“Reality is what we take to be true. What we take to be true is what we believe. What we believe is based upon our perceptions. What we perceive depends upon what we look for. What we look for depends upon what we think. What we think depends upon what we perceive. What we perceive determines what we believe. What we believe determines what we take to be true. What we take to be true is our reality.” ~ Gary Zukav

Gate of Wishes, Mrtivica Canyon, Montenegro (Pixdaus)

“The more I see, the less I know for sure.” ~ John Lennon

Saturday afternoon. Temperatures hovering above 100° F. Thunderstorms.

Keyhole Arch in Monument Valley

I awoke with another headache, nothing new. Not too bad, but lots and lots of pressure in my forehead and behind my eyes. Probably due to the barometric pressure and the heat.

Yesterday I did something I haven’t done in years: I went outside during a rain shower and got in the pool. It was so refreshing. The air temperature dropped a bit, and the water cooled. The dogs joined me for a few minutes, but Shakes doesn’t much care for rain. Tillie stayed out with me for the duration. It didn’t rain long, but I enjoyed myself while it did.

I was hoping to do the same again today, but unfortunately the rain is accompanied by thunder and lightning. Even I have enough sense not to get in a metal-clad pool in the middle of a thunderstorm.

I just glanced at my weather icon, and the temperature has dropped 8 degrees in the last fifteen minutes. Now that’s change I can live with . . .

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” ~ Oscar Wilde, “Lady Windermere’s Fan”

Monday afternoon. Not nearly as hot.

Kicking Horse River through Natural Bridge, Canada

So I got distracted . . . where was I? Oh yes, drama.

Woke up this morning to lovely news: we should expect a drop-in visit from Adult Protective Services. Whatever . . .

The ongoing drama at our house had been calm for far too long. I knew to expect something soon, and I wasn’t disappointed. Apparently, the pest (nicest word I can think to use for this person), reported Em’s case worker and our home as being  . . . shall we say, unfit? Charges include holding her against her will, all of us being insane (I told you this person wasn’t wrapped too tight), beating her down continually (not sure if that was meant to be literal or metaphorical), ya da ya da ya da . . .

In the inestimable words of W: Bring. It. On.

I mean, we have absolutely nothing to hide here. We are exactly as we purport ourselves to be: a middle class family in the burbs that is making ends meet. We have a home, food in our pantry, all of the accoutrements, as it were. We do not claim to be wealthy because we are not. We do not claim to have all of the answers because we do not. We do claim to have a healthy living environment for our family because we do. We do claim to know a few things about people who face challenges in life because we do. We do claim to be good parents because we are.

So when I heard that APS was going to come by, my response was what it only could be: Okay. Whatever. Tell them to drop by as they like because we have nothing to hide.

So they did. Today. A very nice woman who sat down with Em and asked her basic (and I mean basic) questions: Are you able to dress yourself? Yes. Do you take care of your own physical hygiene? Yes. Do you know how to do things around the house? Yes (she does now). Can you get your own food or does someone have to do it for you? Get it myself and can cook a little . . . and lots more in that vein, and then . . . Are you happy? I am now.

We left Em alone with the case worker so that the woman wouldn’t think that we were trying to sway her answers or to influence her unduly (because that’s what I do, you know. I beat people down until they are simpering idiots who have no will of their own . . . right.) The case worker asked her more questions that I didn’t hear because I wasn’t listening. Then I invited her to look through our house, as it were.

Dreaded visit over, and everyone survived. And the case worker didn’t even flinch over Em’s shaved head, which she is loving, by the way, especially since no one has asked her to wear a hat to hide her ears. Of course, after the case worker left I took all of the illegal drugs out of the hall closet, and I let the dozen or so illegal aliens out of the bathroom, and I got back to making the homemade meth that I was cooking up in the kitchen along with barbecued ribs.

It’s a joke, people. Of course, I know that sentence will come back in another form somewhere, but at this point, I am so over it.

“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.” ~ Aldous Huxley

Keyhole Arch, Apostle Islands (National Park Service)

You might think that such a visit and the results would put a normal person’s mind at ease, that the news that a completely unbiased third party witnessed the supposedly downtrodden young woman healthy and happy would be welcome news. You would think, but the key word here is normal. I know that this saga isn’t over. There will be more frantic telephone calls to whoever will listen. There will be more tossing about of the family name in an attempt to curry favor. There will be more stealing of passages of my blog to try to show how insane I am. There will be more disparaging remarks regarding my character, the character of my family.

As I’ve said before, when I need to, I can have the patience of Job. The more chest-banging this other person does, the less I need to justify myself. And dare I say it? I don’t really have anything to justify. I took in a young woman who felt trapped and mentally abused. I offered a safe haven to a person who did not feel safe, for various reasons. She is healthy. She is happy. She is safe.

I can do no more than what I have already done and what I continue to do—be myself—be patient, be sympathetic and empathetic, be a sounding board when needed.

Oh, and by the way, the illegal things? Puleez. But the part about Em’s shaved head is true; she just hasn’t died it blue yet . . .

“The most perfidious way of harming a cause consists of defending it deliberately with faulty arguments.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Keyhold Arch, Antelope Canyon

Even though I’m spending a lot of effort here bitching, I’m actually not at all peeved. Instead, what I really feel is a deep sense of pity. You might think that I’m a sap for feeling pity for an individual who is set upon my ruin, for the person who does not hesitate to disparage me to anyone who will listen, but that is indeed what I feel.

I cannot say that I have ever encountered anyone exactly like this particular individual before, but I have encountered people who are filled with such a determined sense of entitlement and righteousness: They are the only ones who are right, and everyone else is wrong. They are entitled to have this or to be given that because of a skewed sense of self-importance.

Unfortunately, my encounters with this personality type most often have occurred when dealing with members of boards of directors, especially in the arts. I cannot tell you how many people, women especially, who banked everything on their last names. They would meet me, hear my unusual, distinctly not patronage-linked last name, and immediately make assumptions about my value to them. If I could, in fact, give them something they needed or desired, then they would deign to be polite to me, but if my existence did not in any way benefit them, then I simply ceased to matter.

The first time that this happened, I was highly affronted, and my alpha side reared its head: You will listen to me because I do know exactly what I am talking about . . . I may as well have been barking at the moon for all of the good that it did me. This personality type is impermeable to reality, well, at least the reality in which so many of us exist. I took a lesson from my director, who was a very soft-spoken, wise man when he told me that I simply could not treat these people using logic because in their worlds, Copernicus was wrong, and the universe did indeed revolve around their spheres.

“No man has the right to dictate what other men should perceive, create or produce, but all should be encouraged to reveal themselves, their perceptions and emotions, and to build confidence in the creative spirit.” ~ Ansel Adams

Keyhole Tree, Broome, Australia

I have written about self-entitlement before, but usually as it pertains to teenagers and how we have an entire generation of people who think that they deserve whatever they want simply because. It’s not often that I encounter someone from my own generation who operates with this same sense of entitlement. People within my age group have usually worked hard to get to the points in our lives at which we find ourselves. Many of us our self-made, and many people I know are second generation to this country.

Being second generation (even on one side) imbues those of us like this with a strong work ethic because the desire not to fail our parents is extremely important. Being second generation also means that few of us have family names on which to fall back. We have made our own names, and we don’t depend upon our ancestors to define us. I cannot imagine being the kind of person to make requests simply because of what my name happens to be, but I have met people like this, and they have no qualms about throwing around that name as if it we still lived in a system with peers and nobles.

I think that part of what makes me strong is the fact that I have worked for everything that I have, that my parents came from humble beginnings and worked and saved for everything that they had. I’m proud to come from working-class stock. I was taught the value of a dollar, and I was taught that respect is something to be earned, not something to be bestowed upon someone simply because of who they are.

So what it boils down to is that in the midst of all of this, I try to retain my patience, and I try to retain my sense of humor, much taxed though they may be. And when in doubt, I remember the rule of three: that what we send out into the world comes back to us threefold.

Karma. It’s a bitch.

More later. Peace.

Music by The Morning After Girls, “Hidden Spaces”

                   

Picture of the Author with Vice President

That’s me on his left. If neither one of us
looks comfortable, it’s because I said
I’m sorry to hear about his heart.
A small machine, he says, sends tiny sparks
in there, to pace the flow of blood.
Some people will dispute this photo; his office
has denied it’s me; but I have to believe
I am in the picture. It’s awkward, yes,
for we don’t know each other;
and if he’s known as a man who keeps
public secrets, I’m not known at all.
Even so, he and I share something
that we cherish, deeply, which is our love

of trout. On his Wyoming ranch, he owns
a trout stream for himself. When I raise
the question—How’s the fishing?—he will rise
to the subject, and we will have grown
a little closer, having now disclosed
a passion no one, having known, lets go.
And he, too, is a man who knows cold blood
of trout cares nothing for who you are.
Nor do they care who owns the land
their water flows within: So long
as land and stream stay clean, they live.
Because I must rely on public lands
to find—weighed out in the flash
of a trout’s brilliant scales—that cleanly order,
I’m concerned about his sympathy
with those who call such places “undeveloped.”

But I know better than to say as much
to a man who’s so well versed
in the rhyming of ecology with economy
abstract nets that hold so many tangibles,
such as meadow grass that filters silt
so cutthroat trout may have clean beds
of gravel for their spawning redds;
or the English teacher whose hopes
for a pay raise float on the promise
of a growing tax base—in other words,
the new sport coat I’m wearing
in the photo, bought for this occasion.
Still, I want to believe in the heart
of a man who would fish a barbless fly
for a trout, and let it go; who would spend
that much time to be where trout live, to step
so softly in their stream, they do not frighten.

So I am going to tell him a story
about the Sacramento Mountains of New Mexico,
and a man who lived there. By all accounts,
William Myers knew the land, but owned
none of it. Had no money, so in order to live
in the mountains, he bartered work
for the privilege of staying in
other people’s second homes.
One day, he drove his ATV up a ridge
to scout the most likely route to run a pipe
to his friend’s house. He lit a cigarette,
studied the forest floor, as he’d often done
for fresh deer lies, bear scat, a crop of mast
that might draw wild turkeys in.
Whether it was a spark from the ATV
or the cigarette, he didn’t know; but he was sure,
he told police, that it was he who caused the fire.
That night, a glowing orange blemish on the sky;
by next day, a dry mist with a taste
of wet paper. Nine thousand acres
of forest he had hunted, ponds and creeks
he’d fished—the bell-note of hummingbird wings,
the raccoon crooning to her pups—gone up
in a surf of flame; sap-laden pines burst
like the improvised gas-and-bottle bombs
he’d learned to make in the army. Helicopters
dropped fire-retardant chemicals on a woods
he’d loved but never owned, and never meant

to burn. They fell in scarlet plumes, like blood
that must have sprayed from his skull
when he stood in front of the gun
he held in his own hand, and fired.
—Well, it may have been the words
like blood, and skull, and gun,
that made the men in sunglasses bring
our conversation to a polite, efficient end.
Or it could have been my agitation
over a man who took responsibility—
who, as his scribbled farewell letter read,
could never live with what he had destroyed.

~ William Wenthe (as found in The Paris Review)

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“There are mountainous, arduous days, up which one takes an infinite time to climb, and downward-sloping days which one can descend at full tilt, singing as one goes.” ~ Marcel Proust

“Les Tulipes,” by Pierre Auradon (c. 1950s)

“There are very few human beings who receive the truth, complete and staggering, by instant illumination. Most of them acquire it fragment by fragment, on a small scale, by successive developments, cellularly, like a laborious mosaic.” ~ Anaïs Nin, Journals of Anaïs Nin Volume 3

Monday, late afternoon. Hot and hazy.

"Arbre au Début du Printemps," by Pierra Auradon (ca. 1930)

I haven’t posted in a few days because, well, first I didn’t feel like it, and then I went on this cleaning binge in our bedroom. I’m halfway done, but my back has given out on me, too much bending and stretching. So instead of finishing the bedroom today, I’m sitting my butt in this comfortable chair and writing, that is, if Tillie will leave me alone long enough to get something done. Poor thing, never gets any attention.

Right.

Also, Eamonn has come home for a bit, so the room that is usually my workroom is now filled with black trash bags full of eldest son’s belongings. He says that it’s just temporary, but I’m not going to try to define temporary. It’s just nice to have him here for however long it will be.

What this means to the computer situation is anyone’s guess. After all, this computer that I’ve been using for a while is actually Eamonn’s desktop. Corey’s desktop in the dining room died several months ago, so both of us have been sharing this computer. My computer in our bedroom still needs to have the hard drive installed, which we were actually planning to take care of this summer. We may have to move up the plans to do that since once Eamonn is ensconced in this room, access to this computer will be nil.

After all, he is entitled to his privacy. He’s an adult, not my little boy, and I need to respect that. Corey and I did warn him, though, that this computer is on its last leg. It really needs to be wiped and then to have the essential programs reinstalled. Guess that’s on the list of things to do.

“Let me be something every minute of every hour of my life. Let me be gay; let me be sad. Let me be cold; let me be warm. Let me be hungry…have too much to eat. Let me be ragged or well dressed. Let me be sincere—be decietful. Let me be truthful; let me be a liar. Let me be honorable and let me sin. Only let me be something every blessed minute. And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is ever lost.” ~ Betty Smith

"Narcisses," by Pierre Auradon (1939)

Speaking of things to do . . .

Apparently, my blog stalker is still active. He/she is calling/e-mailing people and strongly suggesting that they take a look at my blog to see how insane I am, how dangerous I am.

At first, I was furious. Now, I just find it entertaining. I mean really? Dangerous? Bitch, please.

I may be a lot of things—sarcastic and snarky, bitchy and biting, moody and meandering—but dangerous?

This individual is also calling into question my parenting skills. Now this one has me baffled, really. I’ve raised three children to legal age. None of them has ever been arrested. Two are in college full time. I’ve given them basic life skills (they know how to clean, do laundry, cook a bit, manage a bank account, among other things). But more importantly, I have taught each of them the importance of being compassionate for the less fortunate, thoughtful towards those they love, and mindful of the laws of common decency.

I have instilled in them the ideas of truth, honor, and respect, and I know that I can say most assuredly, that if nothing else, each of my children has a kind and good heart.

That I have allowed them to go their own ways as individuals has not been easy; it’s never easy for a parent to first loosen and eventually cut the apron strings and to allow a child to break free. But this I have done.

Children need space and trust to become the people they are going to be. At a certain point, it is no longer about parenting full time; rather, it is about respecting that as a parent, you have done what you should and what you could, and then realizing that it’s no longer up to you as to what your child will be when he or she grows up.

“If most of us are ashamed of shabby clothes and shoddy furniture, let us be more ashamed of shabby ideas and shoddy philosophies . . . It would be a sad situation if the wrapper were better than the meat wrapped inside it.” ~ Albert Einstein

"Pivoine (peonies)," by Pierre Auradon (c. 1930s)

Has it been easy to stand by and watch Alexis floundering in her life? Most assuredly not. Do I want to step in and make everything okay for her? Of course I do. But is that in her best interest? No. If I do not allow my daughter to gain her own ground, if I continually make things easier or better for her, how will she ever learn to be strong? And how will she ever learn to respect her choices, to stand firm in her convictions? Does this mean that I do not love her with every fiber of my being, that I would not throw myself in front of danger to protect her? Need I even answer such questions.

I don’t agree with all of the choices that Eamonn has made, but I love him beyond breathing. And he is proving to be a capable young man, holding down a full-time job, planning a career. And Brett, too, is making great strides. He has been thrown into a situation for which he was not completely prepared, but he is showing grace under pressure, and I watch him day by day becoming stronger and more assertive.

These are all good things.

You birth your children, hold them close, sing them lullabies and read them stories. You salve their wounds, both physical and emotional. You feed them their vegetables and you make them brush their teeth. You take them to the doctor when they are ill, and you sit by their beds in the middle of the night when they have nightmares that seem too real. You buy them shoes to support their ankles as they learn to walk, and you buy warm winter coats. Do they always eat their vegetables? Do they always button their coats as they go outside for recess?

Of course not. If they did, they wouldn’t be children.

Are my children perfect? Dear god, don’t be silly. They have their faults, and they have their shortcomings. They have friends who I don’t particularly care for, and they do things that I don’t necessarily agree with—it’s called growing up, and it’s an ongoing process.

“Action is the thing. We are what we do and do not do.” ~ Ralph Ellison

"Pavées de la Rue," by Pierra Auradon (c. 1940s)

No one prepares a parent for those first few days after leaving the hospital. You stand there, looking down on this small creature with incredibly soft skin, and you wonder how all of this happened. I mean, how is it that you have been entrusted with the care of this incredibly beautiful, sometimes loud, and occasionally smelly little person? But it comes to you, day by day, and you grow together.

And the first time your child cries real tears, my, how your heart breaks. And the first time your child gets hurt, how you wish that kisses really did make things all better. And the first time your child looks at you and calls you mama or dada, you wonder how it is that your insides can feel like jelly and still stay inside of you.

Of course, the painful reality is that not everyone is cut out to be a parent. The statistics tell us that. For every child who grows up healthy and well-adjusted, how many children out there have gone to bed hungry? How many have cried themselves to sleep after being beaten? How many feel worthless because that’s all they have ever heard? How many never make it into double digits?

The world is actually a very scary, harsh place. It is up to us to make it safer for those we love, those who have been entrusted to our care. I have no patience for anyone who harms a child—physically or emotionally. I believe that such people should be locked up, or at the very least, have their parental rights rescinded.

Unfortunately, no one has to take a test or get a license to become a parent. And it is usually not until things have escalated that outsiders are brought in to try to fix the situation. These people, who are overworked and underpaid, cannot do it all. The courts cannot make everything right. And unfortunately, children slip through the proverbial cracks, but the pain they feel as a result is not proverbial. It is real.

I find it abhorrent that supposedly advanced societies do so little for the least among us, the children who have no voice.

“It is not the brains that matter most, but that which guides them—the character, the heart, generous qualities, progressive ideas.” ~Fyodor Dostoyevsky

"Tulipes Ouverte," by Pierre Auradon (c. 1940s)

I know. I know. I’m on another one of my soap boxes, but you have to understand that I simply cannot abide child abuse in any form. And the idea that I might be harmful or dangerous to a child, a young adult, or to any person is ludicrous, and quite frankly, insulting.

Right now, I’m simply biding my time. I am handling the situation in which I now find myself with all of the patience that I can muster. The young woman who has come under our care is flourishing: She laughs freely, and her conversation is intelligent and witty. She talks eagerly about her art, about school, about friends. I see little of the introverted, unsure young woman I was told about.

That’s not to say that she does not have moments in which she feels helpless against the forces that continue to assail her. But even in these moments I have seen a strength of character emerging. She demands that she not be coddled, that she be allowed to make her own choices.

I am standing back and simply allowing her to be. She does not need me to intervene, but I will if she asks. She does not need me to advise, but I do when she requests it. I do not judge as it is not my place to do so. Judging is for someone else.

In the meantime, I will keep my peace. For now. But only for now. It is simply not in my character to allow someone to continue to make defamatory statements about me, statements not based in fact, statements based on pure fantasy and conjecture. I will see to matters. Just not yet. Patience. Fortitude. My white whale will come to me.

More later. Peace.

Music by Mason Jennings, “The Light”

                   

“so that each day penetrates each night
so that each word runs to the other side of truth
so that each verse comes out of itself
and gives off its own light
so that each face leaning on a hand
sweats into the skin of the palm

So that this pen
changes into pure silence
I wanted to say into love”

~ Anna Kamienska, from “Transformation,” (trans. Grazyna Drabik and David Curzon)