The End Of The World As We Know It — Keep Swimming


First a quick nod of thanks to R.E.M. for the song that’s been playing in my head for nearly a month.  Where would we be without our daily life soundtrack….

A few days ago, I posted a short piece to FaceBook that I later added here as a blog entry, talking about how I’ve finally managed to get past the election of Donald Trump, and get on with my life.  In that post, I said I’d had 2 “ah-ha” moments and I explained what I’d learned, then ended by saying there really was a 3rd big AH-HA — but it would take too long to explain in a FB status update.  After all the comments, Likes, private messages, phone calls etc from my friends & FBcontacts, I now realize that just about everybody I know — including even those who don’t live in the US or have US citizenship —  has been experiencing the same kind of PTSD reaction to this year’s election, and that maybe I should have taken the time and explained all three Ah-Ha’s.  Here we are, nearly five weeks after the fact, and people are still either in denial — still expecting some deus ex machina intervention or catastrophe to prevent the coming inauguration — or so deep into depression that they are considering a visit to their doctor to talk about SSRIs.  Or Valium.  or Xanax.  or medical marijuana.  or how to self-administer a lethal injection.

Not those who voted for the Don, I suppose.  But I don’t actually know anybody who voted for him.  Or who will admit to it, anyway.

The worst reactions are coming from those who have either been in abusive relationships and escaped — or those who have lived and/or worked closely with a narcissist.  (Not a slightly self-absorbed average person — a real, live, clinically pathological narcissist.)  For those people, the post-election season is a little like waking up in one of their own nightmare memories.  The evening news is like watching old home movies — playing out on a global scale.  People who have survived a marriage to a narcissist or a business relationship with a narcissist  know what’s coming.  It’s the Big Reveal.  Or the Big Run-And-Hide.  Enemies lists, revenge, retribution, long-game-I’ll-show-you, spiteful jabs, reputation destroying, enemies-closer, cyber-stalking, power-plays, victory laps, pep rallies, loyalty rewards cards, military parades, membership in Biggest Winner Fan Club, mass hysteria, dogs and cats living together….

And they’re right, of course.  All of that is more than possible.  It’s probable.  Likely.  Coming to a theater near you.  And a market near you.  And a street near you.  Everybody needs to have their exit strategy laid out.  Keep the tank full at all times.   Have at least 3-4 weeks of food and water on hand.  Keep blankets and water and an emergency care kit by the door.

This is not a test.

But here’s the other thing that’s just as true:

The model still holds.

I am not going to explain the model in this post.  That would be like explaining particle physics in 20 words or less.  (lol)  It would be a 50 page (conservatively) snooze-a-thon for most folks.  There is a full explanation of the Graves Model here in my blog (start here, if you want the full monty) – but the essentials are these:

  • There is a developmental pattern shared by all of us.
  • The same pattern of human development is shared by groups — families, societies, species.  From individuals to villages, companies to governments, to the global village — each of us, and each of the cultural groups we belong to, all follow the same pattern of evolution.
  • The level of the model an individual operates at is demonstrated by their motivations, beliefs, and behaviors.
  • When the “tipping point” of any level is reached, the person or society that has reached that tipping point moves on to the next level. (much like a simple game, where the tiny explorer fights all the creatures and solves all the puzzles on one level, then discovers the doorway into the next level and so moves on.)
  • The levels alternate between inward focus and outward focus.  That is, Level 1 is all about my own personal survival.  Once that survival is secured, we look around and say “Is that it?  Is that all there is to life?”  And of course, the answer is always, NO.  There is more to life that just my own survival — but I can’t see that until I’m good enough at surviving to look around my own little 2-square-feet of real estate.  And Level 2 is born — the family group or tribe is born.  Level 1 is inward — just me.  Level 2 is outward and inclusive — US.  WE.  We survive and we do it better together.  We take care of our own.  We share the load.  We help each other.
  • Each progressive step upward reaches its threshold asking a question.  Odd numbered levels ask, “Is that all there is?” before moving up to an even-numbered level.  Even numbers ask, “but what’s in this for me?” and then move up to the next odd-numbered level to do inward/individual focus again.
  • Each progressive level is broader and/or more complex than the previous level.
  • The group — the US — of each progressive even number is bigger than the last.  Level 2 is about protecting and building family and tribe.  Level 4 is about protecting and building social order — church, state, laws, written morals etc.  Level 6 is about protecting and building for all humans and other diverse groups, acting together and for one-another.
  • The individual — the ME — of each progressive odd number exhibits a wider range of power, control, and participation in self advancement than simple survival.  Level 3 is about competition, conquest, and winning on the battlefields of sport, war, and pre-capitalist economics.  Level 5 is about competition, conquest and winning on the bigger playing fields of capitalist economics, science, and technology.  Level 7 does not exist yet on a global scale —  we have not reached this level in the broader evolution of our species, but in individual terms, it is about the competition and conquest of ideas.  We are playing on the bigger field of human ideas and understanding.  It is a world of figuring out bigger questions.  Bigger patterns.  Patterns over time and distance.   L3 is pre-capitalist.  L5 is capitalist.  L7 is — you guessed it — post-capitalist.
  • The Graves Model itself, exists at Level 7.  And yes, there is an 8, but neither L1 nor L8 is really relevant or helpful for this discussion, so we’re just going to drop those for now and move on.
  • In general, the harshest critics of any level are those who have just moved to the next level.  Like someone who has just managed to kick an addiction to cigarettes is the first to insist that smokers are enemies of the state.
  • In general, odd numbers see both the previous even number and the next even number as enemies of all they stand for.  L5 tends to see L4’s laws, regulations, and morals as strangling and ridiculously rule-bound; and L6’s concern with “all-those-not-like-me” as wasting their time, money and energy on things that don’t matter to the bottom line.  L3 felt the same way about L2 and L4.  L7 will, if we last long enough as a species, feel the same way about L6 and L8.
  • In general, regardless of what level we exist at, we are able to operate at other levels when called for.  For example, anyone who has survived (L1) is able to shift into L1 when their survival is at stake.  Anyone who has lived at L2 will return to L2 for family gatherings.  Anyone can play tennis at L3.  Everyone probably attends church or balances their checkbook in L4-mode.  There are certain activities that pull us from our general operating level into a level that works best for that particular activity.
  • We all tend to believe that everyone is just like us — but that some are doing it very badly.  L2s think the entire world exists for them to use for their group’s benefit — but some individuals or countries  just don’t understand.  L3 thinks the whole world is there for them to fight, defeat, and conquer — the one with the biggest stick or gun wins.  L4 thinks the world just needs to follow their rules.  L5 thinks money will fix everything.  L6 thinks we are our brother’s keepers, and everyone is our brother — but (L5 especially) just doesn’t get it.  L7 believes they can fix it if they can just figure it out — and any other pursuit is a waste of time.
  • And — this is the important take-away — Every individual, regardless of level, and every social or cultural entity, regardless of level — has one belief in common:


And that, boys and girls, is where war and aggression come from.

And that’s the shortest explanation of the Graves Theory of Human Evolution I can give you.  It’s not complete.  I’ve made some outrageous simplifications.  But that’s the crux of it.  It’s a really REALLY complicated big picture cut down to a page or two of generalizations.

I thought I’d live to see the shift from Graves Level 5 to 6 as the dominant world system.  After all, we’ve been here at L5 since the Renaissance.  Sure, there have been many individuals who have existed happily and well at L6 and L7 for years — but not enough of those individuals for any but a few tiny countries or organizations to move up into L6 en mas.  Large collections of L7s work in close proximity in  few really forward thinking companies, research institutions or colonies, but in general they are Lone Wolf thinkers who specialize in pattern recognition, theoretical scientific work, and systems analysis and theory.

But since the Renaissance, L5 has been the dominant and overwhelmingly persuasive bully on the pitch.  In many cases, it has persuaded us that it is the only game in town — that if it isn’t working, it’s because it is being played badly — and with enough effort and elbow grease, we can get it working the way we want it to work.

But here’s the truth — the pattern holds.

The next step will be the de-throning of L5 as the dominant social system.

We were closer than we’ve ever been to that flip into L6 in 2016 with the candidacy of Bernie Sander for President of the United States.  With Hillary Clinton, we had a candidate who had split her time going back and forth between L5 and L6.  After all, her social ambitions were based firmly in L6 ambitions, but she spent her entire career fighting from within the L5 establishment.  With Donald Trump, we had a candidate playing solidly in L5 (albeit in a significantly unhealthy way.)  HERE is a write-up on Health at any Level.

But Bernie Sanders was a horse of a different color in this race.  He makes no bones about being post-capitalist in a capitalist dominated world.  And he made no bones about pointing out the flaws in that system — for his entire career in politics.  This made him the ideal candidate for all those who have individually moved to the Graves Level where protecting and building a world where everyone is on equal footing — has equal advantages and opportunities — equal rights and protections under the law.  And for the first time in human history, one of the most powerful nations on the planet came very close to shifting from Level 5 to Level 6.  In fact, if the L5 US had been a healthy version of L5, rather than a panic-driven L5 running without the constraints of L4 morality, he might have succeeded.  But neither the Democratic nor Republican parties felt bound by right over wrong, legal or illegal, truth over lie, or fair and just over self-interest.

In short, Bernie Sanders felt bound by the rule of law and the fairness he was running to create.  Neither of the other two major candidates or their parties felt the same way.  Hillary and Trump were running in and for an L5 world.  Bernie was running in hope of an L6 emergence.

So again, THE PATTERN HOLDS.  L6 is where we are all heading, both as individuals and as a species.

One of the biggest bluffs L5 has run on humanity is the hyper-quotable: “Nobody ever said life was going to be fair.”


The idea that life isn’t fair  makes it easy for L5 to take what it wants, regardless of who it hurts.  So long as life isn’t fair — bullies reign.  If we start with the presupposition that there are winners and losers — then it’s okay within that presupposition for most of the population to be losers.  And it’s okay for winners to gloat.  And kick the losers in the butt to make sure they remember their place.

But the presupposition is a lie.  If life is sometimes unfair, it’s because its really really hard, not because it’s impossible.  And creating something that is really really hard and complicated and complex and far-reaching requires a higher Graves Level of complexity than L5 could manage.  It will take L6 — fully formed and reveling in the complications and tangles — to created fairness.

Expect justice to be the motive from healthy L4.

But expect fairness to be the motivation from healthy L6.

So if you are waiting for the  deus ex machina to drop down and save you from Donald Drumph, you can stop waiting.  This is all real and it is all going to happen.  His narcissism is going to be dangerous.  His ignorance is going to be a challenge.  But his presence is going to be.  Period.  The trick is going to be to survive it — both individually, and collectively as a country.  If there is homework, it will be waiting to see how far we can get the pendulum to swing.  Never mind “don’t let that pendulum hit you in the butt as you leave the White House, Donald!”  We want it to hit him so hard that L5 leaves with him as the dominant system in the US, and L6 is the only logical and reasonable step forward anybody can see.

So to all my friends that are still having trouble figuring out how to move on with their lives in a Trumpocracy — just know we are all still here, and the pattern holds.  We may not live to see it, but our children and grandchildren may yet discover that the world really can be a fair place.  A just place.  An honorable place.  A complex puzzle of life rather than a jack-bo0ted torture of a life.

The task ahead — the one that really gets us ahead, rather than earning us a spot in the loony-bin — is to do our best to live lives of fairness and hope, rather than lives of fear and victim-hood.  Do your L6 best — volunteer.  March.  Protest.  Give things away to people who need them.  Donate to organizations with a clear L6 focus and structure.  Support random acts of kindness and fairness.  Participate in your community and group and religion and school.  Feed somebody who’s hungry.  Learn constantly.  Reinvent yourself daily.  Save the planet.  Save the animals.  Save yourself.

In evolutionary terms, the only resolution to advancing complexity is to move to a higher level of existence.   Problems cannot be addressed from the level that created them.  It took L2 to create a place for L1 to live out their survival.  And it took L3 to progress beyond the boundary of the village.  It took L4 to stop L3’s conquests.  It took L5 to reign in L4’s structure.  Similarly, L5 can’t fix L5’s hoarding and bullying.  Only L6 can fix L5 problems.  And only L7 can harness the energy of all those minds and ideas held dear by so many people thinking and creating together.

If we can keep the planet alive long enough, we might be able to all live here together.  The pattern holds, and the pattern is bigger than this election.  It’s also bigger than the US.  Certainly bigger than any one mewling politician or disrupted event.  If you’re still stuck in the politics, pull up higher so you can see the bigger picture.  — and hold on to that bigger picture.  It’s the one that matters.


Mixed Berry Frozen Yogurt — So Healthy Your Mouth Can’t Wait!!!!!



Yes, I’m Type-2 Diabetic — but this is a summer treat (okay, not just summer — it’s too good to limit to a couple of months between June and September) and healthy in so many ways, you’ll choose it no matter what.nutrition panel

This is for a 1.5 quart batch — which, when frozen, is 8x 3/4-cup servings, OR 12x 1/2c servings in little Tupperware or Ziplock/Glad containers, OR 16x 3oz frozen treat bars — on a stick or in a tube.

Here’s the nutrition and ingredients for 8 x 3/4-cup servings:
(HINT: remember to NOT fill the containers completely — stuff expands as it freezes!!!!  If there’s a little left — it’s a bonus!)


  • 20.00 oz strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries (mix to your taste)
  • 5 T C-Salts (Buffered Vitamin C + Minerals)
  • 0.25 tsp Sea Salt
  • 16.00 oz, Greek Gods Yogurt Traditional Greek Plain (not low or no-fat)
  • 100.00 g, Just Like Sugar Table Top Sweetener
  • 10.00 Drops (0.12 ml), Better Stevia Drops
  • 12.00 packet (0.8g), True Lime (Crystallized Lime juice)
  • 1/2 packet Fiber One Vanilla pudding mix

Puree berries until smooth in a blender with True Lime, salt, and C-Salts.  Add whole-milk Greek Yogurt  and Stevia drops, then the Just Like Sugar.  Blend for a few seconds, then let it stand for at least 3 minutes — then blend again and partially “whip” the mixture — this adds some air and gives it a slightly different texture when frozen.

From this point, you can either pour the mixture into an ice cream freezer, or portion it into frozen treat molds or tubes.

The treats have a much different texture than traditional ice cream/frozen yogurt because when made without sugar, the emulsion/elasticity of sugar+fat does not occur.  This is why most people will prefer these as bars on a stick.

I actually like the frosty ice-y popsicle consistency, and the slowed eating process of eating it out of a cup/container…. but that’s probably just me.

Here are some of my favorite tools —


These nifty zip-lock squeeze-up baggies are made by a company called Zipzicle — you can get them straight from the manufacturer, or from Amazon, and other online merchants. I use these when I’m low on freezer space — they slip into unbelievably small spaces both to freeze and to store. And if you’re eating from a picnic cooler — there’s no small parts to keep track of and take home.


Zoku makes some wonderfully whimsical ice-pop molds — this is by far my fave (and thematically appropriate for life on the coast) They’re a little steep in price — but made of safe and durable silicone. Hand washable and simple to remove once the pops are frozen hard. (More like this pictured below)


Zoku round pops mold. Makes 4, about 3oz —


Zoku “quick freeze” pop maker. You can get a single, a double like this, or a triple. Each one freezes 3 times before you have to re-freeze the core. These pops can be plain-Jane, or dolled-up with fresh fruit/nuts, krispies etc. Pops take about 10 minutes to freeze — and a little longer after the first go-round.  I like to add toasted flake coconut and toasted almond slices….


Zoku triple pop maker — with some fancy examples!


Glad 1/2c re-usable containers. Ziplocks’ are square — just as good, but harder to get the good stuff out with a spoon when they’re frozen hard. Tupperware and Rubbermaid make them this size in a more durable material — but these last upwards of 10 times to re-use.


Excellent 1 1/2 qt ice cream freezer from Cuisinart. Read the instructions first (I didn’t) and it will save a headache. Hint: It has to be turned on and going before you add the liquid you’re freezing. lol


There are some great silicone molds where you just add the sticks and freeze. I got these 3oz containers on Amazon for under $10 —


You can get these push-up / squeeze tubes at any kitchen shop — some even have the little lids attached so they’re harder to lose. They hold from 2-4 oz depending on brand.  Hint: Stand them up in a cup to freeze in case there’s a leak….

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Here are the brands I use:

Naturally probiotic -- tart -- creamy -- high protein -- and yummy.  This is the real thing!

Naturally probiotic — tart — creamy — high protein — and yummy.

Not just buffered Vitamin-C, but also calcium, magnesium, zinc, and potasium!

Not just buffered Vitamin-C, but also calcium, magnesium, zinc, and potassium!

This is the purest lime flavor you'll ever taste short of just eating a fresh lime....

This is the purest lime flavor you’ll ever taste short of just eating a fresh lime….

either the

either the “Table Top” or “Baking” versions will work. Both add 4g of fiber per 5g Tablespoon.

The Success of Failed Attempts: Prohibition and US

Remember Prohibition?  Me neither.  It was way before my time.

But I’ve seen the movies.  The History Channel is all over this story.  Everybody knows it was an outrageous failure that flew in the face of American civil liberties…



Except I think we may have been bamboozled.  So to speak.

According to TIME Magazine, there’s a little bit of the history that the photo above doesn’t bother to mention — and maybe we should make notes about this.

The rise of the United States is one of history’s amazing stories, even more remarkable when you realize how many of our forefathers were three sheets to the wind. John Adams drank hard cider with breakfast. James Madison drained a pint of whiskey each day*. By 1830 the average American was guzzling the equivalent of 1.7 bottles of hard liquor per week — three times the amount consumed today.

*For those keeping score, that would come to 3.5 quarts (just shy of a gallon) of whiskey per week.

That’s right.  Per capita, Americans drank an average AVERAGE of 1.7 quarts of hard liquor per week.  That’s 32 drinks per week.  4 1/2 cocktails a day.  Every day.  Per person.  Man, woman and child.  And since we assume the children were not REALLY drinking their fair share, that means Daddy and Mama — who at that time had 7 surviving children per household — were actually drinking more than 15 bottle of booze a week.

Okay — there were a few single folks.  And a few tea-totalers.  So let’s split the difference and say all the drinking adults drank maybe 10 bottles a week.

That’s the equivalent of more than a fifth of scotch whiskey a day.  Imagine living in a world where everybody drank a fifth of scotch a day.  People would be getting in gun fights in the street.  Wife and child abuse would be rampant.  Babies would be still-born, damaged by Fetal Alcohol Syndrome — before anybody knew what it was.  People wouldn’t live long enough to die of cancer or Alzheimer’s or heart disease or — well — of anything age related because they’d die of liver failure in their 40s.

Imagine that world.  A place where there were no (or few) medical anesthetics or analgesics.  Pain killers were narcotic or nothing.  Want to alleviate the symptoms of menopause, or even horrific PMS?  Have a bottle of corn liquor!  Pain from childbirth?  Have a drink.  Migraine?  Give me a break.  Have a drink.  Insomnia?  Muscle cramps?  Stress?  Exhaustion?  Relax.  Get some sleep.  Have a drink or two to unwind and then a couple more to put you to sleep at night.  Is the weather a bit nippy?  Aches and pains from all that rain?  Arthritis warping you hands and the knuckles in your toes?  Bourbon will fix that!  You won’t feel a thing!  Depressed?  Blue?  Burdened by nightmares?  Trauma?  (Think PTSD) — Bottoms up!

You won’t feel a thing.  Ask anybody.

And that’s probably pretty much the truth.  People drank to fix just about everything.  Monks made liquor to pay their bills.  Bitters — digestion aids — were loaded with wood spices, ginger, herbs and other medicinals and sold for their health benefits.

Everybody drank!  An average of 1.7 bottles of hard liquor (not beer or wine or cider or mead….) every single week.  So that 1.7 bottles of hard liquor was actually IN ADDITION TO any beer or wine or cider or mead that was consumed.

And the results were incalculable.  Think of the productivity loss!  Imagine walking the scaffolding to build skyscrapers with that much liquor in your system!  No wonder so many people died building the Brooklyn Bridge!  Or the Empire State Building!  Think about working as a telephone or telegraph lineman — or walking the catwalks in the saloons and Vaudeville theaters!  Or swinging a big knife as a butcher — or a scythe as a farmer!  Every aspect of life gets more dangerous with that much liquor in flow!

My grandmother was almost beaten to death by her father for letting a pig escape from its pen — because her father was constantly altered by alcohol,  and not quite in conscious control of his actions.  He was a “strong silent-type” pioneer who farmed and ranched some of the most difficult land in the dusty Texas Panhandle.  And he was a nightmare.  None of his sons survived — so he worked his daughters like pack-animals — and he beat them just like he beat the mules.

And nobody thought anything about it.
Why not?
Because it was common place.  Everybody drank that much.  Everybody beat their children and wives in fits of anger.  Everybody.

1.7 bottles of hard liquor — the average — probably the minimum for a real drinking adult — is enough to change everything.


And that’s why Prohibition happened.  It happened in concert with the first Women’s Movement that gave women their first voice in the US.  Women finally got fed up.

Women got a voice, and one of the first things they said was; “put down that bottle!”


So — no.  Prohibition didn’t last.  Bootleggers found a way to keep making moonshine and bathtub gin.  NASCAR was born via the car-chases — the result of moonshiners trying to outrun the local police on the backroads and dirt highways of the South.  We wanted our freedom so bad that we were willing to break the law — and laugh while we did it — just to keep drinking.  We made a sport of hiding away in private clubs and dark venues all over America —

And Prohibition was repealed — the Speak Easy died — bootleggers became political royalty — and gangsters moved on to organizing other crimes.

And, at least according to that first picture — Prohibition failed.

But the truth is — it changed the way we think about drinking in this country.  We no longer look the other way when people drink and abuse their family.   We don’t turn a blind eye to manslaughter with a vehicle when the driver was DUI.  We don’t excuse costly errors due to hangovers or absenteeism.  Suicide by alcohol — isn’t an unknown any more. And Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is a known, rather than an unknown.

The town drunk isn’t a joke any more.

Public intoxication — to the point of doing harm to oneself or others — just isn’t cool.

And that’s not the way it was before.  We think about how much we drink.  We find designated drivers.  We hold bartenders accountable for letting people get so drunk — for hours at a time — that they are a public threat.

We don’t tolerate those things.   Now.

Prohibition may not be the law of the land any more — but a failure?

I don’t think so.

In the long game, Prohibition was what we needed to get sober enough  — for long enough — to think clearly and re-prioritize our beliefs and values and goals.  It was a sober night that let us grow up and choose better.  And be better.

People still drink.  There are still heavy drinkers.  But now we are pretty clear about addiction and recovery.  Drinking and alcoholism aren’t the same thing.  But we might never have known that without Prohibition.

There are still good reasons to drink.  And there are other choices that accomplish the same ends.  But we might never have known that without Prohibition.

There are behaviors that can be explained by putting them in the context of a few drinks — but explaining is not the same as excusing.  Alcohol is not an excuse for hurting others.  Or breaking laws.  Or failing — at anything.  Alcohol may explain it – but it doesn’t excuse it.  But we might never have known that without Prohibition.

We had to get away from that 1.7/per capita statistic long enough to stop thinking of it as normal.



Let’s talk about guns, our relationship to our guns, and the relationship to violence.

A New Year — Finally

It has been an interesting year.

If you grow up neglected — which is what happened to me — the death of parents is a fairly significant life event.  Yes, I know.  The death of any parent is a significant life event.  I understand.  My father has been dead nearly 10 years.  My mother died this past April.

For me, it represented the end of that shadow hanging over my life.  It has been several years since I first recognized that I would never — and COULD never actually please either of my parents.  They were never interested in being pleased by a child.  Their only expectations of me were that I would always be a distraction from the lives they actually wanted to live.  I would always be a burden, a disappointment, and someone to blame.

Then one day, my aunt called and said my mother was in the hospital and dying.  She asked if I would like to visit her, even though she was not conscious.  I said, “no thank you.”  My aunt and uncle stayed with her for days until she died; arranged for her funeral; and took care of all the details.  They wanted to know when I could arrange to settle the will, and I assured them that I was not mentioned in the will (as per my mother’s constant badgering threats and attempts to force me to be a victim until long after her death.)

Her lawyer confirmed that neither I nor my son was mentioned in the will, and my cousin had been made executor. My aunt (her sister) was so shocked she couldn’t believe it.  She and her husband assured me that they would not let this happen, and that we would inherit as we were supposed to — no matter what.

Nobody outside my mother and father ever knew how they treated me, evidently — until I was a grown woman and a mother myself.  A close friend of mine (a practicing child therapist) was the one who spotted what had been going on all those years when he met my mother.  Otherwise, I would have continued to believe everyone was “raised” the same way I was.

And telling my aunt/uncle this complicated bad news would have served no purpose.  People thought badly enough of her already.  And she’d made sure nobody who trusted her would believe anything I ever said about her.

Then another will was found — toward the end of her life, she’d evidently recanted under pressure from a lawyer in our extended family.

In the end, what was left of the money she’d inherited from my grandfather; and gotten in the divorce from my father, went to pay off my son’s college loans and pay off all our debts.  Her house went to my son who will be married this year, so he is debt free and owner free-and-clear of a home.  Her car — a Lexus which had only been driven 1600 miles and then sat dead in her garage for over 2 years — paid for much of my son’s and our new Prius(es?)  Pri-i?  2 Prius hybrids.  Her jewelry and house contents bought us 3 new chairs, a treadmill, and new stormdoors and a new kitchen window.  Her portion of the family farmland was sold to my aunt and uncle for half its market value — since they did the horrible duty of staying with her until she died.  So my husband and I — and my son and his future life — each have a little lump in the bank in case of emergency.

And the shadows disappeared.

For about 6 months, it was a fairly tense time here.  The settling of an estate is complicated, time-consuming, and full of unusual duties and surprises.  There was a period of several days/weeks when her malice and hatred of me was tangible in every document and every item I touched from her house.  I had nightmares and was so physically ill from those days, that thought I might go ahead and just go insane to get away from it all.

But it didn’t happen.  My husband, my son, my soon-to-be daughter-in-law –and all our friends listened to me go from screaming to throwing things — and it all eventually passed.

The week my son took possession of her house — he called a local nursery to come and get all the dozens of rose bushes from her house and yard (I am horribly allergic to roses.)  She had planted them every 3 feet or so, and built a special rose garden just outside the back door.  The only conclusion any of us can possibly draw is that she planted them on purpose to keep me away.  Or to make sure I was uncomfortable, sick, and miserable every time I crossed her threshold.  (This was in addition to the rose-perfume she splashed on every morning of her life.)

But I can visit “Nathan’s house” without having to resort to Benedryl and asthma inhalers.

Both my husband and I think it is possible that the rose allergy may be a kind of chicken/egg problem.  It’s basically impossible to know whether I developed the allergy as a child — in response to my mother — or if I had the allergy first and she responded to it by learning to grow roses and finding perfumes made with genuine rose.  Either way —

We sold (through an estate sale) almost everything she’d ever owned.  We kept fewer than a dozen items.  A couple of fairly neutral book cases.  The kitchen table from our house before they (my parents) moved into their 4500-sq-ft monster and before their divorce.  A chair for the dog to sleep in.  The photos of my grandparents when they were first married.  A coffee cup I had always liked.  Nathan kept her sofa — where he loved to sleep when he was a boy.  And we let my aunt take some things she wanted.

I sold one of her pieces of jewelry to a friend coming up on his first anniversary — for the price a jeweler had offered for it (about 10% of its original price.)  His wife got a helluva great piece of jewelry.  But all of my mother’s jewelry felt cursed.  She bought it all for herself — or coaxed it out of people.  She always measured how much someone cared about her by how much money they spent on her in jewelry.  I guess she cared most — because her file folder full of receipts told the tale.  She’d spent more on diamonds and gold than most people spend on their home, all the cars they ever own, their education and computers — more than all of it put together.

And jewelers bought it back for 10% of what she paid.

Jewelry was what she wanted and what she loved.

A lot of old memories have come back since she died.

I remember more of my childhood now.  I remember little tableaux images.  The tree in our back yard.  The path I walked to school every day.  I remember not having friends.  I remember how much lunch cost every day at school. (a quarter, a dime, and 2 pennies.)  I remember being alone in my room for hours and hours and hours.  When I was 6 or 7.  And when I was 10. I remember piano lessons, recitals, and the annual Van Cliburn Competition. (I still have the tiny bronze pin for participating.)

All the time I was growing up.  I remember never being told when to come home in the evenings.  Or on school nights, ever.  I remember that we only ever ate meals together (or maybe it was just that I was never called for dinner) except when she was on weight watchers diet that emphasized cooking and eating together.  I remember summers with my grandparents.

I remember being sick all winter, every winter, with “bronchitis” or tonsilitis.  That I later learned, as an adult, was asthma.  They never took me to a doctor good enough to diagnose it.  Instead, I lived on antibiotics all winter every year, and coughed all the time.

It turns out, the asthma was not the only thing that was never diagnosed.  I am also dyslexic.  And from all we have been able to read and learn, I am probably also on the far end of the autism spectrum.  It’s just as well they never bothered to figure that one out — I’d have ended up drugged and institutionalized somewhere, and would never have found a life of my own.  Instead, I learned to compensate for most of the most telling symptoms.  And I learned to read, in spite of the dyslexia.

But the dyslexia would have been much easier to navigate if someone had told me what was going on.  Instead, I just spent the first 19 years of my life thinking I was really stupid, and too sub-par in intelligence to do or be anything — other than what I’d always been.

Once I got past that — my life was very different.

And once I let go of the people who brought me into the world, and their selfishness and inadequacy as parents — my life was very different then, too.

So 2011 was a different kind of year.  Sweeping it out the back door is a good thing.  Starting fresh this year — is a much bigger and more comfortable fresh start.  A fresh start I didn’t even know enough to have been waiting for.

It’s time to take a deep, long breath.  It was the best Halloween ever this year.  Dozens and dozens of children came to the door — especially when word got out I had lite-up bracelets andn finger puppets instead of candy.  I had the best Thanksgiving of my life this year– a store bought ham, a baked macaroni and cheese, and Nathan made stir-fried broccoli (at his new house.)   And then I had the best holiday season I’ve ever had.  No expectations.  No travel.  No stress.  Simple.  Quiet.  Movies.  Games.  Chauncey-dog running around and jumping on the furniture.

All the rose bushes are gone.

Memory and Misinterpretation / Reinterpretation

It’s a very strange side effect of my mother’s death this year, that many of my childhood memories have returned.  I’m not sure where they went in the first place — though I have a few ideas — but they’re back now.  And, it’s been an interesting process, re-cataloging them as an adult.

When I was a kid, nobody knew what dyslexia was, and even fewer knew about autism spectrum. I’d never heard the word autism until I was in college, on a class visit to the state hospital.  There was a boy there — my age — curled up in a fetal position in a very large crib.  He weighed no more than 90 lbs, and he rocked back and forth every moment he was awake.  This, I was told, was what being autistic meant.

So I was dyslexic, asthmatic, probably somewhere on the north end of autistic — and at 13 years old, I must have been pretty creepy.  My parents (who I am now told neglected me in almost all ways) decided I needed to do more “normal’ things.  I’d never had a friend.  I’d never been to another kid’s house.  I’d never been to a sleepover or out to a movie.   I lived in my room — mostly with the door closed — and I’d been there all my life.

We went to a little church three times a week, and the teenagers there all went out together every Sunday night.  Nothing organized — not dates or parties — just riding around our little suburb, or out to get a Coke at a Dairy Queen.  Evidently, my parents paid one of the 18 year old boys to take me with them.

This must have been a really awkward thing for a teenage boy.  I tended to wear the same clothes every day.  I didn’t know how to talk to people.  I wasn’t pretty or sweet or any of the words people like to think describe them.  And I’d never heard pop music or “news at the top of the hour,” or even carried on a conversation with anyone I wasn’t related to.  But Eddie — the senior in high school who needed pocket money — made sure I followed along everywhere this little group went on Sunday nights.

One evening after church, however, Eddie didn’t have any money to go out, so everybody went back to his house.

I’d never been to anybody’s house.  My grandmother’s.  My aunts.  The preacher’s.  And that was it.  I knew the house on Father Knows Best and Make Room For Daddy — and even the big Ponderosa ranch house on Bonanza.  But that was about it.

Eddie’s house was modest.  There were doilies on the tables, and hard chairs in the living-room.  There was a table with an aqua surface in his kitchen and a mixer on the counter top.  In hindsight, this was a very modest and moderately low income household, even though both of his parents worked.  The house was older and built of wood, with trees and bushes neatly trimmed in the yard. It was like the house we’d lived in when I was small — not like our shag carpeted, wood paneled, gun-cabineted house in the suburbs.

Eddie, like me, was an only child.  His house was uncluttered and uncrowded — there were no siblings to demand attention.   His parents were older than mine.  I suspect now that they wern’t THAT much older — but my parents married before they were 20.

Most importantly, his house had a stereo record player — which was a big deal in the late 1960s — and Eddie had records.  While he and the other kids talked and did whatever it was they were doing, I looked at record album covers and played the Temptations and the Supremes on the stereo.  He had Beach Boys.  The Lettermen.  Glen Miller.  All pretty standard issue stuff — and all completely new for me.

Evidently, I was not particularly welcome in this group of teenagers, because after a few weeks, Eddie explained to me that I needed to learn how to be polite and how to act with other kids.  I remember crying because I didn’t know what he was talking about.  I hardly talked at all.  When I did say something, though, I must have been loud and curt and out of place.  I asked a lot of questions.  I stared at them when they talked.  I had no common experiences with those people.  I didn’t know any of them or how to be interested in them.  They talked about things I didn’t know anything about.

I remember trying to listen to them.  Trying to figure out what they were talking about so I could “fit in.”

But it was like a foreign language.  The only common ground I could ever find with them was music.  I’d asked for a radio for Christmas — and it had become my window into the world.  Where I’d never even heard pop music before — I was now listening to one of the Dallas rock-and-roll stations (KLIF 1190 on your radio dial) every night to go to sleep.  I knew all the songs and all the bands and I could sing along.  I listened to the radio non-stop from the time I woke up in the morning, so that no matter what came on Eddie’s car radio — I knew it.  It gave me common ground.

I didn’t know what most of the songs were talking about — but I knew all the words.

I still know the words.

But somewhere in the last couple of decades, I stopped listening to music.  Some music you can’t get away from — it’s always there in TV commercials, elevators, playing in the background in stores.  But on the whole, I had lost all that music.  There were too many other things to focus on.  Even my iPod was full of recorded books.

But something happened when my mother died.  All the music came flooding into my head.  Simon and Garfunkle.  The Beatles.  Marvin Gaye.  The First Edition.  Tommy James and the Shondels.  Smokey RobinsonJanis Joplin.  Then the Bee Gees (the old original Bee Gees, not the Disco Bee Gees.)  Carole King.  James Taylor. Harry Nillsson. The Doors.  Neil Diamond.  And on and on.

I now have an iPod/iPad/iTunes full of music.  Four decades worth of music.

And I remembered Eddie who is probably a grandfather.  I think the last time I saw him, he was teaching school, and his wife had just had twins. That was a long time ago.

Eddie didn’t teach me to be a proper teenager, but he did introduce me to music as a bridge to other people.  And that was enough to get me by until I was older.