Gratitude Sunday: Lessons From Dad

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “I was born by myself, but carry the spirit and blood of my father, mother, and ancestors. So I am never really alone.” Ziggy Marley

Sunday Haiku
Weather shifts hot, cool,
from day to night, dark to light,
summer comes along.

Sunday Musings
Happy Father’s Day. Another contrived constructed consumer holiday. Fathers (and mothers) should be honored every day for all the work they do for us. As with all people there are good dads, bad dads, and every shade of dad in between. So many of us have difficult relationships with out dads; it’s not necessarily about how good you are at the job of dadding, sometimes it’s about being there. I know one thing about my dad: he loved his kids and he did the best he knew how. I don’t have my dad here anymore, but I can celebrate my memories of him.

I grew up in the time where one adult’s salary enabled the other adult to stay at home with the children, making and taking care of the home, preparing meals from scratch, and enough money for a short summer vacation if they managed the money well. In my neighborhood mostly moms stayed home while the dads worked. As part of the lower middle class, we didn’t live high, but we went out to a restaurant meal once in a while (like special birthdays) and our vacations consisted of camping, except for the one year the whole family saved all year long to go to Disneyland when I was 16. We had homemade hand tailored clothing and fresh vegetables grown in our own garden. We always had food to eat and we knew money was tight but were not made aware of any financial distress our parents were experiencing, different from today when 50 percent of American population is food and housing insecure and many kids cannot escape the fact of living in the family car.

As much as we struggled with family dynamics then with our limited finances, my dad was there. Though my memories are a mixed bag I learned many things from my dad. Some were important lessons, some not so much. The weird thing is in my little brain most of what I learned from him took place when I was 5. It must have been a big year.

Between our house and the garage was two cement steps down to the garage level. At the age of 5 I sat on those steps one day determined to learn how to tie my shoelaces. Dad coached me until I accomplished the task. Many years later when I expressed this memory to siblings they wanted to see how I tied my laces insisting dad did it backward. I didn’t know from backward. I tied them how he taught me. They laughed at me saying I tie them backward like he did. Shoelaces will forever define the bond with my dad.

Dad taught me to fish, and sometime that same year I caught my first trout. Dad didn’t let me rig my own bait, which was fine with me; as much as I liked worms sticking them through a hook didn’t seem the kindest thing to do to them. I realize now his reason was subversive so he could catch the bigger fish. His mom often went fishing with us and always out-fished her son. He claimed it was her woman smell; she insisted on rigging her own bait. Dad taught me to clean fish as well until he learned if I cleaned them I couldn’t eat them. To this day if I clean fish I can’t eat them, but if you bring me cleaned fish I’ll cook them up for you and help you eat them too.

That same year I stepped on a nail that went through my foot and in another incident cut the fingers of my left hand on a broken window. Both times it was dad rather than mom who took me to the doctor. I wonder now if it was because he was in control of the money and would have to pay the doctors at the time of service, but I remember mom didn’t drive until I was 12 years old. Mom likely stayed home with the other three siblings while he had the task of getting me to the doctor. I don’t wonder about the comfort and strength he provided me with his stoic face hiding his certain panic that his little girl was hurt.

Then there was the time I picked all the green tomatoes and got my first “real” spanking. I thought I was helping bring in the harvest, but I had decimated the summer’s bounty. After that I understood I only picked veggies or fruit when the parents said, not under my own guidance as I did not yet know their ripening cycles.

And the time my sister and I peeled off all the lovely papery bark from his beloved three stump birch; those loose edges of thin bark just begged little girl fingers to be pulled and peeled. For some reason he loved that tree, saying it was an unusual and expensive tree, at least until many years later when he decided it was in the way and dispatched it without another thought as to whether we loved the tree. We were both spanked for that one. He thought we had peeled off enough bark to kill the tree so we got a painful lesson about being kind to trees. He did battle with tent caterpillars in that tree every year until he decided to cut it down.

I had a tricycle I loved. We had a nice flat driveway and it was just the right size for a small girl to ride in circles being careful, of course, to not bump the car and not ride out into the road. The driveway was right next to Dad’s garden and one day he handed me a jar of dirt with some worms in it telling me if I took care of them I could sell them to his fishing buddies. Then he wanted to add a slug to the jar and in my little mind slugs and worms did not belong together. I freaked, probably screamed, dropped the jar, scared us both, made a mess of shattered glass, and sacrificed a whole mess of worms and one slug to glass shrapnel rendering them useless for fishing, all entirely too close to the expensive tires on his car. His mistake was the glass jar; if the container had been plastic or wood the crisis would have been avoided even if dropped. I don’t remember being punished for this but it was a disturbing introduction to my future short-lived business as worm salesperson to his fishing buddies. Worms went for a penny each. No negotiations. Until one of his pals offered me what he had in his pocket for a dozen worms and I said OK. He laughed and pulled out a nickel and boy did I feel ripped off. I knew just enough about money to know that wasn’t right or fair. Never again did I fall for that one. From an adult point of view and knowing how people are, I’m grateful it was a nickel he pulled out of his pocket, and not some other sort of pflufferdoodle. Dad would not have tolerated any such violation nonsense toward his children.

So much for the lessons of my fifth year. As I grew older, he taught me to shoot, but not to hunt. He may have surmised from my inability to clean a fish that killing animals was not within my range of capabilities. As it was, the necessary torture of cleaning guns after use put a damper on my enthusiasm for shooting. Guns must be cleaned after each and every use or they may fail to work properly the next time you use them; Dad was methodical about taking care of his stuff; he had a place for everything and everything was in its place (our rooms used to drive him nuts so he’d close our doors to not look at the mess). I hated the smell of the metal cleaner you had to use, and I have a reaction to this day. So when I was able to out-shoot him with both my right and left hand he considered his job done. I had learned a healthy respect for guns and their care, and knew I didn’t want to use them in my everyday life. While I haven’t been to shooting practice for years, I like to think I’m still a good shot, and hoping I never need to use those skills.

Dad taught me to drive. Bless his heart, with the family station wagon, not his precious 1967 Mustang. Mom tried, but Dad had more patience with me. After I got my license at age 17, I still never got to drive the Mustang (was it a stick shift?), and it wasn’t long after he traded it in for a pick-up truck. The pickup was an automatic, but he was still stingy with it. If I wanted to borrow a car for a trip to the library, a football game, or a night with girlfriends, it was only ever the station wagon I got to use.

Dad taught me some tough lessons as well, like the time he caught me smoking cigarettes and made me smoke one after another until I was quite ill. Or the time he thought I slammed the door, and he made me close the door quietly, repeatedly, for so long I fainted (it was a hot day, the door was outside from house to outdoors, and he didn’t let me have a drink of water or food while I was having to open and close the door), and then he accused me of faking the pass-out to get out of the punishment.

Then there were the mixed messages. He wanted me to date like other young women my age, but my first boyfriend was Japanese-American (didn’t matter that this boyfriend’s dad was a professor at a private university), and after soldiering in The Philippines against the Japanese he came home thinking of other races as the enemy. My second boyfriend was 100 percent Cuban (this boyfriend’s father had gotten his family out of Cuba just before Castro took power and closed the exodus from his country). Dad was afraid of having little colored babies (he said it just like that) when I maintained you can’t help whom you love and skin pigmentation had nothing to do with anything. My third boyfriend was poor white trash, but that was OK with Dad because that was more like us than the others.

Or the time my girlfriend and I inhaled some cannabis with her uncle (who was a year older than us), and the uncle got mad at her for some reason and reported to her mother (his older sister) what we’d been up to, never admitting his complicity, of course. Her parents called mine and trouble hit the fan. By that time Dad was a county deputy sheriff and he couldn’t risk his reputation as an officer on the chance his kid might be caught. I was pretty mouthy by that age and questioned him about the difference between cannabis use and drinking every day (he made his own wine and ale, pretty good stuff too). I’d already experienced the debilitating drunk-buzz and the cannabis-buzz seemed much less compromising. Dad ended the conversation with a statement about illegality under federal law, it being his home and while I lived under his roof I would respect his wishes and position as an officer of the law and not imbibe, along with the administration of a one month grounding. He didn’t teach me to question authority (Mom was the one who encouraged me to do my own research and think critically for myself), but my failure to obey him never failed to dismay him. Truth is my dad was a functional benign alcoholic, that is, he worked to provide the means of support for his family but he drank every night to dissociate from us as well, and he was not abusive or intentionally mean. He was a sensitive man and I think he was overwhelmed by all of us, especially when we expressed our own opinions.

As a young woman with my first good steady job, I went to him asking his advice on buying a home. I figured I’d always need a home, had found a cute little bungalow just right for a single person who might marry in the future, and I thought it would be a good investment with my money. He kiboshed all thoughts of home ownership for me as he thought I should be well and permanently married before buying a home with my (future, non-existent) husband. I didn’t buy the house and years later when I told my mom, who had been the accountant in the family, she said she wished I’d talked to her as well. Who knows how well that would have turned out, but hindsight, you know.

While I always knew my dad loved me, I felt he didn’t approve of me much. He found it difficult to deal with my changing body and at nearly every meal expressed his concern about me getting fat (right there is the best way to create an eating disorder if there ever was one). I think he was afraid of my blossoming womanhood as when I started developing curves he developed a hands-off attitude and getting a hug or affection was like pulling teeth.

He never cared much for the man I married, but he liked getting invited to our home so he could go shooting or fishing with us. And when I became pregnant at the age of 38 he bought a used dresser and refurbished it, painting it white and blue, so I’d have something for the baby’s things, then delivered it to my home. And when I graduated magna cum laude from a private university at the age of 44 he cried at my graduation. I know he was proud even if his words were few.

When I was young I never considered that Dad had a full life before I arrived. He’d graduated high school, served in a war, graduated college, and married a woman he loved. When I was a young adult his life didn’t cross my mind much as I was so busy running my own struggling life. When I was old enough to be curious he was hobbled by the aphasia caused by his stroke. I missed the boat at many ports on that one as I go through boxes of his things and try to envision his past.

I got to share one thing with my dad I’ve never shared with anybody else. I was at his side holding his hand at the moment of his death. We don’t do that much in American society, and I’ll tell you, even though it is hard, it’s a sacred moment every person should experience. I told him how much I loved him, and he didn’t have to worry about me, as I could take care of myself. I told him he didn’t have to stay here in this life he had struggled with these last few years, having had surgery for an aortic aneurism, then a stroke, then a fall out of bed resulting in a broken femur, and surgery to fix the broken bone, and then pneumonia. Through his labored breathing I told him he had people waiting for him when he left, his mom and dad and brother and sister and grandparents, all of whom he hadn’t seen in a long time. I kissed him and petted his arm and wiped his face with a warm cloth and let him know it was OK to leave this world and he took his last breath.

With all that, I sit here missing him nearly every day. I like to think, had he been here longer, our relationship would have grown and developed into a more adult one, with an ability to talk comfortably with each other with less judgment. I could be wrong, maybe even very wrong, it’s all conjecture at this point, but I might be right as well. I’m still learning from him though he’s gone these many years now. I still tie my shoelaces backward. So many lessons. So many more too learn.

Color Watchcolorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – How many flowers I don’t know the name of (some much still to learn) like this golden starburst. Creamy white wild Queen Anne’s lace growing in the crack between the sidewalk and the curb. A patch of purple lavender spikes. A busy buzzy bee visiting a creamy white morning glory. First yellow day lilies of the season.

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} Lady Bird (2017, rated R) with Laurie Metcalf and Saoirse Ronan. The actors catch the lower income struggle of never enough money and the dynamics of the mother/daughter relationship within that struggle. The ending kind of petered out though and I was a tad disappointed though I don’t know how I would have written it. Not that it needed a happy ending, and this was happy enough, it just felt anti-climactic after all the beautiful building of the parent-child dynamic. * Pasqualino settebellezze (Seven Beauties) (originally released as a motion picture in 1975, released on DVD 2017, rated R) directed by Lina Wertmüller, whom I had read about. An art movie full of symbolism with disturbing images of the atrocities of the war in Germany, much of the dialogue is pertinent to today’s American political climate. In Italian with English subtitles, they failed to subtitle the German, which I had to intuit from context. I had trouble tracking with the plot until the end which forced the question: what is the price we pay for living through the trials and tribulations we live through? It has nothing to do with money. This movie is not for the faint of heart.

Currently ReadingNatural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer (2018, sociology) by Barbara Ehrenreich. Macrophages and white blood cells, which are supposed to be the good guys in your body running around cleaning up bacteria and bad guys in your body, can go rogue and proceed to aid and abet cancer cells. So like I’ve been saying all along: you can control what you eat and drink, you can control how much activity and exercise you take, you can do all the meditation and mindfulness in the world, but your body will do what your body will do. None of it is in your control, though you may think it is, until it isn’t. * Noir (2017, fiction) by Christopher Moore. Typically hilarious Moore; it’s reading too fast!

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Missing my dad.
  • Hot tears while I wrote this week’s post.
  • Having a dad I loved who was a disciplinarian and not abusive.
  • An invitation to share dinner with the hubster’s newly found bio-father and family.
  • The son getting time off to share Father’s Day dinner with us.
  • The hubster’s newly found bio-brother surviving a car crash this week and the care brother is getting toward recovery.
  • My niece-in-law completing her college degree after marrying my nephew, and graduating rather than quitting like so many young women do after they marry.
  • Two babies in my extended families arriving safely this week.
  • Warming weather.
  • Fans.
  • The orientation of my house to catch evening breezes.
  • The music of leaves in the wind.
  • My stomach and intestines finally feeling a tad better. It’s only taken two and a half years out of the pressures of the work force to calm a bit.
  • Some fresh beets, roasted in olive oil and sea salt, and buttered to serve.
  • Water.
  • Hoping you have a lovely week.

    Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

    Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

Posted in abundance, Aging, Education, Family, GRATITUDE, Grief, Health, History, Nature, Parenting, Photography, Poetry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Gratitude Sunday: The System Is Broken

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “The test of our progress is not whether we add to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide for those who have too little.”
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 2nd Inaugural Address, January 20, 1937

Sunday Haiku
Yellow wings, black stripes,
spread upon green pine branches,
drying in the sun.

Sunday Musings
Fifty percent of Americans live with incomes below the poverty live. Half of us. Most of those people are food insecure, meaning they don’t have access to healthful foods or money to afford three meals a day. Many people can’t afford rent or a mortgage. It takes four working adults in one household to be able to rent a two bedroom apartment. You have to be good friends to make that happen successfully, but honestly, that’s not the norm for Americans. Usually the second bedroom is for the kids.

These people are not welfare abusers. You know these people. We are your neighbors, friends, and family. We work at your grocery store, at your gas station, we serve you over the counter at the library, and check you in at the doctor’s office. We sell you your clothing, serve you your drinks and dinner, teach your yoga or continuing education class. We work 40 hours a week, sometimes as many as three jobs to make the 40 hours, and our spouses do the same. We are trying to raise children. We are retired and volunteer to help serve lunches at your child’s school, or at the Home Instead group helping folks older than us in our neighborhoods, or at the local police national Night Out event. We don’t ask for much other than the dignity of a modest home and food on the table for our families. We are hard working, honest people. You can’t expect people to work harder when there aren’t any more hours in the week. Do you know how hard it is to be presentable for work or a volunteer position when you don’t have a home to sleep in and clean up in?

For example, I learned from the single 40ish assistant manager of our local corporate-owned grocery store she has not one penny of her own savings toward retirement and can barely make her rent, and this is a woman who has worked her way upward into management. No, they don’t give her a discount on groceries; she will have a small retirement package and Social Security to retire on, but she doesn’t plan on retiring. She’ll still be standing behind the counter ringing a cash register until her dying day whenever that is. She’s still able to work, and of course I encouraged her to start putting away that few dollars a month for if she is forced to stop working. Physical challenges happen to most people in service jobs at younger ages than in white collar jobs. She was startled when I reminded her Medicare requires a premium every month after she turns 65 whether she is working or not; she didn’t realize and like most people thought Medicare was “free”.

Maybe you live in a neighborhood where you don’t see those who live with less. Maybe you live where the houses are freshly painted and the yards well kept, and every driver in the household has a car with a garage for it. Drive down the street or to the other side of town and you will see people living moment to moment, who would love to paint their house, or have the time between three jobs to tidy the yard. You may see families who have only one car and five jobs between them to get to. You might see families who leave the ten year old at home in charge of the littles because there is not money for childcare once they pay for food. Perhaps you drive past a homeless camp and wonder what is wrong with them that they don’t have a home. It isn’t necessarily a racial thing, but it is incrementally that much harder for people of color. Count your blessings if you are more than one paycheck or injury away from homelessness yourself.

It is not what people do wrong. Sometimes we make poor choices. Sometimes weird stuff happens. Nationwide we haven’t had this level of poverty, homelessness, and hunger since the 1930s. Unfortunately our “booming” economy in 2018 is rigged against forward growth for the average person no matter how hard we work. In America, if you are not born into money, or one of the few for whom the fluke of success actually happened, you are likely struggling to make ends meet.

I am sad when I go through the check stand of our local Fred Meyer/Kroger store (Fred Meyer was a big man back in his day when he opened his first store in 1931 in the Hollywood district of Portland Oregon; he’s gone many years now, and his stores are owned now by the Kroger corporation) and every check stand is staffed by people over sixty. I have such mixed feelings. It’s good these people are still able to work and they likely are experienced and don’t need training. But are they really still able to work or are they working because they have to, to pay for health care or rent or food? Where are the young employees? I’m hoping they have the early morning and late night shifts, so the olders get the prime hours. Certainly, the youngers have families to feed as well, and they can’t all be in white collar, college graduate work. Oh wait, there’s the young college graduate, the barista at the in-store Starbucks. See, mixed feelings.

So many job openings are available in my area, all minimum wage. All these jobs are entry level, customer service jobs. My personal opinion is everybody should work a customer service job at some point in their life to understand how hard the work is. It’s a great starting point for learning work ethics, like how to be at work on time, how not to yell back at the customers who are yelling at you, and how to play well with co-workers. Most of these jobs are part-time with a fluctuating schedule. Read this to say: part-time equals not enough to live on and no benefits, and fluctuating equals irregular hours that change from week to week, making it difficult to take a second job to make a consistent 40 hour week. These jobs are all about the employer: you work for us, we own you, you are at our beck and call, and we don’t care what happens to you or how difficult it is for you.

These jobs often go unfilled or are quickly turned over. Employers want skilled workers for entry level jobs, but how do you get the skills? They aren’t taught in high school. Employers say the applicants don’t fit in, or don’t have the work ethic or skills. Employers don’t want to invest time training the employee, so where does an employee develop those skills? Employers, especially corporations, could offer paid probationary training periods as an incentive to applicants. Every job requires a learning curve.

Employers miss the boat here on a couple of points. When employees have regular schedules they are better employees. When employees are paid enough money to live on they are better employees. In general the happier your employee is, the better your business will be and the happier your customers will be. It is to the advantage of employers to pay their workers better, because workers then spend that money right back into the economy. If consumers have no money to spend, the economy is not supported, nor booming. Amazing how that works. When it works. Right now the system is broken. If it was working well we would not have a 50 percent poverty rate.

I understand with small businesses or building a new business, how you need to be conservative with your budget. I don’t understand corporations where the CEO makes billions of dollars a year, while their employees live in their cars and have to use food stamps.

My mom always told me life is not fair. I’ve learned how very right she was. We don’t have the same choices, opportunities, or advantages. But I think life, or at least the employment and making a living so you can raise your family in a consumer capitalistic society part of it, could be a little more fair. If the happiness or contentment of the people around you or who work for you is a priority rather than the money you can make off them, I suspect your revenues would be increased. Happy employees work harder, come in earlier, stay later, and deliver increased productivity and better customer service. Putting employees first is to everybody’s advantage.

There’s today’s two cents on the booming economy. With inflation that’s probably only worth about .0002 cents. In my budget every penny still counts.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – Fireburst orange and yellow coreopsis. Lovely yellow spears I don’t know the name of. Shades of pink sweet Williams. I love me a yellow rose.

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} For D-Day, June 6th, I watched Operation Dunkirk (2017, not rated) while waiting for Dunkirk which has a long queue. History movies are tough, especially when based on a true story. Two things bothered me about this film. First, though the Brits were running from the Nazis, literally through the woods and for their lives, it seemed like there was always plenty of time to get themselves out of whatever new calamity befell them, like the time they find a booby trap and have to escape the rigged grenade while the Nazis are right behind them. Second, wherever we are in the film (note the movie is during a war, in the woods out in the middle of nowhere), in every scene the female protagonist (an operative who has a code needed to thwart the enemy) always has freshly applied lipstick, and no matter what muck or mire they’d been through her “uniform” (specially tailored to be form fitting) was immaculate and well pressed. Meh. * Binged through the one available season of Deep Water (2016, rated TV – MA), with Yael Stone (Morello in Orange is the New Black). Set in Bondi Beach, Australia, gay men are being murdered, but it’s being put down as suicides, and it’s a 30 year pattern. * The Code (2014, TV – MA), another Australian production with Lucy Lawless (Zena: Warrior Princess). A teenaged girl is murdered, and a journalist and his brother who is an autistic computer code savant are pivotal to solving the murder. I have surely been enjoying these Australian productions.

Currently ReadingBluebeard’s Egg (1983, fiction and memoir) by Margaret Atwood. Another artist I am always impressed with, no matter what I’ve read of hers. * Noir (2017, fiction) by Christopher Moore. Moore is the rare writer who can make a point and be funny at the same time. His sense of humor is foremost in everything I’ve read by him. This novel is a tongue-in-cheek rendition of the old black and white film noir movie genre. I’m talking bust-a-gut laugh-out-loud so the other people in the room look at you weird funny. And it takes place in San Francisco; I enjoy stories about San Francisco, having a had a few adventures there myself.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Running into a retired pastor friend at the farmers market and enjoying a lengthy conversation upon the state of the world and the failings of American leadership.
  • Earrings. I’ve not worn earrings for years and I have a beautiful variety to wear. My ears are pierced and I’m grateful the holes didn’t close up. I’ve seen the prettiest earrings out there lately.
  • The two women who went out of their way to stop me at the farmers market and tell me how much they missed me serving them at my last place of employment. Since leaving was not my choice and done under duress, I was grateful to them for saying so, which I told them as well.
  • A beautiful day of rain after two dry months. Keeping Oregon green.
  • The monarch butterfly who spread his wings to dry in the fir tree outside my kitchen window. I watched him for the longest time.
  • The music of rain.
  • Birds singing when the sprinkles started, rain coming, birds quieting, rains harder, birds silent, rain eases, birds singing again.
  • After the rainfall, the smell of pine trees, blackberries, and scotch broom evaporating the water they just took on.
  • Getting back into the swing of my tai chi exercises after falling out with a broken toe last winter. Back to square one, a great place to start. Start where you are.
  • Ibuprofen and microwave hot packs.
  • Watching the Portland Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade on TV. They got rained on this year, but the participants had nothing but smiles.
  • Marching bands.
  • Still having my own home.
  • Oregon cherries.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

Posted in abundance, Food, GRATITUDE, Grief, Health, History, Housing, Photography, Poetry, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gratitude Sunday: Counting Blessings

Gratitude * Sunday

Quotes of the Week – “Today is a good day to die.” Oglala Lakota saying

“There is only one god, and his name is Death. And there is only one thing we say to the god of Death: ‘not today’.” Syrio Forel, swordmaster in Game of Thrones

Sunday Haiku
Late spring ends, warm, dry,
portends long days full of flies,
and cool shady trees.

Sunday Musings
Since I’m having trouble keeping up with the double standard (Really?!? The man who was elected, albeit by electoral fluke, to the highest office in the United States of America can daily call people derogatory or racist nicknames and incite his supporters to violence, gets to remain in office without a suspension or administrative leave, but other media people who recklessly employ similarly demeaning and even vulgar epithets are fired from their jobs; don’t get me started on the wealthy elite taking advantage of the poor. And I thought I had trust issues before…), and the distress of the state of our country has accelerated my rate of aging; the aging of America is similar to my body over the last couple of years, just one disability piled upon another. It is too easy to dwell on how much crazy wrong stuff is going on, so I’m going to do something more tedious today. I’m going to count my blessings. Bear with me. We’ll see how far I get.

I woke up. Blessing.
I get up when I want to without the frightening intrusion of an alarm. Blessing.
I hear the birds sing. Blessing
I wiggle my toes and stretch all the same old muscles. Blessing.
I can move. Blessing.
I rolled over. Blessing.
I don’t have a headache. Blessing.
I sat up. Blessing.
I stand up. I’m not dizzy. I don’t fall over. Blessing, blessing.
I rise from a comfortable, warm, dry bed from under a quilt made by the loving hand of my niece. Blessings.
I walk to the window. I notice the weather outside. There is weather outside. Blessing, blessing, blessing.
I take a deep breath of fresh air before closing the window. My lungs don’t hurt. Blessings.
The light comes on. The electricity works. Blessing.
I walk across the hall to the throne room. Blessing.
Everything comes out all right. There’s paper. Blessings.
I walk through my “office” and plug in my computer. Turn it on. Computer powers up and loads properly. I have an “office” space. I have a computer. I have an internet connection. Blessings.
I open doors and windows on the way to the kitchen depending on the weather. I have doors and windows to open, and I have a kitchen. I breathe fresh clean air when I open the windows. Blessings.
I have an electric heater to turn on if I am cold beyond my layers of clothing. Blessing.
The water for my first glass of the day from my filtered tap is as clean and pure as city treated water can be. Blessing.
I have a variety of simple, healthful foods to choose from for breakfast. I eat well. Blessing, blessing.
The hubster woke up this morning. He got out of bed, dressed, ate, and made my coffee. All good blessings.
The coffee grinder and espresso machines are still working. I have fresh coffee beans. So many blessings!
Breakfast and coffee tasted good and aren’t irritating my stomach. Blessings.
I have a newly borrowed book from the local lending library to read with my breakfast (yes, I’m that library user). I can still read and understand what I am reading. My local property taxes are all paid up so I can have a local lending library available for me and all my community members to use. Blessings.
I have a hairbrush I like with which to brush my hair. I still have hair to brush. I have my favorite toothbrush and toothpaste with which to brush my teeth. I still have all my teeth to take care of. I’m able to brush my own hair and my own teeth. Blessings.
I have my own private shower I only have to share with two other people. I have my favorite soap, and shampoo, and hair conditioner, and face scrub. Blessings.
The water comes on. It gets hot and regulates to the temperature I want. It shuts off properly too. Blessings.
I have a pile of clean, dry towels with which to dry myself off. Luxurious blessing.
I have clean, dry clothing to put on. I have a selection I can choose according to weather, from tank tops and shorts, to heavy sweaters. I know how to layer my clothes. I have a selection of clothing for when I want to be presentable in public. I have a light jacket and a winter coat. They are old, but not worn out. Blessings.
I have a variety of shoes and slippers that don’t hurt my feet and don’t have holes in them. Blessings.
I have dishes to do, a sink, detergent, scrubbers, and a dishwasher to do them in. They all belong to me. Blessings.
I have piles of dirty laundry to wash and a new machine to wash them in. I have piles of clean clothes to fold and I know how to fold them. I am still able to do these tasks. Blessings.
My knee aches. It feels better when I stretch it out. I have a knee. My brain feels the pain in my knee. I’m able to get relief with a little movement. Blessing, blessing, blessing.
I have a car in case I have a commitment or event today. The car has gas in it and usually works. Blessing.
I have many days I don’t have to go anywhere if I don’t choose to do so. Blessing.
I get to swim three days a week and I could choose to go every day if I wanted. Blessing.
I have a counselor who listens to everything I say without judgment or reprimand. Blessing.
Six months of the year my little burg hosts a local farmers market every week less than a mile from my home. I support local farmers and gardeners with my food dollars, and enjoy the foods of their labor. I’m still able to walk the few blocks of the market relatively painlessly if I take my time. I have an old rusty foldable shopping cart that works just fine to drag through the market and several reusable shopping bags. I get to see and talk with other community members I’ve met over the 20 years I’ve lived here. I went to the university here in my little town, watched turnovers happen in administration and faculty, and a few of them are not retired yet, even a few graduates like me who stayed after graduating; market is a perfect place to take a break close to campus. I see people I served over the counter at my last place of employment. I see families with whom I swim at the local aquatic center. I see young people who went to school with the son who are bringing their own babies to market with them, teaching them to eat strawberries and zucchini. I say hello to the mayor, current city council members and former council members, the police chief, vendors, local pastors, teachers from when the son was in school, a past scoutmaster, the new scoutmaster, scout families from the local troop in which I served. On the hottest summer days, the fire department provides a cooling mister unit if they aren’t serving a fire. Blessings of a smallish community.
The son works every day he can. It’s barely enough to pay for transportation and food, but it’s honest work. He’s young. He is able to think critically; he has many choices, and many possible paths. Blessings.
All the pregnant women I know this year are still doing well and have had safe deliveries. Babies be the best. Looking forward to each of these Blessings.
Today, I am able to write a cohesive sentence, to state an opinion, to share my words with others. Blessings.

I lost count, and the list goes on all day. I walk in grace every moment, every blessed step. I have, I own, I get to, I don’t have to, I want to, all of my choice. Despite all the lip service given to choices, we do not share the same choices, advantages, or opportunities. If I had the life of my choice, would it look like my current reality? Hwell, I enjoy a great abundance of stuff, and it might at least be a little tidier as I would gladly pay to have someone help around the house and yard if I had sufficient fluid cash flow.

My little human mind is nothing if not dichotomous. As I walk through grace, my brain ticks off a negative for every positive as my daily anxiety accompanies me through worry, fear, regret, indecision, and inability. I am limited by my physical and mental abilities, my financial situation, and time, yet I am unlimited by my imagination. I’ve awakened unable to move, slept in wet beds, not had a home to sleep in. The car and the clothes washer and the water heater and the plumbing and the toilets have broken. The electricity and water have been shut off. The eviction notice arrived. Today I can fill my gas tank; next time I need gas I may only have 27 cents to put in. As hard as I’ve worked to train my brain toward the positive, it is a delicate and fragile equation to negate the negative.

In poverty, we live life on the edge despite working toward our plans and goals. Living on a constant diet of adrenaline and cortisol changes one’s chemistry and compromises the immune system. People of wealth and “power” have different concerns: they can fear losing their money or sanity; they live with greed as a constant companion and fear being revealed as greedy or revel in their greediness, neither of which sounds emotionally healthful; or they live lies and are constantly on edge they will be revealed as lying and as being liars, but they can also make choices with impunity, and their choices, advantages, and opportunities are different as well. The endorphins of success also changes chemistry and perhaps leads successful people to think more of themselves than they are. We all have our own private hells. Wealthy people are not in “control” any more than poor people are. If we blow up the world with nuclear bombs, or volcanoes, or allow climate change to get out of hand for the profit of antiquated non-sustainable energy systems, we will all be victims, not winners. Who will be the survivors?

I know every bridge, hidden hedge, every narrow alley between buildings, and abandoned building in the area reside where I think I could sleep if I were homeless. I scout them out. Just in case. Because when you are poor, even if you’ve paid for your own home for 20 years, the rug underneath you is slippery and can shift out from under you at any moment whether you choose it or not.

The shadow of the dichotomous mind is a dark, squalid place. I see the sun, I feel the radiance from it, I see the flawed beauty in every human I meet regardless of their choices. I count my blessings because I can. It’s what I have.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week –A dizzy twirly pink rose. Creamy white sedum blossoms. Love these fire lantern lilies and their engine-orange color. The femininity of this pink rose.

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} Holy Smoke (1999, rated R) with Harvey Keitel and Kate Winslet, a film by Jane Campion set in Australia. A young woman goes to India, is enamored of a guru, and her family stages an intervention to prevent her return to India. * Wagons East (1994, rated PG – 13), John Candy’s last movie as he died during the last weeks of filming. Silly humor in which a group of settlers decide they’ve had enough of the Wild West and head east. Railroad tycoons want to thwart the east-bound wagon train so as not to ruin the potential profit from westward movement, and send a saboteur who gives us the human version of Wile E Coyote trying to stop the wagon train. * The Piano (1993, rated R) with Holly Hunter, Harvey Keitel, and Sam Neill, another Jane Campion film. Another blessing as I age, I find authors and film makers I hadn’t known about before, artists who amaze, impress, and astound me. Jane Campion is in this category; her work always stuns me. * Binged through 2 seasons of The Frankenstein Chronicles (2015, rated TV – MA), a Netflix original, with Sean Bean of Game of Thrones fame. It’s 1827, London. Medicine is being formalized and “modernized” by surgeons and scholars who want to prevent quacks, barbers, midwives, herbalists, and other laypersons from providing medical assistance to those who need help. Children are missing from families and young orphaned street dwellers are missing as well. An abomination of parts of children stitched together is found. The monster must be identified and stopped. William Blake and Mary Shelley are part of the intrigue. Good old-fashioned suspense with a couple heart-starting doses of horror thrown in.

Currently ReadingBluebeard’s Egg (1989, fiction and memoir) by Margaret Atwood. Masterful short story vignettes, between pieces of memoir of her life. * Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer (2018, sociology) by Barbara Ehrenreich. Let’s face it. We all die no matter what effort we make to live long healthful lives. Medicine and medical practice is not as “science-based” as we are led to believe.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Getting back into the pool after being sidelined for nearly a month with a contagious skin thingy. Didn’t want to expose the babies and littles I share the pool with, and didn’t want to expose my open skin to whatever they might bring to the water as well.
  • How much I love water and the feeling of being embraced by external fluid pressure without feeling claustrophobic.
  • The comfortable temperature my pool is kept at, and the safe feeling of the water being only so deep and so wide.
  • Floating without trying. Whether I want to or not.
  • Having some fly strips left over from last year, as I’ve been leaving the doors and windows open. One day I will have screens on them all, but that is not today, so fly strip. Fashionable and decorative element to my kitchen. Laughing at myself.
  • Finding socks that match.
  • Knowing the easy way to fold a fitted sheet.
  • Coral bells and fairy’s lace blooming in pots outside my front door. I don’t know what the fairy’s lace really is; the leaf looks like the coral bells, but the blossom is a pale pink and many tiny flowers on a stalk like lace, and when I was a kid that’s what I called it.
  • Sedums blooming below the potted coral bells, like snow beneath a sunset.
  • Watching the Portland Rose Festival Starlight Parade on TV. The luxuries of modern technology.
  • Scones and cheese.
  • Fresh leaf lettuce.
  • Everyday blessings.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

Posted in abundance, Aging, Family, GRATITUDE, Grief, Health, History, Nature, Photography, Poetry, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gratitude Sunday: In Service To Our Country

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
Mahatma Gandhi

Sunday Haiku
Poppies, remember,
scarlet red blood men give for
freedom of others.

Sunday Musings
We’ve come around again to Memorial Day. For many of us it’s the beginning of summer, vacations, no school, easy living, barbeque season. For some of us, not so much.

I used to have to look it up every year, the difference between Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, and Armed Services Day. Once again here is the “official” definition:

Armed Services Day (third Saturday of May) is meant to honor people currently serving in the military.

Memorial Day (last Monday of May) is meant to honor people who died while in military service or because of injuries received in military service.

Veteran’s Day
(November 11) is meant to honor people who survived military service and are still here among us to tell their stories.

***Let me clarify when I refer to America I refer to the United States of America and when I say “Americans” I mean citizens of the United States of America, as per the common/conventional definition of Americans. I have never in my life seen or read or heard of us referred to as “United Staters” or “US of Aers” or “North Americans”. While citizens of Canada and Mexico are technically Americans because they reside on the North American continent, they are not “Americans”, they are Canadians or Mexicans. Likewise residents of South America are technically “American” but you will never hear of a Brazilian or Peruvian or Colombian being referred to as American or “South American”.***

People who choose military service are unique, because what they are trained to do is not easy or natural, nor an easy choice. They are willing to be trained to kill in order to defend our United States; they might be directed to kill and they might have to direct others to kill. Service of this kind deserves significant recognition because of the difficulty of service.

In America, choosing military service is one of the few ways to have an “affordable” education, a fairly secure and well-paid career, and retirement. But you must be willing to kill, or at least be trained to kill, and that is a step beyond which some people are able to commit to as a part of their daily lives.

Now don’t get me wrong here. I consider myself a part of the “well regulated militia”, part of the “Home Guard” if you will, which most people consider to be the National Guard. Until the National Guard has an armory and permanent residential presence in every town, large and small, in America, we cannot consider ourselves protected, as whatever National Guard is available can be called to service in an area far away in distance from you. The Home Guard is all of us, every individual, every family, our neighbors, our neighborhoods, everyone living in our wider communities. Police departments are a different service and cannot be counted on for protection against a foreign invasion, and many other kinds of invasions as well.

I’ve always considered it part of my responsibility as a citizen to be prepared to defend my home, my family, my self, and my community, without need of a uniform or professional training. I was lucky to have learned safe gun handling at the knee of my deputy sheriff father, and judgment and caution at the hand of my mother. I’m not advocating we should all be armed; that’s an entirely specious and facile argument, as most of us have no need for guns.

This is a sensitive subject right now, as guns in the hands of some people create havoc and chaos, and threaten the lives of our children and the communities in which we want to live peacefully. I’m not going to enter the gun debate here, suffice it to say there are many things we can do differently at little financial cost to us and to the benefit and added safety of many.

I appreciate the service of people who are willing and able to take the step into military service. We do them a great disservice after they complete their commitments and that is meat for another essay which I won’t do here. People who serve carry the burden of their memories the rest of their lives, and few of them are willing to share the stories. Having had some personal experience with trauma, I suspect sharing the stories often reactivates the trauma. People are not hard-wired for war and purposeful killing because an elite tells you to do so. War is highly over-rated; it is a money making machine. We must progressively work to change our societal mind-set away from war as a profit making endeavor. Even in a consumer-capitalistic society there are millions of other profitable enterprises besides war.

I maintain whether you served our country in military service or not, as citizens we are all in service to our country and our communities. Strong citizens make change in their societies and it begins at the personal, family, and community levels. Let me give you some examples.

Have you ever volunteered in a youth group like Boy Scouts or 4-H? Raising young people to be contributing citizens is a service to our country.

Do you obey traffic laws when you share the road? Sharing is a hard lesson to learn, but when everybody follows the rules of the road we are all safer.

Have you ever volunteered to teach a class? Imparting knowledge to others is a service to our country.

Have you ever volunteered to assist in a classroom, or a church, or at a city sponsored event, or the county fair? Assisting professionals and sharing yourself and your knowledge and your abilities is service to our community.

Do you work in a courthouse, a hospital, a school, or a library? Do you work over a retail counter, cook food in a restaurant, clean up after other people, drive a public transit bus? If you are able to work at any honest gainful employment, and do your best, you are serving your community as well as yourself.

Do you pay income taxes, state sales taxes, county or state property taxes, city or municipality taxes? Did you realize in most states every time you buy gasoline, register your car or boat, buy a bottle of liquor or beer or wine or a pack of cigarettes, pay a land-line phone bill, buy a pre-paid phone card, or pay your utility bill you are paying additional taxes which go toward your community and nation? We are financially supporting our families, our communities, and our country with our well-earned dollars. (We can argue the wealthy elite and corporations who do not pay taxes because of rigged tax laws are not contributing citizens and are failing their duties and responsibilities as citizens.)

Did you work for 30 or 40 years or more before your body or mind started failing and you decided it was time to not work so much, maybe even retire? You deserve some comfort after being a contributing member of American society for however many years you were able to contribute.

Are you older now and doing less? Spending time with younger members of your family and community is an invaluable contribution to your community especially if you are sharing stories of the past and encouraging ideas toward a better future for all.

Are you kind to everyone you meet both inside and outside of your workplace and family? There is no greater service to humanity than to treat people as kindly as you want to be treated yourself.

We are all in service to each other, every day. It’s how a society survives and thrives. It’s easy to get off track especially in a consumer-capitalistic society which places competition above the values of cooperation. We can step up every day, one person at a time, one family at a time, one community at a time.

This weekend as you serve up your grilled hotdogs or visit the cemetery your loved ones now live in, when you take your moment to acknowledge those who stepped up to military service and gave their lives in service to Americans, take another moment and consider the contribution of every citizen who has gone before us, military or not, who has served in their own way, perhaps as a father who provides for his family or a mother who served in the PTA or a child who did not qualify for military but chose to go into social work as a way to contribute.

We are all in service to each other to better humankind. It’s not a competition. It’s easier than you might think to be kind even to people who aren’t like you, people you don’t know, and people you may not love. It’s one of the freedoms we fight for.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – So many lovely bloomers I don’t know the name of yet. This bright pink grows across the street. A light pink on a burgundy leaved tree-bush grows a few houses up. Brilliant yellow blossom, perhaps of the ranunculus family. A rose is a rose and a mighty pretty pink one this is.

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} The Greatest Showman (2017, rated PG), a musical about PT Barnum. While I enjoy them, I often find musicals a bit disconcerting. Nobody in real life just knows all the lyrics to the same song and spontaneously bursts into solos, duets, and fully choreographed production numbers. Musicals are so Mickey and Judy “let’s put on a show in the barn” enthusiastic and entirely implausible. That would be Rooney and Garland for younger readers. Musicals about theater or other musicals sort of make sense to me, otherwise I don’t always connect. The music, the whole raison d’être of the genre, must be especially memorable, that is, if I don’t leave a musical singing one of the tunes, it hasn’t made an impact, and not in the style of Chicago, where that one word was repeated to the point of dizzying nausea. I loved the fantastic stage presentation of Wicked when my sister took me to see it in Portland, but not one song came away with me. Most of the songs from The Wizard of Oz, from which the character in Wicked was taken, can be sung by entire generations. That said, despite implausibility with Hugh Jackman in the lead, I found myself enjoying the movie. Part of the implausibility was the movie is a period piece, but the music is contemporary in both lyric and composition. So, I loved the costumes, laughed at some of the choreography and lyrics, and came away with a tuneful ear-worm that lasted a few days. * Had to view it, of course, the original The Women (1939, not rated) same story as the 2008 version with Meg Ryan in the lead, but the original has all the classic actresses of the era: Norma Shearer, Rosalind Russell, Joan Crawford and others. Love these old black and white films where the women are giddy with their roles and line deliveries. 1939 was also the year The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind were produced, and the first year Technicolor was available for use. Only the fashion show sequence employs the new Technicolor technology, a bright spot in the film. These were the days women still wore hats and gloves when they went out in public and since fashion is the focus of the story, we get to see beautiful clothing and hats in all sorts of settings.

Currently ReadingThe Woman in the Window (2018, fiction) by A. J. Finn, all the twists and thrills of a Hitchcock movie, I only hope when they make this movie they capture the suspense the novel does. * Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer (2018, sociology) by Barbara Ehrenreich, who makes a case against the medicalization and thus commodification of the body.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Getting a long unfinished task done and off my dining room table before the deadline.
  • Being all hubrised when I found a couple words spell check did not recognize and I had to use my own brain to make sure they were right. Are you smarter than a spell checker? Laughing at myself.
  • Recovering from a recent bout with an old virus my body has harbored since I was 7 years old. Glad my immune system is still cooperating when supported by an anti-viral medicine.
  • Having the wit to finish another post during the distraction of health issues.
  • The patience and courtesy of a recent customer service person when I had a list of weird and difficult questions. Now she knows all the answers to those odd questions, and she knows how grateful I was for her taking the time to find the answers and her kind patience to help me through understanding them.
  • Untying the colorful ribbons from the hubster’s birthday balloons that finally need to go into the trash, so I can re-use the pretty ribbons.
  • Following in the steps of my grandmothers who re-used everything they possibly could before recycling became a buzzword.
  • Tweezers.
  • The reliability of our local farmers market.
  • Sugar Snap peas, love being able to eat pod and peas.
  • Oregon strawberries.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

Posted in abundance, Aging, Education, GRATITUDE, Grief, Health, History, Nature, Photography, Poetry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gratitude Sunday: Perchance To Dream

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “The psychological trauma of losing a job can be as great as the trauma of a divorce.” Barbara Ehrenreich

Sunday Haiku
An island away
lava spews, earth opens while
summer blithely blooms.

Sunday Musings
There I was, going along pretty smooth, sort of relaxed, or as relaxed as I get anyway, and then bam. One of the dreams came and set me off again. I recognize it now, I deal, I handle, but I never know what trigger is going to set it off, and in the case of dreams, holy moley, all the funny movies and books in the world can’t make up for the surprise of the betrayal of the body.

I’ve never divorced. I’ve only ever been married once and it’s a vow I take seriously. I don’t consider my marriage disposable, to be tossed into the garbage if things aren’t working out. I consider the relationship to be under construction, always fine-tuning, till death us do part. After 43 years we are still growing older together. But even the hubster does not understand the depth of the trauma I experienced.

Post-traumatic stress is a pain to live with, no pun intended. I have physical pain, mental and emotional pain, and stigma pain. I don’t have a disorder. I think post-traumatic stress disorder is a misnomer. I don’t deal with a disorder, I deal with the stress brought on by past trauma. With that stress comes daily layers of anger, depression, anxiety, distrust, and hyper-vigilance.

The worst is the stigma part. It’s hard enough to admit what happened. It’s absolutely diminishing when someone responds as if what happened was nothing, and they certainly wouldn’t have been traumatized. We all have different sensitivities, and what is trauma to me might not be to you and vice versa. Most people don’t understand scapegoating, gaslighting, and scapegoat environments, and it can take many years to define that as the problem in the workplace.

I’m not ready to go into detail yet; I’m still dealing with the stress. I’m finally feeling like I’m dealing with the stress of what happened and not whining about what happened. It is what it is. It was what it was. It happened. Now I deal with the triggers. I see a person who resembles the ones who caused the problem, or accidentally run across their name or handwriting, or worst case, actually come face-to-face with one of them. There were many people involved in the years of abuse I withstood, and living in a small town bumping into one of my abusers is a real possibility.

I have had tons of unsolicited advice, though I don’t talk about the incident much. Repeating the events of the trauma sets me off again: all the adrenaline; the shakes; the vomiting, stomach pain, and diarrhea; the inability to sleep or eat washes back over me. People have said: “Just get over it.” “Is that all? That’s nothing.” “Just stop thinking about it.” “You are only a victim if you let yourself be.” “Time heals all wounds.” “You must have done something bad.” “Let go, and let god.” Words heal nothing; if it were so easy for platitudes to erase what happened many of us would be instantly healed. How sweet it would be if I could just forget, but 16 years, one quarter of one’s life, is not so easily forgotten.

We are an accumulation of experiences; they cannot be separated out. The memories often stubbornly don’t disappear. If I could just turn off the brain or exorcise the memory like the invasive demon it is, cast it out once and for all, forever done and free. Doesn’t work like that. The memory is embedded in your muscles and bones, flows in your blood, jumps from synapse to synapse bursting through in a demented dream. When the dream comes you are unwillingly and unexpectedly thrust back into the situation that caused you the greatest distress, and unlike real life you cannot walk away. When you wake you carry the dream throughout the day like a fog strangling your brain.

I had to seek professional help while I was experiencing what happened. When the abuse reached its apex and the ultimate insult happened she was already in place to help me deal. She can’t fix anything, there is no magic wand, but I can say anything to her without fear of reprisal or judgment.

Like I said a couple weeks ago, I own my behavior. I had a part in all of this, but I was not a single actor. In the psychology of a scapegoat environment, most of the players will buy in subconsciously to blaming the scapegoat because by doing so the spotlight is off them. It doesn’t matter if the scapegoat is truly to blame or not, because the self-preservation element is so strong, the scapegoat will always be pointed to, and whatever the scapegoat says in self defense is discounted. When this occurs in your place of employment it becomes easy to point to that one person so the heat is not on you.

I don’t have to be physically in the place where it all happened any more, which is part of the problem. I had a retirement plan which included that particular place of employment. It was killing me to be there, but I was really attached to that plan, and having to change horses at the end of the journey has been as big a pain as the abuse. No winning in a situation like that.

I’ve learned to deal, to handle the day-time stuff. It’s daylight, it’s reality, I know the difference between what happened then and the changes I was forced to make to help myself. I can hold up my head when I bump into one of the abusers, give out one of my famous grimace-smiles and grit my teeth through a hello, or I can quickly turn around as if there was no abuser-sighting and go on about my merry way.

It’s the dreams that are bothersome. Dreams sneak up on you like cats waiting for alley mice. There are plenty of them hiding in the dark waiting for the moment when you aren’t paying attention and they sneak a tiny paw out to run. They come in the dark, when you are supposed to be safe in your home, safe in your bed, all the bad people locked out beyond the windows and doors. The dream is the same as what happened, but it’s different, it’s out of control in a totally different way and makes even less sense than what happened. But the dream isn’t real, you aren’t in control, you’re beyond control, unpredictable, and waking up doesn’t make it better when you wake covered in sweat, shaking, unable to focus, wanting to leap far away from the bed where you dreamed, knowing it isn’t any safer outside the bed or outside the house. When you wake the dream lingers, amorphous, behind the eyes, annoying the brain, irritating the blood and synapses, fogging the day with adrenaline and heart palpitations. It often takes all day to soothe myself, to reassure myself I no longer work there, they can no longer abuse me; I don’t have to defend myself from them and always be watching for the next twisted lie or insult.

I used to love sleeping and dreaming. Now I never wake rested or restored. Trauma changes your chemistry and how your body reacts to the smallest triggers. It’s not just the difficulty of sleeping or staying asleep. It’s that, amplified by the randomness of the dream. When will it come? Will it disturb me tonight? Will the dream terror wake me and drag me through the day by the roots of my hair? Will my heart fail this time to keep me alive from the chemical onslaught I recognize during daylight as an anxiety or panic attack?

Trauma survivors take one day at a time, sometimes, one minute at a time. You don’t “get over it”. You go through it. You breathe one breath at a time; you can’t avoid sleep; you wake one day at a time. You deal, you handle, you survive, and as best you can, you put one foot in front of the other.

Color Watch colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – Purple globes of allium. Shades of pink and pale yellow honeysuckle. First of the season: a luscious peachy rose. Purple lupines with an old fashioned climbing rose.

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} Still bingeing on Blue Bloods (2010, rated TV – 14), on the last season available on Netflix. Though this is a formulaic cop show, I find the intricacies of the family and how they bend the rules indicative of any group who achieves a modicum of power to be a fascinating study. * Winchester (2018, rated PG – 13) about the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California. Though it stars Helen Mirren, who is one of my favorite actors, the movie attempts supernatural special effects, and to my mind fails to pull off the story. It’s too over the top or not over the top enough; it’s just disconcerting, not engaging. Meh. Grateful there was a new episode of Saturday Night Live on right after I finished this movie.

Currently ReadingBluebeard’s Egg (1983, memoir) by Margaret Atwood, mixed with short stories, but the history she presents about her life and her mother’s life in Canada are fun reads. * The Woman in the Window (2018, fiction) by A. J. Finn, seems sort of a mash-up of The Girl on the Train and the Hitchcock movie with Jimmy Stewart, Rear Window. We have an unreliable narrator who suffers agoraphobia, drinks, and takes psychotropic drugs. Tis a mystery to be solved, and I’ve re-read sections to see if I missed clues. The fun part of a mystery is to figure out whodunit before the author spells it out.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • The advice of the antique shop owner when I waffled about an item I was interested in: “If it’s meant to be yours, it will be here when you are ready.” I wasn’t ready then, we’ll see if it is still there when I am.
  • Mild spring weather.
  • Watching the twirlygig seeds whirling down in a flurry from their tree during a little breeze.
  • Open windows and doors and fresh air through the house.
  • Staying up all night to watch the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry on TV, as I’d watched his brother’s and his mother’s as well.
  • The miracle of modern technology and getting to view a wedding of strangers taking place thousands of miles away.
  • Waking up every day despite the trouble of dreams.
  • My challenges being merely what my challenges are and knowing my challenges can always be worse. Grateful my challenges are not worse.
  • My hillbilly clothes line: clothes strewn around the yard to use the sun to dissipate the horrible scent of laundry detergent that stubbornly refuses to wash back out of my clothing, and thankful for fresh air and the bleaching power of the radiant sun.
  • First of the season Oregon strawberries. Not Hoods, but local just the same.
  • Fresh picked-today greens from the farmers market.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

Posted in abundance, Aging, Careers, GRATITUDE, Grief, Health, History, Nature, Photography, Poetry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gratitude Sunday: Mother, Goddess, Warrior

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “My mother always taught us that if people don’t agree with you, the important thing is to listen to them. But if you’ve listened to them carefully and you still think that you’re right, then you must have the courage of your convictions.”
Jane Goodall

Sunday Haiku
Pink blooms burst beneath
my bedroom window, bright notes,
coloring morning.

Sunday Musings
Not to be too obvious about it, but it’s Mother’s Day. Last year we were still reeling from the devastating effects of the 2016 presidential election. This year we are seeing a surge of women standing up for what they believe to be right, standing up to protect themselves and their families, standing up to the man-ocracy that seems to want to control everything about women including how we think and what we do with our bodies. We are not possessions; we are not property; we are not chattel; we are not things to be used. We are individuals with our own minds, our own bodies, our own intelligence. And if it weren’t for us, men would not be in the elite position they think they have the right to claim.

I’m not fond of Mother’s Day. Don’t get me wrong. I am fond of mothers. This world would never have survived without the service and labor of women, in all the iterations of that word labor. What I don’t like is the contrivance to commercialize a day in the name of women. And it marginalizes women who do not have children for whatever reason, as if producing children is the only value women have, which is patently wrong. While it is lovely to be remembered, most of us don’t need another box of candy, or vase full of flowers, or jewelry, or a potted plant to kill, or even dinner out. That’s just more stuff. In our consumer culture we have to be careful about the buy-in supporting expenditures, when mothers should be honored every day, and can be honored with the most precious thing we have available to us: our time.

My mom’s gone now, nearly 5 years. I don’t have the choice to spend time with her. In hindsight, which can be such a regretful thing, I should have spent more time with her, because now I don’t have the choice. Shoulda, woulda, couldas come too late for most of us, along with regrets.

Universally, who was your first protector, your first defender? Before you even landed on this earth you were carried in the warm sea inside the body of your mother. In the best scenarios you were nurtured from the first moment. Your mother labored to keep you safe from harm. It’s likely she still does no matter how old you are.

It’s not a mother’s job to produce mini-mes, or little friends. Mothers are responsible for making productive citizens, for instilling morals, for teaching children to be confidently independent. It’s the hardest job in the world, and if it can be done with love so much the better. There are no instruction manuals. In many cases, we make it up as we go along, remembering our own mother’s and grandmother’s advice.

Mothers often have a unique sense of what you need. The year I was pregnant I was struggling. I am the breadwinner in my family and with a baby coming I was questioning how I was going to work and care for baby and take care of the disabled hubster as well. Hubster and I had an argument in the car. I was driving because he didn’t have a driving license at the time. I couldn’t deal with his drama, so I pulled over, and being dramatic myself, I kicked him out of the car, then drove to the store which had been our destination and sat there crying my eyes out wondering what the hell I was going to do.

Suddenly my mom, who at the time lived two hours drive away, tapped on my window, showing up seemingly out of nowhere. She’d come to town for a quilt show and had seen the hubster walking down the road. He suggested I’d be where I was and there she found me crying. She climbed into the car and wrapped her arms around me. We sat there while I sobbed in her arms, no words to express my concerns, as I tried to figure out how she’d gotten the telepathic message I was in distress. Mother radar. I was 38 years old, supposedly old enough to take care of myself and old enough to be a mother. She was amazing and I am half the woman she was. But I’ve told this story before.

This year I’m suggesting something different because of the odd political climate and the destruction of norms we are experiencing in this historic time. Let’s turn Mother’s Day around and instead of children celebrating their mothers, Women (you don’t have to be a mother to do this), let’s celebrate our children in a special way. Let’s teach them how fierce motherhood is. Let’s stand up for our children. Let’s show them how to stand up for themselves and for their children. Let’s teach them how to not be complacent and to live every moment. Let’s teach them to listen to others and to think beyond themselves. Teach them right from wrong. Teach them morals and ethics. Teach them to succeed to the benefit of each other, not at the expense of others. Teach them we are only as good as the weakest and least of us. Teach them to lift each other up, not just themselves. Let’s organize resistance, letter writing and phone calling campaigns, voter registration drives, and teach our kids while we do it. Let’s teach them non-violent resolution and love for others who are not like us. Let’s run for public office and teach them women have the knowledge to help their communities and their nations. Let’s teach them our voices count.

I’ll leave you with the fierce words of Julia Ward Howe, written in 1872, after she’d had her fill of men promoting a Civil War which killed beloved children in the name of abusing people of another race, other women’s children, then proceeding to rig the economy in favor of the old boys club. We’ve been fighting for peace, personal integrity, and social justice for so many years. Mothers: don’t ever give up. It’s our babies and other women’s babies we are fighting for.

Mother’s Day Proclamation by Julia Ward Howe

Arise then…women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
“We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caress and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not about the balance of justice.”
Blood does not wipe out dishonor.
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace…
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God –
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without the limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of intentional questions,
The great and general interest of peace.”

Color Watch colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – The depth of shaded blue and white iris. Pink and gold, a wealth of flower jewels. Purple globed chive flowers. Yellow fuzzy, critter-looking iris. Pink and darker pink, lion faced rhodies. Deep purple heart of darkness iris.

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} Suffragette (2015, rated PG – 13) a dramatization of British women in 1912 using political activism to the point of violence after 50 years of peaceful work toward women’s right to vote. We women are immersed in one more phase of the struggle for our rights, again, still, today. Women have been calling for change for a millennia of generations.

Currently Reading – In honor of Mother’s Day, I’m reading Margaret Atwood’s Bluebeard’s Egg (1983, memoir), a memoir about growing up with her mother and stories she remembered her mother telling her about growing up. * I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer (2018, true crime) by Michelle McNamara. The book, of course, is incomplete as the murders had not yet been solved at the time of the author’s death. Too bad the perpetrator wasn’t found until after McNamara died. She would have been thrilled.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Watching vast clouds of pollen wafting from the pine trees and grateful I’m not allergic.
  • Helium-less balloons puddled in a colorful pile on the floor, cheerful remnants of last week’s birthday celebration. I don’t have the heart to dispatch them yet.
  • The hubster who struggled for hours setting up the new washer to save the set-up fee the appliance store would charge us.
  • Getting 7 years of service out of my old washer before it was too expensive to repair. I use my washer daily or I would not be able to sort of keep up on my laundry.
  • The appliance store I’ve used these past 20 years letting me split the payments on the washer.
  • Having an appliance repair fund stashed away.
  • The on-line company I buy my laundry detergent from replacing three bottles of regular detergent for the High Efficiency (HE) detergent my new machine requires at no cost or hassle of return for me.
  • Having a variety of books and movies from the local lending library when some medicine I had to take was as mean to me as the illness we are trying to defeat.
  • Being able to rest when the illness and the medicine knocked me down.
  • Having some memories and a few mementos of the young man I was engaged to when I was 19, the one who died before we married, whose 69th birthday would have been today, as he was born May 13, 1949. He lives in one of the grief-holes in my heart.
  • Cloudbursts and sunbursts on these lovely spring days.
  • The rich resin-sweet smell of sun-warmed pine trees.
  • Petrichor.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

Posted in abundance, Aging, Education, Family, GRATITUDE, Grief, Health, History, Nature, Parenting, Photography, Poetry, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gratitude Sunday: Love Child

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week “The great thing about growing older is you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.” Madeleine L’Engle

Sunday Haiku
Earth warms, flowers bloom,
trees blossom, pollen drifts on
lazy air currents.

Sunday Musings
We celebrated the hubster’s Medicare birthday this weekend. He never thought he’d live past his 18th birthday, but no. He’s been subject to me for the last 43 years, and not allowed to die. Not yet.

For the last 17 years there’s been a bit of a pall on his birthday, as my father died the day after the hubster’s birthday in 2001, so I am always sad those days. I was with Dad when he passed. In our society we don’t spend much time with our dying elders. If you’ve never been with a person while they are dying, you will find it is quite the sacred moment to experience another person’s final breath.

Normally in my family, birthdays and other holidays are quiet, simple affairs. We don’t have the income or budget to go all out, or even dinner out. Despite my best efforts most of the birthdays for hubster and the son have been epic fails on my part. The meal fails, or the cake falls, or the gift does not satisfy; I don’t know why, it just is what it is. A favorite meal, and one small present, usually something needed like a fishing license that gives a year’s worth of fun, and a home-made cake with birthday wishes, has been our tradition. The hubster is fond of steak, so once a year, he gets a steak, even if I have to cash in bottles and cans. Let’s ignore that I make him chose and cook his own steak, because if I do it the meat won’t be edible. I still have not learned how to choose meat, and somehow I kill the expected eating experience when I cook meat. I can handle the cake just fine, and my butter cream frosting is to die for, not that I want anyone to die from eating my home-made cake or frosting.

This celebration was different than our usual as our family dynamics have changed. The hubster was an adopted child and 65 years ago adoption was done differently. Unwed mothers were shuffled off to neverland to have the baby in privacy, shame, and anonymity. His adoption was handled through personal acquaintances in two families and a private attorney, not through an agency. He was raised as an only child and after the hubster’s adoptive parents died we inherited all the paperwork, and while sworn to secrecy during their lifetimes, the paper trail gave us all the clues we needed to figure out who his bio-family was.

Interestingly, his parents lived in the same metro area as he did, though closer to my family’s home than the west Portland area hubster was raised in. Cross-over facts include his brothers being in the same scout troop as my brothers, his younger sisters graduating high school in the same classes as my younger brothers, my mom was their Avon lady. We’ve crossed tracks in myriad ways that will come out over the next years as we share our stories while getting to know these new-old family members. I hardly know what to call them, as their biological ties are as old as he is, but our current knowledge of each other is only a couple months old.

The hubster is luckier than some. His bio-father and mother went on to marry a couple years later and had 6 more children together. He is the oldest of 7. The best part? He was not a child of shame, or rape, or error. He is a child of love, his being is because of passion, not fear, as evidenced by the fact his parents married, had other children together, and grew old together.

While his bio-family knew about him, their auntie who made the arrangements with hubster’s adoptive parents was sworn to secrecy. They did not know what last name he was adopted under; they did not know what first name he’d been given by his adoptive parents. They did not know he was living in the same city, thinking he’d been adopted and raised in the remote rural town in which his mother had given birth to him. I’m grateful, after years of expected rejection, he is being welcomed as the long lost son, the older brother, another crotchety old uncle.

His new-old family arrived with pizza and beer, cake and candles, balloons and presents. There were no black balloons or black anything, and no “over the hill” jokes. They called it his “First Birthday”. They are right about that in so many ways: his first birthday with his forever bio-family, his first birthday as the oldest of 7 children, the first birthday he gets to celebrate with them.

In my experience, life is never easy. Life comes with twists and turns, sometimes harboring boogeymen around every corner. Life comes with dead ends, hairpin curves, and seemingly un-exitable round-abouts. Sometimes it brings people into your life who were there all along, you just didn’t know where they were, and they don’t know where you are. And when you find each other? Priceless. Like a first birthday.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – A bright yellow azalea. The mass of pink blooms outside my bedroom window. Variety of greens and magentas tucked between gray rocks. A bumble-de-bee critter in my pink rhododendron.

Current View {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} Molly’s Game (2017, rated R) about an Olympic competitor who suffers a devastating back injury during competition which throws her out of contention, then happens upon an opportunity with the ability to gain huge quantities of money, starting out simply enough as high-stakes poker games, then venturing into the realms of the illegal. As a woman, Molly is taken advantage of by men time and again, no matter how hard she tries to stay ahead of the game. I know like two things about poker, and even less about gambling, so it was a little hard to connect with the story, except for the being taken advantage of part. * Still bingeing through Blue Bloods (2010 – 2018, rated TV – 14). So many seasons and can be viewed in 45 minute segments. A story about a family with strong bonds, who can disagree without falling apart, though they have the advantages of affluence, education, and employment. Those elements would likely make any family stronger.

Currently ReadingI’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer (2018, true crime) by Michelle McNamara. Glued to the couch, trying to beat the library due date. Author takes quite an adventure following the trail of this murderer.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Lilacs.
  • Lilacs.
  • Lilacs.
  • Everywhere I went this week smelled like lilacs.
  • Opening my bedroom window to the smell of lilacs.
  • The rhododendron outside my bedroom has bloomed so when I open my curtain I see a mass of pink blossoms.
  • The distinctive fragrance and particular bright yellow of scotch broom blooming wild along the road.
  • Connecting the hubster to his bio-family and how they welcome him as part of their family.
  • A house full of family celebrating, the stories, the laughter, the smiles, the hugs.
  • Watching little hummingbirds dart around outside the aquatic center while I work-out.
  • The huge plate glass windows at the aquatic center so I can enjoy watching the birds while I work-out.
  • Still kicking while looking forward to my own Medicare birthday later this year.
  • Farmers market finds: tiny, sweet, first pick of the season carrots, spicy greens, asparagus.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

Posted in abundance, Aging, Family, GRATITUDE, Grief, Health, History, Nature, Photography, Poetry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gratitude Sunday: Accepting Blame

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” John Steinbeck

Sunday Haiku
Heavy lilac spears
scent my yard; when cut, fragrance
my living spaces.

Sunday Musings
Do you own your mistakes? Do you admit when you are wrong? Do you apologize and try to make amends? Do you find yourself being blamed for stuff that isn’t your fault and then blaming yourself thinking maybe it was your fault?

I am really good at owning my mistakes. I make plenty of them. Failing is how we learn, if we bother to be attuned to the lesson. Some folks don’t learn, but that’s not me. Still, while I might not repeat the mistakes I’ve made before, I continue to make new errors. It’s like a Human Resources person at my last place of employment said to me when I congratulated him on moving his career forward with a new job. He called me a “diamond in the rough.” I was a little offended, but he’s entitled to his opinion. I see his point: I may be a bright and shining jewel on the inside, but outside I am not polished, conventional, or smooth. I am opinionated and plainspoken, or I am so politically correct you might not get my point, and while I may sometimes be tactful (to the point of missing the point), I can lack finesse. You may not like my grimaced smile, my resting bitch face, my wild fat body, my informed but radical opinions, or my mouthy attitude, but I am myself, and what you see is what you get.

There comes a point, however, when it isn’t about me owning my mistakes. As my therapist reminds me, sometimes it might not be about me at all; it might be about the weirdness of other people and has nothing whatsoever to do with me.

An example could be my being fat. It is my body, that thing that carries my brain through life. It eats and evacuates, and breathes and blinks, and cries and hugs other people for me. It is what it is. To borrow a phrase from Roxane Gay (one of my favorite contemporary authors) I have an unruly body. I have spent many years on the journey toward feeling better and better health. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink. Over the years I have lost 30 pounds and gained back 40 so many times my metabolism no longer functions optimally. I have learned I can control what I put into my mouth and how much exercise I take. I have also learned I cannot control what the cells and functions of my body do with all that nutrition and movement.

Stress is a big culprit in those functions of storing fat; when your body is constantly under attack mentally and emotionally the physical parts get confused and don’t know how to perform. Well, it does know how to perform in its own way, but the constant onslaught of adrenaline, even at low levels, and the countering equalizer of cortisol confuses normal metabolic processes. Additional physical stressors, such as silver-mercury amalgam fillings in your teeth, are just another assault the body must fight. There are many recommendations for “controlling” stress, but like controlling fat, I think these methods of “control” are only minimally successful for some, even most, people.

Doctors don’t want to admit to the dangers of some of the procedures they use. They won’t admit, for example, the ill effects of silver-mercury amalgams are the effects of the neuro-toxicity of heavy metal poisoning. Sounds scary doesn’t it? Because it sounds so scary, doctors and dentists will label you as “allergic” to mercury. Nobody is allergic to heavy metals, but foreign elements introduced into the body often create reactions. The body does not manufacture heavy metals, nor is is an essential nutrient.

I recently had an MRI with contrast dye injection. The contrast dye element was a surprise, not mentioned by the doctor who ordered the test and introduced at the last minute by the radiologists who were forceful about what procedure they wanted to do. Informed consent was vague, murky at best; I wasn’t even informed what I was consenting to and done at the last minute like that I had no time to do my own research. I informed the test givers I have bad and weird reactions to pharmaceuticals and drugs in my body. They wanted to do what they wanted. Contrast dyes are made of heavy metals; heavy metals are neuro-toxins, i.e., poison for brain cells. Heavy metals placed in the body for whatever reason is effectively poisoning via physician.

When one has a poor medical reaction, one is often dismissed with pat phrases such as “That’s not supposed to happen” or “I’ve never heard of that reaction before” or “A reaction is really rare”. Nonetheless, I am sitting here, in front of you, reporting my personal experience, and you, the professional, are discounting what you are being told or even what you see before your very eyes. That takes my experience, what I own, and turns it into yours, and you should own it.

The 8 hour migraine I endured after the dye injection and the more or less constant headache I have had since that MRI is discounted. My doctor had never had a patient report ill effects from a contrast dye injection and called it a rare reaction. I requested she do her homework, and explained I thought the reaction is more common than thought because doctors don’t want to admit they might be complicit in causing patients ill health and often the after effects come at a later time and are not automatically connected to whatever procedure caused them. It happens: doctors are not perfect, nor is medicine a perfect science.

**Here’s your new word for the day: iatrogenic, which means physician induced. I did not do this to myself.**

Even worse, she tried to blame my body’s reaction to a heavy metal neuro-toxin on my fat. I can’t tell you how many owies and illnesses have been blamed on my fat, as if it were something I could control. Doctors have said my migraines, ingrown toenails, skin tags, sinus infections, kidney stones, vertigo, and clumsiness and uncoordination were all caused by my fat. How is it slender people get migraines and ingrown toenails and vertigo if fat causes them?

I own my body. It is fat. I own my brain. It has moments of intelligence. I also get to own my reactions to medicine and medical procedures, because it is what happens to my body and brain. Doctors aren’t all-knowing god-like; medicine is not an undisputed science, it is ever expanding following new discoveries, which means doctors have to continually educate themselves. They make their best educated guess depending on the physical evidence reported to them. They aren’t always right, though they are taught to think they are. The medical community should own its responsibility in the health of its patients, not necessarily to the point of litigation but at least to the point of fully informed consent and support for the patient, and not to the point of blaming the patient, especially the fat patient, for their reactions to the guesses of the medical community, just as I own my own mistakes.

Color Watch
– colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – The brilliant orange of Oriental poppies. Pink dogwood sprayed out against a blue sky. Fat purple spears on a lilac bush. Bunches of purple blossoms make scented lilac spears.

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} Jules et Jim (1962, not rated), a black and white art movie directed by François Truffaut, this French language movie is about a love triangle. Thank goodness for English subtitles as my French isn’t that good. And boy, how colors pop on the TV after two hours of black and white. * All The Money In the World (2017, rated R) about the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III, which was a big deal in my history. Paul was only a few years younger than me, and this happened not long after I graduated from high school. It was one of the first times I realized money meant nothing if you couldn’t take care of other people when his grandfather delayed paying ransom, and though young Paul was rescued, he came back irrevocably damaged. And reality check for me, though I know the teaching of history is lacking these days and has been for many years, when the son asked what movie I was watching, and I explained about the main players, he was clueless, had never even heard the name J Paul Getty, a name that used to be a household word for “wealthy”. I’m at the lowest end of the income spectrum, but I absolutely know the responsibility of vast amounts of money brings its own challenges.

Currently Reading13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl (2016, fiction short stories) by Mona Awad. This was a fast read and I loved how the stories read together like a novel, but was definitely a series of vignettes. Ms Awad totally pegs the fat woman’s experience with clothing. I enjoyed this author’s writing style and would recommend for summer reading. * I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer (2018, true crime) by Michelle McNamara. I have loved true crime writers since I was a teenager. They are often the reason a crime gets solved. Ms McNamara spent most of the end of her life working on this book, and I feel fortunate to get it from my local lending library at a time when the authorities think they have found this criminal. I hope I can get it read before it is due back as there is a long queue for it, and I expect the line to get even longer now. True crime often renders me glued to the couch trying to solve the mystery.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • The tenacity of true crime writers.
  • Patiently enduring iatrogenic headaches.
  • Being able to lie down as needed, instead of having to work through or with a headache.
  • Watching a neighbor cut down a tree in our adjoining back yards in a manner I thought for sure would have a bad result, (hubster and me watching Gladys Kravitz style through the back bedroom window, with phone in hand to call 911 if needed, and for a brief second the tree was falling straight toward my house then fell inches short of the fence dividing our properties) that turned out OK in the end. No damage to neighbor, fence, my house, or his house, and no 911 call.
  • Listening to the crow scream at the neighbor for cutting down his tree.
  • Wild swaths of bright California poppies with their particular shade of orange blooming next to the roads and highways.
  • The lilacs are here!
  • The hubster bringing me the first vase full of cut lilacs of the season to scent my work desk.
  • How a handful of lilacs can scent the whole house.
  • Next week marks the beginning of farmers market season in my little burg. Looking forward to a bag of fresh greens.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

Posted in abundance, Aging, Education, GRATITUDE, Grief, Health, History, Medicine, Nature, Nutrition, Photography, Poetry, Science | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gratitude Sunday: Down The Garden Path

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”
Margaret Atwood in Bluebeard’s Egg

Sunday Haiku
What lovely surprise!
Hope eternal as flowers
spring sprouting from dirt.

Sunday Musings
How I miss having a garden! I used to be able to do it all, you know. I worked at a job outside my home. I kept my home clean (ish), cooked meals, did laundry, and tended gardens that became progressively smaller until I had only a few pots of vegetables on my porch. I loved walking barefoot on the earth surrounded by vegetables I could nibble as I pulled weeds.

In the style of my mother’s mother, I freely mixed marigolds and nasturtiums between the rows and plots. Chives and basil and borage gave their lives to season my food. Occasional success with strawberry plants optimistically led to more plants in the hopes of a yearly satiation which never quite happened.

I dug up yards in rental properties without the owner’s permission. I hauled pots of dirt from house to house looking forward to next year’s growth plans. My fingers were stained as brown as the bottoms of my feet, as no matter what grade of glove I bought they always tore through at the tips. I miss the smell of dirt.

My garden was always a fight. The hubster thought I should do it his way, but he never got out there and did anything except mow everything down with his lawn mower. He’d freak out if there were weeds, but he wouldn’t weed. He didn’t eat many of the veggies no matter how I prepared them, which was OK, more for me, but he used that to justify not helping. He is so not helpful, one hot summer he killed my rhubarb plant because he refused to water it while I was at work though he was home (yes, he can be bratty). You have to be really negligent to kill rhubarb, one of the hardiest plants the pioneers brought with them from back east over the Oregon Trail.

When the son arrived, I had even less time on my hands to tend a garden. Even though the son was allowed to play outside in the dirt, he resisted eating any vegetable that didn’t come from the store. He didn’t like to wipe off or rinse off the dirt, and he was creeped out by the thought of insects, slugs, and other critters crawling on his veggies, as if the store veggies didn’t have their own versions of these interlopers, sometimes on a more massive scale than in my little gardens.

Neither of my guys is particularly fond of veggies or fruit. I am a lonely eater. I would choose a salad or plate of greens any day. A baked potato piled with chives and chopped ripe red tomato or a piece of toast with thick slices of today’s hand-picked tomato and a sprinkle of sea salt is my idea of food heaven. Sliced bell peppers in shades of red and orange and yellow, crooked little carrots, chunks of broccoli with a tasty vinaigrette or ranch dressing and I am one full and happy fat girl.

My mother gardened at every place she lived as well. I have a picture of her, shovel in hand, digging up the yard of a duplex we lived in while I was in my toddler walker watching her. She gardened until the day she died. She had strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, rhubarb, garlic, onions, corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, beets, bell peppers, and whatever else interested her for the year. She faithfully staked out the strawberry runners for next year’s plants. As she aged and her emphysema progressed she got so she could only do a few minutes at a time, but she would go outside several times a day, depending on her strength level that day.

My father was also an enthusiastic gardener. Mom and Dad shared the work in our little victory garden which took up about a third of the lot they owned. Dad prepared and amended the soil, hauling manure to dig in every fall, roto-tilling every spring. He planted and weeded. Mom weeded and harvested and cooked and preserved what we didn’t immediately eat. Dad only allowed one child at a time to “help” when he was working in the garden; he didn’t have the patience to supervise more than one of us at a time and I can’t blame him, we were a bunch of wild ones. After Mom and Dad divorced, Dad dug up a bit of yard in the apartment complex he lived in so he could grow the jalapenos he loved.

April is the month I most strongly miss my garden. Dad was an old school gardener and he said when the lilacs bloom it’s time to plant. The lilacs are getting ready to bloom, so you know my mind is there. I have a lovely garden in my mind. It unfortunately requires the purchase of lumber, structures like trellises, a gate, some good quality dirt, and fencing to keep the neighborhood critters out. I have all kinds: possums, raccoons, squirrels, and feral cats, not to mention dogs who are allowed to roam freely without a person or leash. My garden structure would be at least mid-thigh high, be accessible from all sides, and have some nice wide, gravel-free, hard dirt paths around it. Because of the expense it is merely an amorphous dream; I have not bothered to sketch it or stake out the ground. I have not bothered to share this dream with the hubster because I want it done my way. If I tell him he will either have reasons it shouldn’t be done or want to do it his way. The disagreement is hardly worth it.

I need a raised garden so the hubster would not attack it with his lawn mower and it would be easier for me to keep the weeds plucked. I’d have to be careful choosing the size of plants so when mature they are not too tall for me to harvest. I’d eat what I could and share the rest. I have this fantasy of how I might even conquer a little pain because I take care of my own garden and eat what I grow, and ground myself by walking barefoot on the earth, and gain healthful movement while tending my own food. This may be as fanciful as the dream garden but it entertains me nonetheless.

Our society may soon need to go back to the Victory Gardens promoted in the 1940s with the way our political climate is. Who knows what is going to be destroyed by the person in the White House who knows absolutely nothing about what he is doing and is equally unwilling to take any time to learn? As luck would have it, most of us can stick a shovel in the ground, put a plant in the hole the shovel made, give it a little water, and have it result in something edible.

While my garden resides in my dreams, I have the second best thing for six months of the year. My little burg has a weekly farmers market close by my house with local gardeners and farmers who welcome us to come see their gardens and farms any time. The beautiful home grown food they bring to market are like visiting Mom and getting to pick through her garden for all my faves, without the work of tending to the planting, and weeding, and watering, and harvesting which are more difficult for me to do these days.

And so while I dream, how does your garden grow?

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – Many yards full of dime-sized white daisies. A weather-grayed bamboo pole, pink and white fluffy tulip, and soft fuzzy sage green lamb’s ears. A creamy white pieris Japonica (thank you, Michelle!). Another yard full of yellow and purple shooting stars. Glad to have gotten this picture when I did last year of the deep pink crab apple blossom, as the tree has since been terminated.

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} The Women (2008, rated PG – 13) with Meg Ryan and Annette Benning, a start studded movie about a troubled marriage and the group of women who support the betrayed wife. This movie was a remake of the 1939 version, also star filled with Joan Crawford and Rosalind Russell which was adapted from a play written by Clare Boothe Luce. I realize many readers no longer recognize these older classic actors and authors. Now is as good a time as any to learn about them. The funny thing is I had this movie mixed up in my mind with a 1930s novel I read many years ago called The Group by Mary McCarthy about eight friends who graduate from Vassar College in 1933 and how their lives turn out. Interesting where the brain goes but this movie is not related to this novel. * Thor: Ragnarok (2018, rated PG – 13), another in the Marvel Comics series. These movies are so over the top in plot, stunts, special effects, and acting, it’s part of what makes them amusing. The repartee is tongue-in-cheek sarcasm and such silly fun, I find myself laughing out loud at super-heroes and super-villains. * I, Tonya (2017, rated R) about the infamous ice skater Tonya Harding. This “fictionalized” (which means it takes some theatrical license where the producers want to) biopic, filmed in a time jumping semi-documentary style, tries to stay true to her story as recorded by newspapers and film at the time. Forgive my soapbox here, but her story resonates with me, and the movie reinforced what I have thought for many years. Most people, including my hubster, jump to conclusions about her and denigrate her out of hand. What is it we say in the MeToo movement? Believe what the woman tells you. Here are my reasons for empathy and sympathy for Miss Tonya. Of course, even though I have read and seen much about her and her life, I don’t know all the parts of the story; I did not get to live her life nor am I a personal friend, but in my life I have not been believed or my words have been twisted to fit what the listener wanted to think when I told my story, so I know some of the ways she might feel. 1. She is a home-girl, born and raised in my home-town, and she went to my high school, even though she was years younger and not a classmate. 2. In the area we grew up there were clear delineations of the haves and have-nots who struggled with just living. Tonya was a have-not at the time. 3. She said she was beaten and abused by her first husband. I believe her. 4. She had an amazing skill/talent and was taken advantage of by several people in her life. 5. Her success with her skill she earned on her own with the help of coaches who might not have had her interests 100 percent at heart. 6. Whether she knew about or was involved in the “incident” involving Nancy Kerrigan in advance or not, moronic men in her life, likely jealous of her success, proceeded with an idiotic plan and seems like they would have done so with or without any objections on her part. Those men did not pay for their choice with their careers, but their stupid plan killed hers. Had those men not proceeded for their own selfish purposes she likely would have become an Olympic champion. 7. Not only did the stupid plan of men kill her career, and even though the men were convicted and served a minimum amount of time for the crime, she was the one who was blamed and she has been the brunt of jokes and blame every since, grossly out of proportion to her involvement or non-involvement. The men who perpetrated the mayhem did not suffer in the same way and if their names are mentioned, people say “Who?” So thanks for listening. It just seems like one more case of jealous men making a mess of everything by thinking they can control stuff beyond their control because they wanted to be important in her life. Then there is always this fact: She is the first American woman to land a triple axle in competition. Nobody can ever take that away from her.

Currently ReadingThe Lonely Hearts Hotel (2017, fiction) by Heather O’Neill. The title refers to the place the 25 year old male protagonist dies a junkie’s death. I felt the author did not achieve the tone or flavor of the time period she was writing about. Yes, I read the whole thing. Meh. * 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl (2016, fiction short stories) by Mona Awad, a series of connected stories about being a fat girl and losing weight, but never losing the feeling of being a fat girl. * Wanderlust: A History of Walking (2000, history) by Rebecca Solnit. We are walking down the garden path, through the countryside, beyond the open gate.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Lawn mowers chirping all over the neighborhood.
  • The old oak tree that fell in my neighborhood wasn’t close enough to damage any of my stuff.
  • Weather warming just enough to go without a jacket.
  • Turning off the room heaters, even for a day.
  • My abundance of worthless stuff valued only by me.
  • Still having my home and the privacy of my own bathroom.
  • Being able to lie down when the daily headaches I’ve had since my last MRI plague me.
  • The fat robin who watched me from the fence while I was in the pool as I was watching him.
  • My local lending library, that can order me just about everything I want, old and new, for viewing and reading pleasure.
  • My own personal library where I have many treasures.
  • Barbara Bush, who promoted reading and literacy.
  • The lilacs are coming!
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

Posted in abundance, Aging, Entertainment, Exercise, Food, Gardening, GRATITUDE, Grief, Health, History, Nature, Nutrition, Parenting, Photography, Poetry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gratitude Sunday: Money Is The Great Equalizer

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “A penny saved is a penny earned.” Benjamin Franklin

Sunday Haiku
Yellow blossom pops,
pink flower blooms, purple blings,
spring sings pure color.

Sunday Musings
After my rant last week and other posts in the past you may think I spend much of my time thinking and complaining about money. That’s the way of poverty in America, isn’t it? If you’ve always had enough money, you have no concept of what it is like to live without it so you might not understand why people who don’t have it are always concerned about it. If you’ve never had enough, you are constantly imagining what it might be like to have enough.

I remember when I was making about 10 dollars an hour. I was mostly self-employed. My rent on a three bedroom house averaged 300 dollars a month. Gasoline was less than a dollar a gallon, and a ride on the bus was less than a dollar as well. You could get 4 cans of chili for a dollar, four 4-packs (16 rolls) of bathroom tissue for a dollar, 4 loaves of bread for a dollar, a gallon of milk for under a dollar, and a whole chicken could sometimes be had for 10 cents a pound on a good sale.

That was about 40 years ago, and while wages haven’t gone up everything else has. Now in the area I live a 3 bedroom home rents for about two thousand dollars a month. One can of chili is $1.79, and one raw whole chicken is more than 10 dollars, in which case, it is less costly to buy a rotisserie Costco chicken at 5 dollars and save the time and expense of cooking; gas is once again more than 3 dollars a gallon. And even with a better paying job, average wages are still around 10 dollars an hour. The son is an entry-level worker now and earns a bit over 11 dollars an hour. He barely makes enough to feed himself and get back and forth to work, and rarely makes enough for rent or utilities. He’d like to save for a car, but public transport sucks him dry at 5 dollars a day. When I was growing up an adult could work a 40 hour week, with an at-home spouse to manage the care it takes to have a clean home and home-cooked meals, while buying a home to raise a family in, and still count on a comfortable retirement by the age of 65. Cars didn’t cost 40 thousand dollars; you could buy two modest comfortable homes for that amount back then. That was gone by the time I raised my child.

The myth of wealth building in America is dead. Oh, it works for a few people who are lucky enough to have all the details fall into place for them. For the rest of us, we can work until our dying day with no relief in sight. From many months of study, this state of affairs appears to have been orchestrated by the people who already own most of the wealth in America at the expense of the workers. This equates in my mind to enforced servitude, when most wages are sucked back up into taxes, the cost of providing a home and food have grown exponentially and not enough left over to live on or save, and is the equivalent of violence against the American worker. The change has taken place in the course of a couple of generations. The solution presented is debt, which then makes one a slave to interest payments.

Money, then, is the great equalizer. It is dangled in front of us like a big green carrot. Yet, we are not taught how to manage money when we are in school. We are taught math, but the biggest complaint I hear repeatedly is about the practical application of math. If you are not going to calculate how to build things, or amounts for chemical combinations or medicine titrations, or how to measure distance, what is math for? I’m thinking the best math application we can teach is about money. How to make it, how to save it, how to make it grow, understanding loans and interest calculations and percentages. How to balance a checkbook, how to get the best prices at the store, how to shop for the best deal, how to financially run a household budget. How to fill in a tax form, how to open a bank account, how to decide if a loan is the best use of your money. How to budget for immediate needs, how to plan for contingencies, how to save for retirement. Nobody likes the word budget, as it seems limiting at best, but it is the best word for how to be in control of your money.

None of the above is taught in school, though since our American society is based on capitalistic consumerism, which is all about money, it seems like the best application of math that could be taught. Boy Scouts have a required Merit Badge called Personal Management that teaches a bit about how to manage money and not many of the scouts I worked with internalized and benefited from this information. Part of the instruction includes delayed gratification. This information was not supported by the math taught in schools. Families often do not discuss money with their children because they don’t want children to worry. Like language use, if we talk about money math everyday, won’t we understand it better?

The difference between wealthy people and not-wealthy people, besides inheriting their money, is the understanding of money math. Wealthy people have a cushion, that is, if they fail they still have more to draw from. Not-wealthy people have no cushion; if they lose, they lose everything. Wealthy people understand how to use, create, and profit from money. Not-wealthy people have no clue how to make money work for them through delayed gratification, that is, planning and goal setting, rather than spending whatever money they have as quickly as possible.

Do you know how to manage what little money you have? Are you saving on your own for retirement as a hedge against the bureaucracy stealing your Social Security tax investments? Do you have a contingency fund, no matter how small, for when the car breaks, or a medical emergency, or a job loss? Do you really need that 5 dollar latte twice a day? (5 [the cost of one coffee drink] times 2 [twice a day] equals 10 dollars a day times 365 days of the year equals 3,650 dollars on lattes in one year. That’s nearly enough for a down payment on a house. Can you make coffee with less cost at home? Or be satisfied with fewer lattes in the name of having more cash in your pocket? Just one example.)

In poverty thinking, people often spend everything they have because they think they won’t have more, so they want what they want right now. In some cases this includes buying items that seem to give relief from the stress of poverty such as “feel goods” like lattes, clothing, drugs, alcohol, gambling, and others. They have not learned how to save money for a later date. This is learned behavior and often generational. If people were taught how to use and manage money I’m thinking much addictive behavior might be circumvented because people would be enabled to be more comfortable with their lives and how their money supports their lives, even if the income is small. This is all hard to imagine if you are living with your kids in your car, without access to a shower so you can be presentable for work. If you are lucky enough to have a car to live in.

Anybody, at any income level, can learn money math and how to budget and use their money. It takes very little digging at the library to find books that help. Start with Elizabeth Warren’s All Your Worth, which describes a 50/20/30 budget plan that works at any income level. This plan requires you to be honest with yourself to start. And starting out you may need to make some sacrifices like skipping that twice daily latte. It’s hard to imagine when you are 25 how fast 40 years goes by and what you will need to retire at 65. But when the car breaks and you have contingency savings tucked away and don’t have to go into debt with interest payments to fix or replace your car, you will understand how this plan can work. And when you are 65 and no longer able to work, having a few extra dollars over and above any Social Security income will give a feeling of comfort as sweet as a soft warm bed.

While you are learning money math, discuss what you learn with your children. Help them learn to save and delay their desires for the sake of financial security. Teach them the dangers of over-consumption and debt, which offers a means of instant gratification but really means you pay interest on your purchases often long after the purchased item is discarded. Teach them conservative consumerism. We don’t need the newest phone, or the latest model shoes, or this year’s fashion. The stuff we need needs to function for us, not against us.

The fiancée I had when I was 19, the one who passed away before we married (he was all of 24 years old) used to say “Never burn your last match, or spend your last dollar.” It’s another way of saying make sure you save something toward the future. Don’t use the last of what you have before you have more or you may find yourself without anything. It isn’t easy, but teach yourself and your children how to keep more of what you earn by paying yourself first and then paying it forward.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – The lovely yellow green of new leaves. Wildflowers are pretty too; brilliantly flurried yellow dandelions. Flame colored tulips. Pink candy-striped hyacinths. The eye of the yellow tulip.

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} Bingeing through Blue Bloods (2010 – (seven seasons and still running), rated TV – 14) with Tom Selleck as the patriarch of a family of police officers. Formulaic series, but the characters are being developed, and my favorite part is the signature scene when 4 generations sit down to Sunday dinner together every week and have actual conversations in which they don’t always agree. My family did that when I was small; I miss being close enough (in proximity) to do that every week. * Morning Glory (1933, not rated) with Katharine Hepburn about a rising starlet who is mentored by established producers and gains success. One of Hepburn’s earliest movies and an excellent example of her affected style of acting.

Currently Reading
The Lonely Hearts Hotel (2017, fiction) by Heather O’Neill. I haven’t figured out how the title relates to the story yet, though there is plenty of sex and drugs in the story. Maybe I’m too distracted. By the use of fragments. * Wanderlust: A History of Walking (2000, history) by Rebecca Solnit. On to moving meditation and the paths of labyrinths. Who knew there was so much to contemplate about walking? Well, Ms Solnit, of course.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • The music of Joni Mitchell.
  • Getting an invitation to my niece’s baby shower.
  • Being in love with the soft yellow green of new baby leaves and dangly catkins.
  • Trees.
  • The residual smell of chlorine on my skin, proof I at least went to the pool if nothing else in my day’s activities.
  • Pain, the ultimate indicator of still being alive.
  • Waking up another day.
  • The gray cells which continue to function with the ability to learn and think critically.
  • Being curious about how tall a certain young scout I had known was now and seeing him at the pool working on the Swimming Merit Badge. Curiosity satisfied.
  • Knowing the families of my siblings’ in-laws.
  • How sometimes the rain is comforting to my mood.
  • Looking forward to the first local farmers market of the season in a couple weeks.
  • Asparagus. Asparagus.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

Posted in abundance, Aging, Education, GRATITUDE, Grief, Health, History, Housing, Nature, Photography, Poetry, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments