an Al-Anon meeting.

Questions about your own drinking?
Alcoholics Anonymous is a 12-step program for alcoholics. If you have questions about your own alcohol use, or are looking for someone who "gets it" AA may be an option. If you have found that one or more parts of your life are affected by your drinking, please consider visiting an AA meeting.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Catharsis - "The Dome"


Pronunciation: \ kuh-thahr-sis \
Function: noun
Etymology: Greek – to purge
Date: 1795–1805
1. the purging or purification of the emotions through the evocation of pity and fear, as in tragedy
2. the bringing of repressed ideas or experiences into consciousness, thus relieving tensions
3. purgation, esp of the bowels

Most writings here are discussions or reflections. Today, and for the next few posts, I will write about the events of last year. I can not do this honestly and be gentle, or couch my words. I know that for some this may be too raw or graphic. Writing has always been a coping skill for me and this is my way of walking through the next few weeks.

"The Dome"

I gave away a book today. I had read it over a year ago before I gave it as a present to David. We did that – shared books and things. It no longer smells of cigarette smoke when I open it. I had moved it to a stack, spine hidden by a shelf several months ago. Last week I took it out to give it away. I couldn’t do it. Not then. But today I did.

I’m finding this week – this time of year – particularly difficult. Last Martin Luther King holiday weekend I drove down to Eugene late on a Friday evening. When I arrived David was in bed and very drunk. It was the week I jumped off the Al Anon ship. It was the week I clung to the Al Anon life preserver. He was so drunk.

I knew he had relapsed. He’d already called right after Thanksgiving and told me. I was standing in WalMart looking at books. I was trying to decide between the recently released hard back “The Dome” by Stephen King and another title I have since forgotten. I knew David would want to read “The Dome.” He was a Stephen King fan. In fact the only other Stephen King book I had ever read was a copy of "Dolores Claiborne". David had read it and thought I would appreciate the way it was written.

As I stood trying to decide between a book I knew he would never read and the King book my phone rang. It was him, and WalMart being WalMart I had to walk out to take the call. It was raining so I went back to my car.

He told me he had relapsed. I had enough Al Anon in me that I just listened. What saddened and frightened me that night was not the relapse. What caused waves of racking sobs once we said goodbye was not that he had broken 3 years of sobriety. It was his plan – an old familiar plan that I had lived through many, many times before. There was no talk of AA or of calling his sponsor – the things that had helped him these past 3 years. Instead he had gone and picked up his grandson. Once again he brought a child close as a reason not to drink. He had given up cigarettes and sugar. He would tackle all the bad habits in one fell swoop. It was going to be fine. He had this under control. Unfortunately, he’d forgotten he was powerless.

I took a deep breath and walked back into WalMart. In my first step toward old co-dependent behavior I bought Stephen King’s “The Dome.” I would read it, then wrap it and give it to him in a couple of weeks. Christmas was coming. So was New Years, and MLK day and February 21st.

What Worked for Me Today

Clearly stating "I am tired and I am not up to this."

Thai Tom Kah soup for dinner! (A favorite of both David and I.)


Stephen King Website

Thai Country Restaurant - McMinnville