1. Fran Stekoll says

    My first job after college graduation at age 43 was managing the Retirement Inn of Fremont. I didn’t like being confined to an office at one location so I created a job for myself as Community Service Director for all eight branches of the Inns in the bay area. After two years I left to Manage La Posada. I realized the owner was co-mingling funds. There was a long list of seniors waiting to be eligible for HUD. He was meeting with the market rate children and adjusting the of their well-to-do resident parents so they could qualify for subsidized rents. I called Mello and others at the state. This was the job of my dreams. I lived near the Crows Nest and loved being in Santa Cruz. One day I had everything I’d strived for, the next I was being fired. I guess I’d gone too far; but looking back in hind site, being honest was more important. I became depressed and wasn’t sure what I would do the rest of my life. My marriage had also dissolved. It seemed my life was crumbling inside and out. I literally fell to my knees sobbing and wanting to walk into the ocean never to face the world as I’d designed it. After hitting rock bottom I had an
    awakening. I screamed out loud to GOD. “Where do I go from here”. I heard a gut wrenching voice, ” Go back over the hill and start your own company”.
    This is what I did for 28 years. I retired in 1997 and couldn’t wait to return to Santa Cruz.

    • says

      Fran, I love how you are almost always our first responder here! This is powerful story about an ethical choice that seemed to close your options, but then opened them in an unexpected way. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and experience with us here. And in such a vivid way, too!

    • Ilana says

      Fran- I can’t say what I was thinking because Laura already said it. I do look forward to your post every Tuesday as a part of her sending the prompt. This is a beautiful story and though the immediate consequences of your choice were very painful, you managed to rise above them and you had done what was right. I was inspired by your story and hope that faced with the same situation I would have handled it as bravely and with as much empathy as you did. I salute you. IM

    • Talia says

      Dear Fran, thanks for your story. It was riveting.

      I would like to know the next chapter, your struggle to build your company, what it was. Any also any other scream-outs to God and what the replies were.

    • Hazel says

      I have found that sometimes God just smacks us on the head and sometimes the is an Inspiration the comes from just letting go and screaming at Her.

      Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Terry Gibson says

      What an uplifting story, Hazel. Not that you reached that moment of desperation and depression, but that the answer came and it started you off on something you really loved. Thanks.

  2. Barbara says

    In San Miguel Allende, transportation is cheap. A taxi ride is usually only 30 pesos; the bus, only 5 pesos. I am, as my children will tell you, an inveterate bargain hunter. Notice I don’t call myself cheap, but some may. Last night as I left the conference I am attending in SMA, I walked up the main boulevard toward El Centro, the center of town. I was trying to decide between hailing a taxi, many of which passed me filled with others from the conference, and catching a bus to E Centro where I would be able to transfer to one climbing the steep cobblestone streets to my hotel. It was after eight o’clock and dark, and I was in no mood to make the long walk up the hill by myself – my third alternative.

    My decision was made as from behind me came lumbering one of the many “autobuses.” I could see this was one marked “Ruta 8.” Good. I had seen bus after bus with the Ruta 8 markings banging and chuffling their way past our hotel, so this meant that not only would I catch a bus, but I would not even have to transfer, as it would continue right on up the hill past the hotel.

    Buses in Mexico are a true source of pleasure and adventure to me. I love riding them and seeing different parts of the city and the variety of passengers. As we approached El Centro, the bus filled. In front of me were a young brother and sister, maybe six and eight years old, who were play-fighting and wrestling, and flashing shy smiles back at me. Brother punched sister a bit too hard and when she flinched and drew back with a scowl, he threw his arms around her and gave her a resounding smack on the cheek, turning his eyes to see my reaction as he did so – a handsome little macho lover in the making. Onto the bus climbed an middle-aged man, flashy in elaborate boots, belt and western shirt, with a guitar slung over his shoulder. I thought perhaps we would have an impromptu serenade, which often occurs, but he sank into a seat across from me and closed his eyes.

    Taquerias and small shops line the streets of SMA, and one of the pleasures of a bus ride is being able to look briefly into the gated gardens and open wooden doors. This was still a busy time of the evening, and couples strolled along the streets, many of the women carrying a rose or a small balloon, for this was also Valentine’s Day, and clearly the lovers in Mexico were celebrating la Dia de Amor. Restaurants floated enticing smells out to mingle with the diesel fumes. Jewelry stores, shoe stores, pharmacies and small hotels appear and disappear as we bounce along the rough streets.

    Nearing El Centro, a woman I had not before noticed, but who was, perhaps, the only other “gringa” on the bus, tapped me on the shoulder and asked me a question in Spanish. I mumbled my “I don’t speak Spanish” reply and she looked at me in some annoyance, then asked in English if I knew if this bus went to San Miguel. I replied that as far as I knew, we were IN San Miguel, but that I did not otherwise know the ultimate destination of the bus. She was a dry little wisp of a woman, with hair pulled back in a bun and the ubiquitous bag slung over her shoulder. “Well,” she said in a distinctly eastern nasal tone, “You’re in worse shape than I am. You don’t know where you are going and you don’t speak Spanish either!” I replied as politely as I could that I did happen to know that the bus on this route ran right past my hotel door. I just didn’t know where it went from there.

    A crowd of students in uniform pile onto the bus at El Centro, girls in pleated skirts and white blouses and boys in dark pants and white shirts. One boy slouches across two seats and turns up whatever music-playing machine he has in his book bag. The bus echoes a hard driving beat as we rattle along. We should be turning up the steeper streets soon with not far to go to the hotel. The bus turns in a direction opposite to what I expect and I experience a twinge of uncertainty, but realize it probably circles around through many of the narrow one-way streets before heading uphill. We pass one of the many elaborate baroque churches with a small park beside it. The benches are full of people even at this time of night. We pass another church and then the Opera House and then we turn again and are going down one of those mysterious streets with colorfully painted walls and narrow sidewalks and no signs to indicate what is behind those walls. Another street and we pass a fenced field where young men are playing a game of soccer. A man with the appearance of a workman comes aboard and with an apologetic look, takes the seat beside me. He is holding a single red rose wrapped in plastic and I smile at him, thinking of his esposa at home who doubtless is the intended recipient. He ducks his head and looks away from me. Another blast of music, with a different beat blares from the back of the bus, competing for ear time and giving me a slight headache.

    I realize the bus has now gone considerably farther north than I expected before turning up toward the hotel. And it is still not turning. I recognize the name “Aurora” on an impressive looking archway to an area off to our right and realize I have seen this as an Arts Center on one of the tourists maps I have poured over. But there are no lights on the street in that direction, and we pass by it, moving now rapidly over a bridge and – to my dismay – clearly heading out of the main area of the city. The bus picks up speed for a short while and then turns suddenly onto a dirt road branching off and up and away from any street lights. Various children climb off at dusty corners. The man with the guitar exits. I would be lying to say I am not worried by this time. Clearly this bus is not going where I intended to go. I feel myself getting warm with anxiety. OK, what are my options? Clearly there is only one. I see no other buses and truthfully, very few other vehicles in the area we are now driving through. So I will stay on the bus until it retraces its route and returns to town where I can either catch another bus or flag down a taxi. That’s what I will do. My seat partner with the rose is gone now, and the streets we are driving are even rockier than the cobblestoned ones in town. Along the streets there are people huddled together in front of doorways. I see a lighted pharmacy on one corner and it is the only light I see. There is graffiti on the painted walls that we pass. We chug and rattle up a long hill, rocking from side to side and stop at a corner where the last few students exit the bus. All of the music is gone now, providing sweet relief, but I look around and suddenly realize that I am the sole remaining passenger on this bus.

    I am suddenly aware that this just might not be such a good situation. I am in a strange country, in an unknown part of the city…. or am I in another village altogether now?….it is night, and dark; I don’t speak the language and have no means of communication and no one in the world except for the bus driver has any idea of where I am. In fact, I’m not at all sure the driver even knows I am still back here, as I am behind the partition that backs his seat. I take a deep breath and tell myself to relax and consider this an adventure, and surely we will now reverse and continue back into town. It is almost nine o’clock now and I recall reading that most of the busses stop running at about nine. So I will just wait quietly until we get back and catch a taxi. There are taxis everywhere in the city.

    We climb a long dark street and turn back toward SMA. I can see out to the west where there is a view of the city down below and to the south. I breath a little easier. Here we go .

    The bus suddenly halts and we back into another narrow street or alleyway. And stop. And the driver turns off the lights and starts to get out. I call out and stand up and I can see that he is as startled as I am. I muddle through a question about returning to El Centro in my barely existent Spanish, and he looks at me in amazement. No, he shakes his head and tells me, I understand, through his gestures and a few familiar words. that this is it. This is the end – our destination, and the end of the route for the night. We are parked next to his casa.

    I’m sure that I flush. I feel hot with stress and panic. The driver, a young man, I see now, looks at me quizzically and asks the magic question: “Taxi?” I shake my head enthusiastically but then look around us – we are on a dark, empty, barren street, with no street lights and I have not noticed another vehicle for many minutes. He gestures me to my seat, starts the bus and turns the lights back on. We drive down one street, turn and drive up another, turn again onto yet another, and there before us, in the middle of these totally dark, empty streets, magically, is a taxi whose passenger is just departing. My driver honks his horn and pulls alongside the taxi and in minutes I am again underway, this time heading with certainty to my hotel destination. The taxi driver speaks no English, but looks at me curiously. I am sure both he an the bus driver had stories to tell of the peculiar gringa who went riding off into the night on a bus. I have had my 5 pesos worth of bus ride and more. And I would have been happy to pay double for that taxi ride home. I will forever wonder where I was.

    • says

      Barbara, Welcome to the Roadmap Blog and thanks for sharing your wonderful San Miguel story! I was right back there with you…You had an amazing adventure. I was scared for you and admired your pluck! And look what a great story you got out of it. I never took a bus in San Miguel,but I did have a wild taxi adventure there myself that had me laughing so hard I couldn’t stop or catch my breath. Thanks for bringing me back to that wonderful memory. I hope to see many more of your posts up here.

      • Terry Gibson says

        Barbara, what a great story! My gosh, I was terrified for you when the bus stopped for the night. What a great thing the driver did. I like that. Your descriptions are so rich, I’m yearning to go there some time in the future.

    • Ilana says

      What an awesome story, Barbara! I you had me scared as getting lost is one of the phobias I am trying overcome right now. You painted my worst nightmare. I had to comfort myself with the knowledge that you made it safely home somehow. Otherwise you couldn’t be posting. In addition, I really appreciated hearing about the bus driver’s generosity. Thanks for posting this. IM

    • Talia says

      Hi Barbara, thanks for sharing your adventure in a foreign land when it would be so easy to feel totally helpless.

      I loved the exquisite detail you used to paint your verbal pictures, so easy to visualize the shapes and colors. Thank you. I also enjoyed your ability to calm yourself. That was great!!

    • Judy E. Brady says

      Wow–this will be one for the grandkids one day. You write with clarity and leave us hanging before a great summary. Thank you and look forward to more.

    • Sabrina says

      Hello Barbara,

      You had me all wrapped up in your anxiety. I could really feel it. Unnerving. I’m glad you made it to your destination safe and sound. Though I don’t remember the particulars I know I have had just such an experience with buses, locations, languages, being lost and at the mercy of the enviornment and strangers.

      Good writing.


  3. Kathryn says

    Randall and I are physically fit for our age group, though by no means triathletes. We set out one morning to photograph Bald Rock and to hike to Feather Falls, having spent a nice evening at Oxford Suites after dinner and beer-tasting at the casino. What Northern California lacks in culture it makes up for in scenery, and beer. Feather Falls Casino hosted by far some of the best craft beer around, outside of Sierra Nevada, but the casino atmosphere is exactly what we expected, with a nice dance floor and a band about to start covering tunes from the seventies. We were “done” with our taste test, (not overly hoppy orange wheat beer was my favorite, although the porter was quite good as well), we dedicated our evening to an interest in air conditioning and cable television back at our suite, spread out across lavish mattresses in the hum of a very hot July evening. When I say very hot, people might think 95 degrees, but this is very hot NorCal style, otherwise topping out at about 112. That’s not even all that hot for the area, where one June we sweltered around 120 degrees. All that said, our main objective was a waterfall slated to be one of the top ten in the country, with our two cameras, supported by a hotel room with HBO (we don’t spring for cable at home) and a little beer.

    The morning drive to the Bald Rock Trailhead was exquisite, although the temperature was already soaring over ninety. We wound our way up to the mountain top, and within a quarter mile dusty hike were exposed on mountain rock, brightly surrounded by Stonehenge-size granite perched in chunks, weather-worn to a kind of soft shape, piled against more granite. We even photographed the daring of trees springing up from any crevice. I hid in the shade of behemoths while I tried to stop down my camera’s light to capture the scene. We wandered around for awhile, going from shade to shade, exposed in the full sun to a battering of rays despite our long sleeves and wide-brim hats. In the end, we were satisfied that we had seen something truly beautiful, despite the fact that it was really too bright to get any definition into the photographs of the rocks we wanted. We vowed to come back here in October, on a cloudy, misty day, as we chugged the water I carried with us in the shade beside the car.

    Next stop was Feather Falls. Inspired by photographer friends who told us of these amazing falls, we drove to the trailhead, something not easy to find, parked, and noted all the other cars there. We drank yet another glib liter of water before setting out with our equipment, though we decided carrying tripods was too much, considering the temperature. This day was well into its 112-degree capacity. We set off down the trail at an amble, overconfident in our fitness and joy.

    Before long, a fork in the trail announced obscure options, and it seemed difficult to discern the truth. The falls were said to be ten miles away. Oh well. My partner and I have hiked ten miles easy in a day. We imagined a cool running brook at the end, a dip into the Feather River. Again, we turned down the trail, our happy feet carrying us with a swinging stride. I did note to myself that it was mighty hot, and the return would be uphill. No matter. We passed all manner of women and children with babies and strollers who had made the trek ahead of us. No kidding, I thought to myself. Must be right around the next bend.

    An hour and a half later, we were still thinking it might be around the next switchback. We had left the water back in the car. We passed a small creek where people suffering from their hike were slumped. We didn’t take the hint. Surely, the falls will appear soon. We could almost hear the water running.

    In truth, we probably could hear it. Four hundred and ten feet of cascading water dives off a cliff to the valley below from 2500 feet. Some of our hike, then, was also uphill, in an confusing winding trail around the side of a rocky slope that was exposed to full sun at many points. The trail difficulty is supposedly moderate, unless you are pushing fifty in July on a day that would singe the flesh off a teddy bear. When we arrived at our viewpoint, it was a platform at trail’s end overlooking the waterfall from the other side of the river. Another treacherous hike would take us over to the river right at the falling point, but it appeared to be too slippery and arduous for a nice dip into river water. The movies with people sucked over the falls by their desire for the river come to mind.

    We trampled down the last stumbling steps to the platform. I’d estimate the baking to be well over 200 degrees in that granite valley beneath the sun. I didn’t stay long, and I still haven’t looked at the photos I took.

    When we turned back, we had to climb about three flights of steps up to the top, where we could take another potential mile hike across exposed rock to the river and top of the falls. It was perhaps four in the afternoon. The beer from last night was edging back up in my throat.

    We turned back. On the way, we made the sullen, intelligent decision not to talk. We needed to conserve energy. Whose idea was this anyway?
    There could be blame. It could turn into a Flannery O’Connor story any moment. The Sunday Family Hike and Picnic. So we said not one word, not even when some twenty-somethings with great butts passed at flying speed. I thought I was doing so well. Eventually, I lost track of anything but placing one foot in front of another, and I studied the rocks and grey swirls underfoot, rather than appreciating the scenery. We found the little creek and climbed in.

    Still, we had half the distance to travel back. Neither one of us drank from the creek, because we hadn’t even bring that hiker’s friend, the water purifying system. Cameras. Heavy lenses. No water. We heaved the equipment back onto our sweaty shoulders and hoped for the best. That we would actually live through this day.

    Miraculously, we made some trail turns and discovered the sign again, with its telltale mileage. We saw the warning in miles and temperature that we had somehow missed in our previous glee. A couple of miles yet to go, we stood there staring, vacant, wondering. We felt old. We didn’t need to say it. We could see it in each other. We had gone too far.

    We arrived at the trailhead without an emergency. My Toyota Camry shone in late afternoon light as if a beacon. We drank the remaining liter of warm water from a bottle in the trunk and drove back to Oroville to the Raley’s Supermarket, where we bought sports drinks and more water. As perception returned to my foggy brain, I discovered I was standing on asphalt in a dusty-hot parking lot in the shade with my lover, and we had almost died. I was grateful, and I said, “We need to talk about this.” He agreed.

    “We won’t do this again,” he said. And it was that simple. We knew.

    • says

      Kathryn, welcome to the Roadmap blog and thanks for sharing your harrowing hiking story. I’m glad you made it down safely. I was with you–and I’ve been on those hikes and experiences in nature for which I was overconfident and unprepared.

    • Ilana says

      Wow. What a scary trip. I’m so glad you made it back okay. I was able to relate to the feelings of exhaustion, though never had such a frightening experience. As a child I used to stop talking during hikes to preserve energy too. Because of that I could feel it when you described that part. Nice job. IM

    • Judy E. Brady says

      You had me hooked Kathryn with….”What Northern California lacks in culture it makes up for in scenery, and beer.” I could feel, see, and smell the falls with the ‘word pictures’ you use. And, yea, don’t do that again; but do write here more. Thank you.

    • Barbara says

      Wow – I felt every torturous, hot, sweaty, exhausted step back. You really took me into an experience I can identify with and hope never to replicate.

  4. Talia says

    What does too far even mean – does that mean too far emotionally for myself? Or going too far by pushing, quite literally, someone else “too far.” Coming to the end of one’s limit. Hanging on by a thread.

    Or perhaps our Inspirer means physically going too far? Hyper extending something – a leg, a thumb?

    Does that mean we should be in a fishbowl, going around and around a circumscribed universe? Maybe we should push ourselves beyond – but we don’t because were afraid that we won’t be able to get back again.

    But what would that mean? Old relationships would drop off but new ones would be planted, take root, and flourish.

    I remember first going into psychotherapy when I was 23 years old. My first lesson: being, not doing. Not having to earn love, and setting limits. And so I went out beyond the bounds of myself, and starting setting limits with people. A girlfriend I had shared an apartment with, she had her long boyfriend move in without asking me, without telling me. I discovered it by coming out of the shower one day dressed in a towel wrapped around myself, opened the bathroom door to come face-to-face with boyfriend Scott. That was quite a surprise.

    I learned to say no to other friends who wanted something out of me. I took my therapist’s words to heart; it was slash and burn with abandon.

    There is a tactful artful way to set limits in relationships. I was not there yet.

    I remember my therapist saying I didn’t need to be setting limits quite so rapidly. In fact I think I recall, “you might want to slow down your changes…” I can see now he didn’t want me to completely dismantle my current social support system. Wisdom.

    So I slowed down.

    My apartment mate never contacted me after I moved out; who knows what became of her.
    The good, loving, solid relationships stood the test. I still have my best friend from high school, 35 years now. The fragile relationships built on self-serving motives or other utility foundations simply dropped away as I grew.

    Some people will go on the journey with you into “too far.” Some will not. Those relationships can be mourned; new, loving relationships will be replanted, regrow, and flourish.

    • says

      Talia, you raise some very interesting points–what is “too far” anyway? I enjoyed your musing on the topic. I’m also glad to hear you have a best friend from 35 years ago. I do, too, and there’s nothing like someone you share that kind if history with!

    • Hazel says

      Nice piece. It is interesting to find out who is up to the ride along with you on the journey through your life. Sometimes it is painful to realize who has not gotten back on you train.

    • Fran Stekoll says

      Talia, some people come into our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime. I loved your reflections in your life’s journey.

  5. Hazel says

    I was living in Donald, Oregon a place so small that most Oregonians haven’t even heard of it. My husband, at the time, and I had bought an old schoolhouse and were making it into a home. We had a very large stove in the kitchen, 9 toilets, 6 urinals, and no place to take a shower. It was obvious that HE would have to be home to work on this project while I went to work in order for us to have money for improvements (and, there were a lot of them needed). Since Donald was only about 35 miles south of Portland and this was a farming community there wew no jobs unless I drove to Portland every day.

    It has always been hard to get a job in Oregon so I knew it could be a long road I was embarking on. I bought the Sunday “Oregonian” newspaper and opened it to the employment section. Let’s see, I could type, do simple bookkeeping, filing, had worked in 2 hospitals in their diet kitchens setting up and measuring out food for patients, and I wanted a job on the south side and west of the Willamette River. With this in mind I began going through the help wanted ads.

    There were many filing jobs that didn’t pay very well so I moved on to see if I could find anything else, “Hmmm. . .” here was a position with an adoption agency in their foster care division. It wasn’t very specific but it sounded like something I might like to do. Monday morning I summoned all my will power, took a deep breath and dialed the number. I said I would like to have more information about the job they had advertised in the Sunday paper. The receptionist said that this position would be mostly driving, picking up newborn babies and taking them to the doctor for checkups, taking them to their foster homes, writing up descriptions of the babies for the social workers, and purchasing clothing for the babies. I thanked her and hung up. I thought – I have done most those things with my own kids, and I could describe a baby. I had never done anything like this before. I wrote down a list of things I had done in my work history then I wrote a little paragraph about taking care of my own kids and mailed it to the agency. I knew that was a pretty high-fulutin’ job and I really had a lot of gall sending that resume (such as it was) but if I could just get it, it would be so much fun as well as a step up the employment ladder for me. I sent my regular letters to other employers then set to work with what I could do to help with the construction work around the school house/home.

    A few days passed with no calls, then a call from the agency, could I come in on Wednesday for an interview with Mrs. Bolten. “You bet!” No! I had to calm down! Deep breath; “I would be glad to. What time?” “Would ten o’clock be convenient with your schedule?” “Yes, I will be there.” I hung up the phone.

    My inner voice was really in full gear now! Crap, what should I wear? I never should have done this, they won’t hire me and I will just get all gussied up for nothing. But, you have that lovely maroon suit and you could wear that white cotton blouse with the lacy ruffles that fill in at the neck. That is to fussy; no it isn’t! Go through your closet and see what you have. Try things. You are going too far! You will NEVER get this job! Shut up! Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

    I went to my closet opened the door. I looked at every piece of clothing I had in there. That was a time when everything was cotton and had to be ironed so I checked the dirty clothes and the pile of things I had not yet ironed. I hate ironing! There always seemed to be a pile of it somewhere that I couldn’t quite get finished and all in the closet at one time. In the end I chose to wear a dark blue gaberdine suit with red shoes, red gloves, and a little red finely woven straw hat with a very small brim and a dark blue veil, which I would just gather into the curls of my hair. I set my hair and slept on the curlers, so my dark chestnut brown hair curled over my shoulders and down to a V in between my shoulder blades.

    As I picked up my red purse, I also checked the seams of my stockings in the mirror to see that they were indeed straight (God, please make them stay that way when I get out of the car in Portland!). I said goodbye to my family and drove to Portland on the new freeway that had just been opened between Salem and Portland. There was not much traffic on it and that was good, I was so nervous. I didn’t know Portland very well. I was driving with a map in the passenger seat so I could pick it up and check where I was at any given time (no GPS in those days).

    The car was parked near the building. I took a deep breath, slowly picked up my gloves and purse, closed the car door, checked my hair in the reflection in the window and stepped onto the curb. You can do this; you can do this. I told myself with each step as I climbed the stairs toward the door.

    Mrs. Bolten was a beautiful black lady with a wonderfully warm smile. Her speech was very precise. I noticed her long beautiful fingers with their manicured, painted nails as I curled my own short fingers with their short nude nails further into the gloves I held in my hands. She stood very straight and had a quick step as we walked down the hall to her office. Her office was uncluttered. There was a large jade plant by the window and a small Japanese sand garden on the table below the plant. A leather sofa sat invitingly along one wall. Her desk was large with a very neat stack of files on her left. She motioned for me to sit down in a very comfortable leather chair facing her positioned a little to her right. She offered me a cup of tea. (I never drank tea, y-u-c-k!) I accepted. She left the room and came back with a beautiful tray that had a pot of tea, two cups with saucers, some lemon slices in a small dish, and a bowl of sugar with a little pitcher of cream to match. She poured the tea for us and the interview began.

    We seemed to connect from the start. She asked me about my car as I would be driving it most of the time and getting paid a mileage allowance based on turning it in for reimbursement. I promised to learn the streets of Portland quickly. She showed me my office, (did I say “My office”) I had never had an office before. WOW! In “my office” was a cupboard where I could keep the clothes for the children that the agency had in their care. I would be buying the clothes then giving it out to our foster mothers and would have some on hand if I needed to freshen up a baby’s look before they were to be presented to an adopting family. She showed me the kinds of descriptions I would have to write into the files they kept on the babies. It looked simple enough and I knew I could do that. After many other questions, very different from any interview I had ever had before, there was a pause. She looked at me with a twinkle in her eye and said, “I think you will do well with us. Can you begin your position on Monday?” “Certainly.” I was trying to up my language to fit with her’s. No one ever said I wasn’t adaptable.

    That was the job that changed my life. Because of that job I had a different view of myself, I became confident that I could make a difference in people’s lives; that I could be professional; that I didn’t have to talk like a truck driver to shock people into noticing me, the more big words and how to use them that I could learn the better; I really was dependable. I took some other jobs along the way that did not nearly come up to the caliber of that one because we had to eat, but it was behind my decision to go back to college and get a degree in Occupational Therapy.

    • says

      Hazel, I loved this story–the battling voices inside you, the details about the tea, and your outfit, and the way you hid your plain fingernails. All those details–and many more–really revealed who this young woman was–and how she saw her place in the world. I loved the writing–and I loved the story. Thanks for being such a solid member of this online community. I always looks forward to your posts. I also love the diversity of responses to this prompt–and it’s only been up for a few hours!

    • Ilana says

      Awesome story Hazel- I felt the excitement all the way through. I loved the little arguments you had with yourself. I do that all the time! What I liked best about your story is how it somehow invited me in rather than leaving me out in the audience. Not sure how you did it but it was very effective. Good read! IM

  6. Talia says

    I went too far with my thumb.

    Is that even possible? I mean this in the most concrete way – I used to have to do patient rounds every day in a prison psychiatric hospital wing. We had to write treatment plans on everyone at intake, discharge and every week if they stayed in the hospital longer. I was the scribe. They liked my penmanship.

    We weren’t as modern as the VA hospitals or federal prisons. They had electronic medical records. So every day at work 16, 18, 23 patients would need to be seen and I had to do my notes. By hand.

    I love my Parker jotter. It was a charming pen with the teal and chrome barrel, and the writing was smooth as glass. I began having pain in my forearm, and thumb. I was writing my notes, writing, writing, writing every day, seeing patient after patient.

    Off to the doctor. Off to the physical therapist.

    The therapist was astounded. “My,” she exclaimed, “you have a double-jointed thumb!” She held up her thumb in example, bent back as far she could go. It was pretty straight, up and down.

    I held up mine. Both of my thumbs bend backwards like an L shape.

    I thought an L shape was normal. My therapist was surprised I had been able to work as long as I had with such an anomaly. We began therapy, heating my arm and hand, wax baths (the best!) and arm bicycle exercises on a special machine.

    Then the kicker – out came the old people’s catalog of orthopedic implements. You know the kind – potty chairs, things for walking, grabbers to reach up high. Groan. I’m 40! I wanted to protest. I bit my tongue. The therapist flipped to the page which had something called the Pencil Grip. I dutifully ordered them and installed them on my writing utensils.

    Aaaahhhhh. Heaven! Handwriting with support, handwriting with ease….pure luxury.

    I realized I probably survived high school and college hand writing all my notes because I used to write with Sheaffer pens which had a large barrel. At times I used fountain pens with brown ink, other times they were ballpoints. Lately the ballpoint refills had become more difficult to obtain, and on some inspiration or whimsy I had branched out into the Parker pens. Maybe it was old Dr. Davis sporting his natty bowtie who raved about his Parker. And goodness knows I wasn’t going to take my Mont Blanc into a prison hospital to use. Un uh.

    So I purchased a dozen Pencil Grips. They came in packs of three or 12 and I love pens so now I have orange, jumbo pink, sky blue, and a plethora of other colors. You can have fun with the colors. I have an orange pencil grip on my turquoise Parker jotter – so fresh, so lively!! Pink caresses the chrome barrel of the Mont Blanc. Feminine. And I’ve even gone back to my Sheaffer big barrels, hunting down the refills. Such variety!

    Thank you thumb, for going too far.

      • Judy E. Brady says

        Talia, What a fun read! I laughed, smiled and then kinda frowned…..did you know that cursive isn’t being taught in some school systems any more? Will scribes with double jointed thumbs/or arthritis be able to fit a Pencil Grip their keyboards? Just asking.

    • Hazel says

      As an Occupational Therapist I have pulled out ” the old people’s catalog of orthopedic implements. You know the kind – potty chairs, things for walking, grabbers to reach up high., ” many times to find just the right thing to help my patients. Some times they were accepted and used but many times I would find them discarded in a dusty corner or under the bed. Now that I am having some difficulties with mobility and arthritis myself, it is very difficult to take my own advise, but once in a while I find that my advise to others is also good for me as well.

      Really enjoyed your piece! Thank you for sharing.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Talia, I loved reading this. Reminded me of my excitement in September when school started. The hallways would be polished to a bright shine. I’d inhale the smell of new erasers, play with my new pens and colouring pencils and love the sound of the spine cracking on my new textbooks. Thanks for those great memories.

  7. Judy E. Brady says

    I told him, “I’ll be the one at the far end of the bar, next to the window, a red rose in the Bud Light bottle.” “Sounds good,” he said, “but….tell me again how you got my name and number?”

    I just laughed and said, “Tell you when I see you.”

    Flashback: It all started one Friday night, when my friends, Christine, Gerry and I, sat around my kitchen table laughing about the guys we’d dated and dumped. We’d each been divorced about a year; had teenagers; worked and lived in the same neighborhood; and, met at a yoga class several years ago.

    On the weekends that the ex-husbands had the kids, we’d gather for pot luck supper before heading out to hear old fashioned jazz and be with friends. We had worked hard during the week and felt we deserved to kick up our heels.

    That particular Friday night, as we sat talking about the juggling act of raising kids alone, working, and wondering whether any of us would marry again, Gerry piped up with, “I doubt I’ll ever remarry. I’ve met so many losers; I’m ready to give up. Besides, with three kids, what guy wants to take that on?”

    “Hey,” said, Christine, “let’s do lunch tomorrow, bring the business cards of the guys we’ve dated and dumped or been dumped by, and have a contest: a bottle of champagne to the first woman at this table to successfully ‘cold calls’ a date by drawing an old flame’s business card. Who’s in?”

    “You aren’t serious,” I said laughing so hard I had to make a dash to the restroom. We howled at the idea then started crafting our ‘telephone script’ for the calls. We shared profiles of the guys. Told stories of the relationship. We were having so much fun, we didn’t go to a club that night. We ordered pizza and wrote ‘cold call scripts.’

    One week later, when the exes had the kids for the night, we met around my kitchen table and ceremoniously dropped about 15 cards into one of the kid’s old fish bowls–placed the phone next to the bowl and toasted saying, “Let the contest begin.”

    I drew the first card, a guy named Ben whom Christine had dated and left on friendly terms. When he answered, I cleared my throat and said in the strongest, most playful voice I could find, “Hello, Ben, you don’t know me, but I got your number on the bathroom wall at Andy’s Jazz Club on Hubbard Street. I’d like to invite you for a beer there next Friday.”

    Half laughing and with hesitation he answered, “You what? Did Diane put you up to this? You have to be kidding, MY name on a woman’s bathroom wall?”

    I was trembling with fright, fighting back giggles, worried that I’d freeze or breakdown and tell him the joke. Both women had to leave the room–they were doubled over in laughter in the other room.

    When I heard him say….”Okay, let’s meet next Friday at Andy’s. How will I know you?

    “I’ll be the one at the far end of the bar, next to the window, a red rose in the Bud Light bottle,” I said. And hung up.

    # # #

    Never did like leaving anything to chance so I arrived at Andy’s a good 30 minutes ahead of the 5:00 pm meet-up; ordered a Bud Light and a glass; poured the beer in the glass; put the red rose in the empty bottle and waited. Then waited some more, asking myself, “Have I gone too far?”

    Finally, a rather handsome guy, nice face, friendly smile, walked in the door, walked to the long end of the bar and circled back to the stool next to me and sat down.

    “I’m Ben,” he said. “Tell me again how you got my number.”

    • says

      okay, I guess I can wait! by the way, in the future. If you click on reply under the comment you are replying to it will appear in one thread…this started a new section….where a new story would normally go. can’t wait to read the next installment.

  8. Carla Hines says

    A time I went too far

    I don’t remember his face or his name. I only remember that he was my ticket out of the tin can house and away from Fallon, Nevada.

    I don’t remember if he was a sailor from the base or he’d come scouting girls at the Nazarene church. He might have been a hired hand at the ranch out in the Sheckler district where I found myself sprawled in the dirt, kissing him under the night sky.

    We decided to run away.

    I was 14 years old when I threw my suitcase out the bedroom window and followed it into his arms. We snuck up the embankment and into the get-away car waiting on the dark Old Schurz Highway. Our accomplices, two sailors, gunned the engine and we were off. Nobody heard a thing.

    An hour later we stashed the suitcase in a locker at the greyhound bus station in Reno and grabbed a dry tasteless burger for the road. I don’t remember eating anything else, but we probably grabbed candy bars and Cheetos along the way. I remember a couple across the aisle asking us if we were married. We said yes, but I knew they knew we were lying.

    We necked in the back of the bus for three days and finally arrived at our destination…his mother’s doorstep in Worcester, Massachusetts!
    Her son was 18 and had just transported me (a minor) across a whole lot of state lines!

    I don’t remember how I got home, exactly, but I do remember being told in no uncertain terms I needed to call my Dad.

    When I arrived back on the doorstep of the tin can house, I was shocked to see my mother again. Her hair had turned completely white while I was away!

    This time I’d really gone too far!

    • says

      Carla, as the mother of a teenage girl, this story had me on the edge of my seat. I think my hair would have turned white, too! You told a gripping story in a short space and I was right there with you. I love the way you just jumped right into the heart of the action and never let me go. What a ride! Welcome to the Roadmap blog and I hope you come back as a regular. It will be great to see your voice here each week!

    • Talia says

      Carla, I think we all wanted to run away at 14….but you really did it!! Wow. Your story was totally enthralling. I’m left wondering if sailor boy was disciplined by JAG or some other authorities!! Really fun story.

    • Polly says

      This story was fun, action-packed, and entertaining! I have to agree wholeheartedly with Laura’s comment too as I constantly worry about my adolescent niece and would completely lose my mind if she did what you did. Regardless, thank you for posting this!

      • Judy E. Brady says

        That’s the ‘stuff’ films are made of! Wow, what a story Carla; glad you got home safe and sound–and, please keep writing.

    • Kathleen Kesson says

      I love the stories of the Tin Can House that you have shared with me, and you know I hope you’ll keep writing them. This is wonderfully sparse and succinct – tells so much story with such an economy of words. And what an ending! Perfect evidence for “having gone a bit too far!” Post MORE about that Tin Can House – I’ll be waiting.

      • says

        Hi Kathleen, welcome to the Roadmap blog and I hope that you keep coming back. It will be wonderful to have you as a part of our online community. I’ll be looking for your posts.

  9. PJ says

    I have a high risk brain tumor and lots of thoughts, doubts new ideas, bad ideas and “what if” scenarios go thru your hear all the time. While I have been appreciative of the mostly good news I had been getting from my medical team about MRI’s and lack of side effects, an already high friction had been building up in my relationship with my significant other and this extra stress was taking it’s toll. I had formed a relationship of mutual support with a lady who had been battling addiction over the past several years in addition to other issues she has battled. My mother had fought and won similar battles and thought I could support her in some way since her story had a good outcome. When she related some trouble of her own relationship with her spouse, I had fantacized that.

    Even though I’m 20 years older, and near death’s doorstep or at least within the last two years of my life and have virtually no substanial connections to her, I thought if my relationship with her could become close if her spouse and my significant other become detractors, then there could be a good third relationship come out of 2 poor ones if both existing relationships died. I tricked my better judgement into thinking like this even if there was just one in a million chance that it could come true. I felt somewhat justified and emboldened to talk about this since I had given up on an improved relationship of my own and didn’t feel I was driving a wedge in either of the relationships.

    We talked about this a little bit and took heed at her suggestion- keep at her to see a counselor w/ you. I had given up at two attempts to do this and lo and behold, the third request worked.

    I let my friend know how I felt and thought about my thoughts and while they were honest and not requesting she consider pursuing them, I think that her asking me to give her “more space” was a nice way of saying “you went too far”.

    • Talia says

      Dear PJ,
      Oh my heart went out to you – I so know that feeling when you make a faux pas. And now you can’t take it back.

      I hope you can find a support group for your medical condition; that could really help you during this health challenge that you are grappling with. I wish you health and healing.

    • PJ says

      Breaking the Silence and Taboo

      While at the same company where I was silent about my progress on the project to be unveiled in Detroit about 8 years later, I felt compelled to break the silence and speak the thought that was on everyone’s mind making the Project manager look bad. Loose my job- didn’t care; get a poor review;- didn’t care; the PM had crossed the line and needed to be set straight and know that WE KNEW that he was trying to sell us some more “BS” that we weren’t going to buy anymore.

      Instead of sitting there and apparently buying into his lame BS, I spoke up as he broke into the “good news” he was sharing:

      “I’ve got some great news- the XYZ company liked our performance on these last three improvements we did for them and they will give us more jobs like these” said the PM. Without letting him say another word I jumped in and said “We don’t WANT any more of these jobs with the impossible deadlines, while they are slow getting us answers and fickle in their responses.” Most of my fellow engineers were still in the “I need this job mode” to carry me out of the meeting on their shoulders but I could see the appreciation for calling a spade a spade.

      Not only had this PM gotten it wrong, he was trying to turn the world upside down, turning yes’s into no’s and no’s into yes’s perverting. It was inferred by silence that we would buy into his crazy notion if we didn’t stop right there and let him know he had it all wrong. I had pulled the rug out from under him and the meeting was over w/o any buy in from us. It was worth the risk. No repercussions had resulted to me there (directly anyway).

      • beverly Boyd says

        It took a lot of guts to speak up knowing what was at stake. I’m glad the outcome was so positive and you did not lose your job. I have a feeling that even if you had you could have held your head up high knowning you did the right thing.

  10. OHL says

    Too far, too much; those used to be my fears of where I would go and how I would be. It’s not rare that I’m too loud, too excited, or too fast for the people around me. Being appropriate and fitting in are not my vices. My laugh startles people. My socks are often bright and mismatched. Those in my life have accused me of being so far ‘out there’ because I don’t care what people think, or because I want to make people uncomfortable. The truth is, I fear that I’m not enough, so I tend to overdo things that could probably be simpler. I’m usually the one who’s uncomfortable, and I figure if I’m not going to be like others, I might as well do what feels good. Such as laughing when my disjointed sense of humor gets triggered, and wearing the socks that feel best.

    Then there are the times I’ve gone far enough. Leaving New York for a semester in China was farther than I needed to go to find myself in a context far from my childhood. I’d argue I lost myself. Ten years of re-finding myself after that drastic move, I moved three thousand miles away from a lover, only to find it wasn’t far enough to stop holding on to the old love. Then I tried 5,000 miles. English spoken with funny accents, cars on the other side of the road, and the promise of a life without his tugging at my heart strings felt like I had gone far enough. But home always calls, and there must have been a threshold somewhere crossing the ocean, because as I soon as I got a little closer to California again, I couldn’t deny it. So I know how far I can go and how loudly I can laugh. And these days I usually choose to go a little closer, a little softer, instead of a little farther.

    • says

      Dear OHL, Welcome to the Roadmap blog. I love the way you played with distance–closer and further in your piece. I’m firm believer in the saying, “Wherever you go, there you are.” No matter how far we travel and how far we try to flee, we carry our inner world with us. We just can’t escape. Not really.

    • Talia says

      Beautifully elegant. Thank you for the picture of yourself. It reminded me of a college pal who used to wear the most outrageous colorful jackets. Like you he moved across the sea. I have not heard of him for years, but will think gratefully of the friendship we had.

      Please know you are very precious; thank you for sharing the treasure of yourself.

  11. Elissa says

    When I arrived in my new town, 15 years ago, I was overwhelmed by suburban life. I was used to the big city and had lived there over 10 years. I had a new baby, wanted to connect with others, find my way, make some good friends. It did not happen as quickly as I hoped. I felt like an outsider, struggling with being a new mom, should I work, not work? I loved my career, but loved my baby, too. During my new months of living there, I hard such a hard time fitting in. This was a new experience for me. Even though I was never the center of attention anywhere, I always had good friends, and still have friends from all parts of my life today. I was stunned by the conversations people had…. they congratulated each other on country club memberships (I didn’t even know that was something that was congratulatory), discussed what cars to buy…porsche or bmw, and discussed home decorating ad nauseum. None of these things are bad, just not my thing. I joined a gym class with my baby and began being invited to play groups with many of these women. I went, telling myself it was my job to socialize my child. I sat there miserably; talking to myself…we made a huge mistake. Should have stayed in the city, I don’t fit in here, there is something wrong with me. I am a terrible mother. I really began to struggle when the women began talking about each other behind their back…judging who left their kid with a sitter, who used organic baby food, whose marriage was in trouble.

    Over time, I found my way back to my true self and stopped beating myself up or spending time with this group. I began to work more, my kid grew, I had a few more and became immersed in family life and work. I continued to be invited to events and celebrations from this group and always felt bad when I was with them, so decided I needed to really pull away and find others that are more like me. I kindly, respectfully, stopped being available for play dates and Sat nights with husbands. It was a very conscious decision on my part to surround myself with only those I feel authentic with.

    So, now, many years later, I find I have a handful of dear friends, some from work, some from childhood and college and a few in my town. Sometimes I am lonely in my town and wish I had more friends here. I see many photos on facebook with this group still friends after all these years. I wonder, did I go to far in pushing back against a group that I felt so different from? Is it me who is the judgmental one? When I pulled away, our kids became less friendly. Did I go to far by not maintaining those friendships for my kids…. although my children all have plenty of terrific, wonderful friends that they have made themselves. Had I stayed in these relationships, I think I would have gone too far from myself. I would have lost the person I had finally learned to love, so in the end, I guess I didn’t go to far.

    Although we have created a wonderful life for our children in this town, I know for a fact that we have gone too far from our beloved city, even though it is only an hour, we live in a different solar system. In that realm I know I have indeed gone to far….and someday I look forward to going back.

    • says

      Elissa, you raise such important issues and present us so clearly with a challenging dilemma. You chose being true to yourself–I hardly think you could go wrong there. But I understand the part of you that is still wondering…

      • Judy E. Brady says

        Elissa, Hooked immediately on your co-themes: urban/suburban and creating/departing friendships. Your writing is clear and easy on a complex topic. Your grace in leaving the ‘group’ and finding a place for both your children and yourself was inspirational. Thank you for this post.

        • Elissa says

          Thanks Laura, and thanks for this wonderful online community. It is the perfect addition to my writing practice. I feel I can be braver in this space.

  12. Ilana says

    Fighting The Losing Battle and Taking it Too Far

    I’m not sure when I realized it was a lost cause. Very early on, that’s for sure. I decided at the beginning of this whole business that although my efforts would come to nothing I was going to see it through to the bitter end. I had my ideals and though it was clear that 75% of the congregation disagreed with me I was going to make my feelings known.

    When our temple opened in 1967 our founding rabbi had insisted that we have Shabbat school on Shabbat. Apparently it had been an issue for years. Many parents had wanted their children to participate in secular programming on Saturdays (soccer, lacrosse etc.) and tried to change Shabbat school to Sunday school. Now, with many other changes underway this issue was finally on the table. Richard Jacobson, the director of our religious school, tried to tell us that the decision was not carved in stone. “We have to offer a Sunday option but if enough people want Saturdays we’ll try to make that an option as well.” Richard set up a task force, for which I volunteered. We met once, then there were two “town hall meetings” to which the entire congregation was invited and then the task force met one more time to agree on our recommendations to the board.

    I like Richard. He is a wonderfully positive, energetic and kind man, fantastic with children. Mine, for instance, adore him. His daughter is in my son’s class and we have had many a play date. Both Richard and his wife, Lisa, are such lovely people that I actually enjoy the kids’ birthday parties because I get to chat with them. At the first task force meeting several people went on about why we should not offer a Saturday option at all. I’ll never forget how the other parent member of the task force made her feelings clear. “Religious school should be on Sunday. I’ve been pounding on tables about this for years!” It was an agonizing meeting but I pushed myself and stood up for my beliefs. We’re Jews. Shabbat is on Saturday. Though I was in the minority, I was given my time to speak. As I was leaving he caught me by the sleeve. “Ilana, I don’t want you to walk out of here thinking that the Saturday option is off the table.” I smiled but answered him honestly. “Thank you, Richard but that is how I walked in.” It was a lost cause but I intended to cast my vote regardless.

    The whole thing has been an incredibly emotional and difficult process. Richard told me, at the first town hall meeting that “Task force doesn’t talk too much at these meetings. We’re really more here to listen.” I could live with that. But then SHE came in. At this point I need to back track and tell you about HER. Six or eight months ago, my amazing therapist, who I have been working with on and off for almost 15 years, warned me that her son and daughter-in-law were going to join my congregation. I wasn’t thrilled at the prospect but what were the chances we’d actually bump into each other? Then three weeks ago I was sitting in the adult Torah study when a new person came in with her pre-schooler in tow. My son and another little boy were playing quietly in the corner and I assumed this little boy would join them. He did not. Instead he interrupted the rabbi seven times. His mother smiled and handed him her purse. He proceeded to cover his face in her lipstick. “And that’s 14 hour lipstick.” She announced with a ‘what can I do?’ shrug. Her comments on the parasha (piece of scripture) we were studying were self important and argumentative. From different things she said I slowly figured out that this horrible woman was, indeed, the aforementioned daughter-in-law. This obnoxious little boy was my therapist’s grandson. I became so uncomfortable that it was physically painful. Back to the town hall meeting. SHE came in, spotted a familiar face and smiling, sat down right next to me, even putting her hand on my chair.

    It was another agonizing meeting. To make things worse, when given the chance to speak SHE stood up and explained why we need to do away with the adult programming as well. “The parents must be in the classrooms with the children. The things they have for the parents aren’t that good anyway. That thing I went to was okay and I might go again, if there was enough food provided to keep my son quiet.” I was again, horrified but because of her last name, and the fact that I had already been told not to speak, I did not say a word. Richard sent out an e-mail thanking the parents who came to the town hall meeting and carbon copied the task force. SHE replied all outlining her plan for pulling the parents into the classrooms. “Besides.” SHE said, again. “The adult programming isn’t worth it. I went to the adult Torah study and it was okay but not really great.” I did not respond but deleted the e-mail wishing I had not read it.

    At the second town hall meeting she repeated herself yet again. This time she stood up and passionately denounced the adult programming as “Just boring anyway!” This time I could hold my tongue no longer. When given a chance to speak I stood up and said, “I don’t think getting rid of the adult programming is the answer. I love the lay lead minyan. I love the adult Torah study. My children need to go to their programming and see me go to mine. They are inspired by seeing me study from the same Torah they are learning about. And once in a great while they are taken out of Shabbat school long enough to see me participate in the minyan. They are proud of me and inspired to study so they can one day do the same.” I said my piece and the meeting was over. Trembling with rage I made my way to the parking lot. I spotted the rabbi and begged him to be at the last task force meeting.

    He was in a rush. I should never have stopped him like that. Rethinking the whole thing I e-mailed an apology to him and explained what SHE had said. He assured me that I had nothing to apologize for and requested permission to forward me e-mail to the board. I said he could. But it was silly, really. I knew that the adult programming wasn’t in any danger. This was about Saturday vs. Sunday. I was just so emotional about the Saturday/Sunday issue and HER being such an obnoxious person on top of her relationship to my wonderful therapist, it was all just too much for me. Looking back on the whole thing left me feeling supremely embarrassed at my own behavior.

    That meeting was on a Sunday. The following Wednesday I dropped my son off at preschool and had to check in at the temple’s main office for something unconnected. Richard saw me in the hall. “Ilana, if you’ve got a minute I’d like to chat with you when you’re done. Do you mind stopping by my office?” Can you hear the horror film doom music playing? I knew what this was about but I smiled and said I’d be right in. I came into his office and sat down. “The rabbi sent me your e-mail and I wanted to make sure you knew, putting an end to the adult Torah study is not something we are considering. “I know.” I said sheepishly and here, the years of being comfortable and feeling safe with this man came to my aid. “Honestly, Richard. I think I acted inappropriately on Sunday. The thing is I was very upset and I let it get the better of me. I’m sorry.” He nodded his head. “Don’t worry about it. It was just an emotional reaction.” But I felt I had to explain myself. “The truth is I am already very uncomfortable with HER for reasons I don’t want to share with you.” He gave me a genial nod. “I understand.” No, he didn’t. “Actually, Richard, that sounds worse than it is. If you promise me this will go no further than this room..?” Another kind nod. “Of course not.” So I went on and told him the bare bones truth. “Her mother-in-law is my therapist of nearly 15 years. I’m in a very difficult position.” I said. “No kidding.” Was his empathetic response. “On top of that I am so upset about this Saturday/Sunday thing so that by the time she had suggested we do away with the adult programming for a third time I just lost it. I’m sorry.” At this point he gave me a kind smile. “Please, Ilana. Don’t give it another thought.” He paused. “Knowing you, you’ll probably worry about it, though.” But I disagreed. “The only people I am worried about offending, Richard are in this room.” It was just him and me. “So if you’re telling me not to worry then I won’t.” He smiled again. “I’m glad to hear that, Ilana.”

    So that’s the end of the story of my going too far with the fight that didn’t need to be fought. As for the losing battle I was originally intending to fight..? Well, we had our final task force meeting last Thursday. It was just as agonizing as the previous three meetings. The rabbi had gone over to the other side and was explaining all the reasons why Sunday was actually a better day for religious school to meet. It was decided that our recommendation to the board would include a Sunday only option unless a certain number of people registered for Saturday by a specific date. This programming will be taught with multi-age classes and be very different from anything we’ve ever known. Sunday classes will be as they always have been, except that there will be no celebration of Shabbat. In addition we will propose a plan to ensure the ‘critical mass’ in the Saturday class. We would exact an extremely high penalty fee from anyone who decided to change to Sunday after they’d registered for Saturday. This idea was suggested by the parent who had been “banging on tables for years” about the need to change to Sunday. When asked if it she thought that would work, her response was, “Of course it will. We’re Jews. We won’t want to pay that.” If flames could actually come out of my ears they would have. I hate nothing more than Jews making anti-Semitic money grubbing Jew jokes. But I knew that responding would accomplish nothing. I’d fought for Saturdays loudly and stubbornly. Emotions were running so high. Besides, she had already won the battle and the entire war for that matter. I set my teeth and didn’t say a word.

    The board will vote tomorrow night but it doesn’t really matter what they decide. As hard as I fought for the Saturday option, the way it will work, even if we have one, is just not what I want. The multi-age class runs the risk of my children being in the same class as HERS. So regardless of what they decide I plan register my children to go to religious school on Sunday. I will wave that white flag of surrender but I will do it with my head held high. I made my decision and I saw it through to the bitter end.

    • Polly says

      Ilana it’s evident (as always) that you have so much integrity. Thanks for sharing this story. Speaking for myself, I can definitely say that I tend to often think that I have gone too far, and generally it turns out that people haven’t even noticed it or certainly haven’t taken it that way. Meanwhile I torture myself only to find out that no one else even blinked. What I got from this is that you didn’t actually do anything wrong. You took a stand and you spoke your mind, while facing the possible scrutiny of a community that you care about. I’m impressed! I think that takes guts.

        • Judy E. Brady says

          Ilana, sounds like you set an example for your children, showing real bravery to speak your truth. That is nothing but stellar in my book. Thanks for sharing your story–who knows at some point in the future others might see your point of view, change the program and thank you in the end.

    • Ilana says

      Thank you both. Writing this gave me clearity and strength. I talked to Richard this morning. It felt wrong to me to have fought so hard for Saturday and then decide to register my children for Sunday. It was clear from our discussions that setting up a Saturday option was going to quadruple his work load so I decided to tell him personally. He was very understanding and appreciative that I made the effort to tell him. He wanted to know why I had changed my mind and I said that the way the Saturday option was looking didn’t work for me. In addition, because I had told him the truth about HER I was able to be honest that the multi-aged classroom ran the risk of our children being in the same class. Contact with HER is so extremely uncomfortable for me that I couldn’t take that risk. Again, he was very understanding. Now it really is over. Whew! IM

    • Terry Gibson says

      Ilana, I’ve got to say that I don’t think you went too far. As far as I’m concerned, you went right where you needed to. Also, your integrity and tenacity are stellar. Your kids are proud of you, even if they are too young to fully understand your passionate fight and all it is about. If anyone went too far, it was that woman who joined an already-established community and tried to diminish everybody else’s practices and needs. Good one, sister, who is rumoured to be younger than I–something I won’t confirm or deny. :)

      • Ilana says

        You ARE awesome, my sister, that’s for sure. Age is just a number. Besides, I have adopted Zander’s cousin as my “big brother who is younger than me.” He calls me his “little sister” though he was born a year and a half after I was. :)

  13. Polly says

    No one in my family knows (or if they do, they haven’t said a word) about what my oldest brother did to me. I only clued in last fall. I’m almost 33.

    My sister sent me a text last night that said something like, “Call me when you have 5 minutes to talk.” I phoned her right away, because when you get a text like that, it sounds kind of important. She wanted to know more about a project I’ve been working on, initially. When that was through, she started filling me in on all the latest family gossip. About half an hour in, she said “[our oldest brother] is very suicidal right now. He’s been diagnosed with severe depression. He’s going on EI disability. I’m scared he might die.”

    “Oh. Really?” Beat.

    “Polly this is scary.”

    “Yeah. Weird. Hmm.” I am not able to act like I care in the least. Not able to pretend that it matters.

    “I’m really surprised by your reaction! I’m scared and sad and upset.”

    “Sorry I just don’t know what to say. That’s … um, that’s too bad. I’m sorry.” Part of me wants to yell that he did things to me when I was little, that he might have done those things to her too, and that because of his actions I will never care what becomes of him. Instead I change the subject and then get off the phone a few minutes later. Such is the limbo you exist in before you tell.

    My wife is in the room and wants to know what that part of the conversation was about, so I tell her nonchalantly. Then I tell her that I don’t know how to pretend to be interested in whether he decides to live or die. I tell her that I do not care. I don’t. I don’t care.

    Mere minutes pass and as I’m talking, I move from virtual apathy to intense anger. “I don’t care” becomes “I hope he does!” “The world would be rid of another pedophile if he just decided to die. I’ve been wanting to hurt myself and I hope he hurts himself!” At this point I’m crying, punching the couch that I’m sitting on, wanting to find any object to throw against the wall – preferably something breakable.

    None of this paints me in a flattering light and this type of attitude is so uncharacteristic of me. I never, ever wish death on anyone. I’m used to convincing people to live and have been doing so since I was far too young to be in that position. And I don’t actually wish death on him – that would be too far. I just know that what he did is unforgivable and I was already thinking of him in the past tense, because it’s easier that way, because he doesn’t exist for me anymore.

    • says

      Polly, considering what you’ve gone through and where you are in the healing process, it’s natural that your rage at your brother would be expressed this way. You shared it appropriately in a safe place with your partner. Thanks for taking the risk to share this story here with us.

        • Judy E. Brady says

          Polly, it took great courage to share this story of pain with such human, honest, deeply felt feelings. The Chinese have a practice called “Internal Smile” which I find wonderfully comforting in times of struggle. If you can’t find it on Google, let me know and I’ll post the link. This is a safe place and thank you for sharing.

          • Polly says

            Thanks Judy! That’s so nice to hear. I did a quick google search earlier and saw that that concept at least partly has to do with taoism, which I find interesting. I did some light reading on that many years ago. Anyway, your words mean a lot, so thank you.

    • Ilana says

      Oh Polly! Please do not judge yourself. There is nothing about your reaction that paints you in an “unflattering light”. It only shows that you are as real and human as I am. I truly appreciate your sharing honestly with us. I agree wholeheartedly with your statement “Such is the limbo you exist in before you tell.” It rings so true for me. It puts us in such a difficult position. You are a survivor, in every sense of the word, and your survival is far more important than the “right or wrongness” of your feelings as others may judge you. I have spiraled through all of the feelings you describe and more, in the years since I had my flashbacks and eventual realization of what Andrew did to me. His mental health was always used as a weapon to keep me quiet or excuse his behavior. My father, during the time of the abuse straight through to the present, has always said, “Andrew is just fucked up.” It’s a bear with him, kind of attitude. I wish you strength and hope you will accept your feelings. They are all yourts, they are all right, you are entitled to all of them and you are doing nothing wrong. Take care of yourself, my friend. IM

      • Polly says

        Thank you. I see a lot of parallels between our two stories. I read your comment yesterday when I was out with some friends after work, and almost started crying at this table in the middle of a pub. Would have raised some questions that way. Point being that your words of support and encouragement mean a lot to me.

        My family definitely uses my brother’s mental state as an excuse for his unacceptable behaviour. A few years ago he did some horribly inappropriate things in front of one of my sisters, my wife, and me, while in a drunken stupor. We told some other people in my family about it and we reached a consensus at the time that we could never let him know, because “that information would destroy him.” It’s mind-boggling to me now, having learned some boundaries recently, that even as an adult I let him get away with horrifying things, because I felt the need to protect him. I’m now in a place where I will protect myself. That’s my new choice. I’m slowly learning to be empowered …

        Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    • Terry Gibson says

      Polly, I’m glad you shared this story which felt risky to you. Like Ilana describes, I have revisited feelings like this for quite some time; I still do sometimes. Like you, I tortured myself with thoughts I considered ‘bad’ or ‘unflattering’ and used that as yet another reason to trash and hurt myself. Later I realized, that thinking it doesn’t make it so. For e.g., when I thought about hitting Mom, I was horrified. You’re just like them, I accused. It was a fleeting thought after the worst beating ever, but that didn’t mean I believed in hitting a mother or anyone! My Dad beat her and I felt ill at the thought of it. I’m not a violent person and never will be. It’s not my nature. Just a thought. Please be gentle on yourself. I don’t want more harm to come to you.

      • Polly says

        Thanks Terry. Those are caring and thoughtful things to say … You’re right: a thought is just a thought; as Laura said I think must be a natural reaction given these current circumstances. Logically I know that you all have a truly valid point, and you’re right. It doesn’t change that as a result of that experience I was in a dark cloud all week, but I’m starting to feel like I can come up for air right now. I will be good to myself. You do the same. I so appreciate what you have to say.

        • Terry Gibson says

          Unfortunately, logic doesn’t always overpower emotion, no matter how hard we try to make it that way. I’m glad you’re going to be gentle with yourself. You deserve no less.

  14. Delia says

    Too far…
    Just last week I was thinking about this.
    My feelings tend to go too far sometimes. Last week I had been stuck on two people’s comments.
    About a year ago, during a conversation someone said to me “you know, how you want to be like me?” When I heard the statement I sort of went to shock. In my head I said in a firm voice “no, I do not want to be like you, what gave you that idea? I’m pretty happy with who I am”. However, in the real world in real time I did not say anything. By the time I realized what was said and not said, I felt it was too late to bring up again.
    Last year and several months ago, on two occasions I was being silly and having fun with a couple of friends. Another statement from another person was “wait, I am the only one that can be cute!”. This statement was said twice on two different occasions by the same person. Again I was perplexed. However, my feelings took me a different route on this one. I thought ok then. And so it is.
    It is at this moment that I realize my feelings have gone too far. My self esteem & self confidence were given to someone else. I willingly call back my energy and my power back to me. I want to love, have compassion, enjoy life and be free to be me. I believe I am a good person with good intentions and lessons to be learned.

  15. Sangeeta S. says

    I’ve gone too far with my healing, so to speak. I’ve dedicated the last 10 years to a path that came from nowhere, but is leading me to where I am supposed to be. I did not become the hard-core accomplished woman with three kids and a dog, a mediocre husband and a big fence. I did not end up in the papers or on podiums. Instead, I’ve healed myself. I’ve healed years of abuse and dysfunction. I’ve healed centuries, perhaps millenia of generational violence. I’ve “gone the distance” like you wouldn’t believe–to end up a relatively peaceful, happy person who can now do all the things I perhaps could have done in the past–or Not do them since they are fictitious images of what people are “supposed to do.” If you are a woman or man who has a few people who love you and a decent life, I think you may be happier than the accomplished doctor who is so well-regarded in his community or the politician who basks in the limelight. (How come I didn’t know about this secret)! Well, I know now, and this is only the start. I have a feeling that true life may finally start revealing even more secrets to me- like how to get along with people, not just because you were taught good manners but because you can actually enjoy their company; like how to pave you own destiny because it is the desire that is coming from within yourself as opposed to being “acted upon” by the outside world; or even like how to finally bask in the glory of who you are while you are sitting alone in your living room and noone is watching! hmmm, I wished I had known about all this stuff a little sooner..

    Now, I can dance in the moonlight–and mean it; I can water trees because I like to watch them grow; I can move my car another block because dpt still hasn’t sent me the damn parking renewal permit… (ok some things never change). But really, even having to run out and move my car every two hours has taken on a new significance. The fact that I am no longer “held hostage” by the the intellect of the brilliant city official who unleashed meter readers onto our prized world is an accomplishment! I can understand that the systems that make up our world Were Really Invented to hold us hostage to our own emotions–and keep us in a reeling, constant state of stress–when all you really have to do is move your car every two hours and then go on with your life.

    Ok, enough on that one. hmmm, going too far in my healing has showed me Who I am. Going too far in my healing has demonstrated that taking 10 roads at once is doable and kind of fun. Going too far in my healing is still driving me a bit crazy, but I’m still getting so much out of it that why stop now! I’m learning to balance out the rest of my life though too. After all, a camel can’t just drink water–can they?

    Ahh well, enough with the addiction. Going too far in my healing? I don’t think I have. Stopping, or perhaps just transforming it a bit so that I have other things in my life–maybe..

    I’m not sure what’s next, and I’m hesitating a little, but I’m sure it will come..

    • beverly boyd says

      I’m glad you came around to believing you have not gone too far but including the possibility of more of life. That is where you get to practice what you have learned in that ten years.
      And keep on dancing in the moonlight or whatever else feeds your soul!

  16. Bobbie Anne says

    As an adult child of an alcoholic, I married another adult child of an alcoholic. He drinks and I don’t. I have been there for him and take care of him. I’ve been to AlAnon meetings. I’ve requested a sponsor. Maybe I have gone to far by requesting a sponsor at the first meeting, but in this group they ask for the stories of those who have been sponsored. I kept on going, hoping to find the support I needed. Instead, I wound up leading the beginner’s group-and I was a beginner myself. I think maybe I’ve gone too far in wanting a sponsor…

    No, wait a minute. I have not gone too far. In fact, I have not gone far enough. One thing I’ve learned as a cancer survivor is if I don’t speak up
    for myself, who will? Maybe I need to go farther. I am finding my voice and I still have farther to go.

    • beverly Boyd says

      Bobbie Anne,
      I’m sorry you haven’t been able to find a good sponsor relationship in Alanon. I have a long history in different Twelve Step programs since the mid seventies. I was never able to find a sponsor in Alanon that worked for me , but I credit the wisdom I heard there with helping me not only with the Alcholics in my life, but with my family and co-workers.
      Two of my favorite “go-to” books for years were “One Day at a Time” in OA and Alanon.
      Watch for someone who “has what you want” and ask them to help you “do what they do.”

      • Bobbie Anne says

        Thank you Beverly. I like the book “Hope For Today”. I do hear a lot of things that help with coping with my husband and family. I’m glad you mentioned that. It doesn’t matter if I find a sponsor or not. It matters if I am able to be the best me I can be and live as God intended.

        • beverly Boyd says

          Bobbie Anne
          You’re Welcome! Al-anon is only one of the many paths available to help you “be the best you can be and live as God intended” I know your a growing and changing. What ever works!

    • Terry Gibson says

      I love your spirit here, Bobbie Anne! I can relate too. At one time, I thought I had to get my act together and attended AA a handful of times. Within fifteen minutes of my arrival, with great difficulty, I went in and announced that I needed a sponsor. Nobody knew me and so not a word was spoken; I never did again either. I never got a sponsor so had to rely on myself only. I hadn’t gone far enough and didn’t give up. I hope you find that sponsor! I feel certain there is a caring, nurturing one out there for you. I’m encouraging you all the way.

    • Bobbie Anne says

      Dear Laura,
      I can’t thank you enough for this blog. You are such a wonderful person and your light shines so vibrantly. I appreciate your words of encouragement on this and on my other post. Shine on!
      Bobbie Anne

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