Reflections on a news blurb from June 21, 2018

After reading this morning’s news blurbs, I am more convinced than ever that reportage has become exercises in creative writing, loosely (often VERY loosely) based on reality, hysterical, generalized and in-your-face hyperbole.

This morning’s gem?

Kids being separated from their families is an uber emotional issue.

But really, now.  Last thing I read was of widespread use of psychotropics in these kids.  Maybe the issue merits closer study. How many kisd? What shape were they in when they arrived? After what some of these children have been through, particularly the ones abandoned to coyotes and the brutality of the trip to our border, they will need more than psychotropic drugs to reclaim any sense of rationality. These  drugs are often a stopgap. How to get through the raging storm. How to simmer down enough to be reached with kindness, reasonableness and safety.

Children are the tip of the iceberg , the most visible and the most vulnerable. Our current policy is a nightmare conclusion of ill-thought out, politically motivated and short-sighted legislation and a brash president who decided with executive order he could circumvent constitutional law.

The ball has, appropriately been tossed to Congress to fix. The Executive branch of government is tasked with enforcing existing law. However much liberals cry foul, it is obvious they want anything but what the current administration is doing, as seen by their outcry regarding Trump’s executive order of yesterday, and a rapid morph produced by a blatant, transparent and belligerent linked-arms obstruction and to do so with as much noise as possible. They want to obstruct more than fix.

I would have sent my kids to time-out for this kind of behavior. And to think we actually pay these people’s salaries!

Liberal immigration and border strategies have led, are leading and will lead to more chaos in our country.   Rants, tantrums, invectives, tears—yes a real watery tear now and then, and nasty tweets do not substitute for integrity,  diligence, negotiation, statesmanship, compromise and ultimately, improved border security and immigration policies that are sensible, compassionate, and create order rather than the chaotic, unfair, and dangerous situation we now have.

Who am I? I am a 69 year old woman who lives in a border state. My father farmed and used Mexican farmhands because they were inventive, hardworking and knew how to get the job done.  Some had visas. They had ways to cross the border. Sometimes they were sent home. They were good people. When my dad died, they put on their best jeans and work shirts and came to his funeral. They called him Uncle.

One the other hand,  twenty years ago I took  classes at a Junior College with some Hispanic young women who had the worst attitude about learning, about speaking and writing English and about whites, I’ve ever seen. They were rude, entitled and nasty.  I’m not sure why they were there and noted that they dropped out before the semester was over. I’ve asked myself innumerable times, dropped out to do what?

Immigration is complicated.  And over the years, stupidity and political motives have made it more so.

Oh, grow up, people! Earn your pay, you grunts.  You know who you are.

The Songbird

 

 

Last month I spent a week in Utah taking care of grandchildren. Being with Emily and Jimmy was great, but what I’m writing about was even better. Every morning, including the one when I woke up to a silent blanket of snow that made me feel as if I was in a Christmas card, a solitary songbird, greeted the day from a roof top at the end of the street.

His song was heart-breakingly beautiful. It was flute-like, sung so clear and sweet into the morning I had to go outside and find him. He was alone, and I wondered if he was the first of his flock to arrive in Saratoga Springs where the trees are as new as the subdivisions, so that they are small, and hardly sturdy places for nests. Was he looking for a mate? Had he been blown off course? What kind was he? Why was he there, this one, solitary bird, singing into the morning with such gladness I wanted to cry. Why?

In the face of such music, I thought of contrasts, of the cacophony of our culture and country and was so sad I cried. We, culturally speaking, seem to be on a steep descent away from dignity, honesty, charity, and moving toward judgment, condemnation, anger, and a frightening willingness to let the end justify the means, however repulsive and demeaning they are.  The human voice is becoming harsh and deceitful.

Yet there was this bird and his beautiful, lonely song. I am convinced he came from a better world, a messenger sent to brighten this one.

Good Finds

March 14th, and I finally feel as if I am over a tough 2017 and a truly bumpy holiday. The road ahead isn’t without its obstacles, but today at least, is a fine spring day and I have found some treasures.  It is these small things, ordinary things, that often surprise us and bring joy into our lives.  Finding these good things, I want to share them, hoping they will bring joy, or entertainment, or something really good to eat into your life.

The first is my outrageous garden. In September, I planted four tomato plants, told them to grow and make a few tomatoes. The two cherry tomato vines took the mission to heart and grew monster canes that have encroached on the driveway and roses and have produced hundreds of delicious, plump and sweet cherry tomatoes. The two patio vines have likewise made tomatoes until they are so heavy they are drooping over the cages.

Amazing

Imagine, tomatoes in November, December, in January and February and now in March.  There is something special about homegrown tomatoes. Ask Dwight who has had three months of tomato sandwiches. How to do it? Lots of good compost, plenty of water, a sunny location  with a south exposure, and our unusually warm winter.

Have no fear. This is FUN.

The second is a fun and creative art book, No Excuses Art Journaling: Making Time for Creativity, by Gina Rossi Armfield. Using a year’s worth of monthly calendars, she uses multi-media including collage, painting, stamping, writing poetry, making watercolor vignettes, and other things to make every day a creative day. I can’t remember when I’ve had so much fun with a project. Along the way, I’ve discovered Washi tapes.  Another good find.

I’m not a scrapbooker, but I think the prompts in No Excuses will ultimately lead to something introspective and significant. Already, I see bits of myself emerging. And that is the key word for March, Emerge—to leave behind that which is old and confining, to come forth new, changed and improved, freshly reborn, and better. Art is self-revelatory. There is in each of us a creative spirit. Finding ways to express that can be challenging. I love discovering something like this that provides assignments and structure.

Slow Cooker Chili

The last is a recipe. Usually, I am not a fan of chili, but I found a recipe in Paleo Slow Cooker Soups and Stews by Amelia Simons, an Amazon best selling author, that is delicious.  With four pounds of hamburger, it makes a crockpot full. The good news is it freezes well. The coconut oil used for sautéing the vegetables gives them a sweet flavor.

Hearty Chili

2 Tbsp coconut oil

8 stalks celery sliced

6 cloves of garlic, minced

2 large onions, diced

4 pounds ground beef

2 Tbsp cumin

2 Tbsp chili powder

4 tsp thyme

24 oz favorite salsa

2 (14.5 0z) cans diced tomatoes

3 (7 oz) cans green chiles

2 Tbsp sea salt

 

  1. Turn slow cooker on HIGH so it heats up while you prepare your ingredients
  2. On the stovetop, use a large skillet to melt coconut oil
  3. Saute celery, garlic and onions until tender
  4. Transfer to slow cooker
  5. Add ground beef so skillet and brown. Drain.
  6. Put browned beef into slow cooker.
  7. Pour in the remaining ingredients and stir gently.

Turn the slow cooker to Low and cook for 6 hours.

A GEM

 

Convinced you can find anything on Amazon, I searched for a book about frozen shoulders and found a gem. It is a strange subject to feel excitement about, but indeed I do.  From Heal Your Frozen Shoulder: an At-Home Rehab Program to End Pain and Regain Range of Motion, the common symptoms of frozen shoulder are

Pain in all directions

Reduced range of motion

Shoulder pain when lying on it

Shoulder stiffness

I have them all, a gimpy left shoulder for which my orthopedic physician says, “Call me when it hurts so bad you want it cut off.”  Grim.  In other words, the MRI showed enough arthritis to merit a replacement. The problem is that shoulders aren’t like knees and hips for which function is readily restored. As another physician said, shoulder replacements are dicey.

But this blog is actually a book review and not a ploy for sympathy—although as I write I am wearing an uncomfortable shoulder apparatus that is supposed to restore good posture and help with the pain. And it does, as long as I can stand wearing it.

Heal Your Frozen Shoulder  by Karl Knopf is a gem because 1) it is clearly written; 2) it has excellent photographs and drawings of exercises and anatomy;  and 3) it is smartly organized into three phases according to restoration of function and diminishment of pain. Knof has worked in the fitness industry for over 40 years and is a believer in restorative exercises.

Some of his tips are about changing the mechanics of your day to day life to protect your shoulder. Others are about activities to avoid – such as don’t work for more than 15 – 20 minutes without a rest for your shoulder and don’t perform prolonged overhead work.

Currently, I’m having acupuncture treatments that have helped loosen up tight muscles and have reduced the pain. Now, I am working on range of motion. Eventually, if the progression continues, I will move to phase 3 in the book which includes strengthening exercises and return to full function.

This is not a speedy process. While injury may be a contributor, a lifetime of misuse also contributes to a frozen shoulder.  It may take a couple of years to return to somewhat normal function.  Hopefully, us bloggers, writers and computer users will thoughtfully protect the wear-out joints: fingers, shoulders, neck, elbows.  For those of us with shoulder problems, this book is a gem.

 

Check your sources, Rene!

I posted something political on Facebook the other day, and almost immediately heard from one of my friends on the other side of the aisle that I need to check my sources. The information I posted was apparently dated and in her mind, from an unreliable source.

Usually I am more cautious about what I post lest I be accused of playing that old game of Gossip, now tweaked for social media. What I posted  had to do with my response to the NFL, the flag, what it means to be a patriot and responsible citizen.

I don’t want to write about the politics, the racial issues, or the fact that what I posted was, even to me, biased, and out of date. Rather, I want to write about what it means to “check my sources.” Thank you, my friend, for this opportunity to reflect on my relationship with Facebook, and on how I decide what to believe and how difficult it is to find accuracy, fairness and “just the facts, mam.”

Check your sources—Okay, my first source, then, is myself, and my response to what I read. I am the sum of my learning, education, experience, religious leanings, and upbringing. When I see, read,or hear, something, it automatically runs through a built-in credibility censor. Determining if I’m going to trust, believe or support something, is connected to my awareness of how it resonates with who I am and what my core beliefs are. Something overtly biased or distorted, or frankly, unbelievable, will not easily pass first muster. I have to pause to consider the source, the content and how it is presented as I think about continuing.

Then, there is the problem with words. From fifty years ago, I hear a Social Studies teacher talking about the fallacies of marketing. “Watch out for glittering generalities”, he said. There were other techniques to woo the consumer/viewer couched in hyperbole or association with the desirable, attractive and/or sexual. Outright spin (which is a misnomer for distortion, fictionalization or even frank lying) seems more a critter of the last ten or fifteen years.

The problem with spin, glittering generalities, etc.,  is that they are often emotion-laden, inciting, and exciting. They are also often transparent. Consider words. Words carry weight beyond their definition. I may define someone as large, burly, gigantic, grossly obese, immense, colossal or monstrous. Each of these words means large or big, but they are shaded and subtly influence someone reading or listening to them.

For example, consider David and Goliath. Were I on David’s side, I might call Goliath monstrous, grotesque, or hideous. On the other hand, were I on Goliath’s side, I might use words such as colossal, heroic, and strong. The words paint different, emotion-loaded images. A non-biased reportage would say that Goliath was somewhere between four and six cubits—six to nine feet, permitting you to make up your own mind about how you feel about him.

Facebook is probably the last place I go for accuracy, unbiased reporting and truth. Unfortunately, it, along with other social media entities, have assumed massive importance in our culture and serve as conveyers of information. There apparently are few effective filters or standards.

What I look for, then, is word usage—the most neutral words and a presentation of facts that includes both sides of a story or argument. And, if I am wanting commentary, I look for someone who in my mind, fairly represents both sides from which he draws his conclusions and observations. I listen to his words and his voice. Sometimes, it is hard to find this kind of honesty.

And finally, I look for what resonates with my basic beliefs which I think have served me well.

Often, our most trusted media sources have caved to bias, spin and innuendo. Our political leaders, likewise have locked arms on either side of the aisle, reminding me of a bitter enactment of that old childhood game Red Rover, Red Rover.  The goal is to break through the locked arms and bring an opponent back to your side. It just doesn’t happen anymore.

 

 

 

An Hour of Reflection about What Matters

 

Green Leaved Tall Trees Under Sunny Sky

 

Cold, overcast, rain—a gray morning. In a small corner in the cemetery, there were perhaps thirty of us brought together by loss clustered around a single headstone with the thought Sometimes life is a moment engraved into the granite.  The short memorial was hosted by a bereavement organization for families who had participated in a reproductive medicine clinic and lost a pregnancy prior to twenty weeks during the preceding year.

These were families who wanted a child.We huddled against the cold listening to poems, to sentiment, until finally, there was the reading of the names: Baby L _____, Twin babies R______, Baby S_____, so many names, one after the other, children conceived, loved and desired who would never lie in the circles of their mothers’ arms.

Someone read a poem by Wendy Roberts, You Mattered:

            You only shone for a moment before you were gone,

              A bright light in the darkness, a unique, special song.

              Just gone, not forgotten, you weren’t meant to be.

              But little treasure, O how much you mattered to me.            

But little treasure—I couldn’t detour my thoughts that went immediately to the innumerable pregnancies intentionally ended during the same year. How many? A million?

It was a bitter irony.

When your dreams are dashed…

Recently, a couple of friends have experienced profound disappointment and discouragement. I will not go into the particulars because what happened to them is not my story to tell but theirs. But I understand disappointment and discouragement and know they can drown you if you let them.

I don’t have a quick fix

It’s those negative thoughts that hold your head under—the feelings of worthlessness, of inadequacy, of being wrong in a right world, of being a victim and having no control over your life. And if you have even a smidgen of obsessive-compulsive tendencies, your brain will spin a sticky web that requires untold strength and sometimes help from others to escape.

Most of the time, we people, in order to camouflage these feelings, put on a good front, don’t talk about what is going on and tough it out. So we isolate. Which makes everything worse because isolation leads to a sense of alienation – of being different, usually in a bad way, which is distorted thinking. It’s a spiritual death spiral.

 

I don’t have a quick fix. I am unaware of any sure-fire solutions that will turn around the sadness and depression that come from disappointment. When your dreams are dashed, your expectations not met, your life put on hold because you don’t know what to do next, well, these things take time to sort out, to wade through, to wrestle with before the unquenchable spark of hope reignites aspiration.

Hope springs eternal. Goodreads has 11,365 quotations dealing with the idea of hope.  I have my own favorite, a poem by Victor Hugo, translated into English.

 

Be like the bird who
pausing in flight on limb
too slight feels it give way
beneath her.

Yet sings,
knowing she has wings.

 

Utah Pears

pears-and-canner

There are only ten minutes in the life of a pear when it is good to eat.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

 

Email alert from AZFRUITLADY:  Utah pears.

 

I resisted the first week. And the second. I had great reasons. There were only three of us at home. If I bought boxes of fruit, then I had to do something with it—give it away, can it, eat it, put it in the refrigerator and remember to use it. And, since my bariatric surgery, it’s difficult to eat an entire pear without consequences, dumping—an insulin reaction to a hit of sugar. So the smart thing was to resist.

 

But when AZFRUITLADY emailed the third week, I thought about those pears, how they start out firm but get soft and sweet and delicious. And had our bishop not challenged us to live off our food storage for two weeks—no trips to the store—I might have safely made it through the season. But Utah fruit to us Arizonans, is like candy to a baby. And when I checked our food storage, wouldn’t you know  there weren’t any pears.

 

New email by AZFRUITLADY: Last week for Utah pears.

 

It was psychological warfare. “Last week” meant there would be NO MORE until next year. Panic set in.  I tried to resist. I don’t need pears.  I can buy canned fruit at the store. But there would be no more. This was the LAST WEEK. The very last week. I emailed AZFRUITLADY. I’ll take a box  of pears.

 

What was I thinking?

 

They were Bartletts, thirty-eight pounds of tender, green-skinned fruit just turning yellow, freckled with pear spots, incredibly sweet and delicious.  From a cobwebbed corner of my brain, I remembered that once upon a time, I knew how to dehydrate fruit. And, after a Google search, learned that bottling pears wasn’t so hard, either, but they required processing in a water bath.

 

We have a glass cooktop. Heavy pots of water leave scratches which had been my excuse for not canning in the past. But, back to Google where  on the Ball homepage, I found an electric water bath with the added bonus of a spigot to drain the water so you don’t  have to lift the heavy, water-filled canner from the stove to the sink.

 

While I waited for the new water bath to be delivered, I dehydrated pears. It was easy, and they were so delicious I was prompted to write about it.  I washed them, sliced them in quarter inch pieces lengthwise, dipped them in a dilute water, honey and  lemon juice mixture then arranged them on parchment  paper on a cookie sheet and put them in the oven set to 160 degrees.  After about twelve hours they were done, no longer sticky but pliable. I didn’t peel them. I didn’t core them.

 

When the new water bath arrived, it was a dream to use. It came with a large aluminum pan that fit into a base where the heating element was. I filled it as directed with hot water then put on the lid while it came to a full boil. Meanwhile, I peeled the pears, cooked them for five minutes in a boiling, light syrup, filled the quart bottles, then added the syrup. As the canner was up to temperature I put in the jars. In only a few minutes, the water was boiling again as opposed to the stove top water bath that seemed to take forever to return to temperature.  I processed them for fifteen minutes.

 

The electric water bath was so easy to use, I’m thinking about next year. About  salsa. About canned apricots and jam in the spring  from our two trees. About pears and peaches. About food storage shelves in our basement lined with jars of Utah fruit.

 

The Mason quart jars filled with pears were beautiful. Sometimes, we do things that are so satisfying and feel-good we have a few minutes of feeling good about ourselves.  I was challenged by the pears. I was motivated by the bishop to work on food storage. I’m taking a few minutes here to enjoy mission accomplished.

A New Launch

cowfence

“There is always hope your life can change because you can always learn new things.” 

Virginia Satir

 

Evolution is sometimes revolution, not in the sense of anarchy, but in the completion of a circle, the way the earth revolves around the sun or how it spins about its axis. Here, it has to do with learning, with coming full circle to that place we recognize because we have been there once before, only this time, round, we are different because of what we have learned on the excursion. Synonyms for evolve are progress, develop, advance, and grow.

 

I choose this word, evolve, over transform, or transformation, which connotes a more sudden and radical alteration, a metamorphosis, the caterpillar and the butterfly, an emerging from the chrysalis moment.

 

Either would do for what I am trying to explain here, but as I look back over my life, it seems there have been many more evolutions than transformations which in my case usually meant a more liberal application of cosmetics, a dressier dress, new hair, and a rather predictable return to my untransformed self at midnight.

 

Wow, lady. You are OLD.  

I am looking back from a perspective of a seventh decade. As these words move onto my computer screen, I am stunned. Wow, lady. You are OLD.  But truthfully, that is the fun of this blog, a relished opportunity to step out of life’s slipstream, and reflect on the journey, on the evolutions that have landed me here. Being OLD brings opportunity.

 

We are not insentient, but thinking, learning participants in life. This innate compulsion to learn is what propels my writing.

 

I ask you to return to the late 80s. I was deep into my practice of Obstetrics and Gynecology but unhappy and discontent, not unlike that good old cow who kept eying the neighbor’s greener pasture. I was looking around for something else to do when I had the idea of becoming a family therapist. This led me to Virginia Satir, an internationally renowned family therapist so insightful and daring she literally worked miracles. I heard she was coming to Tucson and signed up for her workshop.

 

I watched enthralled as she took a family of four frozen in dysfunctional communication and over a three hour period, warmed them until they thawed, and taught them how to be genuine and honest with each other.  There were tears, hugs, and great relief as these people were able to be who they were and find acceptance. It was a powerful demonstration.

 

Virginia Satir who was nearing 70, as I am, and was six feet tall, as I am not, shared her wisdom. One of the things she said resonated profoundly with what I believed. She said, “There is always hope your life can change because you can always learn new things.” Depressed, sad, frustrated, I was looking for change.

 

I was not a good family therapist.  There was probably too much surgeon in me by then. If there is a problem, identify it and cut it out. Be done with it. Therapy is a timeline, perhaps of years. I was seeing a couple when, talking to each individually, I learned both had been praying one of them would die to end the marriage.  “Why are you still married?” I asked the first time I saw them together.

 

A week later, they had filed for divorce. Chalk one up for Dr. Allen.

 

Implied in Virginia Satir’s statement, is the ability to make a difference for yourself. Sometimes it may mean rethinking something, often those old messages about self-worth we carry with us from childhood. It means self-talk, self-encouragement and above all, believing you are worth whatever effort it takes to change.

 

I celebrate that kind of evolution that is chosen, directed and accomplished. Too often we fail to look back at where we have been and acknowledge the distance we have traveled. I have hiked the Grand Canyon, down the South Kaibab Trail, and the next day, up the Bright Angel Trail. Since I weighed over 200 pounds, you must realize I didn’t set any time records but I had prepared by exercising and hiking shorter distances at home.  It was a huge effort with breath-taking rewards. Once of them was standing at the top of the Bright Angel Trail and looking back. True, there were switch backs and steep, interminable  climbs, but there was also the magnificence of the canyon, and I had been there. And in a grand gesture of heavenly magnanimity, I was given a rainbow.