Saturday, December 03, 2005

Julia Roberts And The Big Yellow Taxi

"A Farewell is necessary before we can meet again, and meeting again after moments or a lifetime is certain for those who are friends."


I don't know. I didn't think I would be writing anymore entries about the exodus from AOL Journal Land. I also thought I had truly put it all behind me, and I thought I was able to keep my feelings and emotions in check, I found out different a little earlier tonight, after reading an open letter posted on Joe's journal over at "Magic Smoke." Sigh. You know, it was a pretty straight forward letter, and I am sure that the man who wrote it, Bill Schreiner, VP AOL Community Programming, meant every word of it. It was a very well articulated, "Don't let the door hit your ass on the way out." And to be sure Mr. Schreiner understood that I saw it for what it was I told him so, among other observations. I don't usually cuss too much, it's just not my personal style, but jeepers I sure wanted to tonight. I got angry. It doesn't happen all that often, I know the difference between feeling angry and feeling mad...and yep...I was angry.

I closed the door on Ellipsis two weeks ago, so I wasn't angry about that issue anymore, I was angry because people I love dearly have been hurt for NO other reason but the pursuit of the corporate dollar. There was no need for this to have happened. There was plenty of time to have either fixed the situation or at least mitigated it by fixing the ridiculous bugs and flaws in the software for those who had decided to stay behind and hope for the best. Joe and John were required to take blow after blow because up until now they were the faces of AOL, but this past week some new faces of AOL were put in the place, I assume to absorb some of the ire, but I have to say I was not impressed with who they chose. The only one I will mention in this entry, Susan, comes off at best incompetent and more then a little condescending. Really...not good. The letter posted tonight, from Mr. Schreiner, was belittling, condescending and insulting. I am glad I didn't see that coming, because at least I haven't gotten so cynical as to have thought that is what AOL might do. Jeepers, he didn't even try to sound sincere.

There is nothing more to say. I will begin archiving Ellipsis over here on Blogspot. It will take a long time, but I worked for over 2 years on the journal. It is a part of my personal history. Someday, when I am gone from this earth, a piece of me will still exist...a joke, a funny story from my silly life, a heartbreak I felt, a passion that burned in me, a friend I made, a friend I lost, days when there wasn't anything in particular happening but the music I heard coming from the Ethereal Musician, days when the camera connected me to life, are all a part of what I put into Ellipsis, no matter what it's incarnation is. Too bad AOL never got that. Too bad for them that there is apparently so little passion in their lives that they don't know passion when they see it. It reminds me of when I had Anhedonia and I couldn't enjoy life in any form. I wouldn't wish that existence on my worst enemy. I pity AOL if that is their existence. I wonder if Julia Roberts would still be doing voice over ads for AOL if she realized they steal intellectual property in order to pay their bills, including her salary? It's all so very sad.

"Listen, late last night I heard the screen door slam, and a big yellow taxi took my love away. Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got till it's gone, they paved paradise and put up a parking lot."

-Big Yellow Taxi (Counting Crows Version)

PS If you are wondering how the picture above goes with my entry...hop over to Joe's "Magic Smoke," and read my comment.

Friday, December 02, 2005

John Scalzi's Weekend Assignment #88: The Good New Days

"Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success."

-Henry Ford

Weekend Assignment #88: Talk about something people have today that you wished you had when you were a kid.

Extra credit: Rocket car to the moon or robot butter? Which do you want more?

-John Scalzi

This assignment was easy for me. The answer is my cell phone. I know, I know a lot of people consider them to be a nuisance. I can understand that sentiment, sometimes people can be annoying when they use their cell phone, but I always try to practice courtesy to others when I am talking on my phone. In fact I was once featured on my local news as the "good driver" meaning I wasn't talking on my cell phone while I was driving, and my hands were in the 10 and 2 position on the steering wheel. But see, on December 24th, 2003 my cell phone saved me from a very embarrassing situation. See...I was stuck in a bathroom in Sacramento, California.

December 2003 was not my best month. My friend passed away, I found out my mother had passed away, and on December 10th, I got stuck in my Christmas tree for several hours, until Alan came home and freed me. LOL. Funny now, not so funny then. LOL. On Christmas Eve, Alan suggested we get out of town...just leave it all behind and look for a change of scenery for the day. We left really early and ended up at an IHOP. The drive to Sacramento is about 2 hours long. We ordered and then ate breakfast. I was tired. I did a lot of crying that day, so I went into the bathroom to fix my hair and face and take care of the necessary business. Well, I sat down before realizing there was NO tissue in the stall. Now what!? Grr. All of a sudden I heard a voice, "there's no tissue over there either?" I had not realized I had company in the next stall, so the disembodied voice gave me a bit of a start. "No," I replied, "I don't." "Ut oh," said the voice. INDEED! LOL.

That's when it hit me...I would call Alan on his cell phone and ask him to have the manager bring us some tissue. Ring, Ring, Ring. Alan finally answered and he told me he was in the men's a similar circumstance. OMG...Fret. Now what!? I know, I will call information to get the number. When the operator came on she asked me which IHOP in Sacramento I was at. GRRRRRRR. "I don't know, it's the one down the street from the Albertson's and the Supercuts, next to the Wok Down The Street." LOL. That of course didn't help even a little bit. She ended up giving me the number to all the IHOP restaurants in the area. It turns out, I was in Citrus Grove! LOL. When I finally got the right IHOP and the right manager on the phone, I was a very relieved lady. I became especially endeared to my cell phone that day. It is my friend. I celebrate it. :) I am pretty sure cell phones would have come in handy when I was a little girl, way back in the olden days of the 1970's LOL.

Extra Credit: I choose Robot Butler. See up at the top of my entry, I wrote robot butter. LOL. I looked at John's assignment maybe three times and every single time I saw the word "butter" not "butler." LOL. Intrigued by the thought of "robot butter" I decided to go with that choice. It wasn't until I visited my pal Karen's blog, "Outpost Mavarin," that I realized it was "robot butler." I am going to let this entry stand with my's a funny thought. "Robot Butter." LOL.

"My Cell Phone Drusilla On Her Birthday"
Santa Barbara, California
June 29th, 2005

After The Exodus...A Five Part Series On Grief Management...Part Five: Acceptance

"What looks like a loss may be the very event which is subsequently responsible for helping to produce the major achievement of your life."

-Sruilly Blotnick

Part Five: Acceptance

One day it happens. We wake up, and it has all, somehow, come full circle. Maybe when we were sleeping, maybe when we were busy with the 5 stages of grief coming in and out of our life. Who knows? One thing I do know, I have grieved the loss of many things in my 43 years. Lost love, lost friends, lost family, lost material objects, lost pets, and now the loss of my first journal Ellipsis. But a small clarification needs to take place. Ellipsis on AOL has not been deleted, I can go and read past entries any time I want to, but the experience of living through it is now over. I miss the bells when someone leaves me a comment. I miss the routine, I miss the comfort zone I had come to know. I think I miss November 14th 2005 most of all. That was the day before Journal Land changed for good.

It just seems so strange that a series of decisions, probably made in a boardroom months ago, changed everything so fast. I have accepted it. I accepted it the day it happened, but I mourn the changes that have happened all the same. There is a resignation that happens when Acceptance takes place. A natural balance begins to take place and we can finally move on with life. This has been a difficult time. I have watched friendships implode over this situation. I have seen folks say and do things I never thought they would. It is a lot of pain to take in. On the other hand some folks are doing ok with the new change, and being very helpful to we who are experiencing this very troubling time. That is something I appreciate. I have found that the transition was made a lot easier as I learned to accept the help being offered me. I didn't have to be alone in this if I didn't want to be. :)

I am a girl who doesn't like change. Nope, don't like it. As I sit here typing this, memories of people, apartments, homes, an insane doll collection, some stuffed animals, some four legged creatures, some creatures with feathers, family, friends, lovers...oh the lovers...Sigh...Mr. November...Sigh...go walking through my mind, I don't feel the arrows of pain that once pierced me with the individual loss. Instead I feel a collective blue, wispy, longing. Days in the sun. Walks in the cool night rain, a game of fetch, all make me smile. My heart is full, but it doesn't ache anymore. The distortion of how things look when you are grieving is no longer there. When I write a series on the topic of grief, I always try to demonstrate something I noticed one day, just after I woke up from the experience of Anhedonia. A common everyday object may look different to us depending on what stage of grief we are in. That is why I took the same flower and altered it's appearance for each entry. Red for Anger, Blue for Denial, Deep blue for Depression, Green for Bargaining and finally the flower how it appears when we finally have the clarity of acceptance. Letting go is such a bittersweet proposition. I like what Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said about change, " For after all the best thing one can do when its raining, is let it rain." Simple, but oh so true.

"The flower Of Acceptance"
Berkeley, California
November, 29th, 2005

Thursday, December 01, 2005

After The Exodus...A Five Part Series On Grief Management...Part Four: Bargaining

"You can get much further with a kind word and a gun then with a kind word alone."

-Al Capone

Respect. Do we want to gain the respect by intimidating people into respecting us or do we want to gain the respect of others by treating ourselves and others with respect? Maybe we don't really care what others think of us. OK...that's honest and it is also very lonely. What does respect have to do with the stage of Bargaining? A lot.

It's after a loss that we tend to really realize and value what we have lost. Sometimes the loss is so suddenly and so swift we never see it coming. Then it's over...done. The Bargaining within ourselves begins. "If I had only been a better daughter. "If I could have only found some way to make our friendship work." "If I had only pushed Frank harder about seeing a doctor...maybe he wouldn't have died." "If I would have checked one more time to see if the door was locked, I wouldn't have been robbed." "If I had only seen the psychiatrist sooner, maybe I wouldn't have lost my mind." LOL. That one is my personal favorite for obvious reasons. LOL. Yes, as the great public speaker, Dan Quayle, once said, "What a waste it is to lose one's mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is." LOL.

In the stage of bargaining, there exists the potential to use the stages of Anger, Depression and Denial as tools to help us Bargain to regain our loss. We use our Anger to heavy hit the powers that be (whoever might be able to restore our loss) because our need to have what we want when we want it is so very strong. We have a drive in us...the need for comfort, for the basics of food, shelter, love, acceptance, all the basic human needs for a healthy survival. In addition to the basics we humans tend to surround ourselves with additional comforts that enrich the basics and fulfill our lives. Pets, art, creative pursuits, material items, work, friendships, contribution to society. We humans have a need to feel good about ourselves, even if it doesn't seem to apparent to us. We reach out, we offer to lend a hand or a compassionate shoulder, we offer a part of ourselves.

This past summer when AOL took a poll asking folks why they have a journal, I scoffed a bit at the results. According to the poll results most folks begin journals to share their personal lives. And that is where most of the focus remained. In that one small box. In truth there is many reasons why we journal. Some of us have worked our whole lives, long before there was a Journal Land, on literary projects we have living inside us. Some of us have a great passion for seeing things with our cameras and it gives us an amazing opportunity to share our vision. Some of us, like me, have way too many passions and pursuits sparking our creativity to just sit still. I share my passions when I blog. So, why was there such a big surprise when folks acted individually to this situation? The first thing I thought of was that poll...and it's lack of understanding about what blogging really is. Blogging is a million or so lives being lived in a million or so different ways. Blogging cannot be contained within a box.

Factor in all the different reasons why we read someone ie: their life, their creativity, their art, because they piss us off, because the make us glad we are alive, because they inspire us to keep going, because they are our friends, because they become the families we were denied, because they inform us, because they take us outside ourselves, and the pain we are in, with their humor, because they make us feel less alone. Because we can visit places we may never get to see otherwise. Because we need to understand the other guy's view, Because we are lost. All these things lead us back to the pleasure principle...and our need to maintain it at all cost.

Truth is, none of the usual bargaining scenarios would work in this unique situation. "If I had only been a better blogger, AOL wouldn't have placed ads at the top of my journal." "If I had only paid my bill month after month, AOL wouldn't have placed the ads at the top of my journal." If I had just been a better photographer, AOL wouldn't have placed ads at the top of my journal." "If I had written more about my personal life, instead to such generalized topics, AOL wouldn't have placed ads at the top if my journal." None of those things would apply. The drive to Bargain sometimes comes from our inner voices screaming "shoulda, woulda, coulda." Truth is, this was a situation completely out of our control. So, in a need to maintain or regain the feeling that we all shared on November 14th, the day before the ads were placed, we look for any means we can to make that happen.

"Give me back the Journal Land I love or I will go to the press!" "Give me back my Journal Land or I will be as nasty as I possibly can." "Give me back my Journal Land or I will leave and never be your customer again." "Stay in Journal Land or we can no longer be friends." "Leave Journal Land or we can no longer be friends." "Put Journal Land back the way it was, or things will change forever." Isn't that a little like a kind word and a gun? Maybe. Maybe not. I could be wrong, but in that we have very few ways to negotiate or Bargain our situation please think for just a moment about what you have said or done personally since this situation began...are threats of action either proactive or actuality a form of Bargaining? Just a question. The bargain being...satisfy my need to fulfill the pleasure principle or I will leave. It's very human. It's very normal. It's very honest. Just a theory. I could be wrong. It's seemed off to me, that some of us turned on each other during this time. But when I thought about it, it's actually pretty easy to understand, we all have a need inside us and like our grief itself, it is individual. And so is how we respond to it.

Back to respect. As all the stages come together, we begin to recognize our responses to them. Mistakes are made, things are done right, a cleansing takes place. We also begin to grow within ourselves as we realize that we can survive what seemed impossible a few days earlier. How we treat ourselves and others will remain a big part of this chapter of our own personal history. It will remain a part of AOL history. How do we want our future to be? It is a personal decision for everyone, and shouldn't be answered here but within yourself. Take 5 minutes and consider the possibilities beginning 5 minutes from right now. Envision the future. Can you Bargain effectively? Can you make a positive difference? Can you envision change without hurting others? Think about it.

NOTE: I am not a healthcare professional. I offer this series as a peer to peer suggestion only. If you are in need to long term advice or care, please consult a qualified mental healthcare professional, a member of clergy or your personal physician.

"The Flower Of Bargaining"
Berkeley, California
November 29th, 2005

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

After The Exodus...A Five Part Series On Grief Management... Part Three: Depression

"Depression is nourished by a lifetime of ungrieved an unforgiven hurts."

-Penelope Sweet

After The Exodus...A Five Part Series On Grief Management

Part Three: Depression

Depression knows no boundaries. It doesn't discriminate. It knows no age, religion, social class, gender, geographical location, income status, creativity. Depression is a condition shared by more then 14 million people or about 7 percent of the population. About 2.5 percent of the children in America suffer from Depression. Children who suffer from Depression are more likely to come from a family with a history of depression. 8.5 percent of American adolescents have depression. Depression afflicts about 6 million elderly adult Americans. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among 18-25 year olds. Suicide is the 5th leading cause of death for children between the ages of 5 and 14 years old. Yes, between the ages of 5 and 14 years old!

Depression should never be taken for granted, particularly when one is grieving. Depression usually begins to manifest for the grieving person in the Anger stage of grief. Depression is a normal reaction to a sudden loss, but not for a prolonged period of time. So, what's a prolonged period of time? Well, as I have said before, the grief process is a very personal and individual thing and there is no specific timetable, but the advice I was given by a wonderful therapist who I trust completely, says that any prolonged period ( two weeks or more ) should be discussed with a qualified mental health professional. Speaking as a person who has dealt with the monster of Depression, and learned how to control it, I know that to be correct.

The last two weeks have been a time of many emotions. Sadness, disappointment, Anger, fear, shock, loneliness, frustration, and a host of others. There has been very little to feel good about. Sometimes even the personal choices we have had to make have come under fire...from both sides. Sometimes it has seemed that one could really do no right in this circumstance. Personally, I chose to leave my AOL journal behind and start anew. I gave all those who know me the benefit of the doubt that they knew me well enough to know that I wasn't leaving them behind, but indeed I was going to make a space for them come and visit me that I could be proud of, based on my own personal values and creativity. It never once occurred to me that anyone would give me so little credit as to think I would leave anyone behind. I love the people I have come to know as friends. Why would I leave anyone behind if I could possibly help it? Now, you don't have to answer my next question if you don't want to, but, as you sit here reading this entry, did it cross your mind that I might?

In truth...after I made up my mind to move, it may have crossed my mind for a moment as well. Like the first day I started Ellipsis, 2 years ago, I wondered if anyone would be able to find me. I wondered if my creativity would somehow change. I worried that maybe, somehow I wouldn't be...Ellipsis anymore. Nah! I am afraid I am just me no matter where I am. LOL. This leopard doesn't change her spots good or bad. Still, there is sadness that remains from this sudden and invasive event.

There is a very HUMAN thing to do in times of grief, and psychological trauma, that is to allow insecurities to sometimes whisper in our ears. Like a little pixie sitting on our shoulders, insecurity tells us that we are worthless, that our friends don't really care, that you can be left behind, that nothing we do is right. That we are a burden. Sometimes insecurity will speak both to our Depression and our Anger. Wow! What a combination! Ok, great, so now on top of feeling sad and lost in whatever situation that brings on our grief...we have the added burden of insecurity feeding the two most dangerous stages of grief. Anger and Depression. It all gets to be too much and in our Anger and Depression sometimes we act out.

Sometimes we say and do things we don't really mean. Sometimes we close ourselves off to our friends and family, sometimes we look to hurt others so that we won't feel alone in our sadness and frustrations. Trust happens. When the Depression eventually subsides what is left is damaged relationships which may or may not be able to be repaired. Scars from words that can't be taken back and often times the person we attack will feel like they can never trust us again. Words in my opinion should be declared true weapons of mass destruction. Words cause scars so deep that years later they still hurt, long after a physical scar heals. Words spoken in Anger and Depression can last a lifetime.

They don't have to. I urge everyone who reads this entry, even if you aren't Angry or Depressed right now, to consider what I am saying. Give yourself 5 minutes before answering a slight sent your way. Try looking beyond your own pain and into compassion for the one doing the slight. Are they in pain? Is there realistically anything you can do to help them? Do they need some quiet understanding? Do they need someone to help them feel secure. In life we have all been let down at some point, and we have all let someone down. We know what both sides of that fence feels like.The other thing about this practice of quiet consideration is that it will get your mind off your sadness and into a place of honest care for someone else. The quickest way to healing from Depression is to step outside of it and into the world.

1. Ask at least 3 people if you can do anything to lift their spirits.

2. Do something just for you like a long walk, a warm soothing bath, or a creative pursuit.

3. Practice sleep hygiene and nurtitional balance.

4. Remember to give others the benefit of the doubt.

5. In times of sadness try to remember to treat others the way you want to be treated. The Golden Rule really does work!

6. Remember that nothing lasts forever if we don't want it to. Grudges don't have to exist.

7. If we are sad that someone has left our life, tell them in a nonconfrontational way...chances are they haven't left us, we just need to feel secure.

8. Seek the advice of a mental healthcare professional, clergy or physician if symptoms last longer then 2 weeks.

9. Consider joining a support group or a network of friends who share your sadness. Share ideas on what can be done to find the positive in your situation. Hearing others speak of their experiences not only helps us feel less alone, but by providing support to others we get to feel good about lifting someone up into the light. It's good to raise your own self-esteem and be aware we are needed, valued and not worthless.

10. Remember in times when we want to lash out that it is NEVER ok to tear someone else down in order to lift ourselves up. That will be the hollowest of victories that in the end will leave us feeling sad.

Forgiveness is a necessary part of healing. It is also a process. You can make up your own mind that you need to forgive, but it isn't easy and needs to be taken seriously and with care for all people involved. Don't try to forgive too soon in your grief process. You have to experience the feelings that are human and natural like Anger and Depression, but don't decided it could never be fixed. Never is a very long time and if we wait too long...we may never get that second chance. Crying is normal and tears are healing. Let yourself cry when you feel like it. I don't claim to know how to cure Depression, I do know that some of the ideas I suggest have absolutely worked for me. Once diagnosed with Clinical Depression, I felt like there would never be a sunny day again, but I also decided that that to live in life I had to be the one to look for the light. It's work...but it is the most profoundly important work I have ever done. I owed it to me and so do you!

NOTE: I want to remind you I am not a mental healthcare professional. I offer this series as a peer to peer suggestion only, based on my own experiences. Please contact a qualified therapist, member of the clergy or your family physician for long term advice and care.

"The Flower Of Depression"
Berkeley, California
November 30th, 2005

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

After the Exodus...A Five Part Series On Grief Management...Part two: Denial

"Denial ain't just a river in Egypt." - Mark Twain

Part Two: Denial

As I said in part one of this series, according to Dr. Elisabeth Kuber-Ross, the five stages of grief usually manifest as ; Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and finally Acceptance. I chose to begin this series with Anger first because that is the emotion we all seem to be most in touch, with since the decision of AOL to place banner ads on the top of the journals written on AOL, otherwise known as "Black Tuesday."

I believe it is true that Denial is the first stage to manifest. When I really thought it over, it was the first thing I felt after finding out my father was hemorrhaging in his brain. As I also said in my previous entry, because I hadn't actually heard the doctor say that he was dying, because I didn't hear those words, I couldn't quite believe that it was happening. And when I think back to, "Black Tuesday," I think I experienced Denial first as well.

When I first saw the ads, I immediately checked some emails waiting in my box and saw that a couple of my Journal Land friends had wanted to know if I knew what was going on? As of the time I went to bed, 4:30 AM, my journal looked the same as it always did. When I woke up at around 11:00 AM everything had changed.

After about a couple hours of fretting, looking for answers on the AOL People Connection Journal page, visiting John Scalzi at By The Way and Joe over at Magic Smoke, I finally decided to close Ellipsis by making it private with NO readers allowed. Sigh. I checked everywhere for a sign. It had to be temporary, it must be a mistake, I just knew it was a mistake. But then finally I saw it really wasn't a mistake, nope the ads were here to stay.

I stopped over at Steven's journal to see if he had posted anything about it, he knows so much about technical stuff, maybe he had some idea what the deal was. Maybe he had seen an announcement and I hadn't ,but no, he was apparently in the dark like the rest of us, and he, of course, had his own observations about what had taken place, but nowhere in his entry did he say it was a mistake, in fact what he wrote helped indicate to me that as far as he could tell, our community had just changed, for good.

Sigh. It began to be more and more apparent as the day went on that Ellipsis would remain closed. Three of my best friends in the land, noticed the "Gone Fishing" sign on Ellipsis and gave me a call on my cell phone, asking me if I was ok. I couldn't take their calls, I listened to their sweet voices on my voicemail and I simply couldn't find the energy to pick up the call. They wanted to know if I was ok, and to be honest I don't know what I was in those first few hours. I couldn't even speak to my friends on the phone...Because I couldn't find the words. So I sat down to the computer and wrote an email of goodbye to my friends.

Sometimes I think denial is really just a different name for shock. The day with my father I don't remember the rain outside, but late in the day I realized Alan had put his coat around me and my hair was wet. I didn't understand what he meant when he asked me if I wanted some dinner. I remember it made no sense, so I just smiled. It seemed to reassure him...I needed to reassure him. That still confuses me. I went immediately that day to make my father's arrangements, I didn't know it would be so easy to pick out a coffin. I always imagined walking into the "showroom" as being scary, instead it all so...normal.

I wrote my email to my friends about closing Ellipsis...and it was all so normal. I explained my reasoning, but I also included that one of my reasons for not deleting the journal completely was that I wanted to have it around in case AOL came to their senses and changed their mind. I wasn't ready to give up my journal, with it's memories, it's history, and all that it had meant to me. So, even after feeling the anger at the highjacking of my journal, even after feeling sadness that our community was changing before my eyes, the wishing for some kind of bargaining could keep the community alive, and the reading of after journal, after journal, looking for some indication that there could be a compromise met, I was ultimately still clinging to "just in case" because I was in shock at how fast something I had just put over two years worth into could change so quickly, without my consent. Denial is a very calming place.

So other examples of denial in my life have been..."If he will just stop beating me, he will be a good father," "He isn't dying, he is just hemorrhaging...the doctor can stop that now," "My boyfriend 'GolferGuy' isn't really breaking up with me...he will be back when he get's his brain back." "The World Trade Center can't be gone, where would it go?" "My mother didn't die six weeks ago...I would have know it somehow if it would have really happened." And the most recent..."My journal will be up and running again, as soon as AOL changes it's mind and removes the banners."

Funny how some of the most normal things in life can hurt the most. People live and they die, People love you, but sometimes they stop loving you, bitter hearts can take away the most vibrant, beautiful things, reducing them to rubble, and sometimes...the art we create, if we share it, can be taken for granted and in some cases vandalized. As I have moved on I carry a bit of denial with me, I think it is a part of mourning, not grieving, mourning. With mourning, you hold all of the stages of grief in a little compartment where they all remain in the "after" when a chapter in our life comes to a close. Lost loves, Lost family, Lost friends, Lost art we create...all remain with us and to a certain degree so does the denial. There is a thin line between denial and hope, or maybe they are part of the same line of logical reasoning that eventually leads us to smile when we remember the best part of what we have just lost.

NOTE: I am not a mental healthcare professional. I offer this series as a peer to peer suggestion only. Please contact a qualified mental healthcare professional, member of the clergy, or your physician for long term advice and care.

"The Flower Of Denial"
Berkeley, California
November 29th, 2005

Monday, November 28, 2005

After The Exodus...A Five Part Series On Grief Management...Part One: Anger

"Anybody can become angry, that is easy, but to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree, and at the right time, and for the right purpose, and in the right way, that is not within everybody's power, that is not easy."


After The Exodus...A Five Part Series On Grief

Part One: Anger

According to Dr. Elizabeth Kuber-Ross, grief has five stages. Denial, Anger Bargaining, Depression and finally Acceptance. While most individuals will experience Denial first, there is no set pattern for the feelings one will experience after a loss. Grief is as individual as fingerprints, and there is no set timetable for how long the effects of grief will last. So what causes grief? Grief can manifest during any time a loss takes place. The most profound time of grief is immediately after experiencing the death of a loved one, but it will also manifest after other losses as well. The loss of a residence, a friendship, a love interest, an unmet goal in life, the loss of an important personal item, a change of employment, even the loss of a beloved pet. It can be even more pronounced when the loss occurs suddenly, without any warning. Sometimes, before we know it we are reeling, not sure what to do, and then the emotions begin to react to how we feel, and we will also begin to feel some physical changes as well. At this point the stages of grief are beginning to appear. For this particular series, I thought I would depart from the most common stage to first appear, Denial, and instead begin with the stage of Anger.


It has been very clear since "Black Tuesday" that the one emotion we all seem to be in touch with, although to deferring degrees, is Anger. It's understandable. The change that took place in the AOL Journal Community was one of sudden and absolute. In effect the placing of the banner ads on the top of the journals meant in most cases that an end was happening. It wasn't just any kind of an end, it was a blindside occurrence with which there was no compromise to at least mitigate the circumstances. There was no room for a compromise. The fact that it was the choice of each individual journalist to make up their own mind about either removing their journal or staying put did not change the fact that a transition was about to take place...a big transition. There was a loss felt for those who left and started over new elsewhere and there was a loss for the folks who remained, but had to watch their friends and community neighbors move elsewhere. This one of the few instances where everyone involved had a loss of some kind, to some degree.

Because this was so personal for so many, a lot of emotion rose to the surface quickly. Why were these ads being placed on our journals without warning or consent? Why had our trust in John and Joe seemed to be betrayed? Who was to blame for this decision? Could a compromise be met? Did we have any say at all in our own futures as journalists on AOL? How could AOL say they value us, then in effect ignore our questions? Then, how could they ignore our concerns? Then how could they ignore our outrage? Then how could they ignore our Anger. See, our anger was given all the space it needed to grow to a fever pitch and from there with no resignation, it remained for all of us in the it's varying degrees from mildly miffed, to disappointment in being let down, to anger. Anger loves to be fed, and it usually thrives on conflict. There is no greater way to feed and nourish anger then through being told, "No, this is the way it have NO choice but to accept your circumstances."

It's a harsh reality that when a loss occurs we rarely have any control to prevent it. Many things were said out of anger, some of them helpful and proactive, some of them hurtful, some of them dangerous. If not kept in check, things said in anger can do a lot of damage, and sometimes that damaged cannot be fixed. The damage I refer to doesn't just happen through the words we tend to speak without thinking, but also in the degree of anger and bitterness we feel about a particular situation. Physiological changes include; a rise in blood pressure, headaches, sleep disturbances, stress through ruminating on negative thoughts and feelings, tense or sore muscles, and a flux in appetite. I know about these physiological changes because I felt them for the first time when dealing with the death of my father.

Yes, one day, suddenly, I met the emotion of Anger upclose and very personal. After years and years of being afraid of anger, see, I was determined to never feel it. I had watched my family deliberately hurt other people for the mere sport of it, always yelling about this or that and of course the one who yelled the loudest...was usually deemed the one most correct, even if they really weren't. Well, when it came time for us to care for our parents, it fell on me to do the work, I was the youngest, I didn't have any children, so I was made the care provider. I didn't mind that, it was the constant criticism by my siblings that hurt. They visited my father on holidays only, and when they did they usually left with all kinds of reasons why I wasn't either doing enough or doing good enough. The hospital I chose for dad was wrong, it didn't matter that it was ranked the #6 acute care facility in California, they were somehow doing things to hurt our father.

The Christmas before he passed away, my sister came to visit our father in the hospital. My sister is a trained nurse, and therefore knows everything there is to know about medicine. During a break for dad's bathing time, my sister went out to the office of the charge nurse and demanded to see my father's chart. Now, of course the nurse couldn't allow her to see it, it was priviledged information between my father, his doctor and myself. The only reason why I had access to it was so that the doctor could give us updates once a month on his condition and progress. This was unacceptable to my sister. She reached over the desk and tore up the paper copy of his chart and began yelling at the both the charge nurse and the hospital administrator. Nice. It was Christmas, there were family members visiting other patients, and there was my sister yelling at anyone she could get in her sights. All because she couldn't have her way.

Now what? It was now on me to control the uncontrollable. No room for compromise, no room for bargaining, no room to deny what was happening, no choice but to focus on what was best for our father and ignore the tirade of my sister. That was going to come with some consequences whether I wanted it to or not. When the hospital administrator called me the next day she asked me why I couldn't control my sister. I felt myself begin to shake. Control her how? I told the administrator I was powerless to control her...I had no influence of her what so ever. The administrator then said that for the good of everyone involved, they would have to pursue a restraining order against my sister if just one more incident happened. I was being warned. All I felt was relief. I asked them to speak with her when she came in the next time and let her know their plans. Fortunately that stopped her from engaging in that kind of behavior to that degree again. She found other ways to act out, but not quite so demonstrative after that.

Her anger had got out of hand, because she believed she had a right to something she simply didn't. She made her circumstances a lot worse for herself by causing the person on the receiving end of her anger to search for a way to have no dealing with her. Wouldn't you? If someone were yelling at you over a circumstance way beyond your control, being belligerent, and in a way that makes you feel threatened, would you really want to answer their questions or for that matter, deal with them at all? In this situation I took the anger I was feeling, and applied it proactively. There was a time when I would have taken full responsibility for the actions of my family. In that moment, on the phone, feeling the anger of the hospital administrator, I made a decision to allow my anger to work for me and not against me. There would be many more instances of anger dictating less then perfect results in situations regarding the care of my father and two stand out in particular in regards to the days immediately after his death. After someone dies, people can be so thoughtless.

The day my father died I was at the hospital. His doctor came out from examining him to tell me his condition. He showed me EEGs, EKGs, results of his blood work. He said my father was hemorrhaging in his brain, but he never, ever said the words..."He is dying." I left the hospital to go and tell my family in person, so they could get to the hospital. I didn't have the heart to try and explain over the phone what was happening. I must have asked Alan a dozen times as we drove the 4 miles, "Do you think dad is dying?" Alan answered me, "yes," each time I asked. He let me asked him the same question a dozen times. He was quiet and patient, he allowed me to begin the first stage of profound loss...denial. Sigh.

When I got to my sisters house, I called the hospital for an update and I got the hospital social worker on the phone. I knew right away from the way she said, "hello." I asked how he was and instead of telling me he was sitting up eating or reading or really mad because he was missing the ballgame on TV, she asked me, "Are you alone?" I began to shake. I knew, somehow, I knew. Then I became really intune with my anger. She said to me, "Yes, your father did pass away, do you want to know if he was in any pain or how or if he suffered?" Huh? I felt all the air in me leave, the room began to spin, and I saw red. Before I knew it...I SAW RED! "Now why in the HELL would I want to know if he had been suffering? Ignorance is bliss...right?" The words were out there. No taking them back. I had just spoken in anger. I didn't feel any better, it didn't bring my father back, it didn't make the situation any better. All it really did was allow me to speak without thinking, the same as the social worker just had.

Here I am, years later, and I have learned that acting out of anger will probably never end well. Speaking in anger, will never really get the point we want to make across to the person we need to understand it. Do I get it right every time? Oh no. LOL. Do I never get angry. Oh no. LOL. I get angry, but it is much more important to me how I behave then how someone else does. What I do, what I say and how I say it will stay with me forever.

Listen, we are all angry right now. We have a reason to be. But for our own good, let's try to remember we are grieving. Joe and John are grieving. They are faced with the anger of all of Journal Land. They are facing the very same losses we are. A once tight community of talented and creative people has just been changed, without their input being considered, without their consent, and they are the ones who have to endure the wrath of our community as well as the apparent indifference of the AOL higher-ups. They could quit and run, but would that serve any of us? It's just my opinion here, but, it seems to me that all the genuine anger and honest betrayal we are feeling and acting on, is being aimed in the wrong direction. That isn't uncommon with grief because that is what it feeds on when it is at it's most negative...conflict.

Here are five small ways to care for yourself during times of grief...

1. Frequent breaks from the situation. Try 4 five minute breaks for complete quiet. Set a timer and sit alone in a dark room with your eyes shut. Focus on what you need to think about. Don't plan what your thoughts will be. If you need to cry, go ahead, knowing you are safe within yourself.

2. In this case, completely turn off the computer when you go to bed. Leave the situation for at least as long as you sleep, dwelling on this and ruminating will only continuously stir all the negativity.

3. Write an email or snail mail letter to the powers that be at AOL specifically. Let's forget the companies who bought the ad space for a moment. When all is said and done, it was the responsibility of AOL to choose when and where the ads were placed. Write a letter about how you feel, remembering the more you keep on topic the better the communication will be received.

4. Because of all the physiological reactions that occur with anger ie: muscle aches, headaches, clenched jaw, grinding teeth, it's important to maintain a proper diet and sleep hygiene. You must take care of yourself.

5. Find the balance in life. There are many other things to focus on. The holidays, your pets , your family, job, hobbies, the book you have been meaning to read, the book you have been meaning to write, those double chocolate chip brownies calling your name...LOL. The point is take care of yourself, and know the five stages of grief, while hard to face, will eventually lead you to a better understanding and tolerance for the inevitable changes in life we simply cannot control.

*Note: I am not a mental healthcare professional. I offer this series as a peer to peer suggestion only. Please contact a qualified mental health care professional to assist you in any long term care or need you may be experiencing.

Note: This will be the longest entry of the series, because there was a lot to cover with this particular stage. The next entries will be more basic then this one, and I apologize for it's length.

"The Flower Of Anger."
Berkeley, California
November, 2005

Your Monday Photo Shoot: The Letter G

"For the true nature of things, if we consider every green tree as far more glorious then if it were made of gold and silver."

-Martin Luther

Monday Photo Shoot: Snap a picture of something beginning with the letter "G". Because I don't think the letter "G" gets nearly as much attention as it should.

-John Scalzi

Here are four views of my favorite (G) spot...LOL...Golden Gate Park. All four of these photos were taken within the Japanese Tea Garden, which is very green in the spring time, with the exceptions of the gorgeous Westeria, Begonia and my favorite Water lilies. I took some of my best photos this year in the park, it's hard not's beauty is stunning. Designed in 1870, by William Hammond Hall, the park is made up of 1,013 acres of landscape stretching 3 miles long and 1/2 mile wide. Whether I am at Stow Lake, the Dutch Windmills, or the DeYoung Museum, I am always only steps away from the Pacific Ocean at Ocean Beach, Golden Gate Park has become my home away from home.


Japanese Tea Garden
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, California
Spring, 2005

Yes, No, Maybe, I Don't Know...Can You Repeat The Question?

"Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between 2 deep breaths."

-Etty Hillesum

Sigh. I want to address some things before I begin the grief series tomorrow. I have dropped the ball on some things lately, not meaning to, but I have all the same, so now is a good time to let everyone know the status of some of what's been going on.

I have not been a very good fellow blogger/journalist because I have seriously dropped the ball on doing my blog jogging. It is important to let others know how much you appreciate the things they share, the things they write about, the things that mean a lot to them. I have been so lucky, in that all of you who visit me keep me reminded of how much you care about me and the things I am interested in by taking a moment to leave me comments, suggestions, and feedback. Please don't ever think for one moment it doesn't mean a lot to me, but lately I have had a very difficult time finding any kind of balance.

With the new diagnosis less then a week old, I am still in the stages of finding what will work so that hopefully I can get my life back and on track. When I come home early from taking photos because I am so tired and achey I am crying, that is simply not acceptable. Photography makes me feel alive like nothing else does. Putting thought, and time, and care into taking a specific shot is a lot of work. A great shot rarely comes to have to go out and find it. Now if you are very lucky you can get an approximate idea of timing and conditions, but truly it is a lot of work if it is something you take serious, and trust me, I take my photography serious. I haven't been well enough to do anything really well for any real amount of time. It scares me. I don't know all the ins and outs of what Fibromyalgia is and what it is doing to me. My friend Steven did send me a link to an awesome journal which looks like it will be an excellent resource to begin researching this condition. Thank you are a wonderful friend.

Now lets talk AOL. They couldn't have chosen a worse time to have done what they did if they actually sat down in a boardroom and said, "let's see if we can determine the very worst time to pull the rug out from everyone by adding obnoxious banner ads to their journals." They did this a week before a major holiday. So, in addition to preparing for Thanksgiving, the first one Alan and I have had together without his work or my family being involved, I have to try and figure out what I am doing with this new journal, when I can find the energy to do it. I have been so very lucky in that I have had some very helpful friends, Shelly, Patrick and Karen, standing by when I have had a question or wasn't sure how to do something. A lot of the time I preferred to try and figure it out for myself, because I know that I retain the info in my brain better if I learn for myself. That's just a quirk of me. The downside is, it is slightly more time consuming, which seriously breaks into my blog jogging time. Sigh.

When more then one of your friends tells you that you have let them down, you know that you have a problem. The thing is, and just being honest here, I don't have the energy I did even six months ago when I began to feel really bad. Some days are better then others. I do a limited amount of blog jogging, but if you look here and there about the won't see my comments too many places. Now, I do visit Steven's journal every night before I turn in. Steven's entries are usually short and feature a photograph that calms my nerves or makes me smile. So, you will see me there, and three or more times a week over at Karen's journal. They are the two I comment at most often. I try to get all around, but lately I have had some trouble tracking some folks down, so let's factor that in as well, but as you can see by the length of my sidebar...I haven't forgot anyone. You are never far from my thoughts. I guess what I am asking here is for some understanding while I catch my breath and get my groove back. Hopefully I will be able to begin some healthy jogging next week after the grief series and when I get my holiday decorations up. Please bear with's still me...just a little slower.

Now for the answer to the question you have been waiting for. When will the Round Robins resume? Here is the thing. It is a community project that I am proud of. I enjoy sharing the responsibilities with Karen. It is a lot of work however, and again, with all the stress of closing Ellipsis and starting over fresh here on Blogspot, I simply haven't had the energy or the time to start it back up. I think it should begin again, I think it would be a good thing for the community, and of course by community I mean Blogspot AND AOL. Everyone is till more then welcome to come along, and I have opened the former official Round Robin Journal and made it available to Karen so that when the project is opened up again she has access to all the past info. It may need to go on without me.

It hurts like I can't even explain, because I was proud of the work I put into it. I was proud of all my Robins who played along and did such a great job with interpreting the subjects, but what can I say? I was certainly less the perfect at running it. To say I am a bit linking challenged would be a grand understatement. My brain feels like it is dead. Whole phrases are just escaping me, just when I need them the most. I feel really lost, so maybe I need to step aside and let Karen find someone else to be her teammate. I have asked her to let me have until next Sunday to give her my final decision, but either way I would never stand in the way of all of you having fun with it. Can I have a week to think it through before I give up co-running the Robins?

So, one other minor thing. I don't know what has been going on over at the journals on AOL, but I noticed something tonight that has me concerned. A friend sent me an email that said the ads had come down. I understand others also received an email earlier today that apparently the ads had been taken off the top of the journals. I checked Ellipsis, and sure enough there was no ad at the top of my journal for close to an hour, then it reappeared. I checked a couple other journals during that time and saw that it was hit and miss. So, either AOL is working on having them removed and it was some sort of testing phase OR it is another bug in the software and it doesn't mean a ding-dong thing. One can never tell with AOL.

I am going to wait until late tomorrow to begin the grief series, until I can see what John Scalzi and Joe (Magic Smoke) might say about it. I was planning to begin the grief series entries early on Monday, but the first installment will be dealing with the most prominent emotion that we are all experiencing Anger, and since I don't know what the deal is with the journals,I think there is a good possibility that it could affect the dynamic of the entry I am planning. So, the series will begin later today, after I do the Monday photo shoot, sometime close to the evening. How about we all cross our fingers that whatever the new glitch is, it won't be something so craptastic as to start a new round of the mean reds. Personally, I am beginning to take it all in can only cry so much. :(
I can't promise I will ever have the energy back I once had, so I have to I still worth the wait?

"Carly In Autumn" (Self Portrait)
Berkeley, California
April, 2005

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Wisdom Of Ally McBeal

"The more lost you are, the more you have to look forward to."
-Ally McBeal (Pilot Episode)

I miss the brilliant David E. Kelley series, Ally McBeal. I felt a kinship to Ally, and the fun little special effects were pretty much right on the mark. The little moments like the one in the picture above. In this scene Ally has just learned the love of her life has gone and gotten himself married, but he consoles her by telling her that, "he is looking forward working with her." Yep...that is pretty much how it would feel. I mean that's the way it has felt when I have encountered old flames, who when for a lack of better, made the conversation flow with expected niceties. Sigh.

It's already the end of November, and I will be seeing the November man soon. I don't usually plan to see him, but sometimes it can't be avoided. As long as I live I will never understand why just seeing his face or hearing his voice reduces me, a usually intelligent woman, to little more then a weak kneed, perspiring, sometimes unable to speak mess of humanness. Don't get me wrong, I am a content and happy in my life, but for some unknown reason what they don't tell you when you get married is that the opposite sex doesn't cease to exist...especially if you were head over toenails at one point for someone else. Nope, one day I will be walking down the street, enjoying the autumn sun...and there he will be...walking toward me, smiling that smile, and as he gets closer, 20 years will disappear with each step and when he gets within a couple feet of saying a simple, "hello," I feel like it is 1985 again.

Ordinarily I wouldn't be fretting about Mr. November, but I have been so tired and achey today that I could do little more then get up...fiddle on the computer for a half hour or so at a time, then return to my bed. So much going through my mind, plans for the holiday, Mr. November, Elvis needs to get his shots, the tree needs to be put up, the presents need to be wrapped, what am I making for dinner this week, will I be eating alone? I hate that most of autumn has gotten away from me...all because the doctor didn't evaluate me sooner. I feel like every minute is so precious because I noticed that one day does make a difference with the beautiful leaves on the trees. One day could mean they will all be gone for another season. I would rather have a bouquet of autumn leaves, then a bouquet of flowers.

I fret a little when it comes to what's happened to AOL Journals. I don't understand the things that have happened since "Black Tuesday." The lack of concern for those of us who had paid accounts on AOL. The fighting that has gone on in the community. I have seen two really good essays written on the subject from Patrick and Karen. I have seen a lot of bullying and protest. Some I have agreed with, some I haven't. I suppose everyone must do what's right for them. I have received emails asking me about my choice to close Ellipsis to all readers. It was was the only way I could think of to keep control of my journal. No one can read the entries I write or the ads at the top that I have NO control over, but it also keeps my journal SPAM safe because as we all can't count on AOL alerts.

Let me just put this out there, and keep in mind, you know I don't dictate how others should think or feel. One of the things concerning me is the push to boycott or in some extreme cases openly malign the advertisers who now have banner ads on our journals. I don't think the advertisers have done anything wrong. They simply bought ad space in order to promote their product. If we begin pushing them to remove their ads, by nasty articles in our journals, and looking for dirt on them and then spreading it further, then eventually we will make them into victims, because someone, sometime, will go too far, and once that happens we will have a ripple effect that will ruin the reputation of everyone who blogs to a degree. The situation in general has been allowed to blossom into one of the nastiest occurrences I have seen on the Internet. I am shocked that AOL is putting NO time into fixing the problems this weekend, instead they gave their tech people the time off for the holiday.

I can't help but wonder...was that their way of pushing back? It was clear to me that AOL had me over a barrel when I realized that the ad on my journal was NOT a mistake. They haven't recanted the press release where they contend that only a handful, about 100, have written letters of complaints. They lied when they said this was standard practice among other blog servers. And now I read where they may be considering an incentive for paid AOL customers with journals to return. I can't think of a single thing they could offer that would make me come back as a blogger on AOL. I have settled in, I have friends who have already put my new address on their sidebar, and I am learning new things all the time here on Blogspot. Like Shelly said, this is an opportunity to grow and learn new things. But that's what's right for me, everyone has to find their own way and hopefully we will all find each other...then hold on tight.

Still I mourn. I mourn watching my friends on both blog servers who are hurting because it seems that as every bitter day goes by, a little more of the people I knew them to be is slipping away. There have been things I have read here and there that surprized the hell out of me. I have been disappointed in a few, but I understand where the ire is coming from. Don't think for a minute I wouldn't like to be invited to a summit with the AOL Overlords. Don't think for a minute I wouldn't have a few choice things to tell them as customer feedback. I do...but I know that most of the anger, hurt, wishing it was different, giving anything if it was, and knowing it simply isn't going to be is all a product of my grief.

I know, I sound like a broken record. See the thing is...I didn't know until it was too late that all the pain I swallowed when things came to an end, all the hurt I suppressed when I had to switch jobs, move, end school, see the loss of a love affair, the death of a beloved pet, endure my home being broke into and Alan's wedding ring being stolen by a family member, all of that carried the five stages of grief. I didn't say out loud how bad I hurt. I cried when I was all alone, I cried on a swing set at a local park, I cried in my car while I ate lunch. I learned to cry silently so that all the happened was tears would roll down my face without even Alan noticing, because I didn't know that grief happens for more then just death.

We are conditioned to believe that material items are "just things," and it is true to a degree. Most things can be replaced. Memories can be both a great help and a terrible reminder. It's something most adults have to come to terms with when faced with how to go forward when a loss has taken place. Again, it is all a personal choice, but don't think for a minute that grief is not there whispering in your ear. Anger seems to be the most pronounced of the five. I know it was for me when my father died. I will be sharing how I found my anger button in my upcoming series on grief, but for right now trust me. I am not an angry person in life.

The thing is, I can look back on all my losses...even when I lost my mind...and realize where I went wrong with anger. In it's place it can help you be proactive. It was anger that helped me through burying my father, but it was the same anger that made me lash out. Alan says I was right in the situation that I will be sharing with you, but I see that had I just took a step back, just a small step back to think about what was happening, I wouldn't have been in as much pain as I was. Anger helped perpetuate a lot of pain. That is it's negative power. Haven't we all said and done things in anger we wished like hell later we hadn't?

I wish I could change what's happened in the last two weeks. I wish I could make it all ok for all of you. I think of you as my family. I haven't had to endure mean comments or emails. I don't know why that is. Maybe I simply wasn't as popular as the folks who received them...shrug...I am so sorry everyone is hurting this much. When Frank died, we all helped each other. We were there when it was time to take him off our sidebars, we were there when community events were coming around and we felt his loss, but this situation is so much different. Frankly I thought it would bring us all together, but it hasn't. Will it be getting better, before it gets worse? Is that the goal? If we got our AOL Journals back tomorrow, ad free, are there friendships that have already been damaged beyond the point of repair?

Please consider taking a couple days off from doing anything regarding the journal situation, and please consider joining me for my series on grief. It begins Monday. You don't have to feel any pressure to comment, although if you want to drop me an email to let me know you are reading along I promise to not tell anyone if you don't want me to. If you have known me for any amount of time you know that I will be discreet. I don't promise to solve all your problems with this series, and it will be pretty basic, but I do promise to share my thoughts and some of what I have learned with honesty. Couldn't we all use some of that right now? I look at the picture of Ally and I think about the days when it felt like I had 20 arrows in me, each representing something that hurt, and I think about the times when one thing felt like 20 arrows piercing me, like the day I closed Ellipsis.