They told us to stop drop and roll if there was a fire. They didn’t tell us what to do if we felt afraid and alone. The firemen visiting our class had humongous hands and strong chins, and I imagined someday I’d marry one and he’d protect me so well I’d never feel lonely again.

That afternoon on the way home from school Lynn and Debbie thoroughly enjoyed taunting me. Out of boredom, I think, or perhaps because I was an aloof child - less than interested in princesses posses than hurdling over the see saws while they were moving. I looked frail with my stringy hair and felt bad about myself because I got teased for being too thin. That day, when the last stone hit the back of my head, I turned around to look directly into their widening eyes.

“I’ll meet you here, in this yard, tomorrow. One at a time.”

I pointed to the brown-tipped crabgrass in Mr. Winecki’s vast lawn as they laughed uncomfortably. A few girls joined in the amusement, saying they’d be sure not to miss the Rowdy Roddy Piper takedown. Even at age eight, I despised bullies who ran in groups. My Father and I had bonded by watching endless hours of Mutual of Omaha which featured frequent clashes between regal lions and ruthless packs of hyenas. My sympathies were always with the lone lion, the underdog, the solitary wolf. I could relate because I never felt at home anywhere and was most lonely in a pack.

The next day it was raining without any break in the slate gray Upstate sky. Lynn stepped in too close before realizing I would not be subdued. I had turned the other cheek for far too long I was stronger than I appeared, and all 75 lbs of skinny me became a tornado of fury. Debbie and her peanut gallery of gawkers ran and I left Lynn in a puddle.

An hour later, I was sneaking bites from a box of my mother’s Whitman's Sampler. A tiny bite of each chocolate, to test which one had the coconut, the almonds, the cream that was not too sweet. I liked to conduct my own scientific testing, even though the box top listed the contents of each sugary circle and square. Looking through the cascade of rain pouring down the front window, I saw a miserable Lynn looking like a drowned rat as she limped by my house. I ran out immediately offering chocolates and mumbling an apology for hurting her nose and her pride.

Lynn’s Father arrived in a paneled station-wagon to gather her and her expanse of rain gear about two hours later. We became best friends, and I learned why she had acted like such a bully. Bobby, her tortured and relentlessly vicious old brother,  with the belly and the freckles, provided endless hours of anxiety. We were significantly younger and merely trying to navigate life as latchkey kids, hopefully avoiding Bobby’s dirty fingernails, the tortured animals he left to make us cry or a spider in our hair. I found her bravery in the face of such brutality incredible, as I avoided this teenaged grim reaper.

I suppose she was my first girl crush, though I had neither the language nor the awareness that liking girls in “that way” was even an option. Growing up in the 70’s, girls were supposed to find that manly alpha fireman hero and marry him Disney-Style, so we could live happily ever after… right? Maybe I’d seen too many after school specials and episodes of Little House on the Prairie to comprehend alternative lifestyles. In my small blue-collar hometown, following along closely with whatever that culture dictated was a survival mechanism.

In my family, either you did what you were told without question- I mean _everything_ that was expected of you, or suffer the devastation of a withering look from parents and teachers. This mattered a lot back then, and because I was a teacher’s kid, I was trained to be helpful and to please. The most punishable crime in my family would have been dishonesty- being too honest has always gotten me into trouble. My new timeline doesn’t allow the luxury of worry over approval or opinion anymore.

Reality shows have always made me gag and Phyllis Schlafly was a mortal enemy of my personal state. To put it bluntly, I knew from a young age that a vagina and a penis were equal and was shocked at the disparity in treatment of each gender. (“What do you mean it’s weird I play with matchbox cars, Christina, and why are you acting so differently around Johnny?”)

I have loved without abandon or regret, and often without discernment (cough cough, no names please! What do you think this is... a memoir?) More recently I’ve been knocked without warning into another reality when my version of loyalty and trust failed to match my partner’s. Maybe I wanted to be annihilated in order to feel alive after being diagnosed with a brain disease that is likely to take my life. This certainly felt like a death sentence, and it’s going to be a long slow drop. So, anybody want a drink before the war?

Brutal honesty about life can’t touch my progeny, because they were conceived in love. I loved their Father and still do, though we’ve chosen different paths as we are each alchemized by time and experience. My Children remain my greatest joy and only real achievement. Although I am their humble steward, aware that their lives in no way belong to nor serve as any extension of my own. They are miraculous beings on their own path. I marvel at the wild capabilities and talents springing from them and blinded by gratitude… and all the dirty laundry.

When they lay that tiny squirmy-worm infant on your sore jelly belly just after giving birth, you’ll never feel such fierce love. Would I do it all again knowing what I know now? Well, thank God for sheer ignorance of what it would take to raise children and for innocence and naivete! Older folks like to say things aren’t like they used to be. I must be an older folk.

What a trip! Ushering new life that will affect the future of humanity in it’s own way. Welcome to the spinning less than blue now ( sorry kids) marble we call home! Here are the lyrics to An OLD song OLD people dig for you to memorize. May they be helpful to you as well, kids.

If we could see inside one another, beyond appearances, everything would make sense. Of course nothing makes sense when it comes to Parkinson's, but in my almost 50 years I’ve learned to embrace and accept, or at least disabuse myself of the idea that I have control over anything beyond what’s for breakfast. Not to get embarrassingly earnest in front of your sarcastic not-so-serious sides, but I hope you’ll notice I’m only a tall child on a bewildering stage with blinding lights learning how to love better.

I can’t wait for the next surprise opening. Sometimes it needs to be the proverbial 2 by 4 and other times I’m quite content just watching the evening light move across the shifting landscape. Human beings tend to be amalgams of complex and indecipherable perceptions, constantly in flux. Just ask Ken Wilber or Thich Nhat Hanh...that’ll keep you occupied! We all fit together as ONE in this puzzling existence, yet we insist upon looking for the pieces that are missing.

There is no puzzle.

Consciousness is at stake if we choose to check out, leave our bodies and deny our own truth. Detaching is a fast way to lose a partner, avoid intimacy and wow, it hurts like nothing else! An indescribable type of pain that escapes language, unless you care to review Dante's Inferno. All we need to remember is that we aren’t as important as we may presume and that all things are in process- always changing. This is not to diminish our miraculous individual lives, rather to release from self-inflicted prisons. I only know hell because I assumed there was no other choice and voluntarily confused love with other experiences. Part of me wanted to test my own strength and perseverance, but this was not without casualties and tragic consequence.

Unfortunately, I’m intimate with depression and the next blog will detail a small part of this experience. If I hurt someone in my dark night of the soul, I offer prayers and sincere apologies. We can all try to make things right by clearing our own messes with a bit more gentleness.

There is a prayer taught by a local healer named Lani Lee. You may know it as Ho’opomopono, or a Hawaiian prayer of peace:


I’m sorry

Please forgive me

Thank you

I love you


Say this first to yourself, and if you live with disease, allow these words vibrate throughout your system. The betrayal of our bodies and the confusion of our strongest desires is enough to throw even the best intentions of basic goodness into the compost heap.

It is extremely rare for anyone to deliberately and gleefully cause harm to another. Most of us have the intention, but perhaps not all the tools (or we misplaced our toolbox) to avoid harming others. Without exception, we’re all in need of giving and receiving more love. We are constantly arriving, being reborn and opening… whether we like it or not. Opening and softening may not appear popular or powerful in a harsh world, but they’re always an option. I did not come to these conclusions voluntarily.

There is incredible power in reflection and revelation, but when that fire alarm sounds, we have no choice but to get busy dancing... or get busy dying. Stop, drop and roll!


Want some chocolate? A 70’s playlist to get your groove on:

In Case of Fire

Edited By Maddy Avena