Saturday, November 30, 2013

Reflections on acrimony and the circle of love

Today a friend shared this post, which lead me to read this one.

I was struck by the ideas, not because I consider myself an angry person (I am usually quite the opposite) but for what these thoughts mean for someone who lives with the focus of anger. Yes, labels are really awful, especially when they are not given with a charitable mind. I root for the underdog so when I see people rallying against some real or perceived injustice, I tend to call them on it. People don't like that and they tend to get angrier or more upset.  That is a part of the human condition. We want our worlds to be peaceful streams of consciousness. And in my times of anger, I fight against that like mad. Unless, of course, the principal object is to be the proverbial devils advocate (which can be cruel, and unfair because you don't do that to friends, it is not gentle).

However, I am generally not an angry person. I have learned to vent and let my thinking processes run me through the gamut of emotions entailed therein. There are exceptions, but they are able to be counted on one hand with fingers left over.
“Anybody can become angry - that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way - that is not within everybody's power and is not easy.”
~ Aristotle
See, the one thing that I have learnt is that anger comes from fear.  And fear is not an ideal thing, it produces a stress response, it can cause delusions, it creates anger, it starts up the flight or flight response... which are fine and dandy if you are being chased by a predator, but not if you are navigating a world you want to be filled with gentleness. Angry people are averse to gentleness, and I think that I can say that based on how I can be towards those who anger me. I am not gentle, I can be cruel, I fight them, and ridicule them. I admit that this response of mine most likely comes from a place of fear. I venture to guess that they cause me to feel vulnerable, and I may not trust them to take care of me there. Or I think they are crazy and need to be put on medication.
“Most hatred is based on fear, one way or another. Yeah. I wrapped myself in anger, with a dash of hate, and at the bottom of it all was an icy center of pure terror.”
~ Laurell K. Hamilton, Guilty Pleasures
The one thing that I have noticed with angry people is that they tend to find comfort in being a victim or feeling victimized. Such comfort that it must become addictive, I would guess. The thing that struck me in the second link above was that the author was searching for the naivete that she had when she was younger and, I am guessing, the world seemed so much more open and the shades that were not black or white were making themselves known and it was exciting and waiting to be discovered. I have had those same feelings, though I call that wish to return to that time as searching for a state of grace.
“It is wise to direct your anger towards problems - not people; to focus your energies on answers - not excuses.”
~ William Arthur Ward
But, anger is not a state of grace. It is almost its opposite. And because it is such a destructive force, theologians (I am sure) included it in its pantheon of the most vile of human behaviours... yes, it is built in to the ideas that gave us the more modern notions of the deadly sins... and were thankfully complemented by the seven virtues.
“How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it.”
~ Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Another thought on anger that I have is that is inflamed by cowardice. When I hear that someone is angry at me, I try to confront the issue and manage it accordingly. However, there are folks out there that are such that they refuse, they set up specifications that are almost impossible to arrange, or cancel (repeatedly) appointments made at my request to discuss things. In the face of these, I have to find that they are cowardly and that they are living in such desperate fear that they are incapable of listening to the other side of the story, or even of allowing me to hear theirs... selfishness?
“The fiercest anger of all, the most incurable,
Is that which rages in the place of dearest love.”
~ Euripides, Medea and Other Plays 
How sad to be that angry, I can't think of a single person that I would not give the opportunity to should it be requested of me... but to live in that kind of anger, just breaks my heart because I might venture that, as Euripides suggests, the anger is taking up the space that could be occupied by love. Even for others that might not be the source of the anger. My mother often reminds me when I rail at anything, why waste your energy on that when there is so much else you could spend your energy on.

“Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything - anger, anxiety, or possessions - we cannot be free.”
~ Thích Nhất Hạnh, The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation
So, there is letting go. What does that mean? Is there any one answer? Is it an easy step? is it a process? I think it is all of those. One of the things most people don't understand is how I came to peace with my father. After all, I railed enough that I changed my name (something I still would not change if I could do something over)... my answer, and it is often completely misunderstood is that I let go. I let go of the anger and resentment (not that they don't raise their ugly head on occasion, but I am aware and I try to curb it) and focused on what was between us. I would not call myself close to him, but I try to read through the actions to find the languages he uses to communicate with others. In the process, I have learned so much... and mostly because my mother made me...
“Anger, resentment and jealousy doesn't change the heart of others-- it only changes yours.”
~ Shannon L. Alder, 300 Questions to Ask Your Parents Before It's Too Late 

 So where did I learn to try to manage my anger? My mother, who has had enough chaos in her life that if she were the most bitter and angry person on earth I would think it was with good reason. My mother, whenever I would have fits of anger at my father or any other perceived injustice would gently say to me:
“He drew a circle that shut me out-
Heretic , rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle and took him In!
~ Edwin Markham, From the poem " Outwitted”
Now, I can say that being angry is easy, drawing that circle of love... that's hard! Another lesson I learned at my mothers wise and gentle side. How lucky I am to have her as a guide.

NaBloPoMo 30 (I did it!)

Friday, November 29, 2013

Manifesting my illuminated ancestors

When we illuminate the road back to our ancestors, they have a way of reaching out, of manifesting themselves...sometimes even physically   
~ Raquel Cepeda

Today we went, as an extended family, to visit the grave-sites of our most distant local ancestors.

While I am sickly and tired and exhausted I am so glad I did. I love trudging around the huge cemetery looking for my ancestors. 

I love wondering if there will ever be the mystery flowers  put on my great grandmothers grave again. The story is that she was well liked by a former politician (mayor or governor?) and that flowers were placed there well into the 80's. I know she was a tremendous force in the burgeoning days of Phoenix, she had "the sight", was a well respected dressmaker, and even supposedly sold Winnie Ruth Judd the ticket to California... of all the ones I have heard about, it is her that I would love to have met. Though not at the expense of the others, she just sounds like she must have been a wonderful person in a way that I could relate to. She was my maternal great-grandmother... and her grand-daughters (my mom and aunt) recall her most fondly.

I look at so many different things; the differences in headstones (an indication of those who had and those who had not as much), the direction their headstones face... The old cemetery is always such a journey of stories, so it was especially wonderful to have my mom there with us today... telling all of us stories as we sent the young ones off to find the different grave-sites from our map, watching them run around the headstones asking if one or the other had found it yet...

One thing struck me today, as we were driving out... was that I noticed a group of headstones, decorated with ribbons, balloons, potted plants, stuffed animals... and all of them had Hispanic surnames. 

So, I talked with my family about this observation, nothing which really surprised any of us but did lead me to ask "when did "white, non-hispanics" get so bad at veneration of the dead?"

For the record, the picture above is a before, we placed a poinsettia with all sorts of holiday baubles and glitter at each of the sites... my family is just a hair shy of adding a stuffed animal to our ancestral graves. I love that about us.
We're all ghosts. We all carry, inside us, people who came before us.
~ Liam Callanan
NaBloPoMo 29

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A thankful strain

“Our rural ancestors, with little blest,
Patient of labor when the end was rest,
Indulged the day that housed their annual grain,
With feasts, and off'rings, and a thankful strain.”
~ Alexander Pope, Imitations of Horace 

NaBloPoMo 28

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Habemus Papam

I have never made a secret that my life was greatly formed by liberation theology.

As a child who was a deeply religious seeker (still am, though the nature of the seeking has changed a bit), I was awed by the Church that I witnessed serve the people in South America. It was a Church that was still evolving away from the pre-Vatican I rituals to the ones that were intended by the council... so, I witnessed a lot of Latin, covered heads, churches that had not yet lost the adornments (of ostentation?) that I would postulate that they shouldn't in this part of the world, many of these cathedrals were built with the blood, sweat and tears of the natives during conquest and they were allowed to put in their own touches... one of my favorite cathedrals in Quito is painted with red ocher paint (and tons of gold), an unusual color for the walls of a a Church. The Jesuits had the most lasting influence, in part because I think they were the most willing of orders to manage the New World and its intricacies.  Like the Inca rise and conquest they managed to influence the most striking behaviors of the natives through adaptation... a rather ingenious way to be able to govern a conquered group. It was not without its own evils and problems, but there were some amazing things that came out this (movements to end slavery came out of the clergy serving South America)

Our new pope embodies that whole idea, and has dramatic sparks of the liberation theology that I grew up with. I know this kind of thinking is not without its problems, but the compassion behind the ideals has always deeply appealed to me. I am humbled by the return to true service. I am excited for the church, it feels familiar again (it hasn't felt familiar since I arrived in the USA). I read his interviews with atheists and things like this story and I feel moved and so very excited for what could come from this kind of religious leadership.

NaBloPoMo 27

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Courageous childrearing

For the greater part of my maternal experience I have been incredibly inclusive of my son.

I am not sure when I made the decision to fully include him in my life but it evolved into that. I told you how he has been out with me while serving the community since his birth but I don't know that I have ever talked about the way that has played out with my peers.

One of the bigger surprises was when I was called a helicopter parent for taking him so many places with me. He was young, maybe three or so, and it was the first time I heard this turn of phrase. 

The first thing I did when I got home was to look up the term and realized that I was not a helicopter parent. I don't make his behavioral choices for him, I don't manage how he behaves, what I have chosen to control was his place, as in location. 

I think the irony was in where I think this came from. I had read a book called Freakonomics and was pretty impressed with its look into how readers are created. My understanding was that the biggest factor in reading was if the parents were readers, that it indicated that modeling the behavior was as important as asking them to experience reading. 

So, when I would model reading with him I would often think about modeling other behaviors that I considered important. One of those was that of giving back to his communities, volunteering and while I don't recall making that a conscious decision I do recall taking him with me to meetings and events thinking about what he would infer from these experiences over time. In time, it became a norm and just what I had to do based on other choices like which school I enrolled him at, where my husband and I work and so on.  I am so very lucky that he is often really well behaved.

I don't know what he will do with those experiences, he doesn't get upset with having to go to yet another meeting, and I try to fend off only child syndrome as much as I can. I do know he is a wonderful little boy and that I am excited to see how he grows and finds his place in the world.

So, I do the best I can and take a deep breath when another parent vocally makes an opinion on how I choose to rear my son. The greater courage comes from ignoring most other parents and to keep following my gut.

“Perhaps it takes courage to raise children..” ~ John Steinbeck, East of Eden

NaBloPoMo 26 

Monday, November 25, 2013

The gentle waves of reality

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” ~ Lao Tzu

So, the thought  for today is what I strive for... currently my personal thinking about myself and my place in this world is captured in the ideas of mindfulness or in being present. While it is something I think I am pretty good at, it is also easy for me to forget and find myself wrapped in things like anger, bitterness, sloth, and even the good stuff like being happy.  Yes, happiness can be a very selfish place too, in certain situations.

Allowing myself to give in to the flow of how life arranges to present itself to me and be there for those moments without giving into extremes,  to "lean in" to life and do so in a manner that is not based on the multitude of roles that I serve in my life; a mother, wife, daughter, friend, volunteer and to stand straight and face it as a human among other humans, not as a certain type of human.

Recently a friend told me that I disappoint them when I act like "most people" the quotations theirs. I suppose I have no idea what that means though I infer that it means that there is a notion that there are "most people" and that there are "other people"... something so vital that it is almost like some form of speciation that makes this human so much different from that one. I have to think that because the only time I would consider that there is a most people and an other is when the other has particularly vile pathology that somehow removes them from being fully human (intentional violent murderers would most likely fall in this place of other humans). I try to respect the human condition and even when I hurt or celebrate I sense that the depth of those emotions is part of something that I share with other people. 

At the end of every day I know I am no different from anyone, my challenges are different, but so are my blessings. Like a snake, humans require the shedding of lessons learnt and a move onto new challenges and joys, I am not separate from others because of my temperament, experiences or even my curiosities. I am like them because of those things.

“The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die. As well the minds which are prevented from changing their opinions; they cease to be mind.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

NaBloPoMo 25

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Revisiting Eve

“I do not wish to be a coward like the father of mankind and throw the blame upon a woman.”
~ Ouida

The notion of Eve has stuck in my mind for a long while. Through exploring the thoughts running through my head I seem to be heading in one certain direction


So Eve... Let me go back a bit and put out some of my thoughts on the parable itself.

I think that this parable has its basis in the change, for humans, from a nomadic hunter-gatherer existence to that of an agrarian society. this change is probably one of the most dramatic changes that occurred in human history (now mind you, I say this fully believing in evolution and having faith in a divine). Some regard it as our biggest mistake... and I tend towards agreeing with that. Not that I would give it all up and head out and join the Hadza (ironically this article is part of what helped form some of the burgeoning conclusions I appear to be coming to.

I suppose, since I link to an article that helped in some transformative thought that I need to share what started off the whole thing. It was this article by PZ Meyers. Please, I think he has some of the most interesting links and put some interesting thoughts out there.. I think he worships from the dogma of atheism in a manner similar to an extreme fundamentalist and I am of the thought that both require some mechanism of faith to be present. Anyway, I digress... I am going to brush off the rest of the PZ article because I think it is fueled by much the same thing as tele-evangelists making appeals for money for ones salvation... self-interest.

So, Eve. I am not so sure why his article struck me in that one point... but I do think that Eve was always deeply misunderstood. I recall the first time I heard of the story of taking of the so called forbidden fruit and I knew exactly why she had, I think I may have been about 6 or 7 at the time. I always assumed it was be cause she was curious... not in the way one looks in the medicine cabinet when in the restroom of a house they are visiting ... but about everything. how things grow, how things die, how things change, how things are, why things happen, the concept of zero, the concept of 1 (yes, one can argue there was stasis in the garden of Eden, but to me that is just not possible.. and I can get into why I think this if you want but in a nutshell it is just about how I marvel at the world and how magnificently it operates and that a big part of that is how there is change over time, adaptations.. it is just such a magnificent construct that I am often left speechless in its mere contemplation).

So Eve, as PZ proposes, as a free thinker is a valid thing to postulate... however, I would argue that if there is a God in the form of a divine being then perhaps Eve was created to do this very thing, to make the leap from one kind of existence to another, that this is change over time, adaptation and evolution in a cacophony of interpretations.

As an anthropologist I seek to find the origins to things.. why would this story be the a part of creation story for Abraham based religions. Who was the ancestor that were Adam and Eve and why did they become immortalized.

Now, I realize that Adam and Eve could be just one specific couple but I would venture that it was a collection of couples. Or, as I am starting to think, perhaps it was generations upon generations of couples that lived as hunter gatherers. And that Eve is the symbolism of the move from that lifestyle to an agricultural one.

Friendships, firm and constant

Be slow to fall into friendship; but when thou art in, continue firm & constant. 
~ Socrates

I am not sure if I do friends well or if I am terrible at it. I tend to assume the former, but contemplate the latter at times.

How fortunate, though, that we live in a world where friendships can exist.

If you are a friend though, know that I will be very loyal to you because I don't bring people in quite so casually and when I do, I feel an obligation to the friendship, knowing both our boundaries, and I tend to commit to that pretty seriously.

I am slow to fall into friendship, but when I do I remain as firm and as constant as needed and is reciprocated.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Over 500 hours of giving to our community (and my 900th post)

Tonight, as I was snuggling with Squink as I was trying to get him to fall asleep I was thinking about my day and how I had taken him with me to yet another board meeting... which got me to thinking about how many board or committee meetings he had attended with me since he was born... after all, I am still struck with how he learned to crawl while at a board meeting for Release The Fear when they were held at Trinity Cathedral dashing in a shockingly fast military crawl out the door and down a hallway on the second floor of the church (something that was always a mixed tale due in part to the Presbyterian in me thinking it was a strange turn of events because the Episcopalians were too much like Catholics and the Catholic in me thinking the Episcopalians were too much like Baptists)...

So, as Squink's breathing slowed down to at sleeping cadence I began the math. At a minimum Josef has attended over 256 meetings with me since he was born, at an average 2 hours per meeting, that means Squink has provided at least 512 hours of community service since he was born.

You may argue that he was not actively participating, especially when he was pre-verbal... but the thing is that Squink and I have these conversations about giving back, and he understand why mom takes him to these meetings with her and what it means for where he lives (both locally and globally). T

o me, modeling the behavior of donating my time to the world I live in has been one of the most challenging things I have done. Challenging in very many ways. It often surprises me that so many people think it is wrong of me to include him on these ventures (though I suspect it is mainly because they are uncomfortable around children rather than having any valid objection of a child's' presence especially since Squink is surprisingly well behaved at these things). It has also been challenging to parenting, having to coach him through homework assignments is and can be challenging when he find the assignment especially boring or difficult.

I would not trade this for a moment; talking to him about places like homeless shelters, shelters, community programs, and so on has been one of the vital pieces of information I have wanted to transmit to him.

I delight when I understand that he "gets it".

So, I celebrate knowing that my little one has spent over 500 hours of their life helping to give back to their community... may the giving back never stop.

Also, according to Blogger this is my 900th post (if you include all the drafts I have never publicly published).

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Whereupon I became involved in an international wildlife trapping case

The other day my aunt posted this picture on her Facebook page:


The post elicited a variety of replies, from indignation that the animals were being trapped to concern over a dead link and what that meant about the alleged agency that had it out there.

One of our friends looked up the domain via WHOIS and shared the information that it was owned by Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre. A tweet or two went out and I sent an email. Within a few hours I had received communication from the Executive Director as well as Information Services Manager (cc'd with the HQ Director). They informed us that they were not doing any research in Arizona. Emails and photos were exchanged and they seemed very concerned that this was happening. They were put in touch with our local Game and Fish that were on the case due to the highly suspicion nature of this trap.

The trapping regulations would indicate that this trap was in violation. The required metal tag was not attached. What a cowardly, cowardly trapper. Putting up traps then trying to blame it on the Canadians...  I hope whomever it is, is seriously punished and prohibited from ever trapping again.

Monday, November 18, 2013

birth, birthing and birthdays

Today is my mother's birthday.

Which was always special. However, there was something pretty transformative in how I viewed birthdays when I had a child of my own.

I am sure that it is something that draws some similar intensity from other mothers, especially to those of us who have always wanted to be a mom.

I am completely in awe by the link that binds me to Squink, it seems magical, inspired, divine, intense, and a whole ton of other words that follow that notion. He is simultaneously an extension of myself and yet he is his own person. I feel such an intense responsibility for his being that it can be, at times, extremely overwhelming.

But one of the B-sides to the intense awareness of the maternal bond is its reciprocity. The moment my son was born, I became acutely aware of my tie to my mother in a much deeper way. I assume, without fear of being wrong, that my mother wanted to be a mother, so I imagine that this lineage of mothers goes back to the beginning of mothers. I am sure some of them felt like it was too soon for them to be with babies, and perhaps even too late... but that deep abiding commitment to this being that is completely dependent on you has been going on to varying degrees of success (but success none the less) since I am a direct product of these women making choices to bring up these babies. This is the idea behind what my mother calls her rule of ten-thousand years.

I think, at a child's birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift should be curiosity.
~ Eleanor Roosevelt

My mother
My mother imparted many wonderful gifts upon my brother and myself as she was raising us, mostly single-handedly. I think the one that has had the most impression on me is that of curiosity. It is a trait I value deeply in others, and try to foster within myself (at times to my detriment as some of my more recent posts may exhibit) and with Squink. He gets very excited about learning certain things.

So, I like to imagine I come from a long line of curious women with a dedication to raising our offspring as best we can.

In terms of success, mom... I couldn't as for more from Squink so I would think you have done well.

I love you!
Let us celebrate the occasion with wine and sweet words.
~ Plautus 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

I am not bedazzled by my muddy water

“Contemplation does not rest until it has found the object which dazzles it.” 
~ Konrad Weiss

And the truth is, I probably won't be. Dazzled that is. By ever finding what is at the root of why I feel like such an outlier, even if it is primarily in the areas of beauty, poise and perhaps for the sake of being even more self deprecating, grace.

The truth is, I am now asking myself why I am even searching for that. I don't think it is ever going to be known. And while a part of me is reconciled to that, part of me rebels and insists that it can be defined. I don't know which is the better mental beast to grapple with.

I am guessing it has more to do with just being. Something I have managed to lose sight of, I think it is even possible I took that mirror (as rose colored as it may have been) and threw it down because I no longer allowed myself to believe that in my own world I was among the fairest of us all and started feeling like the most wretched. I have allowed myself to be less optimistic and begun to focus on the more pessimistic. Something that makes my whole body sick, and probably angry. This feels like an unnatural state.

I want to say; I am beautiful, I am a wonderful person, I am patient, I am kind, I am generous, I am loving, I am patient, and I am smart. And I don't want to let someone that feels differently have the power to tell me otherwise.

For all my claims that I am a nice person, there are plenty of reminders that I am not. For all my trying to be fair, there is evidence I am not. For my claims that I am a beautiful person, there is proof I am not. I hate living in that place where the "are not's" are allowed to win. I understand that there are both sides to my nature, but by embracing the dark I have begun to feel darker and I don't like that I don't have the strength to not listen to the people who think they can dictate how I feel about myself based on terms of what kind of woman they may or may not think I am (a hippie, self-serving, blah, blah, blah).  They are normally wrong.

I mean, who really gets to decide if I am good, beautiful and worthy human?

Isn't that me, or is this something that gets to be dictated by people with extremely limited information and a basket load of their own demons? 

Why do I (and I assume others do this too) allow people with tendencies towards judgement and incomplete or even insufficient information get to decide what kind of person I am.  Why do I think you assume I don't wear make-up because I am some sort of "natural living type"... or a hippie or that I don't care about who I put out there.

Why do I allow others to hold up mirrors shaded in their own colors and allow that to dictate the colors with which I get to see myself?

How do I reclaim who I want to be and own it? How do I shut out others and allow myself to watch the mud settle?
“Muddy water, let stand, becomes clear.” 
~ Lao Tzu
To do this I must listen to those I know, who without a doubt, tell me that they love me and I need to listen and believe them when they tell me I am generous, kind, loving, beautiful. Otherwise I feed my demons and my angels are not allowed to sing.

“Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.” ~ August Wilson
NaBloPoMo 17

Saturday, November 16, 2013


The item below is not mine, but I thought it a worthy enough piece of prose that I felt compelled to share it in its entirety.

“For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfil themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farmboy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.
Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.
 A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.
A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.
When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent. You are anxious because your path leads away from mother and home. But every step and every day lead you back again to the mother. Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.
A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one's suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.
So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.” 
~ Hermann Hesse, Bäume. Betrachtungen und Gedichte

NaBloPoMo 16

Friday, November 15, 2013

delusions of beauty

“Beauty of whatever kind, in its supreme development, invariably excites the sensitive soul to tears.” Edgar Allan Poe

The Ancestress Hypothesis (aka my mom) made the following comment to yesterday's post...

I wonder if to some lesser degree we do not all go a bit of this, as even those of us who grew up here in the US are stepping from childhood to adulthood and don't know adult rules that govern and guide adult behavior. Adolescence is a time full of opportunities for making blunders and I remember making quite a few and being humiliated. Enjoy yourself when your mom wants to buy you clothes, pick out what you like, and wear whatever make up you want. Be beautiful and if anyone dares to criticize give them a blistering criticism for meddling in affairs that are not theirs
There are few things that  I feel compelled to follow up on from things she addresses.

First, it was never my intention to claim that my experience transitioning into adulthood was special, merely that it was different and I hope I made that clear. I thought I had made an allusion to how difficult that stage is for anyone. My claim is that coming from a different culture where the adult interactions that I grew up witnessing were far different from those among adults in the US, even acknowledging all the variations within each culture.  For example; men just don't treat women the same way in each culture, nor do women treat each other the same way. And even though I was exposed to American adult couples and how they interact, it was always with variations that don't exist in general in the US and it was more of an exception than a rule. I wonder if this assumption of mine is flawed. Adolescence is, indeed, hard everywhere. But the truth is that I was raised very successfully (to coin a phrase from my mothers last blog post); I am not a horridly flawed person, I enjoy the company of people, I give of myself often to everyone around me (occasionally to the detriment of my closest relationships). 

The second thing is the directive to "Enjoy yourself when your mom wants to buy you clothes, pick out what you like, and wear whatever make up you want. Be beautiful and if anyone dares to criticize give them a blistering criticism for meddling in affairs that are not theirs". This is where the problem manifest... I don't know how to enjoy those things. Shopping is hard because nothing seems to fit either my tall frame or my aging shape... I don't know what looks good on me, things are expensive, I feel lost in a world of notions of "personal style" or "trends". I feel humiliated that I am in my mid 40's and feel this way. This is what I am trying to understand and remedy. Being directed to enjoy something is not the path to enjoying it. If I can't enjoy it then how can I dare to give a blistering criticism for meddling in my affairs when my own insecurities make those criticisms so deeply heard as a link or morsel to something I want to know more about. 

I feel that in some ways the conversations that are coming out (of me) as a product of promising  myself to blog daily for a month are becoming too destructive to the relationships with the people I love... It breaks my heart to have my husband tell me he feels sad and helpless about how sad he perceives me to be, the same with my mother and with others.

The thing is, folks... I feel abundantly loved. I know that the people who love me do so in a manner that includes all of my flaws and that will not change. I know that I am loved. That is so much more than many people have.  I write this because I keep getting feedback that addresses perceived emotions that I may or may not have. If I come across as miserable it is because I do  feel like a failure at being unable to address these issues, in part because I don't understand the issue. I am trying to own that and to be responsible for it. I feel like a blind person that has run into a pole and been asked why "I did something stupid like that, couldn't I see it"? I don't think I can see it and I don't know why I can't and I don't know why that which I am trying to see is so elusive to me.

These posts have been about my own perceptions of beauty and trying to get to the root of where they originate and why they manifest the way they do. I am trying to hold up a mirror and look at what I can do to make myself more comfortable in my own skin. I am tired of being judged as lacking, even if it is by people who either find me as lacking or dismiss me as a hippie, because I know I am neither of those things and I need to figure out a way to show these people who I am in a manner that is acceptable to more of us.... I don't find it acceptable to be considered as something like a hippie because my hair is too long and I don't wear make-up especially because 1) my hair is too long because I have no clue as to how to cut it and the hairdressers I have gone to create something that is unmanageable for me and that 2) I don't wear make-up because I don't know how to put on make-up in a manner that I find acceptable and lastly, 3) I don't know how I can create something within me to make those two things a part of a lasting commitment as I will never ever be the kind of woman who will wake up an hour earlier merely for the sake of doing her hair and make-up.

“There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn't true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” Søren Kierkegaard

So, in light of the feedback I was getting I took to asking the wisest person I know what they felt about beauty... Squink. We were riding in the car home last night and I asked him what he thought was beautiful. He told me things that are objects of nature and he said some kinds of art. So, I asked him what he  thought made a person beautiful. He struggled with that one. So I asked him if he thought a female friend of his was beautiful. He said no. But I could tell he was struggling with the topic. After a few simple questions he revealed that he did not want to say she was beautiful because to him seeing something as beautiful means you love it and while he really likes his friend he does not love her or even have a crush on her and that he felt that if he called her beautiful it would set him up to be teased. I then took a leap and asked him if he thought that I was beautiful and he said that he loved me. 

So, I was able to appreciate that to love something is to find it beautiful and therefore to be loved is to be considered beautiful... all because of that conversation with Squink.

“Beauty is no quality in things themselves: It exists merely in the mind which contemplates them; and each mind perceives a different beauty.” 
~ David Hume

So, perhaps I am chasing a standard that is exceptionally elusive because it is of my own making and in my own mind and I don't even know what it is. It resides in a place of my own insecurities instead of where I find my strengths.

I think I have found a key.

Or two.

“Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.” ~ August Wilson

NaBloPoMo 15  
Today is the halfway mark, and goodness me but what a weird ride this has been.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

peculiar temptations


So, coming off the high with the notion that applied beauty is an achievable activity for someone like me.

I tend to look for origins in my behavior when I consider my more interesting quirks; what was it, if it exists, that prompted me to choose to behave this way...

In this case it must have been something.

I loved putting on make-up, doing things with my hair, clothes and shoes.

In this case I can come up with no significant moment.... though there are small things that I think may have added up together.

People commenting on my having a make-up line
People making fun of me for wearing more than one pair of socks
people telling me that my clothes were too big

I probably am, and very unfortunately, battle-scarred by my coming here, to the United States, at that deeply impressionable tween stage.

That transition was hard, kids (and some adults) are shockingly cruel when they don't understand some of your more basic behavioral instincts.

My uncles wife (on my mothers side) was particularly awful... aside from being exceptionally jealous and in my opinion petty and greedy... I also believe she had a penchant to cruelty. The first articles of clothing I wore were mostly made up of my male cousins hand-me downs... any day in Quito is never equal to a July in Phoenix... so, I wore a lot of boys shorts and t-shirts... which was what was fine. This woman took it upon herself to act as my personal stylist and buy some clothes (that she insisted my mother pay for though I understand she had not asked her to do this shopping thing on my behalf). These outfits that this woman selected for me were of the kind that I heard others repeatedly call atrocious and awful. The thing is that I had no clue they were so awful, I was literally clueless about how young girls would dress in America. The clothes seemed perfectly functional to me. So, I think I lost a lot of confidence there... I had gone from a young kid who was perfectly comfortable choosing her own outfits which made sense to no one but me to being terrified to put on things lest they be considered ugly and atrocious.

In high school, my attempts at trying to make myself to be make-up beautiful were met with a variety of comments that included being referred to as a whore (for putting on too much) to looking like a clown due to things like make-up lines. I can remember some times in high school trying to put on make up before school and being almost in tears at my not knowing how. I also tended to hide my body and its curves because it seemed inappropriate for me to do so... young American women of good standing do not show off their curves... and I think it a way i took it too far. Granted, I did feel like I was allowed to dress up for formals in a manner that did not suggest wearing a sack, but those were special events.

At one point I found that I was settling in to a style that I enjoyed, only to have my socks ridiculed.

Now, this makes me seem exceptionally whinny and that disturbs me. I feel like I need to point out that I was going through this whole stage in a country that was exceptionally foreign to me. Clues to how I should behave and act were constantly being sought out, but the messages were mixed and it was extra confusing on top of that whole stage of life (tween and teen) being more than slightly miserable. In some respects I think I was learning how to walk again, in spite of never having forgot how. A strange situation to be sure.

So, I don't really blame anyone... other than myself... I don't think any of us thought about it or even considered that I was a foreigner having to learn new ways... nor that it might have been extra difficult because I had no outward expression of my foreignness   In my family we talked about my acculturation, but I don't know that any of us had a clue what it meant other than that I was learning a new way... when I believe it is not only that, but also about finding how you can fit into the new way. One does not move to a new country and suddenly become a certain way... there is a process to the shifts in persona and place that help you find comfort.

I think I found comfort in being plain... wearing new clothes or make up became risks to me, so rather than try to fall in to a trend, I abandoned their use all together. I was never able to summon enough courage to tell others who would object of call attention to a difference to take a hike and managed to make myself become increasingly semi-nondescript (semi because I am tall and I can't ever hide that and it is often remarked upon) so that I could be with people and have friends... as if my taking risks in make, hair or fashion would have caused me to lose "friends" that would have been of value. 

I dunno

this is all making me feel stupid again and a little overwhelmed and completely unsure about what, if anything, I should do about this.

Last night, the hair-dresser said to me something about how I am getting to an age when I will have to make more of an effort... be that through make-up, clothes, and or hair. It stung a little, but I think she is right, I can't keep hoping that I will fall through the cracks as some form of matronly wallflower... that just is not my personality. I am opinionated, I like to enjoy life, laugh, jump, act silly... all those things draw attention to me. 

I have to find a way to make this work.. where I don't feel bad about how I look.

Another thing that is pertinent to this inner dialog is that all those things (make-up, hair, clothes, accessories  all cost money. Money that I have a hard time justifying being spent on those things.

I feel like I have set myself up in a horrendous spiral of self-damnation.

Any advice? 

Plainness has its peculiar temptations quite as much as beauty. 
~ George Eliot

NaBloPoMo 14

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

My strangeness of proportion

I am a tomboy.

At least that is what I tell people. This is what I tell myself.

But, I will admit here that it is absolutely not the whole story. I am a tomboy because I am intimidated by rituals of beauty among my peers.

I get to volunteer and work with some amazingly beautiful women. Women who I watch carry being woman so well. It is pretty amazing to see this kind of thing from the side. To watch these women whose beauty I see as being manifested from both inside and out, who are masters of the space they take up on this planet and can do it with a feminine smart as well as a feminine grace.

I suppose my greatest vice is not gluttony as I often claim, but it is more of sloth. I am too lazy to take the time to invest in the feminine. I hate to blow dry my hair, I would rather sleep 10 extra minutes than apply make up. Don't even ask me about how to dress, because it usually depends on what I managed to wash and is more often than not something my mother talked me into buying.

I don't really know what to do about this. I have tried small steps like trying to commit to a minimum of wearing mascara... which started out fine, but became a game that I managed to not stick to.

Today, I was afforded the opportunity to sit in on a presentation by a local hair salon. I would be lying if I said it wasn't meaningful. It was amazing, what a special opportunity it was to listen to a well respected local hairdresser talk about the choices they make, how they make them and what they look at to make them. I was floored by what he taught us in the audience. A good hairdresser looks at so much and I could tell that they were the real deal and their price tag reflects that.

As a part of the evening we were allowed a free consultation and so I chose one of the owners... mainly because she was European and since she wasn't from here I felt some sort of kinship with her. Everything she told fit in with what my take on the presentation said and what I think she did the best was hold me accountable to my own choices. Kudos to her. It is hard to be told some of the things she said, though they were all the truth and I know it.

So, I have to find a way that I can take a bit more time on how I put myself out there for the world, I have hidden behind whatever it is that I am hiding behind and it is time to stop.

 There is no exquisite beauty… without some strangeness in the proportion.
~Edgar Allan Poe

NaBloPoMo 13

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Nostalgic picture post

I loved Trader Vic's when I was younger, and so when it was closing its doors in town (again) I took Squink out for a drink. 
For the record, his did not have any alcohol, it was pure tropical fruit juice!

I needed something a bit more lighthearted today.

NaBloPoMo 12

Monday, November 11, 2013


Today is supposed to be a day that veterans are honored.

It is a far reach in my family to get to a veteran. My father managed to avoid the Vietnam war draft under all of the technicalities, he even married my mother a few days early so that he could avoid being sent over seas... He was lucky.

Of my grandfather's, only one served in the military. My maternal mother was colorblind (and was unable to be the pilot he wanted to be) and was needed Stateside to build the great Boulder Dam. My paternal grandfather served in the European theater in WWII.

When he was there, he took this bill with him:
 In his handwriting you can read his name and serial number, his regiment and division.
The stops he made along the way;
New York Nov. 1 - 44            Luxembourg   Dec. 13 - 44
Scotland Nov. 9 - 44             Germany Jan. 18 - 45
England Nov. 12 - 44            Belgium Jan. - 45         
France Nov. 14 - 44              Germany Jan.  - 45
Belgium Nov. 29 - 44            France Mar. - 45
Germany Dec. 3  - 44           Germany Mar. - 45

I can't imagine what war in winter must have been like. The locations fit for his being at the Battle of the Bulge and that is certainly what has been shared with me.

When he was alive we never talked about this time of his life, and it was not something I would have thought to ask about. I do know he was a cowboy, was the best shot I have ever met, he taught me to shoot, fish and hunt, and also managed to raise some of the best strawberries ever.

Today, I took Squink and my nephew to be a part of our local Veterans Day Parade. Cub, Boy, and Girl Scouts joined forces and walked before the parade to hand out programs and flags to the people attending. It was a hot day and a long three mile (+) walk.

Near the end, Squink wanted to sit down, he said his legs were tired. So, I told him that when his own great grandfather's (Schatzy's were in WWII as well) had been in the war, they had not really been afforded the chance to sit if they got tired, and that I knew he was not tired enough to excuse sitting the rest of the parade out. So, I set him on a task to thank the veterans on the last leg of the parade by shaking their hand and saying "Thank you for your service". He took the job very seriously, and it was impressive to watch as he would walk to a veteran I would point out for him and he would march directly to them, hold out his hand and say that short little phrase. Every one of them smiled, and said thank you... one even said thank you for doing this in the parade.

This helped the parade seem to end faster and I did not hear another complaint about this legs being tired.

Here is a picture of Squink shaking a veterans hand, just outside of the Veterans Hospital (near where the parade ended):

When we stopped to get something to eat at a diner afterwards, there was a veteran sitting at the counter. Squink went up to him and said the same thing and the gentleman said "Thank you, kid".

(update to add this note from my father which I received via facebook)
Here is some more information for you, Blair. While my Dad served in WWII, he never talked about the violence other than sometimes describing his sorrow when he saw death. He used to tell me and my brothers and sister stories about the camaraderie and how the French appreciated their advances (he was in a scouting unit that went ahead of the main troops due to his map reading and woodsman knowledge.) My cousin and I used to ask him, "Did you shoot any Germans?" and he always said he never aimed at one. He used to talk about the hardships they suffered in the wet and cold and how a broken bone was called "a million dollar wound" since it would get you sent home. He actually called me when I was at work the day they announced that it was the last day that married people would be exempted and told me that he didn't want to lose a son in Viet Nam. I didn't like the idea - I supported the war - but I listened to him and your mom and I were married in a special service that evening.

NaBloPoMo 11

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Thoughts about the edge of despair

First of all, I am NOT there on that edge of despair... but, I think someone I was once close to might be.

One of the interesting things about our lives in the day of social media is that you can stay in virtual touch with friends with distinct histories in terms of their place in your life.

There are a group of people that I used to hang out with, they were primarily friends of my boyfriend at the time.  I enjoyed them enough to invite them to my wedding to someone who was not the boyfriend that introduced us to each other. They have moved and many live in different places and they don't get to see each other much. They were always very close and it was no surprise when I saw pictures from something they called a family reunion.  The pictures were lovely and I felt privileged that they were still a part of my life.

However, this got me to thinking about the boyfriend who introduced us since he was absent in the photos.

In the consideration of the totality of our relationship he was awful. Actually, though, he did some really interesting things for me;

First, he often insisted that I was under-employed and that I was super qualified to so much more than I was doing at the time. While I will always remain skeptical about my abilities, it was nice to have someone other than my mother insist that I was worthy of something better.

Lastly, he showed me what it was that I did not care for in a spouse. It turned out that he had a serious problem with controlled substances. And when he lost control of them he was a nightmare to be with. One time we were at dinner with another couple and were sitting on couches opposite each other. I do not recall the conversation, but he was saying something about me and slapped his hand down on my thigh. It was pretty hard, it left a red mark and impressed the woman of the other couple to seek me out in the restroom and ask me if he hit me like that often. He didn't, but it was a clear marker of how angry he was. I don't think he was angry with me,  I think he was just angry.

He grew up in an upper class home as the second adopted child. His father was an Automaker executive and he never wanted for anything. His parents divorced and I think he was angry about that as well. He did not like to talk about his adoption other than to make jokes about it. In hindsight, I think he was very distraught with a concept of being given up. There was a time when he seemed interested in finding his birth-mother and I helped him make the contacts he needed to start the process of opening up paperwork. And it was around this time that substances became a priority for him, and I will say that I think it was not the first time he had struggled with this. But, I was and am naive about these things.

After the slap on the thigh, there were situations when I got so angry I threw plates at him because he was under the influence of things. He once passed out in a bath-tub with the water running. Several other experiences like this brought me to that place that I knew, without a doubt, that I was not interested in a life that continued with him any longer and began to sever the ties as much as possible. I think in some ways I even allowed him to think he was dumping me, but I think I was a bit afraid of him and wanted his ego to be as un-angry at me (as a target) as possible. I am pretty sure he was resentful, though I am sure it was the nature of his addiction. I knew I was stronger and more resilient than he was, but I think he was doing hard enough drugs that he would have hurt me had he been given a chance while under their influence. My relationship with him was probably one of the darkest in terms where I was emotionally, especially at the end. But, it showed me that I had a resilience I did not know I possessed. He became a huge burden, it was painful and I hated myself for letting our relationship to the place it had gotten.

Thank goodness, I muddled through and I probably owe some people a serious apology for how I had to manipulate situations so that he thought he had left me, thankfully, his friends helped. At one point at the end, we held an intervention and checked him into rehab. What an interesting process... one I care to never repeat.

So, my friends reunion did not include pictures of him and I was curious so I goggled him. Nothing was revealed in places like Facebook or other social media avenues... but I was shocked to find a very recent mugshot due to parole violation... that all speaks so much to the place he is and to where I might have been if I hadn't known that I did not and could not ever be with him.

I can't say that I was surprised that he still is suffering, but in some ways I was. I always hope that people end up in better places and it deeply saddened me that he had not.

But, I am so grateful that he did manage to teach me what it was that I needed to value in the man that I love.

NaBloPoMo 10