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.

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)

Remembering Convict #9653

I have always hoped that the human race would evolve beyond greed and self-interest. Of course, there’s nothing in our human history that shows that there’s any hope of that happening.

I’m thinking about the

turn of the century 1900, the era of extreme capitalists, sometimes referred to as “Robber Barons,” that consisted of the very wealthy and everybody else. Those 1% of the 1% fought hard to keep regular people as poor as they could, and they kept every penny they squeezed from the working poor. (Remind you of another time, say … recently? Hmmm.)

I am thinking about Eugene Debs, who fought for the rights of the working class to organize and strike and who founded the Socialist Party. Eugene Victor “Gene” Debs was an American union leader, one of the founding members of the Industrial Workers of the World, and five times the candidate of the Socialist Party of America for President of the United States

I think that it’s important to note that:

He refused to allow the Socialist Party to join forces with the various Communist parties that were active at the time, believing that the more moderate Socialist Party platform would win more hearts and minds. Considering that we now take for granted a lot of the things it fought for, the platform was radical for the time. It included:
A minimum wage
An end to child labor
Rights for black Americans
Improving working conditions
Increasing the number of people who can vote

On June 16, 1918, Eugene Debs delivered his final speech before heading to prison. As World War I raged on across the world, he spoke these words near a jail where several of his fellow Socialist Party acquaintances were housed for “antiwar agitation.” 1,200 people attended the party convention. He took advantage of the audience, and the moment in history, to speak to the crowd….His words were later used to sentence him to prison for 10 years. It was from there that he received nearly 1 million votes for president in 1920, running as simply Convict No. 9653.

“These are the gentry who are today wrapped up in the American flag, who shout their claim from the housetops that they are the only patriots, and who have their magnifying glasses in hand, scanning the country for evidence of disloyalty, eager to apply the brand of treason to the men who dare to even whisper their opposition to Junker rule in the United Sates. No wonder Sam Johnson declared that “patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” He must have had this Wall Street gentry in mind, or at least their prototypes, for in every age it has been the tyrant, the oppressor, and the exploiter who has wrapped himself in the cloak of patriotism, or religion, or both to deceive and overawe the people.

[snip]

But they themselves did not go to war any more than the modern feudal lords, the barons of Wall Street. The feudal barons of the Middle Ages, the economic predecessors of the capitalists of our day, declared all wars. And their miserable serfs fought all the battles. The poor, ignorant serfs had been taught to revere their masters; to believe that when their masters declared war upon one another, it was their patriotic duty to fall upon one another and to cut one another’s throats for the profit and glory of the lords and barons who held them in contempt. And that is war in a nutshell. The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and all to lose — especially their lives.

They have always taught and trained you to believe it to be your patriotic duty to go to war and to have yourselves slaughtered at their command. But in all the history of the world, you — the people — have never had a voice in declaring war. And strange as it certainly appears, no war by any nation in any age has ever been declared by the people.

And here let me emphasize the fact—and it cannot be repeated too often—that the working class who fight all the battles, the working class who make the supreme sacrifices, the working class who freely shed their blood and furnish their corpses, have never yet had a voice in either declaring war or making peace. It is the ruling class that invariably does both.

They alone declare war, and they alone make peace.

Yours not to reason why; yours but to do and die.

That is their motto, and we object on the part of the awakening workers of this nation. If war is right let it be declared by the people. You who have your lives to lose, you certainly above all others have the right to decide the momentous issue of war or peace.”

Check out the Democratic Socialists of America: Democratic Socialists believe that both the economy and society should be run democratically to meet human needs, not to make profits for a few. We are a political and activist organization, not a party; through campus and community-based chapters DSA members use a variety of tactics, from legislative to direct action, to fight for reforms that empower working people.

slowly growing garden bounty

This year, the family planted an almond tree and a cherry tree. The fruit trees planted in previous years are becoming laden with young edibles. One tomato has shown up, and the bird house is filled to capacity. A little bit of paradise, here.

gardenbounty

columnar apples












peaches











first tomato












occupied bird house.






We don’t have an extra big yard; it’s just a regular house lot. But the family makes the most of it. Such is suburban farming.

Low Empathy: the root of all evil

LOW EMPATHY

I am obsessed with the conviction that our human race is devolving because we are losing our capacity for empathy. And I am not alone in believing that is the root of all of the evil in this world.

On the other hand, there is increasing research that is proving how other mammalian species are actually evolving in their capacity to feel and demonstrate empathy. All you have to do is do an online search for “animal empathy,” and you can spend the rest of the day being amazed and gratified at the increasingly widespread “humane” behaviors of our non-human brothers and sisters. (Do an online search for any of the areas of human violence in the world today – shootings, rapes, war zones…. — and you will spend the rest of the day, perhaps, starting to believe as I do.)

The tendency for humans seems to be violent. An online search for “human violence” will provide support for that assertion.

But it’s really more complicated – and overwhelming – than most folks are willing to admit.

Individual research projects are showing that there are complex connections among the healthy functioning of the brain’s “empathy spot,” the levels of the aggression hormone testosterone, the harmful psychological (and, perhaps neural) effects of violent sports/games/language, and this crisis of morality that is plaguing our species.

After spending the past few days searching online for perspectives on this issue, the best piece I have been able to find (although there are others) is “Why a Lack of Empathy is the Root of All Evil,” by psychologist Simon Baron Cohen, who offers this general definition:

Empathy is our ability to identify what someone else is thinking or feeling, and to respond to their thoughts and feelings with an appropriate emotion,” writes Baron-Cohen. People who lack empathy see others as mere objects.

And so we have rampant misogyny, bigotry, border disputes, extreme nationalism, racism,war, violence of all kinds.

What is fascinating to me is that the home of “empathy” seems to be in the brain itself. Scientific research has identified an area of the brain associated with empathy – the anterior insular cortex.

In other words, patients with anterior insular lesions had a hard time evaluating the emotional state of people in pain and feeling empathy for them, compared to the controls and the patients with anterior cingulate cortex lesions,” said the researchers.

This area of the brain that has been proven to be affected by a variety of variables, including testosterone levels and exposure to violent media.

One of Baron-Cohen’s longitudinal studies – which began 10 years ago – found that the more testosterone a foetus generates in the womb, the less empathy the child will have post- natally. In other words, there is a negative correlation between testosterone and empathy. It would appear the sex hormone is somehow involved in shaping the “empathy circuits” of the developing brain.
Given that testosterone is found in higher quantities in men than women, it may come as no surprise that men score lower on empathy than women. So there is a clear hormonal link to empathy. Another biological factor is genetics. Recent research by Baron-Cohen and colleagues found four genes associated with empathy – one sex steroid gene, one gene related to social-emotional behaviour and two associated with neural growth.

Contrary to what gamer developers would like us to believe, ongoing research is tending to prove that areas of the brain associated with empathy are being affected by constant exposure to violent video and other games.

New preliminary findings suggest that brain activation is altered in normal youths with significant past violent media exposure while viewing violent video games.

The reasons for our devolution are obviously complicated and involve some combination of nature and nurture and the opposite of nurture. As a culture and society, we seem to be intent on denying how we actually are encouraging a diminishment of empathy in favor of greed, selfish amorality, and vested interests — whether they be political, religious, economic, or national.

Of course, it’s easier to deny – from climate change to chemical food contamination, to promoting and glorifying violence – than it is to tackle the daunting job of trying to undo what we have done. But if we don’t, we will be a dead species before long. We will destroy ourselves from the simple lack of empathy.

I am hoping that some less corporate-manipulated and more holistic researchers will be able to bring together all of the factors that are pushing our species over the precipice of widespread violence and come up with a convincing argument for the necessity to put the brakes on across the board. Coming up with a plan after that is maybe more than government is capable of now. But if we don’t….

Having been a fan of speculative fiction my whole life and witnessing the manifestations of many of those “fictional” speculations, I don’t hold much hope.

Suburban Farming on a Shoestring

With all of the concern over GMO foods and pesticide contamination, suburban farming has become a big deal these days. Our family has been growing veggies in a small plot of backyard land for several years now. This year I decided to extend our planting areas to other spots around the house. Instead of flowers, I have planted veggies.

tomatopatchHere is my tomato strip, which runs along the fence that separates us from one of our neighbors. I am experimenting with this red plastic mulch which is supposed to make the tomatoes grow faster and better. It sounds a bit like sympathetic magic to me, but there also seems to be some scientific connection, based on light waves and such.

I have planted beefsteak, Paul Rebeson, yellow grape, and green zebra tomatoes, as well as one that will be a surprise because I lost the marker and can’t remember what kind it was. If all goes well, we should be in tomato heaven.
sidetomatovinewatercress garden
This is a small spot at the front corner of our house that gets nice afternoon sun. Before I took it over for a cherry tomato vine and assorted other edibles (basil, kale, mesclun, dill) it was a patch of useless grass. I threw in some marigold seeds around the tomato plant. Bugs and other critters don’t like marigolds.

A raised bed space alongside the back stairs to my rooms gets sun all morning, and so I planted watercress, purselane, parsley, and cilantro. I never heard of purseland before I went to the Farmers’ Market this afternoon and saw a plant on sale. I like to try a new edible every year, and this is it for this year. Last year’s ground cherries didn’t fare very well.

rosemarywelcomeAn old chiminea that wound up on the front lawn and then lost it’s chimney seemed to be a good place to plant some rosemary and hang a fuschia plant. I put the chimney section aside and will probably plant some kind of vine it by the divider my daughter erected to block the part of the driveway where she puts a table and umbrella.

Folks in our neighborhood never use their front lawns, never sit on their front steps. We do. But then, again, we do a lot of things that the other folks in our neighborhood don’t do, including home-schooling.

And, for me, the best part of our front yard is this, where I often sit late in the afternoon and read, knit, listen to a book on tape, or just snooze. And from this vantage point, I can watch the hummingbirds visit my little hummingbird garden (more on that another time). In another month, the long branches of the willow and the tall grasses planted behind the swing will seclude it from the driveway and the road. This is my little piece of heaven.
readyswing