I have a problem with violent computer games

Why did the kids put beans in their ears?
No one can hear with beans in their ears.
After a while the reason appears.
They did it cause we said no.

(from The Fantasticks)

Like most folks over the age of 50, I have a problem with violent computer games, such as “Grand Theft Auto.” I’ve never played any of them, but, like many young folks, my 13 year old grandson does.

gtaOn one occasion, I look over his shoulder as his avatar – a strong, white, adult male, – climbs into his Super Sport Bugatti and sets off on a heist. The bank robbery hits a snag and he and his partner have to shoot their way out, killing the security guard. He makes it back to his virtual apartment with the designated “payout” stashed in his virtual account. He will use those earnings to buy more cars. Or maybe a helicopter or a yacht, depending on how wealthy he becomes. The graphics in this virtual world are realistic and compelling, a quantum leap in design and process from the “Space Invaders” arcade game of my generation.

“Hmpf.” I say to him. “I don’t like these killing games.”

“Grammy,” he says, with a patience that belies his age. “It’s like playing a part in a movie script. It’s fantasy. I know the difference.”

I know, and his parents know, that if he is forbidden to play, he might find a way to do it anyway, and the stress it would put on family relationships would not be worth it. The answer to this dilemma is not for the adults to say “No,” but rather to try to understand what this gaming culture is all about and how to ensure that the young players don’t internalize a wrong message.

For my home schooled grandson, well versed in morality and ethics, his gaming goal is not to kill anyone but to complete the assignment (although characters can get killed along the way). Granted, there are other gamers who get delight in escalating the violence just to see what they can get away with. That’s what I have a problem with out of a concern that they will become inured to the horrors of violence and start confusing fantasy with reality. Hundreds of contradicting studies have been done – and continue to be done – that both affirm and deny the ill effects of playing violent computer games.

The culture of my family is to try to understand where the other person is coming from before any decision is made, so my grandson has explained to his parents his approach to gaming and they have shared their concerns. It reminds me of when my 10 year old son became obsessed with comics during the time in the 1980s when many of the publications began to use illustrations with hyper-sexualized female superhero bodies. I remember having a long talk with him, expressing my feminist disapproval of such depictions of women and reminding him that it’s all fantasy.

I have embarked on a long learning curve that involves my grandson explaining how the game works, which is a complex process, on the part of the gamers, that involves planning, coordinating, and cooperating in setting up each heist. While the game program itself establishes parameters, the gamers make specific choices and have to deal with the consequences.

There are other modules that are available for GTA, my grandson tells me. His favorites are the ones in which his character is a fireman or policeman or emergency medical technician. While the scenarios for those modules can include violence, it is always because the protagonist is trying to rescue someone.

What I am learning gives me a more informed appreciation and understanding of why my otherwise non-violent teenage grandson likes to play “Grant Theft Auto.” And the conversations continue.

I see that what he is taking away from playing these games is so much more than I would have ever considered. For example, he has to budget and manage his virtual money so that he can afford to buy the new luxury items that he wants. In the process of researching cars, he has developed a knowledge of automobiles – both ordinary and classic – that is encyclopedic. He experiments with designing the appearance of his cars, playing with colors and shapes. He has forged online friendships with other players his age from around the world as they work together to develop strategies for their heists. He is honing his reading skills as he keeps up to date on understanding the evolving rules and improvements in the game.

Because he was not told “No” and instead was invited to share his gaming experiences with the family, the problem other families might have with the issue of violent computer games is not a problem for us — although I still really don’t like them. It’s probably a generational thing, as it often is with music, fashion, language, and etiquette. But I learn to appreciate it all. Like Walt Whitman, “I contain multitudes.”

Mother’s Day: for my kids

(I started posing this on Mother’s Day ten years ago, and I try to remember to re-post it every year.)

Some women take to mothering naturally. I had to work at it. And so I wasn’t the best mother in the world. I would have worked outside the home whether I had become a single mom or not. And because I did, mine were latchkey kids, with my daughter, beginning at age 12, taking care of her younger brother, age 5, after school. I left them some evenings to go out on dates. Oh, I did cook them healthy meals, and even cookies sometimes. I made their Halloween costumes and went to all parent events at their schools. My daughter took ballet lessons, belonged to 4H (but I got kicked out as Assistant Leader because I wouldn’t salute the flag during the Vietnam War). I made my son a Dr. Who scarf and took him to Dr. Who fan events. I bought him lots of comic books, invited friends over to play, and taught him how to throw a ball.

But most of all, I think/hope I did for them what my mother was never able to do for me, — give them the freedom and encouragement to become who they wanted to be — to explore, make mistakes, and search for their bliss. I think/hope that I always let them know that, as far as I was concerned, I loved them just the way they were/are.

Not having had that affirmation from my mother still affects my relationship with her. I hope that my doing that right for them neutralizes all the wrong things I did as they were growing up.

So, you two (now adult) kids, here’s to you both. You keep me thinking, you keep me informed, you keep me honest, and, in many ways, you keep me vital. I’m so glad that I’m your mother.

So, in memory of those not-always-good ol’ days that you two somehow managed to survive with style, here you are, playing “air guitar and drums” — enjoying each other’s company sometime in the late 70s and bringing so much delight into my life.

airguitar

Too much or too little. Stop #6 on My Medical Marijuana Mystery Tour

While there are all kinds of articles online these days explaining how to make cannabutter and how to calculate dosage if you are going to make brownies or cookies, I like this one because it includes both descriptions as well as other helpful information.

I think that I have pretty much given up trying to make my own edibles because I can’t seem to get the dosage right. Of course. everyone is affected differently, so it’s trial and error. I also wish I could get the leaves rather than just the buds. Edibles baked with buds have a strong skunky flavor. I don’t remember that happening when you use the leaves.

So, if you are going to start trying to use Medical Marijuana for insomnia, I suggest starting with the caramel nuggets, and the most cost effective way and easiest way to use them is to cut each 50 mg nugget into four or five pieces and suck on one before you go to bed. That is what is working for me. Not all dispensaries carry a wide variety of ways to consume Medical Marijuana, although all seem to carry capsules and lozenges. I just didn’t want to swallow capsules.

Between 10 mg and 12.5 mg of Indica seems to be enough to help me fall asleep and be able to go back to sleep after I wake up to go to the bathroom. It works better than any prescription medication I have tried.

So, for now, this tour is taking a break, since this dose and product seems to be working for me. If I have any great subsequent revelations, I will post them here.

I do have to report that one night I accidentally took a double does (didn’t cut the nugget correctly) and really tripped out. The worse part was panicking because I was alone in my bedroom on the other side of the house from everyone else and felt very disoriented. Suppose I got a heart attack! I was afraid to get out of bed because I was dizzy and the walls were circling around me. I learned my lesson. All I want to do is be able to sleep; I guess I don’t like feeling that much out of control any more.

Final Note: Remember, there is a big difference between hemp oil, CBD oil, and oil made from Marijuana with THC, and this article explains it clearly. http://www.mintpressnews.com/hemp-oil-versus-cbd-oil-whats-the-difference/193962/

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry: Stop #5 on My Medical Marijuana Mystery Tour

Since I moved in with my daughter and family about five years ago (they are my assisted living arrangement), I have not done much cooking or baking. I never really did much baking anyway, but so far I’ve made two tries at pot brownies and one at cookies. I thought that buying the actual buds and baking my own edibles would be cheaper.

Before I did any baking, I ground up the Indica strain buds, slow heated them in coconut oil for hours, and then used the oil for the baked goods. That is the simplest way to do it. The most elaborate, and supposedly the most effective, is the Rick Simpson method, which up until last week, was a secret. Simpson makes his oil using the leaves as well as buds and begins by immersing them in a solvent. At the moment, the only place that you can buy Rick Simpson Oil is in California. I have decided that, even with my short cut version, not only is making the oil too much work; its impossible to figure out how much oil to mix with how much weed and equally impossible to ever know how potent the result is going to be.

Not only did my baked goods have an underlying skunky smell, but I had to eat too many of them to feel any effect of relaxation. And they didn’t taste that good either, whether I mixed the gunky residue in the the batter or not. I’ve given up on making my own oil and baking brownies.

I wish that I could grow my own plants. All I would need is a couple of them. But, in Massachusetts, you can only grow a few plants if you are disabled or can’t get to a dispensary, or are very poor. So much for legally growing my own. So, back I go to the dispensary.

As soon as I step through the door, I feel like Alice in Wonderland. alice

Each time I go, the “menu” is different, with different strains available with names such as “Amnesia Haze,” “Afgooey,” and “Sour Tsunami X Cataract Kush.” The “Edibles” on the menu are usually the same: chocolate bars, caramel nuggets, and lozenges. There’s tincture that I would consider, but it’s not available in the Indica strain (which is for relaxation). This time they also are advertising some kind of “shake,” but I don’t bother to ask.

Instead I get into a discussion about the menu with a gray-bearded guy in line ahead of me. He does the caramel Dose Nuggets, he says. I look at the prices. They are the same as the lozenges, which I have tried and don’t like. The capsules are $4 each at the lowest dose. I don’t like swallowing capsules at bed time, and I’m still playing around with “cost vs benefit.”

I notice that the caramel nuggets come in 50 mg doses as well as 10 mg. I look at the price of each and start doing some math. An individual 10 mg nugget is $5. A 50 mg nugget is $15, and if I cut it into five pieces, that would give me five 10 mg doses ($3 a piece). It’s a lot cheaper to cut up the bigger nugget, so I that’s what I get, enough to cut up and last me for several weeks. I also buy a cannabis chocolate bar to try. What the hell, right?

What a difference a “dose” makes. Next time.

Marijuana’s Dynamic Duo: Stop #4 on my Medical Marijuana Mystery Tour

I’m on Facebook with Grannies for Grass, and they post frequently about research success in the use of medical marijuana to treat and minimize the symptoms of various illnesses, and that is where I find all kinds of good information.

For example, it’s important to understand that marijuana/cannabis is composed of many different cannabinoids, CBD and THC currently being of the most interest to the medical community.

And, this is the most informative article I’ve been able to find that clarifies the distinction between CBD and THC. Most important to remember is that cannabis/marijuana is a form of hemp, the form that contains THC as well as CBD. The other form of cannabis, which is the hemp plant that has hundreds of beneficial uses for humanity, contains CBD not NOT THC.

I am willing to bet that researchers will eventually find that it is the synergy between the CBD and THC that is really responsible for whatever cures happen.

CBD can be bought online via any number of sites. It is legal. It doesn’t have a psychoactive effect. It doesn’t taste great in its most potent and least expensive oil form, so it’s also available as other flavored products, such as tinctures — which then dilute the potency. The place from which I ordered my CBD oil has lower prices if you have a medical marijuana registration card, which I do. But it is available to everyone. Just have your credit card handy.

I bought the bad tasting CBD oil, since I am used to the taste of herbal extracts, which often taste like dirt. And it was the least expensive of the oils they have to offer. Mine came in a needle-less syringe marked to indicate ten doses. Each dose of the very thick oil (the consistency of Vaseline) is about the size of a baby pea. I don’t take it every day, and I don’t know if that makes a difference in terms of its purported ability to prevent and heal disease. I’m experimenting. It’s part of the Tour.

The medical marijuana I buy at the dispensary is the usual kind that contains THC, CBD, and all of the other cannabinoids. And that’s where this Tour really takes off.

Visiting the Medical Marijuana Dispensary #3

Just the other day, New York State approved the use of Medical Marijuana. Currently there is only one dispensary in New York State, but four others are scheduled to open soon. Massachusetts now has several dispensaries, and the closest to me is in Northampton, about 40 minutes away.

I have discovered that marijuana buds smell skunky. (I don’t remember that about the leaves, but my last connection with those was more than 20 years ago.) And so a vague haze of that smell permeates the dispensary and wafts out as I am buzzed through the door into the small, locked entrance foyer, where I have to show my official marijuana registration card and driver’s license. After the happy young man finds me on the computer and buzzes me farther in, I am greeted by a long line of fellow travelers awaiting their turns at the upscale glass and chrome counter. It looks kind of like a cosmetic store, with light wood paneling, recessed lighting, and glass display shelves featuring bags of edibles, oddly shaped paraphernalia, and samples of the assorted fuzzy-looking green buds. At least five “associates” are busy behind the counter, helping customers choose among the offerings, which include actual buds of miscellaneous strains, lozenges, chocolates, capsules, and lotions.

When my turn comes, my identification papers are checked again, and my legitimacy confirmed by the computer. “It’s my first time,” I tell the smiling, attractive middle-aged woman. That is her cue to ask me what ailments I am treating give and me a run-down of what is available that might help. She hands me a menu with descriptions and prices.

At first I am overwhelmed by “sticker shock.” $5 per lozenge. $50 for 1/8 oz of bud. $100 for 1/4 oz. There are also capsules (30 for $100), vaporizer cartridges ($25 each), and pre-rolled joints ($15 each). And you can only pay with cash, a debit card, or as a cash advance with a credit card. A prescription med would be a lot cheaper; unfortunately, the many I’ve tried either don’t work or have side effects to which I don’t want to subject myself.

I did my homework before I arrived, so I think I know what I want. There are two major strains of marijuana: indica and sativa. The former is “prescribed” to help with relaxation and sleep (also inflammation and pain). The latter is supposed to rev you up and help alleviate various physiological symptoms. The choice for my insomnia is obvious.

I also know that I don’t want to smoke it or vaporize it, so I go with the lozenges. 10 of them. $50. I will try them, but there is no way I can afford to buy enough to use them for a month of sleepless nights. Who knows if they will work, anyway.

(Stay tuned for my adventures in ingesting Medical Marijuana)

My Medical Marijuana Mystery Tour Begins #2

I Never Was a Hippie

In August of 1969, when my younger cousins never made it to Woodstock because they got stuck in all of the other traffic trying to get there, I was married and living in rural suburbia with a 7 year old daughter and a son several months from his birth. While I was into the music of the era, I had neither interest in nor access to weed. I can’t remember whether I cared or not.

Fast forward to the 80s. I am a divorced single working mother during the day and disco diva at night. I have access to weed through a colleague who grows it in his urban backyard and shares the dried leaves freely. Smoking before dancing keeps me from getting out of breath (the THC opens up airways) and loosens my inhibitions. I love the nightlife; I love to boogie.

Those Disco Nights

Those were the nights,
tho she never did the coke
in the shadows behind the bar
where the blue-eyed bouncer,
strategically sun-bronzed and bleached
macho-hot in open shirt gleaming gold,
found new places for fast hands;
but she’d arrive already gone
from toking on the road,
primed for fast stepping,
skirt hiked high on thigh,
eyes that said “ready
to hustle me dizzy,”
spinning close and low
dropping now
all smiles
and sweat
and bass-booming blood
binding her to the heat
of those gone dancing nights.

But I am not being a great parent. I am trying to survive. As I move into my 50s, disco starts to poop out and so do I. It’s a little too late to fix what I messed up as a parent, but I do the best I can.

Fast forward to today. I am almost 76, have oseoarthritis and really bad insomnia. I have tried just about every available prescription, OTC, and herbal concoction to alleviate symptoms. Some never work. Some work but stop. Massachusetts has legalized medical marijuana to use for those conditions, and I know enough about weed not to be afraid of it. So, I go and get an official Medical Marijuana card. I get online and try to figure out how to take it, how much to take, what kind to take. It’s information overload. I commandeer a friend to accompany me, and we drive up to Northampton to the only MMJ dispensary available to me. And so begins the inspiration for this Medical Marijuana Mystery Tour. Keep checking this site for more stops on the journey.

Shifting Gears: Medical Marijuana Mystery Tour #1

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything here. Whatever I might rant about (corruption in politics, corporate mortal sins, our malfunctioning Gestapo) is being satisfactorily covered by my Facebook friends. My goal here has always been to deal with my own interests from, what I hoped was, unique perspectives. Whether explaining how to fix t-shirts so that you don’t have to wear a bra, or chronicling my mother’s five last days, I tried to share an authentic experience, told from my gut and my heart.

The challenge, lately, has been to find something I want to share with authenticity and guts and heart.

I will be 76 in another month or so, and my life as an older person is nothing like I imagined, in both good and bad ways.

One of the bad ways is that I have had really bad insomnia since the fall of 2014. I’ve tried just about everything available — prescriptions, OTC, herbal concoctions, TENS stimulation, exercise, meditation, visual imagery. Some worked for a while then stopped and some never worked at all.

When the state I live in, Massachusetts, legalized medical marijuana, I decided to give it a try. And also to blog, from my unique perspective as a “gray lady,” about this new adventure.

Soon I will begin “Gray Lady’s Medical Marijuana Mystery Tour.” As the Beatles sang, “The magical mystery tour is hoping to take you away. Hoping to take you away.”

I don’t know where it will take me. Will take us. Keep in mind that I’m not a very private person; I tend to put it all out there, and, as usual, you will probably learn more about me than you really want to know. Or not. What I hope is that my experiences will shed some light on how medical marijuana might enhance the lives of the elderly, whether to help us deal with insomnia, or pain and inflammation, or simply to help us just feel all-round better.

I will try to link to specific and factual information where appropriate. But mostly this is about me. Because, you know, it’s always about me.

Vigil Eve

I am no longer with my extended family for the holidays. Our life’s lessons have brought us to different places, literally and metaphorically. But there was an important time that we shared, and I celebrate those times of endearing family gatherings, before our realities diverged and they developed a need to pray for me.

And so I post these, remembering my extended family with nostalgia and also with an appreciation for even the tenuous connections that still exist.

They pray. I write.

Vigil Eve (“Wigilia’ 1950)

There was no mistaking this immigrant clan
for anything but a matriarchy,
bringing from its Polish homeland
the fundamentals of family, earthy foods,
a deference to the will of the grayest female.

The men earned hard money, revered their vodka.
as it was on the farms of the old country.
The rest was woman’s right and work.
So, when the magical time of Vigil Eve drew near
the men disappeared into their smokey enclaves

to share storied fatherland memories,
while the women gathered in her kitchen
a determined lineage of daughters,
by birth and marriage, armed with
the culinary legacies of generations.

Her enameled kitchen table, an assembly line
of dough, tools, bowls of rich concoctions,
filled with reflections of final farm harvests.
For days, they rolled floured, filled and pinched,
boiled, browned and layered.

We children sat at the floor, eye level to legs
in a corner of the steamy kitchen,
playing with scraps of pasty dough,
lulled by the soft humming of female voices,
the steady rumble of snowy urban streets.

The night of Vigil Eve flowed with prayers and feasting,
as full families gathered at the gray lady’s call,
reviving ancient rites of pine and light,
to sing the language and history of their people
carried across oceans of fear and hope.

They sang of homeland yearnings for freedom and faith,
of the tears of mountaineers displaced and despaired,
of the battles of heroes to free the heart’s land,
of mystical mothers and magical births.

Generations of voices in harmony
drifted through the lace-curtained windows
opened to the cold winter night, the night
when animals talked, wishes were granted,
and ancient rituals forged the bonds of blood.

———–

Heart of Rom
(an earlier version published in The Berkshire Review, Volume 4, 1996)

Cyganka! My grandmother scolds,
as I bound off the front stoop
onto the wet city street,
propelled by the promise of stolen kisses
and the musky taste of Tangee
still slick on my lips.

Gypsy. Even the word brings blood
blood rushing to the pit of my stomach.
How I wish for the wild hair,
dark eyes, skin like old copper,
for a power ancient as the land,
the sweep of continents
and countless untamed hearts.

She ruled us with her will,
that Polish grandmother –
a small strong-handed woman
with a voice of faith-forged mettle
and a back turned straight against
truths too bold to hold.

Yet, they tell me once, as I lay young and dying,
she revealed her family secrets:
holy candles, crystal cups, vials of spirits, leeches,
while my mother watched from shadows
fighting demons with her eyes.

They tell me, when the priest arrived,
surprised to find the child alive,
he never commented on the faint red circles
following the tender length of spine,
the scattering of blood marks along the back
like ancient glyphs on altar stone.