The Unfairness of Life

I visited my aunt and my cousin this past weekend.  My aunt is 93 and my cousin is 70.

Both of them live in assisted living facilities.

My aunt’s place is lovely.  She has a small kitchenette, a living room and a bedroom.  All are tastefully decorated and plenty of her own things surround her.  Her gentleman friend picks her up and they go to lunch and dinners together in the main dining room.  She uses a walker now and there are definite signs of short term memory loss.  I had not seen her since my uncle’s funeral seven years ago and I feel happy that I got to visit her before I have another family funeral to attend.  We had a good visit and I even got to meet her gentleman friend who is 97.

My cousin is not faring quite as well.  Her place is considerably less appealing, just the single room with bath.  The furnishings are sparse and the look of everything is worn.  I think it would be fair to characterize the place as a warehouse of the waning generations.  Even so, she had to spend seven weeks in a hospital waiting for a room at a place that could accept her.  My cousin was born completely deaf and now she suffers from peripheral neuropathy (started at age 50) and a diagnosis of mild dementia.  She was so loved and protected by her parents.  She has a fiercely independent spirit and lived and worked on her own for many years.  Now that has all been taken away.  She is no longer independent and she is very unhappy and it is heartbreaking.  Just heartbreaking.

Advertisements

When

When?

Now is not the time.

We must not talk about it —
the spray of bullets,
the staccato din of
automatic fire,
the human cries of
shock, fear, and pain.

Light the candles.

Mandalay Bay Resort
Las Vegas, Nevada
October 1, 2017
Hundreds shot and
sixty left dead.

Now is not the time
to talk about it.

Shed tears in silence.

Pulse Night Club
Orlando, Florida
June 12, 2016
Fifty die in the
dark night of terror.

But now is not the time
to talk about it —
what is means.

Lift voices in prayer.

Sandy Hook Elementary School
Newtown, Connecticut
December 14, 2012
Twenty school children,
six adults are killed.

No, this is not the time
to talk about it —
how to make it stop.

Lay flowers on the ground.

Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, Virginia
April 16, 2007
Thirty-two killed
in a murderous rampage.
Now is certainly not the time
to talk about it.
Nothing can be done.

You recall the horror?

University of Texas Tower
Austin, Texas
August 1, 1966
Fourteen gunned down at
the hands of a madman.

Don’t talk about it.
As the blood runs,
a polluted stream, down city streets
again and again,

Bow your heads in reverence.
Honor all these dead,
ripped from life
in service of the
sacred right
to bear arms.

Amen.

Olga Hebert

10/5/2017

 

 

Quilts

Quilts have been around for a very long time.  Basically a sandwich of layers of fabric and some type of filling, they range from utilitarian items for keeping body and home warm to works of art.

My sister gave me this quilt top that my mother had pieced by hand.  It still needs the backing and filling layer, which I will get around to doing one day.  This is interesting to my sister and me because my mother used scraps of material left over from dresses that she had made either for us or for herself.  I say us, but in truth my mom made the dresses for me and then my sister, five years younger, got to wear the hand-me-downs.  There are reasons why they say birth order can inform personality development.

IMG_20171004_085423477Can’t say I am wild about the aesthetic of it.

Having grown up in the depression era, my mom was definitely of the “waste not, want not” persuasion.  Scraps of material left after a pattern was cut out would definitely not be just thrown away.

I have been to quilt shows and seen quilts that are so stunningly beautiful they take my breath away.

My quilts are utilitarian, not works of art, but I enjoy making them.

I finished a second baby quilt. I think it is kind of cute.IMG_20171004_091121684

Of course, this one is my sentimental favorite, made for myself out of Mike’s flannel shirts:

IMG_20171004_091511090

I felt a little selfish not donating them to someone in need of warm shirts, but I wrap myself in this quilt on chilly evenings.  I give most of the quilts I make away, but never this one.  It’s a keeper.  It may not be art, but it means the world to me.

Amy told me yesterday that Kristen has commandeered both of the quilts I made for my grandkids so I need to make another one for Dane.

Giving my sewing machine a good cleaning and oiling is on my list of things to-do for today.

Owl

The pumpkins come and go with the seasons but this owl lives on my mantel full time.  I got it six or seven years ago.  It was an unusual thing for me to acquire at the time, but for some reason it called me and I had to have it.

DSC00173.JPG

I went to Florida in October, 2013, two months after Mike had died.  I got there in the afternoon and went about settling in, then took a walk around the neighborhood in just before sunset.  As I walked, I heard an owl hooting over and over.  It almost seemed to be following me.  As I walked up my street, returning to home. I saw the owl perched a top the very tall pine tree directly across the street from my house. Later, when I went to bed, I heard that owl calling for the longest time.  I felt that Mike was telling me he was nearby and watching over.

Slight digression in case you are thinking the owl thing isn’t whacky enough: The next day I took a walk on Caspersen Beach where Mike went everyday to walk and look for sharks’ teeth.  I stopped at the spot where he always said was his lucky place for finding the teeth.  I stood there for a long time and had myself a good cry.  When I finally turned to go back. I looked out over the water and shouted, “Well, it wouldn’t hurt to throw me just one shark’s tooth!” I took a step and there at my feet was a good sized tooth.  Mike and I had opposing views on the possibility of life after death.  I took the tooth as a sign that he was grudgingly admitting that his insistence on a great nothing might have been wrong.

I came across this quiz, What’s My Spirit Animal. I was predicting a crowbar ( actually predicting a crow — it’s only auto correct that thinks my spirit animal should be a crowbar) maybe hoping for it.  I see crows all the time.  Yesterday, I saw several crows on a lawn while on my way to a friend’s house.  Six hours later, as I returned, I saw crows on the same lawn.  We also saw an eagle swooping out over the lake as we were having lunch.  I figured there might be some message there.  I looked up the crow symbolism which lead me to the quiz.  My spirit animal: OWL.

The owl spirit animal is emblematic of a deep connection with wisdom and intuitive knowledge. If you have the owl as totem or power animal, you’re likely to have the ability to see what’s usually hidden to most. When the spirit of this animal guides you, you can see the true reality, beyond illusion and deceit. The owl also offers for those who have it a personal totem the inspiration and guidance necessary to deeply explore the unknown and the magic of life.

 

Eye of the Beholder

 

 

Many people see disrespect to a symbol of our nation as these football players kneel as The Star-Spangled Banner is played.

ravens-kneel

I see men kneeling, taking on an aspect of prayer.

gen·u·flect  
verb
  1. lower one’s body briefly by bending one knee to the ground, typically in worship or as a sign of respect.

 

One Percent

My late husband restored antique American motorcycles.  That was one of his hobbies, but it was also his job.  He was an American picker long before it was a reality television show.  He spent time at motorcycle meets and car show, those with an antique bent (Antique Motorcycle Club of America, American Antique Car Association).

The people who were into antique motorcycles are not necessarily anything like what one might think of when thinking “motorcycle gang.”

Like most things in life it is only the smaller percent who cause mayhem.  Of course, some are quite proud of being that small minority.  From Wikipedia:

Some outlaw motorcycle clubs can be distinguished by a “1%” patch worn on the colors. This is said to refer to a comment by the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) that 99% of motorcyclists were law-abiding citizens, implying the last one percent were outlaws.

I kind of like the fact that there is a badge.  Maybe more one percenters should start identifying themselves so the rest of us can know what we are dealing with here.

Out of 6 billion humans, the troublemakers are just a handful. Dalai Lama

Silver Lining?

Quite a long time ago I remember watching a movie, The Gods Must be Crazy.  The thing I remember about it is that someone from an isolated tribal life finds a Coke bottle.  The modern world somehow wedges a way in to the life of the primitive tribe and I assume the people wonder why the god’s are acting in such a bizarre manner.

I think of that movie now because it is not hard to be wondering if the gods have gone crazy again — a pile up of hurricanes, erupting volcanoes, unstoppable wold fires.  It’s not hard to be wondering why Mother Nature is so angry.

I always think things happen for a reason and, especially when challenging things happen, I wonder what is the lesson here?

The news if filled with images of disaster and devastation, but there all those stories of people rising up to help.  People are helping other people in both heroic and small ways.  I have not heard that anyone in trouble needs to pass some kind of political philosophy or voting record test.

Could the gods be hitting us over our thick skulls to get across the message that we need to care enough about each other and the planet we live on in order to survive?  It would be a silver lining if the lesson of working together sticks.

***

It is pretty clear that my place in Florida is going to sustain some damage.  Irma is projected to travel right up the middle of the state, leaving a wake of damage on both coasts.  The roof had a leak in recent rains.  I made arrangements for repairs/replacement but they have not been completed and I doubt they will get done during a hurricane watch (and I suspect a soon to come warning).  At least I am not there. (silver lining)

89cc481a4681bcad458c1030f6a49f3e--silver-linings-playbook-quotes-silver-lining-playbook

Floods

The floods resulting from Hurricane Harvey — horrible.  Now even shelters are being evacuated.

It seems clear that the flooding is very much related to climate change and the error human activities such as building on food plains.  This seems not the time to arguing about whether or not this is fake science.

Melania Trump took flack for hobbling onto the plane in stiletto heels.  I save my disgust for the Donald making his remarks about thanking the crowd for turning out and how great the crowd was.  Today his speech writers were able to get a bit of compassion for those who have lost homes and loved ones posted on the teleprompter.

There have been past presidents with whom I had political and philosophical disagreement.  There have been presidents I did not like.  But this is the first time in my life I have been thoroughly ashamed of our elected president.  That is just the way I see it.

I pray for the people in the path of this hurricane.  I pray for this country.

Selfish Mindfulness

I read this article in the Washington Post — “Mindfulness Would be Good for You if it Weren’t So Selfish,” as essay by psychologist Thomas Joiner.

He says:

Although there are various definitions of mindfulness, a workable one, drawn from some of the most respected practitioners, is the nonjudgmental awareness of the richness, subtlety and variety of the present moment — all of the present moment, not just the self.

Joiner goes on to discuss how true mindfulness is not about emptying the mind or savoring the momentary pleasures but a practice of developing a fuller awareness of each moments vastness and minuteness, developing an attitude of nonjudgmental and humility.

Ah, but then he goes on:

But mindfulness has become pernicious, diluted and distorted by the prevailing narcissism of our time. The problem has somewhat less to do with how it’s practiced and more to do with how it’s promoted. People aren’t necessarily learning bad breathing techniques. But in many cases they are counting on those breathing techniques to deliver almost magical benefits. And, all the while, they are tediously, nonjudgmentally and in the most extreme cases monstrously focused entirely on themselves. That is troublesome for mental health practice and for our larger culture.

I have been “into” mindful meditation off and on for some forty years.  Lately, I have become more disciplined about my practice.  Which is to say, I wanted to hate this article based on its title, thinking it was going to bash mindfulness.  I didn’t hate it entirely.  I have in fact been kind of wondering about some of the points Joiner makes.

Truthfully, what I have been questioning is more related to things like The Secret and the law of attraction where you are supposed to convince yourself you are worthy of, deserve, and should have _________ (money, fame, happiness, etc.) and the universe will provide.  I wonder about the selfishness of that thinking.  Why don’t we all get together and ask the universe for world peace and an end to violence, hunger, war, etc.?

I realized that Joiner was making the same point about mindfulness as a popular trend. So many of the books and articles these days are about promising a key to personal happiness, self-gratification, and self-satisfaction.

Since my introduction to mindful meditation has been through the teachings and philosophy of the Buddha, this pop culture stuff does bother me.  The Buddha did, for example, have the difficult concept of “non self.”  The meditation practice group I attend at present always has the time to discuss and share how any insights that might be attained can be used out in the world to make the world a better place.

But I wasn’t entirely happy with this essay either.  Joiner sited a number of scientific studies, some of which he called rigorous (those that did not support the benefits of mindfulness).  My problem with that has to do with the definition used above.  It’s okay as far as it goes but it does not (as the trendy writing he disparages do not either) take into account that mindfulness is a long term practice.  You are not going to prove anything one way or another by instructing subjects in mindfulness for an hour and then having them perform memory tasks.

Both pop culture gurus and scientists need to take a longer view.

In the meantime: om mani padme hum.