other person’s words

I am struck tonight by the power of other persons’ words.

Oh, I know, this web is a world of words. I spend too many hours meandering among miles of words that escape my head and ignore my heart.

Ronni Bennett’s Time Goes By is the one blog I read every day because what she has to say always has relevance for me. And so I don’t know how I managed NOT to read an incredibly moving section of her blog until tonight. And it is a section that has deep meaning for me because it’s about her time being her dying mother’s caregiver.

“A Mother’s Last Best Lesson”
is presented in 12 poignantly honest pieces that hold the mind and touch the heart.

It’s not that I identify with Ronni’s experience; my attempts to take care of my mother have been very different. But she tells a powerful story, and there is something in me that is jarred by her revealing words.

There is something in me that resents not being able to do for my mother what Ronni did for hers. Oh yes, our circumstances are very different. Dementia makes it so. As does, in my case, situations of brutal familial disputes over how my mother’s care should be handled. I couldn’t win, so I abdicated because I have no legal power to make her struggle any easier, and I couldn’t bear to just stand by.

Ronni’s story made me realize that, after 8 years of caregiving being the intense focal point of my existence, I now find I don’t have a point, a purpose. I can get up in the morning, or not. I can eat, or not. Bathe or not. Go out or not.

I am finally “retired” from employment and living with a loving family and an almost-7-year old engaging grandson who is a joy. But I have forgotten how to be engaged in my own so-called life.

I am feeling like a work in progress that has had no progress for 8 years. In my past life I raised a family; held various challenging and rewarding jobs; was an vocal activist on behalf of various political and educational issues; and found power in the poetry of women’s spirituality. And I wrote. And I wrote. I was passionate about everything I did; if I didn’t feel passionate about it, I didn’t do it.

I have found myself in a “dark night of the soul” before and have labored, successfully, to find my way out, one step at a time.

Next week I am going on a week’s vacation to Maine with two of my closest friends. We will play Boggle and drink wine and laugh a lot. We will walk on the beach and read and contemplate and talk and laugh a lot.

And when I come back home, I will begin yet another journey to find the parts of myself that I have lost, to regenerate the parts of myself that have lost passion and purpose. I think I have found a new counselor who might be able to help me with that process.

Over the course of some 20 years of my previous life, I had the good fortune to have had as a friend and counselor someone who has moved on to assisting veterans and their families as they reconnect and readjust into full, productive civilian life.

He was a poet before he was a therapist, and his work and his words, now, still hold a great deal of healing power.

The word psychotherapist comes directly from the Asclepiad tradition. It means “soul attendant.” Psychology literally means “the order and meaning of the soul.” It didn’t become a science until Freud and his followers arrived out of the medical tradition. Modern psychology left the soul far behind and has not yet reconnected with its spiritual roots, though it needs to, because psychological healing occurs at a spiritual level.

The above is from an interview in The Sun magazine on helping veterans with PTSD, entitled Like Wandering Ghosts: Edward Tick On How The U.S. Fails Its Returning Soldiers. It’s worth a read.

Origins of the Specious

The title of this post is the title of a book (that I have just ordered from Amazon), one of the authors of which I heard interviewed on NPR on my way back home today.

The authors’ website has a page on grammar myths that begins thusly and that is worth taking a look at:

The Living Dead

The house of grammar has many rooms, and some of them are haunted. Despite the best efforts of grammatical exorcists, the ghosts of dead rules and the spirits of imaginary taboos are still rattling and thumping about the old place.

It’s no longer considered a crime to split an infinitive or end a sentence with a preposition, for example, but the specters of worn-out rules have a way of coming back to haunt us. In the interest of laying a few to rest, let’s dedicate to each a tombstone, complete with burial service. May they rest in peace

According to the authors, many of those complicated rules of “proper” grammar that I expended so much energy on learning and then teaching my 8th grade classes back in the 70s are no longer worth worrying about.

Well, “makes me no nevermind,” as someone somewhere used to say. I’ve always known that language evolves. But is appears to be evolving faster than I.

I can’t wait to read the book.

Patricia O’Conner, one of the authors, appears on the Leonard Lopate Show around 1:20 P.M. Eastern time. Click here on the third Wednesday of each month to hear Pat live. She appears on the Leonard Lopate Show around 1:20 P.M. Eastern time. If you miss a program, click here to listen to a recorded broadcast..

straddling worlds

I keep wondering how long it will take for me to feel really settled in this next stage of my life — to adjust to a new physical state and a new mental state.

Massachusetts is very different from where I was living in New York. Needless to say, I was financially shocked to receive a $348 bill from the town for the “excise tax” for my car. Everyone in Massachusetts who owns a car pays an annual excise tax. Well, since there’s no sales tax on clothing and shoes, I suppose that’s only fair.

On a more positive note, it seems that I don’t have a co-pay for doctor’s appointments through Medicare. I guess it all balances out, especially since I’m in the middle of a round of doctor’s appointment to get my health stabilized — including starting physical therapy for my arthritic back.

Parts of my old life are still with me, though, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I will be traveling to visit my mother this weekend, although I’m not even sure that she will remember me. The live-in aide will be able to visit her family, and my brother will be able to have a few nights to himself. And then I will travel half-way back home and spend some time with my women friends, whom I have seen in months and months.

When I get back next week, I wonder if the Cardinal eggs in the bushes not too far from my back door will be hatched. Every day, we go out and check to see how mom and babies are doing (not too close, though; the dad scolds us insistently if we get too close). My grandson is excited about perhaps being able to see the babies still tucked into the nest. Of course, he gets excited about a lot things — spotting a Monarch butterfly, adding a model Brachiosaurus to his dinosaur collection, driving by a construction site while a grapple is working, watching an air force plane flying overhead, going fishing with his dad.

I used to get excited about all sorts of things. I seem to have forgotten how. Maybe I need some mental therapy as well as the physical.

Now I’ll go pack my car.

graying out, outing gray

Maybe I’m just more aware of it since I let my hair grow out gray, but I’m seeing more and more women in their 50s and 60s who are sporting various shades of naturally graying hair. The exceptions might be the women in Florida, who, my cousins who live there tell me, are all blonds.

The national census taken five years ago indicates that a little over 12% of Americans were older than 65 at the time. The census report also states that:

Projected percentage increase in the 65-and-over population between 2000 and 2050 [will be 147%]. By comparison, the population as a whole would have increased by only 49 percent over the same period.

Gray is in. Unfortunately, in some ways, gray is also the new Black, as we become more and more sensitive to the subtle ageism that permeates our culture. I don’t know anyone who has documented the negative and prejudicial attitudes about aging better than Ronni Bennett at Time Goes By.

But gray, nevertheless, is in. And, hopefully, the Gray Panthers, founded in 1970, will grow into an even greater force in the years to come.

Maggie Kuhn convened a group of five friends, all of whom were retiring from national religious and social work organizations. This first “Network” of friends gathered to look at the common problems faced by retirees — loss of income, loss of contact with associates and loss of one of our society’s most distinguishing social roles, one’s job. They also discovered a new kind of freedom in their retirement — the freedom to speak personally and passionately about what they believed in, such as their collective opposition to the Vietnam War.

Currently, the Gray Panthers are working to affect 8 major issues, with health care being the first on the list.

Gray is in. It’s in on the Internet as well. The Ageless Project lists almost 500 bloggers who are over 55, and every day, retirees who are comfortable using communication technologies because of their job experiences reach out into online social networks for diversion and stimulation,.

Too long has becoming gray (in the larger sense of growing older) been something to avoid at all costs, although the costs to those doing the avoiding are high — all of those hair coloring treatments and anti-aging creams, and even botox and plastic surgery.

How much healthier to be gray and proud of it and all of the experience and wisdom it implies.

Go Gray!

a Mother’s Day tribute to my kids (reprised)

This is the third Mother’s Day that I’m blogging this post. After all, my kids are the reason I’m a mother, right?

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.


first we take Manhattan
then we take Berlin

Those are words in a Leonard Cohen song that keep running through my head as I read about the religious right in Texas trying to make fundamentalist changes to the state’s Social Studies curriculum. There are terrorists and then there are terrorists.

A press release from the Texas Freedom Network examines the situation, providing

…. the names of “experts” appointed by far-right state board members. Those panelists will guide the revision of social studies curriculum standards for Texas public schools. They include David Barton of the fundamentalist, Texas-based group WallBuilders, whose degree is in religious education, not the social sciences, and the Rev. Peter Marshall of Peter Marshall Ministries in Massachusetts, who suggests that California wildfires and Hurricane Katrina were divine punishments for tolerance of homosexuality.

The Texas Freedom Network is a nonprofit, grassroots organization of faith and community leaders who support public education, religious freedom and individual liberties.

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No, neither I nor my keyboard has gone completely haywire.

The above are the first lines of the results of geneticists’ efforts to sequence the genes of the swine flu (renamed H1N1).

I don’t understand any of that scientific mumbo jumbo. I also don’t understand why (from Harper’s Weekly):

Egypt, which has no cases of the flu, ordered all its pigs killed, especially slum pigs; police at Manshiyat Nasr slum fired tear gas and rubber bullets at rioting Coptic Christian pig farmers.

Well, I guess I do understand why. I just think it’s stupid.

Some sciences might be awfully hard for lots of people to understand, but, I swear, even more often, I find it hard to understand the people who don’t understand.

I watch my home-schooled grandson as he moves each day toward understanding more. While he already knows “where babies come from,” my daughter has been waiting for him to ask how they got there. And he finally did, the other day.

Using videos on the web and available books designed to help children understand the process of conception, gestation, and birth, my daughter is helping her son to begin to grasp the complexity of it all.

While I am unswervingly Pro Choice, I also understand the awesomeness of fetal development. And that’s why I don’t understand why those who oppose abortion don’t make a big deal of disseminating information about how babies come to be and how “sacred” (see 5th definition here) and amazing the actual, factual process is. I wonder, if young children were instilled with awe while explained the facts, would they be more likely, as teenagers, to avoid unwanted pregnancies — not out of fear of some god, but rather because they would value life more. Maybe it shouldn’t be called “sex education.” Maybe it should be called something more scientific, like “human procreation.”

C’mon, even Sarah Palin’s daughter admits that abstinence doesn’t work. She certainly has learned that from her own experience.

Knowledge and understanding can sidetrack many bad decisions, and “knowing” and “understanding” are not the same thing. If children truly were helped to understand the scientific marvel that they are as human organisms — right from the very beginning — perhaps as they mature, they would have more respect for themselves and for other living things. And then, maybe, abortions wouldn’t be necessary except in extreme cases.

Of course, I’m just speculating. What do I know? I’m just a little ol’ grandma raising hell at the keyboard and trying to understand this world that seems to be “going to hell in a handbasket.” (Hmm. Why a handbasket, I wonder.)

Some extreme things that are happening I understand and accept, some I understand but despise, and some I just don’t understand. All of the above are reflected in the following, again lifted from Harper’s Weekly Review:

Sweden recognized same-sex marriages.

A food-service industry survey found that schoolchildren would like to replace lunch ladies with robots.

Kenyan women’s organizations called for wives to boycott sex, and for prostitutes to be paid not to work, until leaders in the coalition government stop feuding.

South Korea bioengineered four fluorescent beagles

A senior Buddhist monk in Thailand named Phra Maha Wudhijaya Vajiramedhi vowed to teach gay and transgender Thai monks better manners, which would include the elimination of their pink purses, their sculpted eyebrows, and their revealingly tight robes.

Officials in New Delhi were investigating the case of Shanno Khan, an 11-year-old girl whose teacher allegedly forced her to stand in the hot sun for two hours as a punishment for not doing her homework, ignoring Khan when she promised to learn her alphabet and begged for water. The girl fainted and was hospitalized. “I never want to go to school again,” she told her mother, and died a day later.

GERD and the Munchies

Nope. It’s not the name of a new alternative rock group. It’s the two related problems that have been plaguing me for years. I always seem to be hungry, and the food cravings are especially bad before I go to bed. The result is acid reflux and accompanying insomnia.

I’ve tried all sorts of pills — for the reflux, for the munchies, for insomnia. I’m still on a proton pump inhibitor, which helps with the acid reflux except when I have the nighttime munchies.

After exhaustive Googling, I finally found something that seems to curb my appetite and stop the acid reflux.

I tastes a lot like alka seltzer, except that alka seltzer contains aspirin and citric acid, as well as bicarbonate of soda. It’s the acid and the bicarb that combine to make the fizz. But both the aspirin and citric acid in the alka seltzer are not really good for anyone with stomach problems.

My remedy fizzes also, but the acid component is mostly acetic acid.

Apple cider vinegar and bicarbonate of soda (also known as baking soda), added to water and drunk twice a day work for me.

There are some ads on the net for books that will tell you how to use three ordinary kitchen items to heal GERD. I haven’t read any of those books (refuse to spend the money), but my bet is those books add some honey to the basic apple cider and vinegar concoction.

Apple cider vinegar and honey mixed together have been considered a “tonic” for generations, thought to help everything from arthritis to weight loss.

I don’t mind the taste even without the honey, but I think I’ll try adding that third ingredient to my mixture and see if it works any better.

Meanwhile, I’m successfully cutting down on my late evening snacking — which means my acid doesn’t reflux, and I sleep a lot better. And it’s cheaper — and healthier — than popping pills.