FUELing LOVE

     My husband owns he is quick to anger and according to google, “8 in 10 Americans express significant anger, road rage, or aggression at least once a month, and escalates into anger fueled violent actions,” according to a recent study by AAA. The APA says, “road rage incidents involving firearms more than doubled between 2014 and 2016.

Most mental health workers agree that anger covers up hurt. As a Marriage and Family Therapist for over 30 years, I am unusual because of my added training in primal therapy, where FEELINGS are the best F-word going, I joke with my clients.

It is well known that a therapist cannot help their clients any further than in their own healing; I have learned that my tears fuel love. Some men have told me that they want to cry, but the tears won’t come. Many say they have been conditioned to not show weakness. Vulnerability.

On the other (non-aggressive) hand, I recently read SAD HAPPENS, a celebration of tears, edited by Brandon Stosuy who admits: “it became a way to get to the why of crying that had always interested me and that I’d never had the guts to ask about.”

Research as of 2019 is still controversial as to the effectiveness of Time outs versus Time INS. I encourage my adult clients to have TIME-INS where one can express their feelings out loud, aggressively, verbally and/or physically in a safe place, such as one’s car, or with a punching bag of some sort. Eventually the anger turns into tears, sobs, for a hurt encountered usually from parents.

My 55-year-old client, Michael, causes me to feel happy and proud as he has learned to swear, scream, rage by hitting or kicking when triggered by his wife, co-workers, his children, outside or in his car. A Time-IN for his truest hurt feelings to be heard. Some waitresses at his work now say, “I wish I had a dad like you.” Michael was told he was worth nothing by his alcoholic dad, was beaten, himself attended two drug rehabs. Now, he says “I’m sorry” to his wife. His boss, a restaurant owner asks, “how come you aren’t angry anymore?”

“I go to therapy,” as tears fall, fueling love.

PS. I’ve been told by The SUN magazine staff not to be “preachy” …I hope Michael is the preacher.

 

 

 

 

Intimate as SHAVING

I am nine or ten years old, still in pajamas as I sit on the toilet watching my dad swivel the brush in the bowl of shaving cream, then apply to his cheeks and over his moustache. His tongue then pushes his cheek outward to become a smooth bump to shave cleanly, to become smooth as cream.

Soon I notice the fly of his pajamas is slightly open, enough to see a penis for the first time in my life; at least an adult penis, as I’m sure I’d seen my brothers as a baby six years younger than me.

I knew I shouldn’t look, and the image is still emblazoned in my memory, his penis limp, yet full in its extension. Sex was not talked about in our very christian family. Modesty was.

Because I grew up feeling very loved by my dad (not by my mother), I’ve been very aware of being attracted to men who carry similar physical properties: broad shoulders, muscular arms, brown eyes, and wavy hair. Although I have loved blonde boyfriends. I have always liked moustaches too – that aren’t too bushy.

My present husband has donned a moustache most of the three years we’ve been together…and has trimmed it to the top of his upper lip so it doesn’t scratch me; but when I ask him to try shaving it as thin as my dad’s, he refuses.

Uniforms that connect

 

I wish I knew or better yet, felt my parents falling in love, returning from WWII on the ship Huddleston where my mother writes on a NY Port of Embarkment autograph card “Yours Forever.” And my dad wrote: “The most wonderful girl in the world.” Maybe I felt it then as she was pregnant with me. Maybe even now?

My mother the nurse.

My dad the diabetic patient.

Sadly, how soon my mother fell out of love, while courageously my dad loved her until their divorce while I attended nursing school.

Despite vowing I would never become a nurse; I changed my major from marine biology to graduate with a Bachelor’s in Nursing (from Cornell University).

My maternal grandmother finished eighth grade only to marry a man with a PhD. In chemistry who became a farmer.

Despite my eldest daughter graduating with a Bachelor’s in Natural Resources (from Cornell University) she went on to receive her RN from John Hopkins in 1999. I remember seeing her in blue scrubs at her first nursing job on the open-heart step-down telemetry unit. No white uniforms for her like mom and I.

Now being in my seventh decade, taking more time to reflect, I stare at long-stored away photos, feeling the distant relationship with my religious controlling mother – yet here we are alike wearing white organza nursing caps; then wonder if I could ever be as brave as her to volunteer to dress in the US Army uniform of WWII, hearing bombs bursting overhead as she cared for wounded soldiers.

Appreciating how unique and similar we humans are.

 

 

 

 

Tastefully distasteful?

Salt of the earth –

Although I loved to splash and ride the ocean waves as a child each summer at Hither Hills State Park and years later drive my two daughters each summer to Ocean City beaches, bury them in the sand, I never liked the salty taste of breakers.

I like the taste of carrots cooked lightly, naturally sweet, no salt please, nor on the fresh ears of corn on the cob, often eaten raw. Yet, I love the slice of garlic, white or red pizza, my usual lunch from Pizza Aroma. I’m of the mild, not bland; that raw wild taste of vegetables pleasing my taste buds.

But when it comes to clothes: I can wear a bright yellow T-shirt emblazoned with large letters, “I AM BOLD.” The clearance aisle at TJMax flashes bright yellow pants and a deep-necked rosy, red blouse with yellow flecks like a goldfinch flying by. I must buy it …to dress to the maxx!

Just the other day, I try on a vintage pair of Kelly-green corduroys that fit snuggly to my smallish waist, unusual, at Mimi’s Attic – a consignment shop where I have accrued store credit – but it is not to my credit that I add clothes to my closet when I am trying to lessen my attachments…lighten my load. To my credit, I take away a tan pair of pants I rarely wear to the Thrifty Shopper, recycling clothes.

But my taste in men barely changes. Broad shoulders please, providing a broad chest to lay my girlish 77-year-old head on, usually enveloped in muscular biceps and forearms. The height can vary, and the eye color although I prefer taller than my 5’9” stature and the intensity of brown eyes, opposite of my grayish blue.

My variety of LOVEs is always compared to the father who loved me without conditions – not being his biologically, a child of rape.

That being distasteful to everyone else, while I am happy, so happy to be here. Present.

 

 

Fantasy of being a tree

As I bicycle 6-7 miles down ‘my’ road, named Coddington, I notice a home surrounded with several piles of chopped wood needing to be stacked. In the 1980s and 90s I owned a home with a wood stove, not only enjoying soaking into cozy warmth, but also stacking the cords of wood delivered each spring.

I didn’t realize how much I missed that simple ‘chore’ until the summer of 2022, when I was propelled to stop at a stranger’s home on Coddington, to ask if I could stack their wood – the 80-year-old man unable. Who thanks me many times.

This summer 2023, I walk up to the 2021 Coddington Road home, owned by a couple in their sixties, very fit, saying, “the gods have sent an angel,” after I volunteer to stack the four piles, feeling glee like a child.

Most September days I spend an hour or more, bending, lifting, or throwing the wood into a wheelbarrow, or scraping mud off the ones sunk into mother earth. Being about ten miles outside of Ithaca, NY proper, provides the freshest air, and mostly quiet for contemplation of why I become excited to ride my bike, or scooter to stack wood for a neighbor living 6-7 miles down ‘our’ road.

One of these days, I tell myself how much I love to touch the wood, feel its essence, recognizing how much it gives: oxygen to breathe, warmth to our skin, brightness to our eyes as it fires. Burns in sacrifice. Sometimes snapping me to pay attention.

I notice how satisfied I feel in taking down the bamboo branches that invade the piles, providing shade that prevents drying of the wood. I push the bamboo down and pull it up by the roots if possible and use the leaves to cover the muddy paths between rows. A revelation sprouts: you enjoy destroying the bamboo because it suffocates other flowers, as do fields of golden rod; as religion did to me growing up. I could not believe what I felt was true – only what I was brain-heart-washed by my parents and church.

One day, while my 77-year-old body is stacking, Lewis expresses a pile of gratitude for my service, to which I share my fantasy: “I must have been a tree in a past life.”

 

What’s in your yard? sale

 

As I ride my bike along rural Coddington Road I see a sign, “Estate Sale” in front of what I learn is a columned-house built near 1920, from the owner who has built a large hill of possessions on her yard. Although I am downsizing my apartment, I do not resist a stop to peruse. To STARE.

I buy an old-fashioned rusty push-out-two-level step chair so I can reach to change the smoke detector located on the high ceiling of my 1840s home. It’s the off-limits backyard I wander into where I wish for three of her flowerpots unused except by weeds. Karen, the owner, is not willing to part with them in late June when most gardeners have filled their flowerpots.

I return in late July, when she agrees to sell me the three I want, to replace the plastic ones I’ve owned for years and now am on a rampage to get rid of, recycle, an EVOLution from no longer buying water in plastic bottles for at least two decades. No Puffs tissues for three decades, me and my clients using bandanas to absorb our tears and snotty noses. No paper towels allowed. Only TP.

Telling and showing my love to Mother Earth who gives up part of her yard for my possessions: a ceramic window box, growing me feelings: happy, proud, greatfull and love.

 

Drama Queen of (human) Nature

Just a week ago, Dave and I separated after nearly three years of a spiritual marriage – because he says I’m “too extreme.” To limit him to two alcoholic drinks per day, when science says he should not drink at all due to him having high blood pressure and kidney issues.

And I talk “too much” about my dad: how much I love him and miss him! (He lost his dad to cancer at age 14, whom he loved.)

I talk to my flowers too – out loud – like a conversation with friends; I tell my family and friends, you introduce your friends by name, right?

As I hike to Lickbrook Falls with an ax over my right 76-year-old shoulder, carrying a pail in my left hand, I talk to the dragon and damsel flies that scurry around me: “Thank you Gaylee for saying hello,” as dragonflies were “her animal.” As is the red cardinal flying dad’s presence around me.

Gaylee died in 2019 of cancer and was and is my best friend ever. Although I have been married five times, dad is still the “best man” ever. Recently, I learned he was even a Ritchie boy. *

I was ready to give up looking for the wild Mullein, to transplant into my diverse cultivated and wildflower garden, as I walked Lickbrook’s dry creek and suddenly look up to see five Mulleins, surprisingly spaced 5-6 feet apart while standing 5-6 feet tall, showing off their spires of yellow blossoms barely hanging on. Falling in and out of love without much drama.

I am delighted to take one home, and to see it rooted with me and other flower friends, like the 3-4-foot-tall Queen Anne’s lace – the drama queen.

 

*A Ritchie boy is an Austrian or German army service man who served in WWII, providing intelligence for the United States which contributed greatly to the winning of the war.

 

DIRTY little secret?

Shit! I say as my good sneaker slides into the wet muddy dirt washed onto the patio by a refreshing storm. I’ve lived here six years long enough to know this happens yet am not noticing my foot placement. I’m looking at two sunflowers sitting on top of the BBQ, to see if they are still thriving in their 2”x3” seeding plastic (ugh) pots bought at the Earlybird garden green house.

Their brothers and sisters have succumbed to being eaten by a rabbit, I figure, after three days of seeing they weren’t. Too hopeful to not place the chicken fence around them. It’s a battle between the animals and plants; who will survive?

Don’t get me wrong, get me right, I love placing my hands in the dirt, mother earth; I will not wear gloves; I gladly wash her from under my fingernails. No place for fingernail polish, only rainbow-colored toes are allowed.

As I toil in the soil, pulling weeds, axing the dry dirt, mixed with miracle grow garden soil, fondly placing the young plants, I say out loud: “I hope you like your new home.”

I break off a chocolate mint leaf, place it on my tongue, to taste, to chew, not just to smell. Yes, it is powerful, to smell and then actually taste as dark chocolate mint, my favorite flavor.

I am reminded it is not the toil that makes the mint return each year, but the dirt I’d rather call soil. Soul of my pleasure.

 

Filled with GRATITUDE

 

It’s so obvious, need I say or write that gratitude is great FULLness for one’s health; without which as my mother said: it’s no fun growing old. Nearing 77, I am happy to say I am growing old gracefully, dancing several nights a week.

Which always, yes always, leads me to being greatfull for my karma, the daily amazement of the father granted me. Although my mother did not want me, as I was birthed as a child of rape, my non-bio-dad did welcome me by signing my birth certificate and loved me; I felt I was his own as much as were my brother and sister born after me. He was the nurturer, as I have often written, fed us as babies, bathed us, read to us at bedtime, my shoulder leaning into his strong arm while reading Grimm’s fairy tales: Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair.

Obviously, dad was way ahead of his time: 1950s, 60s, 70s.

Obviously, feeling loved is the root that allows us to bloom as adults; to empathize with others, show compassion instead of judgmentalness. His love allowed me to rebel against a strict religious upbringing, to leave by age 38 (too late in my book).

His example of spending quality time with me, (I could make a long list) and volunteering as one of the first male counselors, answering calls from desperate people on the night shift for Ithaca’s Suicide and Prevention Service is…

Obviously, why I chose to become a Marriage and Family Therapist, and now to pay my dad’s love forward as I evolved to my fifth and present marriage. I fell in love, after Dave walked into Skaneateles Lake in July of 2020, smiling a hello to me as I swam laps, a day I was hunting for waterfalls, a love affair of mine. Soon, we are walking out of the lake, me behind, to see more than his face – his broad shoulders, muscular arms, I’m immediately attracted, unusual for me, as is his 6’2” stature ratio to mine of 5’9”.

We sit on the grassy beach, after I squeeze the water from my swimsuit top, which I learn later was a turn on for Dave, seeing my boobs squeezed together.

Together being the operating principle, even as he is on vacation with his wife, a rocky marriage of thirty years due to her alcoholism. He volunteered to show me Carpenter Falls which he had hiked to earlier that day alone; his soon to be ex-wife not being interested. Interestingly, he is a carpenter with big, beautiful hands.

Two and a half years later, we are still spiritually married, as I proposed to him only 3 months into our relationship. I am greatfull for this meant-to-be miraculous meeting; what are the chances of us both being on vacation outside of our hometowns? He being from Depew, NY and me from Ithaca, NY? Of waterfalling in love? Although we are very different:

No therapy carpenter<> psychotherapist with many years of primal grieving

Open heart surgery on medications<> ten years older on no medications

Been in thirty-year (second) marriage<>married five times.

Voted for Trump<>voted for Biden.

We do have in common: two adult children we are both very involved with, both independents politically, both loving to hike to waterfalls all over New York state, and most importantly both wish to grow emotionally/spiritually. Most of all I feel gratitude when I allow tears to flow that continue to heal my heart so I can pay daddy’s love forward. And then some.

Daily, I touch dad’s photo, where he stands next to his German cousin, dad’s arms behind his back, obvious is his open heart, while his cousin crosses his arms over his heart. Now, I can say, “I love you,” out loud: I couldn’t say those 3 precious words when dad was alive☹although we wrote them, he passed physically in 1977. Yet his love passes through me daily, to have the courage to sing IMAGINE this past Memorial Day weekend at the karaoke evening at Mockingbird Campground😊.

 

“When the shell of my heart breaks open, tears shall pour forth… and they shall be called the pearls of god.” Rumi, 13th century poet

 

 

 

 

kNEW American Dream?

 While growing up in the 1950s and 60s, I heard the American Dream to be: own a home protected by a white picket fence. Why white I ask myself? A symbol of the white supremacy we continue to dismantle, struggling with its partner, patriarchy. Being a white woman who has owned two houses consecutively, and now lives in an apartment I love, an 1840s house broken into four apartments, I wonder what is my American dream.

I have been lucky enough to grow up in Ithaca is Gorges, NY, whose parents both served in WWII – my dad leaving his native land, Germany, to fight as a US citizen against Hitler, recently learning he was a Ritchie Boy – a soldier being of Austrian or German recruits, who become secret military intelligence officers, trained at Camp Ritchie, Maryland, who were “integral in gathering counterintelligence that helped secure victory for the Allies in WWII”(google.)

I doubt it was dad’s dream to fight for the freedom we cherish in America, leaving his six siblings and parents behind at age 17, eventually to raise three children with the American girl he fell in love with, his nurse on the ship Huddleston returning from WWII, she being pregnant by rape in Bremerhoffen, Germany. Was its dad’s dream to adopt me? Probably not – but he chose to love me, equally to his two children born after me.

I couldn’t have asked for a more (amour😊) loving dad, tears leaking as I write this sentence. I never tire of writing of this dream that came true for me: Dad’s love.

Which I pay forward by advocating for over 30 years, to teach a Healthy Relationship Skills Course at the local high school – knowing that healthy parenting education is how we can EVOLve toward LOVE that will end spanking (hitting) our children, or telling them: don’t talk back, stop crying or go to your room, big boys and girls don’t cry, or do as I say, not as I do.

I woke up this morning, April 15th, thinking and feeling I am living the American Dream, remembering how special I felt yesterday, when I hung up two 5×7 photos either hidden in a corner or in a drawer, of my two beautiful daughters as teenagers, (now 49 and 52) over the kitchen sink, reflecting a gargantuan smile on my face as I wash dishes.