Friday, November 11, 2016

Election, anger, politics, people

Shock. Grief. Anger. Resignation. Detachment. Feeling all of the feels. Too much feeling.   

I'm overwhelmed by the anger of others. Overwhelmed by the proliferation of "throw down the gauntlet" posts on Facebook from both sides of the aisle. Overwhelmed by increasing reports of hate speech and actions. This election has unleashed, laid bare, our very separate yet collective national anger. And that bare anger, sharp-toothed, sharp-worded, deeply frightens me.  

Maybe I'm frightened of/by my own anger. As I write, it is flaring, flaming, searing. Words matter. So I'm going to try to write with care--care that I mean exactly what I am saying. 

Donald Trump's words during the election season continue to matter, even if his rhetoric tones down, becomes more "presidential" in the coming weeks. Hate-filled words demonstrating misogyny, racism, and hate matter deeply, and can't be wished or explained away. 

Those words matter because they reveal who Donald Trump is. At the very least, they reveal what Trump is willing to stand for to be elected. I believe that standing for hate is evil. That misogyny, racism, and hate are evil. And I cannot accept this evil in the leader of our nation. 

Yes, evil. I know that some will argue with my choice of word there. Say that choosing the word "evil" is not choosing carefully. That there are other words that could be used. I deliberately chose to use the word "evil" as I can regard misogyny, racism, and hate as nothing less than evil. 

Trump's words matter because they reveal who Donald Trump voters are, as well. I do not see how you can separate the hate-filled words from a vote for Donald Trump. Truly, I don't. 

Those words, that misogyny/racism/hate, are key to Trump's election victory. Those who voted for Trump may want to disassociate themselves from those words. "I'm not a bigot. I voted for Trump because I support his economic plans. His approach to NAFTA. His views on immigration." 

I'm not able to accept that explanation, the concept that clearly expressed hatred can be overlooked in a leader of the free world. And so I struggle to understand how I remain in community with those voters, some of whom may be my friends. 

I struggle to understand how we move forward as a nation, how we accomplish anything, in such a deeply divided place. I know some of the answers: we reach across divides and talk with one another, looking for common ground, practicing empathy, while continuing to work for a nation that upholds and values love, not hate. 

But I don't know if there are hands across that divide, willing to reach across, to hold in this conversation. I just don't know. 

Sorry. No good, tie-it-all-up ending here. Just like the election and its aftermath. 

Monday, June 13, 2016


Orlando. There are so many ways to respond to this latest mass killing, an "attack of terror, attack of hate." 

We can use it as a platform to discuss which candidate/party's stance on gun control might have prevented the attacks. Guns kill people? People kill people? The Second Amendment. City versus rural. Hunting animals versus hunting people. 

Or employ the Orlando killings to shine an ever-more vivid light on the self-promoting, racist, and dangerous Trump, who responds to horror with a self-congratulatory tweet.

We can point out the role that the abysmal care of individuals with serious mental health issues is a direct and horrible contributor to these mass killings, and argue about how we should/could change address that. Have slippery slope arguments galore about protecting rights as opposed to protecting people. 

Or we can debate the very existence of religion and whether it is used as a weapon of terror and hate by the extreme few or whether it is hateful and evil by its very Word and existence. Religion, bad? Religion, good? People, bad? People, good? 

We can note with bitterness that the continued outrageous killings of people of color in Chicago bring no prolonged national outcry, and explore the innate racism in that lack of outcry. Debate nature or nurture, spend more money or less, bring in Governor Rauner's decimation of social services in Illinois and how THAT will certainly help stem the epidemic of violence in Chicago.

Or we can use it as a prism to see the rainbow: people of LGBTQ orientation that are continually threatened merely because of who they are. We can discuss to death whether or not religious texts direct us to admonish, exclude, or eliminate that rainbow.  

Tomorrow, I'm going to discuss the issues that led to Orlando's massacre (yes, at least 49 people dead makes a massacre.) Tomorrow, I'm going to put my rage to work: 

  • rattling cages for better gun control
  • working to defeat Trump
  • supporting activism for better mental health care
  • promoting tolerance of all religious while rejecting extremism, fighting racism
  • advocating for a safe, inclusive US for all those people of the rainbow. 
Tomorrow, I'm going to tweet the hell out of all of these issues, write Congress, give money, maybe even protest. Or blog more. 

But today? Today, I'm not going to use Orlando as a platform to discuss any of those things at length. 

Today, I'm going to redirect my thoughts each and every time they turn to the issue. I'm going to mourn the people. The people who were injured and killed.  Not issues. People. Each one of them deserve that. They deserve to be remembered and mourned as individuals, not as steps for politicians, pundits, and the rest of us to use to advance our causes. One day for them, and for all of the others who have been killed: 9/11, Columbine, Sandy Hook, the streets of Chicago.  

I'm going to make sure I remember the people.  

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Ear Worms

First, the phrase "ear worm" is yucky. There really should be a less descriptive coupling of words to indicate songs that get stuck in the brain, as the image of a worm in my ear is mildly upsetting--and the image tends to get stuck in my brain, too. 

My own weird brain stickiness is my topic for the day: non-musical ear worms. I have them. Do you? This week, the following doggerel is my non-musical ear worm:
In the woods, deep down damp, piggy feet stop, piggy feet stamp. Waddle snuffle dig dig dig piggety piggety piggety pig. From Eve Merriam's "You Be Good & I'll Be Night" collection of poems.
 I haven't actually read this poem to a preschooler in at least 18 years. But it frequently surfaces in my brain, nudged to consciousness by who knows what.

Actually, I do know what! On the recommendation of NPR, I am reading "Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried In A Chilean Mine, And The Miracle That Set Them Free." 

Deep Down Dark to Deep Down Damp. See how the mind works?

So, in between deep thoughts about functionally illiterate mail carriers, clients who refuse to respond to letters delivered by functionally illiterate mail carriers, and the advisability of throwing out letters delivered to me by functionally illiterate mail carriers 30 years ago, "piggety, piggety" resounds in my brain. 

My non-musical ear worms tend to be fairly sotto voce. They niggle at the base of my consciousness. Most of the time, I hear them but easily ignore them. Rhyming phrases are most often rumbling around. But rhythmic sentences can also erupt. For years, I heard this odd coupling of two couples: 
Barbara and David. Brent and Donna. 
There is no connection between these couples. I hardly know the latter. And I was out of touch with the former for many of the years that I heard this phrase. Yet, there it was, softly murmuring in my brain.  

Musical ear worms are, for the most part, annoying little buggers. Often, it's the catchiest melodies rather than the most interesting or complex that stick around. I know that, on the rare occasion that we sing an anthem in church that I do not care for, I WILL be hearing it all week long. 

(On the other hand, when "piggety, piggety" has subsided this week, I've been fortunate enough to sink back, oh-so-gratefully, into musical ear worms from Bach's "Mass in B Minor." The Kyrie, to be precise.)

My non-musical ear worms aren't nearly as annoying. The two couple phrase was oddly soothing. This week's doggerel (wait, just looked that up and really, this poem is NOT doggerel, merely comic) is enervating. It makes me want to dance. Or stomp, at the very least. And shout, most certainly.  

Oliver Sacks' book, "Musicophilia" covered musical ear worms. But I don't recall that he discussed non-musical ones, nor can I find anything through my friend, Google. I suspect though, were I to comb the medical histories of folks with OCD, I would find some mention of it. But I don't fit neatly in that particular neurological slot.  

I have a friend who suggests that I often ask questions. I don't often do so in my blogging. But I am today. Does anyone else have non-musical ear worms? Do tell.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Through a glass, darkly

Ha. You read the title and thought this was going to be a philosophical musing. Or a faith-filled pondering. Not so much today, though it is certainly possible that my topics could veer toward prayer, as in "OMG." 

I am confused and bewuzzled by the behavior of my Shop-Vac. J, my indentured servant, has been bitching and moaning about the difficulty of vacuuming our carpeted stairs with our upright vacuum. We need a vacuum with a hose, he tells me. 

(At this juncture in the conversation, I go into the bathroom, smirk at myself in the mirror, and perform a happy dance, rejoicing in the concept of a son who wants to fully remove dog hair from crevices in the stairs.) 

Calmly returning to the conversation, I tell him that we have such a vacuum. Our long-dormant Shop-Vac sits in the basement, awaiting such a task. 

Except, it doesn't. We haven't used it in years and I can't remember why. So I traipse into the basement to figure out why. 

The first reason why might be due to the risk of frostbite every fricking time I spend more than a minute or two in the basement. So I jog through the basement, looking for parts. The foam part. The ring part. The hose part. The list of parts part. 

28 minutes and a load of laundry later I emerge, triumphant, with all parts in hand. The kitchen island is my workbench during the winter, and I spread the parts out, eager to hand a fully-functioning, appropriate tool for the job to my hard-working son. Glittery bright things appear on the periphery of my vision, and my little, distractable squirrel mind forces me to turn away. 

7 hours later, I notice a bunch of dusty crap on my kitchen island. Oh, yeah, I was going to fix that! Or, at the very least, put it back together and see if it needs fixing. Why wasn't I using this? Why had it lain dormant lo these many years? 

I wash the foam filter sleeve. I dedustify the vac itself and all attendant accessories. I read the mysterious instructions on how to apply the dry filter to the foam filter sleeve which rests atop the bag stretcher, inside of which rests a white plastic ball. 

Ah. Now I remember another reason that I stopped using the Shop-Vac. That god-awful white plastic ball. It's some kind of annoying leveling, balancing thing, designed to keep the engine machine thingy from getting flooded when using the Shop-Vac to vac up wetness. But what the white plastic ball really does is constantly stop suckage the second the vacuum tilts ever so slightly to the right or left. So, when you're on your hands and knees in the car, bouncing the damn Shop-Vac behind you while trying to get the damn Cheerios out of your damn car seats, the damn Shop-Vac stops vacuuming 5 times per minute, requiring you to turn off the machine to make the damn little evil white ball fall to the bottom on the vac so suckage can return and the world spin anew.  

Apparently I stopped using the Shop-Vac when I was sleep-deprived, short-tempered, and had children (now 22 and 27) in car seats eating Cheerios with their tiny hands. 

I digress. In spite of this memory, I finish putting together the Shop-Vac. I drag it to the den to show J that I really do love him and listen to his requests. He is appropriately excited. 

I commence vacuuming. I feel drawn to vacuum out the air return duct at the bottom of the stairs in the kitchen. If you have a weak stomach and eat in my kitchen, you might want to stop reading here. :-)  The amount of dog hair under this grate is astounding. So removing it would be, um, good. 

So I do. I remove a hell of a lot of dog hair. Very slowly. Because another reason that I stopped using this Shop-Vac is that it has very slow and weak suckage. That is the technical term, right? Suckage? This puppy just does not want to suck up anything. 

I start experimenting with different items. Walnuts? Nope. Crushed walnuts? Nope. Sugar? Nada. Dog kibble? Uh uh. 

But it does suck up dog hair and dust. Eventually. So I nudge the recalcitrant Shop-Vac into weak suckage action sufficient to suck up a bunch of dog hair. When it seems to get even less sucky, I decide to empty the thing out, figuring it must be full. Right? Because, when you vacuum up stuff, eventually the vacuum fills up with the stuff which you have been vacuuming. 

The vacuum tank is empty. EMPTY. There is nothing in it. I do not find this comforting. I look around the room for piles of dog fur. There are no new piles of dog fur. I completely take apart the various filters, figuring that somehow the sucked stuff must be lodged in the filters, or beyond. Nope. The little white plastic ball rests, pristine, in its cage, unmolested by dog hair. 

This is where that prayer stuff aka OMG might be coming in. Apparently a miracle has occurred, right here in my kitchen. My Shop-Vac doesn't simply suck things up. It sucks them up and makes them disappear. Into thin air. (What is fat air?) 

Perhaps my Shop-Vac is populated with an early version of Artificial Intelligence, and has taught itself how to mulch. Maybe it's not a Shop-Vac, but a Shop-Mulch. And it is now capable of mulching dog hair into thin (or fat) air. I believe that I need to run to the Patent Office today, as I clearly have something on my hands that needs to be shared with the masses. A vacuum that hardly sucks. But sucks. Yet doesn't. 

I remain confused and bewuzzled. And probably need a new vacuum.   

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Funeral for a Friend

I don't like goodbyes. The uncertainty is what pierces me. When will I see you again? Which is a substitute for the real question: "Will I see you again?" I used to try to manage the uncertainty with one of Liz's rules: Always make a plan for the next time before you end this time. 

But I came to grudgingly accept that I can't manage uncertainty. Things end. Relationships change, morph, stop. And then there's death. 

Whether or not you believe in an afterlife, death changes things. Irrevocably. There won't be a next time. I will not meet Jennie at Panera next time. I will not fetch her two cups: one full cup of water and one empty cup for the nuts (almonds?) she saved from her salad for Harold. Jennie will not sit down across from me, take a deep breath, and talk a blue streak. 

There will be no more spankings in Scrabble. No further deliveries from Mother Hurrelbrink's Clipping Service. No additional exchanges of current reading and authors we love--love to hate. No more discussions about our children, our spouses, our living. Or our dying. 

There will be no more. And my life will be less because of it. 

Jennie was whip-smart, with a facile mind that ran on ahead of most of us. Her energy level was that of a woman half her age.Working into her 80s, there was no better editor and no one sharper at catching mistakes. (You can bet that, wherever she is right now, she has her red pencil out, noting the errors in substance, grammar, and punctuation in this post!)  

Of course, things changed when cancer struck. There was a chemo fog that sucked away some of that energy. Then most of it. But Jennie in a chemo fog was still a Jennie to be reckoned with. Even a few weeks from death, she still managed to order three other alpha, bossy women around, telling us what to do and how to pack as she managed her last caretaking job: making sure she and Harold moved to assisted living before she died.  

At the end, Jennie sent a message to her friends, asking us to pray that she have peace. And, though I focus on my loss, and the loss of all who loved her, I am certain that she now has the peace she so clearly wanted and needed. 

Goodbye, Jennie. When will I see you again? 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Full of it

Attention, attention, I have an announcement to make: I am pregnant. I am carrying a baby. This is something that I never dreamed was possible, particularly at my extravagantly elderly age of 52. But miracles do happen, even to the old and single. Or particularly to the old and single. 

Now, you are probably wondering how, exactly, did this pregnancy occur. Seems a fair question, even if the only things you know about me are my aforementioned age and marital status. Those of you who know me more, um, intimately, might wonder further about this. Perhaps you remember me having my tubes tied many years ago. Or the subsequent hysterectomy I had just a few years ago.

It would seem impossible, wouldn't it, for me to carry a baby? But that's because you don't know my secret recipe. I know how to make a baby without any of those accouterments you might have thought necessary (eggs, sperm, womb.)

Today, I formed a baby from pasta with pesto sauce and mashed potatoes! Yes, I am carrying a carbohydrate baby. My stomach is beautiful, a perfectly rounded mound of ingested carbs. You can almost see the outline of the cute little napping rotini, spotted with basil and pine nuts.  

(Did I carry extend that joke a paragraph too long? Too bad. I enjoyed it.)

The baseline of my joke, sadly, is true. Carbs make my stomach stick out. Way out. Nearly as far as a pregnant belly would! I've been trying to avoid them (carbs, not pregnancies) for years, ever since my doc suggested I try a low carb, high protein diet due to some liver issues. 

When I am successful at avoidance (wow, an area of life where avoidance is a positive!) I lose weight and keep it off. When I am not successful at avoidance, I get big. 

But I love carbs. I crave carbs. Carbs should be my friends--and probably yours, too. What problem can't be solved by a piece of good bread slathered with butter? Mashed potatoes coursing with melted butter are an obvious fuel of the mind. And we won't even bother to consider how many otherwise challenging lives are lubricated toward ease by a single nightly application of gin and tonic. 

Carbs are clearly important. Meaningful. Needed. And I haven't even started on those other carbs: desserts. Merely consider one type of sweet, my friend. Consider chocolate. Chocolate has antioxidants that make your heart healthy. Chocolate has flavor that makes your heart happy. Science agrees with me! Go carbs!

So I don't understand why we are wasting time trying to negotiate world peace when we could be spending our precious time and research dollars on important issues. Like digestive additives that turn carbohydrates into celery once they hit the stomach lining. 

Perhaps I should launch a national campaign (kickstarter? to fund this. I must think. Where is that bowl of Fritos?  

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Rant. Possibly a tirade. And not one bit funny.

This is a rant. Possibly a tirade.There may be factual or legal errors. There may be errors in thought or logic. And it's not my best piece of writing. I don't care. I am too tired and angry to care right now. 

This little headline stopped me cold: "Abortion clinic buffer zones hold back love." I didn't feel any better as I continued on to read on: "It’s naive to believe that women walk into abortion clinics knowing all their options."

The kindest response I can muster to this author is to toss her words back: "It's naive to believe that women walk into abortion clinics NOT knowing all their options." And the more truthful response? How incredibly insulting, to assume most women seeking an abortion need to receive the "advice" proffered on a sidewalk by a total stranger who knows nothing, NOTHING, about that woman or her life.  

Yes, there are a few wonderful people in the world who would help support a woman and her child, should she choose to keep that child rather than have an abortion, just as the author notes. And there are families who would love to adopt adorable newborns. 

(Of course, do note that there is a small but continuous rise in US children being adopted out of the country, as apparently US parents prefer white infants to children of color. So I guess that rescue offer only applies to lighter pigmented little ones.) 

In the end, however, that mother will be solely response for this child. Not the kind, grandmotherly buffer zone advice profferer, not the Republicans who continuously vote to take away social safety nets that might otherwise support a mother, not the father who at most will be required to give his statutory duty--give money, rather than time or homework assistance. 

How dare you, ANYONE, tell her a woman cannot or should not avail herself of a legally offered medical procedure? How dare you think that you know better than she whether or not being a mother at this particular junction of her life is the best option for her--or her baby? How dare you suggest that carrying her baby to full term and giving birth is more important than her life? 

A woman's life is just as important as the life of the child (fetus, embryo, egg) within her. She should be encouraged to use all of the safe and legal tools we now have available to us in developed countries to determine when--and if--she wants to have a child. And then, if she decides to raise that child, she damn well better put that child's well-being in front of her own--as should the child's other parent, society and government! 

When are we going to stop punishing women for the horrible crime of having sex and accidentally getting pregnant with the life sentence of being charged with raising of a child that they do not want or are not capable of raising or emotionally equipped to give up for adoption? 

I am very tired of the world thinking that it knows better than me, as a woman, what I should do with my body and my life. 

I am very tired of the United States government and rich people who run corporations knowing that certain types of birth control are wrong for me, my body and my daughter's body. 

I am very tired of the constant double standard imposed by the above entities, allowing old men to take little blue pills paid for by conservative corporations to keep poking women who then can't get a simple birth control method like an IUD to prevent pregnancy. 

Stop it.