Tag Archives: Home

..and then the crazy lady entered


Just like moons and like suns,         
With the certainty of tides,                                           
Just like hope  springing high,                                                                                                             Still I’ll rise.

                                 Maya Angelou        

I have ruminated on the things that I once loved about being me, just me. More than anything, it was a spirit of adventure, of following the journey wherever it led….and it led to some amazing places.

When I left that little town  back east, roaring into the night on a 1942 Indian  motorcycle  in which  I had  been at least halfway responsible for rebuilding and restoring with my own  small sixteen year-old hands, I never looked back. We rode hard for New Hampshire, a child’s romantic teen dream of escape from a world in decline and into a marriage about which I’d no concept. Small town New England held no charm for me. I was a high school drop-out with a mechanic husband and a little second floor flat in an old duplex. It was comfortable enough and I tried to teach myself the rudimentary tasks of being a housewife. I was a far better mechanic. The town itself was picturesque, with little squares, a diner where the locals held court and the fresh mountain air was foreign to my New York and New Jersey nostrils and lungs. I actually missed the smell of bus exhaust, the noise of traffic and the anonymous hustle by which I’d survived. I was not accustomed to being Mrs. (fill in the blank), the friendly and all-too-familiar local charm. It was 6 months before I demanded that we return to the world I preferred…not that dreadful little town that my parents chose but something more familiar. We again embarked on a night’s journey, this time towing the vintage bike behind a newly restored vintage car. My husband…a term so ridiculous in retrospect, considering my age, obliged me in every way possible. Three months later, a friend of his introduced me to pot…in my mind, akin to heroin! It was not.  It was good and I began to look at the world around me and realize that it was 1968 and everything was changing. There was an excitement in the air that had never been and I wanted to know , to be part of it. I did the only thing I could..I called my mother and her fiancé and requested refuge. My mother was delighted to accommodate me and sent Charlie, her soon-to-be husband, to get me quickly, lest I change my mind. It didn’t take long to realize that I had no forgiveness in my heart for the past and the situation with my mother grew untenable. My step-father was the only buffer in a simmering war between us. I had no money, no prospects, no aim but I left.

I wandered back into New York where I found everything imaginable happening! Being born in Brooklyn, it was always home to me and my love affair with New York has never waned. I love the noise, the people, the 24/7 life that I’ve never found anywhere else. At that time, movements of all sorts were afoot: civil rights, women’s rights, anti-war and everything in-between. I attended the first Earth Day in Central Park! I still look at old news footage of marches, so many in New York, knowing that I was among the thousands of faces in the crowds. The reality, though, was that I needed money of some kind, so I found a receptionist position in a county office, which led not to the drudgery I feared but to more freedom. I worked for brief periods but most of my time was spent on activism, hanging around college campuses, experimenting with minor drugs and living on and off in a commune. When I grew restless, as was my habit, I would hit the open road with my thumb out and off to parts unknown. During one of my trips to see my family for the holidays, I happened into a store where I met a Puerto Rican conga drum player, all looks and charm, living in Hoboken,, N.J. and there I was again. I had a great apartment on the first floor of a brownstone, the park featured in “On the Waterfront” across the street. I took a job in the garment district and spent six months in a crazy life of playing it straight by day and spending nights in Latin clubs with my heroin addict and barely English-speaking lover. Then I woke up. He disdained my politics, my commune past and my feminist ways and I abhorred his drug-addicted, womanizing failures. Again, I left. Back to the farm in Canada, to heal my wounds, regain my wits and grow restless for more travel…and yearning to be free of the sub-zero temperatures and hip-deep snow. The farm was spectacular in other seasons but winter was brutal and I was not made for that…nor am I a farmer. So, I rolled some cigarettes, a little weed, donned my hiking boots and layers of clothing and headed to the Trans-Canadian Highway with the first person willing to drive me the 15 miles out. On it went…

More trails than I could have imagined, more people who became friends, still fondly remembered, more impulsive but priceless experiences. I met another love: he on his post-college summer and me with my thumb out. We married in Los Angeles and, lo and behold, I once again ended up in suburban New Jersey! What were the odds? I tried my best to be a suburban working wife, converted to Judaism and had cocktail parties for people who I considered vapid and annoying. I lied my way into a management position at a chain bookstore, where I worked for several years…my respite from the Short Hills Mall women by whom I was surrounded. I soon found a guru fresh from India and that, along with my ongoing consumption of pot, kept me there for six years before the dam broke. It was an emotionally wrenching time: I was leaving a man I did not want to hurt but staying was worse; my father was dying a long and slow death from a broken heart which he drowned in alcohol and my company had me under pressure for transfer to the second largest store in the chain…in Los Angeles! My divorce was final in March, my father passed away in May and I took my transfer in July. I left all I knew to begin again. Success was short-lived. I was still grieving, trying to fix a business that I was sent to troubleshoot and one day, I tossed it all. I ended up living in the desert, trying my hand at alcohol. The party didn’t last long and I did get and stay sober for many years. Life settled into a pleasant groove.

I figured it was time for that G.E.D., followed by college and an Engineering degree. I acquired a nice vintage (of course) restored Mercedes, had a townhouse at the beach  and , best of all, a great group of people in a 12-Step program. I married again, moved to Oregon where I found love at first sight in Portland. It was the first place since childhood that felt like home to me. My marriage didn’t last but life in Portland did.

I made wonderful friends, took up activism on other fronts, returned to college and then university. I majored in Political Science, minored in Journalism and Creative Writing; transferred on to another school and left to work full-time on a major political campaign, followed by a stint in the Senate Majority Office. When I left, I went to an art school.I was independent, outrageous, self-appointed “Hostess at the Party of Life”. I worked and lived among many dear people who were at the center of the HIV/AIDS crisis and lost many friends to this still ongoing plague. I still thrived until I made one last, really bad choice.

I returned to my family of origin, thinking I had a place at the table. The results of that have been recounted in earlier posts. I am back in my beloved Portland now, blessed with an exceptional man who loves me as I am, a cat and a companion dog round out our little family. As I’ve noted before, it has been a decade if curses and blessings, about evenly split. I am still healing, the emotional and physical toll remains and while my spirit rises, my body has taken on the burden of the trauma. My material possessions are few and I teeter on bankruptcy, living below the poverty levels, but I am alive and blessed. I have regained extended family that I believed lost to me forever and these things buoy my spirits on the days when I think I cannot face another sunrise under these circumstances. Gradually, in spirit anyway, I am re-entering my own. I try not to look too far ahead, but stay close to present. It is what I must do if I am to succeed.

Oh yes, and laugh..more at myself than others, often irreverently, sometimes sardonically, but laugh nonetheless. If I lost that capacity, I would truly be mad. The jury is still  out on that.

Advertisements

They Like Me! They Really…wait, I’m not Sally Field here.


“I never lose sight of the fact that just being is fun.”                    

                                                               Katherine Hepburn

This is my best friend, Harry. He is awesome! We are inseparable, it was love at first sight & he is my “companion animal”. Harry is unfailingly present, loves without condition, is without judgement, listens to me whether I’m complaining or recounting some good news..yes, we have long conversations. He doesn’t care what I look like and is always happy to see me. It’s hard for we humans to live up to that kind of Buddha-nature. I know I don’t and I’ve been terribly disappointed when other people fail as well.

Many of the good people who lived around me when I first moved into this area and found my world crumbling have since moved on. That’s okay…it’s what we do. They were more than just neighbors. They were friends. Self-appointed, at first; guardians in my grief; entertainment when I needed a laugh and social directors when I cloistered myself. Over the years, it became give and take and we shared holidays and special occasions, laughter and tears, life’s trauma and drama and all the other things that go into friendship….and professed our love and bonds with each other. To me, that means something and I assume it does to others. So, where did that all go when each moved as close as shouting distance or as far as a 3 hour drive? I’m still here, but they’ve all but vanished from my life. Yes, I’m hurt.

One who lives nearby comes around at what seem  moments of opportunity or crisis. Visits usually finished with promises of a girls’ night out or some other activity that we once enjoyed. They never come to fruition. Much in the same way, my friend who retired and moved farthest…to a dream place for me…spent years begging me to join her on her pre-retirement weekend jaunts. I eventually did and loved every moment. It is a wonderful place! When she left for good upon retiring, it was with many heartfelt words  to me, I cried and she made me promise to use the open invitation she had extended. She even broke down and got a pc to keep in touch with her friends here. I’ve received exactly one email in 4 months and saw her on one occasion when she had an appointment in town and dropped by the apartment to see her son, who still lives here. We had an all-too-rushed visit,  loaded some things into her car, I cried again and she drove off. I, of course, agreed that I would come to see her soon and she assured me that her door was always open. Not an email or call since. I did call her last month on a whim, asking if I could drop in for a couple of days. She agreed that I could take the bus out…4+ hours…spend the night and return home the next day! Now, why would I spend 8 hours total riding a bus, to spend maybe 6 hours total visiting and the rest sleeping? I wouldn’t and I didn’t. To say I felt out off would be an understatement.

So, what’s the answer? I don’t know. I find myself caught between being reluctant to open up to new friendships and finding new friendships…albeit, online…that seem more meaningful than the ones I spent years living with daily. As in love, so it is in my friendships: I try to give of myself, be present, drop what I’m doing if needed, work at overcoming my fear of not being as good as those around me. I am left to suppose, that as it says in the little picture on the left, just take another shot. The world is full of amazing people who do have the capacity to be good and honest friends, to not feel obligated to pretend or speak in empty platitudes, wo can even enjoy each other’s silences. My dearest and truest friends have either passed away or are geographically out of daily reach. I find myself lonely for the company of those with whom I can share…good talk, new books, something newly discovered,maybe a little gossip and always a laugh or two. That’s when I realize that I have limited in common with those in whom I feel such disappointment. With one, it is books & the sea; with another, it is hip-hop and being rowdy girls. Overall, not well-rounded and deep relationships that will span decades….hell, they’ve faded as the saying goes: “out of sight, out of mind”. Yet, I cared and do care enough about these people to feel pained by their actions..or lack of.

Again, I ask myself why I should be so disappointed. The answer remains the same: I don’t exactly know. I guess I believed these people worked hard to open me up, to bring me back into the world, to be my friends even when I was not particularly loveable. So getting dropped on one’s ass, as it were, makes it all seem so senseless. For all of my attitude, for all of my armadillo-like exterior, I am still that shy little girl who never wanted to be noticed, lived through a fair share of bullying and didn’t believe anyone would really like me if they got to know me.

Life doesn’t come with a handbook, so we’re all just winging it…some better than others.My dog hasn’t run away, my cat still loves me & my fiance has the patience of Job, so I must be doing something right. I know I have qualities to bring to the table and, at my age, I can’t believe I’m still trying to figure out how to meet new playmates! We grow, the scenery changes, but it’s still the schoolyard and many are still finding their niche.

PORTLAND: UNIQUE, OPEN & PROUD…BUT NO WEATHER EXTREMES, PLEASE!


I love Portland, Oregon! It was love at first sight for me…it had everything I wanted: enough city to meet my soul’s need for that; a very mixed population from business to artists to Deadheads; museums, coffee houses…little individually-owned ones where one could read & write for hours without snarky looks. There was pride in the different identities of the various neighborhoods in a city divided by quadrants; a bus mall & transit system that got me out of my car for the first time in eons & there was greatness: Powell’s City of Books…nothing like it anywhere else in North America; a library system that is actually well-used and greenspace…you could be in the rainforest without ever leaving the city. it had one other thing unique to Portland: weather-phobia! Oh, yes…fear of unexpected weather. Psychology has not given it an official name and , in this case, it seems a mass phobia.

I, like most people, had many pre-conceived notions of Portland: small town, unsophisticated, place where hippies went to die and , of course, rainy. Endlessly, always rainy. I was wrong on all counts. Yes, it rains…actually more mist and drizzle than real rain and ,even then, mostly in the winter months. You see, Oregon has some mountain ranges and Portland happens to sit between two in a green belt known as the Willamette Valley. Being between two mountain ranges keeps the weather quite temperate, no extremes. Being an East Coast native..New York to be specific…I like this. Moderate, somewhat grey winters, equally reasonable and sunny summers. Rare is a snowfall or a heat wave, but watch out if there’s either. EVERYONE FREAKS OUT! ALL CHANNELS GO TO 24/7 REPETITION OF WHAT IS OBVIOUS! STORES ARE TEEMING WITH AN ANGST-RIDDEN PUBLIC FEARFUL OF BEING TRAPPED WITHOUT AMPLE……(FILL IN BLANK, DEPENDING ON SEASON).

The first year I lived here, there were mad predictions of a snow storm. Busses were parked on the mall, getting chained….I didn’t know tire chains were still made or used anywhere; people either stayed home or left work early; weather was wall-to-wall on all stations and citizens were assured that the city was prepared to throw something by way of de-icers on the roads. I drove to work. I arrived to find 1 other person, my boss.. and received a hero’s welcome. Oh, did I fail to mention that at this point it appeared like talcum powder from a clogged container sprinkling down? I thought I was going mad! Where were these rugged individualists? Where was that Oregonian can-do attitude. Apparently, clearing supermarket shelves and scurrying back to the safety of their homes. Schools and businesses closed, sometimes a whole day in advance, based on the Magic 8 Ball of weather. I laughed hysterically at this mania along with my fellow transplants from states that had real winter. Life went on, spring and then summer came…

“HEAT WAVE HEADED OUR WAY!” It blared from televisions to print media and , again, I saw the stores selling ice and water….in a city of water fountains from which to drink everywhere and decorative fountains in which anyone can play…on either side of the river. Fans, as though a new concept, were swept off store shelves; people headed in droves to any of the several rivers and lakes around us and, again, media were there to remind us to hydrate, dress accordingly and check neighbors. Coming from a place where the humidity allows everyone to enjoy a steam bath and at least one reporter will demonstrate how fast an egg can be fried on the sidewalk, I was once again astounded. Had everyone lost their minds? Not to mention that for a place as moist as Oregon in winter, it is wonderfully dry in the summer…virtually no humidity. I don’t tolerate heat well as a rule, but it has been a fact of my life always. We went to Coney Island, the Jersey shore or stayed in air-conditioned apartments and cars….and complained. Again, cheap entertainment for those of us from less temperate zones. My main issue with the heat is that I have a low threshold and I don’t actually sweat..a weird malady that leaves me to bloat like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day balloon. Not fun!

After a cumulative 20 years here with a brief  madness of 5 years back east, I have realized that these events of winter/summer extremes…usually 2-3 days long…occur about every 4 years. Right now, we are in the midst of a 100 degree weekend and aside from my sweltering apartment…my family back east: “Don’t you people have air cnoditioning?”…and non-sweating bloat, I can take comfort in watching the mêlée around me. Oh, if I do go out, my fair skin requires SPF 1000, so I don’t have that healthy Oregon tan/burn look.

I don’t drive in the snow, can’t use chains and don’t care to mingle among the frantic. I don’t go to the rivers in the heatwaves because I’m not big on being decapitated by someone’s motor boat or drowning among the hoards of people swimming, tubing and getting caught in currents. One big thing I don’t share with many of my fellow Oregonians and that is a propensity for the outdoors-y life.

I’ll shower 20 more times today, sit in front of my fan and kvetch about the heat and wait for tomorrow, when everyone and everything returns to normal…until the possibility of a flurry six months from now and the shutting down of the city…or I move to the glorious coast, whichever comes first!

Are we the Sob Sisters…or is it really just being Celtic?


Harry, the 4 lb. bada**                                                                                                                                                                                                

                                     K.M.                                Mumford

My darling cousin E and I speak at least every two weeks and, almost every time, one or both of us cries. She called a few days ago to tell me that the last post I’d written had made her cry as it brought back such great memories of the great times of childhood. As is usual, we were both crying by time we were done. It is rarely based on negativity  or sadness but, rather, on a shared memory of our childhoods among our huge and somewhat eccentric Celtic clan. As I’ve written in earlier posts, removed from my family through circumstances not of my choosing, reunion was decades to come. One evening, about 8 years ago, I happened on a genealogy website with one little query including the names of my paternal grandparents. I was so excited, my heart was racing…after all these years! It was E and she was looking for family members. I responded and soon we were talking and we grew to be four of us woring on it.

Before the Brooklyn Navy Yard closed,  2 generations of family had lived & worked in Red Hook. Our paternal grnadmother was a strong woman. She was the mother of 18, 12 of whom made it to adulthood,  8 of those being boys. Each served in one or both wars and in every branch of the military. My grandmother became well-known on her own right at home.  She donated more blood than anyone in NY; collected infinite amounts of silk hosiery, rubber and whatever else needed. We never knew these things about her growing up. Just like we never realized how hard our Dads worked at the Navy Yard…I still cannot see “On the Waterfront” without heartache. I never heard complaints or saw a hint of what each day was like for my Dad or uncles. No one complained, it was just life on life’s terms.

E’s dad was among my favorite uncles, incredibly hilarious and the entertainment for all the kids. When we were young, there would be an annual gathering at an aunt & uncle’s in New Jersey…they had a huge piece of property that could accommodate the entire brood. It was in sharing these fond memories as well as re-connecting with one cousin after the next that brought up the concept of the reunion. E & I, along with a couple of others, began tracking down names and addresses or whatever contacts we could. She & I are alike in that we both seem predisposed to organizing, planning, playing Nancy Drew…or in her case, Lois Lane…The Golden Age Lois Lane and Superman, from th...

and getting the task done. I did it in politics where she’s done it in life on a grand scale and , I suspect, we love it equally well. Unfortunately, we can only control so much. I knew before we began that I could not attend due to personal constraints. Many others were enthusiastic until it was a reality and then, one by one, they begged off until there were just a handful. E is the most optimistic and upbeat person I know &, God knows, she’s gotten me through some storms, but I know what family means to her and I knew this was a big disappointment. As always, she made the best of it but I was incensed! Most lived within driving distance, a couple a day or so by car and then one in the mid-West and me in Oregon.A stitched panorama of downtown Portland, OR a...

I pray that next year, I will have the resources and that others will show a legitimate effort to attend. Our parents are gone and I hate to see the family history of certain animosities and pettiness be carried on. Most of us who have spoken have talked about the little family feuds and skirmishes and spoke of gratitude that we would not travel that path. I would like to believe it sincere. In the meantime, E has demonstrated reaping what we sow. Although I don’t know  her family, their devotion to each other and the bonds that exist are amazing. It is an almost abstract concept to me as I didn’t grow up with it and have spent most of my life seeking. Unconditional love came from one person and all animals. E & her husband have worked hard and earned all that they have,no one takes anything for granted…neither the people in their lives nor the comforts with which they are blessed. E is a person of optimism, commitment to those around her, generosity and kindness to all with whom she comes in contact and an unfailing faith and spirituality. She never fails to inspire me at every turn and has seen me through these last dark & challenging years. I retain a certain  amount of N.Y. cynicism, sarcasm  and snide comment when I consider it necessary. I aspire to that which seems innate to Elaine. I do have a soft heart and a spirituality of my own, but if I wanted to catch up to her, I’d better hurry….I’m not getting any younger, I just look that way!

Clan Tartans:

Kilt (or Dress) Tartan

Casual Tartan      Hunting Tartan

The Warrior Morrigan, one of the three incarnations of the ancient Celtic Goddess. She is usually accompanied by three ravens. The warrior version that I have tattooed on me is different and I’ve not gotten the third one.

Fate smiled upon me..in a weird way…when I moved into this building. I had a reclusive neighbor who spoke to no one and grumbled at everyone. One day, he deigned to strike up a conversation and I discovered that it was the flags of Scotland & Irelamd, along with our family crest, that drew him. As I leanred, he was a writer, historian & fact-checker who freelanced his services. He moved away 2 years ago and passed suddenly but before he did, he presented me with a gift. Unbeknownst to me, he had spent countless hours documenting, annotating and gathering over 900 years of family history! I was speechless…how rare. I could not believe he had done all this and the details were amazing and , so far, proving to be accurate. I passed them on to E to distribute. Unbelievalby, it is the last 3 generations that are the hardest to sort out. In Journalism, I first learned the who,what,when where and why. With our combined research and educations, it is hard to believe that those basics are the stumpers. That, however, is for another day.

It has been an emotional roller coaster in recent weeks and last week ended on a sad note. My cousin (more like my brother)Ralph, on the maternal side of the family passed away a few years ago & I always miss him. About three or four years ago, I found his childhood best friend on FB and we began sporadic contact. He remembered me as the bratty five-years younger girl with whom they were often stuck. I remembered their 45 vinyl records and learning the words to all their late 50’s early 60’s music and my natural flair for dance.

I received an email from a mutual childhood friend telling me of Pat’s sudden death and found myself overwrought as my mind  flooded with memories and of missing my cousin. I wrote to Pat’s family though they’d no idea of me and they were appreciative of the memories I shared of his youth. Then I called E…as always, it started out tearful but ended with laughter.

There are a small number of people who can bring that kind of  bond to our lives; give us laughter and tears in the same few moments; have compassion for our difficulties and true joy for our happiness. I don’t know how many anyone gets nor do I know who they’re supposed to be…parents, friends, lovers, extended family? For me, there have been a very rare few and almost none related by blood…then there’s my cousin, E. I am more than blessed.

s