Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Dog's Life

My daughter has been asking for a dog for a long time now. A very long time. Neither my husband or I are big pet lovers, but after years of begging and writing persuasive letters at school, we decided maybe we should give it some thought.

I recently met a lady who has two retired racing greyhounds. I instantly fell in love with them. I started doing mounds of research on these dogs and everything I read sounded perfect for us. They sleep about 75% - 80% of the time, they are very gentle and non aggressive, they don't jump on furniture, and are quite respectful of socks, shoes, and other items left in the floor. The family attended greyhound meet & greets, we went to a greyhound party, we researched and researched and finally decided we may want to adopt.

The adoption process is quite intense. First you fill out a very lengthy written application. The next step is a 30 minute phone interview. After that, an in person interview where they inspect your home, actually bring a hound to your house, and go over a ton of information and facts about these dogs. The home interview lasts about 90 minutes. Finally, a week and a half ago, we got a call that a dog was coming in to the program the next day. They asked if we would consider fostering her for one week, just to see if she fit into our family. We agreed.

We found the dog to be very well behaved and very laid back, just as we expected. This dog did not, however "take" to my kids. She tolerated them, but the whole purpose of having the dog was to make them (especially my daughter) happy. Turns out we were working ourselves to death taking care of the dog, but no return on our investment. She just wouldn't have anything at all to do with our kids, which was the whole purpose of getting her.

Fast forward to today. The greyhound people came to get her. I have lots of emotions, but have to admit I feel a little relieved she's gone. I don't think we'll take another grey, at least right now, and I don't know if we'll take any other dog for that matter. Part of me would love to have one, part of me....not so much.

The greyhound rescue organizations are great. I learned a tremendous amount about these odd and wonderful animals. These are terrific dogs, but not for everyone. I plan to support the organization in the future because they do good things for great dogs.

I hope our foster dog will get placed into a wonderful, loving home...she deserves it, she's a good dog. As for me, I think I'm going to go finish bleaching my kitchen floor.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Young Girls They Do Get Weary

Seems like all the women in my life are beat down right now. My daughter just came back from a two day camp and she's exhausted, with legs aching. Another good friend is beat down from life--her dead end job, being a single mom, making all the ends in life meet. One friend is beat down sick with a bad cold. Someone actually told her today that she "looked tired". Another friend is beat down from weeks of training and preparing to roll out a new program at work. I believe every woman I know who works outside the home is beat down by their job right now; whether they make a little money or a lot of money--all beat down.

Throughout history women have always had to be strong. They nursed sick family members, many of whom died. They plowed across the west in wagon trains, searching for a better way of life. They endure child birth, they watch their men go off to war. They cook and clean and help with homework, all for little or no recognition. We are nurturers, we are peacemakers.

Women are strong. God made us that way. We just have to remember to breathe once in awhile and take a little time for ourselves in between.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Look How Human!

Last night I watched a very interesting show on NatGeo. It was about this guy who has been studying stress in baboons for 30 years. Baboons have quite a hierarchy in their colonies and the big dominant males keep everyone else in the colony upset and stressed out all the time. The stressed out ones die young, are overweight, and basically are a big mess.

So ten years into the study, some people left some food where the baboons could get it. The food was infected with a disease. Of course the strong, dominant males are the ones that ate the food. They all died. In fact, about half the colony died. Only females and passive males survived.

A fascinating thing occurred next. With the bullies out of the picture, the whole colony relaxed and calmed down. The males were kind to the females and for the next 20 years they have maintained this way of life.

I'm not suggesting we poison all our bullies, but you do have to admit it's fascinating.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Grief Stages

This is it. After we have closed our eyes, kicked, screamed, negotiated, and finally felt the pain, we arrive at a state of acceptance. Acceptance should not be mistaken for a happy stage. it is almost void of feelings. It is as if the pain had gone, the struggle is over. We are at peace with "what is". We are free to stay; free to go on; free to make whatever decisions we need to make. We are free! We have accepted our loss, however minor or significant. We have adjusted and reorganized.

A codependent person or a chemically dependent person may be in many stages of the grief process for several losses, all during the same time. Denial, depression, bargaining, and anger may all come rushing in. We may not even know what we're trying to accept. We may not even know we're struggling to accept a situation. We may simply feel like we've gone crazy.
-Codependent No More

The last paragraph puts every bit of this in to perspective for me. I'm often all over the map and in several of these stages all at once. I sometimes feel like I'm crazy or quickly on my way there.

Life changes, people change. Relationships evolve, and sometimes not for the better. Parents die, kids grow up, looks fade, and your body grows old. Friends lie to you, lovers cheat on you. Companies merge, neighbors get divorces, old friends get cancer. What used to make us happy, doesn't any more so people move on. Our hearts and minds deal with it the best way they can. We grieve it then we must let it go.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Grief Stages


When we see our bargain has not worked, when we finally become exhausted from our struggle to ward off reality, and when we decide to acknowledge what life has socked to us, we become sad, sometimes terribly depressed. This is the essence of grief: mourning at it's fullest. This is what we have been attempting at all costs to avoid. This is the time to cry, and it hurts. This stage of the process begins when we humbly surrender. It will disappear only when the process has been worked out and through.
-Codependent No More

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Grief Stages


After we have calmed down, we attempt to strike a bargain with life, ourselves, another person, or God. If we do such and such or if someone else does this or that, then we won't have to suffer the loss. We are not attempting to postpone the inevitable; we are attempting to prevent it.

Sometimes the deals we negotiate are reasonable and productive: "If my spouse and I get counseling, then we won't have to lose our relationship." Sometimes our bargains are absurd: "I used to think if I just kept the house cleaner or if I cleaned the refrigerator good enough this time, then my husband wouldn't drink any more," recalls the wife of an alcoholic.
-Codependent No More

I've done a great deal of bargaining in my day. Some of it productive, most of it absurd. Usually I tie my bargains into weight loss or appearance. "I'll lose weight and then he'll love me so much he won't want to (fill in the blank with whatever it is I don't want him to do)". But I've also done my share of meeting half way. Trying to figure out what I can do to fix the problem and avert a "tragedy". Sometimes it prevents the loss, often it does not.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Grief Stages


When we have quit denying our loss, we move into the next stage; anger. Our anger may be reasonable or unreasonable. We may be justified in venting our wrath, or we may irrationally vent our fury on anything and anyone. We may blame ourselves, God, and everyone around us for what we have lost.

This is why setting someone straight, showing someone the light, or confronting a serious problem often does not turn out like we expect. If we are denying a situation, we won't move directly into acceptance of reality--we'll move into anger. That is why we need to be careful about major confrontations.
-Codependent No More

I have a friend who is currently experiencing a terrible loss. Right now she is very angry at God. She feels He's turned his back on her and ignored her desperate cries for help. I've had a few bad things happen to me in my life, but it's not in my nature to be angry with God. I don't have much problem however, being angry with people or situations.

In the introduction to this series I mentioned that in addition to feeling depressed, I keep feeling pissed off and I didn't know why. Writing this blog is always enlightening, and now I believe I know exactly why. In my journal entry "Can't Everything Just Slow Down A Minute" dated August 24, I made mention of a situation that has me very upset. I still can't discuss it, but I can say that it qualifies as a loss in my life. A big one. And if I'm going through the grief stages, which I believe I am, I'm currently full blown in the Anger stage. Maybe I'm being selfish in my feelings, I don't care. I don't want this to happen. I can't stop it and I'm mad as hell that this "thing" is looming out there waiting to eff up something extremely important to me.

I'm trying very hard not to let this stage get the best of me. I've already smarted off a couple of times and probably made some inappropriate comments. I don't want to say something I may regret later and damage a relationship, but it's very hard for me to hold my tongue when what I really want to do is run down the street screaming for this "thing" not to happen!

Feeling this way is getting to me physically. I've had a sharp pain running down the back, left side of my head for two days, and now the top of my scalp is tingling. I'm quite sure this is migraine, it's exactly what I experienced a few months ago when things at work were so bad, but the prescription migraine medicine doesn't even phase it. I've simply got to get a grip.

I hope the Anger stage passes soon. I think any of the other four stages have to be better than this one.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Grief Stages

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross first identified the stages and this process as the way dying people accept their death, the ultimate loss. She called it the grief process. Since then mental health professionals have observed people go through these stages whenever they face any loss. The loss could be minor--a five dollar bill, not receiving an expected letter--or it could be significant--the loss of a spouse through divorce or death, the loss of a job. Even positive change brings loss--when we buy a new house and leave the old one--and requires a progression through five stages; the first of which we will discuss tonight.


The first stage is denial. This is a state of shock, numbness, panic, and general refusal to accept or acknowledge reality. We do everything and anything to put things back in place or pretend the situation isn't happening. There is much anxiety and fear in this stage. Reactions typical of denial include : refusing to believe reality ("No, this can't be!"); denying or minimizing the importance of the loss ("It's no big deal."); denying any feelings about the loss ("I don't care."), or mental avoidance (sleeping, obsessing, compulsive behaviors, and keeping busy). We may feel somewhat detached from ourselves, and our emotional responses may be flat, nonexistent, or inappropriate (laughing when we should be crying; crying when we should be happy).

We are not denying whatever we are denying because we are stupid, stubborn, or deficient. We are not even consciously lying to ourselves. We're simply not letting ourselves know what reality is.

In times of great stress, we shut down our awareness emotionally, sometimes intellectually, and occasionally physically. A built in mechanism operates to screen out devastating information and to prevent us from becoming overloaded. We use it to shut out our awareness of things that would be too disturbing to know.

Denial is the shock absorber for the soul. It is an instinctive and natural reaction to pain, loss, and change. It protects us. It wards off the blows of life until we can gather our coping resources.
-Adapted from "Codependent No More"

After I had a mountain of hard evidence that my first husband was cheating on me I still wouldn't believe it. I kept thinking "What if I'm wrong?". A guy I knew at the time told me "Mary, are you are going to have to walk in to the bedroom and catch them in the act before you believe this?" I guess my mind just wasn't ready to grasp and accept it. I didn't want to face the loss of my marriage.

When it comes to being Queen of Denial, I'm flippin' Cleopatra. In fact, I'm in and out of this stage all the time.

I've encountered a few people the past couple of weeks who I believe are in this stage right now for one reason or another. "I'm fine. Everything's fine. See how happy we all are? Yes, everything is going to be just fine....why wouldn't it be?"

Denial ain't just a river in Egypt.

Monday, September 14, 2009

So Sleepy

We all know I've had anxiety issues for a long time now, but lately I've also been experiencing something that is uncommon for me; depression. I guess I've had depressed days or times in my life but not like this. For the past several weeks I've felt exceptionally low. I feel like I could sleep all the time, I get distracted easily, and my desire to race home from wherever I am to my "safe place" is stronger than ever.

I feel pissed off a lot and I'm not even sure why.

Yesterday my very intuitive neighbor/friend came over to borrow something and confronted me about it. He said the past several times he'd seen me I just wasn't myself. He was concerned. I'm not sure what is causing this funk. Maybe it's a combination of things.

They may differ slightly based on who you ask, but most experts and support groups recognize there are various stages of grief a person experiences after suffering a loss. The loss may be due to a death of a loved one but certainly is not limited to that. The addict may experience loss or grief when they stop drinking. A person may experience loss or grief when their world suddenly gets turned upside down by a family bombshell, or an unexpected medical diagnosis.

If for whatever reason, life as you knew it no longer exists you will likely experience stages of grief. Depression and anger are among them.

I've had some losses recently. The most obvious being my mother who passed away 17 months ago. But there have been other, more subtle losses for me too.

I won't talk about those "subtle" losses tonight, nor will I discuss the grief stages. Quite frankly I don't have the energy to look them up. But I think it's going to be important for me to take a look at them. I'll do that tomorrow. Right now I just want to go to bed.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Would my life have turned out any better if Chris W and I had ended up together? I doubt it. Like every man who's ever been in my life, the very things that attracted me to Chris also drove me nuts. It's quite the pattern with me, (you know...Mary's MILFs and all). Good girl attracted to bad boy then good girl wants bad boy to change. I nagged him about hanging out with his friends, and parties, and grades, and a lot of things.

Just as with Mike Brown I guess it's the romance of the unknown and what "might have been" that keeps the Chris W story alive for me. Do I still have dreams about Chris W? Yes. Would my heart race if I ran into him in the store? Yes. He was my first love and will always hold a special place in my heart. I hope he's happy out there, and I hope his memories of me as as fond as mine of him.

Monday, September 7, 2009

All Tied Up

In order to finish the Chris W Labor Day Marathon I'll have to skip over some pretty significant events in my life, but fast forward to 1991. I was 27 years old, divorced from David, looking good and feeling good about myself for the first time in a long time.

Our ten year high school reunion had just passed, and while Chris did not attend I had managed to get his phone number. One day I decided to call him. Neither of us was dating anyone at the time and we decided to meet so we could catch up.

After my divorce I had moved back in with my parents so it was decided I would meet him at his apartment. I must admit I was a nervous wreck when I got out of the car. I walked in the building, up the stairs, and down the hallway. Just as I knocked, the door flew open and there he was. After all these years and all the questions I was once again face to face with Chris W. We stood there for a brief second looking at each other and then we hugged for awhile.

Chris looked fantastic. He was in the best shape of his life. His hair was short and had some grey in it. His blue eyes and his grin were the same. He'd had an excellent education during his four years in the Marines and had travelled the world. He'd had a long time girlfriend but never married or had children. He had a good job travelling about repairing high tech machinery. He told me how there was no way he could tell his mother we were together because after all these years she still had the senior class picture we'd had made together sitting in the living room. He laughed and said that every girl he'd ever dated hated me because of that.

It was wonderful but strange to interact with Chris in this way. We were no longer kids in my parents' basement, we were adults with jobs, responsibilities, and life experience. I had just bought a small house and was preparing to move. Chris came over that weekend and helped move me in. I couldn't help but wonder if fate had finally brought us together. I couldn't help but wonder what might happen. Suddenly we were talking again and dating again. It was just like old times, only BETTER!

Then, just like the flick of a switch he seemed to vanish. He stopped calling. He wouldn't return my calls. If he did answer the phone he'd say he was in the middle of something and would call me back...but he didn't. After a week or so of this I called one day and he answered. He said he had to go and he would call me back. I said "NO". I told him to tell me what was going on. He told me that the moment he saw me get out of the car, everything he ever felt for me came back. He said he couldn't risk being hurt by me again and he knew that with me being recently divorced that was a strong possibility.

A few weeks later I saw him at an outdoor concert. We were talking for a moment and I could tell he was very uneasy. A girl in a black leather jacket appeared from the ladies' room and walked up as we were talking. Something told me it may have been the aforementioned long time girlfriend who had been out of the picture for awhile. I said goodbye and walked away, and just like that Chris W was out of my life again. This time by his doing.

Awhile back I saw an aging Malcolm and Angus Young from AC/DC on a show explaining how the band's name came from something their sister Margaret saw on the back of an appliance. According to Angus Young, "It had something to do with electricity, so it seemed to fit". It didn't stand for "Anti Christ/Devil Child" after all. Funny that when you get to know the facts about something or someone, things aren't always as they seem. Misunderstood.....just like Chris W.

I've learned a lot about myself by writing this series. I've had some tears, some smiles, and just like when I wrote about Mike Brown, a little bit of an awakening about why these old memories might mean so much today.

While I've not seen him anymore, I've heard reports that Chris W lives in a nice house right down the road from me. Still gainfully employed and never married. The score is 1-1. I guess we're even now.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Trapped In A Corner

Even though we got to see each other once in awhile, the distance between us started to become too much. Riding it out was no longer an option. It was either break up or get married. Chris started talking about how if we got married he could wear his dress blues and there would fellow Marines, swords and lots of ceremony. The idea was romantic, but somehow knew I wasn't ready to leave my Mom and Dad and move across the country and live on a Marine base.

Everyone here was telling me how girls flock around military bases looking for a husband and that there were probably women everywhere. At some point I knew Chris would have to go to Okinawa, Japan for awhile and the thought of that was just too much. Some guys at school were starting to ask me out. My parents were upset that I was sitting home every weekend. I was 18 years old and I was trapped in a corner.

My memory is almost as fuzzy about our break up as it was on how we got started. I don't remember if it was in person, on the phone or a Dear John Letter. I don't remember drama or tears or really anything about it. Suddenly, some time around 1982 Chris W was just gone, and it was my doing.

The rest of the 1980's were my lost years. Throughout my entire miserable 7 year marriage to my first husband David, I dreamt about Chris on a regular basis. I realized his joining the Marines was the best decision he could have made for himself and his future but I often wondered what would have happened if we'd stayed together. I wondered if he'd ever married. I wondered if he was back in town, if he had children. Where did he work? I wondered what he looked like. I wondered if he ever thought of me.

Little did I know that nine years later in 1991 I would find out the answers to every single one of these questions....face to face.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Singing Sweet Home Alabama All Summer Long

It was 1989 my thoughts were short my hair was long
Caught somewhere between a boy and man
She was seventeen and she was far from in-between
It was summertime in Northern Michigan

Lots of songs have been written about summer not lasting forever. Inevitably fall has to come. It was no different in 1981. Chris and I crammed a lot in to that summer. Everyone was having parties for him before he shipped off to boot camp. It was a crazy, surreal summer.

Catchin Walleye from the dock
Watching the waves roll off the rocks
She'll forever hold a spot inside my soul

Chris and I had a big decision to make. Would we break up or would we try to ride out the next four years? Luckily we realized we were too young to get married, but neither of us wanted to let go. We decided we'd ride it out for as long as we could.

Chris spent twelve weeks in Parris Island, SC going through USMC boot camp. He wrote me letters nearly every day. He begged me to write and to send pictures. I called Scarlett and asked if she'd take some for me. Scarlett and I spent the better part of a day taking photographs of me. I had outfit changes and everything. The photos turned out great. To this day they are among my all time favorite photos of myself. I still have them all.

Back in South Carolina, Chris plastered the photos all over his locker. Every day his Drill Sergeant would tell all the recruits to stop thinking of their girls because they were surely back home carrying on with someone else.

At the end of the twelve weeks my parents allowed me to ride to South Carolina with Chris' family to attend his graduation. It was great to see him. I'll never forget spotting him across the courtyard. I ran to him. Once he saw me he started to run too. When we met he grabbed me and spun me around. Somehow his mother captured that with a photo. It was all like one big fairy tale.

Chris got to come home for a short time before shipping off to Camp Pendleton, CA. I could tell he grew up and became a man during that twelve weeks but he was still my sweetheart. At that moment I felt like we would have no problem at all getting through the next 3 years and 9 months. I was starting community college here at home and would be very busy so the time would go by fast. And we would keep writing letters! Scarlett could take new photos every now and then! I was sure we could do it. We were Mary and Chris! Of course we would make it! The future was looking bright.

Now nothin' seems as strange as
When the leaves begin to change
Or how we thought those days would never end
Sometimes I hear that song and I'll start to sing along
And think man, I'd love to see that girl again
-Kid Rock

Friday, September 4, 2009

Turn And Face The Strange Changes

My sister is twelve years older than I am so as a young girl growing up in the late sixties and seventies I was listening to the Beatles, Hendrix, and Jefferson Airplane. I'm quite sure I listened to my sister's records more than she did. I loved them.

Rock and Roll was in my blood from an early age, but was limited to my sister's collection and what I heard on the radio. As I became older I started my own record collection. Lots of Bob Seger, Heart, Foreigner, Journey, and even Barry Manilow. Chris W's record collection was very different from mine. He had every record KISS ever made. There were bands like Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and a new band called AC/DC. I was scared to listen to them because I didn't want to become possessed by the devil. After all, every kid from that generation knew that KISS stood for "Knights In Satan's Service", and AC/DC stood for "Anti Christ/Devil Child". Right?

But eventually I DID listen to them....and I loved them. And I fell in love with Chris. We started dating and nothing could keep me away from him. My parents tolerated him, but it annoyed them that on Saturday nights we would go out to Malibu Grand Prix and I would watch him play Pac-Man, Asteroids, and Centipede. I didn't mind at all. I thought it was great.

Unlike the Judd Nelson character, Chris did play sports; soccer and baseball. I loved to go watch him play. He was only about 5'8" but had a nice body; very strong, muscular legs. There really wasn't much I didn't enjoy doing with Chris, but it began to frustrate me that he didn't turn in his homework and he didn't care about tests. I knew he was smart and that he could do the work, why didn't he want to show everyone else that he could?

We went to our Junior Prom together. We went to movies, he came to my house, I went to his house. I got to know his family; even his grandparents. The months ticked away. We went to our Senior Prom together. We were all over each other any chance we had. We even figured out a way to sneak off together during our heavily chaperoned senior class trip to Florida. We were a couple and everyone knew it.

As our senior year began to wind down everyone's thoughts turned toward college. My friend Kim would be going out of town to school. Kathie, Scarlett, Mark, and several other friends and I would be staying here but going to different colleges and universities. But what about Chris? He didn't have the grades or the desire to get in to college. I hoped for technical school. Most people probably just thought he'd end up in jail.

One day Chris came to me with some news. He had enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. After graduation he would be leaving home and he would be gone for four years. I tried to talk him out of it but it was too late. How could he do this to me? To us??

I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know what was going to happen, other than I knew my life was about to change forever. I was very sad, very mad, and very scared. I cried for days and days.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Breakfast Club

None of The Boys of Summer (BOS) were serious boyfriends. They weren't even boyfriends. As Bob Seger says "We were just young and restless and bored" and "we were gettin' our share". The first love interest in my life who wasn't just a fling was my very first true love, Chris W.

I've had writer's block for days now, partly because I've been a little depressed and tired, but also because I couldn't decide how I wanted to write about this. I've decided there's no way I can write the "Chris W Story" all in one entry, so I'll just start off with an introduction. Chris and I went to school together. He wasn't like any of the BOS. He didn't talk much, he listened to Black Sabbath, he didn't make good grades, and everyone said he was on drugs. I became enchanted by him sometime around 9th grade I think. But a boy like Chris couldn't just be lured over to my parlor with the challenge of a game of pool. No, this one would take time. Time and patience and some research.

Once I finally got him to talk and to trust me I found Chris to be funny, intelligent, very sweet, and interesting. He didn't just "accept" things the way I always had. He questioned things. He questioned authority, he questioned organized religion, he smoked weed. I was mesmerized by someone so different from me. Chris and I were very much like Molly Ringwald and Judd Nelson's characters in "The Breakfast Club".

I was very close with one of my teachers, Miss Thomas. I remember one day she approached me and said "I hear you've started hanging out with Chris W. I hope you know what you're doing. Please be careful". That would be the first of about a hundred times I would hear that line from people who cared about me in my life.

It's funny, but I honestly do not remember anything at all about how Chris and I came to be. I'm not positive what grade we were in. I don't remember the first time he called. I don't remember the first time we went out. When I think back on that time of my life I just remember he was "there". And "there" he would stay for awhile.