Asking Questions

Imagine this scenario for everything you buy – every day. Now imagine that it’s not just you… it’s all of us.

“A system is corrupt when it is strictly profit-driven, not driven to serve the best interests of its people.” ― Suzy Kassem

Yesterday I wrote a letter to President Trump asking a number of questions about his Inaugural speech. One of the points that stood out for me was his goal of bringing back “made in America, by Americans” and while I love the ‘idea’ of this… really, I do – think of the jobs!! I can’t see it as more than just a pipe dream and I don’t think some people realize the immensity – the complexity of such a statement. They want to believe it and so they do – no questions asked. Well… I am asking.

I believe there are towns across America filled with people who want to go back to work … I understand the reality of having lost a job and having no idea how you will continue to feed a family or the weight of shame as you stand in line to pay for groceries with food stamps. I empathize with people whose home values have fallen so low that they can’t possibly sell to move where jobs are more plentiful. I don’t have an answer, but I also know that the simple statement of making a decision to buy American isn’t the answer either. Let’s think about this for a minute…

Last November Dana Varinsky wrote a piece for Business Insider that looked at production of five products many of us buy and asked the question of whether or not we can make it here in the USA. Of course, we can but the iPhone for example would cost upwards of 15 – 20% more than it does now and that’s IF (a big if?) the said companies didn’t add ANY additional tariffs or profits. A standard pair of jeans would cost $25 more than they currently do.  While some televisions sold here are assembled here – the components are currently produced in Asia and/or Mexico… if we had to manufacture the components here the cost would escalate.  Currently, you can purchase a pair of New Balance shoes made in the USA but they start at $165 and go as high as $399.  Reebok’s are similar.

So… let’s say we suddenly require expensive tariffs on companies who import products and/or components to make their products.

First… The things you buy cost more money.  Now you don’t have as much money as you would have… perhaps you only buy one pair of jeans – not two.  And… you don’t have as much cash flow so no dinner out that night. Less money goes into your savings account.

The company who sells your jeans made profit on only one pair of jeans – not two… multiply that by a 100,000 pairs and their profit is significantly reduced. They now must lay off a couple of people in the stores – perhaps they close a couple of stores – leaving empty storefronts in the mall – reducing the rent that is collected – causing the mall profits to subside – generating lower maintenance – creating a less pleasing environment – causing less people to visit – reducing sales, etc…

Because you didn’t go out to dinner, the restaurant where you would have eaten isn’t as busy and it lays off wait staff.  If enough people don’t go out to dinner, the restaurant closes, the owner files bankruptcy because he has a big loan on the building and/or the franchise.

Because you didn’t put money into your savings account, you don’t have enough money to put new tires on your car when it needs them – which are more expensive now, by the way… and you have to use a credit card – adding to your debt load.

Imagine this scenario for everything you buy – every day. Now imagine that it’s not just you… it’s all of us. What happens when spending slows down?

Inflation. Prices go up across the board because companies are trying to compensate for the loss of revenue. When inflation happens – interest rates go up.

When interest rates go up, housing sales go down.

Real estate agents make less money.

Home Depot and Lowes have fewer customers as do carpet installers, window manufacturers, and lumber companies.

The economy comes to a slow and screeching halt.

There is a really good chance that your retirement money – if you have any – is invested in the stock market. If you have mutual funds that invest in a company who sells jeans that are now twice as expensive and not selling as many… their profit is down which means their dividends are lower and their share price is probably sinking.

Additionally… all those European and Asian companies that your mutual funds invested in are now losing money because they can’t ship to the USA and their share prices are falling…. What is your 401K worth now?  Do you own Apple stock? GE? How much of their share prices are dependent on trade between countries?

We do NOT live in isolation from the rest of the world anymore and frankly… we can’t go back! Not without a massive – drastic price to pay and that’s only the POV from my limited economic knowledge base – although I did get good grades in my econ classes.

Are you thinking about this??

As if this was all not enough… according to IHS Markit Technology’s Outsourced Manufacturing Intelligence Service there is an even bigger problem – at least where iPhones are concerned. The number of people it takes to manufacture iPhones constitutes a small city so while it may be great for a town or city to get an influx of citizens to work in a new factory – a hundred thousand people coming to town puts massive stress on infrastructure…. Roads, schools, sewage, water lines, etc…. I wonder how many towns are prepared for that to happen? How long would it take to amass the facilities to make that happen – is it even realistically possible?

Keep in mind that if it takes 100,000 workers – maybe ½ of them are married and have the 1.5 average children so it’s really 300,000 additional people!!! If you’ve ever played SIMs – the computer game of building cities – you know this is impossible to impose overnight (meaning a short time frame). I can’t imagine that President Trump can see this happen in his first term.

I’ve touched only on one aspect of the President’s speech. I will keep asking questions and ask you to think with me. If you have ideas or proposals… I encourage you to voice them! Let’s be part of the solution!!

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Dear. Mr. President… I have some questions.

I have concerns, true concerns, that your vision is Nirvana. It sounds incredible…

Dear Mr. President,

Congratulations on your achievement. I am an American Citizen who believes in democracy and therefore I respect that you now sit in the Oval Office and can make decisions that will affect the rest of my life and potentially the lives of my children and theirs. I should tell you that I did not vote for you but I did respectfully listen to your Inaugural address to soften some of the angst I feel about your Presidency. You see, I ‘want’ to support my democratic beliefs… the ones that state I should honor the People’s voice and thereby… support you.

I liked many of the things you said but I have a LOT of questions. May I address them with you?

I love that you are expressing concern for American citizens but I would like more information about your statement “What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people.”

  1. DOES THIS ALSO MEAN THE PEOPLE WHO DID NOT VOTE FOR YOU?

“Everyone is listening to you now.”

  1. DOES THAT INCLUDE ME? WILL YOU LISTEN TO MY QUESTIONS?

“Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves.”

Yes we do!! Thank you!

“But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.”

Sadly, that is also terribly true but shouldn’t we be asking the question WHY??

  1. WHY ARE THERE SO MANY RUSTED OUT FACTORIES?

Isn’t it because those companies found cheaper labor overseas?

Isn’t that because the American worker demanded higher wages and better working conditions which put too much pressure on the profit margins of those companies?

Isn’t that because the American investors demanded more dividends and higher stock prices?

Isn’t that because if we actually priced American goods with the same profit margin requirements we couldn’t afford to buy American products?

“The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans.”

This is GREAT!

“For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry;”

  1. NOT TO POINT ANY FINGERS, BUT WILL YOU AND YOUR COMPANIES DEMAND THAT ANYTHING WITH YOUR NAME ON IT BE PRODUCED IN AMERICA BY AMERICANS?

“subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military; we’ve defended other nation’s borders while refusing to defend our own”

  1. ARE WE GOING TO SIT BY AND WATCH OTHER COUNTRIES MUTILATE ONE ANOTHER, WAITING FOR THEM TO COME AFTER US?

“and spent trillions of dollars overseas while America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay.” 

Yay!… some of our roads are deplorable!

“The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed across the entire world.”

  1. WILL WE BE PENALIZED FOR BUYING PRODUCTS MADE OUTSIDE THE USA? Generally, they are less expensive and my budget is slim. I think most things sold at Walmart and the Dollar Store are manufactured overseas. I do some shopping there. And in the winter, I still like to buy strawberries from Chile.

“From this moment on, it’s going to be America First.”

Ok, that sounds great!!

“Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.”

Mr. President…  I know that some of my neighbors are immigrants from Mexico who are willing to work in the mushroom industry. They pick mushrooms in closed buildings that smell like manure. They work for cheap – keeping the price of mushrooms low.

  1. HOW WILL YOU ENTICE AMERICAN WORKERS TO TAKE THE LESS DESIRABLE JOBS THAT ARE CURRENTLY AT BEST, MINIMUM WAGE OPPORTUNITIES?

“We will build new roads, and highways, and bridges, and airports, and tunnels, and railways all across our wonderful nation. We will get our people off of welfare and back to work — rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor.” Awesome! We need most of that stuff!

  1. WHO PAYS FOR ALL OF THAT?
  2. WILL THEY BE UNION JOBS? WILL THOSE JOBS PROVIDE A LIVABLE INCOME?

“We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and hire American.”

  1. PLEASE TELL ME THOSE RULES APPLY TO YOU AS WELL.

“We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world — but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.”

Again, this is exciting, good news, awesome, etc…. but….

  1. WHAT IF THEY NEED OUR MILITARY SUPPORT? We can’t simply turn our backs on them, can we? In what way does it serve our interests to do that?

“At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other.”

I love this statement Mr. President.

  1. DOES THAT MEAN ALL AMERICANS? REGARDLESS OF THEIR RACE, SEXUALITY, GENDER, RELIGIOUS BELIEFS, POLITICAL AFFILIATION, SOCIOECONOMIC STATUS, ETC.?

“We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity.”

  1. DOES THAT MEAN WE CAN DISAGREE WITH YOU?

When America is united, America is totally unstoppable”.

I totally agree!! This excites me!!

“The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action.”

  1. WHAT ACTION WILL YOU TAKE, MR. PRESIDENT?

I have concerns, true concerns, that your vision is Nirvana. It sounds incredible… much like the founding father’s vision of a new world. I like the way it sounds but there are so many holes. Our economy is built on supply and demand. As Americans, we have demanded lower prices because we have been taught to focus on profit. Not just corporate profit but personal profit. We have been taught to have more; make it bigger and better. We have been taught that merchandise is disposable and so it needs to be cheap.

Simultaneously, we have been taught to do it ourselves. We all but eliminated the job of travel agents by using the internet to plan our own trips. Ditto for investing … Charles Schwab made it possible for us to save fees and do it ourselves. We are a NATION of DIY’ers – people who look for getting the most for less!!

  1. HOW WILL YOU CONVINCE US TO PAY MORE FOR PRODUCTS AND ACCEPT LESS PROFIT or DO YOU SEE THAT HAPPENING ANOTHER WAY?

Mr. President, these are but a few of the questions I have because while I really connected with a lot of your speech it doesn’t feel possible or realistic based on what I know about people and their behavior. As a mental health practitioner, it is my job to understand how people think and what behaviors are changeable.

Our problem is not that our health care premiums are too high or that there is no wall on the Mexican border. As I see it, our problems start with GREED. The simple desire to have more than we need. Greed has a negative connotation Mr. President – at least to those of us who don’t have as much as we need.

  1. PLEASE TELL ME MR. PRESIDENT, WHEN YOU QUITE LITERALLY SIT ON A GOLD THRONE, HOW DO YOU ADDRESS OUR GREED?

 

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Before Xanax

First, let’s be clear that expressing ‘happy’ emotions isn’t the part we need help with…

Never let your emotions rule, but always let them testify. ~Robert Brault

I believe I’ve written about emotions in the past yet the idea of describing how necessary it is to allow one’s self the opportunity to express emotions keeps playing over in my mind. Often, the reality is that I need to hear the message and so in that – writing is helpful, healing. It’s probably no surprise to any writer that in reflection, one can identify content specifically situated to deliver a deeply personal note. Perhaps that is always the Universe’s intent.

In any regard, I am in the business of teaching people the importance of emoting. One of the first things I teach is that we are born knowing how to laugh and cry – expressing emotions are innate to the human experience. Our bodies are designed to experience emotions and yet after birth, many of us are taught NOT to express them instead of how to express them effectively.

I cringe at all of the times as a parent that I told one of my children to “hush up”, “stop crying”, “suck it up”, or the worst… “I’ll give you something to cry about”. Continue reading “Before Xanax”

Falling

I had to end the phone call and collect my thoughts. I couldn’t find any logic or rationale that correlated to my willingness to take the risk that yet another man I loved, would die on me.

Continued from And the Kissing Begins

“All love stories are tales of beginnings. When we talk about falling in love, we go to the beginning, to pinpoint the moment of freefall.” —Meghan O’Rourke
After only a few dates I knew I could easily love this man. We were able to talk about almost anything and we shared a number of important priorities. I could also tell that we were different in a lot of ways. I knew now that a good relationship is one where we celebrated the similarities between us while at the same time, embracing and respecting the differences.  When we weren’t hanging out with one another, we were talking on the phone; and still – the conversation flowed.

On the next kids weekend with their dad, Harlan came and stayed at my house. We built a fire in the fireplace, rented movies, opened a few bottles of wine and created a blanket / pillow heaven reminiscent of our childhoods. We slept there – in front of the fireplace – participating in an adult style sleepover as if we were in our twenties all over again. It was romantic and loving and relaxed. For approximately 48 hours, we ate, slept, and chatted at will… no schedule, no interruptions, no expectations. It was magical.

Eventually, we got into more nitty-gritty things, what had happened in our marriages, the imperfections of our extended families, the challenges that we grew from. One of the many things that really attracted me to Harlan though is his heart. He appeared to be intensely compassionate and considerate of others – an empath almost. I could tell that he would literally ‘feel’ the experience of others and sometimes, there was simply no benefit at all in that.

We talked about him meeting the girls. I had introduced them to Jay too soon but then, I had never felt this way about Jay. I felt something stronger and growing for this man. I wanted to see how he would be around the girls.

That desire made me think about myself as a mother… how many mistakes had I made? How many had I learned from? What had I learned exactly?

The girl’s father hadn’t been discriminate in his choice of partners and had no regard for the girls’ thoughts on the matter, telling them to ‘get over it’ and ‘it was his choice, not theirs’. Consequently, the girls certainly didn’t have the relationship with him that I had always envisioned. There was a strain on the father-daughter rapport almost constantly because of his relationship. I didn’t want the same outcome. I wanted to find a way to balance a personal romantic relationship with that of my role as a mother and I wasn’t willing to sacrifice the latter.

I knew from my own childhood that when moms and dads begin dating again, they can get too absorbed in the new partner – way before the kids have a chance to ‘catch up’ with their feelings and that, wasn’t the best scenario either. I wanted the girls to like Harlan and so, I invited him for dinner.

It wasn’t as smooth and as easy as when Jay came… even though Harlan had daughters, he wasn’t up on Gilmore Girls or Hanna Montana because he mostly watched sports or public broadcasting. He wasn’t a reader of Harry Potter or Nancy Drew. He attempted to connect with Swimming but eventually found that they like many of the same movies. Harlan likes practically any movie; chick flick, adventure, or animated. It didn’t’ matter too much, he had seen all of the trailers if he hadn’t seen the actual movie and so he was able to foster a conversation on that front, easily.

My oldest daughter Sara, being a bit more mature and perhaps more present and considerate of her surroundings – attended to Harlan like proper company by engaging him in conversation as she could. Erin seemed indifferent and Emily stuck to me like glue. I watched each of them carefully and at one point, noticed that they were watching me. This was a new thing for us and we were all in unchartered territory. No one knew the rules or how to play the game so we were just ‘winging’ it but it was going ok – at least for now. He didn’t stay long after dinner; I guess we were thinking we would ‘ease’ into having him around.

And that’s what we did. Harlan made it very clear to the girls that they needed to come first – he wanted them to know that if they didn’t like him or want him around – it would impact our relationship negatively. He knew- he realized that for US to be happy, they had to accept him in my life. It was his philosophy in that regard that opened the door for me to fall head over heels in love with him.

I told him one evening when we were at his house. We were standing outside, under his carport and I was attempting to leave but each time I took a step toward my car he would lean down and kiss me, stealing my breath and preventing me from moving further. I knew I had to go but it was so difficult sometimes – tearing myself away from him. I loved all that kissing. I reached my hand up to his chest to hold him back, keep him at bay for a minute… I had to breathe. “You know”, I said… “I am falling hard for you. No doubt. I am falling in love.” As if it was some kind of competition and he knew he had won – he replied “Oh yeah? I already fell. I love you.” He was one up and I was too weak to prevent an all out swoon. He caught me by placing his hand firmly and strongly on the small of my back as he pressed me to him again, for another kiss – this one full of love.

Later, I’m not sure if it was a week or a day in an austere conversation we were having for the sole purpose of filling in more details about our previous years of life, he mentioned that he thought he was going to die. He had been diagnosed with malignant melanoma and had a significant mole removed from his shin. It had been nine or ten years at that point and he said it in an unremarkable manner as if had been just another day. And yet, he spoke about it as if he had thought his life was over, the melanoma had been considerable enough that he somehow believed his life was in danger.

My heart lurched as memories of my step-dad and his slow, agonizing death from malignant melanoma inundated my mind. He too had found a mole and his life ended because of it. My thoughts also went right back to Rocky’s death and the excruciating emotional pain that I felt when he died. I felt as if I was on a merry-go-round, noticing all of the love and loss in my life as it went faster and faster while the seat I was on went up and down, creating a chaotic sensation so intense that I found it difficult to catch my breath. No way… I was not doing this again. Nope. Thank Goodness I found out early… while it was still easy to get out.

I had to end the phone call and collect my thoughts. I couldn’t find any logic or rationale that correlated to my willingness to take the risk that yet another man I loved, would die on me. At least it hadn’t gotten very far and it would be easy to end. Shit. I really fell for this one.

Trancendent Study

I hear enough critique in my own mind, in the real world, and I didn’t need it to come from the afterlife too.

Continued from Such Diffidence

“Learning the lessons of life can be so simple if you believe in immortality.” – Brian Weiss

There is a phenomenon of picking the same seats, day after day in college classrooms. It is a psychological mystery. Interestingly enough, it doesn’t just happen in college and it was apparent there, in the conference center at Omega, full of adults ranging in age from 25 to 80 – that we were also subject to this tendency. The good part was that I could ask that guy next to me – eventually known as Michael – about his regression yesterday.

The resolve I had started the day with, the resolve that quickly waned as I went relatively unnoticed at breakfast, had not walked into that room with me. I sat there, silently, as Dr. Weiss asked us all if today was in any way special. I wanted to say “It’s my birthday” in hopes that he would use me to demonstrate a regression; something I had fantasized about ever since I began reading his books. It was a simple gesture to just raise my hand and make that factual announcement but something heavy and solid inside of me prevented my arm from lifting away from my side and the day got started. I sat there, of course, interested in the unfolding of what I could learn but also disappointed in myself again for not being willing to take the risk, for not allowing myself to be vulnerable. I was still not convinced that my voice, my energy, my input – was worth hearing.

We broke off into groups of two or three several times that day, offering me an opportunity to talk with people and yet even then, I waited for people to come to me or I waited to see ‘who was left’… it was a self-fulfilling continuation of those many times in grade school where I was the ‘last pick’… relegating myself to the benchmark of my youth. There was a woman behind me who appeared as quiet and as low profile as me, she became my go to… my escape when it was time to pick partners. If I chose her, I didn’t feel unchosen. It was a good compromise. What I really wanted was to choose Michael but he had already formed a ‘group’, the popular people… the ones who were bold and confident. I didn’t belong to that group no matter how much I wanted to, I couldn’t find the moxie to wedge myself in there. It was one of those adult moments that seemed as though we (or at least I) had transported back to middle school for a short time and who in their right mind would do that?

This woman who had become my serendipitous partner was so ‘in tune’ with the Universe that when it came time to practice listening to our souls, she read me like a book. We had the task of taking an item from our partner and holding it – concentrating deeply on the story of the item, it’s history and then share any insight with the owner. I handed her a ring that I had been given from my Grandmother’s estate. It wasn’t old fashioned looking, in fact, I’m not sure it was old, only that it had been hers. She gave me a bookmark. Dr. Weiss directed us through a process whereby we were to consider the object and its energy. I felt way, way out of my league at this point. I was still an infant on the regression thing and reading energy was for Spiritual Masters, wasn’t it? I tried to concentrate on his voice, on the direction but my feelings of inadequacy were too strong. They overruled almost everything that came through my mind. The only thing that I could say I ‘felt’ was God. That is the word that kept coming to me.

When the challenge was finished, we shared with our partner the information we had received about the item we had been holding. I told this lady that I wasn’t very good at this yet, that the only thing I sensed was “God”. She smiled softly and informed me it was the bookmark from her bible and pulled it out of her backpack. It was a worn, King James version that appeared to be well read. As she slipped the bookmark back into the pages, I felt a shiver run up my spine. ‘Whoa’, I thought. Next, it was her turn. She informed me that the ring had belonged to an old woman, perhaps my grandmother – she asked with a question mark. I nodded in agreement. She said that my grandmother had come to her and spoke about all the sadness in our family, that there had been too much loss but that they were all together – the shivers intensified dramatically. And then, she said, “your grandmother said to forgive your sister.”

I sat there stunned and silent. Why would I always have to face this? Can’t Abee just be a non-issue for a while? “Wow, that’s amazing,” I said. “Thank You”. I wasn’t sure I liked the idea that people could talk to me from the grave. I didn’t want to hear what they had to say, actually. Isn’t it odd, perhaps misfortunate, that we only want to hear the things that are supportive and validating?? I hear enough critique in my own mind, in the real world, and I didn’t need it to come from the afterlife too.

We spent a fair amount of time hearing more from Dr. Weiss, details from his sessions with Catherine, in the early regression years. She had channeled some spirit masters who spoke about love, learning, and the ultimate goal of serenity. Those masters indicated that sometimes, we stay in soul form so that we can be guides for people we’ve left or for future generations. Other times, we reincarnate into the same family to continue working on growing in an environment we know is ripe for us. He led us into a regression where we were to connect with our spirit guides, asking them to come to us in an identifiable form. I saw a picture frame on the wall with three ‘windows’ – room for three photos – but they were blank. The more I focused on the frame, I came to realize that there were forms in the squares but they were blurry. I stayed with it. One of the frames became clear and I saw a face. It wasn’t a face that I knew completely but it appeared to resemble my oldest daughter. When I looked closer, I experienced a distinct knowing that it was indeed her. There was something about the eyes that make it obvious and believable. I was a bit confused because she was here… in my life, not just existing in the spirit world somewhere. Was it possible she had come into this world to guide me? I was pleasantly surprised at the prospect.

We watched a couple more regressions that day and by the end of the afternoon, I was tired. I ate a quick dinner and headed back to my room where my roommate, was resting. I tried to be quiet but of course, she woke as I came and unpacked my bag. She was from Pakistan and spoke very broken English but we made it through conversation pretty well. It turns out she was known, in her country, as a medium and was there training with someone renowned in the US. When she discovered it was my birthday she offered to ‘read’ me. She used only my date of birth and jotted down several things. The one I specifically remember is that I would meet a man sometime between holidays, before Christmas; I took that to mean after Thanksgiving. It was still only July so I didn’t get too excited but it was fun to have something to look forward to – maybe.

I had to drive off the mountain in order to talk with the girls who had been waiting all day for me to call so they could wish me a happy birthday. For a few minutes, as I sat by the river in a park across the bridge from Poughkeepsie, I missed them terribly. I considered just leaving, going home to my kiddos and forgetting all this transcendent stuff but I continued to be pulled toward the things I could not rationalize. The week had just begun.

Family of Four

I sat down to write the most difficult letter of my life.

“Many men can make a fortune but very few can build a family.”  – J.S. Bryan

We were sitting at the dinner table one evening discussing baby names; girl names, boy names, first names, middle names … we said the name and added the last name. One by one, we drifted through a selection trying in on for size. Suddenly, Francis looked up and asked with a very serious and sobering voice “Why does my last name have to be different?” Hubby and I looked at each other – oh boy. I didn’t see this coming. My heart leaped and hurt at the same time. What is the right answer here? What can I say to this precious boy about his name, about his new brother or sister and their name… What?

Hubby and I talked and talked about how to answer his question and facilitate a sense of belonging. I struggled. By now, Francis was calling Hubby ‘daddy’ and he had no memory of his father. Rocky’s parents lived in the Midwest and many of his siblings were in the Northwest; I only saw them the first few years after Rock’s death. In fact, after meeting Hubby, I hadn’t gone at all. I was terribly conflicted about having residual feelings for my dead husband and wanting a relationship with his family versus keeping my attention on the man in my current life and his family. It always felt as if I was being disrespectful to one of them if I was thinking of the other… I chose not to think. I focused on what was in front of me. Hubby was in front of me. I focused on him.

Francis went to visit every summer however, at least until Rocky’s parent’s health failed to the point where they required a caregiver. I recall the one time they came to visit us, Hubby wasn’t around at all. I’m not sure if it was because it was awkward or if he was simply giving us some space. I never felt he was very accepting of my prior life. He had never been married and therefore didn’t have a reference point from which to allow for me having feelings for or a relationship with another whole family. Rocky’s siblings were great people yet I hadn’t been ‘in’ the family for long and we never lived close. We were all raising our children, building careers, leading busy lives and while we did exchange Christmas Cards each year, it was generally the extent of our connection. Furthermore, I’m not sure that having meaningful relationships with them would even have been acceptable to Hubby, my perception was that he resented my enduring feelings toward the family-at-large. Although I don’t recall a confrontation, I distinctly remember feeling like I had to choose. It’s entirely possible that I was just too immature to process being a part of two families; the absence of connection wasn’t anyone’s fault.

Never-the-less, without his family in the picture on a regular basis, Francis didn’t have a compass from which he could experience his Rockefeller identity. Of course, a healthy child needs to feel as though he/she is a part of something larger than themselves and Hubby had a large family close in proximity. They were big on birthday’s and Holidays. There were a lot of them actually and it seemed as we were always celebrating something. They would be good surrogates.

The tug-of-war was constant – or seemed so at least. I sometimes dreamt of Rock. He was here – in real life, telling me it had been a huge mistake, that he hadn’t died – he had amnesia. (Remember, I never saw him in death … it makes one wonder.) It had taken him a long time to figure out who he was and to find us. He wasn’t the same as I remembered him. He was distant, happy that I had moved on and acting aloof with me. This dream would happen on and off for years and always I felt torn and devastated – wanting to go back to my life with him but realizing that I had a different one now, with someone else, and had committed to it. I always woke disappointed and emotionally exhausted.

Ultimately, we agreed on adoption – it seemed to be the only reasonable option. Francis and all of his siblings would have the same last name. I sat down to write the most difficult letter of my life. I wrote to Rocky’s parents to tell them that I was expecting and that my hope was to create a family for Francis – a mom, dad, and now a sibling…. And I explained how important it was for Francis to have a sense of belonging – to know that he was part of something big and special, part of this family. I shared that Hubby had a large and loving family also. I poured my heart out to them, told them how much I missed their son but that I was trying to move on – to live. I wished that we had lived closer and that we could somehow have established a more concrete sense of inclusion for Francis but I felt it was in his best interest to allow Hubby to adopt him. I promised to keep Rocky’s memory alive for him, to share stories, and photographs. I promised that they would always be a part of our lives, and that they could see Francis whenever it was possible. I cried through the entire process but I believed I was doing the right thing. They reached out in love and support – as they always did. It didn’t feel good, but I did feel settled. We set the wheels in motion.

My due date came and went – I walked and walked. (Someone told me walking would help with labor). Finally, on April 28th, I went to the hospital with some mild contractions and we agreed with the doctor that it was time to induce labor. In just under three hours our baby girl was born. Hubby was a trooper during the labor even though I didn’t know which end was up and Francis was able to hold her within the first hour. We named her after my childhood baby doll – the name I had always dreamed of for my daughter – Sara Elizabeth. Her big brother wouldn’t leave her side even when he was given the chance. I allowed the vision of our family to swell into something picturesque and I hoped.

The adoption had been approved and finalized just weeks before Sara’s birth and we celebrated both children on the day of Sara’s baptism. We were a family of four.

Making Sense of Nothing

After that conversation, I found myself looking DEEP into the eyes of every man I met – looking for Rocky.

“I believe that everything happens for a reason. People change so that you can learn to let go, things go wrong so that you appreciate them when they’re right, you believe lies so you eventually learn to trust no one but yourself, and sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.”
— Marilyn Monroe

So there I was – turning 25 and the mom of an almost two-year-old. I vividly recall my birthday that year and a couple of friends from work took me to a disco. Everyone had this goal of getting me hooked up with a guy – I guess it was their way of helping me to see that life could go on.  I recall the bartender serving us shots of Peppermint Schnapps when he discovered we were celebrating and I recall some kind of ‘blue’ drink – perhaps Mediterranean Iced Tea? Well, I’m sure you can see this train wreck coming….  One of my friends (the smart one) went home early and unbeknownst to us, took the car keys. The only transportation option for the remaining two of us was to hitch a ride with the two dudes that had been grinding on the dance floor with us all night. These boys thought they were going to get lucky! It was 1985 – I’m not sure we had any thoughts about which one of us were too drunk to drive in fact, if Patty hadn’t taken the keys – one of us probably would have driven back to my place. I’m so glad we are more intellectually evolved these days

I distinctly recall getting in the house and my girlfriend headed upstairs – she must have been prepared to spend the night. I laid out on the Flokati rug that was in front of the fireplace. Oh man – I was in trouble. My stomach churned and swished and stirred as it tried like a geyser to spout up my throat… This was not going to be good. I recall this guy on his hands and knees over the top of me (we still had clothing on) attempting to kiss me and all I could say was “watch out, I’m going to puke”.  About that time, I hear yelling upstairs “who the hell are you?” and another guy runs down the stairs, saying “Let’s go” and they bolt out the door. It was a long night of puking. It was also the night that became a strong reminder to not abuse alcohol. I can count future hangovers on my hands – maybe even on one.

I had a really hard time redefining myself. I was a single mom. I had responsibilities that prevented me from engaging fully in the ‘single’ life. I didn’t really ‘belong’ anywhere. Eventually, the people I worked with became like family to me. They adopted Francis as a mascot of sorts. I recall a party or two where we took turns trying to get him to sleep while 80’s funk blasted in Dolby stereo. Weekdays were routine…. And emotionally manageable. It was the weekends that truly sucked.

Weekends are for families. They are for making things happen – for forging plans and dreams. For us, they were about cartoons and …. Well – laundry. I adopted a coping mechanism of leaving on Saturday morning. I would pack the car and drive somewhere – anywhere that didn’t remind me of what I ‘wasn’t’ doing. Francis was a trooper on those adventures. He hung out in his car seat and sang songs with me. He may not want to ever admit it but at one time he really moved to Madonna, Foreigner, and REO Speedwagon! We occasionally drove far enough that I would grab a hotel room and extend the escapade. I found some great little museums, parks, playgrounds, and beaches by doing this. It remains one of my favorite things to do – random exploring.

I wasn’t alone. I had a housemate who was great. He did all the ‘guy’ things – including the removal of a maggot infused bag of potatoes that had been forgotten in the pantry. I had family. My mom and stepdad, brother and twin sisters lived only 10 miles away. I saw them frequently. I had a lot of support from friends at work. I FELT alone. There is NO surrogate for the father of your child. No one cares as much as you and your partner when he has diarrhea or a fever. No one is able to experience the sweetness of peek-a-boo for the two-hundredth time like a parent. Sharing your child with others who love them is special but it does not replace the experience of sharing it with your partner. It is an obvious omission every day and difficult to get used to. I wish I had known more about gratitude back then.

I was trying to make sense of life. I was still pretty mad at God. I found more reasons than is logical for why Rocky died. I attempted to rationalize beyond a reasonable effort. I tried to convince myself that it had been ‘his time’ and that it didn’t matter that I had bought the kite that ultimately killed him; if we had gone into town, perhaps there would have been a car accident. I was using a concept I had learned as a teenager at a Youth for Christ conference I had attended with a Methodist friend. “Everything happens for a reason”.  It was a mantra that had a big impact then – I was attempting to use it now. What ‘reason’ could there possibly be for this tragedy in my life? I hit a void each time I searched for an answer. My aunt gave me a copy of the book When Bad Things Happen to Good People and while I knew that God didn’t make it happen, I needed a reason as to why it happened.

My brother was in high school at this point – remember that kid I dressed up? He was smart and we were close. Rocky had been a mentor to him, a true brother. This death had hit him hard – a turning point in his life too. I recall a particular esoteric conversation with him that bordered on unhinged in the way we discussed it. We began talking about God, heaven, hell, spirits, and reincarnation. We started thinking about Rocky’s death from the perspective that perhaps his soul had been called for another body. What if his only purpose here on Earth was to help me create Francis? What if he was only ‘supposed’ to be here for a while. We talked about that Warren Beatty movie Heaven Can Wait where the main character dies accidentally and his soul needed a new body. After that conversation, I found myself looking DEEP into the eyes of every man I met – looking for Rocky.

It was the beginning of a defining spiritual journey for me. It sparked a curiosity that brewed in my soul for many years. The seed had been planted and while it laid dormant for some time, it was (under my awareness) being fertilized and cared for.

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