Pomegranates and Psychosis

Psychosis and Pomegranates

pomegranates

This week, one of the men working on my house, noticed two prints from T. Doskova on the wall. I have three of pieces of Tanya Doskova’s hanging in my home. (Tanya Doskova)
Steve admired the pomegranate print in the red frame hanging on the stairs.

I explained, “I buy something from the artist each year at the Park City Kimball Arts Festival.”
“They’re beautiful.”

“I couldn’t pass them up. Years ago, my late husband was married to his third wife. He called her ‘Crazy Sharon.’ She believed ‘If I spend it, he will make it.’ Sharon wanted an expensive crystal bowl. Dwight bought it for her. One night, she loaded the bowl with pomegranate seeds. Then, she lost it. Dwight didn’t have a temper. It was impossible to rile him. That just made her angrier. So, she hurled the bowl at him.”

Steve’s eyes widened.

The dictionary defines psychosis as “a severe mental disorder in which thought and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external reality.”

So, I have to wonder if I have some psychosis because I’m the one who bought a piece of art because it represented a memory Dwight shared with me.

Dwight joked, “Your house is a shrine to me.” He asked me to keep his memories, his history; I do.

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Happy Mother’s Day to Me

My neighbor used to call me every Mother’s Day and say, “Happy Mother’s Day to the woman I know who most wants to be a mother.”

My first year teaching in Orem, a town that neighbors Brigham Young University in Provo, I had a classroom (portable trailer) with 36 sixth graders. At Back-to-School Night, mothers asked, “How many children do you have?” and appeared shocked when I replied, “I don’t have children.”

Later my answer morphed to include my husband’s children and grandchildren. Sometimes, I replied with the number of students in my class.

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When I lived in California, I wrote a personal essay about not having children. Another writer commented on my work. She said, “Pushing another being out from between your legs does not make you a mother. As women, we mother. We mother our lovers, our partners, our husbands, and our friends. We mother our parents, our siblings, our neighbors and our pets. As women, we mother. Period.”

For me, having a child simply didn’t work out.

One month after we married, my late husband’s youngest son died in a car accident. We talked about adoption. But, after losing Tommy, Dwight told me, “I can never love anyone like that again.”

Then, in my mid-thirties, I miscarried. But, when I was pregnant, I felt validated.

There were years when I did not leave my house on Mother’s Day. I hated brunch. When the server brought out flowers for “mothers,” I sat still.

For years, my own mother could not go to church on Mother’s Day. It was too painful. At nineteen, her appendix ruptured. She could not have children.

My friend, Tracey, calls me “Mamacita” because I mother my dogs. I spent my adult life mothering my husband after his stroke, mothering my mother when I take her to the doctor, mothering dogs, mothering my students, and loving. Moms love.

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Today, I will walk my dogs, visit the nursery for flowers, and make brunch to celebrate my mother.

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First, I want to wish ALL of my friends, a very HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY. You inspire me.

Happy Mother’s Day to me, too.

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Trigger #2: Bernese Mountain Dogs

Every minute.  Every day.
Triggers.

The triggers “that drop like trapdoors,” throw me out of my “safe, sane world.”  But, they do not always drop me into a dark desolate place.

More often than not, they snowball. Like rolling snow for a snowman, the triggers grow. One memory blends into the next.

Today, I held Faith’s head in my hands. She was upset because of the storm.

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When I called Dwight to tell him Faith, a beautiful Berner, was coming home with me, he said, “Don’t do it.  It will break your heart. They don’t live long enough.”

I remembered Billy Devane telling us about when he picked up the Berner puppy Dwight sent by airplane to LAX. “I could’ve sold 100 of them,” said Bill.

Then, I thought about my first morning at Sundance. I woke up to Shiggy, Briant’s Alaskan Malamute. At that time, 23-years-old, I did not know much about dogs and thought the creature looking into my eyes as I bolted upright in bed was a wolf.  It was just Shiggy.  He was afraid of the storm. After that, any time there was thunder or lightning, Shiggy pushed open our front door and padded downstairs to the shower in the basement.

In my mind, I see the gouge Tank, Dwight’s favorite Berner, made in the table when he helped himself to the pot roast. Dwight was so upset when his former brother-in-law filled in the scratch.

Triggers.

They snowball.

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My Jewish Mother — Happy Mother’s Day, Lois!

My Jewish Mother, Happy Mother’s Day

I met my Jewish mother in Mexico. She invited Dwight and me to stay with her in San Miguel Allende. Lois and Richard traveled for his work. He was an artist.

Somehow, even after Dwight’s stroke and my limited experience as a traveler, we navigated three airports, a bus from Mexico City, and a cab to reach Lois’ door. With her big smile, she opened it and welcomed me into her home and heart.

For Lois, it did not matter that I was forty-two years younger. It mattered that I loved Dwight. Because I loved him, she loved me. No questions asked.

Surrounded by big, bright, beautiful flowers of all shapes and sizes, we settled into a week in Mexico.

Being a mom, Lois applied sunscreen to Dwight as we sat on the patio.

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Back home, we lived in a one-bedroom condo in high-rise in downtown Salt Lake City during the week. There was not much privacy when it came to phone conversations.

While planning our summer vacation to Michigan, I overheard Dwight and Lois planning our wedding and asked, “Should I pack a dress?”

I packed a Nicole Miller dress.

Lois organized EVERYTHING–from the challah bread to the paella, the chuppa to the flowers, the harpist to the rabbi. Since it was my first wedding and Dwight’s fifth, Lois made sure I picked the cake. I chose chocolate. She had it wrapped in white chocolate.

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We spent the week before our wedding with Richard and Lois.

Lois taught me three things that week:

1. Keep a knipple. (A stash of cash, so you always have your own money.)

2. Smile

3. “You always have a day girl.”

The day of our wedding, I moved into The Hotel Birmingham. Richard picked me up. I was scared to death to meet Dwight’s family. So scared, I didn’t leave Richard and Lois’ room until the harp started playing.

Dwight’s youngest daughter hated me and made that clear to the point Dwight told her, “You are not welcome in my home until you can treat everyone in it with decency, respect, and grace.” To that end, I had not seen her in months. My stomach turned at the idea of facing that hostile hatred.

But, Lois told me to “smile.” And, everyone else was kind.

Richard walked me down the aisle to the chuppa. I could hear Dwight say, “She looks so beautiful, I’m going to cry.”

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I saw Lois smiling and Dwight. She was smiling her smile.

Richard’s giant paw placed my hand in Dwight’s.

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During the ceremony, our Rabbi spoke of our uniqueness as a couple. Then, explaining the chuppa and how it is open on all sides, like our home, to our friends and our family, I looked at Lois.

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Today, the day before Mother’s Day, my heart hurts. But, it is full.

I miss my Jewish mother, Richard, Dr. Bill, and, of course Dwight.

It is, however, bieshert, “meant to be,” that these angels fill my heart.

And so, my dear mother, I will smile.

It is a bit ironic that, having met my Jewish mother in Mexico, my neighbors, who are Mexican, call me “our white mother.”

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Trigger #1

A few weeks ago, my friend, Heidi, our school librarian, the one who keeps our us from crossing that thin red line into barbarism, invited me to listen to Neil Gaiman at the Eccles Center. She had two seats in the second row in the center.

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After partnering with The Park City Institute and The Park City Education Foundation, Heidi and I designed curriculum and activities around Gaiman’s novel, The Graveyard. Together, we accompanied several students backstage to meet Neil Gaiman. He lit up around our students. He made them feel important.  He asked questions. He listened.

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Then, Heidi ran home to see her daughter off to the Senior Prom. In the lobby, I purchased a signed copy of Trigger Warning. In my center seat in the second row, I read the first pages.

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There are things that upset us. That’s not quite what we’re talking about here, though. I’m thinking about those images or words or ideas that drop like trapdoors beneath us, throwing us out of our safe, sane world into a place much more dark and less welcoming. Our hearts skip a ratatat drumbeat in our chests, and we fight for breath. Blood retreats from our faces and our fingers, leaving us pale and gasping and shocked.

And what we learn about ourselves in those moments, where the trigger has been squeezed, is this: the past is not dead. There are things that wait for us, patiently, in the dark corridors of our lives. We think we have moved on, put them out of mind, left them to desiccate and shrivel and blow away; but we are wrong. They have been waiting there in the darkness, working out, practicing their most vicious blows, their sharp hard thoughtless punches into the gut, killing time until we came back that way.

The monsters in our cupboards and our minds are always there in the darkness, like mould beneath the floorboards and behind the wallpaper, and there is so much darkness, an inexhaustible supply of darkness. The universe is amply supplied with night.

What do we need to be warned about? We each have our little triggers.

I first encountered the phrase “trigger warning” on the Internet, where it existed primarily to warn people of links to images or ideas that could upset them and trigger flashbacks or anxiety or terror, in order that the images or ideas could be filtered out of a feed, or that the person reading could be mentally prepared before encountering them.

He’s right. We each have our little triggers.

As Gaiman recounted his childhood, reading, and getting his Hebrew teacher off task by asking him to tell stories, he referred to The Joys of Yiddish.

There it was. A trigger.

One of my most prized possessions is a well-used beaten copy of The Joys of Yiddish. It was just one of many wedding gifts from the Kozlows. Inside, with his flowing script, Richard wrote: Enjoy! Love, R.

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Since we had a Jewish ceremony, under a chuppa, with challah bread, the Kozlows figured I needed to step up my Yiddish.

 

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My Late Husband

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Today, while my students created a poster with a summary of Neil Gaiman’s book, The Graveyard, I walked from group to group. Somehow, five 14-year-old boys ended up in a group together.

When I stopped to review their vocabulary, one of the boys exclaimed, “Your earrings match your necklace.”

For whatever reason, the boys thought that was hilarious. Maybe it was because it was 2:00 on a Thursday afternoon.

Then, Brian asked, “Did someone give them to you?”

My face flushed.

Joey laughed. “Obviously. Who?”

“My late husband,” I replied.

Taken aback, Joey asked, “You were married? What happened to him?”

“He passed away.”

All five boys said with both their eyes and voices, “I’m sorry.”

I smiled.

Standing next to me, Brian asked, “Did he give them to you at the same time?”

I thought a minute. “No. Why do you ask?”

“Did you get the necklace before the earrings?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“Oh, I bet he bought them at the same time; but, kept the earrings for later. My dad has a whole closet of stuff for my mom.”

I didn’t tell him that I knew David Frank sent them for each occasion from Detroit. All of my fine jewelry came from Leo Frank and Sons.

Instead, I laughed. I really laughed.

I love teaching. I wouldn’t be a teacher without my late husband.

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First World Problem

First World Problem

Text Messaging Before Neil Gaiman’s Interview

FRIEND:          What are you wearing tonight?

ME:                 I’m going to wear the pencil skirt you like and a white blouse.124-20140125_WillCadena.com_-_LICapparel_Ret_small

I’m having a fashion mishap. My wool cape is at my mother’s house, so I have to wear my raincoat.1397357_654237611287229_1050286366_o

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