My mother’s politics

My mother is a quiet, reserved person and she would never be described as an activist. She spent her life molding the minds of her students in her many classrooms. She may be quiet, but she has always had strong opinions about things and the way she taught me about them influences me even now.

These days it is not uncommon to see advertisements that feature what I call purposeful role reversal. A father may be folding the laundry or a mother is coaching sports. In the 70’s, there was an ad for Jif peanut butter and the tag line was “choosy mothers choose Jif.” The fact that the commercial insinuated that only mothers choose peanut butter and that you’re not a good (choosy) mother if you don’t choose Jif pretty much outraged my mother. She stuck with her favorite, Peter Pan, thank you very much. She showed me that it was possible to “vote” with your wallet.

Long before conservative Christians began speaking up politically and years before the Moral Majority was formed, my mother was on guard to protect me from certain types of religious indoctrination. Vacation Bible school was forbidden and if a friend invited me to church or youth group, the group/church had to be investigated by my mother. If they had any conservative/prejudiced/evangelical leanings, I wouldn’t be allowed to attend. My churchgoing desires were satisfied by her taking me to a local liberal Episcopal church, where I would be confirmed.

In 2015, same-sex marriage became the law of the land. The first thing my mother said to me about the decision was, “too bad Uncle Max and Charlie aren’t alive to see this.” Uncle Max was her paternal uncle and Charlie was his partner. I knew about Uncle Max and Charlie because my mother was honest about their relationship. In the mid 60’s, most gay people had to keep their orientation a secret even from family members. As a young child growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, I knew my Great Uncle Max was different, but in my eyes, he and Charlie were just handsome relatives whom we saw at holidays.

My mother is now 75 years old. I love the fact that she has friends of all races and religions. Her strong opinions are something she holds close to her and unless you are family, you might not know about them. As long as you respect her, she will respect you and her political views won’t be discussed among friends. I admire this and strive to emulate her quiet strength.

Enough with the graduations!

I am tempted to temporarily suspend my Facebook account until after graduation season is over.  I just find the constant graduation pictures and celebrations, complete with tears and “my baby is all grown up now” posts too much. First of all, your five year old didn’t graduate from kindergarten. They are moving to 1st grade. Your 8th grader will be a high schooler now. If your 5th grader failed elementary school and has to stay back a year, I’m sorry, but for the rest of the kids moving on, it’s no big deal. Really. One friend of mine actually posted that today was a big day for her daughter as she moved from 9th grade to 10th. Um, not a big deal. Let’s put away the tiny caps and gowns and save the celebrations for graduations that really matter, like high school or college. Enough with the tears and emojis all over Facebook. Honestly, I couldn’t care less. I apologize. It’s been 6 years since my youngest child graduated high school and the oldest one graduated college. I can guarantee that I did not go crazy on social media then, bombarding all who gave a shit with pictures and tears. I posted one picture of each of the high school and college graduations. One. There was not a countdown to the “big day” or collages of the children or side by side comparisons of him as a toddler and him as a graduate.

Why am I so cranky about this? I feel as though I should comment on all of these pictures with appropriate supportive comments such as, “Aw, congratulations to little Johnny” or “I can’t believe she is 10 years old already!” Your child is doing what every child in every school has done everyday for hundreds of years and the fact that they “passed” kindergarten or 5th grade is not necessarily a reason for caps and gowns, diplomas and parties. My youngest son had a rough time in 5th grade. I was happy that he did make it and took him out for lunch on the last day of school. We didn’t have a party and I’m pretty sure he didn’t want to participate in any graduation ceremony if the school even had one.

Celebrations are fun. I get it. Some people live for parties and like to make a big deal out of things. The problem I have with all of these “graduation” ceremonies is that when you make a huge deal out of every transition or every childhood growing up step, it diminishes the importance and specialnesss of the ones that really matter. It also teaches the child that simply making it from one grade to the next without failure is really something to be commended. I disagree with that. It is expected. It was expected that I would graduate from high school. (For the record, not a single one of my peers ever had a graduation or ceremony for any graduation except high school and/or college.) Same with my children. I did not feel the need to whoop it up and hoot and holler and when they walked across the stage to get their diplomas. The fact that they graduated was not the reason for celebration, but the recognition that they were no longer public school students and were moving on to the next phase of life, which is adulthood, was certainly a reason to celebrate.

Liberalism gone crazy

When I first moved to the south, I was on the lookout for a group of people that would fulfill my need for spiritual growth. A few years ago, my husband and I attended a screening of Robert Reich’s documentary about the 1% and met many like-minded people. One of those was a local “radical” Presbyterian pastor who not only had his own church, but facilitated a spiritual group for all faiths. I decided to attend this spiritual group and attended a few of their functions. The group meets in an old church in a not so great part of the city. Venturing there alone at night is not really something I feel comfortable doing, so I often had my husband accompany me. Last time we were there, we noticed that they had a strict “no weapons on the premises” policy, which is common here in a concealed carry state. Unfortunately, my husband was carrying his firearm. We felt pretty bad about this, but at the time, we just didn’t know.  During that same function, which was a dinner fundraiser and poetry slam, we were forced to eat vegan because the group’s facilitators are vegans and by darn, shouldn’t everyone be vegan? At the time, husband and I were on a strict low-carb diet and meat was a staple in our diets. Needless to say, we left there feeling very pissed off.

The problem with this place is that they are pushing agendas just like christian fundamentalists. If I agreed with all the tenants of their agendas, I might be okay with it, but I’m not. Yesterday one of their administrators saw a police officer sitting in her car in their back parking lot and asked her to leave because “weapons, badges and uniforms” are against their policies, as they don’t want to make those who fear such “symbols of violence” uncomfortable at their center.  I couldn’t believe it.  They’re basically saying that ex-felons, illegals and minorities matter more to them than other groups and that police officers, who put their lives on the line for THEM and others every day are not welcome unless they are not in uniform and unarmed.

I have contemplated donating a little money to their organization, but I won’t now. I’m actually considering sending them a ripped up check with a note expressing just how foolish and discriminatory they are being.  This, in a place with the words “justice”, “mercy” and “peace” in their name.  Hypocrites and far-left agendas being taken too far.

13 Reasons why…or not

Spurred by a friend’s recommendation, I chose to binge-watch the Netflix show, “13 Reasons Why” based on the popular young adult novel by Jay Asher. I never read the novel, though I have delved into many YA novels at my ripe old age and that is another post for another time.

“13 Reasons” is the story of Hannah Baker, a teen who has committed suicide. On her last day, she records 13 tapes (yes, cassette tapes) each one aimed at calling out a certain person who contributed to the mess that became her young life. It certainly does become a mess and the ones who are called out have either betrayed her, broken her heart, ditched her as a friend, slut-shamed her, and the biggie, raped her. The web of deceit, lies, betrayals, anger, and dysfunction grows with each episode and with each tape and even though you know that each of the people called out has done something to hurt Hannah, you can’t help but feel somewhat sorry for all of them, bearing shame, guilt, abuse, drugs, alcohol, parental abandonment, you name it. For example, Hannah’s former best friend is raped by a “friend” while passed out. Another friend lives with his druggie mother and her drug dealing boyfriend while attempting to maintain his outward appearance of “big man on campus.”  The tapes are passed around, from person to person, each person who is named on the tapes must listen and then pass the tapes to the next in line.

Meanwhile, Hannah’s parents are trying to figure out why their daughter did this. The protagonist, Clay, is a nice guy who is a former friend and potential love interest for Hannah, but he betrays her as well by not trying hard enough.  It is through Clay listening to the tapes that the viewer finds out about each of the people named on the tapes.

So, you get the picture. I had a huge problem with the premise of this show. Obviously, the friends of Hannah had horrible things going on in their own lives and all of the interactions between these friends are connected in a huge horrible web which supposedly led Hannah to take her own life and her friends who let her down are now left with the tapes, which pretty much blame them for her suicide. The culture of bullying at Hannah’s high school seems like a good subject to tackle, but I’m just not sure the end result of the discussion should have been the suicide of a young girl. The suicide scene is a very graphic depiction and certainly not for the faint of heart. The idea of the tapes is an interesting concept.

This brings me to my teenage  years. (a long time ago)  Has our society really gotten that much meaner and more viciously cruel? I knew MANY people who were bullied. I was bullied.  My brother and I were victims for years. I solved the problem by physically fighting back. What has made kids today so fragile? Is bullying so much worse due to social media? What is it?  I was the victim of a sexual assault at age 12. I knew many girls who were. I had friends betray me and I knew friends who lived through much, much worse without resorting to checking out permanently. When you’re 15 or 16 and your life is in the shitter, it does seem that things will never get better. Kids these days have resources that we never did. So many formerly taboo subjects are now discussed openly: sexuality, transgender people, drugs, alcohol, etc.

I would not recommend this program for any young person. I believe there are better ways of talking with your children about bullying, rape, drugs, alcohol, abuse, sexuality, etc. than this show. Romanticizing and normalizing suicide as an option is not an option.

 

Be the good…

Since the election, there has been a lot of talk among progressives about us “going high when they go low” and taking this opportunity to show the world that we are good, we are caring, we are loving, welcoming and tolerant.

Judging from this blog in which I rant about a lot of topics, it might be hard to tell that I do consider myself to be a force for good in the lives of those around me. I am a big believer in putting out positive energy. That doesn’t always mean that I feel positive, but I try to be polite, non-confrontational, kind and generous to everyone. It just doesn’t serve anyone to be easily angered, offended or rude. There are plenty of those kind of people and I prefer to be the kind yin to their unkind yang.

If your own life is a mess, it can be difficult to see past yourself to be the good, and if you find that there is nothing left to give to others, that’s ok. Just move on. Hopefully someone will come along, have some extra to spare and fill your cup just a little bit.

I have a friend who always has time to give advice and just listen, even if she is going through her own crises, of which there seem to be many. Some people just have the capacity to give even when their own life is falling apart at the time. I want to be one of those people. I don’t have to like you or agree with you or carry your burdens, but I’m not going to let an encounter with me ruin your day if I can help it. Just imagine if everyone you came in contact with during the days really tried to act on that principle. What an amazing world we would live in.

Let’s Get This Straight

It is NOBODY’S BUSINESS but your own, let me repeat NOBODY’S BUSINESS but your own, what you choose to do with your body.  Before anyone states the obvious, I’m not talking about using your body to commit a crime or to inflict pain on another person.  I’m talking about the skin, bones, blood, muscles, etc. that you claim as yours.  That’s right.  It is yours. It’s what people see when they look at you.  It’s almost always a canvas to be used to express who you are in one way or another.  It can reveal a lot about you or it might not.  You might not think a lot about your body, but I hope that you think enough of it to take care of it. If you don’t, well, that is unfortunate, but it’s not my place to tell you what I think of it.

At the old age of 52, my body has certainly been through a lot with three pregnancies, two childbirths, my rough and tumble childhood (and adulthood, lol), sexual pleasure, bruises, sprains, high blood pressure, and far too much abuse. I never set out to abuse my body, but I never loved it. I never loved the skin I’m in. What about the legs that have carried me so well for all of these years?  I’ve never had a broken bone. I really have never had a serious illness.  My breasts have fed a child.  My body has nurtured the growth of two children. Isn’t it funny how we, as mothers, seem to practice body love only when the life of another is at stake?  Why did I give up certain foods and drinks when I was pregnant?  Wasn’t MY health just as important as the health of the life inside of me?  I daresay many of us don’t love our bodies. We scrutinize and torture ourselves with thoughts of hatred and desires to be look like someone else.  How fucking insane is that??  Men generally don’t do that.

I’m writing this because of a conversation I had recently with one of my parents.  Rather than bore you with a long, woe is me post about my own body issues, I will tell you what was said and you can draw your own conclusions about my past and how those past issues continue to haunt me and affect me to this day.  At the age of 52!!!  Ok, here goes some snippets from the aforementioned conversation:

Me: “How was your dinner with J and his friend? What did you think of R?”

Parent: “He seemed nice enough.  Overweight, though, just like J.”

Me: “Heh, aren’t so many young people these days?”

—————————————————————–

Parent: “I looked up S’s fiance’ on on Facebook. Do you know what her last name is?”

Me: “Yes, we are friends on Facebook.  It’s **** .” (her last name is a synonym for fat)

Parent: “Kind of appropriate.”


S just recently got engaged.  His fiance’ is a young woman who is overweight.  S has exclusively dated larger women. I don’t know if he has a preference or not, but that’s his business.  Since S started dating, this parent (S’s grandparent) has made remarks about S’s girlfriends being fat. One time, a comment about one girlfriend was made in earshot of her parents.  Not cool.  J’s friend R is also overweight. I knew that, but of course, it had to be pointed out to me in a critical manner.

From a very young age, I was taught that it was not OK to be overweight. Of course, I inherited my curvaceous body type from my Italian grandmother and I have had to work hard to keep weight off.  I don’t want to be overweight, but I still am. No matter how I choose to “keep” my body, it’s not up to anyone else to pass judgements on it, but that has not been the story of my life.

I have been envious my whole life of girls who grew up feeling good about themselves.

Nowadays it’s called “body shaming.”  I just call it hate.  Hate your body, hate yourself, treat yourself poorly.  Let’s end this.

From bad to worse.

Unfortunately, the orange asshole is now in charge and we the people are paying the price. There is not much that I can say that hasn’t been said already. The women’s marches on January 21 seemed to spark a movement and even I was surprised at the turnout around the world. It made me happy to see so many people standing up for what is right. Unfortunately, we are more divided than ever. Many of us are worried that our personal lives are going to be negatively affected by the actions of those in power.  Personally, I am afraid.  I am afraid that those of us with dissenting voices will be targeted.  I am afraid that I will no longer have health insurance.  I am afraid that my husband will lose his social security  disability and Medicare.  If that happens, he might die and that is not hyperbole. I am afraid that the economy will get so bad that jobs will be lost.  The apocalyptic vision with Trump in charge is nothing less than bleak. If you don’t believe that, you’re either crazy or blind to the truth.  Betsy DeVos is on tap to be the new Education Secretary.  A woman who knows absolutely NOTHING about education will be running our country’s educational system.  I pray that my son will not lose his teaching job. Don’t even get me started on Steve Bannon.  He is evil.

Friends, we are facing dark days ahead unless we act.