Me Too

Another Women’s movement has been spreading across America and this one has been a long time coming.  January 21, 2017,  women, and many men who support and love them, took to the streets all across America to march in protest of the sexual predator who currently occupies the people’s house, America’s Big House. And now the “Me Too” movement was recently named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year. It seems that women have finally had enough…enough of the fear each woman wears as a cloak as she traverses her life.

This is something that men just don’t get…the fear of walking to a car in a parking lot at night,  the indignity of cat calls and wolf whistles as you are trying to walk down a sidewalk in broad daylight, the innuendos, suggestive comments, unwanted touching. It isn’t their fault. They aren’t female and have no reference, no yardstick by which to judge. Women live with all of these and more on a daily basis and we are fed up and finally (better late than never) finding our voices and saying…no yelling…no screaming…enough is ENOUGH!!

I have always wondered how any male can justify tolerating or voting for anyone who not only is accused but has admitted to predatory behavior. This is a slap in the face to your daughters, your Mother, your sisters, girlfriends, your grandmothers. When you cast that vote, it is the same as saying “I not only don’t understand what you are feeling but I don’t care”. Small wonder that women across America, and the world, are up in arms.

Every woman has a story, most have more than one, about being confronted with uncomfortable situations and feeling powerless to do anything about it.  Let me be absolutely clear…women do NOT find any of these things flattering. They are offensive, demeaning and decidedly threatening.

This coming January 2018, the resistance will be walking again. Not just women, but men and children, young and old all exercising their right to protest the degradation of our norms. Marching side by side, just as humans, wanting fairness, kindness, and peace. Millions will be participating in cities across America doing what Americans do best….exercising our rights under a democratic government.

Me too!!!!

Battle Fatigue

I, like millions of Americans, am exhausted and fatigued by the constant attack on my peace of mind. The continued angst and anger created, where none need exist, simply because of incompetence, ignorance or simple greed. I am tired. I want to give up. I find myself limiting my exposure to news stories because I know the emotions these stories elicit may be raising my stress level. This morning when my phone and computer would not bring up the internet, I worried that perhaps some horrible nuclear event had happened that had taken the internet down. It made me nervous but also made me realize how much a part of my life is consumed by interactions with social media and how much it is used as a conduit for information in today’s world.

I wonder how any “Christian” could approve of taking healthcare from millions of people, depriving 9 million children of food and healthcare (CHIP), raising taxes on the poor to give the top 20% of the rich more tax breaks, or prefer an alleged pedophile as a seated Senator over a candidate whose only crime is being a Democrat. I marvel that innocent people are still being murdered with guns everyday in America yet nothing is done to “fix” the problem other than to offer up “thoughts and prayers”. I believe that our forefathers would be aghast at what we have become as a nation. And yes, I believe that we are seeing the end of democracy as we know it and America may be in the waning years of its dominance as a world power and is beginning its journey to an autocracy. And the first part of that journey has already been put into motion.

 

It begins with the disparaging comments directed at the media, planting the seeds of doubt in a gullible or apathetic population. Hitler did this in Germany calling the media the lying press or ‘Lügenpresse’. It continues with daily assaults on norms and values that shock our senses until finally we become numb to the horribleness before us. Slowly it wears us down and we seek to escape the assault  and begin to tune it all out. Friends don’t understand our emotional, visceral response and perhaps pull away from us. We have become isolated and alone with our battle against the attack on norms and if it doesn’t affect us, we might slowly accept the changes and little by little the erosion of freedoms we enjoy.

I worry that if those amongst us who have conspired with a foreign nation to steal an entire Presidential election (treason in every sense of the word) will escape punishment. We have drifted as a nation from equal justice under the law to harsher punishments for the poor and a slap on the hand for the rich. This is a downward spiral toward kleptocracy and sows the seeds of rebellion in any nation. Wikipedia defines Kleptocracy (from Greek κλέπτης kléptēs, “thief”, κλέπτω kléptō, “I steal”, and -κρατία -kratía from κράτος krátos, “power, rule”) is a government with corrupt leaders (kleptocrats) that use their power to exploit the people and natural resources of their own territory in order to extend their personal wealth and political power. Typically this system involves embezzlement of funds at the expense of the wider population.[1][2 This could be describing the Republican 2017 Tax Bill, for it clearly benefits corporations and the wealthy on the backs of hardworking middle America. This is a class war that is reigning debt on our children and grandchildren with little hope of digging out of the ever-deepening crevasse of debt. Whatever happened to “Love thy neighbor as thyself?” If Republicans are the party of conservatism and Christian values, then please let me be among those snowflakes that believe in equality for all.

It’s been a long time coming but the Nothingburger is definitely becoming a Russianburger and with four indictments and two guilty pleas, perhaps we are on our way to correcting the wrongs that are being inflicted on the American people, our World Neighbors, and Mother Nature. We can only hope.

Changes

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Fall on Lady Bird Lake

Twelve years ago I sold my home in another city, packed my belongings and moved my entire life to Austin. I was happy to put everything in my rear view mirror and begin a new adventure. Everything was different….finding new doctors, checking out grocery stores, learning a complex computer system at work, establishing relationships with co-workers, and making new friends were but a few of the “new” in my life. I wasn’t young when I made this life-changing transition so each fresh challenge was stressful. While I was undergoing all of this change, I had no way of knowing if my decision would be a good one or a bad one. Only time would tell. Hindsight is always 20/20 but after twelve years now in Austin, I can unequivocally acknowledge that I overwhelmingly made the right decision. Everything about my move here has only reaffirmed my decision. But the road to happiness and a peaceful existence wasn’t without growing pains along the way.

Recently my family was tasked with making a life changing decision for a family loved one. At 85 years young, this was a huge life-altering decision. No longer able to live independently, and acknowledging the need for him to be closer to family members who could be his health care advocates, it was mutually agreed by all that a move was necessary.

The sheer logistics of a move from one city to another can be exhausting…arranging furniture movers, stopping and starting utilities, change of address notifications complicated by disorientation made worse by short-term memory issues.

The most difficult part for me was seeing my loved one through different eyes. One time strong, vibrant, extremely intelligent and competent in all situations and now diminished by the aging process to needing assistance in all areas of ADL’s. The saddest part is that he recognizes that he has some issues and is striving with grace and dignity to accept new living arrangements and changes in everything he knows.

We traveled this Thanksgiving to San Diego to visit family and for a few short days, we tried to experience a symbolic return to earlier family gatherings…the traditional meal offerings, a little sightseeing and birding at Cabrillo National Monument and Point Loma, and watching old scary movies reminiscent of our youth.

End of life decisions are so emotionally ridden and each of us will face changes as we age. Our loved one planned extremely well and is financially secure. Combined with the support of family, we are hopeful that he will be able to have the highest quality of life possible for however much time he has left in a life well-lived.

Wishing all a Happy Life!!!

What Is “Good” Art?

 

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Soft pastel

I have dabbled as a wanna-be artist most of my life. And most of my life I was always trying to achieve what I thought was “good” art. But just what is “good” art? How do we define it? How does it make us feel inside? What drives us to express ourselves on a piece of canvas, on paper, in altered book art, throwing pottery, building sand castles, architecture and a myriad of others mechanisms used to express an emotional feeling.

Recently I saw a FB posting of a nurse in Canada who had collected pieces of plastic from different products used to treat her patients throughout a 30 year career. Medicine vials come with pretty colored plastic flip caps, syringes with needle caps all of which are thrown away. When she started collecting those pieces of plastic that were never used on a patient, just in product delivery, she said she had no idea what she was going to do with them and throughout the years she used some of them with her children as a sorting game tool and found various uses for others. Finally after retirement she spent time putting all of those different plastic pieces into an artistic collage depicting sunshine and happiness. From trash she created a masterpiece that now hangs in a hospital in Canada and has become a tribute to all of the thousands of patients that she touched throughout her career.

A Junk Journal made from watercolor paper

For me it is paper. I collect paper. There is something about paper that entrances me. It stimulates me visually and tactilly. I love the texture, the crinkle sound, the smell. And I have a remarkably large quantity of it. I fill pages with bird sketches, old books with drawings, collages, stamps, envelopes, gathering them together into junk journals and canvas after canvas with my own humble art expressions. One whole wall in my bedroom is covered with drawings and paintings and it gives me pleasure each morning and night to see them adorning my walls. Some of these remain WIP (works in progress) and others I have pronounced finished. It is hard for me to know when one is done, but over time I have gotten better at this, realizing that when I lose interest, the piece becomes a testament  to where I was in my artist journey at that moment in time.

And I love the smell of oil paints, tupernoid, linseed oil, and baby oil.  I love the smooth buttery lipstick texture of oil pastels that I can move with my fingers to create an image. I love the fluidity of water colors and I love the excitement derived from the birth of an idea, sketching it, applying the paints and watching the image grow into what satisfies by eye and brain. It is a strange process and I usually am amazed that I was able to create something with these hands. I’ve learned that if I am happy with it, then that is all that matters.

I have a “painterly” style and prefer painting alla prima AKA wet-on-wet or paintings done in one or two sittings. Challenges exist when using this technique. Paints can me mixed on the palette or directly on the canvas but mixing wet into wet can produce a muddy mess if not done correctly. It is also important to work from dark to light when painting alla prima. I am however not much of a rule follower, tending to experiment and take a chance that something new may just work!

A work in progress (WIP) – Sketched, colors blocked in with acrylics and now awaiting the oil paints
Preening Reddish Egret

Art remains an avocation for me, an activity that promotes a sense of peace. At this time of year, my thoughts turn to Christmas cards, wrapping paper, gift giving and my studio remains stagnant awaiting my return for my next artistic expression. Oh wait…I need to make a Christmas wreath…clear the workspace, haul out the glue gun, gather supplies and I once again begin the creative journey!

A Tally of Things lost to Date

I want to keep track. I think it is important to know just how many things have been ripped from the fabric of America…just how many travesties have been thrust upon our Constitution, our environment and how many civil liberties are being trounced by our Liar-in-Chief.

–The Rule of Law – ignoring a judicial ruling of guilty by pardoning Sheriff Joe Arpaio

–Climate change denial – Cuts to EPA and  FEMA  in the wake of two devastating  hurricanes and raging wildfires in the West

–Comparing the KKK, Neo Nazis and White  Supremacists as being the same as protesters

–The guarantee of clean water, free of chemical  dumps and clean air being threatened…  reference the Arkema chemical site pouring  toxic waste into the environment as just one example.

–Sanctioning and admiring autocrats with a history of murdering their opposition. Like Putin &  Duterte

–The decrease in tourism in the United States – In 7 months the loss of ~37 billion in tourism  dollars

–Crops rotting in the fields for lack of immigrants to harvest them

–The loss of prestige as being the indisputable leader of the free world

–The continued assault on the free media. Dividing our nation with fake news leading to a loss  of confidence in our government

–The normalization and acceptance of lying and prevarication second to none in the history of  our country. Estimated lies over first 227 days of presidency are 1,114.

–A different set of rules for Republicans than for Democrats – the steadfast refusal of Republicans to give Merrick Garland a hearing just because he was nominated by Obama and using a lame excuse of it being an election year. Yet they have blinders on about the ongoing criminal investigation into the Trump administration and his associates.

–Devos ending Obama’s Title IX rules for investigating college campus sexual assaults

–Direct violation of the Emolument Clause of the Constitution. – Trump and his children    continue to profit and are receiving monies indirectly to bolster their own personal wealth

–Ordering a ban on transgender personnel in the military and using the excuse of it being cost  prohibitive. When compared, the cost of Viagra and erectile dysfunction treatment for male  military personnel is far in excess ($84 million compared to $8.4 million annually) of transgender  expenses. I am also certain that there are many, many more that I have not listed here.

And personally, I have had the painful loss of a relationship with one of my sisters. All of the others only affect me indirectly…my life really isn’t impacted that much simply because I am an older white educated female with a good job, children who love me and I know they will step up to the plate and help me if needed. But the loss of a sister relationship is a gut punch. I’ve tried to mend those broken fences, but just as I pulled away after the 2016 Presidential election because of depression and my own inability to be around those who voted this horrible human being into the Presidency, I can only assume that she may be in much the same place right now as I was then. The pain is great and I hope that some day, before one of us departs this world, we can once again laugh and bathe in the camaraderie of sisterhood.

 

Resist!!!!

 

 

Wire Cutters and A Mule

Downtown Houston

I am a native Houstonian. Born, raised and lived there the majority of my life. I have survived hurricanes with names like Carla, Allison, and Rita plus a myriad of other storms that perhaps didn’t grow large enough to meet hurricane standards and were relegated to tropical depression status. The one thing they all have in common is the potential to affect the quality of life for the small inconsequential humans who happen to exist in their pathway. I moved to Austin about 12 years ago and my up-close-and- personal encounters with angry storms have diminished. And then came Harvey.

Downtown Austin and the Boardwalk on LadyBird Lake

For four days within the confines of my safe, dry, well stocked condo, I watched the rain pound Ladybird Lake, the looming clouds scud slowly by and the persistent squalls of rain drenching Austin. I never lost power from the winds, so I watched the tragedy unfold before me through television video clips. And as I watched, I cried. I couldn’t stop crying when I witnessed the absolute destruction of a city I love and witnessed the horrible struggles of the innocent people battling to survive torrential rains and flooding. Houston has weathered many storms throughout a colorful history but never before has an American city experienced a year’s worth of rain in excess of 52 inches within a four-day period… an event that is impossible to imagine and totally beyond anyone’s expectations.

Houston will survive and rebuild stronger than before because it is a lumbering unstoppable behemoth of a city bent on surviving, but also because it must. The “Chemical Coast” that encompasses a large portion of the Texas/Louisiana coastline, provides huge amounts of petrochemicals that fuel the lives of Americans everywhere. A monster storm interrupts that well-oiled machine that churns out all sorts of products that fuel our life “needs” and it makes us aware of our dependence on many things that make our lives so comfortable. Without electricity, no air conditioning, no lights, no power for toasters, hair dryers, washing machines. Without electricity, no power to pump water through miles of pipe into our homes to deliver drinking water, water for ice making, water for bathing, flushing toilets. Without electricity, gas pumps don’t pump gas so if your car is empty, you will be walking or hitching a ride from a neighbor. Without electricity, the food inside our refrigerators and freezers spoils. And the list goes on and on. We take so many things for granted each day and one hiccup can make us aware of how quickly it can all disappear.

I know a lot of this from first-hand experience. I remember the fear my parents had when Carla swept through Houston ripping the roof shingles from our home and delivering huge quantities of water in a horizontal attack so fierce that moisture was literally driven under doors and around and through window sills. As an adult, when another “caine” burst upon Houston, our side of the street lost power for two weeks and as we struggled to deal with the heat and the humidity, all of our neighbors across the street had power. The lights from their homes each evening made our pain greater. And when Rita came knocking and a mandatory evacuation of Houston was ordered, I obediently began to travel West to escape her murderous rage. There were thousands upon thousands of us that departed Houston to evade this storm only to be bogged down in traffic, running out of gas, without food or rest on a 12-18 hour journey traversing a mere 75 miles. The evacuation was a disaster itself. People died on the roadways. It is simply impossible to evacuate millions of people from an urban area for a storm that may or may not decide to come your way. The landfall of hurricanes can be unpredictable because these giant water and wind monsters can be capricious.

Any natural disaster or, God forbid, a man-made nuclear disaster, and life as we know it can vanish in a remarkably short time. And then what? What do we absolutely NEED in order to survive? Food, water, shelter, the basics. But how do we escape the concrete jungle if the roadways are bogged down in traffic or gas is unavailable. Growing up in the Cold War era and vividly remembering the Cuban missile crisis, I recalled sage words of wisdom from my Father about how to survive a calamity. With confidence and great clarity, he said “All you need to survive is a good pair of wire cutters and a strong mule.” Something to think about in a world that is teetering on the brink of disaster on an almost daily basis.

My heart bleeds for my beloved home town. Be well Houstonians.