Dear Franklin Jones

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A bit of background for context: You may have read previously, that I was involved with a small cult called C.A.Y.A. Coven (Come as you are coven), for several years. A few years after I left I found out the leader, Jessica Matthews, had fled when confronted with abuse allegations, sexual scandals and accusations of criminal behavior. At first, I rejoiced, believing all of my friends in the group would finally be free, but the fallout had varying results and was not as liberating as I had hoped. Some members tried to resurrect the cult as a productive entity. (Now reinvented as Starflower Coven) True believers flocked with Matthews to help her perpetrate a new fraud in Shasta County, Ca. Some went through the motions of healing, without doing any serious processing or taking accountability for their part in the abuse. Instead, they continued with revamped versions or created their own temples and covens that simply followed Matthews’ templates, choosing to wrap themselves up in the parts that felt good and gave them a sense of being special, while pretending none of her slime permeated their practices. 

Many declared themselves, “over it,” but you don’t just “get over,” years of manipulation, gaslighting, and brainwashing, that easily. You just don’t. Many of the coven members abused other coven members at Matthews’ behest or at least, with her encouragement and clearly enjoyed it. Evidently, those who were ruthlessly bullied are supposed to be okay with that because the bullies were victims too. However, there are many, who know they must continue the hard ongoing work that rebuilding one’s life, self esteem, reclaiming one’s psyche and independent thought requires. This is the hard stuff,  the ugly stuff; the fear and self doubt rearing their ugly heads when you least expect it. This is the awareness that just when you think you’re ok, something will trigger you and down you’ll go, in a spiral of anger, sadness or panic. There are also some former members who have, at risk, been brave enough to continue to tell the truth about Matthews. This is helpful in healing and processing what happened, but also carries the hope of raising awareness and protecting others.

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I haven’t spoken or written in detail about much of what I experienced, except to my therapist and a few close friends. Some C.A.Y.A. expats have dismissed my experience, “What could she possibly know or be upset about? She wasn’t even clergy” as if no one else could have been harmed but those directly under Matthews’ control. This mostly tells me, they are not doing the work. I simply never became clergy because I resisted training. I was an irritant to Matthews the entire time I was involved because I am a shitty follower. I ask too many questions. I insist on my autonomy. I made excuse after excuse as to why the timing wasn’t right to enter the clergy. I also bit my tongue, and sometimes cried in private, because no one was going to listen to even my most gentle criticisms, and many of those in denial were people I cared about, being gravely harmed. All I could do is watch and encourage any glimmer of independent thought. I stuck around because I cared deeply about many of the members. I saw them as chosen family. Because I was close friends with one of Matthews’ most valuable puppets, I was allowed in. I was present many times in spaces where only clergy was allowed. Matthews, made exceptions in deference to this person, and possibly to keep me, her  perceived enemy closer. As a result, I listened to EVERYTHING and no one seemed to take notice of my fly on the wall status. Revealing things were carelessly said in front of me on numerous occasions, often when Matthews was under the influence of drugs.

The recent loss of a dear friend, a former C.A.Y.A. priest, who I reconnected with shortly before his death, put me back in the midst of many former members also grieving. This was really uncomfortable, but helped me to realize that many of the people I loved and hoped to reconnect with are just lost to me. There is no picking up with the friendship we had before I left the group. There is no calling bullshit on the denial or delusion I’m observing. Even the people I remain friendly with, save for a handful, are distant and I have a hard time trusting anyone or taking them at face value. I keep my address information private. Few people know exactly where I live. From time to time, I receive threats or am slandered by her followers.  This is a thing that won’t die.

Part of my healing is talking and writing about my experience. I think it’s important to support others who have been through the same thing, to encourage awareness and questioning, to warn others who might be susceptible to losing themselves by following a predatory spiritual leader. One of the things I have been doing is researching modern cults, especially the stories of those who have survived them. It’s affirming to see that anyone in a vulnerable place or anyone who is seeking is at risk, no matter how smart they are. I’m resolved to strengthen the skeptic, the questioner, the independent thinker, in myself and others. This research has helped me process what I watched my chosen family endure and what I went through myself.

I recently finished listening to a podcast that came out via Stitcher, about a year ago called, Dear Franklin Jones. It’s not an in depth expose. The entire thing consists of seven twenty minute episodes, so it’s easily digested in an afternoon. It’s not even particularly damning. This is the experience of Jonathan Hirsch, whose parents brought him up in the Adidam cult. During the podcast, he interviews his parents and several Adidam expats and even current members. The group still has spiritual centers in Fiji and in Northern California. Many of the group members lost their homes in the 2014 fires that swept through Lake County, but the compound itself, along with Jones’ former home, which remains unoccupied,  survived. The podcast uses the wonderful music of Ray Lynch as a soundtrack. Lynch did lose his home and recording studio in the Valley Fire and still has an active GoFundMe in place, where you can read the harrowing details of he and his wife’s escape.

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Jonathan Hirsch

Hirsch has a hard time acknowledging that Adidam is actually a cult. During their combined 17 years in the cult, Jonathan and his parents seem to have been blessed by missing out on the more egregious abuses and manipulations that Jones perpetrated on others. The podcast doesn’t have much in the way of mind-blowing revelations, but it did give me a lot of validation and insight. It’s a good listen and not terribly triggering. As someone who survived a similar thing, it was certainly validating. His parents response is not surprising. I think there are still many former members of C.A.Y.A. who are in denial that they were involved in a cult at all, even though almost every box on the dangerous cult list can be checked. The stories must be particularly baffling for those who merely attended C.A.Y.A’s public rituals and never witnessed the machinations and abuse that went on in private.

There are also a few members of the clergy who can’t make sense of the “Rabbit” face they were always presented with and the monster others have now spoken about. In most cases, these people lived at a distance or retained enough of an outside life that they weren’t fully sucked in. Matthews, ran C.A.Y.A. much like, Jones ran Adidam, where only the members closet to Jones were treated as his slaves, receiving the most manipulation and abuse, always disguised as spiritual lessons. Those who resisted were mocked as, “spiritually immature.” I cringed reading some of the more graphic accounts from those who left Adidam.

Adidam follows the spiritual “teachings” of Franklin Albert Jones AKA Adi Da Samraj which was founded in the early 70’s and has continued after the death of Jones in 2008. Membership has remained small, but constant at about 1,000 followers. (Jones and Adidam rotated through many different names over the years) Followers devote themselves to Adi Da as their guru, a minimum of 10% of their income went to Adidam, most of which supported buying property and supporting Jones / Adi Da. Jones told members what to do, what to think, what to read, when to sleep, who to marry or divorce, and who to have sex with. In the 1980’s scandals hit the news when those who had left the group made complaints of having been raped and coerced into sexual acts. This included minors who were given massive quantities of alcohol, forced to strip in front of adults and have sex with Jones. Somehow, he managed to survive all this and some victims stories were refuted as willingly going along with being humiliated or sexual acts to learn important lessons.  

Many components of what I’ve read about abuse at Adidam, resonates with accounts from former C.A.Y.A. clergy and with things I personally witnessed. Of course Adi Da had a larger influence, private property, and operated during a more permissive time when he was able to get away with misogynistic sexual abuse. What Matthews did was on a much smaller, more intimate scale, but the tactics were still the same; break down autonomy, demand total loyalty and devotion,  and control every aspect of her followers lives. If clergy weren’t willing to jump to do everything she demanded, she questioned their commitment or whether they deserved their position.  Like Da, she had followers paying for things out of pocket that they shouldn’t have, and waiting on her hand and foot. She coerced them into sex, manipulated their relationships and broke up their marriages. She taunted recovering addicts with alcohol. She was derisive of therapy and medication when it came to followers with mental health issues. Working with her should be enough medicine. She was constantly “teaching lessons” through demands or criticism.

The similarities are plentiful. Anyone who left C.A.Y.A. or was pushed out, was essentially shunned. This sometimes resulted in loss of income, as many member businesses were supported by other members. Some people were afraid to break things off with the group because they were also Matthews’ employees. The same thing happened in Adidam. When Hirsch’s parents, who at one point were Jones’ personal acupuncturists, left the group, their business declined dramatically. Others besides myself were afraid to leave because it was made clear, we would lose all of our friends.

Jones, Matthews, and other white people who are inclined to self invention, like to crown themselves with a healthy dollop of spiritual and cultural appropriation for mystical cred. Jones gave himself the title Adi (primordial source) Da (the giver) Samraj  (divine king). Matthews gave herself the holy title, “Yeshe.” Yeshe is a title denoting, wisdom. It is earned. One does not give it to oneself. Can you imagine, the Dali Lama, declaring that everyone call him, “his Holiness?” No, that is a title bestowed upon him with the position. She even decided to co opt Catholic titles at one point by insisting followers in one of C.A.Y.A’s many sub sects, refer to her as, Reverend Mother Matthews.

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Franklin Albert Jones reinvents himself as: Adi Da Samraj, among other things

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Jessica “Rabbit” Matthews reinvents herself, among other things, as Yeshe Rabbit Matthews, a reincarnation of Yeshe Tsogyal and hubby, Albert becomes her, “sacred consort.”

“The true guru will never humiliate you, nor will he estrange you from yourself. He will constantly bring you back to the fact of your inherent perfection and encourage you to seek within. He knows you need nothing, not even him, and is never tired of reminding you. But the self-appointed guru is more concerned with himself than with his disciples.” –Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

“Beware of gurus, especially, self appointed gurus,” is indelibly marked in my soul. Devoting oneself to a guru usually comes with the goal of stripping the ego, the obsession with self, and worldliness. In general this seems a worthy goal. But the self appointed guru, under the guise of helping one become self aware, compassionate, and connected, often strips independent thought and keeps you from working your own shit out while you glorify them through their so called, teachings. I may listen to a spiritual teacher, but everything filters through my personal bullshit meter now. I pull out things of value and dismiss the rest. Ask yourself, why do I need this person telling me how to live and what to think? Why am I afraid to do this for myself?

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The Mountain of Attention Sanctuary

In the podcast, Hirsch talks about meeting Jones, at 14 for the first time, at The Mountain of Attention, in Lake County, Ca. It was winter and starting to snow. He stood in a long line outside for hours, clutching a flower offering, shivering with cold. Finally, he is ushered into a warm room to stand before the guru, briefly. Adi Da says nothing to hm, only stares. Then Hirsch is quickly moved out. The experience caused him to burst into tears afterwards. This is a common reaction of many followers, especially after spending hours waiting, meditating and chanting. The chants at Adidam also incorporated the many names of Jones to help members fixate. When one is sleep deprived, practicing repetition with no breaks for food, water or relief, the natural reaction as soon as one is removed from the environment is strong emotion. 

This reminds me very much of my experience with Amma, the hugging guru. Amma spends hours and hours on a dais hugging a long line of followers. She doesn’t seem to take any breaks. Of course, the implication is that being holy, she can go without food, water, or peeing. I found myself wondering, blasphemously, if she wore a diaper during these events. She is definitely in a zone.  There were so many people. My friend and I arrived in the early afternoon on one day and did not reach Amma until around 7am the second day. Meanwhile, we waited in crowded rooms where people sweated, chanted, and sang continuously. I have chronic health conditions, bad joints and spinal problems. By the time I got my hug, I could barely move. I was in extreme pain, light headed, exhausted and pretty out of it. I was told I could ask Amma for a special mantra and I asked for a Durga mantra. The mantra did not come from Amma. It wasn’t special for me as implied. It was a generic Durga mantra zeroxed and cut, handed to me perfunctorily by one of her assistants, after rifling through a small file box before I “met” Amma. 

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Amma

The whole thing, crawling across a stage as instructed, on broken knees, being handed my mantra, being crushed into Amma, then ushered off, took maybe three minutes at most. Afterwards I was invited into a group to discuss making Amma my official guru, it felt a lot like being asked to accept Jesus as my lord and savior in Sunday school. I was given instruction on how to use my mantra. I was instructed not to share my mantra with anyone, perhaps, so that we wouldn’t compare notes and discover we all got the same thing? Dedication was stressed heavily. I was encouraged to continue regular study at the ashram. I left on a frazzled high. When I got home and caught up on some sleep, I realized how susceptible the environment had made me to the idea that I had had some rare spiritual experience. I’m still glad I did it, and I retain a lot of positive thoughts about Amma’s organization and the work they do.  I can incorporate some of her teachings into my own practice, but I don’t think Amma is any holier than I am. I see no reason to follow her or pray to her. I suspect it is this critical thought that kept me resistant to following Matthews blindly.

Matthews was fascinated with mind control and how cults operated. She was a huge fan of how cults like, Scientology, mind-fuck their followers. Jones studied Scientology for a while as well. I wonder if Jones was one of the cult leaders she studied. I’m sure she would have admired his knack for getting members to buy land for spiritual centers. She would often talk about, “when we get the land.” This was a dream she had, to have a coven community on private land. Somehow, she never quite made that happen. She would consistently align herself with other pagan leaders for prestige and legitimacy. She has been on a perpetual search for that cash cow who will give her what she wants, but, blessedly, she hasn’t landed the big whale yet. I think by establishing herself a new temple, and retail store, with a crowd of naive, but rabid followers in Shasta County, she hopes to establish a nonprofit and get enough people to believe she is a goddess incarnate to buy or donate land where she can live out her matriarchal society fantasies. It’s concerning. Because, once this happens, it will be even harder for those around her to get a reality check. They will be beholden to her not just for work, but for their home.

 

Left: Jones posing as a deep thinker on the cover of one of his many books stuffed with philosophical nonsense. Right: Matthews posing like a wise teacher, has not yet managed to produce a book. She’s talked about it. She’s subjected many to terrible samples of it. But, it hasn’t happened, yet.

 

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The podcast got me thinking and remembering. There are a number of lessons to be taken from it:

One of the reasons it can be so hard to sound the alarm bells is that not everyone has the same experience. For everyone who observes or is victimized by bizarre behavior, and abuse, there may be a dozen who find this incomprehensible because they haven’t witnessed it, and feel they are benefiting from something wonderful.

Something detrimental can start out as a really good thing, a valuable tool and experience, yet ultimately become corrupted and damaging.

Allowing anything to consume one’s’ entire life is dangerous.

Denial is a powerful thing.

Being a seeker, puts one at risk. When one seeks spiritual enlightenment to fill some hole or repair a wound in onerself, they run a high risk of falling under the influence of someone unscrupulous.

People who are emotionally vulnerable, abused as children, or having had emotionally unavailable parents or partners, those longing for love and acceptance, are especially vulnerable.

People naturally want to fit in and be part of a community. This is one of the things that       makes a cult feel so appealing. It’s why cults love to use the term, “spiritual community.” How could a community possibly be a cult? Even though the term community is stressed, everything is centered on the leader.

It’s easy to produce the sense of a religious experience and even convince people they have seen supernatural events when you put them in extreme conditions: an excited crowd, an uncomfortable or harsh environment, long hours of chanting, sitting or standing, etc.

Having a guru isn’t necessarily harmful. Not all gurus are cult leaders. And, not everyone has a bad experience in a cult. However, I’m going to stick with mentors and teachers who I see as no more holy than myself. I will keep questioning. Anyone who claims only they are able to prescribe what I can do to become more enlightened or holy, is automatically suspect. And if someone gives themselves an auspicious or culturally appropriating title, I will not be able to take them seriously.

I’m going to keep my skeptic hat on. If you are a spiritual leader, you must earn my trust.

Dear Franklin Jones can be found on most podcast platforms or on the show’s website

La de da, Adi Da.

More reading on Franklin Jones and Adidam:

 

The Adi Da Archives

Adi Da and His Voracious, Abusive Personality Cult

The Cult Education Institute’s collection of accounts involving Jones

Details of the sex scandals in the 80’s

The Strange Case of Franklin Jones

I grew up in a hippie cult run by a creepy sex guru

A list and explanation of all of the names Franklin Jones used over the years

An Analysis by cult buster, David Christopher Lane, PhD 

About Yeshe Rabbit Matthews: Causes For Concern

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Thoughts on Loneliness

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I’m not lonely. I just feel lonely in this moment.

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Why are we humans so afraid of being alone?
Why do we perceive loneliness as an undesirable thing?
Why is the act of taking or being given a moment of solitude where our hands, eyes, mouth, mind and heart aren’t busy so disconcerting?
Why is an uncomfortable feeling automatically viewed as negative or detrimental by so many of us?

Loneliness in the moment is a good thing. A moment passes.
The loneliness reminds us of our desires, our needs.
It allows us to feel grateful for moments that are shared, moments that are full.
It guides us, gives us perspective.
Loneliness is contemplation.
Loneliness has been the fuel for periods of productivity, personal growth and great art.
When loneliness is shared through art, we all can identify with it because loneliness is a universally shared feeling. Experiencing loneliness is a big part of what it is to be human. It drives our desire to reach out.

Loneliness is what we choose make of it. We can embrace it and put it to good use or we can spiral down into it until we are lost!

I recently saw an article that conflated the correlation between loneliness and shorter life span to not having a love relationship and shorter lifespan. It completely missed how many people in relationships are heartbreakingly lonely. I am not involved in a  romantic relationship at the moment. Sure, there is part of me that would like to be, and oh do I miss sex which for me needs meaningful connection if I’m going to enjoy it, but the realities of the situation are that I do not get out much to meet people, online dating is an additional layer of hell for people my age.  I would rather hold out for someone who actually sees me for the amazing person I am with all my flaws and all of my glories and will treat me with respect and be able to feel the same about a partner than settle simply because I do not want to be alone. I have wasted a lot of time putting up with partners dumping abuse and baggage on me, I think it’s reasonable to prefer being single to doing that again.

But none of this means I am fully alone or that 24/7 loneliness is a given. Yes, I am lonely, but it is usually fleeting. There is so much that is not lonely about my life. My loneliness is not hollow, it is rich and present. I have learned to see it as a gift.

Disclaimer: This does not mean I have stopped hoping for a Scottish husband (or lady). You’ll have to pull this fantasy from my cold dead hands. *Those who know me are aware of my lifelong desire to visit and move to Scotland. There is also a running theory that the reason I have not found my true love is that they live in Scotland and I, alas am stuck here.

Another Mothers Day Blog

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I don’t have the spoons to write a big Mother’s Day blog this year.

Mother’s Day is one of the rough ones for me. Honestly, ALL of the, “in your face commercialized holidays” are rough when you have painful family issues. It’s probably just as well, I’m still recovering and slept through the whole day. I missed most of the cheery, teary sugar and schmaltz and that’s just fine with me.

Some people I know and care about lost moms recently. Some have mothers who had health scares or were in the hospital this year. I want to send extra love to those who are missing their mothers and to those for whom Mother’s Day has extra meaning because they weren’t sure there mother’s would be here this year.

 
As always, I want to acknowledge those for whom Mother’s Day hurts because their relationship with their mother is/was difficult, terrible or absent. I want to acknowledge those mother’s who pulled out all the stops to love and protect their child but lost them anyway through death, drugs, mental illness or just emotional distance. I want to shout out to all the heroic parents who have had to be both Mom and Dad to their kids. And I want to give a big hug to all those Moms whose kids happen to be furry, feathered or scaled. You aren’t less than because you chose to nurture a pet rather than pop out a hooman. You have your reasons. It’s cool. Maternal love doesn’t discriminate.

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Beasts of No Nation

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“Sun, why are you shining on this world? I am wanting to catch you in my hands, to squeeze you until you cannot shine no more. That way, everything is always dark and nobody is ever having to see all the terrible things that are happening here”

-Agu (Beasts of No Nation)

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I made it a good way through the film as a witness, without shedding a tear until this haunting monologue, exquisitely executed by young marvel, Abraham Attah. I hope we are going to get to see more of this brilliant young actor who holds his own with Idris Elba!

I’m not going to go into the plot of this film much as it’s pretty straight forward. Like the novel, it describes the loss of innocence and experiences of a child soldier in Africa, like those of the, “Lost Boys.”  What I will say is this. You MUST, must see this film!

Beasts of No Nation is showing in the smaller arthouse theaters and you can also see it on Netflix! Netflix produced this film. It is breathtakingly beautiful, hopeful and heart crushing. The acting is superb. It’s not easy to watch, but it’s well worth your time and you won’t feel emotionally manipulated or as if you’ve been shown violence or gore for the sake of it. The violence is not gratuitously graphic. Neither is it glossed over.

As someone whose childhood horrors forged my PTSD, I have so much empathy for these child soldiers who are ripped from their families and molded into monsters. You do what you have to do to survive and if you are tenacious, lucky and can hold on to some of the better pieces of you humanity you come out the other side with the ability to be happy.

Thank you Netflix for adapting this novel by Uzodinma Iweala. Even though the country and conflict are fictional the turmoil and circumstances are very real in some parts of Africa. I hope the film makes more people have compassion, awareness and to desire an understanding of situations in other countries that we like to pretend aren’t our problem or don’t affect us. And bravo to Netflix, not only for tackling a subject that is not pretty but is also not about white people. How marvelous to see a film, and an important one at that, about people of color where white people haven’t been injected into it! Huzzah!

Here is the trailer for Beasts of No Nation

Really, go see this film or watch it at home! That is all!

Songs of The Stomach Bard: Nostalgic Regrets

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MaggiesBefore I moved to my current city I had a house-sitting gig here for a couple of months. Every time I would be coming back to the place I would pass this cute little building on a corner that looked like it should be a firehouse or even a small filling station but it said, Maggie’s over the front door so it had to be a cafe.

After I moved I forgot about it. Then I drove past it a week ago and had an, “Oh yeah, that place!” moment and decided to look it up. Turns out it’s been around for years and is a breakfast and burger spot so I decided I would get there early enough one day to check it out.

The parking lot was fairly desolate when I went in, I parked next to an old sedan that I’m betting belonged to an employee. As I got out an old truck pulled up and the owner whom I could tell from a distance had few teeth left rolled the window down for his dog and gave me a long stare. For a moment I thought, maybe this is close enough, but then I shrugged that off and entered.

maggies jukeboxThe place was seriously retro-divey! Old school vending machines, a jukebox and a red and possibly once white, checkered floor. The walls were covered with old movie memorabilia. Two booths sat empty under one window and there were a few tables littered about.

maggies codgersMost of the seating was on stools that were slightly too low following a long L shaped counter. Seated to my left with their backs to me, a gaggle of old fogies.

I took a seat at the other end of the L.

It was obvious this place was going to put the grease in greasy spoon! A smiling sunny waitress named Arlene obliged me with a cup of coffee that looked dubiously old but tasted fresh. The owner, Ed was at the grill filling the place with the smell of sizzling murdered cow. I shouldn’t have, but I had to order a cheeseburger. Maybe it was the pressure of the clutter surrounding me, maybe it was the feeling of nostalgia. Maybe it was the caffeine kicking in. Maybe the bus boy mopping the floor while I scanned the menu just made me nervous. “Order the burger” demanded the voice in my head. So I did.

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The fries were really good, sliced with the skins on them. I asked Arlene if she had any dressing I could dip them into and she beamed, “We have ranch dressing! Home made!” “Perfect! I’ll try it!” I’m partial to dipping french fries in blue cheese dressing rather than ketchup. It’s something my brother got me hooked on when we were kids! The ranch worked fine. And when I told her how good it was it seemed to make her day! “Thank you! I make it myself from scratch!”

Maggies burgerThe burger by the standards of burgers you get at restaurants these days was not great but it was strangely satisfying. I had ordered it medium well and the cook had actually managed that state. It was greasy yet slightly dry and had some tough spots. All the toppings were just kind of perfect. It was a burger of small town childhood memory, a time machine. But sometimes you can’t go back, or at the very least you shouldn’t and my stomach was going to be the first to remind me of that.

maggies memorobeliaAs I sat in the car feeling my first twinges, Arlene came running out the door with my sweater. It had been warm that day but I had taken it in just in case the place had air conditioning. (It didn’t.) Please angry stomach. Let me make it home before you make me pay, I pleaded!

My stomach said, ok, just this once but first I’m gong to sing to you and you have to write this down word for word! Deal?

I whimpered and complied. Thus The Stomach Bard was born!

“You may think you had a nostalgic lunch
And that greasy meat was fun to munch
But you are so very wrong
And so I wrote you this song…..

You are going to live to regret this
You are going to be sorry you et it
When you spend an unwanted hour in the looooooo
While I rain intestinal distress down upon you

Boop boopie do

Boy oh boy I hope it was worth it
Remember that when you drop that nuclear sh**
Will you never learn
As the stomach turns

You are going to live to regret this
You are going to be sorry you et it
This is why the vegetarian lifestyle was so much better for you
Maybe next time you’ll choose “garden” instead of “moo”

Boop boopie doobie gurgle doo wah wah”

-LM’s tum tum 2015

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On Game of Thrones Always Erring on the Side of To Be Rapey, rather than not.

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Here’s what it boils down to.

I’m pretty sure Sansa didn’t want that cup of tea.

There’s been a lot of unwanted tea poured on that show and it might have been a bit much to push one more cup.

I think a lot of viewers, mostly female, have been saying for a long time that they don’t want this particular cup of tea and they feel like they’ve been forced to drink it anyway. They said, no thank you but they got a big cup of tea shoved in their face anyway; over and over and over.

So now they are saying, NO real loud.

And now some fans, mostly men, are saying. What’s the big deal? It’s just a cup of tea? The tea was in the books. There was a lot of other tea on the show and you kept watching. It could have been worse. It could have been scalding hot tea.

And the women are saying. We are totally off tea now. You’ve ruined it for us. Bye bye.

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The Murkiness of Mother’s Day

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roseThree Little Words:

“Happy Mother’s Day.”

What comes to mind when they fill up the airwaves, the social media feed, every brick and mortar store, restaurant and retail web site.

To be sure, Mother’s Day is a loaded topic and a marketing paradise!

There is so much myth and propaganda about Motherhood in general. Mothers are raised on a pedestal and then disrespected because they don’t have a “real job.” Motherhood is supposed to be compensation enough.

There are those who bicker about what makes a mother. Does she have to carry and birth a child? Does a mother have to be a cis gendered female? There are those who seem to think that having given birth to a child makes them somehow superior to those who have not. Mothers are both revered and dismissed, sometimes in the same breath, sometimes in a schism between word and action. Motherhood is supposed to complete a woman. Motherhood is for women who have no ambition. There is both contempt and admiration for the working mother.

Really, it’s quite bizarre!

Mother’s Day makes some feel warm and fuzzy others bereft with longing and loss.

It can be a guilt bomb, a trigger that floods the brain with paralyzing memories of trauma!

For those who have happy memories and good relationships with their mothers it can be very hard to understand why someone else might feel differently. For mother’s basking in the glow of appreciation it might be difficult to understand why some might dread the day.

Personally, I take Mother’s Day for mostly the hallmark contrived consumer manipulating holiday that it is. I have my own personal, quite painful issues with Mothers Day, but that aside, this day brings up feelings and ruminations about motherhood in general and its connotations. Sincerely, to all the compassionate, loving, yet tough as nails mothers of all genders and types out there, you are a blessing! And for those who were blessed to have one or more wonderful, supportive, nurturing people in your lives I am glad for that! And to the many amazing people who survived their mothers and make the world a better place despite them, perhaps by finding something inside themselves or by the intervention of non traditional mother figures, I say HUZZAH!

But the holiday, in my opinion can truly go stuff itself. Ironically, “The American incarnation of Mother’s Day was created by Anna Jarvis in 1908 and became an official U.S. holiday in 1914. Jarvis would later denounce the holiday’s commercialization and spent the latter part of her life trying to remove it from the calendar.” (from History.com) I have linked the page at the end of this post if you would like to learn more about the history of Mother’s Day and celebrations of mothers in many cultures.

I think mothers, not those that live up to the ideal, but real flesh and blood complicated people who do the things that make little humans grow up to be good people and continue to help adults “adult with value” are amazing! I dislike the American Mother’s Day tradition and I am frequently vexed by those who feel one must forgive, love and respect one’s mother no matter what crimes she may have committed under the facade of motherhood!  In my opinion those who say things like, “But she’s your mother,” “You have to forgive your mother, you won’t be ok until you do,” “You only have one mother,” or “I’m sure she did the best she could,” are either just so uncomfortable that they want to gloss over a painful topic or somehow they feel a friend’s healthy (yes I said healthy) vitriol toward an abusive parent threatens their feelings about the relationship with their own parent. It’s similar to the friend who somehow thinks that it’s a comment on their relationship if someone close to them breaks off a relationship no matter how valid the reason.

On this day I’d like to challenge you to take pause and reflect. Anyone with a womb can give birth to a child. Anyone can want a child. Anyone can raise a child. But not everyone can be a mother. Those people who do it well are the real rock stars. They are absolute Super Heroes! They can be birth mothers, adoptive or step mothers, friends, relatives, strangers. They can be transwomen. They do not have to be “women” at all. These “mothers” make a difference in lives.Sometimes they save them.

Here are some of the people I think about and send my love to every day, but especially on this day:

  • Those mothers and to those who have filled in as mother figures who have truly exemplified the best of motherhood, who have been supportive and nurturing and in doing so made this world a better place.
  • Those fathers who found they needed to be both mother and father to their children and busted their ass to make their children feel loved and safe!
  • Those children who needed the love and support of their parents but found themselves instead in abusive homes or had Mothers who lacked compassion when they needed it most, because they were L.G.B.T., had a disability, or were in any way different from the ideal “norm” their mother had envisioned. Those whose mothers chose politics, belief, religion or other people’s opinions over the love and acceptance of their child.
  • Those who longed to be mothers, who lost babies, who outlived their children, lost contact with children through a breakup or divorce, had to give them up or who made difficult choices because of circumstance.
  • Those who decided not to have kids and in doing so lived their dreams, inspired and loved kids that were not their own or simply lived their own happy, child free lives despite the criticism of others.
  • For those “aunties” and “uncles” who fulfilled nurture when it was otherwise absent or provided extra love and encouragement!
  • Those mothers who have done everything they can, spilling out their hearts, using all their inner and outer resources, asked for help yet still struggle with children with health, behavioral or substance abuse problems or have lost their relationship with or physical custody of their children despite being good mothers. It doesn’t always work. It just doesn’t.
  • Those who have lost or are losing mothers and mourn their deaths.
  • Those who have unwanted distances, physical and otherwise in their mother/child relationships.
  • Those who never knew their mothers, who never really had mothers, who were abused by their mothers, who have difficult relationships with their mothers for a variety of reasons.
  • Those who look in the mirror and see their mother, see themselves making gestures their mother did or acting like their mother; perhaps taking comfort in these inherited mannerisms, perhaps loathing them.

So, while you are taking part in the commercialized celebration of motherhood; if you had a happy childhood, if you love, respect and have a good relationship with your mother, know that not everyone is so lucky. Instead of criticizing people who don’t share your good associations or dumping guilt on them, be compassionate. Try to remember that this day is a painful reminder to many for a variety of reasons. Not just those who have had abusive mothers but for those who are far away from their mothers, whose mothers may have dementia, whose mothers may be dying or deceased, who may have never known their mothers or may long to be mothers and have a great deal if pain around the subject. To all those I have listed above and more, it can be very, very hard!

On a very personal level, I  could be entirely bitter and yes, all the Mother’s Day saccharine does sting. I was adopted which makes the childhood I had all the more  disheartening. I may never know my birth mother or family. I am currently estranged from my adoptive mother and I am aware that my silence on this day.probably hurts her. I have compassion for that, however I could logically say, it is a fair, “punishment.” It’s not meant as a punishment. It is self care on my part. Right now. I need distance.

Though she vehemently denies it, I believe my mother was a victim of abuse who continued the legacy instead of rising above it. She put her children in harms way instead of protecting them! No child should ever have to endure what I have in my childhood and adult life due to their parents and family, period.

I never had a real mother figure in my life though I certainly had people who made a positive difference. I never wanted a child, perhaps partly due to my traumatic childhood and I never felt my life would be lacking if I didn’t have one. I have loved many children. I helped raise two dear girls when I was young only to have them yanked out of my life by their unstable drug addicted mother. I was surprised by an accidental pregnancy a few years ago and lost that baby when I was quite far along. So yeah. All things “mother” are complicated for me.

So while parts of me are cynical, despise the commercialism, find the subject painful.and often cause for righteous anger when people who do not understand try to make me feel guilty I am also filled with respect and awe for the mothers and mother figures I see around me who often thanklessly improve the lives of not just their own children but many more. They are a blessing to the world and all too briefly!

So try to be sensitive while celebrating. And if you really love and respect your own mother or mother figures in your life, let them know it now. Let them know frequently! Don’t just wait for Mother’s Day, Christmas, holidays or birthdays! Don’t wait until they are gone to praise them. Don’t leave things unsaid.

For those people who have filled this place in your life consider making every day a Happy Mother’s Day.

Here are a few blogs and articles that I found touching or interesting this past week:

The History of Mother’s Day

Some wonderful comments from author (and mother) Anne Lamott about why she hates Mother’s Day

Is being a mother a real job?

Mother’s day, when you may not be perceived as a mother

Mother’s Day as a Feminist tradition!

Letting go of toxic Mom’s and finding healthy replacements