Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE


I have written about Cabela's before:  https://myviewfromhere-donna.blogspot.com/2012/08/make-my-day.html.  It was a sort of tongue in cheek piece about the store being "gun central" in a rapidly growing retail center alongside the interstate.  I had never set foot in the place before I wrote that post, nor since, until last week.  My son had asked for camping gear for Christmas and mentioned Cabela's, so I thought, "A-ha!  Gift card!"  So one sunny morning I pulled my Suburu Outback into the parking lot along with the idling pick-up trucks already there.  I stood in line at the front door of Cabela's, smiling and nodding to the mostly burly men also waiting for them to open.  I was curiously excited about going inside.


Once through the doors I decided to search first for the yoga section, looking for a new mat and a meditation cushion.  They apparently don't carry those items. (Ha! Ha!  Just kidding!)   What they DO carry is everything for the "outdoorsman".  Or woman -- I saw a stack of pink camo shirts that read "Women Hunt Too!"  I'm not sure what pink critter they are hunting, but I guess they do.


The store is huge and chock-o-block full of clothing and gear for hunting, fishing, camping, shooting, or competing in the Hunger Games.  I wandered around sort like a sheltered kid in Disneyland, amazed that such a place exists and that my life is so far afield of it.  At times I was actually grinning, all by myself, at the sights I beheld:  camo clothing that could outfit an Army; archery equipment that Katniss would swoon over; fishing poles and nets and lures and line and bobs that would fool even the smartest trout; rifles, shotguns, handguns...I don't know, an extensive "gun section" I guess.
 I only glimpsed it from afar.  I still have a stomach-churning aversion to firearms of any kind (and had to spend a moment picturing the young man who had bought a rifle at this very store to kill his ex-girlfriend and others last summer.)  I turned quickly from that section to the mountain and aquarium exhibit of live fish and taxidermied majestic animals standing forever still but representing all their species still roaming free -- for now.  In fact the entire store is an advertisement for the many animals that can be (and were) killed to create the outdoorsy decor throughout.

I tried on a very stylish hat on my way to the check-out stand.    Several guys stopped in their tracks, perhaps not sure what they were seeing.  I'm glad they were unarmed.

So, Cabela's....I doubt I'll be back any time soon.  But I didn't hate it.  It is a very inviting space for folks who need what they have to sell.  Along with the Gift Card, I actually did buy two long-sleeved t-shirts for myself.  (NOT camo.)  I considered them souvenirs from my field trip to the great outdoors-ish-y Cabela's.  Still in the market for a yoga mat, though.

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


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

CREATE: ART SAVES LIVES

I'm in one of my favorite places in all the world. (Well, I've only been to a teeny fraction of the world -- that which doesn't involve transatlantic flight, so there's that...but still a favorite place!)  I'm looking out the window on a quintessential Northwest scene with the sun breaking through to shine in warming my shoulder and I am content and happy and feeling deep, deep gratitude for my life.

Every year Hub and I come here for a three-day getaway to celebrate my December birthday and the holidays.  This town, Pt. Townsend, Washington, (Google it -- charming and historic) holds so many memories for us, even though the shops and restaurants change little from year to year and the gorgeous scenery not at all, thankfully.  It's been documented that Hub and I are creatures of habit and return again and again to familiar places we love.  We are "settlers" more than "explorers", I guess.  We have often talked of moving here and I still have a longing to do that and would in a heartbeat but for our sons and their families, especially the grandkids, and our friends who we see frequently and love like family.  A 2-1/2 hour drive-ferry crossing-drive from our current home would make being wth all of them an occasional event, not a multi-day of the week one.  We are tethered to where we live by love and commitment and gratitude.  We won't leave now.  But we come here annually for sure and often more frequently since summers here are glorious as well.

These three days have been a respite from the bustle of holiday prep at home and from the to-do lists that seem always to grow longer and never completed.  At home I wake up full of "gotta get going" energy with things to do, places to go, people to see competing for my time.  Here, in true vacation fashion, I wake up soaking in the creative energy that permeates the air here.  I wake up eager to stroll across the street to a waterfront coffee shop for my first cup, then to the waterfront restaurant on the other end of town that is our favorite for breakfast, then wandering in and out of boutiques and bookstores, home decor, garden, and toy shops.   We might stroll up the hill to "Uptown" to visit a cool grocery there where they sell the best cookies!  We go to the tea shop that has a comfy seating area where we plan our evening -- which of our favorite dinner places to hit before a movie at The Rose -- an old-fashioned movie theater in town.  If the weather is nice, not too windy, we might take a beach walk (and since Hub is reading this, I acknowledge that the weather doesn't hold him back and he just returned from a multi-mile walk while I hung out drinking coffee, so really HE'S the walker, not me, but there is always the possibility I might...)

One thing I haven't left behind is my FB newsfeed and I admit it's been a bummer to follow the ongoing debacle that is the political situation in our country.  I am more dejected and bereft with every Administration appointment and ridiculous Tweet from the minority-president-elect. (Hillary won 2.5 million more votes that he, so he's the "minority-president" forever after in my mind.)   What is happening is surreal -- his Cabinet appointments are gazillionaire business cronies or washed up politicians with no experience for the job.  They have vast conflicts of interest in every position.  It's a joke but it's not funny.  I've talked to so many friends who are still feeling their lives to be off-balance, and I am among them.  I feel like I'm just holding on to my own life, but what's happening around me threatens to pull me out of my reality at every turn.  People say they are going through the motions of their lives, trying to find islands of peace and hope, while also being buffeted by despair and outrage.  It's a schizophrenic experience.

Yesterday, at the coffee shop, I was inspired to write a "rhyming poem", something I never do unless I "hear" music that might apply to it.  I sent it off to two collaborators -- excellent musicians and great friends who have put my words to music and may end up on a couple of CDs one day soon (YAY!).   It was one of those moments where I looked out at Puget Sound and watched the ferry glide by, after having read news of Aleppo, Exxon, Standing Rock and an op ed by Charles Blow in the NYT (he's been a voice that speaks to me) about finding love and justice in the midst of terror and destruction -- of cities and of institutions.  The words floated into my head and out through my fingers on the keyboard organically, without thought or much editing.  I love when the Muse just takes over almost against my will.  The song lyrics I've written (few and far between) are almost always like that -- with the musicians doing the hard work of finding melodies to go with them.  I loved being in a creative groove, because I think art is necessary in a world gone awry.

I once bought a bumper sticker in this town in a shop that featured Native American Art.  It read: Art Saves Lives.  I put it on our old van and it traveled with us for many, many years -- inspiring me and maybe others who sat behind us in traffic, who knows?  Humans have the urge to create.  Find your special place, get quiet, indulge in pleasures that relax, and then do your art.  Whatever that is.  Sing, dance, paint, write, knit, sew, build, weld, cook, tell a joke.  BE.

The world needs us refreshed and ready to save lives, the earth, the future.

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


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

NOT THE REAL THING

Sad.  Disappointed. Resigned.  No, I'm not still talking about the election (at least not in this post), I'm talking about purchasing our first artificial Christmas tree in our 44-year marriage.  We are Christmas tree traditionalists and we have scorned and mocked those who years ago "went artificial".  Nope!  We'd never!

Well...we did.

For 30 years we have gone to the same Christmas tree farm in the country to cut our own tree.  The farm was a 40-acre wood owned by a retired couple who grew the trees as a labor of love, enjoying the outdoors together and tending their crop of Nobles and Fraser Firs.  It was our family tradition to go the Saturday after Thanksgiving to tromp over wet or snowy or frozen ground to find "just the right tree". We usually ended up with the first one we saw closest to the truck, but we had to explore far and wide to be sure there were no others better.  After it was cut and hauled back to the truck, we made our way to the outdoor shelter where the owners had a roaring fire going and a kettle of hot cider ready to pour.  We'd sip our cider sitting on cedar logs while Hub paid for the tree -- $20.00 for any tree of any size.  We first went there when Son One was a year old.  Last year was our last trip, with both of our sons now grown with us and a daughter-in-law and two granddaughters in tow.  The owners told us then that it would be their last year.  They are in declining health (although still remarkably agile for being 90-someting!) and their children and grandchildren were not interested in opening the property for tree sales.  We assume one day it will all be sold to a developer and new houses will stand where the trees once grew; such is the way of progress.

Hub and I loved the family tradition of going there, but the "hassle-factor" of a real tree was also real. We said for the past number of years that when the tree farm closed, we wouldn't hunt for another (hating the commercialized "all-the-trees-in-straight-rows with a Santa and a mini-train and gift shop" type of tree farm that is so common.)  We said, "Maybe it will be time to get an artificial tree at some point."

So that's what we did this year.  A plastic tree in a box.  Hub bought it at Costco, brought it home and had it up in about 15 minutes, with LED lights pre-installed that you can set to being all white, all colors, or alternating between the two.   As the parts clicked into each other and the branches fell into perfect alignment, my heart started to sink.  This is NOT what a Christmas tree should do, look like, or smell like (nothing.)  I felt a big letdown and was very sad and started to complain....

Then Hub reminded me of his 44 years of Christmas tree experiences -- driving to the farm, finding a tree, cutting it down, hauling it to the truck, securing it either on top or in the bed; driving home and unloading it into a bucket of water on the patio, a week or so later retrieving it from the bucket that sometimes was frozen solid, so thawing it first; then carrying it up to the back deck and sawing the trunk off to the appropriate height, wrestling it into the house and through three rooms to the living room; setting it in the stand, getting it straight and positioned to best aesthetic effect; stringing the lights that only rarely cooperated by having weathered the attic still functioning -- full strings burned out for no reason, half strings lit, some lit, then going out once they were on the tree; shopping for and spending a fortune on guaranteed-to-stay-lit LED lights that I complained about to no end because I found them intense and "dead", not sparkly like tree lights should be; then putting water in the tree stand base, usually spilling it on the floor and having to wipe up the spills...then asking me daily if I remembered to water the tree (most of the time I did; not always.)  I joined in during the hanging of the ornaments and the daily pleasure of enjoying the magic of smelling a real tree in my house.  I guess I had the easier end of the 'real tree' deal.

So, this year we have a fake tree.  Son Two sent me a video on Facebook about the environmental damage of manufacturing, transporting, and disposing of plastic trees compared to real ones, which only made me feel worse (thanks, kid) considering our concern for climate change, but here we are anyway with a plastic tree in the living room.

Our choice of a real tree was often met with a quizzical expression by friends who found it to be rather strange to choose a tree with so many big spaces and goofy branches, but we loved our old Nobles and Frasers that allowed lots of room for our dangly ornaments collected over the years reflecting the interests and travels of each family member for that year.  Now there is no "dangling" space.   This tree is perfectly (traditionally) shaped and lit.  I've cut way back on my old ornaments and replaced them with others I can just shove in between the branches and let them rest there.  I use a remote control to switch the lighting between all white and colors, depending on my mood.  There is no spilled water on our newly refinished wood floors.

And here's the thing: I have a whole forest of fir trees on our property where I can cut greens for the mantel and table top.  I have a live holly tree to cut sprigs for decorating homemade swags. I will get some evergreen scent in my home.   Family will gather.  We will reminisce about the old tree farm.  Our sons will not love our tree (they found real ones at other places for their homes), but they will love us and all the rest of our traditions that are still firmly in place.  Christmas will happen.

And Hub will be happy when the tree comes down in three sections and back in the box instead of a messy haul-out through the house, down the stairs,  and a long drag to the brush pile at the back of our property.  And we won't have to vacuum up stray, stuck in the carpet, needles for weeks.

O!  Plastic Christmas Tree!  How lovely are thy branches....


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

Thursday, November 24, 2016

GIVING THANKS LIST

I recently was reminded of the importance of a daily gratitude practice.  I used to keep a Gratitude Journal back when it was recommended by Oprah and I always did as Oprah directed.  But as those things do, it fell by the wayside.  It may be time to start again.

I've had a hard time feeling grateful this month.  First of all I've had a cold and lingering cough for over a month that is just about to take me under.  Of course the election result actually did take me under for about two weeks, as I dealt with the raw gut punch of that reality every morning upon awakening.  I emerged from my coma of grief and disbelief almost a week ago to find myself moving toward determination and activism, if not optimism.  Last Saturday it felt like the fog was lifting -- or maybe I'd just stopped taking codeine cough syrup during the day.  Whatever.  I felt I could actually function again without spending part of every day in tears and despair.

So, on this Thanksgiving Day I give thanks:

1.)  I am incredibly grateful for the wise, witty, determined example of those who are walking this path of political outrage and determination with me:  Pantsuit Nation and Pantsuit Nation Washington Chapter are a constant source of online inspiration and support; dozens of columnists have written eloquently about the election -- the whys and what nows -- in ways that increase my understanding and serve as motivation and a reality check; personal friends have come together in community to share and support each other.  I hosted a group of women friends a week ago -- six of us sitting in my living room expressing outrage, fear, and grief, but leaving with a sense of not being alone and that we can stand and rise again; our Tribe of friends gathered at our house last Saturday for a similar time of sharing, then focused on what we are grateful for, which served to shift energy away from despair to hope; my FB family and friends who share and comment and offer counsel and support.  Say what you will about social media, it has its good points.  I'm thankful for this:  http://www.onbeing.org/blog/parker-palmer-start-close-in/9057

2.)  Aside from the cataclysm of the election, this morning I write in this damp dawn, watching the rivulets of rain on the window and am grateful for this earth that sustains us, for the food I'll eat today that came from this earth and for all of those planters, growers, harvesters, transporters, marketers...everyone it took to create a feast at my table.  I'm thankful for the life of the turkey we will eat and hope that 'free range' allowed it at least a little more movement in its brief life.

3.)  I'm thankful for my lovely home, which we use to seek refuge, to welcome friends, to gather in family; for the electricity that illuminates my desk; for the clean clear water that made my coffee; for the warm radiators that are heating my house on this cool, damp morning; for my stove and refrigerator and all the conveniences I have that make my life easier.  I'm thankful for my car that allows me freedom of movement and facilitates adventures and connections near and far.

4.)  I am thankful for my teachers -- those who broaden my intellectual horizons; those who know the ways of the body and how to keep it healthy and strong; those who hold my emotional upsets gently and give me tools for going on and teach me to radically accept myself and have some self-compassion; those who show me my true Self through meditation, yoga, and Kirtan.

5.)  I'm thankful for friends -- for those who know me and love me anyway, who have my back and offer wise counsel, astute challenge, and ready celebration.  I hope I'm as good a friend to them.

6.)  I'm thankful for my extended family -- sisters-in-law, nieces, nephew and their families -- reminding me that I am not alone in the world as the only surviving member of my original family.  Life goes on and family endures.

7.)  I'm thankful for the family I've created; incredibly, indescribably thankful for my family.  Hub my mate for 48 years, since our first date, and 44 years married; what would my life be without him in it?  My sons who will never, ever know the depth of my love for them because it is unfathomable.  For my daughter-in-law who is an example to me every day of quiet grace, determination, and humor.  For Son Two's girlfriend who brings him such happiness and who has joined our family with kindness and good humor.  For my granddaughters who are only the most beautiful, courageous, brightest stars in the galaxy.  I look at them and hold them with such joy, such hopes for their future, such confidence they will make the world a better place as they grow into their power and presence in the world.  They are my legacy and if I can influence them even a tiny bit with my passion for life and good works, I will feel my life justified.

8.)  I am thankful for my health -- physical, emotional, and spiritual -- all of which allows me to sit in this place of grateful humility this morning with the hope that I'll be here throughout another unfolding year, with its joys and challenges, knowing every day will be a day for which to be grateful.

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


Sunday, November 20, 2016

I SMELL A RAT


I take it as a good sign that Hub caught and killed the rat that had gotten into our garage recently.  We live on a wooded ravine and occasionally a mouse or two will find a way into the house in the winter. I'm not a screamer but it is a bit startling to see one scurry across the kitchen floor.  We generally can dispense with them in short order with a well placed trap.

But a rat is a whole different order of rodent.  I do not like rats. I had started to avoid the garage, filled with dread that I might see it and have to interact with it and also filled with anger that the thing was making me afraid in my own house.  We set traps for it that were ignored, or bait stolen with the trap undisturbed.  There seemed to be no stopping it.  We were on the verge of calling in the experts when last week I heard Hub in the garage amidst a racket of crashing and banging around and a gleeful shout of "Got him!"  I guess Hub had seen the thing sticking its nose out of its hiding place on the shelf, where it had eaten though several cartons of chicken stock -- what a mess!

As an aside, I'd like to offer a testament to my love for Son Two, demonstrated by my willingness to allow him to bring a "pet rat" home from the elementary school Science Fair back in the day.  Another student had raised a rat from infancy and Son Two thought this would be a brilliant and entertaining enterprise as well!  The kid had several babies to share, so we took one.  This was not a snowy white, pink-nosed "cute" rat.  It was a typical brown rat like you see hanging around dark alleys.  (His dad likely caught a couple in their garage!)  We put it in a big glass cage with a cushion of wood shavings, a wheel for exercise, a little bowl of water and food of some sort (Rat Chow?)  Occasionally we'd take it out and hold it but my breath would become rapid and shallow and my skin would crawl.  We never bonded and of course Son Two soon lost interest in the whole project. I was left to care for it.  If we'd had Google back then I'd have been looking up "life expectancy for rats".  Ours lived about two years, until a tumor of some kind prevented it from moving around the cage.  Being a compassionate soul, I made Hub take it to the vet to be euthanized. The vet laughed, "That's a first!"  They charged him ten bucks and got a good story out of it.

The rat in our garage didn't get a humane injection send off.  I understand now that a shovel to the head works just as well and as quickly. I'm glad the rat is gone.

Which reminds me of politics.  I am emerging from my fog of grief and rage.  I'm still not pleased about what has gotten into the White House, but my fear and dread are starting to be tempered by the laying of traps.  The ACLU took out a full page ad in the NY Times this week promising to fight every possible human rights violation.  President Obama has said, as a private citizen,  he will speak out against actions counter to American values.  Democrats and Independents are ready to step into the fray in Congress and in State Houses.  Many people are voicing a renewed (or brand new) commitment to civic engagement, politics, and activism.  We may have to follow the droppings left behind by the growing number of miscreants overrunning our government to root them out of their nests, but I am growing more confident we can persevere and perhaps control the damage they might create by their insistence on gnawing through the Constitution.

Science Fair lesson learned:  Never invite a rat into your home.  The one who initially wanted it will discover it's not all its cracked up to be and the one who hated it from the beginning will be left to deal with it.  I recommend a nice glass cage where it can be contained on the inside looking out.

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

  










Sunday, November 13, 2016

POST-APOCOLYPSE LANDSCAPE

So.  I guess it wasn't a nightmare we will awaken from any time soon.  Many of us are still in this phase of the journey as depicted in Edvard Munch's "The Scream".   It is said Munch meant it as an inwardly heard "scream of nature".  Well, nature should be screaming along with us, given the beliefs and policies of the President-Elect and his assumed Cabinet members about climate change.  (A digression:  I recommend the National Geographic documentary, "Before the Flood".  Beautifully photographed and full of easy to digest science info, if you believe in such things.)

Everyone is reacting in their own ways to the election outcome.  It's only been 5 days and it feels like 5 years of disbelief and grief to me; I'm sort of paralyzed in sadness.  Others have found their fervor for activism and are ready to do battle with all the wrongs he plans to visit upon people who are different or disagree with him.   Good for them!  I'll bring the snacks.

Of course those who voted for him (or didn't vote for President at all, which amounts to the same thing) are happy as clams.  They've been given the "un-PC" go-ahead to act out their worst selves.  Or they have been given hope for a "shake up" that they think will get their jobs back and put money in the bank again or keep those "other" people who are not like "us" out of the country.   They get to feel the self-righteous ardor of those who were willing to sacrifice the good for the perfect.  (Hello Bernie and 3rd Party voters.)  They have all put their faith in a selfish narcissist, a billionaire (if you believe him, but who knows since he won't release any information on his finances) unprepared for leading our country, with only sketchy policies and plans jotted down to "fix it".

Of course what they also got was the pleasure of putting that Bitch in her place.  Don't get me started. Can't even go there yet.

I am incredibly weary.  I am in full-blown grief.  I recognize it.  Been here.  All the stages swirl around except I'm not able to get too far past denial and anger quite yet.  Or tears.  Good god, what  has our country become?  The world is laughing and/or appalled and very worried.   Hillary supporters are stunned and take cold comfort in the fact that she won the popular vote.  More people voted for her than for him; more wanted her as our President. I do take comfort in that.  The Electoral College's intention to save the masses from themselves by not allowing the populace to directly vote for an unsuitable President went off the rails.  Again.

Yesterday I took the drastic measure of signing out of Facebook for the foreseeable future.  I was overwhelming myself and others with the non-stop newsfeed of posts of both outrage and support for those of us who are broken.

It felt good for awhile to connect into communities of people, like Pantsuit Nation, a true phenomenon of Facebook -- a FB group formed by a woman in Maine intended to be a safe place for Hillary supporters to "gather" and share uplifting hopeful stories and encourage each other to action on her behalf.  In only two weeks, by Election Day, it had garnered 2,000,000 members (only allowed in through someone already a member -- word of mouth).  The posts were so hopeful and joyful.   Since Election Day it has grown to over 3,000,000 members, as people find solace and calls to action there.

But soon I became obsessed with seeking out articles and posts that would help me find meaning and uplift and passing them on in 'share' posts.  My sons told me it was over the top; Hub told me I was too constantly online; I know I was quoting "Facebook" as if it was a real thing and not just a bunch of pixels.  A friend and I had a disagreement about how the DNC vs. Bernie Sanders played into this outcome; another told me to back off because she was in such pain and overwhelm she couldn't take it anymore.  Even my good intentions to help those hurting, and to build community together, was having the opposite effect.

I'll admit that only 16 hours into no FB I'm twitching a little bit,  which is likely an indication of the depth of my addiction.  I feel very isolated and alone this morning.  My "FB Tribe" is out there without me, sharing and supporting.  And I don't know the latest this and that cool or abhorrent thing happening in this aftermath.  Well, have another cup of coffee and take a deep breath.

It's come to this:  Last night I was so depressed I was barely functional.  I fell asleep on the sofa for a couple hours, but when I went to bed I was wide awake.  I came back downstairs at 11:30 and sat in the dark.  I decided to meditate and did a series of guided meditations until the wee hours.  I got hungry and made my favorite healthy treat -- blueberries, vanilla yogurt, walnuts, and cinnamon.  But the berries were too tart, so I added a teaspoon of sugar.  The yogurt was too sour, so I shot a dollop of whipped cream over the top.   I already had a bad taste in my mouth...I had to find a way to sweeten my existence even if only in a small bowl of comfort.  I finally fell asleep on the sofa at 3:30, up at 6:45.

It's just like that now.

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

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

ELECTION NIGHT SHOCK

It wasn't supposed to turn out like this.  I believe my successful mindfulness therapeutic practice of the past few months has over-compensated for my old anxiety/depression worry-wart default system.  I never once considered Hillary Clinton would lose.  Even when I made myself imagine it, I'd almost laugh and say, "Are you kidding?  No.  He could never be the president."  Except she lost and he is.

As a result, I and those I love and respect are in mourning today.  Stunned, shocked, frightened, angry, and sad, sad, sad -- for us, for our country, for our future.

Everyone is deconstructing.  What went wrong?  How could every single poll have been so far off the mark?  Who voted for him?  Who didn't vote for her?  How in the God's great world does someone as vile and angry and hateful as him become the President of the United States of America in the 21st Century?

I can posit my own answers and quote the experts.  It doesn't really matter.  For me what matters is feeling this grief to the depths of my being for as long as I have to in order to cleanse myself of the deep wounding of this experience so I can move on.

I posted this on FB early this morning:

A lesson I haven't learned yet has come 'round again. Do not attach to outcome. Do not put faith in institutions, or people's ability to reach for the highest good. This is not the country I have loved. The depth of my anger and sadness is limitless in this moment. I cannot hear, see, say, or feel anything positive right now. It all sounds like another bullshit way to try to trick me into caring again. Not yet. Gonna see how small and insular I can make my life. My sphere of influence is minuscule anyway. Our country just made a dark, hateful choice. I am broken.  

Later I wrote a much abbreviated but similar comment on someone else's FB page.  This was a comment I got:  "Donna, if you no longer love our country then please move.  I'm sick and tired of all the negativity, hate, finger-pointing, etc.  It needs to stop....."

She goes on to tell me how much she hates President Obama but she "sucked it up" and supported him for 8 years and I/we should do the same with the new president....or else, I guess.  Of course I clicked on her profile -- lots of Christian stuff.  OK, no comment.  Wait. One comment -- Christian compassion anyone?  Also, no appreciation for irony:  sick of negativity, hate, and finger-pointing?  Hello Mr. President-Elect!

Her easy remedy for removing me from her sphere by shoving me out of my country actually amused and motivated me.  I got off the sofa, out from under my blanket, dried my tears and sought Hub out to share this exchange.  I actually laughed.  I've been told to leave before -- at a time when I was working on a local political issue with which many in the community disagreed.  I got hate calls.  Often telling me to move to Russia, but that was in the 80's.  I guess our new president is chummy with Russia these days.  Anyway, getting their adversaries to leave is their go-to diatribe.

So that's how my day has gone.  What feels broken to me is my faith in humanity and the notion that people will ultimately do good.  Also gone for now: My love of politics.  My sense of hope.  My joyful exuberance over the process itself.

Late this afternoon I posted this on FB:

I'm trying. I've talked, meditated, written, yelled, sobbed for hours. I watched Hillary's speech and then Barack's, with Kumbayah playing in the backgournd. I read a zillion articles about the hows and whys and what to do about its. 
One theme among my friends and others is that Love Wins. Love will prevail. We must all join together in love, open our hearts to love, be the love. Blah, blah, blah. Not there yet. Not feeling the love. 
Do I understand those who felt ignored and disenfranchised by the powerful and the elite? Do I understand the depth of their shame and pain and anger? Yes,because I grew up in a Midwestern rural blue collar manufacturing town surrounded by cornfields. 

And because I'm a woman. I have some experience with disenfranchisement, another example of it happening last night when a supremely horrific man defeated a supremely qualified woman for the presidency. 

I get that some wellspring of anger fueled the white vote; I don't get (and never will) the willful decision to ignore (or worse, embrace) his dangerous, disgusting behaviors and beliefs, his total vacancy of any policy that would address the complex needs of workers or the world, in order to inflict this man on all of us. Maybe once I can get a handle on that, love will find a way.
But for now, still broken-hearted.
At least, that's the view from here...©

Sunday, October 30, 2016

TRICK OR TREAT OR NOT

I cracked up when I saw this meme on Facebook last week.  It sort of describes how I've felt for the past couple of years.

I love decorating for Fall -- Fall being my very favorite season.  I love pumpkins (not carved), the trees turning a riot of colors, leaves falling, a cornucopia of harvest, mums.

When my sons were little, I was way more into Halloween, of course.  It was a very, very big deal.  And I really loved it.  I loved collecting a huge array of Halloween decorations and creating a cute/scary tableau every October.  I still have a lot of the stuff in the attic in orange and black crates.  I just don't get it out anymore.  It's a lot of work.  Hub doesn't care and doesn't notice.  And while I have little grand girls, they are not here full time and I am.   I'm the one who would decorate, look at, and put it all away.   I'm just not that into the whole witches, Dracula, ghosts, Jack'O Lantern, black cat, big rat, hairy spider, cobwebby thing anymore.


But Angel was here last Saturday morning and I promised to take her to the Farmer's Market to choose a pumpkin for carving.  She designed this cyclops woman (where that came from in her imagination I have no idea) and then I let her decorate our front porch.

My only contribution was this disembodied arm hanging from the door knocker peephole.  I get it out every Halloween; my one nod to the holiday in recent years.  I like that it is sort of creepy and very easy to store and display.

I also have a fake Jack 'O Lantern embedded in my living room planter because little Jewel thinks it's sort of magical. She points with wide-eyed delight and says, "Pukkin".   Cute Alert!


Hub came home with a huge Costco-sized bag of candy yesterday.  I have tried to hand out granola bars or fruit leather in recent years in an attempt to encourage healthy eating in the younger generation, but he goes for the Nestle Company (evil empire) Snickers, Twix, Reese's, M&M, etc mix.  In spite of my resolve to not open it until the 31st, all Hub had to do was mention in passing something about how good a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup would taste during the 7th Inning Stretch of the Cubs v. Indians World Series game last night and I was into that bag like an addict scoring a hit of crack.  Turns out those little candy bars are also a nice breakfast snack accompanied by a steaming cup of black coffee.

I will survive Halloween, though.  I have to work too hard to overcome a sugar-binge these days.  I've matured into decorating tastefully, not gaudily, and eating only a modicum of Halloween candy, not having to replace the empty bag before Halloween, as in years long past.

But if you care to stop by for a frightfully good time, I have set some Snickers aside which I can serve in a hollowed-out skull.  Then we can hop on the scale for a truly terrifying adventure in self-recrimination.  BOO!

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



Saturday, October 29, 2016

THIRTY SECONDS OF FAME

So, I've been whining all week about having a cold.  Men are stereotypically terrible at being sick, but in my house I'm the whiner, seeking non-stop soup and sympathy.  Hub has been sick with a cold too. We apparently caught the bug from the same carrier.  We suspect our little typhoid vector of a granddaughter who is with us 2 days/week.  Her other 3 days of care are at a childcare/preschool where all they do is pass snotty noses and hacking coughs back and forth with their slimy, germ-laden little fingers.  But Hub hasn't complained much at all.  Then again, he is a slave to modern medicine and has never met a pill he didn't think would make it all better.  I lean toward tea and honey and whatever home remedy and crazy alt-med "miracle" cure my friends recommend.  He feels better and I don't, but I see no reason to cave to Big Pharma, regardless.

So last night we had tickets to our local professional theater company's opening show of the new season -- Pump Boys and Dinettes.  It's a fun and sort of goofy musical; lighthearted and full of multi-talented musicians and vocalists.  I questioned whether I should arise from under my super soft fleece blanket and attend, given my weakened condition, but in the end I threw on some "going outside" clothes and a little makeup and went.  I figured all I had to do was sit there and try not to cough.

Well, lo and behold!  A part of the show included a "door prize" giveaway to an audience member.  They pulled a ticket stub from a big bowl, announcing section, row, and seat number.  Yep.  Me.  In a blur I made my way to the stairs leading up to the stage, the actors all beckoning me to come up and claim my prize.  Fleetingly I cursed myself for not looking in the mirror before I left home, but I gamely played along with the thing.  Thirty seconds of fame on stage with the cast, while they snapped a polaroid picture, then back in my seat.

You know that admonition to always wear good underwear in case you have an accident and have to go to the ER?  Same applies to when you go to the theater.  Not the underwear part, but maybe the hair and make-up part.  Oh well.  I'm sure I dazzled them with raw talent.  The audience did applaud.  I'm Broadway bound, as soon as I get over this cough.

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

Sunday, October 23, 2016

THE TRIBE

"I want to be seen, to be known, to feel a part of a caring community."  "I'm afraid to show my true self; I'm afraid of rejection; I'm afraid I'll screw up and people won't like me."

With these two competing heart sentiments, The Tribe was born.   We are embarking on a Grand Experiment -- forming an intentional community of adults who are seeking intimacy in friendship.
Looking back, the way we came together was an organic accident.  Among the group are those who felt adrift after the loss of our church home (lots of words already typed about the "Great Unraveling"); those who still go to that church but are seeking a deeper connection in community; those with no connection there, but wanting something "more", something "different" in friendship.

We got together to eat.  People love to gather around a meal and this group has some creative and passionate cooks and eaters!  Food, laughter, and lively conversation led some of us to ask...could we be more than a supper club?  Hub and I have experience in facilitating groups.  We offered to lead a discussion where we would vision what we might create together.  Each person talked about what they want (connection) and what might hold them back from getting it (fear).   We talked about what we might do together -- meet regularly, eat, laugh, make music and art, take trips, do good in the world through social and political action.  Sometimes these out-in-the-world activities would include the whole group and sometimes a subset of the group, whoever wanted to join in.   No pressure; just an invitation.

Several months into this, we twelve have grown closer, shared the ups and downs, joys and challenges of life.  We've taken risks in revealing our true selves.  We've laughed and cried together.  We've shared our life stories -- where we came from and what formed us, what significant events contributed to who we've become, and how we might want to change our story for the next chapter of our lives.  We are between 50 and 80 years in age.  Some still work, some are retired, some have children and grandchildren, some don't.  Some are excited about the next phase of life, some confused and fearful.  We live within no more than about 20 minutes driving distance of each other.  We rotate our monthly gatherings in each other's homes, everyone contributing to a meal and then an extended and facilitated time of "circling up" to check in on what's happening in each other's lives, how we're feeling, maybe discuss a topic that helps peel another layer of emotional armor from our hearts.  Sometimes we include singing, chanting, or meditating, or do a gentle qigong movement practice to get us out of our chairs.  We are exploring what it means to be spiritual beings on a human journey, or, simply human.

We are mostly in awe at this point that this experiment has become an important place of community and connection.   We set an intention with a vision and with a willingness to commit to each other.  We show up, physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually.

We know that this tender beginning needs nurturing and care, so we've decided to be a "closed group" for now at least and maybe always.  We'll see.  We are still forming.  In fact, we've been a bit secretive, worrying that others may feel we are a clique.  It is not our intention to be separate, but it is our intention to protect the safety we've created with each other.  Yet, hiding this joyful enterprise doesn't feel honest or authentic to me.  So with a warning to the group that I might do so at some point, I am writing about it today.

My offer to anyone interested in forming a similar group is that I (and Hub and maybe others of us), would be willing to mentor others in doing something similar.  Is your heart longing for connection?  Are you willing to be vulnerable enough to open yourself to learning a different way of communicating, a different way of being with people that goes beyond small talk?  Are you ready to know yourself better, change what you want to change, celebrate that which needs celebrating and take a journey of the soul with another?

Then gather 'round the hearth with something good to eat, a smile, a tear, and a warm hug and dive in.  In these times of discord, it helps to have a Tribe.

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

Thursday, October 20, 2016

SUCH A NASTY WOMAN




Last night, as I watched the 3rd and final presidential debate of this election season between Hillary Clinton and "He Who Must Not Be Named", Hub almost made me turn it off.  

I found myself on the verge of a full-blown panic/anxiety attack.  I felt cold all over, heart-pounding, literally shaking from head to toe as I listened and watched the Republican Candidate for President of the United States lie and bluff and bluster and bully his way through yet another public appearance, yet another debate with the most qualified person to ever run for the office of President, attempting to discredit and demean her with name-calling and lies.  Ask anyone.  The fact-checkers and decent people everywhere have it all well-documented.  His indictment comes at the hand of his own words and actions.  

I admit that his vitriol hits me most deeply because he is aiming it at a woman.  Women understand what it feels like to be demeaned in a million subtle ways.  And some of us remember what it was like to fight to try to overcome the personal and institutional discrimination that plagued us for centuries....and still does, actually.  To see it rear its most ugly head on the debate stage is to quake with fear and loathing; has our progress all been an illusion?  How can any sane person support him?  How can any SANE and SELF-RESPECTING woman support him?  It baffles me.

When he called her "such  a nasty woman", tears sprang into my eyes.  Hub reached over and took my hands, reminding me I was only hearing "words, words, words" and that the next President of the United States was on that stage -- that's progress personified.  

He suggested that the guy on the stage reminded him of the evil creatures in Harry Potter -- the Dementers.  Remember them?  

"Dementors are among the foulest creatures that walk this earth. They infest the darkest, filthiest places, they glory in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them... Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you. If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself... soulless and evil. You will be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life."
—Description of Dementors  http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Dementor

Seems to be an apt description.  

As for calling her "such a nasty woman", the Twitter Universe and Facebook are lighting up this morning with women everywhere claiming the moniker as a point of pride.  November 8th:  Nasty-Fest 2016!  I'm in!  And I'll wear my Suffragette White for good measure!

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




Monday, October 10, 2016

MY STORY OF SHAME

Every time he pointed his finger at her and said, "You should be ashamed of yourself" (which was multiple times), I cringed and my heart sank like a stone.  I felt myself folding in on my myself, like a child punished for a wrong I barely understood or never even committed.  Shame.  What a powerful and destructive emotion to carry.

Last night's Presidential Debate was a spectacle unprecedented in American politics, as were the events leading up to it.  History can record (it's all on video) the onslaught of disgusting and reprehensible words of the Republican candidate for president in 2016 throughout this campaign.  I won't repeat the litany.  But last Friday, a videotape was released wherein he uses vulgar language about women and boasts about his conquests, saying "when you're a star, you can do anything."   He admitted to being a sexual predator and committing assault.  Of course, now he says he never did it, it was just "locker room banter."  His big defense is to accuse President Bill Clinton (who's own sexual escapades were litigated 20 years ago) of doing much worse, and then showed up at the debate with women who have accused Bill Clinton of assault to throw Hillary off her game.  Classy move.  Punishing Hillary for what her husband did.  Yes, women need to take responsibility and be punished for the behavior of their partners, I forgot.

All of this has brought up a long-buried incident in my own life.  I was 25, working at the medical center where Hub was in medical school.  My boss, 22 years my senior, was a renowned professor, foreign-born, urbane, and demanding (but with a smarmy smile that belied his cruelty).  I was a secretary; actually I was more like a "clerk", my immediate supervisor was the secretary.  I made coffee and typed and answered phones.    I thought myself mature and savvy; but I was no match for him and looking back I see I was naive and timid.   

He often had me come into his office to "take dictation", but he spent a lot of time critiquing me, trying to help me be more sophisticated.  He offered suggestions on clothing, make up, hair, and one time he told me not to move my face so much because it would create wrinkles.  He asked personal questions about my marriage and offered helpful hints for a "good relationship".  I listened uncomfortably, tried to laugh it off (without moving my face) and was relieved when I was excused to go back to my desk.  (Think "Mad Men" -- those were the days when this type of thing was commonplace and not "reportable".)  

One day he asked if I would be a participant in a study he was doing on a new type of stethoscope.  I said I would.  He stood up and locked his door, so we wouldn't be interrupted and he could concentrate, he said.  He then proceeded to lean in and listen to my heart, so close to my face I could smell and feel his breath on me.  Then he said he needed to test it on the femoral artery.  This is located in the groin area.  Why I didn't run from that room then and there is a mystery to me.  I felt trapped.  I felt intimidated and I felt like I would NOT behave like a scared rabbit.  I was trying to be strong.  He asked me to lower my slacks just a bit so he could access the area.  I did.  He asked me to slouch down in my chair.  I did.  He placed the stethoscope just so and listened, taking notes on a yellow legal pad.  Then he said he had what he wanted and told me I could go.

I was shaken.  I was sick to my stomach.  I did tell my supervisor and she was sympathetic, but helpless to do anything.  We agreed I didn't have to go to his office alone anymore and she would run interference for me.  (Some time later, she told me the study was legit and he got other subjects to participate, but no part of the process involved the femoral artery.)

Not long afterward he insisted on taking me out to lunch at a fancy restaurant in downtown Chicago to thank me for a project I'd completed for him.  I don't know why I agreed to go; maybe to not let him intimidate me; maybe to try to overcome the shame I felt in his presence.  I had toughened up with him and likely felt I could "handle" him at this point.  So I went.  Lunch was fine, although he criticized the outfit I chose to wear that day.  Afterward he said he had taken a room at a hotel for the weekend to get some work done away from his family and he needed to pick up some paperwork there to take back to the office.  I was trapped.  Once in the room, he lay down on the bed and encouraged me to sit near him.  I refused.  He told me he loved me, over and over.   I told him he was crazy and I wanted to leave.  He reached out to touch me, and I rebuked him.  I told him I would scream if he tried to touch me again.  He became angry, told me I was acting like a child.  He grabbed his briefcase and headed for the door.  I followed.  In the taxi ride back to the office I ignored him, wouldn't answer his questions, or respond to his benign comments.  He acted as if nothing had happened.  Finally, in anger, he told me I should thank him, because now I knew the depth of my commitment to my marriage, having been "tested".  

I told my supervisor and another doctor in the department who I liked and trusted, a good man.  But he did nothing.  Within a month I left to go to work in another department for a kind, respectful, and caring doctor who I still admire to this day.  

Shame.  Writing about this (I've actually only told a handful of people about these incidents since they happened around 1975) makes me so sad for that naive young woman, so sad for there being no place to go with my story at the time.  Was I a willing participant?  I guess so...if an older man in a position of power taking advantage of an obviously naive young woman defines "willing".  I relate to Monica Lewinsky in this regard, so yeah, Bill was definitely an asshole in that respect.  I've heard she's felt ashamed too of her naivety.  Shame makes you want to hide.  Shame makes you hate yourself for who you are, not what you've done, or what was done to you.  It's soul destroying.

So, when a 59 year old man (his age when the video was made in 2005) says the things he said about women he's tried to seduce and/or grope without their consent, that is a man who objectifies, feels entitled, and is absolutely unrepentant and uncaring.  He is a shame-making machine.  He is dangerous.  And he is running for president of the United States.  If there is shame to be felt, I wish it would start with him.  But it won't.  In fact, he shamelessly trotted out women (who he was using for his own means) to humiliate Hillary and then pointed the "shame on you" finger at her.

Too many women have stories like mine to tell.  Every woman has been objectified in some way at some time.  All women must rise up and keep fighting this fucking shit.  Vote as if your life depended on it.

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

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

RITUAL HEALING

I've been away for a few days; took a respite from the responsibilities of home, from the non-stop political news with which I'm a bit obsessed, and went west -- all the way west -- to the shores of the Pacific Ocean where the bright sun shone down providing welcome autumn warmth, where the long expanse of deserted sandy beach recorded my footsteps, wandering in aimless wonder at the vast and powerful waves crashing into land, and where driftwood logs gave comfort to weary legs as I sat and contemplated the task I was undertaking.

I was not on vacation exactly.  I'd come to a "Mending Our Broken Hearts" retreat.

It's been just over a year since I left my once beloved church home.  I've written about this before:  http://myviewfromhere-donna.blogspot.com/2015/08/stepping-back.html

and especially http://myviewfromhere-donna.blogspot.com/2015/11/end-of-era.html

Every time I thought I was well and truly "over it", something would pop up that would re-ignite the hurt and rage I felt about the whole debacle, or as one friend has termed it, "The Great Unraveling".   More than anything, I longed for peace from the ongoing resentment, hurt, and confusion I felt about what happened and my reaction to it.  I needed so much to put it behind me and move on.

The retreat was a time to create sacred space for doing ritual.  I truly believe in the transformative power of this type of work.  I've done a ton of experiential personal growth work -- beating on pillows or screaming in rage to express a well of inner anger; acting out "scenes" to access deep feelings about incidents in life that still nag, talking to someone to whom things need to be said by imagining them in the chair across from you -- or choosing a volunteer to play the part of the listener or other "actor(s)" in a life drama; doing trust falls, being held in a group cradle, being sung to...

Yes, I know many of you may be laughing and finding it all so "woo-woo" silly.  My guess that most of the laughter and judgment comes from those who have never done it, never experienced the power of intentional healing through experiencing any number and types of rituals that you can feel in your body, healing the heart and the soul.  This is not "talk therapy" where intellectual "a-ha's" may come up..."Oh!  I never thought of that!"  Experiential personal growth work doesn't rely on puzzling your way to insight while sitting on a chair talking.  It shoves you off the cliff, challenged with love and skill, until your heart finds wing.  The relief is palpable, the healing cleansing, the tools gained invaluable.

This retreat wasn't as dramatic as all that, but it was a time for creating ritual and a time to find closure and renewal.   We gathered on Friday, got settled, walked on the beach, spent time in silence.  Then we made a plan for the weekend -- the group created the flow, decided on how the rituals would unfold, set an "agenda" of sorts.  After dinner we began a round of "checking in" by speaking about what we wanted to heal and to leave behind; what were the "stuck, hurt places" still causing us pain.  It was very moving to hear how deeply felt the hurts were.  There were tears, anger, exhaustion.

Saturday morning there was a time of exploring the Enneagram Types -- similar to the more popular Myers-Briggs personality test.  I love these things because they are so accurate in explaining the differences in how people respond to common or shared experiences in such different ways depending upon personality type.  I was able to see so clearly how my own Enneagram Type, my own personality traits, and childhood experiences led me to feel so deeply hurt by what had transpired, why I (and not others) could no longer remain in an environment from which I felt so alienated, and even how my own journey of "leaving" was for reasons often quite different from others who'd also left.  And, I saw that others were not "wrong" to remain, just acting from a different set of basic needs and personality constructs.  (NOTE: Whether great or small, these early emotional "wounds" of childhood never completely go away and continue to inform how we respond to life, ever the more so if we are unaware of or deny them.)

In the afternoon we all set to work creating our "letting go of the past" ritual.  We had brought along things that represented that which we wanted to let go of -- for me it was agendas, emails, reports, lists, rosters, organizational materials, testimonials...lots and lots of written materials.  I cut these into pieces to be burned in our ritual fire on the beach.   In a time of silence we also created a group collage of photos and words that represented that which we were leaving behind.  Attached to this were long pieces of woven yarn, one for each of us, that we would cut, to represent "cutting the cord" to the past.   We gathered up all these supplies and headed to the beach.  A fire was built in a hollowed out place near a large stand of driftwood.  We took turns adding our papers to the fire, sending the work I'd done with so much care and hope into the earth as ash, the flames burning hotter as the fire grew larger.  Some said words appropriate to what they were letting go as they added their own fuel to the fire.


At the end of this burning, we suspended the collage over the fire.  So many images and words there
spoke so strongly to my experience of both the joys and sorrows, the gratitude and grief, I felt toward my church experience that tears flowed as I read the words I'd written, expressing my deep gratitude for my time in that community as well as my deep disillusionment with it.  I spoke of my desire to let go, to move on, and finally to wish the community well as they move into the future too.  Cutting that cord was a profound moment, and almost immediately I felt a sense of release and freedom from the emotions that had been pulling me under for over a year.  I felt my heart soar.

After the fire was put out we spent another hour on the beach, some walking, some sitting in silence, allowing this time in a wild and natural place to continue to heal.  That evening was also a time of individual contemplation, quiet conversation, a time for stargazing as the sky lit up with the Milky Way and familiar constellations, reminding us of the vastness with which we are surrounded.

Sunday morning we lazed about, taking our time over breakfast, reading, laughing, sharing a lightness of heart and spirit.  Then it was time to do the "moving into the future" part of the retreat.  Ironically, I had a led a day-long workshop at my church three years ago called "Creating a Personal Mission Statement" and had volunteered to lead this as part of the retreat.  I condensed it into a couple of hours and facilitated us through the various steps of finding our deepest desire for healing what might be an old wound or longing, writing a "statement of purpose" for our lives, and finally crafting a personal mission statement that one can use as a daily guide to determine if we are living  life with intention -- making the choices and doing the work that truly feeds our soul, keeps us in the flow, and heals the world by healing our own tattered hearts and living our best selves.

By late Sunday afternoon I felt a joyous exhaustion.  I felt happy and light, focused on the future, and relieved that every time I thought about the church and "The Great Unraveling", I felt neutral -- more grateful than angry about my time there; a degree of non-attached curiosity about what would be next for that community; wishing the best for those I still care about who remain there. I no longer felt the tethering pain, anger, humiliation, and shame that has been my emotional response for a year.  I felt rather like thinking about high school; I felt some amusement, cherished some happy memories, and acknowledged some sad ones, but all from a distance -- from a different time in my life.

Sunday night we went out to a casual seafood dinner and then gathered to laugh with abandon at the silly female-centered humor of a movie called "Sisters" with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.  It felt good to just be goofy.  I slept like a rock and got up Monday morning to pack and say goodbye to the beach, feeling deep gratitude for the experience and eager to drive back to my home and to reunite with  Hub who had sent me off with such gentle and hopeful wishes for a healing journey.  And it was.

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

PS...Having written this yesterday and just re-reading it, I feel I must add a note to those who I know read this blog and still attend this church.  The "leaving behind" does NOT include friends and those I love.  Those relationships are precious and remain so.  I'm leaving behind the emotions about the  institution, the organization, my time there as a congregant and leader.  In fact, I feel even more tenderness now, after the ritual, for all we shared together.



Sunday, September 18, 2016

POLITICS THIS YEAR: IT AIN'T PRETTY AND I'M MAD AS HELL

I've been told I am fairly articulate.  Generally I can express myself just fine; can access my emotions, identify the whys and wherefores of them and relate them intelligently in conversation.  I've been told I can write fairly well on a good day.

So, here it is, past mid-September, and I've not written a word in this blog about what's "up" for me almost every day, because for the life of me I cannot find words to express the roiling emotions I'm feeling over this political season.

I wrote that last sentence and sat here for 3-4 minutes full of sadness, anger, rage, despair, hope, more rage....words floated through my head in rapid succession, none of them making any rational sense.  I'm relating to my 18 month old granddaughter who tries valiantly to communicate with us, but some days just dissolves into tantrums of frustration.  That's me with this Presidential race.

I've said it before here; I love presidential election years.  I find the process stimulating, exciting, informative, and yes, even fun.  And I'm royally pissed that this year, when I should be over the moon excited about the prospect of perhaps electing our first woman president, who happens to be the most qualified candidate for president ever running for the office, instead I am inundated with the daily, drip, drip, drip water torture of enduring the outrageous antics of her opponent, a despicable human being who is the most unqualified person to ever run for the office and who according to some polls is running neck and neck with Hillary Clinton.  (See what I mean?  That's an example of terrible run-on sentence construction, but I can't even care enough to fix it because I'm so emotional right now.  Aaarrrgggg!)

I can't even enumerate the zillions of ways in which his vulgar, racist, sexist, misogynist, multi-phobic narcissistic lies have permeated the discussion and how somehow his outrageous statements and behaviors have not disqualified him from running.  I have lost any modicum of respect I may have had for a Republican Party to have nominated him; it's a national disgrace.   The news media is fixated on him because of the train wreck he is and train wrecks are good for ratings.  I have started to turn it all off.  I can't watch as any semblance of rationality goes up in flames as the false sense of equivalence between the two candidates continues to be bandied about as if it is in any way real.  It's not.

I know Hillary has her haters; she has a 40 year history of very visible public service and has made some questionable decisions at times.  She's been pragmatic when falling on an idealist's sword may have been the more popular choice.  Sometimes I have disagreed with her; sometimes I have agreed; sometimes I have seen the compromises she has made to move forward an inch, if not a mile, knowing there is a roadblock at mile-marker .75.  Gain a little or lose it all; these are not the kinds of compromises many on the Left like to see.

I also know she is judged for being a woman -- the sexism and discrimination are both overt and subtle.  She has had to be tough to make it in a "man's world", then gets criticized for being "cold", "aloof".  When she reveals her softer side, she is accused of being inauthentic and calculating.  Doesn't smile enough; smiles too much; bad hair day; stupid pantsuits; errant husband -- all her fault.  She's labeled as dishonest and untrustworthy because not everything she's touched has turned out golden.  Not one investigation has turned up wrongdoing or illegality on her part, but the framing of her as "crooked" has become real even though there is no proof for the moniker.  Almost no one is talking about her lifetime of working for the common good (for women and children, for working families) both in the limelight and behind the scenes, quietly doing the dull and tedious policy work it takes to make a difference in people's lives.

It INFURIATES me and awakens the sleeping Angry Feminist within me to see us fighting the same old shitty battles for equality right on the cusp of making a major breakthrough.   And even if she wins, that won't be the end of it -- not by a long-shot. If the right wing has had to stonewall and question the validity of our first African-American president, I'm sure they will just continue on with disparaging the first woman president.

For the first time in my life I've lost faith in the "greater angels" of what is right and good to win the day in politics and policy.  I've lived long enough to ride out some terrible presidents and terrible policy decisions, but always believed that if someone truly dangerous rose to the top, that person would be stopped; that even those with whom I disagree politically had the ultimate best interests of American at heart, even if I thought their tactics to get there were flawed.  I no longer believe that.  If this year's Republican candidate is elected, it will reveal a horrific and terrifying turn away from everything I believe this country stands for.  His campaign has already revealed an ugliness that has  given voice and power to millions of bigoted Americans and has exposed them for what they truly are.  It has hit me over the head with the fact that progressive, liberal, open-hearted values of equality and fairness are far from the national reality right now.

How anyone can support him, even if they believe the lies about Hillary or just disagree with some of her policy proposals, is beyond my ability to comprehend.  How anyone can look at the despicable things he has said and done throughout his life, and say, "Yes, this is the man I want for President; the man I want to represent me on the world stage; the man I want to hold the safety and security of my family in his hands." is appalling to me.

It's disturbing to recognize how this man's hate-filled, selfish rhetoric has brought out MY shadow side as well.  At times I feel equal hatred for him and what he stands for as his supporters must feel toward me.  I completely have lost respect for his supporters.  Even if they cherry-pick the one or two issues he has touted that they agree with, there is no leaving behind the totality of what he is and that is what they would be voting into office.  I cannot understand, or respect, the thinking of someone who could do that.  Maybe in some way his disrespectful rhetoric has made me so angry that I've stopped trying to be so compassionate and understanding of another's views and just call it out:  I believe political leanings represent a person's world view and value system.  If he's your man, I don't think you and I have a value system in common.

I know this is a bummer blog post.  It's not funny and I may have offended some people; I don't know.  But here's what I do know.  This year's election is no laughing matter.  The Republican candidate by definition is deplorable and dangerous.  I won't be silent.  I won't pretend there is parity between the two candidates.  I won't watch the degradation of our political system without speaking up, without mourning, without at least trying to give voice to my inarticulate emotions.

November 8th will come and we shall see.  I have to believe there are not enough people who think and behave like him to elect the Republican.  I sincerely hope not.  So, when Hillary wins, I will celebrate for many reasons -- relief that this horrible campaign is over,  a candidate with whom I agree on most issues has won the presidency, the most qualified candidate in history has won the presidency, a woman has won the presidency -- and a lunatic has been put in place back in his vulgar tower of wealth and self-aggrandizement.  But I know it won't be smooth-sailing.  We've seen the near collapse of the two-party system.  Both the right and the left are mad as hell and ain't gonna take it anymore.  Change is coming.  I just hope it's change we can all survive.

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

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

LESSONS FROM THE HEART

As grandmas go I'm pretty quiet about my grandkids.   It's not that I don't adore them; I do.  It's not that I don't absolutely know with all my heart that they are the most intelligent, advanced, kind-hearted, cutest children on the face of the earth; of course they are.  It's definitely not that I don't have about a million photos of them on my i-Phone ever at the ready to show; I do.

It's just that I'm aware that all other grandparents feel exactly the same and it soon becomes an exercise in one-upping or grandkid tales ad-nauseum.  The reality is, almost ALL kids are cute and smart and (barring significant developmental delays)  get teeth, learn to walk, say some words, eat with a spoon, go to school, get an A, ride a bike, make a friend, go on a date, find a job, etc etc. until they are all grown up and start to corner people at parties with stories and photos of their own grandkids.  Me and mine are not that special, except in the way that everyone is special and everyone deserves to be loved and cherished as much as grandkids are.

I see a lot of my granddaughters.  We live close by and Hub and I care for our 18 mo old "Jewel" two days a week.  So we see our almost seven year old "Angel" on those days too during drop off and pick up time. We host a family dinner about once a week and we generally take the girls overnight once a month so their parents get a break to reconnect on "date night".

Two separate weeks this summer we had "Angel" several hours a day with us when she was pulled from her full-time daycare camp to attend other activities -- a theater camp and an art camp -- that we encouraged as "enrichment activities" supporting and transporting her there and back.  We had her before and after these morning "camps" and got to do lots of fun and hopefully memorable things together -- visits to the library, parks, shopping, restaurants, sprinkler play, crafts, gardening, concerts, a steady stream of meals and snacks and smoothies and treats, etc etc.

One afternoon last week Angel and I walked to the park while Hub stayed home with Jewel.  Hub and I felt the girls needed a bit of time apart and we needed a rest from the full onslaught of chaos that sometimes ensues when the two of them want our undivided attentions and have needs that sometimes mesh and sometimes diverge, given their age differences.

I was tired.  I wanted to sit on a bench.  Angel wanted me to play hide and seek or tag with her.  I declined, instead encouraging her to show me how good she was on the monkey bars or balancing on the tippy bridge; anything but me running around like a six year old in the wood chips.  She was disappointed.  I tried to point out that I do lots of fun things with her, but I'm just not a fan of tag and hide and seek.  Her silence hit a nerve and I got defensive, "I do LOTS of fun things....don't I?"  She was quiet, and finally said, "Well, you play Go Fish."  That was it.  That was all she could come up with in the moment.

I wanted to laugh, but instead I could feel tears welling in my eyes.  It was reminiscent of how hard I worked at parenting her daddy and uncle, most of it going unrecognized and unacknowledged.  Such is the plight of adults in children's lives.  Angel meant absolutely no offense; she just wanted to play tag and there were no other kids around so Grandma was the obvious playmate choice.  She was easily persuaded to let me "spot" her on the high monkey bars, cheering her on, and steadying her on the dismount.  We high-fived her Olympic caliber performance.  In the end we had fun.  But it gave me pause.

So often what we offer our kids and grandkids can only be done through a generosity of heart; a gift that may or may not be appreciated in the moment, or in a lifetime.  I wish my own mother was here now for me to thank for all the things I took for granted, didn't appreciate, or ignored; the things that I know now, in my own experience, were true heart gifts that netted her little reward.

The day after the playground interaction Angel retired to the "Girls Room" -- a spare bedroom we've turned into a play space for them -- to color.  I was puttering around in the kitchen when she came out with this envelope for me, containing this drawing.  Tears welled again.  With love, gratitude, appreciation, and recognition of the overwhelming sweetness of the moment.  This gift was as quickly offered and forgotten by Angel as the comment of the previous day when it was hard for her to come up with anything fun I do with her.

Children live in the moment, which may be the best lesson they can teach us.  Hold not tightly to a perceived slight; always appreciate thanks when it comes.  Instead of tales of accomplishment, success, or milestones achieved by most every kid, these are the things to cherish, the lessons to learn.  They are quieter and don't often lend themselves to a photo stream.   It's hard to capture the essence of human spirit -- its challenges and joys -- in a snapshot.  But if you hang around kids long enough, you'll learn the lesson anyway.  Pass it on.

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

Thursday, August 11, 2016

HIGH ALERT

Hub wears earplugs to bed every night.  I find this appalling.  First, I don't snore, he does.  So what's he blocking out?  It's not like we live in the heart of a major metropolitan area with screaming sirens, car alarms, and drunken hooligans roaming the streets all night.  Well, maybe we do hear those things off in the not too distant distance, along with freight trains and Port noise, screeching seagulls and  barking sea lions; OK, it can get a wee bit noisy.  But I used to think it was just his convenient way of blocking out crying babies.

I would never, ever wear earplugs to bed.  There is just so much I have to be aware of 24/7.  Those babies back in the day were Job-One of course, but also sick kids, sneaky teenagers, dog needing to go out, the occasional car driving by (suspicious!  we live on a quiet street!  there is NO reason for a car to have to drive by!),  distant thunder, wind through the branches, house creaks (why, oh why?), bad guys breaking in....  You know the usual dead-of-night stuff one must be aware of.

But even with his earplugs in, at least I can shake him awake if I have an auditory concern and say,
"Did you hear that?!?"  (No, of course he didn't!)  It's when he's not here that the problem arises.  My little bitty anxiety disorder kicks in and my hearing becomes like that of the Greater Wax Moth -- galleria mellonella.  (The animal world's best hearer; I looked it up.)  I hear everything, some of it real. 

I tell myself the neighborhood is no scarier in the dark than in the light of day and I know that to be true, intellectually!  But my reptilian brain wants me to be on high alert because sometime in the distant evolutionary past they didn't have home security systems that connect directly into the police department.   But that is of only limited reassurance, because my hyperactive Worry Wart Amygdala decides to perseverate on the fact that the alarm might go off and then what?!?  That would be super scary!  Let's get scared in anticipation of the scare just so we're super ready to be scared!  (See what I mean about the little bitty anxiety disorder?  This is the kind of game it likes to play.)

I try to calm myself with the knowledge that the woman down the street is, if not older, at least slower than I and she seems very confident living alone.  I'm not sure what her issue is, but for awhile she had a walker and now doesn't -- I'm thinking some sort of joint replacement surgery -- but I'm still more fleet of foot.  I know she too has an alarm system, but when she described it to me, I got alarm system envy because she has cameras apparently mounted everywhere, like Fort Knox or Alcatraz.  I know those are old and maybe closed down places (yes to Alcatraz; no to Ft. Knox -- I looked it up)  that probably don't have cameras so much as barbed wire, but there might be zoning violation about barbed wire in my neighborhood, I don't know.  Anyway, that many cameras could be cool to monitor.  I bet I might catch the critter who is eating all my bush beans!  My gardener friends are thinking either deer or rabbits are stalking my raised beds under cover of darkness and with the right infrared camera I'd nail them cold!  I digress.

Fortunately Hub doesn't go away that often and as already mentioned, he's pretty useless to me even when he's here with those earplugs in and his sleepy-making allergy medicine onboard.  He has an alarm clock that gets progressively louder the longer it beeps.  There are times it's at full volume before he rouses.  And there was the one time our burglar alarm really did go off (triggered by someone opening a door before disarming the system), the siren screaming at one million decibels and he didn't hear it!  

How can someone purposely make themselves deaf in the dark of night.  That's just wrong.  I say, "All senses! Take your battle stations!  It's 2 a.m. and we have a job to do!"

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