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A Peepable Moment

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I couldn’t resist the chance to combine my love of peeps with the Food Bank if Northern Nevada’s 30th anniversary.

Peeps Contest 5

Feeding the Peeps for 30 Years.

Feeding the Peeps for 30 Years.

Peeps Contest 8

Mo-Peep took pics.

peep

Beware: Political Quicksand Ahead

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Slip sliding away....

Slip sliding away….

Quicksand is a colloid hydrogel consisting of fine granular material, clay, and water. Quicksand forms in saturated loose sand when the sand is suddenly agitated.

In other words, wow, did I walk into it this time.

I’m not particularly vocal about my political beliefs, though if I find a kindred, like-minded human I can wax on with the best of them. But I do go by the maxim that most individuals have their own take on politics and policies and I’m not likely to move them one way or the other.

With sorrow I report that not everyone adheres to that discipline.

I normally teach 4th to 6th grade students at our Lutheran church on Sundays between services, but Sunday the kids were at a weekend church retreat out-of-state, so I had an early out, so to speak, and was able to socialize with adults in the building next door during a ministry fair. I thought it a nice change after weeks in the classroom. I said hello to several friends and after a while drifted to the side of the room while waiting for my husband who was catching up with some of the guys. A gentleman struck up a conversation with me, beginning his discourse with his passion for fixing things and how he volunteers frequently at church for building maintenance.

As he spoke, I was congratulating myself for meeting someone new, taking an interest in his interests, and practicing my listening skills.

“He seems lonely,” thought I.

He continued to tell me how he has tinkered with the doors to make them safer, rescued stuck keys from unlikely places, changed lightbulbs in precarious positions.

“Really knows his stuff and glad he’s stepped up to take charge of these issues,” I mused.

Now retired, he ran through the path of his career and enlightened me about the intricate internal machinations of mounted cameras in his field of work.

“Well,” I reckoned, “no wonder he has this attention to detail. He’s a lifelong tinkerer.”

While I pandered to myself, I suddenly realized he’d jumped the shark. Now he was talking politics. My incessant nodding became less robust.

I became the civics teacher: “The President doesn’t hold the purse strings on that, Congress has the fiscal responsibility Our Congressman and Senator …”

Oh, he was familiar, by Jove. No, but he’d have none of that. In fact he began lecturing me. Giving me a treatise on how this country was spiraling down.

I’ve been taught to be kind to others; I’ve also been taught to be assertive. I was polite, but not to the point of agreeing.

Then came the quicksand. The discourse devolved as the saturated loose sand was suddenly agitated. “John” gave me all the talking points about why all guns should be legal and how We all should be packing and if We would all just do that We’d all be safe. He was including me in his we.

What I said was, “You and I don’t agree.”

He continued with his best persuasive speeches and I said, “Listen, my mother’s classmate died in that parking lot that Gabby Gifford was shot in last year.”

“Well, that will happen,” he said, “Nothing we could have done could have prevented it.”

“Really? If he — the shooter — had had a lesser caliber gun and had to reload, she would have lived, I think.”

He disagreed and told me about all the public officials who pack guns, basically implying “Then, why shouldn’t I?”

All I could think was, “Just why is he patting his hip right now? Didn’t anyone notice that I was a shade of light green right now with nausea?”

I said there was an armed guard at Columbine, and that didn’t prevent those horrors.

“Well,” he said, “It’s not a perfect system.”

I said, “I have taught for years” — Sunday School, not that he knew it — “And I would lay down my life for the kids, but is that really what we want from our teachers?”

Oh yes, he thinks that’s just how it should be.

He had made up his mind.

So have I.

It's harder than killing.

It’s better and hurts less..

Why didn’t I just say it?  Jesus just doesn’t want us to kill each other. He just doesn’t.

Now it’s back to the classroom and the students for me where I can teach love and not fear.

Sleep on in Peace Now

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All now is in preparation for our 2nd annual Christmas party. Last year we invited friends near and dear to gather clad in Ugly Sweaters to add to the mirth.

This year the theme is “Fiscal Cliff Be Damned – Let’s Make Merry.”

It’s a fine excuse to whisk away the cobwebs, straighten up the nick-knacks, spiff up the pillows, shine the glass and basically not think about anything — I hope. My plan: “If I break this up room-by-room one each night this week, the place will be in fine shape by the weekend and food prep will rule party day.” The sweep-up keeps my body busy and my mind focused on trivial details before I attempt to sleep.

So I start with the master bedroom – shifting this and that, clearing the raft of clothes piled from the last laundry load, making order of the child-made craft collection we’ve accumulated through the years, adding a beloved photograph to the memory wall, tackling the bookshelf where some disorganized elf has come to play (uh, that’d me me), finally making my way to the reading corner and its comfy chair. Under the ottoman sat a mass of stuff I did not recognize: daughter Marjorie had evidently hefted some items in one night after school or confirmation, I know not which. There I found her Action Bible, some worksheets from a month ago, that library book we had looked for high and low and finally had paid for in desperation so she could attend the school dance. A few other books rounded out the lot, except for one more item — the treasured school photo compilation sheet from her Kindergarten year – 2004-05. I pause. The memento reminds me of what my invented busy-ness was set up to avoid.

Smiling back at me were her 24 classmates and six adults – the principal, two teachers, two aides and the school nurse. I know them all. Bright, fun, curious, serious, squirrely – The Mrs. L&D class had it all. There’s Abby who froze with stage fright during the nursery rhyme play; here’s Austin who farted on my leg while reading aloud one day; Rebecca shared Fruit Loops that one time; Alexia’s art was sublime; Gabby lived up to her name; garrulous Matt was just the same; Madison’s pig tails were her calling card while Reece looked like a boy honor guard. I love and cherish the memories all. Last girl on the keepsake photo montage was our little Mo – tiny in shape, big on personality, showing her 6-year-old shy grin. She’s the girl who continues to steal my heart, test my patience and dash me with her confidence. Eight years later we look at one another eye-to-eye.

fallen petalI think of her classmates growing up too, making their own way in life, gaining friends, learning more day after day, and all that is ahead for them. All week I’ve had the children of Newton, CT in my thoughts – the sadness there is beyond my comprehension. But seeing our daughter’s class brings the suffering closer. A leap of imagination and her class is theirs. My empathy for the people who loved those dear ones deepens. Oh! The children of Newton belong to me, too.

XXXIV

Sleep now, O sleep now,

O you unquiet heart!

A voice crying “Sleep now”

Is heard in my heart.

The voice of the winter

Is heard at the door.

O sleep, for the winter

Is crying “Sleep no more.”

My kiss will give peace now

And quiet to your heart—

Sleep on in peace now,

O you unquiet heart!

— James Joyce (Chamber Music)

Ignorance is a Cure for Nothing

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I cried in my car today. I was alone, tears streaming down my cheeks creating rivers in my morning makeup.

No, the cause was not familial – the kids, husband, home and hearth are fine. I am still employed – all is well on that front. I am in good health.

So what caused said downpour? It stemmed from The Souls of White Folk, by scholar-activist W.E.B. Du Bois. The Souls ...is a collection of essays written in-part from an academic point of view on race and being African American in America at the turn of the 20thcentury.

I say in-part because of Du Bois’ personal story in Chapter 11.  The previous ten chapters lay the foundation of his thesis that Negros, as they were called then, of the South need the right to vote, education, and to be treated as equals in order to strengthen the people and the nation. Du Bois uses the metaphor of the veil. He shows the reader how all African-Americans wear it because their view of the world and its potential economic, political, and social opportunities is so vastly different from that of white people. The veil is a visual manifestation of the color line.

A white woman in the West, 110 years after it was first published, I understand the premise, hear the history, value the heritage, and enjoy the research and approach. I’m cognizant that time, strife, determination and sheer will have brought about changes in our culture. Things are different – many things better – but race relations still evolve. Prejudice is pervasive.

Through the Libravox audiobooks app I eagerly paced through Du Bois’ seminal work the past week or so. The writing style is both descriptive and didactic. Due to his narrative I see the red earth of Georgia, the sweat of the sharecropper, the expanse of the color line. Each chapter begins with a classical quotation followed by several measures of an African American spiritual or tune to lay the foundation of the them of the chapter.

So Chapter 11 begins (you can listen here, and I recommend it because the narration is very good):

O sister, sister, thy first–begotten, The hands that cling and the feet that follow, The voice of the child’s blood crying yet, WHO HATH REMEMBERED ME? WHO HATH FORGOTTEN? Thou hast forgotten, O summer swallow, But the world shall end when I forget.” (Poem by Swinburne)

The song is the spiritual:  “I Hope My Mother Will Be There.”

Until this point, Du Bois is narrator and traveler through the south telling the reader what he has witnessed and solutions he recommends, but here he bears his soul.

Unto you a child is born,” sang the bit of yellow paper that fluttered into my room one brown October morning. Then the fear of fatherhood mingled wildly with the joy of creation; I wondered how it looked and how it felt–what were its eyes, and how its hair curled and crumpled itself.

This beautifully written soliloquy to his son, Burghardt, so personal, so filled with wonder, disappointment and heartbreak. He shares feelings for his own life, the south, a futile life of being born under the veil of racism in a crescendo of sorrow after losing his firstborn. I felt his sadness and rage as he plead to God for just this one bit of happiness in this life. He asked to save this one innocent human being, his son.

I am not any of the things that Du Bois was: sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Pan Africanist, author and editor. But a thing we do share lo these years apart is the love of a child. It’s universal. It’s colorblind.

Ignorance is a cure for nothing, says Du Bois. This is why he wrote and why we read. Books – be they non-fiction or fiction – when written with humanity, help us to have a shared experience. Thank you W.E.B. Du Bois for teaching me today.

Care to read other books by African Americans? Here is a list of 50 to get you started.

Memory Believes Before Knowing Remembers

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We took a walk down memory lane today, my husband and I. It was a rare Saturday morning when our daughters had commitments. We took the bright, clean day to have a morning date.

With newspaper in tow, we visited a favorite restaurant that B.C. (before children) we could afford. We lingered over our meal, talking and sharing old times without refereeing two teens.  No fights, no fuss. Then we strolled around a pond at  the park near our old house, just like in the “old days.” We drove by our former home recalling with a laugh the time the yard crew we hired tore out my beloved wisteria vines. I was livid! Finally, we drove by the house I grew up in — the place we married.

Sweet.

When we look back on days gone by, it’s easy to remember just the good times and forget the challenges. We could easily tell the kids that everything was perfect, starting every story with “Well, in our day….” and explain what Paradise was like. Truth is we had a creepy neighbor who made me want to sell our “love nest”; we were new at having a blended family and we made mistakes — countless;  we longed for many things then that we only have now, years later. What we have now is no better or worse, all things considered.  We have as many friends as we have gray hairs; we are blessed with health and family we’re crazy about.  I try to ground myself in the knowledge that all times have their share of positive and negative.

So too, with our world. Some tales of  days gone by get edited with a surgical knife, omitting the strife, suffering, pitfalls and pain. Some will hail the ’50s as an ideal age with Eisenhower in the oval office and the Yankees dominating our national pastime. Honestly, those were some nice times (I hear they were as I was but a twinkle), but as a nation we tolerated racial discrimination, segregated public spaces, and looked away from mob violence. We also had McCarthyism, Cold War and the beginnings of the Vietnam War.

Well shoot, we know about the turbulent ’60s, but how about the ’70s? We had Nixon and Ford, those dynamos — wait, there was Watergate, gee. And what else, you say,the Energy Crisis and hostages in Iran.

So I don’t know, the ’80s had some great clothes (not!) and Ronnie. Of course, we’d have to conveniently forget Iran-Contra Affair, rigging of grants in the Department Housing and Urban Affairs, debate gate, Ferdinand Marcos, the Savings & Loan Crisis and Chernobyl. That won’t do for our primo-esimo spotless world. Reminiscing about the 1990s should soon bring up topics like the high-tech bust, the first Iraq war, the first World Trade Center bombing, and the Monica Lewinsky scandal in the White House.

We each may have a favorite president, political persuasion, era when we personally had it best, but it’s just plain wrong to whitewash the past and denigrate the present without checking with reality. And further, what a useless waste of energy to wish, click our heels and wave the wand to go back in time. Personally, I do fantasize about visiting the past and meeting my ancestors, getting a feel for the the Old West before Nevada was a state, or checking out the ’20s to meet my great-grandma and hear tunes of the Jazz Age. Or, why not do a Forrest Gump and stumble into the March on Washington?

But not forever. Wishing for something that just can’t be does a great disservice to the present, to the people sharing this life with us. I’m not saying we can’t learn from our past, or remember our lives with fondness, but get real, no era has ever been a Utopia and telling our children their time right now is no good is fiction.

I certainly can’t see trading today for the bumps and groans of any other time. I’m where I want to be, ought to be and by gosh, I’m moving forward, not backward, cherishing each day as it comes.

Blog Title: William Faulkner

Mom’s (still) Blazing, Burning Trails

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She’s always been her very own self.

That’s one of the best things about my mom.

Centered. Wise. Curious. Determined. Funny. Caring. CREATIVE. Fun. These are all the other adjectives that I use to describe her. But to start, she knows who she is, period. I certainly don’t know if she could be as kind and plain wonderful if she weren’t so self-assured.

Born about the time of Gloria Steinem, mom was ironing shirts and making her own patterns for clothes in our dining room when women were becoming part of the civil rights movement, and she did her part right here in our state to enable the passage of the ERA to assure equal pay for equal work in our nation.

The amendment never passed, but not because she sat around hoping someone else would jump up and do something.

She came out against nuclear waste dumping in the state of Nevada long before it was chic and had a slogan. She just couldn’t bear the thought of toxic waste traveling through the state and then being entombed here for all time to infiltrate the atmosphere. In essence, her stance was an environmental one.

Part I and II illustrated by Mom

A fourth-generation Nevadan, she knows the people and landscape of our state so well that she jumped at the chance to illustrate “You Know You’re A Nevadan if….” Some years back.

Though she was baptized a Republican, she finally embraced the way she was voting all along and registered Democrat at the age of 69. Since she always voted for what she believed, she just made it official.

She was married to Dad for 48.9 years before he passed away and has had her super boyfriend for nine years. However, neither one of these guys has been able to corral her. She’s traveled the world – Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, Australia.

Just recently mom said to me, “You live and you live until you die.”

So when she asked the four of us “kids” a few weeks ago, “Guess where I’m going?” We had a variety of answers – Egypt and Hawaii being the top hunches — we didn’t come close. The answer my friends: Burning Man.

Of all things, mom went with the local Rotary group comprised of ladies and gentlemen. Just a day trip – probably the perfect way to see the counter-cultural festival whose principles include radical inclusion, gifting, de-commodification, radical self-reliance, radical self-expression, communal effort, civic responsibility, leaving no trace, participation, and immediacy all set on the Black Rock Desert in Nevada northeast of Reno.

The Man burns Saturday night of the fest.

A few of her friends tried to wave her off going – “You don’t want to go out there, it’s just a bunch of damn hippies.” I don’t know for sure, but I think she just wanted to see what it’s all about, being an artist and all, she’d seen some pictures and read some stories about the folks who work all year to create some really spectacular art. And then in some cases, burn it.

Being a virgin burner, she didn’t take a bike out there, to travel around to many of the art installations. That’s too bad; maybe she would have seen more. But she did ride on a couple art cars to get around and she took a walker. Yes, a walker. Her boyfriend needs one to get around, so she thought it would be good to have one if she got tired. And she did. Listen, Black Rock City is 60,000+ people and is perhaps 36 square miles in area. With her walker, for that alone, she attracted attention – burners would stop their bikes and ask to take her picture and told her she was the oldest person they had seen out there (gee thanks! They’ll see someday, she’s still a 20-year-old on the inside. Send a picture to us when you get your first wrinkle, buddy!) But having her picture taken was a fun way to meet people and find out about them.

Yes, she saw some naked people. Mostly attractive young-ish topless women and as for guys, the only naked ones were all about 55 years old and above, she thought, “Hmmm. I guess there trying to show they still “have” it.

All that nakey stuff was just a sideline though, compared to the giant art installations slashing out from the flat, black desert floor. Gigantor objects such as Wall Street, a sinking ship, Char Wash, front porch and the EGO Project in addition to The Man, which gets burned Saturday night changed the landscape temporarily.

She and friends stayed for the burn, wondered why you might go to all that effort to build something only to burn it up, and then struck out for home.

Perhaps the burners who go need to get out there to rediscover who they are or find out for the first time. But not mom; she doesn’t need outside affirmation. She’s glad she went. She loved the experience and I know that mom knows that she is who she is, who she is. I love her.