Wanna help someone?

IMG_0088                                                      Planned Giving
to The Women’s Center
                                                                                    It could be in the middle of the night when a woman knocks at our door, shaking as she nervously asks for help. Makeup could not hide the blows to her face. She is without money, a safe place to stay, accompanied by the belief that she had done something wrong. She brings her daughter, as well, who wonders why the Daddy she loves always hits and swears. Perhaps there’s a telephone call to the hotline, where a volunteer hopes to convince a desperate woman that tonight is not the time to die. Or possibly someone calls from the hospital emergency room reporting a rape. Women, men, children, sexual orientation, it makes no difference.

The Women’s Center, established in 1972, continues to provide services to the surrounding counties. In 2013, we assisted 141 children and 862 adults with 11,715 hours of domestic violence services; 6,713 nights of domestic violence and 5,413 nights of transitional housing; and 16,429 meals to residents in shelter. Public education, professional training, orders of protection, and hotline calls are provided as well.

Thanks to you, we have expanded and updated our facilities. We have little debt and manage to show a respectable balance sheet. But where we struggle is raising enough money to maintain a $1.3 million dollar budget. We receive our financial support from various federal, state, and private grants, and donations from you. Government budget cuts continue while we deal with increased services. I wish you could come to ground zero and watch the dedicated work of our staff. You would soon learn that they are underpaid angels, doing God’s work.

Whether you are a first-time donor, or one that continues to offer us a lifeline, we need your help. This can be done as annual contributions, or through planned giving, a means of providing future financial support. For now, we ask you to forget the tax benefits in giving. Just think about the abused woman knocking at our door, the child who still loves her Daddy, the raped woman lying on a hospital bed, or the woman who believes that tonight is the time to die. There are so many of them.

A large number of our donors come from people of limited means, while a smaller number come from sizable estates. Contributions, whether large or small, reward the donor with the emotional satisfaction of helping someone in need. “How do I make a gift to The Women’s Center,” you might ask. Giving can be as simple as tying your shoe, or more complicated, requiring the advice from your tax consultant. Let’s say that you want to donate $25 dollars per month to The Women’s Center.   Mail a check to the Center each month, or setup a monthly deduction from your local bank or credit card. Change or terminate your contribution at your discretion. Maybe you prefer to make a lump sum donation of $5,000 to the Center. Now that was easy, and yes, you are helping the abused woman knocking at the Center’s door, the child who still loves her Daddy, the raped woman lying on a hospital bed, or the woman who believes that tonight is the time to die.

Suppose you want to do more long term giving, commonly called planned giving — any major gift made during lifetime or at death as part of a donor’s overall financial and/or estate plan. Planned gifts are comprised of the following:

1) Gifts of appreciated assets

Appreciated assets are stocks, bonds, mutual fund shares, real estate, personal tangible assets, and almost anything of value. Giving appreciated gifts can financially benefit the donor as well as the Center. Maybe you have stocks that are valued at $10,000 with a cost basis of $2,500. If you sell the stock and then give the proceeds to the Center you will have paid income tax on the profit ($7,500). Transfer ownership directly to the Center and you eliminate any personal income tax while the Center is free to sell the stock without any tax liability. Everyone benefits from such a transaction. Buy low and give high is an exciting option.

2) Gifts that return income or other financial benefit to the donor

A Pooled Income Fund is established in the Center’s name that pays a life income to you, the donor. At the donor’s death, the balance of the investment can be held or liquidated by the Center. A Life-Income gift can be any investment that allows the donor to increase their income, an immediate tax deduction, and the elimination of any capital gains tax due at the transfer of appreciated assets to the Center.

3) Gifts payable upon donor’s death

Assets that are payable as a beneficiary designation, part of a will, or living trust. Such a gift helps ensure The Women’s Center’s future viability and strength, without costing you anything during your life. Think about this, you are helping abuse victims without changing your cash flow or the balance of your net worth. Just when the Center’s cash flow seems bleak, we often receive notice that a donor chose to include the Center in their will. It feels magical, as we continue to provide our services to the community. When you make a bequest, you can modify or terminate the gift at your discretion. Target your gift to a specific need, or allow The Women’s Center to determine how best to utilize your donation. Your attorney can provide you with the appropriate language to include in your will.

Your bequest can be a stated dollar amount, or specific property to The Women’s Center. Some of our friends prefer to give a certain percentage of the remainder of their estate — the amount that remains after paying all debts, costs, and other prior legacies. Whatever your objectives, the Center will be happy to work with you in planning a gift that will be satisfying, economical, and effective in carrying our mission.

 You can name The Women’s Center as a beneficiary of your IRA, 401(k), 403(c), or other qualified plan. Simply designate The Women’s Center to receive all or a portion of your plan after your death. By doing so, you avoid the potential double taxation your retirement savings would face if you had designated the qualified plans to your heirs. You can continue to take regular lifetime withdrawals, while maintaining the flexibility to change beneficiaries if your family’s needs change during your lifetime.

Name The Women’s Center as the complete or partial beneficiary on your life insurance policy. The death benefit payable to the Center would not be subject to income or estate taxes. You have the option of transferring ownership of your life insurance policy. In doing so, you would receive an income tax deduction for the cash value of the policy. Simply contact your life insurance company and request a Change of Beneficiary/Ownership Form and designate The Women’s Center as the new owner and/or beneficiary of your policy.

There are many financial tools used when making a gift to The Women’s Center. Some donors might choose the Deferred Gift Annuity – provides lifetime annuity payments commencing at a future date.

Perhaps the Retained Life Estate might be more to your liking. You transfer the title to your residence, farm, or vacation home to The Women’s Center, and live there for the rest of your life. Continue to live in the property for life or a specified term of years while being responsible for the property taxes and upkeep. The property passes to The Women’s Center when your life estate ends.

With the Charitable Bargain Sale, you sell your residence or other property to The Women’s Center for a price below the appraised market value – a transaction that is part charitable gift and part sale. In return you receive a tax deduction for the amount of the gift, and cash for the payment made by the Center.

With thoughtful planning, The Women’s Center, you, and your loved ones, all benefit from planned giving. The donor states their financial goal for the Center, and through the assistance of the Center, your financial planner or tax consultant, a planned gift is formed.

You make it possible for us to help the abused woman knocking at our door, the child who wonders why the Daddy she loves always hits and swears, the raped woman lying on a hospital bed, or the woman who believes that tonight is the time to die.

Contact Us

We are happy to discuss your charitable plans and goals. We will see that your gift is used as you wish, to help us carry on the work of The Women’s Center.

The Women’s Center, Inc.
610 S. Thompson Street
Carbondale, IL 62901
Phone: (618) 549-4807
wced@thewomensctr.org

 

Truth? You have to work at it. 2nd. Edition

city museum 2006085 Every election cycle is filled with thousands of political ads chocked full of deceit, half-truths, and the kitchen sink.  Most of the time I click the mute button on my remote, waiting for the political garbage to disappear.  But as bad as they are, they work.  I thought it was time to rerun a blog I had written on 3/13/2014.  The original blog was in response to all of the political and religious postings that I saw on Facebook.  With midterm elections at hand, it seems appropriate to take another look at life’s biggest illusion — truth.

***

Lies, lies, there are so many lies.  As a society, we’ve become very good at spinning tales which are presented as the truth.  And the biggest lies of all are broadcast over the airwaves; nonstop, twenty-four hours a day.  It’s so bad that each political slant has it’s own network hell-bent on promoting their own political agenda by, you guessed it, lies.  At first, it was more subtle; photoshop, cut and paste, and the distorted truth became a lie.  Now, the truth is as difficult to find as fireflies on a sunny day.

I’m reminded of the 1881 fairy tale about Pinocchio, the wooden marionette carved by Geppetto, a bachelor who yearned for a real boy of his own.   Eventually, through a lot of hoping, praying, and imagination, the good fairy changed Pinocchio into a real boy.  But wait, the good fairy would not tolerant lies.  She told Pinocchio that if he told a lie his nose would grow.  Well, you guessed it, Pinocchio told a string of lies and surprise — Pinocchio’s nose grew so long that he couldn’t get out of his house.  (Imagine our House of Representatives with noses so long that they would fill the chamber.  And those nose hairs.  Yuck.)  To save Pinocchio, woodpeckers flew into the house and pecked at his nose until it became the normal size.  Moral of the story — don’t lie or your nose will grow.

In the days when I was a boy, parents handed out advice that was designed to keep you from lying or doing “bad” things.  If you make a bad face your face will freeze in that position for the rest of your life.  Make your eyes go cross and they will remain cross.    I heard this one at the church  – If you masturbate  you will go blind.  That one scared the hell out of me.  Well, I didn’t go blind but I am a bit near-sighted and have worn glasses since I was five years old.  Go figure.  My mother’s favorite — Rich people aren’t happy.  You’re lucky that we’re poor.  Another of her favorites — If you stay out past midnight, you can’t be doing anything good. Well, I’ll have to give her that one.  About telling the truth:  if you don’t tell the truth something bad will happen to you, and yes, you will go to hell.

Our reality, the truth as we see it, is based on a combination of our genetic makeup and our life experiences; nuture and nature, that’s what they call it.  If we follow this line of thought, each person will have a unique opinion of the truth.  Some people might say that the Bible holds the truth.  Well, that might be true, but as soon as you read it the words become mixed with your concept of reality.  The truth becomes less clear.

I’m reminded of something that a buddhist monk once said, When you think that you have all of the answers, you’ve lost your way.  Now we don’t have a treasury map for finding the truth.  We do what we have to do — read, listen, think, look within.  Truth brings peace.

Post-surgery trip to Bandy’s Pumpkin Patch

DSC_0004It was one week before Halloween; the smell of fallen leaves in the air, and candy corn was in the cupboard.  Paula and I had promised two of our granddaughters — Elise, age six, and Katherine, age eight — that we would take them to Bandy’s Pumpkin Patch.  But eight weeks post-surgery for a lower-back bone fusion, required some planning on my part.  Although my pain had diminished, it remained steady and continuous like the hum of a fluorescent light.  Okay, I thought, I will take a couple of Excedrin before leaving, and keep two additional Excedrin and one-half of a heavy-duty pain killer in my pocket, just in case someone hits me in the back with a fifty-pound pumpkin. I told Paula about my concerns, but she reminded me that sometimes we just have to suck-it up. And if things go south, Paula can drive. 

We went through our checklist as we loaded the van.  Treats, drinks, DVDs, pillows, sunglasses, camera, an empty pan and some dramamine, in case the girls become car sick.  “I think that’s everything we need for the girls,” Paula said.  “Yes, that’s everything,” I answered.  “And don’t worry about me.  Maybe the metal rods and screws in my back won’t snap.”

The girls joined us for our trip to Bandy’s.  Singing, joke telling, and laughing, that’s what we did.  Forty minutes later we came to “Pumpkin Patch Lane,” turned right and saw a field of pumpkins, tractors and wagons for hay rides, games, refreshments, and a fall-colored wooded area.  I told the girls not to run as I parked the van.  (Return the girls in as good a shape as we found them.  That’s what grandparents do.) DSC_0036There, just across the field, was a wagon being pulled by a Farmall tractor just like the one I used to drive on my Uncles’s farm.  My grandfather had a John Deere tractor which I drove as a teenager.  The four of us climbed into the wagon, covered with loose hay.   As soon as I sat on the wagon floor, I knew that this was not DSC_0027going to work.  With no bales, the loose hay would not smooth out the bumps as we rode across the field.  I took a pass and headed for the van where I could rest my back.  The three of them leaned over the wagon’s edge as they shouted their goodbyes. DSC_0015

Oh how I loved the “corn cannon,” powered by air pressure that shot an ear of corn some thirty feet towards a target hanging from a distant tree.  Although it cost $1.50 for two shots, I still considered it well worth the expenditure. DSC_0021

Hey, Pop, got your ears on?

There were other games as well.  The girls enjoyed the slide and playing in the bin full of corn. DSC_0039 DSC_0029 DSC_0031         DSC_0051 As we left the game area, we headed for the pumpkins.  The girls could have two pumpkins each, but as all grandparents know, they had more.  We placed the pumpkins in a metal wagon with rails and a bottom constructed with an open, diamond-shaped design.  Good for hauling pumpkins, but not for shelled corn. DSC_0050 The girls spotted a black, wooly-worm and placed it on top of the largest pumpkin.  We decided to call him Willy.  Wooly Worms, sometimes spelled Woolly Worm, are more often a burnt orange color in the center with black or brown on the ends.  But some, like Willy, are a solid black color.  In some parts of the country people say that a lighter brown worm indicates a mild winter, while a solid black predicts a harsh one.  The wooly worm may look small but our Willy had 13 segments and three sets of legs.  He had tiny eyes, but they navigated mostly by feeling and touching as he crawled across the ground.  Willy reminded me of Paul Revere racing across the countryside announcing that Winter was near.  Needless to say, Willy meant a lot to the four of us.  Paula offered to pull the wagon while the girls rested from hauling the load of pumpkins.

And then it happened; the unexplainable, the unimaginable.  It was fast but needs to be described in slow motion if you are to appreciate the horror.  Paula jerked the wagon in order to start its forward movement.  Katherine yelled, “Grandma, stop, stop.”  Willy had lost his grip on the stem and began sliding down the side of the pumpkin.  His tiny feet were unable to latch onto the slick pumpkin.  I can’t imagine the surprise and the fear that accompanied Wiily’s descent.  He landed on the bottom of the wagon but the momentum carried his body to the diamond-shaped openings.  Willy grabbed hold of the metal and completed two summersaults before falling to the ground.  A quiet thump and then a squash as the wagon wheel rolled over poor Willy.  The guts leaked out of his body.  He was dead.  Silence.  Grandma told the girls how sorry she was to have killed Willy. The four of us walked to the van, heads held low, and placed the pumpkins in the back.  I returned the wagon, and as I crawled inside the van, Elise said she would not talk to Grandma for the rest of the day.  I explained that it was an accident.  Sometimes bad things happen.  Lets think about the fun we had today. As we drove away, and the horror had diminished, everyone began talking about all of the things that we had done.  Elise talked to Grandma.  We sang, told jokes, and promised to go to Bandy’s Pumpkin Patch again next year.  We ended the day by going to our house for some of Pop’s famous Chili and corn bread, but that’s another story for another day.

Heart of Darkness: physical & sexual abuse

 

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News release:

     An NFL player hurls his fist into the side of his finance’s face. Down to the floor, that’s where she fell – out cold, like a dead fish on a frozen shore.
Man wanted sex, wife refused. Man head butts wife, broke her nose, punched her in the face, and threw a shoe at his eighteen-month-old child.
Two Madison twelve-year-old girls repeatedly stabbed a twelve-year-old girl, and left her for dead. The victim has since recovered physically.
Man physically and sexually abused a young woman held hostage for nearly ten years.
Teenage male forced a five-year-old boy to perform oral sex. After ejaculation, the teenager urinates in the little boy’s mouth. Two people stood by and watched.
Each day thousands of people are sexually and physically abused; women, men, children, sexual orientation, it makes no difference.
***
Recently we have been inundated with stories of physical and sexual abuse in the National Football League. The video of a football player hitting his finance and knocking her out is dramatic, especially when played continuously over the national airwaves. People are alarmed, shocked, hoping for justice, but as several moons pass, the outrage will pass as well. Abuse is not a new phenomenon. You see, this is not about the NFL, this is about our nation, and how we deal with the epidemic – physical and sexual abuse.
In the heart of darkness, that’s where victims reside, possibly for the rest of their lives. It’s not that they don’t recover, they often do, but the memories can surface at the hint of days gone by. In quiet moments, I sometimes recall memories of abuse that make me angry, followed by a tear or two.
Behavior is controlled by an individual’s concept of reality, and when viewed collectively, define who we are as a nation. Reality is built on our genetic makeup and life’s experiences — nature and nurture. Developmental biology tells us that we are a combination of the two. Nature tattoos us with a genetic makeup – DNA – while nurture is a product of what we see, hear, smell, and touch, and the countless life experiences that mold our core. From the beginning, we are organisms with a genetic blueprint that continually interacts with our environment causing change to occur as we move from conception, to childhood, to adulthood, and finally to death.
You can’t know what you don’t know, that’s what my therapist said one day. She continually challenges me to be more insightful rather than riding the waves on my imaginary surfboard. I now understand that when we reach adulthood, we are programmed to function within our perceived reality. What we perceive as right and wrong, is not necessarily right and wrong.
Science tells us the same. The brain has over one-hundred-billion nerve cells called neurons. When information is transferred from one neuron to another, the gap between neurons are filled by chemical substances called neurotransmitters, which fire across the space, sending signals to other neurons. At times, brain activity might resemble a well-lit midway at a county fair with hundreds of rides and booths operating simultaneously. Trauma alters the neurons in our brain, affecting our behavior, our reality.
A child’s reality is like putty and can be reshaped by exposure to good role models and positive experiences. But repeated abuse turns their reality into hardened putty found in a winter storm; more difficult to mold, but still possible. Daily contact with compassionate teachers who provide attention, supervised interaction between children, role models of appropriate behavior, consistent rules and discipline offer hope for the damage child. How many of us can recall a teacher or two who changed their life? There is a national movement to reach younger children through pre-kindergarten, head start, and the like. Although the teacher’s plate is full, I would like to see citizenship, character building classes, and logic to taught as children move through elementary and secondary education.
For adult victims who self-medicate through drugs and alcohol, there is hope. Community and county mental health organizations, private therapists and psychiatrists offer therapy and medication that, in time, can alter the wiring in our damaged minds. My favorite organization, The Women’s Center, located in Carbondale, Illinois, and established in 1972, continues to offer food, shelter, and counseling for children, women, and men whose lives have been shattered by violence. Through my years as a member of the Board of Directors, I have witnessed the work that goes on at ground zero. Since their beginning, the Center, has saved thousands of abuse victims.
In the Heart of Darkness, the place where victims reside, light is as rare as the eye of a tornado. But doors are there waiting to be opened. A better tomorrow is there for the taking.
***
Please checkout The Women’s Center. If you are so moved, we welcome financial support and those who choose to donate their time.

http://www.thewomensctr.org/

 

A voice for victims of domestic violence

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With domestic violence in the news, I decided to post a fundraising letter I had written for “The Women’s Center.”

                                               

 

 

Imagine what it’s like to be a bird without wings,                                                            Who’s fallen into a hole and not allowed to sing.                                                            Imagine what it’s like to be a beautiful whale,                                                                  With no place to swim but a five-gallon pale.                                                                                        …male survivor of childhood sexual abuse

It could be in the middle of the night when a woman knocks at our door, shaking as she nervously asks for help. The makeup could not hide the blows to her face. She is without money, a safe place to stay, accompanied by the belief that she had done something wrong. She brings her daughter, as well, who wonders why the Daddy she loves always hits and swears. Perhaps there’s a telephone call to the hotline, where a volunteer hopes to convince a desperate woman that tonight is not the time to die. Or possibly someone calls from the hospital emergency room reporting a rape. Women, men, children, sexual orientation, it makes no difference.

The Women’s Center, established in 1972, continues to provide services to the surrounding counties. In 2013, we assisted 141 children and 862 adults with 11,715 hours of domestic violence services; 6,713 nights of domestic violence and 5,413 nights of transitional housing; and 16,429 meals to residents in shelter. Public education, professional training, orders of protection, and hotline calls are provided as well.

Thanks to you, we have expanded and updated our facilities. We have little debt and manage to show a respectable balance sheet. But where we struggle is raising enough money to maintain a $1.3 million dollar budget. We receive our financial support from various federal, state, and private grants, and donations from you. We face an annual increase in services while governmental budget cuts leave us with less. I wish you could come to ground zero and watch the dedicated work of our staff. You would soon learn that they are underpaid angels, doing God’s work.

Whether you are a first-time donor, or one that continues to offer us a lifeline, we need your help. This can be done as annual contributions, or through planned giving, a means of providing future financial support with no upfront cost. For now, we ask you to forget the tax benefits in giving. Just think about the abused woman knocking at our door, the child who still loves her Daddy, the raped woman lying on a hospital bed, or the woman who believes that tonight is the time to die. There are so many of them.

Sincerely,

Larry L Franklin
Board Member
Development Committee Chair

***

If you feel moved to support our organization, send contributions to The Women’s Center, 610 South Thompson St., Carbondale, Il 62901
http://www.thewomensctr.org

 

Come dance with me.

7301_100437136820483_587807534_nIt’s always there to some degree, mocking my every move.  A jig, a waltz, maybe Chubby Checker’s famous twist, or a seductive embrace as we move across the floor — my dancing partner, my pain.  Maybe it’s sharp, a get your attention pain; a boxer’s jab; possibly an unrelenting tooth acne; or a sustained, never-ending pain.  

Pain can be physical, psychological, or both, and when latched onto an individual, becomes unique.  Physical pain can be tested and more easily diagnosed than the illusive psychological pain that sometimes plays hide-and-seek with the mental health specialist.  Treatments for back pain are many — injections, physical therapy, spinal adjustments, medication, meditation, acupuncture, and when all fail, the surgeon sharpens his scalpel.

Two weeks ago I had a bone fusion performed in my lower back.  A herniated disk and the movement of two vertebra called for a bone fusion to eliminate the pain.  A back brace for support and oxycodone for pain are being used during the healing process.  I have become friends with oxycodone and refer to her affectionately as “oxy.”  When in my medicated buzz, I sometimes call her “foxy.”

As a survivor of childhood physical and sexual abuse, I have experienced psychological pain as well.  Memories of the abuse left me wrapped around a porcelain stool while I vomited poison into the mucus-colored water.  It was an emotional pain like I had never felt before.  Scared, lost, and without direction I turned to a therapist and have been treated with medication and talk therapy.  Life is good.  I have moved beyond surface emotions, and now experience the depth of feelings that life has to offer.

Whether physical or psychological pain, we must always be aware of the monster in the closet, better known as depression.  Pain breeds depression.  While my depression pales in comparison to someone with a severe mental illness, it can be debilitating.  Depression is waking up in the middle of the night covered with leeches that suck the spirit from my soul.  But now, after years of therapy, I can spot them from a distance as they slither over a hilltop and crawl my way.  I refuse to allow a single leech to take residence in my soul.

While a “bring-you-to-your knees” pain has many negative side effects, it can be a blessing, and serve as a reminder of how good life can be.  Imagine a musical phrase of dissonance and intensity that drives towards the final cadence and then, with true beauty, resolves into a morning spring.  Tension followed by release brings joy to one’s life.  I will dance a jig without pain as my partner.

 

 

On Thursday I met with my surgeon — yada, yada, yada

7301_100437136820483_587807534_nYou might recall that I’ve written about my back problems before:  two herniated disks in my lower back, successful surgery, months later I have pain in another location of my back, yada, yada, yada.  (In case you don’t know, yada is code for “more bullshit”) After having an MRI on my back, I met with my surgeon to discuss the findings.  It was a 7:40 a.m. appointment.  He must be working me in, I thought.  The man loves my back — a guaranteed annuity for a surgeon.  My spine looks a bit like a shiska-bob, chunks of meat and bone ready to place on a hot grill.  Ten minutes on each side, a heavy coat of bar-b-q sauce, and you have some mighty fine eating.  I know, you prefer ribs and I’m getting a little weird, yada, yada, yada.

Okay, back to the meeting with my surgeon.  For privacy purposes, we’ll call him Dr. Belly Button.  Dressed in his hospital blue scrubs and uncombed hair, Belly Button greets me and my wife as I shake his hand.  He is a reasonably handsome young man with a bounce in his step and a smile on his face; all traits that I once held but have come and gone.  You see, I’m a 71 year old man with uncombed gray hair, and shuffle my feet because the pain in my back hurts like hell.  It feels like, oh you know, yada, yada, yada.  Belly Button had a smile on his face, much like the last time he diagnosed my back problems when he recommended surgery.  There’s that smile again.  “I know what the problem is,” he said.  “And I can fix it.  You have another herniated disk in your lower back,” he said with a slight chuckle.  “We don’t know how it happened, but it’s there.”

I was relieved that all of the pain was not in my imagination, and that he located the problem.  But OMG, I have to go through more surgery?  Belly Button fires up the computer and the three of us hover around the computer screen.  He begins pointing out all of the bones and disks in my spin.  Oh look at this disk.  It looks pretty good, but now look at this one, all flattened out with goo seeping out.  Looked like a stepped-on jelly donut to me.  You have bone on bone.  And look where the nerve is located.  Just looking at it made my back hurt.

We could do the same procedure as last time when I cleaned the area, removed some bone fragments.  You know the routine, yada, yada, yada.  But this time the situation demands another technique,  I would insert some metal hardware.  You know — plates, rods, and screws.  That’s the most secure way of fixing your problem.  The recovery time will double but you can be back to normal — my mind began to drift, pain free, rough housing with my dog, messing around with my wife, yada, yada, yada.  We can use either procedure, Belly Button said, the simple but uncertain one with a shorter recovery, or the more complicated one with a longer recovery which provides for a better outcome.  We can schedule the operation in a few weeks.  Let me know which technique you would like to use.

Belly Button told me that he understood how debilitating nerve pain can be.  “It can cause depression,”  he said.  Oh really, I thought.  That’s quite an understatement. Your fucking A it causes depression.  It’s a “can’t move” depression.  Lets open my back up right now, I thought.  Here, hand me the knife and I’ll do the slicing myself.  Look, there’s that stepped-on jelly roll.  Hand me a stapler and a couple of rubber bands.  There, it feels better already.  Ooops, I’m losing a ton of blood.  Looks like I’m a quart low.  Give me a can of 10-40.  That takes care of anything.  Pains gone.  Time to go home.  Thank you God for my imagination.  It always makes me feel better.

 

 

God told me that I needed a “buzz.”

7301_100437136820483_587807534_nIt’s been a long time since my last blog, maybe two weeks or perhaps a month.  As most of you know, I’ve been struggling with back pain.  In January 2014 I had surgery for two herniated disks in my lower back.  Surgery was successful, pain disappeared.  I probably should add that the pain leading to the surgery was extreme, ungodly, pain-in-the-back, fucking low-life bad.  But it was over, until a few weeks later when the pain appeared in another spot in my spine: not as bad as before, but it sucked.  I’ve been trying several modes of treatment with limited results  — I still have back pain.  I take two Excedrine every four hours for pain.  It doesn’t leave, it just moves into the back seat of the car while I try to watch the drive-in movie from the front seat.  I find myself sleeping a lot during the day.  I mow, take some pills, pass out on the sofa, followed by the same routine, day after day.  It’s beginning to suck.

This brings me to my latest experience.  It happened this afternoon as I was mowing the grass.  I had this conversation with God, or maybe an imaginary talk with God.  I really don’t know, but it was satisfying.  I must have said something like, “Hey God, things are not going well.  I hurt, I take pills, and I sleep.  Doesn’t say much for the “golden years.'”

“Maybe the answer is in front of your eyes,” he must have said.  “You know how they said in your church that the streets of heaven are paved with gold.  Maybe there’s another way of looking at this.  Maybe heaven isn a continuous ‘buzz.’  Think about it.  That’s not so bad.  Maybe you can gain a temporary reprieve from your pain.  Drink a bottle of wine and eat some “cheddar fish crackers.”

“I think that I understand,” I said.  I opened a bottle of wine and poured myself a bowl of those “cheddar fish crackers” that my granddaughters like.  Wine and “fish crackers” can be mighty fine.  It was overcast tonight, nice cool breeze outside.  I invited my wife and dog to join me outside.  “Tonight,” I said, “I am going to get a nice buzz.”  And oh Lordy, I have a nice one going on.  My wife had one glass and several fish crackers.  My dog, Bailey, had numerous fish crackers, and I had a bottle of wine.

So, here I am.  The buzz is still real and fine.  Had dinner, maybe one of the best I’ve ever had.  My wife still loves me, even though I sometimes act like a fool.  And Bailey, she always loves me.  You know, dogs can sense the really good things of life — that’s me.

I don’t know how often I’m going to repeat this, but it was wonderful tonight.  Maybe I’ll do it tomorrow, the next night, and so on.  Thursday I meet with my surgeon to discuss my latest MRI.  To be cut open or not, that will be the question.

Now I arrive at the moment when I hit the “return” button on my computer.  No more thought, no proof-reading.  Shit in, shit out, that’s tonight’s offering.  Tomorrow morning I won’t believe that I sent this out.  But it is what it is.

 

 

Count to ten before you speak — please.

city museum 2006085It was the fall of 2002, the exact date I cannot recall, when I arrived at the Dwight Correctional Center for women.  I had spent months interviewing Rita Nitz, an inmate convicted of first degree murder for her alleged participation in the shooting and decapitation of Michael Miley, a young gay man.  I was never convinced that Rita played any role in the death of Miley.  My book, “Rita Nitz:  A Life without Parole,” was published by the Southern Illinois University Press in 2005. I interviewed numerous people who knew Rita, her husband, Richard, also serving life in prison, and the victim, Michael Miley.  To understand this newly discovered world required some behavior modifications of my own — things are not always as they seem, no two realities are the same, and learn to breathe as I became immersed in my new journey.

You might say that Rita’s emotions were activated by the pull of a “hair trigger.”  The slightest provocation could upset her and put an end to our three-hour meetings — the allotted time in the prison’s visit room.  Each interview required a gentle stride as I walked through an imaginary bed of hot coals.  Any misstep could burn my ass. I suppose that it was inevitable:  Rita felt that I was too aggressive when I questioned her possible involvement in the murder.  She stood, turned, and quick-stepped her way to another room where she was strip searched before rejoining the general prison population.  Six months passed before she spoke to me again. So much to learn.  Life changed in so many ways; my horse blinders were removed, a broader, crystal clear vision came forth, and spiritual seeds seemingly sprouted from my soul.

In Rita’s world, many of the people — good and bad — had a “hair trigger” of their own, ready to fight at the slightest provocation.  We are the product of our genetic makeup and our life experiences.  This much I know.  Change is difficult, but possible.  Of course there are individuals who have been so emotionally damaged that they are beyond repair.  That is the unfairness of it all.  Most of us have heard the expression count to ten before answering what you perceive as a provocation.  This simple rule can be found in Thomas Jefferson’s writings, “The Canons of Conduct.” http://www.monticello.org/site/jefferson/canons-conduct  For Jefferson it was common sense, but for many of us it is a lesson unlearned.  Hair trigger, count to ten, knee-jerk reaction share the same message — think before you speak.  Today it seems more difficult than years past.  There is a segment of the population that is aware of America’s short fuse, and use it to their advantage.  Its called politics.

Politics is a cesspool that can be found around the dinning room table when certain relatives come to visit, the local coffee shop, and any place where two or more people engage in conversation.  The cesspool is filled with the daily shit dumped on the national airwaves.  The garbage, that sounds better than shit, is peddled as truth and is designed to activate the hair trigger, knee-jerk reaction, inability to count to ten, and in general terms, reach people unable to think.

We, as individuals, tend to withdraw “talking points” from the cesspool that has grown to the size of an ocean, and hurl them at people who seemingly challenged our integrity.  And if you think that we are bad, just take a look at Congress — a collection of people unable to work together, controlled by the most evil thing of all, a wad of cash.  (Check out one of my past blogs about truth.)  http://authorllfranklin.com/2014/03/13/truth-you-have-to-work-at-it/

Is there hope?  I’m uncertain.  Maybe it is somehow connected to our inability to think in long-term goals rather than engage in short-term gratification.  Several years ago a couple of us met at a local coffee shop located in a university community.  It began as a joke that we would watch the students who came to the coffee shop to eat a muffin and drink a cop of coffee.  It was our conclusion that the top of a muffin was the best part.  So, we decided to see how many students ate the top of the muffin first, and how many ate the bottom half first.  The two of us always ate the bottom half first and saved the best part, the top half for last.  Being from an earlier generation, we were into long term goals and not instant gratification.  We were not surprised at our findings.  Nearly all of the students ate the top half first, and were motivated by instant gratification.  So sad, so sad.

Oh Thomas Jefferson, where are you when we need you — “count to ten before you speak.”

 

 

Facebook World — Heroin in a Mousetrap

The Newest Book from Larry L. Franklin
Mnemosyne: A Love Affair with Memory

It was another session with Olivia, the therapist who brought me back from the dark side of childhood sexual abuse.  Although I am in a relatively good place, a little tuneup is needed now and then.

“I noticed a significant decrease in the number of blogs that you have written,” Olivia said.  “How do you feel about that?”  Olivia knows that without writing I tend to lose my way, allowing depression to slide under my door.

My eyes stared at the floor.  “I don’t feel good about it.  With my back pain and a bit of depression, I am not motivated to write.  But I need to write.  I can’t imagine my life without it.”

“So what have you been doing?” Olivia asked.
“I’ve been spending some time on facebook,” I answered.  “But that’s not without its problems.”
“Tell me about it,” Olivia said.
“Sometimes I get sucked into a pointless political discussion.  Reading some far, right wing post pushes my hot button and I feel compelled to respond.  Its always a pointless discussion with no resolution.  A total waste of my time.  Stupid stuff.  A real downer.”

My remarks were followed by silence.  There’s always the quite moments when Olivia leaves me to think about what I just said.  (Its like she is saying, hey buddy, you need to figure out some of this shit yourself.)

“Okay, ” I said.  “Let me use a metaphor to explain what is gong on.”  I feel like I’m a mouse stranded in a large maze with multiple hallways and individual rooms.  Each room houses a friend who shares emotional contact with me, but no physical interaction.  It’s an attractive way to spend idle time away from the stresses of life and, oh yes, my nagging back pain.  But there is a down side to the pleasantries — the mouse trap, a dark seductive device.  I take a stroll down the hallway to visit a friend, and “lo” without warning is a mousetrap topped with a chunk of blue cheese emitting a fragrance that I cannot resist.  I know, as certain as I know my name, Mickey, this is a trap that will kill me, slow or fast, my certain death.  So far I have pulled away at the last moment, but I don’t know how long I can resist?  If I put heroin in the mousetrap I have my story.

“Well, this is certainly about facebook,” Olivia said.  “Sounds like you are bored. Although you find the political discussions pointless, your curiosity is challenged.  Maybe it is trying to take the place of your writing.”

“Wow,” I said.  “You cut to the point, hard and fast, like a box cutter slicing through a cardboard box.  You’re right.  I’d better be careful or I will become a political pundit instead of a writer.”  The two of us laughed followed by silence.
“So, what can you write about?”  Olivia asked.
Silence again.  “I know what I’ll write,” I said.  “I’ll write about facebook and how I feel like I’m being stalked by a mousetrap.”

Hence,  Facebook World — Heroin in the Mousetrap