Sunday, July 22, 2018

Appreciating My Parents

Yesterday, my nebulizer machine wouldn't work. I took it apart methodically. After I'd removed the hose from the unit, I turned it on, and felt air coming through. Turned it off, re-attached the hose, and again felt air. Then, I replaced the inside part where you pour the Albuterol solution, and felt no air. Aha! I took a paper clip and stretched it out and poked it through that sucker. The tiny pinhole was clogged up. I replaced the part, and felt air! I tested the final attachment, including the mouthpiece, after filling the little compartment with an ampule of Albuterol. Voila! I now have a working VIOS nebulizer. Next cycle I run through it will be with a solution of vinegar and water, to clean out any other buildup. 

My father, Robert J. Flygare, who passed away in 1997, was a chemical engineer. Hence, I composed the following and sent it to my mother and sisters.

"Well, things breakin' down can cause ya dismay
Unless you're a daughter of Robert. J.
He could fix anything, and I'm just that way--
Thank God I'm an engineer!"

Then, I got to thinking about Mom, who turned 92 in May. Her response to my e-mail had been, "Yes, all our daughters are 100%."  I thought about that for a few minutes, and then sent her this:

"Mom, you said in an e-mail to me: "Yes, all of our daughters are 100%." Well, you are 100%, too! Yes, I sent a poem about learning to fix things by watching Dad, but that doesn't mean I couldn't write a volume about all the things I learned from you, back when I was "Gigi Doll," (aka "Little Vi.")  Here is a list, at random, of things that warm my heart because I got them from you: (and I am still learning!)
1. When driving, even though we now have seat belts, if I have to brake suddenly, I automatically swing my right arm across the passenger seat to protect the person sitting there, even if there is no passenger!            

2. I sing my life. I find myself turning so many things I do every day into a song! Mom, you sang our childhood to us. This link is to a video from You Tube of five sisters singing "Music in my Mother's House" to their mother and her friends at her 80th birthday party. You won't be able to understand the verses because of the laughter, (I couldn't).  But the chorus comes through loud and clear.
3. You were wonderful when I was learning to drive. I felt so calm and relaxed when I was in the car with you! You were calm and patient with me.
4. .Every day, after we got our stereo, I'd come home from Linden Park School and ask you if I could listen to one of our classical records. You were always so pleased to fulfill my requests. It was because of your description of the music course you took in college (you even gave me the textbook!) that I decided to pursue music as a minor in college. Who could ever forget you singing "Ceeeee-sar Frank! Ceeeee-sar Frank!" to the Symphony in D Minor? (It is actually pronounced "SAY-sar Fronck") You taught me so much about classical music!
5. "Do for OTHERS." What a gift. Your words, so often said to me, are my motto. People can't be happy if they are self-centered. You taught me that.
6. You drew me to the United Methodist Church, and back to my Christian faith. I am forever grateful for that.
7. You taught me some simple things that I still appreciate--here are two: (a) how to put polish on my fingernails the correct way, and (b) the polite way to fold your hands in your lap at church if you aren't wearing gloves--always cup your hand with a beautiful ring on your finger inside the other hand--do NOT lay it on top, because that looks like you are admiring your jewels and showing off the people next to you in the pew.
8.  You taught me to assert myself. I have always admired how forthright you are. I like to think that I got that from you. I bet we all did!"
I'm sure there are many, many more things I could add to this list. 

I hope all who read this take a moment to cherish their parents, be they living or not. I continue to feel blessed every day of my life because of the beautiful childhood they gave me.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

My response on Quora to the question: What is the most cringeworthy thing you have seen at a wedding?

Elizabeth Flygare
Elizabeth Flygare, former Retired Paraprofessional Librarian (1975-2010)

Myself, in true ADHD fashion, nonchalantly photobombing every attempt the professional photographers made to take pictures at my niece’s wedding reception last May. My fat ass got in about twelve of them - me at an awkward angle, snapping with my phone, oblivious to the horror that was rippling throughout the room as I blocked their view. The sister of the bride had to text my sister (mother of bride) to tell her that “Elizabeth needs to sit down and stop taking pictures.” A month after the fact, my sister emailed me the worst of the photos. You can even see the looks on the faces of the guests, the wedding photographers and the wedding party. I will add that I had on a bright pink batik tunic and shocking pink leggings, finished off with bling Birkenstocks. I looked like I was wearing the drapes.

I honestly was clueless about what I was doing. I was simply focusing (forgive the double entendre) on our 91-year old’s mother’s request to me, that I “take lots of pictures,” because she doesn’t travel any more - she has a caregiver - this is the first family wedding Mom has missed. Mom does not know about my faux pas (too lazy to look up the plural of that) and - thank heavens, the other family members at the table were too polite to mention it to me after the event, and I know they didn’t tell Mom.

I will never wear that outfit again, but here is a photo of me wearing it at WisCon in Madison, a week or so after the wedding. In this one, I am with my boyfriend, and I’m not being a fool. (at least I don’t think so) Obviously I packed the outfit for the con and wore it with aplomb because I hadn’t yet heard about my “performance” at the wedding reception. (My sister didn’t see the proofs until June) She was plenty pissed off at me, but she promised me that no one else would see the photobombs, and that they would not be printed. Haven’t worn the outfit since. The shoes hurt my feet, too.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

My Review of Girl at the End of the World on Goodreads

Girl at the End of the World: My Escape from Fundamentalism in Search of Faith with a FutureGirl at the End of the World: My Escape from Fundamentalism in Search of Faith with a Future by Elizabeth Esther
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have heard horror stories about daily spankings, ("the sword of the Lord,”) starting when children are six months old. I have read about the fear of being "left behind" (when, not if) Armageddon happens, and families who have meeting spaces in case the Rapture occurs and they are "arrested by the Antichrist." I’ve heard all about the modest clothing, the practice of "courtship" (arranged marriages) in place of dating; in short, the self-flagellating, terrified affect carried around like giant rocks around their necks by people who were born and raised in this environment. I have read countless non-fiction books about fundamentalist sects that are out of the bell curve, and I have observed people who appear to be carrying that weight.

But never in my born days have I read someone’s actual words about how she believed that "being a pacifist means hitting your kid to save her soul." The use of violence against children is abhorrent to me, as I am sure it is to most. Never have I ever heard of a little child forced into street preaching, believing "I am ready to die for Jesus." In this short book by Elizabeth Esther, we are taken into the graphic world of hyper-literal interpretation of the Bible (my note: which version?) along with rigid rules, fear, child-beating and brainwashing.

This is religious abuse.

Elizabeth Esther's wake-up call comes following the tragedy of the attacks on 9/11/2001, which were interpreted by her family as the Apocalypse. Following this is a private disclosure by Elizabeth's own mother, where she confides to her daughter that before marrying Elizabeth's father, the love of her life died of a serious illness. Catapulted by the shock of this loss, her mother lands directly into a marriage into what amounts to a cult. Yes -- even so, Elizabeth’s mother chooses to follow the rigid teachings and practices.

Elizabeth marries a man named Matt, who was raised as she was. They start out resolving to bring up their children along the lines of their childhood mindset. Then, one day, the light comes on: It is the moment Elizabeth’s mother hands her a kitchen spoon and orders her to discipline her one-year-old baby. She realizes that she that she does not have to break her daughter's spirit by beating her. Eyes opened, Elizabeth finds the courage to say "No!" The cycle is broken. She and her husband, Matt, begin to hunt for the truth. They find others who are willing to give eyewitness accounts of their own abuse. Through arduous research, including the process of hearing from others about this type of fundamentalism, they learn about misuse of tithe money, adultery and horrendous beatings of women by their husbands in similar sects.

"Love me, God. I dare you," she prays. She feels a call so strong that she follows it. Now, she and Matt are raising their children in the Catholic Church, where mystery is embraced and service to others is encouraged. Through her new faith, Elizabeth is freed from the terror of a vengeful, punishing God. She learns, through therapy and her newfound beliefs, to be gentle with herself. She gains the courage to put away the self-loathing and, for the first time, feel able to be both holy and happy. We see her make peace with her mother, accept her parents’ apology, and become able to forgive. I am glad I stayed up late enough to finish this book. I slept better knowing that Elizabeth Esther and her family have found security, safety and grace. I will never again make fun of the fundamentalism movement in which she was raised, because cruelty is never funny. Many who read my review will question her decision to turn to Catholicism; I respect it. I respect her for having the guts to write this book in hopes that it will help others. I am thankful that she has realized that she is a beloved child of God, and that she has found joy and purpose in life.

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Friday, October 6, 2017

The Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain

The Stolen MarriageThe Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I finished Diane Chamberlain's new novel, "The Stolen Marriage" late the other night; I simply couldn't stop reading until I turned the last page at 4 AM. Yesterday, I was so lost in a post-reading reverie ("book hangover?") that I forgot to go to an appointment I had at 5 PM. I am a great fan of Diane Chamberlain and have read and loved most of her books; however, "The Stolen Marriage" moves her up to the next level--from the Kristin Hannah/Barbara Delinsky crowd to the Chris Bohjalian/Wally Lamb/Curtis Sittenfeld realm. Based loosely on a true story, this powerful book is the real deal - a brilliantly-crafted, well-plotted, and flawlessly researched novel that will not disappoint any reader who loves suspense in a family setting.

Set in 1944, the storyline revolves around three major issues of the era: the taboo of out-of-wedlock pregnancy, the laws against interracial marriage, and the epidemic of infantile paralysis (polio). Chamberlain's tightly-woven plot kept me turning pages. "The Stolen Marriage" is replete with multi-dimensional characters who are certainly not who they seem to be, but I won't disclose the ending. I will say that the twist outdid Jodi Picoult. I commend Diane Chamberlain on her graduation to the next league of literary fiction writers. Highly recommended!

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Friday, September 22, 2017

The Summer of Impossible ThingsThe Summer of Impossible Things by Rowan Coleman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I stayed up all night reading this 424-page novel because I was so drawn into the story that I could not put it down. The basic premise is that a young woman named Luna, who lives in England and works as a physicist, loses her mother to suicide. Before she and her sister Pia travel to Brooklyn, New York, to settle the estate, Luna views footage from a film their mother made as a goodbye. In this footage, the mother alludes to a terrible event from the past, and reveals that the man Luna always knew as her dad is not her biological father. The footage ends with the cryptic words: "If you look very hard you will find me in Brooklyn.....if you want to look after you know what I did....He wouldn't let me go, you see. Find me...please."

Luna senses a deep dread and a primal knowledge upon hearing this message. Her fear stems from the fact that she has been experiencing intermittent flashes and odd, disorienting episodes that suggest that she may have the ability to travel back in time. In fact, as soon as Luna and Pia are in Brooklyn, Luna has the same strange, familiar flashes, which intensify as she approaches the building where their mother once lived. She hears the song "Hotel California" coming from her mother's building. There she encounters unusual furnishings and a group of young people in late 70s attire, and she realizes that she has landed in 1977. She is stunned to discover that the woman she sees sitting on the back of a brown sofa is her mother. When their eyes meet. Luna sees that her mother, Marissa ("Riss"), is free-spirited and lighthearted, unlike anything Luna remembers from her late mother's affect. This makes it immediately clear to Luna that Riss has not yet experienced the trauma that altered her personality and eventually drove her to kill herself. It is obvious to the reader that whatever happened to Riss resulted in Luna's conception. (A major hint is disclosed early on: Luna is the only member of her family with blue eyes).

When Luna and Pia meet the lawyer who is handling the estate and the sale of their mother's building, they are given a box labeled "To My Daughters" in their mother's handwriting. It contains four reels of Super-Eight film, a projector and a battery pack. When the sisters watch the first film, they see their mother and hear her tell them the story of what happened to her in 1977 that destroyed her life. Now knowing the truth, a horrified Luna resolves to rewrite time in order to save Riss from the experience that drove her to take her own life in middle age, even though this will eradicate Luna's very existence.

Luna discovers the identity of her birth father. She travels back to 1977 several times; inevitably she and Riss are drawn together and bond. This strengthens Luna's determination to find her birth father and prevent Riss from ever meeting him. The blue-eyed man revealed as her father comes as a shock to the reader - at least to me. At this point, I was unable to stop reading.

Each time Luna goes back in time, something is altered about the past. (This is reminiscent of Stephen King's 11/22/63). I won't reveal any more of the details; suffice to say that Luna falls in love with one of her mother's male friends from the past, and she encounters older versions of these individuals when she is in the present time. Just when everything seems to fall into place, a shocking twist occurs, and the book's resolution left me reeling.

I will admit that even though I caught some hints early on, I was so drawn into the story that I suspended my imagination and went for the ride. I'm glad I did, and even happier that I didn't glance ahead (as I often do) to see how things would end.

The odd thing about this book is that it came out this past summer, and I was unable to buy it on Amazon; I had to get it from England. I am still pondering this. I am also eager for the movie that I hope will follow. This is by far the best book I have read in 2017; I will add that I've already read Rowan Coleman's earlier books and was already enchanted by her writing. This book will resonate with anyone who loved The Time Traveler's Wife and 11/22/63. I am looking for more of Rowan Coleman's work; needless to say, I highly recommend this novel!

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Monday, September 18, 2017

My response to Quora question: "How would you compare SMART Recovery to AA?"

I’m intrigued by SMART Recovery, and might check it out if we had a group in my home town, but I doubt I’d go to a lot of meetings.

I will say this: AA does not work for me.
I have four years of sobriety, and I attended AA diligently for over three years. By last fall, I had had it up to the gills; I had been getting more and more annoyed with the behaviors I observed at the group. I was disagreeing more and more with the philosophy; the final straw was the day I found myself at a meeting at which the chairperson used the “Tag, you’re It” method rather than the customary going around the table. I was never called on. As it was, at this particular meeting, my “sponsor” (that is in quotes and I’ll explain later) was sitting right next to me. To make a long story short, it was five minutes before the end of the meeting and she had just spoken, and she knew I had not had a turn. Instead of being classy and turning to me and saying “Elizabeth?” she “tagged” a person who had already spoken! I felt like a high school kid in gym class - humiliated because I wasn’t chosen by anyone for a team. I’ve never cared whether I got a chance to share at a meeting or not; I accept that the meetings last an hour and if you are going around the table, which is the norm, it’s based on where you’re sitting. But this was, in my mind, so terribly inappropriate that I decided not to go back. I vehemently object to an AA meeting turning out to be a popularity contest. I digress; back to the question: 
How would you compare SMART Recovery to AA?
Since I haven’t been to a meeting of SR, I can’t speak about what they are like, but I will make a list of the reasons why I don’t like AA:
  • I don’t buy the “one day at a time.” When I say I’m going to do something, I do it. The morning after I took my last drink, I decided that I did not want to drink any more. I wanted to live. I wanted to stop hurting my loved ones. So I stopped. That is the same way I stopped smoking in 1983—I had just bought a house with a marathon runner and had no desire to pollute our home with tobacco fumes. I had no “meeting” to go to to help me through nicotine withdrawal, which I think is harder than alcohol cessation, but I have not bought a pack of cigarettes since the day I quit, and that was 34 years ago. Yes, I have bummed one from time to time, but doing that did NOT make me want to become a full-blown smoker again. I have no desire to smoke and no desire to drink - period, the end. At this point I’ve developed asthma and won’t go near cigarette smoke under any circumstances.
  • The AA group I went to was full of very conservative, cliquish, right-wing Big Book bangers. The woman I chose for a “sponsor” did nothing but spew slogans at me, peppered with laughter and constant interruptions from her theatrical young daughter. I don’t need nor want a lay person to go to when I am burdened. I prefer professional help. In addition, there is a lot of gossip and scapegoating going on in that group, and there isn’t a single person there who would appeal to me as a confidante and/or support person. I was actually told more than once that I was not well-liked.
  • I've gotten the cold shoulder from them because I ask questions. When I do that, I am scolded and told that I sound like a “little professor,” that I am “too smart,” that I “think too much,” and that I should read “the book.” I am United Methodist, and in my denomination, we are never instructed to read the Bible and take every word literally. My pastors invite discussion and debate, and there is an academic atmosphere that I very much like. AA seems almost like one of those fundamentalist churches I’ve heard about, where you are told what you must believe, and that it is not OK to question things - much less, to think for yourself. That is called brainwashing.
  • I stated at one meeting that while I go to church on Sunday and believe in God, I don’t think that I am sober because of God. I was called out for that, and shunned outwardly afterwards.
  • I can’t stand being spoken to in bumper sticker slogans. I don’t like being glibly told “Make a gratitude list” by someone I barely know if I appear to be having a bad day.
  • Many of the people there are party people, and they were used to going out to bars with their friends and getting drunk. These folks had two problems - one, they needed to stop drinking and two, they were going to need to find a new social circle. This group is their “crowd.” In my case, none of my friends drink and I was never a bar person. Quitting alcohol has not affected my social life in the least, expect for the fact that I’m no longer drunk every day, to my great relief and to that of my loved ones.
  • I find AA meetings to have a robotic vibe; so many people sit there and rattle off what sound like memorized responses. There is simply no room for intellectual dialogue. It is like a religious revival meeting. Since I value religion, I attend my church. My faith and beliefs are my business, not the AA group’s. (I even had one person try to get me to attend her megachurch!)
  • Stopping drinking for me was a matter of reframing my ideas around alcohol, and deciding I no longer wanted it as part of my world. It had nothing to do with a higher power. It had everything to do with not wanting to die of alcohol abuse, which is what happened to one of my sisters this past January. This just reinforces my decision not to drink.
  • I have always made amends when needed. But I am not “powerless.” I am empowered. And I can't stand being in an environment in which people are constantly beating up on themselves. How is that helpful? In other words, I agree with some of the steps; I take issue with others. I will be damned if I’m going to sit and listen to “Half measures availed us nothing. We stood at the turning point. We asked His protection and care with complete abandon.” I didn’t do that. I just told my family, my boyfriend and my best friend that I had decided to stop drinking, and I did, and that was that. And that language about how people who don’t do the steps and don’t go to meetings will surely relapse and die (“There ARE such unfortunates”) pisses me off.
  • After I stopped going to meetings, I did NOT have any urge to relapse. Are you kidding me? It killed my little sister on her 60th birthday. When I think of alcohol, I want to vomit. I don’t care if other people drink; however, I do believe that I would put myself at risk if I took a drink, so I choose not to. That IS one part of the AA philosophy that I buy.
  • I hate labels and I don’t call myself a smoker. I don’t like calling myself an alcoholic. I am a person who developed the unhealthy habit of using alcohol in excess to self-medicate when I was depressed, rather than getting help from a cognitive behavioral therapist and joining a church. I know I had a serious problem with alcohol, but the fact that I was able to stop without effort suggests that maybe I am not an “alcoholic.” I don’t think my sister nor most of the people who go those AA meetings could have cut it out completely. I will repeat that I believe that it would be unwise for me to drink again, and I will not.
  • I have ADHD and I have trouble concentrating at meetings or at any gathering where I have to listen to other people for a long time. I carry a notebook with me and I take notes if I feel like I am tuning out. Being able to write is a safety valve for me; I often take notes during the sermons at church and my pastors know it, and they don’t mind. At AA I actually had a person grab my notebook away from me. That was a violation of my personal boundaries.
  • Finally, I know I am on the Aspie spectrum. I will reiterate that I hate groups. I will also say this, wholeheartedly: I love life, and I want to live. And I don’t believe that I must depend on a group and meetings and steps in order to live. I will not live my life driven by fear of relapse. I am 67 and I plan to be around for a long time. I know AA has helped thousands, and I respect that. But - groupthink is just not for me.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Quora asked: What is something that you just realized?

Very open-ended question. Curious to hear your stories!
Elizabeth Flygare
Elizabeth Flygare, "Teach people how to treat you."

1. That love is not a zero-sum game. Love multiplies; it’s not one pie that has to be cut into pieces and divided up. You don’t have to take some of your love away from one person in order to give love to another; you can give each person (and each pet!) ALL YOUR LOVE. If parents could explain this to their kids, maybe using circles to illustrate, perhaps there wouldn’t be any of that “Mom and Dad love you MORE” type of sibling rivalry. It took me until age 67 to learn this very simple thing about life, and I got it from a sermon in church last Sunday.
The rest of my list comes from a meeting with a licensed clinical social worker:
2. Do not give overwhelming emotional responses to people you don’t know well. Pay attention to who the recipient is before you disclose the personal. Otherwise, you are putting that person on the spot and creating a very uncomfortable situation, and you come off as insecure and immature. The recipient will have no idea how to respond, and the response might be very hurtful. Example: You belong to a group that meets regularly, and you feel rejected by the others. You tell a random person in the group - someone you barely know - “Everyone here HATES me!” What is this person supposed to say to you?
3. That if someone is trying to hook you, scapegoat you or otherwise push your buttons, step back and ask yourself, ”Is this my shit—-or your shit?” Think to yourself, ”Does this person KNOW me?” They may very well have no idea what you are about—this is covered more in the next point:
4. Realize that abusive remarks often come from people who are remembering past unpleasant encounters with you, or old patterns that you exhibited that invited the rib jab. More often than not, people refuse to see positive changes in others; their default is to hang onto stereotypical attitudes.
5, I have come upon the knowledge that there are often times when one simply has to walk away from the toxic past, move on and seek the positive - and maybe end up with a lot of new friends. (Consider those who “knew you when,” yet remain in your life and have your back. Those are REAL friends!)
4. If you have had these issues and are now working toward growth and positive change, it will become easier to tell the difference between your baggage and that of others. Tell yourself: “The more I believe in who I am as a person, the less I will be a target. If I still find myself getting gaslighted or hooked (we all do), I don’t have to take the bait, because I am learning a skill set that will teach me how to respond to such treatment, and how to avoid setting myself up for more.”
That, my friends, is a combination of one wise lesson and some good cognitive behavioral therapy, all in a span of three days.