Category Archives: Uncategorized


As my son’s Aunt prepares to die, the earth prepares to come to life.
That’s the way things are, an endless dance of celebration and mourning.  We are reminded that we live as others are dying.  We are reminded that everything comes back somehow.  These are not the same buds, not the same flowers that I saw last year.  They are different, born of the same branches, or new branches, but born and born again.
2015-03-01 04-01-15 Flowers 001

2015-03-01 04-01-15 Flowers 038

2015-03-01 04-01-15 Flowers 031


Cutoff, life, death, and meaning

So – fair warning, this is going to be an intense and personal blog post.
“Cut off” is a term used by counselors, mostly in terms of a genogram, or a sort of family tree of relations.  It means there has been a falling out so intense that family members cut off other family members, and no long see them or speak to them.

I have my fair share of cut offs.  Not all of them were intentional, and certainly on my part, I wished they could be different.  Anyone who knows me well, knows that once I love you, it’s nearly impossible to shake me.  That doesn’t appear to work both ways – I have been shaken off by family and friends, and for the most part, it’s been either okay, or actually beneficial.  In other cases, it’s been senseless and hurtful.  The cut off about which I am writing is of the latter variety.  First, some background.

My mother’s first children are 20 years older than myself, a different father, a different era.  We are the bookends of the “Baby Boom”.  Throughout my childhood, we got together for holidays.  The rest of the time I was uninteresting, or possibly some sort of threat to them and their inheritance, or what in our family really amounted to a payoff for dealing with our mother.

Our mother on a good day was just an extreme narcissist.  On a bad day, she was drunk.  By drunk, I mean she had downed a large jug of vodka by herself, usually mixed with milk over ice.  I can only speak to my own experience.  Those times she was drunk, if she was with a friend, she was mostly harmless aside from telling humiliating stories about her children.  If she was alone, which was most of the time, she was abusive.  I was sat upon, I had suit cases thrown on me, I was yanked from my bed, and more than once woke up to her tearing my room apart, literally like in the movie Mommy Dearest, so she could “clean” it at 2am.  My eldest sister once told me (in a neener neener kind of way) that Mother had been much worse when raising her because she was younger and more energetic.  (Should you find my blog, Val, I want to thank you for your complete lack of empathy.  It makes it much easier to forget you ever existed, most of the time.)

The bottom line, and the history part of this entry, is that I am cut off from those siblings.  When I was 5 and they were 25, they were not there to protect me, much less educate me or teach me how to protect myself.  When I was ten, and terrorized at the sight of a liquor store delivery to the back door, they had moved across the country.  There were no phone calls, no attempts at a relationship with me.

When I was 20, I went to live with my sister for a summer, thinking (because my mother had told me so) that I could help my sister by babysitting her kids so she could go out on dates.  Instead, as I was watching an afternoon thunderstorm roll through, she came up behind me to ask, “Why did you come out here anyway?”  The answer was “To have a relationship with my siblings,” but aloud I said, “I don’t know.”  I kept my back turned so she couldn’t see me crying.

I worked for my brother that summer, and saw him only 2-3 times, and only at work.  The summer I turned 21, I decided that if I didn’t hear from him on my birthday (3 weeks before his) I would stop reaching out to him.  I got roses 3 days later, because our mother had reminded him.

I get they were wounded people too, I do.  But I was a child.

So those are cutoffs that are real.  They are cut offs that happened because I couldn’t create relationship as a child, when I didn’t understand why my family didn’t seem to care about me.  I couldn’t create relationship as an adult either, because they simply didn’t want to make the effort.

Oddly, my mother kept relationships others wanted her to cut off.  My sister’s first husband was in my life until he died.  (Though my Mother didn’t tell me when he died, so I couldn’t make arrangements to be at his funeral.  Some cutoffs she orchestrated.)  His fiancé stayed in my mother’s life for a decade until my mother died.  My siblings thought this was awful.

I’ve had friends cut me off for perceived slights – my friend who thought I was neglectful when she never told me she was hurting in any way until the 6 page letter of cutoff was hung on the handle of my front door.  My alcoholic best friend who assaulted me when we were both drunk has been cutoff and returned multiple times.

Those who really know me, those who have relationship with me, they know that decades can pass, and they are stuck with me.  I don’t initiate cutoff unless you deeply profoundly hurt me.

I’m writing this now, because my former brother-in-law’s wife is dying of cancer.  I wouldn’t be writing if there wasn’t a cut off there.  When I got divorced from my abusive first husband, I tried to maintain relationships with the people who had been my nieces and nephews, my brother-in-law and his wife.  There is no name for that relationship – she wasn’t my sister-in-law.  So at one point we decided to just call it sisters, and let that be good.  After the divorce, the ex threw a fit when I attended a graduation party and had me leave.  That was that.  The abusive addict had his way, and I was cut off from the family that had been mine for 15 years.

That family kept relationships with my sons.  When I looked back, it was clear that they had never been in relationship with me. When I sought help, when I pointed out bruising and broken furniture, they ignored me.  They never tried to reach out to me or to him, no one tried to offer real help.  When I stood up for myself and my small children, I was the bad guy.  I was the “monster who destroyed the universe”.

Now the woman who was no relation, but was family for 15 years, is dying.

I cannot say good bye to her, I cannot offer comfort to her kids or her husband.  I cannot offer to drive her Mother to her.  I cannot go vacuum her house or make food to fill the freezer or do any of the things I would do for a family in this situation.  I’m cutoff.

Cutoff not because I hurt anyone directly.  Cutoff not because they hurt me directly.  Cutoff because an abusive man controls the people around him, and destroys relationships.  Cutoff because he learned that from his parents, who cutoff his aunts and uncles over silliness.  Cutoff because people don’t know how to live in genuine, meaningful relationship with one another.

I want to teach this to my children – meaning and genuineness.  Their father has caused them to shut down that loving meaningful part of themselves in favor of defensiveness and perceived protection.  But no one is protected who is alone and who cannot be genuine.

Strength comes from vulnerability and connection.

When I chose to say “I don’t know,” while my back remained turned, that was protective.  Would anything have been different had I faced my sister and said, “Because I want relationship with my family”?  I don’t know.  I doubt it now as I doubted it then.  I have years of betrayal and mocking from her and her family as evidence that vulnerability would have been another way to tease me.  I’m probably right, but it could have been a turning point as well.  I’ll never know, I didn’t make that step because there was nowhere to go it she had shut me down then and there.  I wasn’t ready to be cutoff yet.

This dying woman, she didn’t value vulnerability either.  She valued controlled simplicity.  If anyone didn’t like the way she did things, they were welcome to leave, and she made that abundantly clear at every opportunity.  She didn’t want help when she was diagnosed.  She didn’t want to be seen as anything but the hard shiny surface that she was.  She didn’t want meaning, she wanted tasks done on time, and without argument.  She didn’t want relationship, she wanted obedience.

And so, I will obey to the best of my ability.  I do want relationship.  I do want meaning.  I want to experience life in all its glorious sloppiness.  I did send iced tea, sandwiches and muffins down with my sons last night when they went to say good-bye to their beloved Aunt who made quilts and tacos for them.  I sent food for the living.  I sent instructions for the boys to make sure their Uncle ate something at some point.  I sent love for the living.  Love exists whether there is cutoff or not.  My former sister and her family can make of that whatever meaning suits them.


Who is at the core of one’s self?

Who am I, really?

I am a mother, a really piss-poor sister, a pretty awesome wife, a decent friend, a professional in training, a biker, a bicyclist, a runner in training, a young woman, a member of AARP, a daughter in law, an orphan, a fangirl, a lazy couch potato, a survivor, a hippy, a Jew, an activist, a scientist, a researcher, a student, a writer, a photographer … in no particular order.  The order changes depending on circumstance, setting, day, mood, necessity.  Does that make me inauthentic?

Today I am more or less in sloth mode.  I may bake cookies later – I’m trying to figure out the chemistry of flour and butter and so far I am failing.

Yesterday, I was in biker garb at a motorcycle rally.  While I am normally a kind and perhaps overly polite person, in my patch covered leather vest I am a Biker Bitch who enjoys it when people cross the road to avoid me.  It’s almost like Halloween.  When I am dressed that way, in boots and leather, I am authentically that person.  I have Sturgis patches that are growing up the back, year after year, I have badges of honor showing where I have ridden, I have proclamations of unforgiving womanhood, and patches proudly announcing my daughter is a US Marine.
Motorcycle August 2014 087 Motorcycle August 2014 088

These are not things I would wear to a company picnic or to Thanksgiving dinner at the home of my sister-in-law.

Likewise, I would not wear a frilly dress to Bike Week.

And I don’t go hiking in evening gowns.

Yet whether I am wearing leathers that make people cross the street, or am in shorts and a tank top weeding my garden, I am always still myself.  I am always the authentic me.  What is on the outside is just a display of a different aspect of that self.  I am still a photographer and a writer and a mother when I am a biker.  I am still a wife and a student and a professional when I am baking cookies or Challah bread.  I may be more extreme in who I am at various times than a lot of people, but we all do this.  Every one of us.  Even you.  Think about it.

DeTox – Day whatever … Back to school

Back to school for the kid and back to school for me.  Last night I packed his lunch, the hubby’s lunch, my lunch.  Stuck them in the refrigerator.  This morning, I put the kid’s lunch at his place on the table.  Finished up hubby’s lunch and did the same.  Made some breakfast for us; bacon and eggs for the kid, bacon and toast for the hubby, toast for myself.  Had a fight with the teenrager because I dared offer him a drink.  Sent everyone off, sent myself off …

First day was great – started with that argument with the kid, followed by thinking I was running late for my first class.  Turned out I was an hour early.  Which was fine, because I’d forgotten to print out a parking pass.  And that would have been okay, except that all of the print labs were still closed.

They finally opened and I got that done, ran the temporary permit out to my car, met a friend and headed up to class.

It’s a small class and I’m not going to discuss it here.  But I am happy with it for the most part.

Half way through class I realized that my lunch was still at home in the fridge.  Three quarters of the way through class, my stomach made a growl that could be heard in every corner of the room.

This blog may suffer some in the next week.  And then I will switch to one post a week.

Right now though, homework!

DeTox – Day … oh who am I kidding?

There is no longer a detox.  I’m just not Facebooking as much as I was.  And there is so much to write about.  Today might be a two- parter.  

Let’s start with the post I never got to finish:  My Cat is a Mass Murderer.

She’s an indoor cat, she’s technically not allowed outside.  But the dogs let her out in the evenings.  They may be trying to get her eaten by an owl or possibly they have made a deal with a pack of coyotes.  Perhaps she’s just running between their paws.  Maybe she plans to split the catch with them.  No matter how she does it, she gets out.

And then she hunts.

When she was a young barn kitten, before we brought her in, she was a terrible hunter.  I, myself, witnessed mice outsmarting her.  In middle age, she’s suddenly become Queen of the … um… pasture.  

At first we thought the mice were getting in the house and she was catching them.  Then we realized that she was bringing the mice in and letting them go so she could refine her skills indoors.  (A previous blog post recounts how, as a result of this game, I had to refine my mouse catching skills as well.)  So far her count has been about 3 indoors, and perhaps 4-5 outside left on the stoop outside the dog door.

Maybe she’s trying to intimidate the dogs?  “I am a mighty huntress!  Look out or you’re next!”

She eats them just as BKliban describes.  We only ever have to clean up the back half of mousies.  She bites their heads off and then I don’t know what she does.  We haven’t found a secret cache of tiny mouse skulls anywhere.


I would prefer a pacifist cat.  One that simply watches wildlife out the window as she contorts herself into implausible grooming positions.  One that is content with kitty kibble in her bowl and a soft kitty bed near the fireplace.  Living with a mass murderer who likes to sleep on your head at night is a little disconcerting.

DeTox – Day 16 The Long Term Plan and a Poll

This Facebook cold turkey thing has been a big failure … I cheat a lot.

It’s also been a success … I don’t post nearly as much as I used to post.

And it’s been a little bit of a heart break, to see so few people follow me over here.

I suspect that’s not all personal.

I suspect the world we live in is a busy, frantic, information filled, exceptionally exhausting one presently.  We have politics to consider, jobs to secure, families to feed, homework to do, scripts to write, marathons to run, dogs to walk, cats to herd, motorcycles to ride, music to play, movies to watch, games to enjoy, novels to outline, life to live.

I never planned for this blog to be daily forever.  I simply don’t have time for that.  School starts soon, I’ve ordered some books, and I have a ton of reading and writing about to land on my desk.  I will start seeing clients within a month.  I need my headspace clear to focus on them and their needs.

I do plan on blogging forever though.  Probably once a week.  I want to sharpen my writing skills again, and 2 line Facebook posts just don’t do that in a meaningful way.  I also may try a video blog now and again – If I can get my office cleaned and arrange some decent lighting.  It won’t be a themed blog.  It will be more of the Capturing, Cooking, and Creating I’ve been doing this past couple of weeks.  I love photography.  Cooking has it’s moments.  And life is Creation.

Is there anything you would like to see here?  More photos?  More politics?  Vegetarian recipes?  Weight loss/exercise information?  Feminism?  Sex?  Drugs?  Rock and roll?

Let me know!

DeTox – Day 15 Wanna Talk About Me, Wanna Talk about I …

Maybe this is a pet peeve … but there are some people in the world, who when I … well, when I used to turn to them as friends, as someone to vent to or sort through a problem … those people make it all about them.

For example:
“Oh, man … I had such a rough day!  My alarm didn’t go off and then I get a flat tire, and then the boss yelled at me for being late to work.”
“Wow.  When I got a flat tire, it was at night – and there were no street lights.  I was on this back road in the middle of the night and I kept hearing strange sounds and it was so scary.  So I tried to call a friend to come help me and bring a flashlight and the phone wouldn’t connect!  And then it started to drizzle.  Don’t you hate drizzle?  It’s not actually rain, so it seems stupid to get out an umbrella, but you’re still getting wet, and you’re like, seriously?  Rain or don’t rain, but I don’t like being damp.  Being damp really sucks …: and so on.

By the end of it I feel:
– invalidated
– invisible
– unimportant
– like I wish I’d never contacted that particular person.

What I needed was:
– to be heard
– to be loved
– to feel like I exist
– to feel like I matter to someone

I’m guessing I’m not alone.  I’m a human, and 50 years of experience tells me that most of us share these moments and feelings and needs.

I may get to the point wherein I can listen to the other person’s story, but when I call, I am hoping to be heard first.  When someone calls me, I listen first.  Talk later.  

Usually, this negative exchange is a signal: it’s the beginning of the end of the friendship.  Depending on history, it may be the end of a long trial period.  I may have been gauging my trust for this person, taking note of when the person is there for me, and when they ignore me.  Quantitative measurement.  I called him or her 3 times, s/he called back once.  I wrote 15 times, s/he did not respond at all.  

Most of my life I gave unlimited trust.  I believed the other person would make up for this somewhere down the road.  This never happened with anyone.  Those who only want to talk about themselves, only want to talk about themselves forever.

This is the best way that I’ve found to protect myself.  Quantitative communication measurement over a limited time.  A lack of genuine reciprocation tells me it’s time to look elsewhere for quality relationships.

What does trust mean to you?