Saturday, August 17, 2019

Hello, Darkness, My Old Friend

As often happens at this time of year, I am thinking about grief.  Thinking back to the first time I met this powerful adversary-slash-friend.

I was 19.

I had got married at 18, to an 18-year-old.  It had seemed like a good idea at the time.  We got married on the 23rd of November, and by Christmas Eve, I knew I was pregnant.  It was a miserable pregnancy, beset by nausea, poverty, and fear.  Things were so dire, we were obliged to ask my parents for help.  That relieved the poverty, but brought a new set of problems.  We had to try and get on our feet and away from them before they found out I was pregnant.  We were not exactly embracing impending parenthood.  About 5 months into the pregnancy, my mother walked in on me in the bathroom, and that was the end of that.  Without the concealment of my baggy clothes, my condition was obvious.

My husband was dispatched to the big city, where his father lived, to find work and a home for us, and to prepare for the coming joy.  I was put to work in the old fashioned way, stitching baby clothes to prepare for the coming joy.

The problem was, we were both 19, and Husband had an ultimatum for me:  if I insisted on keeping the baby, he was gone.  History.  Pasado.  I would be on my own, with a baby and no safety net, except my parents who never would have been able to shut up about the irresponsible lout who couldn't shoulder the responsibility for another life.  I knew he was right, and that neither of us was ready for this.  But I vacillated, because I really wanted to be ready for this, and I wanted him to be ready, as well.

Eventually, he found us an apartment in an old Victorian house in Vancouver's West End, and the pregnancy progressed.  The decision to put the baby up for adoption was made.  Tentatively, on my part, and positively, on Husband's.

I found out later that, somewhere during this part of the adventure, Husband had approached my parents to see if they would "take the baby."  They refused, hoping that their answer would spur him to a sense of responsibility.  This was something I never would have consented to--they were old enough to be my grandparents, and the idea of dumping a helpless infant on them when they were in their 60s would have been unfair both to them and the child.

So we visited the adoption agency.  They browbeat me unmercifully, in an attempt to make sure I really wanted to give the baby up.  "Do you want your child to grow up in foster care?"  "How can you do this?  What kind of human are you?"  I was adamant.  Having made the decision, I wasn't about to be talked out of it, no matter how guilty they made me feel, or how hard I cried.

Suddenly, one night, I started to get an unpleasant backache.  It sort of came and went, but, according to the doctor at the clinic where I had been getting prenatal care, it was a signal to call the hospital.  We called the hospital from a phone booth, and they told us to come in.

The labour was bad.  It was in the dark ages of hospital delivery, when women were left alone to labour, drugged to the max, in a ward with only curtains separating us.  I remember snatches of conversation from the next bed...something about the wages of sin and such, between the moans of a woman who was a bit farther into the process than I.  I remember thinking that at least she had a woman with her, even though there didn't seem to be much encouragement there.  Husband had been run off already, and, of course, my parents hadn't been notified (and couldn't have got there on such short notice, anyway, as their trip would have involved a ferry ride).

One way or another, both baby and I survived.  The maternity ward was an odd place, in those days, with at least 12 beds, separated by the ubiquitous curtains.  I sat there with my baby (brought to me at visiting hours), so we could sit alone while the other new mothers had family and friends come to gush over their accomplishments.  Some of my friends did come, and so did Husband, but he made sure to come to see me when the baby was safely tucked away in the nursery.  It wasn't until the last day of my hospital stay that I finally managed to bring him and his son together for a look-see.  I guess I was hoping he would be overwhelmed with fatherhood, and change his mind.  He had more sense, even though he was probably afraid of the very thing I was hoping for.

The day came when I left the hospital without my/not my baby.  I don't remember the trip home, except for hearing Janis singing "Piece of My Heart" on the radio.  I understood Janis, and felt that she understood me.  I don't remember Husband and I ever discussing the situation.  I don't even remember how long it was until we had to go in to the office of the adoption agency and sign the papers, relinquishing our baby to the fate chosen for him by the social workers there.

And that was when it hit me.  The grief.  The overwhelming, horrific pain that I had never before experienced or even known of.  The shaking, sweating, ugly-crying agony, so much worse than the labour that brought him out of me.  Husband seemed embarrassed by it, but I was beyond caring, in the throes of something so vast that there was nothing else but to let it take me.  I don't remember it stopping, but eventually, we got on a bus and went home.  It came back over and over when I was in the bath.

I also don't remember ever talking about it with Husband.  There was no counselling, no reading material on how to cope, no friend who had "been there," and could sympathize.  I was completely alone.

I did hear from my mother.  It took a week or so after Husband had notified my parents of the birth and adoption; I guess she had to take some time to process her feelings.  What I got was a letter, castigating me for giving up my child.  Abrogating my responsibility.  Of course, they would have helped, had I only asked.  Of course.  I was selfish, shallow, inconsiderate, and a total failure at human-ness.

From the depths of my depression, I screwed my courage to the sticking place and wrote back, saying that if she wanted to have any sort of relationship with me going forward, she was to never ever, bring up the subject again.  And she didn't.

The courage to say that to her came from the absolute knowledge that nothing she said or did to me could touch me after what I went through signing those papers.  I had felt the most terrible and terrifying thing possible, and I had survived.

So, yes.  Grief can be a gift.  And a friend.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019


So this happened.

I haven't been able to write about the death of Loretta, because it just seems so unreal.

She was the author of Stone Cold Guilty, and I was there, on her blog, when she wrote it.  She wrote it daily during the investigation and trial of Scott Peterson for the murder of his wife, Laci. I think there was no one more knowledgeable about the case.  Her blog was called Observations of a Misfit, and it didn't start out to be a murder blog, but murder blog it became, and it was the go-to site for facts and incisive commentary.  The book is a great read; the investigation and trial unfolding day by day in real time. 

She brought together a diverse group of people who learned to support each other, joined by our outrage at a man who could cold-bloodedly murder his pregnant wife and then try to brazen it out.  He is still brazening, but now he's doing it from Death Row.  Many of the people who happily called themselves "Misfits" are still friends, and some of us are friends for life.

She was also my blogging inspiration.  I had been blogging for a couple of months before I had the nerve to post a link to mine at hers.  I was nervous, because of all the characteristics she possessed, brutal honesty was at the fore.  I knew if my blog were boring, badly written or irrelevant, she would tell me.  I might have kept writing anyway, but I'm not sure.  I am sure that, if not for her, I never would have started.

To hear that she died, and at such a young age, kicked some of the support out from under my world.  There was somehow a bit of security, knowing she was up there in Cleveland, writing, playing the flute, playing tennis, raising kids and ready to go to bat for the victims of spousal murder.

Goodbye, my friend. You will be remembered with love as long as I live.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

First, I drink the Coffee...

But which stuff do I start with? There's the do-the-dishes stuff, and the clean-up-after-the-kittens stuff...not to mention the go-to-the-store stuff.

Better have another cup of coffee and figure it out.  Make a list.  Make another list.  Make a master list...

Hey...I got my name in the Statesman...I costumed a play called Doubt, A Parable, at City Theatre, and it got a nice review from Andrew J. Friedenthal, which made my day. Here's the text, as I have learned these links don't work forever:

Before it was adapted into the award-winning 2008 film of the same name, playwright John Patrick Shanley’s “Doubt: A Parable” was an award-winning 2004 stage play (specifically, it won the Pulitzer Prize for drama and the Tony Award for best play). The straightforward, naturalist drama explores the struggle between Sister Aloysius Beauvier, the head nun and principal at the fictional St. Nicholas Church School in the Bronx, and Father Flynn, the progressive parish priest whom Aloysius suspects of sexual misconduct with one of the school’s boys.
Set in 1964, “Doubt” explores a time where the abuses of the Catholic Church were unseen and unheard by the public, kept quiet by a paternalistic theocratic system that was more interested in protecting its members than its parishioners. Though the rash of sexual abuse within the church has since been revealed (and was public knowledge at the time the play was written), the larger problems the play underscores resonate more than ever in the #MeToo era, as a dynamic new production of “Doubt” from the City Theatre shows us.
In many ways, “Doubt” is an exploration of female resistance to an abusive male power structure, utilizing informal networks and outside-the-system tactics in order to get around a set of rules designed to keep men unaccountable to women who see them do harm. It is also, however, a look at one man and one woman who are rock-solid in their beliefs about right and wrong, and what happens when those two conflicting belief systems meet.

Roemer knows that the caliber of actor here is what makes the production, and so he keeps everything else simple (with impressively natural lighting design from Andy Berkovsky and Kari Perez, and time-and-place-setting costumes by Ronni Prior and scenic design by Desiderio Roybal). The scenes of confrontation between George and Gross are positively electric, creating an immense aura of frightening tension simply through the skilled performances, bereft of any fancy stage tricks. Similarly, the clearly expressed internal agony of Brooke Culbertson as Sister James, a young nun torn between these two authority figures and unsure of whom to believe, provides the perfect surrogate for the audience, equally eager to escape from the room as we are to get to the truth.

Ultimately, “Doubt” intentionally leaves us with more questions than it does answers, as regards both the events of the play and the larger culture this parable is discussing. In a year in which we hear impassioned pleas in defense of the victims of sexual assault as well as in consideration of those who might be falsely accused of abuse (a rare occurrence for the level of concern it evinces), “Doubt” resonates perhaps even more today than it did 15 years ago. The only thing not in doubt is the high quality and stunning performances of City Theatre’s production.

Many thanks to Austin 360, The Statesman and Andrew J. Friedenthal!

So yea.  Despite fluctuating font sizes, here it is!  I'm chuffed.

Now, procrastination time is over, and I have stuff to do...

Monday, August 20, 2018

Catch the Wind

Catch the Wind

Jim and I never had an "our song."  We were around 50 when we got married, so it would have seemed a little silly...not that we ever had a real objection to being silly, but there are limits...

I've been sitting here this morning, stuck in YouTube, listening to version after version of this song, which I adopted shortly after he died, because it says how I feel.  That's the thing with music, isn't it?

Donovan confines the grief to "the chilly hours and minutes of uncertainty."  That way, it's not so overwhelming, and I can deal with it.  "When sundown pales the sky" is another time I can deal.  Jim and I watched a lot of sunsets.  "When rain has hung the leaves with tears" is absolutely the perfect time to think about Jim, who liked to stand out in the rain.

It seems odd, really, that I can listen to this song, and cry, and move on.

James Taylor's "Fire and Rain" is about a friend who died by her own hand, or so I've been told.  I can't listen to it at all, and, by extension, I can't listen to any James Taylor, and he used to be a favourite.  But the grief in the song is so all-encompassing, and there's too much Jesus for me, I guess.  Every time I hear it, I have to leave.  Or sit down and ugly cry.  Those are the two things.  There is no third choice.  I don't go there.

So today I'm sad.  Tomorrow I'll be OK.  Maybe next year I'll be better.  I have an idea that the year I can sit down and listen to "Fire and Rain" will be a milestone of healing.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Another Day, Another Scumbag Family Murderer

Here we go again.  Chris Watts  has reportedly confessed to killing his pregnant wife and two daughters.

There are a few clues in this interview with him.

"I want her back so bad...I want those kids back so bad..."  with a smile on his face and that little breathy voice guys use to convince you they are sincere when they have no idea what sincerity sounds like. 

"Every friend I have has called every friend Shanann has that maybe I didn't know about..."  Just a hint of control issue there...

"This is earth-shattering..."  He doesn't LOOK or sound as if it's "earth-shattering."  Quite matter of fact in his tone.

"Bella WAS going to start kindergarten.."  At this point, they were missing, and he has no reason to put his daughter in the past tense.

When you watch, bear in mind that this is a man who thinks he is smarter than the police, and quite safe going on video for an interview about his family's disappearance. 

She was pregnant and they had declared bankruptcy a couple of years ago.  They had also moved to Colorado from North Carolina, and spent holidays with they had no family nearby.   The bodies have been found on the grounds of his workplace.

He looks more slick in the interview than Josh Powell did, but Josh never did confess and this guy  confessed the next day.

I hope more of the story comes out in spite of his confession, as I'd like to know if any more of my favourite clues are there.

Here is a psychologist's take on the above interview.  He may not have confessed at the time of his arrest.

Here we go:  this article states she was planning to leave him, having spent 6 weeks with her family in North Carolina, and taken off on a business trip to Arizona two days after she got home.  He had said he had "an emotional conversation" with her after she got home from AZ in the wee hours of Sunday night/Monday morning.  "Emotional conversation" sounds like "fight" to me.  What do you think?  It didn't take her friend very long to report her missing, so I bet Shanann had confided in her that she had fears.

Also, all his talk that the house seemed like "a ghost town" is just silly, given that Shanann and the girls had been in NC for six empty did it seem then?  Or did he have "company?"  Pure speculation on my part, but remember, I was the one who called the fact that Stephen Grant was boinking the au pair...

This article has a gem: Shanann Watts was concerned that her husband may have been unfaithful..."she said it came to mind that he possibly could have been cheating," is the quote from her friend.

This article has an interesting bit: "(Judge Marcelo) Kopcow also issued two protection orders: One preventing Watts from harassing or communicating with any witnesses in the case and another only allowing him to communicate with his attorney, law enforcement and other support staff." Unusual, as far as I know.

A few oddities about the search began to leak out that day. Shanann’s friends said her phone, keys and wallet had all been found in the house, ABC11 reported. Her car was still in the garage, per NBC News. No one who knew her said she was the type to just pick up and leave.

So we have
   ~possible controlling behaviour on the part of the husband
   ~possible financial difficulties (impending medical bills due to hit in less than 6 months)
   ~marital difficulties.
   ~possible infidelity by the husband.

Seems like the only missing bit is if there was life insurance.  And confirmation of all these "possibles," of course.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

B J Machalicek

I took this pic of B J in 2006.  She played Kate for me in Sam Bass's All My Sons.  To be honest, I had expected to cast a younger woman in the role, but she nailed the audition, and I had to adjust the rest of my casting around her.  She had played the same role 20 years before, but was happy to revisit it.

Everything she ever did on stage was brilliant.  If you heard B J Machalicek was in a show, you bought tickets on the spot.  Didn't matter the show--you know there would be at least one performance in it that would be worth the price of admission, and then some.

Behind the scenes, she was just as awesome.  Professional, hard-working, couldn't ask for a better cast-mate.

Whatever a director asked her to do, she would do her damnedest to get right.

She directed the second show I ever did at Sam was a melodrama and I was costuming.  If she had any reservations about being stuck with a novice costumer who knew nothing about melodrama, she never let on.

She taught theatre at several schools in the Central Texas area...she was at C D Fulkes when I first met her, and she also taught at Round Rock High School, Westwood High School and out in Florence.  When she retired from teaching, she sold caps and gowns and high school rings all over the district.  She just liked being around the kids.  She taught at the Georgetown Palace summer camps for years.

She did community theatre.  All the time.  She loved classic roles like Kate in All My Sons, or Linda in Death of a Salesman, but she also loved to kick up her heels in comedies like Hallelujah Girls or Christmas Belles.  A couple of times, I played characters who got dressed down by her, most memorably in Ladies at the Alamo.  Paid her back, though...I got in her face in The Oldest Profession, which was also a joy.

Actually, being onstage with her at any time, in any play was always a memorable experience.  She gave so much, and was so much fun to play with.

I want to be her when I grow up.

Goodbye, B J.  You are in my heart forever.

Friday, May 04, 2018


Aidan told me the other day that I cook "like a peasant from the 1840s or something."

In a way, he's right. I've always been pretty good at anything that all comes out of one pot and benefits from being left on low for hours on end.  I love bread bowls and hand-held meat pies.  Of course, I haven't cooked on a wood stove since my teens, and my fireplace cooking skills don't extend beyond a campfire...and I use much more meat.

I've tried several different recipes for Cornish pasties and Scots oat cakes and such, without ever being satisfied with the results, but any sort of meat and vegetables I can toss in a pot usually turn out at least edible.  (I have been told that I set my sights a bit low, but I know my limitations.  I will always settle for edible.) 

I grew up on my mother's cooking, which varied from awesome (fancy stuff) to awful (vegetables).  So holidays were heaven, but the rest of the year was purgatory, at best.

Speaking of campfires (was I?), the Girls' Auxiliary badge I was the most proud of earning was Campcraft.  For that one, we were divided into pairs, and each pair had to get a fire going on the beach, using driftwood, in a stiff breeze.  We were given half a sheet of newspaper and two matches.  Beyond that, we were on our own.  My team was the only one to succeed, and all the other pairs came over and cooked their Mulligan stew (yum) in our fire.

I love making soups and stews meant to be eaten out of thick crockery bowls.

I loved my grandmother's Victorian china with its deep dinner plates.  Those people were serious about their gravy!

Generally, the kids would know when the Spirit was upon me. (Look out...Mom's getting out the iron pans!)  They would be surreptitiously checking the milk levels and the cereal boxes, hoping for a backup meal, just in case they would hate what I was making.  Experience had predisposed them to do so.

Still, they survived, and became good cooks, all. 

Mostly in self defense.