Friday, August 31, 2012

"PLEASE ALLOW ME TO INTRODUCE MYSELF..."

I'm an obituary reader.  Always have been.  Probably for the same reason I love memoir.  I relish the glimpse into others' lives -- who they loved, where they lived, what they did for a living and for the world, what they learned and leave as a legacy.

Lately, I've noticed something a little startling.  Since publishing a photo with the obituary is now "en vogue", I immediately scan the photos before going back to read the "stories" and with nearly each obit I think I recognize the person!  I rarely do know them, but at first glance everyone looks familiar!  I realize this is because most are around my age or a little older...."elders" over 60.

The lie I tell myself is that I don't look my age ... certainly don't look as old as those people who regularly show up at high school reunions, Class of '68 for Hub and Class of '69 for me (yes, we were high school sweethearts).  And I want to believe I don't look the age of the people in the obits.  But the reality is, I certainly identify them as my age cohorts, or those of my parents, aunts, uncles, cousins -- people I know!

I also always look for a clue as to the cause of death.  I like it when they say what caused the deceased demise right in the first paragraph, especially if the deceased is my age or younger.  I like to think "Well, that couldn't happen to ME!"  I want to be reassured that I am living in a land where death doesn't visit.

But I also notice lately that I'm relating more and more to what did them in.  I know people with heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's!  I know people who died unexpectedly, or in an accident, or on a trip.  Death visits all the lands in which I roam.

One time I was on a visit to see my parents when they were probably in their 70's.  My mom took a phone call and turned to my dad and said, "Honey, we lost another friend...."  I will never forget the look of grief on her face, shock and sadness on his.  I will never forget the phrase, "....another friend."  At a certain age, death comes calling with frightening regularity.

When an acquaintance around my age died suddenly a few years ago, it was a wake-up call of sorts.  So a couple of gal-pals and I got together to plan our own funerals.  It was a lark.  It was fun.  We laughed a lot and made elaborate plans for our funeral/memorial services.  Music, flowers, eulogies.  All of that needs updating now.  (I no longer think it would be "cool" to play "Sympathy for the Devil" to end the service,  no matter that I'm still a Stones fan.)

We also wrote our own obituaries.  One common thread of the obituaries I read every day is that they are relentlessly positive.  Each person was the greatest person who ever lived.  I'm sure they could also be total "shits" but who wants to remember someone's flaws and foibles?  I love that in memory, only the best traits survive -- at least in print.  I have a boxful of yellowed newspaper clippings, obituaries saved by my grandmother and then my mother, of relatives who died.  They are a treasure of family history.  They, too, were the best people who ever lived.

I also want to be remembered fondly, for being a loving wife, amazing mother, cherished grandmother, exemplary friend, devoted to my spiritual practices and my community.  (Please leave out the parts about me being a little neurotic, meddlesome, self-centered, anxiety-prone, and whiney).

Finally, I want my cause of death to be "excessive dancing" at age 106.   And if you want to throw in a little Rolling Stones tune at the memorial, well, that might be OK after all.

At least, that's the view from here....©


Thursday, August 30, 2012

STEPFORD SISTER-WIFE

I only meant to tune in briefly.  Just a glimpse.  I knew I wouldn't like what I'd hear.  But curiosity overcame common sense.  And I am practicing equanimity.  I thought this might be a good test.

There she was, Ann Romney, resplendent in patriotic red.  Matching lipstick.  Perfectly coiffed blonde hair.  She talked about the early days of their head-over-heels-in-love courtship and of how they just couldn't wait to get married.  They moved into a basement apartment and used a door on sawhorses for a desk and an ironing board for a dinner table.  Who can't relate to those kinds of "we were just a couple of crazy kids" tales?

It went on....and on....and on....the humble beginnings, the hard work, the rise to prominence.  She said her husband had never been handed success.  Unless you count the help they got from Mitt's daddy, who "ran a car company".  (Not exactly the Ford dealership on the edge of town, however; more like American Motor Company in Detroit).  I guess Mitt and Ann were The American Dream come true.

Just like us.  My dad worked in a textile factory for 40 years, dying cloth to exacting color specifications, often coming home with the after-effects of chemical exposure that created respiratory issues most of his life.  My mom worked as a seamstress in a factory making Formfit bras (rows and rows of women at sewing machines) until she was able to go to beauty school and open a little shop in a converted porch in our home.  Hub's parents were schoolteachers in the Lutheran Parochial School system, serving at "God's calling" for His love, certainly not money.  I went to work in an office just out of high school, not going to college until I was 23 years old and then only part-time while I worked to support us as Hub continued his education.  Hub worked his way through college loading and driving moving vans on weekends and school vacations.  We grew up and started our married life humble and struggling, just like the Romney's.

"Neither one of us had a job, because Mitt had enough of an investment from stock that we could sell off a little at a time," Ann Romney said in an interview with the Boston Globe when Mr. Romney was running for the Senate.  "We had no income except the stock we were chipping away at.  We were living on the edge, not entertaining."  (She didn't mention this hardship in her convention speech.)

So, while the "facts" of her marriage biography may be subject to investigation, she did come across as a woman who at least knew how to relate (pander, some said) to other women. She did raise all those boys (with help, no doubt, and money, and status and private schools....) and seemed to at least be conversant with the joys and sorrows a mom experiences.   So I listened and tried to keep an open mind with a compassionate heart.

Ann Romney is doing what she was raised to do:  be a wife, a mother, a grandmother, hold the family together, support her husband, work tirelessly for her Mormon faith, look good, love her country, and assume success is a "given" for everyone who tries hard.  She is who she is.  I accept that.  (And she says one of her favorite TV shows is "Modern Family"!  Mine too!  I bet her favorite characters are the gay couple, Mitchell and Cam and their little girl Lily!  I'm sure she sees in this portrayal that allowing real couples/parents like them to marry would be the only loving and sensible thing to do!)

After the speech, I turned the TV off and thought no more about any of the Republicans at their convention.

But I woke up the next day full of enthusiastic energy for homemaking!!!!  This is a VERY uncharacteristic thing for me to do.  Hub does 95% of the cooking around our house.  I haven't baked anything in over 2 years.  I have been crocheting lately, but mostly so I don't feel so badly about watching TV; it's OK if I'm multi-tasking.  But the day after the speech, I got up and made a batch of blueberry muffins (FROM SCRATCH!), a bowl of egg salad, and 6 pints of raspberry freezer jam -- by 10:30 a.m.!  Then I cleaned off my desk, paid a stack of bills, balanced my checkbook, did a couple loads of laundry, learned a new crochet stitch by making a 10" x 10" dishcloth, prepared supper, took muffins and jam to Son-One's family, came home and finished a scarf that had been in the bottom of my yarn basket since last winter, and watched a little TV with Hub before going to bed at 10:00.  WHAT??????

A friend suggested there was but one wifely duty still to be performed....Let's just say Hub is in a state of shock and wonders where he can get his hands on a DVD of that speech.

As for me...a warning:  DO NOT LOOK INTO ANN ROMNEY'S EYES!  She will take possession of your soul and turn you into a perfectly groomed, muffin-bakin', jam-makin' Stepford Sister-Wife! (Mitt?  Noooooo.......)

At least, that's the view from here....©



Thursday, August 23, 2012

MAKE MY DAY

Cabela's moved into a shopping mall near us recently.  Whenever I drive by, the parking lot is jammed, so I've been curious.  This morning's newspaper contained a 30-page advertising section produced by this store, so I was eager to take a look.

The first 10 pages were devoted to firearms.  So my introduction to Cabela's raison d'etre was swift and shocking. (I was only on my first cup of coffee!)  Both rifles and handguns were featured.  I recognized some of the brand names from my childhood spent watching Westerns on TV with my dad -- Remington, Winchester, Smith and Wesson.  I'd also heard of a few more:  Beretta, Sig Sauer, Browning.  I had never heard of the Savage Arms brand, but was interested to note "Youth Models Also Available".  How nice.  There were "hog hunters" and "bear hunters", "bull whisperer" and "varmit stalker", "tactical" and "home defense" models.  Some had scopes, and some were ready to add your own high powered scope accessory.

The circular's pages continued then with an astonishing variety of "camo" stuff -- stalker cameras; binoculars; walkie-talkies; tent-like things called "blinds"; backpacks; shirts, jackets, pants, boots, gloves, hats -- my favorite was the True Timber Packable "Leafy Suit" made with 3-D leafy cut fabric including hooded jacket, pants, mitts, and MASK!  You could wear that while perched up in a tree on a mesh chair apparatus that attaches right to the trunk -- handy!  Why, that buck would walk right up to you and never be the wiser until your Savage Arms rifle popped him right in the heart!

Oops, did I just reveal my bias against hunting?  Actually, hunting, while not something I could personally do (those doe eyes!), I can at least understand on some level.  I guess.  Well, not really.  But if I was really hungry, I'd do what I had to do, just like my ancestors did.  It just seems like all the high-tech gear involved now gives all the advantage to the human.  Where's the sport in that?  Or the respect?

But back to the handguns.  My favorite, being a woman and all, was the Charter Arms "Lavender Lady" (with pink case!)  What girl wouldn't want a .38 special + P with five-shot cylinder  and 2" stainless barrel?   It is ultra-lightweight and is part of their "duo-tone" collection!  And on sale for only $449.99 -- $30.00 off the regular price!  Shoppin' the sales feels so good!

I'm actually anti-gun.  (You didn't see that coming, did you?)  The  damage, destruction, and death we reign down on each other in this country due to gun violence is astounding and terrifying.   I think guns provide an "easy" way to kill lots of people when used by the insane and the insanely violent.  Guns in the hands of us "good folk" give us a false sense of security, because it is only very rarely that any "bad guy" is stopped by an armed and righteous citizen who has an unambiguous claim that his action was justified.

At this juncture, I'm feeling a responsibility to look up statistics to prove my point.  But this isn't a scholarly piece where I need to cite facts and figures.  (Unless you are going to challenge me to do so, then we'll see).   I just need to listen to my heart to know that a gun in my Christmas stocking would not be a welcome gift, even though Cabela's would like me to start thinking along those lines.

In fact, a gun in my hands would surely be a lethal weapon, likely accidently aimed at myself, klutz that I am.  I'm not sure I really could pull the trigger on someone else anyway, even if for some unfathomable reason I would want to.  I'd be so freaked out I'd never be able to get off a round before the bad guy had the gun out of my hand, adding to his own arsenal.

Now that I think of it, though, when I worked in foster care I was astounded at the number of children who had been sexually abused, even tortured, by adult men in their lives.  Were I to come upon a situation like that taking place, I might be tempted to reach for my Lavender Lady, badass that I am when Mother Bear takes over my more mild-mannered sensibilities.  I'd mean only to shoot to maime, but I'm not a very good shot.   And that would land me in the defendant's chair at the inevitable trial. Playing with guns never ends well, for man or beast.  

At least, that's the view from here....©







Wednesday, August 22, 2012

POLITICIANS: THEY ARE NOT ALL THE SAME


The pendulum of the Republican party has swung so far right, it's liable to knock us all out cold on its inevitable swing back.

A sadly misinformed politician from Missouri (Rep. Todd Akin, R.) has created a shitstorm of controversy with his recent comment, to the effect that "legitimate rape" can't result in pregnancy because a woman's body will "shut down" if attacked in this way and won't allow fertilization.  This, to justify a ban on abortion even in cases of rape or incest (which has just been included in the draft of the official Republican party platform).  It also helpfully explains, I guess, that if pregnancy did occur in cases of rape, well, it just wasn't "legitimate"... as in she secretly wanted to have sex at knifepoint?  I need further clarification on that.

Mr. Akin is not the only one who thinks this way.  I saw on a news show the other night a piece detailing how this line of thinking (and speaking it out loud!) about rape not resulting in pregnancy goes back at least three decades amongst (male) politicians, all Republicans from the south (I don't blame the south, but they do seem to have a disproportionate number of dipshit politicians.)

You can tell my ire has been raised.  I have worked so hard to let so many things go.  I'm practicing compassion, lovingkindness, "nowness".  So, this political season is a challenging teacher for me. It's  hard to let go of the outcome of this election, because I believe politics really do matter and that politicians are not "all the same" as some disillusioned in the electorate like to lament.

There is a busload of Catholic nuns who are criss-crossing the country to educate and protest the "Ryan Budget" as immoral in its draconian measures to cut funding for programs that help the poor and the working poor, who are drowning in spite of treading water as fast as they can.  I thought, at first,  "Who is this Paul Ryan guy and that budget of his will never pass anyway."  Well, the Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, just chose Ryan as his running mate.  Even though Romney changes his tune to sing whatever song his audience of the day wants to hear, at least we now know what he really believes.  Ryan's views are well-documented and consistent.

I've seen a lot of elections -- some of which went the way I wanted, and some didn't.  But really, none made me truly fearful, even though I was not happy with cowboys or paranoids in the Oval Office.  This being a democracy, I believed reasonable people would ultimately demand responsible leaders.  Now I'm not so sure.

The "good guys" of the Republican Party seem to have abandoned ship.  They've handed it over to right wing politicos who appeal to what I thought was a minority, but who now have been given a great deal of power.  Or at least the power to take over the debate and somehow drag others along with them.  And to enact laws aimed at ensuring Republican-leaning districts in some states will have an unfair advantage over those who traditionally vote for Democrats -- the young, poor, and/or elderly would be most affected -- by requiring a government issued ID to get their hands on a ballot.  (My own mother would have been denied a vote if she had lived in one of these districts).

This year we have a billionaire Republican nominee who will say anything he thinks you want to hear to get elected.  He has chosen a running mate who is the darling of the far right.  Both of them will reward the excesses of the rich at the expense of the middle class and the poor.

And we have the incumbent, a pragmatic and perhaps over-reaching, but well-intentioned President who swept into office on a wave of "Yes We Can" only to realize, "no you can't" if the other party sees as Job One personally vilifying our President and thwarting absolutely any legislation he proposes--the American people be damned--then blaming him for "doing nothing".  Talk about a Catch-22!




I believe that having an intelligent, articulate, principled black man in the White House who embraces diversity across the board, inclusive of ethnicity, race, class, gender, and even divergent ideas, has created such fear and aversion that an ultra-conservative uprising of unhinged classism, racism, and sexism was perhaps inevitable.  What I didn't see coming was how the rest of the Republican party would stand for it.  There must be some who are appalled, embarrassed, outraged.  But will they express this dismay by switching parties in the privacy of the voting booth?

Don't know. Hope so.

Because I still want to believe that my country, which I dearly love, will not abandon the very democratic, egalitarian principles we so fondly espouse to uphold.

(Here's a clip from an Aaron Sorkin-written TV show; so the bias is obvious, but the points are factual and well made, even if he went a bit far at the end in my judgement.  He's entitled to his opinion...we do still have freedom of speech here (even money "talks").
http://front.moveon.org/what-we-already-knew-about-the-tea-party-and-the-newsroom-finally-said-out-loud/#.UD024cIjA8g.facebook

And, sisters, if men like Todd Akin continue to think they can tell women how our bodies work and what's best for us politically, and we let them do so by not standing up for our own truth, then we do not honor the sacrifices of the women who worked to ensure we have a voice in this election, or any other.

At least, that's the view from here....©

Read this easy abbreviated history lesson about women's voting rights: http://www.pbskids.org/wayback/civilrights/features_suffrage.html
Also, watch this "Hollywood-ized", but factually accurate portrayal of the fight for the vote:  Iron Jawed Angels 2004-HBO Movies (Netflix has it).

Monday, August 20, 2012

THE TWINS

My dear friend, Introvert, is dancing a jig this morning.  Her twin, Hedonist, knows this is going to be a good day!  Because their alter-ego, Ivy, has done it again -- scheduled herself into a frantic need to be alone and comforted.  Ahhh......

She...OK... I have been blessed with activities and experiences that I consciously chose to do, so any complaint feels selfishly unappreciative.   But any introvert knows it doesn't matter if life is "good"; when it's time to be alone and drifting, the need is so strong it almost hurts.

August started with a 3 day visit by cousins we had not seen in over 20 years.  We were hosts and tour guides until they left on the next leg of their summer journey through the west.  (We had a great time with them,  gently navigating around topics of politics and religion).  In the following 2 weeks Hub and I attended to lots of home projects (sense of accomplishment), went to two Ecstatic dances (oh, such joy!), planned and went on a camping trip (nature's beauty astounds), saw a concert (love me some Blues!), went to a Buddhist teaching event (perhaps more on that another time), attended a two-day personal growth workshop (shared with friends, so meaningful in that way, but not so hot in other ways), and had another overnight visit by the cousins at the tail end of their trip (fun, but I was fading....).  They left this mid-morning.  I believe they still had the back wheels of their rental car at the bottom of the driveway when I opened the little package of Oreo cookies they left here and scooped some ice cream into a bowl and indulged a need for comfort food, uncaring about calories or carbs.

Hub is working today, something he does occasionally in his semi-but-mostly-retired life.  It's good timing since even he won't be here and the house is blissfully mine, alone.  So, my plan for today is to talk to no one. To pet my dog and hold my cat.  To watch TV.  To crochet.  To write.  To read.  To meditate.  To cook a simple dinner.  To not watch the clock or make a plan or go anywhere or do anything that doesn't happen in slow motion time.  To be quiet.

It used to feel self-indulgent to allow myself days like this.  I've learned that it is not self-indulgent to know my mental health is a priority and to do what I need to do to re-charge.

The twins, Introvert and Hedonist, will finish the big afghan today, let all calls go into voice mail, catch up on old Daily Shows, maybe take a nap.  Tomorrow and into the rest of this week I will do more of the same, along with a Yoga class or two, until I feel ready again for life's many blessings of community, experience, and abundance to unfold.  Slowly.

At least, that's the view from here...©


Monday, August 6, 2012

CALLING RICKY NELSON


Today, in the shower, I had an age-related "a-ha" moment.  No, I was not doing a full body inventory of age spots, lumpy bits, or sad sags.   (Those "a-ha" moments are more like "OH, GOD!" moments).

I was thinking about Facebook.  I was thinking about what has become a daily post by many recently -- a constant stream of photos of items that we are to "Like" or "Share" if we recognize them.  Things like: 8-track cassettes; potato mashers; floor board dimmer switches; ice cube trays; watering bottles for ironing; treadle sewing machines; drive-in movie speakers; wringer washing machines; Ozzie and Harriet (and the boys); Lucy and Desi; skate keys; card catalogs; princess phones; phone booths...that sort of thing.  I have yet to see one of these "'Like' if you recognize this" photos that I don't recognize.  Not one.

What woke me up in the shower was my thought process, which went something like this:  "Why don't they post something really old?  Not stuff everybody remembers!"  Hilarious, right?  I mean, the absurdity of my own thought cracked me up!  I am 61 years old!  That stuff being posted IS 'really old' -- some of it like 50 or more years old!

I just love my occasional breaks with reality.  I am so human!  Of course I remember all that old stuff!   My age cohorts and I are the 'grandparent generation' and those items we recall so fondly, as if yesterday, are the items of our childhood!  What????

I'm still chuckling.

Coincidentally, I logged onto Facebook after my shower to find yet another "'Like' if you remember this" photo.  It was a shot of a young baseball Mariner, Ken Griffey Jr. playing alongside his father, Ken Griffey Sr.  The year was 1990.  Our family may well have been at one of those Griffey Jr/Sr games.  And who posted that photo to Facebook, challenging his friends to "'Like' if you remember"?  It was 24 year old Son-Two!  I'm sure it feels like only yesterday to him already.

At least, that's the view from here....©

  Hi Ricky!