Grace and Frankie Use the “M” Word.

For those without Netflix, Grace and Frankie is into its third season as a comedy about couples in their seventies. (Warning: this post includes “spoilers,” but I don’t think they will take away from any of your enjoyment of the series.)

Frankie (Lily Tomlin) and Grace (Jane Fonda) are two very different women in their 70s living together at a beach house which they used to share when they were married to their husbands (who have come out as gay).

I will get to the “M” word eventually, but first I want to comment on the beautifully developed elder characters that the two actresses portray. They are feisty, quirky, impatient, forgetful, caring, independent, irreverent, maternal, and forgiving. They are the Golden Girls for this oldest generation of the 21st Century.

While very few women in their 70s are as wrinkle- and cellulite- free as Fonda (who looks and dresses like a model in a Neiman Marcus ad), she is believable as a traditional retired businesswoman. Tomlin, with graying hair, a few wrinkles, and outfits that must come from the Gudrun catalog, is an ex-hippie artist – about as opposite from her housemate as possible.

Sally Field & Penelope Wilton

There is a part of me that would rather have had someone play Grace who is less physically “reconfigured” than Fonda – like maybe Sally Field or Penelope Wilton, who, although not yet in their 70s allow themselves to realistically portray elder women wrinkles and all.

However, Fonda has won me over, despite her almost flawless skin and size 2 body. She and Tomlin play off each other with excellent timing and consistent characterization.

Frankie smokes weed and gets Grace to admit she MASTURBATES. Yes, that’s the “M” word that brings the women together to invent and produce a vibrator for elder women, whose arthritis often impedes their pleasure.

Grace and Frankie hilariously find ways to deal with just about all of the emotional and physical challenges faced by women over 70. There are three seasons available on Netflix, and it’s the only contemporary series I have found that is appealingly honest and charmingly irreverent about life in its last quarter.

Sheen and Waterston

While I am focusing on the female characters, they are given a run for their money by their gay ex-husbands (a sweet, believable, and delightful pairing of Sam Waterston and Martin Sheen).

We need to insist that Grace and Frankie start a trend of movies and series about elder women.

Kate Burton in “Grimm”

After watching the last episode of Grimm, in which the eldest female of the Grimm family (played by Kate Burton) pulls a sword from her cane and lops off a piece of the monster, I am rooting for a character like that in a new fantasy series.

The Crone’s time has come.

The Dilemma of Choices

Because this blog focuses on the lives of American elder women in the last quarter of our lives I will not try to be overtly intersectional in specifically mentioning people of color, of poverty, with physical challenges, and who seek gender equality, because, in truth, “elder women in the last quarter of our lives” is intended to include all marginalized women in that age bracket. So, when I speak here, I speak from my own – somewhat privileged – experience. After all, I am white with a limited retirement income that I should be able to live within (with, granted, limited but livable choices).

Access to unlimited funds pretty much gives you unlimited choices because it eliminates one of the prime restrictions to making a choice: the money to pay for it and whatever consequences result. For 98% of us, that’s a crucial restriction, and we try to live within our means. That means we live with limited choices.

The Equal Rights Amendment did not get approved because it was not ratified by ¾ of the states. That Amendment to the Constitution would have benefited all kinds of people, but because of the options it would open for women, it remains controversial, with religious conservatives opposing it because of their pro-life stance. They continue to work toward limiting many women’s choices by demanding that we restrict ourselves to their choices.

While women, in total, make up more than half of American citizens, it is mostly men who are in power to make the laws that limit our choices. Take, for example the (thankfully unsuccessful) effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. A wonderful recent piece by (of all things) the United Church of Christ blog covers this issue beautifully, ending with

All this new-found talk of “choices” is a mockery, a betrayal of Christian values, a scheme designed to lull the most vulnerable into supporting a health care law resulting in worse coverage for them, at greater personal expense, to the benefit of the wealthy who will continue to enjoy Cadillac care for less.

Again, this is an example of our predominantly male (and conservative) lawmakers giving us “choices” that do not really give us much choice.

Somewhere between oligarachic patriarchy and total anarchy there has to be a system that will minimize the limits of our lawful choices. “Lawful” is the key word, here. From wearing a hijab (or not) to getting an abortion (or not), these are choices we women should be able to lawfully make for ourselves. And the folks making our laws do not understand the meaning, the importance, and the social structure necessary in making choices that minimize negative personal consequences.

I am a democratic socialist, which means that I would like to see America evolve into a system of a modified form of socialism, achieved by a gradual transition by and under democratic political processes. There are responsibilities to its citizens that every democratic government has. The piece on this page written by Alok Pandey, a young man from India, says it better than anything else I came across.

He ends with this. And so will I.

If it isn’t for people, what good is it for anyway? Now when I say for people, it doesn’t necessarily means doling out freebies to poor and giving a carte blanche to the rich. Any method is good if it is consensual and is in the better interest of the people. A democratic government must seek the approval of the common masses and later should be ready to receive the feedback for its acts.

Bad knees, can’t march. Now what?

There are about 2.5 million women in America whose challenges of aging makes it difficult for us to participate physically in many of the RESISTANCE activities. As a 77 year old who doesn’t drive after dark (and so can’t attend any evening meetings), has bad knees and can’t march, I am limited in how I can contribute. We send letters and faxes and postcards. We make pink pussy hats for marchers to wear. And we agonize on Facebook and among ourselves about how we will be able to survive this last quarter of our lives in a nation with an administration made up of individuals who have no empathy for anyone who is not rich and powerful? How can we make our collective elder voices heard?

I believe that we need to get angry. Very very mad. Nasty. Irreverent. We need to embrace our nature as wise, experienced, intelligent elder women. CRONES. It’s not a bad word. It’s a powerful word because there’s both mystery, and fear, and respect, and — even — awe, historically associated with the image of a sword-wielding, gray-haired woman, with a crow companion. They once called us witches, but we know better. CRONE. WITCH. WISE WOMAN. We need to figure out how to make ourselves visible and heard — because, indeed, elder women are virtually invisible out in society. (Unless they are rich and powerful, and even then, they cannot expect to be treated with respect and admiration.)

I invite all progressively-minded elder women, all Crones tired of being ignored and marginalized, to come here and rant with me. We care. We care about fighting for the rights of people, of animals, of our endangered planet. We care about adding our issues and voices to those of all of the other marginalized folks in our American communities. What can we do to add our strengths to further the Resistance?

Use the comment option to suggest topics to rant over (your lazy doctor, the disrespectful bus driver, the impatience of store clerks…) I do not delete expletives because I use them myself. And also suggest ways we can join our significant talents and creativity to fight the powers that are destroying all we have worked for all of our lives.

I moderate comments, so trolls will be ignored.

Spread the word among the Crones you know and love. This is one place where you can let your power growl and rant. A place to gather and share what we know, what we hope, what we demand.

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.

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.

Paul read his poetry naked.

He was a crowd favorite at urban poetry readings, especially at the former punk club QE2 on Central Avenue, where he screamed his edgy and ironic “White Boy” poems — often completely naked. Occasionally, he wore a baseball catcher’s mask to go with full-frontal nudity.

Such is how my once friend and colleague, Paul Weinman, is described in a tribute posted in the Albany Times Union today. He just died from the complications of Alzheimer’s. He was 75 years old. The newspaper piece celebrates Paul’s delightfully skewed lifestyle and creative pursuits and is an entertaining read even if you never knew him.

I met Paul when I began working at the New York State Museum in 1980. He already was a fixture and a legend in that institution, often annoying the staid administrators with his controversial off-site antics, while, at the same time, becoming a beloved and entertaining teacher in the Museum’s educational program. Parents and kids alike flocked to his workshops based on the Museum’s exhibits, and inner city neighborhood kids would show up in the Museum after school hours just to hang out with Paul and be entertained by his adventurous historical tales and re-enactments of life in the wilderness of the Adirondacks. He treated all kids with respect and affirmation; he dealt with adults with honest response to the way in which they dealt with him; he responded to the hypocrisies of every power structure with naively gutsy irreverence.

My professional path crossed with Paul’s because we were both poets in an institution that shared a building with the New York Sate Library and Archives and that often held literature-related events. Together, Paul and I organized and hosted the Museum’s annual “Banned Book Week” public readings. We held ekphrastic poetry events in conjunction with Museum art exhibits. We worked well together as colleagues supporting the educational mission of the New York State Museum.

Outside of our jobs, as part of the Albany poetry community, we came to know each other as writers, although our styles — in both content in presentation — had very little in common. As a challenge to my more conservative bent, one day Paul suggested that we do a collaborative poetry chapbook that explored male-female sexual tensions. I would write a poem and then he would write a poem in response. We would go back and forth like that until we had enough for a chapbook. Paul would print out and staple copies of the chapbook and then distribute it, for free, around the area, as he did with all of his poetry projects.

The whole idea was way out of my comfort zone, but Paul was pretty much an icon in the local poetry scene, and I was intrigued by both him and the challenge.

eating.jpg
This is what the cover and back page our chapbook looked like. “Fruits of the Harvest Press” is just the name Paul gave to his own personal printing and distribution system. There’s no date on the publication, but it probably was in the late 1980s.

It took me a while to figure out how to approach the subject of sexuality, but I found a way to do it my way: through food metaphors. Hence the title: “Eating Disorders and Other Mastications.” My first effort was inspired by a Thanksgiving turkey neck.

something about turkey necks,
gizzards nestled in palm of hand,
stroked with oil,
moist heated
until firm, juice-laden,
ready for needing,
nibbling, gnawing–
lip-licking
fine night dining,
giving
thanks

And we went on from there, as I branched out from the food metaphors into other expressions of female sensuality and Paul responded with blatant come-ons such as this, which became one of his famous “White Boy” series:

IN QUIVERS OF INAD-
EQUACY, WHITEBOY TRIES
BUCKUP UP HIS IMAGE
AS HE STRUTS FOR ELAINE
A.   autographing pens
      strapped to hips
B.   rakish hat
      festooned with
      panty hose
C.   boots tooled
      with female in-
      initials, cellular
      calling codes
WHITE BOY TRIPS…
POLEVAULTS ON THAT
POINT HE’S TRYING 2
GET ACROSS: ARRESTED
4 SEXUAL HARASSMENT

My relationship with Paul never moved beyond friendship, although as a willing participant in Dionysian revelry, he might have taken it in that direction. But as attracted as I often was to “bad boys,” Paul was way out of my league in that arena. Plus I got to know Paul’s wife at the time, Judith Braun , a talented visual artist who really didn’t come into her own until she divorced Paul. I liked Judith, enjoyed the bohemian parties they threw, was energized by the creative energies with which they always were surrounded. Paul caused me to stretch the boundaries of my writing and my perceptions of what is acceptable to me in both words and life.

Paul loved the lore of the Adirondacks, and he spent the last five years of his Alzheimer-ridden life making miniature chairs out of tree branches. As the newspaper tribute reports: He built miniature chairs in the Adirondack twig furniture style and left them anonymously around town with a note: “I’m an orphan chair. Please take me home and put a stuffed animal or plant on me.”

I don’t know his latest wife, but I’m going to try to contact her to see if I can get one of those chairs to hold a plant in my garden and hold his memory in my heart.