Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Power of Women

It's not uncommon for me to post about both of my grandfathers' WWII experiences, my dad's time in Vietnam or my husband's time in Lebanon when the Marine Corps barracks were bombed and his significant hearing loss in his right ear (I think? I swear to God he changes which ear it is based on how interested he is in what I'm talking about and whether I'm on his right side or his left). But I usually don't write about the amazing women in my family.
This is pertinent today because I dreamt last night that my Grandma Krause died and I was in London driving my first car, a 1986 two-tone maroon Chevy Citation even though it was present-day, and I had no time to shop for something to wear. I woke up crying. I rarely wake up crying from dreams, more realistically, nightmares, so when I do I know something's going on in my subconscious. My unfinished business, as it were. I've studied (ok, been exposed to) Freud's theory of dreams, and the theories of Jung and Perls as well. That's not what this is about. It's for me to reflect on the strong and influential women in my family. I need to untangle it in my brain by writing it down, which brings me to this moment.
A few weekends ago we celebrated my Grandma Krause's 89th birthday and my great-aunt Shirley's 87th birthday. They are sisters. Auds (my grandma) lives at a nursing home in Shawano and Shirley lives at a nursing home on the Oneida reservation. Their youngest sister, my great-aunt Kootchie (given name Margaret which no one ever called her) would be 82, but she died in 2010 at age 74.
My great-aunt Shirley, 87, and my Grandma Krause, 89

Also at this party were my great-aunt Delores and her two daughters, my second cousins Vicki and Ginny. Delores married my great-aunt Victor Ziemer, who died in 2013 at age 86.
My second cousins Vicki & Ginny with their mom, my great-aunt Delores

My great-aunt Shirley, 87, with her daughters, my second cousins, Stacy & Mary Beth

Auds with all her granddaughters; L-R: my sister Jan; cousin Danette; cousin Ann; me; cousin Sara (Ann & Sara are sisters)

So that's enough Ancestry.com information. I hope you get the idea: there are many of us and we are strong. My great-grandmother, Auds & Shirley's mother, Margaret and her siblings were forced to attend a catholic school in Keshena; snatched off the rez where their native dress, food, language and history were not respected or taught to them. 
My grandma grew up during the Great Depression and my 8th grade US History class had an assignment to ask our older relatives what life was like during those years. Auds answered, "We were poor. Everyone was poor. No one knew the difference." I have seen the land my great-grandparents farmed on the banks of the Red River. It is supernaturally green in the summer, lush and fertile.  I have also seen the land my paternal great-grandparents farmed, and it is shady in the summer, but the cows continue to roam the fields and corn continues to flourish.
Auds, Shirley and Kootchie all worked their entire lives. Even after they left the family farm. Shirley worked in Marion in the office of some sort of auction business (I think), I could be totally off base here, but the point is she worked outside the home at a time when many women didn't. As did my grandma. She worked for 40+ years at Shawano Memorial Hospital, more often than not walking to and from the hospital at least five days a week for over 40 years. There were times early in their marriage when my grandpa did not treat her well, and there were times when she did not treat him well either. Grandpa's poor behavior often involved other women and liquor, where as grandma's behavior was made up of shouting insults. Once my Grandpa Krause was permanently living at a nursing home in Shawano, they treated each other much more gently. She would call him and he would ask how things were at the "Little house on the prairie" and she would ask him about how things were at "the plantation" i.e., the big house.
Shortly after my grandpa's funeral in 2012, Grandma asked how she was going to deal with living all alone. I told her that Grandpa had given her the gift of five years of practice, as that was the amount of time he spent at the nursing home before his passing. She thought about that for a long moment and said, "Yes. I guess he has."
Kootchie and her husband, my uncle Norton, never had children, but they were the absolute best great-aunt and uncle a kid could ask for. My parents lived with them in Oshkosh when I was a toddler. I have no idea why. I've never asked because I think my parents wouldn't tell me. Despite all of the kick ass aspects of my family, my nuclear family continues to function on the "avoidance principle": if you ignore it, it will just go away. A story my mom has shared with me is that she was making spaghetti for supper when we lived at Dave and Kootch's and shouted to Norton who was taking his routine post-work shower, where the colander was. He yelled back that it was behind the kitchen door. He heard calendar when my mom wanted a colander. This tete-a-tete went back and forth for some time before she realized he had  no idea what a colander was and proceeded to rummage around their kitchen cabinets to find one.
Kootch and Dave spend every holiday at my grandparents' house in Shawano. Norton was the type of uncle who let me, at age six, sit on his lap and drive their 1977 Thunderbird back to Grandma and Grandpa's after running a quick errand to the grocery store at Thanksgiving. He also corralled all of us grandkids to play Bingo at the dining room table after Christmas dinner. Christmas 1985 I wore a hat as part of my ensemble. When we sat down to eat dinner, my dad told me to remove my hat for the prayer. Kootchie immediately stepped in and said, "Rog, women don't remove their hats. It's considered part of a woman's entire wardrobe." I looked at my dad and gave him "the smug look" of raising both my eyebrows, thinking, Well, well big shot. How about that? I swear my dad could read my mind, yet he said nothing more about it.
My hat that was allowed at the dinner table, Christmas 1985, with my great-aunt Kootchie

So I guess it's time to bottom line this rant. 1) I come from a maternal family of strong, opinionated, hard-working, tell-you-how-it-is women; 2) Each generation of women have wanted better lives than they experienced for the next generation; 3)  There is nothing more powerful, encouraging or exhilarating than unconditional love which the younger of us have been blessed with from our older relatives; 4) Whether we know it or not, all of us have made each other proud to say, "Yup. She's my grandma/great-aunt/great grandma/cousin/second cousin/third cousin/sister/mother/aunt"; 5) We love each other unconditionally and will always know that.
Amen.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Cucumber Salad

Today was the 143rd Kentucky Derby. We're a Derby family: we've been to the Derby twice as a family, I remember watching the Derby in 1992 from my apartment in Boston because my then-husband was at a Marine Corps Reserve training weekend, and my great-aunt Shirley and my great-uncle Norton always bet on the Derby. They'd usually watch it from my grandparents' living room while all of us kids were running around like crazed banshees. I know the first two versus and the chorus from My Old Kentucky Home, the state song of Kentucky. I don't think I know that much of the Wisconsin state song.
The Derby marks the arrival of May. A complicated month for me. This month has Mother's Day, my birthday, my grandson's birthday which is the same day as my cousin Ann's birthday, my second cousin's birthday which is the same day as mine, my friend Becky's birthday, and Memorial Day weekend. For 20 years we've referred to Memorial Day weekend as "Gravehopping" because it was about 20 years ago that I started going to Shawano to place flowers on our relatives' graves with my grandparents, great-aunt Kootchie, and my great-aunt and uncle Shirley & Butch. Grandpa, Kootchie, and Butch are gone now. Shirley and Grandma are both in nursing homes.
I was the only grandchild who tagged along with them back in 1997. It remained that way for three years until my sister decided to join us, which I was ok with. A few years later when my other female cousins and aunts decided to join in, my initial reaction was jealousy. My first thoughts were, "Fuck no people. This is my thing, not yours." I felt invaded upon. By the time we got to the Red River Tavern & Grocery, my jealousy had withered away and I thought, "The women in my family kick ass! We need to all do this every year." The weekend title "Gravehopping" was born.
Before we left for the cemeteries at 1pm, we had what amounted to a banquet cooked by Grandma, served in her kitchen on South Smalley Street. The menu included a mix-and-match of some of the following: teriyaki chicken wings, ham, pasta salad, a relish tray including radishes cut like roses, cucumber salad, potato salad and at least two desserts such as cherry torte and rhubarb torte. But the absolute BEST part of Gravehopping was the breakfast Grandma cooked on Sunday morning. In her cast iron skillet she fried eggs over hard in the bacon grease from freshly fried bacon. I began looking forward to that breakfast as soon as I was driving home from the weekend. However, here comes the rub.
The week before Gravehopping in 2015 my grandma picked rhubarb from her yard and while walking back to the house twisted her ankle in an uneven spot in the backyard and she fell. She fell hard and fractured her hip. Someone driving by stopped and asked if she was ok. She wasn't and somehow either my aunt Margie and uncle Dan were called or an ambulance came (I'm not sure of the details) but she ended up at Shawano Memorial Hospital and was then transferred to AMC for hip surgery.
She was picking that rhubarb to make a torte for me because she knows I love her rhubarb torte. The guilt and responsibility I continue to feel about how that one event, an event she was engaging in for me, makes me cry to this day, even as I type this on my laptop in my living room two years later.
Gravehopping was different that year because Grandma was at a hospital in Appleton and we were all in Shawano, ready to stick silk flowers into the dirt next to headstones of our ancestors. We followed our basic routine, minus the pre-Gravehopping food feast, and those of us who usually spent the night at Grandpa & Grandma's did even though Grandma wasn't there. I was the last one to leave the house that Sunday.
There were no eggs fried in bacon grease on Sunday morning, and there never would be again.
Although Grandma recovered quickly from hip surgery, when the OT folks did the home safety assessment, they determined that Grandma couldn't return home because the house was so small she couldn't adequately use her walker or other adaptive equipment they recommended for installation. So she's been at Maple Lane since around mid-June of 2015. The house was sold in the fall of 2015. I no longer have a place to come home to in Shawano. It is heart-breaking because pre-hip fracture, whenever we visited, she always told us to "Come home again soon." I don't visit Shawano often any more because I don't feel that I have a place there where I belong. I don't have a home anymore.
Quite some time before the contents of the house were dismantled and the "For Sale" sign went into the corner of the front yard, my sister got a hold of  Grandma's cucumber salad recipe. I've asked Grandma for recipes many times and when relaying them, she always started with, "Well you take some flour and sugar and eggs and beat them together..." It's virtually impossible for me to replicate anything she's ever baked, cooked, or fried based on that information. However, there is one thing I've managed to translate into something edible and that is Grandma's cucumber salad.
The recipe I got from my sister doesn't list the order of ingredients, and there are a few quantities of items missing, but I've managed to cobble it together into something quite spectacular. I first made it for a Salad Bar lunch at work in the summer of 2016. My coworkers raved about it. Honestly, I'm not just making this shit up to help myself feel better. Ask anyone who was there: they loved it.
I brought it to Easter dinner at my parents' house this year and both Rog & Shirl said it tasted exactly like Grandma's.
Exactly like Grandma's. I can't imagine a greater compliment in the world. Maybe one Sunday morning I'll fry eggs in bacon grease in my cast iron skillet.


Saturday, January 28, 2017

It's Complicated

I have a complicated relationship with the city of Milwaukee. I'm here this weekend for Lawrence University's annual Great Midwest Trivia Contest; the irony is not lost on me: I live approximately 12-15 miles from the Lawrence campus, yet I travel approximately 104 miles one-way to participate in their trivia game held the final weekend of January for the past 52 years. I obviously haven't participated in 52 "Trivia Weekends", but that's just putting things into perspective. I capitalize the T and W because for me and my Drunk Appleton Cop friends, it's like an official holiday. My first Trivia Weekend was 1988, my junior year of high school.

I could write an entire blog on Trivia Weekends alone, but this is about Milwaukee and my relationship with the city I called home from 1994 to 2002.

You know that saying, "the more things change, the more they stay the same"? That kind of describes how I view Milwaukee from a 500 foot view: the Marquette Interchange has been torn apart and reconstructed and it really hasn't solved the massive traffic delays that happen there Monday through Friday. Now the Zoo Interchange and the 894 Bypass are being torn apart and appear to be a long way from being reconstructed. I will admit when I was driving through that part of the city on Friday evening at around 4:50pm, the back-ups weren't as horrible as expected. Usually, once you get to the North Ave. exits, traffic stops for whatever reason, then slowly meanders until the Hales Corners Interchange and it frees up a little which was basically what happened on Friday. I can never figure out what it is about the area around the North Ave. exits that prompts the massive slow-down. It doesn't matter which direction you're heading in or if it's morning or evening rush hour, there is just a natural hang-up there. Now that's something the DOT should look into.

When I'm here for Trivia, I don't spend much time trolling old haunts on the north-side, where I spent most of the time I lived here. I made it as far west as 53rd and Galena which was a great neighborhood. My second favorite only to the last place I lived, the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood north of St. Joe's Hospital around 50th & Burleigh.  The Kosher Meat Market has the best corned beef on rye with Swiss cheese EVER, even if it's not kosher.

So what's so complicated? Although I only spent 8 years living here, it was such a formative time in whom I would become as an individual and as a woman. My experiences during those 8 years are enough to last a lifetime, trust me. Those of you who traveled that path with me, or have heard me talk about it, know that I was married to my first husband when I moved here for a job that required "skills" close enough to those I learned majoring in Women's Studies. I didn't plan on staying in Appleton when I came back from Boston and Milwaukee, being the largest city in the state, seemed like an appealing option. In those 8 years after moving here I had an affair with my boss which "gave" me the confidence to divorce my first husband and for him to divorce his second wife. Our relationship lasted a little more than three years which included the divorces; moving into his swanky home on a private lake in Waukesha County; financial excess which a doctor's salary afforded us; a 2 carat diamond engagement ring; two or three weeks of 24 hour protection from US Marshalls after he was listed on a national "hit list" of doctors who provided certain health care services to women; him reconciling with his parents after 7 years of not speaking to them which sparked a couple of trips to visit them in the western part of the country (I don't want to provide too much identifying information about him whom I affectionately [SARCASM] refer to as Dr. Dick in such circumstances, so I'll just use that reference moving forward); wearing a Kevlar vest to work once we were officially out as a couple to our coworkers; harassment at local stores  and protests in front of our house by those who put his name on that hit list and didn't agree with how he practiced medicine; and both of us becoming drug addicts which lead to a whole host of new and terrifying experiences.

In brief those included: taking drugs from the office home and using together (how romantic, again sarcasm); treatment for us both; being greeted at the office by (ironically) two US Marshalls, someone from the US Dept of Justice, and a small but loud woman from the WI Medical Board all demanding to see the office's narcotics logs which had been in disarray for months; the office closing; unemployment; stigma and shame; professional consequences for him that I only really understood upon becoming a state professional license holder myself in 2014; the end of our relationship; me selling the engagement ring and spending one kick-ass week by myself in Paris (that was actually a natural progression of healing and breaking ties for me, and it is the BEST vacation I've ever had!); meeting with the DOJ and DEA almost exactly six months after our relationship ended and one week after I returned from Paris - they had been monitoring us both and decided that if I sold the ring and went to France, the relationship was likely beyond reconciliation and of course they were right.

My insanely expensive criminal defense attorney, #2 in the state behind the attorney Dr. Dick retained I've been told, and I met with the Feds for six hours of interrogation on a cloudy Tuesday in April 1997 with one 20 minute break at my request. I was fingerprinted and have an official file at the FBI. (I don't know what an unofficial file at a federal agency would be, so I apologize for pointing out the obvious). At the time I thought I was providing them with all sorts of information they didn't know about him, about us, but my therapist at the time told me I likely didn't tell them anything they didn't already know, which helped assuage my guilt about talking with them. I do believe I surprised them with a few things, but nothing of real significance. When push came to shove, I was out to save my own ass rather than protect his out of some sense of misplaced devotion. Thank God I wasn't that codependent or who knows how the hell this mess may have turned out.

It's approaching 20 years since my last contact with federal officials of any sort, which is a good thing. I went on to spend five years clean in Milwaukee, continued working for a local hospital's outpatient clinics and got promoted to Clinic Coordinator which is one of the best jobs I've had. I had a great group of young women who reported to me and became some of my closest friends here. I worked hard and was rewarded for it. At work people higher up the food chain respected me, which is an amazing feeling after the paranoid thoughts that everyone at the  mall somehow "knew" about my drug addiction and legal consequences while simply shopping for Christmas gifts five years prior.

I made peace with the type of work I was involved with when working for Dr. Dick many years ago, which surprised me, actually. At the time I was naive and young enough to believe that there were no regrets in life. I've grown up a lot since then and until recently, refused to have regrets in life, telling people I've made mistakes, but I regret nothing. That's simply not true. I do have regrets, hundreds of them, but I've made peace with the majority of them. Some I still carry, which complicates my relationship with this city. A woman's heart truly is a deep ocean of secrets...and regrets.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

It's a New Year Upon Us & There are Many Miracles & Struggles to Look Forward To

Welcome 2017!!! I anticipate some wonderful events, some challenging events, and some straight up shitty events coming this year. Which, I think is a fairly normal mix of expectations.
On December 23, 2016 Mark received notification that he meets the qualifications for SSDI. Considering he hasn't worked and brought any income into our household since mid-January 2016, we were both happy to hear this news, which is an odd thing considering this was not in my Life Master Plan: marry a guy who ends up receiving SSDI as his primary source of income. He's applied for Medicaid but because my employer offers insurance benefits to spouses, we'll have to wait the 24 months until he's eligible for Medicare. Mark will be 57 years old when he's eligible to apply.

Since college graduation and moving to Milwaukee, I've always been able to take care of myself. Well, maybe I need to backtrack a bit because I was SO codependent on my first husband, that I typed up every resume and cover letter for him to find a job in Milwaukee which because of my hard work, he eventually did. I have to admit that the two months I spent alone in Milwaukee after I started working in February and my first husband's job didn't start until early April 1994, was glorious. For those that don't know, on the night before our wedding, 12-03-93, I cried as I was arranging the boughs and gold brocade ribbons that were the pew decorations. Yes, the wedding was beautiful and elegant and several of my relatives told me during the reception that they thought it was, "So sweet" that I sniffled through the entire ceremony; little did they know that those were tears and sniffles of regret because I knew I was making the first biggest mistake of  my life.

But that was 25 years go...ok, wait. I got married for the first time 25 frickin' years ago?!?!? That should be illegal!! I was 22 years old and no one should be allowed to make such life altering decisions at that age!

Ok, back on track to 2017: as most of you know I received a promotion to School Based Mental Health Coordinator in October 2015. So I've had this role for a bit over a year and I've met my "deliverables" to my Director. I've developed new forms and documents for this program in an attempt to meet the documentation needs of the program. I've promoted this particular model to any community group that was willing to listen to me, which were many more than I anticipated. I was featured in the USA Today-Gannet newspapers across the state, which totaled ten papers running the same story about the PATH school based  mental health counseling program, which included a rather flattering photo of me in the hallways of Appleton East High School.

I know there are miracles coming because I've heard "rumblings" about some additional funding we may receive. The struggles I anticipate are some "rumblings" I've heard about my program being moved into another line of service, which won't be horrible at all because I have a pretty good idea who my new manager would be and SHE KICKS ASS!!

Every year brings its challenges and peace-offerings. It's always nice when they are in equal amount.
At the end of January, I have Trivia Weekend to look forward to; my time to spend time with friends have known me for so long, I don't have to explain myself to them!!

TRIVIA 2017!!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

...and it's over

I've never understood why all of the Christmas "cheer", i.e., music on the radio, classic holiday movies on TV, Christmas tree lights and other decorations come to a screeching halt on December 26th. Isn't there a holiday "season"? To me, it makes the most sense to celebrate from Christmas Eve to New Years Day; a "season" if it's only really eight days. Or we could back it up to Thanksgiving through New Years Day which extends the holiday season for several weeks. I lament the holiday season wrap-up every year because I think it happens too soon. But no matter when I think the holiday season should officially end, it always seems to be December 26th and I doubt I can change public opinion (or marketing strategies as my local Walgreens already has Valentine's Day decorations on display).

I've become a member of a local storytelling group based on The Moth Radio Hour on NPR this year and have found a deeply meaningful way to express my thoughts, experiences and life-stories in a public medium. The group is called Storycatchers and I've processed several experiences in this format and feel that I have made more progress around these particular parts of my life-story than I have in years of therapy. That's not a knock against my therapist because she's great and I've made a lot of progress working with her nor is it a knock against therapy in general as that's what I do for a living and have productivity requirements to meet. (Anyone who knows me knows it's not about the numbers for me, but rather the progress, interaction and relationships I have with my clients.) But Storycatchers is mine. I don't invite family members to public readings because I lay it all out there and I don't want to damage any relationships as a result. In many ways as a therapist, I am a keeper of others' secrets. Storycatchers is a place where I can tell my secrets and not get analyzed or judged because of them.

The Storycatchers lady-in-charge emails "sparks" with prompting questions or statements for participants to complete. Today I received a spark with one of the following requests:
1) What is one moment or one day from this year that you could relive every year over?
For me the easiest answer is to relive Thursday, November 3, 2016. Not because the Chicago Cubs finally won the World Series, but because that is the date an article about the PATH for Students program (Providing Access to Healing) ran in ten statewide newspapers, front page above the fold featuring a nice photo of me and the story of one of my students from a local high school. Suddenly I was receiving congratulations and recognition from the Appleton East High School staff, the Appleton Area School District, the United Way Fox Cities, and the LSS Foundation and various programs and staff. I received a hand-written note from WI State Senator Roger Roth. I gave a presentation on school based mental health to the Appleton Rotary Club. The number of people who contacted me within LSS was amazing. Not only was this an opportunity to bring further attention to the need for and benefits of school based mental health counseling, I felt like the program (and, maybe selfishly, that I) was finally being recognized for the incredible amount of work it takes to bring school based counseling into a school. There was the testimony of a student I've worked with for three years on how the program has benefited her in many ways. By stepping out from behind the screen of anonymity, she delivered a blow to the stigma that continues to surround mental health diagnosis and treatment. I'm incredibly proud of her, not only because she stood up and acknowledged her need for therapy, but because of the progress I've seen her make in the three years we've worked together.

I'm on vacation starting December 23rd and will return to work on January 3rd. The attention the newspaper article brought will continue to fade, yet those of us counseling students in their schools will continue. I will submit a poem I'd like to read at the next Storycatchers live event in February. The Christmas season will continue to deteriorate until it's brought back to our collective consciousness around Labor Day 2017. It will be interesting to answer the question about one moment or one day from 2017 that I could relive. We will discover together if 2017 is a year where: "There are years that ask questions and years that answer." Zora Neale Hurston.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Vietnam: The Story I Never Knew


I've published this poem on my blog once before, when I didn't have anything else to share. It was written during a poetry seminar my junior year of college in Boston. I had no accurate information, so I made up what I thought could've  possibly happened when my father left for Vietnam. The only true information I had was that he and my mother were married, and based on my birth date in May 1971, I had to have been conceived sometime in August of 1970. I can guarantee you that my father never wore a leather fringed vest and bell-bottom jeans. My dad hadn't yet graduated from what I recently learned was called Wisconsin State University in Whitewater.
Recently I went through several photo albums in my parents' basement, one which was devoted to my dad's life shortly before and during his time in Vietnam.
I was born two weeks before he left for Saigon. Mom was pregnant with me when she and my Grandma Porath, my paternal grandmother, traveled to Missouri to watch him graduate from Basic Training. I'm not sure if they were married yet; their official wedding invitations list their wedding date as 01-30-71 but because my mom got pissed off and called off the wedding, they actually got married on 01-23-71. I was born on 05-14-71 and was baptized at Peace Church in Shawano roughly two weeks later because within days of  my baptism, my father got onto on a military plane and headed to Vietnam for a year.
Here is my baby picture taken at Shawano Memorial Hospital on the day I was born:

Aren't I adorable?? :-) This photo was the first photographic record of my presence in the world. Dad stayed until I was baptized then he left to fight in the war. I can't say this was "his war" with the same sense of national pride felt by both of my grandfathers who fought in WWII; Grandpa Porath in North Africa and then in France on "D+3", three days after D-Day, 06-09-44. My maternal grandfather went to the Pacific courtesy of the US government draft. He spent most of his service in the Philippines, including earning the Bronze Star, but he also served in Okinawa Japan toward the end of the war.
--
So apparently Rog left in early June 1971 to complete his duty as called upon by the US President. Dad also needed more money to complete his undergrad degree in Accounting (with an Economics minor) and he had calculated what the GI Bill would cover and, in weighing his options, he decided to serve and then take every advantage those benefits provided him. Smart thinking on Rog's part as the GI Bill helped him finish his undergrad Accounting Degree, help finance the purchase of my parents first (and only) home in Appleton, and pay for his graduate school at UW-Oshkosh where he earned his MBA while going to night school.

Over the years I've flipped through Dad's single album documenting his time in Vietnam because I'm "the family story teller/genealogist" but this time I took the photos out of the album to copy them via my scanner/printer and I discovered the most amazing thing: on the back of the vast majority of dad's pictures are notes he wrote to my mom. Had I never taken these pictures out of their 40+ year old album, I never would have discovered the brief but informative and touching notes he wrote to her.

Here are my two favorites:
This is my dad "sunbathing" and spending some time doing some light reading according to what was written on the back of this photo:



Needless to say, this is generally something a daughter wouldn't have interest in reading about her parents and despite my father's handwriting always bordering on "doctor level" of illegibility to a lay person, I'm thankful that I have no understanding of the second paragraph after the first sentence and I am completely fine with that!
This puzzle has hung in my parents' basement since I can remember. Now I know it's origin story and why it's been hanging in the basement will all other Packers gear. This puzzle made it home from Vietnam... just like my dad.

Although there are approximately 40 photos I could post in this blog, there's only one more I want to share:
This is my dad in his existential, questioning the purpose of the world pose, and of course there's a message on the back:
And to end this discovery of my father's life as a soldier in a foreign county, I leave you with some lyrics from Bob Dylan's "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall" as I image my Grandma Porath asking herself these very questions during that year from 1971-1972:

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, where have you been, my darling young one?
I've stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains
I've walked and I've crawled on six crooked highways
I've stepped in the middle of seven sad forests
I've been out in front of a dozen dead oceans
I've been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard
And it's a hard, and it's a hard, it's a hard, and it's a hard
And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall

Oh, who did you meet, my blue-eyed son?
Who did you meet, my darling young one?
I met a young child beside a dead pony
I met a white man who walked a black dog
I met a young woman whose body was burning
I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow
I met one man who was wounded in love
I met another man who was wounded with hatred
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard
It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.

Love to my father, Roger Porath, Vietnam Veteran, Old Glory Honor Flight EAA:

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

...and so 45 approaches

Man, the older I get, the more I dislike the weeks before my birthday. It's not because I have issues with aging, it's because I have issues with remembering. It only makes sense that with each passing year, I have another 365 days of memories to ponder: good, bad or indifferent. Parts of my past slip just a bit further away. Sometimes I'm happy to have memories fade into a whiter shade of pale, sometimes I'm sad that milestones of my life are even further away from my present, like watching a boat cross the horizon that is that much harder to moor back at shore.
When I graduated with my Master's degree 5 years ago, I had developed a "five year plan" for the first time in my life. That plan was to apply to PhD programs when I turned 44 and starting a Forensic Psychology PhD program the fall semester of 2016, just months after my 45th birthday. Well, let me tell you: Shit happens and five year plans fall by the wayside. Priorities change, career opportunities present themselves (or not), your grandmother becomes a full time nursing home resident, the home where the absolute best of your childhood memories gets sold and you feel as if the planks that make up your life begin to separate and float away so you cling to whatever you find  just to prevent yourself from drowning in life on life's terms-not your own terms.
Which brings me to today: four days from my 45th birthday.
Some spectacular things have happened to me professionally this year: I got a promotion to be LSS's School Based Mental Health Coordinator. I spoke at a WAFCA (Wisconsin Association of Family & Children's Agencies) training about what it's like to be a licensed professional counselor in recovery. Today I received news that I am going to be a key-note speaker at the state convention for speech therapists and pathologists in February 2017 about trauma informed care-I'll be presenting for 1 1/2 hours to approximately 200 people. I've been interviewed by a local reporter about state government support for school based mental health. A colleague I worked with as an Older Adult Counselor published a book which includes my interview about depression and older adults. I've never felt more satisfied in my career as I do now. This is significant for two reasons:
1) I really thought that working with psychopathology in the state prison system was one of my "dream jobs" and working there would fulfill me intellectually so I tried that for six months in 2013 and discovered that it was not the place for me, for a number of reasons I've outlined in previous blog posts; 2) When I was in grad school, I completed a paper on the population I'd least like to work with, which was teens and adolescents and here I am, five years later absolutely in love with the students I counsel two days a week at a local high school and working to develop and expand school based mental health services at schools across the state.
Personally I've faced challenges this year, as everyone does. The two most significant being the only income provider at home due to my husband's depression and anxiety which has prevented him from working since January 2015. He's in the process of applying for SSDI due to PTSD. The second may sound somewhat trivial, but rocked my world when I checked my Linked In account in early February and discovered that "Paul G, MD from Montana" had recently viewed my profile. Sometimes I view him as a bad penny that won't go away and leave me the fuck alone and other times I long to re-establish any type of contact with him, "knowing" that we'd somehow reconcile, despite the fact that we're both married to other people. In therapy I refer to these thoughts as "Julia Roberts movie moments" which are completely unrealistic, but drag my heart into believing it's possible. These thoughts fuck with my mind in a major way despite the amount of time that's passed since we've spoken, much less were in a romantic relationship with each other. It's the nagging thoughts of "what if" that I'm finally processing in therapy. I've danced around it for decades (I know, it's a crazily long amount of time) but my counselor kicks ass and keeps me on task to finally deal with whatever I need to do to come to terms with this relationship.
So as my 45th birthday approaches, here I am: focusing on all of the achievements I've made this year and acknowledging what I need to work on to live a more balanced life. I know there will be more achievements and more challenges during the 365 days between 45 and 46, but for the first time in a long time, I feel prepared to welcome them both.

My "official" LSS website photo.