Midwestern Musings

In a tribute to those musicians and storytellers, both current and nearly forgotten, I’ll provide a folk music lyric to begin my musings.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016


So, a few days ago I shared a post that was raw, personal and complex.  Mixed between strong statements of disappointment and anger, I shared a glimpse of a very dark time in my life that even those closest to me knew very little about. The outpouring of kindness through both public and private messages warmed my soul. Unlike the young woman of the original post, I now have the benefit of a strong support system and years of therapy. The words “thank you” barely seem adequate to represent the gratitude I have for those who responded with words of encouragement, but unfortunately the post also brought out the dark side. Not of me, but rather social media.

The same system that allows for messages of kindness and support can also bring cruelty and brutality.  In a closed room where you have hand-chosen all the guests, you want to believe that you are safe to speak your mind. I thought all my FB friends would understand if my words took a dark and broody tone after the election. I thought everyone would understand how the current political situation could trigger fear and anger long repressed.  I also made the mistake of believing that all the people that in my sphere would be kind and thoughtful and, dare I say it, sensitive, even when I wasn’t. But I was wrong.

Certainly, I opened the door for attacks when I publicly professed a profound disappointment in the outcome of the elections, because, for me, it triggered a deep and personal injury, and, as it has my entire life, the pain came out as anger. I expected some pushback politically, but I certainly was not prepared for the depths of malice that others held so privately. It was NOT my political remarks that irritated a few individuals, but rather an “insinuation” that someone in past had hurt me that generated the most vitriol. In the last week, I have been accused of being a bully, slandering (though I think he meant “libeling” since I clearly wrote the offending piece), lying about the original situation and I have also been accused of virtue signaling (I had to look that one up). I temporarily deactivated my FB page, and prepared for a life as a hermit. But after a few days I realized that I needed to respond, lest the bad guys win. So like a phoenix, I am reborn. 

If you are of the opinion that FB should not be the arena of frank discussions, but rather only filled with kittens memes and smiling emoticons, stop reading. You will only find disappointment ahead. To the rest of the brave souls, tread ahead and read a sampling of responses that my post generated and my feelings about each:

To the man who said I was wrong for smearing the reputation of our high school (which I did not mention in my FB post) and said that I was a bully for not retracting the original post after he asked me to, I thank you. You have released 34 years of pent-up anger. Your comment that “maybe you deserved it” created a hulk-like response in me. Your lack of empathy for the suffering of another human being is deplorable, and I will spend the rest of my years on this earth calling people like you out on victim-shaming. Do not say that you “love and respect me” in the same breath that you call me a bully for sharing that I was hurt. Do not hide behind your shell of righteousness and pretend to be on my side, preferring to send me your condescending patronage in the shadows of a personal message, where there is no fear of retribution. You are a coward and a hypocrite.

To the man that I have not seen in 35 years who said, “I know you and I know you didn’t MEAN to hurt anyone’s feeling with that post”, you are wrong. You do NOT know me.  You have vague recollections of a mousy, moody teenager who was so afraid of doing the wrong thing that she couldn’t stand up for herself. You have no idea what I have gone through in the last few decades, so do not BEGIN to tell me how to feel. Have you been raped? Do you know what it’s like to walk through crowds, hot with the rage and shame of having something done to you that is so out of your control that it makes you fear each and every one of the people you pass by EVERY DAY? Do you know intimately how destructive that anger and shame will be throughout your life, and how it will affect you every day, and in every relationship for more than three decades? I am betting not. Do you understand a fear so primal that it haunts you each night as you sleep and during the day makes you push everyone you know farther and farther away? You are wrong to think that I did not want people to FEEL repulsion and anger, and uncomfortable reading my words. Life is uncomfortable. It is filled with happiness and surprise, but also sadness and disgust. To be truly human, we experience all of it. As Hermione said, “Just because you have the emotional range of a teaspoon doesn’t mean we all have”. I am not sorry that you felt “uncomfortable”.  You are an adult. If you don’t want to see or read something, you are free at any time to go look at kitten memes.

To the woman who wrote to me and said “as a Christian” I should be “ashamed” for posting my private matters on FB, I say you might want to take your robe of holiness to the dry cleaner; it’s looking a little spotty.  Aren’t we called to “mourn with those who mourn”? The bible is full of pain and suffering and commiserating with those in need. Please show me where it says “I’m sorry you’ve had a bad day, please keep that to yourself.” Your comment, “at least it made you who you are today”, may have been my least favorite. You give all the credit for whatever I have become today TO MY RAPIST? No, you don’t get to do that. HE did not make me stronger. Did you ever stop and think how strong I had to be as a teenager to overcome that trauma?  I am not a victim, I am a survivor. How dare you give any credit for the good things in my life to him.  Rape is one of the most common, yet continually underreported crimes IN THE WORLD. Do we really wonder why, when people like you add to the women being re-victimized years after the original event?

You also mention that the “isolated incident” was most likely the reason that I go on with this “nonsense of pretending to be gay”.  Let me provide you with some details to help reframe your thinking. Remember our friend the rapist? Many years ago, he insinuated himself on me, and I said I wasn’t interested. He continued and I said, “no”, and then he asked me if I was attracted to him, and I said, “no”.  Apparently, the feeling of not being desired makes some men angry. Some men get violent. Some men even rape, threaten and humiliate women, to prove that they are “attractive” and powerful. Being raped didn’t make me gay; I was raped because I WAS gay. The combination of hormones and a delicate ego made him yearn for power and control. When it comes down to it, abusers know the only way they can have power is show you that you are powerless, so when you tell me that you’re sure “he didn’t mean it”, I know you’re wrong, because I was there when he held my hands down, using his strength to subdue my 110 pound body and when you say “he didn’t mean it”, it also tells me that you have more empathy for him than for me.

To the two women who wrote to me and said “I bet I know who it was, he did it to me, too.” I understand. The shame, the pain, the embarrassment, the anger, the regret that you didn’t scream it to the world until he was put away has been a heavy burden. If I could take away your pain, I would. I know it well, and my heart breaks for you. If you ever need to talk, I am here.

For those of you still reading, here’s some guidance. When someone shares an uncomfortable detail of their past, say things like “I’m sorry this happened to you” or “What can I do?”or “It wasn’t your fault “ or “Thank you for telling me”, and most importantly, “I love you and I’m here for you”. There is no neutral position; if you are not siding with your friend or family member, you are siding with their abuser.

I have shared some of the negative comments above in a hope that if someone ever comes to you and shares a painful chapter in their life, be it a similar situation, or if they share that they suffer from depression or anxiety or other mental health issues, or even if they are just coming out to you, that you will think about how you respond. I pray none of your friends or family ever have to deal with the abusive situation that I did. I also hope and pray that none of you would respond the way a few shadows from the dark side of FB did.  But also, for those of you who read and said nothing, because you were afraid that you wouldn’t have the right thing to say, or you didn’t want to get involved, or the topic made you feel uncomfortable, I understand.  But please know your kind words, even awkward ones, can help soothe a wounded heart. One in six women will suffer this kind of trauma, as will one of 33 men, which means most or all of you know someone else who has or will go through this. Be there for them like many of you were for me. Love them, care for them, comfort them. Be their voice. I know I will.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Squashed! Another One Bites the Dust!

Another one bites the dust,
And another one gone, and another one gone,
Another one bites the dust,
Hey, I'm going to get you, too,
Another one bites the dust. *

All the squash are gone. And the cucumbers. All felt victim to the dreaded squash bug. They came in numbers and with a vengence. I chose to spray the pumpkins, because I didn't want to lose any, and we don't eat them. I hesitated to use pesticides on the veggies we eat. I was wrong. I lost 8 squash plants and 4 cucumbers within a week. I haven't lost one pumpkin plant yet. *sigh* I wonder if the pioneers would have used chemicals if they would have had them?
At least I don't have to eat Zucchini any more....


Tuesday, July 06, 2010


Slug by Slug,
Weed by Weed,
My garden's really got me teed" *

When it rains, it pours, and apparently it doesn't stop. We have had a record rainfall amount, and the garden loves it. (It has also been paired with record heat.) Unfortunately, the weeds are growing, like, well...a weed. They have overtaken most of the garden. I have tried to put down slate stepping stones, but I have had to use them to cover the weeds. It's not really working.

The good news is that the squash family members love the weather. Zuchinni, crooked neck squash, cucumbers, and pumpkins are all going well. We have had basket after basket of yellow crooked neck squash. Grilled, steamed, fried...we've had it. If you have a new recipe for using squash, please send me one. I'm running out of options, and I don't even like squash.

Speaking of squash, I'm alittle worried about the zuchinni. It was going great guns, but now a few leaves are beginning to wilt. If it's squash vine borers, or squash bugs, all my squash family is in peril. Maybe they're just over-heated. :-)

I now have 3 baby pumpkins. Yay! The biggest is roughly 3 inches tall. (See picture.) I hope we can keep them all healthy until fall!

* Eric Kilborn


Friday, June 11, 2010

New Garden Part II

It's been three weeks and we have baby squashes, onions, radishes. Of course we also have rabbits and weeds. We're trying a new type of veggie, called the duck weed.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Garden Song

"Inch by inch, row by row.
Gonna make this garden grow.
All it takes is a rake and hoe,
And a piece of fertile ground."*

For those who have read me before, you know I love Thoreau, and his premises in Walden that we should live by: Simplicity of life, kinship with nature, self-reliance. So, I have embraced all three and I have joined the ranks of the green movement by starting my garden. It's 14 ft by 21 ft which seems tiny in a 4.5 acre yard, but it's my first attempt. I'm going with a non-conventional, European design. I'm mixing flowers, herbs and vegetables all together. No rows, just stuff. If it grows on a vine, we're going vertical. I hope to keep you all posted on the progress.

* Written by Dave Mallett, performed by John Denver, Peter Paul and Mary, John McCutcheon, and of course, the Muppets, among others.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Lefty's Hokey Pokey Blues

“I only need one sock,
I only need one shoe.
I’ve got the one-legged
Hokey Pokey blues”

It’s been a year now. I think it’s time to say goodbye. But first, I need to tell the story.

I was managing a small garden shop and needed a cat to keep the mice away and to provide some company during the slow winter months. I decided to go to the local humane society and see what I could find.

I entered the adoptable feline room and began to peer into the cages, sizing up each kitten and cat as a potential mouse killer. A little girl and her mother were also in the room, determining which small handful of kitten fur was the most suitable. I was half-way through the perusal when I heard the girl say “Who would want a cat with only three legs?” in a voice that relayed her disgust with a life form that was less than perfect.

“I would” I heard myself say as I walked to the cage that held the undesirable feline. I peeked around the child and saw a most unsettling sight. A shaved, dehydrated Franken-cat came to the door of the cage and began to purr. He was a young adult, and weighed a little more than 4 pounds. He had 25 or 30 stitches on his shoulder where his right arm should be and his mouth was swollen and he was drooling blood. The shock of seeing how damaged he was churned my stomach. I thought I might faint, and I had spent years as an EMT and had seen much worse damage inflicted on human bodies, but as I stared, I realized this cat was still purring. He rubbed up against the cage and opened his mouth but no sound came out.

“He can’t meow”, the society worker who just entered the room told me. “He was caught in a fox trap and was apparently there for weeks. During the time he was trapped, he tried to chew through the trap, and ended up breaking his teeth. He must have meowed so long he lost his voice, too. They brought a vet with them when they went to get him out of the trap, ‘cause they were going to put him down, ‘cause cats never learn to walk on a stump and he was bad, real bad, but the vet said the cat started to purr when they got him out of the trap, and he just couldn’t put that cat down. So the vet did the surgery, and they brought him here.”

“Can I have him?” I heard myself say, and so began my journey with Lefty. As it turned out, some of Lefty’s surgery bills were paid for by an injured animal charity that I had helped raise money for the year before. After a few weeks, the stitches came out and he began to travel with me to work in the garden shop. He would greet the customers, and even trot awkwardly out to greet some of them, spiraling around their feet. As the weeks dragged into months, Lefty began to develop quite a following. Many customers would make special trips into the store to see the cat, and he began to acquire a handsome treasure of cat treats and toys. During the Mother’s Day weekend, a traditionally busy time of year for garden shops, the store was packed with customers. An elderly woman in a wheel chair from a local nursing home was being pushed around the store by her family. Lefty saw the woman in the wheel chair, hopped over to her, and jumped in the woman’s lap. She continued to pet him as they shopped around the grounds. Some time later, they came back near the cash register and I heard the male traveling with them say, “Mom, you haven’t picked out a Mother’s Day present yet.”

She replied, “I already have it,” as she leaned down and nuzzled Lefty. “I so missed my kitty and this little cat just knew it. You don’t have to buy me a thing, I just got the best present in the world.” More than one customer wiped away a tear that Mother’s Day.

Lefty was great with the customers, and continued to develop a following. During the filming of a Wednesday morning TV spot about wildlife friendly plantings, Lefty jumped up in the middle of the plantings, and began rubbing up against the plant pots. The cameraman began to focus on the cat, and not the plants, and soon the newscaster was asking questions about Lefty, and not the plants. He made such an impression on the TV crew that they filmed a segment about him for the evening news!

After his television debut, the human society asked if Lefty could help with a interview about the charity that helped him. It was a radio interview, but I agreed to take my mute cat with me for the radio announcer to see. During the interview, Lefty sat on my lap and purred, and for the finale, the announcer asked Lefty if he had anything to add. Lefty reached up to the microphone, pulled it down to his level and meowed raspily. We couldn’t have asked for a better response.

Lefty also visited the local veteran’s home. On one occasion, an amputee held Lefty in his lap and said, “You give me hope buddy, you’re a gimp with a job.” After that visit, Lefty and I retreated to the car, where I sat and sobbed like a baby. He touched so many people.

Lefty was great with children as well as adults. He visited the preschool program a number of times at the museum where I later worked. I would bring Lefty out into the room where the kids were sitting, and he would bound up to them and tolerate all their not so gentle patting. Once, I asked the kids what made Lefty different from other cats, and they announced in unison, “HE’S YELLOW!” Lefty made all of us forget that he was different.

Through the years, Lefty made quite a name for himself. He has been on television, radio, done promotional advertising, and even had a song written on his behalf. He’s done museum work, 4-H meetings and charity work. Most humans don’t have that kind of resume!

About a year and half ago, Lefty began to lose weight and breathing was harder for him. We visited our local vet who recommended a specialist. During the visits at the MedVet hospital, Lefty would always purr and be friendly, no matter what procedure was being performed on him. Even as his health declined, he faced it with a feline smile. The assistants would smile when he came in, and they would ask if he could stay with them, instead of the waiting room. The vet even remarked, “I’ve known thousands of cats in my practice, and he might just be my favorite. He is one of the best cats ever.”

The vets initially said that he might last a week, or even a month, but Lefty improved and surprised all of us for many months. One day last October, I sat down with Lefty and told him that it was okay for him to go, that he didn’t need to hold on for us any longer. I told him to look for my grandmother, that she would provide a great lap for him, and that she loved cats. He purred as I petted him, and I cried and he nudged me as if to say that he understood. I went to work, and rec’d a call a few hours later that he had passed. Lefty entered and left my life with a purr and a nudge, and I am thankful for the many years we were together. He will be missed by many. When we all get to heaven, we’ll be looking for the ginger colored tom cat with three legs. If he’s not there, I don’t want to go.

* Lefty's Hokey Pokey Blues, written by yours truly and available on Itunes.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Times They Are a Changin'

"For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'." *

Yup, the times are changin' and the bus is leavin' and I'm on it. Ohio didn't so much work out for me. Part of me enjoyed the last few weeks, with nothing to do, and plenty of time to do it. A pity, all the things I didn't get done. I have, however, found myself. I didn't actually know I was lost, but when you're surrounded by negativity, you either shroud yourself in a peril protective shield, or you become part of it. (The Blob, anyone?) I'm glad to say that I survived. A little more bitter, and a whole lot less trusting, but smarter in the long run. (Someday soon I will write about the experience of being unemployed. Psychologically interesting? We'll see.)

We're packing up (yuck) and heading west. Just like in the Oldey Timey Times. Thankfully, we'll have a moving van and not a Conestoga. To those few who have kept in contact, I will miss you. To those who forgot about me the moment I walked out the door, I will haunt you. To my peeps back in the Hoosier State, look out for the truck, we're coming home.

* Please look it up and commit it to memory if you don't know who popularized this song.