Thursday, December 17, 2009

Random Thoughts about my Mother

It's been a very hectic month for me.  I got very sick right after Thanksgiving and was barely able to hold my head up, let alone sit at a computer for long.  Got back to work last week and was good for the work day, but still pretty tired when I got home.  At long last this week, I started to feel like myself.  Then yesterday afternoon, my sister called me.  Our mother has died.  Not unexpected, but still a bit of a blow.  She lived nearly 92 years, her birthday is January 16th.  So in the interest of remembering my mother and returning to regular blogging, I present Random Thoughts about My Mother.

Mildred Irene Wallock Watt.  My mother was born in January 1918...just before the end of WWI.  Los Angeles was a different place then, a collection of small towns, some manufacturing, some agriculture, some business.  Her father moved his family there when the film industry was locating there because the sunshine and variety of landscape meant movie making could go on year round. An older actor, dark hair and beard, grandpa was often cast as "the heavy."

She grew up during the days of Prohibition and the Depression.  Her father made homemade wine and she could remember her mother pouring it all down the drain once when she thought the revenuers were coming down the street.   It's hard to say what the Depression did to my mother, but I know she never could bring herself to throw something away if she thought it might be useful for something else.  We had dozens upon dozens of margarine tubs when I was growing up.  And glass jars made perfectly good drinking glasses for a large family.  Some years ago when her VCR broke, she was amazed to discover that it was cheaper to get a new one than to have the old one fixed.  That just wasn't her way of doing things.

Mother went to Catholic school from grades 1-8.  She was a devout Catholic all her life, as was her father.   She went to public High School and graduated in 1935.  She had received a scholarship to study acting at a Shakespeare conservatory, but was stuck with tuberculosis and spent the next several years bedridden.  My father had met her around this time and he was a constant companion to her in her illness, bringing her news of the neighborhood and the world, books from the library and undying devotion.   He converted to Catholicism and when she was well enough, they married in 1939.

It's hard to imagine my mother as a young wife and mother.  I was born a full 20 years later and she was a very different person by then.  World War II had come and gone.  My father had been called overseas while she was pregnant with my sister Nancy.  Then after the war, they had relocated to Grants Pass Oregon where they found the community and pace of life they had known growing up in Los Angeles.  It was the kind of life they wanted for their family, but it meant that my mother had to be apart from her father, whom she loved dearly.  And from the place she had always called home.

Shortly after her parents death in 1952; within 2 weeks of each other, I might add; my mother organized and started a community theater group with the help of her uncle Mike.  Barnstomer's Theater is still in operation in Grants Pass.  It must be one of the longest running active community theaters in the country.  It was a thriving organization by the time I was born in 1959.   I grew up in the musty basement costume and make-up rooms.  I still find cold basements smelling of sawdust and musty clothes to be oddly comforting.

Mother was a wonderful actor.  She commanded your attention from the moment she was on stage.  With her striking white hair, dark eyes, and commanding posture, you couldn't help but watch her.  She was commanding in real life too.  I used to love to watch her getting ready to go out with my father or dressing for church.  My mother's hair was white, beautiful soft white, with one small patch of black at the back underneath.  And it was thick.  She used to let me brush it and then she would braid it before going to bed.  During the day, she wore it up in a bun at the back.  And I would watch her pinning it up, checking her hair from all angles, making sure the bun was set just right upon her head, just the right amount of curl in the bang down onto her forehead,  not quite hiding the widow's peak at the hairline. 

Imposing.  That's what one of my friends said to me after first meeting her. "Your mother is very imposing."  She was right.  You just didn't mess with my mother.

She gave me many gifts...a love of reading, music, dance, theater, art.  I used to listen to her records on our old hi-fi.  Chopin and Beethoven and Gershwin.  She taught me to play the piano and read music.  She took me to my first classical concert.  My first ballet. 

She loved irises.  And roses.  And lilies.  And begonias.  She missed the bougainvillea of California. 

Mother loved beautiful things.  And she made things beautiful by her wearing of them.  I shall always remember the large red poinsettia pin on the black wool coat with the soft fur cuffs.  I would sit and stroke her coat during mass.  When my brother Robert was getting married, she had a dress made of olive green with a matching duster, shoes died to match and a little hat like Jackie O. 

And when she was on stage, I couldn't take my eyes off her.  She played God once in JB.  Most children think their mother is God.  I knew she was. 

In many ways, I'm sure my mother didn't have the life she wanted.  But she made the most of the life she was given.  She was loved and admired.  She was respected and listened too.  Her opinion mattered to many people.  It wasn't easy being her child.  But it made me strong.  

Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine

Monday, November 23, 2009


"When I'm worried and I can't sleep
I count my blessing instead of sheep
Then I fall asleep counting my blessings." - Irving Berlin

I love that song.  It's almost time for me to watch WHITE CHRISTMAS again and get tears in my eyes when Rosemary Clooney sings about love that didn't do right by her and Bing reminds us all to count our blessings. 

It's that time of year where we try to remember to be grateful - and to remember to tell those we love how very important they are to us.  I am especially grateful this year.  It has been a good year for me - lots of growth and change and plenty to be grateful for.

1) My daughters.  Being a good mother is the most important thing to me.  For me, that means working at my relationships with my daughters.  Treasuring who they are and what matters to them.  Championing their victories and helping them back up when life knocks them down.  Most of all, it means loving them and being whatever they need me to be.  There when they want me, invisible when they don't. 
Now, when I say, "my daughters", I don't just mean the one I gave birth to.  I mean her half-sisters who have been part of my life for nearly 30 years. I mean the other young women in my family - nieces and daughters of my nieces.  I mean Bridgete's friends, young women her own age who have become so very special to me.  Watching them mature and find their footing is as fulfilling for me as if they were my very own.  I mean young women I work with and socialize with who ask my advice and make me laugh and remind me that it's never to late to be sexy or flirt or maybe...possibly...find love.  All of you are my daughters and I love you all.
2) My siblings.  More of this later...but the love of these 3 men and 2 women who have known me all my life, and still like me, is priceless.
3) My friends.  I am incredibly lucky to work with, play with, talk with, create with, laugh with, cry with the most open, honest, real, talented, bunch of folks.  Some of them, I have never actually met...but I'm connected to them online and have known them for years.  We've been through births and deaths and weddings and divorces and our bonds are strong...and real!
4) My job.  It's not the most important job in the world.  I'm not making life or death decisions.  But it's a job that suits me and my personality.  It draws on my strengths.  And I have a boss that trusts me, gives me challenges that I enjoy, and backs me when I need it.   I can remain financially independent - even if it is a stretch these days. 
5) My home.  My little place gives me just enough space to stretch and grow.  It's light and clean and warm.  I have my light that streams in each morning and evening...highlighting the dust and smudges and those spots on the rug I thought I got! I have my grocery store and drug store and movie theater and sushi and Starbuck's and Pizzicato and gellato and Mexican food with margaritas all nearby. I have my trees out front that are never naked for long.  The last leaves will fall in the next few weeks and the first buds will start appearing in Feb.  My squirrels are nearby.  Birds for Sol.  And then Sol himself is content there.  He has windows and sunny spots and just enough room to run around when the mood strikes him. 
6) My mother.  This one is hard.  Very hard.  You see, my mother is dying right now.  Probably more passively than actively.   She's 91 and her heart is giving out.  But mother herself is semi-conscious.  She eats.  She talks to nurses or whoever is in her room.  She doesn't seem to be all that aware of who is there and who isn't.  As far as I know, she hasn't asked to see me.  And it's rather difficult to get there right now.  My car isn't up to the trip and I don't have tires that can handle the snow in the mountains.  And so I might not be able to say my goodbyes to her. 
Yet I said my goodbyes a long time ago.  Not to the person of Mildred Watt, but to the mother idea that I held on to for so long.   To the notion that if I just was a good girl, she would love me.  To the guilt that I couldn't be a famous actress and bring her the limelight she so wanted in her own life.  To the fear that I wasn't, am not, never can be good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, talented enough for her. 
So...what I said before about how I love my girls as they are...and how I'm so grateful my siblings love me as I am.  In a very odd way, I'm grateful that my mother couldn't love me that way...just so I could learn how important it is to have people in your life that do love you without conditions.  And so I could learn the difference.
I won't ever stop hearing her voice.  But I have learned to filter out the messages.  I love her.  I'm grateful for her and for my father.  I hope she finds peace soon.  And the curtain can come down on that drama at last. 
Finally - I am very grateful for this space where I can have a voice.  And for all you out there who listen to me....even when I'm not sure what I'm trying to say. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What do I do??

So I entered National Novel Writing Month - where you are supposed to create a 175 pg, 50, 000 word novel in the month of November.   I started out pretty good, whipped out my first 1000 words in one evening.  Thought I could probably get there if I spent at least one day a weekend writing. problem.

Well - one small problem.  I'm writing, that's not it.  But the story has no form, no plot, no hook.  It's just words!!  I keep writing...waiting for the inspiration to hit...and people keep telling me that I have to just keep writing and not edit and not worry about the rest.  I'm trying!  Really I am.  But so far it feels pretty much like masturbation.  I do it because I have to.  (I mean, I can't not write - and yes I know that's a double negative - see I can't stop editing even here!) I do it because there is some pleasure in releasing all these ideas that have been banging around in my head.  But in the end I feel pretty empty because it just doesn't feel like the real thing.

Probably more information than you wanted about me.  But it had to be said.

I love writing.  I love the satisfaction of finding just the right word to define the color of the sunrise when I'm waiting for my bus in the wet November morning.  I love the feel of words on my tongue.  I love the release of a perfectly articulated idea and seeing others warm to it. 

Maybe I just haven't found the play with.   And in the meantime, just keep doing it.  Thanks for listening.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Random Thoughts...back on track

Boy this has been a really random day.  I started off with my yearly appt. with my doctor.  Only it wasn't with my doctor, because my doctor has left the practice where she's been for the past 10 years, which is how long I've been seeing her.  But she doesn't start at her new practice until I had a new doctor at the old practice.  (are you still with me?)

So I head out to drive there and there's been a downpour in Portland this morning and people still haven't re-learned how to drive in the rain here and there are accidents everywhere I turn.  I get to the office right on the dot of my appointment time.  There's only me and one other patient in the waiting room, which could be good, could be bad.  Turns out okay...I'm whisked in for my weigh and measure...don't ask me the number it's embarrassing and makes me really mad that in spite of all the shedding I'm doing emotionally, there is still actual dead weight I'm carrying around.  Huff....

Then I get the blood pressure, history check, medications check, all that Physician's assistant stuff.  And this is a new assistant too who doesn't know all the things that Molly and Bridget (her assistant) have known about me for years.  Then I have to do the uncomfortable thing.  You know, the little drape that goes over the top and the little drape that goes over the bottom.  It doesn't matter how girlie and cute you make the prints...they are still just little pieces of fabric that you are naked under and they can't keep you warm in that stark, sterile little room.   So there I sit on the exam table, literally freezing my ass, trying to read the New Yorker from back in July and not think about how exposed I feel, and the PA pops in to tell me that Dr. Rachel isn't in the office yet.  I'm her first appointment of the day and she was doing rounds at the hospital seeing the new babies and she'll be there as soon as she can.  Huff....

Well, she finally gets there and we have to chat while she waits for her laptop to boot up and my medical records to get loaded and finally we get to the fun stuff.   But it's all good and eventually I get to go have my blood drawn and get my tetanus shot.  Oh yeah, she discovered I haven't had my tetanus shot in 10 years, so surprise!  And I've been fasting for about 14 hours by now and my stomach can be heard a mile away.

So I dash off to get coffee and food on my way back to work. 

Work lately has been just a series of meetings and typing and editing and teaching.  All good stuff, but the days just fly by.  I don't even know where the month has gone!!  Like I said, I've been doing lots of shedding - emotional processes  mostly  - but some physical too.  Like I cleaned out my bathroom/linen closet and found all the half used tiny tubes of toothpaste and 10 year old bath salts and other stuff that I'm just never going to use again.  Hauled that out to the trash.  Got my carpets cleaned.  Now I just have to keep Sol off the rugs.  Yeah...good luck with that.   I got my 100 Acre Wood rug cleaned...and there's a big spot on Tigger.  Just where he barfed on it.  Dude said he was jealous of Tigger. :)

I've booked my trip to Boston for Christmas.  My lovely daughter said I can stay for two weeks...well...almost 2 weeks.  I'm flying in on Dec. 19 and flying home on New Year's Eve.  I'm very excited to see Bridgete again, and Boston.   Also, I get to meet Jenn and see my friend Les.  It's going to be a great trip.  I can feel it.

Gotta go to yoga now.  More later....

Yoga was great.  I love how it's really become a part of my week.  I feel it if I have to miss class for some reason - and I miss it.  And now I'm home on the couch with my wine letting go of the day.  I love where I am.  Love the view out my window.  Love the sounds around me.  Love the direction I'm headed in.  It's all good!!!!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Freedom of Choice

We like choice.  We like the ability to look at the array of garments on a rack, shoes on a display, toothpaste on a shelf, even auto insurance plans - and saying - "Yes...I choose this."  

Lately, I've been teaching myself about choice.  That may sound pretty silly.  Obviously I haven't lived this long or done what I've done in my life without making choices.  But I have to say I wasn't really taught how to choose.  It's been sort of hit or miss in my life.  Fortunately, I've had more hits than misses.  My guardian angel has definitely earned her wings.  And I think it's time I gave her a rest.

Growing up when I did, where I did with the parents I had, I basically learned two things.  Nice girls always say yes - this gets them loved and appreciated and desired.  And my world as a girl was basically flat - and going to the edge, especially going over the edge, was just not something you did.  

Let me explain here.  When I say that nice girls always say yes, the great unspoken NO was, of course, sex.  But THIS is easily explained.  Nice Girls only go with Nice Boys and Nice Boys would never ask a Nice Girl to cross that line.  So if you found yourself in that predicament, you were not with a Nice Boy and were playing around the edge of Nice Girl land.

First a bit about the edge of the world.  Falling off the edge isn't necessarily a bad thing.  You might fly.  And if you do fall, chances are there are some really great people where you land who will help you pick yourself up and show you around the new place you have landed in.  But this is where learning about Choice becomes really important.  If you land in a place that feels bad to you, it's good to know you have a choice about leaving there and you're not stuck for good. 

Learning to say NO, learning that I have the power, the freedom of CHOICE, that's been a real experience for me.  Some NOs are easier than others.  Some NOs are obvious.  But discovering the power of NO has made me a little crazy.  Sometimes I just say NO a two year old that just learned the word.  And how do we teach a two year old to stop saying NO?  We teach them about making choices.  It's a long process to teach someone about choice, especially when we can see so clearly the right choice.  But making that choice for someone else, whether they are 2 or 12 or 22, teaches them nothing.  And so I have been learning about No. 

And a remarkable thing has happened.  Now that I know I can say No - and the world doesn't end and people still love me and I'm still a Nice Girl - it makes YES so much more meaningful.  More pleasurable.  More honest.  More confident.  More My Choice. 

So - as CSN say - teach your children well.  Teach them about Choice.  How to make them and how to use them wisely.  Teach them that if there is a YES, then there is also a NO.  Teach them about that edge - be the tree at the edge that will hold them up and let them fly.  Let them fall too.  Sometimes the best lessons are found in landing. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

It's My Party

The Gods have smiled on me.  My birthday party was all that, da bomb, buck, absolutely FABULOUS.

To begin with, my darling friend Nancy called as we were setting up.  Considering that she was nursing a broken elbow and looking at surgery the next day, I was honored that she thought to call me at all.  My cupcakes from Lisa Madrid were adorable and yummy.  Contact me if you want her info.  They were proclaimed by my daughter Jennifer to be "the best she has ever had."

(Picture is of a painting by Erika Lee Sears who introduced me to Lisa and yes the cupcakes looked just like that)

Jennifer and her husband were there.  Not a big deal for a daughter, you say?  Well, considering that she is actually my step-daughter and her father and I haven't been together for 5 years, yeah it was.  He was there, too.  My ex.  See?  It is possible to be friends with your ex.

Then people began to flow in too fast for me to catch everyone.  When a woman came in looking vaguely familiar, and then the light dawned that it was my friend Kate Hawkes, who I thought was still in Australia!, and I screamed!  It was so lovely to see her.  More hugging, talking, eating, moving from table to table sipping lovely wines all around.  Work friends. High school friends.  So many people here for me.

And just when I thought I might be able to slow down and sit with some folks....up the sidewalk I see my sister Judie and her husband Jules.  Then behind them I begin to sister Nancy!  My brother Nick.  My brother ROBERT!!!!  Those three live in Grants Pass, 250 miles away and I haven't seen them in a couple of years.  Yes, I screamed and hugged and cried!!
Thank you Polly for the picture!

It was truly a night to remember.  I felt very loved.  And even as people began to leave and the evening ran down, I continued to feel the love and connection to them.  To all of them.  And to all who weren't there.

My therapist once told me that he had never known anyone who made and maintained connections to others like I do.  That night, I saw what he meant.   My life has been touched and shaped by so many wonderful people.  My birthday was a time for me to give back, to say "thank you for being part of me."  Yet again, I am the one who is blessed.  The one who received the gift.  And the one who is humbled by how many lives I touch.

Thank you everyone - near and far - who continue to support me as I grow into the woman I am supposed to be.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Broken Thought Process Thurs...I mean Friday! Sept. 18

Well, here's my first thought of the day. What is so hard about making a decent cup of coffee? I've been drinking coffee for as long as I can remember. SERIOUSLY! My dad used to put coffee in my milk when I was a little girl, because I wouldn't, couldn't, still can't and won't drink plain milk.

For years, I've searched for the perfect home brewing method. I hate making a pot at home for one or at the most two cups. I have a Senseo. It worked for about 3 months. Then it got clogged up and there's not enough pressure to push through the pods and get a good cup. Plus the time...I hate getting up in the morning and having to wait for the water to heat up until I can try and get a cup worth I watch my bus go by. I don't want to spend money on espressos that I KNOW cost them like .75 to 1.00 and they are getting 3-4 bucks from me. I understand you have to figure in labor and overhead and blah, blah, blah. I used to try to explain to people that complained about ticket service charge at my ticketmaster outlet that I wasn't getting squat from their 100.00 concert tickets and the only way to pay my staff to be there and sell them the damn ticket was for them to cough up their 3.75.

But I just want to start my day with a good, smooth, wonderfully rich scented, just enough milk to make it caramel colored, cuppajoe.

We have this machine at the office. Put in a quarter and you get a cup of coffee. I watch it make the coffee. Measure the grinds into this little bowl...add the hot water and let it brew...the press the coffee out. Sounds great. Tastes awful.

I'm contemplating becoming one of those cone people at work. You know the ones...have my little Melita filters and my special grind and I boil my water in the microwave and pour it over my little beans. Or maybe a french press...but...they're so messy.

But maybe what I really want is that old Mr. Coffee, with the 3lb Yuban can, the white ceramic mug that looked like it came from the coffee shop on the corner, and my daddy getting the balance of milk and coffee and sugar just right, setting it down next to my bowl of cheerios and giving me a kiss on the head. Yeah. That's probably what I'm really missing.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Broken Thought Process - Sept 10

How are you spending your heartbeats?

Lately, I'm not spending them the way I want to. I need to change that. And I'm going to start today. Right now. Today. One day. One hour. One minute. One heartbeat at a time.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

BTP - part deux...

So I'm in yoga tonight and my knee pops really bad knee....really loud. Now it hurts like a sonofabitch. I am so happy I decided to revision my life. Fuck.

BTPT - Sep. 3

In 4 weeks - 28 days - I will be 50 years old. That's how my day started. Seriously! I woke up thinking that. I guess I had birthday on the brain because today is my friend Bonnie Howard's birthday - and yesterday I was trying to think up cheap fun ways to celebrate my half century mark. But do I really have to wake up with this thought on my mind??

I know that birthdays are supposed to be celebrated and though the years I've had a few awesome ones. But the percentage isn't great. I didn't have birthday parties as a kid ( okay everyone...big awwww...) I know it was tough on my parents. I was the 7th child. The end of the line. And everyone else was 8 to 19 years older than I was. Throwing parties was something they were pretty tired of. I'm sure I had those cute little parties when I was very small, but once my sisters were grown up and gone, I didn't have parties. Maybe a cake with my family. Presents sure. But I was actually sent to my room once on my birthday because I cried when I got a new winter coat for my birthday and my mom didn't have time to make me a cake. Jeez..I was 8 years old! I wanted to feel special and instead I felt like one more thing to deal with.

My 13th was pretty sweet. My best friend was invited to spend the day with us and we went to see Nicolas and Alexandra at the new cinema in Medford and then went to pizza. My parents never ate pizza. (Now don't go looking up N&A in the IMDB. I know it says 1971 release. But I grew up in Grants Pass Oregon - long before VCRs and DVDs. It was an Oscar movie - which means it didn't really get released until Dec. 1971 and then didn't make it to Medford until Fall of 1972)

My 15th, my sister Nancy gave a surprise party for me - but it was still just family. 18th, my parents and I were driving from GP to Newberg where they would leave me for my first year in College. We had ice cream in Rice Hill. 21, I had just moved to Portland to go to PSU. I left behind my first love and everyone else I knew. So I went and bought a bottle of wine and toasted myself. David sent me a plant for my apartment. I had that plant for almost 15 years before it finally gave up. 30 - I threw myself a party. One year my co-workers at PSU gave me a sweet tea party. I still have the tea pot from that one. 40 - my cube got decked in black. 44 - I knew my marriage was well and truly over. I got drunk and contemplated suicide. 45 - my first one on my own. All the guys at work took me to lunch and I felt pretty loved. 47 - my last one with Bridgete. She cooked me spaghetti lobster and we watch a movie together at her little house. 48 - I tried to forget being without B and my recent bad chocolate cake experience by having a bash with co-workers at my favorite wine bar. My horrible luck with parties continued when exactly 4 people came. We had a great time...but I kind of swore off parties after that. Last year, I went to the beach with my friend Bert. That was perfect. Sunny, Sylvia Beach Hotel, great dinner, great wine, great company.

So now I'm looking at one of the MILESTONES. THE BIG FIVE-O! And part of me wants to simply ignore it. But most of me really wants to CELEBRATE! BIG PARTY CELEBRATE. And I'm broke. I have some savings, but my car is being temperamental and I have to buy a plane ticket for Boston for Christmas and I can't drain that to nothing. I'd really just like to find a nice place that is not to expensive, invite everyone I know and hope someone shows up. I can't host the party so wherever I choose has to be cool with however many people show and whether they order food or not, drinks or not, and not charge me extra for servers or a back room or whatever. I'm still thinking Beth and Everyday Wine are the way to go. Beth is totally cool and I love her. But part of me wants a full bar like this place- Night Light Lounge.

And Bert is coming again....and she and I talked about going to the beach again...and right now I don't even trust my car to make it there....

Can you tell I'm struggling right now? I'm standing on the edge looking down there into that pit and wondering if just a little wallow wouldn't be such a bad idea. This weekend is a three day one and I'm going to do a little purging. Cleaning out my closets. Letting go of those old hurts that are keeping me tied to my pain. And seriously thinking about my next 50 years and what I want those to look like. My little calendar this morning told me that "It's never too late - in fiction or in life - to revise." Time for a re-vision, a fresh look with softer, gentler eyes, a blank canvas that can be whatever I want it to be.

So let's start with some celebration. What do you say??

Be sure to check other Broken Thoughts from Ginger, Kate, Bridgete and Jenn.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Thank you Senator Kennedy

Like many of us, I've been thinking about the impact on my life of Senator Kennedy. He'll always be Teddy to me - something he himself probably cringed at. And I suspect that now that his work here is done, he's at peace with his role in his larger than life family.

I share many qualities with Ted. I, too, am the youngest member of a large, loud, boisterous family. I, too, took on the mantle of the family tradition when others would not. I, too, made sacrifices, both personal and professional, for my family. And I believe that I, too, have learned to embrace who I am - separate from and yet still very much a part of my family of birth.

I share his Catholic upbringing, with an emphasis on servitude and gratitude. I had a father who was looked up to and admired by his peers. Not a wealthy man to be sure, but a man whose wealth went far beyond material riches and who was mourned at his death by everyone whose life had been touched by him. I have a mother who still dominates the center of our being. Old and frail she may be, but it is her love and approval we all still seek.

I first became aware of Ted Kennedy when he spoke at his brother Robert's funeral. Those words he spoke..."Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will some day come to pass for all the world."...I offer up for him today.

I was 9 years old then. Robert Kennedy had visited my home town of Grants Pass on his campaign for President. My mother took me out of school to see him. I had never missed school for anything before. Even Holy Days of Obligation were no reason to miss school. My church was across the street from my school and mass at lunch was how I spent those days. I was awed by the Kennedy charisma - swept up in the hope of a new world where my future education, employment, and health was to be assured. After all, we were Americans, pioneers, explorers, we could do anything we set our minds too. And on that awful June day, when I saw a man killed before my very eyes...a man I had seen in person...a man I had touched...something in me was crushed. And then to watch the televised funeral and to hear his brother speak of him with such love and such pain. I became a follower of Ted, and his efforts to make the world a better place were never off my radar.

Such a fine man he was. We are not likely to see his kind again. A man of great privilege whose life was marked with tragedies we can barely comprehend. To lose 3 brothers in such swift and violent ways. To have a child with cancer. To know the pain of alcohol abuse in his family and a failed marriage. To have his personal failings and faults so broadly exposed to the world. To walk in the shadow of his siblings and parents and somehow achieve greater things than any one of them ever did. By all accounts, he was more than an uncle to his brother's children. More than a colleague to his fellow senators. More than a statesman. More than a champion for social justice...for women and children, for minorities, for all. A true liberal who never shied away from that label. A good man whose good work will live on long after us all.

In his own words..."Every American should have the opportunity to receive a quality education, a job that respects their dignity and protects their safety, and health care that does not condemn those whose health is impaired to a lifetime of poverty and lost opportunity."

Let us honor him in our hearts, but more importantly, let us honor him in our deeds. The battle isn't over yet. And I'd hate to let Teddy down.

Rest Teddy. You've earned it.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Random Thought Process

I'm not sure how random my thoughts will be today...I'm completely and totally annoyed at FOX media today. Not just FOX, but all the media that is treating these health care forums like they are the next Boston Tea Party - Death to Tyranny and all that.

I'm all for debate, discourse, discussion. And there is no question that the health care system in this country is broken - and not just in one way. Insurance companies, hospitals, doctors, and drug companies all share part of the burden. And let's not forget the patient bears some responsibility for their own health. And all of us will bear a part of the burden in fixing it.

And THAT is what I see President Obama trying to do. Not foist a completely new system on us that makes all the rules and takes our rights away. Not shove a one payer system on everyone no matter what the general populace believes. BUT MAKE EACH PARTICIPANT RESPONSIBLE FOR DISCOVERING HOW TO IMPROVE IT!

I'm sure there are people out there who feel like we're sailing off the edge of the world - there are monsters out there and they're out to get us - we don't like what we have but don't take it away from us cause it's all we know....but someone has to be brave enough to sail off the edge. Someone has to try and rephrase the question, not just go with the same answers we've always had. Someone has to take the step and lead us through the fire swamp.

I'm willing to see what this man can do, what leadership he can provide, what new lands he can help us discover.

And not just President Obama. I find everyday that I read about ordinary people trying to find ways to help one another - help a battered woman in India change her life, help a child in Appalachia have food on weekends when school is out - help all of us have a safer, cleaner, planet where we all agree to take care of it. And of each other.

You may say I'm a dreamer. But I'm not the only I?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

the human virus

Remember that book I talked about awhile back? A Failure of Nerve? Well, I picked it up again this week and my head is spinning again with all the good stuff inside it.

I just finished the chapter on surviving in a hostile environment. First, the author described the behavior of viruses in the biological world, how it needs a host and has no self-regulation. Then he went on to describe the behavior of disruptive or "viral" members of society. These people can be a malignancy in a family, a workplace, social organization or public sector. But they have these traits in common that the true leader must develop a resistance to.

  • They tend to be easily hurt or victimized. (no outer membrane to protect them)
  • They tend to idolize leaders with unrealistic expectations and then are quick to crucify them.
  • They never see how they contribute to the condition they complain about
  • Their responses are limited to on or off, us and them, black and white and are unable to tolerate discord or dissent
  • They focus on ritual and procedure and get stuck on content.
  • They find light and truth toxic and thrive in the darkness of conspiracy.
  • They have a high degree of reactivity.
  • They tend to ooze into relationships with others and tend to subvert communication and connection with others.
  • They are easily panicked and stampeded into group thinking.
  • They are relentless and invulnerable to insight. Unless walled off or totally defeated, they tend to come back with a vengeance.
So does this sound at all like those people out there disrupting the town meetings on health care? Does this sound like the faux news and group think we have been spoon fed for years? Does this sound like the behavior of our past administrations? (and I don't just mean Bush - but Clinton as well) Does this sound like a virus we want to keep alive in our society?

I, for one, would like a little light and truth, communication and connection, debate and dissent and evolution. Won't you join me in fighting this virus? Like any parasite, it can't live if we don't give it a host.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Broken Thought Process - Aug 7, 2009

I'm freakin' tired. I'm the kind of tired that means I'll get all weepy and emotional - the kind that means my skin is like rice paper and if you touch me I'll just dissolve into dust. The kind that means I saw Mr. ring on his finger yesterday for like 30 seconds and I had to stand in the friggin' stairwell and catch my breath and tell myself not to cry. Of course that also means that he finds a dozen reasons to be on MY floor during the day and I have to see (and hear) him at least a dozen more times that day. So last night was a cry myself to sleep night.

I hate it that he gets to me. He's such a dick - really...major dickhead...but I so want to believe that underneath all that dickishness, he really did love me once. Oh shit. Here I go crying again. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all. therapist told me that my writing is the best way for me to work through this stuff. And I know I'm only feeling this way because I've been working so hard and not sleeping and not eating and not taking care of me. So naturally - I'm falling apart. Time to recharge the batteries, stop dipping into the empty well and let it fill back up. Say no to all those energy sucking beings who want more from me...and Give To Myself.

There...deep breath, blow your nose, you know how to do this and you'll be fine.

The weather has finally cooled off...and when I say cool...I mean like 40 degrees cooler than last week. Sheesh...this weather stuff is just wacky. I'm going to buy an air conditioner in Sept. when they go on sale. I can't go through another month like this past one.

This weekend is The Bite, an annual food and drink fest on our waterfront. I'm going to go and browse the wine pavillion with 38 wineries pouring their best stuff. Some of my favorites will be there, Zerba, Trinity, Hillcrest and Girardet; and I usually discover some new gem. Last year was Girardet's Baco Noir which made me quite literally want to lick my glass. I didn't want to miss a drop of it. So good. If they have anything that yummy again, it will be my celebratory 50th birthday wine.

It's only 7 more sleeps until my girl is home! I have to clean up the guest room this weekend, but I can't wait to see her. I can't quite believe that it's been two years since that fabulous road trip. (If you haven't read all about it, here's the blog Expotition to Boston) Okay...more tears. Definitely time to stop.

Check out the rest of the BTP crew...Bree, Ginger, Kate, my lovely Bridgete, and the fabulous Ms. Jenn

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Grapes of ???

I watched the John Ford film of Grapes of Wrath last night. I started out just enjoying Henry Fonda's wonderful performance - so easy and real. But I ended up wondering if our nation really learned anything from the Great Depression. What is the great crime in Grapes of Wrath? It's a crime to be poor. It's a crime to need, to ask, to worry. And it would seem that it is still a crime to be poor.

We entered the depression of the 1930s a nation of haves and have nots. Those who had - those in power - scrambled to hang on to their wealth while the have nots scrambled to gather the scraps. And as I look around me today, as I listen to the news, I hear those same echos of those who have grasping for their power while the have nots silently fight to live and make it to the next day.

Last night I woke up thinking about the recent discussion of the increase in the minimum wage and what it would mean to businesses and that it would actually cause jobs to be lost. It sounded like the struggle of the peach pickers holding out for .05 from the bosses because it wasn't possible to live on .0250...that's two and a half cents.

So let's look at this example in our current economy. Let's say I make 20.00 an hour - which is pretty close to what I earn after taxes. So I work for one hour and I have 20.00. And with that 20.00 I can do a number of things. I can go to a movie and have a snack. I can go to my weekly pub quiz - pay the entry fee and have a couple drinks. I can get a haircut. I can buy a book or a cd or a dvd. I can purchase one of my generic prescriptions covered under my health insurance. I can pay my co-pay for my doctor. I can eat a meal at a good restaurant or two at a lesser quality one. I can almost fill my gas tank in my ten year old Nissan Sentra - which I paid for twice...but that's another story. I can almost pay my rent for one day...that comes to about 28.00 a day. But essentially - I can live comfortably in a nice apartment, feed myself and my pet, and provide for my basic needs. The extras - entertainment, travel, little luxuries - I have to save for, plan for. And I try to invest in my retirement - because I know I'll need it - and I worry about it. After mother is 91. I've got a good 40 years left in me and I know I can't work for all that time.

What if I worked for minimum wage? And when I was 18, 19, even 25...I did. In Oregon - minimum wage is 8.40 an hour. If I worked in a restaurant and made tips, my employer would be required to meet minimum wage if my pay with tips didn't match or exceed that. So what can I do with 8.40? I might be able to go to a movie, if it's a second run theater or a matinee. But I certainly couldn't have a snack. I could go to pub quiz and pay my entry fee. But I'll drink water and eat the bar mix. I couldn't get a haircut - not even at a supercuts. I could buy a used book or cd or movie. I couldn't get a prescription, because I probably don't have insurance. I certainly couldn't go to a doctor and there wouldn't be a co-pay. I could get a meal at a fast food meal and not very nutritious. I might be able to get a few gallons of gas for my car...assuming I have a car. If I have to take public transportation...I can buy 4 trips. And I couldn't even think about renting a place as centrally located, clean, nice and comfortable as I have now. There wouldn't be savings or luxuries, investment or retirement. It's quite possible I would even have more than one job. Many lower wage jobs are not full-time. And so I would have multiple work schedules to deal with, transportation to and from these jobs, and time to do laundry, clean house, shop for groceries, even sleep would be precious. And my worries wouldn't be about retirement, but just about making though one more day without a significant hardship.

I know I'm fortunate to have a good job with health care and retirement plans. And yet I live from paycheck to paycheck. I don't live in luxury. I buy my clothes at second hand stores or on sale at Old Navy, Target, K-Mart. My furniture is a motley collection of yard sale finds and lesser department stores. I won't shop at Wal-Mart. I would have to be pretty desperate to violate that personal boycott of mine. I live within my means. And those means are the median income for my city. I would dearly love to have a bed..not just a mattress set on a frame. I long for an HDTV..not a big one. My apartment couldn't accommodate one. I'd rather have a Mac than my Dell laptop. There are things I want...but my needs are met.

During this past year, as my employer discussed budget cuts, I knew that it was a possibility that my hours might be cut from 40 hours to 32 a week. That would have meant not just a reduction in my salary, but an increase in my health care costs, as I would have had to contribute toward my premium. If that had happened - I would have to sell my car, to save on the upkeep, insurance and gas. I would have stopped my contributions to my IRAs and deferred compensation programs. Perhaps I would have had to find a second job...a minimum wage job. Not easy to do in the state that currently has the highest unemployment in the country. I would have cut back on my "luxuries", my internet and cable services, my entertainment and my contact with my beloved daughter, friends and family.

I know how close I am to becoming a statistic. To having to figure out how to survive instead of thrive. And I know many like me. We're not nameless, faceless, uneducated, or immigrant. We're not stupid Okies. (I really bristle at that one. My daddy WAS an Okie.) I'm not A RED...I may be PINK...but not PINKO. I tremble at how easy it is to scapegoat and finger point and blame those who are least able to defend themselves. I see it every day. And I despair....we learned nothing. We still hoard and refuse to share. We fear anyone who looks different, talks different, thinks different than we do. We still deceive and betray for a few dollars or a few cents. I have very little, but I would willing give so that another is able to eat, sleep, shower, live without fear of tomorrow. I pray we are not close to the despair of the decade my parents lived though. Every single day...I pray.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Random Thought Process Thursday 7/30/09

I missed the process last week. It was strange week for me. On Tuesday, one of my coworkers suddenly died. He was a big guy, only a year younger than me, and while he wasn’t in the greatest shape, I don’t think anyone expected him to die. He didn’t show up for work and didn’t answer any calls or pages. That was unusual for this guy. He was always right on it – even if your call was in the middle of the night. So when lunchtime came and went and still nothing, his supervisor went to his home and found him dead in his living room. Looked like he was sleeping. Probably a heart attack.

Well, that set the tone for the rest of the week. Everyone at work was either freaked out about Eric or worried about the rest of us who live alone. There are about 5 of us who don’t have a significant other and in my case, don’t see other people on a daily basis except for people at work. If something were to happen to me, it might take a while for anyone to notice. That is one thing I’m always afraid of. My cat will be howling for food and the neighbors will finally get tired of it and someone will find me with Sol gnawing on my fingers. Hey it could happen!

By Friday, between the death and the fretting and the HEAT – I was exhausted. It wasn’t until I was driving home Friday night that I realized I had missed BTPT. Oh well – better luck next week.

It’s Monday now. I’ve been out at Elmonica rail facility since 6:30 this morning. I’ve seen just about everyone on staff here – it’s a small facility – and soon I’ll get in my HOT car and drive to Merlo garage for the afternoon training. It’s nice to be appreciated. I do get lots of feedback from the guys out here and they do appreciate that someone takes the time to spend 30 or 40 minutes showing them how to navigate in the new Office suite. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.

Tonight is pub quiz…one of the highlights of my week. I love going out where being smart is an asset and not a liability. All those years of Jeopardy have not been in vain!

And it’s Tuesday. Yesterday was FREAKIN’ HOT! I went out to my car at 4:30 to drive home from Beaverton to Southeast Portland. A 25 minute trip when there is no traffic…but wait…there’s always traffic on this particular stretch of highway. I’m just hoping there are no accidents or delays. My car is black and has no air conditioning. It’s been sitting in the sun for 4 hours – window are down, but still. It was an oven. Miraculously I made it home in about 35 minutes. Dripping sweat. Hit the shower and laid on the bed with a fan blowing on me. Did a little facebook…started sweating again…more shower and then off to pub quiz at the lovely air conditioned CC Slaughters. I love my boys. We just sat in the cool air and sipped water and played a kick ass round of pub quiz. Took home $ 10.00 each. Sweet!

So I’ve been inside all day – inside air conditioning – teaching Word and Excel to some people who really know and understand the power of a tool that you can learn to make work for you. And some who just get mad that they can’t do it their way! Maybe because your way is friggin’ stupid?? Why would you want to control every little particle of formatting when you can click a button and have a beautiful heading, centered, colored and way more professional that your little micromanaged document looks. I just don’t get it. Anyhoo…it’s time for yoga now. We’ve expanded to two nights a week. I know it’s going to be hot but I really need it. My brain and body are just spent.

Wednesday. I thought Monday was HOT. Tuesday and now today have that in spades. It’s getting over 100 – well over 100 in some places – during the day and not cooling much at night. It was already 90 when I got up this morning at 6. Poor Sol is just miserable. I keep rubbing him with a damp cloth, wetting his fur as much as he’ll let me until he runs and hides. This morning, he just stood at my feet when I got out of the shower and let the drops rain down on him. He even rubbed on my wet legs to get more water on him. At least I have a solution for him. Me…I slept about 3 hours total, kept waking up sticking to myself and my sheets. Finally had to take a shower at about 2:30 just so I could get a little bit of sleep!

I’m trying to think of some alternative for tonight. It’s not supposed to cool off until the weekend. Which means the funeral service for the guy who died will be held in the heat on Friday! Wonderful. But I’m thinking dinner out someplace cheap but cool. Maybe a movie someplace cheap but cool. Then see if I can stand being at home to sleep. But it all takes money. Not that I object to people needing to make a buck. But let’s talk humanity. I think movie theatres should just throw open their doors-maybe charge a buck to come in. They’d sell enough concessions to make up for it and people would get out of the heat. If I ruled the world – that’s what I would do. It’s not that different from when I was stranded at the airport last Christmas. There were a few stores on the concourse that stayed open all night for several days. People could browse, sit, sleep and it helped make a frustrating situation a little more bearable. Why is it that just because it’s warm, we assume that people are more free to make themselves comfortable? Extreme situations are just that…extreme…out of the norm…unusual. So I think extraordinary measures are called for. Hey! Maybe I’ll go sleep at the airport!! J

Thursday – it’s a little cooler. Only 94 instead of 104+. I actually managed to get some sleep last night, probably just because I was so tired, but after I had dinner, I went home to check on Sol and ended up falling asleep for about 40 minutes. By then, I figured I’d just stay home and watch So You Think You Can Dance, and see if it cooled off. It was about 80 when I went to bed and while I still woke up a few times in the night, it was bearable. I’m so glad. Because I’m going to a baseball game tonight! Need to get some cool drinks and just enjoy the game.

This week has gone on forever. Maybe it’s just that my energy was sapped every time I tried to do anything. But I’m glad it’s nearly over. I hope the weather continues to cool. I’m not looking for rain, but just a normal Oregon summer with temps in the upper 70s to low 80s…breezes at night…and a general sense of well being in the world.

Thanks for reading. Be sure to check with the rest of the RTPT gang – Bridgete, Ginger, and She Who Started it All – Jenn.