Saturday, August 23, 2014

Dear White Mom

Reblogged from BonBon Break written by Keesha Beckford:

Dear White Mom:

I’m writing this to you as a friend, as a dear friend. We’ve shared so much over the years, before kids – blissfully ignorant childhoods, angsty teenage years, the discovery and recklessness and uncertainty of college and early adulthood, and now this. Motherhood. We’ve been there for each other all the time – through birth plans gone awry, breastfeeding, being so sleep deprived we don’t know if we’re wearing shoes, picky eaters, husbands who appear to be working against us, discipline, the mean moms at the playground, everything. I don’t know how I’d be here without you, and I hope you feel the same about me.

I love you, girl, you know I do.

But now I need something. My heart hurts so much I can barely stand. I don’t ask for much — you know I hate asking for anything, but now I need help, desperately, and so I’m going to put myself out there.

Michael Brown was recently shot. I know you know who that is. You’d have to have your head under a rock, and I don’t befriend women — people–like that. Another young black male, unarmed, shot dead by a policeman, or some white person who just thought he was in the wrong, simply because he had brown skin. The list is growing, weekly apparently, so much so that it seems like it’s open season on black men and boys. Boys like the little guy I have at home.

Read more....

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Relax, NOTHING is under control

Surprise! After all that most unzenlike palavering, I survived my thallium stress test just fine.

Ian took me in the wheelchair which meant I didn't have to walk, which is the most tiring thing I can do, and we didn't know if I'd be in any shape to walk out or not. The gargoyles who ran the clinic I went to before have apparently all flown back to Hades, or wherever they came from because these new folks were so very nice.

First off they got me into the little cubicle and started the IV drip, then they wheeled me off to the testing area where there is a highway-sized treadmill. First they reassured me that they were under orders not to do a standard treadmill test, because Dr. Connelly didn't want my hip joint stressed. (Bless him!)

I got a drug injected into the IV line by a wildly cheerful and funny cardiologist. He was a riot. He assured me I was in good hands, as he rarely killed anyone and that was from laughing because he got his medical degree from clown college. I got a little light headed, but Dr. Silly was assuring me that was because of his good looks. After a few minutes they injected the thallium, which basically means I can find myself in the dark for a few days. I did about two-three slow minutes on the treadmill to diffuse the thallium into my system. Then it was off to the dreaded camera room.

Hoorah! New camera! Instead of the old rotating tin barrel you now lie on a semi comfortable gurney, your arms still have to go up above your head, but your shoulders and arms are supported by a cradle, and I took my special neck pillow to keep my head from rolling off onto the floor.

There's a round half-cylinder that moves down over your chest right below your chin, which kind of creeped me out (flashbacks to that iron lung thing) but I had prepared for it mentally and started running one of my favourite movies in my head. (You didn't actually believe that moving stream thing did you? For 25 minutes?) But this test lasted only 8 minutes. I hardly got to the scene where they discover the mysterious building at the end of the dirt road before they had me out of there.

Then Dr. Clown College came to get me and pushed me full speed down the hall to the CT scanner yelling, "Oriental behind the wheel, everybody know Chinese not know how to drive!" He chased a couple of techs around corners, while they scrambled out of the way, yelling "Crazy China man! Where you get license to drive that thing?"

The CT scan was over almost as quickly as it started. Two minutes. Then it was back to the cubicle, IV line out, strict orders that I could not eat yet, but I could drink water, diet pop, black coffee or plain tea. A volunteer brought me a diet coke. It was 11:00 and I had to be back at 2:30 to be scanned again. No food till after the final scanning.

Ian needed breakfast so we stopped at a place where he got a nice omelet and potatoes and CAWFEE. I don't like it black, so I had a diet coke. It was cold and raining so we were able to make a grocery run for fruit and stuff and bring it home before heading back to the clinic.

I had my scan and we stopped so I could eat. It was 3:15 and I hadn't eaten since a small snack at 10:00 the night before. I was ready to eat a table leg.

I should have trusted the Buddha's advice. Leave tomorrow's worries for tomorrow. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Mali Market in the Morning

Our August KIVA loan goes to the Djiguiya Group, six friends who live in Bamako Mali. All are married women who live in the traditional polygamous households found in Mali. They are, on average, 38 years old and have four children.

The women all live in Daoudabougou neighbourhood and know one another through their neighbourhood savings groups and their businesses. They sell vegetables, clothing, basic food staples like oil, rice, dried beans and fish.

In order to increase their working capital, the group members have decided to work with Soro Yiriwaso, a partner of Save the Children. This will be their first group loan.

Aïssata (sitting on the far left in the photo) is a successful fruit and vegetable seller at the Ouolofobougou Market. She plans to use her loan to buy two large sacks of onions, a basket of tomatoes and a basket of cabbages from the wholesale market. She will then resell them at the market by the pound at retail prices, mostly to women shopping for ingredients for the day's meals.

Aïssata expects to achieve a monthly average profit equivalent to about $80 USD, which she will use to reinvest in her business and meet some of the needs of her children. She is relying on her partnership with Soro Yiriwaso to achieve her goal of enlarging her business by allowing her to buy a wider range of vegetables at wholesale prices.

This was our 63rd loan and it cost us nothing at all, as we had $33.00 come back as repayments from individuals we have loaned to in recent months. All we needed to do was decide where and to whom we wanted to loan our $25.00. KIVA is a non-profit that allows you to lend as little as $25 to a specific low-income entrepreneur across the globe.

We've made loans to people in 27 different countries. You choose who to lend to — a baker in Afghanistan, a goat herder in Uganda, a farmer in Peru, a carpenter in Mongolia or a woman in Mali who sells vegetables in the local market  — and as they repay their loan, you get your money back. It's a powerful and sustainable way to empower someone right now to lift themselves out of poverty.
Feel free to join us!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Oh bittens n bytes

Mama's big baby - Smokey Joe
Day whatever of the declutter challenge. I have lost count but I have managed to get rid of something most days. One day I trashed a stack of 40 or more old washcloths which were so disreputable I only used them to clean the cat's bum.

Leads me to wonder if I didn't have a washcloth fetish at some point in my life? I've used a puff for years so all I need are a few washcloths to use for the aforementioned cat bum duty and for cleaning rags.

I am beginning to wonder if all is well between my ears, but this morning I explained a very complex biological process to a newly diagnosed patient, so I think it's more a case of my brain simply not processing information when I'm really tired.

My appointment at the Connective Tissue Clinic was both a disaster and an excellent experience. Since my fingers and brain seem to be no longer reliably connected I wrote down the wrong dates for both the echocardiogram I was supposed to have before seeing the cardiologist and the date and time for the cardiology appt. I missed the echo appt, but the clinic called and re-booked, as sweet and kind as could be.

The day of the cardiologist's appt I was almost an hour late. Again they were totally sweet, never even commented on my tardiness. I did call ahead and apologize profusely at 1:00 when I looked at the letter they sent me with directions to the Clinic and realized I wrote 2:00 in my diary when the letter they sent asked me to be there at 1:00. But it didn't seem to matter. The cardiologist and his student were wonderful, unhurried, funny, relaxed and very thorough.

Now I have to have a thallium stress test, which I've had before and am not anticipating with any excitement. I was in an iron lung as a toddler and quite aside from the test I am very averse to small tight spaces. (You may read this as, "She panics and wants to scream and claw her way out".) I cannot have anything with caffeine in it for 24 hours prior to the test, including my pain meds. I can't take anything by mouth after midnight the night before the test and it's scheduled an hour and a half before I am even awake most days.

I am going to start the test weak and in pain. My grumpy hip is going to roll out of its socket on that bleeding treadmill, and after they have run you into the ground they inject you with a radioactive dye and put you in a tight totally dark cylindrical container with your elbows bent and your hands tucked under your head (this will cause my shoulders to roll from their sockets).

The cylinder is 1/2" from the end of your nose, you have to lie absolutely still because it rotates. The earplugs they give you do little to dampen the noise. Sounds like a bush hog in a clear cut. Hopefully they will have sped up the process since the last time I had it done. There's a camera associated with the cylinder, the whole apparatus looks like it's attached to a big C-Clamp, so the camera rotates around you. In between heartbeats it takes a picture of your heart from every angle and you have to hold your breath every time it takes a picture.

This process takes roughly half an hour, but the entire testing procedure runs to about four hours. I've never like having my picture taken to start with and this studio is run by Lucifer and his attendants. Or at least cooked up by him. I'd cry if it would do any good but I've learned that sort of thing is useless, so I'm mentally preparing myself to do what I did last time. Meditate on a moving stream of water surrounded by ferns and dappled sunlight.

Oh look, there's a minnow now. Smokey and I are going to follow him and see where he goes...

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Decluttering and my missing brain cell

Oh, you know me. I got too busy being two cats' mama, and a host of other foolish things and didn't post my day 2 declutter: two pairs of slacks, actually surgical scrubs which are very comfy for gardening but the fabric of these is nothing short of a cat hair magnet. Throw them in the laundry with anything else and they will pull every cat hair from everything else, which is handy I suppose, but it makes them unwearable, unless you live above the Arctic Circle. OUT OUT DAMN SLACKS!

Day 3: 2/3 of a pool noodle, which I will count as an item, whether it's only 2/3rds or not. I use the remaining 1/3 to stretch my back and try to get ribs to pop back into place, but the other 5 feet of it I don't need. The second item is a shirt with a hood I never wear, and the 3rd a T-shirt which must have been a joke in the factory - "Look what we send to the round-eyes!" It is the weirdest fit ever, as it's cut on the bias. Why I've left it in the closet so long I will never ever know and will not argue over.

I have a busy day ahead with a list of a dozen "must-dos" to ready myself for an appointment with the Connective Tissue Clinic, and my brain and mouth are totally unsynchronized. I switched the top cover on our bed for another one. Tony asked what I did with cover number one, so I blithely answered, "I put it in the fridge!" Granted there's room as I desperately need to grocery shop, but I actually meant the closet. Took me three tries to get it right.

Now I have to go make an updated list of the meds I take, what my allergies are, print out information on a brace I want to ask questions about and order some refills from the pharmacy. And while I can write coherently (I think) my speech has taken leave of my senses and is off on a beach somewhere playing in the mud. Trust me to choose a muddy beach!

Oh fiddle! It even smells bad, or that may have been the cat. He looks at me with such love and then emits the most appalling stench.  Arghh.. time to quit.

Have you discarded anything yet? A 20 pound cat may be on my list tomorrow if he doesn't stop doing that.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

The 30-Day Declutter Challenge

How it Works
Right off the bat I'll admit that I've borrowed this idea from Next Avenue's: Take the 30-Day Declutter Challenge

The idea is to throw out or give away one item on Day 1, two on Day 2, three on Day 3 and so on for 30 days, at which point you will have jettisoned 465 items.

This challenge is propelled by both philosophical and practical reasons. The more stuff we have the harder it is to keep clean.

Today is day 1 for me and I have thrown away a wretched pair of socks, one that crawls down my ankles and slides under my heels to bunch up under my instep. I don't know why I haven't gotten rid of them ages ago.

So I invite you to join me in the 30-Day Clutter Challenge, and post your progress in the comments.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Is there ever an argument for war?

I keep seeing bodies of tiny Palestinian babies, days or weeks old on the news, killed by Israeli bombs, mortars and shells, and want to scream, "What are you thinking? Don't you know that hate breeds only hate?"

I knew two survivors of the Nazi death camps, a couple who had met afterwards and married. Both lost their entire families in the Holocaust. So one cannot blame Jews for feeling threatened, wherever they are, when they see Anti-Semitism.

WWII need never have happened. The reason no one challenged Hitler to begin with, as he began his campaign to wipe out Germany's Jews, was because Anti-Semitism was as rife in England, France, America and Canada as it was in the countries bordering Germany. No one cared about what Hitler was doing to the Jews, or those who cared were too few, and too politically weak to make their governments care. 

And after the war ended, Europe's Jews wanted to be safe, and while there was sympathy for what they had gone through no other country was willing to take them. Palestine was a British Colony, and Britain did what all nations have done to/with their colonies since the colonial system was born. Without giving a thought to the problems the "solution" of "giving" Palestine to the Jews would cause.  But giving them a mythic homeland  they hadn't seen in 2000 years meant displacing Palestinians who had lived there all that time.

This would be like today's politicians giving ownership of Eastern Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey back to my ancestors the Lenape, who lived there for 10,000 years before Europeans arrived and took it from them.

Mark out a tiny quarter where all of today's non-Lenape residents of Eastern Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey could live, herd them all in there, build a wall around them and then turn every house, store, building, roadway park and cemetery over to the Lenape. Lock, stock, barrel. I can imagine New Jersey Governor Chris Christy's face now. Oh, he doesn't look  happy!

There'd be a war. And anyone with any sense would say, "You can't just overturn 400 years of history, and take what people have worked for all their lives from them! You can't stuff millions of people into warren-like living conditions and deprive them of adequate food, water, medical supplies and the amenities of life without causing a rebellion!"

Yet that is precisely what has been done to the Palestinian people, and yet Israel has been cast as the victim when Palestinian anger and frustration boils over and they react with violence. You think the people in Jersey City wouldn't react with violence under the same conditions? 

Israeli politicians refer to their periodic invasions and destruction of Palestinian Territory as "mowing the lawn".  Many Israelis feel sympathy for the Palestinians and don't like the policies of their government, but their voices are drowned out by the rumble of the arms trade. In America there are fundamental Christians who urge government to arm Israel with the latest and biggest weapons in order to hasten what they believe will be the Battle of Armageddon, which they believe will bring on the destruction of Jerusalem and the "Rapture". 

Those of us who have no such delusions understand that we and the generations following ours will have to live in the world we are destroying with our greed and our ethnic and religious hatreds and would prefer to follow a different path. 

It's time people of peace everywhere rose up and with one voice demanded a better way, a different way, of dealing with each other, in the Middle East and elsewhere.  There is a petition here: Peace.Now   seeking to collect a billion signatures from people living in countries all over the world asking each government to create a Department or Ministry of Peace, just as they have a Department or Ministry of War, fund and staff it, and use it to seek non-violent solutions to our problems.

Grievances need to be heard and dealt with, before they eat the heart of a people and they feel violence is the only solution left. Please, join me today in signing this petition and become an ambassador for peace. When you sign, you will receive a free screening of the celebrated 20-minute film, Admissions, winner of 25 International Awards, starring Academy Award® nominee, James Cromwell. And pass on the petition to others, so they can sign as well. There must be a billion of us who are tired of war by now.    

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A stroll through the late July garden

A stroll through the garden in late July finds quite a few flowers in bloom. The poppies have finished, as have the lovely mauve verbenas and lavender mints, but the roses are beautiful.

The yellow will bloom steadily now until frost. Their blossoms are about 2.5 inches across.

I have a red one like this right next to it but for some unknown reason I didn't get a picture.

The pink minis will bloom until frost as well, the blossoms are only about an inch wide.These are out in the front bed at curbside.

This rose was planted before my time. The plant is about four feet tall, rangy but the colours are fantastic. They are fucshia when they open but the petals are white at the base, making them look almost transparent. The rose is surrounded by wolf willow which has silver foliage and is a perfect foil for the radiant pink of the rose.

The shasta daisies are at their best now, with about half a dozen large mounds of cheerful blooms. 

Still waiting for the echinaceas to open, there are dozens of bristling buds on their three-foot high stalks, but they are not in any hurry to petal out.

Closer to the entry the lime hosta, veronica, astilbes and ligularia are all doing well. The astilbes are just getting started, and the ligularia leaves are starting to show up. 

A close-up of the veronica - can you spot the visiting bee?

Enough for the moment. I spent about half an hour weeding today but the black cedar mulch was a great idea. The weeds root in that top 2" of mulch and can be yanked out with practically no effort.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Talking at cross-purposes

Let us eavesdrop a moment on the "peace" talks, you know, the meetings where diplomats and mighty poo-bahs with testosterone-fueled egos sit around tables in fancy hotels and give fancy speeches, and pretend to listen to each other, all with the aim of stopping the armies, the bombs, the bazookas and tanks, the slaughter of women and children.  If we could hear what actually goes on I imagine it is exactly as this old story told of two debating monks.


Provided he proposes and wins a debate about Buddhism with the monks who live there, any wandering monk can enter and remain in a Zen temple. If he is defeated, he has to move on.

In a small temple in northern Japan two monks dwelt together as brothers. The elder one was learned, but the younger one was stupid and had but one eye.

A wandering monk came to the door late one day and asked to enter their temple, properly challenging them to a debate. The elder monk, tired and aching in his old bones, told the younger monk to take his place. "Go and debate him, but request the dialogue take place silence," he cautioned.

So the young monk and the stranger went to the shrine and sat down.

Shortly afterwards the traveler rose and went in to the elder brother and said, "Your young brother is a wonderful fellow. He has defeated me."

The elder monk was astonished. "Relate the dialogue to me," he said.

"Well," explained the traveler, "first I held up one finger, representing Buddha, the enlightened one. So he held up two fingers, signifying Buddha and his teaching. I held up three fingers, representing Buddha, his teaching, and his followers, living life in harmony. Then he shook his clenched fist in my face, indicating that all three come from one realization. Thus he won and so I have no right to remain here. I will travel further." With this, he bowed and took his leave.

"Where is that insolent fellow?" asked the younger one, running in to his elder brother.

"I understand you won the debate."

"Won nothing! When I catch him I'm going to beat him up."

"Tell me the subject of the debate," asked the elder one.

"Why, the minute he saw me he held up one finger, insulting me by pointing out that I have only one eye. Since he was a stranger I thought I would be polite to him, so I held up two fingers, congratulating him that he has two eyes. Then the impolite wretch held up three fingers, laughing that then between us we have three eyes. So I got mad and was going to punch him, but he jumped up and ran away from me, and that ended it!"

Friday, July 25, 2014

Beyond a wholesome discipline…

There once was a monastery where the rules were very strict. Following a vow of silence, no one was allowed to speak at all. But every 10 years, each monk was permitted to speak just two words.

After spending his first 10 years at the monastery, one monk went to the head monk. “It has been 10 years,” said the head monk. “What are the two words you would like to speak?”

“Bed… hard…” said the monk.

“I see,” replied the head monk.

Ten years later, the monk returned to the head monk’s office. “It has been 10 more years,” said the head monk. “What are the two words you would like to speak?”

“Food… stinks…” said the monk.

“I see,” replied the head monk.

Yet another 10 years passed and the monk once again met with the head monk who asked, “What are your two words now, after these 10 years?”

“I… quit!” said the monk.

“Well, I can see why,” replied the head monk. “All you ever do is complain.”


I admit a certain sympathy for that poor monk, who was "always" complaining.  Sometimes it feels as if that is what I chiefly do, though I'm actually usually trying to work out a strategy for getting more done than moaning about my lot in life. 

It's difficult to balance my limited energy reserves against what must be done, and when I don't get it right I can end up spending several days in too much pain to do much of anything, which is frustrating. 

But, as I often tell my husband, you just have to do the best you can do. Sometimes that's not much more than sitting in the rocker and watching a video or reading, sometimes it's more. But as much as I tell him that, I feel terribly guilty when I can't keep up.

After a busy week (for me) last week I was exhausted. The last couple of days I've been really tired but today I felt better. I was able to do laundry, make the bed, tidy and dust.  And I made dinner! Just simple steak with mushroom and onions and some bean thread noodles and lentils with a curry and coconut sauce but it was food, hot, on a plate, which is a triumph for me many days. 

But I saw this little photo on Facebook and thought; Well, that's what we do. We do our best, with what we have.

And I guess you can't reasonably ask more of yourself than that, without doing lasting harm.

As Max Ehrmann said in Desiderata:

"Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself."