Night Vision

October 6, 2011

There are times, when darkness is all there is. When I hold my weary hand up in front of my face, there is nothing there…no light, no hope, no relief. I panic. I want there to be light. I want an answer, a reprieve, a savior. I hate the feeling of being immobilized and stopped. I have stuff to do, things to get accomplished, people to serve and lives to save. I cannot afford to waste my time in the dark, accomplishing nothing. And yet…there it is. It wraps around me like thick fog on a San Francisco morning. No matter how hard I strain to see through it, nothing changes….

So I have no choice but to give in, surrender to the stillness of it all. Waiting for light, knowing I cannot hurry it. Do I feel helpless? Yes! Then I start to feel acceptance; really what else is there when you cannot change what is.  I cannot force the sun to come up it does what it does of it’s own accord. I must wait. While I am waiting, can I rest? Can I rest enough to gather energy for what is ahead? Certain animals hypernate…maybe that’s what this is. Maybe allowing for this time of inactivity I am insuring my strength for what surely is to come. My willingness to sit in the dark is my offering to the light that is inevitable.

 

 

 

 

 

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Tempest

September 6, 2011

Your breath flows through me

breaking every bone,

ending every sentence…

I’m falling up now, as through water.

Head, then shoulders

collar bones filled with sand;

Tiny stones splitting my skin.

and I’m sinking

sinking, sinking upward.

What a perfect manner in which to stow away an epic;

deep into a dusty corner on your lowest shelf,

along with all your classics.

The sea echoes in my chest

slow, undulating waves wash away the land.

Somewhere in the lazy, hazy days of summer

my ‘self’ slipped from me.

It was replaced with the callouses on your hands

with your humming in the shower,

your furrowed brow reading the morning news;

your favorite ice cream, your fears, your sleep talking

you, you, you.

and gone, myself, whom I’ve traded to have you

http://katevanraden.wordpress.com/


(i just read in a newspaper that a woman adopted a baby – a beautiful little girl – and then a few months later, decided that she wanted to ‘return’ the child. i wrote this blog many, many, many months ago, but felt it appropriate to share it again. ken would rather i didn’t ’share’ it again, so we flipped a coin. HEADS, i won, TAIL between his legs. Welcome to Amy-land!)


It was sort of like an impulse buy. There was a two-week period when I was feeling this overwhelming need to fill a huge void in my life. I wasn’t quite sure what the void in fact was, I just knew that something – something – had to fill it. I remember that morning as if it were yesterday. Ken was reading the newspaper, drinking his hot and steamy cup of coffee, I was deciding on whether to wear the black short sleeve tee-shirt with slacks, or the white short sleeve tee-shirt with slacks. I chose the white. I walked out onto our porch, where Ken seemed so calm and peaceful and I stood there with my hands ever so firmly planted on my hips and said – or rather announced with great determination – yes, I’ve decided, I want to foster a child. Ken nodded, continued reading the Sports page and as he sipped his coffee, caught a glimpse of me over the rim of the cup. “Seriously, Ken, I want to be a mother.” This, a conversation, continuing from the night before.

Let me back track for just a moment. When Ken and I met there were two things that Ken never, ever wanted to do again: one, was get married, and two, was have a child. He had done both, and that was quite enough for him. I too felt when I first met Ken that marriage was a very iffy commitment. I mean, why? So that when you divorce, all the shit that was yours to begin with now has to get tossed into a legal heap and maybe you won’t get the CD’s and the few pieces of furniture you brought to the party to begin with. But a few months after our first date, along with the “I’m never getting married again,” lecture, we found ourselves picking out wedding rings and meeting with Unitarian ministers. We chose both within a week. Okay back to the foster children…

I had this urge, not necessarily to give birth, but to fill what felt like a unyielding emptiness. I am not, I repeat not, a nurturing kind of woman. But there was this need, this urge, this flu like symptom that didn’t seem to go away. I thought maybe instead of adopting a child, we could, for lack of better words, rent one. See if it works. I had heard both very good and very awful stories about foster care, and fostering children. I knew a couple who had brought a foster child into their home and two weeks later felt they were being tortured emotionally. I have friends who had huge success at fostering a child, ending up adopting the little girl, and another one whose child turned out to be the devil doll. But I understood that these children needed to be loved. They needed to be cared for, their place in the world was so fragile, so tentative, so scary.

And I, obviously, had an urge.

I stood there and waited for Ken to give me his blessing. “Sure, fine, you wanna do this, go check it out.” “Wanna come with me?” “Nah. I’m gonna watch football.” Ken thought, right or wrong, that it was like going to the Bide-a-wee, or the Humane Society. This isn’t something Ken cares to do, even though he is a very altruistic kind loving man. I was going to go the Children’s Aid Center and discuss the possibility of he and I becoming Foster Parents and while highly unlikely maybe come home with a happy loving child who Ken could garden with. Or at the very least, watch football with. I am such an optimistic fool.

I go to the Children’s Aid office in our very small town. I am greeted with both a lack of enthusiasm, and much paperwork. Reams and reams of paperwork. I fill out most, call Ken twice (for his social security number which I couldn’t for the life of me remember, along with some financial information) and then I’m Ied to a small empty room with a scattering of very old magazines. I for one believe any and all public spaces should keep up to date magazines. This is a cause I will champion in the future. Nothing worse than old, old news.

A young woman comes into the office. She reminds me of an Amish woman, or a Mormon, wearing a long floral schmata and a very, very bad haircut. It looked like a very, very bad helmet. She says nothing, but gestures for me to follow her. As I walk out of the room with her, I casually mention that they oughta get some up to date magazines.

As an aside, in one of our continual (I am pushy) conversations both that morning, and the night before, Ken tells me that – if in fact I actually go through with this – he would prefer a boy, if in fact there’s a choice, and a boy who can garden, weed, since it’s summertime and if in fact we are going to foster a child for two, three, four weeks than I should take into consideration that it would be great for Ken to have a weeding partner slash buddy. I, of course, would love a girl to go shopping with and go to nail salons with and someone to talk to about Ken’s – her foster father – weeding issues.

I am now led to another room where the Mormon slash Amish woman has a desk. I sit across from her and I look around the room for signs, clues of a life, her life. I see not a photo, or a calendar, or any sign of life, period. In the corner on the radiator what appears to be a dead plant. But, I convince myself, that could happen to anyone. Not everyone has a green thumb.

She pulls out what appears to be a thick binder. She slides it across the desk and motions for me to open it. I am now beginning to think that maybe she is mute, since not a word was spoken. Perhaps I should move my lips very slowly when talking to her so she can read my lips, I think, as I open the binder. There in vivid color are snapshots, photos, 8 x 10 glossies of babies, young adults, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, mentally disabled, physically challenged, older, taller, toddlers, and teenagers. Thirty, forty photos. Some take your breath away. A sparkle in the eyes, a dimple in the cheek, a turned up nose, freckles, thick curly hair, missing teeth, a lazy eye, the gorgeous skin-tone. The sadness is palpable. The joy diminished. The desperation is obvious.

Then she speaks: she tells me it’s a fairly long complicated process, could take weeks and weeks, maybe even a month or two. Yes, yes — bureaucratic bullshit paperwork – my words, not hers. She doesn’t like that I use the word bullshit, I can tell. She continues, a lot of these kids are in homes and are soon to be removed, or have to leave. I ask why. She says well it didn’t work out, there was a clash, the kids, you know, have issues. Major, major issues. The foster parents have issues. Major, major issues. Sometimes there’s no patience or tolerance. Sometimes there are altercations. But they’re getting full up and pretty soon these kids are gonna be back to square one. Her words.

I stare out the window, and think of Ken. He’s probably soaking in a tub, bubble bath and all, watching his beloved Giants, screaming at the TV set, drinking a beer, or glass of Pinot Noir, and enjoying his life completely. Not a care the world. He likes it that way.

I woke up a few days earlier wanting to have a kid, I was hormonal and lonely. Hormonal, lonely and cranky and older than the day before. Not a great combo, I want a kid!!!! Stamping my feet, I’m sure, or the equivalent. Instead of going to the Woodbury Common Outlet stores, I went to Child Services. Instead of trying on a pair of shoes, I looked through a binder of children who needed love, and a home, and a place that was safe and kind and probably, more than likely, never owned a pair of new shoes, because chances are they were all hand-me-downs. And that’s when it all came together. The words: hand-me-downs. I wasn’t making a commitment to giving them a life or a future, I was teetering on making a decision to give them a place to live for a month or two, or maybe even less. In other words, they were returnable. I felt so profoundly sad – my heart breaking. I didn’t want a child for the rest of their life, I wanted a child to take away my loneliness, my crankiness, my hormonal imbalance for a month or two. And it dawned on me in this empty lifeless office with a woman who desperately needed a good haircut and a make-over, that I was being completely and utterly selfish.

I told the Amish slash Mormon woman that I needed some time to think about all of this. I couldn’t be completely truthful with her, and tell her that I had in fact wasted her time, because that would seem even more selfish. She asked me if I wanted to bring the binder home for my husband to look at the photos. I told her, no, and she asked, “Does he like catalogues, because this is just like flipping though a catalogue.”

I stopped feeling selfish in that moment. I looked at her and said: “These kids… in this catalogue, they need love, they need care. They need shoes. They’re not pieces of clothing you pick out, thinking, well if they don’t fit, I can return them, these children on these pages in this binder were not wanted when they came into the world, they’re not returnable. You’re job is to find them a home. A loving home.”

She looked at me, her eyes already filled with sadness, fill up with tears. “I don’t like my job, it’s just I feel so empty.” she said.

We were the same woman in that moment, except I had the better haircut.

“Hey listen,” I say, “I don’t really want a kid, I want to fill a void, and I know what it’s like to feel empty. I do, but while you’re working here, at the very least, please, oh, please … when you hand the person or the couple the binder, please, tell them that the pages are filled with huge potential and an amazing opportunity to love better, love more, and if you don’t wanna do that, maybe you should quit your job and find something you love to do.”

I hit a nerve, I could tell. I hugged her good-bye, a good strong hug. I told her that she should live her life out-loud, that everyone – EVERYONE – is scared, including me, that I was very, very scared; for her to find the thing she loves to do and do it, and … although I thought it, I did not say it: please, I’m begging, go out and get a good haircut, but what I did say was please, please, get rid of the dead plant, it’s not inspiring.

And then the moment of clarity as I drove home. Absolute perfect clarity. I didn’t go there to foster a child, I went there to foster my very own spirit. To awaken to my very own life, to live more fully, to love myself better, to love better period, to stop being so selfish, and to stop thinking I have to — in this moment, right now, this very second – fill a void.

Amy Ferris:http://marryinggeorgeclooney.com/blog/

Side By Side

February 11, 2011

We have all spent hours now watching Egypt and it’s politically frustrated and determined population demand change. It is obvious that the ruling government for the past 30 years has suppressed its’ people. Freedoms are withheld, fear is a ruling strategy and democracy, as foreign a concept as women in positions of power. Hey, wait a minute. If it’s time for a change, might the Egyptian people consider giving women the same rights as men as part of their new strategy?

There are hundreds of thousands of people screaming, crying and begging for change. Right out in front, with their head scarves, tears and demands are the women of Egypt. They are standing alongside men, they are risking their lives for political freedom, they are using their voices for change.

Women in the Egyptian Protests

From PRI’s The World11 February, 2011 07:31:00

Women have a long history of activism in Egypt, and the current protests against Hosni Mubarak in Tahrir Square are no different.

This story was originally covered by PRI’s The World. For more, listen to the audio above.

By Ursula Lindsey

Ruheya is a 21-year-old university student. She’s come to Tahrir Square from the northern town of Sharqeya — a hundred miles away. Thursday she’s one of the volunteers monitoring the entrance to the Square, checking identification and searching bags to make sure no one brings in weapons.

“How many billions does he have, and we the people live in huts and don’t know how to feed ourselves?” Ruheya said. “There needs to be some balance. Not people at the very top and at the very bottom. I want to see democracy in my country, and I have to sacrifice for it. I have to be ready to die, to be arrested. I can’t sit at home and say: I want freedom.”

“There are Christian girls here, there are girls with their hair uncovered,” Ruheya said. “We’re all volunteers. We’re all Egyptians, whether we’re Christians or Muslims, whether we’re religious or not, we’re all good people. We’re all sacrificing for our country.”

“Women were at the forefront of the 1919 revolution in Egypt right before Egypt got its independence, in the struggle against the British; women were prominent at the time of the French occupation as well,” Ruheya said. “So Egyptian women have been involved in protests for many, many years this isn’t something new.”

But the authoritarian governments that have governed Egypt for the last 60 years have curtailed the autonomy of women’s organizations. Just as they have tightly controlled all freedoms of assembly and expression.

Women, like most Egyptians, have been frightened away from politics. Activists here say the government-backed thugs who attack protesters have singled out women, tearing their clothes and sexually molesting them.

Women make up more than half of Egypt’s university students. They are visible in the media and on the street; many work. But women rarely get the top posts in government or business. A woman’s highest ambition is still expected to be to establish a family.

And as conservative, religious movements have gained popularity, women have been pressured to stay at home and to act “modestly.” Many Egyptian women complain of constant harassment on the street.

She said the protests have re-affirmed a spirit of freedom and solidarity that has given women new breathing room.

“During the demonstrations, I didn’t face any kind of harassment or even someone looking at me in a strange way. I stayed till very late in the street, till 3 a.m., 4 a.m., and it was totally relaxing — not only safe,” Saber said. “And the interesting thing is that all people are focusing on just one goal and all things like religion and gender and ethnicity just disappeared.”

Women have long been told, by the government and even by opposition groups here, that their rights are a priority — but that economic reforms, or security concerns, or cultural considerations must come first.

But as they’ve so fully participated in the first mass protest movement in Egypt in a generation — women here have found that they don’t need to wait for anyone’s permission to be full citizens.

If women ruled the world, how everything would change?

According to former White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers:

“Women should rule the world.”

That was it, the answer to my frustration and growing political alienation. It seemed so simple, so obvious. Women!

If we were in charge, things might actually change. Instead of posturing, we’d have cooperation. Instead of gridlock, we’d have progress. Instead of a shouting match, we’d have a conversation. A very long conversation. But a conversation nonetheless. Everyone would just hold hands and sing “Kumbaya.”

Or would they? What would it be like if women ruled the world, I began to wonder?

Would anything really change? Would the world be a better place? My hunch was that more women in public life would, in fact, make things better.

After all, more women already have.”

If Women Ruled the World, a 2 hr.PBS Documentary 1991

“Women are beginning to assert a distinctive approach and make a real difference as they expand their presence in the professions. This distinctive approach is generally defined as being more social, civil, collaborative, and inclusive, and it’s consistent with rising educational standards and the evolution of democracy and globalization toward greater pluralism, decentralization, transparency, and accountability.”

The time for change in Egypt is NOW. The time for change for oppressed women around the world is NOW. As the brave women of Egypt use their voices and risk their lives for yet another significant step in the history of women of the world, we see you. We hear you and support your right to be heard, to be safe and to be treated with equal respect. We know, as women of a democratic society that you are fighting in memory of the women who came before you and the young women who  will follow in your footsteps. Bravo. Bravo

How do you see that our world would be different if women safely walked ALONGSIDE men?

Though I still feel like I have the unrelenting hopeful spirit of a high school graduate, my 40th reunion is just around the corner. OMG! There are pictures floating thru internet space of me looking like one of Julie Andrew’s charges in Sound of Music. I think that yellow dress was actually made out of an old curtain my grandmother was throwing away.

I rarely think of high school. When I do I break out in a cold sweat. Those were certainly the most awkward years of my life…now, why would I want to revisit them in any way, shape, or form?

I was a geek. Trust me. 6’ tall, 110 lbs. in wet pegged Levi’s and 2 lbs. of hairspray. Not one boy, not one, gave me a second look. Who could blame them. I was taller than 99% of them and I had “DESPERATE” written all over me. When I saw an opportunity to trick a brand new guy, obviously lonely and awkward himself, into coming to a party at my house, I took it.  I told him that all my friends would be there and I would love to introduce him.

When he accepted my invitation, I almost died on the spot. I had never been invited to a high school party and certainly never hosted one. I went to the one BFF I had and told her what I had done. We had 2 days to accomplish a guest list and something that resembled a pre-planned gathering.

Poor Schmuck. He arrived on time and must have thought that;  A. He was at the wrong house (hence not another car in sight),  B. The party had been canceled,  or C. He had been duped. I’m pretty sure that when he walked in to find only me, my BFF and collectively our 3 younger brothers, he knew he had been shanghaied. What high school boy doesn’t come to a party in hopes of finding a keg, cheer leaders and an atmosphere of reckless abandon.

Okay, now get this. Monopoly, with half the players pre-pubescent…not exactly a testosterone fest; my mother wearing her best apron enthusiastically serving trays of warm chocolate chips cookies… looking nothing like a cheer leader; and milk for dipping  those cookies instead of a plastic cup of ‘Bud’ from a freshly tapped keg.

He stayed anyway. The ambush was successful. I had a boyfriend!


For two years he was my EVERYTHING. I couldn’t imagine a day without him. Now 40 years later, I don’t know where he is or what he is doing.  The class of ‘71 has diminished in numbers. There are those who have passed away and those who can’t be found. There are those looking for misplaced friends and soul mates, and those recalling long forgotten memories. Countless pictures are surfacing that prove 40 years is a long, long time.

So in deliberating “to reunion or not to reunion”, the attending column would definitely have more weight if I thought  no one would notice I am in-fact the same geek only now nearly 60 and an inch shorter(can we say osteoporosis); my size 4 Levi’s have been replaced by the size 14’s, or that I look somewhat like the Shar pei Puppy version of my senior picture?

One thing 40 years has taught me is that life is short and unpredictable. There are grown-up Black Tornado’s (that’s right, my mascot!), who back then, smiled at me in the hall and made my day…who included me in note passing in Social Studies and who sometimes joined my table of fellow geeks in the cafeteria. Now that I think about it there were about 500 other kids that probably felt much like I did…uncomfortable, unsure, uneasy.

We now know not one of us existed in pure form. Those were the thoughts of teen idolatry. Each of us was a mixture of thespian, geek, quarterback and cheerleader. The high school playing field has been leveled with time…we have all experienced loss, disillusionment, victories.  Some geeks are now secure, enjoying luxury. Others, for whom we predicted easy success, are still finding their way.

It turns out we are more alike than we are different. The differences are in the details. If we can remember our commonalities while revisiting familiar faces, shared memories and dreams, we may experience our high school years influenced more by the knowing of ‘what we were’ than ‘what we were not’.

Today…right now, there is something you can do to help the victims of rape, yourself and the ones you love. Please read all the way to the bottom and sign the petition that asks our government to protect the victim, not the assailant.

DID YOU KNOW:

1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed rape; 2.8% attempted rape).1

17.7 million American women have been victims of attempted or completed rape.1

9 of every 10 rape victims were female in 2003.2

While about 80% of all victims are white, minorities are somewhat more likely to be attacked.

Lifetime rate of rape /attempted rape for women by race:1

  • All women: 17.6%
  • White women: 17.7%
  • Black women: 18.8%
  • Asian Pacific Islander women: 6.8%
  • American Indian/Alaskan women: 34.1%
  • Mixed race women: 24.4%

Men

About 3% of American men — or 1 in 33 — have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.1

  • In 2003, 1 in every ten rape victims were male.2
  • 2.78 million men in the U.S. have been victims of sexual assault or rape.1

Children

15% of sexual assault and rape victims are under age 12.3

  • 29% are age 12-17.
  • 44% are under age 18.3
  • 80% are under age 30.3
  • 12-34 are the highest risk years.
  • Girls ages 16-19 are 4 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault.

7% of girls in grades 5-8 and 12% of girls in grades 9-12 said they had been sexually abused.4

  • 3% of boys grades 5-8 and 5% of boys in grades 9-12 said they had been sexually abused.

In 1995, local child protection service agencies identified 126,000 children who were victims of either substantiated or indicated sexual abuse.5

  • Of these, 75% were girls.
  • Nearly 30% of child victims were between the age of 4 and 7.

93% of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker.6

  • 34.2% of attackers were family members.
  • 58.7% were acquaintances.
  • Only 7% of the perpetrators were strangers to the victim.

Effects of Rape

Victims of sexual assault are:7

3 times more likely to suffer from depression.

6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

13 times more likely to abuse alcohol.

26 times more likely to abuse drugs.

4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.

Pregnancies Resulting from Rape

In 2004-2005, 64,080 women were raped.8 According to medical reports, the incidence of pregnancy for one-time unprotected sexual intercourse is 5%. By applying the pregnancy rate to 64,080 women, RAINN estimates that there were 3,204 pregnancies as a result of rape during that period.

This calculation does not account for the following factors which could lower the actual number of pregnancies:
  • Rape, as defined by the NCVS, is forced sexual intercourse. Forced sexual intercourse means vaginal, oral, or anal penetration by offender(s). This category includes incidents where the penetration is from a foreign object such as a bottle. Certain types of rape under this definition cannot cause pregnancy.
  • Some victims of rape may be utilizing birth control methods, such as the pill, which will prevent pregnancy.
  • Some rapists may wear condoms in an effort to avoid DNA detection.
  • Vicims of rape may not be able to become pregnant for medical or age-related reasons.
This calculation does not account for the following factors which could raise the actual number of pregnancies:
  • Medical estimates of a 5% pregnancy rate are for one-time, unprotected sexual intercourse. Some victimizations may include multiple incidents of intercourse.
  • Because of methodology, NCVS does not measure the victimization of Americans age 12 or younger. Rapes of these young people could results in pregnancies not accounted for in RAINN’s estimates.


National Sexual Assault Hotline | 1.800.656.HOPE | Free. Confidential. 24/7.

INVISIBILITY

July 15, 2010

Friends and readers…a while back I asked women to send me the one word that best described their feelings of SELF at this mid stage of life. The most common word I received was INVISIBLE. We need to corporately change this notion. Women are nurturing, compassionate, reliable. We have an innate understanding of cooperation, grace and tolerance. The world is dying for the very essence of what it means to be a woman. A dear friend and amazing talent sent me the following. Prepare to be inspired.

Cloak and Dagger
Invisibility? Everyone has felt invisible or wished to be invisible, for one reason or another. Perhaps they are insecure, or feeling particularly vulnerable during a period of time and want to disappear. These are not reasons I would wish to be invisible.

I never felt unheard, or ignored. I’ve always had a roar inside me, and I’ve not been afraid to make it known. During my current mid-life experience, I often have moments which I believe are true epiphanies – moments when I really ‘get it.’ People tend to  over complicate  issues, relationships and our life experiences instead of just ‘being.’ I always remember my French lessons, and the term ‘être’ – the most important verb, meaning “to be.”

My desire for invisibility stems from interactions I have with people that just don’t get it. I feel frustration about trivialities that are made into huge issues. No point. I prefer to detach myself from this, and just observe. Really, more often than not, I would rather simply read a book, or write in a journal, if given a choice.

Life is fleeting, and every moment must count. Effort is often needed; sometimes there are big things that must be attended to and handled with care and concern. Real issues. It is the nonsense that is overwhelming, and the fact that one’s insight may often be totally disregarded. Hindsight is twenty-twenty, and it doesn’t matter if you are 16, 25, 46, 60 or 80 years old. The true tragedy is that life passes so quickly, and time is so intangible. In the world we live in, everything is intangible.

It’s easier to email than to pick up a telephone or visit someone; digital pictures can be lost forever with a computer malfunction. Entertainment has morphed into reality TV – essentially spying on someone’s false life – talent is ignored, people no longer need to create. Music is played on guitar hero, rather than with a guitar in hand and working out a tune.

My solution to this madness is to become invisible to the falseness to which we are now conditioned, to march truly to the beat of my own drum. Not worrying about conforming to someone else’s ideas or expectations, but just to be. Être.

Give me that cloak!

lisa kendigian