Tag Archives: Thoughts

Don’t worry, be happy!

Recently a friend wrote to me that she was exhausted with worry about whether the future would work out as she wanted it to. She has many concerns and young sons to generate a lot of worries, so i sympathize completely. Nevertheless, this is what i wrote to her and more…

Remember that there are plenty of futures out there and we have absolutely no way of knowing which one will come to us as the present, not until it is the present. So you can spend your time worrying in the present about a future you cannot change by worrying about it (can you?) or you can choose to ENJOY THE FUTURE now by assuming that it will all work out beautifully. That means of course, that freed from worrying about a disastrous outcome, you will enjoy the present, too. Yes, it is possible that what comes will bring disaster, but that pain will be of its time and place alone. You won’t have spent all the weeks and months leading up to it also in pain, dreading what your worry could not possibly change. If disaster does happen, but you spent all that time anticipating the best possible outcome, then guess what? You enjoyed your life, and if disaster happens you can say, well, so this is disaster, but i did not waste my life in fear, worrying myself sick anticipating it. No, no, i enjoyed every minute of a different future that may not have happened, but i lived life to the fullest. Now, life changed but i don’t regret a thing!

I believe that people who can enjoy the best future imaginable also build resilience to the worst future that becomes present in their lives, and in a feedback loop they end up never facing the worst outcome, because in the simple process of facing it, and facing it down, they have already begun to overcome it. But they could not do this without learning the skills of enjoying the best possible future now, instead of worrying. This is how they have become resilient and their resilience feeds back and makes them even stronger when like everyone else, challenges do come their way.

You can do it. You can stop worrying today. You can stop that flow of tormenting thoughts that say xyz is going to happen to ruin everything. How? Not by stopping them but by replacing them with daydreams that are far easier and better. You know how some teachers used to scold the class daydreamer and tell him or her to come back to reality and Stop daydreaming?! Well, i am going to say the opposite: when you are worrying yourself sick, start day dreaming instead, start fantasizing about the dreamiest most glorious future you can give yourself, and then goddam it, give it to yourself! I mean this. Start believing that that future is real and think about you would act and be “if you really knew this” it would change you, wouldn’t it? Well…be that future, enjoy that future as if you know right here and now that it will be on your plate at such and such a time…i promise you, you will enjoy your present so much more than you ever did worrying! And who knows, instead of Not paying the mortgage on time (your worry) you just might end up buying a boat as well as owning your home free and clear (your fantasy)…but even if not, you have not lost anything but your misery. And that, my friend, is a very good thing to lose.



I’m still here…

So sorry to every one for disappearing so unexpectedly. I was sent to Brattleboro Memorial Hospital Emergency Room on December 31, 2015, largely because MRR was short on staff, and there i was brutalized for 6 days before Rutland Regional Medical Center took me in, on their state hospital PICU unit.


In the ER not only did they restrain me as i have depicted, but they injected me with 15mg of Haldol and much more over the course of those 6 days, despite my advanced directive, signed by four people and notarized, that explicitly states that under no circumstances am i to be given Haldol!


The ER doctor admitted that he violated, knowingly, my advanced directive.  Due to facebook supporters calling the local newpaper in outrage, the newspaper called not the hospital–that would have violated my privacy, so they claimed, even though i had alerted the paper myself to their treatment of me! No, the newspaper, the Brattleboro Reformer, called my twin sister, Carolyn Spiro MD and asked her if this treatment of me, her sister, and her twin, was proper, and her amswer was, Absolutely!!!!


So you see where she stands on the issue of the torture of both psychiatric patients and her own twin sister! I have had nothing to do with her for years because of this.


Meanwhile, i have many many good words to say about the Rutland Regional Medical Center PICU but i don’t have enough time on my iPad tonight to say them all. So i will just end with this other artwork. I hope tomorrow i can tell you more about RRMC where they are trying, in a very small constricted place, to do things right, at least in terms of seclusion and restraints.



Trauma Art

John Dempsey Hospital Psychiatry First Floor, U-Conn Health Center, Farmington, CT
John Dempsey Hospital Psychiatry First Floor, U-Conn Health Center, Farmington, CT.  PAM  IN RESTRAINTS AND  SECLUSION for 3 days and 2 nights alone  in the 1980’s


I was left alone like this, offered neither food nor water and given only an apple when I begged for one, for three days and two night at John Dempsey Hospital in the 1980s at University of Connecticut Health Center, in Farmington Connecticut. If anyone remembers having been through this, Please get in touch with me! ( If anyone know whether Jim or Don Steadman, the aides, are still alive, please let me know…or have them get in touch too. I believe they would remember attending to me while the doctor kept me trussed up like this…)

Dreamer with Vulture Tearing At the Fabric of the Universe
Dreamer with Vulture Tearing At the Fabric of the Universe


Oil Painting, Maybe unfinished…..





Radio Show about Schizophrenia

Leonard Lopate Show on Divided Minds (2005)


Hi everyone, i hope you will enjoy hearing this show, despite the fact that it was recorded several years ago. I plan to update you all on my progress since then and about M–V— in Brattleboro, where i live now. But it may take some time to get that organized and myself in gear. So in the meantime,  i found this older radio broadcast that most of you likely have never heard, being out of the NYC area at that time.

For myself, it has been nice to hear my twin sister’s voice and her sounding so very kind and sweet to me. I have not felt that from her or about her in such a long time…and i dunno whether it is me and just a perception, or a real thing. But i wish i had her back in my life in some way that could work for both of us without either jealousy or anything that threatened either of us. (I mean jealousy on her part, not on mine…)

Anyhow, i hope to write a longer and more uptodate post soon, but thank you all for sticking out my long absence and waiting for my return.



Ps this table below was made from cardboard and fabric and paper and glue….largely because we have only beds in our rooms and i needed somewhere to store some of my things. So the table hides a small storage compartment under its removable top.

Cloth mache table made by pamela spiro wagner
Cloth mache table made by pamela spiro wagner


Tidal Wave ATC (Artist Trading Card)
Tidal Wave ATC (Artist Trading Card)


Lori Carlson over at her WordPress blog, one of several, AS THE FATES WOULD HAVE IT, http://asthefateswouldhaveit.wordpress.com wrote this lovely passage about why she has to write:

“I enjoy reading poetry and prose that inspires me, that wrenches at my heart, and that puts me in the grip of Knowing — that silent moment when what someone else has written rings so true with you, that you are in complete awe. That is the way I write, or at the very least, I strive to write that way. And so I have made it my life’s goal to write poetry and short fiction, to give back to others the passion that fuels my soul.”


My response to Lori was this: “Passion pushes life to its purest pitch. A passionate enthusiasm is not pathological, as some might have us believe when we are caught up in its grip…Never believe them. Without passion, poetry is just a dim simulacrum of itself, veiled but without mystery, deaf not just to the world but to itself as well.”


Best wishes, Lori, and every one of you writers out there who might have been told to “cool it” or to stop dreaming and “get real.” Best wishes for all the dreams and all the passion your life can encompass, brim over with and then more! more! YES! MORE!

Praying For Foolishness: A Poem


My father spoke of atheism as if it were a religion,

pounding the points of his argument into the dinner table,

spilling the salt with the seed of his own bad temper.

He raised me to be an atheist, too,

and I learned well the commandments of godlessness.

But at night in bed I suffered for it and was penitent

memorizing prayers buy the pages

glossing the psalms with a litany of pleas

that somehow God would find me, small as I was,

and make me a believer,

and, though a prodigal daughter, much loved, much loved.

How I longed for the sweet blow of grace

coming upon me like a hammer on a nail,

or a beggar on a penny

or raindrops on the parched red clay

turned to rust in the arid fields of my soul.


One night – I was under the covers saying the Lord’s Prayer

with a lengthy meditation for each line –

my father, making the rounds, heard me.

What are you doing? he asked, more awful than the God I longed for.

I told him, expecting punishment,

expecting a lecture on the purity of the godless intellect.

He stood a while in silence

while I waited for the one blow I didn’t want.

Then he said, laughing,

you’ll grow out of such foolishness, I hope.


I didn’t grow out of it.

Though I never found God and stopped looking for Him

I remember my father’s laughter,

the hard, cold sneer of it,

laughter at his daughter longing for God

and hoping for love

that would come like a thief in the night.


Now that I am older I know that belief’

doesn’t fall like a hammer

that the beggar is always penniless

and that rainfall soon evaporates returning to the cloud.

Atheism is a creed I have lived by, learned by,

and have at times been comforted by.

but if God should ever find me

I pray for foolishness.



Toltec Wisdom (and a Little of My Own!)

Despair on Park Bench
Despair on Park Bench

Sometimes you never know who it is that has a disabling mental “illness,” not even when they are right in front of you. Not every person who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, for instance, looks like it or pushes a shopping cart laden with household “extranea” down the street, homeless, filthy, and laughing wildly to themselves…Not that this is so terrible either, frankly. We should all not be so quick to judge. And no, we should not judge even this notion of the homeless-shopping-cart-person as “bad” or “wrong” — not until we know the person and understand what he or she wants from life and his or her history. I am not saying that anyone should freeze to death from exposure, or suffer from hunger or from any unwanted basic deprivation, only that no one understands the life conditions of another until you talk with them and come to know that person…

Too many people make assumptions that are wrong and/or erroneous based only on what they want and are comfortable with, not on what the other person needs and wants. Believe me, I know, having been there way more often than I wish and experienced it from that “other side.” Far too many times have people claimed to be “helping me” and have only hurt me! It is not that I think they were badly intentioned, so much as that they were only thinking about how they felt or would feel. They were not being truly empathic, not giving an inch or a nanosecond to trying to think about how I, personally, did feel nor for that matter asking me what I might want or need at that moment.

I want to remind people to remember that “ASSUME makes an ASS out of U and Me..” so instead of assuming anything about another person, especially someone who has an apparent mental “illness” or someone who at any rate seems somehow “different” from the people who are familiar to you, ask them questions…Find out what they want and what makes them comfortable!

As Toltec spiritual advisor Don Miguel Ruiz tells us in THE FOUR AGREEMENTS, which is the best book of its sort I have ever read, you can and should ask any question you want to, so long as you are honestly prepared to accept the answer.

By the way, the Second Agreement, in his book, an Agreement I find so fundamentally important, is Do Not Take Anything Personally. By taking things personally — that way danger and disappointment and all distress lies. Truly this is so. People are all in their own little bubbles, taking their own lives personally and frankly, think about that! We are only on the periphery of everyone else’s thinking and living, and in a very real way they cannot ever know us as we know ourselves, they can only know us through the lens of their own lives, their own bubbles. This revelation can be freeing if you let it…

That is why we should not take anything personally — because other people are too busy doing the same thing and not seeing us as we are, but only as adjuncts to their lives and thinking. If we truly knew and accepted this, we would be free from a great deal of angst and upset. But of course this is a very difficult thing to do…to free ourselves of the notion that we are as important in others lives as we are in our own. No, they are the important actors on their own stage, we are not. We really need to get over thinking that we are prima donnas in everyone’s drama as well as our own…Is not our own life enough? I should think so. Who would want to star in more than one drama at a time?

Hartford COurant Article (that won’t be) about Michael E Balkunas, MD, Chief of psychiatry at HOCC

Patients placed in Seclusion or Restraints are to be debriefed afterwards. To see standards of care, see below this reprint article.

I moved to Brattleboro Vermont on February 4, 2015, leaving my home state of Connecticut where I’ve lived for nearly 60 years. l had to move because of the horrific psychiatric abuses I experienced in Connecticut hospitals and my fear that if ever I were hospitalized again I would be killed.

I feel guilty, however, just getting out without accomplishing something to stop what continues to happen in Connecticut psychiatric units and hospitals.

The experience of mechanical four-point restraints – leather cuffs that are tightened around the wrists and ankles to immobilize a patient to a bed – or being isolated by force in an often freezing seclusion cell is almost universally terrifying. Nevertheless, both cell and/or restraints are routinely employed to curb loudness and undesirable behaviors at the Hospital of Central Connecticut on Grand Street in New Britain. I know this because I was subjected to both seclusion and restraints multiple times in the spring of 2014, despite a diagnosis of chronic paranoid schizophrenia, as well as PTSD that was triggered by precisely this sort of thing.

Bizarrely, the hospital psychiatrist, Dr Michael E Balkunas, treating me at HOCC challenged my PTSD diagnosis. “Patient misperceives her treatment as traumatic,” he wrote in my chart. Well, maybe so, but I don’t know how I can be accused of misperceiving three entire days callously abandoned alone, tied to the four posts of a metal bedstead at U-Conn’s Dempsey Hospital (for trying to escape the locked unit) as anything but brutality, even if it was in the 1990s. I also think it is nearly by definition traumatic to be forced to defecate in one’s own clothing while tied to a bed which is what they did at Hartford Hospital’s Institute of Living in the winter of 2013. This was after I was told to lie down and place my own limbs in the leather cuffs (“as a consequence but not a punishment”) for walking away from the very same “Side Room” that I had just been assured was “not a seclusion room unless you call it a seclusion room.”

Again, maybe I misperceived being grabbed and held face-down and nearly suffocated numerous times by staff at Yale Psychiatric Hospital in August 2013, who injected 10-20 milligrams of Haldol, a known drug of torture. Maybe this was just kindliness that I misunderstood as traumatic, maybe it was merely a “psychotic misperception” on my part? Maybe, and maybe not.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that in the ED of New Britain’s HOCC, a security guard in May 2014, grabbed me by my left shoulder immediately after he was warned by the nurse that it was my left shoulder that had a rotator cuff tear.

My New Britain chart records that I was admitted to that hospital, and to the IOL and others with a detailed Psychiatric Advance Directive, the first page of which states that seclusion, four-point restraints and forced medication invariably result in regression to “primitive states and severe worsening of symptoms.” It also makes several concrete suggestions how better to deal with me when I am upset. Even though I spent many hours on this document, Psychiatric Advance Directives have no legal clout in Connecticut and doctors can and do ignore them freely.

Perhaps because of this, HOCC staff literally forced me (“escorted me”) to seclusion and/or restrained me again and again. They took to stripping me “for safety’s sake,” and even though I put up no resistance, they had the male guards spread-eagle my limbs while still naked and put restraint cuffs on without even covering me.

Is it any wonder that what resulted was someone who would wash her hair in her own urine, defecate on the floor of her room and smear feces on the wall? Yet Dr Balkunas, the director of W-1, the general psychiatry unit at HOCC claimed that my trauma was imaginary. Why? Because treatment cannot be traumatic. He simply never got the connection between my horrendous decompensation and his so-called “therapy.” Maybe he never appreciated that he was torturing me, like a person who ripped the wings off butterflies as a child. Someone like that would not have understood how those creatures suffer either.


These are the NURSING De-Briefing standards for after restraints and/or seclusion:



Standard: As soon as possible, following the release from seclusion or restraint, the nurse, the person and others as appropriate should participate in a debriefing.

– See more at: http://www.apna.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3730#Release

Intent: A debriefing is done with persons who have been secluded or placed in restraints to:

  • Discuss and clarify any possible misperceptions the person may have concerning the incident.
  • Ascertain the person’s willingness to involve family or other caregivers in a debriefing to discuss and clarify their perceptions as well as identify additional alternatives or treatment plan modifications.
  • Support the person’s re-entry into the milieu.
  • Identify alternative interventions to reduce the potential for additional episodes.
  • Hear and record the person’s perspective on the episode.
  • Ascertain that the person’s rights and physical well-being were addressed during the episode and advise the person of processes to address perceived rights grievances.
  • Address any trauma that may have occurred as a result of the incident.
  • Modify the treatment plan as needed.

NONE of this was EVER done, ANYWHERE, in any hospital I have ever been in. Why? Because they all knew perfectly well what they had done to me and WHY…Not because I was dangerous to anyone, but as punishment…Naturally they did not want me to have a chance to tell anyone.

– See more at: http://www.apna.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3730#Release

A Response From Barbara Ortiz Howard: Now Let’s get that “Womenon20s” site to go VIRAL!!!! Yay!

Lyda Conley
Lyda Conley

I suggested Women on 20s add Lyda Conley, about whom this much is known:

Eliza Burton “Lyda” Conley (ca. 1869 – 1946) was an American lawyer of Native American and European descent, the first woman admitted to the Kansas bar. She was notable for her campaign to prevent the sale and development of the Huron Cemetery in Kansas City, now known as the Wyandot National Burying Ground. She challenged the government in court, and in 1909 she was the first Native American woman admitted to argue a case before the Supreme Court of the United States.

Barbara said she would add Lyda to the “Hall of Fame” once the campaign steadies, then I asked if I might post her response. She edited and said, “Yes.” So this was her response and I think it is important to read and understand where she, et al, were coming from in the original Women on 20s campaign to get a woman’s image on the 20 dollar bill:

“Dear Pamela,

Thank you so much for your blog post.  I just wanted to take a moment to clarify some things so that our campaign is best understood.

Actually, we never said we were unable to find Native American or Latinas.  And it wasn’t just two women that developed the “slate”   With so many women to chose from, we needed a way to evaluate the over 100 possible candidates.  We came up with a method that scored candidates on a scale of 1-10 based on two criteria.  The first criteria was the candidates’  impact on society which was weighted more heavily than the second criteria , obstacles they had to overcome to achieve their goals or if they were a pioneer in their field.    We had a “caucus” of  approximately 100 historians and professionals weigh our candidates along these lines    We did not arbitrarily select anyone specifically for their ethnicity, sexual orientation, preference or race.  The only factor was that they be an American woman, which we realized in the process had to be deceased for at least two years.  This is explained on the website page:http://www.womenon20s.org/the_process and a list of 15 runner ups can also be found there.

 We certainly did want to have Latina and Native American Women on our slate.

Gloria Anzaldúa, died a few years ago, very beloved and influential feminist.  Luisa Capetillo, a lesser known socialist Puerto Rican feminist from early 20th century. Cristina Mena was not quite a feminist, but early 20th century Mexican American woman writer. Other earlier figures include Jovita Idar and Maria Ruiz de Burton.  All of these women were great, but none of them really met the base criteria.  Had we had a criteria that said that we must have a Latina for just the reason she is a Latina, we would have jeopardized the entire campaign for what would be seen as tokenism. As a Cuban American woman, I did want a Latina badly to be on our list.  For me, I am taking great pride in many Latinas that are leading the way and are still serving our nation and will surely be remembered for all their efforts to help create a more equal and fair nation, dozens including Sonia Sotomayer, Martha Cotera, Dolores Huerta and am so happy that they are leading the way today still.

As for Native Americans,Wilma Mankiller emerged from the dozens to the top 30.  Her impact was huge to a smaller group, albeit a key constituency and one which this very campaign hopes to heal in some way with the removal of a person responsible for the death and suffering of tens of thousands, indeed an entire people.   Sacagawea, also was named two years ago on the list to be considered, but did not make it through, not because she was on a coin, as that is but another form of tokenism , but because her impact was not as significant as the contributions of others.

We can have just so many women on our list.  If you find a glaring omission, please let me know

We are hoping that all this dialog can insure that we are equal sisters, in every wayl.  This is not a beauty competition, nor any competition at all.  We are also hoping that we can have a place on our site as a Hall of Fame for all sisters.

Yes, many are left out, because we have just so many we can nominate. Thank you

Barbara Ortiz Howard

Stay in touch and get out the vote so that at least we can have our voice heard !


Barbara Ortiz Howard




You Can’t Really Change Your LIfe, After All, Can You?

You Spew Poison into the World
You Spew Poison into the World


Of course you can’t change your life. Your “giants go with you wherever you go,” as Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote many many years ago, and it is still sadly true.


I left Connecticut, thinking I could escape, at least the hospital torture, but I cannot escape the voices that hate me and the demons that I carry with me, the fact that I burden the world, poison it when I exist in it, and that wherever I go I leave a slime of pollution and hatred..I cannot help that. It is a genetic flaw, no matter what good I try to do, the generosity I practice, the kindnesses I have done and preached, it all goes for naught in the end, when the poison leaches from my marrow and through my skin and permeates the world. People feel it then and run away, screaming…


I know this and feel it. and I cannot take it any longer. I have had it. Lord knows I have tried and tried to obviate it, to deny it, to remove the stain or fix it, but it has never worked. I am done. I can’t do it any more. It is over. I cannot deal with the voices and the evil that I am and cause any longer. It is so clear to me that others want this end from me too, because although they talk a good game about help and programs to assist me, they actually refuse to make them available to me, and deliberately– DELIBERATELY —  turn a deaf ear when I overtly say, I NEED HELP NOW…How much more obvious and clear spoken can I be?

I will NOT beg for my life or my skin. No. I do not deserve that. And if not one wants me alive or intact, then there is a reason for it…and I know what it is, as I have stated. So if I get the message that “this is it” today, at my appointment again, that We HAVE NOTHING FOR YOU, that YOU ARE ON YOUR OWN, that “we do not really care what happens”. then it is OVER…I cannot care for myself, the devil, and I know what must be done…

I have done all I can, I really have. Do not try to tell me I haven’t tried for 62 years as bravely and carried on ALONE as I could possibly do it and be. But I cannot do it any longer, I am sorry, But this is it. Either PROVE to me that YOU CARE THAT I EXIST AND DO NOT WANT ME TO DO…whatever.


No , in fact YOU cannot do anything, any of you out there. Frankly. This is strictly between me and the folks here tasked with making sure I am safe and it is clear that I have poisoned all of them already, I have used up my quota of caring and assistance and that is that. It’s gone. It’s over. I’m gone. GET LOST. YOU BAD RUBBISH. We have had it with you. You are worthless shit.


Goodbye.  I don’t know what will happen to me. But I can’t do this any longer.

“Punishment is Just Abuse with An Excuse”

THis is how abused children become abusers, or how spanking gets engrained in culture as appropriate to do to "things" smaller than ourselves...
THis is how abused children become abusers, or how spanking gets engrained in culture as appropriate to do to “things” smaller than ourselves…


We think this TIME OUT punishment is better for children, less violent, but behind it is the THREAT of corporal punishment, ALWAYS...
We think this TIME OUT punishment is better for children, less violent, but behind it is the THREAT of corporal punishment, ALWAYS…

























See the website Punishment Hurts Everyone, at http://abusewithanexcuse.com. This is an amazingly brave site with writing and thoughtful insights that might upset those who think that spanking kids is good for them, but for most of us, who know it only traumatizes and harms them, it will be an illuminating page indeed. Check it out! Great stuff here from a man who has put his ideas into practice and never once punished his own children, teens now and well-adjusted and happy to boot. Who’da thunk it could be done? (Well I did, for one, and maybe you too!)

A Poem for My Aging Mother

My poor mother is suffering from dementia at 87 and it is very sad and difficult to watch her decline. I will write more if I can at some later time about it but for now I want just to post a poem I wrote for her years ago and then rewrote completely recently.


Over the years we have had some troubled times. Because my father disowned me for some thirty-five years, she had to make a choice between him and me, essentially, and the one she made was obvious. I was out of the house by then and I am not sure it ever really occurred to her to make any other choice, but who knows? I do not. In any event, I bear her no bad feelings for this, I do not think. Though had I been “her son” with schizophrenia i believe the outcome and her choices might well have been very different, as they always were when it came to my brother.


But that is water under the bridge. The choice was made and I was sacrificed. That said, perhaps it is a good thing, I dunno. If she had given up her life for me,  I might never have developed any independence at all, or written the poems and books I have.  I might never have discovered my art abilities. Who knows? No one knows, of course, what their “alternate futures” might have  held. We can only work with what we have and the cards we are dealt. We can’t make others choose on our behalf. Much as we might wish them to.


I never wanted my mother to give up her life for me. I felt guilty enough, just for being the way I was. The worst thing in the world would have been for her to make any sacrifice for me at all. For anyone to have done so would have been damaging to me. So I am glad that everyone went on their way, because otherwise I would have had to kill myself in apology.


I could say much more but I am sleepy so without further fanfare, the poem:




I have not thought of you all day.

A March wind rattles the wires,

wishing you a belated happy birthday.

You are sixty, my grandfather ninety,

my younger sister thirty,

but if there is significance in that,

a syzygy, some conjunction in the heavens

I have yet to figure it out.

Your husband answers, my father,

aligned against me north-north,

between us implacable silence.

So we sidestep confidences,

suspecting he is listening in

until in the distance the line clicks

like a playing card in the spokes.

But even so, how carefully we speak,

expelling words of fragile allegiance

each of us pretending not to know

what the other is thinking.


Suddenly you confide, you feel old:

the baby is thirty, you don’t like

your new job, you miss teaching,

the exuberant children, their bright

and lazy charm. There is so much to do,

so little time. Before it is too late


you want to captain a boat to the Azores,

learn cabinet-making — you have the tools,

a lathe, a power saw, inherited from your deaf father

who never heard you speak

but built you a fabulous dollhouse

and taught you, at ten, to sink the eight ball.


Could I ever confide that I, too, feel old? At thirty-five

you had a husband, four children,

a career in the wings. Older by a decade, I rent

a single room and have no prospects

beyond the next day’s waking.

Instead I carefully quote Joseph Campbell’s

advice: follow your bliss.

And I remind you Aquarians always step

to a different drum’s thunder.

You like these clichés,

and laugh, repeating them, then you say

with a sudden spontaneous sincerity

that moves me how good it is to talk with me.

I think of all the times we have not spoken,

how at sixty it would be nice

to have a daughter to talk with

instead of friends wakened in the night,

reaching over husbands or wives,

to answer the phone, “Hello? Hello?”

their wary voices expecting

death or disaster.


You are tired, you say now,

you have an early appointment.

We promise each other a date for lunch.

But I will not call for a long time.

Or perhaps I will call the next day.

Before you hang up, you let slip

it’s your wedding anniversary, one

marked by some mundane substance —

stone, carbon, foil, rope.

Should I congratulate you, I wonder,

or console you? Finally, we say good-bye.

Across the wires I think I hear

your voice crack, but it could be the wind

or a bad connection.



This will make you realize you CAN breathe just fine and immediately stop the panic.

2. WHILE BREATHING THROUGH YOUR NOSE, gently try to push the food item back up into your mouth, or swallow it if you can.


I figured this out while living alone. I would panic when I felt myself choking. It works like a miracle, because it is usually a spasm in the upper throat, near your mouth, and not a closed off pharynx that causes coking sensationss. You just have to understand that you CAN still breathe through your nose and that will end the panic. Once the panicky feelings are over, everything is easier to deal with and you can usually spit out the food or even find a way to swallow it. But at least you realize that you are not imminently going to die, which is a good thing to know.


Hope this advice helps someone. If it does, I would love some feedback. I have offered it to friends, and they have loved it, found it useful too, so I know it works.


Best wishes to all,



Poem about Radical Forgiveness


Forgiveness or anger? Its your choice....
Forgiveness or anger? Its your choice….


To begin and there is so much to forgive

for one, your parents, one and two,

out of whose dim haphazard coupling

you sprang forth roaring, indignantly alive.

For this, whatever else followed,

innocent and guilty, forgive them.

If it is day, forgive the sun its white radiance

blinding the eye;

forgive also the moon for dragging the tides,

for her secrets, her half heart of darkness;

whatever the season, forgive it its various assaults

— floods, gales, storms of ice —

and forgive its changing; for its vanishing act,

stealing what you love and what you hate,

indifferent, forgive time;

and likewise forgive its fickle consort, memory

which fades the photographs of all you can’t remember;

forgive forgetting, which is chaste and kinder

than you know; forgive your age and the age you were when happiness was afire in your blood

and joy sang hymns in the trees;

forgive, too, those trees, which have died;

and forgive death for taking them, inexorable  as God; then forgive God His terrible grandeur, His unspeakable Name

forgive, too, the poor devil for a celestial falll no worse than your own.

When you have forgiven whatever is of earth, of sky, of water, whatever is named, whatever remains nameless


forgive, finally, your own sorry self, clothed in temporary flesh,

the breath and blood of you already dying.

Dying, forgiven, now you begin.


by Pamela Spiro Wagner in “We Mad Climb Shaky Ladders” (Cavakerry Press 2009) also featured in “Divided Minds: twin sisters and their Journey through  schizophrenia.”

TooGoose Lautrec, the Papier Mache Goose and How I will Miss Vermont, the state of my Dreams…

Pam with unfinished paper mache goose, TooGoose Lautrec....
Pam with unfinished paper mache goose, TooGoose Lautrec….    


Across the driveway llive some great people...
Across the driveway live some great people…


Kitchen and work area in cottage
Kitchen and work area in cottage


More of Work area and art area
More of Work area and art area
Stephanie is "gods gardener" or so I call her!
Stephanie is “gods gardener” or so I call her!
Steffie at the state park
Steffie at the state park


As my time here comes to an end, I will miss it and my neighbors terribly., I don’t know what I will do without them, and Lydia my wonderful companion. Returning to Connecticut with its horrible hospitals and indifferent treatment just feels like a disaster waiting to happen. I want to move to Vermont but I don’t know how I can make that happen. I have felt amongst friends everywhere here, but isolated completely for years in CT, despite my lovely dear friends there, I wish I could bring them all up to VT with me!









Seclusion Room: Cell or Sanctuary — Amazing Article from 1959

This supermax prison cell is better appointed than the seclusion rooms I have been put in...NO toilet or sink or blanket or bedding!
This supermax PRISON cell is better appointed than the HOSPITAL seclusion rooms I have been put into naked…which had NO toilet or sink or blanket or bedding, and was freezing cold!



Superintendent The Saskatchewan Hospital, Weyburn

SECLUSION ROOMS, found in most psychiatric hospitals, too often look as if they were intended as temporary quarters for wild animals, or perhaps as storerooms for dangerous chemicals, rather than as shelters for sick and distressed humans.

Yet, the purpose of seclusion is clear and admirable. It is intended to reduce interaction following a rupture in interpersonal relationships between the patient who is being secluded and other patients, or members of the hospital staff.

Seclusion usually occurs when there has been acting out or a threat of it. While skilled psychiatric nurses can often handle such situations without using seclusion, it is proper that a patient, in an explosive situation, should have an opportunity to withdraw to a suitable spot to be alone for a time or in the company of someone he trusts.

When children quarrel with siblings or parents, they are often sent or asked to go to their room and be alone with toys and playthings. Adults retire to a bedroom, a study or even to the toilet. Although it was once common practice, it is no longer thought admirable to lock a child in a dark cupboard. In his own room, he gets comfort from his toys, just as an adult will soothe himself with a book, a pet animal, possibly with music, or just by being alone.

The mentally ill person, who has had a rupture of interpersonal relationships, likewise needs space under his own control where he can “pick up the bits.” The best place would be a room of his own, with familiar furnishings and his personal possessions easily visible. Wherever his retreat, it should give external stimulation as well as support and comfort.

Bare, Drab Rooms Affect Perception



Seclusion rooms in many hospitals are built to some stereotyped plan, and are poorly-lit, bare, drab rooms of a curious cube-like construction which makes them seem unduly high. There is little or no furniture, often only a mattress. Walls are usually tiled in one color only, and this sometimes white. Windows covered with heavy screening, ceiling lighting often high and remote beyond the patient’s control, heavy imprisoning doors sometimes the same color as the walls, and in the middle of the floor a brass grating over a drain hole―no wonder these rooms are suggestive and frightening. Such rooms strongly resemble the reduced environment described by Hebb* in which even well people can experience major 18 changes in thinking,. perception and mood, larked in certain non-experimental situations, notably brain washing, such environments are deliberately used. to. encourage alterations in perception. Surely then it is un-wise to place psychotic people in a situation which, since it will not afford them even minimal external stimulation, is likely to increase the perceptual disorder which many of them already have.

The need for sufficient stimulation, particularly of a visuo-auditory type, combined with carefully selected tactile and olfactory stimulation, is strongly suggested by Goldfarb’s recent work at the Ittleson Family Center with children. His work indicates that many schizophrenic children tend to inhabit a tactile-olfactory world, rather than the more common and culturally acceptable visuo-auditory one. It seems probable that schizophrenic adults may be in much the same position.

Clearly then we must provide our disturbed patient with an adequate amount of pleasurable visuo-auditory experience while in seclusion, and also let his environment be rich in socially acceptable tactile-olfactory pleasures, lest he seek the only remaining gratification―tactile-olfactory ones from his own body. Specifically, let us imagine a patient, greatly disturbed, shut up in a bare room, with bare walls, little or no clothing, and possibly only a mattress or blanket as furnishings. The visuo-auditory and tactile-olfactory enjoyments to be obtained from such surroundings are very small. Is it surprising, therefore, if his seclusion results in apsophilic (auto-erotic) activity, in the tactile experience of staff members or even in reviving a tactile and olfactory interest in his own body products of urine and feces?

These apsophilic activities, the touching and snuffling on the nursing staff, and the handling of feces and urine are likely to produce great anxiety and great resentment in those who must care for the patient. He will naturally interpret this as dislike and rejection, and a vicious circle is established. He is driven deeper and deeper into his tactile-olfactory experiences, and probably also into full hallucinatory experience. Since we are woefully short of really sophisticated staff, we must make .very vigorous efforts to see that this type of “reduced environment” seclusion is banished from the mental hospital as quickly as possible.

The seclusion room, therefore, must be not merely pleasant, but the very best room on any ward. There are several reasons for this. For one thing, if the room is pleasant, it will take away the idea of punishment―not merely by a verbal gesture, but by a change in the attitude of everyone on the ward, patients and nurses, who will both be far more impressed by the fact that the seclusion room is the best on the ward than if there is simply lip service to the effect that seclusion is not punishment. Money invested in making this room conspicuously better than other rooms “because it is for those who are the most unwell” will indicate to both nurses and patients that the hospital particularly concerns itself with those who are the sickest. The fact that the room is an object of pleasure and satisfaction to all the patients on the ward will exert considerable pressure on the disturbed patient to use this joint possession properly. This pressure will be extremely effective in preserving the room from damage.

Dimensions and Decor Important

What, then, should this “best room in the ward” be like? Particular attention must be given to its size and proportions. A small room of great height is extremely oppressive to most people. and if such a room must be used, perhaps a false ceiling should be built in. The lighting must be good, and must, at least in part, be under the patient’s own control. The walls should be pleasantly painted in bright and reassuring colors. There should be pictures on the wall, and a mirror (a metal or unbreakable mirror is permissible). The bed should be comfortable and the bed cover pleasant. Sheets, pillows and mattress must of course be provided. There should be chairs and a desk, the chairs self-colored and if possible, textured. Patterned material is best avoided, since it may have a disturbing, Rorschach-like effect. (Until we know more about the effect of patterns on patients’ perceptions, we should be cautious about patterned materials.) A carpet or rug, preferably nylon, should be on the floor, which may be of tile or linoleum, but should be light in color. To avoid uncertainty about the passage of time, a clock and a calendar should be clearly displayed. If a toilet cannot be readily available, a modern commode chair may substitute, if it is explained to the patient.

It is important here, as elsewhere in the hospital, for the furniture to be light, strong and elegant, rather than heavy or cumbersome. Heavy furniture quickly becomes a challenge to some patients to see if it can be broken. It encourages all patients to lose one of the most important skills which we all acquire in childhood―the ability to maneuver through complicated mazes of furniture. This ability includes all sorts of skills, especially subliminal psychomotor movement. Mental patients frequently lose this ability through disuse, and all too often the arrangements in the mental hospital give them no opportunity to re-acquire it, or what is even more important, to correct early the tendency to lose it. Experimental work shows that, given the opportunity, people frequently correct perceptual errors on their own. But a bare room, fitted with one massive piece of furniture affords neither encouragement nor motive for correcting an error of any sort.

In the seclusion room, the patient should have diversions from the very start. Games, books, perhaps a slide projector, a television or record player under his control are all possibilities. Cut flowers and potted plants should decorate the room. Writing materials should of course be available, and if the patient has difficulty in writing, as some psychotic people do, he might be provided with chinagraph (grease) pencils and an ample supply of paper. Part of the wall might be processed for drawing. which people sometimes find pleasant when they are upset. Plasticine and paint should be provided. A way might also be devised for the patient to brew his own coffee or tea. A tape recorder could be provided to allow the patient to hear his own voice, and get accustomed to the fact that he really is there, though this should be handled with caution, because some people find it rather a disturbing experience.

All these measures must, of course, be combined with friendly interaction with a member of the hospital staff, one with whom the patient feels comfortable and can speak freely, but who, like the room itself, will keep him as close to reality as possible.

In brief, the seclusion room is ideally a place where the patient, after a rupture in interpersonal relation-ships, can re-assert his adultness and recover his poise, rather than a place of punishment where he is treated like an abandoned child in a dark cupboard or a bear in a pit.

(See link to original article for photo of music therapy session.)

*Dr. Donald Hebb, McGill University, conducted experiments in which the subject was placed on a bed in an air-conditioned box with arms and hands restrained with cardboard sleeves and eyes covered completely with translucent ski goggles. Hallucinations and delusions of various sorts developed, mostly in those who could stay longer than two days. Many subjects left at about twenty-four hours


Thoughts on DESIDERATA and More



© Max Ehrmann 1927 ?

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.




“Desiderata” defined means things wanted or needed. A partial version of the poem hangs on the wall of the place where I will be staying for a while and while the piece is well-known, and indeed I have seen it before, the painted version here caught my eye and moved me. For some reason, however, I suspected that this particular version was a quotation only in part, so I looked up the entire poem. What I found struck me to tears.


Tears? Why?


Well, let me explain.


There are important lines that are missing in the poem on the wall here (important to me):


“You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”


Also this stanza is followed by the critical word, “Therefore…be at peace with God…” whereas on the wall, the “therefore” has been taken out. But what a difference it makes to keep it in.


The important thing to me in reading the poem in its entirety is that I do not feel I have a right to be here, do not feel I am in any sense “a child of the universe.” I feel instead that I have ruined the universe, and that if I had not been born the world would have been better off by far. That is one critical thing.


The other salient point the poet makes, which made me weep, was his belief, stated well before anyone thought about global warming, but presumably he would have said the same thing even so, if he truly had the courage of his convictions that “no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”


TO the contrary, it feels to me completely tragic that the world should be ending in our geologic time, that we should be living in the end days, not something that was meant to be or unfolding as it should. ( I say “end times” without any religious intention to those words, only the sense that we have brought about the end of the living world upon ourselves by over-consumption and massively pig-headed over-population.) Of course, the “universe” is much bigger than humanity or even generally speaking the living blue planet called earth, but as a human living on it I have no other way to feel or see but from my puny human perspective. To lose Life on earth, all or most of it at any rate, to global warming feels utterly devastating. Who or what gave humans the right to destroy what might have been the tiniest fraction of a chance at existence, life itself, to throw it all away through the over-consumption of fossil fuel (in the brief span of 2 centuries) and making too many babies, and eating too many cows?


It sickens me that I am so much at fault, that I ought not to have existed at all, that much of this could have been avoided by my never having been born. But it also sickens me that as a species, humans have collectively, since my birth, ignored all the consequences of our “eating the earth” and now we have no earth for our children’s children to inherit…


Vis a vis another line in the poem, I cannot “be gentle” with myself. I do not deserve gentleness! That way disaster lies!


“With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.” Maybe… But the world is fast losing its beauty and sometimes i think it is only beautiful to those wealthy enough to be able to willfully blind themselves to all the ugliness and injustice around them: blinding themselves to the dying oceans and all the starving homeless people…to name just two out of many.


Nevertheless, the poem is still a miracle of inspiration and remains so after nearly a century. Though not really new to me, it newly struck a chord, though I am sure that  people in the know would call it an “old chestnut” of a poem, nearly hackneyed and familiar as that other O.C., “Invictus”by William Ernest Henley, though I suggest Desiderata has always been far better written than Henley’s “chest-beater” of a poem (for all that it is a favorite of many thousands..).

My only Sweetheart, Dead, and a Poem About Her…


She died soon thereafter
Eemie on top of her house,…She died soon thereaft








Is it only two years the little cat’s dead now?

She persists

not in an innocent’s dream

but at my door, so real


I can feel her fur in my tears.

Whoever called the injections

by which we kill our animals “sleep”

had no conscience.


Euphemisms hide facts

but they do not change them, for surely

if my brain believed there was good in her death,


Eemie would not reappear like Banquo’s ghost,

reproaching with her presence


telling me truths I already know:

Even cats can die of loneliness

and she had had enough of being left to fend for herself.


Of course, there was food and water,

but after my father’s death,

she gave up waiting for some density of me

to return, to connect.


Then she gave up wanting me or food.

And when her liver failed

it was too late for anyone’s love to save her.


But what of her last look-around at the stainless world?

How could I think it curiosity,

that sudden raised head,


when it was only a reflex to euthanasia?

How could I not understand such plain table truth?

I asked the vet how long it would take.

“She’s already gone,” the vet said.

Dreamrly’s COLLECTIVE Dream Art Magazine Has Launched

Kelli in Fractured Colors
Kelli being Drawn by Artist, in Fractured Colors – a blind contour study filled with color

I received the announcement below from Kayla Bowen today and thought I would pass it on. Dreamrly’s COLLECTIVE magazine is available either in print on demand or in a digital format. While I am one of the featured artists / poets, that is not the only reason I publicize the launch. I believe that dreams speak volumes, both to us and about our selves, and if we learned to listen to them, we might learn a great deal…

COLLECTIVE 2014 Launch Edition is Now Available

Launch edition 2014 features 108 full color pages, including:

  • Submissions from 40 contributors from all over the world
  • Three distinct galleries of visual art work
  • Interview with archetypal dreamwork analyst Laura Smith
  • Collaborative dreamwork feature with blogger Rita Kowats
  • An excerpt from Painted Over White, a novel by Katie Abrams
  • An excerpt from The Magic Pattern screenplay by Maria Isabel Pita and Dr. James Kroll
  • A complete section of poetry

Head over to www.collectivedreamartsmag.com to check it out!

You’re Invited! COLLECTIVE Launch Event

If you are in the Nashville, Tennessee area, consider coming out to join us Sunday, April 6 from 2 – 4 pm at Art & Soul on 12th Avenue.

 Copies of the magazine and launch poster will be available for purchase. We’ll have snacks, networking with other dream and creative arts enthusiasts, two interactive dream art stations, and an opportunity to see the cover art installation and meet cover artist Wayne Brezinka in person.

Do you have questions about the event or need more information? Email editor@collectivedreamartsmag.com.

Also a new Dreamrly/COLLECTIVEARTS contest:

“Fall Awake” Poster Series Campaign

COLLECTIVE is launching a poster series to raise funds for the magazine and to raise awareness about dream work and the visual arts.

The launch poster is available now on the web site.

COLLECTIVE is also hosting a poster design contest to select three additional poster designs to complete the series. Winners will receive $50 and 5 poster prints of their design.

Are you interested in submitting your design for the series?  Learn more.