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The Poop I’m Not Scooping

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Content warning: this is going to be a crappy post.

 

It may even qualify for the coveted Golden Turd award.

 

But first…

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Department Of How To Make Your Dentist Guffaw   [1]

Answering truthfully usually works for me.

Dentist: “So, are there any teeth that are bothering you?”

Moiself: (emphatically and enthusiastically) “Yes! The entire Kennedy family – it’s been bothering me for years! What is it with their teeth?! Those massive front incisors – it’s like one of their ancestors mated with a beaver…”

 

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Department Of Calling All Dog Owners – What’s Up With This Shit?

Dateline: last Friday, ~ 8 am. My post on Facebook, along with the following picture.

This dog waste receptacle, provided as a convenience, is filled to the brim, and it is locked. Locked as in, Don’t add any more, there is no room, it needs to be emptied. So what have people done? They’ve continued to leave their dog’s poop bags on top of it and some of the bags fall off and burst open. Dog owners, take your bags home with you. It is *your* dog.
Unbelievable.

 

 

 

What is it with (too many) dog owners?  Yep, I shouldn’t generalize. And I’m fortunate to know kind, responsible and respectful dog owners who are equally angry at/frustrated with capricious pooch poop pitchers who seem more than willing to just drop their doggie’s droppings anywhere and let others deal with it.

A beach friend of mine is a proud and conscientious owner of two cute canine companions. She shared my post on her FB page, commenting that that  (irresponsible canine feces discarding) is one of her pet peeves.   [2]  The post also caught the attention of the Manzanita Visitors Center, which shared it on their FB page…and took it down 20 or so minutes later, after some man made an emotional (and inaccurate) comment about how my original post was typical of “dog haters.”

I didn’t see Emotional Inaccurate Man’s remarks – MH brought it to my attention, and before I could check it out, the Manzanita Visitors Center had removed the post.  Guess they didn’t want to start a comment war?   [3]  Moiself likely would have responded, with something like this:

Dear Emotional Inaccurate Man,

When you come across statements that get your knickers in a knot, you should re-read such statements several times before responding to them.

I am not a “dog hater,” and there is no evidence of such in my post. I do not mention dogs as being accountable in this matter – dogs are not the responsible agents.  When animals gotta go, they gotta go. I do specifically criticize those dog OWNERS who do not properly dispose of their dog’s droppings. So, because I call out the actions of dog owners who are disrespectful of public spaces by fouling said places with their pets’ waste, you make the leap to, I am a dog “hater”?

Re your comments to my post, not only did you resort to using an ad hominem fallacy, you failed basic reading comprehension.

One more thing, Emotional Inaccurate Man. About those “Pet” waste bag receptacles (read: dog waste receptacles – they have a picture of a dog on them, and it’s not like people walk their llamas or cats or ferrets on the beach): they are not a “right,” they are a convenience supplied by the city (or state park or other municipalities). Translation: the bags, disposal containers, and workers who empty and maintain the containers are provided by us, your fellow taxpaying households, only 38% of which own dogs and more than 43%  of which   [4] own no pets at all.  So, how’s about a humble thank you?

If you’re incapable of that acknowledgement, just be responsible for your own shit: take it home with you and put it in your own trash can if you can’t dispose of it properly when you and Fido are outside your home, ok?

 

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Department of I’m Not Quite Done with Dung….

Stories, that is.

One of my favorite family stories involves my father’s lifelong war on dog shit – a noxious substance which he (with one notable exception) more genteelly referred to as, “dog dirt.”  Specifically and oh-so-understandably, Chet Parnell could not abide dog dirt that was not from one of our dogs but that somehow ended up on our property. He could not understand how neighbors could let their dogs poop on someone else’s property with impunity.

One day many years ago, when I was visiting my parents at their SoCal home, I asked about the latest neighborhood news. I received the following story, separately, from both Chet (my father) and Marion (my mother).  Their accounts (save for certain exclamations and sound effects) were almost identical.

A bit o’ background: for several months prior to the ensuing narrative, someone had been walking their dog in my parent’s neighborhood and letting it defecate on their property. My father was determined to catch the culprit, but who was it? He’d seen many dog walkers in the ‘hood – some he recognized as living nearby; there were others who probably lived several blocks away but included my parents’ street in their daily walks. Some kept their dogs on a leash, others let their dogs walk off-leash, and my father noticed how the off-leash dogs would walk all over people’s property while their owners just stood by. Chet was a friendly guy; if he was outside he’d greet the dog owner and, depending on the situation, either praise the owner for their handsome, well-mannered dog, or kindly request that they keep their dog on leash and not let it roam on his lawn and under the shrubbery, etc.

But he’d not been able to espy the Phantom Pooper.  My parents’ guess was that it was someone who walked their dog either early in the morning or in the later evening. It seemed to be one specific dog leaving the mess, as the “evidence” was always the same color/size/consistency (my parents expressed regrets for the fact that they had become experts in dog poop identification).  Whatever dog it was, it was obviously a large creature, from whose cavernous rectum would drop massive “links” the size and shape (but, unfortunately, not the consistency) of a bunch of brown bananas.  Chet and Marion had found piles of that distinctive dog-do on their front yard, their side yard, their sidewalk, their driveway, under the trees by the kitchen sink window….  Most egregious of all, one morning when Chet went out to water the new flowers he’d planted in the kitchen sink windowsill flower box, he reached under a hydrangea bush for the hose spigot  and plunged his hand into the pile of freshly “applied” dog poop which covered the garden hose.

 

That illustrates why one must always insist the servants do the gardening.

 

Now Chet was really on the warpath.  He increased his vigilance, and he finally spotted her.  Chet was up early one morning, washing the dishes which were left over from the previous night’s dinner. When he looked out the kitchen sink window (which faced their side yard) he saw a woman walking an enormous dog.

It was a warm SoCal morning; the woman was dressed in pocketless shorts and a tee shirt and carried no purse or any other object in which there might be implements to scoop and contain her dog’s poop. Her dog was on leash, and it sniffed around the sidewalk past my parents’ driveway, then around their birch trees, then led its owner to the grass by the curb, then back to my parent’s lawn, where it paused and assumed the CPE (Canine Poop Ejection) position.

“Hey! Chet pounded on the kitchen window. “Stop that!” he yelled to the woman.

The woman looked around, as if she didn’t know where the voice was coming from.

Chet opened the kitchen window and yelled again.  “Get your dog off our property! Right now!”

The woman just stood there and let her dog continue to do…what it was starting to do.

The commotion attracted the attention of my mother who, still in her nightgown, scurried into the kitchen just as my father ran out the back door which led to the driveway. Looking out the kitchen window, Marion saw her husband stride toward the woman who, frantically pulling on the leash, attempted to drag her dog – still in squat mode and beginning to expel one loop of what was sure to be a massive poop strand – away from our house.

“Lady, you get back here and CLEAN UP YOUR DOG’S SHIT!” Chet snarled.

The woman’s eyes widened at the approach of My Father The Crazed Poop Vigilante . She began to run, dragging her dog with her. The dog continued to drop hunks of poop, leaving a trail from my parent’s lawn to the sidewalk to the street to the house across the street…until the woman and her dog turned the street corner and were out of sight.

Marion was mortified.  [5] She called out through the kitchen window, imploring Chet to come back inside and not chase the woman. “Oh, what will she think of us?” she gasped.

Moiself was bemused by that part of the story, and wondered aloud to my mother why she (or Chet…or anyone) should care about the opinion of a person who flagrantly and repeatedly let their dog crap on someone else’s yard?

As for Chet, he (of course!) got a kick out of telling me that story. He said he wanted that disrespectful person to think that he was a madman, and was proud of the fact that she was apparently so rattled by his confrontation that she altered her dog walking route. My parents never saw her (nor had to clean up her dog’s poop from their yard) again.

 

 

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Department Of Just One More Story And I’m Done With This Shit

Dateline: a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (make that Northern California, 1988). I lived in a rental cottage on one of the residential streets of downtown Palo Alto, just a block away from a street bordering the winding San Francisquito Creek . Another block away from my abode was a high rise condominium building which, at that time, housed wealthy/elderly retirees.

During my morning walks around the streets by the creek I would often see a certain woman either exiting or entering that condo building. She was waif-like thin, ala Joan Didion…

 

 

…and when I saw Wafer Thin Elderly Woman she would always be walking her equally thin, equally elderly dog, which appeared to be some kind of Chihuahua mix. Every time I saw WTEW she was dressed as if headed for a tea party, wearing nylon stockings and closed-toe heeled pumps, the color of which matched her slender, fitted, pocket-less woolen (winter) or linen (warmer weather) pastel skirt and suit jacket, and carrying a (color-coordinated) petite clutch purse.

One morning I was returning home from my walk when WTEW was beginning hers. Her dog stopped on someone’s lawn, its quavering legs barely holding itself up as it paused to squat.  WTEW carried nothing save for her ubiquitous, teensy, snap-open clutch purse.

 

Similar to this, sans the rhinestone affectation.

 

As I approached I saw no evidence that she carried doggie waste procurement and disposal equipment of any kind.  Oh dear, I fretted to moiself, Am I going to have to shit-shame an old lady?  [6]

WTEW patiently waited for her dog to complete its business. She then opened the snap top of her tiny purse, from which she removed a thin tissue. She leaned down, delicately plucked her dog’s poop balls from the lawn, dropped the tissue and its contents into her purse, snapped the purse shut, and she and her dog continued on their way.

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Department Of, To Use One Of My Father’s Favorite Expressions….

“Well, that’s enough about that.”

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Department of Epicurean Excursion   [7]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe(s):

The Africa Cookbook: Tastes of a Continent,  by Jessica B. Harris

Recipes:

* Irio (Stewed vegetables – Kenya)

* Mashed Eggplant a la einab (Sudan)

It – both recipes – well, I found them to be just…blah.

My rating:

 

 

 

(See Footnotes for further ratings info  [8]  )

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

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May you appreciate a good dog poop story;
May you never be the subject of someone else’s bad dog poop story;
May you not let successive poop stories ruin your own Epicurean Excursions;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

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[1] Nine out of ten doctors agree: nine out of ten dentists prefer guffawing to laughing, chortling, cackling, tee-heeing or roaring with glee.

[2] Pun oh-so-appreciated, intentional or otherwise, CK!

[3] Or have outsiders think that, gasp, their lovely beach village has a poop problem? Ah, the things that pass for controversy in a small town.

[4] As per the American Veterinary Medical Association, which keeps statistics on such things.

[5] It’s hard for moiself to come up with stories involving my mother’s husband and/or middle daughter that would not include the phrase, Marion Parnell was mortified…”

[6] Good Citizen that I was, I was determined not to let it pass without comment, if she with impunity let what her dog passed remain on someone else’s lawn.

[7] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) one recipe from one book.

[8] Recipe Rating Refresher
* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it
* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it
* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin (from The Office) would like this.
* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.
* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.
* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up.
* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.
* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

The Challenge I’m Not Setting

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“I read recipes the same way I read science fiction. I get to the end and say to myself, “Well, that’s not going to happen.”
(Rita Rudner, American comedian)

Similarly to Ms. Rudner, I do read recipes/cookbooks, but in manner akin to how I watch PBS travel shows: for inspiration more than for go-there-and-then-do-this-while-you’re-there advice. I tend to peruse cookbooks as if they were novels/short story collections, more than as a set of how-tos. It is something of a garbled, quasi-literary approach: I “read” through a new cookbook to get an overall feel/feeling for whatever the author is promoting,  [1]  then I put the book down and see if MH feels like being my sous chef.

Except in baking – a culinary discipline moiself and others more knowledgeable and experienced than moiself distinguish from cooking   [2]  and where precise measurements and techniques are called for (to work the chemistry of leavened breads, for example) – I rarely cook from a recipe or follow one   [3] step-by-step, from start to finish.

Counting (and likely missing some of) the books I’ve either lent out or have transferred to another location, moiself currently has somewhere in the vicinity of 60+ cookbooks. At least that many more have been relegated to the retired list.  [4]   The other night, while reaching for the cord to plug in our Dinner Party Festive Lights, ®  I almost knocked one of the books off its shelf.  I felt a twinge of regret to see it there, teetering above the kitchen sink, the dusty volume looking bereft from my neglect.   [5]  

 

 

That was the incident which gave birth    [6] to a project I have set for moiself.

Welcome to the first edition of my Epicurean Excursion. This EE is meant to be a  recurring feature of this blog, from this week on until I complete (or tire of) it, wherein moiself will go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook one recipe from one book.

Knowing moiself, I’ll tend to treat any “rules” (even if they are totally self-defined and imposed) as guidelines. There will be time outs for travel, vacation, etc.  

What to call it?  I considered cookbook challenge, but it’s not so much a challenge I’ve set for moiself, more like…a suggestion?

Excursion
a short journey or trip, especially one engaged in as a leisure activity.
 (“an excursion to Mount Etna”)
synonyms:       trip, outing, jaunt, expedition, journey, tour;

 

EE nights will be either Monday or Tuesday; I shall catalog the experience on Friday.   Let me assure those of y’all who do not consider y’alls’ selves to be foodie fanatics, – the majority of my blog posts will continue to be devoted to my usual slavering spew thoughtful and erudite commentary on current/events/culture/feminism/politics/religion.

My EE reviews will not be extensive. There are other cooks, professional and amateur, with experiences more vast and palates more refined and adventurous than moiself – you can Google the late great chef Anthony Bourdain for his take on eating roasted warthog anus,   [7]  if that’s what poles your gondola.

 

As a matter of fact, I pole my own gondola…not that there’s anything wrong with that.

 

I’ll just tell you the name of the cookbook I used and the recipe I made, and the rating I’ve assigned to that recipe.  My eight scale rating system will be as follows:

* Two Thumbs Up:  Liked it.

* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it!

* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin would like this recipe. [8]

* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.

* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.

* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up.

* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.

* Thumbing My Nose: I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

           

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Department of Epicurean Excursion

The Inaugural Voyage
(chosen by luck of alphabetical listing in which titles beginning with a number go first),

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

 

15 Minute Vegan, by Katy Beskow

Recipe: Smoky Chickpea Soup

I’m a sucker – a slurper, more accurately – for any soup or stew with a mélange of Moroccan/Mediterranean spice flavors, and this one was a sensory delight.

My rating:  Two Hamster Thumbs Up!

 

 

Mere words cannot describe how bang-on  [9] delighted I am to be able to use that rating for my first outing with this project.  But words aren’t necessary when you have a picture of hamster thumbs.

 

*   *   *

May you find a reason to enjoy some classic Rita Rudner standup routines[10]
May you never take your I’ll try anything once motto or reputation so seriously that
you find yourself eating roasted warthog anus;
May life favor you with an abundance of Two Hamster Thumbs Up experiences;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] A specific cuisine; their family recipe collection; the Netflix cooking show deal they hope to land….

[2] It sometimes gets simplified into cooking = art and baking = science or cooking vs. science…although that distinction tends to imply an adversarial relationship, and there is much overlap between the two.

[3] Except for those I’ve written down moiself, after learning to at least try to do so on a regular basis, after having made something yummers and then trying to recall what was it that I did?

[4] As in, permanently given away, or recycled (think: Goodwill store), due to issues of space or just lack of interest or relevance. For example, a plant-eater don’t need no Barbecuing Big Beef Bones tome.

[5] Yes, books can have facial expressions, and other human attributes as well. They have spines, don’t they?

[6] Fortunately, without the cursing which accompanied the births of my two children.

[7] No matter how much I wish I’d made that up, I didn’t.  See a previous blog post, The Delicacy I’m Not Sampling, about Bourdain’s NPR interview in which he described that experience.

[8] Kevin, a character from The Office, would eat just about anything.

[9] Irish slang for very much, spot on, or accurate.

[10] Especially those that deal with marriage/family life.  Sample: Rudner’s take on being child-free and trying to understand babies; specifically, the atrocious noise a friends’ newborn son makes – a raucous cry her friend explains away with, He’s hungry :  “I thought, that’s the noise he makes when he’s hungry? He’d better pace himself. What kind of noise is he going to make when he gets audited?”

The Label I’m Not Understanding

Comments Off on The Label I’m Not Understanding

Department Of Grief And Relief

I’m thinking about my friends, JWW and MW.  MW’s mother, Molly (a lovely Irish name for a lovely Irish-American lady) died last Monday, after a long physical and mental decline.  Molly was never officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s but had significant memory and cognitive problems over the past decade. After her husband died she lived with MW’s sister for several years,  then came to stay with MW and JWW.

 

 

Molly was a sweet woman, and maintained her gentle and loving disposition (she was a favorite at the Memory Care center MW & JWW eventually found for her, in a nearby town), and did not seem to descend into the fear and anger that can affect people with memory problems. It was sweet, watching MW and JWW interact with Molly, showing her unqualified patience and love. But as is often the case with an elderly parent who can no longer live independently, love cannot conquer all. MW & JWW realized they could not provide Molly with the safe, 24/7 care she needed, which was made evident to them in many ways over many months, particularly on the day when JWW came downstairs to discover that Molly had removed her favorite polyester shirt from the dryer, put it on, and realized it was still damp. It seemed perfectly reasonable to Molly to finish drying her shirt – while she was wearing it – by holding her arms over an open flame on the stove…which is how JWW found her (fortunately, before Molly set herself on fire).

Now, MW & JWW find themselves in that odd life stage, as I was with the death of my own mother: between grief and relief.  Such a strange feeling, also – to find yourself feeling both sad and somewhat amused by the fact that you feel like an orphan in your 60s.  All the orphans of classic literature were way younger, right?

 

 

 

 

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Department Of Tricky Questions, Trickier Answers

Developmentally delayed.

Dateline: earlier this week, doing an am workout in our family room, listening to a podcast story.  The afore-mentioned description – developmentally delayed  –  was used in the podcast to describe the podcast story narrator’s brother, who had a broad list of cognitive and emotional impediments.  MH entered the room just in time to hear the term DD. He paused for a moment, then posed a question (to the universe, as much as to moiself), “What does that mean?”

He was not exactly being rhetorical.  I knew that he knew what DD meant…then began to think beyond what I thought I knew…and, really, what does it mean?

I told him a few of the emotional and cognitive defects (of the narrator’s brother) which had been mentioned in the podcast ,and offered my opinion that the DD label, in the particular case of that podcast and in what has become its common usage, is it meant to replace an older term which has now entered the retirement home of words-not-to-be-used-due-to-derogatory-potential: “mentally retarded.”

 

 

The concept and label of mental retardation was widely used, by both laypersons and medical professionals, up until relatively recently.   [1]

In the 1950s the word retarded was progressive, an improvement over feebleminded, imbecile, moron. It shares a root with ritardando, a musical term meaning a gradual decrease in tempo. Think: the musicians’ fingers letting the moments stretch between their notes.
To retard, to slow down. As in: Your baby’s growth is retarded.
But retarded soon came to mean dumb or incompetent. As in: I just lost my phone. I’m so retarded.
(from “The R-Word,” by Heather Kirn Lanier, The Sun )

 

MH and I began to wonder aloud with one another (one of our more frequent conversational formats) about the fact that although the term developmentally delayed may be less open to derogatory usage by laypersons, it isn’t very helpful in the way that all terminology is supposed to be: by being specific or descriptive.

Close-to-the-heart example: My friend FP is blind. FP once told me about her scornful objection to the term visually impaired.  In FP’s experience, some Well-Meaning People ®  think the word blind is somehow insulting. One WMP actually corrected FP when FP described herself as blind: “Oh, you mean you’re ‘visually impaired?’ “

 

“Hell no, I mean, I’m BLIND.”

 

To FP, “blind” is merely, vitally factual:  I’m not simply “impaired,” I’m blind, and that is important for people to know. It’s not that I just see things dimly or unclearly – I don’t see them at all, so when I ask for directions to the bathroom and you tell me it’s ten steps ahead but don’t tell me that there is an ottoman in the way I will trip over it and break my #*%!? nose.

Delay, in its various noun/verb/adverb/adjective forms, involves actions or objects that are postponed and hindered. But delay also carries with it the possibility of catching up.  In describing people as having developmental delays, the term is so broad/vague as to provide little functional information: I have heard it applied to a 4th grader with mild dyslexia as well as to a young adult born with such severe brain deficits he has never been able to communicate, much less toilet, feed and care for himself and thus has required 24 hour professional/institutional care since his toddlerhood.

The scope of conditions categorized under the label intellectual disabilities is broad, and with early intervention the outcomes for many developmentally delayed children (who is the past may have been labeled mentally retarded) is much brighter than in decades ago. But it’s not as if, say, the boy with Down Syndrome is merely delayed academically when compared with his older sister, who is taking calculus as a junior in high school.  It’s not as if, Sure, he’s behind now, but he’ll catch up one day and do higher mathematics – it’ll just take him a few years longer.

What would be an alternative, more accurate label: developmentally compromised ?  It doesn’t seem like there could be any term that would be acceptable to all, or even most people   [2] …and maybe that’s the point.  Here’s a realization worthy of a Hallmark Channel movie: treat everyone as individuals; no one label can tell you all of the strengths or disabilities (excuse me, challenges?   [3] ) facing a particular person.

Still…today’s “She has a developmental delay” isn’t ultimately more informative than yesterday’s, “He has a mental retardation.”

And of course, Things Being What They Are ® , MH and moiself both felt somewhat… awkward…even discussing the issue, just the two of us, no language cops in sight.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of A Headline That Is So Evocative Why Bother
Reading The Newspaper Article – Just Use Your Imagination
Because Whatever You Come Up With Is Bound To Be As (If Not More)
 Entertaining Than The Real Story

 

“Children Removed From A Facility That Limited Tampons”

(The Oregonian, 3-29-19)

 

This has nothing to do with the headline, but imagine a picture that did?

 

*   *   *

Department Of No April Foolin’

Yet another story inspired by a story I was listening to – this one on April 1, courtesy of NPR’s All Things Considered:  How Vanity License Plates Are Approved and Denied in California.

Dateline: sometime in 1980; moiself is down in SoCal, visiting my parents. My mother shows me a newspaper clipping, about an employee of the newspaper (The Orange County Register) who had recently won an “argument” with the California DMV.  “Don’t you know this guy?” my mother asks me.

I scan the article. “Peter?!” I burst out laughing. “Yeah, I know that Schmuck.”

 

Peter looks nothing like a baby sloth in pajamas, but I don’t have a recent photo of him.

 

I went to high school with He Who Was To Become sportswriter/columnist Peter Schmuck. He graduated the year before me; we had mutual friends (mostly the high school journalism crew) but didn’t know each other well. Moiself, like some of his peers, I’d guess, initially pitied then almost immediately admired or at least respected Peter, for having to deal with a first-last name combination considered redundant. Many of us who knew him attributed Peter’s sense of humor and in-your-face attitude – a combination of sarcasm and assertiveness sometimes bordering on aggression  [4] – to having grown up with that name.  It seems PS would at least partially agree with that sentiment, as per his interview with fellow journalist Steve Marantz:

“I‘m the only person in the world who thinks it was a big advantage to grow up with the last name Schmuck.. I’m pretty sure the distinctiveness of the name has helped me throughout my career. It also has given me a thicker skin – in a ‘Boy Named Sue’ kind of way – in a business where that isn’t a bad thing to have.”

I am not wandering off on yet another digression. Here comes the newspaper article/DMV story tie-in:

In 1980 Peter (or, his girlfriend at the time, as Peter has said) applied for a vanity license plate with his last name on it. That was the subject of the newspaper article my mother showed me: Peter Schmuck had been denied the vanity plate SCHMUCK because, in a letter the DMV sent to Peter, the DMV claimed schmuck was a Yiddish indecency.

I found that whole incident to be wonderfully WTF-ish to the nth (thank you, NPR, for the memory prod).  I still smile to picture a state government flunkie whose job it was to tell a person that the person’s given/authentic/legal surname was indecent (Dude, you’re the DMV! Look up his driver’s license, IT’S HIS NAME).

As well as his first 15 minutes of fame, Peter Schmuck got his license plate. Yes, the Good Guy prevailed in The Great License Plate Indecency Skirmish. I saw it on Peter’s car (which, if memory serves, he referred to as the Schmuckmobile).  Following his stint at The Register, Peter moved East and landed a long-time gig as a sports reporter and columnist for The Baltimore Sun.  I forgot to ask Peter, when I saw him at a Baltimore Orioles home game oh-so-many years ago, whether he got the state of Maryland to issue him a new plate.

 

Or, in a hitherto unknown (to moiself) assignment, did Peter spend some time covering the great sport of Iditarod?

*   *   *

May you, when it is your turn, find a graceful way to navigate between grief and relief;
May you be careful with your labels and also patient with those who use them;
May your choice of vanity license plates bring joy to the simple-minded masses;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] In 2010 President Barack Obama signed “Rosa’s Bill,” (approved unanimously by Congress), which required the federal government to replace the terms “mental retardation” “and “mentally retarded” with, respectively,  “intellectual disability” and “individual with an intellectual disability” in policy documents.

[2] And trust me, when you get rid of “retard/retardation” it is replaced by turning the supposedly gentler term into a pejorative: “What are you, a special needs” kid?” which I heard, pronounced with multisyllabic sarcasm, along with “learning disabled” et al, on my childrens’ school yard playgrounds. Never doubt the ability of a grade schooler to turn the most well-intentioned label into a slur.

[3] Another adjective I’ve heard both embraced and mocked, and by people supposedly on the same side of the disability rights movement.  “Intellectually Challenged” – that’s me, trying to follow a chess match.

[4] Translation:  in high school, I thought him somewhat of an asshole. I figured he likely held the same opinion about me. Later on, I came to be, and still am, quite fond of him.

The Religion(s) I’m Not Reforming

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“Where am I going to go, where patriarchy doesn’t exist? Where is this magic island, free of misogyny – I will go there; tell me where it is (laughter).
But it doesn’t exist – it doesn’t exist anywhere. So it makes the most sense to try to reform your own culture and your own place, and the space where you are most fluent in the language.”
(excerpt from Unladylike interview with Kate Kelly)

*   *   *

Department Of Tell Me This Is Not An Oxymoron

Which was one of my first (printable) thoughts upon hearing the title of episode 8 of the podcast Unladylike: How To Be a Mormon Feminist. BTW, the podcast’s website has one of the best logos ever: an image of stereotypically ladylike fingers, with one impeccably groomed fingernail raised in a defiant salute….

 

Back on topic, please.

 

Once again, I digress.

If you think you don’t have time to listen to the podcast but your curiosity is stoked by the episode’s title and you wonder, How does one be a Mormon feminist?, here’s my time-saving answer:

By leaving the Mormon church.

 

 

But seriously, ladies and germs, I recommend taking the time to listen to the entire episode, which is an interview with “Mormon feminist” and attorney, Kate Kelly.  In 2013 Kelly founded Ordain Women, an organization which…wait for it…advocates for the ordination of women to the Mormon priesthood.  That and other feminist/dissident activities got Ms. Kelly a don’t let the door hit you in your temple garments on your way out from LDS church leaders (translation: Kelly was excommunicated).

Ms. Kelly has quite a story to tell.  Despite her passionate interest in gender equality issues she loved her church – she was raised a devout Mormon, and admits during the interview that she might not have left the LDSchurch had she not been thrown out.   [1]  Listening to her astounding account, and despite her sincere and reasonable articulation (the quote which opens this blog post) about why she stayed in her church, I was once again amazed at our human tendency to beat our head against walls; i.e., not see the reality forest for the mythology trees.

During the interview Kelly felt compelled to explain (or was asked) why a 21st century, educated, intelligent woman concerned with justice could stay – or would even want to stay – in such a misogynist, repressive institution. IMHO she did a good job of trying to explain (to non-Mormons) how being in such a group – you’re raised to believe you are one of the chosen people, and you really have no close relationships outside of your family and friends, who are all Mormon –  is compelling, and confers a feeling of being special.

At the point where Kelly talked about how Mormonism had been her most intimate relationship, I had an immediate, visceral, click[2] insight:

It’s like how some battered women “love” – and thus are not able to leave – their abusers.

Kelly mentioned Mitt Romney’s campaign for the presidency, and how people both inside and outside the Mormon church found Romney’s campaign a watershed moment for Mormonism, in that the larger society saw a man who was presented as a nice/normal guy who wasn’t flaunting his own religious beliefs and who had promised to be a leader for all. Meanwhile, Kelly was disturbed that there was little to no media attention paid to/examining the fact that Romney was participating in an institution which discriminates against women at every level and which does not allow women to hold positions of power.

 

 

The battered women analogy kept coming back to me. Yo, Mormon women, and all you women involved in patriarchal religions,  [3] institutions, or worldviews: y’all are married to your abusers.  You are battered wives, intellectually and spiritually.   [4]   You have been emotionally and cognitively kidnapped; you suffer from Stockholm Syndrome :  like an abduction victim, you have developed a psychological alliance with your captors as a survival strategy.

Before I had listened to the interview in its entirety I wanted to ask Kelly, “And so what if you (Mormon feminist women) are able, in the near (ha!) or far future, to baptize people or perform any other of the Mormon priesthood rituals reserved only for men?  That’s not going to change the fact that the LDS church is an institution built on falsehoods and discrimination.”   …As are all religions, BTW, including (what was once) “my own,” which is why moiself has no problemo with critiquing yours.

*   *   *

Department Of As Long As We’re On The Subject Of Religion-Bashing Analysis

Faithful (ahem)  [5]  or even sporadic readers of this blog may know that I was raised in a Christian household/church-going family. However, as long as I can remember thinking about such things, I never really bought into the religion’s tenets and finally  [6] came out as a Humanist/Atheist/Freethinker many years ago.

 

 

Now that I am out as religion-free, whenever I have discussions with friends and family members who are religious believers – and it may interest you to know that these discussions are actually few and far between…in my experience, religious believers do not really want to engage a well-read and articulate person who has been on the inside and then left – we apostates know where the bodies are buried, so to speak (which is yet another subject worthy of a post of its own)….

Ahem. Yet again, please excuse the digression. 

 

Book ’em, Danno. Digression in the second degree.

 

When I have  discussions with a friend or family member who is a religious believer (about why they remain so and why I am not), I often hear some variation of the following statement, in which they try to assert what they think is my opinion about their beliefs:

You probably think I’m an idiot/ignorant
for remaining in the church/being a believer.

This is absolutely not true, and I say so.

Or sometimes I’ll say, “That’s not necessarily true,” and explain, provocatively but with good humor, that I really don’t know their innermost thought processes nor how their mind works; perhaps if I did, then yeah, idiot might apply.  But I never, ever assume that, nor even think it (until they brought it up).

Here’s the thing: despite how close or distant our relationship may be; despite what you claim to know about the origins/history/scriptures of your religion, I cannot know your level of intelligence, nor if you’ve objectively/rationally examined the evidence…etcetera and whatever.  With regard to your holding religious beliefs, here is the only thing I do know about you (and other believers):

Whether or you are intellectually gifted or blissfully ignorant, whether you are a snake-handling Holy Roller or a High Mass-attending electrical engineer, you are credulous.

*   *   *

What is needed is not the will to believe but the will to find out,
which is the exact opposite.
(Bertrand Russell )

 

 

This bears repeating: you are not stupid; you are credulous.

Yep; that’s it. And I dare to speak not only for moiself. Most of us who are religion-free do not think that you-who-are religious believers are stupid. We do think that you are wrong, and also, most importantly, that you are credulous.  Can you understand the difference?

You are credulous, the opposite of incredulous: you want to believe. And Religion with a capital R   [7]  gives you very compelling reasons to do so, to the point that otherwise discerning folk who are eager and able to point out the absurdities/errors/this-cannot-be-a-description-of-reality of other religions are able to set aside their analytical capability when it comes to their own tribe’s practices and beliefs.  I know some very smart and sincere people who are experts at such compartmentalization, and when I’ve pointed out that, for example, they do not practice Iron Age medicine, engineering, politics, etc. yet continue to maintain the alleged relevance of Iron Age spirituality and scriptures…they get…nervous (or incredulous!), to put it mildly.

This compartmentalization/cognitive dissonance is no surprise. Religion has done a very good job convincing people that they cannot ultimately:

* be “good”
* live a worthy life
*take comfort in unanswerable questions
*have the love and respect of family/friends/community…

without subscribing to religious beliefs.

A few religions/religious believers don’t even seem to mind so much if you aren’t a member of their church, just as long as you pick one deity to believe in (“Even though, of course, ours is the best /the One True Faith ® , if you can’t do that, at least pick something, okay?)

I’d recommend picking the one with the best hats.

 

Not only is religion is a main – and in many cases, the only – component of a believer’s social and/or peer group dynamic, there can be severe emotional, social and familial (and even business and professional) consequences for leaving your faith group, or even for remaining in the flock while denying or examining too closely /attempting to reform its traditions and tenets…as per the aforementioned excommunication of Ms. Kelly.

Back to Kelly: my favorite part (read: a jaw-dropping, NOT) of Unladylike‘s interview with her was when she spoke of the aftermath of being kicked out of the LDS church. (my emphasis):

“They can take everything away from you; they can take your family away from you. As soon as I was excommunicated my parents were asked to meet with their (church) leaders, and their leaders took away their callings,   [8]  took away their temple recommends – which means they can’t attend the temple – and really socially ostracized them, to the point that, in the meeting they said that, ‘you’re still permitted to love your daughter, even though you can’t associate with her.’ “    [9]

 

*   *   *

Department Of Can You Just Find One Nice Thing To Say?

 

Although at the end of the day (or the never-ending time period, if you subscribe to the concepts of reincarnation and nirvana   [10] ) the various strains of Buddhism are filled with as many superstitions as other religions. But Buddhism as a philosophy contains ideas/advice based on the observation of reality (as opposed to alleged supernatural revelation or decree).

 

When’s the last – or first – time you heard a religious leader say that?

 

Besides the observation that life is tough and no one gets out alive (my pithy summary of the first of The Four Noble Truths ) —  one of the Buddhist ideas I find helpful and hopeful – not to mention merely and profoundly accurate – is the concept of impermanence.

With regards to human circumstances, impermanence, simply explained, is the acknowledgement that things change. This can be seen as both a caveat and a reassurance, as both warning and comfort.

* So, things are going very well:  you have stable and loving family, good health and close friendships, fulfilling work and hobbies, financial security – everything seems to be going your way and you feel on top of the world!  How wonderful for you! Enjoy this time, even as you keep in mind that things change… This will not always be the case.

* So, things are going very badly: your spouse has abandoned you; friends are absent or seemingly indifferent to your suffering; you have lost a loved one to death or estrangement; you are ill or injured; you were laid off at work and seem to be heading toward bankruptcy and you feel caught in a downward spiral of unbearable despair.  How truly awful for you…but remember, this too, will change.

 

Why do sloths remind me of Buddhist monks?

 

*   *   *

 

May you find the strength to leave your abusers, be they persons, thoughts, or institutions;
May you be both challenged and comforted by the reality of impermanence;
May you find simple pleasure in regarding a sloth’s monk-face;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Kelly claims no current religious affiliation.

[2] A term from the 1970s/second wave feminist, describing that moment wherein a woman, usually in listening to/reading about the experiences of other women, realizes she is a feminist and/or understands feminist principles and observations about living in a patriarchal society.

[3] All religions, basically, with arguably some Pagan/Wiccan strains outside the fold.

[4] As per the typical questions asked of battered women about why don’t they leave the relationship – look them up, and you’ll find the same reasoning/fears can apply to fleeing an abusive spouse and leaving such a life-dominating institution.

[5] How we Freethinkers looooove using that word.

[6] Almost 15 years ago.

[7] As in, all of them, and the societies where they dominate.

[8] “Callings” in the Mormon church are assignments or chores to make the church function. Callings can vary widely in capacity and responsibility, such as working on a committee, serving as a Bishop (a male-only calling), being a Sunday School teacher, making a monthly meal for your congregation….

[9] How many times have you heard, from non-Mormons trying to say something nice about the LDS: “Well, you gotta give ’em credit, they do so love the family….”

[10] And I hope you don’t.

The Goats I’m Not Stealing

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Department Of Stop Giving Women TBI And Calling It A Plot Device

Can you identify the following three movies, each featuring a female in the lead role and each movie released within the past 18 months,   [1]  based on the following sentence fragment pulled from the movies’ respective plot summaries:

(1) Things go from bad to weird when she gets knocked unconscious during a subway mugging and magically wakes up to find herself in an alternate universe….

(2) … she falls off her bike during an exercise class, hitting her head. When she wakes, she believes that her appearance has magically changed…. 

(3) …when she has an accident that knocks her out cold, she wakes up in the hospital with the ability to….”  

Ah, the joys of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), that cognition-altering case of concussion or other forms of acute cranial damage, which the great minds of Hollywood have decided makes for innovative and wacky entertainment value.

 

 

Great – now do it hard enough to knock yourself out and you can star in a movie!

 

 

By the way, the movies are

(1) “Isn’t it Romantic” (released in 2019);

(2) “I Feel Pretty” (released in 2018);

(3) “What Men Want” (released in 2019)

All three movies feature talented and appealing actors (respectively, Rebel Wilson, Amy Schumer, and Taraji P. Henson); aside from a ridiculous, knock-’em-out-wake-’em-up plot device more commonly associated with a soap opera cliché,   [2]  IMHO movies #1 and #2 had a few genuinely funny and/or touching moments. I can’t give a fair review to #3, What Men Want, as I (along with two of the total of five patrons who were in the theater during the showing I attended)  [3]  left before the movie was over – it was pushing too many buttons on my Skanky-does-not-always-equal-funny-meter.

 

 

 

 

I believe all genders/ages/ethnicities were equally guilty involved in the producing/directing/writing of each of those flicks; thus, I cast my net of appeal to all movie moguls:  for your next feature, please, can y’all agree to use another/less stale plot pivot point?   [4]

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Best Antidote For A Bad Movie Is One That Makes You Want To Fly

I sorta/kinda wanted to see the Captain Marvel movie, but thought I’d wait at least ten days before venturing to a movie theater to do so, to avoid the premiere week crowds. Although I’ve seen several of the superhero type movies I’m not fond of the genre. Whether the movie takes place in the Marvel Comics universe or the one with the X-men – those are separate comic book based “universes,” right? I have trouble telling them apart…and don’t care to expend the mental energy necessary to learn to keep them straight – I find them to be too same same.  There has to be the promise of something different to get me to go see those movies – I’ve learned that they never surprise me; I never feel for any particular character being in danger ’cause I know they are somehow going to superhero their way out of it (crash bang boom… yawn).  [5]

The subversive, fourth wall -breaking humor of the two Deadpool movies appealed to me, as son K assured me they would. Other than that I’m disappointed in the genre and have to be heavily lobbied (by MH and/or my offspring) to even consider seeing the latest release…like last year’s Avengers Last Stand Infinity Apocalyse of Mutant XMen’s Endgame . Or whatever.

Exception confession: I did enjoy the first The Avengers movie.

 

The Avengers destroy New York City, then eat shawarma – what’s not to love?

 

So, then, what with lowered expectations and all, how much fun was it for me to find myself really, really enjoying Captain Marvel?  Compelling, multi-dimensional good-and-bad-guy characters and good acting (I’ll cross the street to see Annette Bening in anything), and interesting (and concussion free!) plot twists.  AND…big sigh of right on, sistah! relief: no love interests getting in the way !!!!

Digression: I lack words to describe how refreshing it is to see a movie wherein the female characters get to do what females all over the world – excuse me, make that all over the universe, this being a superhero movie – do every day, which is to lead their lives/make decisions/save the planet without having their romantic interests featured as the most important thing about them.

After the matinee let out I had to make myself sit in my car for several minutes, ignition off. I knew I could not drive normally – read: safely – after seeing that movie. I recognized in moiself the urge to put the pedal to the metal and zip out of the parking lot as fast as I could…which, even had I done so, would have been a poor excuse for what I really wanted to be able to do: fly up into the stratosphere in my special, fire-glowing suit!

 

 

Kinda like this.

 

 

It was difficult to go grocery shopping like a mere mortal, after that.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Am I The Only Person Who Remembers Doing This?
Sub Department Of Perhaps This Is My Own Symptom Of TBI

I’m not sure if it’s a thing anymore – or maybe it was never a thing, and I was the only one who did it (although I’m thinking at least one of my siblings performed a similar ritual).

Scenario: I am a child of indeterminate grade school age; it is a school morning and I am sitting at the kitchen table with a bowl of cereal, the bowl placed inside a cereal bowl “fort” which I have constructed thusly: a box of cereal directly in front of me, with two other cereal boxes placed on either side of the middle box,  [6] extending outward/toward me at a 45˚ angle. I have constructed this fort in order to read the back of the cereal boxes while I am eating my cereal.

Perhaps this presaged my adult habit of reading the newspaper at breakfast?   [7]

Certainly, the content of the back of the cereal boxes could have been neither compelling nor new to me (I’d “read” the boxes multiple times).  And  I don’t know why I did that – I only remember that I did do it, almost every school morning, during my early elementary years.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Joys Of Belatedly Tuning To The Tonight’s Top Stories Preview
Of A Radio Newscast, At The Moment Where All You Hear Is A Fragment Sentence Like…

“…and someone stealing goats in Fresno.”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Feminine Intimacy

Not to worry – what follows is not an endorsement for one of those kind of products.

 

 

Over the years I have received feedback from a few readers regarding the fact that although moiself will write in broad strokes about, say, my political, cultural and even culinary opinions, even though I will sometimes mention what’s going on with family and friends I rarely post anything of a truly personal nature. 

 

So how else is a dame supposed to write, except by using broad strokes?

 

 

To which my honest reply has been something along the lines of how this is Not That Kind Of Blog ®.  But, it is a fair observation.  And, okay, this standoffishness ends today.  [8]

I will reveal something that is deeply personal to moiself:

I am living with EBPOS – Ear Bud Pop Out Syndrome.

 

How can such calamity strike the nicest people?

 

It doesn’t matter the size of the cushion/caps, nor how assiduously I follow proper insertion technique  [9]   advice, the ear-tip thingies simply refuse to stay put. I have come to consider it a good morning when I’m out for a walk and listening to a podcast and have to reinsert the ear bud only two-three times. One day late last week…oy, not so good. I knew the day was getting off to a bad start when I was returning home and thinking to myself, Holy hamster shit, it’s a seven pop-out morning.

 

*   *   *

 

May life spare you from experiencing a seven pop-out morning;
May we all, if only in our dreams, get to fly like Captain Marvel;
May you never think, even for a moment, that I was capable of stealing those goats;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] (and each seen in a movie theater, by moiself).

[2] “Hmm, what can we do with this character and where can we take his storyline – I KNOW, LET’S GIVE HIM AMNESIA!”

[3] The two were sitting a few seats down from me, in the back row. They were clad in saris, possible a mother and her adult daughter, judging from their apparent ages and interactions. They were conversing in Hindi (?) during the previews…and they left a nearly full bucket of popcorn behind when they exited the theater.

[4] And by that I don’t mean time travel.

[5] Isn’t the worst review you can give to an “action” movie is to have been bored by it?

[6] The center or middle box was  the cereal I was actually eating, and the other two were choices set out for other family members. Say, a Cheerios box, a Wheaties box and Cornflakes box trio.

[7] The newspaper my family subscribed to at the time was delivered in the afternoon, not the morning.

[8] If only for today.

[9] Which sounds vaguely sexual…for which I am truly sorry.

The Happiness I’m Not Seeking

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Department Of First Things First

Beware the…you know what.

 

 

 

Happiness is not the station we arrive at but the manner by which we arrive.
(Oliver G. Wilson)

Mary Pipher: …one of the interesting facts about women my age is we’re the happiest demographic in America. In general, people tend to get happier as they age and stay happier right up until the very end. But women tend to be happier than men as they age…

Terry Gross: Why do you think older women are happier when they’re older than they were when they were younger? Is that what you’re saying?

PIPHER: Absolutely. (It’s) statistical fact – I’m not…just hypothesizing.

GROSS: But what accounts for that – ’cause, you know, it seems counterintuitive.

PIPHER: …It really starts with, what do you think the nature of happiness is? And I think happiness is a choice and a set of skills…. After all these years of being a therapist and watching my friends grow and develop and seeing the directions they take and then doing this book where I interviewed so many older women I have a pretty strong sense for what makes people happy. The first part of it is making a choice to be happy – just deciding that that’s a life goal, that I’m going to be happy. I’m going to do everything I can to make my life as good as I can.

And then it’s a set of skills. And one set of skills, for example, is humor and just figuring out how to laugh about things. Another skill is figuring out ways to have meaning and purpose in one’s life. Another skill is the ability to have friends…I call close women friends my mental health insurance policy because they’re so important. Another very important happiness skill is simply having reasonable expectations. My aunt Grace said, I get what I want, but I know what to want.

(excerpts from Fresh Air 2-27-19)

A recent Fresh Air episode, Women and Aging, had host Terry Gross interview clinical psychologist/ author Mary Pipher about Pipher’s new book, Women Rowing NorthWRN expounds on the pluses of changing from middle age to old age. As per the book’s web page, WRN offers “a timely examination of cultural and developmental issues women face as they transition from middle age to old age. In life stage, women contend with ageism, misogyny, and many kinds of loss. Yet, contrary to stereotypes, most older women are deeply happy and filled with gratitude for the gifts of life.”

Moiself is not quite ready to read that book yet, but I enjoyed the podcast. Something said during the interview reminded me of one of the few advantages (other than, not dying) of aging which I have fully embraced:

“At this life stage, women start granting themselves the power of no.”

I see this  – the power to say no –  as related to the fact that I don’t have the proverbial bucket list.  Many a person has regretted asking me what items are on my bucket list because I have (usually) replied honestly:

I don’t have a bucket list; I have a fuck-it list.

My Fuck-it list translates thusly:   I don’t keep any kind of inventory of things I feel I must see and/or accomplish before I die, but as time marches on…

 

Ideally, for me, “time marching on” will include a marching band, with dinosaurs

 

…I find moiself more willing and able to recognize those things/activities which may have been valid, obligatory or called for at one time but which I never want to do again,  and/or those things which, regardless of whether I have done them previously or not, are simply not worthy of wasting the precious resource of dwindling time – time I will never get back – by engaging in them. As Pipher put it, there is the sense that the runway is short, and with what time we have left, we want to deeply savor every experience we have. And I give myself permission to say a graciously but firm No to any invitations to partake in experiences I know I will not savor (committee meetings, anyone?).

The power of no concept was almost a throwaway line, but what Pipher what said about “happiness being a choice” made me almost fall of my Bowflex Max Elliptical trainer.   [1]   I agree with her observations about happiness being more of a choice and a set of skills than an emotional state.  And I have not come by this opinion lightly.

Although I love the REM song I am not a Shiny Happy People person, nor, despite what many people apparently think about moiself, I am not someone who is happy (or even content) all of the time.

 

 

Like Pipher, my extended family tree includes happiness impediments, including mental health/brain disorders, suicide, addiction, chronic disease, tragic deaths and abuse.    [2]  And in thinking about happiness being a life choice and/or skill, I neither ignore nor dismiss nor intend to insult those who might find even the idea of happiness unattainable as they face acute tragedies, or live with chronic contentment-dampening conditions, from clinical depression to progressive illness.  Rather, I was intrigued by Pipher’s interviews and research with older people showing that there is overall tendency over a lifespan to, while facing whatever you have to face, arc toward happiness.

However. I have an issue with her stating happiness as a goal in and of itself.

My view is a little more nuanced in the sense that I think happiness should be a by-product rather than an end-product of life.  I shall try to explain.

 

I’m sure this will be fascinating.

 

When my K and Belle were younger I often heard other parents talking about their hopes and dreams for their own children, which were stated in list format, ending with something along the lines of, “Whatever they do, I just want them to be happy.” I remember thinking to myself – and sometimes vehemently stating out loud – that, au contraire, I don’t just want my kids to be happy.  Because  whenever I pay the slightest attention to Whats Going On Around Me ®  I see a lot of just happy idiots/incompetents/bullies/downright evil people.   [3]

My wish, for both my children and moiself for that matter, is not for us to seek constant and perhaps idealized (and even unreachable) states of happiness. At what I hoped were age-appropriate points in their lives, I engaged K and Belle in conversations about how happiness should be a by-product, not the end-goal, of admirable life choices. I wanted them to lead good lives, question authority,  [4]   use reason and skepticism to evaluate claims, speak truthfully and kindly, and to Do The Right Thing ®.

Lest you think moiself is all serious, do-gooder inclined, I also, of course, want them to have fun. Which involves telling – or at least appreciating – fart jokes whenever possible.

 

 

 

 

Once again, I digress.

As per happiness, living a principled life will, eventually, provide its own gratification, for people with self-knowledge (and an IQ bigger than their belt size).  But when you choose to do the right thing, when you strive to walk lightly and justly in this world, happiness is not always an immediate (nor in some cases, even eventual) byproduct of your actions. And that sucks.

When you stick up for the kid who is  bullied at school you may then yourself become the bullies’ target. When you challenge workplace malfeasance and corruption there will be people, from your bosses to your supposed allies, who will make it their life’s work to make your life miserable –  there’s a reason we have the Whistleblower Protection Act.

Department Of Important Definitions

Pipher does not define happiness as some  state of perpetual joy – more along the lines of contentment, and capacity for appreciation. And she is fully aware of the fact that if you live long enough at some point you will have lost everyone who is important to you.

You know, what frightens me by far the most about aging is losing people I love….(my) brother-in-law of mine died – he was 28 and a soccer player. And he died of brain cancer. And that knocked me out for about a year. And last year, my daughter moved with her family, my two young grandchildren, up to Canada. And it was tremendously difficult for me.

So that is really very difficult for me to think, how will I cope with this continuing string of losses? And the implications of that for me are I need to have my life, which will include a great deal of loss – I mean, at this point in my life, one way or another, I’m going to say goodbye to everybody I know. So the antidote for that, the balancer for that is to have a life as filled with gratitude, fun, appreciation, joy, meaningful work as I can possibly have.

 

 

*   *   *

*   *   *

Department Of Kids Get The Darndest Jobs  [5]

This week was daughter Belle’s first at a new job. After graduating college last May and having a six month internship in the south, she realized the Pacific Northwest is where she wanted to be. She tot he West Coast, rented an apartment in Tacoma, and took the first job she found, at a place I’d heard about for years, from both her and her brother K,  [6] .  It is a classic hangout: a 1940s-50s inspired diner named, “Shake Shake Shake.”  [7]

I offered to bribe pay Belle if she would put a sign reading “your booty” under the name of the diner, but she didn’t seem to think her bosses would appreciate it. Also, moiself  had to explain the KC & the Sunshine Band song reference to her.

Speaking of which, I think we’re all deserving of a Seventies song break:

 

 

You’re welcome.

*   *   *

Department Of “Classic” Books I’m Having A Hard Time Reading

Currently, that would be Tales of the City, Armistead Maupin’s series of novels involving a plethora of characters living in late 70’s – mid 80’s San Francisco. The books’ many protagonists are friends and lovers and husbands and wives and landlords and tenants and coworkers and bosses (and thinly veiled references to real life public figures) of all sexual orientations, whose lives intersect and overlap.

The novels, whose chapters first appeared as regular installments in the San Francisco Chronicle, were beloved by many San Franciscans, and convey the zeitgeist of that time period.  Moiself, I’m finding it hard to follow. There are too many characters competing for chapter space – and the chapters are long on dialogue and short on descriptive prose.  Although the dialogue is witty, I’m having a difficult time keeping track of which character is which: it’s like they all speak in the same voice, with even the straight characters spouting variations of the archetypal, Sassy Gay Best Friend ® sitcom repartee.    [8]

 

 

Ain’t every bitch a critic?

*   *   *

May you need no excuse to blast Shiny Happy People on a regular basis;
May you remember to cultivate your mental health insurance policy – your friends;
May you strive to do the right thing, and also to just have some fun;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

*   *   *

 

 

[1] In that it really caught my attention…I was exercising on said machine while listening to the podcast…in case you were wondering if I just tripped over it.

[2] Including sexual abuse/incest.

[3] I didn’t get invited to a lot of Mommy/Baby play groups…which was just fine by moiself.

[4] Except your mother.

[5] Another Old Person Reference ® I will have to explain to Belle and K, who likely aren’t familiar with Art Linkletter’s Kids Say the Darndest Things.

[6] Who graduated from the same college as his sister, only three years earlier.

[7] It has an extensive milkshake menu.

[8] No footnote here.  You checked for nothing – don’t you feel stupid right now?

The List I’m Not Making

Comments Off on The List I’m Not Making

First things First:

Happy 26th bday to son K!

 “K” and his cat, “Tootsie,” a few years back  [1]

You both look a lot younger, eh?

 

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Department Of Well Which Is It?

Dateline: Monday 6:45 am. My personal, non-cellular, weather forecast app – opening the front door and sticking my nose outside – is not encouraging.  Seeking confirmation, I check my phone’s weather apps before going for a morning walk. Willy Weather says the temp is 27˚ F but “feels like 17˚ F;AccuWeather says 22˚F but RealFeel ® is 29˚ F.

 

 

How’s about an app that says, Yep, it’s like, Brrrrrrrrr….

 

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Department Of I Suppose I Could Have Just Said Thank You

This summer it will have been twenty two years ago that our friend GJ died in a motorcycle accident. GJ left behind a brokenhearted husband and their five bereft children, and numerous grieving friends, family, neighbors, students,  [2]  and colleagues.

The day we learned of her death I did not want to leave the house and certainly had no desire to speak with strangers, but I had two pressing/related tasks to accomplish that evening. After errand #1 my car “blew up” (translation: the battery had a mini explosion when I turned the key in the ignition).

Not a good night, to say the least.

MH came to rescue me; we traded cars and he called AAA for an emergency battery replacement while I attended to task #2, which involved purchasing…something related to the fulfillment of task #1 at a Target-like store.  [3]  After I made my purchase the store’s clerk, a somnolent young woman seemingly operating on autopilot, handed me my item and receipt. In a voice that indicated she was giving an instruction rather than a wish or a suggestion, she told me to Have a nice day.

I took two steps toward the exit door, turned around and said,
“You know, that’s just not gonna happen.

I’ve often thought back on that incident; specifically, wondering what the clerk must have thought about my reply.  [4]  She, of course, had no way of knowing what was going on in my head – no way of understanding that I would take her robotic, store-policy mandated departure phrase as a slap in the face of my sorrow.

 

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Department Of This Is Related To That

Many is the time I’ve seen the various “list“ headlines on Facebook postings, and several times I’ve perused a few of the lists. You might be familiar with them: They take a usually well-meaning – if sometimes vaguely grouchy, know-it-all and/or punitive – tone on advising on how not to be insensitive to people dealing with certain conditions or afflictions:

*What Not To Say To A Pregnant Woman

*What Not To Say To A Person Living With Clinical Depression

*What Not To Say To Parents Of A Stillborn Infant

*What Not To Say To…

– Someone Living With Parkinson’s Disease…A Rape Victim…A Recovering Addict…A Cancer Survivor…Trump Supporters And Others with Cognitive Deficits…

 

 

 

These lists are often compiled by people who’ve had the jaw-clenching experience of being on the wrong end of “well-meaning but clueless”comments and questions about their circumstances, from total strangers to their should-know-better family members.

Regular readers of this blog may recall that several times during the past five weeks I have written in this space about the recent murder of the adult child of my beloved friends. Acquaintances and friends whom I haven’t seen since I received that devastating news have extended the customary inquiry/greeting when they encounter me: Hey, how are you doing – what’s been going on in your life? In some cases I have resisted telling the truth, resorting to the standard American  [5]  brush-off (Fine, thanks, how about you?). Other times I have felt like an open wound and blurt it out – to both friends and strangers (like the clerk at the Subaru Service center – so sorry, dude)…usually prefacing it with a joking, Am I ever gonna make you feel bad for asking!

Early last week I had two days in a row where, at the end of the day, I realized, Hey my first thought upon waking up this morning was not about ______’s death.  [6]  Then came a setback, also two days in a row.  First on Tuesday and then Wednesday, in separate incidents involving people with whom I have longstanding warm and friendly if professional relationships, I was asked about what was going on in my life.  In each case, the askers also remarked that I seemed somewhat…”subdued?  Down?  Sad?”

I responded with a Reader’s Digest condensed version of what had been occupying my thoughts since the end of January. The askers’ heartfelt expressions of shock and dismay and extensions of condolences on behalf of myself and my friends were comforting to me. They also each proceeded to share horrific stories of the deaths of someone they knew: in one case the suicide of the child of a friend, and in the other, a grandfather and an aunt slain by a mutual acquaintance.

 

 

 

 

My thoughts, not at the time but soon afterward:  Uh…thanks for adding those dreadful images to the ones already in my brain!

Department Of The List I Am Making:

What Not To Say To People After Someone They Loved Has Been Murdered

Here’s the thing: I am not making that list. Because I understand what they tried to do.

I surprised moiself by my reaction, when I realized that although I really could have done without hearing those stories I was not holding ill-will toward the people who told them. They are both kind and compassionate people; I truly felt their concern on my behalf. They were not engaging in Catastrophe One-Upmanship ® (as in, “my tragedy is bigger than yours”).  [7]  Rather, IMHO both of those incidents sprang from all-too-human, sincere attempts at showing me that they understood what it’s like to deal with such heartbreak.

I have been trying to read everything I can stand to read on the subject of bereavement and grief experienced by families of murder victims (one of the better sources, if you’re interested, is A Grief Like No Other).    A common experience reported by the families is that people start avoiding them, or talk obliquely around them and never refer to the situation or their lost loved one, and this hurts the family.  These avoiders don’t mean to compound the families’ grief – they  are so very afraid of “saying the wrong thing“and thereby adding to it that they can’t think of anything to say at all, and don’t take (what they see as) the risk of expressing themselves.

This experience – responding to and caring for friends and family who’ve lost loved ones via murder – is…beyond awkward, to drastically understate it. Most of us never got the memo, so to speak, of how to respond in such circumstances.

What can I speak about, when it involves the unspeakable? Anything I can say might just add to the families’ burden… so I will just not say anything.

And what happens to your relationships with those to whom you fear saying anything substantive? What happens with people when you feel you are unable to talk about the most important issues in their lives? You may start avoiding them, due in large part to your own discomfort.

So, while I was not pleased to have more disturbing stories and images added to my mental file cabinet, I understand the intentions.  And the sharing of both stories served as a powerful illustration of what I’ve been reading: of how homicidal violence has lingering (and in most cases, lifelong) repercussions, affecting people outside the immediate families of the victims. It was obvious that, years after the they incidents recalled to moiself, those two people’s lives were forever altered. And, in both cases, they went on to discuss with moiself the sad fact that there are a growing number of people in this country, across all walks of life, whose strongest (or perhaps only) thing in common is that their lives have been fractured by homicidal violence. Each in their own way, those two people were trying to reassure me that my friend’s family is – and that I am – not alone in this.

 

 

 

 

In the case of the person whose aunt and grandfather were killed, I found myself thinking, It’s like an IED of homicide detonated near her family. Those who survived the explosion are “whole” now, their external injuries long healed, but they carry reminders that most outsiders will never see – pieces of mental and emotional shrapnel remain embedded in their minds and hearts.

So, what’s on the list I’m not making? Nothing…except for the suggestion to keep in mind that you never know.  This is neither new nor profound, but it stands the test of time: try to give people the benefit of doubt. Any person you encounter, from your BFF   [8]  to the stranger on the street – you never fully know what that person is dealing with. The guy who snapped at you seemingly out of nowhere?  He may have just found out that his best friend/twin brother was killed by a stray bullet fired during a convenience story robbery.  Snapper Guy may be having one of The Worst Days Of His Life ®….[9] and you just happened to be in the vicinity.

*   *   *

May you never be so consumed with fear about saying the wrong thing
that you neglect to say anything;
May you stop saying Have a nice day unless you really mean it;
May you not need to consult a list to remember that you should never
ask a “pregnant-looking” woman if she is pregnant;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] So named because she is a polydactyl…and she, like K, is still with us (she’s almost 16 years old).

[2] GJ was an elementary school teacher.

[3] Something about a committee I was serving on. To this day, although the specific moiself-clerk is burned in my brain, I cannot remember what those pressing tasks were, nor what store I went to.

[4] Other than, “Cranky bitch!”

[5] Several times when traveling in Europe and enjoying a discussion with the locals re cultural differences, I’ve had the natives ask me about one of their pet peeves: why it is that Americans use the phrase “How are you?” as a greeting, and not as an evident (to the European mind) inquiry as to their welfare?  When they (the Europeans) take it as a sincere question and actually begin to say how they are doing, the asker seems annoyed. “If they are not really interested in how I am, why did they ask? Can’t they just say, “Hello?”

[6] Ah, but then of course it obviously was one of my last thoughts of the day.

[7] which is a real and really disturbing phenomenon, common to the narcissistic personality.

[8] I really, really hate that acronym. Pretend I didn’t use it.

[9] I can of course only speak for myself regarding the death of ___, and I realize that the sense of loss I am experiencing is peanuts compared to her family’s devastation. And I’m sorry if you who are reading this have a peanut allergy, but I’m sticking with this metaphor.

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