Ezer

Words on a mirror boldly inscribed

     A morning benediction

A declaration given from son to mother:

BE A STRONG WOMAN TODAY 

A gift in a time of trial

The signpost becoming a daily mantra

The trial transformed into tribulation 

A decade passes

Another trial begins

A new day, a foreign world

A  testing of stamina

More political, yet deeply personal 

EZER:

  An ancient Hebrew word 

WOMAN, STRONG AND BENEVOLENT

Hung as a reflection around my neck

An Incarnation

An Incantation

to boldly go forth

in the undying belief

that we shall overcome

Day 2. Emily made the necklace for me (she also wears one) as a Christmas gift.  She is a talented artist, designing jewelry as a weaver and metalsmith at her Island Street Studio.

 

At War With the Princes of Darkness

Image result for women power                                 Image courtesy of: Pintrest

                               

                               Daring and Damned

                        Undaunted and Unafraid

                           Loaded with Grit

                Deep in the Grip of Dystopic Decisions

             Diligently Designed to Disenfranchise

                            Dreams Denied

                Dehumanized and Demonized

               Do we Demote Ourselves

                                OR

         Denounce the Dilettantes of Democracy? 

                    Deviate or Endure?

                 Surrender or Succeed?

 

Officially day 1 of the WordPress  Challenge. Day 2 for me!

 

Scammers, Schemers and Scoundrels

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Image courtesy of: https://www.askideas.com/60-most-beautiful-injustice-quotes-and-sayings/

OH THE MENDACITY!

Have you heard that giant sucking sound?* That’s what you’re hearing as the Prevaricator- in-Chief, his pal The Grim Reaper, the Ayn Rand Adherent of the House, the Chief Perjurer Attorney General, and Commander for Copious Amounts of CO2 begin to whittle away at our fundamental rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We are on the fast track to being denied our ability to breathe, vote and live. Preparations are already underway to throw us in the Pit of Health Careless Hell. The House pulled an all-nighter last week, working hard not to help the American people, but to hurt us-a sure sign of democratic decay in this country. And that’s just for starters, of course. The Prevaricator also sent Marines into Syria to fight ISIS.  Yes, let’s keep repeating the same actions and expecting a different result!  Speaking of  destruction, the EPA is well on its way to evisceration. With less regulation and more contamination flowing our way, we are sure to perish from poorer quality drinking water, chemically poisoned fish and increased levels of air pollution before we can even get to a doctor. At best, we’ll probably be too sick to get to the voting booth come the mid-term elections. And if we do make it, we better be sure to show proof that we qualify, lest we appear to be committing fraud.

It’s easy to come undone with each onslaught of ominous news. In my gut, I knew this was coming. When I wore black on Inauguration Day, a colleague complimented my outfit. When I told her I was in mourning for our country, she was dismissive, stating that she didn’t like everything Obama had done but nothing bad happened to her. I wish I had the right words at the time; I knew the bad boys up on the Hill were waiting with bated breath to unleash their Machiavellian Manifesto.

I have spent much time reading and listening and watching this week, furiously taking notes each time important information presents itself. My scribbles are scattered about waiting to be more coherently transcribed. I supposed this is a metaphor for my own thoughts. And what I’m learning and discovering is mind-boggling. Like Congressman Shimkus, who doesn’t think that men should have to pay for prenatal care through their insurance (doesn’t he know how insurance works?) Or HR 1313 which supposedly preserves employers wellness programs but also may now require an employee to submit to genetic testing. (Since I am now on my husband’s health plan, we already have to undergo yearly biometric screening to avoid getting financially penalized.) Or worse, the provision in the Republican health scare plan that would end insurance coverage of abortion (sorry if you’ve been raped or a victim of incest or your life is at risk or the fetus is severely deformed -pay up!). This kind of “law-making” is reminiscent of the former Communist totalitarian regime under the late Nicolae Ceausescu of Romania who- among other horrors-made abortions illegal and banned all forms of birth control in order to increase his country’s population. He even went as far to forbid sex education(don’t forget we already lack consistent, comprehensive, quality sex education here). And his regime had their own form of biometrics as well. Women under the age of 45 were subjected to pregnancy tests at clinics every 1 to 3 months, having been rounded up at their workplaces for the procedure. If they did not reproduce, they were subjected to questioning and even a “celibacy tax”. Doctors were under pressure to keep pregnant women and their children as patients because their salaries would be cut if a child died. Under these oppressive laws lay a few harsh truths: inadequate nutrition due to poverty and chronic food shortages and inadequate health care. Estimates in Romania at the time were that 60% of pregnancies ended in abortion or miscarriage. Illegal abortions were expensive, costing 2-4 months’ salary. Exceptions were only permitted if a woman was over 40 or had 4 children. (If you had Communist Party connections, abortion was readily available.) Harsher still, were the many orphanages discovered after Ceausescu’s overthrow and subsequent execution. Parents were just too poor to care for their children.

This is just one country’s disturbing history. Other countries surely have more depending upon their current laws:

Click to access AbortionMap_Factsheet_2013.pdf

Years ago during the Reagan Administration, I read Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale. The story, (which was adapted into a movie in 1990 and is set to be a mini-series on Hulu next month) is  set in a dystopian future. Citizens live in a totalitarian theocracy where any remaining power women had is taken from them. I remember thinking it was the scariest book I had ever read. Given the times then and the times now, I am afraid it still is. For perspective on the book and current events in our country read Atwood’s essay here:

My friends, this is just the tip of the iceberg. The big bills make the headlines. Not so much House Bill 610 sponsored by Republican Representative Steve King of Iowa, which states: “To distribute federal funds for elementary and secondary in the form of vouchers for eligible students and to repeal a certain rule relating to nutrition standards in schools.” A step toward dismantling public education? ( Thanks to Izzy for this piece of news!)

What we are currently witnessing in this country is the continued creeping infiltration of corporations (disguised as government through the passage of legislation) into every aspect of our lives. Health care decisions are not left to the doctors, nurses and other professionals (as well as their patients).  Health insurance  and pharmaceutical companies call the shots. The science on climate change  from NASA, NOAA  and other qualified experts has been flushed down the toilet by greedy energy companies. Public education policies are not in the hands of classroom teachers, child development experts, literacy specialists and education researchers and professors. Investment in education is now moving towards private religious (aka Fundamentalist Christian) and/or a for-profit business model that misses the mark on what really works to educate all 21st century children from birth to age 22.

As I and millions like me continue to speak truth to power, I fantasize about that special place reserved for those whose narrow-minded ideas and endless greed and rabid hate hurts us all.

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                        Image courtesy of: Google Images

*Ross Perot inspired this one. He said it during his presidential campaign regarding factory jobs going to Mexico if NAFTA went into effect.

Stand Up and Fight

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Image: Google Images

It was all about power. Creating it. Using it. Taking it from others.

~from “How the Light Gets In” by Louise Penney

Overheard in the grocery store check out line yesterday: “It’s been a long day, up early and I still  have a ways to go.”  I have fallen into the rabbit hole of overt political action; I am paying attention to an inner voice that leaves me with no choice but to speak up and contend with the dark forces operating within our country and beyond. The last four weeks have been mentally exhausting and at times frustrating, but also exhilarating.

Some may be surprised at our arrival at the current state of affairs; I am not. When I was in the midst of preparing to move in the spring of 2015, I came across a paper I had written for a graduate course entitled: “Reagan, the New Right and the Threat Against Feminism.” I wrote that paper in 1986. Unfortunately, the paper was lost but I do recall writing about the administration’s attempt to pare down and/or eventually eliminate the Department of Education and of its tenuous partnership with Christian Fundamentalists and their attempts to outlaw abortion and certain forms of birth control for women that they had deemed abortifacients. Sound familiar?

Since those seemingly halcyon days of youthful idealism and continued progressive push back against Christian fundamentalism, I have learned a lot.  All along, I always thought it was about the legalization of abortion in 1973.  In reality, it is more sinister. In fact, religious conservatives were supportive of abortion rights early on  (http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/05/religious-right-real-origins-107133?o=0):

In 1971, delegates to the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis, Missouri, passed a resolution encouraging “Southern Baptists to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.” The convention, hardly a redoubt of liberal values, reaffirmed that position in 1974, one year after Roe, and again in 1976.

The tipping point for religious conservatives came when the IRS refused to grant Bob Jones University tax exempt status because it practiced racial segregation, a violation of the Civil Rights Act. At the time evangelicals believed that racial segregation was biblically based. In short, this prompted people like Paul Weyrich (co-founder of the Heritage Foundation), Jerry Falwell and others to jump on the political band wagon, find a cause that would unite evangelicals and then associate themselves with people whose values didn’t necessarily align with theirs but, who in turn, needed their votes in order to attain national power. In fact, as governor of California in 1967, Ronald Reagan actually passed a very liberal abortion law. The New Right’s association with the late president was nothing more than a marriage of convenience. This arrangement has been reignited in the latest presidential election with far more devastating and far reaching consequences for all the citizens of our great nation.

The Christian fundamentalist stand against abortion is nothing but a smoke screen for a more underhanded manipulation for absolute power:

In the last forty years, big money (and this means Religious Right Big Money as well-their organizations are run like corporations) has further infiltrated elections on all levels: local, state and national. We all know of the consequences of the Citizens United decision. But the devices of suppression and oppression were being put in place long before then. The Koch brothers and others like them have felt stymied by what they deem as over regulation by government agencies such as the EPA.  They and their operatives have long had a hand in the creation of political movements such as the Tea Party and the selection of hard right candidates who will do their bidding (think of the State Republican Attorneys General and their ties to the energy industry and the subsequent approval of former Oklahoma AG Scott Pruitt):

And, in today’s news, a story of how of how current House Republicans are demanding climate change documents from the New York and Massachusetts Attorneys General (both Democrats), known as part of the “Green 20”:

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/house-republicans-demand-climate-documents-from-state-attorneys-general-%E2%80%94-again/ar-AAn44H3?li=AA5a8k&ocid=spartandhp

It would appear, then, if you are not on the “right” side of energy companies you will be part of a federal investigation.

And clearly, you have to be on the “right” side in order to get elected at all.  The REDMAP Initiative (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-power-that-gerrymandering-has-brought-to-republicans/2016/06/17/045264ae-2903-11e6-ae4a-3cdd5fe74204_story.html?utm_term=.5727a0444985)  has brought unprecedented conservative power to both the House and the Senate. Their stranglehold helped to obstruct nearly every proposal brought forth by President Obama. And there is something surely wrong when the leaders of the House (Paul Ryan) and Senate ( Mitch McConnell) deliberately chose to ignore the Constitution (Article II, Section 2) when nominating Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court.

Furthermore, the Religious Right’s current  claims of religious freedom violations are disingenuous. For example, prior to the Supreme Court’s decision, Hobby Lobby covered birth control methods such as Plan B and ella. Yet, when the Affordable Care Act mandated coverage, they claimed that their right to practice their religion was being infringed upon. Hypocrisy at its best!

The Prevaricator-in-Chief is the epitome of  the authoritarian(some claim militaristic) turn this country has taken. His chief strategist believes in a New World Order and a purging of political elites. And his Vice President is the Conservative Christian puppeteer. Pence believes in conversion therapy for gay people, said that same sex couples were a sign of “societal collapse”  and voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Act for equal pay for women because he believes that two working parents leads to “stunted emotional growth for children” ( Gail Collins, New York Times). The elected officials in the House and Senate, however, have their own Machiavellian agendas to push through and willfully ignore the problems he is creating. Now that they want to actually enact laws, they are willing to put party over country:

We must act with greater moral courage than those who purportedly serve us. There are people who believe that their actions won’t make a difference one way or another. No matter which side your representative or senator falls on, he or she must hear from you! In fact, when I called Charlie Crist’s office one day last week, his staffer told me that we are making a difference. Bill Nelson’s staff is always gracious and patient; I know his votes match my views but I call anyway. More importantly, I still continue to call Senator Marco Rubio even though he clearly has put party over country and profits over people. And local officials matter as well. I am looking forward to meeting with my representative and senator during the Florida recess.

If we don’t stand up and fight, we are at the very least headed for a Corporate Fundamentalist Christian Theocracy. The evidence is clear that Democracy is in peril. Find your passion then find ways you can act upon it. It doesn’t take much time but if  we don’t act, we will run out of time.

 

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Image courtesy of: Ha! Tea ‘n’ Danger – WordPress.com

 

 

 

 

 

Take Action, Keep Sane, Make a Difference

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I am dedicating this post to my late mother, Pat, who would have turned 79 today. She remains with us still.

12 days feels like 12 years. Is this what it’s like to be in a boxing ring getting pummeled by your opponent?  The daily news is like getting a dose of bad tasting medicine- except the symptoms of my illness are getting no relief. I was telling my husband on Monday that the feelings that I am currently experiencing are similar to the ones from a decade ago. The agony of my divorce and its aftermath played out in all kinds of excruciating ways over the course of four years. Sound familiar?

Then I remember that I survived and thrived because of my relentless vigilance in the face of overwhelming odds. I didn’t let the bastard break me and I am not about to let this one either! I spent Sunday calling Senators voicing my concern and opposition to the Previcater-in-Chief’s Cabinet nominees and his outrageous Executive Orders.  I signed up for an event sponsored by our local League of Women Voters. Tuesday came. I talked with Emily who was hosting an action group with others up north. On Thursday she gave me ideas of how I can be effective efficiently. It was a God send.

It is difficult for me not to feel a sense of urgency. In my conversation with Jenn Wednesday, we shared our frustrations about our nation’s situation as well as our irritation with others who aren’t taking action.  The truth is,  we can’t expect everyone to jump in immediately- it doesn’t meant they are apathetic. In fact, they may be doing things to hold us up. Laura spends time meditating and praying for guidance from the Divine Mother. My husband gives me a soft place to land, a listening ear and delicious meals. He reminds me that I need to continue to live my life, to take time and be still, and that joy still exists along with the laundry!  I continue to remain grateful for my work as an educator. I make a difference every minute of every day in the lives of young people. They are the starfish stuck in the sand. And we adult citizens are too. The beach is filled with miles of us. Still, we must continue this long journey together. We will despair and be tempted to surrender. We must be patient and prudent. If we take care of one starfish at a time, we can prevail.

 You may ask what can I do that will have an impact? The simplest means is making a phone call to your local representative and/or Senator. This has been made so much easier by the blessed organizers out there. Here are some sites that will help you decide what you can do (with thanks to Emily!): 

Remember: the forces of evil will attempt to overwhelm us at every turn. We cannot let them win. We cannot be silent any longer.

Moving Out of Comfort Zones

Image courtesy of: cocospeaks.net

For nine years I have been living outside my comfort zone. Previously, I had a steady vision as to how my life would proceed. But now I realize I was wearing rose-colored glasses most of the time! In August of 2007, my life’s plan was wildly disrupted and I was thrown into the turbulence of divorce. It was as if the earth had opened up and I was being swallowed whole into circumstances that were beyond my control. I spent the next five years in various states of unease and hardship as I navigated my way into an independent life. Along the way, however, I enjoyed moments of great peace, joy, grace, and a growing sense of inner strength that surprised me time and again.

As much as the independent life I had created brought contentment, it was unsustainable. In fact, it was becoming uncomfortable as the responsibilities of single home-ownership were beginning to become more taxing and overwhelming. Additionally, my boys needed to move forward into their own lives. The adventure was finished. I had done my job.

I am now literally in a whole new zone. I’ve said it before, I know! The climate makes me sweat profusely, and at times I think there are way too many sunny days. There’s a whole lot more traffic and this place seems so BIG to me.

Yet within this seemingly vast concrete jungle, there are delicious bits of paradise. (The paradise that brought people down here in the first place, the paradise that is at risk of getting lost for so many reasons). I have the comfort and contentment and continuity of a healthy partnership. A partnership that doesn’t pass judgement and is consistently patient and supportive, undemanding and full of humor! And, for the past year, I have spent many of my days way outside my educational comfort zone- teaching in positions that grew my brain cells and tested my creativity as an educator. It has been exhausting and exhilarating! But most of all, it’s been a gift. I found my community once again. A place which accepts and embraces me in all the ways I hoped.

In the nine years that my life turned in an unexpected and vastly different direction, I have learned a lot about myself and about who I really am. I have met and continue to meet some truly outstanding and amazing people. People whom I never would have crossed paths with if not for that dastardly day in August all those years ago.

Moving forward is a path that is rarely straight. But if you’re willing to allow the way to unfold before you, the detours may bring you unforeseen adventures!
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Image courtesy of: Quotesgram.com

 

 

 

 

Speedwork Under a Full Moon

                                   Image courtesy of:

https://hrexach.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/moonbless.gif

Rising in the early morning dark has its benefits. When I set out in the humid air this morning, I was blessed to see the full Sturgeon moon. Since moving here, I don’t think I have really see one in all its glory until today.  I was lucky enough to have a regular monthly siting when I lived up North. Less artificial light and a more rural setting really spoiled me in that regard. The whole house would light up and I often would go outside for a little while just to look. In fact, the boys and I even went “owling” in the deep woods on a frigid and snow-filled January night. We had no need for flashlights to guide us. Incredible memory!

Forgive me, I digress…. Recently, I have felt much like the sturgeon itself, at least when it comes to running. I feel ancient, that’s for sure, but certainly not threatened or endangered as these unique fish once were. Still, I was in need of a comeback, much like them. I needed to take action. Yet, somehow I lacked the motivation to do it all by myself. So, imagine my delight when just 3 weeks ago, I came upon a group of people doing speedwork just one mile from my house! I was even more excited when they invited me to join them the following week. It turns out that the guy who coaches the group lives in the apartment complex next to my house and works at the running store where I buy my shoes! I have 2 weeks under my belt, and while getting up @ 4:30 to be ready for a 5:30 run is not everyone’s idea of fun, I really look forward to it. Today I was asked if I have a next race. I don’t. My goal is to get out of my running rut and feel better about myself and my body. If the work reveals a race to me, I’ll go with it. Right now, I’m just happy to be in the peace of the morning with just the moon as my guide.

 

 

 

 

 

Moving from I to We

Image courtesy of: http://greinyphotos.blogspot.com/

Love, having no geography, knows no boundaries, weight and sink it deep, no matter, it will rise to find the surface. ~Truman Capote

Dear Readers: Please read this post I wrote four years ago before reading my latest essay.

Moving from “WE” to “I” 

I am a big fan of the writer Elizabeth Gilbert.The first book of hers I read was the best-selling, Eat, Pray, Love, even though I had heard of her work through other essays and in previous books, particularly The Last American Man. I will confess I have read the former a total of three times -once a year from 2008-2011!  The book came along at just the right time in my life and, although our journey’s were not exactly the same, I could identify with many aspects of the pain and eventual healing Ms. Gilbert had experienced. However, when her next book, Committed came out, I avoided it like the plague! I did not want to think about even entertaining the idea of getting married and I was convinced that if I read it, I would somehow quickly jump back in the game. To affirm this notion, I would routinely drive by a friend’s house (a common route into town) and see her latest man’s truck parked in her driveway. I would physically react each time, unable to fathom even the thought of someone else regularly taking up space on my property or in my bed. I loved my independence; I loved the idea of not having someone to come home to every single day. And even though the boys were settled with me, it never was the same scenario as having a partner in my home.

I watched as other women and men I knew go through separations and divorces. Some became unmoored in their new status. Getting through the day -or dare I say- the year, was just about all they could handle. Others seemed to relish in being single and were perpetually dating, often finding themselves in troubled or serial relationships.(All this in a small town-very surreal.) I was grateful to be both independent and in a relationship that provided me with the safe distance we both needed.

Life continued. I faced the good, the bad and the ugly and grew to cherish the life I was making. The love I had for my now- husband grew stronger despite the distance and we made the most of our reunions together. Always on the same page when it came to our future, neither one of us felt compelled to marry just yet. But our commitment remained steadfast.

An old friend TB once said “Relationships are like sharks, they must keep moving forward or die.” Living separately at a long distance is unsustainable (never mind expensive) if you want to build a life together. For me, that is what marriage means. Yes, it is a legal contract bound by particular laws. There are benefits to a legal union, like being next of kin in health care decisions for your spouse, for example. However, those laws mostly come into play when the marriage is coming undone. For some, it is a religious contract. Depending on how you view faith, those laws can either serve to fully express your union as equals or repress and oppress at least one of you.

I am at a point in my life where I have let go of the false beliefs of needing a “soul-mate” or in thinking that I need a man to “complete” me. The former is a specious sentiment espoused by popular culture. It leads people into thinking that there is only one person in one lifetime that connects with your true self. We need to release that idea. Instead, how about intimacy? And I am not talking about only sex here. I mean the kind where being naked with someone is more metaphorical. It is that place where only you and he (or he and he or she and she) live and talk and breathe. It is a place where it’s nobody’s business but yours. And frankly, my husband and I do not need to complete one another. Yes, we have a life together, but we also have our own selves and our own inner life. If  you know that and respect that about one another, I believe it can be a healthy, supportive and loving relationship. No need to lose the I and replace it with We; it’s possible to have both.

I have Elizabeth Gilbert to thank for this post. Yes, I finally read Committed, but only in the last week! I felt I only could write this after I read her perspective on marriage the second time around. Again, while our journey’s were not the same, I could identify with the struggle in moving toward it once again. Ironically, I was more ready to read it after I got married! I also recommend The Signature of All Things and Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.  If you want a compelling saga with a strong female lead character (and then some), read the former. For understanding and embracing your creative self, read the latter.  ‘Magic’ was a Christmas gift from Jenn  (and recommended by Emily) who both serve as loving reminders that my writing is worth doing and pursuing.

 

 

 

Heaven’s Newest Star

Credit: drearoblivion.blogspot.com

 

An afternoon stroll

Spring Sunday just beginning to reveal its glory

A walk with the tribe

My small band of pilgrims paying homage

Honoring a life well-lived

In the grief a sprinkling of joy was present

Certainly love was winning the day

Though you lived many years you left us too soon

A memorable woman whose heart beats within us

 

Day 12.  A dedication to Barbara. A long time member of our faith community and our town whom we lost 3 days ago. Married for 6o years, mother to many, she leaves behind a legacy of love and kindness and earthly wisdom.

 

Skin to Skin

 

Credit: en.wikipedia.org

When he first held her she was all skin and bones

Rail thin

Emaciated

Drawn looking with hollowed cheeks

He held her gently for fear she might break

She seemed as delicate as bone china

Seeds of romance were planted

Enriched in the soil born from gracious tending

Seedlings took root

Then were transplanted

Growing stronger with every lustful union

He wrapped her in white downy covers

Cocooning her and feeding her with the sweetness of his love

She began to bloom

A lustrous buttercup flower

Rounder

Displaying curves and small handfuls of flesh

She’s bursting

A luscious garden

Born again

Sown from seeds of love

 

Day 11. Inspired by one word: fleshy