Sunday, March 29, 2009

Object of Obsession

I’ve been reading articles lately about the gymnast, seventeen year-old Shawn Johnson, and her recent ordeal with an obsessed stalker. A deranged, 34 year-old man developed a fantasy world around the delusion that he and Shawn were meant to be together and he had himself convinced that she "spoke to him via telepathy". He showed up last week at ABC studios in Los Angeles, where Shawn is taping “Dancing With The Stars”, with two loaded guns in his car and a roll of duct tape. Luckily, he was intercepted and has been arrested and charged with felony stalking, as well as carrying a loaded weapon in a vehicle. Hopefully this guy will be kept in custody until they can commit him to a secure, psychiatric facility for a long, long time.

This story has triggered memories of a time in my life about twenty eight years ago when I was the target of this kind of unwanted attention. I know first hand how upsetting and scary it can be to be stalked.

When my husband Mac and I were engaged, he was living in a tiny, three room cottage on a small lake in a nearby town. At the time, I was living two towns away in big apartment with two friends. Mac and I, and the two dogs loved to canoe on the lake and we spent most of our time there, and I would occasionally stay over, rather than make the drive home alone late at night. Since Mac would rise very early and be gone off to work before dawn, I would be left there on my own for a few hours, with only the two dogs for company. I was not apprehensive at all about this. I felt very comfortable there and I never thought twice about it.

One morning just after it had gotten light, I awoke to the distinct feeling that someone was watching me. The dogs were quiet, so I wasn’t concerned. I was lying facing a window that sat a few feet off the ground. I opened my eyes and the first thing I saw was a figure, wearing a black knitted hat with a ski mask peering in at me.

Oddly enough, I was startled, but not afraid. I assumed it was one of the little kids from the neighborhood, pranking me. If it had been a total stranger, the two dogs would surely had gone crazy barking. I chuckled about it a little and went about my business straightening up and feeding the animals before I had to leave and go back to my apartment to get ready for work.

I was a smoker in those days, and as I walked across the yard to my little, red VW bug, I lit up a Kool. After getting in and buckling up, I pulled open the ashtray under the dashboard, and to my surprise, saw that a playing card had been stuffed into it. It was the queen of hearts. On the back of the card was a cartoony picture of a puppy and some flowers. Written on the face in a messy hand was a sloppy verse, warning me that I had narrowly escaped being raped, and that it was known that the back door didn’t lock properly. Now I was afraid.

I remembered that Mac mentioned coming home one day and finding the back door open and his desk drawers pulled out and in disarray. He had nothing at all of value in the little shack, and never bothered reporting the incident to the police. Neither of us thought much about it until this happened. That night we drove to the police station. After telling the story and showing the officer on duty the playing card, we left, feeling dismayed and nervous. We had been told that they could not, or would not, do anything about it until something actually happened. Until what happened... I got raped or murdered? I decided to stay away from the lake from then on, at least during the nighttime. This was very upsetting because I loved the lake, and I loved the dogs even more. There were no animals allowed in my apartment building and the only way I could see them was to go to the lake or meet up with Mac someplace else. It made me sad, but more than that, it made me angry. My freedom had been obstructed by someone I didn’t even know. It infuriated me.

A day or so later, on my day off, I decided to pop over to Charlotte’s across the street from Mac’s. She was a sweet, friendly woman and I wanted to tell her to be wary of strangers lurking around the neighborhood. She opened the screen door and greeted me with a smile, but as she turned the card over in her hand, her face quickly clouded over. She demeanor changed suddenly, and she acted as if she wanted me to leave. She practically shut the door in my face. I left her driveway, wondering at her odd response. She had always been kind and polite before. Her husband was a dour and solemn type who would wave hello only if we did, and never took the opportunity to speak. It would not have surprised me if he responded that way, but Charlotte had never been rude. Her youngest son was constantly visiting with Mac, watching him chop wood or work around the yard. He was nice kid, sweet and pleasant like his mom. There was an older son whom neither of us had met. I had seen him walking down the dirt road toward the bus stop a few times. He was about seventeen or eighteen and seemed very shy. He never spoke to us or waved.
That evening, when Mac pulled his truck into the yard and shut it off, there was suddenly a knock at the driver side window. It was Charlotte. In tears, she explained that I had come to see her and had shown her the card with the threat on it. She recognized it as coming from a deck in her home. On a hunch, she confronted her oldest son and had gotten a confession from him. He really had no intention of harming me, she insisted, but had a crush on me and had gotten the idea for the playing card note from something he had seen on T.V. She begged Mac not to go to the police with the information, as she feared his father would “kill him”. She said that she had already made an appointment with a counselor and that the boy was enlisting in the service as soon as he graduated high school in a few months. She swore that he would never bother us again. I had serious misgivings, but I felt sorry for her. She was a good person and I didn’t want to make any trouble for her. We would be married in a month or so and moving to another town. Besides, the police had been no help and she was getting the kid counseling. We decided to let the matter go.

I continued my policy of visiting only during the daytime and never staying alone at the cottage, but one afternoon I was driving down the dirt road alone, and I saw the older boy walking in the same direction that I was traveling in, a few yards up ahead. I thought to myself that he must be very embarrassed about the whole thing and I was feeling a little sorry for him when, to my shock, he stopped walking and turned around. He stood and faced me as I approached him, and he stared at me, wide-eyed, with the creepiest look on his face, his eyes following me as my car rumbled slowly by on the rutted road.

Shortly thereafter, we moved to the two family home that we still live in today. We had invited his mother and younger brother to the wedding. We think he got our phone number from the shower invitation. At least, we believe it was him on the other end of the phone, calling us every single Saturday night at the stroke of midnight for about two years. It was always the same. If we didn’t answer, it would ring until we did. If we answered, there would be silence in response to our hello. We got into the habit of picking up the handset and just placing it on a table and leaving it there until morning. One Sunday morning around six o’clock, I picked it up and put it back in its cradle and it rang instantly. My heart nearly stopped. Had he been trying it all night, or was this just a coincidence? I picked it up and said “Hello?” There was silence on the other end. I exploded in a rage. I let loose with a barrage of curses and insults that you would not believe. I told him that he was incredibly pathetic and needed to get himself a life. I hung up, and disconnected the phone from the jack. The next morning I called the phone company and changed our phone number. The old number was private and unlisted, which was why I suspected that he had gotten it from the invitation. If it was him, he’d have no way to get this new number. We never had a prank phone call again after that.

What makes certain people become obsessed with others they don’t even know? Even stranger, how does the object of their affection become the object of their homicidal rage? How do they make the leap from being an adoring fan to becoming a crazed, would-be murderer? Is it some hidden mechanism of a diseased brain, or a symptom of possession by some unspeakable evil? For the life of me, I have no clue.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Just Call It Lake Webster

Less than an hour south of where we live there is a body of water that has gained some fame over the years. Most people call it Lake Webster, but the original inhabitants of the area, the Nipmuck Indians, an Algonquin speaking tribe, named the lake; Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg. The English translation of this mouthful is; "Englishmen at Manchaug at the fishing place at the boundary". There is a village nearby called Manchaug, its name derived from the Algonquin word "Monuhchogoks", the name of the particular group of Nipmuck natives that lived by the lake. The lake was important to the Nipmuck for fishing and was also used as a meeting place for several tribes, being central to several paths of the Great Trail system. The lake is 3.25 miles long and a little over a mile wide, surrounded by the several small New England towns and villages.
Over time, the locals came to say that the meaning of the name Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg is; "You Fish on Your Side, I Fish on My Side, Nobody Fish in the Middle". A humorous article published in the local Webster newspaper back in the 1920's started that spin. Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg is reputed to be the longest place name in the United States and 6th longest in the world. In 1954, Ethel Merman and Ray Bolger recorded a song about the lake and its unusual name, spreading its fame far and wide. But to us, and to most of the people that live in the area, it's just a pretty place with an unusual name. A spring-fed lake and place of natural beauty, surrounded by small towns and small town folk in what used to be the land of the Nipmuck.
Image of the sign was originally posted to Flickr by Bree Bailey at May 1, 2007

Monday, March 23, 2009

Winter's Requiem

Last evening, about an hour before dusk, a front rolled through. Suddenly, the sky grew dark and the wind picked up. Greenish grey clouds gathered overhead and started spilling wet snowflakes. The wind drove the snow sideways as it picked up in intensity. It stopped as quickly as it began, but the air had changed. After a taste of spring and a few weeks of moderating temperatures, it was cold again.
This morning when Rigby and I set foot outside, the sun was shining brightly, but it was barely above freezing, and the breeze made it feel much worse than that. I was wearing an insulated fleece under my suede ranch jacket and I wished that I had also worn gloves.
As we started out along one of our usual routes, I noticed how quiet it was. Traffic was unusually light and there was no one else out walking. The sidewalks were empty as far as the eye could see. I decided that it must be too cold for most people to venture outside for very long. People seemed to be staying inside their homes or cars if they could help it.
The only sounds were from nature. Two tufted titmice called back and forth to one another across a backyard. The sound of the north wind, high in the tops of the white pines, was like the roar of some distant lion. All along the street, the music of wind chimes echoed, some deep and resonating, some light and tinkling like mandolin music as we made our way down toward the brook. I was eager to turn a corner to get the wind at my back and out of my face.
Rigby kept shaking herself, as if she could somehow shake off the cold the same way she shakes off the water after her bath, but it wasn't working. She startled each time the bully wind tumbled a big brown leaf across her path, ready to give chase. I reminded her that the chipmunks weren't out yet and they were only leaves.
Down at the brook, we arrived just in time to see the fat little muskrat crawl up the bank and sit on someone's lawn. He seemed to root around a bit, then sat back on his haunches eating something. Rigby stared intently at him, and I was glad she didn't bark. I'm trying to break her of the habit of barking at anything that moves.
The trees around the brook are usually full of birds. On most days, there are black capped chickadees, cardinals and sparrows by the score. Last week, I noticed that the blackbirds are already back. Grackles, redwings and cowbirds were squeaking, squawking and clattering high in the branches and flitting about the tall, mauve-colored rushes that rise out of the marsh. Today though, there is only a lone, downy woodpecker making his way up the bark of a bare tree next to the road. He looks at us and gives a nasally snort before disappearing around the trunk.
We started back up the hill, toward home as the wind picked up again. It buffeted my hair about, whipping my face and it flattened Rigby's ears against her head. She looked back over her shoulder at me with narrowed eyes, as if to say: "I thought winter was over! Why is it so cold?" My fingers, ears and nose were stinging.
The wind slammed into us, pushing us back a few steps. The noise it made was like the voice of the dying winter, howling in protest as the season turns, sapping its strength. It is forced to leave, but is vowing that it will rise again and return to hold us in it's icy grip, soon,...much too soon.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Thursday Night Fight Club

They start to shuffle in at a little past 7:35 on Thursday evening. The class is supposed to start promptly at 7:30. I am sitting at the teacher’s desk at the front of the room, waiting. The room feels cold and the blinds are open, despite the darkness outside.
Opposite me are eighteen desks, the little table type with the chair attached and a book rack underneath.

Rochelle is always the first to arrive. She is a small, thin girl with dark skin and long, black hair. She has a serious expression and is unnaturally quiet. She always chooses a seat in the front row, on the farthest side of the room. Next comes Sean, a big, blond hulk of a boy. He’s an athlete who wears his pants two sizes too big, and his bright yellow hair down over his eyes, making it necessary for him to jerk his head to the left every few seconds so he can see where he’s going. He is the polar-opposite of Rochelle, and sees himself as the star of the never-ending sitcom that is his life; “The Sean Show.” He goes directly to the back of the room and pushes a desk to the back wall before falling sullenly into the seat.

Mike is usually the next to arrive. He is an awkward boy with a thin frame and wire-rimmed glasses who tries to be cool and impress Sean, but the most he gets for his trouble is a punch in the arm or the back of his chair kicked.

Goofy Trevor with the permanent grin comes in behind him, and then the kind, friendly Dylan accompanied by Davey, the charming redhead. Then Jack arrives; a short fellow with large eyes, brown hair and freckles, and a voice that reminds me of Linus in the “Peanuts” cartoons. He is sweet, almost as quiet as Rochelle, and like her, takes a front row seat, but in the opposite corner.

Always the last to arrive each week are Tisa and Jennifer, the two princesses. Tisa is a redhead like Davey, with beautiful copper curls. Both girls have their hair up in messy buns and the waistbands of their sweatpants rolled down. They wander in, laughing and gossiping loudly, cell phones and bags of candy in hand, even though they have been warned several times that both of those things are banned in religion class. While most of the kids have glanced at me and mumbled hello as they entered, these two take no notice of me at all. They stroll back to the farthest corner, and pull two desks together before settling in.

What am I doing sitting at this desk at the front of the classroom? This is religious education class for grade eight. I am the teacher, amazingly enough, and it’s time to begin the lesson for the week.

But first, Sean has fired a pencil up into one of the ceiling tiles and is now standing on his chair to pull it out. A contingent of the boys on the left side of the room have pulled their desks into a tight circle. They are red-faced and laughing raucously over an off-color joke, while Tisa and Jennifer squeal over a text message on one of their phones and toss brightly colored skittles into each other’s mouths, oblivious to the rest of the class. I raise my voice to a decibel not common for me and as calmly as I can manage, I say; “Page 242, everyone! Two-forty-two in your books, please.”

But Davey complains that he cannot turn to page 242, because Trevor has torn it out of his book. He balls up the tattered page and flips it like a miniature basketball into the trash can next to my desk. “SCORE!” yells Sean, leaping to his feet with both of his arms held high. He falls back toward his seat at an clumsy angle, and it tips over, desk and all, clattering to the floor with Sean in it. Laughter and hoots of derision erupt.

Someone’s cell phone goes off ...the ringtone is a Kanye West tune. This instantly sets the corner circle group into a series of rhythmic, robotic motions, punctuated by foot stomps and slaps on their desks.

Rochelle exhales loudly and crosses her thin arms over her ribcage. She is an altar server on Sunday and probably the only kid in the class who would come even if her parents didn’t make her. Her mouth is set in a tight line now, and she is looking at me with her eyebrows raised as if to say, “Well,… Do something!”

Lord, how did I get myself into this? “I remind you all again that there are no cell phones allowed in class, people. Please shut them off right now or you will go to the office! Settle down, guys…c’mon. Who will read the first paragraph?”
“I will!” answers Dylan, and for a moment the clamor dies down, but only for a moment.

While Dylan was reading, Trevor has pulled the laces out of Mike’s shoes. Mike protests loudly when he finds they are missing and Sean corrects this outburst by slapping him in the back of the head with his book while yelling, “Quiet! Dylan is READING!” Sean has finally gotten the attention of the princesses and they giggle in appreciation of his antics. He is smiling now and under the yellow fringe of his bangs, his cheeks are turning pink.

“Who can tell me what we should do to live our faith?” I ask hopefully.
Tisa’s arm shoots up and waves about frantically. “Yes, Tisa?” She smiles and says sweetly, “I really like your sweater.” Jack has slumped down in his chair, his face hidden behind his book, but his body is shaking with silent laughter.

I sigh and look around for another response… “Trevor, how about you?” I regret my choice immediately, because Trevor always answers every question the same way; “Be holy and stuff?” His generic response ensures that he will always be ready if called on and he’ll never be wrong. The discussion is interrupted when Dylan, apropos of nothing, wants to know if Santa Claus is actually related to Saint Nick.

Sometimes I think I must be out of my mind to have taken on this role. The aggravation hardly seems worth it, but I keep coming back each week.
The director of the program said the first night, “You may be the only Gospel some of these kids ever hear.” I guess that’s why I show up every Thursday.

Davey grabs Mike’s book, and Mike lunges out of his seat to get it back. While he’s standing, Sean pulls a tack out of the cork board and places it strategically on his chair. Caught in the act!
“SEAN!” I yell “That’s enough! How are you going to explain yourself to your parents when I call them and tell them about this?” He grins from ear to ear and casts a sideways look over at Tisa and she giggles. The bell rings, It’s 8:30.

“Class dismissed-see you all next week.”

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

At The D.U.A.

Yesterday I attended a class at my local unemployment office, on revamping your resume. As frustrating as it can be waiting in line at the crowded office of the DUA (Dept. of Unemployment Assistance)or constantly being disconnected when trying to call, I am grateful for all the resources they offer. I know that in these days they are understaffed and overwhelmed by a surging human tide...people cut adrift from their livelihoods and lifestyles, just like me. The people working there are actually interested in helping and they treat everyone with respect and kindness. For a bureaucracy, that's saying something.
A co-worker who was laid-off around the same time that I was, came with me to the class, and I was glad to have her companionship for the day. The young guy who lead the class had a great sense of humor and he was pretty easy on the eyes to boot. We got quite a few good tips and ideas to help in the job search. For a few hours, we were working on the problem in a somewhat meaningful way. We are going back together next week for another seminar.
If nothing else, it feels like I am doing something to help my situation...taking a few steps forward, reaching out in the darkness.

Monday, March 16, 2009

What Happened In Aurora?

I’m fascinated by anything that can’t be explained by conventional knowledge. It’s sort of terrifying, but yet thrilling to think that there is so much that even our best minds don’t understand about our universe. Our human race has made so much progress in such a relatively brief span of time since the advent of mankind on earth. Yet, there are still so many aspects of our existence that are completely out of our control. We have figured out how to split atoms and build satellites, but we are still impacted by odd events that defy our puny logic.
Take for example, an incident that took place on April 17th, 1897 in the town of Aurora, Texas. The History Channel recently ran an episode of their excellent, documentary style show, UFO Hunters which focused on the incident. This account tells of one of the earliest UFO cases ever recorded in the USA.
At approximately 6:00 am that day, something plummeted out of the dawn sky over a ranch and smashed into a windmill, shattering it and casting metal debris over a wide area. It was reported that a strange, cigar-shaped “airship” had crashed that morning. What’s more, residents drawn to the site by the collision claimed to have found a small body in the wreckage. It was said that the townsfolk brought the strange little corpse to the Aurora Cemetary and buried it there, beneath a huge live oak, said to be over two hundred years old. The investigators found that the enormous tree reacts strongly to a metal detector moved vertically up its trunk. For nearly eighty years, a small, rough-cut stone served as a marker for the spot where the little alien was allegedly buried. The only thing engraved in the rock was thin oval shape, dotted along its horizontal length with circles, resembling a cigar-shaped craft with porthole style windows. Although there are photographs of the makeshift headstone, it disappeared in the early 1970s, presumably stolen.
The debris from the destroyed craft was rumored to have been dumped in a nearby well belonging to the Oates family. Although an attempted search of the well didn’t turn up any significant pieces of metal, the water was found to have an abnormally high aluminum content which could not be explained, and the family had suffered for generations, from health problems that had been attributed to tainted water from that same well.
I always try to maintain a skeptical, yet open mind about this type of thing. Those who refuse to even acknowledge the possibility that our planet may have been visited by extra-terrestrials will, no doubt, try to find rational, mundane answers to explain away this story and thereby protect their mental comfort zones. The fact that this incident took place 6 years before the airplane was invented may make that a little more difficult.

A Good Place To Start

Suzen, writer of Erasing The Bored blog has a great idea. Check out her post "Lighting the Fires of Hope" here
Change starts with Hope, and Hope has to start somewhere. Love, Deedee

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bulb Thief

It finally seems like spring is creeping in. I almost hate to say that and jinx it! It's been a rough winter here in New England this year...a lot of snow, very cold, and I think everyone is ready for some warmth. This has been a beautiful weekend! The temperatures climbed up close to sixty and the sun was shining. Pussy willows are popping, and everyone was outside working in their yards, starting the spring clean-up.
Walking around the yard with Rigby, I noticed that some critter had been digging up bulbs. The garden on the side of the garage was all torn up and a few half-eaten bulbs lay on top of the dirt. We have so many daffodils that we wouldn't miss a few of those, but they seem to have been left untouched. I guess they don't taste good. Whatever was out there snacking mostly focused on the gladiola bulbs, and possibly some tulips. I had a couple of crocuses last year and those apparently got eaten as well. We always have more than our share of skunks around, and they are very fond of digging up the lawn as well as all the gardens, so they are the likely suspects.
Whatever it was, it also dug up spots on the opposite side of the garage where nothing is planted. The little critter probably figured that if one side of the garage was planted with bulbs, the opposite side must be too. Every few inches all along the entire side of the garage, there are holes, even though I've never put in any bulbs on that side. I found that surprising and I think it's pretty smart, even though he did a lot of work for nothing. It was a good bet, but it didn't pay off this time.
Mac got out the rake and smoothed everything out again. I hope it stays that way for a while!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

On The Road To Find Out

It is strange how quickly life can change. I walk around the apartment in the morning, looking out windows and picking threads off the furniture while I brush my teeth. I have lost interest in all forms of housework lately. At the moment, there is a fine film of dust on everything and the carpet is a mass of stray fibers pulled loose by the cats, testing their claws. My morning ritual used to include doing a load of laundry each day before leaving for work. Now it piles up in the laundry closet off the bathroom, until I have run out of clean underwear. I used to hit the ground running each day, ironing with one hand and wiping the countertop down with the other.

Funny how the more time you have, the less motivation to get things done. Now there's always plenty of time later or tomorrow, so it's easy to put things off and leave them hanging.

After rising I sit on the couch eating breakfast, two eggs over-easy or a bowl of high-protein cereal with blueberries. Rigby waits expectantly nearby for her taste of my breakfast. The two cats sniff at my feet or gallop around the living room, biting each other. The weather is on the television like every morning and the white-haired anchor man's face and the tone of his voice is soothing to me. He seems like a gentleman...someone's sweet dad. Just watching him and listening to him talk makes the world seem like a better place to me. Sometimes I find myself staring at the screen in a fog and I realize that although I never looked away, I have no idea what the forecast is.

Everyone else has gone off for the day and this is how I like it. As previously noted, I like to be alone in the morning and not have to make small talk or answer any questions. I like to be able to get at the sink or the fridge or the bathroom without anyone getting in my way. I need to let my mind acclimate itself to being awake, shifting all the boring minutiae of my life into its proper focus before I have to function and actually think.

As I think about it, I realize that one of the problems with being cut adrift from your job is that it messes up your self-image. Who am I now if not the person that held that position and did that job? What should I say when someone asks what I do for a living?

I have been through this before when my children became adults. I saw my role as mother as my true lifelong occupation and career. Back then, a job was only a way to finance the true life I had with my family. Eventually I took five years off from working to stay home with my kids while they were little, despite the fact that it cast us into a state of near poverty. I loved the play dough, the dolls, the color forms, the water-color painting, the Lego’s, the story reading, Sesame Street, puzzles and puppets,....loved it all. Those were truly the best years of my life. I took great pride in being the best parent I could be. It was the biggest source of joy in my life. Those days flew by in a flash. That time is long gone now and I have to admit, I was surprised to grieve so hard at its passing.

Some years ago, I found myself staring into my daughter's closet and while trying to figure out which clothes still fit her, my eyes fell on several of her favorite toys stored on a shelf. I felt a sense of anxiety churning in the pit of my stomach, as I wondered when I would have some free time to spend playing with her. I suddenly remembered it was Saturday and I felt so relieved and happy that I could stay home and spend a happy day playing with my little girl. I was full of joyful anticipation of a fun day ahead with my baby. A noise outside my bedroom brought me back to consciousness just then, and I woke up to realize that I had been dreaming. It was indeed a Saturday morning, but my little girl was now eighteen years old and had plans of her own for the weekend. There would be no playing dolls or stuffed animals with her, that day, or ever again. I sat up in bed and cried my heart out. Words cannot express the sense of loss and despair I felt on that day. Sometimes I still feel it.

A psychic once told me I was the "root chakra" of my family, "the wellspring of its life force", she said. I felt the truth of that statement when she said it, but that was years ago. I'm glad they are healthy and on the road to being self-sufficient. But, I am sad that they are grown-up. They have little need or desire for my involvement in their lives now.

My husband Mac never really shared my enthusiasm for parenthood, as much as he loves his children. For him, parenthood was sort of harrowing, more like something to survive, rather than something to revel in. For me, it was everything, once upon a time.

I have been trying hard to re-invent myself for the past few years. I guess I had started to relate more to the person I was when I was at my job, and now that too has been yanked out from under me. So who am I now? Time to look deeper for the real me.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Down In The Hole

I know what James Taylor meant when he sang;

Down in the hole,
Lord, it's deep and the sides are steep
and the nights are long and cold
Down in the hole,
Light and love and the world above
mean nothing to the mole...

Today I am struggling with trying to put together a resume. I have no heart for this. I can’t imagine myself sitting through an interview. I don’t want to deal with calling places and waiting desperately for call backs. I don’t want to get my hopes up only to have them dashed, time and time again. I don't want to have to figure how to navigate a whole new landscape of office politics with a whole new group of people. I just want my old job back.
Now, when companies everywhere are letting people go and unemployment figures are as bad as they have been in decades, it seems beyond ridiculous to be asking for applications and making phone calls asking, “Are you hiring?” I fully expect them to laugh in my face. I wouldn’t blame them if they hung up on me.
Since I was cut adrift back on New Year’s eve, I have been trying to stay busy. So far, it has staved off the depression that always hovers just at the edges of my life, waiting for the opportunity to spin me down into a black hole. I have found that it takes a conscious effort to keep it at bay. Daily exercise, reading, trying to keep busy, no matter what. I need comedy shows and constant distraction. I need a plan. If I wake in the night, I must force all thought out and practice deep breathing and clear my mind. If allow my mind to wander, the darkness senses an opening and like some evil entity, tries to grab hold of me.
Last week I got an email from a former coworker, announcing that they were meeting after work for drinks and would love it if all the ones who’d been laid off would join them for a little socializing. My first instinct was not to go. Then I thought about it and saw it as a chance to find out what was going on at the company. How business was, and whether there was any talk of calling people back to work. I dressed up and did my hair and make-up. I scrounged up 20 dollars for a couple of glasses of wine and headed for the bar near the office. I found that several more people had been let go after I had been. Two of the managers professed their faith that when things improved, I would definitely be one of the ones to be re-hired. But who knew when that would be? What else would you expect them to say? I innocently mentioned to my former manager that I had been going online and checking the schedule on the company website to see how business was, and how many installations were being scheduled. A few days later I found that my access had been disabled. He apparently didn’t think it was a good idea that I was still able to log on.
Until this week, I’ve been maintaining. I’ve done okay up to now, and I have not let myself slide into the abyss. This week though, I can feel myself slipping. Despair is whispering to me and it is all I can do not to listen. I'm finding it increasingly difficult to get up each morning. I have to force myself to move and get out there and do something, even if it seems futile. I can’t let it get to me. One deep breath and one step forward at a time...

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Light In The Darkness

We have all had so much bad news this winter. Every time you turn on the television or radio, you are bound to hear reports of the stock market tanking, people losing their jobs and the recession deepening. Of course, there is the usual litany of shootings, robberies and assaults. Constantly hearing dire predictions and negative outcomes does nothing to help. It seems to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I've been thinking that what we all need for a change is some good news to help lift us all out of the dark hole we have slipped into.
I happened to turn on a local news broadcast the other day, and the sight of candy colored names painted on a steel beam caught my attention. I turned up the volume and listened to the story.
It seems that a group of children who are patients at the Dana Farber Cancer Center watch a construction crew working outside on a nearby building from a windowed walkway. The children began to hold up hand written signs with their names on them. The ironworkers have responded by painting each child's name in bright pastel paint on the steel beams, to the delight of the kids. It has also had the effect of brightening the days of the men building the 14 story structure. These ordinary guys are bringing joy to sick kids and showing support for their families. That's just got to give you hope and make your heart smile. There's still a lot of goodness and light in the world. We just have to look for it. Here's the story from Enjoy...Happy Sunday, everyone.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


I am enthralled by nature. I'm interested in all living things. The plants and animals we share our world with are an endless source of fascination and gratification for me. For me, the natural world is a perfect and sublime miracle constantly unfolding around us.
Something that will always grab my attention instantly is a television show, book or article on cryptozoology. The dictionary defines cryptozoology as: “the study of evidence tending to substantiate the existence of, or the search for, creatures whose reported existence is unproved”.
Do we know everything about all the beings that we share the planet with? As over-populated as our planet has become, there are still vast areas of wilderness where humans rarely venture. Is it possible that deep woods, mountains and deserts hide animals that have not been officially documented? What if some of the creatures that we think of as myths or legends actually exist on the outskirts of our civilizations?
Recently, I've been reading and watching a lot of programs concerning these mythical animals. Two of the "monsters" I've been focused on lately are the "Mothman" of West Virginia, and the "New Jersey Devil" rumoured to dwell in that state's Pine Barrens. It occurred to me recently that descriptions of these two separate phenomena are strikingly similar. Consider that the "Mothman" has been described by eyewitnesses as: "...having the glowing red eyes of a large animal, and a body shaped like a man, but bigger, maybe six and a half or seven feet tall, with big wings folded against its back", while the Jersey Devil is described by a Wikipedia entry as having; "...a long neck, wings and hooves. The creature is often said to have a horselike head and tail. Its' reputed height varies from about three feet to more than seven feet. Many sightings report the creature to have glowing red eyes that can paralyze a man, and that it utters a high pitch(sound)". These are pretty similar descriptions if you ask me.
Last night I stumbled upon a television program focused on another cryptid, supposedly observed in England, known as the "Owl Man." Although the show itself was a laughably amateurish, poorly slapped together production that reminded me of a cheaper, hokier version of "Blair Witch Project"(If that's even possible), some quick research online today revealed that this giant, owl type critter has actually been reported by various witnesses in the Cornwall area several times, starting in 1926, and continuing to the present day. Apparently this bird-like creature is also roughly the size of a man, with: "...pointed ears and red eyes...the creature flew up into the air, revealing black pincer-like claws. "All of these reports share a few commonalities; namely the red, glowing eyes, the large wingspan and a height of roughly four to seven feet.
So what the heck is going on here? Are all these people hallucinating? Is this some kind of silly hoax that has been passed down through the generations, or are these actual animals leftover from prehistoric times? Some believe that they may be an alien life-form from another planet. As the name "Jersey Devil" suggests, there are those who think it may be just that... a demon. Or, could it possibly be that there are simply animals living alongside us that have not been discovered?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Social Sacrifice

Since it is the season of Lent now, I've been thinking about sacrifice, abstinence and related topics. Last Wednesday, I went to have Father Joe rub the ashes on my forehead, and I will observe the Catholic obligation of meatless Fridays, but I have not really committed to give up anything specific for the next month. My lovely and talented daughter wrote the following piece for her work website:

"Until recently, I hadn’t given any thought to what I would give up for Lent this year. I’ve half-heartedly sacrificed chocolate and sweets or sworn off my favorite seasonal candy in years past, but a light bulb went off last week, however, when I read this Wall Street Journal article about parents planning to give up Facebook for 40 days.

Facebook is a bit of an addiction. I log in every day during my commute to the city. I follow email notifications for friendship requests or wall postings. I crave Facebook. I may not be as enthusiastic as 39-year-old Kevin Shine, detailed in the WSJ article, who logs in “as much as 20 times a day,” but I do agree with his statement - Facebook is “my candy.”

So, to friends and colleagues on Facebook, I’m quitting cold turkey…until April 12, at least. And I’m not the only one who’s giving up this form of virtual interaction. Steve Johnson’s piece in the Chicago Tribune suggests 10 creative and funny ideas for what to do with all the time you’d save by not checking Facebook.

Social media helps us keep in touch with family & friends, to network, and even to connect with brands. It’s also quick, and in our often lightening-speed paced world, anything that helps maintain relationships with a few key strokes gets a thumbs-up in my book. Living without Facebook for the next 40 days will be a challenge, especially for a digital native such as myself, but I won’t be completely out of the loop... I’ll still be Tweeting and texting. Is that cheating?" - by Skye M. From 360 Days In A PR Life

I personally don't understand the attraction to these social networking sites. Why would you want anyone and everyone to know all your business and know exactly what you are doing and where you are at any given moment of the day? Giving it up, at least temporarily is an excellent idea, in my estimation. Is it cheating?...maybe... but it's a step in the right direction if you ask me.