The other day the paper published an op-ed piece by some guy who was scratching his head in disbelief regarding atheism. He simply could not accept that there are people out there who don't give in and say a prayer in times of crisis.
I thought about that throughout the day as I weeded, planted and otherwise beautified my trashy old brick patio. A few thoughts came to mind that were hardly groundbreaking, but did cause my rambling mind to consider a few out of my ken types of ideas.
Personally, I cannot lay claim to atheism. My version of a divine being is one that is not simply the paternal figure, but rather one that also encompasses the maternal. Why else do we refer to Mother Nature, if not as the feminine aspect of the divinity? But I also don't see the divinity as some individual up on a cloud somewhere. The spark of the divine resides in all creatures, human and otherwise. The single exceptions, in my view, are daylily-chomping deer and groundhogs.
That said, the idea the man put forward was that in times of crisis, he does not believe that anyone does not offer up a prayer to his god.
If a person doesn't believe in his god or anyone's god, then that person has no need of sending a prayer in that direction. That person is more likely to be hoping that the doctor performing surgery, the EMT applying CPR or the police officer facing down a gun-wielding nut has the best possible training and will be using all his or her skills to their best advantage. The idea of applying to a religious construct outside of one's own beliefs for support isn't likely to be a part of that individual's arsenal.
We really were not founded as a strictly Christian nation, in spite of the Bible thumpers' loudest claims. (Those are people who refuse to accept written history, so you just have to ignore the poor sods and hope they leave you alone.) This gives us all the government-given right to explore religious thought, or not. For the people who give up on the concept of a god, there is often a set of mitigating circumstances that have led them to that pathway. The overriding question for all of us is this:
Is anyone else's religion really any of our business?
I would argue that it is not, given the rights granted us in the United States Constitution, not to mention just those that constitute good manners.
That said, why is this guy even given a forum in the newspaper to blather on about his inability to accept the fact that people who claim to be atheists honestly do not offer up prayers? What the heck does anyone care about that guy's opinions? And why would the opinion page editors even bother with such drivel?
In my own religious journey, I rejected the trinity long before I had any notion of Unitarianism. Poor old Reverend Kleffmann was conducting Saturday catechism classes at Trinity United Church of Christ, still using the box of antique Evangelical and Reformed Church catechism books. (God forbid those tight-fisted Krauts on the church board would ever let loose of a few sheckels to buy UCC materials!) Anyway, our job was to memorize the answers to doctrinal questions. My mother was making me attend and I therefore saw no reason to put forth any effort.
One Satuday morning, he called on me to recite something that had to do with Holy Ghost and I responded, "I don't know. I don't believe in ghosts." My classmates gave me dirty looks and Reverend Kleffmann's bald head smacked down on the table. It's a wonder he didn't smash his glasses. Somehow or another, I was confirmed on Palm Sunday and allowed to take communion on Easter. (They used Mogen David, just in case you wondered if we were juicers or winos.)
And that, my friends, was really the end of religion for me. I didn't revisit the idea again until my first run of graduate school when I would attend church periodically with a UU minister friend, who for some reason unknown to me, never took me to a UU church in spite of his assertion (privately, I guess) that I was a Unitarian. A Presbyterian minister boss later told his church board that I (a secretary to a pair of the staff ministers) was not a Christian. I didn't agree with him.
On the other hand, when I gave it some thought, I realized he was absolutely correct. But it surely did not make me an atheist.
So here it is: the paper publishes junk like this man's disbelief that anyone is truly an atheist. People like me wish they would quit allowing these pointless religious discussions on the opinion page. Christian friends think it is okay to grab my hands and force me to go along with their table blessings (damn, but that is so utterly rude of them!). And unless confronted with these types of behavior from time to time, people like me pretty much don't think too much about religion - at least not the way the rest of the folks appear to.
On a beautiful Sunday like today, my thoughts don't turn to church as much as they do to feeling a great deal of gratitude at being alive to enjoy the day and to love those around me. Rather than concern myself with the beliefs of others, which is none of my damn business, I would much rather be happy that people are able to find solace in times of sorrow through whatever means bring them the most comfort. As humans, we have a lot of means available to us. The real crime is in not tapping into that.
Wishing all of you readers the best of June Sundays...Happy Fathers Day to the dads, and......
Happy Birthday, Scott T. Mouse! Auntie, Unc, Charlie and Simon all love you!
The trouble with getting ready to entertain, getting ready for an event or getting ready for something outside of one's usual routine is that the first thing to go is the "me time" required for writing or making art. This past week, I scheduled a day in my studio. A few years ago, I made myself unavailable for a couple of weeks, as though I was leaving the house and going elsewhere to work. It seems this is what I will need to do to get myself into the studio.
Half of the room is my awfiss. It's an awful mess, hence the name. For someone whose workplace was always tidy and who was the darling of the custodial staff because of it, you'd never know it by my home desk! And it's always been that way! Piles and piles and piles, teetering precariously and balanced upon a mere sheet of paper that once disrupted, will cause an avalanche of disorder.
The studio half, on the other hand, gets messy when I'm working, but is easily tidied. I do have a table that is presently a catchall and rather dangerous - one slight breeze and heaven only knows - but the rest of it is fine. Sure, I could use another set of shelves and it would be perfect, but there isn't room for that, so the cats have to share the futon with art supplies. They don't seem to care as long as their blankie is there.
Because I hadn't been down there, things had gotten dumped here and there, so yesterday I spent a little time with Dino singing Aint' That A Kick in the Head while I brought order to the joint. Then I started working on a long overdue project for a lady who helped us with a parliamentarian problem waaaaay last fall. She's a purple person, so her thank you gift had to be purple. I had just the right papers and aside from the angst of doing "real" calligraphy, I had a ball.
At the end of the day, when it was time to come upstairs and make dinner, I felt like I'd "done" something. It made me wonder about other artists and how they schedule their time. I know we don't work by the clock - none of us artsies can do that. But we still have to have blocks of time because art doesn't happen in minutes. It happens in hours. I spent a healthy three hours on just the calligraphy part. (If I'd practice more often than once every twenty years, maybe it wouldn't be such a trial!)
I'm not sure what non-artsies think about how art gets made. I'm sure they don't have any appreciation for the time, never mind the cost of the materials. But how do they view what we do? Do they understand the fact that we are stellar problem solvers? (Oops, that isn't going to come out right...I might need to do this over...I hate the way that looks; can I undo a part of it...what happens if I...which of these looks better...crap! I hate that color!) And do they understand how many problems get solved all in the course of making one tiny card?
My sister once suggested I just do an assembly line thing. Good grief! Each of my cards is different, and even if I did use the same basic layout, there is no way I could duplicate that previous card. There was some problem that arose, that I solved and hence it has a look that is unique. You cannot duplicate the bugs in the ointment!
And that is, as Martha Steward would say, a good thing. It's all supposed to be different.
Thankfully, Big Kitty meanders down when I'm working, asks a couple of questions about how a piece of equipment works, wonders about something I'm doing and is really good at helping me engineer certain effects. The spouses of artsies are a critical component because it is their ability to go with the flow and their encouragement that moves what we do from playtime into legitimate creative work.
I'm looking at a busy week with other obligations. But I'm also trying to figure out when I can clock in at Ten Cornstalk Studio. I think my feline employees would appreciate me showing up. Someone has to turn on the iPod! Besides, I really do like working there.
I have discovered that it takes a strong person to look backward in order to identify patterns, find out what went wrong and why, find out what went well and why, and then be able to shift gears to look forward. I wondered why it was so scary for some to do that. And then a friend said, "People are afraid because they might have to own up to problems they, themselves, caused - or exacerbated. It's easier to put on blinders and pretend everything is fine. It just never works because there is always an underlying layer of tension and that's when the snide and hurtful remarks come out."
I have been pondering that. One of the things I learned at one of my recent jobs is that when a concerted effort to analyze things is made, we really do have to be prepared to admit mistakes. But as long as the goal is to make improvements and to approach things with a positive attitude, then admitting mistakes isn't such a big deal. We all make errors in judgment; it's a part of the human condition. But must we allow pride to stand in the way of doing something for the common good? If we are going to avoid similar mistakes, shouldn't we be willing to line up the bone-headed things, see them for what they are, and then set them aside? Is that not only part of forgiving others, but also ourselves?
Millie used to call this acknowledging the elephant in the living room. She used to say that you can never go forward without doing that because you can't make progress by trying to work around it. It just takes up too much energy that could be turned to other, more important things.
Along with that, I think the biggest mistake people make is in assuming they know what another person is thinking - especially when they do not really know that other person and what makes them tick. They waste a lot of time being stressed out over the unknown, rather than just talking through the issue. People don't like having others make assumptions about their thoughts or their motives, and especially not when the assumer is carrying the burden of fear or insecurity.
A simple discussion might seem like just dwelling on the past, but what it does is clear the air, lay aside the wrong assumptions and help build a foundation for a better way of doing things in the future. If we go around assuming the worst in people, eventually that is what we are going to bring out in them. If we have the honest conversation - and the emphasis on the word honest cannot be strong enough - we often find out that what we thought the other person was thinking or feeling bore absolutely no resemblance to the conjured assumption.
Millie was right about that elephant, but she never explained to me how to deal with people who are mired in behaviors of the alcoholic family. I had to learn that from Dr. Perrott!
Codependency is a terrible burden to carry. It colors all of one's relationships. The need to control one's environment trumps common sense a lot of the time, puts on the blinders and tightens the bindings. What I learned from Dr. Perrott is that I cannot change that. The only thing I can change is how I respond to it, and that it is perfectly fine to insist that the other person deal fairly. It is perfectly fine to call them on the potshots, inconsistencies and unwillingness to trust the process.
But most of all, he said that the only way to keep myself out of that quagmire of inhumane conditions was to draw that line in the sand and maintain it. He told me it wouldn't be easy, and boy, was he right. One takes a lot of abuse when one will not be manipulated by a codependent!
Millie's elephant still needs to be confronted and dealt with, but it takes a lot of emotional maturity to be able to do that. I'm still hopeful. I mean, otherwise what's all that rot about putting one's trust in God? Maybe people don't really trust God as much as they like to parrot those platitudes?
Don't know, but it's sure something to think about, isn't it?
It's been a busy couple of weeks here in Sprawl-land. We were expecting company in the way of my sister, so this meant a lot of unfinished work needed to get checked off the list. She probably doesn't see it like I do, but her visits always mean I get things done around here that have been languishing for ages. This is a very good thing!
So things like the junked up guest room got addressed, the flamingo bathroom got its spring cleaning, the hayracks got planted and the porch got hosed enough to make it okay to sit out there. Piles of junk that had accumulated in the den got sorted and tossed and reorganized and moved. I even started the spring cleaning of the kitchen cabinets!
We had a nice visit that included a little day trip to Lexington to see Lee Chapel and Stonewall Jackson's house. We moseyed around the business district and visited a few shops here and there. It was a lovely, albeit hot, day and we ended it with a yummy dinner at Stephen's. The next day we hosted Spike, Jane & Frank in order to celebrate Jane's retirement.
The flight out of the Star City was befouled by engine issues, so our company came back and stayed another night. I know they were ready to go home and this inconvenience was enough to require a little laundering.
Now this is a long-standing tradition with my sister. She always needs to do a load of laundry because she's a light packer. This is the reason my basement always get s little bit of attention when she visits. This time it didn't get as much as I would have preferred, but let's just say, the cat messes and dust bunnies got cleared out and the way to the washer was slightly de-junked. My storeroom still was horrendous, my awfiss was still awful and even the laundry room was icky. This is spring cleaning that must be done sooner or later, and thanks to rain yesterday, I suspect it will be this week.
We like to have guests because it keeps us honest. It forces us to tidy up and clear out. There is always at least one trip to the Goodwill, and a purge of something that has been irking me for a while. Big Kitty is less motivated than I am about these things, but after it's over, he's glad for the new found space. The house's chi is greatly improved and energy flows more positively. (I'm being tongue in cheek, here!)
It also blasts us out because we like to take them to see the sights. This time we did a little greenway walk, and cruised the urban renewal efforts along the riverfront and downtown.
However, when the visit has come to an end and we return to our humdrum life, it's a matter of adjustments. There is laundry, post-guest tidying, finding that which we stashed, and getting back to whatever got postponed due to guest prep. It's that re-entry into day-to-day life that has us wondering if there aren't a few changes we should consider. We're lazy old cats, though, and we slip into our routines. Our ruts are comfortable and long-established. We don't mind falling out of them from time to time, but we're a couple of home-bodies that are happy to curl up with our books, cats and cocktails.
And that is where we find ourselves on a Monday. I need to make a trip to the store for lemons, eggs, bread and something to go with our veggie share haul. Routine, rut, call it what you will. It's life as we know it and now that the screened porch has been swabbed, Mop 'n Glo'd and flamingo'd,
The other day Ellie Krieger posted a picture of The Moosewood Cookbook to Facebook, along with the notation that it was her first cookbook. She asked, "What was yours?" Mine was The McCall's Cookbook, given to me by my sister. After all these years, I still use it. There is no finer macaroni and cheese recipe, nor banana bread recipe, in the world, as far as I'm concerned.
I am also quite fond of Ellie's cookbook, So Easy, not to mention all of the Giada, Ina, Maida, Marcella, Craig, Pierre and Ken cookbooks. These are the ones I return to time after time. They are old friends and I'm on a first name basis with them. Even the Big Kitty refers to them in that fashion.
We have been members of a locavore delight, Good Food Good People, for a few years now. Jane and Spike subscribed to it and we decided to give it a try. We were hooked after the first year of weekly sacks of vegetables. There were new things in there, and I didn't always know what to do with what I got. If the recipes they included didn't click for me, I was up a creek. But recently, there has been a wealth of new cookbooks dealing with vegetables. I spent a lovely free hour sipping coffee and reading Deborah Madison's latest. Needless to say, I want that book! (I have a book group order to make and a coupon to use... Hah.) Madison has been on the vegetarian scene for ages, beginning with The Greens Cookbook. Her cooking has evolved, along with the more adventuresome farmers and their products.
The whole vegetarian scene has been shifting away from the mushroom laden, bean busting and patchouli-reeking food of that funny little health food store I used to frequent on Howard Street in Chicago. Whole grains and unusual vegetables are becoming mainstream, as are backyard vegetable gardens (and the accompanying skunks, groundhogs and possums that wallow in their bounty). My yard, going straight up a hill, is not condusive to vegetable gardening, not that I haven't given it the desultory try from time to time. I have shade at all the wrong times. And, in spite of studying BGF's superior tomato growing methods, I've no solution for deer that bite the tops off my tomato plants, nor the members of the large-size rodent genus who ransack the fruits.
And so, I content myself with the weekly box of earthly pleasures. This week we had a bag of crunchy spinach and rather than making the ubiquitous spinach salad (not that it wasn't a tempting idea), I made a pasta dish with it. I had an ulterior motive. I still had a butternut squash in the basement and I wanted to use it up. The squash was peeled, seeded and cubed and then roasted. Orchiette pasta was cooked, the spinach washed, hazelnuts toasted and skinned and crushed, sage minced, butter browned, romano cheese grated. All this got mixed together and it was pretty darn good. - I think another time I might add garlic to that browned butter. I got this recipe from The New Southern Garden Cookbook by Sheri Castle.
Last summer I read The Unprejudiced Palate by the late Angelo Pellegrini. In it he described his upbringing in Italy, his family's relocation to the Pacific Northwest, and his garden and theories on cooking. There was a man who hauled in loads and loads of manure to improve his soil, who harvested his vegetables and fruits, and who taught at the university and fed whoever showed up with delicious, simply prepared foods. The book reminded me of something Ruth Reichl mentioned in one of her books. She read about food. She thought about food. She prepared food. And she credited books like Pellegrini's for shaping her passion for food.
With the publication of the latest generation of vegetable cookbooks, Ellie Krieger's question becomes more relevant to me. I will never allow a winter to pass without having made at least one batch of beef stew from McCall's. I will always make Julia Child's onion soup recipe, not to mention beef bourguignonne. Marcella Hazan's roast beef in red wine will continue to be a go to recipe when I have people here for supper. But, I have to admit to having left Molly for Ken Haedrich, who introduced me to whole grain baking with his cabbage potato pie in the cheddar cornmeal crust. The early Moosewood books were too mushroomy, too cloyingly honeyed, and the ingredients no longer appeal to us. I made the breakfast cookies in another of Molly's books and realized that they were too oily. They would have been so much better made with butter.
And that is how it goes. Our tastes evolve, and along with that is the way we prepare what we eat. It's time to really read those old cookbooks and decide on their future - on my shelves or off to the AAUW used book sale. The new books offer so many interesting ways of using the ingredients that are now available through our CSA that it doesn't make sense to stay stuck in the 70s or 80s in terms of vegetables and non-meat dishes.
Gotta say - this is a problem I like having. New recipes, new ideas and a lot of good eating!
I was meandering around the house, coffee in hand, checking on this and that. I'd planted moonflower seeds in an egg carton and as I checked on them, I realized there was a lot of activity on the patio. I looked closer and then pulled up a chair.
Four little chipmunks were skittering hither and yon, playing. They scurried through the potted mints, which are emerging. They zipped into and out of pots that had held annuals. They scaled the scrawny Leland Cypresses that I'd better plant this year, or else. One darted out from beneath an astilbe that situated itself in the garden wall. Another ran around like his tail was on fire.
I watched all this with delight - they really are cute, even though they are Dr. Destructo in the garden. I laughed so hard my sides ached. I've seen one or two here and there, but never four. One of them likes to sun himself on a clay tile that came from the old Matthiessen & Hegeler Zinc Co. in LaSalle. He's pictured above.
Four of them chasing one another, however is a circus! They were having a gay old time.
Then I noticed that two of them were wrestling and tumbling around in the pot that holds a blooming rosemary. I laughed even harder. About then my eyes bugged out - one had mounted the other and was doing the nasty, right there in my rosemary! It didn't last long - the bottom one turned around and then reversed roles! That's when I really started laughing! They broke it up, wrestled a little more, nastied, chased each other around the pot, nastied again.
I'm telling you, it was the funniest thing I'd seen in my garden in ages!
Laughing that hard has an effect on old ladies and I repaired to the flamingo room, still laughing. I really wish I had had the presence of mind to snap a picture of that. Doris always has such great wildlife shots that I'm always jealous. But the one I did manage to get was through a window, so I guess the idea of catching a pair of chipmunks in flagrate delicto was a bit off the radar. I cannot wait to relate this to Big Kitty. His dry wisecracks are stellar.
For my part, I had no idea rosemary was an aphrodisiac!
Beginning a bit over twenty years ago, I was suddenly shocked by the number of white service vans there are. Just so you know, the only reason I noticed them had to do with the fact that one got parked in front of my house every evening and on weekends. It kind of became "my van," even though I wasn't allowed to ride in it.
The Big Kitty had been at his company long enough to have been assigned his own service van, and as is often the case, he had the worst one. The longer he was there, the newer the vans he got until that day when he got a brand new one. In the old days, the company paid for vanity plates, so he had VEC ### (whatever number van he was driving).
And so it began - it was a kind of game to see if I saw him around town in the van. At first it was easy - I'd check the tags...VEC.... Then I started looking at the back panel for blue Broadway type. Once I pulled into the lot at the Harris Teeter after school to pick up something to make for supper. I saw my van in the lot. They'd done work there, but I really wasn't prepared to walk into the deli department and see some familiar legs on a ladder, with the torso and head up in a ceiling. The guy behind the counter nearly collapsed when I reached up and pinched that cute behind and then darted into an aisle!
These days, as I meander around town on errands, it's during the weekday and I see white vans all the time. There used to be over of hundred of "our" vans around, but these days I don't see them as much. What I do see are lots and lots of service vans, some with company logos and some without. It raised a question for me. Why white?
The only thing my dad and I were ever in complete agreement about had to do with white for vehicles. Neither of us would ever drive a white car. When I told him I thought they looked like a rolling refrigerator, he snorted and agreed. "So, Dad, what color do you like?"
"Well," he began, "I did like that blue for the Imperial, but I've kind of always liked red cars. That Pontiac I got you. That was a good red."
I told him about my red wool Susan Bristol skirt with the pleats at the bottom like Mrs. Hamilton's mohair tweed ones...it was '69 Pontiac red. He liked that. We also agreed that certain cars probably needed to be black. "Ya wouldn't wanna be mobbed up and drivin' around in a red Lincoln," he commented.
That's when I told him about my plans for lottery winnings. "I want a maroon Lincoln, and I'm going to change my tags to say Mary Tod." My dad got it immediately and laughed like crazy. "Why maroon?" he wanted to know. "The White House china she picked had a maroon border." My dad nodded. He loved to buy china.
But white vans...ubiquitous white vans... Why white? Why not silver? Why not grey? Why not blue? Why in the world show-ever-speck-of-dirt white?
When our beloved Roger Varney died, everyone in the company wanted to be there for his funeral. The only edict that went out was: do not show up if your vehicle is dirty. Big Kitty got special dispensation for me to ride his van. He dashed home, changed into his suit and the two of us barreled to the funeral home. While we waited to get lined up, white service trucks and vans that were still dripping from trips to the car wash continued to arrive. The procession, viewed from a rise on Route 419 was awesome. At the top, the hearse, following that was a flotilla of Harleys, following that were some family vehicles, and behind those were a LOT of white vans and trucks. Probably the only one missing was the bucket truck.
White vans. I see them everywhere. I see elbows hanging out of their windows, I see cigarette butts being flicked from them and into the street, some are clean, some are dirty, some are dented, some are downright ratty and some are brand spanking new. Some are plain, some have logos and some have a old logo that's been painted over. Some have ladders on top and some have a large PVC tube that holds pipe or conduit up there.
Big Kitty used to have a large sheet metal box on his that held conduit.
Once I followed a white van on Main Street. It was low to the ground and nearly bottomed out here and there. My practiced eye noted that the van was clearly overloaded and needed helper springs. When the van turned left onto Mount Vernon, I knew it was about to be parked in front of my house. New van for BK.
"You need helper springs on this rig," I told him. "You were riding way low and nearly bottomed out a few times. Either helpers or you gotta get rid of some of this inventory." My spouse knows I know what I'm talking about when it comes to leaf springs. He took that info to work the next day where their shop guy scoffed, "Your WIFE?! What does your wife know about springs." BK patiently explained about my dad's business. "Oh."
He got helper springs, but he also kind of cleaned out the van.
I am no closer to understanding the attraction of white service vehicles, aside from the fact that they are easy to resell because the color is a non-issue. But I still say, refrigerators on wheels.
This is Chip. Or perhaps he is Dale. Either way, this lil critter sits here and doesn't move a whisker. In case you are wondering what the clay "thing" is, it's a broken tile from the Matthiessen Hegeler Zinc Co. (LaSalle, Illinois) property that was dismantled in the late 1970s. We think they were put together in order to form some sort of spiral that would deal with pollutants. However, that's pure conjecture. All I know is that they are way cool, I transported them to my garden from Illinois and use them for borders, much to my dad's dismay
I've been working hard in the yard, trying to do the spring cleaning, however like a lot of springs, the weather has been alternatively hotter than a pistol and bone-chillingly damp. I get out there when Mother Nature gives me a good day, work like hell in order to get as much done as I can, and then pay for it later. Okay, if I'm being totally honest, as creaky as I am, a couple of aspirins, a soak in a hot bubble bath and I'm pretty much fine. It could be worse, I tell myself.
The hosta garden is cleaned up, the lilies-of-the-valley are about to bloom, and the hostas are unfurling. They behave like stretching athletes, opening themselves to the world and breathing in the fresh air. And then I have to go and ruin it by sprinkling slug poison and critter repellant! I tell the hostas it's for their own good, and I think they might believe me. I don't think they feel like themselves after the slugs have made them look like green eyelet.
Last year, critters bit the blooms off the red tulips, but so far, things aren't as bad. I'm wondering if it has anything to do with the presence of a pair of dogs next door. Gee. I sure hope that's the case! Might save me some cash in the critter repellant department. Lordy, but that stinky stuff is dear!
Jake says all of us have high hopes in January, but then reality sets in and the rest of the gardening season is a matter of knowing deep down we will never achieve the glorious garden we envisioned as snow, sleet and crud fell. He's right, of course. My garden journals are a testament to that theory's veracity. On the other hand, gardening is really a lot like people who remarry...a triumph of hope over reason.
BGF sent me a great article that appeared in the Chicago Tribune about the gardening experiment of a group of students at our alma mater. As I read it, I thought back to when we were there. I wonder if either of us would have volunteered to live in the house and tend that garden, cook communally and sell the extra produce. BGF is the king of tomato growers - the only one I can think of who might top him would be my principal from Bedford Co. He always took a week of vacation near the end of summer so that he could can bushels of tomatoes. BGF is more prone to popping home for lunch and wolfing down tomato sandwiches!
I've tried tomato growing, but fall way short of the mark. In the past couple of years, deer have bit the tops off my tomato plants, and what they didn't destroy, the groundhogs did.
I noticed Fatso up on the hill above the neighbor's. The dogs weren't out, but Fatso was wary, so I have to believe those two barking fools have to be having a positive effect. Haven't seen deer, either, and no hoofprints in the soft earth. I think any time you can break up their pattern, you stand a chance of defeating them. They like routine. Usually.
And, add in the neighborhood cat who wanders through our yard. Oh, my, but how we cackle when our cats see him! The visitor is scared of us, which is odd because cats seem to know we're happy to see them. However, my reputation as a feline drug dealer is intact since I know that cat is lurking around certain parts of the yard in anticipation of the appearance of the kitty weed. I need to plant some more of it, though, because one reliable stand of it got mowed once too often, and I know the cat has been lounging around that area sending me telepathic hints. My own cats are heads, so the supply has to be increased in order to insure everyone has a chance to get high.
So it goes in Sprawl Land. The weeds are in abundance, the chores never end and the fairies dance in the garden when we aren't around. There is plenty to celebrate, I think.
I signed up for a class on journaling that was being led by a friend I’d made in PEN Women. It was being held pretty far away, gas prices are getting European-ish, so I got a friend to sign up with me. We carpool and it gives me a chance to spend time with a fellow artsy fartsy. One of our assignments was to take an online thumbnail of the Meyers-Briggs test, an instrument I have successfully avoided. (I took testing and measurements as a grad student and I can tilt any test any way I choose. Therefore the validity of that test is zip.)
Still, I did it in good faith because the focus of the class was self-discovery and I needed to do a little soul searching. It was no surprise that when I turned off the devil inside and just did the test without thinking, I was pegged as an introvert. But it also helped me illuminate some things that had been bothering me – things for which there were no easy answers or solutions. My spouse says I think like a man, which means I don’t do the highly female thing of circular whining with no desire for a solution. I like to figure out the problem, devise a solution and move on.
In the last week, it’s been absolutely beautiful outside and I have a mess of a yard. I cleared my calendar and have spent the last two days cleaning up and clearing out and planting bulbs that were supposed to go into the ground last fall. (Much to my delight, they were all viable!) Now here’s what happens when I start pulling weeds and cleaning up dead plant material: I consider things that make no sense to me. The longer I work, the more my thoughts clear and I get to a place where I’m filled with gratitude. And that is my long-winded way of explaining the topic for today.
I am not a natural joiner. I’ve gotten involved in things because someone brought me. Pam brought me to Herb Society, and Alice kept me there. Barbara brought me to VEA , and Esther and Gary kept me there. Kay brought me to AAUW, and Catina keeps me there. Peggy brought me to PEN Women, and Ethel kept me there. Lou brought me into the Italian club and the cooking group kept me there. Jennie Sue brought me to NAP, and Marlene keeps me there. I’ve made connections, but staying in is hard because I am such a loner.
In each of those organizations, the issue has always been membership recruitment and retention. Organizations do not stay vibrant and viable without new people. At the same time, organizations that ignore new people and don’t make an effort to integrate them and bring them along into leadership positions wind up being old fart groups.
Today I want to thank the mentors who believed in me enough to help me get past my natural inclination to stay on the outer edge and who got me involved. In most cases, it was older women who did this, and my gratitude runs along the lines of understanding that they knew I was going to make mistakes; they encouraged me anyway and forgave my boo-boos. When I did a good job, I got accolades, but me being me, I just turned red and wished to hell they’d shut up about it already. For those who continue to teach me, I am especially grateful because sometimes I’m a really slow learner. For those who suddenly discovered I had a streak of social justice that wouldn’t quit, I’m sorry if my politics shocked you, but the truth is, the older I’ve gotten, the more liberal my ideas have become. If I seem particularly intransigent on some of those issues, well, that’s the way it goes.
To the younger women who continue to teach me and to help me understand the way of the changing world, I am especially grateful. Why some older women will not give you all a chance to lead is beyond me. Maybe they fear that I taught you how to speak truth to power and don’t want to give up the authority their age brings them. I don’t know. All I know is that you aren’t shy about kicking me in the behind when necessary and I always wind up agreeing with you.
Now if you wondered why I would take an interest in you, notice that I have had good training. An older woman brought me along, put up with me and helped me get better at whatever it was I was attempting to do. Sometimes all she needed to do was give me a chance and then stand back and let it happen. Sometimes she needed to hold my hand while I whined and complained and tried to find elusive solutions. Other times, she had to hold her tongue and hope to heaven I DID find the solution before all hell broke loose. But the point is, I was given a chance.
Breaking out of one’s inclination to stay tucked in at home with one’s books, cats, projects and solitary interests is tough. When I left teaching, a couple kept asking me if I was bored yet. No. That was ten years ago. I’m still not bored. If anything, I’m too busy with things outside of my home and am starting to get a little peevish about that.
But you all continue to blast me out of here, I love the time I spend with you (in spite of myself) and I hope that you mentor ladies (and two or three mentor gentlemen) are relieved to know I am cognizant of all you have done for me and that I intend to keep trying to pay it forward. If we don’t make room in our hearts and organizations for the younger generations, we do ourselves no favors. It’s one thing to be an unrepentant old fart, but it’s quite another to wink when admitting to it!
Today, the newsfeed on Facebook is rife with this symbol. I can't tell one friend from another because this has become the thumbnail picture for many of us. It came from George Takei, who posts a lot of really interesting commentary and pictures. This one stands for marriage equality.
It is astonishing that we are hearing the same sad arguments against this as we did when interracial couples wished to marry. The world didn't come to an end when they did that, and it won't come to an end now.
Today, the Supreme Court heard arguments that all Americans have the right to marry. It shouldn't matter that the people involved are of the same gender or not. A commitment between two people who love one another and wish to have that commitment sanctioned by law should be available to anyone.
I'm not going to argue the point in this space. I simply wish to add Herban Sprawl to all the other sites who support equality for all humankind. I also want to wish the plaintiffs good luck in this endeavor. Being the test case for this most important human right isn't easy and you are to be applauded for your bravery. Mazel tov!