Monday, October 19, 2009

On The 2009 Nobel Peace Prize

I’m sure everyone thought the resident Obama fan would have some comment about the President being selected to win the Nobel Peace Prize. So here are my two cents:

Do I think Mr. Obama’s selection for that lofty prize may have been a bit premature? Yes, I do. Do I think President Obama has had an opportunity to implement his world-peace-enhancing policies? No, I do not. Do I believe that our Congress/electorate/national media will even allow him to implement those policies? Hard to say.

But what I think is not important. In fact, what we as a nation think isn’t important. The Nobel Prize is awarded by a committee that represents, arguably, global interests. And that is key.

What we don’t, as a nation, see—what we refused to allow ourselves to believe for eight years—was how far, under the hand of the Bush Administration, the United States of America had fallen from the ideals that had made her the great nation she was. After the September 11th attacks, the US turned cowardly. Fear made her retract the great wings of freedom and protection with which she traditionally attempted to enfold the world. Fear made her stretch her sharp talons in the direction of any threat, real or imagined. Fear made her claw and snap and growl. A world that had depended upon a strong, brave, free and generous America saw the US turn into a very large, very wounded animal, with the Bush Administration continuously chewing upon the sores to keep them open and to keep her fearful and angry and half-crazed with pain. And the world became afraid—of us.

Finally, We the People regained our senses and drove the party responsible for our loss of respect on the world stage out of the White House. Sure, we elected a man who got the job pretty much because he was as far from the person and policies of the previous Administration as you could get. President Obama was elected because he was NOT George W. Bush, and as far as the rest of the world is concerned, that (obviously) carries a tremendous amount of weight. Mr. Obama has at the very least talked the talk of a complete about-face from the previous administration’s policies. That was enough to impress the Nobel Committee, to inspire them to award the Peace Prize to the man who personifies the restoration of the United States of America to her rightful place in the world—that of Uniter, not Divider.

I look at the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize as having been awarded more to the people of the United States than to the new President. We kicked the bad guys out, and demanded the change that the Obama Administration represents. Let’s just hope that, now, we go forward and implement that change the world so desperately needs to see in us.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Transition Works

Sanibel Island, Christmas week 2003

Back when she was fourteen with long, naturally colored hair and braces on her teeth, I couldn't have imagined how quickly the years would go and how interesting they might be.We are coming up on twenty-one! (What?!) and that means all those dreams I've been dreaming and all those worries I've been worrying are now right in front of me and the time has come to make some concrete plans, allow for some flow to them and get down to the business of bringing Emily into adulthood.

It's daunting.

I began the process of transition to adulthood back in junior year of high school when I approached the school about a part time, after school job. With a job coach. I was pleasantly surprised and mildly shocked when the school okay ed a vocational evaluation and a quickly timed meeting followed and that very afternoon the job facilitator found her a paying job at a local store, two hours, two afternoons a week with a job coach. She's been working ever since!

That job was a wonderful job at a local five and dime, now closed. But oh! She has a wonderful boss and a job coach match that clicked and it's been going forward since. The store closed one year after she began working there but her job coach mosied on over to the grocery store next door and Emily found herself gainfully employed pretty much before she was unemployed!

Same deal, two hours, two afternoons and she loves this job. She's been there over a year and a half now and has developed some co-worker friendships in-house. Which is where they will stay. But the in-house friendships does this mother's heart good. They remind me that there are still good people in the world and that my daughter is fortunate to be surrounded by folks who respect her, support her and like her.

Will her life always be this way? I like to think so. Ah, but I am more realistic than naive and so I tend to walk around with the feeling that a shoe is going to drop or the eggs aren't going to hold me. A small price to pay to see this wonderful young woman have a good, meaningful life.

Now we are facing one more year of school and then what? What will she do during the day? Continue where she currently works -- for two days, two hours? Will more hours be available? Will transportation miraculously appear? Who will her friends be in adult life? Where will she spend her off time? At home, alone? With Mom or Dad? Or will she go to a day program? A sheltered work shop? (shudder at that thought) Forty hours? Twenty hours? Health insurance?

As I mentioned, it's daunting.

While the dream is to eventually find Emily living in an apartment with friends [and help] for the moment ...

...I envision her living at home, with Mom & Dad, getting up in the morning and then going off to a day program, perhaps three days a week, and on the other two days working at her job. I envision transportation pulling into the driveway, but that's a dream that's not going to happen, so pull yourself together Mom and envision you and Dad doing the transportation piece.

Emily will be happy because she'll spend time with friends, learning new skills and fine tuning the ones she knows and we all will be healthy and ... living happily ever after.

Nope! Don't tell me no. I ain't gonna listen! Weekends will be filled much as they are now, with Friday night social group and Saturday morning sports and time at the gym when we can. Visits with cousins and aunts and friends and mall trips and phew ... I'm tired thinking of all we accomplish now and then I wonder, 'just how does one do this for ... ever?'

How do I make this happen? Right now I am attending a series of work shops put on by a local ARC program and I am busily calling day programs, post grad schools and day rehabs for visits to check them out and see what they have to offer. I have been talking to DDS to see what exactly they'll fund. Let me tell you, the answer there is usually 'We don't do that.' or 'There is no funding.' But I know better and don't want to hear there's no money, 'cause I know there is. I don't want to hear 'we don't do that' because I know you can if you want to and I know there are many ways to knit a sweater and we're probably using a similar pattern to others but our cables might be a bit thinner or maybe a bit more complex.

Relax, I'll help YOU figure out what she needs and we'll go from there. Team work. Team effort. Just the way it was when she was a toddler, a preschooler an elementary student and then middleschooler and highschooler. It's all about the team and the people that will come together to help make her life meaningful.

I've already begun to worry about depression and how it will set in if she goes from five or six very active days out in the world to sitting home waiting for me to get home from work. That will not work and I won't allow it, but none the less, I worry about it.

Will I be able to cut my hours back? Retire? Work evenings? Will I be able to pull any of this off?

But more importantly than anything I've thought of or worried about ...
What will Emily want for herself?

June 2008 holding brand new cousin Jazmine.

Her license? A car? A house? A husband? A baby?

The one thing that Emily hasn't learned ... is that she really can't have it all.

Not in the way you or I can. Or the way her sister or her cousins can. But it seems to me there is a built in knowledge that what she can have, she can have differently.

And the rest? She aspires to it. All of it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Why do we write? Because if we didn’t we wouldn’t true to ourselves. We hate the dry spells. Life gets in the way and we can’t write as often as we’d like to. The brain goes totally blank and we can’t come up with the words we need to save our souls or at least our sanity. And then I start to feel so empty because if I don’t write I’m not me.

It’s hard to believe, but this wonderful little poem was written in the eighth or ninth century by a Benedictine monk who also happened to be Irish. We don’t know his name but he lived in St. Paul’s Monastery on Reichenau Island in Lake Constance. The Irish church had more than a few religious who founded religious houses from Ireland to Italy. To be true to himself, the monk has to follow the bread crumb trail in search of spiritual truths that are food and drink to him. If he didn’t he wouldn’t be a writer. To be true to himself the monk’s furry room mate has to chase mice. If Pangur Ban didn’t chase mice he wouldn’t be a cat. PANGUR BAN

I and Pangur Ban my cat,
Tis a like task we are at:
Hunting mice is his delight,
Hunting words I sit all night.

Better far than praise of men
Tis to sit with book and pen;
Pangur bears me no ill will,
He too plies his simple skill.

Tis a merry thing to see
At our tasks how glad are we,
When at home we sit and find
Entertainment to our mind.

Often times a mouse will stray
In the hero Pangur’s way;
Oftentimes my keen thought set
Takes a meaning in its net.

‘Gainst the wall he sets his eye
Full and fierce and sharp and sly;
‘Gainst the wall of knowledge I
All my little wisdom try.

When a mouse darts from its den
O how glad is Pangur then!
O what gladness do I prove
When I solve the doubts I love!

So in peace our tasks we ply,
Pangur Ban, my cat, and I;
In our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine and he has his.

Practice every day has made
Pangur perfect in his trade;
I get wisdom day and night
Turning darkness into light.

A wonderful little poem that has managed to survive for nearly twelve hundred years. I first came across this poem in May the Wind be at Your Back by Andrew Greeley. Granted if Pangur Ban doesn’t catch mice he’s not only not true to himself, he’s also going to get awfully hungry. Not quite true for his person.

Cross posted in Green Woman.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Journey of Life, The Journey of Grief

Our friend Robin—who is walking a journey of crushing grief caused by the death of her son a little over a year ago—has posted a couple of entries about a conversation she had with a friend over breakfast recently. Wherein the friend seemed to communicate that Robin should be…somewhere else in her journey. Maybe having achieved more distance, more “closure;” thereby making it easier, perhaps, for her friends to begin to relate to her again.

Today, Robin mentioned that her friend had told her, “In the end, the only thing you can do is choose happiness.” Perhaps, if this friend has ever experienced a stunning, incapacitating grief, this is what she believes she did to put it behind her. Personally, I think it’s a flawed concept.

One does not choose happiness, any more than one chooses to grieve. Our emotional states are largely dictated by outside influences over which we have no control. If I witnessed a terrible accident in which hundreds of people died horribly before my eyes, could I then make everything all better by turning around, walking away and choosing to be happy? Hardly.

Still, I know, in my own journey with grief, there were times when I had to choose to step away from the sadness. If only for a few seconds, or a minute, or a couple of hours. At first, it’s almost impossible to do, because you feel the very act of pushing out of the sadness is a betrayal to the memory of the loved one you have lost; a discordant note in a life that now has to be lived without someone too important to lose; a futile exercise in sublimating a pain that will never go away. But, at some point, you realize that you have to walk out of the pain or be totally and forever consumed by it. You want to remember who you were, even though you know you will never be that person again.

And it sticks to you, that a magnetic fog. You may not have a strong grasp on reality outside your grief, but you can be certain of this: that the sadness is always there, it will return and enfold you like a shroud. Days…months…decades after the loss, the sadness is there.

So, no…I’m not living in a place of acute grief any more. Not right now. However, I don’t expect that aspect of life to become anything but more familiar as I move into my own twilight years. I think it would be much harder to face if I hadn’t realized early on that you don’t get over grief. You don’t “recover” from it. Ever. You come to the understanding that the grief—the loss—is now a part of who you are. You embrace it; you pick it up, sling it over your back and keep walking.

In Robin’s post today, she contemplated the purpose of life. Is the purpose of life to be happy? Or is it, as an aspiring Presbyterian minister believes—to know and love God? What’s MY answer?

Certainly life isn’t all about being happy. The pursuit of “happiness” is an often selfish undertaking that can, as often as not, end in disaster, and inflict pain on others. To know and love God? Um…I don’t believe in “God,” at least, not in the sense in which that Power is described and worshipped in our current popular belief systems.

I look at life as a journey. From where and to what, I really have no idea. There is incredible beauty and nearly unendurable sadness to be experienced along the way. There is more love and wonder and worth around the next corner, as surely as there is another tragedy or horror waiting somewhere farther down the road. So you have to keep going. You have to…you have to…pick up the changes and the losses and the tears and the tatters and the heartbreak. Sling them over your back, and keep walking. To do otherwise would cheat yourself, and dishonor this incredible gift—and challenge—that we call “life.”

Saturday, October 3, 2009


I did something I very rarely do. I bought a best seller while it was still on the best seller list. It’s Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and his wife Sheryl WuDunn. And based on my first blast through the book I have a suggestion that would put Mr. Polansky’s talents to good use and keep him too busy to enjoy the delights of either France or his home I Switzerland for a very long time. How about a life sentence to community service making documentaries? On location.

He could start with the stories of poor or rural girls from Nepal to Malaysia and Thailand. Lured with promises of decent work in the cities or outright kidnapped they end up in a brother. Drugged, beaten and terrorized until they submit. Discarded when they reach their early twenties as too old and often with added bonus of infection with the AIDS virus.

Then there’s the use of rape as a weapon of war in Central Africa, Sudan, Darfur, the Congo region of Africa, Rwanda, Kosovo, or Bosnia. Tracking down and telling the stories of the survivors and how they’re putting their lives back together one day at a time, one step of a time. That should keep him busy for at least a year.

I have a title for a third possible documentary. One Woman a Minute courtesy of Mr. Kristof’s book. Approximately one woman dies every minute, sixty minutes an hour, twenty four hours a day, three hundred sixty fire and a quarter days a year. They die in child birth or from complications of the birth. They die from ignorance, lack of pre natal care, or lack of post natal care. They die because they were married too young. They die because in too many parts of the world girls and women are the last in line when the food or medicine runs short. They die because they need surgery and the family has no money to pay the doctors that won’t help unless they’re paid first. They die because the doctors are willing and the supplies aren’t there or were stolen. I could go on and on.

Even with our teetering health care system an American woman has excellent odds of surviving; ours are 1 in 4,800 of dying in childbirth. Not the best; the odds are 1 in 47,600 for a woman in Ireland but it still beats the hell out of the 1 in 7 for a young other in the Western African country of Niger.

There’s hope in the world too. The Grameen Bank in Bangladesh pioneered the use of micro credit loans to help villagers start small businesses, very small businesses. The catch? Almost all the loans go to women. When a woman earns extra money she puts it into her family. And in parts of the world where access to education is severely limited those extra coins can make a difference between some education and no education at all. Here’s a statistic for you. Six dollars a year for a new school uniform for a South African school girl can help keep her in school and unmarried for another year. That education can help her put off early child birth and raise her chances of surviving to raise those children.

I could go on, but those four would do for starters. If he manages to get those done there’s a world full of hurt and courage to be recorded out there It would not only bring Mr. Polansky face to face with the pain of your girls forced into the sex trade. It would also remind the women of the United States, Canada and Western Europe of what too many of our sisters are still forced to endure.

Cross posted in Walking With Hope.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Beauty and The Beast...

This is Samantha Geiner at 13. I found this photo on Google Images. This is what she looked like when Roman Polanski decided to give her champagne and a Quaalude and have sex with her. Mr. Polanski was 44 at the time.

When Mike Wallace caught up with him after he'd fled to France in 1977, here's what Polanski had to say about Samantha in the days before the internet and Google Images: "Well since the girl is anonymous and I hope that for her sake she will be, I’d like to describe her to you. She is not a child, she’s a young woman, she had testified to a previous sexual experience, she was not unschooled in sexual matters, she was consenting and willing, whatever I did was wrong I think I paid for it; I went through a year of incredible hardship, and I think I paid for it…"

I have strong feelings about this, but I wasn't going to post about it. Why not? Because I haven't the heart to read comments defending Roman Polanski, should anyone make them. Which isn't to say you shouldn't make them, if you feel that way. Just that I get a sort of sick feeling, reading them. But after I saw Robert Harris' OpEd article in the NY Times defending Mr. Polanski, I was so disgusted I decided to go ahead and post.

Except that I found myself strangely at a loss for words. And so I decided to post this excerpt from Steve Lopez' September 30th article in the LA Times, in which he comments on quotes from Samantha's grand jury testimony:

Q: Did you take your shirt off or did Mr. Polanski?

A: No, I did.

Q: Was that at his request or did you volunteer to do that?

A: That was at his request.

She said Polanski later went into the bathroom and took part of a Quaalude pill and offered her some, as well, and she accepted.

Q: Why did you take it?

A: I don't know. I think I must have been pretty drunk or else I wouldn't have.

So here she is, at 13, washing down a Quaalude with champagne, and then Polanski suggested they move out to the Jacuzzi.

Q: When you got in the Jacuzzi, what were you wearing?

A: I was going to wear my underwear, but he said for me to take them off.

She says Polanski went back in the house and returned in the nude and got into the Jacuzzi with her. When he told her to move closer to him, she resisted, saying, "No. No, I got to get out."

He insisted, she testified, and so she moved closer and he put his hands around her waist. She told him she had asthma and wanted to get out, and she did. She said he followed her into the bathroom, where she told him, "I have to go home now."

Q: What did Mr. Polanski say?

A: He told me to go in the other room and lie down.

She testified that she was afraid and sat on the couch in the bedroom.

Q: What were you afraid of?

A: Him.

She testified that Polanski sat down next to her and said she'd feel better. She repeated that she had to go home.

Q: What happened then?

A: He reached over and he kissed me. And I was telling him, "No," you know, "Keep away." But I was kind of afraid of him because there was no one else there.

She testified that he put his mouth on her vagina.

"I was ready to cry," she said. "I was kind of -- I was going, 'No. Come on. Stop it.' But I was afraid."

She said he then pulled off her panties.

Q: What happened after that?

A: He started to have intercourse with me.

At this point, she testified, Polanski became concerned about the consequences and asked if she was on the pill.

No, she told him.

Polanski had a solution, according to her.

"He goes, 'Would you want me to go in through your back?' And I went, 'No.' "

According to her, that didn't stop Polanski, who began having anal sex with her.

This was when the victim was asked by the prosecutor if she resisted and she said, "Not really," because "I was afraid of him." She testified that when the ordeal had ended, Polanski told her, "Oh, don't tell your mother about this."

He added: "This is our secret".

NOTE: You can read Steve Lopez' excellent article in it's entirety here, and, if you have the stomach for it, you can read the entire transcript of 13-year-old Samantha Geiner's Grand Jury testimony here.

cross posted at Talking to Myself