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Trump: An Insult To American Manhood

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Excellent Blog from my favorite progressive writer about what the Trump presidency means for our society. I hope you will read this thoughtful blog post and go to his page to read more of his musings.

Progressivepapa's Blog

It’s really happening, and it’s exactly what some 63 million Americans, including some of my friends and family members, asked for. Donald Trump is days away from taking the oath of office to become President of the United States.

Like many of the nearly 73 million Americans who didn’t vote for Trump (almost 66 million for Hillary Clinton plus seven million third-party votes), I’ve struggled since election day to accept the electoral college result, which handed a billionaire (?) real estate mogul, branding genius (?), reality (?) TV host, serial braggart, crude misogynist, unabashed attention hog and stubbornly ignorant, humility-averse, lie-spewing Twitter addict  with no government experience or discernible political acumen the most important and powerful office in the world. I have yet failed to wrap my head around the fact (is that still a legal word?) that so many people were willing to trade in the moral compasses that have served them well for a lifetime for cheap…

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A Letter to My First Grandchild

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I share with you the moving blog of becoming a Grandparent. This is a reblog from Progressivepapa.wordpress.com who shared this life-shaping experience of welcoming new life. A great read for ALL ages.

Progressivepapa's Blog

Note: My first grandchild, Easton Arthur Steelman, was born Oct. 12, 2013, at 3:45 a.m. in Reno, Nev., to my daughter Carissa and her husband, Brad. Following is my “open” welcome to the latest miracle in my life.

Dear Easton,

A little more than two days ago, on Oct. 12, 2013 — an American semi-holiday celebrating Christopher Columbus’ discovery of the New World (you’ll learn all about it soon enough) — you gave our family new life and new light in a powerful little bundle weighing 8.2 pounds and stretching all the way to 19 1/2 inches. I first laid eyes on you not 45 minutes after you emerged from your dark, warm and crowded-but-comfy home for the prevous 40 weeks, you still in your birthday suit, your proud papa standing at your side, decked out in surgical gown and boots. He smiled and I smiled back. So did your…

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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

The State of the Higher Union

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My Guest Blogger today is ProgressivePapa

It’s a heartfelt message of love on Valentine’s Day and on our Journey of Lent.

The State of the Higher Union.

I encourage you to follow this gifted writer at http://www.progressivepapa.wordpress.com

Start with a New Page

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New year, new beginnings, new life.

New year, new beginnings, new life.

The days they do fly and here we stand at the third week of the year. That great post I had all written in my head to greet the baby new year — the one that was the overlay of new beginnings brightened by New Year’s weddings because I finished Eudora Welty’s Delta Wedding at the dawn, was to be a remembrance of the two New Year’s weddings — 20 years apart — that we’ve been honored to attend. I got bogged down choosing and sizing the art. Oh what a dandy that blog could have been. Too late.

Too late, too, was the comparison between our lives to Gulliver’s Travels as written by Jonathan Swift. Oh how the Lilliputians could so aptly have been compared to our Congress and lawmakers. It was pithy — or at least how I had blogged in my head on the backs of my eyelids while I drifted off to sleep.

My next  was an open letter to all the NFL bystanders — we patient partners who stand by while our TV rooms turn blue with the slang slung at Jim Nance and Joe Buck to quit blatantly  favoring the ref’s call for their perceived favorites. No need to write that one now — our team, the Niners are going all the way with the help of hometown hero Colin Kaepernick. Fist pump all the way!

A reason to cheer in the new year.

A reason to cheer in the new year.

Oh the riotous post about our small grey kitty who habitually spills unwatched beverages and has killed off two electronic devises in two weeks. And yet, by God, we still love that scamp. The theme boiling up was something about this unconditional animal love while trying to comprehend why we struggle to do the same for our fellow human friends and relations. That one was written as I drove to work, never making it to the tips of my fingers and onto the screen.

My next post was gunna be — am I just too old, too work-worn to go through yet another boss?   It’s me railing against change, against new systems or worrying about what the new expectations shall be. Am I “up” for it mentally to read the tea leaves of exactly what’s in the head of a new boss? What if the term out-sourced comes up? When in life do we ever stop having to justify our existence?  My allegory of the new and the old. The beginnings always and yet beginning again. Yep. That one, too, came in the night, when my mind wouldn’t stop racing the clock.

One for the books 2

New reads, new ideas, new worlds to explore.

But it’s One for the Books by Joe Queenan that has me sleeping through the night again. His newly published book about reading (a personal passion of mine) helped me re-set my thoughts. Writing of the state of reading today after examining his own patterns, interviewing 65 of his friends and relations and maligning everyone from book reviewers to English teachers, to some of the authors themselves, mostly he bemoans the time slipping away. Voracious in his reading (he reads up to 150 books a year), he’s yet to get through Eliot’s Middlemarch even while reading up to 40 books simultaneously and he hasn’t washed his windows in 17 years. And for him, that’s OK.

These January blogs will never see the light of day, never be fleshed out completely, but for me, this has been a most positive month. These blogs: I’ve thought them up, one by one; they’ve entertained me and I am not looking back. No, not I.

Resolution Off the Charts at 23,749

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If 23,749 was a distance, it would get me back and forth from my home in Reno, Nevada to Pittsburgh five times.

If 23,749 was a height, it would be 10 feet from the summit of Makut Parbat in the Himalaya.

23749 is a Zip Code, or will be one someday, near Norfolk, Va.

Add up the calories in 53 fried Twinkies and you get approx. 23,749.

The 2012 road to reading led me to new adventure.

The 2012 road to reading led me to new adventure. (photo by Marjorie Williams)

If 23,749 were an a circumference measured in miles, it would be more than that of Venus.

If 23,749 were an age by days, it would be 65+ years.

In my case, 23,749 is the number of pages I have read in 2012. Whoa, really? Well, that’s what Goodreads tells me in my stats for the past year.

But more than that, 23,749 means I more than accomplished that goal of reading 75 books this year that I set January 1, 2012.

Me.

I accomplished a New Year’s Resolution. It’s traditionally something I’d be keen on for the first month or so of a new year. For example, running for exercise, giving up butter, sleeping eight hours a night, organizing all the closets — those have traditionally made my lists.

The key to this success? I love to read, I have access to a lot of books and I could measure results. The challenge was time — finding the time to make it happen. Even though my life is busy, busy, busy, choosing books that were sure to compel me to read kept the momentum going. For me, that meant good books — no trash, very few best sellers and portable — the books may or may not be classified as classics but necessarily not high-brow. Good books and never stopping. As in finishing a book and starting a new one the following day or even the same day. Not letting my brain, eyes or fingers for page-turning rest when I had made time.

A bonus to it all has been starting this blog. That in itself has been an adventure and one that will continue into 2013.

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Autumn reading warmed my heart. (photo by Marjorie Williams)

So want to know what I’ve been reading? I did blog back in August about the first 50, so here are the final 34 for the total of 84:

18 Fiction

16 Non-Fiction

I got into an Irish thing in August between Oscar Wilde, James Joyce and George Bernard Shaw reading An Ideal Husband, Dubliners and Pygmalion by each and  add a biography – Oscar Wilde: His Life and Confessions by Frank Harris.

The looming elections led me to read Common Sense by Thomas Paine, The Theory of Social Revolutions by Brooks Adams, The Souls of White Folks by W.E.B. DuBois, and Griftopia by Matt Taibbi. The books helped me to make sense of our history, economic and social challenges.

The need to totally escape into thriller led me to Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, The Cinema Murder by E. Phillips Oppenheim and the Fortieth Door by Mary Hastings Bradley.

My love of baseball and music drew me to Paul McCartney: A Life by Peter Ames Carlin and Moneyball by Michael Lewis.

Get your English on — with a maiden name like Melton, I must have some connection to John Milton. So I dove into Paradise Lost and continued on to The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James, the little-read Anne Bronte with Agnes Grey after Where Angels Fear to Tread by E.M. Forester, for non-fiction, the autobiography of Charles Darwin and to round out the English sprint I read Howard Pyle’s The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood.

My friends, I do buy American and from modern authors too: The aforementioned Flynn, The Road by Cormac McCarthy (intense and good), The Heart is a Lonely Hunger by Carson McCullers, a juvenile read Kira Kira by Cynthia Kadohata and A Farewell to Arms by Hemingway.

I’ve got this ancestry research part in my soul that I love to enrich so to play with the theme: Hey America, Your Roots are Showing by Megan Smelenyak, Maria by Curtis Bok, Chapel Talks for School and Camp by Anne Barton Townsend (a great-aunt to my husband) and Western Carpetbaggers by Thomas Fitch.

Great Short Poems edited by Paul Negri was and is a heart-felt treasure.

Stranger than Fiction by the Voice of Reason radio personality and Don’t Know Much About Geography by Kenneth C. Davis came by way of a visit to the local used bookstore. While Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min came from my Mommy.

I thank the University of Nevada Journalism Department for bringing author Mark Kurlansky to town to lecture. I crammed in advance of the visit to read the epic 1968:The Year that Rocked the World. My 2013 list will include Salt and Birdseye by Kurlansky, for sure.

Ever on my spiritual path I welcomed (along with Milton and  Townsend above)  Jesus, A New Vision by Marcus Borg and Help Thanks Wow, the “new one,” by Anne Lamott.

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The snow flies as the year closes, but the reading continues into every season. (Photo by Vic Williams)

What’s on the bedstand now? I’m in the mid-point now for Delta Wedding by Eudora Welty and Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift. Getting me up to that momentous 23,749.

Far more than a number, reading helped me associate my life with books and my books with my life. It has energized me, lifted me, educated me, entertained me, changed me.

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

Bearing An Untold Story

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To impart realism in idiosyncratic detail, authors Willa Cather and Ernest Hemingway drew on real people for their enduring World War I characters. In her book One of Ours, Cather took letters from a soldier-cousin to impart real-to-life traits on characters Claude and David who fought the Germans in France. Of course, Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms is in-part based on his own tour of Italy during that same war and his love of character/nurse Catherine Barkley.

Grandpa Bill on right circa 1917.

So as I read these classics over the summer I thought a lot about my own grandfather, Bill Royle, and my husband’s grandfather, Curtis Williams, who were young volunteer soldiers overseas far from their US homes fighting the Kaiser in France.

Since yesterday was Ancestor Appreciation Day, (I know, there’s a holiday for everything!) they’ve slipped back in my consciousness.

As with the characters in these prize-winning books, Bill and Curtis (who we have no reason to believe ever met, however they joined within two weeks of each other in 1917) came from rural America – Nevada and Minnesota – and like Claude in Cather’s classic, viewed the war as a way to break away from their quiet lives and see other parts of the world. Akin to Hemingway’s Frederic Henry, my grandfather worked on the field of battle in the ambulance corps. While Grandpa Curt, a rough fellow who didn’t garner much love later from his three sons, mirrored Hemingway in that he did actually meet his future wife, Marjorie, in France while she was a Red Cross worker.

It was the first modern war: my mother remembers that her dad’s uniform and gas mask hung in the back closet of her childhood home for years, a silent reminder of his past. Back in the 1970s my gramps gave an oral history about his life and extolled in great detail his times with  family, at various occupations, described friends he had made and lost in his 89 years, but when it came to the war, he outlined just minute facts then summed up, “That’s all I have to say about that.” No amount of asking could make him share his experience. Family lore has it that the dents on his helmet are from bullets and that he had to have killed a couple Germans.  One story he did tell was that he made the effort to see his English relatives, but they turned him away thinking he was there for their food.  Fifty years later, that was still a raw report.

Curtis circa 1921

My grandpa –in-law, on the other hand, had a raucous experience from the time he left Minnesota with his comrades, carousing from ship to shore in Scotland and continuing on to France. His memoir passed through the family details many riotous and unruly times which ultimately had him near-court martialed for leaving his unit that was brought over to clear forests for fighting. He definitely had the Hemingwayesque, brash attitude that he could obliterate the war through binges of alcohol and sex. Somehow the young Curtis seemed to believe in the transformative power of love and viewed Marjorie as his own Catherine, someone who could save him from his past.

Both young men were born after the taming of the American frontier and brought their American restlessness to a frontier far bloodier. They never met Hemingway or Cather and their stories will never be fully told. We don’t know and never will, what they saw, smelled, felt, experienced, only that each man became stoic in his own way and crawled into the bottle a fair amount, perhaps to help themselves forget. The connection between literature and life helps us to know the interior lives of those we love. “Life was so short that it meant nothing at all unless it were continually reinforced by something that endured; unless the shadows of individual existence came and went against a background that held together.”— Willa Cather (One of Ours)

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