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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Gun Play

I live in a community. I live in a townhouse surrounded by families with small children. These small children, grade school age see me every morning, day and night. Since I work from home, I am everywhere all the time. I am the middle aged woman who keeps watch over the extended yard that reaches so many doors in our community. I am the one who is sitting out in the evening watching the children play. I am the one they look to for guidance about rules of fair play and decorum. I am there. I feel their need, their want to be seen, and their desire to entertain and keep my attention. I feel these little ones to my bone. They have worked hard to earn my trust and respect. They address me as Miss Kellie. They have a million questions about school, friends, families, children, adults, and life in general and more often than that, the very specific. These children are my little friends; actually, they are my littlest of friends. I call them friends because they talk to me without judgment, or condemnation, or indifference, which I think is often much worse. In the evening when they have grown tired of playing they come to me and sit or stand near my tiny outdoor table and talk. Not one of them looks anything like me, but we don’t notice, except to ask about each other in fascination. They are careful to be respectful at all times. They try and watch their grammar, which I occasionally correct, but as a method of teaching and not to condescend. I think they are gorgeous. I hear them and what they have to say and I am riveted to their mind set, their opinions are articulated in a way that captures my heart. They know I adore them. It is in the way I look at them, full in their tiny faces, eyes held in interest and kindness. We have had a couple of odd happenings here at townhouse land, but nothing as violent as what happened last night. There are apartments across the very busy street we live on. These apartments are known to carry certain elements of danger. We are all advised to stay from them, and we do. Last evening my young ones were once again gathered at my table regaling me tales with the horrors of dodge ball. One by one they got called in by their parents in order to get ready for bed. The sun had fallen far behind the trees and the sky was dark. My favorite little friend is a writer and a good one at that. She is expressive and artful with her words. I see that we are kindred spirits and our souls connect. She offers up her writings to me to critique, but I can’t say anything bad about any of them. I love the way she writes, and see her one day becoming prolific and important. I gathered my coffee cup and headed in for the night. The yard, the area that borders our doors grew quiet as the families began tucking in the little ones. Peace had descended over our little community. Christy, my oldest child, and I were watching television. Mike had gone to bed, exhausted from work. Our patio door remained open to allow the breeze to waft into our living room and cool the air. Christy had gone upstairs for moment and I was sitting there when I heard something outside. I muted the television as I do every time I think I hear something and there it was the sound I knew and feared. Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, POP! A man yelled, “Call an ambulance!” Gunfire had found our little community. I hurriedly called 911 and reported what I had heard, but I saw nothing. The sounds came from up on the hill in the parking lot, a place I could not see from my windows. Mike came downstairs and closed and locked the patio door. I had walked outside to see what was going on. Mike called to me in a loud whisper, “Baby, get back in the house.” My neighbor, a young mother of two was coming home from work. Me, standing in my pajama pants, she asked, “Did I scare you?” I look at her and said, “No, there were gun shots. The police are on their way.” She and I stood for moment when a man screamed, “Get back in the house! Get back in the house!” My neighbor and I scurried into our doors. People closed doors and locked them, pulled blinds, we hid away, waiting for the trauma to exit. I went upstairs to investigate from the window on the second floor. Christy chided me for being so “nosy” and laughed, “You are not Angela Lansbury, you are not going to solve this.” For a moment we forgot about the danger of the situation and just laughed. I looked out my window to the windows of my small friends. Their lights were out and I prayed they didn’t hear what we had heard. I prayed they got to keep their innocence a little longer. I found out today a man was shot 3 times. He had been found at the other end of the community and had survived. I don’t know anything else about the shooting that occurred so close to my front door. I really don’t want to know the details right now. I am leaning away from knowing too much and having the fear grow inside me. This evening my little friends were back out playing. They seem to be called in earlier tonight. They were playing soccer, running around each other, laughing and horsing around. All their small children noises were echoing where gun shots had just ringed out hours earlier. I wondered if they knew about the incident. I wondered if they knew and were frightened. I’m frightened. I scared for friends who still lead with their tiny hearts, who think why not instead of asking why. My hope for tonight for them was that innocence won out today. We live in extraordinary times, and not all of this is a good thing. The world has grown dark and violent for many. I see on the news nightly the body count due to the many, many murders in our area. The weapons of choice are guns, lots and lots of guns. Today I posted the need for responsible gun owners to stand up and speak out on gun violence. It’s time for the NRA and its members to talk, and keep talking about how we are going to fix this mess. They have the large looming lobby, worth millions of dollars and several members of Congress. They need to come up with information on how to help. As experts in the area of this kind of weaponry it is their obligation. I literally have to say do it for the children, for my children that I adore so much, having spent so much time. This needs a solution before another stray bullet ends the life of a child or a middle aged story teller.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Pigotry

I had read the three little pigs to my children a million times when they were young. For me the story of the three little pigs represented the best analogy of why hard work was important. Earning one’s way in life, was a value I continue to teach my now grown children. After my medical arrest, I found myself not being able to read and write for a period of time. I had gotten home from the hospital with the new, very fragile baby, wanting to continue to try and have some kind “normalcy”. When bedtime came, the older kids pulled books for me to read. Determined, I open the pages and began to stammer and struggle my way through it. My memory was toast, but I could remember some of the stories by heart, so instead of actually reading the written words, I would tell the story, prompted by the pictures, as my anxious audience sat at the foot of the bed. One of the first nights I was home from the hospital, I was tucking my wee ones into bed. One of the boys pulled the story about the three little pigs from the pile of books in the corner of the room. I could remember the basics of the story, but the words in front of me seemed blurred, unrecognizable. I wanted to break down and cry. I wanted to curl into a ball and fall spectacularly apart, but my wee ones, so dependent on me, sat there in anticipation of having the mama they had known read to them. There is no way to explain that the mama they had known didn’t exist anymore, and might not ever come back. I had been altered. My brain didn’t work the way it used to. My thoughts at that time were a jumbled mess, and my memory had become an escape artist, leaving and reappearing on a whim. I sat holding the book in my hands. Looking at the first page trying desperately to find any word I knew. My oldest child, Christy, a girl with striking blond hair and eyes so big and blue they held the sky, was watching me. I continued to struggle to start the story. I could not find the words in my mind or on the pages. I began to tremble, fearful that I would never recover, and that my days of reading to my children were over. Christy came up to me on her knees, and gently laid her hands on mine. “Mama, I have been practicing reading. Can I read the story tonight? I know all the words.” I looked at my child, her face so sincere, so wanting to help me out my perplexing situation. Her face offered no judgment; just some much needed and appreciated help. “Sure”, I said and handed my little girl the book. She took my seat on the bed and I proceeded to kneel on the floor at her feet. The boys and I sat as she opened the book and began to read. Christy told us the story of the three little pigs that night and when she finished, I hugged her so tight, she needed to break for air. She looked deep into my face, holding my cheeks in her tiny hands. “It’s going to be O.K., Mama. You are just tired. I can help.” I nodded and walked her to her room and tucked her in. As I kissed her, I realized how lucky I was to just be there, in the flesh, putting her to bed. I had not felt so lucky earlier. I had felt frustrated and angry at my inability to be the person I once was. I had no way of knowing when I conceived my last child things were going to be so hard. Birthing a child had seemed like the least of my worries, right up until I got my diagnosis that nearly ended my life. Years later when their father was diagnosed with cancer, there was no way of knowing that, either. We had started out as a nice middle class family, building a life, having children, creating home together. As a single mother I continued to live like the little pig with the brick house, working as many jobs as my body could stand, making what I could not buy, building what we needed, trying as hard as I could to do as much as I could for the wee ones I loved so very much. I had pushed myself to the brink, just so we could survive. My children had encountered people who judged them severely for being poor, for not having a father around, for being heartbroken and grieving. They had seen what I like to refer to as the fourth little pig, Pigotry. Pigotry is the pig who selfishly condescends to those who are in need. Pigotry demands the best of everything, and insults anything less. Pigotry is judgmental, mean spirited, and entirely selfish. Pigotry is the person who thinks because they have never encountered such hardships that those who have, deserve to be treated badly. Pigotry is evil. I had never wanted my children to see those Pigotry people so early in their lives. Parents try their level best to keep that dirty little secret to themselves until their children are older, but I had no choice but make the introduction, so my children didn’t think what Pigotry did was acceptable behavior. Pigotry could appear in the form of someone once considered safe. Pigotry showed up in the shape of a mom who refused to enter my house because we were poor, and then went about telling others how we lived. Pigotry came to a soccer meet in the form a dad, who bullied my son, until I stepped in. I could see in his eyes, the pure contempt for me and my son. Pigotry came to open houses at school, children parties, charity events for the school, and even church, sitting right next to us in the pew. Pigotry seemed to crop up when we felt most exposed. Recently, my oldest girl, the one who continues to have her flowing blond hair and deep blue eyes, encountered Pigotry again. While debating politics someone wrote that people, who could not afford to have four children, shouldn’t have them. It made her so angry. I saw the fury in face; I saw her wheels turn, as her mind searched for how she would respond. Believe me, I am not fighting her battle for her. She can handle herself quite well, thank you very much. There is no need for me to step in for my children anymore. They are wicked smart, and if you underestimate them, well, God help you, because the rest of us will be stepping away for our own safety. My children have seen the best and worst in people. They now fight for those who need help and have no voice. They are caring, compassionate, empathetic people who lead with their heart. Pigotry, taught them how to treat people with kindness. That was the take away from the horrible experiences of meeting Pigotry early in life that it never has to be that way. Pigotry took a big hit yesterday from my oldest child. About once a week a child calls home to tell the story of battling Pigotry in the name of creating a better world. While I will always hold the original three little pigs close to my heart, the fourth pig, Pigotry, would be better served as a ham sandwich.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Just Check the Box

I was filling out another job application, when my frustration grew to a boiling point. It seems every time I am required to fill out an application I have trouble trying to decipher how to input my information. Either there is not enough room, since I am now a woman of a certain age and experience, I need a looser, roomier platform, and these applications never have enough, yet, want me to describe in detail my life, for the last fifty years. Oh, sure, it sounds easy enough, just fill out the application. Just fill in the box. Michael never wants to be in the same room with me when I fill out these brain teasing, exasperating, mind traps. He runs, sometimes literally calling out that he just wants to go for a short jog. I won’t see him again until dinner. I don’t blame him. Each designated day I have for job searching, I make it cuss day. My cuss days are a little more often these days, but it is my purposeful, designated day to let my mouth fly. I try to watch my “P”s and “Q”s, but on application day, I don’t have the restraint. I am hunched over my keyboard, screaming at the page that just changed before I could finish typing, or grabbing my screen with both hands shaking it, trying to get the appropriate box to tumble down as if it were an Etch a Sketch. I miss paper. I miss the days when I was viewed as an adult and my cover letter, resume and recommendation letters were enough information for me to get an interview. I often feel these applications suffer from ageism. I am being set up to fail. A few years ago I was sitting at a kiosk in Walmart trying to apply for a job. The screens came up and if I had been 16 years old without any education or job experience, it may have been a bit easier, although my grown kids have assured me they had trouble with it also, but as an older person who has a long list of educational institutions, licenses, multiple career changes, yeah, I wanted to do myself and that machine harm. I nearly broke down into tears right there in the layaway department. The only other time checking boxes was tough for me was back right after Danny, my first husband died. I was filling out forms when I got stumped. Technically, I knew the answer they wanted, but emotionally, I felt it diminished where I was in my life. The boxes were: Single, Married, Divorced, Widowed. Here is why I got stuck, I was single in that I was alone. Danny had died and the kids and I were struggling to find a way to live without him. I could not have felt more single at that time. We were isolated, and very much alone, so I felt justified if I checked single. The married box was next and I stared at it. Danny and I were no longer married, but we had four children together and a sticky relationship that kept throwing each of us back at each other. Neither of us had really ever let go, so married, was how I had felt, even when we lived apart. Divorced, came next in the line of boxes. Yep, I was divorced. It was a word I hated, an act I despised, and yet there I was, divorced all the way to the bone. Divorce for me meant failure, it meant weakness, and shame. I still wince when people refer to my divorce. I had not filed for it, I did not witness the finality of it, and I carried all the shame of my failed marriage. Divorced is the box I had checked for a couple of years and I hated it more every time I checked it. The last box was Widowed. I sat shaking when I got to that box, holding on to the form, disfiguring it in my hands, as tears fell. With Danny gone and now residing in a fresh grave for me to visit weekly as self punishment, and I was really good at punishing myself for every misstep he or I had, I was now widowed. Since we weren’t legally married anymore, I knew I could never check that box, but I felt as though I deserved it. My partner in parenting was gone. The guy I shared my family with was no longer in my life or in my children’s lives. There was no more hoping that somehow he and I could work things out. He was dead, I was alone, and our kids’ hearts were completely shattered. I deserved a box specific for me. My family in that time was not a one size fits all. I know in my heart, every family has something about them that should allow them a special box. I need a special box right now. I need a box that shows I am flexible, intelligent and experienced. I need a box that disregards age and holds time in a state of reverence. I need a box that indicates I am loyal, hard working and affable. I need a “Hey, listen, I know I am from out of town, and I may not have the college education that you so desire, but I am willing to learn anything” box. I need that box. With all the forms, applications and sundry paperwork I have had to fill out since I moved, one would think there would be some kind of universal method for providing information to all who require it. I believe it was called a resume, but don’t quote me on that. When I worked as a nurse we used to fill out information longhand. We had to, because no one patient was exactly the same. Medicine had that part right. They allowed for all the idiosyncratic things about being human. My applications often make me feel so much less than human. The way I have to reduce myself down to a two dimensional, no less than two pages, but no more than three, description of justifying my life, makes me feel despondent. I know I am in a large company of folks out there who are in much worse situations than I am. Nearly daily, I type my most basic information into the boxes and then wait to hear anything back. Most jobs never respond. It is as if I had tossed all my personal information into a black hole in the universe where my chances of even being seen are a lightning strike. I haven’t given up. I didn’t the last time I was in this situation and I won’t now. My Michael and friends love and support me by saying, “They just don’t know what they missing out on.” I nod my head in agreement, but wonder if the storm I am in will produce a one in a million lightning strike, I think I need. I believe in “All things for a reason”. I think I believe that because if my history has taught me anything, it is to wait for all the crazy to shake out. My daughter, a sage and wise soul said, “Mom, you know how it is for us, things always get really bad, right before they get really good.” She’s right, and I know where her understanding comes from, although, I admit when my kids use my own words back at me, I cringe. It is how things have always gone; they get really bad, right before they get really good. Darkest before the dawn is a theory that is right on the money. My hope for now is to not lose my sense of humor, my sense of adventure and my common sense where I know if I can just hold on, things will really work out for the better.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Gap Year

I was spending time thinking of what I had done in the past decade. I was trying to account for all the years and the days and even the minutes of how I had been occupying my time. Why was I doing this? I think because time flew by in some ways and much like my current life, it also dragged as if lugging a dead body uphill. So there I was, sitting with my coffee in hand trying to account for my time, trying to figure out how I got here, the place where I am trying to figure out what work would best suit me at 50. Someone recently told me it was not a good idea to mention my age so much. Befuddled, I asked why. Her answer included all the stereotypes about what it means to be 50. Fifty, she determined meant old, unemployable, over the hill, and falling apart. As I adjusted my very smudged reading glasses, and wiggled in my seat, so my legs didn't cramp up and my back didn't hurt, I felt indignant at first, but then I knew she had a point about the age thing. She had referred to me as middle aged, but I know even with a longer life expectancy, I am now on the back thirty. Even at forty, I had a work expectancy of at least twenty more years, but now when I tell people I am fifty, I get the idea from the expression on their faces that I have a better chance of convincing people that I escaped from a home than I do of getting a decent job. It's too bad, since I have all this experience with people. I have gotten really good at being patient, and listening to people. In my work prime of my thirties, I was always in a hurry, trying to pull information out of them as if I were extracting an abscessed tooth. I just wanted to get on with it, so I could bustle on over to the next task. I retired from nursing because I was becoming burned out on medicine, or actually the process of medicine. Diagnosis, prognosis, therapy plans were still fascinating to me, but I worked in geriatrics where getting an order for a routine blood culture had turned into an act of God. My patients needed to be on their death beds for me to get anything done. Either that or have a really good lawyer who was chomping at the bit to go to court. I had been a nurse for nearly twenty five years and the constant banging of my head left me feeling exhausted and weary, which in turn left me being less than a good nurse. So far every time someone finds out I retired from nursing I get sort of shamed about it. I mean, if I had kept my license up, surely I would have a job. I suppose that is true, but I never wanted to be that person who stayed too long. My analogy is the girl in the corner at a party with a little vomit in her hair. I didn’t want to be that girl. I knew if I didn’t let it go, I would have ended up in the corner. O.K., so back to accounting for the last decade, so there I was racking my brain for how I have spent my time in the last ten years, and the results astounded me. This isn’t a revelation of how I wasted my youth. That can come another day, but what I realized as I tallied up days, and years is I spent eight, count them eight years in high school. Now before anyone thinks I was a slow learner, those eight years were with my children. I had four children in four years, and yes, I was aware of what caused it. My kids have always been my first priority. I made it clear to Michael long before I got remarried, that they came first. The good news is he got four kids in the deal; the bad news is he ended up with four teenagers for eight long years. I hadn’t realized how many years were taken up with Homecomings, proms, dances, driving lessons, detentions, band concerts, cross country meets, youth groups, college visits, broken relationships, friend drama, drug and alcohol lectures and general high school mayhem. Eight years of not sleeping, dropping off, picking up, shopping for, cleaning up after and letting go. Actually, with four years apiece it equals twelve years, but there was some overlap so I have whittled it down to eight. Mike and I had agreed a long time ago I would be doing the heavy lifting when it came to the kids. At first it was out of respect for my experience as their mom, but in the end, it had more to do with my ability to multi task twelve items at a time. So when making my account of all my high school years, I was thinking about all the self shaming I do about not making a living right now. Maybe I can think of this as my gap year, the year after high school before college starts. Truthfully, I haven’t had a kid in high school since 2010, but I haven’t taken a break since then either, so this might be the exact time and the right place to do just that. Since the kids graduated from high school, I haven’t really taken a breath. Until last year they were all home. Now, with only one working adult left in the house, maybe I can sit back and take a breath and let some things sink in. Once I realized how many years I have given for the cause, I count high school as a triple score since aneurysms are a side effect, I could not help but think of this time as my graduation gift. Tomorrow is Mike’s Friday, even though the calendar says it is Monday. I was supposed to send out more resumes to anyone with an address, internet or otherwise. But I think what I might do instead is put myself down to be a volunteer somewhere. Maybe, instead of spending my mornings wincing at the latest list of rejection letters, I will send out my information for an organization that would be glad to have me. I mean, it’s my gap year, and in a gap year philanthropy is usually what comes to mind before one goes off and starts their “real” life. Now that I have graduated and the world is my fifty year old oyster, I can prepare for the road ahead, like any good student of the world.

Friday, September 27, 2013

No Time To Stand Still

Since moving to Chicago I have learned many new things, which I find amusing and somewhat disconcerting. I learned which neighborhoods I will never visit, due to the amount of violence in the city. I learned what "Wildings" are, an activity where groups of people accost an individual, and I learned that having the lake on the east is perplexing to me. Being from Cleveland, Ohio, it so ingrained in me that the lake is north, it has cost me a great deal of time getting lost in Houston and now Chicago. Houston had the coast on the south side, and Chicago has Lake Michigan to the east. It seems Lake Erie will always take the north position on my personal compass. I remain unemployed, but not without activity. I have sculpted an original piece of artwork, and one that I love. I have written a play, being judged, and I sold a painting. I am starting a small, very small, tiny, little business to be announced later, and I am still looking for a "day job". While I am technically unemployed, I am not idle, except on the days I am overwhelmed by the move, which happens. The Midwest seems for the most part the same, but there are nuances to any city and I am having to learn what living in Chicagoland is for myself. I love the convenience of things, the mass transportation, the people. I really like the people. Michael said it and I think it is true, they just seem to get me. Folks in Houston are nice, but getting me is not something that happened often. Maybe it was because they were southern and I was northern. Maybe it was because I laughed too loud, and they were more demure. Or maybe I translate better in the Midwest. I tend to think that is the case, that the Midwesterner just get my humor, and understands my references. Texas had a Cleveland, so any time I said I was from Cleveland they assumed it was the small town 30 minutes north of Houston. When I say Cleveland here, everybody instantly knows where that is, and they don't make Cleveland jokes, which I remain grateful. I am having to navigate new digs once again. We do not own a home yet, but are waiting for one we are interested in. In the mean time, some days are meaner than others, we are renting a small townhouse. Most of our belongings remain in the "Big House" stored away, which is difficult because whenever I look for something I can guarantee it is in there, imprisoned until we move again. Once we do purchase a property, we will have moved 5 times in 3 years. let that little nugget of information sink in for a moment. I actively wince when I think about it, so naturally, I try not to. I miss my old house, my friends, but I really don't miss Houston that much. It isn't that Houston isn't lovely, but I am better off here, in the north where seasons change and winds blow. I have gone and participated in the plethora of festivals all over this area. I have picked apples, seen art shows, gotten to know folks at several medical facilities due an abnormal mammogram, which I am happy to say is benign, but still a surgical thing. I know my neighbors, at least by face if not by name, and I am now figuring out which channels are the local ones on the cable box. Like most things I have experienced, in six months, I will be living here without even thinking about having moved 1100 miles to do it. For now we are still the family who moved all the way from Texas. It's cute how some neighbors still call us Texans because they can't remember our names. I have moments of severe discomfort from the move when I look at my beloved as if I am asking, "Was it worth it?" and he smiles back at me with the, "It's too soon to tell" smile across his lips. We like it here, we do, but moving whether it is across town, or across country is never easy. I do know where to shop for groceries, and how to get around to find things and I now have a handy dandy iphone that helps me navigate when my directions are bad. I could have really used that when we moved down south and I couldn't find anything. The weather is becoming cooler, the wind now has a slight nip to it, which causes me to wrap up in snuggly clothes. I had given most of my winter wear away after living in the south for so long, so I imagine I will have to at some point, go shopping for more weather appropriate clothes. As a writer, I like to take steps back and look at this from the outside when I can. As a human, I almost have to do that every once in a while to gain perspective, for fear of being swallowed up by the negatives. My default is to want to believe that all things happen for a reason, even during the times when I am getting my ass kicked. Or should I say, especially when I am getting my ass kicked. I am happy we moved, even though it is hard at times, even though the rough parts have been a little rougher than I had hoped. As much as I liked Texas, and love my southern friends, I am a Midwesterner at heart and I feel very much like I am home after a very long absence. The folks from here say all the time that I will change my tune once winter hits. I suppose there is something to that. No one has a better spring than Texas. If you decide to see Texas, go in the spring, it is magnificent. I will miss my mild winters, and tropical sweet smelling blossoms, but for now I have the smell of fall, where I lean in and inhale as deeply as I can taking it all in. The leaves are about to change and the evenings are chilly. The other day I was referred to as an activist, a much better title than an unemployable. My summer had been filled to the brim with letters to Congressional members, watching live stream political events and adding my voice whenever I thought I could help. I had all that time, so I figured why not? Or better yet, I have no excuse to not get involved. I wasn't too busy, I wasn't really busy at all, so I came into a fold of people who are trying to accomplish reform. I should have titled this blog Moving Day, because when I look at my posts so many are about moving from one place to another, changing jobs, careers, residences. At 50 I had pictured myself firmly entrenched in a house I had owned for years, doing a job for almost as long and having holiday dinners at my house for the extended family. It's a nice Norman Rockwell kind of picture, isn't it? It isn't even close to my reality, but it's a nice picture. Once I stop dreaming about what kind of life that would have been, I always ask myself the same question. Would I even remotely be the same person if I had taken that path instead? We all know that answer for ourselves. I would have had different problems, different quandaries, different ideals, and maybe even different opinions. What moving has given me is the ability to be afraid and do stuff anyway. It gave me new eyes when meeting people for the first time. Moving forced me to open up, feel exposed, vulnerable, and without ego. Moving allowed me to let go of my past, and reinvent myself according to who I wanted to be rather than people from my past dictating who they thought I was. A couple of days ago, Mike and I went house hunting, a plan B for us. The subject inevitably comes up about how long we are planning to live here. If we buy house 1, will we get our money out of it if we choose to move before 10 years, and what of the housing market and can we remodel and recoup if an opportunity comes up earlier. In our heads we are already moving again. Maybe it is a force of habit, maybe it is the wanderer that seems to rear up every few years, or maybe it is merely an old habit that we may have to leave behind. Since I have so much time on my hands, I am trying to fill my days doing all the things I wanted to do and swore I didn't have the time. I am an artist, musician, writer, dog walker, activist, gourmet cook, hiker, biker, and perpetual dork. It is a luxury to have the time, even without the money to bolster my options. I told Mike the other day, my biggest fear is finding a job and getting settled and not having any time. Tonight is date night. It was chosen at random just because I have the time to plan it. There will be simple inexpensive pleasures of a home cooked meal, a bottle of wine and a winding walk around nature. There will be hand holding, long kisses and a deep appreciation in having someone to share this experience with, who still makes me laugh. We are, without a doubt, moving on and into our future here.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Not Everybody Looks Good In Hats

Not everybody looks good in hats. I happen to be a person who can pull it off. Every time I have worn a hat, I get complimented on the hat, as if the hat is the one carrying off the stylish statement. But I know for a fact, and have personally witnessed those people who should never try and wear a hat. It's tricky, this hat thing. It happens to be one of my more rare talents, the ability to wear a hat. There is a secret to it, an uncommon phenomena to being able to wear hats and not look like a complete dork. The secret is...I have a tiny head. I almost require the hat to balance off the rest of me. My peanut head has been an issue all of my adult life. In my youth the size of my head held no reference, but as an adult, with my widening hips and strong thighs, my head size became a fashion issue. I have had people tell me that they personally don't care for hats. I look at their melon heads, sizable domes fixed atop their neck and think to myself, "Yeah, I see where that comes from." Since I have had to shop in the children's section at different times for my glasses, ski goggles and headbands, I have the unique ability to put a hat on my head and see how it begins to balance off the rest of my body. My hats, many fedoras, which I find fascinating how many people detest this particular hat, are my great equalizer for my peanut head. I never considered before how many women would notice my hats. It seems to either delight or confound them. They either show appreciation or condemnation with very little in between. Mostly I get that little compliment and wistful sigh, which we both acknowledge is their way saying they cannot pull off a look in hats. It's sad, really, that so many large heads just can't fit inside a hat comfortably. Hats are my thing, like my boho clothes, or my paint splattered t-shirts, or my poker straight hair with wisps of silver that tend to stick straight up. I won't lie, admittedly, my hats cover a multitude of sins, like the gray hair that looks as if it is trying to escape my skull. I recently read an article degrading the use of hats in fashion. I noted nothing had been written about the giant sunglasses, which I cannot wear because they cover over half my face and make look as though I were trying to store my face in Tupperware. Hats seemed to be, from the authors perspective over used, cliche, and quite unbecoming. For a moment I pondered her exasperation over the use of hats. I did until I noticed her picture at the end of the article. She had a rather large head compared to her dainty neck and tiny form. I suppose for her, hats had become her fashion enemy, pointing out the striking difference between head and body. Nope, not everybody can wear hats. The poor dear would never know the joy of sporting a deliciously comfortable, incredibly warm, yet slightly fashionable head wear. I felt so lucky today, with fall coming, and winter right behind, my first in a decade, I will pull out all of my lovely hats and wear one nearly every day. My petite, peanut head will feel warm, and balanced. Heads up, little noggins, hat season is almost here.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

It's All Too Much

I have been following social media and the news. It’s enough to make me want to crawl into bed and not come out. I call it “Punxsutawney-ing”. As an individual, a peaceful individual at that, it’s hard to make heads or tails of what I am supposed to do with all this information. Should I join in the voices who attacked a twenty year old woman for twerking, or go after the grown man for allowing it during his deeply misogynistic song, which on a side note makes me unhappy, because if it had different words I would like the song. It is reminiscent of songs from the 1970’s with the catchy beats. Syria gases its own people, so we as country feel obligated to do what? What exactly can we do without going into a situation and making it exponentially worse? My fear is what it always is, and if we go in there guns blazing, how will that save the innocent people now? How will dropping bombs, however targeted save lives? Is this another “greater good” situation that ends up being a quagmire? It looks vaguely familiar, so my fear level is way past red. Remember when we were color coded on fear? There is a man in Montana who was sentenced to thirty days for having sex with a fourteen year old girl, because “she was older than her chronological age”. She committed suicide. I could not help but feel like 1950 would rear itself from the past and ask for its outdated thinking back. North Carolina has their voting rights pulled so far back, that they are reminiscent of pre-civil rights era. Rowe vs. Wade has been over turned in several states going against women’s Constitutional rights, and even though we have had over 7,500 gun related deaths and it is still climbing we cannot have civil discourse about what to do about gun safety without zealots threatening to shoot us all. And let me not forget the murderous, torturous state Russia is in against gay people, a country, mind you, where we are going to celebrate the Olympics. I am sure you can see why I have a headache. It’s not too hard to understand why we mortals want to run and hide. Phil has no idea how lucky he is. As an adult, a fifty year old woman I am continually shocked at what is happening and how little it seems we have learned. About once a day, I can’t help but find myself thinking, “We are still here? How is this possible?” But alas, it is not only possible it is pervasive. My daughter, an adult as well, came to me disheartened about some things that are going on. What words could I use to soothe her? What could I possibly say that would have any impact on how she was feeling? The truth for me is I believe we are on the precipice of something that is either going to propel us forward or cause to fall amongst the craggy rocks. Either way, something seems to be afoot. Now while the knee jerk reaction I might have is to hide, to “Punxsutawney” myself away until it is all over, the peaceful driven side wants to help support those who seek real and lasting change. It’s an incredibly frightening world right now. The instability in the Middle East, the growing noise of hate and intolerance, it’s all a bit much. I have my own bag of hammers right now too, which is adding to my code red status. I have health issues, job issues, personal relationship issues, I have issues. So what is an experienced girl to do? As a singular individual it may seem that my options to add to the world are limited, but in truth, the simple decisions I make today may be something that starts the dominos falling in my favor. Here’s what I mean. Every time I encounter another human being I look in their face, I mean I really look into the eyes to see if they have something brewing far beneath their working exterior. It’s something I learned during my tenure as a nurse. Reading people is not as difficult as one would think. Understand this, when you see anger, what you are really witnessing is hurt. That person has been hurt in some way or another. Most outside emotions can be followed like a winding path back to some kind of hurt. There are many wounded people out there who are hanging by a thread. I have been where they are, where I have felt like a good stiff breeze would blow me away. Once you take the 15 seconds to see their eyes, to take them in, show them kindness and here is the key, expect nothing. This isn’t about you directly, so keep your expectations out of it. Be kind to every single person you encounter regardless of how they act towards you. I promise you, your success rate in seeing change will astound you. Not every heart will change. Not every person you are kind to will respond to you at all, but if you get one person who smiles back, or their face softens, or their shoulders drop, you are a success. Every person alive has stuff they dealing with, so in that vein, if we all acknowledge each other, see each other, remember to be kind, courteous, polite, respectful imagine how in a week things could change. Imagine how your mail lady now smiles glad to see you, or the maintenance guy is eager to help because he knows how grateful you are, or the cashier waves to you when she sees you enter the store. How can I be so sure that is how it will turn out? I have witnessed it. It’s the joy in being a woman of a certain age, is the experience in seeing the good in people. As a financial aid advisor I saw students who wanted to slit my throat on arrival, come back days later and apologize to me for being mean. These are the very young people you hear are cruel and thoughtless and self centered. I do not believe all that crap about the youth of today being worthless and lazy. That’s what they said about my generation too, so yeah, it’s crap. These young people who are in college, completely freaked out just want someone to look them in the face. That is all anyone wants is to be acknowledged, viewed as human, viewed as valuable. Since moving north I realized just how much I miss their faces, their special kind of crazy, their want to be cool, accepted, and adult. I miss them running down the hall at me full speed about knocking me down showing me their passing test grades, as they tell the astonished story of how they conquered a great fear. I miss the way they kept me young, and reminded me that the youth of today will be the very ones who can save us all. I miss the living, breathing hope. While I have nothing to add about the VMAs, since it has already been said a thousand different ways, and I hope my country does right by the world and also holds the UN accountable since we are not the world police, I have plenty to say about human rights. So basic a right as to be treated with dignity, with fairness, with accountability, and respect, so basic, it literally takes seconds out of your day. It really is all bit a much. But for me, there is hope, there are people every day standing up for what they know to be true not just for themselves but for all humanity, taking it one small act at a time. When faced with this big of a plate full, we may need to reduce it down to manageable bites. Go out today with no expectation other than to work on you and how you act and react. If you run into me today, just know I am going to be nice to you, for no other reason than I am just glad to have you here, with me, helping out. This place just wouldn’t be the same without you.