Woman of a Certain Rage

I have become the woman I’ve wanted –

Older, wiser, soft body delighted

Cracked up by life.

With a laugh that’s known bitter

But past it, got better.

Knows she’s a survivor.

That whatever comes –

She can outlast it.

I have become a deep weathered basket.

I have become the woman I’ve longed for –

The motherly lover with arms

Strong and tender.

The growing up learner

Who blushes surprises.

I have become full moon and sunrises.

I find her becoming,

This woman I’ve wanted.

Who knows she’ll encompass

Who knows where she’s going

And travels with passion.

Who remembers she’s precious,

But knows she’s not scarce.

Who knows she is plenty –

Plenty to share.

IfSpeak

People say that kids speak a different language than adults do. Those people are right. Talk to any 6 or 7-year-old for any length of time and you will hear IfSpeak. “What if that flower got so tall that you could climb up it so that you could catch a ride on the wing of an airplane?” “And what if that airplane landed on Mars?” “And what if the only way you could get back from there was to pay a Martian to bring you, but they don’t use dollars for money, but teeth instead? Would you pull out your teeth to get back here?” When you’re a little kid, EVERYthing is possible. Everything is IF. I think that maybe growing up is a gradual but persistent closing of the mind to possibilities. It becomes so narrow — the thought of what is possible — that you never think of IF anymore because you think you already know all the answers. Big mistake. Everything is still possible, which is what makes life so fun and scary at the same time. What if…

My Hands

On my hands are rings that I love. Each one means something special to me. My nails, thanks to manicures every three weeks, look perfect. But –

There are days when I look at my hands and I don’t recognize them. They are so old. Veins are starting to bulge. The surface is inhumanly leathered. Freckles have given way to full-blown age spots. The skin is so thin that it lets blood through even when it has no visible opening. I’ve thought more than once lately about how much I hate these old hands. But –

Today, I was looking at them and seeing the age in them, when I started thinking about these hands and all they’ve done. These fingers once curved around my mother’s fingers, knowing I would never be lost as long as I held her hand. These hands made mud pies and works of art for the refrigerator. They drew hopscotch boards. They withstood awkwardly applied nail polish. My fingers learned to play the piano when I was only eight years old and now, more than fifty years later, I still have the pleasure and pride of being able, with these old hands, to bring the keys to life and fill the house with music.

These hands learned to twirl a baton, write in cursive, hem a dress, braid hair, take a photo, type, plant a rose bush, knead dough, put on eyeliner, hold a protest sign, cup a face, and drive a car.

My hands have created, destroyed, comforted, pounded, protested, praised, applauded, waved, shook, steadied, made love, made fists, made food, and made beauty. My hands have held flowers, diapers, law books, computers, manure, iPhones, pencils, fabric, and furry dogs. My hands have held the faces of my children, my grandchildren. My hands have held their tiny toes.

These hands held newborns as they took their first breaths. My hands held my youngest baby as he took his last breath.

My hands are my life. Dried, scarred, veined, bruised, lined, wrinkled. Yet beautiful, full, abundant, strong, wise, magical, and filled with the work and the joy of my life.

Most accidents occur within a mile of your home, which is why I will never go anywhere near your home.
 

PHENOMENAL WOMAN

By Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.

I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size.

But when I start to tell them, they think I’m telling lies…

I say –

It’s in the reach of my arms,

The span of my hips,

The stride of my steps,

The curl of my lips.

I’m a woman.        Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman.        That’s me.

I walk into a room, just as cool as you please,

And to a man, the fellows stand or fall down on their knees.

Then they swarm around me, a hive of honey bees…

I say –

It’s the fire in my eyes,

And the flash of my teeth,

The swing of my waist,

And the joy in my feet.

I’m a woman.        Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman.        That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered what they see in me.

They try so much, but they can’t touch the inner mystery.

When I try to show them, they say they still can’t see…

I say –

It’s in the arch of my back,

The sun of my smile,

The ride of my breasts,

The grace of my style.

I’m a woman.      Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman.            That’s me.

Now you understand just why my head’s not bowed.

I don’t shout or jump about or have to talk real loud.

When you see me passing, it ought to make you proud…

I say –

It’s in the click of my heels,

The toss of my hair,

The palm of my hand,

The need for my care.

Cause I’m a woman.     Phenomenally.       Phenomenal woman.      That’s me.

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There are three kinds of people in the world —

Those who can do math and those who can’t.

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There’s a trick to being strong and the trick is that nobody does it alone.    — Elizabeth Edwards

I will choose what enters me, what becomes flesh of my flesh. Without choice, no politics, no ethics lives. I am not your cornfield, not your uranium mine, not your calf for fattening, not your cow for milking. You may not use me as your factory. Priests and legislators do not hold shares in my womb or my mind. This is my body. If I give it to you, I want it back. My life is a non-negotiable demand.

— Marge Perry

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Breathe

Stress – nectar of negativity — permeates the mind, poisons the body,

naked eyes deluded, see no other reality.

Breathe ladles of innocence, purify the air.

Invincible spirit evokes transcendent Grace.

Breathe deeply and on purpose.

Breathe courage and clarity.

Breathe willingness and wisdom.

Breath is life pulsating.

Breath is love flowing.

Breath is you being.

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She’s so dumb, she thinks soy milk is Spanish for “I am milk.”

Our Commitment

What can we ask of each other?

To simply laugh ~

To love as deeply as is possible ~

To answer on another with integrity ~

To trust as far as our hearts can willingly go ~

If there is more to ask of love,

We will choose the questions together.

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She danced.

She sang.

She took.

She gave.

She served.

She loved.

She created.

She dissented.

She enlivened.

She saw.

She grew.

She sweated.

She changed.

She learned.

She laughed.

She shed her skin.

She bled on the pages of her days.

She walked through walls.

She lived with intention.

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Having money is not about having things. It’s about having options.
 
 

You are an extraordinary woman. How can you expect to lead an ordinary life?

——   Louisa May Alcott

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“There is no use trying,” said Alice. “I cannot believe impossible things.”

“I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

     — Lewis Carroll, from Alice in Wonderland

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i like to feel the spine of your body and its bones,

and the trembling — firm — smoothness and which I will

again and again and again

kiss, i like kissing this and that of you

 — ee cummings

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Chocolate makes my clothes shrink.

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There are three sides to every story — mine, yours & the truth.

None of them are lies.

We just hold memories differently.

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Normal is just a setting on the washing machine.

It’s not a life goal.

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Let your life speak.

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Unanswered questions are better than unquestioned answers.

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Leave Brave Memories.

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Follow the Rules.

But first — make them up.

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Home is where your story begins.

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If it has tires or testicles, it’s gonna be trouble.

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After a while, you learn the subtle difference between holding a hand and chaining a soul.

And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning and company doesn’t mean security.

And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts and present aren’t promises.

And you begin to accept your defeats with your head up and your eyes ahead,

With the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child.

And you learn to build all your roads on today

Because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans.

Futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.

After a while you learn that even sunshine burns if you get too much.

So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.

And you learn that you really can endure,

That you really are strong,

And you really do have worth.

And you learn and you learn and you learn.

With every goodbye, you learn.

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When a woman asks…

When a woman asks, “what are you thinking,” she wants to hear your voice. She wants, in a manner of speaking, to touch and be touched. She wants to feel connected, assured of your presence and interest.

Say something sweet – “You” is a lovely place to start – something lighthearted, something more convivial than “work” or “TV” or, worst of all, “nothing.”

You need not chatter on at length, and you ought to end whatever you say by asking her the same question. Many, many women consider this sort of exchange to be heart-warming, even intimate.

And many, many men fail to grasp that foreplay begins long before you hit the sheets.

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Going… Going… Gone!

“Mommy, will you take me…?” When Danny was three, this was his constant, daily refrain, and sometimes I though I’d scream if I heard it one more time. From the moment he learned that there was a marvelous, exciting world outside his own cozy home, he viewed every waking minute as an opportunity to be going somewhere.

“Mommy, will you take me outside to play?” Undaunted by weather, he’d look out the window at the falling rain until I’d give in and grab an umbrella. As soon as he was big enough to be outdoors alone, our safely fenced backyard couldn’t hold a candle to the swings at the park. “Can’t we go to the store?” he’d beg, when my own idea of a good time was to grocery shop alone. I’d insist that Mommy had work to do, but Danny always had other plans.

When Danny was about nine, I noticed that the question had changed. Instead of “Mommy, will you take me…,” it became, “Mom, can I go…?” “Can I go to play at Steven’s?” “Can I go on my bike up to the school?” “Can I go play video games at 7-11?”  His world had now stretched to the neighborhood and beyond, without Mom along.

Danny is sixteen now and I just realized that the old familiar question is in its third and final variation. “Mom, I’m going now. OK?”

At first, I’d bristle every time he said that. “Just a minute,” I’d challenge, “you want to rephrase that?”

“Mother dear, may I PLEASE have your permission…?,” he’d amend, softening his 16-year-old’s sarcasm with a smile and maybe a quick kiss on my cheek. “I’m going now. OK?”

There’s no doubt about it, 16-year-olds are headed out the door; home is a stopover for an occasional meal, a shower, clean clothes. Not counting the hours he was asleep, Danny was home yesterday a grand total of two hours and five minutes.

A crazy job, parenting. Do it well and you put yourself out of business. “Mommy, will you take me…?” “Mom, can I go…?” “I’m going now. OK?” I realized that the form of the question has marked my son’s journey toward adulthood and independence. The “OK” is perfunctory, a courtesy that won’t be there long. I just have to remind myself that I must be doing something right.

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She lived measuring herself by her own criteria rather than the judgements of others.

She laughed deeply, cried readily, and folded herself passionately into chosen arms.

She lived vitally and acted on impulse.

She managed her days as if she were at game: coach and player both and hard at it.

She knelt to be like children and stood tall to aspire to certain greatness.

No one liked well her fury but rather loved to be lavished by her generosities.

She learned as well as she taught, but never learned the grace of ease with error — she preferred to be perfect. We did not often tell her wasn’t.

And while she was not perfect — she longed to love perfectly, protect and inspire those she cherished and those whom she named “friend.”

Our days shine less brightly with her absent them.

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Oh, the comfort — the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person. Having neither to weigh thoughts, Nor measure words — but pouring them all right out — just as they are — chaff and grain together — certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them — keep what is worth keeping — and with the breath of kindness, blow the rest away.

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I do so love my friends whose spirituality does not eclipse their sense of humor.

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One time, the people who lived across the street sold their house and moved away. The new owners tore the house down to build something better. This was a house I had seen every day for years and years. It seemed permanent, a fixture in my life. But houses are permanent. A wrecking ball or a strong storm can destroy a house. The same is true for a family. After awhile, I got used to having nothing there until I couldn’t even really remember what it had been like when it existed. Eventually, the new owners built something different on that spot. A new thing to replace the old.

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When Sean was a baby, I carried him everywhere. He liked being carried and those were busy times. Danny and Kendra were active in everything so we were always going places. Colin wanted to be carried, too, but he could walk and Sean couldn’t.

Sean was only two when we started getting foster kids. He needed lots of extra attention and so I still held him in my lap alot, even though I couldn’t carry him around as much.

One day, when Sean was about four, I went to pick him up from Mother’s Day Out and it had been raining. The parking lot was like a little lake. I picked him up to carry him to the car. Even though I was carrying him, his legs had gotten so long that his feet ended up getting wet anyway.

He had outgrown my arms.

Children outgrow parents so much more quickly than parents outgrow children.

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I am part of what is called the Baby Boom Generation. For some reason, pundits must find a name for each generation and I suppose that “baby boomers” is a better moniker somehow than “generation Xers.” Actually, I’ve always felt privileged to be a baby boomer and, indeed, there really has never been a more fortunate generation.

Baby boomers did not  have to face the tests of mettle of their parents’ generation, who knew about war shortages, bread lines, and depression. Nor have we had the shadowed existence of our children. Ours was the last generation of kids to ride bikes without helmets or pagers or cell phones. We had childhoods before crime and sex before AIDS. We believed that drugs could be recreational and drinking could be only social. And for those who avoided being drafted to go to VietNam, the great formative trauma we faced was waiting in long lines for gas. What a charmed, deluded life we led!

Yes, I have been very blessed. I really did have the Donna Reid-Leave it to Beaver-Ozzie and Harriet childhood I watched in flickering images on our television set. But our entire generation did not grow up like this. The 50s may have been a peaceful prosperous decade, but we had duck-and-cover drills every week throughout my school years. The 60s may have been a time of free love and drugs, but it was also a time of civil upheaval. My grandchildren may grow up thinking that our country was always like this, but baby boomers know better. We remember segregation and the riots and busing and poll taxes and all the rest. We remember the Weathermen and the Black Panthers and the SLA. We remember when a woman’s place was in the home and domestic violence was solved in the home by a tyranny of secrecy.

And we have known death. First, there was Kennedy, then King, and then Kennedy again. And friends. And parents. And children.

Gone. That’s what death is. More than anything else. That’s what it is. Gone. Disappeared. Erased. In its usual places, the beloved person cannot be found.

People are forever changed by grief. And changed people change the way the world is, the kind of place it becomes. Getting on with life is not the same as getting over loss.
“Any idiot can face a crisis: It is this day to day living that wears you out.” — Chekhov.

“Neither charm nor patience nor endurance has ever wrested power from those who hold it.” — Frederick Douglass.

Russell Baker, 1987: “We honor ambition, we reward greed, we celebrate materialism, we worship acquisitiveness, we commercialize art, we cherish success and then we bark at the young about the gentle arts of the spirit. The kids know that if we really valued learning, we would pay our teachers what we pay our lawyers and stockbrokers. If we valued art, we would not measure it by its capacity to produce profits. If we regarded literature as important, we would remove it from the celebrity sweepstakes and spend a little money on our libraries.”

Bob Eckhardt, on the occasion of the Texas legislature voting to cut off aid to illegitimate children: “I am not so much concerned about the natural bastards as I am about the self-made ones.”

Abbie Hoffman: “Sacred cows make the tastiest hamburger.”

“The only kinds of fights worth fighting are those you are going to lose, because somebody has to fight them and lose and lose and lose until someday, somebody who believes as you do wins. In order for somebody to win an important, major fight 100 years hence, a lot of other people have got to be willing — for the sheer fun and joy of it — to go right ahead and fight, knowing you’re going to lose. You mustn’t feel like a martyr. You’ve got to enjoy it.” — I.F. Stone.

“Man is the only animal that laughs and has a state legislature.” — Samuel Butler.

Marianne Moore: “It is a privilege to see so much confusion.”

“A time comes when silence is betrayal. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought, within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world.” — Dr. M.L. King Jr.

The enemy is not conservatism. The enemy is not liberalism. The enemy is bullshit.” — Lars Erik Nelson.

“Status quo is Latin for ‘the mess we’re in.”‘ — A Texas farmer.

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I don’t just pass judgment. I cut it off in traffic and scream obscenities at it.

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The thing is to love life, to love it even when you have no stomach for it and everything you’ve held dear crumbles like burnt paper in your hands, your throat filled with the silt of it. When grief sits with you, its tropical heat thickening the air, heavy as water more fit for gills than lungs, when grief weights you like your own flesh, only more of it, an obesity of grief, you think How can a body withstand this? Then you hold life like a face between your palms, a plain face, no charming smile, no violet eyes, and you say, yes, I will take you. I will love you again.

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I walked through fire. The fire lost.

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Why should a wife cook? So that her husband can say, “My wife’s a great cook” to his hooker?

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I don’t trust kids. They’re here to replace us – over my dead body!

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She doesn’t have any weapons except her mouth.

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Two kinds of Americans – the ignorant racist fascist knuckle-dragging NASCAR-obsessed cousin-marrying road-kill-eating tobacco-juice-dribbling gun-fondling religious fanatic rednecks and godless unpatriotic pierced-nose Volvo-driving France-loving leftwing Communist latte-sucking tofu-chomping holistic-waco neurotic vegan weenie perverts. (Dave Barry)

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No matter how cynical I get, it’s never enough. (Lily Tomlin)

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Lies are infinite in number while truth is small and singular.

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What did I say? I talk a LOT so I’ve learned to tune myself out.

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Like I always say, if you can’t beat ‘em, report ‘em to Homeland Security. They’ll beat ‘em up for you.

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… and if you do, I will rededicate the rest of my life to ruining yours. And if you doubt my conviction, ask around about me. I have absolutely no conscience about these things.

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Every person dies, but not every person lives.

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You’re my silent harmony.

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Music is the language of remedy.

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I want either less corruption or more opportunity to participate in it.
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I could agree with you but then we’d both be wrong.
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Committees. Just like teamwork without the work.
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That which doesn’t kill me just postpones the inevitable.
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Time heals all wounds but it usually leaves a pretty big scar.
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As long as we have each other we’ll never run out of problems

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Someone woke up on the wrong side of no one…

I bet you’re great in bed. Think of all those position you can get into without a spine.

Not since Rolf blew that whistle in the Sound of Music have I witnessed such betrayal.

I can’t speak for your father. I know too many words.

(after an insult) I’m going to find a way to sidestep another dance with you around that bitter tree.

My life is so bad that I have to take an escalator just to get up to hell.

Lick it. Put a stamp on it. And send it to someone who gives a shit.

The first person to put the “great” in front of “Britain” probably meant it as a joke.

If they could bottle you, I’d spritz some on right now.

When will I talk to her? When I can use a Ouija board.

Were you absent the day they taught “think it, don’t say it?”

From the pages of the medical journal “Duh”

I haven’t had sex in so long, I wonder if maybe they changed it.

I haven’t been the same since that house fell on my sister.

You wanna talk? Sure — you’ve got your dental records, don’t you?

Next time, instead of breaking the prozac in half…

You think I’m crazy? Well, the voices in my head disagree.

I hate you with the white hot intensity of a thousand suns

He’s so anal retentive, he couldn’t sit down for fear of sucking up the furniture.

I am an observer, not a participant, in the hellish hurricanes of others.

If you can’t be a good example, then you’ll just have to be a horrible warning.

Pack your bags — we’re going on a guilt trip.

Sex will get you through times without money better than money will get you through times without sex.

He likes things quiet. His idea of marriage is to spray WD40 on anything that squeaks.

He repeated to me something I’d said to him weeks before. That’s when I fell in love with him. I felt like I’d died and gone to the planet of men who listen.

THOSE Parents!

Some random thoughts about the parents of the 10-year-old boy with cerebral palsy who left him at a hospital the day after Christmas with his toys, medical supplies, and a note saying that they could no longer take care of him…

Although the news media reported this story with the same contempt with which they might report the acts of a serial killer, I can guarantee that there were two very different sets of reactions among viewers. For those who are not parents or those who parent “typical” kids, the reaction was one of disgust mixed with superiority (“I would NEVER do such a thing. There is no punishment bad enough for what they’ve done.”) But the reaction of most parents of children with disabilities was quite different – more along the lines of “there but fortune, go I.”

Reporters loved to emphasize the fact that Richard and Dawn Kelso live in a big house and drive luxury cars and are well-educated, the implication being that they are just rich and selfish. No one emphasized the fact that these parents were heroic in some ways. They did not kill their child or abuse him. They did not drop him off of a cliff or in a river or even on the side of the road. They took him to a hospital where he had been many times before – a place where well-trained people knew him.

Reporters interviewed sanctimonious professionals who clucked their shame at the parents and pointed out that help was available to parents who feel overwhelmed. Help? Who are they kidding? Oh sure, they have programs. They also have budget problems, shortages of trained professionals, and income guidelines that clients have to meet. Yeah, maybe if the Kelsos have known where to look, how to beg a LOT and had the money to pay for private care, they would have found that such care is really nonexistent at the end of that rainbow.

One professional, the executive director of the Pennsylvania protection and advocacy agency, who really should have known better, said, “There are a ton of services out there for parents to access that kind of thing. It is sometimes difficult and very bureaucratic to get that help, but if you keep pushing for it, you can get it.” Gosh, if only the Kelso had taken time off from bathing and feeding and diapering and ventilator clearing for their son, they could have “pushed” to get services for “that kind of thing.”

YOU try this: You take a ten year old child who is nonverbal, not toilet trained, five feet tall and completely mobile. YOU try to stay awake during her every waking moment, which is about 21 hours out of every day. YOU collapse from exhaustion and wake up to find her feces smeared all over the bedroom. YOU try to clean up the mess while she laughs hysterically. YOU clean her up while she bites and hits and kicks. YOU feed her only to find the meal all over you and the room. YOU do that. Do it for a week – a day. And YOU try to find an agency to help.

Stephen Sheridan, the executive director of the United Cerebral Palsy Association of Philadelphia said this about the Kelso case: “Caring for a disabled child is a lifelong responsibility. It’s early in the morning until late at night, every day of the week, every week of the year. If you do that morning and night every day of your life, it could be awfully draining.” Oh really? Ya don’t say.

Last year, a man in Kentucky who had been widowed shot himself and his 35 year old disabled son when the son was put on a years-long waiting list for residential placement. Should I have been shocked? I sure wasn’t.

Twenty years ago, children with severe disability were institutionalized. Now, deinstitutionalization puts the responsibility on parents. There is not enough government assistance, private agencies are short-staffed nightmares, and schools are a battleground.

The Kelsos were charged with misdemeanor child abandonment and conspiracy. If I were them, I’d stay in jail, go on a hunger strike and kick and scream until the rest of you were finally shocked enough to pay attention.

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You know in your soul that the only way to live your life is to really truly live it. Run from safety. There is no living there.

Lean into your fears. Dare them to do their worst and cut them down when they try. If you don’t, they’ll clone themselves. They’ll mushroom till they surround you, choke the road to the life you want. Every turn you fear is just empty air, dressed to look like jagged hell. Overcome fear: Behold wonder.

You are loving, warm, witty, resourceful, kind, inquisitive, sensual, intelligent, creative, calm, many-faceted, free, open, outgoing, responsive, scintillating, practical, delightful, beautiful, positive, talented, articulate, orderly, insightful, mysterious, curious, lighthearted, unpredictable, powerful, determined, adventurous, earnest, sincere, unafraid and wise.

Sometimes you think you are odd and different and you feel like an outsider, but that was before you met your family. Home is the known and the loved. What you truly know and deeply love, that is home. Home is a certain order that’s dear to us, where it’s safe to be who you are. For all of us, this ritual tonight is home.

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Choose your life. Ask for change. Ask what you love. find it. Hurl yourself into the world that matters most to you. Fight the dragons that you think can eat you up. Inch yourself out on the cliffsides, clinging by the tips of your skill a thousand feet over destruction. You can do it because you life is there and you have to bring it home from terror. choice. Choose what you love and chase it at top speed.

You don’t have to work to put yourself into the worst possible situation you can imagine. Whenever you forget your magick, that happens by itself. the tools you can use to help you out of any place you don’t want to be and into anyplace you do want to be — choice and change. Use these tools without fear.

Your security comes from you. Not from any other person. You are responsible. Security is a by-product of the gift you give of your skill and your learning and your love into the world. Security comes from an idea given time and care.

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We all know the shape of the earth. But the shape of society is a different thing altogether. Society is shaped like a pyramid. At the bottom of the pyramid is the lowest life-form you can imagine, hateful, vicious, destroying for destruction’s sake, no empathy, one step above consciousness, so savage it self-destructs the instant it’s born. At the top is consciousness so refined it barely recognizes anything but light. Beings who live for their loves, for their highest right, creatures of perfect perspective, who die with a loving smile upon whatever monster would strike them down for the fun of watching someone die.

Life does not require us to be consistent, cruel, patient, helpful, angry, rational, thoughtless, loving, rash, open-minded, neurotic, careful, rigid, tolerant, wasteful, rich, downtrodden, gentle, sick, considerate, funny, stupid, healthy, greedy, beautiful, lazy, responsive, foolish, sharing, pressured, intimate, hedonistic, industrious, manipulative, insightful, capricious, wise, selfish, kind or sacrificed. Life does, however, require us to live with the consequences of our choices.

When we put up with any situation that we don’t have to put up with, it’s not because we’re dumb. We put up with it because we want the lesson that only that situation can teach, and we want it more than freedom itself.

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There is no such thing as good and evil. There is only happy and unhappy. It is completely subjective.

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Perspective — use it or lose it. Don’t forget that what is going on around you is not reality.

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Take your dying with some seriousness. Laughing on the way to your execution is not generally understood by less-advanced life-forms, and they’ll call you crazy.

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You teach best what you most need to learn.

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Live never to be ashamed if anything you do or say is published around the world. Even if what is published is not true.

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Your friends will know you better in the first minute you meet than your acquaintances will know you in a thousand years.

The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life. Rarely do members of the same family grow up under the same roof.

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You are never given a wish without also being given the power to make it come true. You may have to work at it, though.

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Every person, all the events in your life, are there because you have drawn then there. What you choose to do with them is up to you.

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Don’t be dismayed at good-byes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends.

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The mark of your ignorance is the depth of your belief in injustice and tragedy. What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.

— Richard Bach

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is my heart half full of the love you gave me? Or is it half empty because your love is gone?

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Lay your troubles on my shoulder. Put your worries in my pocket. Rest your love on me awhile.

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I can always dress to kill, but honestly, this is gonna be mass murder.

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Some things are meant to be and one of them is you and me.

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Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in — forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and sincerely, and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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The moment I tell you about a problem, its half solved.

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Conjuring balance is not a simple matter until you realize that balance already exists — you simply have to tap into it.

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After a while you learn the subtle difference between holding a hand and chaining soul

And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaving and company doesn’t always mean security

And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts and presents aren’t promises

And you begin to accept you defeats with your head up and you eyes ahead

With the grace of a woman and not the grief of a child

And you learn to build all your roads on today

Because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans

And futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight

After awhile you learn that even sunshine burns if you get too much.

So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul

Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.

And you learn that you really can endures, that you really are strong, and you really do have worth

And you learn and you learn. With every goodbye, you learn.

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What do we say to death?

Not today. Not today.

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And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom

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Live with intention.

Walk to the edge.

Listen hard.

Practice wellness.

play with abandon.

laugh

Choose with no regret

Continue to learn

Appreciate your friends

Do what you love

Live as if this is all there is

If nothing else good had happened in my life except loving you, that would have been enough.

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The idea is to write so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and straight to the heart. — Maya Angelou

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Take your heart. Fit it into a letter as best you can and send it to a friend to fill up their home with love.

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What wound did ever heal but by degree?

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How old would we be if we didn’t know our age?

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I see the world I’ve known flying past me and I just say — drive faster.

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I will come back as a little breeze. You will feel me on your face and you will know that I’m still listening. So you can still talk to me.

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This is from me to you. If we have to grow old, let’s do it together.

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From: the woman who told you how great you’d be at this age.

To: the woman who proved me right

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This can be such a great gift that you shiver inside at the taking of it.

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Next to love, the most sacred gift a person can give is her labor.

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When you’re given a brilliant child, you polish her and let her shine.

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I want you to have this in appreciation of all of the strength you have given me.

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Our house seems to breathe, to wipe its hands on its apron and welcome you in, inquiring immediately as to your spiritual well-being.

The Me Inside of Me Inside of Me Inside of Me

What do you call those little dolls that nest inside of one another, getting smaller and smaller and smaller with each one that’s opened?   Matryoshka?

I remember when I was just a little girl and I could not wait to grow up. I wanted to have all the privileges of my older brothers and I wanted to look like my mother. I would gaze longingly at her Estee Lauder cosmetics, anticipating the wonderful day when I would be able to brighten my lips and cheeks and darken my eyes. I would look into the mirror, envisioning what I would look like when I would be a teenager.

I remember starting junior high and spending every penny I had on make-up at the Newberry’s cosmetics counter. Who could afford Estee Lauder on a five dollar a month allowance? Besides, that was for my mother’s generation. I was now a girl of the 60s. Liquid eyeliner was applied thickly to look like Cher. False eyelashes were a must to look like Twiggy. I may have dreamed of red lipstick when I was child, but the lip color fashion now was all about chalky, light colors – twilight pink, egyptian white, blushing peach. I spent hours in front of the mirror, carefully applying the precious makeup that I was sure would transform me from ordinary kid to super model. Once so proud of my curly, wavy hair – I now had to iron it every morning to achieve the mandatory straight look. I even tried using a chemical straightener, but I didn’t rinse it out thoroughly enough. It literally fried the ends of my hair and my mother, in one of her finest mothering hours, let me stay home from school and made an emergency appointment for me at the hairdresser. She had to cut off about 3 inches of my hair and, even so, it still looked longer than it ever had because it was unbelievably straight.

High school held new challenges as I really began to learn about being a woman. That meant, of course, not only learning about make-up techniques, but learning how to cook, sew, and type, too. A woman could go far in the world with those skills. I had the typical hardships of high school. Too many pounds to suit me since Twiggy was still the standard. Too many zits to suit me, even though my complexion never gave me a huge amount of trouble. Too many bad hair days, since these were the days before blow dryers, laminates, mousses, and gels. But lots of friends – both guys and girls. Lots of tears, but lots of laughter, too. Hours in front of the mirror were spent analyzing and criticizing every pore of my face. Great detail was taken to make sure I had plenty of make-up on, but that I never looked made up. Still looking ahead, though – anxious to be an adult.

And then I was. Twenty years old and never more beautiful. And I felt beautiful. When I was younger, looking in the mirror, I was always hoping to see someone else in there. But at 20, when I caught site of my reflection in a mirror, I would smile both outwardly and inwardly. Pleased with myself. My body was ripe and smooth. My long blond hair had learned to obey me when I was armed with electric curlers. My face was unblemished and unwrinkled. I was happy to see my reflection. Happy to be me.

Now when I, at age fifty, look in the mirror, an entirely different person appears. I see a woman who, when her hair shows roots, has lots of gray there. A woman who has lines around her mouth and too much skin above her eyes. Her chin is a little soft at the edges. Her body is rounder, but try as she might, she cannot bring herself to think of it as voluptuous.   She doesn’t look all that bad for her age. I do what I can to make her look better. I avoid fluorescent lights and opt for candles when I can. I send her to her EFX machine every morning without fail. I make her lift weights. I don’t let her eat meat, or eat too much of anything. Except chocolate, of course. And I am forever telling her to stand up straight.

The woman is me. She is also not me. She is like the nesting dolls with all of the earlier me’s inside and fitted into one another. Sometimes I see the little girl playing hopscotch. Other times I catch a glimpse of the teenager dressing up for a special date. Still other times, I see the beautiful bride slipping a blue garter over a pretty leg. Sometimes I see the young mother playing and laughing with her little children.

I know that all these selves are still inside of me. Yet the rest of the world sees me only as a middle-aged woman, someone who probably remembers Woodstock even if she wasn’t there (I do and I wasn’t), who thinks earrings look better on ears than eyebrows or tongues (of course), who never did drugs (I used to, actually, but now I find I can get the same effect by standing up really fast), and who doesn’t really know P. Diddy from Puff Daddy (if those are even two different people).

Sometimes I want to say to the tired young mom pushing a stroller down the street – Hey, even though I could be your mother, I’m you, too. I know how it feels to be wiped out, to wonder how I’ll survive until naptime, to wish I could pass off the responsibility just long enough to go shopping without a diaper and baby wipes in my purse.

I want to say to the girl shopping in the mall – Hey, I know I look old and out of shape, but I know how it feels to want to be popular without knowing exactly how to achieve that, to have a crush on a boy who has a crush on your friend, to be certain that your life would be over if anyone knew how you really felt inside.

I want to say to the girl walking to school with the pink backpack – Hey, I’m not just an old lady with sagging jowls. I’m a girl like you. I know what it’s like to want people to think I’m 11 or maybe even 12 instead of just 10.

Sometimes I stand in front of the mirror and I see so much more than my reflection. No doubt it would be mature to say that I wouldn’t want to be young again. Once was enough. That’s what most of my friends say. Not me. If I could turn back the body clock, I would. But life is too full to spend time wishing for what I can’t have. Even if no one else can see it, I’m enjoying being a little girl, a young mother, and a fifty-year-old lawyer and at least a dozen other people rolled all into one.

Some of my favorite words from one of my favorite writers, Nora Ephron:

On Aging 

I’m old. I am 69 years old. I’m not really old, of course. Really old is 80. But if you are young, you would definitely think that I’m old. No one actually likes to admit that they’re old. The most they will cop to is that they’re older. Or oldish. In these days of physical fitness, hair dye, and plastic surgery, you can live much of your life without feeling or even looking old. But then one day, your knee goes, or your shoulder, or your back, or your hip. Your hot flushes come to an end; things droop. Spots appear. Your cleavage looks like a peach pit. If your elbows faced ­forward, you would kill yourself. You’re two inches shorter than you used to be. You’re ten pounds fatter and you ­cannot lose a pound of it to save your soul.

Your hands don’t work as well as they once did and you can’t open ­bottles, jars, wrappers. If you were stranded on a desert island and your food were sealed in plastic packaging, you would starve. You take so many pills in the morning you don’t have room for breakfast. Meanwhile, there is a new conversation, about CAT scans and MRIs. Everywhere you look there’s cancer. Once a week there’s some sort of bad news. Once a month there’s a funeral. You lose close friends and discover one of the worst truths of old age: they’re irreplaceable. People who run four miles a day and eat only nuts and berries drop dead. People who drink a quart of whiskey and smoke two packs of cigarettes a day drop dead. You are suddenly in a lottery, the ultimate game of chance, and someday your luck will run out.

Everybody dies. There’s nothing you can do about it. Whether or not you eat six almonds a day. Whether or not you believe in God. (Although there’s no question a belief in God would come in handy. It would be great to think there’s a plan, and that everything happens for a reason. I don’t happen to believe that. And every time one of my friends says to me, ‘Everything happens for a ­reason,’ I would like to smack her.)

At some point I will be not just old, older, or oldish — I will be really old. I will be actively impaired by age: something will make it impossible for me to read, or speak, or hear what’s being said, or eat what I want, or walk around the block. My memory, which I can still make jokes about, will be so dim that I will have to pretend I know what’s going on. The realization that I may have only a few good years remaining has hit me with real force, and I have done a lot of thinking as a result. I would like to have come up with something ­profound, but I haven’t.  I try to figure out what I really want to do every day, I try to say to myself, ‘If this is one of the last days of my life, am I doing exactly what I want to be doing?’

I aim low. My idea of a perfect day is a frozen custard and a walk in the park. My idea of a perfect night is a good play and dinner at my favourite restaurant. (But no garlic, or I won’t be able to sleep.)

 

On Not Recognizing People

Old friends? We must be. You’re delighted to see me. I’m delighted to see you.

But who are you? Oh, my God, you’re Ellen. I can’t believe it. Ellen.

‘Ellen! How are you? It’s been — how long has it been?’

I’d like to suggest that the reason I didn’t recognise you right off the bat is that you’ve done something to your hair, but you’ve done nothing to your hair, nothing that would excuse my not recognising you. What you’ve actually done is gotten older.

I don’t believe it. You used to be my age, and now you’re much, much, much older than I am. You could be my mother.

Unless, of course, I look as old as you and I don’t know it. Which is not possible. Or is it?

I’m looking around the room and I notice that everyone in it looks like someone — and when I try to figure out exactly who that someone is, it turns out to be a former version of herself, a thinner version or a healthier version or a pre-plastic-surgery version or a taller version.

If this is true of everyone, it must be true of me. Mustn’t it?

But never mind: you are speaking. ‘Maggie,’ you say, ‘it’s been so long.’

‘I’m not Maggie,’ I say.

‘Oh, my God,’ you say, ‘It’s you. I didn’t recognise you. You’ve done something to your hair.’