Monday, May 29, 2023

"Nothing Gold Can Stay"


I almost posted this before about Marian, and I decided to post it today - especially after my husband had military nightmares again, last night, especially after discussing his own faith questions regarding his former Army Ranger buddy, Rodrigo.

Plus I noticed that by coincidence, my dear friend, Cherie, had posted a Robert Frost poem at her blog yesterday as her thought of the week - not the same poem, but instead "The Road Not Taken" 

Yes, I think I will do that today, take the road less traveled and go on a hike, especially after witnessing three  portly women wearing American-flag beach coverups, hooting and hollering, carrying a beer cooler, headed over to the pool to party lol.

But instead, this Robert Frost poem is about how the best things in life that we consider as precious as gold are people and nature - but  the best can never stay too long ...

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.


Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.


PS - One of my brothers-in-law, whom I mentioned yesterday, sent me some bible verses today for comfort.  I thanked him and sent back this poem, which also helps/helped me, which he loved.

Then I said "Stay Golden, Ponyboy" 


FYI, in case you were wondering, this was a reference to the SE Hinton book we all read in junior high or high school called, "The Outsiders," in which Johnny says that to Ponyboy, in reference to this Robert Frost poem.

Well?  It wouldn't be me if I didn't end any conversation or post with some absurdity in the mix lol

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Remembrance: Questions on Faith VS. Randomness

So I woke this morning, missing Marian again all of the sudden - maybe because it's Memorial Day Weekend?

Or maybe it's because I'm not done grieving and it's unrealistic to just think I can just move on and welcome in new life and joy without still sometimes feeling a moment of sad remembrance

I think especially because there's still no obituary or memorial yet and no word on it??  My mom is wondering too.

I'm sure there's some reason for the delay, it's just I know from other cremations, the "we'll have a memorial later" doesn't work out very well, these days.  It's like by the time they have one, if they ever do, people don't want to revisit it or something?  Okay, I get that - and yet she deserves better than that.  

But then again, I don't know what's going on with the family, this was an even bigger shock to them than me, so no judgment.  It just sucks all the way around.

Anyway, trying to talk to my mom about this doesn't work out very well.  She just isn't in the same place as me with grief and we've only recently reconnected.  She just puts everything is God's hands without question, when I'm left with so many.  

Mark has been great, but he's just as stumped as me on this one.  My little sister was sad about Marian, too, but not as close as my mom and I were to her, and we also just recently reconnected, too, plus her new beau came into Atlanta for the weekend, which makes me super happy for her and I don't want to dump on her.

Grief and faith aren't something you just dump on people, especially friends rather than family, they have their own stuff going on.  

And God knows, it's harder than ever these days to find intelligent people who leave room for faith, who are also still sane lol. So Mark suggested one of my brother-in-laws, but more on him in a moment.

I think humans in general have a hard time just accepting randomness, and especially me, being overly analytical.  I like things to make sense and it really bothers me when they don't, probably more than most people. 

(This also explains why absurdity is my favorite form of humor, and why sometimes I just say nonsensical things to make others laugh - because I spend so much of the rest of my time trying to make things make more sense lol.)

But I think humans in general like to find meaning in our world rather than just accepting randomness, and I don't think it's just because randomness feels out of our control, though that is much of it.

Because if you think about it, much like the innate human need to create, the need to find meaning and order out of chaos may actually be evidence of a God as a conscious energy   - because where did both of these innate human needs come from? 

Because we don't actually need to create to survive, nor do we even need order and meaning - plenty of people working in non-creative fields just to get a paycheck are proof of that - so where did this innate need to find meaning and order come from?

Not to mention, there's not only a certain amount of natural order to the earth, but to the universe - though both may have been created via chaos, they're NOT chaotic now, or at least the earth and the universe eventually find order and balance

Heck, even the human body, though it can experience chaos, eventually finds, or tries to find, a homeostasis.

Regardless, point being, we're not very good with chaos and random - and that is because most things aren't random and chaotic -  at least not for too long.

I dunno, I guess the world just feels quieter, smaller, without Marian in it.  I'm trying to welcome in new life with a new puppy coming this week and a friend with a new baby, but that feeling that a part of my own life is missing is still there. 

And worse - and I know this sounds weird - but it felt like hope - and God himself - left with Marian.  I know that's ridiculous and I didn't realize I felt that way until today, isn't that ridiculous? Well, some might say belief in God anyway is ridiculous, so never mind lol. 

I had already realized that virtually everything I had been taught from the evangelical church I grew up in wasn't true, at least not the way they taught it.  

So what IS true?

Christians still die in horrible ways, despite what prayers or incantations or talismans they use, just like everybody else, sometimes.  

A tornado, with no will of its own, hits randomly and can leave every house in the neighborhood flatted, but one house unscathed.  The people in the unscathed house credit God - and the others, also devout Christian, are left going "Yeah, what did we do wrong?"

The answer is likely - nothing.

Because we Christians don't have any more protection than anyone else, at least against the free will of other human beings, that is.  

The bible says the rain falls on both the just and the unjust.

Try telling that to my mom, though - who believes if you say just this certain prayer, a certain way, in the name of Jesus, you're protected.

And when she says stuff like this, I let her, because she has that right.

But I'm thinking to myself, when she's saying stuff like this "Oh yeah? If that actually worked, then explain what happened to Marian?"

But I never do actually say that, I just think it and roll my eyes on the phone where she can't see me do it, right now lol.

Because although Marian had more patience, compassion, and intelligence than most in that type of belief, she was still the sort of Christian that prayed prayers of protection before she drove, in the name of Jesus, etc. - and it didn't protect her.  HE didn't protect her. 

And don't tell me it's because she forgot that one day - if his grace is sufficient, then it's sufficient - period. 

And for Mark, it's not only Marian, but his Army Ranger buddy, Rodrigo.  Rodrigo wore a crucifix, prayed the rosary every day, wore it around his wrist, led prayer before and during every mission, had tattoos of bible versus and crosses, was a committed family man - and everyone thought these things protected him on missions, despite being stabbed, shot, you name it - until one day, they didn't anymore :(

Now, in his case, that was his job - and how many battles can you run into before your luck runs out?  But then my husband's "luck" never ran out - so why Rodrigo instead of him, he sometimes asks God?


I mean, I already knew this stuff doesn't really protect us, at least from other people's free will choices or our own (versus true negative spiritual energy), it just gives us the illusion of control -  and yet for some reason, I still thought God would for somebody like Marian anyway. 

So as mentioned, Mark suggested I talk to my one of my brothers-in-law, who has converted from Catholicism to Evangelicalism in recent years. 

We don't agree on everything, but what we did agree on was that I needed to adjust my expectations of who God is and what he does versus what we expect him to do.

And also during the conversation, he said something like "taking (personal) offense (to what God does or doesn't do)." 

Light bulb on. 

And I also realized that what I had done was take the phrase "see God in the faces of the people we love" way too seriously - Marian was NOT God, not the only blessing in my life, and she was not my only connection to God - and God is not only found in human faces and voices.

And more importantly, this didn't happen because of anything Marian did or didn't do; enough faith or not, Godly enough or not Godly enough, prayed enough or too much or the right prayers, etc.  - his grace is sufficient - period. 

Nobody was more devoted and devout and selfless trying to reflect the life of Christ than Marian.

We're not powerful enough to control anything with prayers or talisman or incantations (and in fact, I don't see much difference between them) - so how arrogant to assume if we say just the right prayer, carry the right talisman, we can control everything that happens to us in this world.

This happened because it was just her time - and not to be taken as a personal offense to either Marian OR the people that loved her.

The only comfort and sense I can make of it at present is that I know after her husband left, she really struggled financially and had zero retirement at 71 years old.  How much longer would she have to work and struggle as she aged?

At least this way, she wouldn't have to - because she was in a coma since the moment it happened, with no brain activity at all, just her body alive until disconnected from life support - and then was peacefully sung to sleep by her family.

I guess I can almost see God in that final moment - and yet it's not enough.

I still really wish I could see or feel God again, but I still can't.

But at least today, after talking with B - I did realize how much I had confused the human Marian with the presence of God- and that no, God did not actually die along with Marian (as ridiculous as that sounds anyway). 

 I'm just not exactly sure where he is still.  I hope I see/feel him again soon. 

Like I said last post, it's a process.  That doesn't mean I'm not excited about the new puppy, the new baby, etc. - it means some days, I still miss Marian - period.  Guess I will for a while.  

It only takes faith the size of a grain of a mustard seed, right?

Okay, because that's about all I've got, right now.  Hoping his grace truly is sufficient :/


PS - Special thanks to Mark's brother, B, for talking with me about this today, especially it being a holiday weekend.  Love you, Brother :)

Thursday, May 25, 2023

The Process of Grief ...

So I was just rereading the posts I'd written about Marian's death here.  Though pretty raw and heavy (especially the first one), I gotta say, they were extremely helpful and therapeutic for to me to write.  I am also in hopes that it will be helpful to others who might feel similarly, but do not want to burden others also grieving with their own grief, so that they will know they're not alone.

Grief comes with a range of emotions, all very normal, that are to be expressed and then let pass without taking action, like a wave washing over you - and if you don't, those emotions will come back make themselves known later and become louder and louder, often at the most inopportune times, until you properly deal with them :)

Thus, I will not be deleting a word of it - and am resisting the urge to apologize for subjecting anyone to it - because anything said here was written as simply expression of the range of emotions that come with grief - confusion, sadness, anger - and nothing more.

At present, the family choose cremation, which causes delay in not only a memorial service, but an obituary.

Until then, I am choosing to focus on welcoming new life into the world, my friend just having given birth to a new baby boy, and I'm getting a new puppy next week :)

Thus, as Marian always said, "God's Peace"  :)

Thursday, May 18, 2023

A First Glimpse ...

So unfortunately, someone who had applied a couple of days before we did to adopt "Keith Urban" and got him  - BUT - Mark surprised me by arranging for this little guy ... 

I normally like to rescue but LOOK AT THIS FACE!!!

No, really, LOOK AT IT! :)

Like I'm going to say no to my husband surprising me with a new puppy WITH THAT FACE! :)

So the above glimpse is your first glimpse of Mr. Ziggy Knoxville Chaplow at 6 weeks old (taken by the breeder today)! 

LOL! What a ridiculous name, I know, but pugs themselves are ridiculous, and so are we! 

So Ziggy won the name vote, but we loved Mark's brother's story about Johnny Knoxville - PLUS Ziggy is from middle Tennessee - so we made it his middle name, and he will be registered exactly like that :)

I don't want to jinx myself again, but since he's bought and paid for and we're picking him up in two weeks at 8 weeks old, so it's fairly safe (as long as our travel to get him goes well and nothing happens to him before then, knock on wood!)

I hope not, because I'm in love with him already!!!

Here's a short video she sent - look at his little tail going!  You can see his full face at the end - precious!  I can't wait!


Mark showed the picture and video of Ziggy to his coworkers, one of whom is from China.  She's totally into the Chinese astrology/mythology thing.  

Like she asked about our birth years a few years ago, she said something like, "Oh, Tiger and Monkey, may be difficult.  But you were both on cusp, you were almost Ox, she was almost sheep, and there's a dragon in your house, so it's okay."

"You are both smart, but where you are aggressive, she will use wit.  Don't try to control monkey, she will outwit you."


(Of course, she is a monkey, too, so that may have something to do with it ;) lol).

Anyway, she saw the pug and Mark said she said something like, "Oh, you got her a pug, they are lucky, especially as gifts!  You win best husband award!"

I agree! Yep, I think I'll keep them both around awhile.

FYI, pugs were bred to be the (spiritual) guardians and companions for the imperial families in China, and later became the companions of Buddhist monks.  They were believed to be highly spiritual, with some believing they could turn into dragons and others believing they contained the souls of reincarnated Buddhist monks. 

There be dragons in my house soon! ;)  LOL

"Pug, the Magic Dragon, lived ... nowhere near the sea ..."

But it's okay, because in China, a dragon is a good thing - not only for spiritual protection, but they bring good luck, fortune, wisdom, strength and peace :)

Also, I am told by the breeder he's The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) lol.  She says he looks very much like his dad, whose name it Tank, and he could be Tank Jr.

Is Ziggy Knoxville The Rock Tank Jr. Chaplow too long of a name? lol ;)

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

WHAT Did She Just Say???


So I walked in the room right as Kelly Craft was giving her concession speech on the news - at the point where she was lauding the physical appearance of the family of her running mate, Max Wise, as "The American Dream."

It sounded to Mark and me like she said "Look at this family ... white, the American dream."


(It wouldn't surprise me, given some of the things she's said and white supremacist group ties.)

But I relistened and talked to a couple of people, and we determined that it was her accent and a slight stumble, and she actually said "Look at this family ... ri-ight, The American dream."

Only certain Kentucky accents make "right" sound like "white" -  plus I think she slightly stumbled?  

Well, she might as well have said it, considering other things that have come out of her mouth - and still, she was referring to the physical appearance of an all-white, wealthy family as the American Dream?

Erm - they don't look like MY American Dream.

In fact, they look like my worst nightmare, hiding behind bad plastic surgery, an American flag, and a bible, which they use as weapons.

Well, except her running mate, Max Wise, clearly hasn't had  plastic surgery - he looks like a chronically drunk porn addict if I've ever seen one ...

(But it's okay, because he'll just go to confession again later?)

I know that sounds harsh, but after her anti-public schools commercial, it's fair game.

You can see that  ridiculous fearmongering ad about our public schools HERE - not of word of which is true!

(My husband is a data analyst for Fayette County Public Schools, the second largest public school district in the state, so he would know - no one is teaching kids to be gay in any public school - or anywhere, for that matter! 

It's about acceptance, not instruction!

The public school focus is how to offer more ancillary support and acceptance for kids struggling for any reason, also at risk for bullying - period.

Gender identity/LGBTQ is just one of those things, but also homeless kids/kids in poverty, kids with domestic violence in the home, a sick or disabled parent, kids of different races or from different cultures, and better overall mental health! 

Nowhere does that even imply that anyone is actually teaching these things.

Kelly and Max never even visited the schools, so it's fearmongering propaganda, a blatant lie, to scare you into voting for them.  

And that would be the biggest reason why she lost - because public schools are one of the largest employers in the State of Kentucky, employing both Republicans and Democrats - who BOTH knew this was an absurd lie because they all worked there lol.

I'm glad the right-wing extremist Trump Nazis lost - they're completely delusional. 

"If everyone looked like us -  white, Christian, and straight - we wouldn't have any problems."

Yeah, keep telling yourselves that lol.

Now, you would think that Trump Republicans in this state would think to themselves, "Now, we know that isn't true because we actually work here - so what else that are they telling us isn't true?"  

Nope, they just find another Trump candidate that's less "silly."

They will cling to their American Delusion - erm - I mean, Dream -  until their dying day, never realizing that their paranoia and hatred has turned them into monsters -  they are the monsters - just like the Nazis in Germany did.

Monday, May 15, 2023

Mark and I Are Desperately In Need of A Pug Rescue: Adopting "Keith Urban?" ;)


So besides being adorable, I found the fact that it says ...

"Considering Keith Urban for Adoption?"

... hilarious!  LOLOLOL!

(For those who don't know who Keith Urban is, it's this guy - Country Singer from Australia and American Idol Judge, married to Nicole Kidman). 

So this may be a bit premature, but Mark and I decided on Saturday, after Marian's death and so much sorrow, to remind ourselves of new life coming into the world, and that there was still joy still to be had - so we applied to adopt "Keith Urban" lol. 

Mark had suggested this before, but I hadn't been able to bring myself to get another pug after Snuggy died in 2020, just two weeks after the pandemic shut everything down, but I think now maybe it 's time. 

If ever I was in need of a little cuddlebug and a focus on welcoming new life into the world, it's now. Pugs are great cuddlers - I'm convinced they're kind of like the missing link between dogs and cats lol. They also make you laugh at least once a day, every day.

I think "Pug Rescue" means not only that you rescue the pug, but they rescue YOU :)

I think this pic of him is actually my favorite - "Whaaa?  WHAT DID YOU SAY?"

Pugs are super expressive, and ya know, so am I lol.

We don't buy purebred directly from breeders - too many pugs up for adoption who need good homes already. 

So we found this little guy in Michigan and applied for him on Saturday - don't want to get our hearts too set on him, in case there are other applicants before us, but nevertheless, got a kick out of him and his pictures :)

If not "Keith," then it will be the right pug, at the right time, I'm sure :)

So we're thinking of names, regardless, because a new pug is in our near future. 

"Keith Urban" is hilarious, but ya know ... no?  lol.

So we've told friends and family that they are welcome to chime in with potential names for our new baby.

Here's what we've come up with so far - some are serious, some are just absurd, just for a laugh.  I'll add them here, as they come in :)

- Grogu (the baby yoda from "The Mandalorian.")

- Ewok (Star Wars).

- Dobby (the house elf from Harry Potter).

- Jon Snow or Snowy (from Game of Thrones)  

- Tribble (from Star Trek).

- (Tiny) Spock (from Star Trek and The Big Bang Theory)

- Jean-Luc Picard (from Star Trek - Next Gen).

Q (from Star Trek, Next Gen) 

- Uhtred (from The Last Kingdom), calling him "Uhey" (s/l "Ooey" )

- Pedro Pascal (The Mandalorian, Game of Thrones, The Last of Us, Narcos, and more)

*Unfortunately, my beloved Pedro Pascal was just scratched from the ballot because more than one person said if people shortened it to "Pedi," that would of course be .... disturbing lol*

- Oscar Isaac (Star Wars, sequel Trilogy and more

- Indy (for Indiana Jones, plus he did get it from the family dog's name lol ). 

- Harrison Ford, calling him Harry.

- Hubert, calling him "Hubie."

- Ziggy - Marley or Stardust. 

  Cannoli or Pugnoli the Holy Cannoli.

- Snorty McSnorterson.

- Rambo.

- Neo (The Matrix)   

- Ted Lasso.  


- Murphy - from my boss, it's her married name, she says "Murphys always come into you life at the right time" (referring to her husband). So true, I got this job at exactly the right time four years ago!)

- "Dave" - Just Dave.  Dave the Pug.  LOL!  (This would be  the choice of my nephews (in-law) after seeing the pictures. 

- Malarkey 

- Knoxville - from my brother-in-law in LA, because Johnny Knoxville was a coach for his sons' little league team and he wants to tell him there's a pug here in the South named after him LOL

So first things first, although I LOVE Grogu, Ewok, and Dobby, all great names for a pug,  they are among the most popular names already for pugs. 

Mark was the one to suggest Rambo in a text thread, so then I said

 "If the next name offered in this text thread is John Wick, I'm burying my phone lol." 

Okay, I get it, especially because of his puppy thing, but no?

Also, someone said "Harry" for Harrison Ford makes them think of Prince Harry instead of Harrison Ford.

So then I said "Prince Harrison Ford Mountbatten Windsor Chaplow" 

That may be a bit much ;)  

Anyone who has my email or phone, feel free to call/email/text me your name suggestions :)


Updates - Besides the contributors of course voting for their own, votes are 3 for Indy, 2 for Ziggy, and 2 for Cannoli, at present.  

We'll narrow them down in a bit. 

Friday, May 12, 2023

Note To Self: Never Delete Voicemails From The People You Love, Ever Again.


I have a habit of just deleting voicemails right away after I'd listened to them.  Somehow, by mistake, grace of God, whatever, I do have just one short and sweet one saved from Marian, which I've played several times, this morning, just to hear her voice again.

It just says:  "Hey, Chrystal, if you can, give me a call or shoot me a text.  I have a question about computer skills.  Okay.  God's peace. Bye bye."

As I recall, she was calling me because she was having trouble doing price comparisons and booking a flight for her ex-son-in-law's girlfriend to visit from Mexico (legally, of course) with COVID restrictions, so I did that for her.

But that was Marian - consummate mama to everyone, even her ex-son-in-law to see his new girlfriend, just to make him happy :)

(No worries - her daughter is happily remarried and she and her ex are still friends and they coparent their daughter together very well  :)

Saving this forever, just to hear her voice again, whenever I want to.

I have one from my father-in-law, Tom, too.

Never again, though, will I automatically delete all voicemails as soon as I've listened to them. 


UPDATE, 8:38 p.m.:   The family decided to wait another day to remove life support.

Her pastor, Jesse, just called me and let me know that the life support was removed and Marian passed peacefully about an hour ago.

Jesse, his wife, and her family -  including all 9 grandchildren - held Marian and each other - and sang her to sleep.  Beautiful :) 

Surrounded in unity and love - there he is,  I think I can see just a glimmer of God in this situation now?

"God's Peace ...bye bye," Marian :(

OMG, I Needed This Laugh So Badly ...


So Dan Bongino - former Fox commentator, current conservative podcaster, and Trump supporter -  replied to multi-time best-selling author (including a new book at #1 last year), Stephen King, telling him to "Stop watching porn in his mother's basement and get a real job"  after Stephen commented some snark Dan's way.

Clearly, Dan had no idea who Stephen King was! 


No, wait ... HAHAHAHA!

Oh, God ... I needed a good laugh so badly, the past couple of days -  thank you, Stephen King et al!

Even funnier is that apparently Dan's fan's - all 11,000 of them, mind you, not "millions," versus Stephen King's 7.1 million - don't know who Stephen King is either, and they actually believe Dan "owned" Stephen!


Well, no one ever accused Trump voters of being well read and well informed, right?

But you're seriously telling me they have never stopped scaring each other with ghost stories that they just made up themselves, like 12-year-old girls at a slumber party, long enough to read a book, even pop-fiction one? Even Stephen King?!?

Oh, Lordy, if Trump hadn't been so divisive and dangerous, I wouldn't laugh at how ignorant and ... erm, unwell ...  his supporters are, I'd feel sorry for them, but at this point ... yeah.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Fire And Rain ...


Was reminded of this song, this morning.  I always liked it, but used to think it was overplayed.

But I guess you don't really get it until it happens, like this  - so fast, when you had literally just talked to them, making plans for the future.

JT knew exactly what this felt like. And Marian, too, always used to say "Sweet dreams," when ending a conversation at night :(

"Fire and Rain" - James Taylor  


Just yesterday mornin', they let me know you were gone
(Marian), the plans they made put an end to you

I walked out this morning and I wrote down this song
I just can't remember who to send it to

I've seen fire and I've seen rain
I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
... but I always thought that I'd see you again ...

Won't you look down upon me, Jesus?
You've got to help me make a stand
You've just got to see me through another day
My body's aching and my time is at hand
And I won't make it any other way

Oh, I've seen fire and I've seen rain
I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
... but I always thought that I'd see you again ...

Been walking my mind to an easy time
My back turned towards the sun
Lord knows, when the cold wind blows
It'll turn your head around

Well, there's hours of time on the telephone line
To talk about things to come
"Sweet dreams" and flying machines in pieces on the ground

Oh, I've seen fire and I've seen rain
I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
 ...but I always thought that I'd see you, baby ...o
ne more time again, now ...

... thought I'd see you one more time again
There's just a few things coming my way this time around, now
Thought I'd see you ... thought I'd see you, fire and rain, now


PS -  I just added the below conversation with my mom here, my actual biological mom, this morning at about 9:45, after I'd published this post. However, after I added it, I later removed a bit that I'd written, because I remembered that if you wake my mom up and try to have a conversation with her, it does not go well, she gets especially snappy lol.  I'd forgotten that, since we'd been estranged for years.  So in my mom's defense, I HAD woken her up lol.

Regardless, our conversation went like this ... 

Me:  "So ... are you still like, thinking you're done crying, even laughing about something, but then something will remind you of her again and you cry again? Because I am. I don't know if that's normal."

"I also can't stop thinking about that drunk driver.  How someone as wonderful and selfless and Marian was killed, but the drunk driver that killed her literally walked away with barely a scratch.  He'll get 3 to 5 years in prison at most, out in a year with good behavior.  That happens so often, I just don't understand.  I guess he's sick and addicted and suffers in a way, but he walked away with barely a scratch and she's dying.  How do you reconcile that, because I can't?"


Mom:  "Chrystal, you need to let that go, let it go, now! You're going to have to, at some point. Sometimes we just don't know why and have to accept that God has his plan.  Just focus on her being with Jesus.  And no, I'm not crying anymore.  I just want to focus on how happy she is with Jesus now."


Me:   "Oh ... kay.  Um - I'm not obsessed with it, in fact, I don't think I've mentioned it to you before. I guess I'm just trying to make sense of it still.  I mean, we just found out the night before last? But I'm sorry, I didn't mean to upset you."

" I think maybe for me, the 5 stages of grief aren't linear, I hop back and forth.  One minute it feels so unreal, like this can't be true, and if it is, maybe her brain will heal itself and she'll snap out of that coma before they remove the life support today, even though I know that's ridiculous." 

"Then the next, I'm bargaining with God, 'Just answer this one prayer at least for me, just perform this one miracle, and I'll never ask for anything again - please?  If anyone deserves a miracle, she does."

"The next, I'm trying to figure out why, and I'm mad - not necessarily at anyone in particular, just - mad.  Sometimes it's myself for ever once getting frustrated with her, or for not telling her every day how much I loved and appreciated her.  I think I did show her appreciate many times, but I wonder, was it enough? Did she truly know how much I loved her?" 

"Other times, I'm mad at the drunk driver, and then other times, anyone I know who mistreated her - and yes, sometimes with God. I mean, if God can't handle our questions and anger, then I don't know what I think about him." 

  "I think it's because anger feels less powerless than sadness, it gives you the illusion of control, when you actually have none." 

"Then the next I think I've accepted it, laughing about the good memories of her, watching old episodes of "Friends" to laugh. 

"Then something reminds me of her and I start crying again, go through those feelings again." 

"Have you or are you going through any of that? 


Mom:  "Everybody's different, I guess,  but no - I need to think about her happy in heaven. I have to."


Me:  "Okay, then, I have work to do anyway, I gotta get it together.   I'm weird, I guess, you know this lol.  I guess I'm not ready to let it go yet, I'm not ready to let HER go yet." 

"I mean, we just found out the night before last. I like to think she's happy and not in pain anymore, too, but at the same time, I guess I'm not ready to give her over to Jesus, just yet, and wish she was here still." 

"But I am sorry if I upset you with it. I think I woke you, too, I'm sorry.  Go back to sleep and rest now then.  I have work, anyway, I need to get it together anyway.  I love you."


Mom: "I'm not trying to make you feel bad, I just can't  go there, and yeah, you woke me up, but it's okay.  I need to focus on her dancing and singing in heaven with Jesus, that's just my way.  I love you too."


See, that's where Marian stepped in and filled in those gaps.  She loved Jesus, too, but was a bit more grounded in reality.  Marian would cry with you, just because you were sad at any time, day or night  :(

And this would also be why I hate going to funerals even more than most people, especially Southern ones.  

They're supposed to be times you can share good memories and laugh AND console each other when sad, but all anyone says to you is "You should be happy she's with Jesus now."

Well, guess what? Maybe I should be, but I'm not.  

I AM happy for her, she's no longer in pain, sure -  but at the same time, I'd give still give anything to have her here with us.  Guess I'm selfish like that.  

Grief suuccccks - and yet here in America, we have McFunerals. You get three days off from work, but you're generally frowned upon if you use all three of them.

And we all have to put on brave faces and act somber, but not sad.  You can tear up and dab your eyes, but you can't openly cry.  I swear, I think even funerals in the UK are less austere. 

Then you're supposed to have everyone back at your house afterwards, and though people bring you food, the family of the deceased are still expected to play host to serve the food and entertain you?  It's inconsiderate, ridiculous, and exhausting.

And you have to laugh and tell only funny stories, nothing too sad or serious, and again, absolutely no crying, no resting in the other room, no "Can I have a minute?" - nope, none of that, or you'll get called a drama queen or king.

People play cards and watch ball games, turn on music and dance, as if it's Thanksgiving or a true party, and the women still serve the food and drink  - even if it's her family member that died.  

And nobody helps clean up later -  that's up to the women of the deceased's family too.

And let's not even talk about the gossip that goes on at these things, and lack of mercy, especially in the South - it's just shameful. 

I guess you're supposed to be celebrating them and their lives or something, which is okay, but it's a bit too soon for actual partying, IMO - and sometimes I've even seen them turn into partying just for party sake, disrespectfully treating it like a house party.

In fact, they don't even call them funeral homes anymore, they call them "Life Celebration Centers," and the person can even plan their "life celebration" and insists that no one cries and that you dance and celebrate them.  

Sometimes they even choose a song for everybody to have to dance to, and even professional dancers are hired, dressed in poodle skirts and leather jackets to do the jitterbug or whatever.

Okay ... so I get it, that you want people to celebrate you and your life, but I'll be damned if anyone tells me how I'm supposed to feel about you dying. 

 If I feel like dancing,  maybe I will, maybe I won't - but if I do, I might cry while I'm doing it.  In fact, I'll probably laugh AND cry at the same time.  

Because like Dolly Parton said in Steel Magnolias, "Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion."

Amen, Dolly - and if Dolly said it, it's gospel, in my world :)

I think New Orleans funerals have it maybe the closest to balanced - you spend the first part of the funeral walk to the cemetery crying and in mourning, but the second half, waving your handkerchief at them in heaven, dancing/celebrating they're no longer in pain

I mean, at least you allow that grief publicly first before you celebrate?

But no, everywhere else in America, you're supposed to entirely hide the fact that you actually feel sad that the person died, and it doesn't make any sense. 

It's like there's a time limit on grief, when in my experience, grief comes up whenever the heck it feels like it, and if you stuff it and  say you're over it, acting like you're tough - that is the surest way to ensure that grief will  come back up and bite you in the arse later, at the most inappropriate and inconvenient of times, like at work, two years later, when someone wore the same perfume or cologne or something, and suddenly, you're a blubbering idiot.

It's just weird to me, and it makes the process more exhausting than it already is, and it isn't at all comforting -  and then you go right back to work the next day, though you haven't slept the last three, it's nuts.

When I die, people can gather, and they can either bring food or order a pizza, I don't care, but I will mandate that if they do bring the food, they help serve it, too, and help clean up afterwards - regardless of whether they have a vagina or a penis! 

And people can feel however they want to feel and do whatever they want to do, and not judge anyone else for NOT doing the same thing - laugh, cry, dance, nap, throw darts at my picture, curl up in the fetal position in a ball, I don't care, it's all good lol  

There are no rules except as I said, if you bring food, you serve it, too, and you help clean up afterwards, regardless of your gender - and I'm adding that you can't gossip about anyone else present OR fight - be kind to each other and don't judge :)

But just as I wrote that about "no time limit on grief," I just remembered something my boss said that I need to thank her for again, on that note.

Though back at work today, for the first time in four years, I asked for a full day off yesterday, without asking for it advance.  I've worked when sick, etc., so only for Marian, would I do that. 

You know what my boss said? 

"Take your time, no rush. There's no time limit on grief."

God bless her for that - I think I literally have the best boss in the world :)

Well, regardless, I DO think about Marian being happy now, too, and I do believe that I will see her again.

I don't know where she is, exactly, but the first law of thermodynamics/law of conservation says energy cannot be created or destroyed, energy can only transfer.

I don't know where our conscious energy transfers to, but for now, it lingers with me ... and like JT, I just wish I could see her one more time again in this life - and I always thought I would :(

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Can't Stop Crying ....

Here is the article about the crash - the family just told us it was Marian last night.  She was leaving church when a drunk driver hit her head on.

I haven't slept much.  I'd wake up and start crying again.  I'm crying now.

Just got off the phone with her pastor, Jesse, who is one of the kindest men I've ever met.  

No one else is allowed to visit her but family (she has a huge family) - and Jesse and his wife.

He told me she isn't in any pain and hasn't been -  she's been in a coma since the moment it happened, a week ago.

In fact, there has been no brain activity at all - and life support will be pulled tomorrow.

So I asked him if he would hold her hand and whisper this message in her ear: 

"Marian, you were one of the greatest blessings of my life.  I am so grateful - to you and for you - for all you did for  me and for my family.   I just know  the first thing Jesus will say to you is 'Well done, my good and faithful servant.' "
"I miss you so much I can't breathe, but I will be okay.  You go to him now and I WILL see you again someday.   Goodbye, Marian.  I love you. "

Her name was Marian Wind Englebrecht.

She was my mother when my mom couldn't be.

And she was my superhero.

In fact, about a month ago, I asked her what color of cape she wanted, and I dubbed her with a superhero name - "The Shalominator."

She laughed and laughed.  

God, I will miss that laugh. 

During the pandemic, one of her sons moved in and bought a bunch of new farm animals - ducks, turkeys, chickens, geese -  which  of course Marian ended up taking care of herself :/

She was feeling pretty overwhelmed, so I wanted to make her laugh.  

Being able to make Marian laugh was one of my favorite things in this world. 

So I said, "Hey, on the bright side, now I know what to get you for Christmas.  I will complete your new unwanted menagerie and buy you a donkey, you can shorten your name to "Mary," and you can ride it into town for Christmas. That'll get the town talking."

She laughed SO hard at that :)

God, I will miss that laugh.

I miss you, Shalominator xo

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

My "Mom," Marian ...

*** Please be aware that these next few posts were written in grief and anguish, especially this one, which was written the day I found out about the accident and that Marian was not going to survive.  Grief is a process and writing it here was not only helpful to me, but hopefully helpful to others who might feel similarly but do not want to burden others grieving with their own grief.  Thus, I will not delete a word of it, but remember that anything said was during stages of grief and simply expression of the range of emotions that come with grief - confusion, sadness, anger - and nothing more.   ***


... not my biological mom, but my spiritual mom that I've mentioned many times on here - mother to me when my own mother, her friend, couldn't be - there for me no one else was - was  hit head on by a drunk driver while leaving church, on Sunday night, May 1st - and is in a coma and not expected to make it, and if she does, the doctor said she would be "a vegetable."

I hope God - and I don't know if I believe in one anymore, especially after this - just takes her. rather than her have to live like that.

I also mentioned her when the DNA test came back - she is the one who told my mother about it in September.

(Yes, Geraldine - we DID tell my mom when I said we did.  Sorry you didn't believe that, and I'd say you can can thank Marian for intervening with her on that, but YOU CAN'T BECAUSE SHE'S DYING)

So I just learned an hour ago and am still in shock.  

Only biological family is allowed to see her right now, I can't even say goodbye and thank her for everything she did for me :(

The last time we actually spoke on the phone rather than text was a couple of days before her birthday,  two weeks ago, when I'd sent her some gifts.

At 71. She had just gotten a promotion at the daycare where she worked, now as the director, happy to be using her teaching degree again.

She told me she had some roses just opening up on her piano (she was a classical pianist, too), and she felt like God was showing her that her life was opening up now, just like those roses :(

She felt like God was renewing her life, starting over, a reboot.

God, how I wish he was - but he wasn't :(

I don't understand this - there was no one more faithful to Jesus, more loving, more gentle, more devoted to her family and anyone else who needed her, no matter how busy she was. 

And for all intents and purposes -  She WAS my mother.

In fact, she put me in her phone as "Chrystal, Daughter."

Mark said he was the only other person here in Kentucky that he trusted completely, besides me. 

We've both been crying non-stop for the last hour, but I have a quiet moment now.  I'm just kind of staring at the wall.

God, what the neighbors must think - because when my little sister called me and told me, I literally dropped to my knees and cried out.

Then I just sort of curled up in a ball on the floor and wailed, that effing groaning wail from the pit of your soul that only grief emits, then Mark came and curled around me and we just wept for a while.

But at the same time, it doesn't feel real.  Is this real?  Did this really happen? It feels like a bad dream, like I dreamed it?  Has there been some mistake?

I don't understand this - I can't make sense of it, of anything anymore. 


God, I hope she knew how much I love her and appreciated her. I tried to show her, but you never know if they really know.  I hope she knew how much everyone loved her.

I'm so mad at God right now, I can't see straight.  

WHY her?  Why NOW?  

And I'm mad at myself, the way our last text conversation went.  I wasn't mad at her, I was in pain over something with my family and I was mad at God . She doesn't know what to do with that, when I get mad at God, because she's so faithful. 

I hope she knew I wasn't angry with her, just with my family and God. 

At least I told her I loved her and appreciated her, in that last text, 

And yet it's not enough.  It's not enough.  

And I will never, ever get to fix it because I can never, ever speak to her again :(

Just goes to show you, always let "I love you" be the last thing you say to someone you love, because you just never know. 

I'm swearing to myself now, in every conversation with everybody I love, I will from this day onward always end the conversation with "I love you," no matter what. Always.

I'm glad those words, and how much I appreciated her, are in that very last text I sent her before the crash - I just wish it hadn't been nestled in a bunch of words of pain about my family, too :(

I will give her a proper tribute in a few days - but not yet - I'm not ready to say goodbye :(

All I can say is, what a gift, what a blessing to the world - and she's gone???

This was cruel to do to her now.  Just so cruel.  


PS - I hope you feel like shit now, Paul, you son of a bitch.  

You mistreated the best woman in the world, you giant, selfish baby.

Never forget, despite the show you put on, I was there the day you threw a fit about having to write her a check for groceries, throwing the check on the floor under the kitchen table  so she'd have to crawl to get it (but I crawled and got it for her).

Oh, and let's not forget when I lived there during the recession, the night I worked a double-shift, smoked outside on the back porch, and left my lighter there, which I didn't normally do

You never spoke a single word to me, the entire time I lived there, until that day, I guess just waiting for an opportunity for me to do something you didn't like.

Then you said, "I found this lighter on the porch outside, it's irresponsible - no wonder your daughter isn't with you, right now" 

I apologized profusely, but it wasn't enough - so you then tore into Marian for not noticing herself, getting up in her face, until I had to step between you.

And do you remember what I said?

Probably - because your face looked like I punched you lol.

Something like ... 

"Hey - HEY!  Back the FUCK up out of her face -  NOW.  This is MY fault, not Marian's!  I've apologized profusely, but what, that's not enough for you, you have to shame and bully every woman in the room until we're in the fetal position?" 
"If you want to do that, fine, but keep it directed at me, this is MY fault.   Plus I'm used to being bullied and abused over the smallest slight , ESPECIALLY by misogynistic men, I can take it - but I should for forewarn you, THIS woman has just recently finally learned how to FIGHT BACK." 
"As for my daughter, that's none of your business - but I assure you the reason she's not living here with you, too, isn't because I smoke outside and left a lighter outside after a long day's work when stressed out."  
"In fact, if that is my worst sin as a parent or a person, then I'm  actually pretty in good shape. Not so sure about your sins, though.  But that's none of MY business.  So how about let's all stick to our own business - I'll worry about my sins and you worry about yours from now on."

Then I wrote you and Marian both letters, thanking you both for letting me stay there, but saying that I was going to live at a homeless shelter until I had earned enough for a roommate and an apartment, because I didn't want to add any more stress on your relationship or cause any more trouble for Marian, and apologized if I had.

But in your letter, I encouraged you to be good to her - and told you that you had no idea how lucky you had it with Marian, as a wife and as a mother.

I, for one, am glad you finally left her - did you know she was SO much better without you?

But I'll be damned if you cremate her just because you say you "can't afford" a proper burial - my family is even willing to pull together with your kids to contribute - but you won't see a dime of it, you absolute piece of shit of a human being.

You better pray I never see your face again, asshole - because I'm not broke, broken, and powerless anymore.

In fact, I may not attend the funeral, if you're there, because God only knows what Mark and I will do, if we ever see your narcissistic, attention-seeking face, trying to seek comfort for her death, after the way you treated her.  

Why people like you, and that drunk driver who killed her, get to walk away scott-free without a scratch on you, while she's on life support, fighting for her life, I will NEVER understand.

Monday, May 8, 2023

Systems Theory: Dysfunctional Cultures, Groups, and Families VS Wokeness ...

 (*Editing in process)

Not a lot of laughs in this one - but I've been reflecting on these concepts over the past week, so I decided to write out my thoughts for self-clarity  - perhaps it will help others with the same :)

So we have all heard the term "wokeness," over the past few years, but very few know the original theory from where this term was derived.

Though philosophized about earlier on, biologist  Ludwig von Bertalanffy coined the phrase "systems theory"  when observing ecosystems - including patterns of behavior - in many living species.

Since that time,  many other fields such as mathematics, physics, economics, sociology, and psychology have incorporated systems theory into their fields, whether talking about the actual behavior of living organisms within a particular environment or the "behavior" patterns of non-living organisms within a particular environment - in other words, how things with energy will typically "behave" in certain conditions within a system.

So what is Systems Theory?

You can find the definition and history anywhere, but this one from is the most comprehensive-yet-concise for an informal blog post, IMO :)

Systems theory is an interdisciplinary theory about the nature of complex systems in nature, society, and science, and is a framework by which one can investigate and/or describe any group of objects that work together to produce some result. 
This could be a single organism, any organization or society, or any electro-mechanical or informational artifact. As a technical and general academic area of study it predominantly refers to the science of systems that resulted from Bertalanffy's General System Theory (GST), among others, in initiating what became a project of systems research and practice.
Systems theoretical approaches were later appropriated in other fields, such as in the structural functionalist sociology of Talcott Parsons and Niklas Luhmann.

In other words, regardless of discipline, it's a way of looking at the behavior patterns of components within a broader system - not on an individual basis, as if through a vacuum, but how each component "behaves" and contributes to the environment as a whole and vice versa, in interdependence - for better or worse function.

For example, in physics, how does energy "behave" in certain environments - grounded versus ungrounded, Faraday-caged or not?

In medicine, how the body returns to a homeostatic functional state, for better or worse, after a new event.

Now - when I say "worse" function, I mean that although there is actually a spectrum of functional to dysfunctional - with no group  system being fully functional in every aspect - we are most interested in finding out why things go wrong, why the system is NOT functioning properly (at least for every component within the environment).

When things are out of balance, there is too much tension or chaos -  causing some components to fail, while others overgrow, thrive, and become invasive, which can potentially result in system demise -  we call this process "dysfunctional."

And when we say "dysfunctional," we do not necessarily mean it doesn't work at all - we mean some "components" keep on working, even thriving, but for other components, it doesn't work and is even toxic. 

For example, using a medical example again - cancer.   As we know now, cancer can genetically mimic the body's normal system responses and function - and thus, cancer goes undetected and unchecked by the immune system, sometimes until too late.

For all practical purposes, the body is outwardly functioning normally - until over time, it doesn't anymore, sometimes too late to save not just the organ system, but the entire body as a whole.

For the majority of this post, however, I be will be focused on human behavior in extremely dysfunctional groups, observed time and time again by social scientists - patterns of behavior that for all practical purposes may even outwardly look normal and functional, but the patterns of certain components, if left unchecked, can gain benefit for themselves at the expense of the other components, creating  not just increased stress on the system, but might ultimately lead to the demise of the body as a whole  ... just like cancer.

But first, let's look at the most visible and easiest example of system dysfunction - ecology/biology. 


In ecological or biological terms, though "homeostasis" or surface stability appears to have been achieved, and the largest components within an ecosystem may still appear function on the surface, the system is out of balance because certain components have over-flourished/over-grown -  and and as a result, the smaller components within an ecosystem essentially starve, wither off, and die.

If left unchecked, the imbalance will ultimately affect the larger surviving and thriving components, too, because they were dependent upon those smaller components for their nourishment and survival.



Introduced to the Southern United States in the late 1870s, the plant had been a good source of feeding material for livestock, could be used as headache medicine, and was even eaten by humans in times of poverty in order to sustain them.

However, in the Southern U.S. climate especially, it was overly encouraged to grow as cheap feed for livestock and humans, and thus began to overgrow unchecked  - so much that it "bullied" all of the other plants around it, covering and smothering everything in sight - plants, houses, parked cars. 

Despite this, it was still encouraged to grow as a method of controlling interstate overgrowth in the 1950s until even the 1990s, in some states. 

So now, it's come to this  - out of control! 

At first glance, it looks healthy green and functional, the trees and plants are still there in their basic form - but upon closer inspection, you see the kudzu has grown over everything in sight - using it, being fed by it - at the expense of all the other vegetation.

In other words, though kept in check in other environments, it was enabled to over-thrive in the Southern United States to the degree that no other vegetation could propagate and survive, kept barely alive, just in order to feed the kudzu in a parasitic relationship, rather than symbiotic relationship.

Now, Kudzu is not overtly dangerous - it's not toxic to eat, and in a crisis, you could actually eat it - but it does choke the life out of every other living thing in the ecosystem for its own survival.

And it's very difficult to kill or stop the spread of, at this point.  Though many herbicides have been created to stop it, they are usually toxic to everything else too, and they are barely effective at curbing kudzu.

The only real way to stop the spread of Kudzu is for the underlying vegetation to eventually die, stopping the kudzu's food source (which rarely happens because it's already spread to new vegetation anyway) - in other words, everything has to die in order for Kudzu to die.


Over time, we began to apply these same principles for observed patterns of behavior into the study of human groups in the field of sociology, beginning with the concept of "structural functionalism" as mentioned above. 

In short (and via Wiki for the definition in its simplest terms): 

"Structural functionalism a framework for building theory that sees society as a complex system whose parts work together to promote solidarity and stability".[1]

Then sociologist Emile Durkheim began to study suicidality as the result of system/environmental dysfunction, rather than always  just individual flaw or mental illness (which is still a problem today), and then the fields of sociology and psychology began to overlap.

Then Dr. Murray Bowen used the principle in the 1950s to get even more granular and observe family patterns of behavior. 

Durkheim, like others, was mostly interested not in how one individual or minority behaved - but how all those within the group behaved, particularly towards the minority.

Then Bowen took Durkheim's group system theories and boiled them down to an even more granular level - family of origin, often the originator of patterns of individual and group behavior.

Since Bowen, others have extended small-group observations to other "family-like" groups such as work environments or politics with similar results.

Now - that is a really oversimplified history of the evolution of systems theory, but I sense this post will already be long enough :)

One of the reasons I chose an education in clinical social work, rather than sociology or psychology, was because I believed theorists like Durkheim and Bowen were onto something - that it wasn't only individual behavior in a vacuum OR only bad environments to blame - it was both.

Thus, the social worker focuses on the individual within the environment and the feedback response loop with each other, whereas the psychologist or psychiatrist typically focuses on individual behavior (although these days, a good psychologist and/or psychiatrist will be well versed in Bowen's family systems theory as well).  

Is the group in denial about the person's mental illness, abuse, or substance use and so they enable it?  

Or do they blame the person for the whole system dysfunction including their own responses?

Or do they accept the reality of the person, loving and caring for them, but with boundaries - not enabling their unhealthy behaviors/mental illness to affect themselves or the entire system adversely?

(Hint:  The last one is the healthiest group view.)

That's where Bowen comes in - and why I chose a "systems approach" of combining all of these theorists in my previous education :)

Studying these theories had a profound impact on me and my life, it explained SO much in my family, other than I was just effed up in a vacuum, as I'd been told.

I did not complete that degree, however, because I realized that I needed more therapy, to understand my own unhealthy family environment and get my own unhealth out of the way, before I could help anyone else  - which I did - and I stayed in therapy, when no one else in my family will (and in some cases, even take a look at themselves.)  

(In fact, I realized through therapy that my need to want to be a counselor as an actual career at all may have been largely motivated by my role in my extremely dysfunctional family.)

Back to the structure of all group systems within society, large or small, healthy or not, there are roles and division of labor.

In the healthiest group systems, this division of labor/roles are given according to interest and system-agreed-upon skill.  The leaders themselves are chosen by all the members of the group or by other leaders within the group.  They are responsible for the needs of the system as a whole, the needs of parts, as well as their own needs, and good leaders can balance all three well.

Though all groups contain some level of dysfunction along a spectrum, the most dysfunctional/unhealthy groups are led by leader(s) that talks a good game, but actually have little to no interest in the needs of the group as a whole, nor the individual needs of the group, unless the issue addresses their needs, it benefits their own needs in some way. 

No mutual feedback loops here, they're the expert on everything and their needs are central, even at the expense of everyone else in the system, and even the system itself.

In other words, the unhealthy leaders have gone unchecked and been enabled without consequence for so long, they have over-flourished at the expense of at least one other family member - they have  now become the human equivalent of ... Kudzu.

However, it's not as simple as just 2 levels within the system, i.e. the powerful and the powerless - a dysfunctional, unhealthy system would never survive if it were just the 2 levels - there must be at least be a third group(s) in the middle as the majority, enabling the leadership (see more on "Triangles" with Bowen's theory).

1) The small oligarchy of leaders/power abusers at the top:  Rarely voted upon by everyone within the group, they take for themselves and give little.  They are often  automatically presumed "smart" or "good" or "the expert" by Group #2, and that they attained this level of power due to such positive qualities rather than negative ones (their own conquest/need for control or power, inheritance, and/or better opportunities.)
The leaders themselves, in turn, wrongfully believe their own hype - that they are the expert on everything without need for feedback, that they are more deserving/more valuable/more worthy of power, money, appreciation, and accolade than the other two groups, and most importantly, they carry the false false belief that the entire system is dependent solely upon them and that it would go down without them. 
No feedback loop, only one way - what they say is gospel truth without question - and anyone that does question them is automatically thrown in Group #3. 


2)  The middle majority - the  enablers/self-proposed "peacekeepers":  Either in complete denial or semi-denial, they nevertheless go along with the current system because it's easier,  and because they still receive at least some benefit from the broken system. 
Some may only be in semi-denial, they may even recognize the system and its leadership is dysfunctional and chaotic, but because they still receive some benefit, they say/do nothing, and may even go along with the oligarchy when push comes to shove.   They range from ass-kissers to people just afraid of conflict to those simply feeling too defeated and too small to make change. 


3)  The minority at the bottom, with the least power or money, but are nevertheless often solely blamed/scapegoated for all system problems - This group typically does most of the hard labor, but receives the least amount of benefits from the system.  
Because they are on the bottom rung socioeconomically, they are presumed to be there because they are "stupid" or "lazy" or "weak" or "replaceable," without consideration being given to their opportunities versus the others or the system politics involved.
If they ever do speak up for themselves, or speak truth versus the system majority delusion (the first two groups combined), they will be scapegoated/blamed for the entire group's problems, they will be gaslighted and every behavior pathologized, they will be group-bullied, and they will become group outcasts if they do not leave the group willingly.
If they protest and ever appear angry about their devaluation or lack of benefits, it will be flipped back on them as further proof of them being "the problem," and sometimes misconstrued as "jealousy" of those at the top.


Now despite the majority (which again is Group 1 and Group 2 combined) believing the system would not survive without their leader, the opposite is usually true. 

Case in point? 

The WGA Writer's strike going on right now. 

Group 1,  executive leadership at the top - the Producers, CEOs, and other executives at the media companies that run our favorite TV shows and movie - paid in the 9-figures annually, plus share profits

They make all the decisions, control the hires and fires, decide what everyone makes, and control the flow of money.   
Despite their false belief that the show can't go on without them, executives come and go like clockwork, and yet the shows still goes on.   


Group 2 in the middle - our onscreen movie/TV stars, who receive at least some benefit from a broken system - paid  in the range of 7 to 8-figure annual salaries.    
Though the most recognizable and beloved by the population -  sometimes believing themselves that they're not replaceable - though we have seen them bow out of projects or get fired, but the show still goes on, just with somebody else.


Group 3 - Screenplay writers of all our movies and TV shows,  paid mostly in the 5-figure range per project - the average salary for screenwriters, for even our favorite TV shows is only $62,500 a year!. 


Among the lowest paid, they are told they are a dime and dozen and replaceable, and they are the first blamed if a show fails, despite not even having full creative control over their own writing/creative content
And yet when they stop, NOW the show stops! LOL 
That is because although they are the most devalued and on the lowest rung, Groups 1 and 2 actually are dependent on them, or there is no show - not the other way around!

And if you watch, you'll notice that the more stars from Group 2 join the writers in Group 3 in protest, the greater the pressure is now on Group 1 to listen to Group 3 and change :)

This essentially means, the stars have finally become aware of how bad it is for the writers on the bottom and are willing to give up benefits to make things more equitable - the are becoming "woke" - get it?


So despite political press labeling this as a bad thing, it's actually just educating people on reality versus denial about what life is like for the people on the bottom in Group 3. 

And the only reason politicians are turning "wokeness" into a "virus"iis to try to convince Group 2 that it's a bad thing, because they want the current dysfunction system as it is because they not only thrive, they survive and overgrow, at the expense of the people on the bottom. 

Thus, they (irrationally) fear that if they give up even a portion of their benefits, Group 3 will take advantage of it, take it all (in projection, because that's what they would do and did). 


And as mentioned previously, sometimes there are more than 3 groups within a system, and this is the case here. 


Group 4, We the Viewers/Consumers - paid nothing, actually having to pay. Thus, we don't care, stop paying, and find other forms or entertainment - OR - we join Group 3 in their protest - placing an added layer of pressure on Group 1  (and Group 2) to change. 


Now - when we say racism and bigotry are "systemic," this is what we mean, it's the same dynamic.

And if not enough people in the majority that is Group 2 will join in support of Group 3  - out of either direct support for Group 1, complacency, or fear of losing their own benefits if they support Group 3 - there will be no social justice or change.

So when we say "woke," we mean those of us in that middle- majority group who have snapped out of denial and have realized the increasing kudzu power abuse by Group 1, no longer "asleep" and complicit and complacent in it anymore,  and will thus push for social justice and more equity balance, so that we can be a more functional, less conflicted/chaotic, more balanced society.

In other words, unless the majority of Group 2 begins to support the voices and efforts of Group 3 with regards to Group 1, there will not social change and more balance - the group dysfunction will continue.

Now to get even even more granular group system behavior ... the family of origin.


In families, the same dysfunctional dynamic has been observed by Bowen, only in severe dysfunctional families, the leader(s) are almost always someone(s) with severe, unchecked/untreated mental illness, violent or not, and/or who may abuse substances.

They are almost never voted in control, they are either naturally presumed leaders as parents, or in their absence, someone who just takes the role on for themselves out of their own need for control or conquest.

Now, in healthier families, though uncommon, the mentally ill or substance-dependent parents are still treated with dignity and respect - but they aren't enabled in these behaviors, for their own good or the good of the family as a whole.

However, in severely dysfunctional families,  what IS similar to the cultural dynamic is that all 3 groups are still there, they all contribute to the system dysfunction -  always enabling and benefitting the leaders most, the middle group receives what's left, and the third, the scapegoat(s) not benefitting at all.

Essentially, once again - the leaders are enabled in their power abuse and benefit-taking at the expense of the others in the group - human kudzu.

According to Bowen's research, the dysfunctionality of the group will have 8 factors present to varying degrees, which include such things as inability to balance the above needs equally and consistently, how open their feedback communication loops are, and projecting the leader's behavior, for better or worse, onto their children.

The roles of the other members of the family will thus be defined from the unhealthy perspective of the ill leader, as mentioned, ften based on projection of by the sick parent(s) or other leader's behavior onto the child or children. (See "Family Projection Process" of Bowen's theory.)

Though ALL families may have some degree of labeling like "the athlete, the brainiac, the the talented one, the funny one, the serious one" - in extremely dysfunctional families, the roles are much more dramatic with unrealistic expectations, and can sometimes be cruel  - i.e.  "the hero," "the peacemaker (not as noble as it sounds),"the overachiever" "the black sheep," "the smart one/the dumb one, "the selfish one/the unselfish one," "the dishonest one/the honest one," "the crazy one/the sane one." 

You will note that Bowen specifically mentions the presence of a personality-disordered parent in relation to the mental illness mention. 

That is because mentally ill people - especially with personality disorders - tend to "split" into black-and-white, all good or all bad thinking and tend to project onto their children their own qualities, for better or worse.   

They have an inability to balance good and bad traits within others or themselves, and thus they tend to throw all people into either "good" or "bad" boxes.

As a result, everyone in the group is placed into either a "good" box or a "bad" box very early on, according to the leader's subjective and unstable whim, with no gray areas or in-betweens, despite objective evidence otherwise, with no way to get off either list - and unfortunately, the rest of the family will view and treat you the same as the parent does :/  

The group is unlikely to ever change without intervention - and must be the majority of family members who change, one or two components changing won't do it, particularly if the leader is still the same. 

So what to do if you find yourself in a severely dysfunctional group? 

GET THERAPY and STAY IN THERAPY so you can recognize what role you play in the group, how you perpetuate the unhealthy dynamic yourself, and how to change your behavior, because that's all you really can control.

Also, as a member of each group: : 

1)  If you're the leader - it's unlikely that you are healthy enough to ever "wake up" enough to be aware of/admit any of this, but if you ever do, then the best course for the entire family would be to willingly step down and become a member rather than a leader, letting the family make decisions equally.  

Recognize that you are not as qualified or healthy as you've convinced yourself/others that you are and that as a result, you have caused more harm than good for everyone but yourself, though it isn't truly good for you, either - and you are ready to follow rather than lead.  

Also, do not designate a leader after, you, because you don't "see so good" lol - let the system decide for itself.  It may be a different leader for every task, in fact, not just one.


2)  If you're in the middle majority -   Wake up? lol Rather than following along blindly with what the leaders and supposed experts say, think for yourselves - and if you DO see it but say/do nothing, then frankly, you are no less selfish than the leaders -  you just aren't as sick or toxic. 

So the way you can make change is to stop enabling the leaders and others in denial by helping allow the feedback loop for ALL members, to include the scapegoat, and support them where they make a good point.  Join them in their protest as much as you can.  


3)  If you're the minority/scapegoat ...  


Try first to set some clear boundaries.  

This is a foreign concept to most dysfunctional families, or at least only those at the top are allowed to set boundaries, nobody else is.  

Be realistic about what to expect.  

If you feel you're respecting their boundaries, but yours are  still repeatedly disrespected, next try limited contact for short periods, keeping the conversation about light topics. 


Old patterns die hard and are ingrained, so if you are expecting change from them - or imagine things things will go better just because you are healthier/better, think again - you are not powerful enough to control what other people do, only how you respond to them. 

And again, remember, the whole dynamic would need to gain self-awareness and change, which is unlikely, especially if the leader remains the leader - not just one or two people underneath.  

If  all else fails -  or the situation is not just difficult, but truly toxic and/or abusive - and you feel it's affecting your health adversely/you feel yourself going backwards - then it's probably time to leave - if you can financially.


If you can't leave, due to financial reasons, etc. then keep contact and conversation to a civil minimum - and above all, don't let either a work group or your family to define you - there may be strength in numbers, but mob rule doesn't make the mob right OR sane.  

Try not to let what they say about you and to you to affect you too adversely, stay detached, like you're watching it on a movie screen than experiencing it. 

Also remember that the healthier you get, the worse the conflict will get with your dysfunctional family - not because you ARE the problem, as they claim - but because you're awake now in reality - and they aren't and don't want to be - dysfunction family delusion is more familiar and comfortable.

Above all, do NOT believe the gaslighting and start to believe them about yourself, just because there's more of them than you, particularly if said in a cruel, bullying way - mob rule doesn't make the mob right - particularly in dysfunctional groups.

That does NOT mean not to take responsibility at all - still take responsibility for any mistakes you've made and how you contribute to the dynamic, yes - but no more.

They likely won't take any responsibility at all, but never fear - after you're gone, they'll find a new scapegoat to blame, pathologize, and gaslight ;)

Remember, they need you to take on all the blame because otherwise, they'd have to look at themselves and the actual qualities, as opposed to the predefined ones created by unwell people who don't see themselves or others clearly - and they will say anything to keep from taking responsibility for themselves and the family dynamic, including projecting their own behavior onto you.

Fight for yourself, but try not to get locked in argument - remember, they're in denial - it will only make them angrier and get flipped back on you as more "proof" that you're "the problem."

Most importantly, no matter how broken you feel by it, remember that you were sane enough, strong enough, and brave enough to wake up, face reality, and seek health, realizing you wouldn't be popular for doing so - and you are brave enough to get out and take the even worse backlash for doing so, and it may be lonely for a while - but in the end, there is light and love with healthier others - I promise, I'm living proof :)


For more information on system theory, including the 8 signs of extremely dysfunctional family, read here, The Bowen Center for Study of the Family - or ask a counseling center that offers materials on the subject from reputable sources and seems well-versed in this dynamic :)

For more information on common family roles within dysfunctional families, this article gives a good synopsis on what you may be doing to perpetuate it.

WAKE UP - and good environmental, group, and individual health to all! LOL