Monday, June 28, 2010

What's wrong with Maxie, anyway?

He that respects himself is safe from others; he wears a coat of mail that none can pierce.  ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
You block your dream when you allow your fear to grow bigger than your faith.  ~Mary Manin Morrissey
It is none of my business what others think of me.
OK,  so Maxie has issues.  I admit it.  One day I will smirk at them and say "Seeya!" but meanwhile they still dog me sometimes and ruin my day.  However, I am happy to say that their effects on my life are not near as great as they used to be. And it helps me to look how recovery has improved my life.

Fear.  I was born afraid.  When I was a little girl I used to play on top of the dog house because I was afraid of the snakes in the grass.  Garter snakes.  Not pythons or cobras, but in my mind they may as well as been.  I was afraid of everything:  school, new situations, preachers, men, monsters, the dark, other kids, the phone, my mother... OK maybe I should have been afraid of my mother.  Every kid is scared, but what was abnormal is that I carried these phobias into my adulthood, which can be harrowing for a wife and mother. I was so used to worry and fear, that when I had no reason to be scared, niggling little feelings, which I call "free floating anxiety," troubled me anyway .  I let fear rob me of opportunities.  I didn't go to college until my late thirties because I was afraid to try.  One thing I have learned is that if I am paralyzed and don't take an active part in my life making my own choices, someone or something else will choose for me.  The life I want won't automatically happen, if I stay stuck in wishful thinking.  I have to be proactive!  On the positive side I have come a long way in overcoming fear.  Courage and bravery are not feelings, they are what you do in spite of the fear.  "If you're scared, just do it scared."  Living this way allows me to face the fears, and helps reduce anxiety.  I have done amazing things and will continue to do amazing things because Fear no longer has any power over me unless I entertain him. 

Insecurity is Fear's brother.   This fella tells me that I can't do it.  Or that I am not good enough.  Or that I am too fat, and that my smile is crooked; he afflicts me with a poor image of myself.  Or that I really don't know what I am doing. Or that I am about to make the wrong decision.  I met a man who said, "Be who you are."  When I heard that it struck me that I have been trying to live up impossible standards--some other people set for me, but mostly those I set for myself.  I wasn't being fact, I wasn't really sure who that was.  When I quote the mantra, "I say what I say, I do what I do and I am what I am," I am free from the Insecurity that often leads to....

Self-Loathing.  This is a demon that has tormented me much in the past, and I dealt with him aggressively and thought I had him buried, but he re-emerged in the last couple of years and I have had to go into my dragon-slaying mode. I used to say that I was so low, I could play hand-ball against the curb.   Self-loathing can lead to self-pity, martyrdom, depression and Very Dark Thoughts.  Not cool and very dangerous.  Most days I am OK, but others...

People Pleasing.  I am co-dependent "Codependency  is a tendency to behave in overly passive or excessively caretaking ways that negatively impact one's relationships and quality of life. It also often involves putting one's needs at a lower priority than others while being excessively preoccupied with the needs of others.  Codependency may also be characterized by denial, low self-esteem, excessive compliance, and/or control patterns."  Wikipedia.   This definition pretty much sums me up.  This characteristic has been in place since childhood and was reinforced by a marriage to an alcoholic.  While these tendencies don't actively affect my relationships today, they still make me overly sensitive to what other people think.  If someone is cold or indifferent or snippy, it can wreck my day, even if others' actions probably more to do with their own bad day than with me.  One of my favorite quotes is the one above about what other people think about me is not my business.  On days I get that, I am free of people pleasing, and better equipped to take care of myself.

So these are the fellas I walk with sometimes, but I seek their companionship less often these days as I have the presence of Faith, Peace, Love, Joy, and Laughter in my life, which means that at rare moments there is absolutely nothing wrong with Maxie. 

Sunday, June 20, 2010


Father's Day is a good time to remember my dad, James Henry Streutker.  I started to just create a post about him in my Face Book status, then I decided what I had to say was too big for that; it a perfect topic for a blog.

My father had a great wit and taught me how to laugh; it is a gift that has carried me through hard times and enhances my life today.  He was a great jokester and story teller.   He loved the funny papers, especially Far Side.  I have a stack of cartoons he clipped out of the papers over the years that he had started putting in a scrapbook.  The project is still unfinished.

Dad was also a carpenter who built our home--I associate the scent of sawdust with him.  He patiently let little kids dog his steps while he was working and gave scraps of wood and used nails for our own creations.  Every Father's Day, he receive a fleet of homemade boats --pieces of two by fours with a point created by a handsaw and a mast inserted in a hole painstakingly made with a hand drill.

Dad on his way to school.
My grandfather--Henrick Streutker immigrated from Holland with his parents when he was four years old and settled on a farm in a  Dutch community on Whidbey Island WA.  Henry met Gertrude who had come from Winnipeg with her Dutch father, married her and together they settled on the Streutker family farm. 
Wedding Picture
During WWII the Streutkers moved to Bremerton where Grandpa opened a filling station and Dad went to work in the shipyard.  His vision was so poor they wouldn't let him fight in the military but they let him work on ships.  ;o)  Due the influx of workers in the Yard there was a housing shortage in Bremerton and my grandparents took in roomers, including the Kellogg family from Wisconsin-- who had a beautiful daughter, whom my dad fell in love with.

After the war my father worked in construction until he found a job at Sears in the automotive department where he worked for the next 33 years.  I have shiny trophies with angels on top that he earned for sales .  I put them in the garden.

Dad loved his son-in-law and they became great pals.  James actually got to do more with my dad than I did on visits.  They were like two outlaws trying to escape from their wives.

Daddy was an easy spirit who hated conflict, and would do everything to avoid it.  Over the years he deferred to my mother who had a lot of issues and she ruled the family with an iron hand.  Before his death, and after conversations with James, he realized the role he played in the family dysfunction by not standing up for his children; in a bold move, he held a family "intervention" on my mother's anger, even though he was very weak and short of breath.  This was an amazing day that all five kids got a chance to tell our mother how we felt and she had to listen, but it gave us all a great deal of peace about our childhoods and our Mom.  It gave us closure and Dad peacefully left us in three weeks later.

One of the jobs he held-- Sears or the shipyard contributed to his death because of the use of asbestos.  He died at age 76 from lung cancer.

There is so much more I could say about my father, but this is enough-- I am already crying.  I love you, Daddy and I miss you, and I am looking forward to seeing you in heaven.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

What now?

Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn't wait to get to work in the morning:  I wanted to know what I was going to say.  ~Sharon O'Brien 
I love writing.  I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions.  ~James Michener

I am at a breathing place in the blog and I am not sure of what direction to take.  I was informed this morning by my son, that I couldn't stop writing--that lots of people are reading.  I know that I can't abandon it ; it has become part of my life now.  Like the above quote we will have to see what will happen in the next leg in this adventure of Maxie' life unfinished.  I haven't a clue now, but stay tuned...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sayin' Goodbye-- a Balloon Adventure

Sometimes you have to say Goodbye to see if there was anything worth hanging on to.
Don't cry because it is over; smile because it happened. Dr. Seuss

Today was the anniversary of James' death, and I decided I wanted to something special with my friend Lisa.  I wrote about her in the post, Path of PainShe and I have shared our journey together this last year; both of us had our husbands taken away--in different ways but the grief is the same.  Since we understand each other on the level that few know, it made sense to me that we spend this day together.

The day started out raining and it poured buckets all day but we went ahead with our plans.  We went to the Dollar Store and bought balloons; we looked like we were headed for a party as we left the store.  Maybe we were.  We went to Lisa's house and wrote all over those balloons, pouring out hearts.  Lisa picked out a Dora Explorer balloon with a picture of Dora running free because she wanted us to be that way.  Lisa choose a red heart for her friend she recently lost from cancer.  We wrote our private thoughts to our husbands on the pink hearts.  On the star shaped balloons we wrote negative things from the past on one side--such as pain, grief, depression-- and positive things for the future on the other--like love, joy, peace.  One thing I noticed my handwriting on the "bad" side was wild and messy, (see photo) but lovely on the other--I didn't do it on purpose.  We read what we wrote to each other as we cried.

It was still raining when we left the house.  My original plan had been to release the balloons on the hill above town, but I was also counting on sunny day.  We decided instead to go to Lake Roosevelt (Columbia River) 20 miles away.  I was concerned about the balloons lifting off in the rain and asked God to give us a few minutes of no rain.  He heard.  After we turned off the road into the campground the rain let up; it was not falling at all by the time we got to the lake.  This still gives me goosebumps.  If folks around here wonder why the rain stopped about 4:15--that is why.

With both of us holding onto the ribbon, we released Dora the Explorer first and she sailed into the air and over the trees and the wind took her out of sight, with us cheering her on.  Lisa let go of the gold star, and  I let James go next, telling him goodbye; he chased after Dora; I still have the picture in my mind of a pink heart rising above the trees and catching the current.  Lisa released the red heart for her friend and it went into the trees and got stuck.  I let my last balloon go and made it over the trees even though it was getting soft on account I got it caught in the car door--besides it had a lot of heavy stuff written on it.  Last to go was the other pink heart which got caught in the trees.  Lisa said her husband didn't want to go.  She she was able to pull it out of the tree and let it go again, but it still didn't want to go, so she started slapping it, yelling "Go, go, go!!" until finally the wind caught it and it was gone.  Then she found a long branch to dislodge the red balloon.  We were both laughing by now, and she said her friend was probably laughing her ass off watching her free the balloon.

We had expected this to be a solemn ceremony but instead it was wonderful and lighthearted-- we couldn't  be sad at the sight of balloons flying away with all our cares on them.  We laughed all the way back to town.  An amazing afternoon.  God is good.

Monday, June 14, 2010

That Last Week...

Wal-mart... do they like make walls there? Paris Hilton
A bargain is something you can't use at a price you can't resist. ~Franklin P. Jones

James loved to shop.  Through the years he never minded going to the grocery store with me or by himself. And he loved a bargain.  He was quite fond of the clearance items at Wal-mart and bought things to share with others. 

Jame also enjoyed yard sales.  To him it was like an adventure, never knowing what he would find.  He liked toys, but his collections weren't limited to those.  He often brought things home to me from Wal-Mart and yard sales; while I enjoyed much of what he brought me, some of it I didn't care for, wondering "why did he think I wanted that!"  I had a friend whose Hubby presented her with many yard sale gifts, and she used to grump about it until someone told her that maybe it was his way of making amends for the years of drinking.  After I heard that, I just thanked James for everything he brought me and put some of it away, eventually donating it to a thrift store.

He even shopped the last week of his life.  James was at peace, knowing where he would go when he died.  He let us know his wishes about his remains and just trusted us with the rest.  It was like he knew everything would be taken care of.  One morning he decided to go to Wal-Mart, and rode down on his wheel chair.  He didn't buy anything for himself, but bought about 6 canvas totes that were on clearance; James was pleased with his purchase and passed them out to family and friends.   A few days later, he wheeled outside, declared it a beautiful day and decided to take a ride in the sunshine -- just around the block he said.  Around the corner he found a yard sale and he came back excited-- he bought a lamp..... for me. 

Friday, June 11, 2010

Of Perfume and Flowers

Perfumes are the feelings of flowers.  ~Heinrich Heine
A woman's perfume tells more about her than her handwriting. Christian Dior
God loved the flowers and invented soil. Man loved the flowers and invented vases.

 A couple of things happened in the last year of James' life that I thought were significant, though I didn't know the meaning of them at the time.

One is flowers.  If you remember that James picked me a bouquet of flowers out of other people's yards while he was courting me.  But generally he didn't see flowers--I would have to point them out..."Oh see how nice the flower bed looks."  His gifts of flowers were always a surprise because they were sporadic.  I remember once we had a horrible fight on Valentine's Day and James stormed out and stayed gone for a couple of days.  That afternoon, the florist delivered a dozen roses--he had ordered them that morning before our fight.  He did not sign the card, so I spent the evening trying to figure out who the heck sent me flowers!  The interesting thing that happened was about 8 months before James died, he was at the clinic for a doctor's appointment and he saw flowers growing in the beds around the building.   He was struck by their beauty so wheeled over and picked  some to bring home to me; he actually saw flowers.  It reminded me of the first bouquet.

The other thing was perfume.  James rarely bought me any since he had trouble remembering what kind I used.  I'd remind him that it was Chantilly, but it would slip from his mind when he thought about buying any for me.  I bought the fragrance myself or my late sister gave it to me as gifts.  James  hadn't bought any perfume for me for years and after he got sick, James' memory wasn't the best.  He disliked shopping for gifts, so he just gave me cash to get what I wanted.  That last Christmas he surprised me, though, by giving me a gift he bought himself.  On Christmas Eve I was stunned to unwrap a bottle of Chantilly.  I wondered then, if this was a message of some kind, and it comforts me to remember that bottle of perfume.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.
Stand up and walk out of your history.-- Phil McGraw

I was asked why we moved around so much.  The answer is complicated, but it is part of our history and since I am looking at our life without flinching, I have to write about it.   Aside from the drinking, James' itchy feet was one of the great issues of our marriage.  There is a country song that describes our relationship perfectly, titled My Elusive Dreams:
       You followed me to Texas,
       You followed me to Utah,
       We didn't find it there so we moved on.
       Then you went with me to A-la-bam',
       Things looked good in Birmingham,
       We didn't find it there so we moved on.
       I know you're tired of fol-low-ing
       My elusive dreams and schemes
       For they're only fleeting things,
       My elusive dreams.....
In Twelve Step Recovery they called moving around "geographic cures."  The truth is that Jim was always ready to move on when things weren't going well.  And drinking played into a lot of decisions--he'd get caught up in a dream or idea, or he would get mad at a family member or his actions on the job would be about to catch up with him.

I have to say that I played my role in this.  At first I'd fight the idea of moving, but once the die was set, there was nothing I could do but pack up and go, I'd get caught up in the adventure of being "enroute," and believed that maybe this time things would be better.  The first move was the hardest because I had spent the first 19 years of my life in the same town, but he was persuasive, and he was, after all, my prince and what else could I do but jump on his white steed and charge off into the future?  We took a dog and a cat with us.  I remember the cat kept running off at the rest areas, so Jim hooked the cat to the dog by a leash.

Sometimes we were crazy--taking off not knowing where we were going or how we were going to get there.  If it occurred to us that this was not normal behavior, and that we probably could use some professional help, we ignored the thought.  However, God always seemed to watch over us and we landed on our feet, though we scared ourselves at times.

It wasn't until after I started college and got into Recovery, that I was able to put a stop to the impulsive moving.  We had been in Amarillo Texas for several years and he decided to move to OK, again.  I told him he could go but I wasn't leaving school mid-semester.  He stayed.  I didn't know that all I had to do was refused to go to stop him in his tracks.  I could have used that information a long time ago.  After he went through alcoholism treatment we moved to Arizona for 9 years before we returned to the Northwest.

By the grace of God, we recovered from the insanity of our youth, and we settled down in to more normal behavior and bought a house.  I always yearned for a home of my own, but James was happy as a renter--a mortgage would tie him down, even though we had pretty much settled down.  I had to talk him into looking at this house, and amazingly, when James saw it, he made up his mind immediately that this was the house for us; we made an offer on it without looking at anything else.  We got a very good deal and put a lot of work in it.  It turned out it was the perfect house for us.  I am sooo grateful for my home, and that I can be part of a community and church.  Rolling stones gather no moss, and they don't make many friends either.  The best gift I have for staying in one place is many friends.  I am grateful.

(The picture is of Jim and the kids when he was a trucker; he did look good in a cowboy hat.)

Monday, June 7, 2010

A final Celebration

Flowers are the sweetest things God ever made, and forgot to put a soul into. ~Henry Beecher

James was in the hospital  a lot, but especially in the last two months of his life--4 times.  They'd get his breathing stabilized and then after he went home he would start to go downhill again. The last time he was in the hospital we were told that he wasn't going to get better and to call hospice. 

Most couples who are married a long time can look forward to a 50th anniversary, but that wasn't possible for us so I threw together a last minute party for our 45th.  I did this for me as James wasn't really interested, but I felt the need to have a party.  I got a cake from Walmart--James' favorite kind and invited people by word of mouth.  He got out of the hospital on the 5th of June and the next day we had a party.  The kids brought food and cooked out on the grill--James enjoyed their company and the food.  Later friends came to celebrate with us-- or with me, since James got tired and slept through half the party, but I was grateful for those who were there for us.

The flower is a bloom on a cactus.  I have had the plant for about 12 years, with nary a bloom, but it was covered with flowers for our anniversary.  The plant hasn't bloomed since.  I didn't get the connection until just now.  God surprised me with flowers at my wedding and He did it again for my last anniversary.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Here comes the Bride or D-Day..

There are three things that last: faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love.  - I Corinthians 13:13
I have spread my dreams beneath your feet;  Tread softly because you tread on my dreams. - W.B. Yeats

We were married Friday June 6, 1964.  I didn't realize it until later but that was my paternal grandparents wedding anniversary and it is also the date of the great Allied invasion of WWII.  I always thought both facts were significant.

We were married in the First Baptist Church of Bremerton WA by Rev. Felthouse.  I do remember his name--I didn't have to look it up.  I wanted to be married in a church and because of my mother's fit of anger, I wasn't bold enough to ask to take my vows before my church family.  My mother could be very difficult and I would have to fight her to have a wedding in our church, and I was not that brave.  So we went another church. 

Jim had decided that we didn't need anyone at our wedding--not friends or family.  The pastor arranged for two young men to be witnesses of our vows and they would be expected to be paid.  I was bothered by that.  I still may be.  There a number of our friends and family who would have loved to have been there, but I deferred to Jim's wishes.  I told a friend today that I let a hayseed from Oklahoma plan the most important day in a girl's life.  But it was what it was.

The church was large, but it had a chapel for small events, and when we arrived that afternoon, I found the chapel decorated with  the most amazing flowers.  There was to be a large wedding later on in the evening and the pastor borrowed some of the flowers  for my wedding.  I will always remember how touched I was; I think he thought it would be sad for a girl to get married without flowers.  I wore a  simple white dress, and the ring was a simple gold band Jim bought at a pawn shop.

The big surprise was that my dad came.  He rarely stood up to my mother, but when he made up his mind to do something, he would not be deterred.  We were married before two paid witnesses and my father surrounded with flowers.  The vows were the traditional ones of "Love, honor and cherish" for him and "Love, honor and obey" for me.  (It was that "obey" one that always gave me the most trouble over the years.)  The ceremony was over very quickly.

We rode the ferry to Seattle for the honeymoon.  We just stayed one night.  Jim didn't see any sense spending money for a longer stay when we had a perfectly good apartment.  :o)  I remember I had spaghetti for our wedding supper.

I have no photos, no honeymoon mementos--only the marriage certificate and a copy of our vows.  I no longer have the ring, I lost it during a period when we weren't getting along and I didn't make very much effort to find it, and the dress was ruined when I tried to dye it pink.  On our 25th anniversary, which was during one of the best time of our lives, James gave me a wedding set with a diamond.  James has given me flowers over the years, including the bouquet in the photo above.  But the most important thing I have is a very clear memory of a wedding in a lovely chapel filled with flowers, the kindness of a minister and the comfort of having my father with me.

Friday, June 4, 2010

What'ya say we get married?

It's a funny thing that when a man hasn't anything on earth to worry about, he goes off and gets married. ~Robert Frost
Marriage is nature's way of ensuring that a woman picks up some mothering experience before she has her first child. ~Robert Brault

I have no wedding pictures. I barely had a wedding.  This picture was taken a few months after we were married.  It was Jim's birthday and I made a cake (from scratch--I don't cook today but it's not because I don't know how!) and a fine meal and invited friends over.  I loved being domesticated--at first.  Man, I even had candles on the table!  That was a very happy day, but fetching out the candles for dinner other times in our marriage didn't impress Hubby very much, so I usually didn't bother.  On Valentine's Day or his birthday, I might put candles on the table and make him heart shaped biscuits, but he wouldn't have cared if they were shaped like dog biscuits.

I don't have a romantic story of his proposal.  He just started talking about how we should be married and I go, "Oh, OK."  Neither one of us put much thought into it.  He was lonely and wanted companionship, and I was just.... ignorant. I know he fell in love with me, as much as a person possibly could in our short courtship, but to be honest, I think I was more in love with the idea of love, than I was with him. Fortunately love grows if you give it a chance.  If we had lived today, we would have probably just moved in together, but we came from conservative, traditional families and that was unthinkable, so marriage it was going to be. 

The sad cloud over our wedding and marriage was my mother's rejection of both.  She refused to  meet Jim and was very angry that I just up and decided to get married without discussing it with her.  I carried the hurt of that for a long time.  After that rejection, Jim wasn't anxious to meet any more of my family and I didn't argue, and so we didn't plan much of a wedding.  I know now that my grandparents, and aunts and uncles would have been delighted to be there, but I transferred Mom's rejection over to them, and didn't even tell them.

Jim rented a furnished apartment and moved out of the rooming house; I was still staying where I worked caring for an elderly lady.  I closed out my savings account and bought things for the house; Jim bought the ring and my dress and made the arrangements.  Washington state law said that the bride could marry without her parents consent at age 18, but the groom had to have permission to marry if he were younger than 21.  Since he was a few months shy of that, he had to write his mother for consent.  Then we were ready... well we weren't really but we were young and dumb and filled with hope...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

It's a Girl

The mother-daughter relationship is the most complex. ~Wynonna Judd
Suddenly, through birthing a daughter, a woman finds herself face to face not only with an infant, a little girl, a woman-to-be, but also with her own unresolved conflicts from the past and her hopes and dreams for the future....Elizabeth Debold
June 4 is my daughter's birthday and since we are going back in time in this blog, I'd like to write about her birth.  She will probably squirm a lot to know I wrote it but I am writing it just the same, after all is is my story too.
People like the story about me meeting James in a roller rink but I never did learn to skate.  We went skating many times over the years especially after the kids came, but I was either pregnant or riding herd on a little kid; eventually all desire to learn left me.  Maybe I will put it on a bucket list.... Nah!

Brenda was born 2 days before our first anniversary.  I was pretty ignorant about pregnancies and babies so I didn't know what to expect, but Jim was convinced that we would have a boy, being he was a good  ole boy from Oklahoma, he believed the first born had to be a boy.  We were living in Oklahoma at the time on a dairy.  The house in the above painting is where we lived, near Sweetwater  OK, and the car is the one we owned then.  (The windmill is from South Dakota--artist license.)  I got plenty of fresh milk and fresh air and I had an awesome neighbor named Naomi, who had 5 kids and offered me a lot of advice and help.

Of course we were anxious for the baby to arrive and the last weeks dragged on until the morning we decided it was time.  Bright and early we fetched my mother in law and headed for the hospital which was 60 miles away.  We didn't want to take any chances.  But it was too soon for delivery, and the three of us spent a very long day walking in the park, or sitting in the waiting room until evening when I was finally admitted to the maternity ward.  Jim was so happy he rounded up all the relatives he could find and they wandered in and out of the labor room.  At one point I noticed Jim's cousin sitting in the room like he was at a barbecue or something and I had only just met him.  If had been bold and knew how to swear then, I would have told everyone to get the hell out; finally Jim's aunt ran everyone out including him.  He gave up because this process was taking too long, and he went to the car to sleep.  In the wee hours of the morning, Jim's mom woke him to tell him he had a daughter; he thought she was lying to him.  He didn't stay in denial long, and was mighty proud to have a daughter.

Three days later, when it was time to leave the hospital he showed up with a new dress that I got into but it impeded my ability to breath, apparently he thought I would be the same size as before.  He took Brenda and me around to all the relatives to show her off where I sat on the edge of chairs in the tight dress breathing shallowly, until mercifully we went home to begin the new journey of parenthood.   My life was changed forever.  I love you Brenda, my only daughter.