With Honor

November 8, 2015

November 8, 2015

With Honor

Today I spent the day with my father, one of my favorite people, and my mother, another favorite. With my brother, my best friend from the day I was born. My dear friends.

It was a ceremony my friend Sarah conceived—let us honor four generations of veterans, including my father, Bert, who is a Korean War Veteran. I had the pleasure of escorting Ace, a WWII Vet, and my dad. This all happened at Old Tucson, the famous movie set and theme park near Saguaro National Park.

Ace (WWII), my father Bert (Korea), David Peterson, (Vietnam), and his son, Dave Peterson (Desert Storm).

I was sick, as is usual for me now, so I won’t harp on that. But I made it, thanks to help. It was a lovely Flag Raising Ceremony in honor of Veterans Day, and I admit I was proud to stand near my dad and holding Ace while the ceremony progressed.

But I have to also say I was conflicted. I am moved to see the American Flag, to hear the National Anthem, and to salute our troops. I am proud of my father and my friends who Serve this nation.

Yet I am also ashamed.

I am ashamed of the killing, the terrible treatment of our Vets, the sadness that wreaks havoc on the lives of young men and women who do serve.

And so I plan to celebrate this coming Veterans Day by sharing peace and love. It is what we want, right? We want peace. We want to feel God’s hand. We want to Love our Neighbor. So, please, celebrate with me. A day of peace on November 11. All over the world.

I love you.IMG_3652


Appreciate the Wind

September 12, 2015

September 12, 2015

I miss my friend. My keyboard. I was in Arkansas, days after surviving the crash of AA flight 1420. It was night. I was paralyzed by fear. I turned all the lights on in my house. And I turned the radio on. I was alone. Radio was blasting my favorite 80s tunes. And I typed. I had no idea what I was writing. I simply typed. It a thing I do. It’s my music. The sound of this keyboard.

Today I pulled my computer off the shelf, having not touched it in months. No writing. Nothing to say. Nothing seems to change. I am sick. I could write about hundreds of doctors visits and how I disappoint my family and friends because of a chronic illness no one can diagnose—I’ve even given up going to doctors. Love em and hate em.

It’s been two years since I took to my bed sick. Finally one doctor has diagnosed me with “stress-related gastritis.” Sounds lovely. And no cure.   So I continue to wake every morning—for two years now—vomiting, aching, and praying. The later is the best treatment by far.

Unfortunately this has kept me away from my friend, my keyboard. My voice. And I think it’s the monotony of the illness that has forced my silence. And that’s why I’ve chosen to come back to my friend, my keyboard. My voice. Maybe (and I do believe this to be true) so many of my “friends” are just tired of me being sick. I understand. I love you all. And I understand. Who wants to be with someone who: “wants to be sick,” “can’t get over it,” “won’t come out.” You name it, and I’ve heard them all. I am not writing to you.

I am writing to those, all of those, who suffer quietly from chronic illness or chronic depression. I am writing to you because we all still have a voice. A powerful one. We may be injured, sick, alone, scared. We may be all those things. But we are NOT alone. And we can still do things to help others.

Such is my message today. I have, with the help of my beautiful friends, kept my gardens beautiful. I look out at the flowers, and I see nothing but beauty. I feel the kindness of people I love, and those who love me.

And I’ve learned something very important in these three years of pain (to which I see no end). Find the beauty. Appreciate a smile, a flower, the wind. Appreciate the wind.

In a world filled with pain, I believe the most important thing we can do is love.

I don’t write about my illness anymore because it’s boring. It’s a daily thing. It’s the same thing. But what I can write about is beauty. And the power of love to lift a person out of bed—even if that means just getting to the couch.

A walk around my cul de sac is now a major achievement. But you know what? It counts. As does every small kind thing you do. So let’s be kind. Hug someone today. Hug someone everyday! Let’s start a hugging revolution. It’s a better idea than building fucking walls and hurting each other.

Love is all you need.


The Blessing of Misery

March 3, 2015

Had a beautiful talk with a friend last night.

A new lesson. He was telling me about how badly his family fought after his grandfather died. Over money and “stuff.” Ironically we too were in the midst of an argument. I was in pain from chronic illness and a sever concussion (damn dog and tile floor while trying to ge to bathroom).

What seemed most interesting to me is that all of the people who fought over “grandad’s” money are all deceased. And what’s left?

The stuff? The money?

Again, ironically, I totally agreed with my friend about choosing love, compassion, and kindness over stuff. Crap. Rusting, molten, maggot-infested crap.

That’s really all we have. Here.

Jesus said something about that.

And our argument? Me feeling wounded and wanting compassion. He feeling helpless because he couldn’t “fix” it.

Damn, how easy it is for us to spiral into negativity? And yet, I can’t help but believe there is a better way. A way of love. A way of compassion.

A way of selflessness that brings pure joy.

And so, despite the pain, the illness, the loneliness of not being able to connect with a friend. I choose love. I choose to make a meatloaf sandwhich at 1:00 am to feed a friend.

Love is more powerful than money. More powerful than stuff. It just is.

And how in the world could I possibly know that if I hadn’t survived (or am trying to) misery?

Perhaps the things that hurt us most are our greatest teachers.



MRI Torture and Enhanced Interrogation

January 2, 2015

I am amazingly awesome. And I can prove it. I went to NW Hospital today, escorted by my two best friends. I was vomiting. I started vomiting at 7:15 am. Filled up my vomit cup in 45 minutes with bile. Nothing in my stomach. Same thing. Every day. Only today I couldn’t take my medicine because I had to fast for the MRI.

Vomit. Convulsions. Pain.

And at 10:30 I crawled to the car, shaking, weak, crying. The pain.

At the hospital, I sat. Waiting. A vomit bag from the ER in my lap. Waiting for an MRI. The last of three tests my new doctor ordered to try and find out what is wrong with my GI system.
I was at first angry and angst. I’m so tired of this illness. But I remembered to cut some roses for Linda, the secretary in radiology who I’ve talked to three times. It’s the New Year, and it is my last test. So I wanted to give her something for her kindness. My act of kindness for the day. I cannot give that up. I do it for Charlie and my Teachers.

When they called my name, I didn’t speak a word to my dear friends. I couldn’t even look at them. Because I was scared. I was scared and scared to cry. If you haven’t had an MRI, you wouldn’t understand. If you haven’t been in a plane crash you wouldn’t understand. But I knew what was coming. A tube. A confined tube with loud noises like gunfire. Here’s where it gets fun.
Female nurse (amazing woman) says she’s going to start my IV; pokes a needle in my arm. Male nurse (quick witted son of gun), starts strapping something around my stomach.
To the male nurse: “What are you doing?”

Female nurse: “It’s all a part of the torture.”

Me: “It’s NOT torture! It’s enhanced interrogation!”

Male nurse: “Just wait a moment while I go get the rectal feeding device.”

Laughing so hard I almost pull out the IV.

“Don’t let him near me!” I say.

Female nurse: “I got this, dear.”

We’re all laughing when they start to put me in the MRI tube. I scream. LET ME OUT!
And they do. She says to me, “Can we do this today?” She is holding my hand. I find out later she is a sister biker.

I say, “Yes.”

And into the tube I go. Eyes closed. Breathing. Meditating. I could tell that the camera was connected to the strap across my stomach, and I practiced pranayama. Breathing. Gun shot. Breath. Gun shot. Breath.

Forty minutes later, I hear her voice. “You did great. We’re done.” I push the panic button they had given me over and over, and the male nurse comes in laughing. I did it. Forty minutes not moving. Breathing. AND I made both of them laugh again.

It was a brilliant performance.

We get to make choices. To love and to laugh or to hurt and hurt. I choose LOVE and laughter. For today. Yes, there are tears. Lots of them. But the love remains. And to those who care enough to read this. I LOVE YOU.

And to the folks at NW Medical. Love Love Love!



December 5, 2014

Love isn’t some crazy emotion that involves sex and desire. Just isn’t. Love is holding the hand of a dying friend. Love is giving without want or need in return. Love is an emotion that human beings must train themselves to do (most of us), because it patient and kind. Love is not jealous, nor angered. (1 Corinthians 13). And very few human beings I know can do it.

The crazy thing is that though most of us have been raised in a Judeo-Christian tradition, we still feel love as possession. I WANT seems to equal love in this culture. Or I NEED.

But in our hearts we know that is not love. That is desire. Ignorant desire.

During this time of illness and now serious violence inside my house with my two dogs, that love is something so much more. It’s the willingness to do what needs to be done to take care of another. Love is giving, sharing, willing.

For me, love is throwing myself on the floor in between two violent dogs, both of whom I love, and taking the bites. Love is teaching me in this situation that I have to sacrifice my own body to protect the beings I love. Because they don’t understand. They are both scared. They are both injured. And, yes, so am I. But I care so little about the later. Take this body. It is not me.

I will use this body to do whatever I can to protect those I love. I hope this doesn’t sound radical. It’s not. I am a peaceful person. But when violence erupts; I will throw myself in the middle. I will take on the pain. That’s how bodhisattva’s roll. I wish I could find and hug the next suicide bomber. I wish I could hold him or her with arms of compassion so that s/he would know true love before they died.

The hardest thing for me is accepting that same kind of love. It is so much easier to give than to receive. And perhaps there is a reason for that. We are better people when we give, when we help, when we sacrifice for another.

So how strange it is, then, for me to find myself in a position of need. This badass country girl who was raided riding horses, being beaten, being broken, and killing live-stock  on a farm— needing help? No fucking way. And yet, here I am, with my vomit cup. Unwilling to eat unless someone forces me (or tempts me). And I want to die.

The only thing keeping me alive is love. Given and received.

Peace. Love.



December 3, 2014


A great Beatle’s song. “Listen, do you want to know a secret? Do you promise not to tell? . . .”
“Closer. Let me whisper in your ear.”

And that song was playing in my heart this morning when I woke up. It took only fifteen minutes for the vomiting to start. I now keep a pitcher by my bed for just these occasions. I wake. I pray. I meditate. And I listen to the rolling thunder in my stomach as it starts to strike.

I have had nothing to eat or drink in over eight hours and yet I am able to produce at least a pint of bile vomit. And I listen. To the convulsions, to the sickness.

I listen to a body in pain. It has so much to teach me. It teaches me humility, and strength. No one can live like this. No one. And yet . . . I do. Every day. And so I know it is possible to rise above the reality of this hell realm and still love.

So I ask you to listen.

Because whatever it is that is hurting you in this moment, is your greatest teacher.

Believe me. I know.



Chair 28

November 30, 2014

November 16, 2014

Chair 28

(Note: It took a while to post this because I wasn’t sure I wanted to be so raw and honest with the world.  But I decided tonight it was a story that needed to be told. Too many people suffer.  And, of all things, I offer this as an offering to Peace Officers who work so hard to help people.)

I read a story in the news this morning about two a.m. Stressful events in life negatively affect the brain, causing long-term damage. Really? Who would have guessed? One stressful event can change brain chemistry. I’m not complaining here, just EXplaining. I survived child abuse and rape as a minor and managed to go forward and earn my PhD. I survived a plane crash and went on to become a scholar of eastern wisdom and meditation. I survived the death of my son, 20 years old, and continued to teach. I survived breast cancer and managed to tend to my husband, a Vietnam Marine Vet and 30 years with  AZ DPS,  to his last day as he died of colon cancer. I held his hand as he died. I have been violently ill, probably from stress, since then. Brain damage? Ya think? Probably.

Even given my stubbornness to overcome these events and continue to live, I am broken. Over and over again.

Here’s one thing I DO NOT need: to be handcuffed and incarcerated.

Because despite all of these atrocities, I have NOT committed a crime—at least not in many years. Sure, I swiped some cash from my boss when I was a teenager. I have since paid it back. I have driven after drinking a little too much—never again. I have committed myself to the vows of a bodhisattva (someone who does not violate the ten commandments and loves others as much as themselves, just like Jesus Christ, though I do not claim to be so noble—but I try.)

It is now nearly three a.m. I am drinking whiskey and smoking a cigarette. Go ahead and judge me, and stop reading now if you prefer.

Ever read the short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper?” If so, you’ll better understand this post. If not, perhaps you should check it out. Women in our culture and in our world have been horribly abused. Years and years, every day. Probably every minute. Because we live in a misogynist world. Period. No need to even discuss equal pay or sexual abuse. Medicare pays for penis pumps—seriously—and the Supreme Court has said women don’t deserve contraceptives.

I only mention this because 80 percent of the people I spent last weekend with were women. And because I was assaulted by two male sheriff officers.

And here’s why: I want to die. Seriously, I don’t want to live in this world anymore. I’ve seen too much pain, too much suffering, and have been chronically ill for over a year with an un-diagnosable illness that causes me to vomit violently most days for over two hours. It is debilitating, exhausting, painful.

And yet, I wake up every—whenever, at least a few times a day, and tend to two rescued dogs, I manage to pay bills and my financial life. I manage to keep my house clean (with the help of my sister, Monica). I manage to love and share light as much as I can. As the Beatles so perfectly said, “I get by with a little help from my friends.” That’s all I can do. I cooked for Uncle Harvey this week. I do what I can. When I can.

And yet—it’s still true. I want to die. Why? Because the pain of my life is unbearable. I challenge you to think of surviving just one or two or three of my experiences—losing a child and a spouse, surviving cancer and having your breasts amputated, living through a plane crash, being injured and watching people die, holding the leg of a man bleeding out in the middle of a horrific storm and managing to save his life while watching a twelve-year old girl burn to death. Just imagine.

Perhaps I should get to Chair 28.

It is now three fifteen a.m. Still drinking whiskey and smoking. I am bruised from head to toe, literally. I have scratches and bruises on my face, my arms, my legs, my feet. I won’t even go out to the grocery store because I’m so embarrassed, humiliated, depressed. I look like someone who has been dragged behind a truck in gravel. And that’s how I got to chair 28.

I’m only writing this, though it is truly humiliating to me, because I love you. LOVE YOU.

Last week, I learned that my adopted Uncle Harvey was dying. I knew this, of course—we all have to face that. But I am not ready for another death. I am not strong enough to be with him every minute and hold his hand, as I want to do—as I did with my husband, Charlie. He is every bit as good of a man as Charlie was. Volunteered for the army near the end of WWII, cared for his ailing wife for over 20 years, worked an honorable job in the mines that probably caused his illness, and was kind. I love him.

I went to visit him last week in the nursing home. Held his hand. Talked. Laughed. Cried.

On Friday, I was terribly sick. I was drinking whiskey, which is the only thing that stops my vomiting (go back to judgment if you want, but it’s true). I called to talk with Harvey. He told me, in his weakened voice that I was a good person, that he loved me, that I was his hero.

HIS hero? This man who has done so much? No way. I am not a hero. I am a sick person who is just trying to be good enough not to go to hell. Seriously.

And so I ended the conversation and started to cry. All of the world’s pain collapsed upon me. I wanted to die. I would never—could NEVER kill myself. As I said, I’m committed to not harming myself or others because of my beliefs. But that doesn’t stop the emotions, the feelings. It just means I won’t act upon them. Never. Ever.

One of my dearest friends was here visiting me. Another friend was on the phone. I was honest. I wanted to die in that moment.

I took out the gun from my dresser drawer. I knew it was not loaded, but I checked again. Clip empty, chamber empty. The gun was given to my by my late husband. And I wanted to die.

I shot at the floor five times. No bullets; no ammo. I made sure. Again, I was just in pain. Sad. Suffering.

My girlfriend was with me. She was hysterical. I was sad. I was not suicidal.

I pointed the gun at my head and pulled the trigger. Of course nothing happened. I had made sure of that. I was drunk. (Dear Lord, this is such a humiliating confession—I pray it helps one other person.)

I pulled the trigger over and over. I knew it wouldn’t kill me. I wanted to die, but I honestly believe I could never do that to my family and my friends. I may be sick—and there is nothing I can do about that. But I WILL survive. Somehow. Hopefully with a little help from my friends.

My friend was now in total panic. I had no lethal weapon. I was not hurting myself or anyone else. I was just expressing the pain I felt.

But the phone call was made. (Using passive tense intentionally.)


Almost four a.m. now. I should be sleeping. I cannot.

And I could not sleep that day, which is what I was I trying to do. When I get overwhelmingly sad, I try to sleep. But my talk with Harvey made me so sad and so angst with this realm of pain that I could do nothing but cry and pull that damned trigger.

Cops are on the way.

My friend left me alone to talk to the dispatcher. She went outside. I wanted to find her. I needed someone to be with me, and I knew that.

I have about 12 brick steps leading up to my front door. I went out, searching for her, and stumbled, wearing only my bathrobe, I stumbled. I fell hard, down the stairs. Bruising my face, arms, legs, and back. All the while crying out my friend’s name. I just wanted to be loved. Ever feel that? Yeah, me too.

But now the cops have arrived. My friend is up at the end of the driveway. They won’t let me talk with her. I spend 20 minutes talking with a sheriff deputy.

Yes, I have a gun. Yes it is in the house. No, it is not loaded. No, there is no ammunition in the house. I am bleeding and bruised. This is not acknowledged.

Next comes handcuffs. Put on my wrists behind my back so hard they cut my skin. I am hurt by the fall down the stairs, so the deputy literally throws me into the back of his car. On top of the cuffs behind my back. They bite harder and I cry. I cry for twenty minutes while driven to Kino Psych ward.

I am a prisoner.

I end up in seat 28.

I talked with a psychiatrist that night. He agreed I was not a threat to myself or anyone else. I was not a criminal. I was just sad. I was heart broken. I was grieving. But because of Arizona law he could not release me. I was a prisoner for being sad.

And you know what? All you need to do is call 911 right now, and I will be imprisoned again, against my will. Because I have no rights. No Miranda. No arrest. My house was searched, my property seized. All with NO crime. And no search warrant.

Yes, I was sad. Yes, I wanted to die. Did I have a loaded weapon? No. Did I threaten anyone else? No. Did I commit a crime? NO!

I wasn’t taken to jail. I was taken to a much worse place. The CIC, Crisis Intervention Complex. Where people are treated like criminals, but worse. Guards watch your every move. You can’t enter the bathroom without escort. And you can have no personal belongings. There are no beds, only chairs. Men and women are in the same room. Of course, most of us were women. But the men were scary.

I befriended the guards and the “technicians.” I know how to play this game. I want to be safe. I was vomiting so violently at one point, the guard on duty left the bathroom unlocked for me. Such a beautiful kindness.

I was in chair 28. I was a prisoner in the United States without having committed a crime. This is WRONG. It’s just wrong.

People who suffer from mental illness should NOT be treated like criminals. I should have been at home with my pups watching stupid TV shows. I should be free. But instead, I spent almost 24 hours in chair 28. I did not sleep. I did not eat. I grieved. And I helped people. The woman next to me, the crazy girl, the guard. I will go this week and donate books to the ward. Those people need love and education, NOT punishment. I will try to volunteer to teach there.

But one thing.  Next time someone tries to put me in handcuffs without any reason, I will fight.  Freedom is more important.  And yet, given the current legal system, I will probably end up first in the CIC and then in jail.

I share this humiliating story because the mental health system in this country is horrid.  And if you or anyone you know suffers from mental illness, whether from DNA or life’s beatings—please treat them (including you) with kindness.

We can create a better system for dealing with those who are suffering.  I’m not talking about the criminally insane—I’m talking about people who are sad or stressed, and who need help.

This story is my first contribution.  Let’s work to stop this abuse.

(Side note—all the doctors, nurses, and technicians at the facility were kind.  Actually the psychiatrists I talked with agreed with me that the system is terribly broken. But what to do with a friend who is sad, wanting to die?  HUG THEM!)


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