Friday, March 31, 2006


There's still plenty of bad news to go around, not the least of which is my dear friend Julianna's heartbreaking outcome to her last IVF...and this isn't helping any either.

But I wanted to do a good news post. This past Wednesday I had the pleasure of meeting another fellow blogger, Mellie from Why Not Us?, who was here in Northern California with her husband from New York. Being from Boston and living in New York, I fully expected to need an interpreter to understand her accent, and was more than a little surprised to find she had nary a trace of one. Maybe they cancelled each other out?

I picked her up in front of the surfing school where I would later return her for a lesson. She's a braver soul than I -- even in a wetsuit, the Pacific Ocean around these parts is cold. Damn cold. It was a bit cloudy at first but within an hour the sun was out, I told her I ordered the rain to stop just for her visit. I don't think she believed me. We had a lovely lunch at one of the many small, charming restaurants downtown.

Photo credit: Grace Davis

After lunch I took her on a short driving and walking tour of the beach area, which includes California's oldest amusement park and the first pier she'd ever driven on, where we watched and listened to the seals beneath.

Then we parked along the seawall and took in the view and some of the amazing flora. These are called Pride of Madeira, I've seen them on 10 foot-tall bushes, quite spectacular.

This is a view of the memorial surfing statue...many people have lost their lives over the years along this stretch, referred to by the locals as Steamer Lane.

None of these pictures were taken on Wednesday, but it looked just like this. It's been pouring since then, so I guess at least the weather goddesses were giving me a break. I hope the surfing goddesses were good to Mellie that day too.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Reality Bites

** Updated: Now with more bad news.

1. One of D's coworkers died over the weekend after suffering a stroke last week. He was 39.
2. One of the cooks at my company's cafeteria was killed in a traffic accident on the way to work this morning.
3. One of our dogs has been diagnosed as hypothyroid. OK, not as bad as the above, but he will have to be on meds for the rest of his life.
I am a realist. I prefer photography over impressionist paintings, fact over fiction and science over fantasy. I have an almost limitless capacity to endure pain and hardship myself, but I do not deal with the sorrows of others well. Especially those I care about.

On Friday I read this. On Saturday I read this. And on Sunday I read this. I cried at each post, trying to wrap my brain around the injustice, the unfairness, the randomness of it all. And I couldn't. D told me last night as I wiped yet more tears away, "Passion is your curse."

I do not believe in a higher power, or a lower one, for that matter. I don't believe in fate, karma or even luck. There are some things we do have some modicum of control over, but mostly it's a big crap shoot. Why do people who've never smoked get lung cancer and die at the age of 44? Why does my iPod play 3 Beatles' songs in a row out of nearly 800 songs on random shuffle? Things don't happen for a reason, shit happens. That's it. We are at the mercy of nature, planetary cycles, biology, things so huge that we can never hope to harness or control them, whether for good or evil.

I've had this unshakable sense of impending doom the past couple of weeks. Every time the phone rings my stomach knots and I furtively glance at my husband, wordlessly telling him he better pick it up, because I'm not going to.

Sometimes I envy people I know who have a strong faith, who believe that good will come to those who do good, despite the nightly news. At times like these, with so much sadness in my little corner of this big blue planet, it's pretty tough to feel optimistic. Anyone know of any good news?

Friday, March 24, 2006

More Words & Music

See, I knew my readers could answer the Holland/Netherlands/Dutch question. Very interesting! I'll be sure to refer to the country properly as The Netherlands from now on. My company has a few employees there. I think the tolerance test is a good idea in theory. If you are going to live in a country with fairly radical views on things like gay marriage, prostitution, drugs, euthanasia, etc., then you should be prepared to show that you can tolerate the culture. The language part is a real killer though, the cost seems prohibitive, and the fact that citizens from certain countries are exempt seems, well...intolerant.

Now, I know there are several readers who can explain the difference between England, Great Britain and the United Kingdom. As a Canadian I am ashamed to admit I'm still a little fuzzy on the distinctions.

I truly appreciate you coming to my defense, but noone has actually said anything about my blog being too focused on one topic, I just wanted to make sure readers knew they can expect to find lots of different stuff here.

Kudos for naming all the original artists of the songs! I've fallen into the trap of thinking a song was "new" when it's really a cover of a great song from 30 years ago. Just like with movies, there's a lot of copy-catting going on in the music biz right now. As long as they do a good job I can't complain.

I've been noticing lately that adverts are using some great songs (I've always loved the British slang for commercials). Here's another game: here are a few songs, you name the commercial, OK?

The Kinks - Picture Book - mp3
Bodyrockers - I Like The Way - mp3
Nick Drake - Pink Moon - mp3

In order to post music files to a website you have to create a URL for each file. Since I don't know how to do that, I use EZArchive. For $6 a a year I got enough storage space to host my blog images plus enough music files that I don't have to delete them right away. It automatically creates a URL for each file you upload, then you simply copy the URL and paste it into the hyperlink field as usual.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Testing for Tolerance

Recently Holland instituted something which is being called both The Tolerance Test and The Immigrant Quiz, neither of which has any zing in my book. You might have heard about this, the story was more prevalent in the European news but was covered in the U.S. as well. Here's a story from the UK Times Online that does a good job explaining why they are testing and all the hubbub that's arisen around it.

Could you pass a tolerance test? I think there are a good many Americans who wouldn't pass, so it's a damn good thing we are exempt, along with most other Western nations.

On a side note, is it Holland or The Netherlands? In either case, why are the people who live there called Dutch? I'm sure I could find this online, but it's more fun when one of you teaches me.

Things have pretty heavy around here lately. Someone stumbling onto this blog might think I am obsessed with my sexual abuse history and abuse in general, but I can assure you I am a rather well-rounded person with many other, interests, including music.

Here are some really good covers for your listening enjoyment (right click/Save Target As).

Barenaked Ladies -- Lovers in a Dangerous Time -- mp3
The Beautiful South -- Don't Fear the Reaper -- mp3
Cake -- The Guitar Man -- mp3

Extra bonus points for anyone who can name the original artists.

Monday, March 20, 2006


Today is the first day of Spring, the Vernal Equinox, one of two days of the year when day and night are about the same length.

From Equinox and (geez, there’s a website for everything, isn’t there?), here’s a nice synopsis:

"The ancient goddess, Eostre, a Saxon deity who marked not only the passage of time but also symbolized new life and fertility, was the key symbol of this celebration which was also known as Ostara. Legend has it that the goddess was saved by a bird whose wings had become frozen by the cold of winter. This process turned the bird into a hare. Yet this was no ordinary cottontail; this long-eared rabbit could also lay eggs! The main symbols for Easter are the egg, for new life or beginnings, and the rabbit/hare, for fertility."

I always wondered how the rabbit and the egg thing got started. Leave it to the Saxons.

This morning on the way to work it was pouring rain and miserable. The first day of Spring never crossed my mind, and I doubt it would have even if it had been sunny. That’s because I was too busy ruminating about the fact that today is the anniversary of my abortion. Admittedly, I am a glass-half-empty kind of person, always have been, but this got me thinking about my thinking patterns. Why do I (and many others) focus more attention and energy on the negative remembrances than the positive? Why do I become more emotional about today than I do about my wedding anniversary in July? For me, it’s just easier to be upset, depressed or angry than it is to be happy. Ask my husband, he’ll tell you that trying to make me have a good time is like pulling teeth. The only way he knows for sure that I’m having fun is when I throw up. This theory has been proven time and time again, mostly on vacations. Poor guy.

But, I digress. Maybe this is true for me because my brain has been altered by my history. Recently I found a very interesting article from March 2000 called “The Invisible Epidemic: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Memory and the Brain” written by Dr. J. Douglas Bremner, a faculty member of the Department of Diagnostic Radiology and Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, among others. He begins by reiterating a statistic that is all too familiar to me: “…a prime cause of PTSD is childhood sexual abuse. About 16% of American women (about 40 million) are sexually abused (including rape, attempted rape, or other form of molestation) before they reach their 18th birthday.” I’m going to throw caution to the wind and say that the Canadian stats are probably no better. The article isn’t that long but I won’t bore you with long quotes from it, you can read it here.

For those who don’t have the time or inclination to do so, here’s the conclusion paragraph: “Traumatic stress, such as that caused by childhood sexual abuse, can have far-reaching effects on the brain and its functions. Recent studies indicate that extreme stress can cause measurable physical changes in the hippocampus and medial prefrontal cortex, two areas of the brain involved in memory and emotional response. These changes can, in turn, lead not only to classic PTSD symptoms, such as loss and distortion of memory of events surrounding the abuse, but also to ongoing problems with learning and remembering new information. These findings may help explain the controversial phenomenon of "recovered" or delayed memories. They also suggest that how we educate, rehabilitate and treat PTSD sufferers may need to be reconsidered.” The article includes an MRI image of the brain of a patient with PTSD compared to a patient without, showing a reduction in the size of the hippocampus.

At the airport in Atlanta on his way home from the Gulf Coast last week, D bought a copy of the April 2006 Discover magazine. In it is an interview with Nobel Laureate Eric Kandel, a neurobiologist who’s written a book examining the convergence of four critical fields – behaviorist psychology, cognitive psychology, neuroscience, and molecular biology. The article discusses a study group he is part of which is exploring whether MRI brain imaging can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of psychotherapy.

I’ve been in therapy twice in my life, in the early 90s for 4½ years straight (at the end of which I had accomplished both leaving my first husband and confronting and outing my brother as my abuser to the rest of my family), and the second for about six months in late 2002 and early 2003 as I dealt with the debilitating panic attacks brought on by the double blows of losing my job – again – and the full brunt of infertility. A SSRI has been a god-send to me, but it would not have worked without cognitive and behavioral therapy as well.

I would have loved to have seen before and after MRI images of my brain. I’m sure I still have a lot of healing to do.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Puppy Love

Sometimes people suck. They lie. They disappoint us. That's why I love dogs. This morning my two boys were making a big fuss in the front room so I went out to see what was going on (they don't bark unless there is actually something to bark about). One of the neighborhood dogs, Addy, had brought her baby girl to our front porch. I'm assuming this is her puppy, she looks exactly like Addy and has the same personality -- exuberant. I'm honored that she trusted us enough to come and play with her puppy at our house. Combined with our first sunny and somewhat-warm Saturday in a while, and having my husband back from a week's business trip to the Gulf Coast is also helping my mood immensely. It's the simple things, isn't it?

On a less happy note, I'm sure you've seen or heard about the international child porn ringthat was shut down this week. This kind of thing has probably been going on for several years, but this is the first time law enforcement has found a ring using live streaming video through a chat room to show child molestation "on demand". I am beyond sickened. The youngest victim they've identified so far is less than 18 months old.

I've been working on a post about my rape but I've found I keep having to explain events that occured before then that led up to it, and it's becoming unwieldy. I've decided to begin at the beginning, with my maternal grandparents. Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Vanity Fair

I just finished reading the Vanity Fair article about Teri Hatcher‘s “Desperate Secret”: her sexual abuse at the hands of her uncle, starting when she was 5 years old. Having read many tabloid and even journalistic attempts to convey the life-long torment and shame that sexual abuse saddles women with, I was fully expecting to be disappointed and even angered by endless euphemisms and incorrect statistics. I was pleasantly surprised to find neither, despite my misgivings of the sub-title and the cover photo of Teri looking a little scared and a lot vulnerable, wrapping a white sweater around herself and wearing white panties. Her's is a rare success story of sorts -- she testified at the trail of her abuser 35 years later, helping to convict him of abusing a 14 year-old girl from her home town in the Bay Area who had commited suicide.

The story was well-written and unsensational, painting as accurate a portrait of a survivor as I’ve read in a long time. You can read an extended excerpt of the article here.

I’m not a huge fan of Ms. Hatcher, although I enjoy her as the hapless Susan Mayer on Desperate Housewives, and from the little I’ve seen of her in “real life”, she seems genuinely down-to-earth and thankful for a second chance as an actress over 40. Her about-to-be-published book, Burnt Toast and Other Philosophies of Lifeis a call for women not to settle for less.

She says, "It explains how to set better priorities, how not to be afraid of what you want and how to treat yourself better. How to avoid eating burnt toast, which is what, metaphorically, I watched my mother do.” Good advice if you ask me.

Friday, March 10, 2006


This new blog is a work in progress, but I felt like it was about ready for prime time. I would like to extend my sincerest thanks to Ms. Olivia Drab for her artwork and her work on the design. Visit her blog! Buy her stuff! I'd also like to thank my patient and talented husband for putting on the finishing touches and putting up with me in the process.

I'm working on a real post, the aforementioned recollection of my rape. In the meantime, let me know what you think about the new digs.

Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Media Room

Books In The Queue
True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa
Leonardo da Vinci: Flights of the Mind: A Biography
The Museum at Purgatory
Love is a Mix Tape
Into the Forest
The Bylerley Turk: The Incredible Story of the World's First Thoroughbred
Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile
The Name of the Rose
Mary Modern

On My iPod
Antigone Rising
The Be Good Tanyas
Depeche Mode
The Ditty Bops
Fiona Apple
Imogen Heap
Jamie Cullum
KT Tunstall
Madeleine Peyroux
The Magnetic Fields
Nickel Creek
Rufus Wainwright

Other Stuff
California Earthquake Map
Drum Corps International
Furry Friends
Golden Retriever Rescue
Winter Guard International

Fellow Travelers

A Few Good Eggs
A Little Piece of My World
A Noble Plan
Avonlea Spring
A Woman of Many Parts
barefoot and...
Barren Mare
Bindweed Heights
Bird in Hand
Birch and Maple
Breach of Warranty
Canadian Expatriates
Captain Picard's Journal
Cherchez la Femme
Churp, Churp
Coloratura Dreams
Dead Bug
Desperately Seeking Baby
Dirty Feet & Lily White Intentions
Down Under
Epicurious Editor Blog
Everyday Stranger
Great Good Fortune
Finding the Next
Fortune Cookie Follies
Frozen Not Fossilized
IF Inferno
In a Holding Pattern
It's All About Me
I've Got Bad Plumbing
Jesus Was Not a Republican
Julius' Travels in the South
Kross-Eyed Kitty
Laughter and Forgetting
Life Without Baby
Mary Scarlet
Not About You
Out, damned egg!
Resolving Timeline Issues
Rip Lips Off's Broadsheet
Searching for Zanity
Still Life with Alcoholic
Survivors Can Thrive!
Susie Bright's Journal
Thalia's Fertility Journey
The Fertile Soul
The Fisher Queen
The Mind of Olivia Drab
The Waiting Line
Thin Pink Line
3 Quarks Daily
Tigerlily Lounge
Try Whistling This
TV Squad
Twisted Ovaries
Underwater Clown Conspiracy
Weight'n Cee
Why Not Us?
Woman From Mars
Xtine Files

About the Name

Winston Churchill once said, “If you’re in hell…keep going.”

This is where I write about my life; past, present and future. There’s a lot of good now, but there has been a lot of bad and ugly. Here’s a short list of some of the things that keep me inside my velvet cage (in alphabetical order):

  • Abortion
  • Adoption
  • Adultery
  • Arthritis
  • Babies’ deaths (miscarriage, stillbirth & SIDS)
  • Depression
  • Divorce
  • Drug addiction
  • Endometriosis
  • Incest
  • Institutionalization
  • Infertility
  • Medical misdiagnosis
  • Manic depression
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder
  • Panic attacks
  • Rape
  • Suicide
  • Vision problems

These writings are part of my ongoing struggle to let go of regret and sadness and honor the demands of a calling (to be determined) and the many joys of my life.The following is an excerpt from Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life by Gregg Levoy: “…what we all risk when we honor the demands of a calling: that it will call us beyond the limits we’ve set for ourselves; toward the primitive fears of rejection and failure that are attached, like barnacles on a rock, to the idea of risk; toward the shadow sides of ourselves that we try to hide even from ourselves -- the timidity and indecisiveness, the fear of change, the fear of being a beginner. We love to quote Goethe who said that “whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” But we forget that he also said, “To put your ideas into action is the most difficult thing in the world.”But if we do not, we risk building for ourselves velvet cages: the money’s good, the security comforting, the surroundings familiar----but we become only recreational users of our passion and creativity.”

As an added interesting bonus for those of you who read my original infertility blog, “velvet cage” is also a euphemism for vagina.