Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A Candle in the dark

I always look forward to the winter solstice. Living with chronic depression is harder when I don’t see the sun because it’s dark when I drive to work and dark when I drive home from work. But once again, we have made it through the longest night of the year, which doesn’t necessarily have any connection with the dark night of the soul. Solstice slipped by me with barely a nod to my pagan sisters.

In my home, we celebrated Christmas with gifts, be they thoughtful, silly, useful or desired; and food answering the emotional longings of different people around the table. Roasted turkey for one, pearl onions for another, stuffing (in and out of the bird). (Mea culpa, I forgot the mashed potatoes! But at least I didn’t have to blow the rolls out this year!) We spoke of those not able to be with us in person, lifting up their health and hearts with a promise to bring some Christmas to them when they are ready to receive it. We honored those who will never be with us in person again, with tears and laughter and happy memories.

When no one else was around, I honored Hanukkah. Singing the phrases along with my “Bare Naked for the Holidays” album. Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tsivanu l’hadlik ner shel Hanukkah. (.ברוך אתה יי, אלוהינו מלך העולם, אשר קידשנו במצוותיו, וציוונו להדליק נר של חנוכה). How lucky are we to be able to celebrate a light in the dark.

This year has seemed to be full of “the dark” more than I remember in past years recently. Probably because of the politics here in the good ol’ US of A and interpersonal politics at my day job. I have spent untold hours listening to people hurting from unkind words, unjust rules and justice repealed. I confessed to friends that I “scroll past” their political posts on social media, because I just can’t look at another ranting meme. The faces of my friends superimposed over the actions of this president wound me more than an insulting joke or picture can heal. (Although sometimes a band of chipmunks playing a snazzy jazz tune or a cute kitten video helps.)

And then there are the floods and fires. And no, they were not caused by g-d’s wrath towards the LBGTQ movement, thank you very much. I was reminded of a fire 24 years ago: I was 8 months pregnant and helped friends shovel debris off of the foundation of their house. Inviting them to share Christmas with us, co-mingling traditions again. And I am reminded again of why we celebrate.

We celebrate the love we share with one another. The little things like a smile passing in the hall, the big things like taking care of someone after surgery. Of unexpected gifts, and heart-full hugs. Our presence in hearing some one’s aching story of betrayal. The joy in a healthy birth or the colorblind man seeing true colors for the first time.

These are our candles in the dark, lighting the way when we might otherwise be overwhelmed by daily noise and strife. If you are with me when we turn the calendar page to 2019, we’ll play some silly games, light some more candles, sing Auld Lang Syne, and share our mitzvos. Because we all need more light and love.

So just as the physical nights are getting shorter now, may your dark nights of the soul be relieved by the love you give and receive. Blessings abound!


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Checking in with my Stalker 9-14-16

Thirteen months ago I blogged about getting a restraining order against a former boyfriend. He didn’t take the hint (gosh, it was a “appear in court” in-your-face hint) and began driving by my home frequently, leaving packages in and on my vehicles (parked in a “secure” garage), sending me numerous emails daily (again), etc.

I went back to the police, and they picked him up at home on a Friday evening and kept him in jail for the weekend. The following week, I received a criminal protective order, good for three years. Again, a fairly large, in-your-face type of hint.

Six months later, he was back sitting in his vehicle watching my home. The police came (two hours later) and took a report, spoke to him at his home. Promised me (again) that he understood and would no longer bother me. Oops, then he was at my office, trying to talk security into letting him up to my suite, and to intercede with me on his behalf, since the restraining order was almost up! Can we say “clueless?” Another police department called, another report taken.

Because he has not threatened me with physical violence, the police will not go and arrest him. Apparently, emotional abuse is not considered enough, even if it causes physical illness/symptoms in the stalkee (I refuse to see myself as a victim). If he comes within 1000 feet of me (think of a football field), I am not to engage him, but call the police immediately. If he is still there if and when they arrive, then they will arrest him. How am I supposed to keep him there while not “engaging with him?”

Now he is sending Facebook messages to a friend of mine. Long ones, multiple times a day. His wife (oh yes, turns out he was very married) also called my friend accusing me of stalking him. Go figure. I’m getting afraid to go home again. I have changed my Facebook ID. I’m in hiding again. This is no way to live.

I cannot fathom what he thinks his activity will accomplish. I am reminded that to expect logic from an irrational person is not logical.

TO MY STALKER: If you are reading this, please pay close attention to what I am saying:

Go away. Stay away.

Do not call, email, message or mail anything to me or any of my friends, co-workers, acquaintances, or relatives.

Do not drive by my home or place of employment.

Do not try to get information from my doctors or the security people at my office.

Do not have your wife call, email or message me or any of my friends.

All of these activities are considered domestic violence and stalking behavior. I have a CRIMINAL restraining order out against you. I do NOT want to ever see or hear from you again. EVER. By your own admission, I am a stubborn woman. Keep this in mind.


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Tomorrow’s Doors (revisited)

We talk
seldom listening
We mourn the past
worry about the future

We take baby steps
but we dare not more
Fearing change
more than death

New friends, new ideas
live in the moment
Try one new thing
Fear lost in the being

Tomorrow comes
welcomed or not
Today’s decisions
open tomorrow’s doors.

Beth Cardall Leehy
2016 Mar 1

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Lent 2016: No longer Irish Catholic

Perhaps because I grew up surrounded by Irish Catholics, when I hear “Lent,” it is always preceded in my mind by, “What are you giving up for….” Now, as an adult and hopefully more sophisticated theologian than my 6-year-old self, I realize that Jesus never gave up anything for Lent. I mean, after all, he was Jewish, not Christian (semi-adult theologian giggles here). The Lenten season is to remind us the events of Passion Week, leading up to the crucifixion and subsequent rising of Christ Triumphant.

So why remember Passion Week? Why observe Lent? Many Christians I know attend weekly vegetarian soup dinners and bible study classes. Many literally refrain from eating or doing something pleasurable for the 40 non-Sunday days of Lent. I can only guess that this is to remind them that Jesus suffered while he was “in jail” under Pontius Pilate.

I suggest, instead of giving up chocolate, meat, deserts, Starbucks or some other worldly item, we actually try to be more like Jesus during this church season of Lent. How about if we give up:

• Bigotry and hate-mongering?
• Fear and self-loathing?
• Addictive behavior that harms us or others?
• Old sorrows and injuries that keep us moribund?

Let us, instead of giving up, take on something. Try adding to your daily life:

• Gratitude/Awareness practice: Notice the beauty around you. Keep a gratitude journal. Say “thank you,” more often. Write to the good politicians.
• Give the gift of hope to others: Smile at a stranger. Donate more to charity (anonymously). Reconnect with a loved one. End war.
• Self-care: Actually do the exercise program that you have on your “to do” list. Get your teeth cleaned. Get your blood pressure and glucose monitored. Donate blood or platelets so someone else may live.

I’ve been corresponding with someone recently that made me realize some of the emotional baggage I’ve been carrying around with me for a very long time. I made a promise to keep an open heart and mind and work through my fear. Along with the ideas above, this will be my Lenten practice.

Lent is a church season with the ultimate goal of making us a better person. May Easter find you transformed by your Lenten practice, and thereby find the world a little (or a lot) better. Blessings abound if we can but see them.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Feminism or reality?

“We live in deeds not years In thoughts not breaths In feelings not figures on a dial. We should count time by heart throbs. He most lives who thinks most, feels noblest, acts the best.” [sic] Philip James Bailey

This quote came up in one of my emails as a suggestion for a meditation centering thought. I deleted it, because of the word “He,” having a knee jerk reaction to the exclusionary language. Yes, I know English usage mandates the use of masculine pronouns when mixed gender is addressed. And this was not publicly challenged in Mr. Bailey’s lifetime (1816 – 1902). But really, can’t we move forward yet?

Just as minority populations feel excluded when pictures/movies/television show only the dominant culture, I feel excluded when only male pronouns are used. In this particular case, I was good with the first few phrases, which use the inclusive “we.” Then I got to the troublesome “He,” and the following phrase stuck in my gullet and the whole thing went to the trash bin.

“He most lives who thinks most, feels noblest, acts the best.” So, the thinking person lives most? The noblest feeling person lives most? The person who acts the best lives most? Thoughts of a privileged, white, male, me thinks. Not much shows up on the internet about Mr. Bailey, so I do not know if he was ever a parent. But every parent who ever loved a child lives by their heart throbs. From the first time a baby smiles at you, to their first injury, every time they tell you, “Mom (or Dad), I love you,” until you or they die, they are connected to your heart. Good parents act as the best parent they can. They are noble, as far as acting in the best interest of the family (in whatever shape it may be) to the best of their ability.

I guess it is the first part of the last phrase that most bothers me. “He most lives who thinks most.” Most parents I know don’t have time or brain cells left for thinking during the first few years of a child’s life. One moves by rote, routine, reflex in a fog of sleeplessness (and sometimes worry). And that’s if your child is healthy. G-d help those of us whose babies are ill or otherwise need additional care and resources.

And sorry, just thinking doesn’t make one a good person or noble citizen. One MUST act to be noble. Maybe this quotation was taken out of context and Mr. Bailey expanded on his idea in surrounding text. If the editor who chose this quote for the meditation exercise had included some background and noted the exclusionary language (even by just adding "sic" at the end) I might not have deleted the message immediately. “Ifs” and “maybes,” but something to keep in mind should you have the opportunity to address people in the future.

Be inclusive. Be on the cutting edge of language and mores. Remember women hold up half (actually, more than half) the sky.

Monday, August 10, 2015

I’m one of the lucky ones.

I’m one of the lucky ones. It’s been almost a year since I wrote my last blog on the subject of domestic violence. Unfortunately I now know even more about the subject.

I just ended a romantic relationship. Prior to ending it, I normally received a few texts a day, a phone call or two, never an email. We had dinner together most nights, and a couple of weekend vacations together. Permission or agreement was always requested before coming to each other’s home.

Post break-up, I began receiving 10, 20, even more texts a day. Six to ten phone calls a day. When I blocked the phone number(s), I began receiving multiple phone calls at work. When I didn’t answer my direct line, this person started calling the receptionist multiple times. I started receiving emails, both to my personal address and work address; even though I made it clear I did not want to receive personal emails at my work address. Then, this person also began physically showing up: in my (theoretically secure) home parking garage, at my office, my doctor’s office, my local knitting store, the place where I play trivia, even the Renaissance Faire (where parking costs $10 and admittance is $30) and my church.

I began parking a mile from home and calling my son to see if the coast was clear. Because of the calls and emails at work, my Corporate Security and Corporate HR departments got involved and I had to be escorted to my car in the evenings.

By this time, I’m a nervous wreck. My supervisor took work away from me, saying he didn’t think I could handle my regular workload, much less the additional responsibility I was requesting. I stayed at the office long into the evening, because it was the only place I felt safe. I’m one of the lucky ones – I have a place where I feel safe.

Getting the restraining order was an ordeal. I’m fairly bright, college educated, computer literate and persistent. I researched on-line for what was needed, found the forms, printed them out and called a few agencies to confirm what I needed to file for a domestic violence restraining order. Still, when I got to the courthouse with my completed and signed paperwork, I was sent from office to office, told to complete more forms, then back to the office-to-office routine. It took over 3 hours, even though I thought I was thoroughly prepared when I arrived. I was exhausted by the time I actually gave the local police a copy of the temporary restraining order.

I cannot imagine trying to get this done if I were a less-privileged person. If I had been beat up that morning and escaped my home with only my kids and the clothes on our back, how could I have done research? How would I have found the forms? What if I didn’t speak English or have a computer with internet connection or transportation? My local courthouse has “help-hours” for 2 hours twice a week. The downtown courthouse has help 3 hours twice a week. Do they think domestic violence only happens on those days?

I’m one of the lucky ones. I wasn’t afraid for my physical safety (too much). I have resources and friends available. I speak English. I am stubborn and well-educated. I was granted a one-year restraining order. My former lover has to attend a 52-week class regarding domestic violence and transfer ownership or store all owned firearms at an approved gun locker. I don’t know what will happen in a year. But at least now I’m not afraid to go home at night.

At least I have a home to go to. I don’t have to try and find a bed at a shelter for me and my children. I have a job still. I’m one of the lucky ones.

It’s time to end domestic violence, now and forever. Stop the silence, stop the violence. Before you find out if you are one of the lucky ones.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Stop the silence, stop the violence

Domestic violence – a phrase that has come to the forefront of the news recently because yet another man beat a woman senseless. In this case, it was a professional football play (Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens) beating his fiancé Janay Palmer on February 15, 2014. In March, hotel surveillance video emerged showing him dragging her unconscious body out of an elevator. (, 9/10/2014 2:27 PM) Mr. Rice and Ms. Palmer then appeared together at a press conference put on by the Ravens. Less than a week later they married.

“Initially, Rice and Palmer both were charged with simple assault. The Atlantic County prosecutor's office later dropped the charge against her. In March, Rice was indicted by a grant jury on the more serious charge of third-degree assault [First and Second-degree assault charges are worse]. The charge carried a potential sentence of three to five years in prison… In May, Rice entered a program for first-time offenders that would clear his record of the criminal charge if he met certain conditions, including participation in counseling.” (; 9/10/2014 2:30:35 PM)

During a May news conference put on by the Ravens, both of them addressed the media. She apologized for her role in the incident, while Rice apologized to his bosses. He never once said he was sorry to Ms. Palmer. (; 9/10/2014 2:18 PM). In July Mr. Rice received a 2-game suspension. August saw the NFL introducing new penalties for domestic violence. Then the video of Ms. Palmer’s beating emerged on social media in September, and Mr. Rice was released from the Ravens and suspended indefinitely by the National Football League.

One of the reasons I am so angry about this situation is that a man who knocked a woman out was originally given a slap-on-the-wrist penalty. It was only when the video of the actual beating surfaced and public outcry was heard that he received a stiffer penalty from his employer. I don’t know why Ms. Palmer, now Mrs. Rice, didn’t press charges against Mr. Rice, or indeed, why she then married her abuser. Her reasons are her own. I find it hard to understand why Mr. Rice’s assault on Ms. Palmer was only a misdemeanor offence.

In the two weeks since the NFL imposed the new standardized penalties for domestic violence on August 28, two more pro football players have been arrested on domestic violence charges. Why do we not have more of a public outcry against this abuse? If we say, “Oh, he made a mistake,” when a man beats up a woman, we are condoning his behavior. Beating someone up is not a mistake.

If we say a woman deserved to be dosed with a date-rape drug because she went to a club, we are agreeing that it OK to rape women. Rape is not a mistake.

If we say women should wear sneakers instead of heels, dress conservatively instead of revealingly, walk in groups instead of alone, then we are saying it is a woman’s own fault if she is followed, stalked, assaulted or killed.

This is wrong-thinking and we as a society MUST change it. We don’t make men wear baggy clothing, walk in groups or wear sneakers when they go out at night. Why then do we ask it of women? Because as a society we believe it is OK to abuse women. Think this through carefully. This is why rape and abuse are under-reported. Because it almost always is made to be the woman’s fault. Because we EXPECT men to abuse women. Until we no longer expect men to hurt women, it will continue.

Speak out women! Speak out male-allies! Stop the silence, STOP THE VIOLENCE.