Eat More Cookies

Last week my sisters and I ended our weekly zoom call with the chant “Eat More Cookies!” Christmas cookies of course. We had talked about cookie parties with masterful decorating by imaginative young minds and hands. It was a feel good topic and we had struggled with some news and topics that were definitely not feel good. We talked about “kids these days” and how sad it was that two local young men had died in a tragic single car accident. There were 5 passengers in the car.  Lives ended and lives forever altered. And of course there was discussion about the pandemic and the dangerous political and cultural divide. And you know…. Sometimes I’m afraid to take a deep breath for fear I might inhale too much of the toxic “air” in the U.S. and start coughing violently, not to mention getting infected with Covid. There is no use waiting for the canary to return from inside the coal mine, she’s not coming back. 

So how do I catch the “Christmas” Spirit? I think I take it from the macro level down to the micro level. I stop the broad focus on the state of this country and focus instead on my micro world of family, friends and food and shelter. My house is decorated for Christmas and I have more than enough food and expendable income to afford to make Christmas cookies. And I get to make cookies with my son!  A lot of the photos I take are of flowers and I love to edit them and zoom in on the center of the flower. There is beauty in only seeing the magnification of the flowers center and not the flower as a whole. Sometimes it’s hard to even recognize the photo as part of a flower. This is a way for me to think about how I can choose what to focus on. I simply can’t deny that there is a lot of “bad” in the world, but I don’t have to focus on the whole when there are parts of my world to focus on that are beautiful and joyful. The bad won’t disappear if I don’t focus on it, and it may even get worse, and I can always pull back and focus on the macro world if I choose to.

It could be that the world will simply go to hell if I’m not paying attention. Of course, this is quite egocentric, but some days I lose perspective and forget I don’t have control over anything but my attitude and my actions. I can eat that cookie if I want to, it’s my choice.  If Putin decides to invade Ukraine my level of influence is zero. This powerlessness drives me crazy sometimes! I spin my wheels and chant “Why doesn’t somebody do something? Four years of watching Trump get away with everything really showed me how there there may be no “somebody”  to “do something”. In turn this realization may make me eat more cookies to feed that frustration monster. The problem is that even I can get sick of cookies after a decade or so and then what?

I may run away and hide if I actually had the power to effect major world changes. Making mistakes on that level are not the same as choosing the wrong movie or restaurant. Now,at least I can sleep at night. My micro world is just fine, thanks for asking. I do have more and better coping skills than eating more cookies, but Christmas cookies are once a year treats so 

I’ll have that cookie, one of those, and the one with frosting on it. Please.

Everything Old is New Again

“Sooner or later, everything old is new again—Stephen King

Lately, I can’t seem to wrap my head around this “time” and “getting older” thing. Calling myself a time traveler is an overstatement, but it’s the best construct I can find. I’m at my coffee shop office and next thing I know I’m feeling emotions that are tied to an event when I was 5. I’m a little girl, with bangs cut straight across my forehead and big blue eyes, and I’m staring at the black board waiting for my brain to click on putting letters into words into sentences. And yesterday becomes today and I’m still struggling to put letters into words into sentences. My eyes are still blue, but today my hair is gray and I need glasses to read that black board. Am I 5 or 69? What if “years” is only one way to measure time? Einstein could help me  if I could just understand the space time continuum he theorized, but I’m limited to what my small mind can understand. Even if I could understand, I’d still have to live my life in whatever order it comes in.

Last night I was listening to music in bed, and if you read my previous post on Rod Stewart you’d know I was listening to his music. Of course I had to get up and go to the bathroom and as I navigated in the dark I had a flash of insight. I’m listening to Rod Stewart today and I started listening to him in my twenties. I have the same ears and brain I had in my twenties, but I know I hear and feel his music differently at 69 than I did at 20. That flash of insight I experienced? Rod Stewart looks like my “bad boy” from my twenties! I actually chuckled and said out loud ”Well it’s about time you figured that out!” It certainly is. The old me is new again. I should tell Rod about my insight….

I time travel the most in my relationship with my son. Being older myself, and of course knowing Tyler is older, doesn’t stop me from going back and forth to earlier times. Tyler is the sum total of all of his years and so am I. Sometimes I experience mothering a Tyler who is 5 or being a mother who is 40. I can be brought up short by words that come out of my mouth that seem out of time, from emotions that originate from years before. And I don’t have dementia. Time may be more of a spiral than a straight line and the spirals overlap. I’d like to think that my emotions are as mature as I am, but in a “debate” with Tyler I can get very immature. I’m a grown up, but you may catch me feeling and acting like a child in spite of my calendar birthday.  I know our bodies are older than our minds. Our outsides, our bodies, and our insides like our brain, heart and soul don’t usually match. This is why we often say “I don’t feel that old.” or “Who is that old person in the mirror?” Sometimes I even think that Tyler may be older than me in some ways. One thing I know for sure is that Tyler and I renew our relationship each time we interact.

new: recently born, built, or created; being other than the former or old; having been in a relationship or condition but a short time; made or become fresh. 

When we talk about fashion we often think that a lot of what is old becomes new again. The clothes we wore in the 70’s and 80’s have come back into fashion again. Bell bottoms are a good example of fashion being recycled. So if the clothes I wore as a young adult are new again can’t I be recycled into something new. We talk about being born again or re-born and that is surely “new”. When we create things we are bringing into existence something that has not existed before, a new thing or idea. Whichever definition of new we use, if we are constantly creating and building our lives, then we are not truly “old”. I intend to renew my life daily.

Guns N’ Roses

Guns N’ Roses is the name of a hard rock band from L.A, which was formed in 1985.  Their name seemed the only appropriate title for this post. I remember these guns firing:  President Kennedy assassinated in Dallas, feeling sick watching the news about Columbine, and I remember being unable to grasp that 20 first graders were shot dead in school, and John Lennon had been shot and killed, leaving my generation to grieve his loss and…. The list is so long I can’t even remember all the mass shootings which have occurred in my lifetime, or even this year. They have increased exponentially over my lifetime. I did not have active shooter drills in elementary or high school. We did practice for nuclear attacks by hiding under our desks, but at least the enemy was unseen and we didn’t have to watch our classmates bleed to death. It is now realistic for children to be afraid of being shot to death in school and to be taught how to “protect” themselves from another child or young person with a gun. Now I even need to worry about how safe my son is because he teaches high school. 

Trying to explain the increase in mass shootings without talking about how many guns are sold in this country, a 40% increase from last year, and how rabid the support for the second amendment is, is ignoring reality.   A  U.S. Congressman’s 2021 Christmas card photo is the members of his family all smiling and holding guns, several were automatic rifles like AR-15. To top it off they were asking Santa for ammo. This came a few days after a 15 year old shot and killed four of his classmates with the gun his parents said was his Christmas gift. Some gun owners have crossed the line into the twisted, absurd world of gun worship. I  thought the Christmas card was a SNL skit, but unfortunately not. Soon, I’m sure there will be wedding photos and baby announcements featuring guns. Maybe bridal registries will list ammunition for an AR-15. Bullets for Brides has a nice ring to it!

My father and my brothers were not hunters. In high school I came home from the Oscar-winning movie, “The Deer Hunter”,  profoundly moved.  I believed  the “deer” was spared because it stood for the good in humankind. I truly do not understand the fascination with guns. Guns, and flagrantly displaying your guns may be legal, but am I missing something? Is it he who has the most guns wins?  How much “protection” do we need? I am very frightened by the gun toting people I see in public and feel like the real purpose is to instill fear in those who  are witnesses. When a gun is introduced into any interaction, immediately it becomes the arbiter of inequality. I have the gun so your “ideas” don’t matter, and as we all know you can’t argue with a gun. 

How is it the rest of the world does not suffer from the mass shootings that happen in America? Canadians hunt and get mad at each other, but they are not shooting each other in schools and on the streets. Canadians own about 30 million guns while the US has over 310 million. Canada has much stricter gun control laws than the US. These two factors: the huge number of guns in this country and very lax gun control laws obviously contribute to the high number of mass shootings in the U.S. My theory is the fundamental difference is the gun culture that exists in the U.S., and not in Canada or the rest of the developed world. If it is cool for Mommy and Daddy and Billy and Susie to smile and showcase the guns they are holding on their Christmas cards, what are we communicating? Americans seem to have a set of assumptions and demands about gun rights, but pay little attention to the responsibilities of gun ownership.

Scissors, paper, or rock. Or guns, scissors, paper, or rock?  Or guns, guns, or guns? Sadly, school shootings and gun deaths are rampant. I don’t want to see any more roses thrown on the caskets of our children as they are lowered into the ground.

Justice for All

Lately the  most watched shows on T.V.  have been very controversial jury trials. By virtue of television cameras in the courtroom we were able to watch most of the Derek Chauvin trial, the Rittenhouse trial and the Ahmad Arbery murder trial. We were able to see and hear the lawyers, the judges and the defendants. Whether you agree or disagree with the verdicts, the trials have been a close up look at our justice system. The “truth” is presented to the jury, by the lawyers for both sides, and hopefully the end result is accountability and justice for all. 

In our daily lives, outside of a courtroom, how is justice rendered? It isn’t!  People get by with horrible behaviors all the time and escape any consequences for their behaviors. It’s a difficult truth to accept: life is not fair. Good guys don’t always win, and the truth isn’t always heard. Many rapes are never reported. Money can buy a lot of influence. Reputations can be ruined by  gossip that is untrue. In order for justice to exist, people must be just. So I’m going to start with a definition -just: treating people in a way that is considered morally right. Oh sh*t, we’re all in trouble aren’t we? How do we figure out what is morally right, who gets to make the final decision, does “might” make right? What if you don’t get caught? I desperately want the world to be just, but I have come to accept that justice is not common, and certainly beyond my ability to make happen.

We search for a way to believe that though justice may not be evident or swift, it still happens. We say things like “You reap what you sow.” or “What goes around, comes around.”. We talk about karma:  “the force created by a person’s actions that some people believe causes good or bad things to happen to that person.” I think of good karma as being earned by a person’s moral behaviors, such as doing the right thing, even if doing wrong or getting even is much more appealing. Similarly bad karma is earned by a person’s bad behaviors, even if they are not held accountable or suffer immediate consequences. In my own case, the concept of karma is motivation for me to do the right thing, and a warning to me about the long term consequences of my immoral behaviors. I may not get to bang the gavel or tip the scales for  justice, or even see justice in my lifetime, but if karma is real I can believe justice exists across time and place.  What pisses me off is that justice is not my job, but being “just” is.In spite of my desire to mete out justice to those who have harmed me or others, I am not being “just” if I respond out of the space of getting even or revenge. “

“An eye for an eye…”is not justice, but what is “Turn the other cheek”? I’m just not sure what to do with my feelings of “It’s just not fair.” or “How can they get away with that?” Several years ago I found some behaviors by members on the board of my HOA as being particularly egregious. I tried and tried to stop the behaviors, and I admit not always in a just manner. I was sick about my helplessness, and had tried bringing in as many other agencies to help as I thought of. I didn’t know what to do with my rage. It wasn’t fair and it wasn’t right and I was sick about it. And then, by chance, I encountered a Fort Collins City Council member who I asked for help. The next day the City acted and the HOA board was forced to rectify the horrible situation. I doubt the board members felt like they were brought to justice. They had no idea how much I had suffered and I don’t think they would have cared. An unjust situation was righted and I set the process in motion. I felt good about that. Today, several years later, just thinking about this time puts knots in my stomach. The rage can still leak out. I’m ashamed to admit that I still want the individuals to suffer, to pay for what they did. Bad Karma for them and for me.