Tag Archives: society

Phelps got it wrong

He had a chance to change public perception.

I don’t actually blame him.  The anti-pot crowd is entrenched so deeply in their delusions about the evil marijuana plant that you’d have to essentially sacrifice your reputation, your future, everything, unless you kowtow to their judgment.

Instead of apologizing, as reported in the general media, like this article from CNN, he might have said, “I smoked pot.  It shouldn’t be illegal.  You people have it completely backwards; instead of the pot-smoking reflecting on my gold medals, the gold medals reflect on my pot-smoking.  You all say that pot smokers are shiftless losers, that it destroys your entire life, that it is the gateway to all that is damnable on this earth.  BUT I WON EIGHT GOLD MEDALS.  Idiots.”

Like I said, I can’t blame him.  He’s young, handsome, has his whole life to win more medals and get more sponsors and rake in the loot.  Why should he put himself on the chopping block just to try to end a moronic witch hunt.

It’s just disappointing, that’s all.  If he’d been drinking a beer, which according to statistics as well as common sense wreaks FAR more social havoc and destroys  many more lives than marijuana, no one would have blinked.

But partaking of the devil’s own herb?  Tsk tsk.  Bad times.

Don’t worry, buddy, they’ll forgive you.  You’re America’s darling, and hey, even Clinton admitted to smoking pot.  Just didn’t have a picture published of himself sucking the chamber dry, that’s all.  

And maybe in its own pathetic way, your little faux-pas might bring the US closer to a saner drug policy, eventually.  The advocates of legalization might be able to point back at you from the distant future, show the judge and jury how the medals around your neck were chiming merrily against the bong as you leaned over to take a big hit.

You could have been their hero, your framed portrait hung next to Marley in every dorm room, but this’ll have to do.

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Progress?

True to my promise, I have been trying to think of concrete ways that I can participate in this move forward that we as a country are attempting.

One big area that I used to participate in a lot but have lately slacked on severely is taking better care of the environment. I tend to blame my slide away from greenness on where I’m living now, and after my recent attempt to investigate local green possibilities, it does not appear that I will get away from this excuse any time soon.

Cycling – out of the question where we currently live. I’d be run over within a week.

Composting & Gardening – we want to move out of our current house as soon as humanly possible, so there is no point starting anything outside. Plus, there isn’t any room anyway, unless I started digging up the front lawn, which is going to seriously piss off the landlord.

Buying bulk – I used to do this a lot on the West Coast (Santa Cruz and Eugene). Yesterday I went to a local health food store and found pre-packaged bulk items, which kind of defeats the purpose of using re-usable bags to go fetch your bulk grains, flours, etc., which would thus cut down on packaging. It was a small store, so I politely inquired of the three employees standing around chatting in the empty store if they knew of any place locally that had bins where customers could bag their own foodstuffs. They looked at me as though I were insane. So that ain’t gonna happen.

On the brighter side, here are some green things that might work even though I am living in an extremely pale green community:

Cloth grocery bags – I already have three from my previous incarnation as someone who cared about the environment. I’m going to check at Goodwill for old curtains or some other kind of sturdy cloth which I can cut up and make into some more bags.

Produce bags – in the past I’ve made some little mesh bags to carry produce home in (although a lot of things like cucumbers I don’t even put in a bag anyway) so that I won’t have to use any more plastic bags. I will invest in some twine and get on that project.

Homemade foods – I should dedicate more time to making things homemade, such as bread, so that it will reduce the amount of wrappers and containers that must be thrown out. Although, since I can’t find bulk flour, I’m going to have to throw out the paper flour bags anyway… if we had a garden, I could have a burn barrel and use the ashes to cultivate the compost pile…

If, if, if if if ifififififififififi

Hey, it turned into Fifi. Fifi the if-angel, the one that takes all your goofy fleeting fantasies, turns them into chocolate chip cookies and drops them in your lap when you least expect it.

A girl can dream.

Dream green.

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Reason and Imagination

Note: I can no longer make the spaces between the paragraphs, so now it just looks like one big squished text… sigh.  Just thought I’d warn you, dear readers.  If anyone is having this same problem and fixes it, will you let me know how?

He who will not reason is a bigot; he who cannot is a fool; and he who dares not is a slave.
  – Sir William Drummond
Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.
  – H. L. Mencken
I like these two quotes next to each other.  
On the one hand, we are reminded of the necessity of thinking.  If we will not or cannot use our human ability to reason then we can never invent anything, we cannot avoid fascism, we cannot solve the daily challenges we face that are overcome with simple logic.
On the other hand, if everything is logical judgment, if every person in our lives must pass through the reasoning machine, then our lives become gray and tiresome.  We need the magic of imagination to get us over those hurdles that cannot be reasoned with.  Why did my loved one die?  Why did my child lie to me?  Why didn’t I get that job?  Sometimes we have to take the leap and forgive, turn off our thinking and just love, even if it is just our own self that needs the loving.
Love can’t be logical; none of us is perfect enough to deserve the adoration that we seek and crave, that drives us mad when we feel ourselves alone in the dark, out of the spotlight of someone’s eyes shining with love for us.  The species would never survive if we did not have enough imagination to see the angelic resemblance on the face of an infant who had just screamed through all our sleeping time, spit sour milk on our best pajamas and caused us to clean up foul excrement.
To love someone unconditionally might be to say: Let us use our reason to resolve a problem one of us has or a conflict between us, and let us use our imagination to build for ourselves that common ground called peace.

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Another intimate tidbit…

There was a 15 year span in my adult life during which I did not shave my legs.  Ever.

I had spent the previous seven or so years of my life shaving my adolescent legs, because “we have to.”  I hated every wasted minute, every painful red rash bump, every time the stupid guy who sat in front of me in history class would reach back and caress my shin and say either, “Ooo, smooth, who are you trying to seduce?” or “Oh, stubble, time to shave!”  In the way the a lot of teenage girls do not question cultural assumptions or the asinine way that people communicate them, I would inevitably feel alternately whorish or ugly.  And I continued to scrape the sharp metal against my skin.

Until I moved to Oregon in my early twenties.

Now, I know, there is electrolysis, hair removing cream, waxing, and a myriad of other methods.  BUT WHY?  Why do we continue to adhere to the purely vain idea that women must spend time, money and energy regressing to a prepubescent body by removing the natural covering of half their bodies?

Well I wasn’t going to do it anymore.

For those of you who have not had the singular experience of living in an area inhabited by a significant population of freaks, you will not understand the ease with which this decision is made.  You can walk down the street in shorts, leg hair flapping in the breeze (and to impress  you further, my skin is quite pale and my body hair, minus the grey on my head, is quite dark), and no one will bat an eye.  When you are surrounded by folks with their entire faces tattooed, by young people, white and black, with their hair in long scroungy dreads, by piercings and earhole-widening plugs and green spiked hair, the most likely reaction to a woman whose sole foray out of the norm is her hairy legs will be, “Geez, why are you such a square?!”

Thus, 15 blissful years.  

Granted, it took me a while to overcome my cultural training and stop being repulsed by the sight of my own bare legs.  It helped that I saw others similar to me.  I always wanted to high five these women, thank them for being a weirdo like me, but I thought it might progress the cause further if I just acted cool, as though saying “What’s the big deal?” might make it so for the rest of the world.  

I also had, about five years into this experiment, what might be considered a healing dream of sorts: I was sitting in a circle of men, all of us in shorts, our legs casually stretched out toward the middle of the circle so that when you looked down you couldn’t tell us apart.  It fit so satisfyingly into my gender ideal, which is that each person be seen for who they are as an individual and not be immediately put into a box based on the type of genitals they (presumably) possessed.

It was a habit that would be called into question when I met the man who is now my husband.

He is far too kind and understanding to have demanded or even suggested that I shave.  But I knew.  I could tell by those subtle clues that one must use with those selflessly thoughtful people to find out what they really think.  So I began to shave occasionally, usually just up to my knees.  Heck, I supposed that in doing so I was meeting him halfway.  Seemed fair.

And now?  Well, dear readers, I am currently living in the South.  The days of freakdom have (temporarily?) come to a close and I suspect that a stroll down the avenue with gorilla limbs would not be well received.

But I still hate it.  My poor gams are stinging as we speak.  I wonder if they might be willing to walk all the way back to the Land of the Weird and reclaim their right to be shaggy.

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Altered States

Sometimes I feel the need to make sense of our society’s drug policy.  For a brief moment in the ’60s (or so I’ve heard, having not made my entrance into this world until 1970) there was a subculture of people experimenting with altered states of consciousness, often induced chemically.  But besides that, we have all kinds of factions fighting against each other, none of them going anywhere except to hell in a handbasket: the “cool” drug counterculture, the illegal drug making/selling economy, the drug war economy, the poor souls fighting addiction, the puritan idealism that inevitably adopts a hypocritical position of condemning some chemicals utterly while accepting others without question, the pharmaceutical industry, the food industry, the tobacco industry, the alcohol industry, etc.

Okay, well, the legalized industries are doing fine.  But we often excuse their products as harmless, though in the last few decades we have been leaning the other way with alcohol and tobacco.

But we still allow people, including children, to walk around souped up on caffeine and sugar and few of us recognize these effects as altered states.  (I don’t know about you, but the most positive and productive I am all day is the hour or so when I’m flying on my morning caffeine fix.) We are only  just beginning to see them as powerful.  And our inevitable response seems to be to condemn them.

Are we capable of a more intelligent handling of the issue?

No matter where we stand on whatever drug issue, legal or otherwise, we all seem to be operating under the same common assumption: altered states are secretly fun, to some degree dangerous and always carry at least a small stigma of shamefulness.   Even with coffee, aren’t we addicts all at least a little sheepish when admitting our fixation?  Sobriety is held as the ultimate righteous state.

But might altered consciousness be something humans need?  Is it ever beneficial?  We might admire a Native American peyote ceremony for the soul searching and mystical insight it provides, but none of us is allowed to do it.  How would someone’s reputation change in your eyes if you found out they’d done acid?  

We allow, “I was just experimenting in college” and “I didn’t inhale.”  We’ve gotten to where we allow people to be reformed users, like George W., for example.

But for someone to be a respected member of mainstream society who proves their worth on a daily basis and is also a known pot smoker?  Nope.

We all have understandable fears based on anecdotal evidence of some type of chemical destroying someone we know and/or love.  We may even decide to buck the present trend and be against alcohol consumption.  But cars and motorcycles maim and kill lots of people, and isn’t that an altered state for a lot of people?  The power, speed, independence, road rage, status symbol possession… Most of the time we drive in a fairly sober, utilitarian manner, but who among us doesn’t ever floor it or take that corner just a little faster than necessary?  We definitely are not in our natural state, feet on the ground, head surrounded by sky.  Our heavy metal boxes put us in a certain frame of mind.

But we would never dream of outlawing them.

Our tv watching puts us in an altered state, a passive, drooling spectatorship.  How are the hours wasted and life energy atrophied away any different in front of the tube than passed out with painkillers?

Okay.  Granted they are different.  I’m just being dramatic in an attempt to make the point that we try to avoid sobriety in many different ways, some of them demonized as too dangerous and others labeled as simply “entertainment” or “transportation” or “java” some other moniker that makes them untouchable.

What would happen if we said, yes, we need to escape.  Yes, grownups are going to be allowed to choose their method of altering with no legislating and then they will be held responsible for any consequences of their choices.  The pluses and minuses of every method could be discussed freely.  We could openly admit that lots of things we do everyday, even something so innocuous as having a drama queen fit, are forays out of our “right minds.”  We could talk without shame about what we are looking for outside of our sobriety, about what we find there.

Or should we just continue to behave as though stone cold sobriety were the only way to be, ever.  That there is no time or place for getting out of your head or your day to day perspective, unless perhaps you choose Zen meditation, prayer, yogic breathing.  Newsflash — these things are seen as a little bit crazy, too.  Innocuously so, but nevertheless.

I hope this article did not induce any sort of altering in the reader’s awareness of reality as they’ve always assumed it to be — any effects of change in point of view, feelings of lightheadedness or hallucinations were purely unintentional.  Unless you go for that sort of thing.  In which case, you’re welcome. 

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Friends

My parents never had any friends.  I know you’re saying, come on, don’t exaggerate, but I’m being perfectly serious.  They still don’t.  It’s the two of them, punto final.  They are not particularly anti-social, they just can’t be bothered.

So, having had no example, I’ve always had to make up the adult friend thing as I went along.  And I’ve moved around… a lot.  So whatever friendships I’ve managed to build up have fallen apart.  With Facebook I am able to salvage some, and with blogging I find I can get super attached, because I don’t feel like I ever have to lose any of the great people I meet over the internet, assuming we all continue to choose to inhabit cyberspace, and assuming the continuing existence of cyberspace.  (Now that we have it, can you imagine our reality without it?)

But in real life.  That’s another story.

I joined a local group of homeschoolers.  I met them at the park a couple of months ago.  Instantly, I was home.  I’d known them forever.  Not a moment of tension or awkwardness.

Great, right?

Leave it to me to put a negative spin on it.

First, they’ve known each other for years and are like a real community.  It would take me years to catch up, even though they do make me feel welcome now.  Wah, woe is me, I wish I’d stayed somewhere so I could be an integral part of some great group… blah blah blah.  Pity pot. 

Second, there is no guarantee we will stay in this area for any length of time, and if we leave they just get added to the Facebook list of blasts from the past.  My husband and I have an agreement that we will go where his career leads us.  My life is about my kids, who I can raise anywhere, my writing, which I can generate anywhere, languages, which I can speak anywhere, cooking and crafts… you get the idea.  I am willing to make this sacrifice to be a part of the wonderful partnership we have.  Most of the time it doesn’t feel like any kind of sacrifice at all, especially if I think of my parents’ social norm.

And I really like these folks.  They make sense to me.  We are on the same page.  I don’t want to lose that… again.

There is a get-together, a winter party, tonight.  I haven’t RSVPed, I am using the lice, the fact that today is my husband’s payday and thus I need to run multiple errands, and my own social inertia to blow it off.  But I’ve been told by one of the moms that I can just show up, and I secretly really want to go.  I’m at the point now where I am entering the “Cheers” phase of belonging to the group, where at least one person will instantly know my name and greet me when I walk in the door.

I think it might be a need we have, as social animals, to be recognized by not just the people in our hut but by the village at large.  Some kind of security, some kind of mental and emotional nourishment.  Don’t know how my parents manage without it, but I guess that’s their prob.

I’m so glad I woke up early this morning so I can sit here in the quiet (such a rare treat!) and get my head together.  I’m so glad you were here to listen.

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49er Fantasy

No, not the football team.  Euw.

The miner kind of 49ers.

I’m from California, and the Gold Rush of 1849 has always been one of my most favorite periods in history.

The other day my daughter and I were watching a documentary of the pioneers and the Gold Rush.  It told the story of a family who went west to seek their fortune.  Usually men went without their wives and children and just hoped to make a bunch of money to bring home, or send for their families later.  But this family took off together.

When they arrived, the lady found that the miners would pay five dollars to have a meal cooked by a woman, which of course was a lot of money back then.  Well, maybe not to a guy who just found a bunch of gold nuggets in a creek and has blown phenomenal amounts of cash on booze and prostitutes.  Five bucks for a “home cooked” meal would be nothing.

But anyway, these miners had gone so long without being fed by their womenfolk, not to mention even seeing a woman up close, that she was greatly appreciated.  So much so that she was able to open a restaurant and make a tidy living off her culinary skills.

Now I know that some people fantasize about being Eddie Van Halen, or Angelina Jolie, or maybe even Bill Gates.  Having fame, fortune and glory is a commonplace desire.  But I haven’t felt as envious of anyone’s life as I felt hearing about this woman feeding all those men, winning their innocent affections and being compensated handsomely.  

I imagine, being her, I would feel like the most beneficent goddess mother, appeasing the boys’ stomachs and comforting their loneliness (she had her husband there, so I’m assuming that she was relatively safe from untoward advances.  Either way, nothing inappropriate figures into this particular fantasy of mine!)  They would adore me, looking up at me with their sad, scruffy, hungry puppy dog faces as I set before them some stew and biscuits still hot from the oven.  It would fill their bellies and warm their hearts and their homesickness wouldn’t sting quite so badly for just those few moments.  After their many months of perilous journeying, miserable gold panning, lousy food and rough male company, just the swishing of my clean skirts as I went to fetch the coffee would be like music to their ears.

Silly, I know.  But if a person’s fantasies reveal their essence, then I am all about food, earning a good living and being an adored mother-figure.  

I can live with that.

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Laziness is not civilized!

Okay people, por favor, don’t let’s get completely pathetic.

I was walking through the parking lot at Target yesterday and I saw a perfectly able-bodied woman who, having loaded her SUV with Christmas surplus, was standing there watching the hatch close itself!!!  

I am disgusted.  This is not an awesome use of technology, people!  This is an example of why we are a flabby, soft, lazy, weak population!

Okay, maybe I’m overreacting a little.  Maybe having to close the hatch of her SUV is the bane of her existence.  I know if I could get something that would make it so I never had to touch a dirty dish again as long as I lived, I would buy it in a heartbeat. 

And really, there are lots of contraptions helping us out.  I haven’t beat my clothes against a rock in the creek in quite some time.  But seriously.  When will it stop?  When will we take some pride in having strength, agility, endurance?

When will we see “automatic hatch closer” on the list of car features and say, “Honestly, no, see the flab hanging off my upper arms?  I think I’d better close the hatch myself, thanks.”

Considering the economic state of our country, we’ve got a lot of work to do.  I suspect it is the roll-up-your-sleeves, elbow grease kind of work that makes you sweat, and not something for which if one pushes the correct sequence of buttons one might remotely signal the economy to restart itself.

Let’s stop being proud of our new laze-crazy devices and start being proud of ourselves and each other for our genuine human abilities.

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Criminal Element

I am on a bit of a low due to the rash of robberies in our area.  My husband, as you may not know or remember, is a cops & courts newspaper reporter, so every local criminal event is, in some way, a personal event in our household.  

Before you say that maybe my husband shouldn’t bring his work home with him, I LIKE to be part of his life and to hear about how his day went.  And if you’d ever heard the way he tells a story, you wouldn’t want to miss a single one either.

I know robberies happen all the time everywhere, but lately they have been violent around here.  One middle aged waitress was pistol whipped by a scumbag thief trying to rob the restaurant where she was working because she claimed not to know the combo to the safe.  Obviously the s*** for brains criminal has never worked a service job in his entire worthless life or he’d KNOW that there’s no restaurant owner going to trust the lowly employees with the combo to the safe (just about the only jobs I’ve worked have been service jobs, so rest assured I am NOT insulting the employee with my sarcasm.)

Almost as repulsive as this man beating on a woman is the fact that a dishonest thieving rat is terrorizing someone trying to earn an honest living.  

So then I hear about the owner of a small country store being robbed for the third time this year, and he ends up shooting the two robbers, killing one.  I should be saddened by a death.  But it makes me want to cheer.  I feel like this store owner was standing up for all of us, sending a message that this sort of immoral insanity will not be tolerated anymore.  Additionally, there is one less criminal that will be able to wreak his havoc in our area.

I heard a comment stating that the deceased had tried to straighten out his life but due to his criminal record, no one would give him a job.  What else could he do but turn back to crime.

This softened me a little.

Is there ever a second chance?  Is there a way to turn your life around?  Would society let you do it, if you really had a change of heart?

What are we doing to ourselves that we have light sentences for the criminals and strict rules for the cops and courts so that violent offenders end up on the streets either with no punishment or after learning new tricks of their trade inside, and then there is no way for them to walk the straight and narrow even if they wanted to?  Aren’t we just setting the stage for disaster?

I have no solution to offer.  I just see it all up close and personal and there appears to be no end in sight.  Just a few days after the robbers were shot, there was a report of another armed robbery in a parking lot, but this time the victim was shot.  Perhaps, instead of being a deterrent, the injury or death of a criminal will just inspire them to shoot first?

Is there a way to encourage and facilitate the re-entry of criminals into “normal” society, or at least a way to get them to empathize with their victims?  Is this why they commit crimes in the first place, because they have no awareness of the feelings of their victims? Is there a way to determine if an individual is incapable of feeling empathy, and if so, what should be done with those people?  Should they be allowed to run loose?

It scares me to think like this.  I see Big Brother and machines hooked up to people’s brains and citizens in mortal terror of being imprisoned as a “preventative measure.”

I guess we have to value freedom and civil rights and accept whatever consequences come along for the ride.  

I just wish it didn’t always come down to physical safety vs. human rights.  Such a fundamental American conflict, and one that we might never sort out.

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More Facebook Insights…

Every once in a while a few new observations occur to me about this social networking site.

Or maybe the observations are simply about my own life.

For example, you can organize your friends into categories.  I currently have five: people from high school, people from college, friends my husband and I met through his job in the last town we lived in, people I have met in our current town, and family.  

What is most interesting is that these categories do not overlap one iota.  Most likely none of these people will ever meet each other.  It is as though there are completely separate pockets to my life story that are totally unrelated.  There are even more pockets than these five, but I haven’t met up with anyone from the others.

I have discovered friend surfing.  If you aren’t friends with a person, they almost always have their profile set to private so you can’t see any of their information.  BUT you can see their friends!  Thusly, I can surf the friends of a friend, and from there find someone I know, or used to know, and surf their friends, ad nauseum.  It is a strange journey down a bizarre garden path where names and faces from the past bloom amongst the unfamiliar flora.  

When a certain person comes into view, it is as though the memory of them casts a light on a part of me that had been asleep since I last held them in my mind or saw them before me.  I am not completely me without all the people that have shaped my existence.

My final thought of the day is to meditate on the act of “catching up” on the last 20 years with someone who was only ever an acquaintance.  Of course any story we tell, no matter how many facts it relates, is in some way a lie due to all that we decide to leave out.  So which version do I tell to whom?  It is kind of fun to think about, really.  I can highlight a particular chapter of my crazy journey to give a certain impression.  I can turn my face slightly and appear a writer, a housewife, or a clown.

I know it’s a bit of a waste of time, commenting on someone’s status that isn’t even in my immediate vicinity just to make a witty joke or empathize with a human I once knew.  I know it’s a bit extravagant to send them good karma or pass them a drink, poke them, throw snowballs at them, or buy them a fish for their aquarium.  All kind of silly, really.

Yet, it apparently feeds me in some way since I keep going back to see what’s going on with everyone.  And occasionally, it is also food for thought.

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Language and Psychology

They say we are what we eat, but is it also true that we are what we say?

As I sit here pondering how to integrate all our techniques for grounding and calming, how to develop habits to overcome my tendency to panic and to face life with an attitude that results in capable, adult handling of situations rather than my usual babyish crying and tantrum throwing, I am reminded of how the English language might affect us.

Often, I am afraid.

In French, J’ai peur.  Literally, that means “I have fear.”

In Spanish, Tengo miedo.  Literally, “I have fear.”

How come in English I AM afraid?  I AM the fear?  When you HAVE something, isn’t it much easier to get rid of it?  Race down the highway and toss it out the window?  Bye bye fear?  I have fear in my pocket, pick it out and throw it in the trash.  Worst case scenario, I throw out the pants.

I AM afraid.  That’s part of my being.  That’s essential to my existence.  I AM Elena, I AM a Mama, I AM afraid.  

I can say, I FEEL afraid or I EXPERIENCE fear, I suppose.  But that is not my go-to expression.  No, I AM hungry, tired, overwhelmed, sad.  Okay, none of those things right this minute, but I just mean when I feel something, I AM it.

At least in Spanish, they may say “I am sad,” but they have two forms of the verb “to be,” one indicates a temporary state, one is a permanent state of being.  Guess which one is used for emotions?  They give themselves a way out!  Do we?

Does our use of verbs have any psychological effect, or AM I just trippin’?

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A place in the world

Yesterday I got the idea in my little head that it would be fun to be an online moderator for a new site I joined for mothers in my local area.  They have all kinds of forums that have eaten up more of my day than blogging lately.  One of the forums is called “Natural Living and Attachment Parenting” and they had an announcement about needing a moderator.  I emailed the woman in charge of the site, and she informed me that the position has been filled.

I may live a pretty straight and narrow life these days, but I’ve been known to hang out in alternative-land.

I was a vegetarian for about five years, and would still be now if it weren’t for all these carnivores I live with clamoring for charred flesh.

I lived without a car, using my bike and bike trailer or the bus for all my transportation, for 9 windy rainy wonderful years.

I’ve baked my own bread, fried my own tortillas, made my own clothes, costumes, quilts, cloth bags to carry groceries in, even went so far as to crochet some little bags to put veggies in so I didn’t have to use the plastic ones from the produce section.

I breastfed each of my kids for three years (it’s sad that this is considered alternative.)

I shared sleeping quarters with each kid for at least three years.

I homeschooled my first child until 8th grade, my second until 5th grade, and my third is now homeschooling “first grade.”

I had natural childbirth with midwives and lived dirt poor so I could stay home with my babies.

I’ve lived without tv, phone, bank account or credit cards, I even lived for a time in a house whose only heat was a woodstove, and then I lived for a few days in February without wood.  No better way to wax alternative than not to be able to feel your toes.

I shopped and worked at health food stores for years, trying out all the funky “new” foods that the rest of the world considers staple but Americans find so fascinating, like millet and tofu.

I recycled, reduced, and reused, including finding half-broken furniture and such and repairing it with materials bought at a thrift store or yard sale.

I’ve had an organic garden, composted, grew veggies, mulched with my lawn clippings.

I’ve used a clothesline, canned my own jam with blackberries I picked, crocheted my own afghans and cured illness with home remedies.

And I drank microbrews as long as I could afford to!

And that doesn’t even include all the weird things I’ve done in the name of following my bliss.

I got it into my head when I saw that announcement that I might have a place to share all this, to make my experience be useful to someone, to be needed.  I might have an incentive to stop my slow slide into the disposable convenience of mainstream complacency and regain some of the habits, skills and attitudes that made me feel so self-sufficient and conscientious.  

Of course, I can still post and comment in the forum.  The truth comes out that I just wanted a bit of spotlight, I wanted to alleviate a bit of my new-in-town floatiness by having a place I belong.  I feel way too  much disappointment for a fleeting idea that just came to me yesterday.

So I look at all the projects that I have neglected in the past couple of weeks, developing conversation classes, translation, studying to qualify as an interpreter, and I decide to attack them with renewed vigor.  

Here I go, clicking to put a check mark in the box next to “vigor” and pushing the “renew” button.

And here comes the inspiration…

Wait for it…

Wait…

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Filed under work

Never the twain shall meet…

I’ve been inspired by a post I read over at Idea Jump! and wanted to describe the garden path I ended up wandering down.

I have long pondered the split between one’s public and private life.  My parents have always held this divide as sacred.  Heaven forbid anyone should know what color the couch is.  It’s nobody’s damn business.

If my Dad had been born into the tribal life, where the community was by necessity a cohesive, intimately entwined group, he’d have been the village idiot, either from genuinely going insane due to all that touchy-feely closeness or just as a ruse to scare people off so they’d leave him in peace.

But we’ve evolved from tribal life to urban facelessness into the suburban carbon copy lifestyle and beyond… to what may be the pinnacle of anonymity: the internet.  I could have a blog wherein I am an old man who hates everyone.  I could have a Facebook page where I am a 20-something woman who flirts shamelessly.  I could join one of those online RPGs and have a totally new life.  There is no limit to who I can be and how many whos I can be.

But after this thrill has worn off, what shall we do next?  Shall the ultimate act of daring be to reveal our truth?  I know it’s dangerous.  There are stalkers and serial killers and identity thieves.  For all my excitement about truth-telling I still don’t ever reveal my home address.  There are, obviously, common sense limits.

And if you enjoy professing some radical belief, say you passionately believe that Northern California, Oregon and Washington state should secede from the union to start an independent nation of hippified, pot-smoking free-thinkers, but you happen to work for the school system in LA, perhaps you’re going to want an alter ego so the mortgage gets paid.

And so the split between public and private persists.  

We’ve only lived in this area for five months now, so I am still meeting people.  I sit at a public park while my kids make new friends on the playground and I dance along the surface of my private life with a mom I just met.  When I give a detail, “I lived in Oregon for 15 years,” I am acutely aware of how paper-thin this statement is.  It is a sticky label on a drawer of days lived whose events are an intricate memory-sculpture of streets and faces and smells.  But the mom says “oh” and nods her head.  We move on to discuss how cute it is that my toddler son is trying to wipe sand off his tongue with his sandy hand.

Maybe this will be one of the projects I save for when I’m old: in addition to telling strangers on the street exactly what I think, good or bad, I’ll make it my goal to bridge the divide between my own public and private selves, to politely decline the possibility of anonymity and instead embrace the project of total integrity, consequences be damned.

For now, I guess it’s best to practice juggling the flaming torch details of my life and hope I don’t drop one on the wrong head.

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Filed under internet

Slacker gone hopeful

It really feels odd.  I’m not one to drone endlessly on the same topic, but as the days go by I can’t help but continue to meditate and marvel on the transformation… and figure out how to keep it going.

Growing up I was told I was part of the slacker generation.  We didn’t care about anything.  Apathetic little brats.  At the time I knew that this was a load of crap, but didn’t have the perspective to pinpoint exactly why.

Over the years I have been able to see how it was trained into us: living with the constant fear of nuclear war.  Learning about politics in the wake of Nixon’s criminal activity.  Learning about world affairs so soon after the raw-wound fiasco of Vietnam.  Growing socially aware in the self-absorbed 70’s and materialistic 80’s.  Traditional gender roles being overcome by brave men and women but with nothing healthy put in their place, our only choice to be “supermom-careerwoman-totally independent- I’ll do it all myself-sexy but it shouldn’t matter if I am or not” for the girls and “Fine I’ll let you do it all yourself-see I’m not controlling you but neither am I helping- this is awesome that you have to bring home the bacon AND serve it to me” for the guys.  Hearing about how the earth is being polluted, over-populated, raped and pillaged while everyone just continues about their business refusing to alter their ways to remedy it.  And finally, not because this is all there is but because I can’t think of the rest of it right now, film and literature evolving beyond postmodern nihilistic existentialism, which had already taken “What the hell is the point?” to the most extreme.

But my generation isn’t motivated.  We’re a bunch of lay-abouts.

And which part of this ridiculous mess were we supposed to be inspired to participate in, exactly?

I felt my first wave of political hope when Clinton was voted in, but that faded quickly as he came up against multiple forces that held his administration back from what they had intended to achieve.  Instead of resounding affirmation of gay rights the country got the military policy of “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”  Etc.

Then eight years of W.  I have never felt like such a slacker as I did in 2004 when he was re-elected.  Honestly, why am I going to get out of bed?  Having kids made it easier to remember why I wanted to live, but also made it more depressing to realize that we were going to have the awful leadership continue and cause more damage to our nation and our nation’s reputation.

I was steeling myself for a McCain win.  To me this would confirm what I’d known all along: the fat cats control everything.  The corporations own not only almost all of the capital, they own our government, they own us.  And worst of all, that people didn’t care a whit about informing themselves and refused to reprimand ignorance.  If regular people had bought the whole “Obama is going to make us SHARE!!!” whining, thus falsely identifying themselves with the super-rich and reaffirming the trickle down theory rubbish that we are content to live off the scraps of the well-off, then I would have figured that all was lost.  I think my cynicism would have reached new depths, and I don’t know how I would have dealt with it.

I wish there were a way to share this feeling with those who are apparently as devastated by this election as I was in 2000 and 2004.  Does it make them feel any better to know that they had their two turns in a row, and, just like on the playground, it’s nice to give someone else a chance on the swing, especially when the last swinger was throwing rocks and creating general chaos?  Doesn’t it make them feel better to see so much of the American population so happy and hopeful, not because we are scared and want to hide behind our leader who will shake a stick at the big scary things in the world, but because we feel inspired to roll up our sleeves and finally get to work under the leadership of someone who isn’t going to be conspiring against our best interests behind our backs with his pals in big oil, Haliburton, etc.?  Does it make them feel any better to realize that this president was actually elected not only by the electoral college but also by a majority of Americans of all flavors who turned out in huge numbers, and this president-elect didn’t even need his governor-brother to help him win a key state?

I keep coming back to Obama’s slogan, “Yes, we can.”  The “we” includes everyone, I believe, no matter who or of what opinion.  It is open-ended.  It doesn’t prescribe a goal or an outcome, or even the method to achieve it, it simply speaks to the needs and desires that we all have, affirming them and encouraging individuals to come together and embark on whatever projects call to their hearts.

Can’t everyone see how long we, as a nation, have had to live without this positive spirit?  Since before I was born, as far as I can tell.  Doesn’t everyone wonder how far we can take it, how many wrongs we might right, how many dreams we might fulfill, how many new ideas we might produce?

The slackers. along with the rest of the population, might emerge from our depressed lethargy and embrace our lives in this world as never before.  

I’m ready.  Let’s do it.  What have we got to lose?

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Filed under Politics

Comments on comments

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a long time.  I don’t think the time will ever be right, but I’m tired of having it floating around in my head.

Figuring out how the comment function “should” work in this medium has been awkward at times.  When I first started blogging, I would encounter blogs where leaving a comment met with a “Your comment is awaiting moderation.”  I check back and the writer never approved it.  A perfectly innocuous comment, agreeing with what the poster said.  I take that as my signal never to return.  Why do these people have their blog public?

Some writers are vigilant about commenting on everyone’s comments, and this is great.  It makes it a real conversation, back and forth.  But sometimes when I start to do this, it feels forced.  Sometimes I know that a comment does not require a response.  At the same time, I don’t want to make the commenter feel unheard or unappreciated.  That is a dilemma I struggle with.

There is one blogger whose writing I admire for its humor and commentary on pop culture.  I’ve left a couple of well-crafted comments, hoping maybe to strike up a conversation or let her know I like her work, and she has never responded, nor has she ever visited my site, according to the blog stats page.  She doesn’t get many comments on her site, maybe a couple for a post on a good day, or else I would just make up the excuse that she is too busy and overwhelmed by her readership.  Though I feel like a little kid standing in humble admiration, I continue to visit her page because it is worth it, even if she doesn’t have time for me.  (At least she doesn’t moderate my comments into the cyber round file!)

Another blogger whose writing I very much enjoy brought up the desire for honesty in comments, an idea to which I myself subscribe.  Respectful honesty: to me, I’ve always thought this is the goal of communication, right?  

But now I think, maybe not always.  Sometimes maybe it is good to have a place to come and just get support from people.  This world tends toward the hostile, and sometimes even respectful honesty feels hostile when you’ve had enough strife in the rest of your day.  Sometimes we just need people to relax with and not feel like we’re being criticized or picked apart every minute.  This is definitely legitimate.

A recent foot-in-mouth comment of mine leads me to consider the nature of individual blogs, what their purposes are.  I above all want to be respectful of people’s intended audience and atmosphere.  I think the most disrespectful comment is the one that tries to tear the fabric of the blog without consideration of its nature.

Which leads inevitably to the question, what is the nature of my blog?  I get the sense from people’s comments that they are inspired to think about the content, and sometimes have a good chuckle, when reading my posts.  I confess I’ve never had a disruptive comment.  Luck, I suppose, or lack of traffic!  I don’t feel like I’ve clarified the purpose of my own blog in my mind, other than having a forum to express myself and see how people react to it, how they can add to it or spin the topic in a way I hadn’t thought of.  I do really like the idea of making people laugh.  I think this is a valuable objective.  I want to cultivate my own sense of humor and learn not to stand in the way of others’.

Lately I’ve taken to commenting on some of the articles on the website of the local paper.  Most of it is democrat/republican sniping, and I like to jump into the fray if I feel there is something worth addressing.  I know the paper welcomes all comments so they can sell ads to advertisers, so there is no danger of disrespecting a certain atmosphere that someone has worked hard to create.  As you can imagine if you are familiar with how I operate, I don’t launch personal attacks or try to ridicule anyone individually.  But neither do I hold back much on what I really think.

But blogs are a different kind of public forum.  I am so blown away by bloggers who open up themselves to the world and try to make honest, real connections.  I am equally impressed with readers who take the time to digest and react in their own words to what the blogger has offered up for thought.  I have always loved books and words, and I’ve always loved to sit around and chew over some issue or other with friends, but this experience on the internet combines both activities and takes them to a whole new level.  It is amazing to be in a global conversation and I have not stopped being overwhelmed at how lucky I am to be participating in it.  Really, it is unprecedented in the history of humans.

I look forward to many years of experimenting with this great exchange.

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Filed under writing

Identity crisis

“All of me…
Why not take all of me?
Can’t you see?
I’m no good without you.
Take my lips…
I want to lose them!
Take my arms
I’ll never use them!”

I’ve always loved this song.  Best of all when Lily Tomlin sings it in the movie.  I like it as much as when Tony Bennett croons “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.”  I guess I’ve always enjoyed the idea of parts of me being lost to passion.

But somehow the passion of greed doesn’t enter into that fantasy.  Like, say, losing my identity to the lowest kind of white collar criminal.

My husband and I are enrolled in the local Citizen’s Police Academy, which has been quite fascinating.  Especially when you get to wander around the evidence room and peek in the prisoner toilet (don’t worry, no one was making use of it at the time.)

Our lecturer yesterday evening was in charge of the Investigations Department, and during his talk he highly recommended that everyone have identity theft insurance.  This got my drawers in a twist, but I managed to shrug it off and focus on his presentation which covered the number of violent crimes committed in our community last year and how one might go about solving them.  

FYI- if you need to bludgeon someone to death but are unable to procure yourself some gloves, use a bumpy rock as the police will be unable to lift your fingerprints off of it.

On the way home though, the thing that sprang to my mind was not the crime scene photo of a decaying corpse but my irritation at the suggestion of identity insurance.  I still cannot precisely articulate my emotional position (my intellectual position is something along the lines of: “Sigh.  What else.”) but I realize that I am getting closer to complete awareness of where I stand on this important issue.

It goes something like, “You have to be f&%#ing kidding.  I’M going to pay YOU so that I get to maintain control over the ONLY g-d thing in this world that TRULY belongs to me, during my life and beyond the grave?  I’m going to hand over wads of cash so that I get to continue being me instead of some lowlife immoral F#$% being me?”

Only I’m a lot angrier about it in private.

The idea that I would have to fight to re-establish the fact that I am me and that I have only done the things that I have really done, only bought the things I’ve bought… this conflict strikes me as fundamentally absurd.  I’m not denying that it happens, or that the threat is real.  I am sickened by the fact that we all carry on every day even though it happens, that many of us choose to submit to insurance sharks, that an authority figure in the police station would recommend that we pay to protect ourselves, INSTEAD OF TURNING THE SYSTEM UPSIDE DOWN SO THAT THERE IS JUSTICE.

Sorry, didn’t mean to yell.

I don’t have a whole lot in this world.  I have my kids, and they are the greatest thing I will ever have, but I don’t truly possess them because ultimately they are their own individual selves who will grow up to steer their own destinies.  Someday when they are big something will “steal” them from me, whether it is a spouse or a career or their own kids, and that’s how it should be.

I own some cool toys, like a computer and a van and a few shelves full of books, but I recognize that all the physical stuff is ephemeral and I have to enjoy it while I can because it could disappear at any moment, and anyway, I can’t bring it along.

All I really have is my reputation, my integrity, my identity.  How have we evolved a system in which it is possible for this basic unit of selfhood to be stolen?  And how is it that we allow it to be so inhumanly difficult for someone who has done nothing wrong to prove that they are actually the victim?  

And how can we allow people to PROFIT off of this absurd situation?

“Your goodbye left me with eyes that cry.
How can I go on, dear, without you?
You took the part that once was my heart,
So why not take all of me?”

But leave my ID alone, thanks all the same.

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Filed under society

Dixie

We found Dixie.  Here she is with some of the people she will be ferrying.  

In a way it feels like I am moving in the opposite direction as the rest of the world.  I was a carless cyclist back before anyone gave a serious thought to global warming.  Then the public concern began, and I was part of a one car family.  Now the hysteria is mounting, and we’ve acquired a second vehicle.  Livin’ outside the box, baby!

Not that one can really live outside the environment.  We are all responsible for our Mother Earth, we are all responsible for the tools/toys we choose to use and how we may abuse them.

But I can’t help but feel that I can take better care of my family this way, given our situation.  Maybe in taking care of them I am taking care of the world in the most direct way possible.  This is the hope.

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Filed under Life

Tragic End to a New Life

I read a story online at CNN this morning about a baby who died from being shaken.  Normally I try to avoid these tragic tales because I empathize so deeply that it colors my whole day a dark depressing shade of gloomy.

But in this case I feel the need to give testimony from my own life that I wish would prevent this from happening to anyone else.

I remember among my life lessons with my first baby, stuck at home all day with this little being that depended completely upon my good will, the first time I got violently angry when she wouldn’t stop crying.  I remember there came a point when an clear image popped into my head of me throwing her against a wall.  I was just at the edge of losing control.

I wish I could tell new parents, this is okay.  This moment does not make you a bad human.  You are probably going to feel this angry, these feelings are normal, they happen, don’t freak out.

Somehow I knew to do the right thing.  As soon as I saw that image, I put her down where she was safe and I went in the other room.  She was still crying, but I knew she was safe, so I just sat by myself for a minute and tried not to be scared at how mad I was.  When I felt a little calmer a couple of minutes later, I went back in to her and I tried again to soothe her.  

I don’t feel proud of myself that I’ve never shaken or otherwise injured a baby, I just feel lucky.  I  know how strong the feelings of anger and frustration are, and I know how hard it is to be alone for extended periods with a baby.  To the people who have succumbed to the violent feelings, I feel the deepest sympathy.  I feel like it could have been me.

But no one ever talks about this.  No one ever admits to young parents how there might arise violent feelings, and how to just let them pass, which is not easy.  No one ever talks about how unnatural it is for a parent to be isolated with a young one; we are supposed to live in a tribe, are we not, with people all around to help us when life threatens to be too much to handle?  But too often we are separated in our own little box, expected to be independent and deal with things on our own.  

I am so sorry that this ever happens.  I cannot express that strongly enough.  I don’t feel like an ad campaign by the Department of Social Services is going to do the trick (I’ve seen the posters), though it might get the ball rolling.  I feel like we all have to talk about it, give genuine support to new parents and tell them the truth.  Not laugh and say, “Well, you’ll never get any sleep now!  ha ha” but tell them about the real frustrations, and let them know that we can offer advice and support if they’d like.  

I can’t stand to see this sort of tragedy happen and know in my heart that, if we behaved as if we were all in this together, we might prevent it.

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Filed under family, society

Police brutality?

There is an article in the paper about a recent Taser incident that ended with the suspect in intensive care.  Some claim it is the result of racism, and while I acknowledge that there are unfortunately still problems such as profiling, I cannot help but feel for the law enforcement officers.  When they are faced with situations of non-compliance day after day, and when these situations are often dangerous to the officers as well as the general public, I have a hard time feeling terribly sympathetic for the non-compliant suspects, though I do hope that the young man in this case recovers from his injuries.

The only weak part of the story as regards the police officer was the fact that one of the Taser leads was in the back of the suspect’s head, and when he didn’t comply with the cop’s direct order not to stand up, perhaps the man was disoriented due to the jolt of electricity he had just received so close to his brain.  I can understand those who speculate that the cop might have done better to jump on the guy during the first Taser shock (a person cannot receive a shock by touching someone being Tasered) and put cuffs on him at that point.  

It is also true that his original charges were somewhat trivial, two misdemeanors for open container and possession of marijuana, but why not just show up for court?  Once you miss your court appearance, you must know that there will be a warrant out for your arrest.  So if the police find you and attempt to fulfill their duties by arresting you on that warrant, why run?  You must know that the police will chase you, that is the job we have assigned them, and that your situation will just become worse.  

At the same time, I know that we have to keep those with power in check.  We have to make sure that the police do not abuse their authority, that they are behaving in a fair manner toward the public.  It is possible to have a camera mounted on the end of the Taser so that the whole scenario can be replayed and investigated carefully, but the police budget won’t allow for it.  

It seems to come down to the fact that we the public expect the police to keep us perfectly safe using perfectly safe and fair methods, whether we comply or not, and to do it all with a minimum of funding.

Since Tasers are being more widely used, we hear more often about the dangers associated with them, but the truth is that any chase and any method of subduing a suspect is going to be dangerous.  Shouldn’t a lot of the responsibility for the consequences of these situations be with the runner?

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Insuring against reality

Ads for insurance assail us ceaselessly.  We discuss and debate the best companies, rates, deductibles.  We maneuver the labyrinth of policies and hope to emerge in a perfectly safe place where our lives are protected from any conceivable disaster.

But it’s the nature of insurance that gets me.  Doesn’t an insurance policy essentially reflect that the individual carrier has no community on which to depend in an emergency?  Doesn’t it mean that all I have is my house, and if it burns down then there is nothing else in this world for me?  No one will take me in or help me rebuild or otherwise shelter me from the elements.

Supposedly having insurance demonstrates individual responsibility.  I send all this money to people I don’t even know so as not to be a burden to those I love if I ever have needs.  But what if you were to give all those various insurance premiums to someone whose house had burnt down?  By that altruistic act, wouldn’t you be insuring that there would be folks who would help you out in turn, should you ever need it?

Do we not trust each other?

We like the idea that we are protected by our policies so that we aren’t at the mercy of family, friends and community, so we send our protection money to… strangers?  We hope that these unknown persons in the guise of insurance agents will deign to show up at the scene of our emergency, ask us a bunch of personal and accusatory questions, and then decide whether or not they will give us the help for which we have been faithfully sending them all that money.  This makes us sleep better at night?

When did we decide to progress to a stage in civilization where a contract is a closer, more dependable bond than blood and camaraderie (I invoke here the 19th century definition of camaraderie as “a feeling of close friendship and trust among a group of people”)? 

We feel better that strangers decide who gets what help?  That they get the interest on the money sitting in wait of a disaster to relieve?  

I don’t claim to have the answer to this dilemma, nor do I necessarily believe it is possible for us in our modern world to take care of each other’s crises in the manner to which we have grown accustomed.  

I am just bothered by the whole idea, and saddened that there does not appear to be a less corporate, more community-oriented way to feel safer in our reality.

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