cooperative Tuesdays

Tuesdays is Home School Co-op, where my grandson goes to learn as part of a group; where parents teach what they know best (science, language arts, history, etc.); where my daughter teaches history with an interdisciplinary, creative, and dramatic flair that includes costumes and role playing and presentations laced with the fun of technology.

So, Tuesdays is my day home alone, when I try to be cooperative and help out by doing some chores, like cleaning out the double sinks and putting dishes away from there and the dishwasher.

Other than than, my household chores are limited to my own living space. In the house at-large, my daughter does the cooking; my son-in-law does most of the cleaning. They don’t expect me do help with much of anything. But on Tuesdays, I try to cooperate a little more.

With that done, now it’s time to tackle my own laundry and clutter and bathroom. I’ve never been a great housekeeper, but never having had anyone who would cooperate with me, I had to learn to tear myself away from doing fun stuff and take care of my own necessities. Which is what I’m going to do now.

a family tradition of “orphan ornaments”

My daughter just won an Amazon gift card for submitting this true story to some website that was having a contest. I thought it is worth posting here.

My father had a tradition every Christmas — he’d “rescue” a new “orphan ornament” from some store. He’d hunt for these strange, oddly made ones that looked like mistakes (like one riding a hobby horse, but the horse was actually impaled through the little wooden elf body) and otherwise would be rejected or left behind. Like the Island of Misfit Toys. He’d get one or a few and add them to the tree. I lost my father a few years back quite suddenly and unexpectedly — the orphan ornaments came home with me and we hang them with our own son, now ten, each year — in memory of “Pa”. We honor him, and a lesson (albeit maybe accidental) on acceptance, tolerance and reaching out a hand to those who might otherwise be overlooked. Even now, as we begin our search for a family dog at different rescues, our son gravitates towards those that are listed as “still waiting” or “overlooked” for some reason, wanting to give them what they need. It’s silly, it’s sweet, and it instilled in us a way of thinking that was probably unintentional as far as his reason for getting the ornaments, but that had an effect on us nonetheless.

not Another Pleasant Valley Sunday

Actually, it’s a laid-back Pioneer Valley Sunday. All I did all day was some knitting while I listened to an audio version of the second book of the Hunger Game series, Catching Fire.

I love the fact that I can download audio books free from the library, but I don’t like the fact that I have to hurry and finish listening before the allotted time. I just don’t understand, since it’s downloaded, why an audio book can’t be available to any number of borrowers at the same time and for as long as they need to finish the book.

My grandson is out in the back yard reading an oversized Calvin and Hobbes book of cartoons; his mom is out there reading some book about home schooling on her Kindle; his dad is nearby reading an actual book borrowed from the library — a biography of Frank Zappa.

My grandson takes a break from reading every once in a while to resume his imaginary globe-trotting journey that is based in a “camp” he has set up next to his “fort” in the yard– complete with globe, desk, drafting tools, and assorted mute companions — where he devises maps and plans his adventures. He has amused himself all day out there with only occasional bouts of participation by the rest of us in his continuing saga.

At some point, I unplug myself from my audio book and listen as my grandson reads aloud to us something from Calvin and Hobbes that he thinks is funny. My daughter shares a passage from the book she is reading about how important it is for kids to have time for imaginative unstructured play. I think about our neighbor’s young son whose days are taken up with competitive sports, school, karate, Pokemon, and video games. A basically nice kid, an ordinary kid, he is almost devoid of any flights of fancy or curiosity about the world around him.

Ours is not a typical or ordinary family, and our quirkiness extends way out to the west coast, where my imaginative untypical son still struggles to find a job.

I think about what the world will be like when my grandson is ready to participate fully in this society, to find work that is meaningful and satisfying. Hopefully, the Hunger Games is not prophetic, although if the Republicans had their way, it might come awfully close.

For now, we are thankful for what we have. And we hope for a future where curiosity, imagination, playfulness, and mutual support and cooperation across age levels are valued a lot more than they are today.

I’m joining the Snatchel Project

What’s a “snatchel”?

Before I get to that, let me just explain that I have in my life marched in protests carrying banners with symbols proclaiming my positions on critical issues. During the wartime 70s, I sewed a gigantic “Peace” banner and hung it from a tree limb that hung over our driveway. I believe in the power of symbols. I believe that sometimes you have to get in the faces of those who refuse to hear what you’re saying.

So, I’m joining the Snatchel Project.

First, go here to find out about the project, supported by a group that proclaims:

— We are women, we are strong, we are smart. And we have a sense of humor.
— We do not need government interference with our doctors or our healthcare.
— We do not need government probing our vaginas to help us make decisions about abortion.
— We do not need government to give us guidance about whether or not to take birth control.


So, here’s my original knitted interpretation, my contribution. I am thinking that I might just make a bunch of them and send them to the group to distribute appropriately. I will make a little card that says:

Get your pre-historic laws out of my personal private parts.

The Snatchel Project already has received considerable media coverage, as listed here.

I realize that there are lots of people who think sending uterine and yonic representations to legislators who are trying to drag us back into the Dark Ages is a waste of time.

Well, maybe it is. But for us pissed off feminist knitters, it’s a hoot.

And hey, you never know. At least it will get their uncomfortable attention. Works for me.

Lego, Stereotyping, and
Miss Representation

The ol’ boys at Lego need to see this movie, get educated, get up to speed, get bombarded with complaints about their new “girly” line of Logo sets.

Instead of drawing in girl Lego players by targeting them in their general advertising, they are putting out a line of “pink” and “curvy” Lego sets that they believe will attract girls. The message is “you are too dumb to know how to play with real Lego components; you don’t want to build anything unique, you just want to play house, right?” Bad message, Lego. You are perpetuating the misrepresentation of girls and women as “less than men” in intelligence, creativity, and problem solving. You are perpetuating the stupid stereotype.

The movie, MissRepresentation

…uncovers a glaring reality we live with every day but fail to see…

In a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, the collective message that our young women and men overwhelmingly receive is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality, and not in her capacity as a leader. While women have made great strides in leadership over the past few decades, the United States is still 90th in the world for women in national legislatures, women hold only 3% of clout positions in mainstream media, and 65% of women and girls have disordered eating behaviors.

It starts with girls — young, impressionable girls — who are bombarded by the media (and now, Lego) with the message that how they look is much more important than how they think.

Lego has always been a “thinking” toy, stimulating the brain to conceptualize in three dimensions with unique creativity. My 9 year grandson is obsessed with Lego — builds the most amazing vehicles and structures, takes them apart, and then builds other ones all of his own design. He creates scenarios where male and female figures participate equally (of course, I had to purchase female figures for him separately since few come as cops, firefighters, or construction workers). He also creates family groups and structures. If I had a granddaughter, I would hope that she would play with Lego the same way.

Lego!! Can you hear me now! Girls don’t need another misrepresentation, another wrong message. Ditch the girly Lego, add more female figures in professional roles, and market the good ol’ Lego product line with an egalitarian approach.

STOP THE STEREOTYPING!

Lego needs a smack on its corporate head

They are making Lego for Girls!! BAD IDEA,LEGO! You are perpetuating the “pink” stereotype that women are trying so hard to eliminate. Don’t they pay attention to what’s going on in the the rest of the world?

What they need to do, instead of making and marketing what basically is a line of “Lego Barbies,” is to add a lot of female figures into their existing lines and market regular Lego to girls — as they did in their more enlightened era, back in 1981.

Don’t Lego idea people ever see any news items? They are 50 years behind the times. I have heard that even the business cards Lego provides to its employees (which always feature an image of a Lego figure of the employee’s choice) offer many different male figures for male employees; the females are supposed to choose between a nurse or a cheerleader.

Elsewhere in the interwebz — if those ill-informed decision makers would just look and follow links –there is a whole generation of females who are vocally and assertively trying to affect the stereotypical ways that females and female superheroes are portrayed by the comic book and fantasy game industries. Lego’s “girly” line is going against the kinds of enlightened attitudes that intelligent informed people want for their kids. (The kind of people who spend a lot of money on Lego products.)

Lego building blocks are the staple of my 9 year old grandson’s play and learning time. He and his female playmates all use the same Lego pieces (although I have had to buy extra female figures because so few come with the sets). In their play, females are cops, firefighters, construction workers, doctors, and moms; males are cops, firefighters, construction works, doctors, and dads.

Girlie Lego figures and sets are not the answer. Lego. The answer is to spend your money NOT making PINK Legos, but rather put your money into including more female figures who are professionals and then including girls in your advertising on an equal basis with boys.

Go here and email Lego a complaint about this issue.

celebrating the power of myth
at Christmas

While my Catholic upbringing did not manage to keep my faith alive, it did, however, instill in me a connection to the power of myth. Well, in truth, Joseph Campbell was a bigger influence in that arena, but the point is that I am enamored of myths of all kinds. Hence, this little altar that I have always set up in one form or another.

This one features a porcelain statue of Our Lady of Lourdes that originated in Lourdes, France, sometime in the 1920s and was passed down from my grandmother, to my mother, to me; my mother’s statue of St. Anthony that I keep around to focus on when I can’t find something I know I put somewhere but can’t find; a reproduction of the ancient Venus of Willendorf statue; a traveling Buddha given to me by my former/late husband; and a miniature Kwan Yin cameo. Off to the right, hanging on the wall is a representation of African goddess Acua’ba given to me one Christmas by my son.

Each of these icons has a personal meaning for me, and, while I do not make sacrifices on this “altar,” (as the definition indicates it is used for), I do on occasion stop in front of it and let those deep memories and meanings move through me. It’s the closest to prayer that I come, being an atheist.

Each year about this time, I seem inclined to post something somewhere that refers to the ancient pagan origins of Christmas. Inevitably, someone from my Catholic past feels inclined to take issue with my insistence on the difference between fact and myth.

Like Carl Sagan, I can feel awe without having any kind of faith. Like Joseph Campbell, I can feel empowered by myth without needing to believe. I guess that’s hard for some people to understand.

Contrary to what I have been called, I am not a “hater;” I am tolerant of all faiths that have humane values. I just don’t subscribe to any faith-based system myself.

And, at this time of year, I am reminded of the myths surrounding the birth of Jesus, in addition to always being surprised at how little critical thought “believers” give to what they believe.

But I guess that’s what “faith” is: belief without factual evidence.

And so I remain faithless but awed and empowered nevertheless.

dealing with that disturbing “D” word
— being a midwife to the dying

Death is the final taboo in our culture. We can talk about illness and religion, politics and sex, gender and race issues, but the D word is still difficult for people to utter in polite company….

From Last Acts of Kindness: Lessons for the Living from the Bedsides of the Dying, by Edith Redwing Keyssar.

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 71, 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”.

After leaving a comment on a post on Time Goes By about Judith Redwing Keyssar’s book (quoted above), I have had a chance to read that book myself. And, doing so comes at a particularly relevant time in my life as I await my first assignment as a hospice volunteer.

During the intense training that I had to undergo, I learned about my role and responsibilities as part of a hospice team and examined my reasons for choosing this kind of volunteer service. I found that the experiences that Keyssar shares in her book take whatever personal motivations I have for becoming — in her words –“a midwife to the dying” and draws them into an even greater context of compassionate and cosmic significance. As part of her stories, Keyssar reiterates the point that it doesn’t matter what one believe about an “after-life;” the focus of her message is to live fully while embracing the fact that we, after all, are all “terminal.”

At the end of her book, she provides a list definitions, internet links, and bibliographical references if the reader chooses to further explore the range of information available about compassionate care during the final stages of life.

The final chapter in Keyssar’s book is a poetic Epilogue (see below) that captures the intent and the spirit of the mission of those who choose to honor and celebrate the final, fleeting days (and sometimes months and years) of a human life by becoming part of a palliative care and/or hospice team.

Epilogue
Job description For Any Member of a Palliative Care Team

I am here to witness
the sacred hearts
broken open.
Friends,lovers, families
whose loved ones die in their arms,
in the homes, in their beds, in hospitals or other places.
Peacefully, nor not.

I am her to witness
the sanctity of human life
as the spirit is released from the temple
to join once again, with the invisible cellular infinity
of the Universe,
the mitochondria of the Milky Way,
becoming energy to light the stars,
since we know —
the energy we manifest as a particular human being,
like any other,
can neither be created
nor destroyed.
God, by any other name by any name, by many names,
by no name,
Is
One.

I am here to witness
the breath
as it enters the body
and exits for the last time.
The miracle of birth.
The miracle of death.
The miracle of each moment in between:
Life
the infusing of consciousness
into each and every cell
enduring every moment
we are here
on earth.

I am here to witness
to feel
to experience
to honor
to know that Love is eternal.
to share this blessing
in gratitude.

and to perform any other duties
required.

Last Acts of Kindness is a book that should be read by everyone who expects some day to die.

____________________________________________________________

As I was writing this post, today Ronni Bennett at Times Goes By posted another piece that includes additional thoughts on death and dying. The conversation continues.

that long-gone gold

Those really were my golden years — those four college years between 1957 and 1961. And so I was willing to help plan our 50th class reunion. I even sewed a big 50th reunion banner and put up a class reunion blog. That was the fun part.

But it turned out that my closest “girl” friends couldn’t be there for the part that was supposed to be the most fun. When I checked in with one of them a month before the event, I found out that she had moved into an “assisted living” facility (in the same nursing home building where her husband, also a good friend of mine, was confined to a wheel chair with a deadly combination of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases). She told me that her daughter had taken away her car and license, and so there was no way she could attend the reunion.

(If she is there, will I not be far behind, I wonder. We are the same age, same height, same coloring; we shared wardrobes for four years and together descended on Fort Lauderdale, Florida for one glorious Spring Break. Life is not fair.)

A week before the event, my other close friend called to tell me that she had just had a mammogram and was told to go in for a biopsy. The biopsy turned out to be early Stage 1 breast cancer. She had a lumpectomy yesterday and will proceed with the recommended treatment. Life is not fair.

So, did I have fun at my 50th college reunion?

Well, I have to admit that there was a certain amount of pleasant nostalgia that propelled me through my planning committee tasks. Some things went right. Some things went wrong. What went wrong had to do with logistics; what went right had to do with having a chance to connect with some of the 50-years-older people whom I knew and liked back in those golden years.

As a female college freshman back in 1957, sharing a room in a small “group house,” I lived under rules that today’s female college freshmen would never tolerate: we had curfew hours, dress codes, no males allowed beyond the front room and not even there after 10 pm. Two of the girls who shared that group house with me came to the reunion. Seeing them again was part of the fun.

At the reunion dinner, a table covered with memorabilia from those golden years included a copy of the annual literary magazine from 1959. No, it didn’t include any writing by me. In 1959 I was too busy dancing in college musicals and writing a gossipy column for the college newspaper. And drinking beer. And dating. And joining a sorority. And cutting classes to TGIF. Many of my reunited classmates tell me that they remember me as always smiling and happy. Heh. Why not. Daddy was paying the bills and I was off absorbing the joys of life, the universe, and everything.

That’s right. I was no scholar. I managed to balance out my Cs and Ds with a greater number of As and somehow graduated as the B+ person I continue to be. But I digress.

From your absinthe tinted green dreams and
soulless wanderings across deserts of the mind, came truth–
ice-essence truth……

On page 32 of the literary magazine, I find a poem that begins with the above lines — lines inscribed on the flyleaf of a paperback book of Rimbaud’s poems by the talented young man who wrote the poem and gave me the book. I learned that he passed away a year and a half ago. I wonder if he had still had that tousled red hair, that red beard, that passionate, dark, beat-poet intensity. He almost seduced me. But I wasn’t ready yet, back in 1959.

The literary journal also had some pieces by his best friend, who also was my friend, and whose family became friends with my family after we both married and had kids. He is still writing. We lost touch more than a decade ago, although I had learned about his wife’s tragic illness and death sometime along the way.

Bob decided to come to the reunion at the last minute, and we sat together at dinner, recalling those mellow days and nights when we hung out together in front of his future wife’s sorority house — he and his dark-haired Irish lovely, and me with my brooding red-headed boy. And he asks me if I am happy. And what I can answer is that “I am not unhappy.” We plan to keep in touch. I went and ordered his recent book of short stories.

I supposed the ego-stroking highlight of my class reunion (which was part of the university’s Homecoming Weekend) was having a good-looking gray-haired guy (who was a college year behind me) come up to me to tell me that he still remembers the first time he saw me. I was sitting at the long table at the bar we all went to on Friday afternoons. He said that he remembered what I was wearing — a brown skirt and sweater. And I was smiling. And he thought I was gorgeous.

I guess it was a good reunion after all.