More than 20 years ago, my son, Bix (who is autistic but didn’t know it back then) got me into blogging. The personal connections that I made back then helped to get me through some rough caregiving years. We all posted every day, whatever was on our minds at the moment — politics, culture, health, family, mutual support, cats. We commented on each other’s posts and kept conversations going. We were a real community; we got to know each other pretty well. Some of us even found a way to meet in person, but even those of us who never did, still developed real friendships.
But, times change, priorities change, culture changes. Life happens.
My last post pretty much explains why I have been otherwise occupied. I am on my last great adventure — the adult love affair of my life. At 82. It has it’s challenges, especially since we live an hour away and each of us lives with our daughters. But we are figuring it out, together.
Now that we are past the Solstice and into a new year, I’m going to make an effort to post more often. There are still things I care about, struggles I and others are going through. Maybe there will be a way to slowly build another blogging community, but even if not, I will again follow the example of my son and get my blogging hat back on and see where it goes.
One of the things that has gotten my brain interested in writing again was a request from my daughter to write my story for my grandson, Lex. The request actually came as a gift last Christmas from Storyworth.com, which provided a question every day that I could answer, with the idea that it would all be printed into a book at the end. I opted just to start telling my story (I just finally started), and I have until January 16 to finish it.
My circadian sleep disorder is still not under control. Medical marijuana usually helps. I manage it the best I can.
March Madness is a crazy time, a neither/nor time. Neither winter nor spring. An in-between time. Neither asleep nor awake.
Mad March targets the tales of those who hide behind the shroud of surety and secrets, takes hold of souls wrapped in remnants of reason, sending them into the mad March wind, freeing the poet’s wonder to unseat what is mean, what is mad, what is best left to the whinings of past seasons gone to seed. Beware the March Hare, unless she is your cup of tea.
The Big Picture these days is like a Gordian Knot. From the domination of the patriarchy and its greed for power and resources, to the negation of any kind of true social and legal justice, fixing the Big Picture is going to take public persistence, strategic action, and (ultimately) creative cooperation to either unravel or discard the current system.
As a White, progressive, middle class extended family, we support working toward re-building our society into a world view that values all life, that prioritizes ethics, equity, compassion, and diversity, and that supports the development of the best of human potential to solve problems in ways that meet the needs of all sentient beings. We make an effort to find common ground – even with antagonists – as a starting point, and often that starting point begins in learning about, understanding, and accepting the truth of each person’s personal journeys and experiences. But too often antagonists don’t want to find common ground, and so there is no place to start or proceed, especially since we are living in a world that seems to have lost all shades of gray.
Decades ago, my (now) adult son was mugged and beaten by three men of color who robbed him of the meager amount that was available via his ATM. Because he was nurtured to understand the influence of the local environment in which these men most likely lived, he was able to move beyond anger and “hate”. As an adult, autistic and afraid of violence, he still lives his life committed to social justice and intersectionality. The road he travels is bumpy, indeed. But he persists in the best way he is able: by intelligent research,analysis, and writing.
When my grandson was 7 or 8 (he is now 17), he became enamored of firemen and their uniforms. Every week, he visited our local fire station, getting to know the firemen personally. Finally, they gave him a discarded uniform, including sections of the hose. He was so excited, he even wore the stuff grocery shopping.
I suppose his love of “costumes” was reinforced by the fact that we are a family with some history in theatrical performance, and his progression into costumes of “authority” was fueled by his feeling secure and protected when he wore them – fire fighter, EMT, detective, police, Dr. Who, Jedi.
So, despite all of his commitment to fairness, ethics, justice, and the goals of Black Lives Matter, and despite his acknowledgment that our system of policing needs to be overhauled, he cannot ignore his empathy toward the plight of some law enforcers – the cop who gets shot and leaves a wife and baby behind; the cop who doesn’t come forward and report unnecessary police violence because he is afraid his partner won’t give him the backup he might need in violent situations; the cop who needs his job to support his extended family.
In addition, my grandson is involved with an online game along with a young POC policeman from the Midwest who has become his friend. That cop has an unmarked police car that is his to drive and even take home. But he does not want to park that car in his driveway because he is afraid to make it public that he is a cop; he is afraid of his family being victimized by opposition forces.
The backlash my grandson gets from his “social justice warrior” friends when he tries to explain his feelings about the police, in his words, “hurts his soul.” But he perseveres in trying to explain why he feels the way he does.
We talk about these things over the dinner table. I tend to come down on the radical side of issues. He is a reminder to me not to forget that each individual has a personal history that is often ignored by critics – a history that might have room for some deserved “walk a mile in his shoes” empathy.
Many of today’s police are trained to believe they must be invincible and to accept violence in order to survive. In some ways, they are victims, whose own fears and bigotries have been co-opted to support a narrow view of law and order. My grandson reminds me that there often are understandable reasons why many of today’s police do what they do; there are understandable reasons why some folks are driven to rob convenience stores, at lethal gunpoint, for basic necessities. To keep our humanity, our empathy, strong, we need to be able to see some gray within all of the overwhelming “either/or” culture.
While Rudyard Kipling was a man with controversial political views, I am one of those who is able to look at art apart from the personal reputation of the artist. So I share with you a personally edited version of Kipling’s “If”, dedicated to my grandson. Edited pieces are in bold.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it all on you
If you can trust yourself when all folks doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating, And not worry if you seem too wise;
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings And move beyond the stress of loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all folks count with you, and some too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ of your soul beguiled, Your love of life will have no limit, And you’ll find your destined place, my child.
I invite any readers to open a discussion of what I wrote here (harkening to the style of the original “blogosphere.”) Or at least leave a comment.
In 1967, I was married and had a five year old. While others were in Washington protesting the Vietnam War, the most I could do was make a peace banner and hang if off a branch on the tree half-way up our driveway.
Their colorful protest methods were tailor made for the television cameras .For example, once they poured into the vast main concourse of Manhattan’s Grand Central Station 3,000 strong, wearing their customary capes, gowns, feathers and beads. They tossed hot cross buns and firecrackers, and floated balloons up toward the celestial blue ceiling. They hummed the cosmic “Ommm,” snake-danced to the tune of Have a Marijuana, and proudly unfurled a huge banner emblazoned with a lazy “Y.”
While Yippies were a radical bunch, their basic philosophy paralleled the movements today to establish equality in all areas of American life: We want everyone to control their own life and to care for one another … We cannot tolerate attitudes, institutions, and machines whose purpose is the destruction of life, the accumulation of profit.
The Yippies used mockery, ridicule and silliness to call attention to the wrongs of our society. Imagine how our current president would be affected by this kind of outrageous public contempt. What if a new generation of Yippies performed an exorcism on the White House, the way they did it on the Pentagon in 1967 at the “Be-in” protest against the Vietnam War.
This is how it went back then:
The initial conception of the protest had been to occupy the Capitol, but that might have sent the wrong signal to the public, suggesting that the marchers wanted to shut down the democratic process and thus were offering only more political negativity.
So, instead, they came up with the idea of an exorcism that would levitate the Pentagon 300 feet. Since the five-sided pentagram was symbol of the occult, representing evil forces at work in the world, the Pentagon was a natural symbol of the evil war and itwould serve as a far more resonant target than the Capital.. Time magazine later reported the intention of the proposed ritual would turn the Pentagon “orange and vibrate until all evil emissions had fled” and the war would come to an immediate end.
On the makeshift altar before the Pentagon, a number of competing rituals began simultaneously to unfold. Ed Sanders, of the rock band the Fugs, delivered an impromptu, sexually suggestive invocation punctuated with repeated calls of “Out, demons, out!” Allen Ginsberg declaimed mantras for the cause.
Two hundred pounds of flowers were trucked in and distributed to the crowd. When military police and marshals confronted the protesters, images of gun barrels blooming with daisies became the iconic photographs of the day.
As we approach November, I can’t help wishing there were a new version of the Yippies to dramatize the absurdities of our current Cheeto-in-Charge. I’m not suggesting that they disrupt the convention; rather I’m suggesting that for the two months before elections, a swarm of costumed political pranksters organize “guerilla theater” events to draw the attention of the public and the media to (my words) drive tRump even more crazy.
If he is even the least bit superstitious, I’m sure that anything smacking of magic and mystery will fuel his paranoia and insecurities. So how about an exorcism on the White House to rid it of negative energies — racism, bigotry, misogyny, elitism, etc. etc.
While there are no more Yippies, perhaps a gathering of witches:
ON MIDNIGHT LAST Friday, all over the United States, an alliance of magical practitioners called the Magic Resistance gathered Tarot cards, feathers, orange and white candles, pins, water, salt, matches, ashtrays, and unflattering photos of President Trump. The objects are prerequisites for a binding spell, an incantation typically used to keep someone from harming themselves or others, like a magical straitjacket.…
..Magic (and particularly witchcraft) has been a form of protest for decades, probably centuries, but protest magic has burst into the media and broader public consciousness only twice in recent memory: during the 1960s and now, during Trump’s presidency. In the ‘60s there were the yippies, but also the Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell—W.I.T.C.H.—a pointy-hatted wing of the women’s liberation movement.
In 2016, the anonymous W.I.T.C.H. movement was resurrected by a group in Portland, Oregon, inspired by the injustice they see in the world around them, and in their own backyards ….. Sometimes they hand out tarot cards at events, edited to include a message such as “A vote for the health-care bill will mean DEATH for millions of Americans” on the death card. On their YouTube channel, they posted a video of one of the rituals they performed before a protest: the “binding” of Donald Trump.
The exorcism of the White House can be done virtually on a specific night over Zoom or some other platform. With enough chatter about it over social media before hand, perhaps the mainstream media might also cover it. The point would be to make our Hitler-Wannabe nervous and insecure as he is surrounded by the notion that mysterious enemy forces, over which he has no control, gave gathered to erode his power and his sanity. What great fun to add some fun to ensuring that he loses the election.
These are the sites I used for background information:
How different my holidays are from when I was a child, part of a large extended Polish family, for whom Vigilia (Christmas Eve) was a major event, with all of the traditional foods and traditions.
The only thing I have left is one ornament that says Merry Christmas in Polish.
After I got divorced, since my kids would spend Christmas Eve with me and Christmas Day with their Dad, we started our own food tradition. I let the kids choose. They wanted a meat fondue. And we continue that tradition today. Having to wait for our chunks of protein to simmer until ready means that we have to sit around the table for a while (unlike our usual “eat dinner together and then go our separate ways”).
We tend not to eat beef, so we usually have chicken; but this year we broke with tradition so that Lex, my grandson, could try beef. (Which, unfortunately, he likes.)
We did manage to make and decorate some cookies — from Baby Yoda (which Lex devoured rather quickly) to the wreath “painted” by my art-major son-in-law. (I have to say that I love that Lex wears the “Jughead” hat I made for him all of the time.)
My daughter has successfully installed replacements for the traditions I left behind. Over the past week or so, she has cooked dinners from the various ethnic traditions of our genetics — German, Swedish, Lithuanian. We often have Polish and Italian food, so there was no need to repeat those. And it’s a Christmas Eve tradition for us to watch Polar Express together after dinner while we have dessert. I decided to forego yet another watch and retired to my computer to struggle with this post. (I am still have problems using this new fangled WordPress platform; but I’m intent on figuring it out; I have been at it for three hours now.)
Somewhere in Yonkers, my younger cousins are feasting on their home made pierogi, carrying on the old traditions,using recipes that have been handed down for generations. I have yet to find store-bought peirogi that come anywhere near those our mothers made. I’m too lazy to do all of the work to make my own.
I don’t know if they sing Polish “kolendy” (Christmas Carols), but I know they get their families together and share old memories. I’m not in touch with them these days because he is their president, and he’s not mine.
I have fond memories of those Polish Christmases as a child. I probably don’t remember them the same way that my cousins do.
I’m a poet. I am all Eye.
December 24, 1948
There is 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 earn hard money, revere their vodka, as it was on the farms of the old country. The rest is woman’s right and work. So, when the magical time of Vigil Eve draws near the men disappear into their smoky enclaves to share sad fatherland memories,
while the women gather in her kitchen, a determined lineage of daughters, by birth and marriage, armed with the culinary legacies of generations.
For days, they roll, flour, fill, and pinch, while we children sit on the floor, eye level to legs, playing with scraps of pasty dough, lulled by the soft humming of female voices, the steady rumble of snowy urban streets.
The night flows with prayers and feasting, as families gather at the gray lady’s call, reviving ancient rites of pine and light, singing the language and history of their people carried across oceans of fear and hope.
They sing 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 drift through the lace-curtained windows open to the cold winter night, that night when animals talk, wishes are granted, and ancient rituals forge the primal bonds of blood.
Everyone in my family plays computer/video games except me. For the most part, it’s a generational thing, and I’ve posted before about how I feel about it.
My 15 year old grandson plays with teens he’s met in real life and online, and their goal is to get a team together to play in a tournament. ESports. Yes,it’s a thing.
According to Marcus Clarke of computerplanet.co.uk, gaming is turning into a serious profession. eSports, video gaming competitions, are expected to become a billion-dollar industry by the year 2018, with millions of people visiting eSports events in person, and even more people streaming them online.
Recently, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has stated that professional gamers spend as much time practicing as professional athletes spend in training. They also said that “the Summit agreed that ‘eSports’ are showing strong growth, especially within the youth demographic across different countries, and can provide a platform for engagement with the Olympic Movement.” Although for true fans eSports do not need to be compared with other sports to be considered valuable, it is certainly positive to see the world finally acknowledging the effort we put into video gaming.
I know that there’s no turning back the clock on computer games, and making them a way to accumulate big bucks only solidifies their place in our culture.
As I notice the time that my grandson plays gaming, however, I’m concerned about the sedentary lifestyle that serious gaming ensures. So, in our family, folks, including my grandson, wear a “Fitbit” type bracelet set to remind them to get up and move every so often.
It’s a strange new world that necessitates being reminded that the body needs a life as well as the brain. I can’t help remember an old Star Trek episode with aliens that had big brains and frail bodies.
It’s going to be interesting to watch my grandson and his teammates try to enter the world of eSports. He’s well aware that they will probably wipe out during the very first round, but a least there will be no broken bones or concussions. As with kids playing any sport, parents need to be aware and involved to make sure that their kids are playing it safely.
As for adults — hell, who wouldn’t want a chance to win over 2 million dollars sitting at a computer playing a game. They just better invest some of that in a Fitbit.
I have a unique relationship with death. My father was an undertaker, and we lived in an apartment above his business. Contemplating death and dying — my own and others’ — has been a part of my life since childhood. I have sat vigil during the hours and days of the deaths of both of my parents. At the age of 77, I am closing in on my final years. I have no control over when or why I will die; but I am learning about the choices I have about “how”. What I have come to believe is that it doesn’t matter what one believes about an “after-life”; what is important is to live fully while embracing the fact that we, after all, are all “terminal.” Those individuals whose religious beliefs preclude them from participating in such a process can follow the dictates of their religions, but those of us who have different beliefs should be allowed to make our own choices.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is once again considering a Death with Dignity bill. Modeled on the Oregon law, H 1991, Compassionate Care for the Terminally Ill Act, would give terminally ill people more freedom, control, and peace of mind at the end of their lives. It is called “The End of Life Options Act”. I noticed that both the Northampton City Council and the Amherst Town Meeting passed resolutions in early November that called on the legislature to enact “The End of Life Options Act” (H1194 and S1225). I urge other municipalities to become familiar with the intent of this bill and take action to lend their support.
Seven out of 10 Americans who support the end-of-life option allowing qualified terminally ill people to end their lives through physician-prescribed medications support having a process to enable terminal patients to choose how they want to die. Such laws have enacted and practiced successfully in other states. I believe this bill has strong safeguards to ensure that no one – including people with disabilities, the frail elderly, and the low-income –could be coerced or pressured to end their lives rather than live longer or seek continued treatment for their terminal illness.
This is NOT assisted suicide, but rather an option to give people the right to choose to end their suffering (and that of their family) when faced with a prolonged and painful dying process.
I support this bill because I have sat by the beds of both parents as they suffered through their last days and hours of pain before death took them. When my father was in the last stages of pancreatic cancer in 1984, thankfully, we were able to use the services of Visiting Nurses (this was before Hospice was available) to give him drops of morphine while he lay in his bed, gasping for air and enduring a level of pain I can’t even imagine. It took him three days to finally die.
My mother, who died at the age of 94 in the “Comfort Care” unit of a hospital, hung on for a week with renal failure, until I finally insisted that the doctor increase her morphine dosage. A “Death with Dignity” Act would have spared both my parents painful deaths that, at that point, were inevitable anyway.
Please join me in contacting the co-chairs of the Joint Public Health Committee: Sen. Jason Lewis (firstname.lastname@example.org, 617-722-1206) and Rep. Kate Hogan (email@example.com, 617-722-2130). Urge them to pass H1194 before the deadline in early February.
That sound has been a long-time coming, mostly because the cultural context for male-female interaction has been dominated by a male world view, a perspective influenced by both biological/hormonal as well as environmental/experiential histories. The myth of the superior Alpha Male, unfortunately, still endures in our society.
While some men continue to evolve beyond the influence of adolescent hormones and cultural aberrations and learn to interact with women as respected equals, others still cling to the mistaken notion that women are their inferiors and exist mostly as the means to fulfill their unrealistic fantasies. The worlds of sports, entertainment, and politics are well-populated with ego-driven men who relish asserting the power of their popularity and wealth. These men are many of the ones who are currently being “outed” for their long histories of sexually harassing women.
For women, sexual harassment ranges from an unwanted kiss or sexual comment, to the extremes of rape and pedophilia. But, it seems to me that it is unfair to judge the evil of all incidents of “sexual harassment” by the same standards.
Several years ago, when I volunteered in the Alzheimer unit at an upscale assisted living center, one sad 90 year old gentleman kept trying to pat my butt. Each time I saw him coming, I would try to grab his hand before it grabbed me. Sometimes I succeeded; sometimes I didn’t. He was 90 years old and suffering from dementia. I did not feel sexually harassed.
Like many of the men over 65, he grew up in a cultural context in which men expected men to “come on” to women as an assertion of their male egos. That is why the older politicians and entertainers who have been notorious for the sexual harassment of women don’t think it’s such a big deal. They don’t have a clue that the really big deal is that they never grew out of their limited understandings of women and never emotionally evolved into mature, responsible adults males. I can excuse (and gently correct) a 90 year old man with dementia when he makes a grab, because he is on the very low end of the harasser spectrum.
But It’s another thing to be a powerful elder male still engaging in sexual harassment (like Donald Trump and Roy Moore). It is also another thing to be a powerful elder male who did some stupid adolescent pranks in his early years, has proven that he has evolved way past that kind of behavior, and is embarrassed and apologetic about those past transgressions (like Al Franken). Punching someone is not as horrendous as murder; trying to kiss someone is not as bad as forcing more intimate sexual contact.
Most women neither expect nor want any of those advances, but, as we have been reading in countless current confessions, women usually feel powerless to resist, afraid to lose whatever the harassers had the power to take away from them.
For whatever reason, they didn’t slap their harassers when it happened, so they are slapping back now, loud and hard. They are setting an example for other women who felt and might feel powerless to tell their harassers to stop, to back off, to show respect and not condescension.
Oddly enough, I don’t remember ever being harassed, except maybe by the nuns in elementary school, who definitely felt obliged to assert their power over us puny kids in the most unappealing ways.
Maybe it was that I was careful to appropriately dress for every occasion, well aware of the visual signals that purposeful cleavage and a short, tight skirt tend to send to the eager male eye. That is not to say that I never used what limited assets I had to give those signals; but my doing so was a conscious choice, with a consensual expectation and an acceptance of responsibility for what came next.
And that is the responsibility that we women need to take for how we present ourselves to the world of the puerile assumptions of some males. We need to stand against misogyny where it surfaces, and discredit the advertising media that keeps presenting women as sexual objects and therefore encourages the cultural context that we need to reveal, revise, and reform, We need to engage life (as suggested by Camille Paglia) with wary vigilance, personal responsibility, and enough self-assurance to assert our right to hear the sound of our one hand, slapping.
Someone’s son huddles
gravely under desert rain.
restless as his heartbeat,
he waits for signs in the sky
to turn the taste of metal
in his mouth to blood.
leather jacketed, baseball capped,
takes her place in U.N. Square,
lights a candle against the wind, and
joins her voice to the hymn
that pulses like blood
through the streets, through the night,
through the weary dreams of men
reduced to war.
Someone’s daughter runs
from classroom through snow,
stuffs her duffel to bursting
with camouflage and conviction,
prays for the chance
to set the skies ablaze with truth.
At the table of her father’s house,
she waits for orders
and watches the colors of dawn
melt like blood into sand.
boards a bus at midnight,
sheathed in a confusion of
army surplus and disbelief.
He joins the dawn in Lafayette Park,
seeking solace – if not answers –
in the steady drum,
the solid hands,
the strong songs
of sons and daughters
refusing to bleed
for the dreams of weary men
reduced to war.
As I was strolling around my peaceful and gun-free, politically Republican neighborhood just now, I had this epiphany. Well, really, Freud had it before me, but sometimes a cigar IS more than just a cigar.
Posts on FB made me contemplate how I feel about guns – and penises. Because I don’t dislike either, and believe that each has a legitimate place in life. While I don’t want or own a gun, that has not been the case in my past life as far as penises go. But I really wouldn’t want to walk around the street seeing either of them hanging out of insecure men’s pants.
Guns and penises. Think about it (and I’m sure many psychologists continue to do so). Just the word “cock” brings up images of both artifacts. And you can use either to “shoot your wad.” Each can be used for violence, and it is usually men who use both for both.
They are both useful, in their place. And both can be dangerous in the wrong hands. (ahem)
I’m sure you’ll correct me if I’m wrong, but as far as my research shows, all of the mass shootings and bombings in America have been perpetrated by men. (I think they were all white men, but that’s not the point here).
Penises and guns. I’d bet my bippy that men who are out-of-control gun fanatics also have some sort of issue about their penises. If you can’t shoot one as well or as often as you want to, how about shooting off the other. If you can’t display your penis in public because it’s illegal, then display your gun, right?
Oh, yes. Guns are fun to shoot. So is sex. But there is a time and a place.
I think it’s interesting that gun fanatics say “I’ll give you my gun when you pry it from my cold dead hands.” I bet that they feel the same way about their penises.
Yes, there are plenty of women who like to shoot guns too. There is sense of power (I am told) in shooting off an automatic weapon. I understand needing to feel some kind of power in a culture that has made so many of us, men and women, feel impotent. Power and impotence. Guns and penises.
I have a 15 year old grandson, who plays Grand Theft Auto. I also have a daughter and son-in-law who continually have conversations with him about the the issue of guns and violence, and long ago taught him the difference between fantasy and reality. Actually, the three of them sometimes game together. But it’s their thing, not mine; I play Candy Crush Saga.
Guns and penises. I think there needs to be a whole lot more research into how their essences overlap.
Now, you might bring up the issue of breast feeding in public as some sort of parallel to guns and penises. I have my own middle-of-the-road feelings about that, too.