Monday, January 30, 2017

...Your Huddled Masses Yearning To Breathe Free

Somebody pictured it best over the weekend: a picture of Trump holding up the decapitated head of the Statue of Liberty.

I want to congratulate all those who spontaneously showed up to protest his "Muslim Ban" at airports and on the streets around the country. Yes, I know his mouthpieces claim that's not what it is, but we know the truth. Every country he picked is predominately Muslim, though he claims that's not why in the same breath he bemoans the terrible treatment Christians have gotten in those countries. Maybe by now even those who self-righteously claim "I don't pay attention to politics"have figured out he's a habitual liar.

Actually, he's worse than just that. To start with, his ban is ineffectual for what he claims it's for. Look at the acts of terrorism in this country. Anybody remember Timothy McVay? Home grown. Christian. Citizen. White. Aimed his truck bomb to kill government workers, visitors, and a preschool. That's not terrorism? Whom would you ban to have stopped that?

Columbine. Aurora. Sandy Hook. If you think they're not terrorism, you're just not thinking. Whom would you have banned entry to, to stop those and all the similar events in the last few years?

So Trump picks out a few predominately Muslim countries to ban entry from. Effective? What terrorists have actually come from them? If you take 9/11, for example, everybody's fall-back excuse for doing awful things, those perpetrators predominately came from Saudi Arabia. Why not ban folks from there? Oh wait, Trump does business there. And in the rest of the countries just as predominantly Muslim from the same areas as the "chosen" ones.

Pretty well thought out, eh?

Workable? This is exactly the kind of action that aids in recruitment for ISIS. Our hate in the face of unreasoned fear is the exact thing that they use to draw in new followers by the multitudes. Perhaps that is what he really wants. There's a lot of money to be gotten in arming for and conducting a war. Nevermind the cost in people.

Let's pretend that his orders made some kind of sense, that they aren't unconstitutional as several federal judges have already ruled they are, and that we're not already in some kind of constitutional crisis. Look at whom we've caught in the net of "terrorists". Grandmothers. Small children, many already U.S. citizens. Doctors. Engineers. Translators who risked their lives for us. Green card holders, already having gone through "extreme vetting".

Hey, good job, eh?

This is a nation of immigrants and their descendants. We, or our ancestors, arrived here from somewhere else, however many years, centuries, millenia ago. Some were forced to come, either as slaves, or indentured for criminal acts. The rest arrived in hopes of a better future than was possible for them and their children where they had come from. Freedom of/from religion. Justice. Ownership of land. Food. Economic possibilities. Hope.

My ancestors came that way. So did yours. The next wave is arriving now, and another will follow. Each will be different, and we who are already here will resist, adjust, and finally accept this is who we are. Or, like Trump's followers, seeing only the losses, never the gains, believe they can draw a line in the sand and keep the tide from washing it away.

It's more than just another hunk of copper:  "Give me your tired, your poor,  your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, the tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Or are we just going to bomb that first?

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Disturbance In The Force

That's the force of women, for clarification.

Many things lately in the news disturb me. One that didn't was the Women's March, participated in all over the country, all over the world. It's not just about The Donald, though I'm sure that worries a lot of women, and the forces behind him worry us even more. It was about a whole gamut of women's issues. After all, our issues don't happen in a vacuum, but arise out of trends in society as a whole - or at least the parts in power.

I was doing my usual twice-monthly peace demonstrating at the time. Yes, that's a women's issue, in case you need that clarified. Men's too, of course. Half of our regulars were down at the state senate lawn, joining in the Phoenix march. Notably it was the part of our group who are more able-bodied, more capable of carrying signs and hiking over whatever distances. I'm not there yet. Wal-Mart still wipes me out, especially if it's my third errand of the day. But my heart was with all those millions of women who took to the streets, and my pride was additionally in the universal peacefulness of all those demonstrations.

No riots. No firebombs. No vandalism. No arrests. Try not to get offended, guys, but I took that as a show that women can do some things better than men.

One of the things in the news that did disturb me today was a woman on public radio complaining about the marching. For her, it was all about race. It was proof to her that white women can march peacefully and women of color are not allowed to do so. She was so upset that she chose to stay home.

Now I didn't think I was so naively blind that I don't see the differences in color in how people are often treated in this country. I just didn't see it here.  This wasn't a white women's march. My views close up in the coverage didn't limit race, though, like our population, they were predominantly white. And neither were they all women, though that's a whole 'nother issue. Good to know that there are men out there who support us, support women.

The part of the radio speaker's commentary that really upset me was her choice to stay home from the march. If she felt so isolated from white women, or felt we were so incapable of seeing her causes too, then she should have shown up, been seen, been heard from. Isolation is counterproductive. Networking gets results. Being there gets you included in the US, not stuck out in the THEM. We women stand together better as friends than as strangers. That may be a whole human race kind of thing, but it's definitely a woman thing.

I came of age during the rise of the feminist movement. I remember so many pointless and harmful fights about lesbian vs. straight, mothers vs. single and/or childless women, white vs. black. We ALL as women have, then and still, so many of the same issues, that they overwhelm our additional separate issues. We should all be smarter than that.

Wise up, join up, and quit whining when YOU can make a difference!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Great Grandma?

Finally some good news. Of course, it's preceded by some bad news, but...

My granddaughter called today. They've moved the wedding up from some time this summer when Steve and I could attend, to as soon as possible. Air travel being what it is, especially with short notice, it's not in the budget.

I kinda had a suspicion why, but I wasn't going to ask. I still remember that horrible accusing tone of voice my mom had when Paul Sr. pressured me to move our wedding forward because, well, this was back in the days when it just wasn't done to have sex until you were married, and he wasn't about to wait. And I hated feeling the weight of societal guilt and condemnation. Just imagine the most judgmental tone possible, and ask, "So, you're pregnant, are you?"

No way I was even going to hint at going there. I've known she's wanted kids for several years, and the lack of maturity in her previous fiance is a major part in why they split. I just continued the conversation and let her tell me in her own way. And yes, she is.

We had a wonderfully wide-ranging conversation, what the wedding was going to be like, things to expect during pregnancy, all the stuff that can make up about a 40-minute conversation on the topics.

Several years ago, before lapidary when I was still just beading, I put together for her a necklace of silver, natural pearls, and tiny carved bone elephants. She has for almost as long as I've known her loved elephants. She even took a group trip to Thailand and Cambodia back in high school where one week was spent taking care of elephants. (Sponsored by a great-grandmother's trust fund.) Gifts from the family typically have an elephant theme. This one, when I made it, was done in colors and of an appropriate length that it could be worn for her wedding. I let her know when she opened it that that was what I had in mind, also letting her know it was totally her choice if she wanted it for that use.

She let me know that even though I can't be there, my necklace will. And I told - not asked, told - her that I wanted a photo from the wedding. Not something posted on Facebook where Steve can see it and show me for 5 seconds, not an email photo, but a good old analog kind that I can put in a frame and hang on the wall! And she agreed.

Before we both had to go, I bottom-lined the issue. She had early on admitted the timing wasn't ideal.  "Are you happy about it?"


"Then I'm happy for you!"

That's all that needed to be said.

Friday, January 20, 2017


This is not a good day. Plus, I plan to boycott tomorrow. That's when we lose one of our best presidents and get saddled with a narcissistic pathological liar. For 4 years. And he will have the assistance of a reactionary bunch of sycophants who have been chomping at the bit to dismantle what is best about this country.

If you've been paying attention, and aren't one of those "I don't follow politics but..." smug multitudes, I shouldn't have to list all the impending losses. It promises to start with the free press, the ones who are too ratings oriented or cowardly to speak truth not only to power but to the people. Cynical me says that's no great loss, given their track record for the last several years, but there's nothing big or powerful enough to replace them.

That's totally chilling.

Trump is not a side show, a circus act, an entertainer. He is not how he's been presented to us by "the media". He is a threat to our economic system, our peace and safety, our rights, our environment including possibly the whole planet's environment. Soon we will know, if there are still truth tellers with loud enough voices out there, if he can add "traitor" to his list of "accomplishments". You know, up there with con man, denigrator and assaulter of women and raper of underage women, failed businessman who can manage to go bankrupt owning a casino (seriously, how does anybody manage that? The house always wins!), and on and on. I don't even give a shit how goldenly kinky he is. That's not going to damage our country.

Maybe one of the most positive signs is that he thinks Presidents get to take weekends off. It might minimize the harm. Of course, that leaves the country to the tender mercies of a selection of rich white men who almost uniformly believe in exactly the opposite of the tasks of the jobs they have been nominated for.

How did we get  here? Part of it was outside manipulation, sure. Tell yourself that when you need to find a scapegoat. But the real culprit was us. WE grew complacent. WE got too "busy" to pay attention. WE found celebrities of more substance than our laws and rights. WE didn't bother to do the real work needed to find out the actual causes of our economic downturns because it was so much easier to blame whichever group of "THEM" was put before us. WE let "taxes" become such a dirty word in our collective greed that WE never stopped to think who really could/should/had been paying them and what they were actually properly used for: buying civilization.

TANSTAAFL! There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch!

We want to drive on perfect roads, promptly cleared of snow and ice, passing over bridges that never need to be upgraded, and get wherever ASAP. No inconvenience. No safety issues. And no taxes. We want clean pure water but again, never want to pay taxes to get it and keep it. We put down teachers who try their best given yearly shrinking salaries, higher class sizes, and fewer class options - how are the arts programs in your local public schools these days? -  because, hey, no increase in taxes!

Or should we just say No Brains?

Remember, an ignorant populace is a malleable one, one that is kept too busy trying to stay alive to pay attention to what's really going on. And never ever doubt that ignorant and stupid people are very confident of how highly smart they are.

We don't want the very rich to have to pay estate taxes because they've been renamed "death taxes" and we're too stupid or lazy to find out that they don't even apply to us,  just to the very very rich who want to keep on being very very rich because the poor just aren't worthy. Of anything, apparently.

We don't want to inconvenience the business gods with regulations like the ones that try to ensure food safety, clean air and water, equal opportunities  and living wages for their workers, because the business gods whine about the horrible burdens they have to put up with in order to comply, and their profits might drop a bit from the billions they are used to hoarding.

We coddle Big Agriculture who wants a perfect yield with no pests stealing a single grain or crowding out a single leaf for sun, so we allow then to use chemicals that may well soon destroy the bee populations that actually produce the edible parts of the crops they grow. Then what will we eat? Or is this a sneaky way of getting population control in a way the Churches haven't thought to deem immoral yet, before it's too late?

 We let Big Pharma charge outrageous prices to produce medicines that were actually developed using funds provided by the federal government, even passing laws that forbid us to bargain those prices down. Just like this country has passed laws that forbid us to study gun violence statistics so we can know how many people get shot every day/week/year. They want us all afraid. And armed. The NRA is in bed with the gun manufacturers way past the point of sense, and every new boogyman who is pointed at stirs us up again.

So how did we get here? I think Pogo said it best, many years ago. "We have met the enemy, and they is us."

Don't ever doubt it, when things get bad. WE did it.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Angel, First

If you haven't read the last posting, this won't make as much sense to you. So for what it's worth, you have been warned.

The remodel is proceeding, slowly. I've done my bit, not just clearing and cleaning. (I mean, would you want to work on somebody's bathroom that hasn't been properly cleaned due to inability to run water, for one thing?) The last three days have involved my sitting out on the patio table, painting.

Both bathrooms had ugly shelf units mounted on the walls, one for mine, two for Steve's. By ugly I refer to color, style, and years of dirt. Start with Steve's bathroom. One was a two-shelf slick plastic monstrosity in intense Pepto-Bismol pink. After washing, it was the only one to become actually clean. But the reason for that is that the surface is so slick that not just dirt, but paint too, wouldn't stick to it.

It was a relief when Steve agreed with me that painting it wasn't an option, and it could find a new home somewhere. Say, in a landfill. He hadn't really used it anyway. There were no ridges on the edges, so a little bump would knock any contents off, no mean consideration when you realize that it had been placed right over the toilet.

That left us each with a two-shelf unit, maybe 18" long, with a rail or raised edge that would actually hold things in place. And surfaces of sufficient roughness that paint would actually adhere. Steve's was some thin kind of metal, perhaps tin, solid shelves and vertical supports, filigree back and rim, scrollwork supporting the bottom. Very not masculine. It had already once been painted, a color formerly prized by institutions, that my ex used to call peach-barf-pink. Yes, ugly. But usable.

His bathroom walls were getting changed to a medium blue, a deeper shade than the living room, kitchen, and hallway for those of you who have seen our house, but same general color tone. We had some leftover deep blue paint, one you perhaps could call copen, perhaps navy. I dug around in the workroom and found the leftover half can of that, along with a small brush, stirred it until both the black on top and the white on the bottom were uniformly mixed in (hey, what's with that, anyway?), and began to paint.

It was kind of a mess. I started with the filigree in the back. It took a lot of brushing from multiple angles to get all that peachy crap covered, and while I was doing that, I wasn't paying any attention to where the thick drippings off the brush were landing. Hey, I'd covered the table with cardboard, so who cared? But most of them landed on the surface of the bottom shelf, and the dry wind made it impossible to properly smooth them out by the time I'd finished the back. Lucky for me, Steve's not fussy. But shhh! Don't tell him! Anyway, I kept painting what I thought was the rest of it, noting that brush marks were appearing due to the stark contrast in colors, and my attempts to correct them were just causing other ones to appear. So, second coat next day.

It was a good thing too, because with all the scrollwork, in addition to the filigree, there were lots of spots I missed the first time. But two coats, and two overnight dryings, and it was good to go. Looks great in there, and I was right about how the colors would mate. As a bonus, the more stuff he packs on the bottom shelf, the less lumpy it'll look.

My shelf unit was both simpler and harder. Simpler because the nasty old dirty white shelves were both just flat arcs with a straight, open back. Harder because the metal connectors, rails, and finials on the top did not disconnect from the unit. I'd have to do my best to avoid painting them, and keep a wet rag handy. Since my paint was left over from the current repaint of my bathroom, making the paint thinner, any drip was much more easily dealt with. My unit required only one painting and a single night drying, and I brought it in to sit on top of the new sink until the handyman could get it installed.

Steve and I were both using my facilities at this point, and I got a kick out of him commenting how well the new shelf color matched my bathroom!

Ya think?

The shelves are up now, and it is time to begin moving back into my bathroom. There is still some tub work to do, but I can use the rest of it. I like knowing where to find things, just where they used to be kept, rather than trip over and sort through boxes of stuff on the floor next to my bed. The first thing to go back was a little ceramic angel.

Now mind you, I don't consider this "my" angel. I didn't buy it, do not collect them, and don't actually believe in the religious tenets that espouse them, not in any superstitious ability of them to bring me luck. But this one comes with a story, and that's why she went back first.

My ex brother-in-law, John, has been married three times. Pam was #2, the mother of their children. Pam was the collector of angel figurines, and had a generous soul to match. So far as I know, she'd be married to him still except for one little thing: liver cancer. Several years ago, after the funeral when the close relatives and friends gathered at the house for food and remembrances, we were all invited, in a giving way that was impossible to decline regardless of one's personal thoughts about angels, to pick out our favorite one to take home as a final gift from Pam. I found a cute one I could live with, and she's been on display somewhere ever since.

So when the newly painted shelf went back up, she was the first thing to be placed there. I don't think of her as an angel or a religious symbol. She's a reminder of Pam, and all the love she was capable of.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Money Pit

Yes, I confess: we bought a money pit.

It's not that we weren't warned. The pictures were gawd-awful ugly, from dirt to decorating. The landscaping wanted regular drowning. The inspector had a two-page list for us, the kind you can only call a honey-do list if you're getting a little something-something on the side. And for the record, NO!

A full dumpster of crap left the driveway roughly the same time the moving van emptied out and left too. Paint and cleaners came in by the gallons, holes got spackled, shelves were built and painted, plants  got replaced (mostly either with rocks or as bunny delights). There were plumbing emergencies, with a long list of replacements following. Electrical wiring and fixtures got replaced, again with a to-do list to follow up on. Some new things keep getting added to the list, some get noted and ignored. An example of the last is the roof leak over the patio. As long as we remember to move chair cushions before a rain, the only thing that gets wet is concrete. It's way down on the give-a-shit list.

Last year Home Depot introduced us to their list of reputable handymen. This simplifies things greatly for us. We can put more money into buying their stuff and having somebody who knows how and doesn't charge three arms and a leg do the work for us. Last year we got the showers fixed. This year a ceiling hole with wires just got converted to a light/fan fixture, a malfunctioning motion sensor light got replaced with an attractive switch light, and that's just today, the start of the current list. Both bathroom vanities and sinks are getting replaced along with bad plumbing, making both sinks usable again, bathroom walls will be spackled and painted and the laminate floors will join the new additions where they need to, and once we see where that comes in on the budget, we're working on the next part of the list.

More insulation? Another repair? Debt reduction? Vacation? We'll see.

Two years ago the extent of the to-do list scared us. We'd gotten a quote from the plumbing company that our HOA recommended. They wanted $18 grand. And no, that was not going to include any repairs to walls or floors after they were done. We were also told that the pine tree out front not only had to go, but that we'd need them to treat its roots every year or two to prevent it from regrowing.

Really? A pine tree? Not a weeping willow, not an aspen,  but a pine tree? The same kind of tree that gets killed when you top it, that kind of pine tree? I have since noticed that this same plumbing company has lots of funding to support regular TV commercials. Coincidence, ya think?

So, we're getting stuff done in bits, and for bits. And despite the extra needed for tires, laser vs. scalpel eye surgery, a tooth extraction that's looking like it's gonna become two real soon, paying off the AC/furnace loan...

You know: life.