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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Living in Fear

I have a friend who is striving to live fearlessly. Her proclamation started me thinking about how much I fear. And how much energy I don't have to deal with those fears.

These fears aren't huge philosophical fears. They aren't even cancer related fears--although there are plenty of those. I'm just playing ostrich about those right now.

I fear pain.

For over a year, I struggled with horrible tendinitis in my left elbow. No one can figure out why it was so bad. I did oral steroids. I spent hours in OT and PT. I paid for an MRI. I subjected myself to cortisone shots. I slept in a splint.

Nothing seemed to make any long term difference. It hurt. It hurt to hold my phone. It hurt to drive. It hurt to sleep. It hurt.

I couldn't swim. I couldn't run because bending my arm as I ran hurt. I couldn't do strength training. I couldn't read because holding a book hurt.

Anything I did hurt.

So, I became adept at doing nothing.

As that started to resolve, thanks to doing nothing, I began to experience  plantar fasciitis in BOTH heels. Walking hurt. Running was horrific. I did everything short of cortisone shots in my heels (because the thought of that was more than I could bear). I stopped wearing my favorite shoes, which may have helped somewhat. I got and wore inserts and heel stabilizers. I rolled frozen bottles of ice under my feet. I got massage. I did stretches. Nothing helped long term. I tried dietary changes that appear to have helped somewhat.

Regardless, all that keeps me pain free is to do nothing. To limit my walking. To just hang out on my couch.

It is the rare day when I don't at least have twinges to remind me that at any point I could be in agony again.

Over Spring Break, I walked 7+ miles in New York City one day. I had forgotten to switch out my inserts the night before, so didn't have them. I was in agony by the end of the day. I couldn't sleep my feet hurt so badly. The rest of the week was just an exercise in pain management. No day was as bad as that first day, but not once did I not think "when will this end, when can I sit down?"

Meanwhile, my overall physical condition deteriorates because I just sit around avoiding pain.

This has to stop. I have to exercise. I don't like feeling lazy and flabby. I know my mental health will be better if I exercise. I'll have more energy.

I'm whining, I know. I supposed I could drag myself to the gym and ride a stationery bike...gag me. I despise those things. I could try the elliptical. Again, those are torture devices. I love to swim. I don't have a schedule that permits swimming right now, especially given the added on hassle of changing before and after.

Meanwhile, the types of activities I do "enjoy" I haven't even tried because I don't want to hurt. I don't want to invest in new running or walking shoes if I'm just going to be in pain anyway. I don't want to try even minimal weight training if it's going to make my elbow hurt.

So, I sit on the couch, read, watch tv and just get flabbier.

Yep. That's what I do.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Why I Refuse to "Shut up and Grieve"

So, I gave up on the thankfuls thing because I was so bogged down with work. I guess it is all summed up with "I'm thankful I have jobs and a family to keep me so busy I don't have time to do the thankful meme."

One thing I'm no so thankful for though is that I live in a nation where school shootings and other mass shootings are becoming de rigour. And I'm angry. And I'm not going to shut up and grieve as some Facebook and Twitter folk would like. And I'm warning you, this is an unrevised, barely edited rant (and I have a huge for-pay editing job to do that I'm also avoiding, so this is going to be long). It also contains profanity. You have been warned. 

I have a son who is studying abroad this year in Spain.  When he left, I told him that I loved him and that I'd be happy to communicate with him (and desperate to) while he traveled for 18 hours, especially during one of his incredibly long layovers in one of the world's largest, busiest airports (I should interject here, that he was flying without companions and this was his first time flying, ever), but that once he arrived and was greeted by the study abroad people, I didn't want to communicate with him other than for truly important, life or death (or serious school or financial)  issues that others there couldn't help him with. He needed to figure this stuff out, find himself, settle in, integrate, etc. So, we didn't talk or chat online or Skype or email or text for over three weeks.

When we did, one of the first things he told me (besides that other students who were in contact with their families in the USA multiple times daily were having a hard time adjusting--score one for me), was that he had never realized how European our family is.

In my mind, I immediately went to all kinds of super positive, trendy, hip stereotypes of "European."  What he really meant wasn't that we were all thin and fit and wearing cool clothes and living in an Ikea-esque home.  What he meant was that we talk about tough stuff when it needs to be talked about. We lay it on the table. We show strong emotion.  We don't live to make life wonderful and good and easy for everyone.

I've since mentioned this to other non-USAmericans, and, so far, all who are or have lived in USAmerican families agree with me. In the USA, we tend to avoid the hard stuff and obfuscate with the trivial and red herrings.

Here, for all these years, I thought my family needed therapy.  My kid abroad assures me we don't (at least not for this).

And that all brings me the incidents of this past week.  Of these past months. Years.

The USA seems to have a problem with mass shootings. I'm not going to talk about other types of gun violence and killing here. I'm talking about mass shootings.  Shootings at malls, churches, schools, fast food restaurants. Shootings where people have "gone postal." There were at least 8 in the USA in 2012.

Now, we are being told to shut up and grieve.

We are told not to politicize these tragedies. 

We are told not to use these tragedies to push our own agendas.

What a load of typical USAmerican bull sh*t.

When we shut up, we are politicizing these tragedies, letting the NRA keep its agenda unscrutinized, but even more so, are just allowing more to happen.  In 2012 alone, there were two mass gun murders in April, one in May, one in July, one in August, one in September, and at least two in December (so far).  

How long do we need to wait before it is appropriate to start talking?  

I don't dare to try to say how I'd be reacting if one of my own children had been killed on Friday. I do, though, have a fairly good idea of what my sons would be saying if one of them had been killed. 

Oh, yes. It would be horrifically sad. I'm tearing up thinking about it.  But it would also quickly turn ugly.  Very ugly.  It's bad enough when someone outside the family hurts one of the brothers. BGHS soccer fans still talk about the "that's for the goalie" soft red card of 2009" when The Eldest played defense and The Middle was goalie.

They'd want to know why some crazy guy had such easy access to such deadly weapons. And what would be tell them? What do the parents of the surviving children tell them? Yes, honey. It's safe to go to school. Look to the helpers. Shhh....grieve. 

Having been slapped down for calling the shooter "mentally ill" on Facebook, I'm going to go with crazy from now on.  Maybe he did have an official mental illness. Maybe as one friend has suggested he was "spiritually ill" (although I don't believe in the spiritual so I think that's a red herring).  The guy got guns. Knew what he was doing. Was ready to die. Killed a lot of innocent people. That's cray-cray crazy.  So that's my term.  Crazy. A crazy got guns and killed a bunch of people.

We can discuss how we need to make better and easier access to mental health treatment.  That's clear. Only other crazies would argue any differently (I might as well just offend everyone right now while I'm at it).

But what's also clear is that we need to keep the hands of the crazies off guns.

In the recent years since the concealed carry laws in different states have gone into effect, we haven't seen a decrease in mass shootings, now, have we? So, let's not talk about how if we take the guns away from the good guys, only the bad guys will have guns.  

Oh, but guns are a part of our culture! Guns have been a necessary part of our history! We never would have settled the West or defeated the British or blah blah blah....America is guns.  

Hold your horses. Let's talk about Australia. This is not a perfect analogy, but there are a lot of similarities. Just read the Wikipedia history of Australia.  There are a lot of similarities to the USHistory books. I'm going to run with this for a minute (one thing I love about blogging is I can so freely use over-used idioms that I have to slap my students down for using). 

After experiencing a mere 13 mass shootings in 18 years (hell, after having over half that many in 2012 here, 13 seems pretty insignificant, doesn't it?), they decided enough was enough and tightened their gun regulations. And you know what? Real evidence shows that
 Australia’s 1996 gun law reforms were followed by more than a decade free of fatal mass shootings, and accelerated declines in firearm deaths, particularly suicides. Total homicide rates followed the same pattern. Removing large numbers of rapid-firing firearms from civilians may be an effective way of reducing mass shootings, firearm homicides and firearm suicides.

 So, when is it going to be time to start talking? As my son's host mother in Spain said, "I think the talk should have already happened."

The truth of the matter is, as a nation, we have hidden behind the red herrings of "violent video games" (they play the same video games in Canada, Japan, and Spain and yet....go ahead, look up the statistics....) and Second Ammendment and the NRA.

The Second Ammendment says, "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

Come on people. What does that mean to us now? 

The arguments I'm hearing are that individuals should have the right to own fire arms to protect themselves. That is not part of "security of a free state." I'm gonna call it like it is here: IF YOU THINK ANY GUNS YOU OWN LEGALLY WILL PROTECT YOU FROM THE 'STATE' YOU ARE WHACK JOB CRAZY AND SHOULD BE LOCKED AWAY.  The 'state' owns nuclear weapons. The 'state' took out bin Laden. If the state wants to come to your exotically named cul-de-sac and take away your weapons, the state is going to do it. 

When I was diagnosed with cancer, I once wrote,  "Pray all you want, but when times are tough, drop off a casserole, too."

Of course those of you who believe in prayer should be praying for the victims and their families. 

But how disrespectful of their lives is it to let this kind of crap happen over and over and over and over and over again without doing something about it? Yes, let's get better access to mental health treatment. Let's not force any more parents and others to watch their mentally ill loved ones be refused treatment and become "ticking time bombs" as this blogger seems to be saying. 

Certainly, let's make our schools safer. (However, as an aside, my Feral Third recently pointed out that there is no way to escape from his school once in it if a lock-down all those students hidden in closets in in NewTown, my son would be a sitting duck in his classroom should a shooter come in. Very smart, well trained teachers did incredibly brave things--and died doing it--last week...but there was no way out and that's how my own son's school is designed. What if a bomb goes off or there's a fire in a hallway or some cray-cray sicko is going down the hallway tossing grenades into classrooms? Wouldn't it be nice to be able to get the hell OUT of a window or something and not be in the classroom?  Just a thought my 12 year old had. The analogy used to be "school as prison;" now it's "school as death trap.")

We must talk. We must talk now. I'm certain we can talk and grieve. 

Or are we going to continuously be stuck in a situation that requires us to be grieving. 

We must change the way we, as USAmericans confront these issues. We must tell the NRA to back the hell down. No one hunts with a hand gun unless they are hunting people. Your right to defend your home should end at your right to purchase a state of the art alarm and lock down system.

No longer should my kid be wondering how he'd get out of his school if there was a shooting and he had the time to escape. 

No more families should send kids to school, or watch relatives leave for the mall, or go to a press conference and then have them murdered by a gun-toting-crazy.

If we shut up and grieve, we are going to have more innocents killed.

Soon. Could be tomorrow. Not every crazy with legally procured weapons out there are going to be caught today.

So, start talking. And don't tell me to shut up and grieve.  I'm sure those teachers killed Friday would be saying, "Use your words. For the love of all that is sane, use your words."

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Thankfuls Nov. 6-10

So, on the day of the big election, I was stricken with a gnarly virus, which kicked my butt. So, I rather dropped the intention of daily blogging. And daily thankfuls.

I can't make up the missed days of blogging (well, maybe I can if I really try, and if I do manage to catch up with the other aspects of my life I've had to ignore for the past week, I might try), but I did make an effort tonight to catch up with the thankfuls:

6th+7th+8th+9th+10th=40 Thankfuls
1.  I’m thankful for the obvious: that the better candidate won the presidential election.
2.  I’m thankful that now, maybe, as a lame duck, he’ll be able to instigate some serious change.
3.  I’m thankful for all the voters who were brave enough to stand up against the dominant, white paradigm and vote for Obama.
4.  I’m thankful that the face of the American voter is changing.
5.  I’m thankful that all of the hard working campaign volunteers, my sons included, brought Ohio for Obama.  
6.  I’m thankful for young people who made the hoodie vote work, who cared more for the future than for the now, who showed care and compassion through their vote.
7.  I’m thankful for all the women, latinos, African Americans and others--many of whom belong to the busiest of the busy and the most socially oppressed groups in society--the ones especially who were forced to stand in long lines, take time off work (frequently without pay), and who are charged with the care of young children (theirs and those of others), got out and voted.
8.  I’m thankful for a job. Even though it isn’t ideal at times, I do enjoy much of what I do. I wish working conditions where I am employed were better. I wish I were in a respected position. I wish I didn’t feel like my bargaining unit were about to throw me under the bus. But for now, I enjoy what I do.
9.  I’m thankful for google aps.  Google docs makes my job a lot easier. Students can’t lose work if they work in Google docs. I like that the aps are free and available for all. I appreciate the ability to network and share so easily. I like that I no longer have to encourage people to give money to Micro$oft. I appreciate that I no longer have to give money to Micro$oft.
10.  I’m thankful for the opportunity to work with Service Learning Program at BGSU. Although my course design had to change rather drastically from what I had originally planned--due to circumstances beyond my control--it has still worked out. My students are a bit fuzzy on the theme, still, yet that has more to do with their ability to pay attention (it’s not like it hasn’t been mentioned in the syllabus, assignment sheets, in class--LOL), but they do seem to be achieving most of my Service Learning Outcomes.
11.  I’m thankful for social networking. I’m not an idiot. I understand there are dangers in social networking, yet there are many more advantages. I’ve “met” people online--as far back as the early to mid 1990s--who have become some of my closest friends. I’ve been fortunate that networks, such as facebook, have helped me come to know many local people better. All in all, social networking has been a boon.
12.  I’m thankful that The Eldest has had the opportunity to study abroad this year. Although he’s not claiming it to be the “life altering experience” everyone promised it could be, he also had the opportunity to go on Geojourney prior to going abroad for a year, which he does claim to be a life altering experience.
13.  I’m thankful that The Eldest is brave enough to plan to spend his winter break in Egypt this year. In my experience researching the safety of sending a young American man to Egypt at this time, I’ve discovered most people of USAmerican descent are pretty timid regarding travel and risk. Most people his age won’t do something that is not organized and controlled. He’s heading to Egypt to visit a friend of mine--a friendship solidified mostly via facebook (see #11) even though she is a local and teaches at the same institution I do--without any firm plans except that he has a place to stay and she will help arrange some unique experiences for him. Social networking for the win. Now, if he can just get that ticket booked--his transaction is not going through for some reason. If he can't get to Egypt, we'll have to fire up the social networking connection and figure out something else.
14. I’m thankful that at least one of my children got to take advantage of Geojourney before it was killed. I’m hopeful that it will be revived so that the other children have the same opportunity. There are not many programs in the nation as strong as Geojourney, regardless of institution. It aligns very well with how my older two were educated when they were young. And, regardless of how important and advantageous study abroad is, I believe it is even more important for people to understand the country of their nationality, which is what Geojourney allows for.
15.  I’m thankful that The Middle has been able to shape his high school education to his best advantage because of the wonderful flexibility of BGHS and its principal who gets that traditional schooling is not appropriate for all students.  
16.  I’m thankful for a principal who has tried to protect my son’s dignity when things have gotten hairy at school with power trips and personality conflicts.
17.  I’m thankful that The Middle has some pretty awesome friends.  They are always welcome in our home. And the ONE over the years that I have had to ban has been banned from other homes as well, so I’m feeling pretty good that I didn’t make a bad call there.
18.  I’m thankful that my 17 yr old was willing to give up (without a word, mind you) his Friday evening to attend and assist with the service learning acCrim school that my students worked on.
19.  I’m thankful that my 12 yr old attended and participated in the service opportunity at Crim school as well. He really had no choice, but the fact that he was there against his will was not apparent to anyone.
20.  I’m thankful that one of the kids who spent many hours and nights here while in high school was more than happy to come out and help at the Crim Fall Festival as well. He’s grown up to become a pretty cool young man.
21.  I’m thankful for couches comfortable enough to spend days on when one is ill, which is what I have been doing for 24 hours now.  A big (ugly) comfy couch is the best place to ensconce oneself when one has been instructed to take to one’s bed for a weekend.  Yes, a bed might appear more comfortable, but not in our house.  The bedroom is small. On the couch, I have room for tissues, chewable vitamin C, bottles of water, mugs of tea,  snacks, magazines, plus extra pillows. There are ample outlets to charge laptop(s) and phones. The plural of laptop is important since HULU and other sources of media can be viewed on one whilst the other is used for other activities, when necessary.  Plus, I can more easily keep track of the comings and goings of the spawn and their affiliates.
22. I’m thankful that I didn’t cancel cable prior to being stricken with this virus. Because of that, while I’m ill on the couch, I at least have access to On Demand Channels (sadly, no more dvr), and the HD tv.
23. I’m thankful for our new router. I’m certain that at one point we will figure out how to make it talk to the Wii and the Xbox so that we can access Netflix again through it.  
24.  I’m thankful for increased wifi security options, even though we are obviously a family not quite astute enough to manage them astutely (see #23).
25.  I know I’ve previously said I was thankful for fleece, and I’m not supposed to repeat, but this is a more focused thankful: I’m thankful for fleece cuddl duds while feverish. I was unable to get warm last night until I located the fleece cuddl duds. They rock.
26.  I’m thankful for New York Marathons, of the Law and Order variety.
27. I’m thankful for tv shows such as NCIS, Criminal Minds, Rizzoli and Isles, and Major Crimes.
28. I’m thankful that many American voters were able to see around the spiritual affiliations of some of the newest members of Senate and House of Representatives.
29. I’m thankful that four states passed marriage equality initiatives (Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington) and I can’t wait until marriage equality is no longer an issue, anywhere.
30. I’m glad we have elected more openly gay men and women to Senate and House or Representatives than ever before. I hope some day, this is no longer something worth mentioning. I hope that in doing so, some of my friends, such as one who is a school teacher, will no longer have to live in fear of losing her job should people find out she is gay.
31. I’m thankful that Valentis Athletica Soccer Club was so readily willing to loan me equipment for the Crim Fall Festival last night. I asked to borrow some “portable” goals and they were willing to drop off full size portable goals. I meant the little Pugg goals that fold up and zip into a bag:)
32.  I’m thankful for chewable vitamin C.
33.  I’m very, very thankful that sports and medical personnel are taking traumatic brain injury in athletes (and all children) more seriously than before. Now we need to educate parents. When Tynan was out with his concussion, his coach was strict about following the CDC recommendations (and was the first to notice any problem, even before The Feral Third left the field), as was our family doctor. However, many other parents were less supportive, even to the point of ridiculing our keeping him sidelined for nearly a month and bragging about how soon they sent their own kids back to play after concussions, against doctors’ wishes sometimes, and encouraging their own children to lie about headaches and other symptoms.  
34.  I’m thankful for the new Urgent Care on the south side of town that is open during the daytime. Until I find a more accessible family doctor, I think I’m going to make that place my go-to.
35.  I’m thankful for Mucinex.
36.  I’m thankful for asthma inhalers.
37.  I’m thankful for Pisanello’s pineapple, green olive, and red onion pizza when nothing sounds good and I can’t taste anything anyway. I can at least eek out a little bit of taste from green olives and pineapple.
38.  I’m thankful for a husband who was more than willing to go out and get me movies to watch when he couldn’t figure out how to get Netflix to talk to the new super secure router.
39. I’m thankful for a teenage son who will spend his Saturday night watching movies with his sick mom.
40. Mostly, tonight, I’m thankful for the apparent health of my own children. Today, a young woman here in town died from a viral infection in to her brain (I believe). I can not imagine the anguish her family is experiencing. I am thankful that my own little illness is benign and that my children are healthy.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

GOTV in the heart of it all...

Yesterday, Saturday November 3, 2012, marked the start of Get Out the Vote all across the USA. GOTV is when volunteers hit the streets, knocking on doors, encouraging voters--usually very carefully chosen registered voters--to get out and vote.  Seeing that I live in Ohio, supposedly the  battle ground state, GOTV has been huge. Seeing as this is a college town (where 6,000 new voters have been registered since August), GOTV relies very heavily on the young people.

Voting is very important to me. When I was naturalized as an American citizen when I was three, one of three memories I have of that day is the judge taking all of us foreign adoptees--and now new young citizens--into his chambers and explaining to us that as citizens we had the right to vote, but more importantly, we had the duty to vote and he expected us to do so every time we were able, as soon as we were old enough to vote.

I remember going behind the curtains and pulling levers as my mother voted in my elementary school gym.

I've voted in ever election since I turned 18.

As soon as we had children, my husband and I began taking them to the polls with us, even if that meant that we had to get them out of their classroom to do so. Even now, the 17 year old Middle One, went with his father to vote. I took the 12 year old with me when I voted early. The Eldest is on his own and voted by absentee from Spain. He and I did go together when he cast his first ballot, though, shortly after he turned 18.

At 13 and 16, my older boys worked hours and hours, days and days on the grassroots campaigning in 2008. They and my husband made phone calls, knocked doors, entered data, knocked more doors, rang more phones (I provide comfort instead, by feeding the volunteers and doing general grunt work and making it possible for my kids and husband to do what they do).

Since 2008, my boys have been active in more than just presidential campaigns. They've worked on local ordinance campaigns, senatorial campaigns, gubernatorial campaigns, as well as others. The Middle has protested bad proposed legislation (SB 5) and worked to get it over turned. He's completed two fellowships with OFA. And currently has a job working for a campaign.

So it was sort of a no-brainer that we'd all be busy this weekend with GOTV. The Middle was off with his campaign, knocking doors all over the county for nearly 8 hours on Saturday and for 3 hours today. The Feral Third went out knocking doors yesterday and today, doing the legitimate work that adults were also doing with him but not for him.  I made food for the workers, drove workers and voters where they needed to be, organized food donations, checked out packets, did general "Girl Friday" type stuff.  All day. Both days.

Friends provided food--pizza ordered from out of state, chicken noodle soup, spaghetti and meatballs, jambalaya, chili, cookies, salads, more.

A group of young men from a college in Connecticut showed up late last night and are staying through Tuesday morning before driving back.

For two days, we had a steady stream of people coming in to help. Retirees, university students, locals, out of towners, families, grandparents and grandchildren, all races, all ages.

By 1:00 today, they had knocked on every single door in the city of anyone who had indicated they were voting Democrat and, as of Thursday, had not voted. But wait! It gets better!

By 1:00 today, they had knocked on every single door twice!  We sent people to other locations to help out. We were able to send people out to student areas a THIRD time to touch base with those who were still asleep earlier in the day.

Oh, everyone acknowledges that door knocking and calling is annoying. Yes, indeedy. No denying.
But these techniques work. And the workers frequently get thanked for their work.

So to all those of you out there working on GOTV in other places, keep up the good work! Two more days!

To all of you who are being harassed by GOTV, it ends in 48 hours.

To all of you who want to help with GOTV, there are ample opportunities yet. Just ask. There's plenty of work, especially Tuesday.

Tuesday, OFA staging locations will need food, especially lunch. They never turn down food.

If it's cold where you are, hand warmers are helpful.  Canvassers usually have to remove gloves to write and their hands get cold quickly and frequently.  If it's hot, water and other beverages.

And when you get those calls and knocks, remember, this is democracy in action. People make change happen.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Thankfuls: Nov. 3, 2012

In all fairness, this month of daily blog entries just may be the undoing of me. I blog best when I'm ranty. Today, I'm not ranty.

I am, however, doing the "thankful" meme on Facebook this month. This meme takes several forms: 5 a day, one a day, the same number as the date.  I'm toying with the same number as the date, but as the month goes on and school gets more and more busy as the semester winds up, I'm not sure how achievable that undertaking is.

See how boring this month is going to be unless I get my rant on?

Here are the thankfuls I posted on Facebook just now:
1. that there is now a video store in town, even though it is a shadow of a store and is missing more selections than it owns. We do enjoy browsing.
2. earphones. I'm not listening to the silly sounds on my 12 yr old's video game because he has ear phones. We can share a blanket and a quiet evening on the couch, thanks to ear phones. I no longer get so worked up that I want to take the the laptop and snap it in two, all thanks to headphones.
3. sleep. I love sleeping. I feel so much better when I get adequate sleep and when I sleep well and deeply. I don't know if others look forward to sleep like I do, but I do look forward to going to bed every night. 
I do believe yesterday that I posted that I'm thankful for my Droid Razr Maxx. Yes, I am, truly in love with it. It works fairly seamlessly (and probably would work better if it had a better operator).

In general, this is a wasted post to count for day three. For that I apologize. I'll do better tomorrow. Or not.
In the meantime, I'm hearing my bed calling me.

Friday, November 2, 2012

NaNoWriMo 2012

Yes, it's NaNoWriMo.

I'm not participating.

However, I am going to attempt to post at least one blog entry per day for the month of November. Or several posts on certain days to total 30 in the Month of November.

This post brings me up to date, since today is 11/2.

It's been a long time and weighing heavily on my mind...

Oh my...I haven't written a post since July. And that was a long time in coming. I've been busy, teaching 19 credits, tutoring for athletic services, the normal stuff. That's really no excuse. Blame in on the love of my life, my Droid Razr Maxx...enough computer to stay in touch but not quite user friendly enough to do much real writing.  Facebook and Twitter, yes. Paragraphs? Punctuation? No.

So, what is weighing heavily on my mind these days? Politics for sure. Ohio is Ground Zero for the election and my family is heavily involved in making sure that federal, state, and local elections move the country forward and not backward.  Yet it's more than that.

----I apologize in advance for the disjointed nature of this post and any odd spellings, etc. I'm working in between having meetings with students and also have a "corneal abrasion" and corresponding scratch on the underside of my eyelid so am sight impaired due to not being able to wear my contacts (and therefore my reading glasses). I can read my phone because I can situate it at precisely the correct distance for close vision...but without a lot of unattractive and uncomfortable shoulder hunching and squinting, seeing the computer screen is a challenge. Plus, I must remove my glasses (and I admit to being too cheap to have paid for bifocals when I got them as "back up" to my contacts, since I so infrequently wear fact, until this week, I last wore them in MARCH) to see anything close up, which means I sit here, in the student union, hunched over and squinting at my laptop and surrounded by multicolored blurs that I know are people...I'm just smiling vaguely and nodding when these blurs make motions which I think are directed toward me.  And of course, if I can't see, I can't's been a long week).----

Frequently on Facebook, people can be seen making updates along the lines of "I said I wouldn't post anything political..." or "I normally avoid the political..." and most recently, no fewer than five people have posted pridefully that their children voted in their first presidential election (that's a good thing) but then followed that up with a regretful statement along the lines of "I think I've been too outspoken of my own political beliefs and influenced him/her too much."

Obviously this is not how I feel.

I do, though, think that it is a uniquely "American" feeling, much to our detriment. As one who spends MOST of her waking hours in the company of young adults, I am frequently dismayed to hear such people say, "I vote/believe/support X because my family does" but then those same individuals are unable to articulate why their family does or why they should or do vote the same way.

It's the same sort of head-in-the-sand approach to strong emotions and unhappy experiences that many USAmericans try to avoid within families.  Women (especially) in this country are exhausted and burned out trying to keep everyone happy.  One of our most common axioms is to not discuss "politics, money, or religion."

Why? Because doing so can stir up some heave sh*t for sure, but so what? Can we not remain family if we disagree? Can we not be friends if we disagree? Do we have to avoid the hard stuff?

By not examining our beliefs in the company of others, how can we find flaws? The plethora of "your picture/rant/whatever changed my mind said no one ever" memes which abound on Facebook is just one symptom of our (collective, national, cultural) myopic approach to disagreement. Why don't we garner insight from these things? Maybe our overall position might not change, but are we incapable of altering or solidifying our own position?

Have you ever sat through a lunch or dinner with people who talk about nothing? We call that small talk. No substance. No chance to offend. Sports, pop culture, and food.  Ugh. That can only sustain a person for so long. If we didn't discuss hard topics in my family, and yes, we sometimes disagree with each other and we even display strong emotion while doing it, life would be boring. If my children weren't learning how to disagree with people, how to build and sustain their own positions, then how can I expect them to go out into the world and defend their beliefs? Where else to learn to do this but with family and friends.

Of course, this all means we argue, and sometimes we explode. Oh, we still love each other, but at times we disagree vehemently. I grew up in a home where such disagreements were disallowed (I'm not sure my parents would agree with my interpretation of my upbringing, but I always felt that I needed to toe the party line). We spent a lot of time and energy on keeping people "happy."

I was recently discussing this same sort of muddled thinking of mine with several people on different occasions  my son studying in Europe and some friends friends from Europe.

When The Eldest left for his year abroad, I suggested that he not communicate with us (other than to let us know he arrived safely and in the case of a true emergency) until he'd been there for three or more weeks, just to give him time to settle in, adjust to life, form his own network of support, but mainly, to let him come into his own, as his own man and as an adult.  When we finally did get a chance to have a discussion (in the modern sense of discussion, via Facebook chat), I asked how he was adjusting and getting along with the family with whom he is living as I'd heard that frequently students living with families have more problems than those who live in apartments or dorms since family life is so culturally dependent. He said that he'd had no problem and that he'd realized that our family is very "European" in that we heatedly discuss hard issues, disagree, etc. His host family was rather taken aback when he joined in on a discussion of abortion at the dinner table since their experience was that most American students found that a taboo topic. My friends who are European agree. Here in USAmerica, we avoid the hard stuff. One friend, who was just sitting here with me said that what she remembers from college was loud and diverse arguments about politics and religion.  See, we can disagree and still be friends. Oh, we might think our friends are horribly wrong.  Crazy wrong even. That doesn't negate the friendship. There are many other aspects to people than their religious or political views. Why can't we explore those views?

Why do others' views offend us so?

Back to the people who think they may have influenced their own children too much...where else but the family do you want your children to begin to get the knowledge to form their beliefs? School? That's a bad idea. Media? Maybe a worse idea.

However, if you don't have deep, fact based and heart felt discussions about these issues with your children and just expect that they will garner the important information on their own, you are neglecting the nourishment of their intellect. Sure, I want my kids to vote like I vote. After all, I think I'm right. Isn't that why people take their kids to Sunday school?

If you come to my house, we will discuss the uncomfortable issues, because that's what we do.

If we actually discussed hard issues, there would be fewer people unable to articulate why and what they believe like the people  in this video:

Saturday, July 7, 2012

A very interesting question...

It is going to be ironic that I'm posting this here, and the irony will probably double when I share this on Facebook, but here it goes.

On Wednesday evening at the fireworks, I was struck by the number of people who were in attendance with cameras in tow. My husband was one of them.

Then, about halfway through the display, I noticed a small group of people near us who were...every one of the five...watching the fireworks as the filmed them on their phones, watching, not the fireworks exploding in the night sky, but the display on their phones.

Trust me, the iphone is not good enough to capture the full extent of fireworks.

And that all got me to thinking about this article.

What do you think?  Are we documenting more than we are experiencing?  Are we hoarders?


My goodness I have ignored this blog for a long time!  I could say a lot about that and why, and I probably will at some point; however, just accept my apology and lets move on, shall we?

Yesterday on Facebook, I threatened to blog about the current heatwave sweeping much of the nation, especially the midwest (where I am) and the east coast.  I don't want to get into the Climate Change "debate" as, in my mind, there is no debate.  The climate is changing, changing rapidly and irrevocably, and humans are playing a huge role in that, regardless of whether or not we are also in a "normal" cycle.  All of us in developed, consumer based societies are implicated, even if we are not as much to blame as corporations and governments (however, we do elect our government in the USA and we also vote with our dollars when it comes to corporations).  In short, we--especially here in the USA--have become complacent, comforting ourselves with thoughts of cloth grocery bags, more fuel efficient cars, and EnergyStar labels on our appliances. Very few of us are truly consuming less.  In fact, most of us use MORE energy when we procure something that uses LESS.

But, that's not what I want to contemplate today.  Today, I want to contemplate the heat.

There's no denying, it has been hot, hot, hot this summer.  In fact, we have had record breaking temperatures since March, right on the heels of a warm winter.

I don't want to hide the fact that I don't mind the heat since I have completed treatment.  This might be one of the only true "silver linings" to come out of my cancer experience.  As I wrapped up treatment (which consisted of 6 rounds of chemo, followed by a double mastectomy, followed by 4 more rounds of chemo, followed by 6 weeks of radiation, I craved radiant heat.  It's not that I was constantly cold, although the cold was much more chilling.  It's that I craved the radiant heat.  At one point, after my second batch of chemo and before radiation, I was in a motel and found myself dragging the easy chair from the room into the bathroom to sit under the heat lamp just to feel the heat radiating down on my.  Once the weather warmed up, I had to be out in the sun and heat, even though it meant wearing long sleeves and a hat.  I'd sit there, with big drops of sweat dripping down my face, loving ever second of it.

I also don't mind sweating, and I used to hate it.  I don't mind exercising when it is hot and getting all sweaty. In fact, I rather like it.

This is all a huge change for me.  I used to despise being hot and sweaty.  When asked, I'd say I'd rather be cold than hot.  When cold, I can do things to get warmer.  However, when hot...well...there's only so many items of clothing that can be removed, for instance.  I remember some mighty miserable times when we didn't have central AC.  Come to think of it, I've not had AC more years of my life than I have had AC.  There were summers early in our marriage that my husband and I would go out to dinner just to experience AC.  I believe it was the summer of '88 when we practically lived at one particular pizza place here in town because their AC was minimal, which made going home less uncomfortable (plus they served the best variety of beers here in town).  There were summers past when the boys and I would go to movies we didn't want to see just to spend 2.5 hours in AC.  There have been times past when all or part of the family has spent the night at the homes of friends who had AC.

I'm not going to ever deny that AC has made the hot times much more pleasant.  Right now, it's 104F outside while I'm lounging comfortably on the couch with a a heat generating laptop, watching a Harry Potter marathon on tv with the Feral Third and one of his friends.  We are quite comfortable. We've been sleeping well.  Our appetites have not been affected by the heat.  We are comfortable.

And trust me, when I just had to run an errand out of the house, the heat was oppressive.  Oh, by the time I was finished and back home, I was finding the heat less oppressive and finding it somewhat appealing.  I contemplated sitting on the patio and writing this.

I've been running late at night.  Most sane people run or exercise early in the day when the heat hits dangerous levels; however, as appealing as that sounds to me in the evenings, I'm no morning person.  Every morning, my alarm goes off--the alarm I set with the idea of beginning a morning exercise routine this summer--and ever morning I turn it off.  I want to be a morning person, but clearly I am not.

So I've been going out at night, after dark, later some nights than others.  That's when I started thinking about the heat.  I know I've commented on this before, perhaps in other fora, but AC has made us comfortable at a cost.

For starters, if we accept the premise that Global Climate Change is happening and that massive weather events will continue to happen, and happen with increasing frequency, in the future, one loss we, as a society, have experienced is a loss of knowledge. Just a few days ago, a "freak" storm left thou  sands in my area without electricity.  A week or so before that, hundreds of thousands were left without electricity for days on end.  I'd hazard that most millennials don't know how to amuse themselves without electricity, but even fewer know how to "beat the heat" without AC.  My mother's generation did.  Of course, they'd tell us that it was easier with electricity, especially fans, and, truthfully, there is only so much that can be done to alleviate the discomfort of extreme heat without electricity, but there are some tricks.  Many of those tricks won't work in most modern houses.  Most contemporary houses, built since the 1950s and later, simply do not cool easily. They are designed for AC.  They don't have windows that open from the bottom and the top (although in more houses that is becoming common and with replacement windows many are getting this feature), houses no longer have shading built in via overhanging eaves, many neighborhoods no longer have shade trees, and many, many houses are not set up for cross ventilation.  Those ugly window awnings that I always hated on houses served a vital purpose.

A second loss is the HUGE loss of community because of AC.  When we didn't have AC, and it got really hot, we'd spend evenings outside where it was cool.  That's why older houses have porches...outdoor living spaces.  When I was quite young, we lived in a big, older house in Lakewood, Ohio.  It had a big front porch and a large back screened in porch.  The house at one time had had two upstairs porches as well (they still existed, but for safety reasons the doors had been nailed shut). There were nights we all slept out on the screened in porch.  There were afternoons of board games, crafts, and other activities which didn't require much movement during the dog days of summer. 

The other day, some college students in our neighborhood who live in a house w/o AC were sitting in a baby pool, on their porch.  Had they had AC, there is a good chance that the 4 or 5 of them would not have spent that time socializing together.  And that's what I notice when I go out running at night. All the porches are empty.  Everyone is in their homes.  Except for those few houses without AC...those people are in their yards and sitting on their porches.

During the day, kids aren't out playing.  The streets are devoid of pedestrians (moreso than usual). We live in fear of the heat.  It's a true danger for those in ill health and those who don't respect it, but healthy children can go out and play when it's 100F, especially now when we have a plethora of hydration bottles and other systems to choose from. I'm not saying that they should be playing full blown games of soccer in the middle of the day, but I also have faith that they will self regulate, seek out shade, play quiet games.  Perhaps self-regulation is another loss.  People keep their kids indoors when it's too cold and when it's too hot.

The other evening, as the Feral Third and I were leaving the city pool, I noticed that the park was empty.  At 7 pm, no one was playing basketball, no one was on the roller hockey rink, the playground was deserted.  The skate park had kids in it, but those kids are there rain or shine, snow or sleet.  The pool was unexpectedly uncrowded as well.  Of course, why leave your house?

Of course, it's no secret that the more time one spends in AC, the more uncomfortable the heat is.  I noticed that as soon as we turned our AC on the other day.  Prior to that, we all ate two meals a day out on our shaded patio.  If I asked the boys to go out there now for supper, they'd revolt.

By no means am I dissing AC.  I'm very thankful we have it.  I'm appreciative of it.  I'm thankful we have window units for the upstairs bedrooms (they heating/cooling duct work was never installed up there).  I'm also, despite its many flaws, appreciative of the age of our house and that it's in an older neighborhood with tall, mature trees.  The cross ventilation works really well, especially with a fans to help.  At the same time, I look forward to the temps dropping to the mid to upper 80s this week so that I can turn the AC off and reconnect with the world.

And, truthfully, I miss the days when we were living in an house without central AC and with a huge, older window unit that cooled precisely 2 rooms in the downstairs but was so expensive to run that we were loathe to run it for many hours of the day.  Mid-day would find the boys either on the porch with cold drinks, reading, or we'd spread out blankets in the shade of the trees out back and play games, read, and sometimes even nap.  As a family, we'd hang out around the picnic table until after dark. These days, two of the boys are too old to want to engage in those activities, that's undeniable.  After all, one no longer lives at home (although he does come here to suck up our cable access, he has his own AC).  But the Feral Third would be more inclined to get off the couch, turn off the video games, and get outside if inside weren't so comfortable.  He'd be more inclined to ride his bike across town to the neighborhoods where his friends live if the inside weren't so comfortable.  He'd not be so inclined to waste the day away sleeping if doing so weren't so comfortable.

There is much to be said about AC and the heat.  When I go to bed tonight, I'll be very grateful for it. As I sit here, watching tv and typing, I'm thankful.  But I'm also aware that it has changed the face of society and not all in good ways.  And I fear that in the very near future, some of us will (again) be shocked when we are forced to live without it.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A favor for a friend? Spread the word....

I have a friend who is trying to send her daughter to Interlochen Arts camp this summer.  It's a pricey endeavor for a single mom who is also in school.

As they work to raise funds, they are also looking for uniform parts.  If anyone of my readers know of anyone who might have pieces for less than list price, please post a comment here.  Also, feel free to spread this request.  There has to be some sort of black market for these things....