Sunday, April 30, 2006


I remember the afterwards
After each of them left
The bitter pain stung,
It paralyzed
And then it settled in my belly
Bending me to a sobbing heap

I remember the grief
But … no, no, NO!!!
The rage
The confusion
The sadness
Move on
Self-pity gets old fast

I remember the blame
Make it make sense
It must be mine
These shoulders know
The weight of control
If only I were perfect …

I carry my endings
Into my beginnings
Shadow fears
Leftover tears
Some call it experience
Most call it baggage

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Adventures in Babysitting

Today, I’m spending the day with my favorite 4-year old, William. William’s Mom is going to the Cub’s game with the guys and his Dad is working all day. This is a pretty big deal. I’m pretty sure that I’m the first non-family member to be allowed babysitting privileges … EVER.

Things seem to have changed a lot since I was a teenage babysitter. It seemed like parents were a lot more relaxed about such things. As a sought-after teen sitter, I’d get calls from friends of friends for babysitting. They’d leave me in charge of their precious children without really knowing me, based only on the recommendation of someone else. It was a pretty easy gig too. I’d play a couple games, read some books, have a snack, throw the little buggers in bed, and hope The Love Boat and Fantasy Island weren’t re-runs. At the end of the night, I’d collect my $2 an hour and go home.

For lots of reasons, parents have had to become more selective about babysitters. William’s parents are fairly easy-going folks, but when it comes to his welfare, they are exceptionally careful. There must have been several discussions about who to ask to baby-sit today. Maybe I was chosen as an acceptable caretaker because I have 15 years experience as a Social Worker. Maybe they chose me because I worked in a Day Care Center for 3 years. Maybe they think at 41-years of age, I’m old enough to handle the responsibility. Or, perhaps they picked me because I love their kid and he digs me too (admittedly because I have dogs and he LOVES dogs, but I take what I can get these days).

So, my Saturday is going to be filled with time at the park and the library, play-doh, coloring, and painting, reading, running after dogs, cartoons, and making cookies . . . oh, and we’re making a surprise present for William’s Mom and Dad too (shhhh, it’s a cactus garden . . . don’t tell).

* The picture above isn't William and Starbuck, but it looks a lot like them. The photo reminds me of the relaxed way Starbuck acts with little kids.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Is She Foolish or Brave?

Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.
Winston Churchill

Sometimes shitty things happen. Sometimes really, really shitty things happen. Most of us have lived through rotten jobs, break-ups, health problems, financial stress, the tragic loss of loved ones and other sad experiences. These things can be overwhelming and leave us feeling drained. We want to hole up somewhere, protect ourselves and heal before we venture out into the dangerous world again. Even then, we feel more cautious and alert. We’re supposed to learn from our experiences, toughen up and avoid previous pitfalls. Shame on us if we repeat our mistakes or don’t prepare ourselves.

But I wonder what sort of life that is …
Always on alert.
Ever aware of potential danger or pain.
Cautious about any new thing that crosses our path.

How on earth could we ever fall in love?

After a lifetime of roller coaster experiences with love, I’ve accumulated a beautiful store of exquisite tender memories. Despite the bitter gut-wrenching pain of each break-up, those memories are mine. No one can take them away from me. The risk, the investment, and the pain were always worth it. I might have needed some time to crawl into a hole and lick my wounds, but I always reemerged to try again.

This last time, I stayed in my hole a good long time. It was worth it I think. Now, as I emerge, I feel stronger than ever. It seems easier to cast my doubts and insecurities aside. It’s easier to not only act brave, but to feel brave. Some people say I’ve become more foolish, but I don’t think so. I know what I want and don't want. I know what the risks are. I know how much it hurts when things don’t work out. I also know what it means when love becomes real. There’s nothing better in all the world.

About a year ago, a very dear friend predicted that I had yet to experience the greatest love of my life. His prediction surprised me because he tends to be a fairly practical sort of man. I like to think that he was on to something with his foretelling.

Whoever said anybody has a right to give up?
Marian Wright Edelman

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Two Days Later

Yesterday was a picture perfect spring day in Iowa City. I spent most of the day cleaning up the outside of my house and yard. The more I worked, the harder I worked. I couldn’t seem to let myself stop. The fallen tree branches, sticks and bits of other people’s houses seemed endless.

As I tended to my gardens, I was in awe that not a single petal seemed to have been damaged by the storm. Just next door, the neighbor’s flowerbeds had been stripped bare. Four majestic trees still circle my house. I noticed their perfection as a chainsaw revved up to tear apart an uprooted 200-year old tree half a block away. Two blocks away, you can buy a 2006 Jeep at rock bottom prices … as long as you don’t mind the shattered windows and hail damage. All along Riverside Drive, blue tarps flap in the wind where the roofs of buildings have been ripped away. On the ground below the tarps, dump trucks busily take load after load of debris to the landfill.

Halfway through the day, I dared a quick trip across town to pick up a few necessities. The tornado’s path was evidenced by the destruction left behind.

Tornadoes don’t strike cities.
Tornadoes don’t cross water.
This one didn’t follow the rules.

As I drove through town, I took note of the things I saw. It’s not as if I hadn’t witnessed such things before. But this is MY town. These are MY people. That twister took away parts of US and OUR history.

The tears didn’t come until I saw College Green Park. It’s a cute little one-square block park near down town. It has playground equipment, a gazebo, park benches, picnic tables, shady areas, and open sunny spaces. Two decades ago, my girlfriends and I would pretend to study on blankets in the sunshine as we watched handsome college boys play frisbee. I’d attended or organized a dozen or more music and political events for sexual assault awareness, gay-les-bi-trans rights, pro-choice and other such things that had taken place there. I’d chased my nephews through the playground and pushed them on the swings. Its been home to countless picnics and long talks with good friends. Yesterday, I saw our beautiful park in ruins. Most of the trees are missing or snapped in two. Bulldozers and trucks cover the grass. There are no more shady places. It’s destroyed. Despite the fact that I was personally spared by this storm, I couldn’t stop the tears. Something about this felt very personal.

I went back home and worked on my yard. I worked until my hands were bloody from cuts and scratches and I could barely lift my arms. It was the only thing to do. In the end I know we're very fortunate. This is only a tiny fraction of what the folks in the Gulf have had to bear. And no matter what, we can rebuild and re-grow. We were very lucky to be spared the loss of life … all but one family anyway. My friend Dick lost his niece to this storm. I grieve for him most of all.

*(The picture above is about 6 blocks from Lu's house)

Oh ... Happy Easter to you all.

Friday, April 14, 2006

From the Land of Oz

I only have a minute …
For those of you who are aware, we had some pretty bad storms in this part of the country last night. Tornadoes hit our sweet little midwestern town. One touched down two blocks from our house, taking out a tractor trailer and the Dairy Queen. I’d make a joke about the caloric tragedy of losing the Dairy Queen, except someone was trapped inside and, by all accounts, possibly hurt. Another tornado hit a mile south of us, taking out part of one of the home improvement centers, and a third hit the University of Iowa campus and downtown, taking parts of buildings. All in all, there was a lot of damage, and a number of people were hurt.

Unfortunately, while all of this was going on, we were completely ignorant. We lost our power after the first strike. After that, we were completely dependent on our out-of-town friends to call our cell phones with updates about what was happening.

Losing our power is very unusual because we’re on the same grid as the hospital. In the past when it happened, our power was restored within minutes. One friend called to say that the entire 911 system had gone down. Another, whose Dad works for the power company, said they had to call the Disaster Team in to the hospital. (I have no idea what that means, but any time you attach the word "disaster" to something, it makes it sound very serious, doesn’t it?).

I’ve lived in the midwest most of my life. Tornadoes are as much a part our lives as earthquakes are to those crazy Californians. You learn what to do, you take it seriously and you hope for the best. I’ve been through close calls a million times. Still ….. there was a good 10 minutes last night when I was pretty damn scared.

MID-MORNING UPDATE: There was one fatality as a result of last night's storms.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

I Don't Have a Crappy Job When I Sleep

"Theresa, no one eats french fries for breakfast, not even you."
"I didn’t make them for us. They’re for the circus people living in the back yard."
"Oh. Well, I suppose circus people eat whatever they want whenever they want."
"Do you want to go out back and watch? I think the clowns are going to practice. It won’t be as much fun without their make-up, but we can pretend."

We shared the hammock in the backyard, bemoaning the fact that the circus people had packed up and left already. You tried to feed me cold french fries while you sang sappy Barry Manilow songs badly … or sang bad Barry Manilow songs sappily. I begged you to stop because my stomach hurt from laughing so hard.


I hate the damn alarm clock.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Tummy News

The source of my tummy ache has been narrowed down. The doctors tell me that it’s a benign fibroid tumor (hooray! not cancer). Frankly, I don’t really think it’s a tumor either. It’s probably just a dust bunny.

I’ve named my uninvited dust bunny, Sylvia. Thankfully, no real harm has been done and evicting Sylvia is a fairly simple procedure. Thank you all for your sweet thoughts. You must be very very powerful, because it worked.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


For those of you who were disturbed by the dark dreariness of the post below, I’m okay … or becoming okay. Sunshine, contact with other humans and a little good news make a world of difference. I’m also a total wimp when it comes to pain. I really did have a terrible tummy ache. It’s getting better.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

IN MY BELLY, A Love Poem

There’s a pain in my belly,
A place stuffed with bags of hurt,
Bloated with distorted losses,
Far too much grief to share.
Set my jaw and bear it another day.
Lost loves
Lost hopes
Lost dreams

There’s a pain in my belly,
A place hollow with deafening terror.
The panic scream of loneliness that I soley hear.
Hide the emptiness.

Deny my hunger.
What would happen if you knew?
My need
My longing
My frailty

There’s a pain in my belly,
A place scarred by a lifetime of war.
If you don’t hurt me, I’ll hurt myself.
There’s no safety from the violating rage.
It’s all around and within.
In you
In me
In them

There’s a pain in my belly,
A place tender with purple-yellow uncertainty.
Unfolded, opened, exposed,
Radiating white-hot veracity.
Turn around if you’re too afraid
Erratic courage
Fragile hope
Absolute Love