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Found, But Not Ever Lost

MapI recently discovered an email from someone who was looking for her old friend, me.  As one who has done a lot of ‘searching’ for others of former acquaintance or friend, I was surprised to find someone was looking for me!  I last saw my friend around 1994 when I attended her wedding to her second husband. So nearly 20 years have transpired between our contacts.

My friend, whom I will call “Dobbs”, and I worked together for several years in Virginia, as social workers in the same foster care/child protection unit.  Not only were we ‘partners’ in conducting our work – she doing the intake, and I doing the follow-up – we were also on the same emergency call team for off-hours child protective services.  We had lunch together nearly every day.  In addition, we were ‘partners in crime’ both within the context of our jobs, and in other ways as well.

In the months before both of our marriages disintegrated we became ‘detectives’ – literally.  It seems that we both had unresolved relationships that needed to be addressed.  And so we began our searches for our old boyfriends.  Mine had been ‘lost’ in Georgia and Viet Nam.  Hers had been ‘lost’ in Pennsylvania and the U. S. Navy.  As social workers, one of our responsibilities was to locate missing parents, so we naturally developed skills in investigation.  These skills we applied, very successfully, to finding and eventually making contact with our ‘lost’ loves.

Dobbs and I took a trip to Norfolk, VA to re-experience some of the places that had meaning, especially for locating her Navy beau.  In addition I contacted a friend, not an old beau, but a significant person in my life, to catch up with each other’s lives.

Dobbs and I both had a desire to actually become bona fide detectives, with the idea of creating a private investigation agency to find lost and missing persons.  We enrolled in the Virginia certification class and took a week’s vacation time to attend at Lynchburg Community College.  We both passed the exam, and ‘interned’ with a local detective to develop more skills.  I received my private investigator license and worked for him for about six months until I went back to  school for a masters degree.

As it turned out Dobbs and I didn’t set up that agency.  She got divorced and moved to Washington, D.C., taking a job with social services there.  I went back to school.  Eventually Dobbs returned to Virginia and married again, finding her place within the Virginia Department of Social Services.  And I eventually moved to Denver to find a job there with the city.

When I saw the recent email from Dobbs I couldn’t help but joke about her still ‘detecting’ to find people ‘of interest’.  Within a few days we had a wonderful phone conversation to fill each other in on the last 20 years.  Dobbs divorced her second husband and is now re-married to that lost love from Pennsylvania and the U. S. Navy.  After finding my lost love I went to visit him for a week, and we made plans to see each other again.  That plan didn’t work out, and I once again lost contact with him.  It is my feeling that he passed away.

We just never know as we go through this life who we will impact, who will remember us, love us, or want to reconnect with us.  It is a mystery.  A mystery that sometimes we can solve!  And those who pass through our lives, although we may not ever see them again, are never lost, because we carry them with us in our memories.




A Parallel Democracy: A Place Beyond Politics

Political boxing“What we have witnessed, especially since the first election of the first black president of the United States, is bitter, divided, polarized, angry, mean-spirited and “win at all costs” Democracy. Since I first came to the USA in 1965, I have never witnessed a time when the political discourse has been more rancorous and vitriolic. The labeling of the opposition with the language that is currently being used is, at times, frightening.

These are the words of George Daranyi, a regular citizen with a vision, concerning the need for change in how we conduct political dialogue.  George has designed and developed A Parallel Democracy:  A Place Beyond Politics, an experiential event,  out of his own desire to change the harmful ways that we have spoken to and behaved with each other concerning our political views, especially during the past national elections.

Last month I attended the “maiden voyage” of this new ‘program’ – a half-day-long gathering of about 100 people to experience the culmination of this idea.   With George’s permission I am posting his most recent ‘invitation’ for others to attend, and benefit from, this important experiment.

George describes A Parallel Democracy as “an experiential experiment in political reconciliation. It is not affiliated with any group, organization, political party, movement, philosophy, ideology, belief system or religion.  The experiment makes no effort to attempt to change your current beliefs or to make you “wrong” about your political beliefs.  A Parallel Democracy will provide ‘an experience’ and  ‘a space’ where you can practice being present with another with whom you have opposing political viewpoints and with whom you want to experience closer and more meaningful connection. ”

“I believe in Democracy.  Real Democracy. Authentic, transparent, accountable, clean Democracy. I believe most of us believe and want that kind of Democracy. I believe that kind of Democracy, and the longing for that kind of Democracy, lives in a “parallel universe” that is running alongside our current political universe. Hence the name, A Parallel Democracy.

The impact of this kind of present day, two party, Democracy has been significant. Nearly one third of the voters, for example, in Arizona no longer identify as either a Republican or a Democrat. They are Independents. A very significant number of eligible voters have, for years, opted out entirely out of the system. They no longer participate, nor care to participate. And, those who are still active have become disheartened and disillusioned. It is clear, without the need for scientific research, that our current two party system is, at best, severely dysfunctional; and, at worst probably broken and irreparably so. The final blow to our body politic is this: our problems, big and small, continue to go unaddressed. Rather than taking them on directly, our governors are playing a game of making sure “the others” are made wrong; or at least less wrong than “we” are. It is a lose/lose game.

At the same time that the political landscape has worsened, and the tone grown increasingly divisive, something quite amazing is also occurring. For the first time in human history, human beings have access to instant information and near instant communication. The advent of the worldwide internet and its social media has provided a platform which has allowed and given people an opportunity to have a voice outside of the traditional “village square” (the congressional houses in Washington, and the state houses everywhere). Americans have witnessed the near instant democratic uprisings which have occurred over the past several years in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and elsewhere. The ability, technologically, now to speak and to unite those who speak with one voice across vast regions has called into question the entire idea of whether representative democracy is even required or, dare I say it, relevant any more. What if, instead, we explored the possibility of direct democracy, where our technology is linked to and merged with our continuing deep commitment to real, authentic, responsible, accountable and transparent Democracy? What might be possible then? Well, APD believes that anything is possible politically.

A Parallel Democracy is an experiment in two central ideas: one, that human beings, who hold vastly different views, and who are members of different parties or organizations, or who have opted out of the discourse altogether, can come into a singular space and find a way to connect with each other in a meaningful and transformative way. They can do that without one person insisting that another person change his or her political views or philosophy. in that space, participants engage in the actual experience of political reconciliation, which will free them up to have different and more meaningful relationships with those that they perceive as “the other”. The experiment, if successful, can rebuild trust and can reclaim Democracy in a new, more powerful, and non-party affiliated way. This new way of relating to one another exits in what we call “A Place Beyond Politics.” The experiment has been run successfully once, and will be run again on March 16, 2013 in Tucson, Arizona.

And, second, the idea that human beings, inside of our current technology, can begin to take full responsibility for governing themselves, directly, without the need for a projection of their votes or their power to members of political parties who wonder off to lands far away to cast votes. A Parallel Democracy says that the village square is right here, it is us, and it exists right in front of us. It too exists in A Place Beyond Politics.

Finally, APD is not interested in having debates about political philosophies or particular issues. It has no opinion on these matters, albeit they are important. It is not a party or an entity. It is an experience. APD understands that, like the nuclear atom, which requires all its elements, positive charges, negative charges and neutral ones, to hold itself together, our Democracy must find a way to hold the tension of all of its energies and disagreements. But, unlike the atom, where those particles don’t get to choose how they relate to each other, APD recognizes that each of us does have a choice in how we relate to each other. We can do it. In fact, we must; or, like the atom (and the entire cosmos for that matter) we will disintegrate into chaos.

We invite you to consider the possibility that A Parallel Democracy-A Place Beyond Politics might offer you. Join us for the next experiment in the experience of political reconciliation.

If you are interested in attending, please post a comment about your interest, and I will provide contact information.

A Woman’s Right to “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”

Yesterday President Obama began his inaugural speech with a quote from the Declaration of Independence, which states we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable (incapable of being surrendered) rights, among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  I’m blogging today on behalf of NARAL Pro-Choice America.  NARAL is an acronym for National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League. Today is national Blog for Choice Day.

I’m writing because I support a female human’s right to make choices about her life and liberty, and her pursuit of happiness.  I’m writing today especially concerning her human right to be the one who makes decisions about her reproductive system.

As a retired social worker who was involved in child protective services for many years, I have seen firsthand the consequences of bringing unwanted children into the world.  There are also consequences of bringing ‘wanted’ children into the world by girls barely out of puberty who become ‘mothers’ without knowing what they are doing.

Those who maintain the inflexible position of NO abortion stand in judgment of these females.  (I refer to females because I do not consider a 13 year-old teen a ‘woman’, even if she is able to procreate.) And it seems to me that those who take that stance are the last ones who would want to adopt one of the children forced to be born.  Many times these children arrive with birth defects and diseases such as fetal alcohol syndrome, addiction to illicit drugs, mental deficiencies, and other conditions.  Frequently the mothers are unprepared, and incapable, of handling such a situation.

When a hospital contacts human services because there is a child born who is ‘at risk’ of being properly cared for, the assessment by a social worker often results in a removal of the child from the mother, and placement into the foster care system.  In fact, sometimes the mother, being a minor, is also placed in foster care.

While it is considered protection of these vulnerable beings, the tax-payers of our country pay for their care, in millions of dollars every year.  The children with ‘special needs’ are often NOT the ones who are adopted, and many children remain in some kind of institutional care because it is medically required, again at the tax-payers’ expense.

If that young mother was not required to bear her child – and state legislators across the country are passing legislation to make it extremely difficult to obtain an abortion – she might have a much better chance at life herself.  If the energy to stop abortions was put into creating a supportive environment for females to grow into their best selves, I think our country would be better served. It is THESE lives who can pursue their dreams, and become the leaders of our country’s future. THEY are the lives that need to be ‘saved’.  What purpose does bringing a ‘life’ being carried in the womb into the world, and discarding the life of the person whose womb it is?


On Becoming a None

ImageLast Sunday my good friend from Colorado, whom I hadn’t seen for over two years, visited with me briefly following a 10-day workshop here in Tucson, on the subject of Evolutionary Enlightenment/Spirituality, given by Andrew Cohen. She gave me a newly published book entitled Evolutionaries, written by a relatively young writer who was a presenter at the workshop.

We have known each other since 1998 when we both lived in Denver, the initiation of our friendship taking place concerning the creation of a community building workshop based on M. Scott Peck’s model described in his book The Different Drum. We had both attended workshops presented by the Foundation for Community Encouragement, she in Denver and I in Virginia and Connecticut. Over the years we have grown and experienced our own personal spiritual evolutions, which we have shared with each other.

As I review my own growth, I find that my understanding about God has evolved to the point that I no longer have a ‘personal’ god. Instead, if one needs to be ‘labeled’ I currently would be classified as a panentheist; one who perceives god as the life in everything – Native Americans view it as the Great Mystery or the Great Spirit. I no longer carry the Christian beliefs that I was brought up with, and have discarded them over time.

These days when people are asked about their religion, more and more are responding that they are ‘spiritual’, not religious. This ‘spiritual’ group is growing larger throughout the United States, and is being included in the general category of Religion: NONE. And they are also being included under the umbrella of atheism, secular humanism, agnosticism, etc. Many are members of the Unitarian Universalist Church, where they can feel free with their non-belief, and connect with others of like mind. (I have an aversion to this group being labeled a ‘church’, however.)

Recently I have begun to explore the Religion: NONE groups in Tucson through meetups that take place on a regular basis. So far I’ve attended three such meetups, one purely social and the other two with discussion formats. I’ve been looking for a place where I can be myself, without judgment, and I feel that these groups have been a good place to start. I’m still exploring, and learning, and reading – educating myself to become more articulate about my ‘place’ in the world.

When I was in Deming, NM over Christmas our RV club had a very nice dinner that was preceded by an ordained club member giving the ‘blessing’. I found myself annoyed with the Christian focus, and noticed that a couple of my friends and a guest also were disturbed by the words spoken. In such a diverse group of people, Christian expression is not necessarily appropriate. Yes, it was Christmas, but the gathering was for fellowship with other travelers who were not necessarily of the Christian faith, but who desired to be with others for the companionship of the day.

So now I find myself feeling less alienated from ‘the world’ by being with the other NONEs I’ve met with. For most of my life I have felt that I am really very different, not just unique as we all are in own ways, but really very different, to the point of becoming isolated, and not wanting to engage with the general population. While there may be those who would say that I’m the one separating myself from others, I would reply that I have the right to choose the place where I feel comfortable and accepted as I am, with non-traditional and unconventional thoughts and behaviors. And I honestly feel that I am finally realizing who I really am.

Reviewing What’s Not Been Shared Yet

004smallSince my last post I have experienced a lot of enjoyment in my life, and it has come upon me so fast I can’t keep up in terms of sharing on this blog.  So here, at the end of the calendar year 2012 I can only list some of the things that have created one good day after another for me.  Many, but not all, of these things are connected to a growing friendship with that tall, handsome funny man I met last spring.

Cooking potpies and empanadas with my friend, experimenting with crust and fillings.

Riding my trike every day, even in NM (until the cold weather entered the scene, post-Thanksgiving.)

Finding treasures from the thrift stores to help support my daughter’s art, initiated by my friend’s desire to help her out.

Supporting my friend’s next door neighbor’s children in their dance presentation, and providing some food and Christmas fun for them and their single mother.

Touring some of the barrios in Tucson and experiencing their treasures, mostly good food and quaint architecture.

A ‘camping trip’ to my RV club headquarters in NM for Thanksgiving, solo, and again for Christmas with my friend.

Soaking in the hot springs at Faywood Springs, NM.

Many wonderful light-hearted and deep conversations at breakfast mostly, and at other times, too.

Meeting new next-door neighbors.

Being asked to be a judge for a student cooking contest at the Mercado San Agustin on  Avenida Del Convento when I had just finished a ride and was very hungry, preparing to buy a barbacoa burrito.

Mexican coffee (with chicory and cinnamon) and pastries from La Estrella bakery.

Securing a new vehicle that will accommodate my trike, and that is great for trips!

Finally getting rid of the pigeons that were leaving their broken eggs and poop on my sidewalk and my neighbor’s by installing bird spikes.  Thanks, FF!

Losing 15 pounds – feels wonderful!  I can now wear things I saved from before I began RVing.  And they are still in fashion.

Realizing how far I’ve come, how much I’ve grown, how much I’ve learned and lived, and how I’m always becoming new.

Changing my perspective on some things and accepting my individuality.

And knowing there is more to come!




A Rose By Any Other Name

Last Wednesday, upon the encouragement of my friend, and having made a decision regarding my finances, so I could pay the fee, I went to the Pima County Superior Court in Tucson, AZ and changed my name.

When I was born my three ‘birth’ names had the meanings, “Graceful Lily”, “Child of Grace”, and “God is Gracious”-son (Grace, Grace, Grace).  When I was 22 years old I married and took the name of my husband.  We had two children, a boy and a girl.  Several years ago, our daughter changed her name, dropping her ‘birth’ surname, and taking her middle name as a surname.

Now, it’s also helpful to know that the name has taken on slang, and many jokes made over it.  Another reason for me to change it.  Even with all the changes required for bank accounts, credit cards, insurance, not to mention that I’m a retired senior with who-knows-how-many-years-left, it is something that I needed to do.

When I was divorced over 20 years ago I was asked if I wanted my maiden name back, and I said, “No”.  It was my father’s name, and he was adopted, so it really wasn’t his name.  In addition, I didn’t want such a ‘plain’ name – one that was also associated with a painful family history.  So I kept my married name…until last Wednesday.

Why did it take me so long to enter this very easy process?  First, I didn’t know what name I wanted to take on.  Names I liked were OTHER peoples’ names.  I would go to sleep, requesting information from my dreams about a new name.  I tried my mother’s maiden name, and in a dream was advised that I couldn’t ‘connect’ with it.  Once I woke up in the morning with a couple of words relating to a name the elders of a Native American teaching lodge gave me.  It didn’t feel right.

Twice – when I lived in Charlottesville, VA and Denver, CO I obtained the paperwork for the court petition, but could not decide on a name.  Then, three years ago, as I read the description of Swan in the Medicine Cards, with the keynote “Grace” I knew that that is what I needed to call myself.

In part of the story about Swan, she is advised that she must, “be willing to accept whatever the future holds as it is presented, without trying to change Great Spirit’s plan.”  Well, is that ever the challenge!

In addition, I always resonated with the story of the Ugly Duckling because as a child I never felt that I belonged anywhere, and boy, did I try to change myself so I would finally belong!  Over time I’ve discovered that I really DON’T ‘belong’ except to myself.  I have been investigating the ‘science of differentiation’ known as Human Design for several years.  I was not surprised to learn that of the four types of humans, according to this knowledge, I am rare – only 8% of the world’s population is the same type as I am. And we are meant to act on our own, and be willing to ‘go it alone’.  It isn’t comfortable; it’s downright painful sometimes; and it’s about having been conditioned to believe that I was supposed to be like everyone else.

Now I have my own name, one of my choosing, based on my self-knowledge and understanding.  Yet, I am still who I was when I received my first name – Grace, Grace, Grace.  And, by-the-way, the order was entered very near my former marriage date – full circle!

On Making Adjustments

I keep hearing myself say I need to write again, and I ask, “about what?”  So today I just sat down and started.

The days since the closing of escrow on the house have added up to almost a month’s worth already, and I find myself pretty much settled in, although I have several unpacked boxes with contents that need shelves.  Yet I feel agitation about this new life…I suppose it’s all about adjusting.

I took the trailer to the dealer for consignment, and feel disappointed in my efforts to sell it.  I find I’m relieved, though, to not have to worry about it, not have to store it somewhere, and still be responsible for maintaining it.  I’m also grateful that I did have some help in getting it hitched up.  I really didn’t want to do it even one more time!

I’ve been enjoying putting things in place, and sometimes sitting outside, looking at my yard.  There is a lot of imagining that goes on there, as the weeds have been growing quite well, and profusely.  Yesterday I was able to get the weed killer out to spray every last one of them.  And what I missed I’ve tried to get today.  I can see how I might become obsessive about this!  There is one particular weed that is the dominant one, and it seems to just pop up overnight from under the gravel.

Last night as I was enjoying the almost full moon, my old fold-up canvas chair that I’ve hauled all over the country finally became unusable.  So I unpacked one of the lounge chairs that I’ve also hauled around the country, and sat for awhile.  My friend gave me a solar ‘swan’ light that is blue at night, and along with the other solar lights I have, the environment was quite enjoyable.  The next thing is to get my new plants in the ground, and spread out the artificial grass carpet (also hauled around) to extend the sitting area.

I put up some gauze curtains at my bedroom window that faces the street, to give a sense of separation and softness.  I’m so delighted with my cleverness at finding some metal double coat hooks to hold the aspen sapling I cut in Colorado for a walking staff.  I draped the gauze (a gift from my friend) over the stick, and it looks great!

A couple of days ago I opened a box of  ‘accessories’ that  literally were hanging around the trailer from cabinet handles.  They made great fan pulls for the ceiling fans.  Up on the ladder several times to get them just right.  I love them!   And I hung my wind chime – up on the ladder one more time to put an eye screw in the roof overhang from which to suspend it.  The evening breeze caught the sail slightly and it sounded so nice!

I’ve met a few of my neighbors.  Connected to my house – like a duplex, but designed and built as a townhouse – is my neighbor’s house.  We’d spoken briefly one day – the first thing he asked me was how much did I pay for my house…Then on Sunday, when I found my body vibrating to the beat of the bass in his bedroom, through our joint wall, I made a visit.  I learned that he has no desire or intent to cooperate in moderating the sound level of his music or caring about being a good neighbor.  He did say that as he works all week, and this was his day off,  he (felt entitled) to watch his games and listen to his music, as he pleased.  What I noticed was that each evening this week I’ve been assaulted by his relaxation…Last night I slammed the door to the bedroom that is adjacent to his and went into the living room – thankfully I am sleeping in the other bedroom! – and perhaps coincidentally the music stopped for the night.

Last weekend I went with friends to the “Welcome Home Veterans” parade in downtown Tucson.  We had flags and a great place in the shade to wait for the parade to pass us.  Then we had lunch in a restaurant near my new house that I’d not been to before.  I’m slowly learning my way around this part of town.  I have noticed, though, that not any of my bank’s branches are near me.

Through the Internet I continue to spread the word about political action regarding women’s rights.  Every day there is something new to respond to.  I know I need to be careful to not let this take over my life; however, there is so much that needs to change.  I add my voice and some of my wisdom through my writing on facebook and The Huffington Post, through petitions from Planned Parenthood and some of the Democratic action committees.  I’ll be going to Phoenix later this month to put my voice with other women’s voices about the barriers that are being placed on women’s civil rights.

So, a lot going on.  I try to remind myself to take things slowly.  I know I’m agitated about everything though, because I can’t stop eating!  Eating the wrong things!  It’s an emotional response that I need to get a grip on before I gain back what I lost!

Taking a deep breath…..