Sunday, December 27, 2009

Uncle Tom's Cabin

I just got through reading the book, "Uncle Tom's Cabin," by Harriet Beecher Stowe. I know, such a "positive" tale just in time for the holidays. Although there were quite a few "bad happenings" as is to be expected in such a book, the ending was very novelistic. Most of the people, sans Uncle Tom, were tied up in a happy ending for the reader. In the author comments section, Mrs. Stowe talks about how many of the stories presented in "Uncle Tom's Cabin" were based on truth and events the she had witnesses in her life and in knowing escaped slaves. That is a perspective that none of us in the 21st century will ever have. It is horrifying to think of how an entire race of people was once treated en masse in the USA.

I thought of this again today when I was perusing my blog listing and my friend at Upside DownUnder posted a video about detainees from Guantanamo Bay. While maybe it is not mass suppression here in America our prejudices about the quality and trustworthiness of other races is certainly not alleviated. I can see where many of the attitudes prevalent in slave holders still exist today in the general public, especially when talking about persons of Middle Eastern descent.

Also, slavery does still exist. When reading "Uncle Tom's Cabin" I was swept away by the expository language and over-riding christian theme of the time. That theme being used to justify slavery and all of its cruelties. When I look at the sex slave traffiking trade I have to ask myself how far we have come and answer "not very." Do I think that "Uncle Tom's Cabin" is a good read? Well, that depends on why you want to read it. I am a firm believer that history repeats itself and by reading back into history I can see the same actions repeated in today's society. I am only one individual, but as one individual I have to ask myself how I can alter my life and thoughts to create a better history in my own tiny sphere of influence and that is mostly why I read the book. That was one reason, the other being that it is a book commonly used as a reference in many discussions that no one seems to have read. So, if you want to take it on and you can wade through the utter lack of political correctness and high dose of flowery christianity, go for it!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Schweddy Balls

Don't forget to have a good LAUGH this season.

Bing Crosby David Bowie Little Drummer Boy

Happy Holidays!!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Growing Old Gracefully

As much as I have tried to avoid the bustling crowds this Christmas, I have found myself in crowds on several occasions. Usually when I am being pushed and bumped along in the midst of a calm crowd I just try and go with it. If I happen to have children in tow, I try to hang on to them and have them hang on to me and hope that none of us gets separated. Here in our neck of the woods we have a nightly event called "Snowflake Lane." It takes place on the main thoroughfare that runs through the small city in which I live. My kids love it and each year it has grown in musical variety and characters in costume. First the costumed characters, drummers on stilts, and snow princesses make their rounds through the crowd. Then the bands of drummers come out and take their places on miniature stages to belt out some holiday tunes. The whole event ends with a glorious fake snowfall.

This year, my oldest daughter was quite taken with the costumed Rudolf and she really wanted to have her picture taken with him. When we first saw Rudolf I did not have my camera ready and he was gone before I had a chance to get it out. We had staked a place near the front along the crowd-lined street when she spied Rudlolf again. We quickly darted through the few people behind us to snap a picture, leaving my younger two children in our "spot." This only took a moment, but somehow in this short span of time, the area between my daughter and I and my younger two children had some how filled up with people. I felt the panic of a crowd closing in between myself and my kids, they were near a rather busy street and even though they know how to stay safe, I still wanted to get back to them.

I politely began to edge my way through people. For those of you who don't know me, I will take this time to mention that I enjoy seeing live music. I always wear tennis shoes to shows and I can often get to the front of the floor in a general admission show by moving through the crowd in a manner that would not be considered "polite." So this polite edging was quite a feat for me, I was trying to set a good example. Well, the first somewhat elderly gentleman was having none of that. He wasn't going to move. Fortunately, he was rather large and my daughter and I squeezed by him with some ease. Then there was the woman in front of me, probably in her early sixties, and I said quite politely three times, "excuse me" and she just stood there in front of me refusing to move. We really had no choice, I had to move around her and as I did she exclaimed, "What do you think you are doing!" "Well, uh, I don't know trying to get to my kids," I said with a sarcastic smile. I wanted to say more, but decided to drop it.

This is something that I have noticed of late, women in a certain age group who seem to feel that politeness and public consideration of others is no longer something that they need to do. I have a few theories about why this is so floating around in the old brain pan, but the one that makes the most sense to me is that many women spend too much of their lives giving to others and not enough giving to themselves. By the time they reach late middle age/early old age, they have had it and they are going to look out for number one the rest of you be damned. Maybe other people don't notice this, but I have and I know why, it is because I do not want to be like that. So from this day forth, I am going to practice being polite and I am going to remember to take good care of myself so that I have the emotional bandwidth to carry out this resolution.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Two Sides of a Similar Coin

Yesterday a friend of mine told me a story that made me feel sad. She knows a large family through her parents and they have a son who is now eleven and quite obviously has Autism. The obviousness of the diagnosis was apparent when he was a toddler. The mother of this boy was encouraged by friends and professionals to seek a diagnosis and help for her son. She declined, passing it off as a language delay and never sought services for this child. He is now eleven and unable to communicate, his behavior is getting increasingly more difficult for the family to control. Now I am told that these parents wish that they had provided their son with the services that he needed when he was younger because now it is too late to get some of those things going. I have trouble understand why parents would not want to help their children be the best that they can be. Here is a boy that could have learned to communicate and have life skills to help him become more independent. The problem is that when these services are started too late, they are that much harder to learn. The chances now of living independently are quire slim for this child. There isn't much hope here because of the parents unwillingness to embrace their child for who he is.

Later that afternoon I went over to pick one of my daughters up from a playdate and was invited in to have a glass of wine. Another mother was also there to pick up her son from a playdate. We were talking and she told me that she had a ten-year-old boy with Autism and that he went to a special school in our area. He has been in this school since he was a toddler and that combined with extra therapy at home has helped him to become verbal and independent in many areas despite his diagnosis. This mother told me that she and her husband decided to ignore the advice of a well-meaning pediatrician who told them that it was just a language delay. They thought it was more and actively worked to get services for their son at an early age. They are now reaping the benefits of this. There is hope here because the parents are willing to accept their child for who he is.

I am not trying to be critical of parents. I am a parent. I am also a specialist who works with children with disabilities. I would like to think that I would be able to be strong and put my pride behind me if I had a child with a physical or cognitive impairment. It takes time. But when people throw you a lifeline early on and encourage diagnostic testing and intervention, why not take it. What would any parent have to lose by trying these options. It seems to me that they have everything to lose by not doing anything.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Suburban Housewife

My kids are a bit older than this, but it is still really funny. Language, Language, Language, just like real rap!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Margot, Dancing Slowly

This is a piece of new writing that I did in the Fall. I just felt like posting some original work today!

Margot could not figure out why she kept coming back here. She took a long sip of her vodka spiked lemonade, knowing that she wasn't supposed to drink, yet doing it anyway. It made her feel grown-up and sneaky. Tonight she wore a short and very tight black mini dress paired with bright red pumps and naked hose. On a larger woman this outfit would of looked slutty, on Margot's small, childlike frame it almost made her look like she was dressing up in her mother's clothes. Only the small, deep lines on her face gave her age away. Margot took another sip of the slightly sweet beverage and wiggled her shoulders in a pathetic attempt to make her size A chest look larger. Margot had put her hair in a conservative upsweep and applied minimal eyeliner and lipstick in an attempt to make her daring outfit seem more innocent. It didn't matter, no one was looking.

The dance floor was full. From her perch in the balcony, Margot saw things like dry humping, hands roaming in clothes, and kisses that were far too sensual to be seen in public light. The Disco Zone was not well lit. The music was pulsing and the lights were blinking. Margot had been coming here every weekend for the last six months. The wait staff recognized her. Jesus always gave her vodka lemonade. Both Janet and Jesus waited on the balcony. They knew that Margot would drink exactly three of these drinks. They remembered from week-to-week and she tipped well.

Sometimes Margot felt the urge to join the pulsating amoeba that was the dance floor. Secretly she had hoped that by coming to the same place often that she would meet someone who would take her down there himself. Margot both wanted and feared such involvement. The last time that she allowed herself to get involved an explanation about the faint scars lining the insides of her wrists was requested. When she gave it, the relationship was gone, couldn't get his pants on fast enough, they weren't even buttoned when he stumbled out the door. Margot smiled to herself and signaled Jesus that she was ready for another round.

Tonight Margot felt different. They didn't know that she went on her unsupervised outings to a bar. They didn't know that she had enough family money to keep an apartment on the side. Dear old doddering Dr. Winnepeg pinned high hopes on Margot's ability to get better. Her fragile childhood and adolescent abuse, the impulse of her family to wipe away these transgressions through gifts and money, Dr. Winnepeg did not label them insurmountable obstacles. He took professional pride in her challenging case history of doing poorly in institutions. This time would be different Dr. Winnepeg told her, this time she would overcome.

She had overcome a lot. The Bulimia for starters, although Margot still could not seem to gain weight. "Hey, look up there, grandma's back!" The group of young men who pointed her out every week smiled maliciously from the dance floor. "Oh just leave the poor old lady alone. She's just a barfly," said the girl, the one with bleached blond hair piled in waves atop her head. They made their way out onto the dance floor. Margot lost them in the dark. She took another sip of her drink and tried not to cry.

The night that she jumped from the balcony, Margot was wearing shimmering silver tights, ankle high black boots, and a deep purple colored Flashdance sweater. Her hair was down and fanned out around her small head when she hit the floor. This was her third attempt and they say that the third time is always a charm.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Watching The Wheels - John Lennon

This is how I am trying to respond to the holiday season this year!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Kneading Bread Dough and Holiday Traditions

When I first started this blog, I promised myself that it wouldn't become a "homemaking blog" although it is difficult for me to avoid homemaking altogether as I have three young children. So consider this a therapy post rather than a homemaking post.

It is that time of year again, the one where we get ready to celebrate Santa Lucia. This is one of the only holiday traditions that our family has carried over from my Swedish ancestors. This celebration includes the making of Lucia buns. Of course I could probably buy something similar to Lucia buns or we could just have jam and toast, but I started making them a few years back and found that I rather enjoyed the process.

Yesterday was a long day. I had a hair appointment and have determined that I just don't have the time to sit around getting my haircut by someone else. Perhaps it is time that I learned to do it myself. This set the whole day behind. We went to see Santa Claus and the line was long. My kids have pretty much started to not believe in Santa anymore, this whole process is more about me taking them to have their picture taken. In the end they had fun, I just wonder how many more years I will be able to drag them out to get their perfect Santa picture. There was a twenty-one-year-old in line ahead of us with her mother. She was giving her mother one last Santa picture, so this gave me hope!

Now back to bread dough! Last night I made up the dough for the Lucia buns and started kneading it. Once I started, I found that I didn't want to stop. My hands were a mess, but the feel of the soft dough, rolling it rhythmically back and forth and pushing it down at each turn was somehow therapeutic for me, I found that I started to actually relax. This got me to thinking about how the pioneer women must have made it through difficult times without support. Maybe kneading bread dough was part of what helped them through a difficult life. Maybe there are some other household tasks that have this same effect, but I haven't found them yet. In the meantime, during this busy holiday season, maybe I will have to find more time to knead.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Christmas Anxiety

It is that time of year again. The advent season leading to Christmas. I do like Christmas, generally, I love the warmth and celebration in the air, more festive gatherings in order to spend time with friends. The thing that I don't look forward to much is the gifts. More specifically, the gifts that I need to get for my children. My younger two are still at the age where they like to open a lot of presents and they count their gifts. This brings me to the anxiety that hit me today. It happened when I ordered a gift for one of my children on-line. I had wanted to get this and all gifts for my children at stores this year. When I reflect upon the "why" of this decision, I realized that it had to do with our Christmas in the Northwest last year.

We were pounded by snowstorms. Now I realize that in many areas of the country this is the norm this time of the year. It isn't the norm here. We have hills and lots of them. We also live in a damp climate. When it gets cold and snows and freezes there is ice everywhere. Ice and hills do not make for good driving conditions and as we are so unprepared in this part of the country roads are not plowed. They are not sanded or salted either because of our close proximity to Lake Washington. Suffice it to say, all of our on-line gifts, most were for the kids, did not make it in time for Christmas. I found myself going through the birthday gift bin, those pre-bought sale gifts that I sometimes keep on hand for birthday parties and those were their Santa gifts, not things that they had asked for, some of those didn't come until 2-3 weeks after Christmas. This is a lesson in delayed gratification if there ever was one.

Flashback to Christmas 2006. We suffered from a huge windstorm in this area right before Christmas. Our grid was out of power for seven days. Grids surrounding us were restored in 2-3 days. It took the energy company quite a bit more time to get around to removing the huge Douglas Fir tree laying on the power lines that supplied our grid. It was difficult to drive a block from our house and see everyone else's lights on and know that their house temperature must certainly be above the 45 degrees on our home register. The next Christmas, 2007, I felt stress when I took out the Christmas decorations because of flashbacks to that very challenging Christmas season.

Weather around this time of year has increased my anxiety level at the holidays. I feel myself going into prepared mode, I feel a need to have everything organized and done early in case there is foul weather to mess up holiday plans. I think it will be easier when my kids are older and I don't have to worry so much about the timeliness of the gifts. When they are older they will also have more resilience regarding changes in holiday routine and tradition. In many ways I don't look forward to my children getting older, holiday time is not one of them.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

White Christmas The Musical On Broadway

We went and saw this production today in Seattle. Three years ago I took my oldest daughter to see it. Today all of my kids went. It was as great as ever-lots of talent in the show.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Fantastic Mr. Fox

What can I say about "Fantastic Mr. Fox?" It was, well, Fantastic! Quaint and artisitc animation and finally a childrens movie that my kids and I don't have to see in 3D! Mr. Roald Dahl you are (were) a genius of a writer for both children and adults. The world sorely needs more talent like yours! The sound track was pretty great as well, kind of matched the movie.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tired of Writer's Block

Lately, I have been perusing different blogs. I need to do this every once in a while so that I feel like I am in touch with the blogging community and what is going on out there. I have come across a number of writer's blogs and I have to say that I am quite jealous. Damn you people who have time to write eloquent and interesting prose and dialogue. I am possessed of severe writer's block. Maybe writer's block isn't the correct term. I actually have things swimming around in my head that I would love to write about. In November I took a short-course on novel writing and came away inspired and filled with new ideas about how to approach the arduous task of putting pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard. Integrating writing into my life remains a challenge. Frankly I am not very disciplined. To be a successful writer, to start at least, usually requires one to make adjustments to their schedule such as getting up earlier or staying up later. I am good at neither. I am particularly not good at getting up earlier. I can always stay up later, especially if I am drinking red wine and in the company of good conversation. This is different, however, from staying up later to actually get some work done! The best gift that I could have for myself this holiday season is the gift of setting aside regular and consistent hours to write. This is currently my only goal for the new year. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"Goodbyes" are the HARDEST THING!!

Today we said "goodbye" to our dear friends the Ady's as they make their way back to Meg's place of birth, the land of Oz. During the past several years, our families have gotten to know each other well. We were a good match, the parents and children. There would always be more good times to come. Now Meg is gone and I can't quite believe it. I have been in denial for so long, it feels like waking up from a bad dream. Ultimately, I sense that this move will be good for their family, not so good for ours. It is hard to be the ones left behind. Meg and I crossed over into many groups in each of our lives and that makes the leaving that much harder. She says that there is a string attaching us and this morning, while saying goodbye, she told me that the string was short and that it will get longer as she moves farther away, but it won't break. I hope it won't break. I will do everything in my power to keep it from breaking, but right now everything is just sad and I am sick at heart and just trying to keep moving through this day and the next, hoping to feel better.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Letter to Governor Huckabee

Dear Governor Huckabee,

What in the world were you thinking when you pardoned that fiend of a man to ruthlessly roam the streets of Washington state. I guess that you must have been thankful that he was leaving Arkansas after your generous gift. How could you be so inept as to have not noticed the psychopathic nature of this particular criminal (I refuse to honor him by using his name, you know who I am talking about).

In all of the time he has spent in prison, I find it difficult to believe that his hatred of police was hidden. Certainly there were written records attesting to this passionate hate. They must have been "swept under the rug" so that the devil could make his bargain. I find it hard to believe that there weren't other criminals more deserving. I am not a psychiatrist, but as a member of the general public, I could probably recognize a psychopath as deeply disturbed as this individual without much difficulty.

Our streets are clean of him. He was shot by law enforcement officers today. I will have you know that the generous freedom that you gave him led to the massacre of four police officers, all of whom left families behind that will now be missing a parent. It makes me wonder how you ever got elected or if this man had a rich relative or friend somewhere ready to make a bribe. I may be a Northwesterner, but I have travelled enough to know that Southerners are typically insulted when out-of-towners make fun of their intelligence. You have no excuse, I am an out-of-towner and I am insulting yours.

I hope that you think long and hard about the foolish decision that you made to pardon this man and set him free to commit heinous crimes. You deserve to lose sleep over this decision and pay attention next time, some criminals are beyond rehabilitation.


A Concernc Citizen in Washington

Monday, November 30, 2009

Thankful for my Life

Last week I went to see the movie "Precious." Fortunately, or not, I had read the book beforehand so I knew what I was in for and the movie was far easier to take than the book. For those of you who are not familiar with the story of "Precious," it is about the saddest version of life one could have in this country. Precious is a sixteen-year-old African-American girl living in Harlem in 1987. She is pregnant with her second child, by her father. The first child was born with Down Syndrome when Precious was twelve. Precious is sexually, physically, and emotionally abused by both of her parents, although her father does not live in the home. She gets kicked out of school for being pregnant and is offered the chance to enroll in the "Each One, Teach One" program which turns out to save her from being a victim of her life.

People who know me know that I am easily traumatized by movies and books about child molestation. The book was terribly hard for me to read and I cried. This made the movie easier to watch and the acting was amazing. What I like about this particular story, is that it brings to light the problems faced by children and women in our culture here in America. As an American, it is sometimes easier for me to think about the kind of life that Precious faced as something that "just doesn't happen here." We all know that it does, but this often gets swept under the carpet and our attention goes to other parts of the world and how we can help there and we end up ignoring the social problems faced by our own country.

Since the concept of "education saves from poverty" was introduced in the 1970's, people have been critical, claiming that is does no such thing. This movie brought to light that education in general does not "save," but the right kind of education can do wonders. The program that Precious was enrolled in was not traditional in any sense of the word and I would be surprised if funding for such a unique and valuable educational opportunity would even be available in today's oppressed educational environment.

So that is it. A sad young girl, given a sad life and making the most of it because of a great teacher. All in all, very inspiring and a wake up call to me for social justice (injustice) in America.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My Favorite Short Story

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper (1899)(Printable version in PDF format)

It is very seldom that mere ordinary people like John and myself secure ancestral halls for the summer. A colonial mansion, a hereditary estate, I would say a haunted house, and reach the height of romantic felicity--but that would be asking too much of fate! Still I will proudly declare that there is something queer about it. Else, why should it be let so cheaply? And why have stood so long untenanted? John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage. John is practical in the extreme. He has no patience with faith, an intense horror of superstition, and he scoffs openly at any talk of things not to be felt and seen and put down in figures. John is a physician, and perhaps--(I would not say it to a living soul, of course, but this is dead paper and a great relief to my mind)--perhaps that is one reason I do not get well faster. You see he does not believe I am sick! And what can one do? If a physician of high standing, and one's own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression--a slight hysterical tendency-- what is one to do? My brother is also a physician, and also of high standing, and he says the same thing. So I take phosphates or phosphites--whichever it is, and tonics, and journeys, and air, and exercise, and am absolutely forbidden to "work" until I am well again. Personally, I disagree with their ideas. Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good. But what is one to do? I did write for a while in spite of them; but it does exhaust me a good deal--having to be so sly about it, or else meet with heavy opposition. I sometimes fancy that in my condition if I had less opposition and more society and stimulus--but John says the very worst thing I can do is to think about my condition, and I confess it always makes me feel bad. So I will let it alone and talk about the house. The most beautiful place! It is quite alone standing well back from the road, quite three miles from the village. It makes me think of English places that you read about, for there are hedges and walls and gates that lock, and lots of separate little houses for the gardeners and people. There is a delicious garden! I never saw such a garden--large and shady, full of box-bordered paths, and lined with long grape-covered arbors with seats under them. There were greenhouses, too, but they are all broken now. There was some legal trouble, I believe, something about the heirs and coheirs; anyhow, the place has been empty for years. That spoils my ghostliness, I am afraid, but I don't care--there is something strange about the house--I can feel it. I even said so to John one moonlight evening but he said what I felt was a draught, and shut the window. I get unreasonably angry with John sometimes I'm sure I never used to be so sensitive. I think it is due to this nervous condition. But John says if I feel so, I shall neglect proper self-control; so I take pains to control myself-- before him, at least, and that makes me very tired. I don't like our room a bit. I wanted one downstairs that opened on the piazza and had roses all over the window, and such pretty old-fashioned chintz hangings! but John would not hear of it. He said there was only one window and not room for two beds, and no near room for him if he took another. He is very careful and loving, and hardly lets me stir without special direction. I have a schedule prescription for each hour in the day; he takes all care from me, and so I feel basely ungrateful not to value it more. He said we came here solely on my account, that I was to have perfect rest and all the air I could get. "Your exercise depends on your strength, my dear," said he, "and your food somewhat on your appetite; but air you can absorb all the time. ' So we took the nursery at the top of the house. It is a big, airy room, the whole floor nearly, with windows that look all ways, and air and sunshine galore. It was nursery first and then playroom and gymnasium, I should judge; for the windows are barred for little children, and there are rings and things in the walls. The paint and paper look as if a boys' school had used it. It is stripped off--the paper in great patches all around the head of my bed, about as far as I can reach, and in a great place on the other side of the room low down. I never saw a worse paper in my life. One of those sprawling flamboyant patterns committing every artistic sin. It is dull enough to confuse the eye in following, pronounced enough to constantly irritate and provoke study, and when you follow the lame uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide--plunge off at outrageous angles, destroy themselves in unheard of contradictions. The color is repellent, almost revolting; a smouldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight. It is a dull yet lurid orange in some places, a sickly sulphur tint in others. No wonder the children hated it! I should hate it myself if I had to live in this room long. There comes John, and I must put this away,--he hates to have me write a word.
We have been here two weeks, and I haven't felt like writing before, since that first day. I am sitting by the window now, up in this atrocious nursery, and there is nothing to hinder my writing as much as I please, save lack of strength. John is away all day, and even some nights when his cases are serious. I am glad my case is not serious! But these nervous troubles are dreadfully depressing. John does not know how much I really suffer. He knows there is no reason to suffer, and that satisfies him. Of course it is only nervousness. It does weigh on me so not to do my duty in any way! I meant to be such a help to John, such a real rest and comfort, and here I am a comparative burden already! Nobody would believe what an effort it is to do what little I am able,--to dress and entertain, and order things. It is fortunate Mary is so good with the baby. Such a dear baby! And yet I cannot be with him, it makes me so nervous. I suppose John never was nervous in his life. He laughs at me so about this wall-paper! At first he meant to repaper the room, but afterwards he said that I was letting it get the better of me, and that nothing was worse for a nervous patient than to give way to such fancies. He said that after the wall-paper was changed it would be the heavy bedstead, and then the barred windows, and then that gate at the head of the stairs, and so on. "You know the place is doing you good," he said, "and really, dear, I don't care to renovate the house just for a three months' rental." "Then do let us go downstairs," I said, "there are such pretty rooms there." Then he took me in his arms and called me a blessed little goose, and said he would go down to the cellar, if I wished, and have it whitewashed into the bargain. But he is right enough about the beds and windows and things. It is an airy and comfortable room as any one need wish, and, of course, I would not be so silly as to make him uncomfortable just for a whim. I'm really getting quite fond of the big room, all but that horrid paper. Out of one window I can see the garden, those mysterious deepshaded arbors, the riotous old-fashioned flowers, and bushes and gnarly trees. Out of another I get a lovely view of the bay and a little private wharf belonging to the estate. There is a beautiful shaded lane that runs down there from the house. I always fancy I see people walking in these numerous paths and arbors, but John has cautioned me not to give way to fancy in the least. He says that with my imaginative power and habit of story-making, a nervous weakness like mine is sure to lead to all manner of excited fancies, and that I ought to use my will and good sense to check the tendency. So I try. I think sometimes that if I were only well enough to write a little it would relieve the press of ideas and rest me. But I find I get pretty tired when I try. It is so discouraging not to have any advice and companionship about my work. When I get really well, John says we will ask Cousin Henry and Julia down for a long visit; but he says he would as soon put fireworks in my pillow-case as to let me have those stimulating people about now. I wish I could get well faster. But I must not think about that. This paper looks to me as if it knew what a vicious influence it had! There is a recurrent spot where the pattern lolls like a broken neck and two bulbous eyes stare at you upside down. I get positively angry with the impertinence of it and the everlastingness. Up and down and sideways they crawl, and those absurd, unblinking eyes are everywhere There is one place where two breaths didn't match, and the eyes go all up and down the line, one a little higher than the other. I never saw so much expression in an inanimate thing before, and we all know how much expression they have! I used to lie awake as a child and get more entertainment and terror out of blank walls and plain furniture than most children could find in a toy-store. I remember what a kindly wink the knobs of our big, old bureau used to have, and there was one chair that always seemed like a strong friend. I used to feel that if any of the other things looked too fierce I could always hop into that chair and be safe. The furniture in this room is no worse than inharmonious, however, for we had to bring it all from downstairs. I suppose when this was used as a playroom they had to take the nursery things out, and no wonder! I never saw such ravages as the children have made here. The wall-paper, as I said before, is torn off in spots, and it sticketh closer than a brother--they must have had perseverance as well as hatred. Then the floor is scratched and gouged and splintered, the plaster itself is dug out here and there, and this great heavy bed which is all we found in the room, looks as if it had been through the wars. But I don't mind it a bit--only the paper. There comes John's sister. Such a dear girl as she is, and so careful of me! I must not let her find me writing. She is a perfect and enthusiastic housekeeper, and hopes for no better profession. I verily believe she thinks it is the writing which made me sick! But I can write when she is out, and see her a long way off from these windows. There is one that commands the road, a lovely shaded winding road, and one that just looks off over the country. A lovely country, too, full of great elms and velvet meadows. This wall-paper has a kind of sub-pattern in a, different shade, a particularly irritating one, for you can only see it in certain lights, and not clearly then. But in the places where it isn't faded and where the sun is just so--I can see a strange, provoking, formless sort of figure, that seems to skulk about behind that silly and conspicuous front design. There's sister on the stairs!
Well, the Fourth of July is over! The people are all gone and I am tired out. John thought it might do me good to see a little company, so we just had mother and Nellie and the children down for a week. Of course I didn't do a thing. Jennie sees to everything now. But it tired me all the same. John says if I don't pick up faster he shall send me to Weir Mitchell in the fall. But I don't want to go there at all. I had a friend who was in his hands once, and she says he is just like John and my brother, only more so! Besides, it is such an undertaking to go so far. I don't feel as if it was worth while to turn my hand over for anything, and I'm getting dreadfully fretful and querulous. I cry at nothing, and cry most of the time. Of course I don't when John is here, or anybody else, but when I am alone. And I am alone a good deal just now. John is kept in town very often by serious cases, and Jennie is good and lets me alone when I want her to. So I walk a little in the garden or down that lovely lane, sit on the porch under the roses, and lie down up here a good deal. I'm getting really fond of the room in spite of the wall-paper. Perhaps because of the wall-paper. It dwells in my mind so! I lie here on this great immovable bed--it is nailed down, I believe--and follow that pattern about by the hour. It is as good as gymnastics, I assure you. I start, we'll say, at the bottom, down in the corner over there where it has not been touched, and I determine for the thousandth time that I will follow that pointless pattern to some sort of a conclusion. I know a little of the principle of design, and I know this thing was not arranged on any laws of radiation, or alternation, or repetition, or symmetry, or anything else that I ever heard of. It is repeated, of course, by the breadths, but not otherwise. Looked at in one way each breadth stands alone, the bloated curves and flourishes--a kind of "debased Romanesque" with delirium tremens--go waddling up and down in isolated columns of fatuity. But, on the other hand, they connect diagonally, and the sprawling outlines run off in great slanting waves of optic horror, like a lot of wallowing seaweeds in full chase. The whole thing goes horizontally, too, at least it seems so, and I exhaust myself in trying to distinguish the order of its going in that direction. They have used a horizontal breadth for a frieze, and that adds wonderfully to the confusion. There is one end of the room where it is almost intact, and there, when the crosslights fade and the low sun shines directly upon it, I can almost fancy radiation after all,--the interminable grotesques seem to form around a common centre and rush off in headlong plunges of equal distraction. It makes me tired to follow it. I will take a nap I guess.
I don't know why I should write this. I don't want to. I don't feel able. And I know John would think it absurd. But I must say what I feel and think in some way--it is such a relief! But the effort is getting to be greater than the relief. Half the time now I am awfully lazy, and lie down ever so much. John says I mustn't lose my strength, and has me take cod liver oil and lots of tonics and things, to say nothing of ale and wine and rare meat. Dear John! He loves me very dearly, and hates to have me sick. I tried to have a real earnest reasonable talk with him the other day, and tell him how I wish he would let me go and make a visit to Cousin Henry and Julia. But he said I wasn't able to go, nor able to stand it after I got there; and I did not make out a very good case for myself, for I was crying before I had finished . It is getting to be a great effort for me to think straight. Just this nervous weakness I suppose. And dear John gathered me up in his arms, and just carried me upstairs and laid me on the bed, and sat by me and read to me till it tired my head. He said I was his darling and his comfort and all he had, and that I must take care of myself for his sake, and keep well. He says no one but myself can help me out of it, that I must use my will and self-control and not let any silly fancies run away with me. There's one comfort, the baby is well and happy, and does not have to occupy this nursery with the horrid wall-paper. If we had not used it, that blessed child would have! What a fortunate escape! Why, I wouldn't have a child of mine, an impressionable little thing, live in such a room for worlds. I never thought of it before, but it is lucky that John kept me here after all, I can stand it so much easier than a baby, you see. Of course I never mention it to them any more--I am too wise,--but I keep watch of it all the same. There are things in that paper that nobody knows but me, or ever will. Behind that outside pattern the dim shapes get clearer every day. It is always the same shape, only very numerous. And it is like a woman stooping down and creeping about behind that pattern. I don't like it a bit. I wonder--I begin to think--I wish John would take me away from here!
It is so hard to talk with John about my case, because he is so wise, and because he loves me so. But I tried it last night. It was moonlight. The moon shines in all around just as the sun does. I hate to see it sometimes, it creeps so slowly, and always comes in by one window or another. John was asleep and I hated to waken him, so I kept still and watched the moonlight on that undulating wall-paper till I felt creepy. The faint figure behind seemed to shake the pattern, just as if she wanted to get out. I got up softly and went to feel and see if the paper did move, and when I came back John was awake. "What is it, little girl?" he said. "Don't go walking about like that--you'll get cold." I thought it was a good time to talk, so I told him that I really was not gaining here, and that I wished he would take me away. "Why darling!" said he, "our lease will be up in three weeks, and I can't see how to leave before. "The repairs are not done at home, and I cannot possibly leave town just now. Of course if you were in any danger, I could and would, but you really are better, dear, whether you can see it or not. I am a doctor, dear, and I know. You are gaining flesh and color, your appetite is better, I feel really much easier about you." "I don't weigh a bit more," said 1, "nor as much; and my appetite may be better in the evening when you are here, but it is worse in the morning when you are away!" "Bless her little heart!" said he with a big hug, "she shall be as sick as she pleases! But now let's improve the shining hours by going to sleep, and talk about it in the morning!" "And you won't go away?" I asked gloomily. "Why, how can 1, dear? It is only three weeks more and then we will take a nice little trip of a few days while Jennie is getting the house ready. Really dear you are better!" "Better in body perhaps--" I began, and stopped short, for he sat up straight and looked at me with such a stern, reproachful look that I could not say another word. "My darling," said he, "I beg of you, for my sake and for our child's sake, as well as for your own, that you will never for one instant let that idea enter your mind! There is nothing so dangerous, so fascinating, to a temperament like yours. It is a false and foolish fancy. Can you not trust me as a physician when I tell you so?" So of course I said no more on that score, and we went to sleep before long. He thought I was asleep first, but I wasn't, and lay there for hours trying to decide whether that front pattern and the back pattern really did move together or separately.
On a pattern like this, by daylight, there is a lack of sequence, a defiance of law, that is a constant irritant to a normal mind. The color is hideous enough, and unreliable enough, and infuriating enough, but the pattern is torturing. You think you have mastered it, but just as you get well underway in following, it turns a back somersault and there you are. It slaps you in the face, knocks you down, and tramples upon you. It is like a bad dream. The outside pattern is a florid arabesque, reminding one of a fungus. If you can imagine a toadstool in joints, an interminable string of toadstools, budding and sprouting in endless convolutions--why, that is something like it. That is, sometimes! There is one marked peculiarity about this paper, a thing nobody seems to notice but myself, and that is that it changes as the light changes. When the sun shoots in through the east window--I always watch for that first long, straight ray--it changes so quickly that I never can quite believe it. That is why I watch it always. By moonlight--the moon shines in all night when there is a moon--I wouldn't know it was the same paper. At night in any kind of light, in twilight, candlelight, lamplight, and worst of all by moonlight, it becomes bars! The outside pattern I mean, and the woman behind it is as plain as can be. I didn't realize for a long time what the thing was that showed behind, that dim sub-pattern, but now I am quite sure it is a woman. By daylight she is subdued, quiet. I fancy it is the pattern that keeps her so still. It is so puzzling. It keeps me quiet by the hour. I lie down ever so much now. John says it is good for me, and to sleep all I can. Indeed he started the habit by making me lie down for an hour after each meal. It is a very bad habit I am convinced, for you see I don't sleep. And that cultivates deceit, for I don't tell them I'm awake--O no! The fact is I am getting a little afraid of John. He seems very queer sometimes, and even Jennie has an inexplicable look. It strikes me occasionally, just as a scientific hypothesis,--that perhaps it is the paper! I have watched John when he did not know I was looking, and come into the room suddenly on the most innocent excuses, and I've caught him several times looking at the paper! And Jennie too. I caught Jennie with her hand on it once. She didn't know I was in the room, and when I asked her in a quiet, a very quiet voice, with the most restrained manner possible, what she was doing with the paper--she turned around as if she had been caught stealing, and looked quite angry-- asked me why I should frighten her so! Then she said that the paper stained everything it touched, that she had found yellow smooches on all my clothes and John's, and she wished we would be more careful! Did not that sound innocent? But I know she was studying that pattern, and I am determined that nobody shall find it out but myself!
Life is very much more exciting now than it used to be. You see I have something more to expect, to look forward to, to watch. I really do eat better, and am more quiet than I was.John is so pleased to see me improve ! He laughed a little the other day, and said I seemed to be flourishing in spite of my wall-paper. I turned it off with a laugh. I had no intention of telling him it was because of the wall-paper--he would make fun of me. He might even want to take me away. I don't want to leave now until I have found it out. There is a week more, and I think that will be enough.
I'm feeling ever so much better! I don't sleep much at night, for it is so interesting to watch developments; but I sleep a good deal in the daytime. In the daytime it is tiresome and perplexing. There are always new shoots on the fungus, and new shades of yellow all over it. I cannot keep count of them, though I have tried conscientiously. It is the strangest yellow, that wall-paper! It makes me think of all the yellow things I ever saw--not beautiful ones like buttercups, but old foul, bad yellow things. But there is something else about that paper-- the smell! I noticed it the moment we came into the room, but with so much air and sun it was not bad. Now we have had a week of fog and rain, and whether the windows are open or not, the smell is here. It creeps all over the house. I find it hovering in the dining-room, skulking in the parlor, hiding in the hall, lying in wait for me on the stairs. It gets into my hair. Even when I go to ride, if I turn my head suddenly and surprise it--there is that smell! Such a peculiar odor, too! I have spent hours in trying to analyze it, to find what it smelled like. It is not bad--at first, and very gentle, but quite the subtlest, most enduring odor I ever met. In this damp weather it is awful, I wake up in the night and find it hanging over me. It used to disturb me at first. I thought seriously of burning the house--to reach the smell. But now I am used to it. The only thing I can think of that it is like is the color of the paper! A yellow smell. There is a very funny mark on this wall, low down, near the mopboard. A streak that runs round the room. It goes behind every piece of furniture, except the bed, a long, straight, even smooch, as if it had been rubbed over and over. I wonder how it was done and who did it, and what they did it for. Round and round and round--round and round and round--it makes me dizzy!
I really have discovered something at last. Through watching so much at night, when it changes so, I have finally found out. The front pattern does move--and no wonder! The woman behind shakes it! Sometimes I think there are a great many women behind, and sometimes only one, and she crawls around fast, and her crawling shakes it all over. Then in the very bright spots she keeps still, and in the very shady spots she just takes hold of the bars and shakes them hard. And she is all the time trying to climb through. But nobody could climb through that pattern--it strangles so; I think that is why it has so many heads. They get through, and then the pattern strangles them off and turns them upside down, and makes their eyes white! If those heads were covered or taken off it would not be half so bad.
I think that woman gets out in the daytime! And I'll tell you why--privately--I've seen her! I can see her out of every one of my windows! It is the same woman, I know, for she is always creeping, and most women do not creep by daylight. I see her on that long road under the trees, creeping along, and when a carriage comes she hides under the blackberry vines. I don't blame her a bit. It must be very humiliating to be caught creeping by daylight! I always lock the door when I creep by daylight. I can't do it at night, for I know John would suspect something at once. And John is so queer now, that I don't want to irritate him. I wish he would take another room! Besides, I don't want anybody to get that woman out at night but myself. I often wonder if I could see her out of all the windows at once. But, turn as fast as I can, I can only see out of one at one time. And though I always see her, she may be able to creep faster than I can turn! I have watched her sometimes away off in the open country, creeping as fast as a cloud shadow in a high wind.
If only that top pattern could be gotten off from the under one! I mean to try it, little by little. I have found out another funny thing, but I shan't tell it this time! It does not do to trust people too much. There are only two more days to get this paper off, and I believe John is beginning to notice. I don't like the look in his eyes. And I heard him ask Jennie a lot of professional questions about me. She had a very good report to give. She said I slept a good deal in the daytime. John knows I don't sleep very well at night, for all I'm so quiet! He asked me all sorts of questions, too, and pretended to be very loving and kind. As if I couldn't see through him! Still, I don't wonder he acts so, sleeping under this paper for three months. It only interests me, but I feel sure John and Jennie are secretly affected by it.
Hurrah! This is the last day, but it is enough. John to stay in town over night, and won't be out until this evening. Jennie wanted to sleep with me--the sly thing! but I told her I should undoubtedly rest better for a night all alone. That was clever, for really I wasn't alone a bit! As soon as it was moonlight and that poor thing began to crawl and shake the pattern, I got up and ran to help her. I pulled and she shook, I shook and she pulled, and before morning we had peeled off yards of that paper. A strip about as high as my head and half around the room. And then when the sun came and that awful pattern began to laugh at me, I declared I would finish it to-day! We go away to-morrow, and they are moving all my furniture down again to leave things as they were before. Jennie looked at the wall in amazement, but I told her merrily that I did it out of pure spite at the vicious thing. She laughed and said she wouldn't mind doing it herself, but I must not get tired. How she betrayed herself that time! But I am here, and no person touches this paper but me,--not alive ! She tried to get me out of the room--it was too patent! But I said it was so quiet and empty and clean now that I believed I would lie down again and sleep all I could; and not to wake me even for dinner--I would call when I woke. So now she is gone, and the servants are gone, and the things are gone, and there is nothing left but that great bedstead nailed down, with the canvas mattress we found on it. We shall sleep downstairs to-night, and take the boat home to-morrow. I quite enjoy the room, now it is bare again. How those children did tear about here! This bedstead is fairly gnawed! But I must get to work. I have locked the door and thrown the key down into the front path. I don't want to go out, and I don't want to have anybody come in, till John comes. I want to astonish him. I've got a rope up here that even Jennie did not find. If that woman does get out, and tries to get away, I can tie her! But I forgot I could not reach far without anything to stand on! This bed will not move! I tried to lift and push it until I was lame, and then I got so angry I bit off a little piece at one corner--but it hurt my teeth. Then I peeled off all the paper I could reach standing on the floor. It sticks horribly and the pattern just enjoys it! All those strangled heads and bulbous eyes and waddling fungus growths just shriek with derision! I am getting angry enough to do something desperate. To jump out of the window would be admirable exercise, but the bars are too strong even to try. Besides I wouldn't do it. Of course not. I know well enough that a step like that is improper and might be misconstrued. I don't like to look out of the windows even-- there are so many of those creeping women, and they creep so fast. I wonder if they all come out of that wall-paper as I did? But I am securely fastened now by my well-hidden rope--you don't get me out in the road there ! I suppose I shall have to get back behind the pattern when it comes night, and that is hard!It is so pleasant to be out in this great room and creep around as I please! I don't want to go outside. I won't, even if Jennie asks me to. For outside you have to creep on the ground, and everything is green instead of yellow. But here I can creep smoothly on the floor, and my shoulder just fits in that long smooch around the wall, so I cannot lose my way. Why there's John at the door! It is no use, young man, you can't open it! How he does call and pound! Now he's crying for an axe. It would be a shame to break down that beautiful door!"John dear!" said I in the gentlest voice, "the key is down by the front steps, under a plantain leaf!" That silenced him for a few moments. Then he said--very quietly indeed, "Open the door, my darling!" "I can't," said I. "The key is down by the front door under a plantain leaf!"And then I said it again, several times, very gently and slowly, and said it so often that he had to go and see, and he got it of course, and came in. He stopped short by the door. "What is the matter?" he cried. "For God's sake, what are you doing!" I kept on creeping just the same, but I looked at him over my shoulder."I've got out at last," said I, "in spite of you and Jane. And I've pulled off most of the paper, so you can't put me back!" Now why should that man have fainted? But he did, and right across my path by the wall, so that I had to creep over him every time!
Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper, first published 1899 by Small & Maynard, Boston, MA.
Click here to read Gilman's "Why I Wrote The Yellow Wallpaper," from the October 1913 issue of The Forerunner.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Head Cheerleader by, Jack Ridl

At halftime, she finds
an open mirror, checks
her makeup, sweat
glistening on her forehead.
She runs her tongue
along her upper lip, pulls
a comb through her long
brown hair, pushes it up
on the sides, adds a new
line of lipstick, smoothes
down her skirt. On the
way out, she turns and
looks over her shoulder.

"Head Cheerleader" by Jack Ridl, from Losing Season. © Cavan

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Health Care Alarm Bells

Speaking as the daughter of a breast cancer survivor, I know that I am not the only woman watching the current debate regarding women's health with growing concern. Less than a century ago, there truly was no specialized health care for women. All of the medical research was done on men. We have come a long way in the screening and care of women's health concerns. Now I feel like congress and some medical professionals want to turn back the hands of time.

Breast cancer screening, pap smears, and other "women centered" health tests do save lives. I know more than a handful of people in my age group (early 40's) who have caught their cancer early thanks to these invaluable tools. I can see the writing on the wall when it comes to coverage. Those "great minds" in charge of our well-being will determine that women only need these tests every few years or so and insurance companies will use that as an excuse to curtail assessment for women and cut it further. I believe that all of these cuts are motivated purely by an effort to save money. Most cancer experts that I have heard interviewed do not agree with these changes. When I look at this issue, I see those that are for the archaic changes to women's health care are the same ones that can save money when it comes to denying women coverage.

It has only been within the last few decades that women in general have had the knowledge and coverage to get these life-saving tests. Yes, women's health care certainly seems to moving back into the middle ages and more women are not going to be able to get treatment and die as a result of it and we will have the government of "change" to thank.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Why Hurry Christmas?

It's that time of year again, Halloween is barely over, Thanksgiving isn't even here, and the decorations and Christmas music are in full force all over town. Why does Thanksgiving have to be rushed every year? Can't we take even a moment in our hurried and harried society to pause and give thanks? This year, as with every other, it seems as though Thanksgiving is a mere stopping place, a touch point really, on the way to the full scale mania of materialism at Christmas.

As I went about my errands today, I tried to stop my ears against the Christmas songs blaring in all of the stores, I tried to ignore the shelves upon shelves of Christmas decorations and advertising for Christmas gifts, and I even attempted to shut out Christmas items that were already ON SALE! How's that for effort? I do hate to hurry Thanksgiving. I love Halloween, all of that candy and no relatives, and I love Christmas-just not so soon. I will continue to "shut out" the Christmas frenzy and not get wrapped up in it the best that I can until Thanksgiving weekend is over. It is going to be awfully hard to do though if I go out in public at all.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Seasons of Garden by, Myself

The tattered garden next door
reminds me of a bum
sleeping on the street of dreams.

A luxurious garden, it once was
telling seasons in blooms of color
following the careful tending of soil.

This time last year, the garden was blousy
until the owners had to vacate
leaving the perennials unattended.

Fall faded leaves flutter down
gently into piles of broken pottery
and moss-covered ground.

The once worm-burrowed earth
is now hard on the surface, like clay
newly fired, blackened in the kiln.

So the eyesore grows
from grandeur to humbleness
to shame in the blink of a season.

Living gardens require care,
attention, and constancy like a
beautiful bird preening before a mirror.

Will this garden know what it is
to live again with renewed youth?
I gather not, it remains forsaken.

A skeletal reminder of
what happens when dreams, once full
begin to run on empty.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Carpenters - Rainy Days and Mondays (Australia 1971)

We had both a rainy day and a Monday here in Seattle, but I wasn't down.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I Wish You Enough

I never really thought that I'd spend as much time in airports as I do. I don't know why. I always wanted to be famous and that would mean lots of travel. But I'm not famous, yet I do see more than my share of airports. I love them and I hate them. I love them because of the people I get to watch. But they are also the same reason why I hate airports. It all comes down to "hello" and "goodbye.

I must have mentioned this a few times while writing my stories for you. I have great difficulties with saying goodbye. Even as I write this I am experiencing that pounding sensation in my heart. If I am watching such a scene in a movie I am affected so much that I need to sit up and take a few deep breaths. So when faced with a challenge in my life I have been known to go to our local airport and watch people say goodbye. I figure nothing that is happening to me at the time could be as bad as having to say goodbye.

Watching people cling to each other, crying, and holding each other in that last embrace makes me appreciate what I have even more. Seeing them finally pull apart, extending their arms until the tips of their fingers are the last to let go, is an image that stays forefront in my mind throughout the day.

On one of my recent business trips, when I arrived at the counter to check in, the woman said, "How are you today?" I replied, "I am missing my wife already and I haven't even said goodbye."She then looked at my ticket and began to ask, "How long will you...Oh, my God. You will only be gone three days!" We all laughed. My problem was I still had to say goodbye. But I learn from goodbye moments, too.

Recently I overheard a father and daughter in their last moments together. They had announced her departure and standing near the security gate, they hugged and he said, "I love you. I wish you enough." She in turn said, "Daddy, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, too, Daddy."They kissed and she left.

He walked over toward the window where I was seated. Standing there I could see he wanted and needed to cry. I tried not to intrude on his privacy, but he welcomed me in by asking, "Did you ever say goodbye to someone knowing it would be forever?" "Yes, I have," I replied. Saying that brought back memories I had of expressing my love and appreciation for all my Dad had done for me. Recognizing that his days were limited, I took the time to tell him face to face how much he meant to me. So I knew what this man experiencing.

"Forgive me for asking, but why is this a forever goodbye?" I asked."I am old and she lives much too far away. I have challenges ahead and the reality is, the next trip back would be for my funeral," he said.

"When you were saying goodbye I heard you say, "I wish you enough." May I ask what that means?"He began to smile. "That's a wish that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone." He paused for a moment and looking up as if trying to remember it in detail, he smiled even more. "When we said 'I wish you enough,' we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them," he continued and then turning toward me he shared the following as if he were reciting it from memory.

* I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright.
* I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.
* I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.
* I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger.
* I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
* I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
* I wish enough hello's to get you through the final goodbye.

He then began to sob and walked away.

My friends, I wish you enough!

--- Copyright © 2001 Bob Parks

Friday, November 13, 2009

On Thankfulness...

Some days, when I am not viewing the world in a negative or cynical light and when I haven't had to share the road with too many bad drivers, I look around me and take stock in the little things that I am thankful for. This week I have had cause to give thanks to the powers that be for my healthy children. Sure, they get sick every once in a while, but they are not disabled. Their brains and bodies work and I get to experience being a parent of "normal" children. I once heard a poem about the birth of a typical child being compared to taking a trip to Italy and the birth of disabled one being compared to a trip to Holland, not what was expected, but over time parents are generally able to learn and grow in the beauty of each trip no matter how unplanned.

It has been fifteen years that I have worked with children of varying mental and physical disabilities and every so often there is a family that comes through the door to the office that gets me in some way and that happened this week. This family took a trip to Holland, a drastically unplanned one at that, about four years ago and as these problems are genetically related, it is unlikely that this child will have a sibling. The child is beautiful in his own way. I can see where the eyes of the appraising and often judgemental public may miss his beauty and I feel for these parents. Just about everything that could go wrong with a child has gone wrong with this kid.

What I think about though is the grief that parents of only children who are disabled must have to go through. To never be able to see their child change emotionally, socially, and cognitively from a three-year-old to a six-year-old to a ten-year-old onto the teenage years, then college, and independent adulthood. To know that the development will stop somewhere between one-year to three-years of age I think would be very hard for any parent to do. I watch and marvel and the strength, courage, and happiness that so many of these parents have day in and day out, what a gift, what a challenge.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Twenty-First Century Help

I just got through reading "The Help" by Kathyrn Stockett. It is her first novel. This was a book club pick, but I loved the book and had a difficult time putting it down. Now I am done and find myself missing the characters. Ms. Stockett lives in New York City, but she grew up in Mississippi. Her father's family had a full-time maid like many Southerners of that era. Ms. Stockett grew up close to this maid, who died when Ms. Stockett was 16. Ms. Stockett never got to ask her what being a maid felt like. This is why she wrote the book. The focus is on several characters, but mainly a white woman and two black maids and the daring thing that they conspire to do together in Mississippi in the early 1960's.

Granted, by today's standards, this was a long time ago. But, how has "the help" really changed in this century? Many of the women who perform household and childcare services are not American. They don't have to wear a maid's uniform to be admitted to the "whites only" supermarket, but I can't help but think that the discrimination is still there. Maybe it is more subtle, or maybe I just know nice people. At this time I don't actually know anyone who has help that comes everyday. I wonder if this standard still exist for wealthy Southerners and I wonder if the help is still black, or have they moved on to Latino, Filipino, and Vietnamese household helpers? What is the discriminatory nature of "the help" and the women who employ them in the twenty-first century? Have we come very far when it comes to race relations or have we just switched ethnic backgrounds?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

One Bad Apple Ruins the Whole Bunch

I will be the first to admit that I haven't read much about the problems that Children's Hospital of Seattle has faced in regards to their much needed expansion. On Friday evening I attended a Symphony Guild fundraiser for Children's Hospital, I listened to a report about this issue on NPR, and I talked to a friend of mine who is a web designer for Children's Hospital at a party last night. These are my sources.

The fact is that Children's Hospital needs to expand. They currently have 250 beds and approximately 247 of them are filled. Children are sometimes not able to be placed in the area of the hospital that would best meet their needs because specialty areas are filled to the brim. Sometimes, children are turned away for services. The Children's Hospital of Seattle is located on a fairly nice piece of property near Lake Washington. In order to expand, they must build up. There are a handful of wealthy, aged, and influential people who have made their homes on the hill above the hospital and are actively thwarting expansion because they don't want their view blocked.

Needless to say, many of the businesses in the vicinity of the hospital are kept going by the employees and visitors at Children's. I am guessing that hundreds of employees live in the area. If the hospital is forced to move, it would be to the east side of the lake. There are two bridges that provide access to the east side from Seattle and they are both hugely congested many times during the day and evening as it is. Adding Children's Hospital traffic (assuming that most people don't want to or are unable to sell and buy in this economy) is going to make a large traffic problem that much worse. I would also like to mention that Harborview is the emergency hospital in Seattle, the one that a helicopter would land at if one were to need such services. Helicopters also land at Children's. Families who have been in accidents can get pediatric and adult care on the same side of the bridge and not be separated by a lake.

But, some people just don't want to lose their view. Is a view really more important than displacing and inconveniencing hundreds of employees and patients, No. I support keeping Seattle Children's Hospital in Seattle and wish the city council and government the best of luck in overriding some seriously self-centered individuals on this important issue.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Needless Death

Today in Seattle a memorial service was held for officer Timothy Brenton of the Seattle Police Force. Now I know that I have sometimes been critical of speed traps in my blog, but my criticisms of police departments in general is limited only to needless speed traps. I do have respect for their position and this was an egregiously needless death. Officer Brenton and his partner, a woman and trainee, were parked on a quiet street reviewing some paperwork on Halloween. The trainee saw, out of the corner of her eye, a car start to pull up and she sensed trouble. She ducked and yelled for officer Brenton to do the same. Unfortunately, he was too late, as the car drove by they let out a spray of bullets into the police cruiser and officer Brenton was killed. It was obvious that the driver had wanted to kill both police officers, but only got one that day. Brenton was a young officer with two small children that are now fatherless because of this senseless act of violence. No one should die this way.

My hope is that they will catch whoever did this. I have another hope as well and that is that the media will not sensationalize the perpetrator. Undoubtedly this is too much to expect, as the media sensationalizes everything. In this case, I really don't want to hear about the suspect's background, race, religion, or history of problems with the police. I would like for him to be caught, tried and found guilty, and put to death as quickly as possible. I frankly don't even want to know his name. There is no excuse for this, no excuse at all.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Act of God

I saw the documentary film, "Act of God" last night. I actually had a difficult time following the sequence of stories in the film. Although there were some pretty spectacular images of lightening, I did not like the music used to narrate the film, it reminded me of fingernails on the blackboard. What brings me to write about this film viewing today is, it got me thinking about the randomness of life. Some may call this randomness "acts of God," others may refer to it simply as "chance." I consider myself to be somewhere in between. Yes, I believe in God, but contrary to the views expressed by some of the people interviewed in the film, I don't think of disaster (natural or otherwise) as a blessing or something to be considered good in any way. I also think it is somewhat dangerous to view a lightening strike that kills people as something considered to be "good," because it keeps the people still alive from going through the grief process. The film focused on stories about lightening strikes in South America, Cuba, France, and the United States. The participants in South America definitely had a more "this is God's will" view of lightening induced family deaths. I think of these lightening strikes more as chance rather than acts of God.
In the South American deaths, the young people who died had climbed to the top of an unsheltered hill knowing a storm was going to strike. In doing so, there was definitely a chance that they would be struck by lightening. In two of the American stories the participants were in areas of the country where thunder and lightening storms are not uncommon and were also outside in fairly unsheltered areas. If we take these examples away from lightening and look at the randomness of life in general, I think much of it leads to chance based on choices (knowing or not) and behavior that affects the outcome. I don't think of God necessarily as a puppeteer controlling our lives minutely from above.
Are these deaths sad, yes, all death by any means I think of as sad. One thing that we have to come to grips with in our humaneness is that we all have a finite time on this earth and this is something we can't change or control. Sometimes death comes early and sometimes late. I guess, overall, that I just didn't really see the "act of God" connection to the stories presented in this film. I would have gotten much more out of it viewing lightening scenes and actions narrated by beautiful music.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Important Birthdays

It's the birthday of British satirist Evelyn Waugh, born in London (1903). He came from a literary family: His father was the managing editor of an important British publishing house, and his older brother was a distinguished writer. But Waugh didn't do well in school, and he left Oxford without receiving a degree. He tried working as a teacher, but he got fired from three schools in two years. He said, "I was from the first an obvious dud." He was seriously in debt, without a job, and had just been rejected by the girl he liked, so he decided to drown himself in the ocean. He wrote a suicide note and jumped in the sea, but before he got very far, he was stung by a jellyfish. He scrambled back to shore, tore up his suicide note, and decided to give life a second chance.
He didn't know what else to do, so he wrote a novel about a young teacher at a private school where the other teachers are all drunks, child molesters, and escaped convicts; and the mother of one student is running an international prostitution ring. His publishers forced him to preface the book with a disclaimer that said, "Please bear in mind throughout that it is meant to be funny." The novel, Decline and Fall, was published in 1928, and it was immediately recognized as a masterpiece of modern satire.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Autumn Waiting by Tom Hennen

Cold wind.
The day is waiting for winter
Without a sound.
Everything is waiting—
Broken-down cars in the dead weeds.
The weeds themselves.
Even sunlight
Is in no hurry and stays
For a long time
On each cornstalk.
Blackbirds are silent
And sit in piles.
From a distance
They look like
Spilled on the road.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

La Traviata Opening Night

I have a friend who is a real opera fanatic and she usually manages to get me to a couple of shows per year. Last night we saw La Traviata. I seem to remember seeing this opera ages ago in Portland. The sets for the one last night were incredible and Violetta was at her finest. My friend used her upgrade option for our seats, they were probably some of the best seats that I had ever had. All in all, a very enjoyable evening.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Football Fever

I went to a University of Washington football game last night with my family. It was quite fun. I am not a huge football fan, but I do like watching it live, especially college games. When I went to graduate school at the University of Wisconsin, I went to all of the Badger home games and last night helped me to remember how fun it can be. The last half, more specifically, the last quarter was amazing! The Huskies had a couple of extremely lucky/great plays and won the game. I felt bad for people who left at half time thinking that they would lose for sure. Oh, and the pre-game tailgate party was fun as well!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Grandmas in Church by, Myself

The piano tins-out of tune,
background to hymns sung
in the temporary church
of linoleum and folding chairs

Volunteers put the shiny metal chairs
brown and flaked,
in neat rows across the
drab-gray floor

Grandma sits, fur collar at
her neck, topping an
ancient, brown wool coat

“Would you like some gum?”
she whispers at my ear
and drops a piece into my
pink, plastic wicker purse

The ageing congregation sings
How Great Thou Art!
a cacophonous rumble

Grandma can’t sing
her voice has always been weak
She whispers loudly at me

about things that nannas
and little girls share,
like not singing hymns in a
temporary, basement church
on a cold Oregon Coast morn

Grandma’s wearing big earrings, gold and
glittery, the clip-on kind
I want to reach up and pluck
one from her ear

Her open purse smells
like Kleenex as she rummages
for more candy

I long to pet the lacquered glaze of
Grandma’s Final-Net hair
the two of us are immune to
stares as Grandma tries singing

again, her voice, a scratchy croak
leaving drops of spittle on the
linoleum floor to be
mopped away by those
serviceable volunteers

Her breath smells like
pie dough, we are in church


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Artis the Spoonman

I haven't seen this guy in a long time! This brings back memories.

Visqueen - "Zirconium Gun"

I went to a CD release party for this band last night. They are a great live music group.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Harvest by Louise Gluck

It's autumn in the market—
not wise anymore to buy tomatoes.
But eggplant shines.
They're beautiful still on the outside,
some perfectly round and red, the rare varieties
misshapen, individual, like human brains covered in red oilcloth—

Inside, they're gone. Black, moldy—
you can't take a bite without anxiety.
Here and there, among the tainted ones, a fruit
still perfect, picked before decay set in.

Instead of tomatoes, crops nobody really wants.
Pumpkins, a lot of pumpkins.
Gourds, ropes of dried chilies, braids of garlic.
The artisans weave dead flowers into wreaths;
they tie bits of colored yarn around dried lavender.
And people go on for a while buying these things
as though they thought the farmers would see to it
that things went back to normal:
the vines would go back to bearing new peas;
the first small lettuces, so fragile, so delicate, would begin
to poke out of the dirt.

Instead, it gets dark early.
And the rains get heavier; they carry
the weight of dead leaves.

At dusk, now, an atmosphere of threat, of foreboding.
And people feel this themselves; they give a name to the season,
harvest, to put a better face on these things.

The gourds are rotting on the ground, the sweet blue grapes are finished.
A few roots, maybe, but the ground's so hard the farmers think
it isn't worth the effort to dig them out. For what?
To stand in the marketplace under a thin umbrella, in the rain, in the cold,
no customers anymore?

And then the frost comes; there's no more question of harvest.
The snow begins; the pretense of life ends.
The earth is white now; the fields shine when the moon rises.

I sit at the bedroom window, watching the snow fall.
The earth is like a mirror:
calm meeting calm, detachment meeting detachment.

What lives, lives underground.
What dies, dies without struggle.

"Harvest" by Louise Gl├╝ck from A Village Life. © Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2009.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

the way it works by, Charles Bukowski

she came out at 9:30 a.m. in the morning
and knocked at the manager's door:
"my husband is dead!"
they went to the back of the building together
and the process began:
first the fire dept. sent two men
in dark shirts and pants
in vehicle #27
and the manager and the lady and the
two men went inside as she

he had knifed her last April and
had done 6 months for that.

the two men in dark shirts came out
got in their vehicle
and drove away.

then two policemen came.
then a doctor (he probably was there to
sign the death certificate).

I became tired of looking out the
window and began to
read the latest issue of
The New Yorker.

when I looked again there was a nice
sensitive-looking gray-haired gentleman
walking slowly up and down the
sidewalk in a dark suit.
then he waved in a black
hearse which
drove right up on the lawn and stopped
next to my porch.

two men got out of the hearse
opened up the back
and pulled out a gurney with 4
wheels. they rolled it to the back of the
building. when they came out again he was in a
black zipper bag and she was in
obvious distress.
they put him in the
hearse and then walked back to
her apartment and went inside

I had to take out my laundry and
run some other errands.
Linda was coming to visit and
I was worried about her seeing that
hearse parked next to my porch.
so I left a note pinned to my door
that said: Linda, don't worry.
I'm ok. and
then I took my dirty laundry to my car and
drove away.

when I got back the hearse was gone and
Linda hadn't arrived yet.
I took the note from the door and
went inside.

well, I thought, that old guy in back
he was about my age and
we saw each other every day but
we never spoke to one another.

now we wouldn't have to.

"the way it works" by Charles Bukowski, from What Matters Most Is How Well You Walk Through the Fire. © Black Sparrow Press, 1999.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Wal-Mart, Symbol of America

I am horrified, although I don't know exactly why, I shouldn't really be all that surprised about what I read in the paper this morning. About half of the respondents in a new poll chose Wal-Mart as the institution that best symbolizes America today. Personally, I think Wal-Mart is the institution that best symbolizes what is wrong with America today, but I guess that is just my opinion. What do I really have to say about this? Don't the findings speak for themselves? Yet, some people still need to ask why I am a cynic? The article pointed out how other companies like Google, Microsoft, and Goldman-Sachs were "left in the dust" on this one. I would like to point out that the companies that were "left in the dust" are also companies that have a more educated work force than Wal-Mart, they are also companies that do much of their hiring from overseas, does anyone besides me see a correlation here?

Despite its reputation for good bargains, Wal-Mart makes me think of things like labor exploitation and forced price cutting. Are these the "values" we want to continue to be known for throughout the world? Like our primary education system, the focus seems to be on mediocrity. No longer a nation known for the futuristic foresight of innovative greatness, no not us, our symbol of "success" according to some Americans lies in amassing cheap quantities of materialistic goods that can be consumed in the moment. This points to a value of success not based on quality, but based on our ability to bulldoze the competition and live cheaply in the moment.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Humane Society Walk

My oldest daughter, two of her friends, and two parents participated in this walk today and it was a fun event all the way around and for such a good cause! We don't own a dog, but our neighbors were nice enough to share theirs with us during the walk. Only later did I find out that we could have registered to walk a shelter dog, maybe next year. Terrific weather, terrific day, and terrific turn-out. When I last looked the Humane Society had raised over $90,000.00 from this event.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

What I Understood by Katha Pollitt

When I was a child I understood everything
about, for example, futility. Standing for hours
on the hot asphalt outfield, trudging for balls
I'd ask myself, how many times will I have to perform
this pointless task, and all the others? I knew
about snobbery, too, and cruelty—for children
are snobbish and cruel—and loneliness: in restaurants
the dignity and shame of solitary diners
disabled me, and when my grandmother
screamed at me, "Someday you'll know what it's like!"
I knew she was right, the way I knew
about the single rooms my teachers went home to,
the pictures on the dresser, the hoard of chocolates,
and that there was no God, and that I would die.
All this I understood, no one needed to tell me.
the only thing I didn't understand
was how in a world whose predominant characteristics
are futility, cruelty, loneliness, disappointment
people are saved every day
by a sparrow, a foghorn, a grassblade, a tablecloth.
This year I'll be
thirty-nine, and I still don't understand it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Unexpected Good Read

I just got through reading an excellent book called "Expecting Adam" by Martha Beck. This is not a new book, it was published about ten years ago. It is a memoir about Martha's pregnancy with a Down Syndrome child. Martha and her husband were both graduate students at Harvard University at the time (1988) and they had an 18 month old daughter when Martha found out that she was expecting again and that she was carrying a "Down Syndrome fetus." She was 25 years old. What would you do?

The prevailing thought on the Harvard campus at the time was that such a fetus should be aborted. Martha decided not to do this. Her pregnancy journey was quite a spiritually compelling one. I have heard that sometimes women are open to such experiences during a pregnancy, but had never heard or read about a long duration of such an "experience." It seemed, in reading the book, that not only was this pregnancy blessed, but that the fetus, Adam, had picked these two people to be his parents.

Coincidentally, Martha was studying social sciences and women's studies at the time. During her pregnancy with Adam she was in a class where the debate was about advances in obstetrical technology. One student brazenly informed the class that women had a social obligation to terminate any pregnancy in which the fetus was deformed.

When Martha's son, Adam was a child she watched him help an emotionally traumatized young girl go on a carnival ride. She thought about those student's words from years before and of a couple of notorious Harvard geniuses including the unabomber and a South American dictator who maimed and killed people. If Adam was on one side of the debate and these Harvard geniuses are on the other, what kind of world are people who think that the pregnancy of any child who might not be "perfect" hoping for?

Monday, September 21, 2009

My Poker Face

I learned how to play poker on Saturday night. My dad is a poker aficionado of sorts. He and his friends still get together to play. Instead of meeting at 8:00pm on a Saturday night, they now meet at about 4:00pm on a weeknight, some of them toting walkers and quad canes to the event. I have always associated poker with my dad and time that he spent with his friends and have thus been a bit slow in learning how to play.

Last Saturday marked the end of my lethargy in learning the game of poker. While battling what has now turned into a miserable head cold, I dragged myself from my prone position a few blocks to my neighbors house, the site of the event. Thinking that I would only socialize a bit and then head home, I surprised myself by saying, "yes, " when asked to join a beginners game. This was great, the beginners game was perfect, nobody knew what they were doing and thus I did not slow anyone down with my steep learning curve. I started having so much fun that I even forgot how sick I had felt earlier in the evening.

At any rate, I eventually was lured away by the social aspects of the evening. My friend, who took over my place at the table, came in second. I like to think that I helped to boost her level of success, not bad for beginners luck.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Shouts & Murmurs: Easy Cocktails from the Cursing Mommy:

Although I do not swear constantly and fanatically, a friend of mine sent this to me and I found it to be hilarious, plus I actually could relate.

Shouts & Murmurs: Easy Cocktails from the Cursing Mommy:

Shared via AddThis

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Drinking Our Way Through Seattle

Last night I went out, spur of the moment, after a very long day, for both of us, with a friend in order to celebrate her birthday. We were talking about blogs, the Julie Powell blog specifically, and we wondered what kind of blog we could create and decide to add our idea to my existing blog. The idea being to drink our way around town. Now, this does present a few challenges as we really don't get out all that often. But, it has been decided that when we do and we enjoy the product, I will blog about it.

Stir Martini Bar was where we found ourselves last night. In addition to a wonderful food menu, Stir also serves up some pretty fantastic drinks. They use excellent vodkas which, needless to say, go down more smoothly than many other vodkas out there and makes it easier for one to get up and go to work the next day. Here is a list of the drinks that we sampled:

Bellevue Blue: Belevedere vodka, Bombay Sapphire gin, and Blue Curaco
Baby Shea: Titos vodka, Lillet, Orchard Apricot and lemon juice
Purple Flower: Sapphire gin, St. Germain, Creme de Violette, and Lavender soda
Sake 75: Pearl Plum vodka, Sake, sparkling wine, and lemon sour
Pink Fizz: rum, Triple Sec, muddled orange, lemon and cherry, Grenadine, and Sprite

For Dessert:
Drinking Chocolate served with a homemade marshmallow (I am going to have to try this at home. Last night's marshmallow really helped me see the value of going homemade)
Chocolate Martini-standard mix

Pretty luscious fare I know, but it was her birthday after all!
The other great thing about the evening is that most of it was spent during after-hours Happy Hour and the drinks were less than half-price.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

What I did Last Night

Part of the evening involved watching this man perform shirtless, yummy! I love girls night!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Greatest Show on Earth

We went to the circus last night. The Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey "Greatest Show on Earth" circus and it was fun. Now I am a self-described "non-circus" person with the exception of the acrobatics that make my palms sweat and those were spectacular. What surprised me the most is how much I actually enjoyed the animal parts of the circus. The horses were gorgeous and the performing dog show was, in many ways, similar to the one that we saw in Sea World San Diego a few years back and I really enjoyed that.

All in all the only downer part of the evening was the group of sour faced protesters stationed at the main entrance and the fact that the circus wasn't actually held under a big top, but that is a different story. Since reading "Water for Elephants," I have been entranced with the notion of the big top. Also, I am old enough to have seen an actual circus under a big top and *sigh* I do miss those old fashioned things. Anyway, back to the protesters. I am given to understand, after completing my cursory Internet search, that the law suit that RBBB circus has managed to keep out of the courts since 2000 is indeed going to court. This suit involves alleged mis-treatment of the elephants.

On many levels I do consider myself to be an animal activist. But I think protesters, even a small group of them, at the circus is ridiculous. I realize that many of them have never travelled outside of the U.S. and been to countries where elephants are used as domestic labor and often treated very cruelly. It is certainly easier to station yourself outside of the doors of a commercial event in your own hometown rather than deal with the abuse of international animal trade. I get that.

But, in my humble opinion, the circus has gone quite P.C. since the big top days of old. What benefit does it give them to mis-treat their elephants. I might add, that at $60,000.00 per year for maintenance, these elephants are a huge investment for the circus. Like I said, I didn't expect to enjoy the elephants, tigers, horses and such as much as I did. I thought that I would be sitting in my seat thinking how much nicer it would be for these animals to roam free, not that they ever could, being too domesticated, at this point mind you.

At any rate, perhaps, probably, maybe there has been more recent elephant abuse in the circus. That is not up for me to answer. I know that the protesters at this event had a picture of one elephant and held posters proclaiming that this one elephant had been beaten to death. If that is true, than of course it is a damn shame. But their evidence was sketchy and limited and seemed a bit fabricated to me. It also disturbed the children and not in a good way. The animals on the floor inside of the event were beautiful and treated well during the performances.

Yes, people have come to enjoy animal free circuses. I am a fan of Cirque de Soleil. I did mention that I enjoy palm sweating acrobatics did I not? But as a sometimes old-fashioned American, I would I think miss the animal portion of RBBB circus. How many decades has this circus been around?

I hope that the outcome of the upcoming trial is fair. And if circus training practices need to change, than change they should and this may mean animal free RBBB circuses in the future. In the meantime images of painted elephants in India with numerous scars and limited nutrition will come to mind when I think of animal mistreatment, not the stunningly beautiful creatures that I witnessed at the circus last night.