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