Screwing up not screwing up

Most of the time I am a positive-thinking, optimistic little lark, looking up and enjoying the beauty and wonder of the world I’m in, knowing how fortunate I am to have made it this far and in the company of those I love.

Here’s that positive-thinking, optimistic little lark now. Inside this chickie’s head is a boatload of insecurity.

There are other times when I fall into a trough of gloom and dissatisfaction. I cannot say it is depression; maybe it is, I don’t know. All I know is that when I am there in that trough, it takes a great deal of effort to escape from it and return to the path of my usual happy journey through life. This is because I feel so responsible for things, for ALL things, and when things do not pan out, I grow upset with myself that I have failed. Failure is a thing to me, you see.

When I was a young teen and my older sisters were off being wild and carefree and doing dumb hedonistic things, my mother told me, “You are the one I am counting on to do the right thing.” She did not argue with them to correct their haphazard lifestyles because she did not believe they would listen anyway. She raised them as well as she could and tried to teach them life lessons, but she could not ride herd on them forever. I, however, heard a different lesson: I had to do the right thing. I had to make the right choices. She was counting on me not to screw up, and I must not let her down.

My sisters changed college majors like changing shirts, dropped in and out of college and seldom used the degrees they eventually earned. They were told they “could be anything they wanted to be” but were not told just how to achieve their goals. Mama did not know how to show them how to achieve goals, either. Their lives have been unexpected maybe, sidetracked occasionally, but they seldom dwell on their decisions. Life just happens, that’s all.

Mama liked the way I wrote stories, and instead of teaching me how to do domestic chores efficiently and thoroughly, she encouraged my creative efforts. By the time I was a teen, Mama actually had time to talk over my goals with me, and I was willing to listen. I wanted to be a writer, and a screenwriter or producer. I didn’t want to act, I wanted to be behind the scenes. I went to college and studied Liberal Arts, did not change majors, dutifully did all the THINGS that a good obedient kid was supposed to do, and even when I was unsure, I learned enough in acting class to know how to appear to be confident.

It was all an act. I didn’t know what I was doing, I only had an idea. I planned to go to California and work for a studio in some way – as a janitor or go-fer if I had to – and eventually I would work my way up, maybe get into film school or in a production office, get a story or a script to the right person, and I’d be on track.

Yeah, but in college I met a young man and was swept off my feet, and ended up marrying what turned out to be a narcissistic asshat who promised we would go to California so I could pursue my dreams, but he lied and we remained in Oklahoma because it suited HIM, and the years passed and my dream took a hit. But I did not break free all the many times I should have/could have, because I MUST NOT FAIL. I must not screw up my marriage or my family, that would be just one more thing her children did not do, and I must not let my Mama down.

I tried to be what he wanted me to be, but the going was rough because not only did I have my own expectations to contend with, I had to shoulder his as well.

“That’s not how my mother cooks that,” he said. I looked around.

“Well, it’s how I’m going to do it, unless you want to magically transport us to where you grew up and I can do it the same way she did, with the same tools and same surroundings.”

Another time, “I don’t see why you have to re-arrange the furniture every time you vacuum,” he complained.

“I don’t do it every time, but sometimes when I move the furniture to vacuum behind it, I like the new configuration,” I explained.

“I don’t like it. It’s confusing and I hit my shins on the furniture every time you change it.”

For a fellow who claimed housework was “women’s work” that he shouldn’t have to do, he certainly had his man’s opinion on it.

Another time he found me refolding the clean towels he had just folded and put in the linen closet. He threw a fit. “I never do anything right, I tried to help and now I guess I’ve done it wrong!”

“No, you did fine, really. But I found out the towels fit on the shelf better if they are folded in half and then in thirds. There’s nothing wrong with the way you did it, they just fit this way.”

He decided he wouldn’t fold towels anymore. Whatever he did had to be accepted without comment, but if I did something better or easier by my way, he blamed me for being confusing or a perfectionist. HA, being a perfectionist housewife was NOT, I repeat, NOT, in my wheelhouse. I made mistakes left and right – but I learned quick and corrected myself. He chose to drink, which gave him an excuse to make his mistakes.

When my kids were young, I stopped everything to play with them whenever they asked me to. The house didn’t get tidied, the floors didn’t get vacuumed. The dishes sat in the sink. The kids were listened to, taught lessons on the fly, developed their worldview and storytelling techniques and basked in their mother’s love. I was lousy at housework, but I loved interacting with my children. I also tended to compose stories in my head during the day, then had to scramble to do the housework when my spouse came home. He complained about my lack of housekeeping, so it baffled me that one of his big arguments to me in the downward spiral of our relationship was, “yeah well you never do anything wrong, you’re always right! You always do the right thing and know just what to say about everything.”

“No, I have done something wrong, I married you,” I snapped back. He was surprised because I’d never snapped back before, and he stalked off grumbling.

For the record – we should have never married. I wanted something more than simply being married and a hausfrau so my spouse could enjoy his vices and expensive hobbies, and he was delusional for thinking that anyone born with a uterus must automatically know and enjoy cleaning, cooking, homemaking and all the other “wifely” domestic duties. – Come on, man. The world is a mystery to every single person born, no one instinctively knows how to perform tasks and if they are not taught, then those things are not learned.

But when he said that – “you never do anything wrong, you’re always right” – it hit me then that I still thought I was responsible for everything, I had to do things his way and never complain. I had to pretend that all was quiet and act with confidence and surety, and if it wasn’t, I was to blame for always being right.

What?

NO. NO, NO NO.

He screwed up, I screwed up, everything went to hell in a hand basket in so many ways. Eventually everything was screwed up so badly that it had to end. Nothing was right, everyone was unhappy, and I always put my children first so for their emotional well being and mine, I filed for divorce. The children were relieved, because their relationship with their father was terrible. He didn’t care for them nearly as much as he cared for his friends or for himself, and we all knew the hierarchy: him, then his friends, then his parents, then his kids, and then me. They were young but they knew how to read a scorecard in life.

I divorced him, and then set about showing my children that yes, people are expected to pay rent and not presume that Grandmother and Grandfather would always foot the bill for a roof over our heads. No, I don’t know why Dad doesn’t call or come by, but that is his choice; it has nothing to do with you children. It is not your fault. But this is how we live now, this is our reality, and we are going to get through this together.

I worked two and sometimes three jobs, raised my kids, and remained single. They learned from my mistakes, they made mistakes of their own and they dealt with the surprises of life. They also learned about displaying confidence even when you don’t have a clue what to do, because it buys you time enough to figure things out. Sometimes you don’t figure things out. And that’s okay; that’s just how it goes.

They are great kids; they are the greatest successes I have ever achieved. I have never and will never regret having them. They have gone on to careers and loves and lives of their own.

Now, I have to finish raising myself. One of the things I need to work on is to stop beating myself up for every disappointment I face or cause. I forget something or lose an item or neglect a thing – SHIT HAPPENS, folks, things just go awry and you know what? If it’s not going to matter in five years, let it go. If it’s not going to matter in two years, let it go – hell, if it will be forgotten in six months’ time, LET IT GO. Fix it if you can and if you can’t, let it go.

We are not perfect. None of us get it right. I don’t know squat about so many things in life and tend to forget things if I’m not careful. I am a stubborn, persistent fellow and if I died tomorrow, not a soul will know all the ways I think I’ve messed up in my life. That is because I have worried too much about temporary matters, matters so insignificant they will be absent during the remembrance at my wake.

I did not make the same mistakes my sisters did – I made All New Mistakes, fresh out of the box and not experienced by my siblings before! I shouldered a responsibility that i should not have assumed. I was never supposed to be The Representative of my siblings, I should never have been made to feel that way, either. I took Mama’s off-the-cuff remark to heart, and that was not her fault. I simply SCREWED UP by thinking I and I alone was responsible for not letting her down? Even now when I do something that disappoints or annoys someone, mainly my children, it feels like the weight of the world, no matter how fleeting it may turn out to be.

I have a feeling that if my mother is looking in on me from the dimension after this one, she is not judging me and she is not keeping score. Stuff happens. We can all be depressed or disappointed in how things are turning out in our lives, but the world does not have to be on our shoulders. None of us are Atlas, and never were.

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LET US NOW PRAISE CONTINUING TRADITIONS INVOLVING CHOCOLATE

Back in the old days Mama and Papa used to dress their brood up in lace and finery, pack us into the sedan and take us to Easter Sunday services.

The Beartown Gang. The Watson Girls were in their Easter finery. The Watson Boy did not lean down far enough to get in the picture.

I remember waking up to the smell of freshly cut grass wafting in through the open bedroom window and listening to songbirds singing bright tunes in the still of the morning. All the kids were freshly scrubbed with Castile soap or whatever the household suds producer was called. The scrapes and bruises of childhood adventures were Mercurichrome’d into submission. Everyone decked out in their absolute best clothes instead of the usual well-worn shirts and britches of play. I remember the excitement of glimpsing what a fantasy-induced magic bunny left in my basket before putting on a starchy dress that I absolutely detested, and then traveling to a big building where I had to sit quietly for a whole hour. (We were not Catholic then but by golly, I experienced Purgatory for at least an hour every week.)

See, Domio DOES have a head above those striped shoulders.

After Easter services, one adult distracted the kids while the other adult hid the eggs, and then every one of those wild Indians went hunting eggs and especially searched for the Prize Egg. The winner of the Prize Egg got a big chocolate Easter Bunny and the non-winners got, well, I guess they got a platter full of deviled eggs for the rest of the afternoon.

Me in my Easter Bonnet and coat. The Devil wears Prada; I wore Jacques Penne.

When we moved out deep into the countryside and could no longer attend church, we still dyed eggs on Holy Saturday night and awoke to little baskets of goodies and already hidden eggs. We had lots of room outside to search for eggs, and our Papa was inventive and found the most imaginative places to hide them. After he passed, we continued the tradition of coloring eggs and celebrating.

Fast forward to the ’80’s –

Katie and Drew met The Easter Bunny, Himself! He just HAPPENED to be standing on the median on the way to Grandma’s church on Easter morning.

I also raised my kids on Magical Fantasy Creatures who brought candy and hid their eggs for them to find, in addition to Sunday Catechism lessons for the Official Stuff. The Easter Bunny knew my youngest child Will was on the way when I went into labor on Easter Sunday during our egg hunt; he was the best Prize Egg ever found.

By the time he was in first grade, Will already towered over his brother and was fast overtaking his sister’s height. Will has always disliked ties, so his open-necked shirt suited him fine. Katie wore the Easter dress I made for her – I LOVED making her Easter outfits! – and Drew, who has always liked ties, chose a turtleneck for that Easter Sunday. My boys wore matching pants and belts and the Fashion Police gave them all high marks for style.

I have no Easter outfit photo of my granddaughter yet, but I will get one. I look forward to future egg hunts with her.

She has a baby baby grand piano and likes to play on it. This child is going places.

And sure, now that I am no longer a practicing Christian, there’s a lot I could say about religion and belief systems and all that squawk, but let’s not. Instead, let’s look back on these photos and think about the childhood times of anticipation of a treasure hunt and enjoying jelly beans and mallomar cream candies and milk chocolate bunnies – and MALTED MILK EGGS OMG THOSE WERE SO GOOOOOOD!

Too many times, as I have mentioned in other essays here, children are exposed to traditions but not given a clue as to what they mean, when they started and why they are continued to be celebrated. I only vaguely understood the Christian Easter story. Every year ABC showed “The Ten Commandments” which we always watched and loved, especially because the acting was so… dramatic (“Oh, Moses, Moses!” “Master Builder or Master Butcher?” “Behold his mighty hand!” and my personal favorite, “So let it be written; so let it be done.”) The Ten Commandments had nothing to do with the Easter story but had everything to do with Passover, which my family did not celebrate. Still, it’s in the Old Testament so we watched the stunningly beautiful Anne Baxter chew the scenery with Charlton Heston and his booming voice, got the heebie-jeebie creeps watching the green smoke of Pestilence crawl down off the moon and onto the streets of Egypt, and struck poses and quoted the film throughout the viewing. Easter = chocolate chewing and scenery chewing.

Oh Ms. Baxter, you will never know how much joy you brought to a bunch of scruffy kids living deep in the heart of Oklahoma.

Most years network TV offered up King of Kings or other passion of Jesus stories and we watched them. I don’t recall the names of many of them because they were less ….Dramatic and more…. storytelling. I enjoyed the storytelling aspect because Cecil B. DeMille wasn’t involved and beating the story with a stick, I suppose.

The Beartown Gang circa 1958.

When you are a kid, everything is new, fresh, and through the eyes of an innocent child, everything is true until a falsehood is revealed. Back in 1958, five members of the Beartown Gang in that photo believed in the Easter story AND in the Easter Bunny. The youngest member, me, was not even aware there was a narrative to anything yet. All those children were happy and smiling and giggling and eager to get on with the fun. Sure, there were some serious times my siblings lived through and not every moment was a pearl, but for one magic morning out of the year, we enjoyed candy and treasure hunting, and tradition.

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To the January 6, 2021 mob

To the January 6 2021 mob:

If you are wondering what is going to happen to you now that you have been arrested and face serious time on serious federal charges, let me assure you of one thing: your Great White Hope, the now former president who told you to march down to the Capitol building and “fight like hell”, is not going to help you.

He never was going to. He never will.

Just as he told you he would march with you – and then did not – Donald John Trump is going to leave you high and dry, just as he has for decades with other people who made the mistake to believe him. Decades of stiffing contractors would have warned you of that, had you only paid attention. Despite his assurance a few years ago that he would provide bail for his followers, do not count on that. He is going to leave you to twist in the wind, to search for and pay for your own defense attorney, to face trial with damning evidence, and will most likely end up in federal prison for a number of years, leaving any family members dependent upon you to face those years without you.

Donald Trump is not going to be there to help you because he has legal problems of his own. He had a hard time finding competent lawyers for himself in his second impeachment trial; what makes you think he will bother finding anyone to represent any of you? There are potential criminal and civil charges facing him in numerous states and that will be costly to him. And no, if he were truly a billionaire and kept his word, he would have bailed each of you out by now and found you legal representation. He said he would, but Donald Trump has a history of not paying people he owes money, and lawyers will not work without getting paid. Donald Trump has a history of skimming money from fundraisers to put in his pocket. He is not going to spend a dime on you.

It is not as if any of this was hidden from you, you simply did not want to believe anything except what he told you, what you wanted to hear. For years other people tried to alert you Trump followers about his untrustworthiness, his lies and exaggerations and underhanded betrayal of people he deals with. You thought he was a successful businessman BECAUSE HE SAID SO, without checking into that yourself. “We don’t need any more politicians in the White House, let’s vote in a businessman!” you declared. Well, there are multiple examples of failed businesses on his record; you simply ignored them or bought into his “fake news” rhetoric without looking for proof. You thought he was a moral, devout Christian BECAUSE HE SAID SO, and you conveniently ignored his history of cheating on each of his three wives, of his bragging about groping young women, of his claim that he supported anti-abortion because he was such a good Christian even though he cannot quote a single Bible scripture, knows not even a simple chorus of a hymn and does not even know how to correctly hold your Holy Book. You thought he could lead America BECAUSE HE SAID SO, despite our falling standing on the world stage, despite terrible economic decisions, and despite his ego-driven refusal to take firm measures against a growing pandemic.

Many of you wanted to support him because he gave voice to the same white privilege beliefs you cling to. Many of you are members of white supremist groups or hate groups, or that you simply do not like the idea of anyone different from you, being equal to you. Congratulations – Donald Trump does not want to associate with you, either. He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, has never wanted for anything and never accepted the word “no.” He does not understand the plight of the American worker because he has never worked like other Americans in his life. Everything was given to him; did that happen to you?

Do you get it now? Do you realize he has been playing you this whole time? It did not matter to him that he sent you to the Capitol to commit insurrection for him, because TRUMP CONSIDERS YOU EXPENDABLE. That is right, you were nothing more than a pawn on his chessboard. If you actually had successfully seized and harmed his Vice President and members of Congress, he would have had a chokehold on power and credited himself for it. Think about it – his own Vice President, who loyally stood beside Trump for four years, tried to explain that he could not do Trump’s bidding during the Electoral count because THAT WOULD BE AGAINST THE CONSTITUTION. For that refusal, Trump turned on Mike Pence, so your howling mob sought to ASSASSINATE THE VICE PRESIDENT. Threatening a federal official, especially the Vice President of the United States, is a federal offense.

But, as you are now finding out, since you failed to complete an insurrection and failed to overtake Congress and kill Trump’s imagined adversaries, Donald Trump is not going to help you. He is not going to get in touch with any of you, you are going to sit in jail while he is out golfing or watching television or screaming at his remaining staff members because he is not getting is way. It is not in his interest to do anything for you now that you are in trouble and can no longer fight like hell for him. If you are not on his chessboard, he will not be able to move you in his game, and therefore you are of no further use.

He has made it possible for you to lose your personal, actual freedom by telling you to storm the Capitol and “stop the steal”, something that is also untrue. He set the stage long ago by suggesting the election could be stolen and did everything he could, like tampering with the mail service, to see that it could be stolen in his favor. But when Democrats rallied and went to the polls or mailed in ballots in large numbers despite voting restrictions, his ego simply could not understand why someone would not want to vote for him. He was then able to claim the Democrats stole the vote, but do you understand by now, Donald Trump does not ever tell the truth? He is a serial liar, always has been, always will be, and as long as there are gullible disenfranchised people like you who persist in listening to a man with a terrible history of betraying other people, Trump will continue to lie.

The constant in this whole sordid business is that Donald Trump cares for no one but himself. The sooner you followers come to grips with the fact that he betrayed every single person in this country, the sooner you will realize how empty his leadership really was.

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THE HAZARDS OF BEING A WHIPPING BOY

Long ago in the dark history of mankind, princes sometimes had a child of similar age as a playmate. The playmate was able to enjoy many privileges the prince enjoyed; fine clothing, plenty of delicious food, free time to play, things the rest of the empire did not get to enjoy. However, when pampered princes of a realm got into trouble, the prince would not be punished. Instead, his companion to take the prince’s place and received the whipping the prince did not get.

Fast forward to the 21st century.

Today it was reported that, according to Oklahoma Representative Jim Inhofe, Vice President Mike Pence is angry that Trump has turned on him “after all the things I’ve done for him.” Mike Pence appears to be either pretty slow on the uptake or a natural-born citizen of the State of Denial.

I imagine he is having to quietly choke on his anger since it is tempered with the knowledge that if he actually does invoke the 25th, the big red target Trump painted on his ass will get even bigger. Mike Pence sucked up to his boss for the last four years, defending every disgusting or embarrassing thing Trump did and said, watching Trump turn against those lackeys who disagreed with him, SEEING for himself, the despot forming before the nation’s eyes. Pence said nothing, looked away when the rage-filled Tweets issued forth to vilify those who were not kissing presidential ass hard enough.

Now Pence realizes he has joined ranks with those lackeys by actually performing duties of his office as Vice President. He is now feeling the wrath of the man-child-who-would-be-dictator. Pence will be targeted from here on, never knowing what day some right-wing redneck buttflake takes aim at him. The terrorists of January 6 shouted “Hang Mike Pence” and had it not been for the quick thinking of a humble Capitol Hill policeman, they may have done that very thing. That is what those animals wanted. That is the price he might pay for wearing his title of Vice-President under Donald Trump: he and Mother will spend the rest of their lives looking over their shoulders.

I cannot say that I feel sorry for him; after all, he witnessed how Trump treats people. He should have known this day would come. Trump recklessly trampled on every tradition and expectation and normal social stance the 44 presidents before him ever upheld. He broke laws, he offended common sensibilities; hell, if the “Pussy Grabbing” tape did not run a blazing red flag up the pole for Mike “I’m a good Christian” Pence, then he was a willing partner in every rotten shitty thing Trump has done while in office. So no, I do not feel sorry for Pence. That is what happens when you knowingly throw in with criminals, Mike.

Why he is not scrambling to get enough signatures to invoke the 25th and drum the Mad King out of office MIGHT be to lessen Trump’s ire, or possibly to prevent the remaining Cabinet members from similar wrath. I do not know if Mike Pence is that generous, however.

Pence’s political career is in freefall; he could possibly salvage what little dignity he has left if he just publicly admitted what all he has learned while on his watch as Donald Trump’s dickholder. That would be heroic and would require him to be noble. But since he has shown he is capable of independent thought clearly enough to preside over the Electoral certification as he was supposed to, going through with invoking the 25th would go far is repairing his scorched political reputation. He might be able to successfully disappear with Mother into the mist of the Witness Protection Program. He might be able of repair some of his reputation and the history books of the future might not paint him with the same stain as his boss. If – ah – if not for that big red target Donald painted on his ass.

Being a whipping boy is all fun and games unless the pampered prince does not get his way. The whipping boys of yesteryear did not have a choice in their role. Pence is upset now despite knowing he HAD a choice for the past four and a half years. He chose poorly.

Lie down with dogs; rise with mange.

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When the best presents are memories

There are a few of my childhood Christmases that are memorable to me. Most are lost to time now; I know my parents and particularly, my mother struggled to give us as pleasant a holiday as she could every year but when you are poor, you know there’s probably not going to be anything spectacular under the tree. I remember when I was around 4 and Papa earned a good paycheck or bonus (not sure, I was 4 at the time) I received a toy Lassie dog from ‘Santa’ that was my favorite toy for years. I still have it, freshly reupholstered with fake fur. Most of the other years were pretty lean as far as presents went.

Instead, we made memories – our ritual of putting up a tree, of cutting the trunk evenly so it would stay upright in the stand, keeping it watered, decorating the tree and the house, putting up the stockings/ Papa’s clean work socks, of preparing the Christmas dinner together starting the night before, of Mama’s wonderful cooking and her ability to make a scrumptious holiday meal out of what little our pantry offered.

Every year out in the countryside near Iron Post, Papa cut a nice-sized evergreen tree for us to decorate with our delicate glass bulbs from earlier years of largess. We made paper chains to wrap around the tree and made popcorn strings for the same. We learned who would have the honor of hanging the bird ornament on the tree, and we got the giggling secret joy of hearing Papa cuss as he untangled the lights.

Our greater joy was hearing him recite “The Night Before Christmas” with pantomime. Papa had a way of telling a story, and he was more Clement Moore than Clement Moore, himself. I was nine when I heard his final recitation.

I was probably around 11 or 12 when I got a bike. It was a solidly built second-hand model that my sister Ginny repainted a bright green, with a big silver basket on the front. I was stunned, so happy that I got to have a bike like other kids my age! I was relieved it was a used bike, too, because it was bound to have a rough time with me learning to ride on it. A new bike would have made me stressed and nervous about accidentally scratching it up. As it was, I took care of my bike because it was a gift from my family and I knew they must have sacrificed to get it for me.

Then there was the year I turned 13, and most of my sisters were off at college via BIA scholarships, loans or work/study. Mama got me a three-quarter sized guitar at Otasco’s store in Bristow. We went to Otasco – Oklahoma Tire and Supply Company – regularly so Mama could make payments on the tires she had to get for our car. Whenever we went, I stood and admired those guitars hanging on display, and when Mama finished making her payment, she joined me and paused to look them over. I never dreamed she would get one for me; she was so casual about chatting with me to find out what my tastes and style were. Or okay; maybe I was kinda thick and slow on the uptake but the point was, Mama listened to me. And, not being an idiot style of teenager, I enjoyed having conversations with my mom.

It was an inexpensive model as far as guitars go, but to me it was like getting a custom-made Martin. I cried when I opened the box and saw it, because I always loved to hear my eldest sister Annie play her guitar, and now I would be able to join in. It was red in the center and had a burned-black look around the edges front and back and had plastic strings that often went out of tune. I have a pretty good ear so tuning it wasn’t so hard. Annie was home for Christmas that year and taught me some main chords and how to pick and play ‘Wildwood Flower.”

It was a godsend having Annie teach me, as she was patient and calm and crazy talented. She, on the other hand, had learned with a chord fingering chart with Papa hum-singing each note that she had to find by ear. It was not easy for her to learn this way, given Papa had no idea how to play a guitar and dubious humming skills.

I doggedly learned to play and eventually became Mama’s personal jukebox, choosing popular songs of the day that she liked and sang them for her as she made dinner in the evenings. I never learned to cook or properly clean or anything domestic, because Mama was convinced I would be a famous singer and writer some day, and would be able to hire someone to do those chores for me. She also preferred that I sing and play for her instead. She liked her ‘command performances.’

Ah, Mama. You wonderful dreamer. You believed in me more than I did.

It is not Christmas without making memories, and mine happen to be warm and happy, even during the hard times. Maybe because of the hard times, because warmth and happiness are better savored when they are hard won.

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The Future Wears A Bright Little Hat

I wrote about eight paragraphs about my fears of what might happen in the elections this fall, but then I stopped. I do not want to be negative today. Instead, I think I will do something else.

OMG THE CUTENESS IS STRONG IN THIS ONE!

This is the most adorable baby on the entire fucking planet. She is named for her two great-grandmothers and a great-grand-aunt. This is Georgeanne and she is my first grandchild.

She is a happy baby; verbal, giggly, loved by all the other babies at her daycare, admired by all her daycare caregivers and is adored by her parents and grandparents. She was born in the Rocky Mountains during a blizzard and it took eight hours (normally only two) for me to get to the hospital to see her on the day she was born. SO WORTH IT. She captured my heart effortlessly with her little baby sighs, and I have been intrigued ever since.

Oh yes, this is MUCH better than talking politics or religion!

In a less stressful world, I would like to see her grow up to take piano lessons (and stick to them, unlike a certain Grandparent she has because I was such a short-sighted, idle idiot when I was a kid) and take dance lessons (tap, jazz, step, jazz – whatever is her fancy) perhaps do tai chi and practice Tae Kwon Do if she wants to. Georgeanne will be encouraged to be a Renaissance girl.

I would like to see her have a horse (not a pony, those little bastards can be unreasonably mean, I do not care how cute ponies look.) When I was a kid, my sister kept her horse out at a friend’s farm. They had a lot of rideable horses but their older kids were not interested in riding any longer, and their youngest child needed riding companions to ride the trails around their land. We Watson girls were all horse crazy so we gladly took their the horses out for rides to keep the horses gentle. We joined the Round-Up club and barrel raced and did the pole bending competition at the local arena, and just generally had a blast. Georgeanne lives in Colorado so hopefully the chances of her being able to enjoy a similar experience, is possible. I know I had a lot of fun.

Of course she should have chickens and GOATS, and her parents have talked about getting a place where the chickens at least would be possible. Naturally I advocate for the goat part, but then they are the ones who would have to actually take care of them on a day to day basis. Still, I think Georgeanne might like raising goats for 4-H or an FFA group. Her Auntie Laurel has fond memories of doing the same.

I like to think in her future there will be a bike or kick scooter and eventually a really great sports car (okay, I am projecting; I know it.) She will have an eye for fashion and a stunning sense of personal style, like her mum. She already likes to mimic singers on the Music Channel Oldies Station – she was giving Diana Ross a run for her money the other day, yaya-ing along with “In and Out of Love.” Again, I am projecting, but that is what grandparents DO; they imagine the best for their children and grandchildren. Ssh!

She looks exactly, and I do mean EXACTLY, like her beautiful mother, right down to the pert little nose and big brown eyes and irrepressible giggle. She acts a lot like her mother, sweet and smiling but also strong in opinion and outspoken about what is on her mind (the outrage of running out of applesauce! – what fresh hell is this, Gram?!) She also seems to have the patience and grace of her father, as well as his strength.

When she comes to visit Gram I will in the due course of time, introduce her to anime films by Miyazaki (because what kind of responsible grandparent would NOT introduce a beloved child to Miyazaki?!) and Mr. Rogers Neighborhood (because what kind of responsible grandparent would NOT introduce a beloved child to Fred Rogers?!) read the adventures of the Native American trickster Ikatomi, the Harry Potter books and movies, and The Lord of the Rings (again, responsible grandparents, et cetera) She will come to know the wit of Dorothy Parker, the imagination of K L Lance, and the Cowboy Bebop series in her teen years.

I am uncertain what school will be like for her when she is ready to attend, but I anticipate following her progress and hopefully, will be around to offer sage advice and cookies, make costumes for Halloween and school events, and be as good a Gram as I can be. I will probably be a rather unorthodox grandparent, but you can be sure I will be a fiercely loyal and loving one too.

When she is old enough and if she is interested, I will give her access to my Flight of the Armada series. My sons enjoyed it in their teens, and I would like to leave something of mine to pass on for her to enjoy. Of course her mom and I will encourage any interest she has in writing. If there is any gene I like to think I have passed on to my prodigy, it is a love of the craft of writing.

I look forward to seeing this wonderful child grow up. That is why I fight to make the future hopeful for her.

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PARADOX: THE EVOLUTION OF THEOLOGY

Stridently religious people like to announce that people are leaving Christianity because Liberals/ Higher Education/ Modern Music/ Hollyweird/ Boomers/ Other is influencing too many people. No, I am not talking about good people in the world who are generous and considerate and accepting through the inspiration of a man who is said to have lived two thousand years ago. Let me make this clear: Hey you Evangelicals/ Christians/ Holier Than Thou hypocrites, people are leaving Christianity because you idiots have proven what a fucked-up bunch you really are.

The latest example of the rotten apple does not fall far from the tree: Jerry Falwell Jr, the spawn of original Christian huckster Jerry Falwell, was booted from Christian college Liberty University because a business associate of his revealed today (8/24/2020) that he had a long-term sexual relationship with Falwell and Falwell’s wife, in which Falwell watched while Mrs. F and their Business FuckBuddy had sex. This news comes after the revelation of photos showing Reverend Falwell the Lesser with a young lady, and both of their pants zippers were undone. Given the proliferation of Prosperity Gospel and Do As I Say And Not As I Do culture, it was only a matter of time before its ugly underbelly rolled over for exposure to the world.

As I have stated elsewhere, I grew up trying to figure out what Christianity was all about, because nobody explained anything to me as a kid. I think I was better off not knowing anything because what I have learned is, Christianity is a big disappointment that does not live up to its hype. Its roots were founded in a small sect of people known as the Hebrews, who believed they were the Chosen People of God because IT SAYS SO RIGHT HERE ON THIS SCROLL, this scroll we call the Torah, and it is all true because WE SAID SO. The Torah became the Old Testament that Christians love to quote and memorize and share fun trivia quizzes about, despite those stories promoting murder, incest, abuse, war, rape, degradation, and other negative values. Contradictions abound. My least favorite tale is the one about Abraham, who was supposedly told by God to offer up his son as a sacrifice to God, only to have God say at the last minute, “Never mind, I was just testing you to see if you really believed in Me. Here, sacrifice this ram instead.” Never mind that the child was no doubt traumatized; I know I would have been if my dad tied me up and was seconds away from going stabby-stabby with a knife. You are not supposed to test God but apparently it is perfectly acceptable if God tests you. The God of Abraham also played cruel tricks on one of His most loyal followers named Job simply to see if Job remained loyal. God does not have to play by the rules because God is omnipotent and makes His own rules. We know that is true because someone said it was true.

That whole ‘true because someone said it was true’ became a pattern later on in the Christian religion, which called the Torah texts The Old Testament. And in order to bring on the sequel, The New Testament starts out reeling off the lineage of their chosen people from the First Man, Adam, just to give that It Is All True claim a boost. And of course according to the patriarchy who spawned it, the lineage is all traced through the fathers until they get to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Sorry, Eve; you and all the other mothers throughout history have to take two steps back. Patriarchy stinks.

The New Testament starts with a handful of uplifting, marvelous stories about a nice Jewish boy named Jesus who said insightful things and set good examples for others to follow. This Jesus was pretty admirable and did a lot of good deed, wept when he was sad and even lost his temper when moneychangers disrespected Jesus’s dad. Because Jesus’s Dad was GOD. And Jesus’s Mom was a virgin when she gave birth to him. And it’s TRUE because the Bible SAYS SO. Jesus hung around with a bunch of frankly stupid followers who barely understood parables, during a time when shepherds could not explain why the moon and sun moved across the sky, but somehow these simple unsophisticated people were supposed to command a firm grasp of theological nuance. Jesus was killed in a really gruesome way, ordered by a group of people who followed the Torah and did not like the way Jesus showed them up just by being a decent, reasonable fellow who knew the rules of the Torah better than they did. This was apparently supposed to happen, and Jesus was okay with it, although He did kind of hope God would step in at the last minute and put a stop to it the way He did with Abraham and son. But no, Jesus suffered and died – but then after three days He was resurrected and went to Heaven, and is now at God’s right hand.

That is the main takeaway of the Christian religion: Jesus lives forever in Heaven, He conquered death, follow Jesus and you can live forever too. Never mind about all of people who lived before Jesus’s time or during Jesus’s time or in the early centuries after Jesus’s time – we do not know if any of those people get a pass and go to Heaven too by default. There’s a lot of fuzziness involved in theology because whoever patched the stories of the Bible together, did not cover some subjects adequately. These fuzzy areas are open for “interpretation” but then, it all is.

After several decades of being persecuted for being a strange cult that turned a death watch-turned-eternity celebration into a religion, this nice little cult of Jesus got hijacked by European rulers who used the cult’s dogma to rule their subjects through fear. Love God or Die. Everyone jumped on the bandwagon, and soon that nice Jewish boy’s heartwarming messages of Love Thy Neighbor and Do Unto Others and Beatitudes That Mean Something, turned into a Shame Game where you had to believe in Jesus or you would burn in Hell for eternity. You have to give up everything your culture believes in because Christianity is True Because We Said It Is. Then Christianity splintered off as other people made up new rules, because human beings are fallible and they draw up the rules. None of that really matters since it was all made up in the first place.

It was not enough that this Cult-Turned-Major-Religion preached of Brotherly Love on one hand and preached Come Out And Be Ye Separate on the other hand. No, these religious firebrands were compelled to force every culture they came into contact with, to believe as they did, or the heathens were killed for not being Christians. KILLED. Never mind that one of the laws the Torah promoted – remember the Torah, the thing that is true because a group of people said it was? – the rule Thou Shalt Not Kill. Christians killed anyway, killed heathen Native Americans and heathen Asians and heathen Aborigines, and heathen Celts and Druids and Africans and Muslims and Hindi and EVEN KILLED OTHER CHRISTIANS, for not being the ‘right kind’ of Christian!

Never mind that the Holy Trinity of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost promoted God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son as a sacrifice so believers could live in eternity, because that loving God also threatens the world with Hellfire and Damnation if you don’t appreciate him enough. He is the Only God in the Universe, and yet He is wildly jealous of ‘other gods’. And to many Christians, this is the only world, THE only world, God made. How shortsighted; how selfish; how myopic. I will give you another example: Patriarchy rules the Bible, and women are regularly cast as ‘temptresses’ and are of lesser worth than men. Eve tempted Adam, but Adam buckled. Adam could have said no but then as now, Adam thinks with his dick.

It is a direct result of this sordid history, that there is very little true morality within the Christian religion. Oh, there are those Christians who are genuinely kind and take the words of the Jesus at face value, and actually practice His teachings. But Christianity is, by and large, based in the practice of discrimination. You cannot preach morals while supporting actions which go against the very words their Son of God spoke, and yet this occurs at every turn. They even printed Jesus’s words in RED, so cult members could marvel at his kindness and humility and selflessness and understanding, while they pick and choose whether to practice any of those things. It is so much easier to follow rules when you can change them to suit your comfort.

Yes, I admit that I have become jaded about Christianity at this point in my life, and the pure curiosity and wonder I once had about it has curdled with cynicism and doubt. I searched for God for decades – even did time as a Catholic for thirty years – only to find myself come full circle. I do not know any more about the Christian God than I did when I was a child. I do not believe in The Flying Spaghetti Monster or Scientology or any other such bullshit because I know those things are recent inventions. I am a Deist. The God I believe in is not the same one Abraham had. My God is not the God who turns a blind eye to people like Jerry Falwell Jr. while allowing honorable people to suffer. The God who inspired the Old Testament and New Testament is not my God, because that Old/New Testament God claims to love the world but does nothing about the pain and suffering on it. Why? What is the God of Abraham trying to prove now?

My God has evolved in my mind over the years, because I could not understand why so many terrible things have happened throughout history if there was a benevolent God. I believe my God created the universe and then stepped back and said, “Let’s see what happens.” It is not that He does not care; it is more like He did not make any promises. He provided the universe with the elements of life and is now observing how some world cultures across the universe develop and grow, and some cultures develop and die out. Perhaps the souls of our ancestors are looking out after us in small ways, and we call these souls ‘angels’. Oh, I believe in angels; one saved me from terrible injury and perhaps death once. I felt it protect me, and that feeling is unshakable within me. I like to think perhaps my God occasionally takes a hand in helping individuals – but then why? Why this person and not that one? I have no answers, just the ones that work for me. He is still evolving in my mind.

There may be an ultimate destiny for each of us, and when we die we will look back over our brief moment on this Earth and say “Oh, so that’s why such-and-such happened.” Or we might simply be one tiny pinball in a gigantic game of random bumps and bats, and when we die we will go on to something entirely different that is far beyond my imagination to craft. I do believe in alien cultures from other worlds and who knows, maybe they inspired our folklore. Maybe that folklore was misinterpreted and is what The Old Testament is actually based on. Maybe. Maybe when I die I will find out, and by then it will not matter because I will be dead and it will be past time to say “hmm, well I was wrong about that.”

One thing I do know, is that Christianity did not evolve simply through virtue. It is a haphazardly crafted system full of hypocrisy. I am not surprised that people like Falwell are making it self-destruct.

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False faith

“It’s a bible.”
Did you hear Trump, Christians, when a reporter asked if the book he was carrying was his?
“It’s a bible.”
Listen to the way he said it, watch the way he held it. It didn’t matter to him; it was just a book he had someone hand to him, a book that other people seemed to care about. A book that he could display in a shameless photo op in front of a church he never attended, in order to curry favor with a particular demographic. A book that his voice did not capitalize. Why should he? It was a bible, just a bible.
“Look here,” Trump’s display suggested. “Look at me, I’m standing here in front of this handy church building, holding up this bible book, so this must prove I’m a Christian. And because you are too cowardly to question whether I am sincere or simply using you, you’ll follow me and ignore my actions. You’ll feed on what you choose to interpret what I say, and not what I actually say, not on what I do. You choose to stand for Trump instead of Christ.”
You… you do know they are not one in the same, don’t you?
Trump is the same kind of “Christian” as those who would approve of caging small children in dog pens for months on end, the same kind of “Christian” as those who think it’s acceptable to systematically brutalize and terrorize and kill people of color, the same kind of “Christian” who thinks Prosperity Gospel has anything to do with the teachings of Christ. That is to say, no real Christian at all.
When are in-name-only “Christians” going to realize this man who accuses actual working governors of weakness while he hides inside his presidential bunker, is a nothing but charlatan? That he cares more about his popularity and poll numbers than he does about people’s health and safety, that he vilifies people who ask him straightforward questions and do not grovel at his feet? That his pride and ego are what matters most to him?
He is doing the very thing that you “Christians” have been worrying about for years: pretending to follow God’s law when he is actually the very antithesis of what Jesus taught. An Anti-Christ, if you will. But oh no, because he claims to be a Christian now you will follow him into Hell regardless of the many, many other wrongs he has done and continues to do. Because you can stick him under the umbrella of “oh, but he’s changed, he’s born again, he’s washed in the blood of Jesus!” you can sleep at night.
Oh, he’s washed in blood, all right. He’s awash in the blood of the marginalized and downtrodden. He’s awash in the blood being spilled because of his inaction to crisis and his venomous words encouraging violence. There’s blood all over his hands and by extension, there’s blood all over yours.
Stop supporting this unholy man.
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Eulogy for a friend

Jay second gradejan second gradeWhen I was in the second grade, my family moved from Bristow to Gypsy. I was shy, the youngest child of my family and therefore the one least prepared for new places and upheaval. I went to the small school and discovered there were only three other girls in my class, and Jan Donaldson was one of them.

I was impressed by even at that age, how confidently she carried herself and how friendly she was. I was a gawky kid laden with self-esteem issues in awe of a girl who seemed to be at the center of everything.  In third and fourth grade I was tormented by a cruel teacher, and all I knew was my own pain and distress. When my family moved to Depew I did not see Jan again until our eighth grade year when she came to Depew.

She had not changed; she was still the smart, active, sociable girl she was back in Gypsy. She had no enemies in our class or in our school, popular from the first day she walked into the classroom. It was unthinkable to me that anyone would be at odds with her. All through high school, other girls might be petty or shallow or mean, but Jan was never that way.

She was consistently voted as an officer in our class and in many of the school clubs. She led our basketball team to championships, enthusiastic about school traditions and even made her own prom dress, as I recall. We all went to Rockaway Beach for the Senior Trip after graduation. When we returned to school and went our separate ways, it was the last time I saw her for many years.

 

Jan sr yr

Jan, Senior class President

Jay sr yr

Jay, Senior class Secretary

 

Now and then I heard about reunions Depew held but I did not attend them. I finally decided to attend in 2012 and Jan made sure I got the application. My kids were grown so I was by myself when I pulled into town. I had no one close by I could stay with that weekend, so Jan and Erwin graciously invited me to stay with them at their place on Highway 48. We stayed up and talked long into the night.

Jan and I discovered we shared so many similarities in our lives – she also was a younger member of a large family; she had the same dread and fear of our third/fourth grade teacher; her father had the same weakness for alcohol as mine; she had the same kind of hero-worship for her older sister that I had of mine. I was astonished to learn she had the same sort of self-doubt as a teen, as I had. She always seemed so confident! I had no idea she grew up Catholic – of course not, Depew was not the sort of place to announce that you were anything but a Protestant – while as a teen I had been keenly curious about that faith. Had I only known, that was another thing we might have shared!

She suffered so many personal challenges and tribulations in the course of her life, caught in a bad early marriage, surviving a gunshot, losing beloved family members. But you would never know it when looking into those bright eyes or listening to that sweet Okie drawl. She would give you the shirt off her back and the last pie from her pantry. She and Erwin were as warm and generous as any pair of people I ever knew. She could spin a yarn with the best of them, utilizing her self-effacing charm to great effect. Erwin always gazed at her like a happy love-struck cowboy who could not believe his luck in winning her over. I returned to several class reunions, looking forward to their company. I always wound up helping her and Judy prepare for the reunion but it never seemed like work. It was like hanging out with a sister.

reunion (2)

2014 Depew Reunion. We had a great time reminiscing with old chums.

I cannot believe she is gone. I am still wishing the phone call I got from our mutual friend and former classmate Brenda was just a strange sad dream, that there was no car wreck to rob us of both Jan and Erwin.

 

I am not attending Jan’s Celebration of Life event this June largely because of the concern over Covid-19, but also so I can plausibly deny to myself that Jan Donaldson Christensen is dead. Oh, I know the truth; I am not delusional. Wishing does not bring anyone back.

But in my mind Jan is still there in Depew baking pies in the oven of her shop on Main Street, greeting visitors as if they are her closest friends, making all sorts of activity plans with Judy. Sometimes she is the small blonde-haired girl with a wide toothy grin, swinging from the maypole at Gypsy School, or a lithe teenager making a jumpshot in the Depew High gymnasium. In my mind Jan is still talking and laughing and breathing and LIVING. That’s the way I want to remember her.

 

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Home is where you hang your hat

Ever since I moved to Denver in 2017 I have lived in the same 500-sq-ft apartment. I like the convenient location; it’s only two miles from my workplace so I often walked to or from work. There is a bus route two blocks away, and if I ever need to use the light rail there are rail stations only a mile away. The rent is the cheapest for its size in Denver, I think. It was completely renovated before I moved in, so the paint was fresh and the appliances, toilet and sinks were new.

Oh there are a few drawbacks too – what is life without a drawback now and then? The apartment complex used to be a motel so my front door faces the side of the yard, and my back door stares at a neighbor’s back door separated by a sidewalk to take the trash bins to the alley. The walls are chiefly plaster-covered cement blocks, so IF you can hammer a nail into it, you’d better be hanging something really lightweight. Sometimes I can hear a neighbor talking loudly in his/her apartment on either side of me, but most of the time I don’t hear a thing. Oh, and my windows are plexiglass with the old-fashioned crank-to-open feature – the only thing that wasn’t updated. Other apartments have been updated with new double-paned windows but they haven’t gotten around to mine. Probably won’t until after I eventually move out. There’s no yard but there are some pretty bold squirrels in the tree on the other side of the fence, so even a little container garden will get picked over before the first edible ripens.

Otherwise this is an ideal place for me. It’s small so housekeeping is simple. I’ve learned to consolidate items on the bookshelves for maximum effect. I’ve had to downsize and as a result, must have tossed out a few things I really wanted to keep because now I can’t find them. On the other hand, I’m currently working at home so I can further free up my closet if I need to find more space.

The kitchen is not a bad size at all for a single person, although there isn’t enough cabinet space. The radiant heat panels along two baseboards do not allow the refrigerator to move to make a handier configuration, but all the appliances are brand-spanking new. Not much counter space, but the stove is regular sized. I used to live in a house in Marfa Texas with a HUGE kitchen and a TINY stove so all in all, this works.

The bathroom is small but I like it that way. I’ve seen HGTV shows where people have these massive luxurious bathrooms and I shiver at the sight – Jeebus their heating bills must be enormous! The first month I lived here I went to the hardware store to buy some thin cedar boards, screws and small L-brackets, and threw together some simple shelving for the bathroom because – yep – nothing but the sink cabinet. I also got an over-the-tank shelf unit and use a little wooden table/footstool/ I don’t know what category it’s in, to hold my towels when I shower. The window is composed of square glass bricks with an unsightly vent in the center of the configuration. Fine; I don’t have to do any window treatments for privacy.

In hindsight I should have brought two small cedar wardrobes my mother-in-law said I could have, but I packed the moving truck by myself and couldn’t wrangle the wardrobes around the corner and up the incline to the driveway from the basement. I could have really used them, and mentally kick myself for not asking a neighbor for help. Oh well, it’s not the first error in judgment I’ve made in my life and it won’t be the last, I’m sure.

My daughter had some furniture waiting for me out here, so I didn’t have to move a bed, a dresser, a bookcase or a table and chairs. She later gave me a love seat, which is the perfect size for my little living room.  I brought several small tables with me and considering I can’t have much on the walls, are handy to have. I did bring my nice drop-leaf side table, which now serves as my coffee-maker and hot pot station.

And oh lord yes, I have my Goat collection on display on some shelves that I used the last of my power drill to put the screws into the wall before the battery died. It was at that time I realized I did not pack the battery charger with it. Dammit! I also have my mother’s miniature pitcher collection on display in two CD cabinet shelves. I probably need to install some plexiglass sheets over the front of it to keep the dust off, but there are more pressing needs than that. My other hobbies are kept tidy in bins – cloth for sewing, yarn for knitting, a couple of hand-built looms for weaving. I keep most of my supplies in a plastic three-drawer system so all my beadwork and supplies are in there, too.

Home is wherever you hang your hat. I like living alone; I can do what I feel like doing when I want to do it. If I want to fix a fancy meal or just feast on a single bowl of lentils, it’s my decision. I don’t know anyone who lives nearby so I could count the number of visitors I’ve had on one hand, literally on one hand. Still, just in case someone does drop in I like to keep my place neat and tidy. Well, I do NOW. It took me DECADES to learn how to keep house properly but that is primarily because I had other priorities I deemed more important, like spending time with my children so they would never feel they were less important than scrubbing a tub. Now I enjoy doing things in my own time. Tom Waits nailed it on the head in his song Better Off Without A Wife:

I can sleep until the crack of noon/ Midnight howlin’ at the moon/ Goin’ out when I want to/ Comin’ home when I please/ Don’t have to ask permission/ If I wanna go out fishin’/ Never have to ask for the keys

I hear you, Tom.

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