Today

As a nation, the U.S. has such a dismal human rights record, from its treatment of Native Americans on into the present day on the streets of Chicago and other cities, so I cannot and do not consider this to be a Pilgrim day, but a day for giving thanks.

On this day of promoting gratitude, I think of the Louis Armstrong classic, What a Wonderful World. To see and hear him sing, please click the link.

I’ve also encountered a youtube video in which Armstrong gives a spoken introduction which you might find interesting. That link is here.

Louis ArmstrongjpgNaBloPoMo_2015

 

 

 

Naps

I love taking naps. Don’t misunderstand me, I also enjoy nighttime sleeping, but I love naps. Short power naps – the recommended 20-minute kind – are very helpful as a battery recharge. But a real nap, for me, means no time limit: a natural wakeup when the body is ready. That is absolute perfection, in my book.

Very few of us can enjoy that sort of ‘luxury’ when we arise in the morning, because there are morning tasks to be completed in a timely fashion. Maybe you need to make breakfast and pack up lunches and drive children to school. Perhaps it is just a matter of getting yourself washed and dressed and out the door to work or school. Perhaps the dog wakes you up, insisting on a walk or the cats want their food or the baby needs to be fed or changed. Whether the stimulus is our alarm clock or the sounds of a fellow creature, we roll out of bed and get moving.

A nap, on the other hand, can be planned (occasionally) at a time when there is no incipient pressure to be active, to meet a need or a deadline. A quiet place, a soft surface on which to recline, a cozy blanket and open-ended time are the prime ingredients. I personally enjoy using an eyebag because the gentle weight of it reminds my eyes that they are completely at rest. And somehow that seems to quiet my mind as well. My muscles relax and I sink into my body, which doesn’t make sense as words, but that’s how it feels to me.

I am not one of those people who can fall asleep anywhere: in/on planes, trains and automobiles. Sometimes I wish that I were, but then again, I really enjoy watching people and scenery, so that’s okay. There have been occasions, particularly on a long flight, where I do nod off for a bit, but the resulting neck pain is terrible.

For me, napping is a private thing. I want to be somewhere secluded and safe, where I will not be observed. It is beginning to sound like I have a lot of requirements for napping, but remember that I am talking ideal circumstances here. Most of my naps are ended by a ringing telephone or the adorable little chime on my smart phone alarm.

Origin of NAP:  Middle English nappen, from Old English hnappian; akin to Old High German hnaffezen (to doze), or Middle High German napfen;                                         First Known Use: before 12th century

Nothing exciting about the origin of the word, except that it appears to have been in use for a long time. Of course some cultures, particularly in warmer climates, have a traditional ‘siesta’ after the midday meal. I’ve always thought that was a sensible and humane routine. I am not convinced that being ‘on’ nonstop is really any good for us as humans or for the cultures we develop using that lifestyle.

Well, if you will excuse me, I need to do some more research; its time for my nap.

IMG_0499

NaBloPoMo_2015

 

 

Thirteen

The persistent ‘belief’ that thirteen is an unlucky number has always puzzled me. I remember first learning that some tall buildings do not have a thirteenth floor. What? The extra zap associated with Friday the thirteenth just raised the superstition to greater heights. Then, somewhere along the way, during my feminist awakening, I heard that the root of all this fear and angst was that there were/are thirteen witches in a coven. That settled it. The number thirteen became a power day for me, a locus of women’s energy, if you will. In honor of today, I decided to spend a little time researching the superstitions and their possible origins.

Google ‘thirteen witches’ and you will find: 13 rules, 13 powers, 13 runes and 13 goals of witchcraft, as well as a film and a television show. From the World of Wicca website comes this factoid: “…the earliest reference to the term coven was in 1662 when Isobel Gowdie confessed that in her experience witches met in covens of thirteen.”

I went on to read the text of an NPR interview with Nathaniel Lachenmeyer the author of 13 : The Story of the World’s Most Notorious Superstition, where I found these ‘facts’:

[The] first record of it being a superstition was in the late 17th century, and the first incarnation of unlucky 13 was ’13 at a table.’ If you sit 13 people at a table, one will die within a year. And at the time… [it was commonly accepted that] the origin of the superstition… was the 12 plus one of Christ and the disciples at the Last Supper.

The term triskaidekophobia originated about 1910. It was the creation of a psychoanalyst at a time when… there was a lot of focus on phobias. Triskaidekophobia is one of three things that the 20th century brought to the 13 superstition. The other two were Friday the 13th. That superstition didn’t come around until the 20th century. And the third was the missing 13th floor.

P.T. Barnum… thought enough of the number to devote an entire chapter…[in his autobiography] to analyzing 13 in his own life, very earnestly, to try to figure out whether or not it… was a malevolent force or not. And in the 20th century… Adolf Hitler and Herbert Hoover were both triskaidekophobes.

I went on searching, trying to select sources that seem most reputable, (but who knows…) In a National Geographic article: Friday the 13th Phobia Rooted in Ancient History, they quote a phobia expert:

Donald Dossey, founder of the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina, also a folklore historian, … said fear of Friday the 13th is rooted in ancient, separate bad-luck associations with the number 13 and the day Friday. The two unlucky entities ultimately combined to make one super unlucky day.

[He] traces the fear of 13 to a Norse myth about 12 gods having a dinner party at Valhalla, their heaven. In walked the uninvited 13th guest, the mischievous Loki. Once there, Loki arranged for Hoder, the blind god of darkness, to shoot Balder the Beautiful, the god of joy and gladness, with a mistletoe-tipped arrow.

“Balder died and the whole Earth got dark. The whole Earth mourned. It was a bad, unlucky day,” said Dossey. From that moment on, the number 13 has been considered ominous and foreboding.

Thomas Fernsler, an associate policy scientist in the Mathematics and Science Education Resource Center at the University of Delaware in Newark, said the number 13 suffers because of its position after 12. [He states that] numerologists consider 12 a “complete” number. There are 12 months in a year, 12 signs of the zodiac, 12 gods of Olympus, 12 labors of Hercules, 12 tribes of Israel, and 12 apostles of Jesus.

In exceeding 12 by 1, Fernsler said 13’s association with bad luck “has to do with just being a little beyond completeness.”

This fear of 13 is strong in today’s world. According to Dossey, more than 80 percent of high-rises lack a 13th floor. Many airports skip the 13th gate. Hospitals and hotels regularly have no room number 13. On streets in Florence, Italy, the house between number 12 and 14 is addressed as 12 and a half.

Folklore offers remedies, however. One recommendation is to climb to the top of a mountain or skyscraper and burn all the socks you own that have holes in them. Another is to stand on your head and eat a piece of gristle.

Now that is gross. Not the socks, but eating gristle? No. If you haven’t had enough trivia yet, here’s a link to today’s Huffington Post. Numerous sources say that people refuse to engage in major business transactions on Friday the thirteenth, including buying a house or acting on a stock tip. Some folks refuse to fly. Reportedly, this leads to an economic slowdown for the day. I also got the sense that it is realtors and developers who keep the superstitions about the 13th floor and # 13 rooms and apartments alive. They are worried that people will not buy or rent places with the #13, so they exclude them.

All of this is mainly in the U.S. and Western Europe, of course. In Japan it is the # 9 that is skipped, especially in hospitals, due to the sound “ku” being associated with the word “kurushimu” (“to suffer”). In China, the fear of four (Tetraphobia) is the reason that a fourth floor is usually omitted from most elevator fixtures in a Chinese building, this is because the number means “death (死)”.

Enough of this. I am going to stick with my belief – or is it a superstition? – that Thirteen is a power number for women. And that, my friends, is that! I hope you had a fine day.

NaBloPoMo November 2015      th-1

 

 

 

 

Lego Me

NaBloPoMo_1114_298x255_blogrollConstruction.

De-construction.

Connection.

 

I think:           I am happier if I have been tending to my physical self…

I think:           I am happier if I have been tending to my spiritual self

I think:           I am happier if I have been tending to my creative self…

I wonder:            Do I really come apart like a Lego creation?

I wonder:            How do I put my self together?

I wonder:            Are these pieces of my self really so separate?

Visual.

My parts:

singles

 

 

 

Sometimes I feel like a jumbled pile:

jumblesorted

Sometimes I feel like I’ve sorted myself:

 

 

Striving:

reachSpilling:  chestStepping Through:  stepping

Lego artwork by Nathan Sawaya.  Check it out.

Travel

NaBloPoMo_1114_298x255_blogrollI am reminded of two poems. The first is called My Grandma as been a winter tree for years, and begins:

 I have been watching

changing autumn leaves

closely this year

seeking a metaphor.

I wrote that one many years ago.

The other is quite famous, The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost, which begins:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…

If you know the poem (if not, take a look now) you know that in a few short stanzas the poet chooses a path to take and walks on, thinking:

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way

I doubted if I should ever come back.

He concludes, ‘with a sigh’ that the choice he made ‘has made all the difference’.

This is a classic poem, which beautifully captures the moment of and ramifications of choices we make. But, to return to the reason I’ve included my little snippet, audaciously sharing space with one of the finest American poets…

I found myself, after our annual Thanksgiving Day road trip, thinking about the metaphor of that travel fiasco. Our car joins tens of thousands of others on a three-lane, modern highway, heading west. Obviously, using the speedy, wide, direct (cutting through mountains and valleys) route is the smart way to go. Newer is better, bigger is better, direct is better… it just makes sense. Even though we know that there will be too many vehicles and the road will become clogged, we take the on ramp and join the surge. And crawl for an hour and a half, covering perhaps 30 miles.

When it becomes obvious and inevitable that we will be late for the Thanksgiving meal, we choose to bail and try back roads, to make the trip a little ‘adventure’. Small towns, traffic lights (but not too many) and long stretches of road through beautiful snowy woods. Most of all we are moving and that is satisfying. There is more to the tale, concluding with our arrival just as grace was being said. But I am going back, once again to the search for metaphor.

When I was young, ‘just starting out’, as they say, I imagined that I would follow that straight clear highway into my future. I thought perhaps a career in journalism or a scholarly profession was my goal, just ahead, out of sight. But the direct, high-speed route seemed to be the obvious choice. Carry on, forward, full speed ahead.

Like Frost’s seemingly random choice of path, I don’t really know what factors led me to take side roads, but soon I lost sight of the highway. I could still hear the steady roar of passing vehicles, and that was often distracting. Constant, droning voices telling me to get back on the big road. Now. Take this turn and go back. Head for: career, success, achievement.

I didn’t take the turn. I never did go back to the high-speed road, with its promise of getting somewhere important. I wandered from one side road to another, having adventures, certainly hitting some rough patches, but never trapped in heavy traffic. There was always another side road, off of the side road, some of them without signposts. The slow-paced journey of my life does not require an arrival to satisfy me. I guess I’ll just keep seeking metaphors.

 

 

 

The Day After

NaBloPoMo_1114_298x255_blogrollThe announcement of the grand jury’s decision not to indict the Ferguson police officer who killed Mike Brown, coming on the heels of reading about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the frightening reality of how many of the U.S. soldiers come to be there (joining the National Guard for the chance to go to college, then being deployed to fill the ranks of a ‘volunteer’ army) was too much for me yesterday.

Thus the title of my post: Too much wrong.

In reaction to these shameful manifestations of injustice, I began thinking about and investigating the research on privilege. There are apparently eight or nine agreed upon forms of privilege. I added one. I found the illuminating statements below on the website of Media Smarts, a Canadian organization. They helped me to frame my thoughts.

“… privilege is not merely about race or gender… it is a series of interrelated hierarchies and power dynamics that touch all facets of social life: race, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, education, gender identity, age, physical ability, [and body size.]”

“… privilege, discrimination, and social groups all operate within interrelated hierarchies of power, dominance, and exclusion. Just because someone is privileged in one way doesn’t mean they may not be underprivileged in another (and vice-versa). It is therefore important to be aware of the various groups to which one belongs in order to be able to question our own participation in a system of discrimination and privilege.”

“… the privileged group is the one that is commonly treated as the baseline against which the others are judged or compared – it is seen as ‘ordinary’ [or the ‘norm’.]”

So here is one list of the forms of privilege and who has it, as they are generally present in western culture. The information is mostly taken from the Media Smarts website, with some modifications added by me.

  1. Gender (male authority, stories and perspectives)
  2. Gender Identity (how one identifies and express oneself in gendered terms)
  3. Racial (institutionalized racism: system structured to privilege one group over others)
  4. Sexuality (heterosexuality assumed)
  5. Religious (WASP: religious practices and observances recognized as the norm)
  6. Education (access to higher education)
  7. Class (economic status & social class)
  8. Ability (able bodied, w/o mental disability or addiction)
  9. Body size (“In terms of media, it is extremely rare to find representations of individuals whose [body] does not conform to cultural expectations. In the rare instances that such characters are portrayed, their nonconformity is typically used to elicit… laughter, or may be portrayed as a kind of mental [disability].”)
  10. Age (youth)

This gives me a lot to think about.  I have a renewed awareness of the groups to which I belong.  At the very least, I want to remain more conscious of the ways that my privilege makes things easier for me in my daily life. I do not expect that it will be comfortable, but it seems critical to focus on my “own participation in a system of discrimination and privilege…”

The work I am attempting to do here, addressing issues of fat stigma, sexism, corporate greed and so on, feels like a privileged indulgence, unless I also honor these realities.  These seem like the right thoughts to carry with me into Thanksgiving Day 2014.

PS:  How to be a White Ally by Janee Woods

Negative Space

NaBloPoMo_1114_298x255_blogroll Negative space is a concept that I (eventually) learned about in relation to visual art… There is power and image in the unfilled space.  It is part of the art work, a choice made by the artist, as much as the shade or depth or even shape of the pigment used in the ‘positive space’. What does it say about our culture, (or at least my way of approaching art, which is common for the uninformed), that we focus first on the obvious, what was ‘put there’, not what was created by leaving space open?

Okay, I’ve demonstrated my limitations when it comes to ‘understanding’ visual art. To return to: negative space. My primary association with the words is using them to express my feelings, when I have entered or chosen to be in a negative space. Where the view, the attitude toward pretty much everything is relentlessly negative. That is how I felt about my writing and about the section of that writing that I posted yesterday. Bilious, as in bile, as in vomit. (I went back this morning and took much of it out…)

However, there is another way to look at the idea of space, which was gifted to me by this piece of writing, which I happened upon: Fat Bitches Don’t Sit On Trains: How A Crappy Morning Commute Doesn’t Have To Ruin Your Whole Day

The entire piece caught my interest, as you might expect, seeing as how it deals with the prejudging and treatment of a fat woman in public, as well as the author’s use of writing and ultimately sharing the story as a response. Been there and trying to do that. But there is one small (hah!) section of the piece that I want to focus upon. She captures in detail the effort many women, especially us XL types, but I think it’s a pretty standard behavior for many women, the effort we make NOT to take up space in public.

I sat down as I usually do when it’s a middle seat: I positioned my butt on the edge of the seat and gingerly slid back as far as I could without infringing too much on the space of the riders beside me, keeping my legs locked and my shoulders squeezed in as close as possible.

This offers another layer of meaning for the words ‘negative space’. How small can we make ourselves, in order not to offend, or in order to fit in? A daily practice for me, passing by animate objects, like people, and inanimate objects everywhere I go, even in my own home. I’ve become quite adept at assessing space visually and knowing whether I will fit. When it is within my power, I arrange the world so that it works for me. Passageways in my small home are as wide as they can be. I push back against my family members when they ‘forget’ and I feel blocked, constricted (disrespected) in my own space.

I can’t change the width of the center aisle on an airplane. I know when to turn sideways to move through a narrow space, although sometimes the repositioning is pointless, since ‘round is round’ and I am only choosing whether I put my belly/butt or my hips in the lead as I pass through the insufficient gap. In restaurants, I automatically gauge the space around and between tables, pre-planning my exit, seeking dignity in moving past others. I have become increasingly bold about moving empty chairs out of my way or saying an assertive ‘Excuse me…’ when asking someone to move their chair so that I can pass by. Actually, it is annoying just to think of it that way; that it is bold to behave as if I have the right to move through space!

I recently returned to my car in a local parking lot, to find that the thoughtless driver of an oversized vehicle (hey, I drive a station wagon, I’m not taking a Mini Cooper or Prius superiority attitude here) had parked so closely beside me (I do love how we identify with our car, referring to it as me) that I could not open the driver’s door wide enough to get in. I tried and wrenched my back for my efforts. In the end, with a surprising sense of humor and lack of shame, I stopped a young man who was passing by. I explained the situation. His first words, endearingly, were “I just had a beer…”. I said he just needed to back the car up about five feet. Which he did and we both laughed and he went on his way.   I wonder what he thought and if he mentioned the experience to anyone later?

I guess that is an example of when I could have moved into a negative space and I did not. Hmm.

It was suggested to me that I could try a poem in these daily blog posts. Here goes: it’s an old one… (With apologies for excessive spacing; I can’t seem to fix it.)

“We call them thigh peg chairs:

The ones with front legs that poke above the seat”,

I say to her, speaking to and in spite of her smallness.

 

Sharing vocabulary from the other side:

Booth bulletins, cushion updates,

Reports on seat depth and…

 

Newsflash!

Chair arms that discomfit while dining,

Leaving bruise-like marks on ample thighs.

 

Airline seat-belt extenders,

Narrow seats with immobile arms

That cut into soft flesh.

 

Theater seat arms that

Wedge and take the fun out,

Giving an edge to recreational pastimes.

 

I wonder…

‘Why do I go there?’

‘Do I forget?’

 

The fact is

Normalcy tricks me,

Beckons to me, seduces me.

 

Why must I announce,

To friends & strangers, over and over,

That I don’t fit?

 

Am I misshapen or is it the chairs?

Reunions

NaBloPoMo_1114_298x255_blogrollI mainly associate reunions with schools, traditional schools like high school and college. College reunions are generally held on campus, offering an opportunity to visit old hangouts with old friends. They also involve fundraising, often an aggressive, competitive push to reach some dollar goal and ‘beat’ the class ahead of you. That’s a lot of one-up-man-ship energy.

The same sort of energy seems to dominate the wine drinkers and cheese nibblers who stand about in the campus venue. Where you work, where you live, where you have a vacation home, where your children go to school and by implication, what you earn.

I sound snarky and I’m sure that there are people who truly enjoy re-uniting and talking about their college days. Maybe because I left school for a few years and graduated with one class, having started with a different one… I don’t attend either class’s reunions, even though I live extremely nearby. There were years, early on, when I would have been interested in getting together with the women who were in my freshman dorm, but I guess I didn’t do much ‘bonding’ beyond that first year.

High school reunions, in my experience, are equally disturbing. I was very involved in high school life, back in the day: newspaper, yearbook and a mess of clubs. You would think I might be really excited about reuniting with my classmates; or at least some of the 750+ graduates in my class. Oh, I went to the ten-year reunion. My reaction: it was like we were back in the cafeteria, with everyone sitting with their old clique. The beautiful people were wearing leather pants and diamond ear studs and most everyone else was sitting with their safe groups and just watching the beautiful be beautiful. There we were in some hotel function room, with lots of drinking going on.

The 20th reunion was even stranger. As I walked toward the function room in another hotel, I saw ahead of me a room filled with the mothers of my high school classmates: women in cocktail gowns. “What are they doing here?”, I wondered. Come to find out, they were us. My classmates, for the most part, had become their parents and I don’t know when I have ever felt more out of place. I was dressed incorrectly, for one thing, in silk pants and a long silk tunic, with sensible (not spike heeled) shoes. Awkward.

As a non-drinker, I could find almost nothing to talk to anyone about – it had been too long since our years together to reminisce and I had no dazzling plums to parade. I had finished college, later trained as a furniture maker, after 12 years in that field I had returned to graduate school for education. I didn’t even have a child yet! The competition for highest number of grandchildren had begun and I was out of step.

Okay, so why am I writing about all of this, anyway? Water under the bridge and sour grapes too, maybe. What I wanted to talk about was the intriguing thought of having reunions with old friends, outside of the traditional, organized framework.

Who do I fantasize seeing? For the first 12 years of my life, I was part of a neighborhood group who put together a play every summer. Our senior member, eight years older than I, was writer/producer/director, with a lot of theater savvy and a wicked (in Boston speak) sense of humor. We practiced for weeks; then the plays were presented with full costuming, sets, lights and production numbers in our two-car garage. The driveway was filled with dozens and eventually scores of people who brought their own lawn chair seating to watch the show. Proceeds went to charity.

I would love to gather the members of The Overlook Gang and share our memories of those innocent and raucous summer days. That would have meaning for me.

In my twenties I lived with a group of women in a house next door to a house of men. We were consciously ‘political’ about our housing choices and over the course of five years we grew up together. There was a little turnover, naturally. Some of us are still in touch sporadically, but I think it would be grand to sit down to a meal together – as we did so often in those years – and talk about then and now. Unlike the more formal reunions I mentioned above, I don’t think there would be much, if any, competitive energy in the room with us. Personally, I would love to cook for all of them again.

The sensation that I get, when I think of these and a couple of other groups of people from my past with whom I would enjoy reuniting, is lovely. It is sort of a tingle of excitement combined with a sense of safety and meaning; a chance to remember who I was and renew those values. It’s a really good feeling. I guess that’s what a reunion could mean for me.

Your thoughts and experiences…?

Pen-ulti

Something has been growing clearer to me over the past few weeks. It’s time for me to wrap up this phase of ‘The Middle’ of the EAW/Food Life Story. Perhaps what I mean to say is that it has come to its own conclusion and I’ve become conscious of the fact that it’s time to make a change. Time to shift priorities.

Going forward, my energy, my attention will focus on my own health and the people who are nearest and dearest to me. I won’t become a hermit, but a significant aspect of this ‘Middle’ path has been recognizing how my time and energy are used. I have slowly been eliminating the less-healing parts of my life, shifting my tim-ergy back to myself and attending to my own well-being.

Let me expand for a moment on what I mean by health, in this context. Physical health is an obvious priority, especially as I age. My mental and emotional health have both improved dramatically in the past six months.  This is in no small part because of the work I’ve been doing on this blog. Speaking up about my burdens of shame, anger and sadness; sharing them in this quasi-public arena has been immensely healing and fulfilling. I feel like I have traveled countless miles toward wholeness, sanity and health by choosing to commit to posting on this blog.

To state the obvious, these ‘different’ elements of health are completely intertwined. They are all of a piece. So, when I speak of spiritual health, it is not separate from the others, in fact it may be the overarching piece. I don’t claim to know. Breaking down the meaning of the word health is sort of artificial. To some extent it is merely a way to expand on the basic simplicity of the concept or perhaps it is an attempt to condense the enormity of it.

Point is, I am “feeling healthier” than ever before in my life and self-ish-ly (see post from 4/20), I want more!  I’ve been faithfully posting here for six months – daily in November 2013 and twice weekly in the months since. This Wednesday, April 30th, will be my last scheduled post for a while. I plan to return as a daily blog poster for NaBloPoMo in November. I suspect I will be a pop-up blogger here over the months until then.  Although I won’t be posting regularly, I will be writing and there will undoubtedly be things I want to share.

Please go and see the movie Fed Upfedup

I would love to hear your thoughts!