Category Archives: battered women

Over the Hills

One of my proposals was due in two days and things had gone seriously off piste. It may be that, because we are essentially a mental health organization, we have a way of working that is consultative in the extreme.  When people edit drafts of proposals they never comment, “This number should be 50.”  Instead they write, “I sort of think this number could be 50, but what does everyone else think?”  And then everyone piles on and adds comments until all the edits look like the Babylonian Talmud.

I often suggest that people jump on Skype and talk to each other and make decisions, but with time differences and poor internet and … well … Skype—the program we love to hate—that’s challenging.

A colleague had offered to incorporate everyone’s comments into the proposal.  I just had to give it a once-over to cut down the length and make sure it was clear and responded to the donor’s intent and requirements.  I was free to go with Lynn on an excursion the next day.

The next day.  An email from my colleague to the whole group, “I’m sick and there’s no way I can do these edits. I’m sorry!  I’m signing off now.”

Shit.  It was on me now.

“Will there be internet at the venue?” I asked Lynn.  She didn’t know; Richard Googled it and the website didn’t say anything about internet.

“But it’s an event venue,” Lynn reasoned.  “It has to have internet.”

“Agreed.  It has to have internet.”

Lynn is on the board of Grampian Women’s Aid, one member of a consortium of Scottish domestic abuse organizations.  The event was a celebration marking their 40 years of providing refuge for survivors and advocating for stronger laws to protect women and children.

It took us an hour to get to there.  Richard had hand-drawn a map for us; I held it and nervously called out the turns.  “Left before this bridge!”  “Right after the abandoned pub!”  We only got slightly lost once, which is amazing for Lynn and me.  Why didn’t we use a GPS?  I don’t recall, but we passed through one of the most wild, empty areas of Scotland.  An old-school GPS wouldn’t have known about the washed-out bridge; a smart phone-based app needs 3G, which was iffy in some areas.

I’m looking at a map of Aberdenshire now, trying to figure out where we were. I love the names but none of them sound familiar: Haugh of Glass.  Glenkindie Towie. Bellabeg Strathdon. Longmorn Fogwatt. We may have been in Cairngorns National Park.  I don’t know.

We passed this creepy gate.  I hope it was a joke.

I can’t recall the name of the venue, but it was lovely.  We met some of the other board members in the café to have lunch before the event, which was redundant because there was so much great food at the event.  More great food!  Here is my lunch.  A fresh fish fest!  I forgot all about my proposal.

But after lunch reality hit and while Lynn and her fellow volunteers were setting up, I tried to get an internet connection.  This was complicated by the fact that my laptop battery has been dead for five years so it has to be plugged in.  I walked around with it and finally got an off-on connection and an electric outlet in a back room.

People think everybody, everywhere, is online.  Well everybody isn’t, and doesn’t.  People in Ethiopia.  People in rural Scotland.  People in Nebraska.  Poor people.  Elderly people.  Me.

But I managed to just focus’til I got ‘er done then got enough of a connection to send it off.

The event was very moving.  About 100 women and men were in attendance, including one of the local lords and a woman politician.  This is artwork by children in refuge.

The most memorable speaker was a woman who had been involved from the start.

The food was fantastic and provided gratis by the caterer.

I felt grateful.  A former battered woman myself, I was now eating strawberry and cream tarts in Scotland to celebrate 40 years of aid to battered women.  There is so much good work being done in this world by so many.

High Rolling

It’s Super Bowl Sunday.  Yawn.  I don’t care about sports but I’ll watch the game because it’s in Minneapolis and I want to see how Minnesota is portrayed in the media.

The game has temporarily escalated prices for everything, and people are scrambling to take advantage.  My landlord rented out the duplex above me to two Canadian brothers in town for the game.  I’m sure she’s getting a packet o’ money.  If they want to borrow a cup of sugar, it’s gonna cost ‘em $500.  Just kidding!  We Minnesotans are as nice as our neighbors to the north.

My mind has been casting back to Super Bowl 1992, which was the last time Minneapolis hosted.  I had ended a long-term abusive relationship with a rich man by getting a restraining order against him.  I lived in St. Paul and he lived in another state but he still managed to stalk and harass and beat me.  I fully acknowledge my participation in this; I got on planes and flew out to see him.  I allowed him to stay in my apartment and Vince was exposed to things he never should have been.

I can’t believe it was me.  It’s like it happened to another person.  I was a zombie.

The last time the police had taken photos of my bruises they had urged me to get an order for protection.

“We can’t touch him because he lives in [another state],” the cop said.  “If he was a loser, an order might escalate the situation but with rich guys who’ve got a lot to lose, it shuts them down good.”

And it did.  I knew the moment the order was delivered because the phone rang and after a long silence, click, then nothing but peace.  Release.  I started my life over.  To be on the safe side, literally, I bought my little first house and made sure the address was unlisted.

A few months later, on Super Bowl Sunday, I opened my front door and there he was on my door step.  Not in person, but in a front-page full-color edge-to-edge photo in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.  The image is emblazoned in my mind.  He was posing with one foot on the bumper of a limousine, raising a glass of champagne toward the camera as if to say, “Ha ha, Anne!  Look at the lifestyle you spurned!”

The article was nauseating.  He really had terrible taste.  Me—I may not have a lot of money—but I have good taste.  There are certain things you can’t buy: good taste, depth of character, a clean conscience, wisdom, kindness, pride, joy, and love.

People like him don’t have the bracing travel experiences I’ve had because they never stay in hostels, or take the bus, or meet normal locals.

I’ve told a few people this story lately because the Super Bowl is all anyone is talking about.  I began to wonder if I imagined the whole thing, but I didn’t.  The archive where I just had to pay to download the article didn’t include the photo and that’s probably a good thing.

Published: January 26, 1992
Section: NEWS
Page#: 01A

The weekend belongs to a wave of high rollers

By Randy Furst; Staff Writer

Meet Dr. Dale Helman, Monterey, Calif., self-described high roller.

The 32-year-old neurologist was tooling around the Twin Cities Saturday afternoon in a blue-and-gold chauffeur-driven 1962 Rolls that rents for $1,200 a day.

He’s here for the Super Bowl and because he needed someplace to spend some money.

He says he made the trip to the Super Bowl because he needed a $10,000 tax writeoff: “On Dec. 30, my tax accountant said I have 36 hours to get an entertainment deduction.” In a New Year’s Eve rush, Helman bought four tickets to the game over the phone from Ticket Exchange, a ticket broker in Phoenix, Ariz.

“I offered him the 40-yard line, but he said it wasn’t good enough,” said John Langbein, owner of Ticket Exchange. “I offered him the 50-yard line, three rows up, but he said that was too low. I offered him the 50-yard line, 30 rows up; he said that was too high. I finally got him the 50-yard line, 20 rows up.” The price: $1,550 a ticket.

Helman wanted only the best seats. He said he’ll write the trip off because he’s taking three neurologist friends to the game and plans to discuss neurology with them “in the limo. . . . Maybe at halftime we’ll talk about the neurology of football injuries.” He also went to Minneapolis Veterans Medical Center yesterday afternoon in his limo to interview a neurologist for a position on his staff.

“It is rare that I get a weekend off, but when I get a weekend off I play hard,” said Helman, who flew first class from San Francisco on Friday night. He and his buddies went to a Champps sports bar, where they met some Buffalo Bills cheerleaders.

He calls his visit “clean fun.”

He was headed last night to the Taste of the NFL, a $75-a-plate dinner.

High rollers in cabs Some high rollers don’t like to walk or find the temperatures a bit too bracing for a stroll. Many hail cabs for one- or two-block trips. Cabbies complain that many of the visiting bigshots are playing it cheap, too, with tips in the $1 to $2 range.

Rollers on the rocks

As many as 900 of the highest of high rollers ventured onto Curt Carlson’s frozen private lake yesterday for an exclusive party outside Carlson Companies headquarters. A 130-seat TGI Fridays was erected on the lake so partygoers could eat and drink. Outside, they rode snowmobiles, a hot-air balloon, horse-drawn sleighs and an eight-dog sled. Former Olympic figure skater Dorothy Hamill gave skating lessons, and polar explorer Will Steger narrated a slide show about his Antarctic expedition.

Some praised the advantages of the cold weather. “The germs are all gone,” declared Norah Farris of Dallas. But not everyone was dressed for the occasion. Nina Pellegrini of San Francisco tried her hand at ice sailing in a full-length white fox fur coat. The party was sponsored by Carlson Companies, CBS and Coca-Cola. The plutocracy was out in force: CBS President Howard Stringer, Curt Carlson, Minnesota Twins owner Carl Pohlad, Northwest Airlines Cochairman Al Checchi, financier Irwin Jacobs and First Bank Chairman John Grundhofer.

Rollers come first, uh huh!

At the Winter Carnival ice slide near the State Capitol, there was nearly a revolt yesterday when Pepsi officials reserved time on the slide at 10 a.m. for Pepsi executives. Pepsi contributed $1 million for the ice castle. But by 10:30, more than 100 average citizens had lined up at the slide and weren’t being allowed to take their turns. Some angry people started shouting, “Coke! Coke!” After about 15 minutes of failing the good-taste test, Pepsi execs decided to let common folks ride, too.

A fitting feast

A 600-glass pyramid of cascading champagne opened the Taste of the NFL yesterday at the International Centre in Minneapolis. The program raised $100,000 for the poor, but the participants didn’t do too poorly, either. About 1,500 people dined on alligator, duck pastrami and assorted delicacies. Admission was $75. Organizers overcame several last-minute crises, including a case of the missing scallops, needed for 1,100 entrees prepared by a chef from Cafe Annie in Houston. It was miraculously delivered 10 minutes before the 6 p.m. opening.

Ice jam Traffic congestion became a nightmare in St. Paul yesterday thanks to the Winter Carnival Grande Day Parade. Shuttle bus service was backed up much of the day, requiring waits of up to 90 minutes. And bus service from the ice palace to downtown Rice Park was stopped for several hours during the parade. 

Your taxes at work

Super Bowl fans will be treated to some high-flying antics, including a possible coin toss in the weightlessness of space, by the astronauts aboard space shuttle Discovery, according to the Associated Press. The astronauts plan to make a brief television appearance during the pregame show.

CBS Sports commentators Greg Gumbel and Terry Bradshaw will chat with the shuttle crew in a TV hookup arranged by NASA.


On Jan. 15, 1982, shortly before the Dome opened, an article appeared on Page 1 of the sports section in the now-defunct Minneapolis Star. It began: “If you think the Jan. 24 Super Bowl in chilly Pontiac, Mich., means that Minneapolis might someday be host for the football ritual, don’t bet on it. According to officials of the National Football League, the city’s nearly completed Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome is just too small to hold a Super Bowl crowd.” The author of the article was Randy Furst. Oh well.

Staff Writers Jean Hopfensperger, Joe Kimball, Dave Phelps and Ellen Foley contributed to this article.

Lady Day

Lynn, Richard, Possum, and I made our way into the Wyndham, got some drinks, then headed into the auditorium.

The show was Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill.  The premise is that Billie Holliday, the American jazz icon, is performing at a run-down bar in Philadelphia right before she dies, age 44, in 1959.  It’s a two-hour monologue and song book, accompanied by a man who plays the piano, tries to stop her from shooting up, then procures heroin for her.

I don’t go to a lot of live theatre.  It always feels to me like people are talking in a stilted way: “Look at me—I’m acting!”  I was leery about going to any American show in Britain.  On my first trip to England, my cohort of volunteers—who were from all over Europe and Asia—insisted on going to a west end musical involving a loud-mouthed Texan in a big hat.  There was also lots of waving and shooting of guns.  I squirmed through the whole thing.  The group members loved it and laughed all night about “typical Americans.”

Lady Day would be performed by Audra McDonald, with actual audience members on stage as though they were customers at the bar.  This was a bit strange, since McDonald and the musicians were dressed in period costumes, while the customers/audience members were dressed in contemporary clothes.

We were seated at a café table right below the stage.

I loved Billie Holliday as much as anyone; I had listened to her songs over and over, especially in my angst-ridden 30s, but would I be able to sit through two hours of angst?  And my chair was wobbly!

Then McDonald began her performance, and within moments all distractions melted away and I was riveted.  I knew Billie Holliday’s story—raped as a child, raised by a single mother, addicted to drugs and alcohol, did prison time, full of regret over not having children and a string of abusive relationships.

McDonald’s voice was well up to the task of Holliday’s songs; when the first strains of “Strange Fruit” began I teared up instantly.

Southern trees bear strange fruit

Blood on the leaves and blood at the root

Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze

Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees


Pastoral scene of the gallant south

The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth

Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh

Then the sudden smell of burning flesh


Here is fruit for the crows to pluck

For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck

For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop

Here is a strange and bitter crop

So the show was about Holliday’s life, but also about racism in America, and the lot of being a famous woman performer, and love, and addiction. Believe it or not she was also very funny.  I wanted to run up onto the stage and hug McDonald/Holliday, tell her everything was going to be alright and that I would take her home and take care of her.

I didn’t find myself feeling defensive about the theme of racism.  In fact, just the opposite.  Racism is a reality in America and always has been.  It’s something we’ve had to struggle with, collectively.  We’ll probably never see the end of it.  I’d like to think that as older generations die off, younger ones will be less racist, but the crowds in Charlottesville at the white supremacist rally last year were mainly young men.

So why would I feel proud of my country?  Because at least half of us are fighting this shit. At least half of us are fighting back–marching, writing essays, lobbying our elected officials in opposition to racism and other “isms.”

The performance ended; we looked at each other and I spoke first, “I feel like a wrung out rag!”

“That was intense,” said Richard.

“I’m exhausted!” said Lynn,

Added Possum, “I never knew!”

We went back to the hotel, ordered some wine, and talked for hours about racism in our respective countries.

Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill was made into a TV show; if you want to watch it it’s here.

Have a box of Kleenex handy.

Stories as Old as Time

This is a series of posts about Italy, Malta, and Spain that starts here.

The Borghese, pronounced borrrr-geh’-see-ah, was once a private estate originally owned by a cardinal who was the nephew of a pope.  There was a lot of money to be made in the Catholic Church 500 years ago, which is partly what sparked the Reformation.

The gallery is one building in a sprawling complex.  There was the villa itself, where successive owners lived before the last ones bequeathed it to the state.  There were parks filled with statuary and fountains, and then there was the gallery.  I didn’t see the villa, but I imagine it isn’t too shabby.  So if you were lucky enough to live here in the 17th Century, the gallery was your own private art museum.

My group of a dozen New Yorkers, Floridians, Hoosiers, Ottowans, and one Dutch couple were led around efficiently by our guide, Mario, who said he was an art student.  He was around 35, so I think he may have meant he was a lifelong student of art.

The first room featured a sculpture by Bernini, the Rape of Persephone (by Hades, the king of hell).  According to Mario, they “lived happily ever after.”  Really.


Despite the repulsive subject, I couldn’t help but marvel at the lifelike bodies carved out of a block of solid marble.  Look at Hades’ fingers sinking into Persephone’s flesh.


The Rape was the centerpiece in the room, but every inch of the room was covered with art.  Even the walls, floors, and doors were works of art because they had been painted to look like marble or other precious materials.  I wondered how much just one of the friezes above the door would be worth, and what anonymous artist had produced it.

In a hallway, there were these 3D murals on the ceiling:


The next room featured another guy (Apollo), who couldn’t keep his hands off a woman (Daphne) who had said “No.”  She pleaded for help to her father, the river god Ladon; and he turned her into a tree.  How did Bernini know where to start?  How did he carve the arms and fingers without cracking one off?


We passed through an enormous room that was closed for renovation, but we stopped to appreciate the ceiling; this is one small section:


There was a sculpture of Napolean’s sister Pauline, who was married to a Borghese for the political alliance. Note the wrinkles in the marble “mattress.”


Then there were the paintings by Caravaggio.  This one had been banned because it depicted Mary with cleavage and was unflattering of her mother, Anne.  Full frontal male nudity, I guess, was not a problem.


Continuing along the rape theme, there was this painting of Susanna being raped by the elders.


The painting below depicts a virtuous vs. sinful woman. It’s not what you think—the naked one is virtuous because she isn’t hiding anything.  You know us women–always keeping important secrets from men.


After an hour and a half, Mario said we could walk around by ourselves until our timed ejection at 2pm.  I had read about a statue by Bernini called The Hermaphrodite—female from behind, male in front. Mario had led us past it without comment and it was pushed against a wall—for modesty’s sake?  Was male nudity deemed unseemly when it was an adult?  But there were plenty of other statues of naked men throughout the gallery.  Was it because of the gender fluidity of the statue?


I had not expected to encounter these themes of rape, of women being objects for barter and use by men, and of the mixed attitudes toward nudity. Aside from The Hermaphrodite, I didn’t go looking for any of these works; they were highlights of the gallery featured on the tour. Mario didn’t interpret or make any sociopolitical commentary.

Open a newspaper anywhere, any day, and there will be stories about rape and human trafficking and women being killed by stalkers. I’m not one to say “nothing ever changes.” The world is safer and saner in many ways than it was four hundred years ago.  But art suggests that human nature, emotions, and impulses don’t change.


From AA to LA

This is the eighth and final post in a series that begins here.

Vince went to live with my mother, and I attended outpatient chemical dependency treatment.  If you are in the “helping professions”—social work, psychotherapy—or if you even just have common sense and empathy, you won’t be surprised to learn that I wasn’t an alcoholic.

The expectation had been that I would go through pregnancy, birth, and adoption without any support, then go on as though nothing had happened.  People seemed surprised that I was sad and angry.  They were uncomfortable when I talked about it.

“You signed the papers; it’s over—why keep bringing it up?  Just don’t think about it.”

Alcohol is a time-honored stress reliever in such dissonant situations.

Sobriety—and a break from being a full-time mother and student—helped clear my head and face my emotions.  I spent the month working the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and reading piles of self help books, and doing all the other things people do to get back on track.

After a month Vince came home.  What–you were expecting some big drama?  Sorry.  In Minnesota we don’t like drama.  In fact we are all about avoidance of discomfort, or as I call it, “reality.”

I didn’t drink for a couple years.  I went to AA, where the members often listened to my story skeptically and said, “I don’t think you’re an alcoholic.”  I should have been referred to Alanon, which is for family members and friends of alcoholics.  People impacted by alcoholic behavior act just as crazy as their alcoholics, but there’s no rehab for them.  In fact I can recall my mother complaining that my dad got to go to “that country club”—Hazelden, a rehab center nestled on a lake with a pool, wooded walking trails, and tennis courts—while she stayed home with the four kids, the house, and the bills.

I got a job, moved out of the hi-rise, and started paying back my student loans.  Vince began school and, while his grades were never great, he was popular with teachers and students.   I made sure he brushed his teeth and washed behind his ears.  I took him to baseball practice, religious school, and family functions.  We watched Dr. Who together and went on little road trips to Lake Superior to hunt agates.  You know, normal life.

Every spring I would find myself feeling blue and wonder what was wrong with me.  Then it would hit me: Ah ha!  Isaac’s birthday is coming up.  On Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, I would tear up when they read the story of the sacrifice of Isaac.  Every couple of years I would send a letter to be placed in his file, knowing it would probably never be read.  When my mother talked about how many grandchildren she had, didn’t count Isaac.  Intellectually, I knew this was the whole point—that it remain forever a secret—but to me he was always out there, somewhere.

When Vince was 10, I got entangled with an abusive guy and we ended up losing our home.  Three times in one year, we had to move and Vince had to change schools.  I chose this time to tell him about Isaac.  I thought it would comfort him to know he had a brother out there somewhere, assuming he was alive.  Clearly I am not a psychotherapist, or I would have known this would backfire.  Vince was devastated—it was a loss on top of losses.

He met his brother, eventually, and some day one or both of us will write about that.

Did these events have a permanent effect on Vince?  They deeply affected me, so why not him, since he was so much younger and couldn’t understand what was happening?  If they did affect him, it’s his job now to delve into them and resolve whatever leftover effects may be holding him back, which is what he seems to be doing in AA.

Thanks for reading this series.  Several people have commented offline that it’s been emotional to read.  I’m ready for a happier subject for the next post: my plans for a road trip to New Orleans!

The Dilemma

Vince has mentioned in his blog that he would like to write about his brother, so I should probably get out ahead of that.

It was 1979.  Nine-month-old Vince and I lived on the 18th floor of Skyline Towers, a subsidized 24-story high rise overlooking Interstate 94.

I had just started my second year of college.  In the spring I would earn my two-year Occupational Therapy degree.  I would be able to get a job and get off welfare, maybe even move out of public housing into a quaint little brick four-plex with wood floors and a stained glass window.  That was my dream.

Here was my routine:

5:30 am: Get up, shower, feed baby Vince

6:00 am: Strap Vince into the collapsible stroller, put on the old beaver fur coat I had found at the Salvation Army and the moon boots I bought new after saving all summer.  Sling my backpack full of text books over my shoulders, and head down the hall to the elevators.

Moon Boots

6:15 am: Exit the front door into the winter morning darkness.  Cross the parking lot, then the pedestrian bridge over I94 where the wind was always biting.  Push the stroller across the athletic field on the other side of the freeway (extra hard if there was fresh snow on the ground), then walk two blocks to drop Vince off at daycare.

6:30 am: Pry Vince off me, ignoring his crying and screaming.  Ignore the guilt.  I had to do this to get ahead, to better our lives.  Walk two blocks to the bus stop.

6:45 am: Catch the 21A to Minneapolis.  This is a slow bus that stops at every corner.

7:30 am: Catch a second bus that drops me off a block from school.

8:00 am: First class.  Study and go to class all day.  Pathology, Anatomy and Physiology, Abnormal Psychology, Medical Terminology, and Fundamentals of Occupational Therapy.

4:00 pm: Repeat above, only backwards.  Sometimes necessary to stop at the grocery, which slowed things down considerably because I had to haul the stroller and one of those little-old-lady shopping carts.


6:00 pm: Arrive home, make dinner, feed Vince, clean, pay bills, make phone calls, etc.

7:30 pm: Put baby to bed.  Thank god he is such a good baby and loves to sleep.  But I still like our routine of reading books, singing songs, and rocking.

8:00 pm: Study for a couple hours, in bed by 10.

Then I found out I was pregnant again.  I had been using birth control and breast feeding.  Taken together, these were supposed to protect me against getting pregnant.  Lucky me, I was one of the one out of a hundred or whatever who did.

I’ve written about the guy Vince and I call The Creep.  Why had I let The Creep anywhere near me after Vince was born?  Because I felt obligated.  He was Vince’s father, after all, and my boyfriend.  Even though he was terrible at both, I was a doormat.  I can hardly believe this was me—it feels like it happened to another person.

I loved being a mother.  But how could I keep up my schooling with two babies?

I loved babies.  But how could I be a good mother to two of them?

I loved college—I was the star pupil in my class.  But how could I keep it up with two kids?

I told The Creep.  He looked like a badger caught in a snare.

“I spose we have ta get married then, huh?” was his response.

I don’t know what I had wanted from him, but it wasn’t that.

I told my mom.  She was furious.

“This will kill your grandma,” she said, and she wasn’t exaggerating.  My grandmother had run into the bathroom and thrown up when I’d told her I was pregnant the first time.

I told the head of my school program.  She looked so disappointed.

“What are you going to do?” she asked, not expecting that I’d have any answer.


A Break from Breaking Free


Vince says he’s hit a wall with the blogging, and I need more than 10 minutes notice to come up with new material.  After over a year of blogging and nearly 200 posts, I’d say we’ve earned a break.

We’ll be back.  If you haven’t yet binge read the thing from the beginning, start here and click on the right-pointing arrow at the bottom of each post to proceed.  Feel free to share with others, and thanks for reading.


Froggie Went a Courtin’


I just came back from a lawn mowing where I took the life of an innocent frog.  It was a cold-blooded murder in the most literal sense.  Wait.  Are frogs cold blooded?  Hmm.  I may be wrong but it sounded funny in my head.

I don’t like to kill things, so I felt bad for a few minutes.  I didn’t do it on purpose, but when his (her?) severed head was staring into my eyes, I could still see life and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.  Now that I’ve written about it, I can let it go.

I once killed a deer, for meat, and I once killed a deer with a Pontiac Sunfire.  Oh, and some squirrels, which I also ate.

After months of no formal discipline, I got an intervention today.  That is my sixth in five months, not bad.  The guy with the most discipline in my squad has 21 and three Learning Experiences (LEs).

An intervention is basically a military gig, not a rehab intervention like you might see on TV.  Mine was for not sleeping under one of my two sheets.  It’s very petty.  If I do it two more times which I won’t, I will get an LE.

I redeemed myself today for killing the frog.  I saw him/her just in time while I was pushing the Frog Killer 2000 over the grass, and helped him along into the garden.  Oh, yea, there were two of them.  So if I ever kill another frog, I’m even.

We’ve been working lately in CD on the “ripple effect” of our crimes.  Well, most of us have.  The guy who shot at somebody several times but missed still claims his offense has no victim.

I never denied that selling drugs hurt society, people’s lives, families, and of course the children.  I’m sure the money given to me for meth could have been better spent on food, clothing, and shelter.

My criminality has affected my family as well.  I didn’t directly try to bring harm to them, other than stealing some money from My Mom years ago, and borrowing money more recently without, so far, paying it back.  But I see my Mother, now in her 50s, still beautiful, energetic, kind, and unbelievably patient, without a husband, and I wonder if I am indirectly or directly responsible.  Is that where the shame took hold?  Am I such a black sheep that she didn’t even bother?

She’s had boyfriends over the years but they didn’t stick.  I see myself in the same boat.  37 with no wife and kids, no girlfriend waiting for me out there.  Maybe together, we emit a powerful toxic odor that that repels potential mates.  Hmm…I hope not.

The point is, even if I am not responsible for her mating habits, I am seeing that my choices affect more than just me.  And it can ripple a long way out.  I’m not just staying clean for me, I’m doing it for the whole pond.

[ANNE: My heart sank when I read this.  Vince is in no way responsible for me being one of the 7% of American women my age who have never married.  Take out the lesbian women who couldn’t marry, and I am part of a really small club.  I always wanted to get married.  I assumed I would.  I wrote a blog post about dating years ago that demonstrates the effort I put into finding a mate.

Like a lot of things, it’s complicated.  I wasted my 20s and 30s—the years when most people marry—on Kermit and other alcoholics, abusers, and just plain jerks.  Then I took a break from dating to figure out how to stop doing that.  Then came Vince’s lost year, when I was too distraught to think of anything else.  Then, the older you are, the harder it is to meet people.  So it was a combo of bad choices, bad timing, bad luck and yes, Vince was a factor but far from the only one.  Being single is far from the worst fate, so now I claim my spinsterhood as if it was my plan all along.]

The One I Love


I passed a drug test and breathalyzer. I knew I would, but I did get a little nervous. Well, nothing to fret over now.

I remember a lot of good from Aspen Glen [the subsidized housing complex where we lived until Dr. Wonderful came into our lives]. Twenty plus years later, I still think about my daycare family—Duane and Mary and their three kids James, Shawna, and Michael. I spent years with them after school and playing with the kids on weekends. Even after we moved I stayed in touch for years. I really do miss them. I wonder if they wonder about me.

I also remember fondly my years at Bel-Air School. Years later I drove by it, and was surprised at how small it was. Everything is big when you’re a kid.

I remember when the suburb of New Brighton itself was small. Woods everywhere. Again, driving through years later, it looked commercialized. The town I grew up in, plastered with big city names. Big City businesses. I remember when the employees at the Red Owl grocery knew me. That was the first place I ever stole from. I got caught the first time. Oh, how things change.

I went out on another RJWC this week (Restorative Justice Work Crew). We spent five hours at a nursing home in Moose Lake. We cleaned all the exterior windows of the facility, then picked at the never-ending supply of weeds in the various gardens. I found quite a few agates in the landscaping. We’re not allowed to keep them so we put them in a bird bath for all the residents to enjoy. They always look nice underwater.


One of the hundreds of agates Vince collected before he was incarcerated.

So far, it’s been raining all day. This is the first time that it’s a rained on a Saturday while I’ve been at boot camp.

If it’s raining, we don’t have to go out and do work crew stuff. I don’t mind working, I never have, but this is a good opportunity to catch up on a lot of things, including writing.

One of my friends sent me a picture of my dog Willie. I instantly became sad. I miss him so much. It’s amazing how close we can get to an animal. He has been through so much with me. He’s about 12 years old now. I can’t wait to see him again.

Who knows how or what dogs think about. Somehow, I know he misses me, and we will both be just as excited to see each other, only I will have tears in my eyes.

79 days and a wake up, and I will have the ability to start figuring out how to get him back in my life.

[ANNE: At first read I thought these passages of Vince’s were not very interesting. After typing them and re-reading them, several things struck me.  1) He is capable of reviewing the past and remembering both good and bad things.  Most of us need to live more in the now, but addicts need to be able to reflect back on the past before they can move forward.  2)  He has at least one hobby, agate collecting.  Hobbies will be important diversions for him once he’s released.  3) He has someone (his dog) he misses; he can’t wait to be reunited.  Someone to miss, and who misses you–I would hope that’d be an strong deterrent to ever being locked up again.  I hope Willie lives a very long time.]

The Restorative Powers of Kittens


When Vince and I started blogging, I didn’t realize that a theme of redemption would emerge. Vince is transformation is probably obvious. Mine is subtler and has unfolded over many years.

I have been thinking about this lately because in the spring and sumer I get dozens of emails a day from the Humane Society about stray kittens. What does this have to do with redemption?

I signed up to do foster care of kittens a couple years ago. These kittens are born in warehouses or barns or even under car hoods. The mothers, if they survive, are emaciated and barely old enough to conceive. So that’s part of what makes fostering redemptive for me—giving care to vulnerable teen moms that I didn’t receive myself.

I keep these kittens, with or without moms, until they are old enough to be spayed/neutered, then turn them back to the Humane Society. It’s not all fun; I’ve had entire litters die because the mother was so dehydrated. Kittens have been smothered by their litter mates. One lost an eye to the claws of a litter mate. So it’s kind of a nature-tooth-and-claw experience.

People wonder how I don’t get so attached to them that I want to keep them. I think fostering is the ideal set up—I get the cuteness of kittens and the Humane Society pays all the vet bills and provides the supplies. I travel too much to have a permanent pet. When I turn them back in, I know they will be adopted immediately—there’s a huge demand for kittens. And I’m not even that much of a pet person.

So why do I do it, and what does it have to do with redemption? I think it goes back to one of the few memories I have of my dad.

A few weeks before he left home forever, he had been gone for weeks and showed up with a black kitten. I must have been seven, and my three younger siblings were thrilled. I was too, but also leery because I knew my mother was not thrilled. I can see now that the kitten was my dad’s wedge to get back in—if my mother had demanded he turn around and leave, “and take the darn kitten with you,” she would have been the bad guy.

I remember dad telling us to hold her gently and not fight over her because she was a living creature with feelings. He said her name was Surprise! and told us to always say it that way, like there was an exclamation point.

So then dad was back home, and the next day he went out to buy some cat food and kitty litter. He was gone all afternoon and missed dinner. My mom tried to put us to bed early. We did what we usually did, laughed at her and ran in four different directions. But I also can still feel how anxious we all were.

Dad made his appearance just as the cat had crapped under someone’s bed. My mom began to reproach him because of course he was drunk and hadn’t brought home any pet supplies.

We kids were giggling until dad roared, “I’ll Get that goddamn cat!” He ripped the kitten out of my sister’s hands, strode to the top of the stairs, and hurled her down the staircase like a fast ball, screaming, “You goddamn piece of shit!” He raced down to the landing, grabbed Surprise before she could get oriented, and sent her hurtling down the second set of stairs to the first floor.

All of us—my mom and the four of us kids—huddled at the top of the stairs. Someone was whimpering but I had learned to be silent, no matter how frightened I was.

That’s when I had the thought that would teach me to never make wishes:

I wish he was dead.”

A few months later, he was.

Surprise! not only survived but had a litter of eight black kittens six months later.

Much later, there was a (nonviolent) incident involving cats and Vince but that’s his story.

Who could not feel their soul restored by kittens?