PREJUDICE of small things?


“Hey, I like your license plate!” I hear yelled across Wegman’s (voted best grocery store in NYS) parking lot. I turn to see a man I do not know waving and we both must be focused on our next appointment, because I didn’t take the time to inquire as to why he likes it. Nor did he walk toward me to tell me.

I wish I had taken the time like I do most mornings, stopping at Wegmans for a hot bagel just out of the oven. If none are warm, Tam, or other employees offer to warm one up for me. I used to buy a dozen bagels at the Ithaca Bakery, slice them into halves and  freeze them at home until about two years ago when I became aware of the sweet smell of yeasty sesame bagels floating out of Wegman’s huge oven.

I also buy two chocolate chip cookies with walnuts freshly made; one for a morning snack, the other for an evening snack. Smacking my lips now as they remind me of my mother’s chocolate chip cookies, with walnuts of course, that I love(d).

Recently, I’d driven home after my Wegman’s-morning-routine-pickup, unusual as it’s usually my office that I head to where my psychotherapy clients await me. After two to three hours of online history course reading, I walk to my car and see it sagging to its right side. “WOW!” I say out loud.

The two right side tires are completely flat, How can that be? I’d just been to Wegmans and back. Luckily, (Design Of the Universe) the DOU has the young man from the upstairs apartment outside brushing snow off his car and offers me a ride to work.

The next day, as I ride  in the tow truck with my 2006 Atlantic blue pearl Jeep Liberty strapped on its back; the driver says it’s not so unusual for some kids to puncture tires in parking lots, just for fun. The “Good-Year” man who replaces my tires, all 4 needing to be replaced in three months when my inspection is due in May anyway – essentially validates what the tow truck driver said about kids.

I think to meself: (typed it that way, so left it:) how sad that kids need to act out their hurts; that adults are biased in their conclusions.

Maybe they are right. And why my license plate reads, CRYBABE.

TAKING YOUR TIME to learn about making love


     ”Hurry up!” I say all too often when my daughters are growing up.

Also, sadly, I am a virgin when I marry at 22. I can’t remember my first intercourse or orgasm – am I too fast or too slow? It’s confusing until I tell you that my conservative religious upbringing covered up what masturbation was or is.

I had to be a hypocrite for years in order to find my way to making love, physically or spiritually. I would go to church on Sundays, then go home for non-marital sex with boyfriends; feeling guilty, praying I wouldn’t get pregnant while peeing the next morning. That was guilt talkin’ in my head because I expected the IUD in my uterus would keep me safe. I am a nurse after all.

It wasn’t until 1984 when I am 38, that I am able to break the bonds of fear: to leave my church ‘family’; my rebellious spirit fighting to be free – yes, cliché – to be me!

Of course this is a life long process. Now, in my golden years, after being married and divorced four times, experiencing close to 90 lovers (so far); I still struggle to tell myself that I can take my time with a lover. I do say to them, “I want to enjoy the waves of pleasure before I climax.” Yet, I don’t want my partner to have to work too hard: I don’t wish to become a burden; I don’t want him to leave me.

Even when I self-love I tell myself I don’t have to have an orgasm, yet I want one.

Recently, a 30-something black graduate student from Ghana, whom I meet a few times salsa dancing, says, “Let’s go!” after we discuss being ‘friends with benefits’.

While making love, intercourse in action, my antique white iron bed frame supporting the usual box springs and mattress (without the usual hold-in border), lets go of the head corner so that we slide toward the floor. I am laughing so hard; I can’t stop for minutes as my partner appears dumbfounded.

I explode: “Oh god,” that was the best climax ever!

THREATS of the uncommon kind?

Just now, I was crying while speaking to my granddaughter on the phone, whose 25th birthday we’d recently celebrated. I was the first to hold her because my daughter delivered by emergency C-section due to Denali’s breech presentation. Ever since, I’ve sensed she is the reincarnation of my daddy’s spirit. I hope that doesn’t threaten my credibility to my readers.

My mother has told me she’s disappointed in me. I ruined her attempt to brain-heart-wash me into her ‘born again’ christian religion. But it wasn’t until 1984, when I was 38, that I became courageous enough to bear the rejection of my friends, my church community. Only two of them remain distant friends.

For the past 2 years I’ve endured rejection by my brother because I write an annual holiday-new years letter about important experiences of the year and share feelings of love for my family.

Two years ago, I’d planned to stay with my brother in DC, where the Psychotherapy Networker Symposium hosts approximately 3,000 therapist types, attending workshops to improve our therapeutic capabilities. When I didn’t comply with his wishes to not write about my visit to my nephew Joshua, imprisoned in Florida – he emailed, “You’re uninvited.”

Now, I feel threatened wondering if my sister will abandon me when she reads this essay in the SUN. (I’m smiling because I have submitted over 300 readers writes essays and none have been published.) I have visited Joshua with her at least four times.

I choose to throw away that fear, as I do of crying while telling Denali of my insensitivity to my daddy, when he wrote to me while attending nursing school, thoughtful and detailed weekly letters. Once, dad wrote of his sadness to have missed me saying goodbye (tears) after my weekend visit. I hadn’t taken the time to say goodbye.

So, when Denali didn’t come to my home this week to see my huge Jade in full bloom, a rarity to see its dainty white flowers – after asking three times – I felt unimportant to her like my daddy must have felt.


Go for BROKE


Although I have climbed up and down the financial ladder, I have never been truly poor or rich until my fourth marriage to Gregory: being stunned by my husband’s verbal abuse and distrust early on. Rage and sobbing permeated my corralled heart. I, being IN love with Gregory broke me. Sometimes I could not sleep; so angry and fearful that he wouldn’t trust me; being innocent of his claims that I was lying about having affairs.

Being a Marriage and Family Therapist; I have been in therapy (as any effective therapist needs to be), where I spoke dripping tears during two previous marriages, skimming the surface of my grief: missing my father since his dying of a sudden heart attack in 1977.

Eventually, during one fight with Gregory, my tears sprayed forth like a fire hydrant letting loose: suddenly I could see me fighting with my mother! She forced religion down my throat but my heart refused and began to fight at the age of ten. My spirit rebelled!

I had no consciousness, or awareness of the depth of my childhood pain before Gregory and I “fell” in love.

Finally, I gave him my caring ultimatum: we both go to the Primal Center in Venice, California for therapy as I was hoping to become a primal therapist like John Lennon sings of, and to save our marriage. Gregory had begun therapy in Ithaca, NY and was on medication which helped minimally in that he became able to work after two years of unemployment. It did not stop his distrust of me.

While in California, we’d spent my $10,000 savings on therapy. We worked enough to cover living expenses: he as a private duty LPN and myself as a private duty RN. I worked 2 days a week relieving the full-time day RN until she took a week off for a nose job, as she had a dream of becoming an actress. I was hoping to save enough money to move back home to NY and build up my private practice again as we were broke, beginning to depend on credit cards to live frugally and also pay for Gregory’s desire to continue therapy in California, which he had begun months after I had.

One day I came to work to hear that the full-time RN had died on the doctor’s office operating table, due to some heart problem. So, I began working seven days a week. Her broken heart helped me save $5000 my last month in California so I didn’t have to drive the Uhaul back home, broke.

ODD ONE OUT…can be emancipating


While growing up, my mother called me, “Frances the Talking Mule”. I felt criticized, dismissed, unloved. Yet, as a grown up that phrase feels empowering. I speak my truth like a mule.

I see myself as a wallflower in high school – my sister being the pretty one who attracted boyfriends, overlooking me, one year older.

At 16, mother’s anger yells, “He’s not your father!!” shocked to learn I didn’t own the same father as my sister and brother. Yet, I’d always felt very loved by my ‘adopted’ dad and not by my bio-mother – both raising me. I am a child of rape.

My brother and sister both married once. I am divorced four times. Three amicable divorces. The fourth being a lifesaver.  Gregory’s verbal abuse of me taught me to cry, deep time. Openly raging like a crow’s call.

Eventually, my license plate exposes my vanity: CRYBABE.

As far as I know, I am the only family member with a master’s degree. My maternal grandfather, Bernard, earned a Phd. in chemistry from Geneva University in Switzerland, emigrating to the USA to work for his uncle Murry in the copper mining business, who with his six brothers became the millionaire Guggenheim family, creator of the famous Guggenheim museum in New York City.

Maybe grandpa Bernard Guggenheim is the ODD One Out as he disowned his Swiss-Jewish family and became a farmer in the small village of Willseyville, NY. My mother, Ellen Guggenheim never learned why her father left the Guggenheim mining business.

It wasn’t until 2017 that the connection became clear. My cousin, Clare, an avid hobbiest, used 2 obituary articles my sister recently found in an old album mom owned which I promptly sent to him. I am the family of origin roots investigator, years ago finding mom’s letter of 1980 to Werner Guggenheim, who was not able to establish a proven relationship with the billionaire Guggenheims.

Why do I want to find out why grandpa disowned his Guggenheim family? It’s not about money – like it wasn’t for grandpa Bernard, who died owning a small farm, being married to grammy Alice, who only had an eighth grade education. ODD again.

My dad was way ahead of his time, being an equal parent in the 1950s, being more emotionally available than my mother, being one of the first volunteers for Suicide Prevention and Crisis Service in the 1970s. Without a college education, daddy rose from being a lab technician at Cornell University to becoming a Research Associate in space sciences, analyzing moon dust from the first landing on the moon. Definitely, on ODD one out!

And the one I think of daily because he loved me more than anyone. He died of a sudden heart attack in 1977. Since being heartbroken during my fourth marriage – I am learning to be with my childhood tears, buried by society’s shame. I cry many times a week remembering to appreciate daddy who loved me, yet sadly we feared to say those three precious words to each other face-to-face. Only in cards and letters. In the cards (at that time) as someone has said.

In September of 2017, my European vacation ended in Poland, where an argentine tango acquaintance, Alek, hosted me for a week. ( I met him in 2016 where we danced weekly at Cornell’s physical science building for the three months of his brief internship here). He and his parents and brother and sister heard my family of origin story, laced with tears. His mother’s eyes became misty as she says, “I feel like we really know you.”

While at Alek’s brother’s flat,  Chris played videos of music he loves, then asked for my favorites. When he played So She Dances, a waltz tune sung by Josh Grogan, I danced for Chris and Alek, two men I hardly knew, in Chris’ living room. Surprising myself.

UPSTAIRS…where heaven is?

My family is tired of hearing or reading my story, the truth be told. Will I ever be tired of telling my truth after hearing it hurled at me in anger, “He’s not your father!!” by my mother? Upstairs in my bedroom.

Or, the truth be told, that I am a child of rape so my mother could not love me due to her feelings of guilt and shame; her strict religious beliefs of forgiveness could never wash away.

And, the truth be told, that mother tried to abort me at 5 months along, the doctor refusing.

To put me up for adoption was the next option in Tarrytown, NY, where my ‘dad’ would refuse; as he had signed my birth certificate; and signed up with his heart, forever.

Or, that my ‘dad’ would love me as purely as my sister and brother, born after me, his biologically, while I am not, the truth be told.

And, taken to bible church three times a week, where my ten year old inner voice whispered…the truth is not here. Could I be homeless?

Where is heaven? Where is hell? Could I hear my own truth to be told?

Or, it was not until 1984, when I was 38; I could say to my 12 year old daughter, Erin, “I don’t believe in christianity anymore.” She then crying, “But mom you’ll go to hell.” Is that downstairs, in the cellar?

And, I would cry in church, not understanding why – until memories stored in bell jars, empty and encased in cobwebs of a verbally abusive fourth marriage – my tears careened with the force of Victoria Falls.

Tears being the natural moisturizer I regularly rub into my cheeks and wrinkles of time….smoothing my angry lines into a makeup called forever happiness. Yes, the truth hurts – and as Rumi, 13th century poet wrote: my tears are “pearls of god.”

Where I can find more possibly and probably pure love.

Not upstairs.

Not downstairs.

In each loving teardrop.

WHAT REALLY MATTERS…we all know yes?

One August evening 2017, I was sad to hear a nine year old girl yell out “Don’t cry” twice to another girl who had just sung on Americas Got Talent, and was receiving a standing ovation.

The judges were accepting of tears; yet I still hear all too often, “stop crying,” or “don’t cry,” or “sorry,” for being ashamed of crying.

For way too many years I hid my tears, until I became a Marriage and Family Therapist and later became brokenhearted by  my fourth husband’s distrust of me – accusing me of having affairs and lying about it. I cried. I sobbed. I yelled and stomped my feet like a toddler. Eventually, I became connected to my grief of my mother’s distrust in me to have my own opinions, beliefs and feelings. I became a human thunderstorm, (en)lightning cracking my heart open enough to trust myself, especially my feelings, the best F word going.

Usually, I cry several times a week, (it’s our bodies natural way to let go of physical and emotional pain) and was recently triggered by re-reading my 12 year old granddaughter’s hand-created birthday card for my 70th, where she lists 10 wonderful qualities and ends with the “best thing you are is my grandma.”

Why all these tears?

Another day this same month of August  2017, I signed up to rent a kayak for an hour or two. Will, a 22 year old, very handsome man took my money as I signed the release form saying Puddledockers was not responsible for my safety. Next to my signature was a line for my age. As I write 70, I say, “I have to say it out loud in order to begin to believe…while being greatfull for my excellent health without medications.”

Will inquires as to what is my secret. Crying is my smiling answer. Will responds, “That makes sense because it decreases your  stress.”

“Stress is really fear of something: not enough money, won’t pass a test, or ultimately I won’t be liked, or loved as I need.”

Will asks: “What’s the best moment of your life?”

“You ask great questions!” I take a breath before I answer with my first thought: “the birth of my first child.” I am surprised how interested he is in my life.

When I return from an hour of strenuous kayaking out to the lighthouse and back on Cayuga Lake, Will continues our conversation, “I can’t remember the last time I cried – how can it happen?” I suggest he go to a sad movie, or play a sad song and to be aware (pay good attention) not to suppress your sadness. Then, we laugh together.

Later, in this same August, I am watching a 20/20 documentary of the trial of 18 year old Michele Carter, convicted  of killing her boyfriend, Conrad Roy, with her words. I am still astounded how readily humans wish to blame instead of understand. Michele had tried to encourage Conrad to get help for 2 years. Then, she gave up, and went along with Conrad’s continued wish to commit suicide. Conrad’s mother had taken Conrad to a psychiatric unit prior to Michele’s involvement, mostly by text, as Conrad and Michele had only seen one another three times in their over two year relationship. During the documentary, no one asks why Conrad or Michele didn’t go to their parents for help. Or why Conrad felt so poorly about himself. (Both were from middle class families and attractive. Michele was known to have an eating disorder.)

What really matters is that we pay good attention to children’s feelings; become aware of the essential need to teach healthy loving relationship skills in our high schools, which I have been advocating for over 25 years, and is still not offered as an elective.

What makes a person feel successful; what brings happiness into our lives? I asked Ithaca high school students this past spring. “Education, money, communication” are what I hear first, until I push for the deeper happiness… LOVE they say.

Always, I cry for more love.


“There is sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They are more eloquent than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief…and unspeakable love.” – Washington Irving



I have dated enough to be married four times…yet I dislike ‘dating’ myself. To tell you how old I am.

Yet, I often ask others to guess my age; I need to say my age out loud in order to convince ‘me’ that I have been alive for seven decades. Really?

Since 1970, I am engaged in a love affair with the National Parks, when my first husband and I drove our second hand VW bug cross country for six weeks while being pregnant with our first daughter. I wonder if she, Erin, could see (tears) the cascading waterfalls of Yosemite, or the towering Sequoias, or the black bear running through our campground.

For a month of the summer of 1986, I drove Erin and Megan, then 15 and 12, cross country in my boyfriend’s Dodge van sporting rusted-rimmed doors and 150,00 miles; trusting it to endure our camping-hiking National Park adventure. Surprisingly, without provocation, tears trailed down my cheeks when seeing a 360 degree scenic view appear after hiking 6 miles of switchbacks on Mount Rainier, many-colored wildflowers lining our trail.

It wasn’t until the early 1990s that I realize why I spilled those tears – when I connected that I hadn’t seen the beauty within me. Until then, I hadn’t felt the deep hurt uprooted by my fourth husband’s distrust in me, (saying I’m lying about having affairs when I wasn’t even interested in such), while revisiting several National Parks with him.

This summer, 2017, I am in the Grand Teton National Park for the fifth time, hiking new trails, alone, and for the first time hearing unforgettable music at the Grand Teton Music Festival: cello and piano playing Rachmaninoff’s Sonata in G minor, and my heart strings.

But it is in Capitol Reef National Park where I feel the spirit of my dear daddy in a most miraculous way, tears washing my face like Hidden Falls, sobbing for maybe 20 minutes, remembering we were married on those reefs in a past lifetime, as Native Americans.

In The Middle of LOVE


I relate to: “I didn’t talk to anyone,” written in the middle of the story, “Skinning the Rabbit,” (SUN July 2017); after my mother yelled, “He’s not your father!” during one of our fights where I defend my dad. I am sixteen.

Several paragraphs later, I read, “I didn’t call out or cry. I didn’t mind the pain. Not that much…and I was free.” I pen in “NO” in the magazine’s margin. I was not free!

Normally, I would go on reading, but I paused. While pondering, tears sprinkle my cheeks as I connect to daddy and I never talking about, or resolving the pain of that day when the 16 year secret was hurled at me with anger. Regrettably, I stopped being affectionate with hugs although Dad has always been the love of my life.

As an adult, in graduate school to become a Marriage and Family Therapist, I asked my mother why she and dad hadn’t talked to me, (my sister told me she heard mom tell dad not to). Like the author wrote of her mother saying: “He’ll get over it,” (the bawling); I heard my mother say, “Leave her alone, she’ll get over it.” I couldn’t read further as tears flooded my eyes.


I’m reminded of the satisfaction I felt (and still do), last autumn while tearing wild grape vines off the lilac bushes and honeysuckle that were being strangled to death. In August 2016 I moved to an 1840s home divided into four apartments where the wild grape vines also covered the open area next to the lilacs. Underneath I discover a large bed of rich green ground cover, myrtle, its periwinkle flowers appearing, in the middle of which is a group of cut off tiger lilies.

I was filled with delight as this spring revealed tall orange Tiger lilies circling many dots of blue because I had tore way the life of the wild grape vines…and the sentence, “You need to stop being so sensitive.”

On a 2017 June day, while watering my newly planted pink and white petunias, yellow and purple pansies and violas, white daises and red dianthus (sweet will-I-am), and bright yellow, orange and pink zinnias, I notice a garden snake coiled in the sun. When I moved my sprinkling can, it slithered away as I say, ” I’m sorry, it’s okay, I won’t hurt you,” and within seconds she was back coiled in the sun’s sensitivity of my heart.

WINTER…loving all seasons of my life


Sliding down our backyard hill was ‘cool’ for my sister, brother and I, as was skating on Beebe Lake, property of Cornell University, the latter no longer allowed.

Again, fun was to be had with my two daughters when Cayuga Lake would freeze at its shallow end. I even enjoyed running a 5K with my then husband one new years eve as snowflakes latched onto my eyelashes.

Still, as an adult, I complained for some years about the barrenness of trees without leaves. After a few years of grieving (my fourth marriage and my mother not loving me), I learned to admire and yes love the symmetries (trees) shaped by bare branches, as I gradually accepted my tears without shame. To flow like the rain.

After owning two homes, I chose to rent a renovated chicken coop, next to the farmhouse where the landlord lived. I loved opening my eyes each morning to an expansive valley view, without having to lift my head from my pillow. I lived across the road from Robert Treman State Park, where I ran past many waterfalls either frozen or flowing past spring Trillium. I cross-country skied up and down the farm fields, sometimes wondering if my water pipes would ever stop freezing. My bane of winter.

Over the fourteen years I lived on Gray Road; (how apropos) I badgered my usually helpful landlord, to insulate, even calling for a free energy audit provided by the local utility company.

By year twelve, he had insulated a bit – yet, in year thirteen, I was up until 4am trying to unfreeze pipes with a friend’s hair dryer, while my landlord vacationed in Florida.

When the rent was raised again in 2014, I rebelled. I would not pay more when the water froze once again. When an eviction notice was handed to me, I was surprised and resisted at first. Within 24 hours I’d realized it was time to leave. March first, amidst snowflakes, my family helped me move my “lightened” load.

After two more apartment moves within the next two years, I am now living in my dreamed-of-apartment, situated in an 1840′s built home, where I view a pond within an expansive valley, wide open to my love of light and the four seasons. No curtains over my large windows. It wasn’t until I moved in, that one day I asked myself why I had always wished for a pond on my property…I remembered where I played as a child in the back fields of our childhood home: the pond where I gathered tadpoles and thumb-sized blackcaps for pies my mother would make- my favorite! Peaceful Park, my sister and I named it: where daddy crafted a waterwheel spun by the pond’s stream. Where I felt freest to be me.

Throughout the four seasons.

Even now being in the winter years of my life, I can not imagine being a snowbird.*


give me one more year

of winter’s quiet embrace

summer’s smiling face

spring’s generous lace

fall’s colorful grace…………………………………………………….poem by Gayle Gray and me


*Snowbird: Live up north in the spring and summer, live in the south in fall and winter.