Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Just for Fun

I've been fooling around with the background to reflect the winter, but I cannot get it to look the way I want and now I am too tired to play with it anymore. I'll try again tomorrow.

In the meantime, I did up a little slideshow to go along with one of my favorite holiday pieces, Do Something Nice for Your Mother by Garrison Keillor. It never fails to make me laugh.



video

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Changing Times


As I become more and more dependent on my wheelchair and more housebound because my car is not outfitted for it, I find I have adjusted my objectives.

Dream Car then:


Dream Car now:



I am not close to owning either one, but I can dream.  :)  Or ask Santa.
 


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Monday, November 28, 2011

My Baby's Birthday


On today’s date in 1987, I received the final one of the four greatest gifts of my life. Our sweet Elizabeth was born at home on Saturday, November 28.

I was playing a card game with Jamie, then nine, when I realized I was in labor. It was around one in the afternoon. I was a week overdue as usual, and believed I had plenty of time. So I started straightening up, because my parents were coming over, my mother to stay for the birth and my father to subsequently high tail it out of there. God forbid he be exposed to a body function (he ended up killing time at the nearby mall and came home with a tiny teddy bear with sparkly pink fur for the new baby when he found out it was a girl). The boys (Ryan was ten) went down the street to play at a neighbor’s. Mary Kate was two and was going to go to my friend Louise’s until the baby was born.

I called Dennis’ office. He was a tugboat captain but the boat was in the yard for maintenance. Even though they weren’t at sea at the time, in those days before cell phones, it was still tough to get a hold of the guys on the boat. You had to call the dispatcher, they relayed the message and then whoever you needed to talk to would call you back as soon as they could get free. I wasn’t worried though, I knew I had hours. When he called me back about a half hour later, I told him things had started but there was no rush. So he went back to work.

I picked up toys, finished the dishes and was mopping the kitchen floor when I felt a pop and water gushed down my legs. Uh oh. I was a week overdue, this was my fourth baby, my water had just broken and I had just told my husband, who was three hours away, there was no hurry. This was not good.

I called my midwife who headed up. I called Louise who rushed over, finished mopping the floor (only the best of friends will do these things for you) and collected Mary Kate. Meanwhile I called Dennis back at work. The dispatcher droned he wasn’t sure where he was or if he could get him the message right away or… “I’M HAVING A BABY! FIND HIM!” I shrieked into the phone. He called back within five minutes and was on his way.

By now it was four o’clock. The contractions were coming hard and fast. And I was determined not to have this baby until its father was home.

Fianlly it was just me, Bianca, my midwife, and my mother in our quiet house. I sat as still as I could on the family room sofa, willing my labor to be slow, while Bianca and my mother sat knitting and chatting. Dennis burst through the door at 7 o’clock after a three hour trek from the far side of Brooklyn through a nightmare of traffic. I got up, changed into a nightgown, climbed into bed and had the baby at 7:25.

We were so happy it was another girl!! Bianca handed Dennis the scalpel to cut the cord and he handed it to my mother. “I cut the last one, now you can have a turn.” he said. She was so pleased. Now both of them are gone, which is incredibly sad.

The kids came filtering back along with family and friends to admire the new baby. And our life began as a family of six instead of five.

As I have said before, the happiest moments in my life have been because of my children. And Elizabeth has been no exception. She has a sweet, sensitive disposition and has always been a champion of the underdog, which makes me very proud of her. She was born with a hole in her heart, which was repaired when she was six, but her heart is her strongest attribute. We are lucky to have her.

Happy birthday, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth and her fiance Matt


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Friday, November 25, 2011

Thankful



I almost never do things half way, which is a polite way to say I usually am obsessive about any task I begin.

Last weekend a friend on Facebook mentioned she had just watched an episode of the television show Hoarders. I rarely watch TV, but I have seen snippets of this series online and I have found it terrifying and tragic to see the out of control lives of the individuals profiled.

I couldn’t imagine anything more upsetting than watching this show. So, being me, I pulled up the website and I proceeded to watch 15 episodes consecutively. Fifteen hours, over a day and a half, of filth, roaches, mice, ceiling high garbage and fractured families. I felt like I needed a shower after each one. Because of my immobility, I cannot keep my bedroom the way I used to, which was pristine and orderly. I kept looking around my presently cluttered space repeating “I am not a hoarder. I am not a hoarder. I am not a hoarder.”

Right. The truth is, I could be in a heartbeat.

I reluctantly recognize I am inordinately attached to many of my belongings. I apply sentimental value to things I probably should have thrown out years ago, mostly items that are associated with my children and their early childhood, which was one of the happiest times of my life. Or things from my own childhood. My mother saved nothing from when I was little, so years ago I went on Ebay and bought some of the things that had meant the most to me, Sleeping Beauty paper dolls, Miss Cookie’s Kitchen Colorforms, the Little Red Spinning Wheel. I don’t do anything with these things. I rarely even look at them. I just like knowing I have them. I take after my grandmother, who always had an immaculate and neat home, but kept many, many things that others would have long disposed of. In their nineties, my grandparents were moving in with my aunt. One of the things discovered in cleaning out their apartment was the deed to the grave of my grandfather’s little sister, who had died in 1909. Everyone was shaking their head at the folly. I could totally relate.

I am also a fabric junkie and my craft room is overflowing, but I do utilize those things, I don’t just collect them. While I feel defensive and do have a lot of things and I do have a hard time letting go of them, I take comfort in the fact that no one will discover long dead cats buried under four feet of debris in my living room.

Anyway, inspired by my obsessive Hoarders marathon, I have begun to purge my bedroom of unnecessary items, the biggest offender being clothes that no longer fit me. In the past I would have had a great deal of difficulty with that, which would account for the fact I have about 100 t-shirts in varying sizes that I have accumulated over the years. I have kept them because they are great for pairing with shorts or sweats and then going walking. But I can’t walk anymore. And many of them are over 20 years old, so discolored and stretched out they aren’t even suitable for rags. I am very proud of the fact I am throwing them out.

But then I came to my shoes. I have never been a huge shoe person, certainly never on the par of, say, an Imelda Marcos. But I have always liked good, comfortable, high quality shoes and I have about 40 pairs all together. Practical shoes. Shoes that are pretty and maybe a little unusual. As a true aging hippie, I love all my Birkenstocks.



 
My shoes are an eclectic bunch, chosen depending on the occasion and the statement I want to make. Sturdy and professional for work, fun and funky for play.

This past July, my legs and feet suddenly swelled up like the Michelin Man. This has happened a few times before since I got sick, but they have always gone back to normal within a few days. Only this time they have stayed that way. Buckets of Lasix, hours of pumping away on a little foot cycle, keeping my feet elevated and daily, panting struggles with getting compression stockings on have made no impact. My left foot especially looks as though someone stuck an air hose in it and pumped just short of the skin bursting off. And my doctors cannot offer any reason for this horrifying development.

In my own research I have found that this is a common problem in people with spinal cord damage, which I have a significant amount of due to MS. So all those aforementioned shoes? They no longer fit on my feet. And when I manage to squeeze on a pair, the swelling oozes out and over the edges of the shoe, creating the ever so attractive image of marshmallow leaking out of a hot s’more.

Here’s the thing: I don’t want to throw out my shoes. It is a very real stumbling block in my organizing project. What’s worse is, I am experiencing a terrible, weepy bout of self-pity. I look at each pair and remember. They represent the life I had. Here are the ones I wore to the interview for my first job as a department director.


These are the ones I bought for my oldest son’s engagement party.


Then the ones for his wedding.  I actually danced in these.  I could still dance then.



The ones I bought for a special date. The relationship didn’t last, but the memories are fond.


And here are my walking shoes for the walks I can no longer take.

 
It is Thanksgiving week and with all that I am losing and have lost I am struggling with finding much gratitude. Grasping at straws, I finally decide I have to be grateful I still have feet. I am not being facetious. They are swollen and uncomfortable and pretty much useless, but they are still there, so it could be worse. I also do not have a house crawling with vermin or a pile of clutter we need to make paths through and that blocks windows and doors. And I never will, thank you Hoarders. I also have many people in my life who care about me and for me, and I will be eternally grateful for all of them.

So I give thanks for feet and floor space and light and air and a relatively clean house and friends and the one pair of shoes I can still get on. I’m not throwing out my shoes yet, because I still have some shreds of hope that things might change. And I am grateful for that little bit of hope as well.


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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Killing a Fly With a Cannon School of Thought



Bambi and friends visit UC Davis:







Thank Christ those dimwits didn't kill anyone.







For e-mail readers: http://youtu.be/9GXtQfXBAmM

 
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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Priorities



This is a football.




This is a little boy.




Guess which has more value in the United States?

An American football coach says he witnessed a little boy being raped in 2002 in the locker room at Penn State University. Yet, incredibly, he neither stopped the assault nor reported it to the police. He reported it instead to his footballish superiors. Who also did nothing.

Even if nothing really happened, even if there were doubts, these men were morally and legally obligated to report this suspected crime. But yesterday in State College, Pennsylvania students were rioting over the ‘unfairness’ being perpetrated on their beloved football coach. A man who turned a blind eye to a possible child rapist.

The man who allegedly committed this crime is suspected of multiple occurrences of child sexual abuse in the ensuing 9 years.

Football.

Unbelievable.


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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Brutal Morning in Baby Land

Baby cries:

I'm unhappy!
I'm unhappy!
I'm unhappy!
I'm unhappy!
I'm unhappy!
I'm unhappy!
I'm un...clunk.





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Friday, October 14, 2011

Nothing Going On


There is nothing even remotely interesting going on in my life right now.

It is so hard to get around, I rarely leave the house anymore. That definitely limits my life experiences. And the potential for any good anecdotes.

I have found a new website that I love, Pinterest. It might not be new to all of you, but it was to me. It is like an online bulletin board where people post virtual pin-ups: beautiful pictures, goofy pictures, funny sayings, sayings that are putrid, decorating ideas, awesome recipes. It’s fun.

Here are some samples:

Beautiful  (Italy) -




Goofy -



Funny saying (this one is for my sister) -


Putrid saying -



Decorating idea (dream on) -


Awesome recipe (orange poundcakes) -



Now some people would say this is an Enormous Time Waster. They are wrong. It is actually a GINORMOUS Time Waster. But I say, if you can’t waste your time enjoying beautiful/funny/yummy things, what is the point of life?

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Thou Shall Not Kill: Standing Against Murder

 
On September 21, a day of prayer for World Peace, a man named Troy Davis became the thirty fifth human being to be murdered by the United States government in 2011. Whether or not he was guilty is irrelevant, although the possibility of his innocence makes his death that much more horrifying.

Killing is wrong. Legally sanctioned killing does not make it right. Guilt does not make it right. The death of the killer does not change the status of their victim.  Every human being has a value that we have no right to destroy.  Not upholding the dignity of human life cheapens and diminishes us.

Arguments for deterrence are refuted by scholarly research every year.  There are more murders in states with the death penalty than in states without it (1). There are a disproportionate number of people of color and mentally ill on Death Row (2). One hundred and thirty eight individuals who were scheduled to die at the government's hands have been exonerated in the past 38 years (2).  That is 138 innocent people who would have been put to death.  Religious, civil rights, political leaders, even victim's families, constantly plead for rational and merciful justice (3). The entire civilized world opposes the barbarity of the death penalty, except for the United States. In our bloodthirsty nation, over 63 percent of the population supports capital punishment.

Mahatma Gandhi said “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”  May God have mercy on us for our inhumanity.

References:

(1) http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/deterrence-states-without-death-penalty-have-had-consistently-lower-murder-rates#stateswithvwithout

(2) http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/documents/FactSheet.pdf

(3) http://www.worldcoalition.org/     http://www.americancatholic.org/news/deathpenalty/
     http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/religion-and-death-penalty
     http://www.mvfr.org/?page_id=3





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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Birthday!


Look at this, Sir Paul knew it was my birthday today!!



He's amazing.

Unfortunately, he is marrying the wrong woman again, as he hasn't realized I am the one who would make him truly happy. Sigh. What can you do?

I know I will have a stupendous birthday anyway!


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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fond Memories

I was my parent’s first born and my brother is two years younger. It was just the two of us until I was nine, when my other brother Tom was born. So there I was with two younger brothers instead of the one thing I wanted more than anything – an older brother. I was a contrary little thing.

I did have the next best thing in my two older cousins. Michael was my mother’s brother’s oldest, rough and tumble and tough as nails. When spending anytime with Michael, who would eventually be the eldest of six boys, I was always guaranteed to have my long curls pulled, be pummeled, chased and bruised. Michael never sat still for one second and managed to do every Bad Thing a little boy can get into, but he had a grin and sparkling eyes that would melt an ice berg. He grew up to be Marine with a super sensitive side and was a great dancer. How I loved to dance with him!! He died in 1997 and I will never stop missing him. Every time we talked he would say over and over “I love you Marie Lynn.” I will always have that, I can still hear his voice in my mind.

Then there was my cousin Steve, who I have written about before. Steve was the youngest in his family and had two older sisters. His mother was my grandfather’s sister. Steve was Practically Perfect (I would say he is completely perfect but his wife might be able to come up with a flaw or two). As a child I loved Michael but I adored Steve. He never pulled my hair or hit me or quarreled with me. He let me win every game we ever played. He shared his toys. He pushed me on the swings, without me having to beg. How irresistible is that?!? He still is absolutely the best cousin I could ask for, supportive, encouraging and raises money every year for MS research through One Lap of America, an annual race event that he photographs. (It is described as “Nearly twenty-four hours a day driving with competition taking place as time trials on race tracks throughout the country.” I know nothing about cars and because my brain cells are diminishing at an alarming rate I find the whole event pretty confusing, but it is hugely popular.)

My great aunt, Steve’s mother, is an amazing 96 years old. I adore her as well, a woman who was a model of elegance and love for me as I was growing up. Every summer for years when Steve went away to camp, she would have me come up and stay with them. There are not too many parents who, having gotten rid of one kid, will import another. But her generosity, and patience, was endless. They lived in Yonkers and their house was built on a hilly plot with a super steep driveway. One day I got it in my head that it would be fun to ride a bike down the driveway into the garage. So I talked my older cousin Nancy into spotting for me. I went to the top of the driveway and I careened down, crashing directly into Nancy with a velocity I can still feel 45 years later. She managed to stop me, mostly by absorbing the impact, and thereby probably prevented me from bursting through the rear garage wall and dropping 30 feet to the ground below. It’s a miracle I didn’t kill her, yet both she and my aunt still speak to me. Just gives you some idea of their tolerance level.

My aunt just sent me a few pictures from when we were little that I am so grateful for:

I apparently was not wild about having my picture taken, but Steve looks adorable. 




Oh look, another dismal picture of me but Steve looks, yep, adorable again. That is my grandmother next to me. Gosh I miss her. 





Me, finally looking  a little more cheerful, my brother (how cute is he?!) and Steve on Cape Cod.




My father and my brother on the swing set in Yonkers. In this picture my father is only 29 years old. Incredible. 




I have been so lucky to have my two special cousins in my life. Many thanks to my aunt for sending me these pictures and reminding me of how fortunate I have been.



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Sunday, September 11, 2011

If Only

 
(Dedicated to the memory of my Aunt Joan and Uncle Tom Moroney and their son Dennis. Dennis, a husband, a father of two and one of seven brothers, was murdered in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Aunt Joan and Uncle Tom suffered grievously but with dignity and now both are with him in eternal peace.)

I have a terrible habit of thinking in terms of ‘If only…” I think it about the little things. If only I had left earlier, I would not have gotten stuck in traffic. If only I had remembered milk I would have some for my tea. I think it about the big things. If only I had known I was going to develop MS, I could have saved more money. If only I had known my husband had a heart condition, I could have intervened and he might still be here today, enjoying his children and grandchildren instead of dying at 40.

And I think it about the huge things. If only human beings did not have such an enormous capacity for hatred and intolerance.

Most of the time thinking “if only” is futile. You didn’t, so get over it. Move on. You can’t change the past. On the other hand, “if only” can be a lesson. Be more organized, write things down, pay closer attention to the people around you. Oh yeah, and don’t hate and kill people because of their beliefs, skin color, gender preferences, or any other reason.

It is easy to be angry with someone who is not nice to you or is deliberately hurtful. But most of the time, you will not be moved to then murder them. So to take it the next step and hate a stranger, someone who has never uttered a word to you, to hate them because of who they worship or where they live, seems to me the least human of behavior. But I am clearly wrong, because centuries of history show that it is the most human of behavior.

I see two sides to the September 11 coin. One side is the horrific loss of vibrant, treasured, innocent people. The other side is the continued legacy of mistrust and bitterness that continues to pervade our world. The United States, and by extension, Americans, are despised for their perceived arrogance and ignorance. Muslims are held in fear and contempt, perceived as savage murderers. And those are only two groups I could cite. There are infinite sub-groups continually busy hating and killing each other all over the world.

The thing that most amazes me about this continued behavior is that NO ONE EVER WINS. No one. Hatred is never effective, never achieves the desired end, is never ultimately successful. And yet it thrives. I am clearly naïve and lack insight, because part of me just doesn’t get it. Why perpetuate actions that are doomed to failure? Then I think of our government, where partisanship and flat out antagonism continually undermines the good of our nation. I think of the animosity that arose this week in my family alone, a relatively tiny but bitter war where everyone was a loser. Then I realize, it all goes back to being human. And humans are infinitely flawed. So logic and facts do not count for much when one is blinded by hatred and a quest for vengeance.

I don’t know what the answer could possibly be. When faced with a dilemma, my first approach is usually prayer. There is a World Pray for Peace Day (September 21, my birthday ironically). There are many other Days of Prayer (National: First Thursday in May; Global: 5/27/12; World Peace & Prayer: usually in June; Women’s World Day of Prayer: this year was March 4; Unity World Day of Prayer: second Thursday of September), but these obviously haven’t worked yet. Of course almost all of them exclude non-Christian religions, so there might be a problem there. One wonders what exactly is being prayed for.

Armed hostility hasn’t worked. Negotiation hasn’t worked. What else is there? Communication? Education? Persuasion? None have worked. And we never learn. We are still hating and killing each other.

If only things were different. If only people were different. If only each and every child born in the world was taught human life is precious and we must cherish one another. If only...


 
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Friday, September 9, 2011

Family Rules and How Kay Went Away

Family Rules

In my family of origin, being right is all. And everyone is right. It is everyone else who is wrong. Unless you agree with who is right. But you can’t, of course, because you are right, not them.

So be right, but also don’t talk about it. Ok, maybe gloat a little. After all, you are right. But otherwise, mum’s the word.

Got all that?  

How Kay Went Away

After several years of failing health and resources, after more than half a dozen consecutive hospitalizations and crises, my brother and sister arranged last year for my mother to reside in a long term care facility. They had invested time and energy and planning in caring for my parents 24/7 and were frantic about their safety. So this was determined to be best for everyone. The home was brand new, absolutely beautiful and the staff was incredibly caring. My mother despised it. From the second she set foot inside its doors, she campaigned to get out, despite the fact she was receiving impeccable care and was healthier, and safer, than she had been in years. So was my father, who visited her there every single day and was even given his meals there.

Suddenly, down swoops two of her Sisters, my aunts, joining the crusade of a mentally and physically ill woman they each lived more than 200 miles away from and saw maybe twice a year. Let her out, they said. There is nothing wrong with her or your father, they said. They deserve to be together after all these years, they said. The Sisters knew nothing. They knew nothing of the ER visits, the confusion, the middle of the night wanderings, my father’s growing dementia. They knew none of this even though they were told, over and over. They knew nothing of this because they refused to believe it. They declined to believe four competent, cognizant adults who saw my parents nearly every day. My parents were fine, The Sisters KNEW it. We didn’t know what we were talking about.

Thus my mother was discharged home, with The Sisters rabid encouragement, to the care of a man with documented Alzheimer’s Disease. And it was all downhill from there, because my parents were failing and ill-equipped to manage on their own. Did my aunts see how bad things were going? La la la, no no no, I can’t hear you. It took nine long nightmarish months, full of more crises and emergencies and close calls, all handled by my siblings, before my father ended up in a long term care facility himself, desperately ill with congestive heart failure. One Sister then packed up my mother and moved her from New Jersey to Delaware, leaving my father behind. My mother moved hundreds of miles away to her younger sister’s, where she was cosseted and catered to. Which certainly was nice to an extent, but effectively eliminated myself, my siblings, my father and their friends from her life. And my mother was ok with that. After decades of her dramas and illnesses, real and imagined, we were weary. So the general consensus was “You want her? You are welcome to her.” She was in her glory. But she would have a price to pay.

Because of The Sisters’ fantasy world, she wasn’t getting the health care she needed. Weeks went by and she did not see a physician. As she got sicker, The Sisters’ denial kept pace. “She’s fine!” declared my aunt. “Doing great!” Until she ended up in the hospital, also with congestive heart failure. They had finally been dragged onto the See I Told You She Was Sick Express and would not be getting off until she died.

Last month, my mother agreed to an ill-advised surgery. It went poorly. Her condition deteriorated. But it apparently did not occur to The Sisters she should be moved back with her husband. According to them, we, The Miserable Wretches, had thrown in the towel. They had put in their weeks of care and now they, The Heroes, were in charge.

There were times when we not only had no idea what my mother’s condition was but even what hospital she was in. She was like a walnut in a shell game. Finally, with this last discharge, she was sent out with hospice. Not home to my father, but rather back to my aunt’s home in Delaware, which is how she came to die far away from her husband and children. And now a new sideshow to the circus begins, with bitter recriminations – Neglectful Children (their version) vs. Hi-jacking Sisters (our version). And, naturally, we all believe we are right. We all KNOW we are right.

In the quest for Rightness, my mother’s funeral became a battlefield. My father asked me to write her obituary – but it turned out they had already submitted one without even consulting him (and it was inaccurate). Relatives and friends wanted to know what the plans were – The Sisters scheduled the funeral for less than 30 hours after she died, leaving little time for people to adjust schedules. We pleaded with them to postpone it by at least one day, but they (along with my brother, who had apparently decided he now wanted to be a Hero too) wouldn’t budge. Many people were subsequently unable to attend. A brief viewing was planned before the hastily arranged Funeral Mass. My mother had stated over and over through her life she abhorred open caskets and wanted ONLY a closed one. Her casket was open, despite telling The Sisters this. My sister ordered food and told The Sisters she would provide a luncheon at her house afterwards, acting as hostess for my father. The Funeral Director announced to the mourners all were invited back to my sister’s house as my father’s guests. But at the cemetery, without a word, my brother and The Sisters turned their back to her, put my father in a car and drove him away to a restaurant. They had planned that from the beginning, but never told my sister, even when she had graciously invited them back to her home.

Can anyone say “Kay who?”, because honoring my mother became lost in the hostilities.  

After the battle.  No one wins.

Back to the Rules

I have broken the most cardinal of Family Rules by stating these things out loud and, worst of all, telling them to strangers. However, I decided a long time ago that I was living by different rules. And very few of them. Rule number one is be fair and kind as indicated and/or deserved. Rule number two is laugh at myself when needed. Rule number three is don’t worry about any other rules.

On the Relationship Balance Sheet where you would determine People Who Cause Me to Feel Great About Myself and People Who Diminish Me and Cause Me Heartache, I am choosing the first group. I am choosing people who model health and serenity and compassion. I am cheerfully eliminating malice, control and pain.

The punishment for breaking our Family Rules is dire. Rejection and judgment are the consequences when we do not conform. Dissenters are exiled.

The ironic thing is, exile suits me just fine. It’s safer here. And it is, mysteriously, filled with decent and dear friends who are good and kind to me. Go figure.


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