Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Blue Apron . . . Where Can It Take The Writer?

Lately my blogs have veered dramatically from being a creative place to being a space to vent, to editorialize, or to fret, and while that has been useful to clarify my thinking, today I decided to go back to what I love most: creative writing - creating from nothing. I’ve decided to do this for the next few blogs simply for practice and basically to see what happens. Today I began with “the blue apron”. (And really, who wears an apron anymore?) I followed the words though and below one can read the result of that effort. 

The blue apron had been hanging on the same ten-penny nail for eight years. Eight years. Nora had hung it up there herself, turned toward her husband, Ned, and said, “Well, done for another day.”
She had taken three steps forward and had collapsed right beside Daisy, the beloved, old, half-collie dog that had been roaming Nora’s house for thirteen years, ever since the young, mongrel bitch slinked up on the back porch, matted, filthy, and laden with pups that were more than ready to see the light of day. It had been love at first sight for Nora who had yearned for a dog all her life; the feeling for Daisy was instantly mutual although she might have reconsidered if she had known what was coming to her.
Nora unceremoniously had dragged Daisy, at that point unnamed, to a wide, metal drinking pail, given her a moment to lap up some much-needed water, and then turned on her, dousing the unsuspecting mutt with the rest of the water and sudsing her from nose to tail with a bar of handmade lye soap. The dog detested and adored every minute of the attention. When the washing was done, Nora informed her new pooch that she’d be called Daisy and Daisy responded with a gigantic wiggle that thoroughly soaked Nora as well. Daisy showed her enthusiasm by bounding around the backyard grass in an ecstatic frenzy. A day later eight puppies were suckling contentedly while Daisy gazed up at Nora with happy, glassy eyes. The puppies, when ready, were parceled out to friends and neighbors, but Daisy stayed on with Nora and Ned until the end.

The moment Nora crumpled to the floor that evening after hanging up her well-used, blue apron, both Daisy and Ned were upon her, Ned patting her face and hands breathlessly and Daisy pawing nervously at Nora’s legs before licking the old woman from head to toe.
“Nora, Nora,” Ned repeated over and over, his voice growing raspy and faint as fear took over. And, when at last Daisy lay down beside her best friend, she whined, a tiny, forlorn sound that seemed to catch in her throat for it continued as though it might possibly remain forever.
The efforts of the two beings, Daisy and Ned, who loved Nora more than life itself were futile. Nora’s breathing came to a halt. Her last movement found her grasping the fur on Daisy’s chest, while at the same time, her other hand softly squeezed Ned’s hand until it fell free.
Daisy mourned Nora for four days before deciding she’d had enough. The old dog died on the kitchen floor in the exact spot where Nora had fallen. When Ned found Daisy, cool and not breathing in the grey of an early morning, he grabbed Nora’s blue apron and placed it over the dog before wrapping her in a soft blanket. Ned buried sweet Daisy in the far corner of the backyard at noon when the sun was at its highest. Nora would have approved.

Friday, December 23, 2016

A Swift Kick To 2016
            (Or Looking To A New Year)

So, here’s what’s up. 2016 hasn’t been the jolliest year for me. I’d line it right up next to 2013, the year my son, Alex, died from brain cancer. It would be easy to fall into a deep depression and wonder, “Why bother?” I’m not that kind of person though. I WANT to “bother”, and by that I mean make an effort to move forward. So, I’ve been making “dates”, going places, seeing a few friends, planning to see family, and trying to put 2016 in perspective.
A few days ago I had wine and hors d’oeuvres at a local wine bar with two of my women friends. They have been fighting as hard as I have to keep their heads above the fray that has hold of our country, to maintain their senses of humor, and to preserve their integrity and level-headedness, especially when confronted with someone behaving badly. We all know right from wrong. We’re educated, liberal, and, as educators, have spent our entire lives devoted to careers that have contributed positively to the lives of others. (At least we believe that.) That being said, we feel there’s a chance that we, and a few others, may be thrown under the proverbial train and we’re worried. For many years we have watched freedom, independence, and human rights for women, minorities, and the LBGTQ community expand. We’ve seen folks begin to take better care of our environment. Health care and society’s support systems have improved. Now however, friends of my generation fear all that’s about to implode.
Not everyone agrees, however.
I met last night with a small group of former students, a generation X group, a bit older than the younger millennials who have grabbed the media’s attention and are making their voices heard these days. It was actually inspiring to be with this 40-something bunch and realize that they’ve made it. They are doing well financially, are talented, creative, smart, and are diehard wine lovers, and what could be wrong with that?
The gathering was bittersweet, of course, because absent from those around the table was Alex, who was a classmate of those there. It stung a bit. Nonetheless, I enjoyed being in the company of this “much younger than I am” set. We conversed openly and easily. I realized, however, from listening to them, that in some ways, we think differently. While we agreed pretty much across the board politically, I honed in on their one, particular, collective outlook: They aren’t worried.
“This is only temporary,” they said. “What really can happen in four years?” “Our democracy has checks and balances, doesn’t it?” “Besides, “he” is only one person.”

Theirs was a laissez-faire approach that actually surprised me given the uncertainty of our times. I know these individuals read, they’ve traveled the globe, they are thinkers, doers, and yes, they too contribute to society. At the same time, though, they appeared ready to let life run its course, to wait and see what happens . . . at least for now. These adults, my former “kids”, want politely to debate the issues with people of all ages, hear the “other” side, and be “reasonable”. And that’s certainly not bad, just different from quite a few baby boomers of my generation who are more than a bit nervous these days and quite likely, mad as hell, not that we don’t want to have a healthy exchange of ideas as well.
 Age, obviously, experience perhaps, even expectations set each of our generations apart; they contribute to our individualism and clearly to our outlooks. While I cannot adopt the stance of my generation X students, I have to appreciate their willingness to look forward with hope and with the belief that we will get through these trying times.
“Our country’s gotten through things like this before,” they said.
Not without fallout,” I wanted to add, but did not.
Nevertheless, I must say I found these grown-up, former students admirable, worthy citizens and good, solid people. I felt honored to be a part of their gathering and it was great to catch up after many years.
I suppose, at the end of the day, no matter how one feels about where we are headed, either individually or collectively, or whether one frets about the future or not, things will turn out. They simply just do, but let’s hope, in 2017, it’s for the best.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

At the Crossroads
Where we are.

For my blog today, I am sharing a Facebook post written by a former Casa Grande High School student named Susan Carr Collins. (CGHS is where I taught.) When Susan was in high school she was an honors student, a spirit leader, and an all-around “good kid”. As an adult, she became a firefighter/medic, and now is a nurse, a mom, a wife, a thinker, and a fabulous, young woman. I asked her permission to share her words on my blog. Thankfully she said, “Yes.”
So many of my friends have been snared by myriad emotions after this election cycle and have been struggling to untangle them. Susan obviously has too, and I am pleased to see that writing helped her sort out her concerns. I believe she is correct to ask, “How will this all end?” I’m sure it’s a question many of us share. No matter what one’s political persuasion, this is worth a read.

**LONG POST - Fair Warning***
A hundred thousand years ago (or maybe it was in the early 90's) I was driving a long stretch of country road between Sonoma and Petaluma, likely enjoying "Two Princes" for the 100th time on the radio, screaming the "bada ba dip" part like a maniac. I saw several people pulled over onto the shoulder surrounding a downed motorcyclist. Being a medic, I stopped as well and walked over to investigate. He was gray, struggling with his respirations, but had asked someone to call his parents at the same time they went to call 9-1-1. I quickly did a primary and secondary assessment and realizing I had absolutely ZERO equipment with me, felt a huge sense of dread. I knew we were in trouble.
Here we were, in the country, with 9-1-1 being called from a nearby farm. I had a bystander hold c-spine, while I held this man's hand with a finger on his rapid, thready radial pulse knowing that he at least had a systolic blood pressure of somewhere greater than 70-80. I layed my head on his chest and attempted to assess his heart and lungs, anticipating an emergent needle decompression upon the medics arrival but I couldn't hear anything, the ambient road noise was so loud. He was so frightened. He was so scared. I told him help was coming right away, I told him his parents had been called, I told him we were with him, while he was still conscious. I rubbed his forehead, I talked softly to him, reassuring him, comforted him. I did what I thought a parent might want a stranger to do for their son.
The outcome was sad, as you might have guessed. He arrested as the medics were loading him up. I stood there as his parents pulled up on scene and I just cried and cried at the futility. The irrational anger that I didn't have a full jump kit in my car, or another medic, or a helicopter, or magic, or Santa. The sadness that these parents couldn't have heard their son's voice one more time. The despair, the dread, the deep wish that I could have done more. No matter what I had done, the outcome was just terrible. And it took me years to be just ok with the actions I took. Years and years and plenty of therapy between sleepless nights.
I'm telling you this because I feel this way again. I feel like I'm watching a slow-motion accident and I have no jump kit. I cannot lay this country supine, maintaining spine precautions. I cannot quickly assess A-B-Cs, look for obvious signs of bleeding and pop two large bore IVs in bilateral arms. I cannot warm us up with blankets. We don't get to stat CT scan us for clues about what might kill us.
I recognize we are all processing the state of the union differently. I had a wonderful conversation with my very logical, level-headed sister. She is dealing with it by focusing on her family, "tending her own garden," and raising her kids to be wonderful citizens of the world. Other friends of mine are tending "gardens" around the world; spreading hope and light to the less fortunate among us, fixing cleft palates, setting up medical infrastructure in Africa and Haiti, researching ways to improve health care, teaching kids in inner cities, and carrying on like the Brits of WWII asked each other to do.
            But it's so insane, we all want the truth but the truth is hiding in plain sight at the moment. I feel like I'm in Westworld with no clue about who is a "host" and who is a "guest" - and I don't want to shoot anyone to find out. Are Aleppo reports real? Is Russia truly a cyber mastermind that has irreparably damaged our democracy? How will this end? Will it end badly? Will we be ok? When will we know?
I think I just needed to "vent my spleen" (thanks Rebekah) and look at my feelings in written form. I remember them well...the PTSD we suffer as firefighters can really flare back up in these highly anxious times. I challenge myself to take a huge breath and think before I speak. I have to re-read and edit what I post. I think it's important now, more than ever, to find the good in each other. Believe that comforting a stranger can be the absolute best we can do in the moment and then be just fine with that.
Thanks, friends. Love and peace to each of you.

This might as well be Susan!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Is A Person’s Perception His Or Her Reality?
This seemed to fit.

            I promised myself I would not write anything else that is even remotely political, but after speaking with my son yesterday for over an hour, I feel the need to share. First let me say that I love my son with all my heart; that love is unwavering. He is a hard-working, responsible contributor to our society. He makes me proud. Second, we differ politically. While he considers himself an independent voter, he voted for the “other” major party, presidential candidate. (I did discover we voted the same on a few other issues though, thank goodness.)
In our conversation, although I had not intended to “talk politics”, I expressed my feelings about my fear for the direction our country may be heading given the cabinet selections that our current president-elect is making. I stated facts, I made my point, and I sobbed. While I explained, I cried real tears of sadness and frustration because individuals who likely will be in positions of power are light years in opposition to my thinking. I told my son that I don’t want to see the progression that has been made in our country, especially in terms of the environment and human rights, stymied or worse, taken back into the “dark ages”.
            That being said, my son made an interesting statement as we continued to talk. He said, “I believe that every person’s perception is their own reality.” I had to agree. I had never used that phrase before, but I definitely believe the concept makes sense. It is also the reason why I continue to mourn.
            Because of the insanity of this presidential election cycle, our country has never appeared to be so divided, at least in my lifetime. Perhaps it always has been and the divisiveness simply has been hidden beneath the guise of political correctness. Well, right now, folks are not being so politically correct, are they? And that takes me back to my son’s statement: people’s perceptions are their own realities.
I’ve been considering what that notion suggests. If one believes individuals who do not share the same religion, cultural background, sexual orientation, or gender for that matter, are lesser human beings, then that is that person’s reality. If one believes the minimum wage or equal pay for women are issues that are not important, than that is that person’s reality. If one does not believe that unions and the public schools are viable organizations and institutions, then that is that person’s reality. If one does not believe in global warming, then that is that person’s reality. Do you see where I’m going?
Given our upbringing, education, and life experiences we each see our world from unique perspectives. That’s a fact. With myriad predisposed perceptions among millions, can there ever be unity? It is sad to think not. Surely in the United States of America, with its diverse population, the concept of a shared reality is ludicrous. So, I grieve.
            I read a piece the other day written by Dan Rather, journalist and former CBS News anchor. It is fair to say he appears saddened, as well, by current events and he warns the populace to stay aware, be informed, speak up, and don’t sit quietly by doing nothing. I agree. We cannot passively say, “Let’s wait and see what will happen,” or “This too shall pass.” Too much is at stake.
Dan Rather, in his passage, reminded the reader of the written words of our founding fathers: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
In the shadow of the recent DAPL/Standing Stone confrontation, however, if I were a member of the indigenous, Native American community, I likely would take vehement objection to the words above given the history behind them, but as the granddaughter of Italian immigrants, I want to believe that the intention of the document was reasonable in the minds of the writers.

But here we are. The sun will rise tomorrow and the well of sadness that I feel will continue to burden me for a while, but I will move forward knowing full well that, yes, my perceptions are my reality, that my son’s are his, and that whoever has read this far, has his or her own. I sadly don’t see the chance of unity, at least not now with money and greed at the base of power mongering on steroids. And with hate, intolerance, lying, and injustice raising their ugly heads, we’re caught in a very real conundrum that we likely will not solve for years to come. I want so badly to feel differently, but I don’t. Feeling hopeful or optimistic again, at least for me, will take time.

Here I am with my son.