Our Sinister New Reality

 

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I watched my tv screen in horror and amazement yesterday as the latest school shooting in the USA unfolded.  It all looked sickeningly familiar, but there was a new element to the coverage this time.  The victims had all practised for this moment as if knowing its inevitability.  Doors closed, halls emptied, locks snapped and everyone held their breath.  First responders knew their roles very well.  Help evacuate, identify the injured, Triage, send to hospital. Parents were quickly told where they could reunite with their children off campus.  Of course, they were the lucky ones who could reunite.

So this is our new reality. It’s actually political theatre. The politicians who got us here know their roles too.  Prayers for the victims, condolences for the families and heavy praise for each other, all the while looking very sombre and hugging nearby colleagues.    Absent in yesterday’s coverage was any mention of gun control. 

“We are here for you,” says Florida governor Rick Scott.  “We are here for you,” says President Trump.

Hell no, you are NOT and please don’t pretend to be. If your words were true, we would not be in this mess.

The politicians and their cronies have successfully erased these two words from the earlier scripts of similar crises.  Calls for gun control have become increasingly muted in recent years.  Now they are completely absent.  Unbelievable.

The lunatics have taken over the asylum.

I don’t give a damn about anyone’s so-called rights to carry a weapon.  What I care deeply about is the right of an American child to go to school in the morning and come home in one piece at the end of the school day to her family. It’s fundamental, isn’t it?

This, you have heard before: That meaningful gun reform is possible, must be possible, because Australia and the U.K. suffered a single mass shooting and decided it could never happen again. That a majority of Americans can agree that some degree of gun reform is needed right now. That 150,000 children and young adults went to school at some point in the last two decades and found themselves trapped in the midst of mass murder.

This, you’ve also heard: That there is a way, must be a way, to get ourselves out of this, because no developed and civil and educated nation can sit and watch as its citizens are slaughtered, brutally and repeatedly. Surely. Surely

Bustle, Jenny Hollander

Can we just agree to call it unacceptable for our country to have been so hijacked by the demands of those so wedded to their guns and rifles that they can’t see what they’ve lost by holding on so tightly?

I have pledged to myself that I will take action that feels meaningful. It’s too easy to just turn away. There are lots of fine gun control organizations out there toiling away.  I’m going to do my research and give support where I feel it can make a difference.  Just maybe, if enough of us takes some similar action, it might shake up the status quo and terrifying hold that the NRA now has on all of us.

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Aha!

One of the earliest lessons I was inadvertently taught was that the truth can be flexible.  I learned it in the first grade when I was unceremoniously plucked from the line of first graders walking home for lunch from school.   I was made  to walk home with the kindergarteners line.  I remember crying from humiliation and shame.

It was my parents’ fault because they lied about my age to get me into kindergarten.  They decided I was ready. I was ready.  Unfortunately,  another parent let the truth about me be known and the powers that be set me back where I belonged age-wise.   My parents fought the ruling to no avail, but ultimately changed townships so that I would not be set back. My easy going father even had a stiff drink or two before he went to argue my case to the school’s principal. The bureaucracy wouldn’t budge.

I was always the youngest in my class when I moved back to school in my hometown. It was never a problem for me. Following that incident, the city decided to require birth certificates before a child could enter kindergarten. A wise move.

Fast forward 7.5 decades and my old school friends are now turning 80 this summer and fall, if they hadn’t already.  My Big Day doesn’t arrive until mid January.  I think most of us are a little shell shocked.  It’s given me lots of time to prepare for my own celebration or non celebration.  Covid has cast some confusion about making a decision .

A few days ago, as I was looking for inspiration, Rabbi Ted Falcon of Seattle, during his streaming Rosh Hashonah service, talked about Aha! moments in daily life.  He got my attention immediately as he suggested that a wise response to the world during these difficult times is to mark the Aha!’s we encounter during the average day. The key is to pay attention and be present to life and its wonders.  The times have been so chaotic and dismal it’s been very easy to overlook the still miraculous  faces of life on our planet.

I interpreted his suggestion to use the Aha moments as a mantra.  It can bring our addled minds back to the present and the miraculous.  I discovered that the miraculous has not gone away. JUst still patiently doing it’s thing on the sidelines of a more publicized show.

So today, I began to pay attention to things that were aha’s and were often right in front of me, largely unnoticed..  It wasn’t difficult.Covid and election concerns left the spotlight easily.

On the cusp of autumn I discovered the first bit of color showing on the buds of my camelia tree, planted by my front door. Winter in waiting.The caps of a few acorns were left as a reminder that the squirrels had most likely gotten to the nuts themselves, courtesy of our old giant oak trees in the yard. The bark, sensually curled around the branches of some eucalyptus shrubs in our front yard. unable or unwilling to cut loose just yet. The newly revealed branch looked as if someone had spent hours just sanding and buffing it down for our appreciation. Peek-a-boo.

I can easily admit that my almost 80 year old memory for words and names  is not ready for primetime.  But, with some patience, the words find their way to the surface.  It can be frustrating, but I can live with it, as long as I give my own brain a little retrieval space.

A few months ago, if I was seated on the floor,I found it almost impossible  to rise to a standing position. It was demoralizing.  I quickly told myself, ” This just the beginning of the end of a useful body.”  Not so fast, Dianne.  With the help of a personal trainer, I got that ability back fairly quickly. It’s the old  use it or lose it theory.

I’ve also improved my ability to tolerate unbusyness.  Thank you, covid.  It’s now ok not to be doing something 100% of the time. I cannot say to myself or others  anymore, “I”m too busy to do that.”  The truth is, I am most decidedly NOT busy and enjoying it as well.  At least some of the time.

I can say to options, I’m too old to want to do that.  That includes getting into a bathing suit and shaving my legs on a regular basis.  It also includes getting as tan as I can, because I now know it’s not much fun to have skin growths removed.

So welcome, Autumn.  If I’m lucky I’ll be able to give this 8th decade some direction.Let’s see how far we can take it.  Since I learned at an early age that lying is a risky business, I’ll do my best to tell the truth and paint a realistic picture of coming to terms with advancing age.

Each day, until I grow sick of it, I will look for an inspiring Aha! moment to share.  Please consider sharing yours as well.  Stay well and stay sane.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Downfall of the Bright Red Petticoat

I can see it still as if it’s hanging in my closet.  The cherry red taffeta petticoat, trimmed with narrow black lace at the hem and hips.  The single button at the waist.  The way the petticoat  made my princess styled dress stand out perfectly from the waist.  It accentuated what nature provided to a 13 year old, a slim tiny waist, not yet trashed by four pregnancies. One long zipper hugged my young body from the neckline to mid-hips.  I thought I looked adorable. In fact, I knew I looked adorable.  Was I going to a dance or party?  No, just on my way to High Holiday services at our temple.

My mother upped the ante for the high holidays and their importance.  Observation of them by attending religious services was a given.  As was a new dress.  If you were a grown woman, put a new hat in the mix. The fancier the better.   Remember this was the 1950’s. Any idea that I might not want to attend services was kept to myself.

There were separate really dull services for children downstairs in the social hall.  The synagogue itself was reserved for adults.

The best things about the synagogue interior were the stained glass windows which I liked to look at. It felt a lot more spiritual than the downstairs generic social hall.The services themselves were boring for me.I did like the moments when the congregation rose together to sing the shema prayer.  the Shema is recited aloud as: Sh’ma Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Eḥad: “Hear, O Israel: the LORD is our God, the LORD is One.” The literal word meanings are roughly as follows: Sh’ma: literally means listen, heed, or hear and do.

The little bit of Hebrew I understood allowed me to put my whole self into this short prayer, feeling as if I were a real Jew. I always sang out lustily. It always moved me to the point of getting tears in my eyes.  That’s one of life’s mysteries.

a window at Sons of Zion synagogue in Holyoke, Mass.

Half of the congregation walked out of the sanctuary to take a break after the Rabbi’s sermon. The adult women strolled out with all their holiday finery of display, a few flaunting mink stoles, nodding and waving to everyone they knew who was still seated.

Strategically, to miss the crowd, I decided to walk out a little sooner than everyone else. I guess I wanted the stage for myself.  I was the only moving thing in the one main aisle.  Feeling pretty good about myself, I began the fairly long trek to the back door of the sanctuary.  About ⅓ of the way, I sneezed loudly.  I immediately felt the single button at the waist pop off! Many eyes turned to look.  The red petticoat began to slide down my legs immediately with nothing to stop it.  I grasped at my dress as it slid lower and lower. No matter how hard I clutched my dress,  I couldn’t stop the petticoat’s  ultimate descent.

By the time the petticoat reached my ankles, I was compelled to face reality, or trip on the damn thing and fall on my face.  Nearing the end of the aisle, I stopped, let the petticoat drop, bent over, stepped out of it  and swept it up over my arm to carry it out the door as if that’s what I’d intended all along.   I dare not look at the parishioners to see if anyone was watching. I remember being horrified, but quickly thought it was funny. For the remainder of the morning service, the petticoat was over my arm.

There were no cameras to record the incident, but I’ve never forgotten it.  Maybe an early lesson on the foolishness of vanity?

Each year, when the High Holidays roll around, I remember the bright red petticoat. It was only worn once.

This Too Shall Pass

“This too shall pass” (Persianاین نیز بگذرد‎, romanizedīn nīz bogzarad) is a Persian adage translated and used in multiple languages. It reflects on the temporary nature, or ephemerality, of the human condition. The general sentiment is often expressed in wisdom literature throughout history and across cultures, although the specific phrase seems to have originated in the writings of the medieval Persian Sufi poets.

These are the days of red skies and yellow haze, of cherry red balloon-like suns sinking into the horizon at the close of the day, of endless conflicts and nasty, spiteful leaders.  However, I’ve noticed the squirrels are very busy gathering acorns from our oak trees and many birds are gleaning what they can from the trees as well.  I wonder if they take notice of the ominous skies that surround them?.Are they sleeping less soundly than usual?  Do they even notice?  Do they have more confidence in the future of the planet than some of their human counterparts?  Like me, for instance?

The young children continue to squeal loudly when they play in the pool.  The dogs still beg for treats and the neighbor’s cat continues to call my yard his as he looks for prey.  I continue to try to intimidate the cat and he continues to come by on a regular basis, although I do think he keeps an eye out for me.

Neighbors smile regularly at each other, sensing that kindness and understanding should be the order of the day. We are ALL in this together, for sure.

In the background, men curse loudly.  Fucking asshole.  It is always a jarring note, even though I understand the need for expletives. It does not make our current reality any less threatening.

I remember a song from the 60’s Viet Nam war period.  What the World Needs Now is Love, Sweet Love. And of course, it’s on Youtube. 

It’s hardly profound, but somehow it’s simplicity sounds ok to me today.  Maybe it’s simplicity that the world needs now.  It’s knowing that your kids will go back to a classroom at the end of the summer.  It’s knowing that it’s fine to invite some friends for dinner, to go to a concert without worrying that your final destination will be a bed in Intensive Care..

When this is all over, maybe we’ll be able to sing, Is That All There Is?with a new and intimate comprehension of the lyrics.

A few decades ago, I visited the  Istanbul marketplace.  Amidst the sensory overload, I spotted a small shop that looked intriguing.  On the wall, was a skeletonized leaf, with an Arabic alphabet printed on an image of a flower. Inquiring as to its meaning, I was told it said “This too shall pass.” It’s been on my bedroom wall for years now but has taken on new meaning and given me some comfort. It does seem paradoxical to want things to pass because it’s your one and only life. As far as I know, the saying could be, “Death to all Jews! ” The joke would be on me. I’ll take my humor wherever I can get it these days.

this too shall pass

 

 

 

Addicted……. to Shmatas?

NO, not THAT kind of addiction.  Not to drugs, fortunately.  Not to alcohol.  This addiction costs me about $12 each time I indulge.  This addiction brings me pleasure each time I indulge.  It’s continued to bring me pleasure for many years.  It’s a relatively small expenditure, but carries an impact.  It varies with the seasons, it also has some historical significance.  What the hell is it?  Is it really a shmata?  (rag)  maybe.

Tenugui

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Tenugui is one those endearing, everyday, handcrafted Japanese objects that once you know what it is, you simply can’t live without. A Japanese Tenugui is a handy piece of fabric, always in gorgeous Japanese patterns, with an almost infinite amount of uses.  Although the name may seem unfamiliar to you, if you have even a vague interest in Japanese design, chances are you’ve seen one of these before. So what is a tenugui, how do you use it, where do you buy it, and what has it got to do with martial arts? Here is everything you need to know about this little Japanese wonder that packs a big punch!  japanobjects.com

Like morning glories?  I found the perfect tenegui!

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A tenugui is something like a very extended handkerchief.  It can be used to wipe away the sweat caused by a hot summer day.  It can be used as a head wrap, to keep sweat off the brow.  Not so good to wipe a runny nose, but if you’re desperate?

Winter is approaching, how about some koi in the snow, or just some simple Christmas berry pattern?

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The Japanese began to use them several hundred years ago when cotton became widely available.  In a pinch, they’re a great hand towel. If you’re little,  maybe even a very small bath towel. But really, these are not towels in the Western sense.  Zero terrycloth.  Frame a tenegui  and it becomes a  piece of inexpensive folk art.  Easily rotated or replaced too.

Rainy season?  Never enough hydrangeas?

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Are you out of gift wrap?  If the gift is small, wrap it charmingly in a tenugui.  If you can bear to part with it.

Each time I travel to Japan, I cannot resist the urge to buy just one or two more.  I have yet to regret the purchases, although that isn’t true for some members of my family.  I use them mostly as hand towels in a guest bathroom.  Out of curiosity, I decided to count the number of tenugui I now have.   Approx. 85.  That’s just between you and me.  It’s a solid collection and hopefully far from finished!  BTW,  It would take many many years of use to become a shmata, in my opinion.

The designs are incredibly diverse.  There always new seasonal designs, floral designs, historic designs, modern artistic designs, Japanese patterned designs, animal designs, etc. At the moment, just past mid summer,  I’m looking at a vibrant bright sunflower pattern hanging in my guest bath.  I love it.

p.s.  In Japan, you can easily find tenugui in certain stores.  But they are also available online if you want to dabble.  Here are a few links, if you want to pursue.

(http://www.eirakuya.jp/onlineshopping/).  (raak, one of the best, I think.  Several stores in Kyoto.

https://www.teamwakon.com/collections/tenuguihttps://www.alibaba.com/showroom/tenugui.html

https://monokotostore.net/collections/kenema#:~:text=In%20the%20midst%20of%20this,a%20new%20tenugui%20brand%E2%80%94kenema.  (sophisticated patterns!)

https://anything-from-japan.com/beauty-fashion/accessories/furoshiki-tenugui

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ah yes, I Remember it Well

Most of us have more time on our hands now than we’ve had in a long time.  My mind has enjoyed a few trips down Memory Lane.  It might be out of boredom or just what aging minds like to do when there’s nothing else keeping them occupied.

15 years old.  Running across a beach into the wind,  laughing with a best friend, holding up a beach towel behind us.  We’re on a high school field trip at Ocean Beach Park in New London, Conn. We felt like we were flying.  Do you remember , Margie Healy?

30 years old. So nervous while performing on stage I wondered what would happen if I stopped dancing because of a heart attack. Would the dance go on around me or would someone dressed in black grab me by the leg and pull me offstage so the dance could go on?stagehand

9 years old.  Getting ready for a recital, changing into my costume  in a jr. high school classroom.I had a solo to do, tapping on toe on a stair box, all the rage then. in Holyoke.  My mom pulls out my toes shoes which she had to dye red (remember the Red Shoes?) only to discover they had shrunken and there was no way I could get into them.  I had to go onstage and perform the dance in my regular tap shoes.  This was a huge embarrassment because I was already an accomplished tapper.  The tap dance for toe was a very much simplified version of what I could do. Of course I’m sure I was the only one who knew the difference.Or who cared.to tap

 

 

 

16 years old.  Driving in a late summer hurricane with my Mom at the wheel on a beach road in Connecticut, trying to get away from the storm.  Were we nuts? She obviously didn’t feel safe at home a block and a half from the ocean.   Trees falling behind us, it’s a miracle we weren’t felled too.  When we did return safely home, there were boats in our front yard.

11 years old.  Stopping at a farm stand with my mother to bring a large bunch of gladiolas to my grandmother.  They were every brilliant color of the rainbow.  $2. a dozen.

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30 years.  Waiting for the OB to arrive while in the delivery room.  The nurses told me not to push until the doc arrived.  I decided to ignore them and push the little creature O U T.  It was ok!

31 year.  A pink hedge of peonies in June, lining the driveway of a rented house.  Spectacular.

A neighbor’s great dane galloping towards me as I walked home from school.  At the very last moment, he swerved away.  Terrifying.great dane

12 years old.  Playing the part of Curly in the camp production of Oklahoma!  I already knew all the lyrics, of course.

12 years old.  Buying my first “training” bra.  Did I have puppies growing on my chest?

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For many years.  Loving a strawberry ice cream soda with strawberry ice cream.  Best from Friendly’s.download ice cream

16 years old.  Driving by the house of a teacher I had a crush on.  This went on for too many years!

8 years old.  Coming back to 3rd grade class as a champion after winning a radio contest about books( most of which I’d never read.)

12 years old.  The day my dog Rexie was hit by a car and ran away until the wee hours of the night.  I went to bed sobbing. My Mom woke me up to tell me he was back, battered but alive!

8 years old.  Driving to school with my father.  The door of the station wagon swung open and deposited me in a snowbank just as he made a turn to go over the South Hadley bridge.  As he pulled me up, looking shaken, the first thing he said to me was, “Don’t tell your mother!”  ‘YOU’re ok!” and I was.

7 years old.  The excitement of getting a new puppy.  A white collie.  He was in a cardboard box, sliding from one side to the other, as I watched him as we drove him home.

Being so homesick, I thought it would tear me apart, first summer at Camp Sandy Neck in Barnstable, Mass.  Dreams of running away, walking across the bay at low tide and then hitch hiking to Western Mass.  I saved up a few peanut butter sandwiches for the trip.  One that I never attempted, fortunately!

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Sandy Neck on Cape Cod

For many years.  Getting my dance costumes each spring before the dance recitals.  They were always items of beauty in my mind.  If my mother hadn’t given them all away, they’d probably be in glass cases permanently attached to my bedroom walls.  I remember the bluebird number particularly well.

12 years old.  Dad was holding down the fort as my mother vacationed in Fla.  It was the night of the Academy awards and he asked me to go to bed well before the Awards began.  I tried to argue that Mom would always allow me to stay up late. No use.  He was strangely not moved in the least.  I was VERY disappointed.  Angry too.

 

 

 

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