Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Real Conflicts Behind A Family Christmas Holiday

I am dangerously close to going to the Dark Side and getting some sacks for my Christmas gifts.   It would say something I don't want said about my character.

See, there are fresh tree, artificial tree or no tree factions.

There are Christmas Eve opening presents and Christmas morning.

There's even Christmas Eve church service or forgedaboutit.

Let's see. Do you switch holidays with in-laws, if married? Do you go elsewhere or they come to you?

Do you spend the holiday alone and see the family on the closest weekend or? A,B, or C?

I was in line the other day with several rolls of wrapping paper that were now $1 each. The woman behind me and I shared Christmas cheerfuls.

She commented on the wrap, and I responded, "In our family, we wrap."

She nodded, in instant rapport. "Us, too. We had a new daughter-in-law who thought she would introduce those SACKS!  We changed her mind right quick! The daughter-in-law we've had for a while set her straight!"

And we both laughed wicked laughs.

And I thought, "What am I DOING?"

That was two days ago. I think, if I get these three hippopotamus-sized ones wrapped, I can tackle the others. But not now. no.

I'd rather write this.

Looking over the list of conflicts--and I never got to bread or cornbread dressing? Giblet or cream gravy?Sweet potatoes or russet (and I swear there's an Eastern seaboard movement to make us have to eat sweet potatoes! Yuck!)?  Skip traditional and we'll do what? Sushi? Brunch? Tamales? Rosemary chicken?  I remember one Thanksgiving we had fresh quail and grilled steak, rare. That was nice.

But those packages just sit there. Waiting.

I can procrastinate no longer. I Must Cut Paper and Use Cellophane Tape and Write Labels.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

It isn't Hardship till You Know What's Missing

For me, the next few days are fearsome.

My house has an inadequate heating system. Tomorrow will be in the 60s.

But tomorrow night, the temperature plummets to the teens.
I am semi-prepared.

We had a harder, longer coldspell in 2013.  My heat ran 24/7 and still kept the house at only 50 degrees. I have bought a space heater, a good one, and hope it will help.

My dogs are Corgis. They have an undercoat. They will love it. Me, not so much.

Yes, yes, I've had it all looked at. I own this home, as of a few years ago. Updating costs more than I want. I don't want the electric bill, but it is only one month.

This month. December.


This hasn't happened in 3 years. I now have a space heater, which I didn't then. The cold spell will be a test of my new system.

We Americans. We wimp too much.

At my age, I can remember going to bed with a hot water bottle too hot to touch with my feet and not daring to move, because the next morning, if I moved my feet, the sheets were icy, with 3-4-5 blankets weighing me down.

But I hadn't known any better then.

We can live in hardship every day and smile and laugh and live.

It isn't hardship until something we didn't want to lose goes missing.

Then it is really hardship.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

How do we Live and Let Live?

People love rules. People love breaking rules.  In both instances, the effort seems to be aimed at achieving  a more comfortable existence.

 I have been wondering lately, as I observe both myself and the rest of you, what are the factors that make a society what it is or becomes or is becoming. How do we fit in with one another?

And when I look at myself, I am glad I have a memoir written by my great, or maybe great-great grandfather on his life in the New World, the family's push west, his desire to contribute to the communities he lived in. I inherit some of that, and it is both nature and nurture, I think, that molds that part of me. We do, mostly, what we know.

Society, however, continues to confound me. We have thrown away so many customs. And yet we cling to the strangest civilities.

Young families in general no longer eat at the table and talk about their actions and thoughts together. They may do that on trays watching tv together, or they may do it in families where parents have the kids pitch in on the chores. Sometimes they do that in the car, although more likely, they will be on their phones if not driving, or listening to music.

Only in rural communities do you have the chance of developing lifelong friends in school. In communities that are growing, kids are in different classrooms each year and get a lunch break only with their own class. A best friend last year eating with another classroom group isn't allowed to come eat with you, or continue the friendship at school.  More freedom comes in higher grades, but that also means more lunchroom times.  My granddaughters have had lunch half-hours that began as early as 10:30 a.m. (they were starving when school got out) or as late as 1:30 p.m.  For some reason, probably control issues, they don't get a whole hour.  My granddaughters have chosen lunch items based on how quickly they can eat them and allow for a possible potty break and/or time to actually wash their hands.

We have experimented with acknowledging everyone for participating School districts have in some instances withheld trophies, and even letter grades in the name of self-esteem. This clashes with pride in achievement.  On the other hand, kindness so often is not taught, except as not bullying. Children are no longer taught to say thank you.  I do notice which high school graduates call, e-mail--and most still actually write notes--when I gift their graduations. I take note. The ones who are taught to respond, even reciprocate with kindnesses to others, seem to move ahead with more ease. Certainly with more grace.  They have better chances for a good life.  Don't parents see that? Maybe they don't know. 

We talk about good manners between the sexes, and I don't think many of those rules have changed overmuch from my girlhood more than half a century ago. Why?  I can understand a woman my age still enjoying the opened doors, the careful seating, the little touches of love to one another.   For us single elders, not relevant, often as not.  It mostly depends on who can move more easily. Sometimes women help old men.

As a longtime single woman, I interact with men in volunteer activities I belong to, or in the occasional neighborhood or church activity where I come alone and the men come with their wives.
The only single men I know socially are in their 80s, and widowed. At their ages, they don't eat much, so it doesn't matter if we have a potluck get-together and they don't bring anything. Although, sometimes, they do.

The social life of married couples has nothing at all to do with most single women.  Exception: women of wealth, or political clout, or positions of authority.  I just realized last night I cannot remember when I last walked down a sidewalk with a man socially, but it certainly was a decade or more ago. Society doesn't work that way.  And except in cities, we don't have many sidewalks!

It came up because I was surprised some women still appreciate a man who walks alongside between the woman and the street. I thought that had long ago fallen by the wayside, and for younger women, it probably has.

I am surprised that in most marriages, both parents still expect the wife, exclusively, to be the one to take off work if the kids get sick.  My former husband and I shared sick child care. But he was, largely, a feminist.

I have been bemused in recent years that the fact that one is an introvert is being examined as possibly an aberrant trait. I got a peek at why on a recent cruise.

With 5,000 on board, and 12-14 decks, only on the third level could I gain access to outside doors that put me on an open deck,  five or ten feet from the rail and maybe 18-20 feet above the water. It became my sanctuary, a place where I could go sit, write (I will copy some of it for blogs later) and just watch the sea, the sky, the horizon. It was warm, and breezy. I could smell the ocean. I could hear it. I could sit there for an hour and not see more than 10-20 people. Some came to smoke. Some wanted to show their kids the ocean. They would stand at look for a minute or two and go back inside, into all the activities and music, and shopping and business that was a totally enclosed city, except for the Lido deck, where they could swim and sun within enclosed walls.

I went on some excursions to explore the places where we stopped. I shopped a little. I walked and walked. My roommate and I visited, sometimes ate together, and her family group of 9 plus me always ate dinner together and discussed our day.  It was so very pleasant.

I needed that outside deck, with the vastness of sea and sky to soak up. It made my trip worth it.  The ship rocked me at night like a cradle. I slept so very well.

I don't think it is my ego talking. I do observe quite well. I  have, quietly and steadily, been living my own life for years. Slowly I have made minute changes from the norm. I learned on this cruise I am indeed an individual who enjoys so many cultures and subcultures in life, fitting for awhile now here, now there.
The only culture I am absolutely true to, however, is the one I live in when I close the front door and throw the lock. Gracie and Brody, I could say, know me best.

Years ago,someone asked me why I question so many actions and ideas, and accept others without question. I still don't know the answer, but I know when I don't question, my comfort level is high. What I question usually rubs some pointy place on my personality, on my ownself. That goes back to being an individual fingerprint on the world, perhaps.

 I am still asking, "I wonder why this doesn't seem to fit."   I find it vastly entertaining to contemplate.

Pearl Harbor Day Celebrates Survival When We Knew Clearly Who The Enemy Was

I was born two years after Pearl Harbor. We did not have the "todo" over Dec. 7 in my childhood. True, no television, but so many alive to march and wave the flag. Apparently, they didn't want to. They might do something on Veteran's Day.  I think back then, so many actually lived through it, they didn't want any more.

Certainly, on Memorial Day at the cemetery, I don't remember much made of it.

The last survivors are getting more and more publicity. It seems to me, more each year. Still, these last survivors need to be remembered.

Did you know Dec. 7 isn't a national holiday? It's Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, and it was established in 1994.

No wonder so little was made of it in my childhood and youth. We had Veteran's Day, Memorial Day and the Fourth of July that sufficed until then.

Is it my imagination?

Seems to me the urgent commemoration has increased since Sept. 11, 2001.

Fewer died back then. And many were soldiers, even if not in combat. We declared war on Japan AFTER Dec. 7, 1941.

On that day, 2,403 died.   1,178 were injured.
And we knew who our enemy was. Japan.  Their planes attacked American ships in Hawaii.

Now Japan is a nation we trust and trade with. History makes changes.

On Sept. 11, 2001, our own passenger planes were used to destroy the World Trade Center Buildings in New York and damage the Pentagon.

2,996 died, 6,000 were injured.  If passengers had not caused one passenger plane to crash, our own fighter aircraft would have had to destroy it with innocent citizens on board. I have always been so grateful to the heroes on that plane.

But we didn't have the luxury of an enemy nation.  We had an enemy most of us had never heard of.

I'm a news junkie. The name Osama bin Laden was totally unknown to me.

We still have that vague, amorphous, constantly changing, constantly more cruel enemy, we still deal, worldwide.  Safety is a remembered concept.

The fight has sometimes been a war in Iraq and Afghanistan, but not in reparation so much as for future safety and peace.

The fight doesn't seem to go well.

It took more than 50 years to make Pearl Harbor  an official Remembrance Day on the official US calendar. 

What we decide to do about Sept. 11, 2001, can surely wait awhile to decide.

Dec. 7, 1941, was truly a day of infamy. We knew our enemy, we fought them, we won--horrifically, but, at the time, truly just--and we have all recovered and gone on.

I just wonder if our attention today is a clinging to a way of warfare and life we understand and could and did recover from. I wonder if it is indeed a day of comfort when we compare it to Sept. 11.

And I wonder if life will ever be remotely the same.

Friday, December 2, 2016

When Old Women Get Militant

I once started a poem that got stalled on, " I have a life...I don't know where it's going yet."

I wrote that 40 years ago, and I still don't know. It still seems interesting.

Oh, I can set goals and even achieve them. I've made minor marks on the world. I'm glad for them.
But how do I deal with .....THIS?

Trump isn't Hitler.

But what is going to happen to the world, to my country? What already has happened?  We are divided in a way not seen in more than a century. And we face real world challenges we have not had before.

It makes me itch when people talk about "the world" and don't include anything but our own specie. There is so much more world out there.

Fifty years ago you could have an abortion in a much more judgmental society and you wouldn't automatically be assigned to Hell, if it exists.  In the 60s, when unwed pregnancies were anathema, I volunteered in a major public hospital 8 hours a week in the emergency room. I was 22. Innocent as dirt. My day was 3-11 on Mondays.  Mondays are quiet in emergency, generally.  I still remember those girls, those women, coming into emergency with septic infections from coathanger abortions, screaming for their mamas. They were all colors. Truth to tell, mostly white.

I live in a state where abortions are legal, but pious Republicans have made it so difficult, many can't either get to a clinic or afford it. I mean--if you have to go 300-600 miles to the clinic, what do you do?  Today, there's not the shame. But if your man leaves you pregnant, you already have two pre-schoolers and now you need to step up? and there's NO free daycare, forget about that. Texas is being looked at because since the legislature banned Planned Parenthood, essentially, since 2011, our death rates for women one year postpartum has skyrocketed. No problem here, says  our legislature. Only good health care here.

Sorry. I'm free-choice, including abortion. And I don't think it's Biblical. And I'm a church lady. And I prepare communion for my church every Sunday. 

And I believe in a healthy land for my grandchildren and their grandchildren.

And here's what I am doing currently. I am not listening to what ifs. I am evaluating the done sos. That isn't particularly comforting, but life can change.

I am, right now, saying what I believe, and I will follow it.

I'm not going to waste time arguing. I don't have the energy.

But if I can help, if I can do, if I can try to make a difference, I will.  I don't know how my great-great grandchildren will fare. But they at least deserve my trying to make it better for them.