Emotional Flood Insurance

When I was a child, I had to shut down my emotions almost completely just to survive. I always hoped that I could someday turn them back on. But, back then, I thought I could be selective in that process or that, magically, when I allowed myself to feel again, the emotions would surface gently like children’s bubbles floating through a sunny day at the park. I expected them to arrive calmly, one at a time, for inspection and handling. I was naive.

I had no idea that emotions come in jumbles and crowds – sometimes even angry mobs. I had no idea that I would feel like Lucy in the candy factory. I was never prepared for that.

I have recovered my ability to feel my emotions. Sadly, though, that process turned out to be less than gentle and more like a dam breaking. And, the resulting flood swept me away, leaving devastation in its path. There is no flood insurance for this situation.

I am so grateful for the dam finally breaking, but so sorry that I was unprepared for the flood.

My emotions are still a jumble, but I have learned to understand and cope with that. I have even learned to appreciate the complex tapestry they weave, their subtle nuances and the richness their variety provides in my life.

I have been helped in the process of reconnecting with my emotions by some otherwise unfortunate relationships. I feel gratitude to those teachers and guides and wish that they, too, had flood insurance that might have protected what was precious in those relationships.

Emotional Flood Insurance should, perhaps, be required in all relationships.

April Fool’s Day

For today,

it is okay to be a fool,

to act foolish

to put aside fears of being thought a fool. 


For today,

it is okay to risk.

Foolishness is a small price to pay

for all that we desire. 


For today,

nothing is serious,

nothing is forever,

nothing can hurt us. 


For today,

life is simply a leap into the unknown,

yesterdays to be rediscovered,

tomorrows to be created.


Tomorrow is our safety net. 

But for today,

Just for today,

I choose the fool and

wonderful is within my grasp.


For today,

I hope tomorrow never comes.






How Sarah Palin did Good

Yes, I know, you did not think Sarah Palin had a good side, but even she has accomplished good things.  Okay, it was very indirect and she did not mean to, but let me explain.

I do not care for Sarah Palin.  The day she was announced as a Vice Presidential nominee, I started doing research about her.  The more I found out, the less I cared for her.  And that was before the media exploded with news about her.  I like her even less now.

But, she really seems to be planning to run for the Presidency in 2012.  She truly believes she is presidential material.  I’m scared, because I do not trust the voters in the country to not elect her.   Seriously, we elected George W – TWICE!  The first time I could forgive as ignorance, but the second was just unforgivable. 

Anyway, I am trying to keep current about Sarah Palin, so that I am ready for the fight if she runs in 2012.  One of the best sources of information I have found is the Mudflats blog – an Alaska political blog.   I’ve checked out many of the things I read there and my credibility rating for Mudflats is pretty  high.

 So here is where Sarah Palin has done good.  While I am checking out the Mudflats regularly to keep current about Sarah Palin, I am learning quite a bit about Alaska in general – not just about Sarah Palin.  It never occurred to me before, but we get very little news about Alaska down here in the lower 48.   There is a lot about Alaska that I do not know.

Sadly, though, the news right now is dismal.  There are families in rural Alaska that have lost their Fisheries and, thus, their jobs, and are having to choose between purchasing heating oil to avoid freezing to death (I did know it’s cold up there) and food for their kids. 

I’ve had to give up things to feed my daughter on occasion, but never heat in a freezing winter.  I’ve only had to give up three dollar Starbucks mochas and nine dollar glasses of wine.  Somehow, that does not hurt much.   And, I can walk to the grocery store for my daughter’s food and my heat just sort of arrives at my house without my thinking about it much. 

Those people in rural Alaska have to fly in their food and their heating oil.  Sounds expensive and difficult.   It sounds like a good idea to stock up at the beginning of the long, cold winter, doesn’t it?   But, how do you stock up when you have lost your job?   They can’t.  And, they are hurting.  If you want the details, read about it at www.themudflats.net or other sources.

So, I’m feeling blessed in my own life right now.   And, I’m feeling compelled to share the abundance I have with those people in Alaska.  So, Sarah Palin did good.  Sort of.  I’m sure she did not mean to.  I think, though, just maybe, that I feel extra sorry for those rural Alaskans because they are stuck with her as their governor (doing nothing to help them) and they, too, are scared about 2012 (in the few moments they are not scared about freezing or starving to death). 

Here’s the info for helping one particularly hardhit area:

To help, please call:

City of Emmonak, (907) 949-1227/1249 (They will take donations by credit card.  Please specify the donation is for heating oil!)

Emmonak Tribal Council, (907) 949-1720

or send a check to:

Emmonak Tribal Council
P.O. Box 126
Emmonak, AK 99581
Attn: Christine Alexie

Walmart’s Values – rated “L” for “Lacking”

Wow, Walmart, bringing families together, way to go.  Oh, excuse me, my tongue got stuck in my cheek there for a minute.  What I meant to say was, “Could Walmart be any less family oriented?” 


Several times lately (obviously, I am watching too much television), I have seen a commercial for Walmart and Guitar Hero® that absolutely blows my mind.  (You can see it here:  http://commercial-archive.com/node/146624.)  At first, it all seems so incredibly nice – a whole family, gathered in the living room, playing Guitar Hero® together.  Music, dancing and smiling faces – what could possibly be wrong with this picture. 


The baby in the high chair is swinging his/her feet in time to the music, with head bobbing.  The preschool daughter jumps up and down in her purple patent shoes while her blonde ringlet curls bounce along with her.  The son, probably 7-8 years old plays drums, with his head bobbing to the beat.  Dad sets the rhythm at the beginning of the clip and then is seen in the background jamming on a guitar.  Mom is the star, up front playing guitar and thanking Walmart for making the Xbox and Guitar Hero® affordable so, “now this family is always together.”  The whole family. 


Are you wondering yet why I think this is not a “family-oriented” commercial and Walmart really blew it?  The answer comes at the very end of the commercial when the voiceover informs us that Guitar Hero® and, indeed, maybe this entire vignette, is “rated T for teens.” 


Now, I don’t proclaim to be any kind of an expert on rating systems, but I assume that “T for teens” means there is something about Guitar Hero® that is inappropriate for younger children.  The Guitar Hero® website identifies “mild suggestive themes” as the reason for the rating.  I have no idea and will probably not bother to find out exactly what “mild” or “suggestive” mean in this context.    


Walmart, on the other hand, should find out.  Walmart is sending this not-quite-Currier-and-Ives scene into our homes for the holidays.  Why, I wonder, could they not have used a family with teenage children.  Don’t families with teenagers need togetherness?  I suspect they have already saturated the teen market and are looking for a new demographic to target. 


Is anybody else offended by Walmart and their “togetherness” family beaming with joy (and greed) while the baby in the highchair participates in an activity rated “T for teen?”   I really can’t blame the mom – I know she is only an actress and those are, likely, not her children.  And, besides that, she is barely out of the teen years herself. 


My friends know that I am not against my daughter watching television or playing video games in moderation.  They also know that I try to keep my daughter away from television commercials.  She is way too easily influenced by them in extremely subtle ways that she cannot comprehend and guard against.  She knows that Walmart wants her money, but she does not understand the extent to which Walmart is willing to portray life unrealistically to get it.  She has no idea that Walmart is willing to ignore family values and common sense, sacrificing the greater good of children and families in the process, in their quest for the last Christmas dollar of the season.  Unless prompted, she would not even question the underlying message that we should all just ignore the rating system and let even the baby play the game rated “T for teens.” 


My daughter does not know these things.  The adults watching should. 


When the teen market has been saturated, Walmart needs to go after a younger market, so Walmart does.  That is capitalism.   Maybe the target of my outrage should be Activision Publishing.  According to its Guitar Hero® website, the game ratings range from “Everyone 10+ to  Teen.”  Is this really necessary?  It seems simple enough to create a version of Guitar Hero® that is appropriate for all ages.  There are plenty of good songs with family-appropriate lyrics and no suggestive themes, mild or otherwise.  I think it could be done.   


Even at E-10+, Walmart’s happy family need not apply.

He Lived for Less than an Hour; He Weighed Less than a Pound

Today is my son Matthew’s birthday.  It is also the anniversary of his death.  24 years ago he was born.  He lived less than an hour.  He weighed less than a pound.  These are the harsh details that seem to stick in my mind – he was just less than 1 in every way.  The medical details are unimportant, but he had no lungs.  Other than that, he was perfect in miniature – just 1 important organ short of 1 healthy baby; just slightly less than the 1 son I wanted to love and take home to a beautiful life. 


Today, I went to the cemetery where his ashes were scattered among the rose bushes.  I went early and watched the sun rise.  It is a sight he never saw.   The gates were not open yet, so I sat in my car near the locked gates and engaged in my annual ritual of reliving the day of his birth – the day of his death.  The sound of the rain tapping on the roof of the car lulled me into an almost trance-like state.  I could almost see the hospital lights and hear the monitors beeping and chirping. 


I objected when the anesthesiologist called me Liz:  “I am not Liz,” I said from where I was floating near the ceiling, just before the darkness invaded my being.  Then I remember waking up and being cold – I had never before been so cold.  The warmed blankets the nurses brought me could not penetrate through that cold.  I simply could not feel the warmth they brought me. 


Then, they told me my son had died.  And, suddenly the impossibility of feeling even colder became my reality.  The fires of hell could not have warmed me at that moment, although I thought for sure that is where I had awakened.  I had known the likelihood of his death, the very slim chances of his survival.  I had been living on hope and, now, that had been taken from me. I had nothing left to live on.  I have no fear of hell now because I have been there and survived.


I saw him – very briefly, a tiny lifeless body resting gently in the palm of my hand.  He fit in just one hand – just slightly less than a pound – and reminded me of a newborn kitten.  Well-meaning people hovered about, tending to me, trying to be supportive, not realizing that I wanted privacy.  I wanted to spend a private moment with my son.  I wanted to spend a private eternity with my son.  I wanted to rip myself back open and put him safely back inside where he could grow and become whole.


I go to the cemetery every year on his birthday.  I sit near the rose garden and grieve.  I grieve because my pain is all I have left of him since the hope was taken away.  I have no fond memories of him, but I have become fond of the ritual and the pain.  I cling to the pain as if letting it go would be to let him go all over again.  I rip myself open and allow the pain to grow until it is my whole being.  Then, when the fires of hell have burned themselves down to glowing embers, I go back home and continue my life until next year. 


Today, I took my only picture of Matthew – a Polaroid taken at the hospital – and scanned it.  After 24 years, it had faded.  But this picture I cling to, just as I cling to my pain, and I needed to preserve it.  Pictures fade faster than pain.  I do not know how I will preserve the pain if it ever starts to fade.