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Archive for June, 2005

This week I’m feeling “Forrest Gumpish,” like saying “that’s all I have to say about that,” and pulling the plug on the blog. The feeling will pass, I imagine, and I’ll think of something new to say. Until then, I’ll say something old. The following was written for an autobiography group that I participated in at my church some years back. I chose this “chapter” to post now, thanks to the inspiration of new blogfriend, Vicki, who wrote a lovely post with beautiful pix, “The First Church of Water Lilies” a few days ago.

Several years ago, Jif and I went to Boston. He had a conference for work, and I was just a tagalong. I loved it there. We rode the subway (my first), and I was very impressed with how safe it appeared. Elderly people and people with young children rode it late at night with no apparent fear. We went to the Museum of Fine Arts, and all around the city, and generally had a great time.

I had two contrasting experiences of my spirituality on that trip. The first was in the presence of whales. We went on a whale-watching boat, about 40 miles off the coast of Boston Harbor. As we prepared to leave, the man on the loudspeaker informed us that we were embarking on “a three-hour tour.” All those present who had grown up with “Gilligan’s Island,” myself included, immediately repeated after him, singing together, “a three-hour tour.” I hoped this wasn’t an omen about the fate of our excursion!

The guides on the boat were very knowledgeable about whales, and told us what we might see. They also warned us that sometimes they didn’t see any whales at all on these trips. As we made our way out to whale territory, I tried not to get my hopes up.

We saw whales. We saw whales like no one else on this tour company’s boats had ever seen whales, according to the excited guides. We saw at least six whales, humpbacks and minkes. We saw them far away and close up. We saw their eyes. We saw them breach and dive and spout. I’ve never been so thrilled by the majesty of a sight. For a grand finale, one whale came within six feet of the boat, rocking and splashing us, and scaring us for a brief moment. But that moment of fear was fleeting, and suddenly everyone on the boat became about 3 years old, jumping and squealing with delight. We laughed and clapped for the whale. Some of us cried. Adult self-consciousness quickly returned and most of us regained proper composure. I remained ecstatic. I realized my applause was for God. I’m sure there were others who felt that way. Like we were in church — the House of God — on the ocean. Whale Church.

Later in the week, on Sunday, I guess, I went to “real” church. It was a historical landmark, in the town square, and I’m embarrassed to say I don’t remember its name. It was large and beautiful, with stained glass and lots of wood. In the part where I sat, there were kneelers covered in needlepointed fabric. As I looked around, I realized that the needlepoint work was the names of different families, some symbol representing that family, and the date it was placed there. Many had been there well over 100 years. The history of the building, and the beauty of its decoration, brought a special dimension to the worship, as did the kneeling and praying where another family knelt to pray almost 200 years ago.

As I left that church (after a guided tour of it, which was offered after the service), I felt like I had been to church, but not the same as when I’d been to whale church. As I thought about this, I realized that simplicity and straightforwardness are important to me, and feel more like God to me. On the ocean it was water, whales, God and us. With a marvelous building come many complications. It was beautiful, but having been involved in “beautifying” churches before, I wondered how many arguments there were about window treatments, lighting, etc., who “won” and “lost” those arguments, who felt hurt. And in that church, public tours were given. I imagine there were many discussions about time, admission price, what would be off limits, and other considerations I can’t even think of. Wonderful structures are well, wonderful, but I sometimes think the more people are impressed by them, the more God can get lost in them.

I know some people don’t feel this way at all. I suppose it’s a personality trait. I’ve been to “church” in the forest in Yellowstone and in the Grand Tetons, and felt very connected to God there. Those points of connection, like whale church, are few and far between with the lifestyle that we have (lifestyle meaning time and money available to run away from suburbia), but in a way they challenge me to attend traditional church and try to maintain at least an echo of that awesome connection, until I can go to another place — usually outdoors — and get recharged.

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Down Wind . . .

I don’t know what mrtl was sniffing when she came up with this week’s “Monday Motif.” She wants us to write about SMELL. I don’t have deep thoughts on smell. I don’t have any deep smells on thought, either. Just a few things I’ve gotten a whiff of lately:

For two days, whenever I have sat down at the computer, Biscuit, the VBD, has lain down beside me. And farted uncontrollably. If this were a scratch ‘n sniff blog, you’d be outta here by now. It’s heinous, it truly is. I don’t know what’s gotten into him. I know HE has gotten into the TRASH a lot recently. There’s probably a connection there.

















“The Source”

*******

Yesterday in church, “smell” cracked me up. My pastor, Rev. Dr. Fruity, during her sermon, mentioned that when she does pre-marital counseling with a couple, she gives them a little “test,” asking them to write out answers to questions like, “What are you most looking forward to about marriage?”

She said that when she gives them the assignment of writing answers to the questions, “The first thing they tell me is, ‘I don’t spell very well.'”

LG, sitting in the pew beside me, looked shocked, and whispered to me, “Why would they tell Miss Fruity that she doesn’t smell very well?” There is no laughter as sweet as uncontrollable silent church laughter.

*******

My favorite smell from childhood is honeysuckle. Not from a bottle, but the real deal. It was all through the woods where I spent most of my summer days as a very young girl. Back in the days when kids could leave the house on a summer morning, and maybe not be seen again until time for Dad to come home, and no one worried at all. Honeysuckle smells like childhood and like freedom, to me. The kind of freedom that my daughter will not know during her childhood, because the world is a different place, and I must know where she is every moment.

*******

A smell from childhood that I hate is carnations. They smell like my grandparents’ viewings — held in their home, with everyone gathered around the caskets talking about how “natural” they looked. The smell of carnations instantly brings to mind the image of my uncle, a large man of fifty-something, throwing himself on the body of my grandmother, lying there against billowy white satin. The smell of carnations instantly brings to mind the sound of my uncle’s wailing, “Mommy, Mommy…” Carnations mean grownups act like frightened, helpless kids, and that scares me.

*******

My favorite scent to wear is one that smells like an orange creamsicle. Not a real citrus-y scent; it has to have the creaminess, too. I haven’t found it in a perfume, but a couple of lotions have it: Camille Beckman’s Orange Creme and Lady Primrose’s Royal Extract.

*******

I SMELL A RANT:
This isn’t really about smell, but it’s on my mind, and this is my blog, so I’m putting it here. Let’s just say . . . I think this STINKS:

These are some excerpts from a book in my home, a library book:

Girls are just plain messy. I told that to Dad as we were mashing potatoes for dinner.

“Not any messier than boys,” Dad said. “Boys ejaculate, you know. We always figured you couldn’t get much messier than that.”

And:

He had his hands on my waist . . . and his lips were against the back of my neck. He was slowly running his hands up and down the sides of my rib cage, and I felt a whoosh! go through my body like everything was drawing up tight, and my nerve endings were tingling.

“Ummm, Patrick,” I said, leaning back against his chest, and this time he bent his head and I turned mine so that we were kissing sideways, full on the mouth, and I felt another whoosh!

I lay back in Patrick’s arms, and he kissed me again. One of his hands rested on my chest, and although he wasn’t touching my breasts, I think I wanted him to . . .

I felt wet and tingly, and began to realize I was definitely a sexual being . . .

OK, before you go to find your partner or small appliance, let me tell you where these passages are from. They are from a book in Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s “Alice” series. Naylor is the author of “Shiloh,” about a dog. This character, Alice, is the heroine in a series of “Alice” books that were recommended to my daughter’s third grade class.

I became aware of the passages above when LG brought the book to me last week and said, “Mom, I like this book, but I don’t think I like this part.” This was her sweet, 9-year-old way of asking me, “Is this OK for me?” I read the passages, remained calm, and looked on the back of the book for an age recommendation, as children’s books often have. It is recommended for age 10 and up.

I know that children today grow up faster than I did. But . . . that is for a 10-year-old? Not MY 10-year-old. So now I know that a book shelved in the children’s section (not “teen” or “young adult,” but “children”), written by a children’s author, and endorsed by a third-grade teacher, is not automatically a book that my daughter can read right now. My Mama job just got a little bit more difficult.

If you disagree, you can knock yourself out making a case here, but you’ll be wasting keystrokes. This Mama is quite clear on this matter. Hell, even my 9-year-old knows that isn’t good for her. “Age 10 and up,” it says. There is a lot of difference between “10” and “up.” I don’t know at what age LG will be ready for such things: 12, 14, I don’t know. I know it won’t be at 10.

Remember the “hospice porn” story? After that, I talked with LG about why it wasn’t good for her to see the book that she found at Nana’s. She told me that she had a feeling it wasn’t good, but she didn’t know why it wasn’t. We talked about “conscience,” and that little voice that tells us when something isn’t quite right, even when you don’t know why, because it’s something that’s new to you, and no one has ever told you that it isn’t right. When she brought me this book, I affirmed how well her “little voice” is working, and how she will be in good shape if she keeps listening to it so well. It will help protect her when I can’t be there. That part doesn’t stink. That part is kind of like honeysuckle.

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Sunday Post ~ Consider the lilies.

Luke 12:22-31

file under: &Sunday Post

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Biscuit had the time of his life last weekend when the Girl Scouts camped here. I am sure he thought the whole thing was arranged just for him, to import playmates for him. He was with us outside all the time, except when we were cooking or eating. Then he was right here, nose glued to the screen.


You have to wait, boy. (At least he didn’t come through it this time!)

When he was outside, everyone threw the ring for him, to his heart’s content. For the first time in his life, he became tired of playing fetch, and voluntarily took a rest:


“Under the table”

Stuff Portrait Friday

I realized today that blogging is leading me down a slippery slope. I am succumbing to peer pressure; that has never been an issue for me before in my adult life. Today’s first SPF item is “something I stole.”

Problem is, usually, just as soon as I steal something, I take it right here:

I don’t leave my stolen goods lying around the house! Have you seen what they do to therapists who get arrested in this state? They put them on TV in their undies, that’s what they do. No, thanks. But anyhow, I wanted to play, so what could I do? I had to go out and steal something. But the only place I was going today was to the pool for LG’s swim class.

So, here it is:

*I stole some glances, and a shot or two, of the instructor. Who is a MINOR. Not for me. For YOU PEOPLE. I fear that stealing may be the least of the crimes committed in this situation :0

Next on my list is “something I forgot to return.” I procrastinated about returning this item, which was ordered from a catalog. When I finally did return it, the company sent it back to me, because it had been too long! Ebay, I guess:

It is a “wallpocket,” which is a metal bucket, with a handle, flat on the back so that it hangs against the wall. Make me a freakin’ offer!

And last, “a perfume:”

Lulu Guinness (oh, but I guess you knew that already 😉

Actually, this is a winter fragrance, too heavy for summer, but I like the packaging and decided to take a picture of it. Perfume and powder. Available at Nordstrom.

*OK, this is not LG’s instructor. The real one was posted here, or at least part of him was, for about five hours, but then that felt too creepy. He’s somebody’s KID, for heaven’s sake. That damned “Golden Rule” thing gets me every time! So I stole Hasselhoff instead. At least his mom won’t hunt me down.

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OH, NO! NOT AGAIN!!!!

In my last post I told you how we saw a family member’s therapist on the news, in lingerie, accused of terrible crimes, missing, and being hunted by the police and the dogs.

Well, you ain’t gonna believe this. Just moments ago, just minutes after Oprah left my TV screen, guess what? Another helping professional, MY GYNECOLOGIST, to be precise, showed up on the local news. Charged with all manner of poor practice: mislabeled lab specimens, unsanitary waste disposal, failure to pay employees, oh, and disappearing. There was film of a bucket of used speculums, uncleaned for weeks. Um hmm. It’s happened again. By the way, my gynecologist is also a psychologist. And a most lovely, delightful woman that I’ve known for oh . . . 18 years. She was a serious over-achiever. I reckon she figured she had achieved enough.

At least she wasn’t on there in her undies. Yet 😦

Where’s Dr. Joaquin when I need him?

Update #1: She may not be truly missing; her staff says they have been unable to reach her all week; her husband has contacted the 11 News Team, and said that she is away at a medical convention, in a state that begins with the letter “A.”

Update #2: The good news is, I was trying to get in to see her next week. It’s good news, because if I hadn’t been made aware of all this, I’d have strolled right in there and maybe kicked the bucket — or at least tripped over it!

(I couldn’t make this stuff up. I am stunned, amused (because of the timing with the previous post), and worried. I do like her very much and hope she’s OK. But this is just too bizarre. That’s why I’m writing real big and colorful. If I could blog this in crayon, I would; it’s just THAT wacky!)

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I’ve been thinking about this post for a while, trying to figure out how to tie together some threads that, in my mind, are related, but not sure whether I can communicate that clearly in writing just how they are related. Here goes nothin’.

In recent months, some lovely blogfriends have posted, shall we say, risque photographs of themselves. Well, not exactly of themselves, but of their particular body parts. These photos are, depending upon the blogger depicted, adorable, astonishing, amusing, amazing, terrific, too-much, teasing . . . you know, other “A” and “T” words. I have no problem with people in or out of their undies on their blogs. And that ain’t never happenin’ here.

There are many reasons it ain’t never happenin’ here. The first one that comes to mind is the “fat and forty-something” factor. Most of the blogfriends depicted have been skinny-twenties or flirty-thirties . . . and then there’s Bucky, who’s a genre unto herself. There’s also the “it ain’t me” factor. Even when I was a skinny-twenty, that’s just not something that I would have done. On the internet. (I did email such an image to Jif the day the Kohl’s cashier tried to have me put in the old folks’ home, but I digress.) But the BIGGEST reason (yes, even bigger than my ass) I won’t be joining in this particular type of blogfun is that I’m somebody’s therapist. Quite a few somebodies. And I have seen the pain, the hurt, the confusion, the news coverage, that a therapist in public in her underwear can cause.

In the Spring of 1999, a Baltimore psychologist, 42-year-old Elizabeth Feil, was arrested and charged with such things as “accessory after the fact” and “harboring a fugitive,” after she allegedly helped her prison-inmate/client/boyfriend, Byron Lester Smoot, and one of his associates, escape from the Maryland Correctional Institution. I am not lying. And it gets worse. During the investigation, the police found photographs of Feil, dressed in a black bustier/teddy sort of thing, garter belt and stockings, in Smoot’s cell.

Feil’s husband said that he took the photographs of his wife while they were on vacation. And when the police showed up at his door and told him where they found the photographs, he said he believed that his wife may have had an affair with Smoot while he was behind bars. Resisting the urge to say, “Ya think?”

He also said, “I thought we were deeply in love. You have no idea how devastated I am by this.”

And I must tell you, the husband was not the only one. As you might imagine, the local TV news had a helluva time with this story. How often do you get to put an attractive psychologist on TV in lingerie? And call it legitimate news? Woohoo! So, I saw this chick all over the place, and cringed a little each time, because I am a therapist. Then I got a call from a family member. And this family member told me that her husband (also a family member, of course) was freaking out because his therapist was on the news in her underwear, on accounta she was helping her armed-robber boyfriend/client escape from prison!

Now, this female family member, known for her sensitivity, was having a terrible time not laughing her ass off at the situation in which her husband found himself. Or, more to the point, the situation in which he found his therapist (to recap: on the news, in the garter belt). This female family member quoted her husband as saying, as they lay in bed watching the 11 o’clock news, “OH MY **C*ING G**!!! THAT’S MY *U**ING THERAPIST!!!!” ~!@#$ %^&**** +_)(*&&^%$$#!! …..

He says he wouldn’t have used that kind of language. I wasn’t there. But I did talk to him about the situation, at his wife’s request. He was having a little trouble understanding why such a thing would affect him so strongly. (Incidentally, by his account, and by his wife’s, Feil was a good therapist. ) I assured him that his reaction was absolutely normal and appropriate. The therapist/client relationship is, or can be, an extraordinarily intimate relationship. There is often a profound level of trust present. And part of that trust, although it is not often discussed specifically, is that the client trusts he won’t ever see the therapist half-naked on the news while there’s a statewide police hunt going on for her, with bloodhounds, because she has helped her prison boyfriend escape. That just feels like a betrayal. We like to hold our therapists up to higher standards of non-jackass-ishness than we do other people. We put them up there with clergy, elementary school teachers, moms, where these things are concerned. The public has a right to expect that such people won’t expose themselves.

That experience prompted me to look at my own life. I renewed my personal commitment to never have nekkid or semi-nekkid pictures available to the world. And of course, my commitment not to have sex with clients OR prison inmates, much LESS both in one. And…oh, yea, no helping anyone escape from an actual correctional facility. In fact, nothing that will ever give the media cause to use my name and “tracked by bloodhounds” in the same sentence.

It also prompted me to look at my own therapist. Oh, yes, I have a therapist. I probably always will, in one form or another. I am one who believes it is obscene to be a therapist without ever having been a client. I also believe that for a therapist in solo practice, like I am, it is essential that I have someone other than myself monitoring my crazy-gauges. Anyhow, when I selected the therapist that I had at that time, I was very discriminating. I asked about her education, her experience, whether she worked with other therapists much, her preferred theories of psychotherapy, etc. But I had never asked her if there were any nekkid pictures of her that might end up on the news! And now I felt I must.

“I need to ask you to give me your word that you will not show up on my TV in black lingerie,” I said to her.

“You don’t have to worry about that,” she says. “Black is not my color.” Smartass.

That family member and I are not the only ones who have trouble with the notion of “therapists gone wild.” An entire episode of the poisonously funny “Curb Your Enthusiasm” was dedicated to this sort of thing. I think it was called “The Thong.” The main character, Larry David, and his friend, comedian Richard Lewis, are both seeing this awesome therapist. The BEST either has ever had, and they’ve had plenty. Until one day, when Larry goes to the beach. And sees his therapist there in the sand. IN A FREAKIN’ THONG. (Cue Sisqo: thong th thong thong thong) They both agree, they can no longer sit and pour out their hearts to this thongapist.

So, again, it ain’t happenin’ here. And if you are a therapist, for the love of Freud and Jung, don’t go there. And if you are a client, ask your therapist not to ever do you like that. Oh, you might think you want to see your therapist in his or her underwear. But you don’t. Have I ever steered you wrong? YOU DON’T.

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mrtl the frtl* has announced that this week’s “Monday motif” is “A Favorite Teacher.” As I’ve said many times in blogworld, I believe good teachers and good nurses are among the most valuable members of our society. I’ve had a few favorite teachers. I’ll just talk about two today.

Mrs. Thornton
She had such an impact on me that she came to mind when I did the “I am From” meme. She was my second grade teacher, and later, she moved to the middle school, so she was my sixth grade Language Arts teacher. Mrs. Thornton was tall, maybe late 50s or early 60s. Her face, I remember as circles. Round apples for cheeks, with a natural blush; large, bright blue eyes. A bowl haircut, gray-white. She was always so ready to smile. Remembering her makes me think of one of my favorite quotes, which I think is credited to Amy Carmichael, “A cup that is filled to the rim with a good, sweet nectar, cannot spill out poison, no matter how suddenly or how violently it is jarred.” That quote is probably not 100% accurate, but you get the idea. She was such a good, loving person, that that’s all she seemed capable of putting out. Nothing provoked her to respond with anything other than love and concern. Even when she had to discipline children, it was firm and loving, never shaming, and you had no doubt that it really was because she loved you, that she wanted you to do better. Not that she had to discipline very much; she was one of those teachers whose demeanor commanded respect. She never raised her voice.

Mrs. Thornton always referred to herself in the third person, as “Mrs. Thornton.” “Mrs. Thornton and Mr. Thornton went out to dinner for our anniversary last night, and Mr. Thornton arranged for a violinist to come to our table. Even after all these years, Mr. Thornton doesn’t know that Mrs. Thornton does not like violin music! She does like Mr. Thornton, though, so she decided to enjoy the music!”

Mrs. Thornton also talked about her daughter, Jeannie, who was apparently the most beautiful, most brilliant, wittiest, most charming, kindest daughter that anyone has ever had. I loved hearing Mrs. Thornton talk about her daughter. I loved feeling happy for their happiness.

Years later, when I started learning about infant development, I learned how important the expression on a mother’s face is to a baby’s sense of self. Babies look at their mothers’ faces, their mothers’ eyes, for “mirroring.” Some babies look at their mothers’ faces and what is reflected back to them is weariness, annoyance, or worse. Fortunate babies look in their mamas’ “mirrors,” and see absolute delight, pure love, no doubt that they are worthwhile creatures, who are to be treasured just for being. Studying about that concept, I was reminded of the way Mrs. Thornton looked at her students. I was reminded of the way she looked at me. That is why Mrs. Thornton showed up in my poem, as someone whose eyes told me I was really something.

Mr. Cooper
Mr. Cooper was a middle school Social Studies teacher. He was probably about 50, not terribly tall, African American, with closely cut hair and horn rim glasses. He called all of his students by our last names. I believe he could be described as “gruff.” And I could occasionally make him laugh. I adored making him laugh. Not out loud, never out loud, he was too stern and too dignified for that. But I knew he was laughing because he’d cover his mouth and turn his head and make coughing noises that weren’t very convincing. If you were blessed to see his smile, you’d see some gold caps on his teeth. I loved him.

He was another teacher who NEVER raised his voice. He just commanded respect. It would have been outside the realm of possibility to treat Mr. Cooper with anything other than respect. You just knew that; I still can’t explain how. Mr. Cooper had this bizarre thing that he did when someone in the class was talking out of turn. He would become silent, and then look at the intercom, tilt his head up and look all around the perimeter of the ceiling of the room, sort of Stevie-Wonder-like, saying nothing, until there was silence. Then, he’d say, “Did you hear that announcement?” No…we didn’t hear any announcement. “Well, there WAS an announcement. I heard voices, it MUST have been someone talking to me from the office, because NO ONE IN THIS ROOM HAD PERMISSION TO SPEAK.” He did this maybe three times at the beginning of the year. At first there were snickers, which he did not acknowledge. Then there weren’t snickers anymore. And after about the third time of his, “It MUST have been an ANNOUNCEMENT,” all he had to do was tilt his head back and look at the intercom. Silence. He was COOL.

It is probably no coincidence that a former student of Mr. Cooper’s looks all around for the pigs in the room when she hears her daughter “grunting” sounds like “uh huh, uh uh,” and the like.

One day Mr. Cooper’s son came to the class to visit. His name was Oliver Cooper, Jr., and he was a law student. I remember thinking, in the moment that Mr. Cooper introduced Oliver, Jr., “THAT is what a proud father looks like.” We saw plenty of Mr. Cooper’s gold caps that day. Shortly after that day, I got a guinea pig. I named him, “Ollie,” so no one would make fun of me. His full name was Oliver C. Ooper.

I do not know whether Mrs. Thornton or Mr. Cooper are still alive. I sometimes think of trying to track down Jeannie or Oliver, Jr., and telling them things like I’ve told you here.

***
*If you haven’t heard yet, mrtl the frtl is expecting a bundle of joy! Go congratulate her pie-eating self!

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