Thursday, September 28, 2006

Tim Russert for President

I've found my candidate. I've always liked Tim Russert, even though he is a confessed Democrat, I think he's the most reasonable reporter on TV. He doesn't bluster like Bill O'Reilly, but he doesn't get that hysterical look in eye that Katie Couric does when she's interviewing Republicans. He's respectful to all and he asks the questions I would ask.

I loved Tim's book about his dad, Big Russ. Despite my frequent irritation with my husband, I never underestimate his importance to our family and in my life. Because my father was absent and an abusive drunk when he was around, I realize what my husband gives to our children. He drives me and the kids crazy at times (you wouldn't believe the car ballet we have twice a week when we water the lawn), but he's the first one we reach out to when we need have a problem. Like Camilla Kimball, I'm starting to call him "Dad."

I read his newest book, "Wisdom of Our Fathers" in two days. It would have been one, but I had to help at a funeral.

Here are a couple of excerpts I loved (I dog ear the best parts :)):

(This is long, but you guys, it's so worth it):

The Room:

My father lived through the Holocaust. He had survived Auschwitz, the same camp Elie Wiesel had been in, and they were the same age. When I was fourteen I was reading Wiesel's ""Night" in school, but I had no idea that the Auschwitz he wrote about, where he had lived for a year, was the same place my father had been. But I did wonder why Wiesel hadn't been as lucky or as clever as my father and his companions.

My father's place was a kinder, gentler Auschwitz. As he described it, there was never a moment where people were dying in front of him. The worst had happened the first night, when they killed his parents and siblings. But from that moment on, as he described it, things were "not so bad."

He and the other boys kept outsmarting their Nazi captors, often by stealing food right from under their noses. As a child, I used to picture my dad in the cast of a black and white televeision show called Oscar and His Merry Men Meet the Nazis.

His four children, his kinderlach, as he called us, knew there was more to the story. We knew our playful and briny father had lost both parents, three younger sisters, and his older brother at Auschwitz. We knew which ones had died just a few hours after Dr. Mengele's "selection," and how Mengele, with his blue eyes, stared each inmate down as he decided who would live and who would die.

We also knew who had survived--at least for awhile--and who died just before the camp was liberated. We didn't know ther names. We didn't knwo what they looked like. We didn't know how the children sounded when they were torn from the arms of their parents. My father didn't want to frighten us. He wanted his children to feel safe in America "the best place to live."

But when he was very very sick in the hospital, and I knew we were losing him, I realized there was no going back. If I didn't make my move now, I could never again have access to his memories. If he died now, I would lose not only my father, I would also lose all the answers he held. Although he was very tired and sick, I said, "Dad, I need to ask you about your time in Auschwitz. I need to ask you some things. It's important."

He looked at me with real anger in his eyes. "Debbie, from the time you were a little girl, you always asked your questions. And I always told you, 'We got food, we got bread, we divided it up, we didn't suffer, It was fine.' And you kept bothering me and asking me these questions. And I kept telling you, as if I were in a room, 'Go away. Stop knocking on the door! I do not want to let you in this room. 'And yet you keep coming back, saying, 'Let me in.' So I'll ask you one more time to go away. If you knock again, this time, I'll let you in. But if I let you in this room, Debbie, you will never ever get out. So. Do you want to knock again and come in?"

I said, "Yes, I do, Dad." He was crying. He had covers on his body because he was very skinny and weak at the time, but he kicked off all the covers as if he were kicking down a door. "Fine," he said. "Come in, then. Come into a room that you can never leave."

"Can I ask you my questios?"

"You're in the room. You can ask me anything."

I asked him everything I ever wanted to ask. I asked him to tell me the real story, and he did. It was painful. And scary. And sickening. I felt that part of me had died.

My father was right. Once you're in that room, you can't get out. It's always with you.

-----Debra A. Fisher, Rye Brook, NY, occupation therapist, daughter of Oscar W. Fisher, importer (1928-1993)

And on a lighter note:

The Heisman

You wouldn't want to see a father do this too often, but once in a lifetime? What a memory!

My dad was born and raised in Ohio, and after WWII he attended Ohio State University.

I was in the eighth grade, sitting in math class, when I heard the school secretary over the intercom that I should come immediatedly to the office because my father was waiting for me there. Of course I feared the worst, but when i saw him standing there, he had a big grin on his face. When I asked why he had come, he said, "Archie Griffin won the Heisman Trophy aobut an hour ago and I wanted to tell you first." Archie Giffin was the great Ohio State halfback, and my father was so excited he just couldn't help himself.

--Jeremy Kahn, Olny, MD, sales, son of Jerry H. Kahn, insurance broker (1923-1990)

You guys, this is a wonderful book. I recommend it, and I'm going to read it to Bill on our next road trip.

And I'm going to draft Tim Russert for president. I think he'd rock.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Three things I've figured out about real sex offenders

I have a problem with the sex offender registry, which is why I I put the caveat "real" in there. I think there are quite a few guys on the sex offender registry who simply had consensual sex with a 16 year old girl who looked like she was 18, when they were 20. I feel really bad for those kids.

On the other hand, I know there are a lot of dangerous offenders who do not register. They slip in and out of our communities largely without incident. I'd like to see the registry make qualifications about the nature of the crimes and the age of the victims vs. the offender. Additionally, there needs to be a more concrete way of keeping track of dangerous offenders.

But because of my experience with my friend's son this last year, I've come to some very strong convictions about the nature of true offenders.

1. Offenders will always lie about their crimes, and probably about a lot of other things, as well. They have to learn to be very good liars--heck, I'm convinced they even believe their own lies. They have to, to keep telling them.

They will say things like, "it only happened once" or " I was drunk/on drugs and didn't realize what I was doing."

The other two things I've figured out are related to the lying:

2. They will conveniently forget the facts of their crimes. "It was so long ago." "I was pretty young myself and I don't remember exactly what happened. SOMETHING happened, but it's all a blur to me."

3. They believe that their victims enjoyed the abuse. Especially if the victim is a young child and the abuse wasn't violent, the abuser will convince themselves, and attempt to convince others, that the child somehow invited it. They believe no harm was done.

Did you know that even women who are violently raped can have an orgasm? And that young children can have orgasms? I cannot imagine the burden of guilt this puts on the victim. I believe this is a big reason why so much of this abuse is unreported. A victim must see these things in black and white and if the abuser brought pleasure to them, they believe they are at fault.

This case in my ward exemplifies these three things. The hard part for me to deal with is not what happened all those years ago--it happened approximately 20 years ago and went on for an unknown number of years. No one except perhaps the perpetrater knows how many victims there were.

What has tormented me in this case is how the family, particularly the mother and sisters of the abuser, has treated the victims and their families. The polarity in our ward has been intense, but the families of the victims hunkered down and stuck to their guns. This boy would have been convicted in juvenile court had his lawyer decided he should plead not guilty. His crimes would not have been publicized, he would not have had jail time, or had to register as a sex offender.

But when he chose to plead not guilty in the face of overwhelming evidence, the judge decided to bump the case to adult court, where he was forced to admit his guilt in a plea bargan.

His family, in return, feels they have been victimized. His stepfather (his father passed away) has accused the girls of simply enticing this boy, then turning on him. He was 13-17 (as far as we know)--his victims ranged in age from 5-8. When they got over the age of 8, they resisted and he went on to other victims.

His family feels these girls are simply promiscuous liars out for attention and possibly money, although I doubt anyone will ever file for restitution. I wouldn't touch their money, that's for sure.

His father was the bishop while this was going on. Because my James had caught this boy abusing our daughter, had pulled him off her, and punched him and reported it to us, we knew years before the other parents. We just didn't know there were other parents. Bill met with our bishop and told him discreetly about the problem and we let it go. We loved that kid and his family. When we found out that others had reported the problem to the bishop and that his mother was aware of one other incident, as well, we were appalled, just shocked to our toes.

We don't hate our bishop or condemn him. The times were different then. He did take some action, but probably, like us, he had no idea of the severity of the problem. They were truly different times.

But now there is awareness. His mother and stepfather are pillars of our ward and community. Several months before the abuse was made known, she gave a wonderful talk in my sister's ward about how we need to be vigilant and kind to the abused among us. She spoke of her friend (me) who had been sexually abused and how much she loved and sympathized with me, with my sister sitting in the congregation.

Now, though, that shoe is on the other foot. She refuses to believe the depth of this boy's deviant behaviors. She believes the two things I listed above because her son has lied to her and he's very good at it.

So I chose sides, against one of my oldest and dearest friends. But I've learned valuable lessons.

I don't know if they will help anyone out there, but know this: sex offenders are some of the best liars on the planet. Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Do you feel comfortable in church?

Ned Flanders posts on his problems with the church are profound and though provoking, and Ann's honesty have validated my feelings. Last night as I was reading the latest post, I remembered something that happened last week.

I have chronic fatigue/epstein-barr and haven't been to church much in the last couple of months. Even before I had this latest relapse of illness, I had mixed emotions about church. My stake president doesn't like me (I bossed him and he took offense).

A former friend despises me. I also, as you would imagine, have many good and wonderful friends.

But church isn't about friendship. I have stayed active and in the church because I believe. I've said often that if I ever left the church, it would be because of the bad words who I run into fairly regularly. I told my sister, just the other day, as she was wondering if she should take the sacrament because she smokes, that she's just as good as the jerk sitting next to her who doesn't smoke. We're all sinners in the chapel during sacrament.

To my point: I had to go in on a Saturday to post the visiting teaching stats. I took my little grandson and his friend and their basketball and parked them in the gym as I walked down the silent building to the clerks office. I drank in the quiet of the surroundings and realized that I loved it there. I thought how sad it was that I don't feel that on Sundays when people are there.

The next day I attended church for the first time in a month with Bill and Maxwell for moral support. And I pondered the implication of the peaceful feeling I'd had the day before versus the onery feeling I had. I argued in my head with people who walked in and thought bad thoughts about them. Well, not all of them, many of them are good friends, like I said.

I believe that I am the problem and that no matter where I go, I will take myself. It's troubling to sit in a meeting and hear a testimony and not be able to agree. I agree with the truthfulness of the gospel, I just don't agree with the scorekeeping, the comparisons I hear, the crap. I wonder if I'll be able to stick it out and keep my mouth shut and remain faithful. I wonder if I'll get kicked out because I finally break and tell my stake president where to go.

It's a scary feeling to see the church with its flaws, to believe, and to not belong. I wonder where God stands in those equations.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

One week at the MTC and that's all they can take

We've had three missionaries come home after one week at the MTC in the last year. One was a girl who had panic attacks. Now she's overweight and we rarely see her. I think it's a classic sign of sexual abuse in her case.

Two boys only lasted a week, the last one had his farewell, left and came home in August. One is inactive, the other comes to church, looking stressed. I want to hug him and say, "hon, it's okay. You did the best you could." Probably Tiny whatever just ran them off.

Not really, you guys. I think these kids weren't ready to go on missions. Thank God they realized it soon after they left and didn't do themselves harm trying valiantly to measure up.

I just want them to know I love them.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Blogging thickens the skin

I write a column for our local paper once a month as part of a writers group. Last week my column was critical of The Vent, a practice I loathe. Our paper prints anonymous blurbs on Saturday. These usually are gripes about a neighbor's barking dog, or the local sheriff, or maybe a rant about Mormonism. It varies, but it's almost always a gripe.

I hate it. I think it's not good journalism. So I wrote a blistering column for last Wednesday, calling people cowards and urging them to grow a spine.

As you can imagine, people got mad at me. In this Saturday's vent, people complained about me and disagreed. Although they didn't sign their names, so I feel they made my point.

Yesterday at church several people came up and hugged me and attempted to comfort me because others were mad at me. I just laughed.

They don't know about the verbal fistfights we get on in blogging. What happened last week was mild compared to what I've been through here.

So thanks, you guys, for being here. It's been good for me :)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Dancing with the Stars

First, let me say that I totally think Rock Star Supernova is fixed. I wondered last year, but this year when the devil woman from Australia lost, I totally smell a rat. I'll never watch that show again. Although I came to understand the appeal of Tommy Lee.

But this week Dancing With the Stars premiered and since Brian Gibson is a writer on that show, I watched with even more interest last night to see who would be voted off. I made Bill watch with me Tuesday night and we laughed because they can all dance better than he can. He's sort of stiff, I dance all around him and he stands there and bops a little. It's discouraging to try to give him a sense of rhythm.

I thought Harry Hamlin just totally sucked. Plus he looks gaunt, and like he's had bad plastic surgery. The poor guy probably has to drink coffee all day just to keep up with his wife. He was so mediocre he made Tucker Carlson and Jerry Springer (yes, Jerry Springer) look good.

I watched carefully to figure out what Brian wrote. Tom (can't remember his last name), the host, just annoys me, he seems so self-involved, but he told a good joke which I knew he couldn't have thought up on his own.

Emmett (don't know his last name) surprised me. He's a good dancer. Poor Sara Evans. I figured Viveca Fox would do well, I've always liked her chutzpah.

Jerry Springer was a hoot to watch, just happy to be there.

I love reality TV. Wife Swap is starting next week and I'll be glued. I try to figure out who they would trade me with, some sappy religious soul with a sweet nature. Bill would be so bored for two weeks and her husband would have to be committed.

Just love to watch these train wrecks.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Thought for the day

When we walk to the edge of all the light we have
And take the step into the darkness of the unknown,
We must believe one of two things will happen:
There will be something solid for us to stand on,
Or we will be taught to fly.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Me and psychics

Ever since James' death, I've been addicted to psychics. I keep trying to find out why, the exact circumstances that led to his suicide. I keep trying to talk to him. So far, nothing.

I always ask about psychics in the area I'm in, and Island Park was no different. I was referred to a woman who does work for the police. She is the editor of a small local paper there, as well. She does not advertise and was a little discomfited that anyone even knew she had this gift, but agreed to meet with me.

In the first few minutes, we established that she had a definite "in" with the other side. She knew things that she simply could not have known. She didn't tell me anything new, but we made friends and she's a wonderful person and I told her if she heard from James, to get in touch with me LOL.

I don't know how many psychics I've been to. The most memorable one was a transvestite in Vegas, who was a good palm reader, a less competent psychic, but a scary looking guy. Let me tell you, he was the world's ugliest woman. I kept thinking, "if he's really psychic, he'll know what I'm thinking." I kept waiting for him to go all Bette Davis on me and come across the table with a knife. But he didn't kill me and it was another experience for my memoirs.

This psychic is something I allow myself as part of my grieving process. I've only been to one, three weeks after James' death, who comforted me. Where I felt better, almost euphoric, after. Of course it didn't last.

I've told God over and over in no uncertain terms I want to talk to my son. I've demanded and raged and shouted and cussed at Him. Silence. Well, I'll show Him.

I figure whatever gets me through the day is all good. Like most things in my life, it's entertaining for those around me, they don't know I'm dead serious. You can get away with a lot if you laugh while you do it.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

My boy toys

I'm back from a beautiful and restful place. I'm thinking of running away there permanently. I could blog from the pines with a gentle river running nearby. No dogs barking, no traffic or lawn mowers.

The people were pretty cool, also. As you would imagine, I now have several life long friends. Bill had a good time fishing and banging around at 5 am. Geez, Louise, the man is a menace.

I have lots of good stories, but the best one is what happened to me and Pauline Thursday night. The guys were late and we decided to go out to eat (we'd had Reflexology treatments earlier, the life of Riley).

We walked into the crowded restaurant our masseuse (no clue how to spell that) recommended and looked around without hope, thinking we'd have to go to Subway. They have a Subway in the forest.

The waitress came up and we asked if anybody was almost through and she said, "hey why don't you sit with these guys?" There were four young guys sitting at a large table and they were loudly amenable, so I went over and sat by them. Pauline just stood there, horrified. She said she couldn't sit with men she didn't know.

I thought, "oh, heck, Pauline, these are barely men. You have children older than they are." They looked like early 20's.

Finally I persuaded her to come sit with us and we ordered a great dinner. We had the best time with those guys. They were smart and funny and as it turns out, in their 30's. Everybody looks young to me nowadays. Three were married and one, the cutest, had to look at Jessie's picture. He had to because I made him.

One had read The Kite Runner, and they were impressed that I was a blogger. They were probably impressed that I even knew what a blog was. They showed me a Blackberry (guess what I'm getting for Christmas) and we had a good old time. We laughed and laughed. They were impressed that I could laugh without being drunk. I'm pretty sure they were on their way to a good drunk.

They were kind of like you young guys, funny and smart and good. And oh, guess what? One was a doctor and two were lawyers. The scruffy cute one, who I thought was the under achiever younger brother tag along was a lawyer!

Pauline was sort of mortified by our daring. She couldn't wait to tell Paul about our scandalous dinner with a bunch of guys we weren't married to. Paul and Bill were completely uninterested and underwhelmed. They were focused on fixing steaks for their dinner, repairing the boat, and lamenting a day without a lot of fish (they got skunked). They didn't even worry that their wives had dinner with young good looking smart guys. Well, who were younger than our children.

It's fun being the old broad because you don't have to worry if you eat like a pig and you can be yourself. I think I'll get me some boy toys.