Politics and other awkward stuff, View from the Shoe

The Kid Next Door

If this past week showed us anything, it was that you never know. You don’t know what anger, depression, resentment or embedded racism hides behind that typical teen’s grin or the neighborhood crank’s frown. We don’t know what propels a person to grab a gun and take target practice on unsuspecting other humans with a vengeance.

You just don’t know.

This week two more shootings happened, one in El Paso; the other in Dayton. They say the flip side of anger is fear though it’s hard to imagine such calculated, heinous acts by those scared and afraid. Yet, these terrorists are definitely frightened, just not in the way you think. You see, for them the bogeyman is not something that goes bump in the night but the ‘tired, hungry, and poor’ that giant green lady in the NY harbor welcomes. The bogeyman — is the ‘other’.

To be fair, I am afraid, too, not of immigrants but of ‘shadow’ Americans. I don’t want to be scared of my homies but religious fanatics and sycophant politicians who dance for a divisive Puppeteer while raining hateful diatribes like confetti grenades, do the job.

I have grandsons – 5 of them. I know all about the sometimes crazy video games (though my kids keep rein on what the nuggets can or can’t play). But to blame mass shootings on said games is nothing short of absurd. When I was a kid, my brothers played with cap guns and toy rifles, pretending to be soldiers, cops or bad guys. To my knowledge, my remaining brother never grew an interest in shooting up a theater.

Let’s face it – WORDS MATTER. How we talk to and about each other matters. It matters how we frame those who were brought here on slave ships and those who seek asylum from torture, painted as murderers, rapists, and an invasion. White supremacists are dubbed ‘fine people’ and even American born elected officials are told to go back to where they came from. (Brooklyn?)

I agree, that most likely some level of mental illness rendered every perpetrator unequipped to process hateful rhetoric with less than deadly actions. I also agree, that if identified, those people should be treated before catastrophes happen – that is if mental health budgets have not been slashed. But the truth is — GUNS KILL PEOPLE. Period. That being said, knowing people are the ones pulling the trigger doesn’t let gun regulations off the hook. Nor should anyone look the other way as AK-47s are blithely utilized as a mass shooter’s weapon of choice. These economically speedy killing machines have no place anywhere but the battlefield. Full stop. Continue reading “The Kid Next Door”

Copy that., Grief is Grief, View from the Shoe

Refill, anyone?

HELLO . . . I’m __________.

Imagine those cheery little ID stickers with descriptors like “Glass Half-Full or Half-Empty Person” after our names. We’d be instantly busted as relentlessly cheerful or obsessively pessimistic. Awkward. Those who wander through life under a persistent gray cloud might be predisposed to resent endlessly cheery types. And the perennial blue-sky humans would really be unhappy if gloom ‘n doomers rained on their parade.

Me? I’m a happy/not-always-happy hybrid, and I suspect a lot of you can identify — depending on the day or period of life. Basically, I’m an optimist with varying shades of the ‘other shoe is gonna fall’ thrown in. (get it?)

“Problems cannot be solved at the same level of thinking at which they were created.”  Einstein

Two people can see the same glass entirely differently. Though, given a choice, I’d choose half-full every time. Just because I hum Monte Python’s “Always look on the bright side of life”, doesn’t mean I have it nailed or that my glass is half-full of puppies and unicorns. Hey, I’m the girl, who came home, after an hour away, to find my husband dead, remember? That brand of lightening can really derail even the biggest optimist like a tsunami! But, whether you’re knee-capped by grief, have critical struggles with health or are broken, humbled or depressed by other stuff life throws at you, even a half empty glass can slowly be refilled.

Don’t feel like Pollyanna reincarnated? The reality is that pessimists stay stuck in the proverbial black cloud; optimists find the silver lining— eventually. Optimists are not always the happiest campers and pessimists aren’t consistently gloom and doom. On any given day, things can look positive or negative, good or bad. The best thing we can do is not to lounge around too long in the bottom of the glass. Continue reading “Refill, anyone?”

Chick stuff, View from the Shoe

Channeling Benjamin Button

“I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.” Benjamin Button

No one’s life is an accident. Of course, it is chock full of accidental incidents but then, that IS life, right? All the ‘if only that hadn’t happened’ incidents are out of our control but still intersect our lives. So do the people in them. It’s said that we are all connected; a world full of 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon. Spoiler alert: That’s even truer on ‘the other side’ — and I don’t mean across the pond. When this world is in the rear view, we’ll find people from every culture, value system and coloring in a mash-up of everyone who’s ever lived here, there and everywhere. It would probably make sense then, to pay more attention to making friends, or at the very least, acknowledge with kindness some of the souls who’ll be our roommates in eternity.

Life has a time limit but as long as we’re here, why not try? Change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it, we just have to be awake during the ride.

Life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forward.

Like Benjamin Button, the aging process is pretty much a metaphor. Whether we live our lives backwards or forward, the beginning and end of life is the same. The point is how we live in the dash in between. Anyone who’s lived a near death experience is pretty adamant about not wasting a minute on things that don’t count. Money is a means to an end; not the goal. Work is merely tool to make ours and others’ lives better. Instant gratification isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. Superficial lasts only until it becomes boring. Fear and anxiety are real, as real as the feeling you get going bungee jumping if you’re afraid of heights. Moments shared, kindness multiplied; those are the true fabrics that should weave how we want to live.

If you’ve already been to the dark side, things might be looking up. Heights and closed spaces, trains, planes and autos have no meaning because death is something you’ve been there, done that. Everything is relative.

“Life moves pretty fast sometimes. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.”  Ferris Bueller Continue reading “Channeling Benjamin Button”

Chick stuff, View from the Shoe

Badass Mrs. Potato Head

Humans don’t come with interchangeable parts. Sure, we can switch things up, like that nose and chin that came with your original birthday suit. But, if you opt for more deluxe models or major tweaks to the basic prototype, you’re into more uncharted territory. In the wild, wild west of plastic options, you can put in your order for bigger, better or just different. Or, you can choose to keep the original factory settings. It’s up to you.

Some adjustments may be necessary, some even a blessing. Replacing what breast cancer takes away bestows critical self-confidence to women already devastated by a take-no-prisoners disease. When terrible accidents play havoc with faces, skin or other critical pieces of our being, plastic surgery is a miracle. But,  reconstructive surgeries aside, which get my 100% vote, some serious re-thinking is in order.

While we weren’t looking, our society seems to have ascribed to an if-it-ain’t broke/STILL-fix-it society. When The Graduate’s Benjamin Braddock was told “There is a great future in plastics”, maybe he should have listened. Though I’m certain cosmetic surgery wasn’t what his father’s friend had in mind, it was nifty advice.

Every year, more than 18 million people spend billions of dollars on cosmetic surgery. Billions. Think about it. To be sure, I’ve had my OMG mirror moments. You know those times when you lift your chin back where it used to be before gravity took over and it looks oh, so much better? Yup. Unfortunately, my bathroom mirror’s Broadway backstage lighting are a bit too Lon Chaney to be inviting. Still, I’d be lying if I didn’t say firmer skin, and erasing those little WTF lines between my eyebrows don’t annoy the heck out of me.

We are each our own worst beauty enemy. Continue reading “Badass Mrs. Potato Head”

Politics and other awkward stuff

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Ah, mirrors. Can’t do with ‘em; can’t do without ‘em. Sometimes they’re pretty darn handy when you need a close look at that bump on your chin, pesky roots growing in or a tooth that’s been bugging you. But sometimes, mirrors show a little more than we would like because, unfortunately — they don’t lie.

I can’t say that for a lot of other things today.

The media, even in its earliest form, is a mirror of our lives. Though the first newspaper made its debut in our fledgling country in 1704, it took a few years to for all the colonies to have their own versions of press. Still, it didn’t take long to incite some tension between media and government. In time, Benjamin Franklin published one of the first editorial cartoons, joining other colonial printers and editors who realized early on they held a perfect mirror to criticize the local governers. Of course, the governor then discovered — he could shut down the newspapers. Sound familiar?

“Freedom of the press, if it means anything at all, means the freedom to criticize and oppose.”            George Orwell

Early media provided critical news of local happenings, publishing arguments used by the patriots to voice their grievances like “No taxation without representation!”.(Remember that one?) Since the first two political parties were formed in the 1790’s, newspapers lined up on both sides to provide a flow of partisan news and information, sometimes vehemently. At the height of the barb slinging, the Federalists passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, which included one that made publishing “false, scandalous or malicious writing against the Government of the US with intent to defame” a federal crime. Luckily, that cute McCarthy-ish law expired in 1801.

Yet, editors representing both parties were important political players in their states, stuffing their papers with their party’s major speeches and campaign platforms. Throughout the 1800’s, newspapers proliferated and party lines were behind every line of news copy and editorials. That is until, people like William Randolph Hearst, found he could make more moolah expanding his media’s base by becoming non-partisan. Undeterred, journalists still continued to expose social and political sins of corporate monopolies, crooked political machines, urban poverty, and child labor. Times change but news is still news.

“Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in the government”.   Supreme Court Judge Hugo Black

Media is a lot like a mirror, at least when it’s done right. What’s reflected is born of truth, not magic. Sometimes it shows more than we want see but then it’s not a mirror’s job to assure anyone they are “the fairest one of all”. It reflect what’s real, pimples and all – not a photoshopped version. Mirrors reflect who we are, in all our human frailties.

I don’t love mirrors yet my vanity (sounds cringe worthy) table sits in front of my bedroom window lest I get any ‘whoa, there’s a surprise’ when I leave the house. I guess I just like to know what I’m ‘facing’, no pun intended. which is pretty much the same reason I read news and blog posts or watch trusted news stations. Ya just gotta know what’s going on.

“I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy. That we need the media to hold people like me to account. Power can be very addictive, and it can be corrosive, and it’s important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power, whether it be here or elsewhere.”   George W. Bush

Like a mirror, the media is only your enemy if what you see or hear isn’t true, not if it’s merely not what you like. Even when they don’t agree with what we believe or want, facts aren’t any less true — unless they aren’t facts. My mother used to say, ‘the truth hurts’ and sometimes it does. I tell my peeps to always tell me the truth, even if I don’t like it. I mean, how else would I know, that all the while I was yucking it up, I have poppy seed in my front teeth? Yes, the truth can hurt but it can also heal. It can make us think, incite us to act, and, at the very least, trip some changes in the way we view things. Continue reading “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall”

Copy that., View from the Shoe

Listen Up.

hand-to-ear-listening

“Are you listening?” That was a pretty reasonable question to ask my 94 year old father who hated his hearing aids.  But when that question is asked of you, it’s time to either check your hearing— or your interest. Not gonna lie – I’ve been guilty as charged many times of being a less than stellar listener, as my daughter would confirm. In my defense, I’m usually hypnotized by two crazy cute grandsons. Still, from time to time, listening is an art-form that we can all use a refresher course in.

Everyone has a story to tell. A story that’s unique and personal to each of us. Sometimes it takes the form of seemingly mundane rants about things that make up daily life. And sometimes it’s about what runs deep beneath the words. But when we express our fears, our confusion, our needs, those words can help us reach a new level of understanding — and entrance into someone’s emotional lock-box. Our reception of the words shows respect and support; the trust it confers in response is priceless.

There’s a lot of difference between listening and hearing. G.K. Chesterton

Too often the daily detritus, those things that stroll around in your mind,  plop down, completely uninvited,  into the midst of a conversation. And it’s not pretty. One day, a few years ago, one of my besties called me on it. Busted. To be fair, I was in the midst of a design project when she called, but it was no excuse for being half-present to her. After apologizing, I proposed a fix that I’ve adhered to ever since; something that’s helped ensure our 40 year friendship. If I’m busy when she calls, I fess up and ask if I can call her back when I can give her my full attention. Both of us are heard; both of us are seen.

“You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” M. Scott Peck

Really listening is one of the best gifts we can give each other.  When people really listen acutely to another, when you see their essence as well as what they are trying to convey, it is a powerful moment. And one that is priceless to every one of us humans. Continue reading “Listen Up.”

Grief is Grief, View from the Shoe

The Handoff

IMG_3673

My father died last week . . . at 94. His left behind 3 living children, 10 grandchildren, 17 great grandchildren — and a boatload of complicated emotions.

To be honest, this a tough post to write. It’s so much easier to be funny than painfully authentic but writers need to say the hard stuff, too. And what’s harder, more precious, more frustrating and intrinsic to us as humans than family?

Since the night my dad died, people have expressed heartfelt sympathies I felt unworthy to receive. I’ve struggled to reach inside to the depth of grief that losing a parent brings. Maybe losing my still vital husband so suddenly anesthetized me to old age’s inevitable end, even in a parent. Or, just maybe, the empty, numb feeling is self-protection from a hurricane of emotions just waiting to be unleashed when I’m least expecting it.

If that tv sitcom. Leave it to Beaver, (does that make me old?) was truly an icon of a normal family, we’re all screwed. Life out of central casting is not real life, but I suspect we all secretly want a teeny bit of that warm, fuzzy family picture. Instead, we peel through layers of frustration, hurt, love, and longing that surface with a vengeance when the main players of family of origin are gone. We may not recognize those layers as grief, but they can define it just the same.

When my mom was alive, my dad hated talking on the phone but he certainly made up for it, in spades, the last 13 years. Though conversations were rarely about how I or my family was, he was at long last verbal. He now depended on family for needs my mother hovered over and finally seemed to enjoy (tolerate may be a better word) the ‘kids’, including the oldsters who lived 2 hours away. (If there was any doubt that my husband loved me, I have just to remember our bi-monthly parkway pilgrimages. Muttering through road rage, a body protesting often from cancer side effects, he still took on legendary shore traffic – for me. That’s love) After he died, I continued the trip until a police call reporting my dad seeing 9 people dressed in khakis and red shirts (think Jake from Allstate) made it necessary to move him someplace both nearer and safer.

Welcome to assisted living.  Just picturing how I’d feel when it came time to trade my own house and car for a 2-room studio far away from where I called home for the last 20 years, twisted my heart. But having your parent’s care solely on your shoulders is layered with many emotions, even in the happiest, Hallmark families. Out of three kids, I was now the only game in town so, along with being critical dad’s go-to, choosing the right senior living facility was the could best I could do. We were suddenly both stuck and we both struggled to make the best of it.  Like I said, it’s ‘complicated’. Continue reading “The Handoff”