More Like Us

 

“Why can’t a woman be more like a man?”

Remember the song from My Fair Lady?

We are experiencing an historic time, when we have the opportunity to open portals of compassion and tolerance. Are we doing that?

Fanatics are using religion as an excuse to kill targeted populations with a goal of world domination and doing “it their way” from now on. (Frank Sinatra, are you listening?)

This is nothing new. The Crusades set an example long ago, and missionaries have been offering their versions of religion for literally ages.

The difference between ISIS/ISIL and missionaries is that missionaries (allegedly) give the individual a choice: they offer and convince, rather than kill and overrun.

So why can’t a woman be more like a man? Why can’t Christians be more like Muslims, and vice versa? Why can’t a bipolar person be more like the general population? Why can’t a black man be like a white man?

Within this historic time, we are witnessing a smudging of categorical divisions in society. Some women become more like men particularly as they age; some men and women feel they were born into the wrong physiological body structure.Perhaps tolerance to variations in gender identification might be the precursor to cross-overs of religious ideals, an understanding that everyone is different, that everyone has their own story, and that perceived mental imbalance may be a sign of genius. Many of humanity’s most brilliant contributors have been considered weird, and in mental health and insurance parlance would qualify for a DSM diagnosis.

In the face of global diversity on multiple levels, are we opening those portals of compassion, tolerance, and understanding?

The goal here is not to make everybody the same, or specifically categorized. Brave New World, here we come! Thank you, Aldous Huxley.

The goal is to honor our differences. They protect us from the monotony of sameness. They contribute to the evolution of cultures and maybe even humankind.

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The Insidious Internet

The Insidious Internet

“The Virologist”, an article by Andrew Marantz in The New Yorker magazine (January 5, 2015) about Emerson Spartz and memes highlights an insidious danger within the internet.

It seems that if you and I search on our own computers for, say CNN, we will come up with different results, based on what the algorithmic internet scavengers determine to be “our best interests”.

Downright scary.

While it may be helpful to the vendors and possibly to us, to tailor ads on, say Facebook, to our interests as expressed by our computer activity, in my opinion, it is not in our “best interests” to hone information to suit our individual tastes.

On the contrary, it narrows our field of information and is a restriction of freedom.

Such culling underscores how crucially important it is that (a) we talk with each other, (b) reading books is necessary, and (c) foreign travel is essential for a more rounded view of the world.

In this computer-driven information highway (to use a hackneyed term), I do not want my personal interests continually fed back to me, effectively reinforcing the idea that what I think is right, or useful, or the general trend.

While it may be convenient and time saving not to be fed gruel that is of no use or interest to me, I crave exposure to new and different ideas, to conversation, to open answers to open ended questions.

Maybe I should start searching for bizarre subjects so as to vary the ad content on websites I visit.

In the meantime, my cynical thanks to the internet gods who think they know what to feed me, who stifle critical thinking, and who make my life so much easier.

Let me out!  Let me graze on the other side of the fence.

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Wallpaper

The saga of the wallpaper begins with a house painter, Joe, who was not well. He was planning for a job at my house, so I asked him how I could help. He said, “You could remove the wallpaper.” Clearly, wallpaper was not his favorite thing. Something I had never done before and had put into the “too hard basket” in the past now lurched into my future.

Procrastination can be your friend. I got a lot of housework and odds and ends done before I settled into tackling a project that was entirely foreign to me.

I need to organize a project mentally before I am able to tackle it. I was always the kid who asked “why?” and I do need to have my why’s answered before I can feel confident about proceeding.

At the paint store, the clerk knew about DIF which Joe had advised getting. Joe also stipulated that I would need two buckets of water, for a sponge and for Scotch-brite. He said it was important not to leave any paste on the walls. Consultation with an accomplished house-fixing friend added a wallpaper scoring tool, a plastic (not metal) putty knife, a spray bottle and drop cloths to the list.

The first wall was trial and a little error (not enough DIF). The peeling was tentative and patchy but the scrub down after removal, with Scotch-brite to remove any leftover paper and paste, and the wet sponging left a surprisingly shiny clean wall.

After the first wall, I had it down to a routine of scoring the paper, soaking every inch with DIF solution via spray bottle, allowing 15-20 minutes for the DIF to work, and then peeling off the paper. Joe had suggested doing one patch about 3 feet square, and letting it sit while I prepared another patch, and to start at the top. By the end of the project I went whole hog and scored, soaked and stripped an entire panel at one time.

There was one moment of pure joy, as I went through the scoring and soaking, and on a whim, gently pulled from the bottom of the paper and was able to get the entire single panel off, all the way up and across the top at the ceiling, in one piece. I felt like I should frame it.

It took days to do this, a few hours at a time. 12-24 hours after each stripping, I went back to check for residual paper or paste. I found it, and removed it with more DIF solution. The lighting in the room changed during the day, and had to be just so in order to see the bits and pieces that had been left.

It feels good (to me) to take on a job I have never done before, to understand it, work with it, and be successful. By the time I had finished the three formerly wallpapered walls, I was ready to take on more. I’ll have to save that impulse for another time, maybe another place.

Photos: procrastination time –> first wall progress –> last wall, done!

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Truisms

Communication is the key to any relationship, casual or otherwise.

Listening is an important factor; hearing is another.

Never assume you understand what you are hearing: if there is any question in your mind, ask if what you think you heard is correct (or not), and/or ask for clarification.

If what you think you heard feels like criticism or anger, take a breath and look at the information, the facts. Is it valid? Is it a topic for further discussion? Is it best left in the agree-to-disagree department?

Always listen to your partner: (s)he may know more than you might realize, regardless of the topic.

Say what you mean. You may need to say it a different way, to be heard.

Sometimes it takes a lot of courage for someone to express an opinion or to ask for something, or to set a boundary. Honor that. Listen. Clarify if necessary.

Know that true love is based on respect, consideration, and support…

Your partner’s opinion matters.

The two most common precipitators for divorce are finances, and how to raise the children. Both never stop; they are lifelong processes.

At the top of the list of major stressors are: moving house, changing jobs, a health crisis, having a child, losing a job, losing a family member especially a spouse or a child… not necessarily in that order.

When in doubt, breathe. Step back; look at the situation from a different perspective; try to see a bigger picture.

Most of life’s crises can be managed. You may need help: ask.

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Incident # 21-14-001893 Nicki in the Night

The dog woke me. 12:30 a.m. It was her “there’s something outside” bark. When she didn’t stop barking, I, two hours into a good sleep, staggered out of bed. Groggy, I failed to pick up my eyeglasses, but went to the window anyway (implants are wonderful things).

There was a cow in my driveway.

“911 – what is the location of your emergency?”
Me: Township, road and number given…
There’s a cow in my driveway.
Pause at the 911 end.
Me: Cow, as in Bovine…
“Sending an officer now…”

The cow was next to my car, snuffling in the recycle bin, moving things around.

A few minutes later, I in bathrobe, slippers, no eyeglasses and having forgotten the “golden” rule – always have your cell ‘phone with you – greeted the officer who arrived.

By then, the cow had moved on, but where? We speculated, perhaps on up the road. The officer went a short distance in pursuit while I wandered around the shed, noted the clothesline poles knocked to the ground, the security light triggered by the back woodpile, and the back terrace. Two of the outside cats came towards the terrace at full gallop, proof that the cow was in that area.

The officer pulled into the neighbor’s driveway. Only when he got out of the car did I realize he was a young man I’d known since he was about ten years old. I found that comforting. I said I hoped this was the most exciting thing for him on this Saturday night.

The cow was nearby and did I have the neighbor’s phone number? Old brain couldn’t sift through the immensity of information available. Went inside to get the Rolodex card with the name and phone numbers; handed it to the officer, “I don’t have my glasses – you read it”. He called, the neighbor came, and collected the cow.

The next morning, the evidence was there: hoof prints in the gravel, collapsed cardboard carton pulled out of the recycle bin, and contributions for the compost pile (Yay!).

Turns out the cow, Nicki, who is 16, likes cardboard.

9-7-14 Nicki

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What Kind of Person Washes Trash Cans?

The kind whose Grandmother suggested that soap dishes needed to be cleaned. After some explanation to a questioning child, the soap dishes were relieved of their excess soap residue, with the satisfaction of pleasing Grandma.

For a short person, washing a trash bin can be a challenge. A thirty-two gallon bin requires holding one end while scrubbing down both outside and inside. Inside means leaning the full length of the body inside the bin in order to reach the bottom. Larger than thirty-two gallon, we have to literally climb inside. That’s a little intimidating. We could hide inside a large trash bin. Our bodies could be stuffed inside one, for the trash man to collect, none the wiser unless there had been a few days of body percolation. Visions of “Law and Order”.

The same kind of person who likes to rise early with a sense of purpose, feeds the bodies currently needing sustenance, cleans up after them, does two loads of laundry, hangs the linens on the clothesline outside, re-pots a couple of plants (do you know how difficult it can be to assemble a hanging pot?), and attends to email. Before 9 a.m. and with no regrets about any of it.

And then there are the “other” days, when getting out of bed is an effort, time seems to vanish, and only a fraction of the possibilities are addressed. Oh, well. Life goes on. Cleaned trash bins, or not.

 

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A Piece of Heaven

That’s how my small house and property have been described by visitors. It is helpful to me to hear such evaluation. I tend to become so accustomed to my surroundings, to my home, that I forget how special it appears to others, and how special it is, in fact, to me.

An artist, who came to stay for several months, painted the scene at the back terrace, including the animals, and titled it “Peaceable Kingdom”. Not that it is always peaceable. We have our moments.

Sometimes, when I am not engrossed in the everyday details of living and keeping some alleged control over the “kingdom”, I take a breath and see at least some of what is here.

A creek is nearby, with all it has to offer: soothing sounds, fish, crayfish, birds, bugs, and a multitude of fishermen when fishing season opens. It is a salve to the chaos of living, usually gurgling, and roaring after a good rain.

A satellite photo shows trees, and more trees. If you look carefully, you can see the roads. The “gardens” are plush at this time of year, when there has been adequate rain. My compost pile is my vegetable garden and summer respite, after wintering inside, for the avocado trees that have volunteered there. Former owners established a nice arboreal framework. Other plantings are simply what has appealed to me, and it’s an okay-you’re-on-your-own-now situation. Either they make it, or they don’t. Every year there are new Maple trees, “scrub” trees, and wildflowers. If I didn’t prune things back, the house might be swallowed. Fortunately, for me, there is only a small “lawn” to be maintained. Lawn is a euphemism; it’s some grass and lots of “ground cover” which could be anything – violets, ajuga, dandelions, plantain, bird seed sproutings, etc. It’s only a weed if you don’t want it.

People say there is a beacon on my house, so many stray animals show up. Some find their own homes, thanks to the local police, animal control, and those who offer to house them. Some stay.

When one such visitor, a young Tabby cat, cried outside my bedroom windows for three nights in a row, he was lured into “captivity” with food. He was skin and bones, and had a broken leg. That was Smokey Joe. After a vet visit, neutering, the mandatory rabies vaccine, and an assessment that the leg was healing well on its own, he came “home” with the proviso that he could seek a new home anytime. He’s still here.

It is such a similar story to finding another Tabby that I wonder if it is coincidence. Probably not. Many years ago, I found an adult Tabby cat in my compost pile, holding down a corn cob with one paw and trying to chew on it. He was not scrawny but he was clearly hungry, and he had a broken jaw.

My partner said, “You’re not going to keep this one, are you.” It was not a question. I looked at the cat and mentally asked its name: Stirps. I thought it was a mis-spelling in my mind because the cat had stripes. But when I looked up stirps in the dictionary, it said “of the family”, a legal term commonly used as per stirpes. I told my partner that Stirps was of the family: he was staying. And he did so for about ten years before he died of old age.

The animals come, eventually they die, and they are appreciated for who they are while they are here. Who could ask for more?

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