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I Tried to Understand….and Have a Glimmer of the Concept…You?

I think ALL of us can agree on one thing: our American society is sick right now.   So much finger pointing is going on about the causes, but there are some truths that can’t be ignored.

One is on male anger: our young boys are taught to “man up”, to suppress their natural dismay and fear and unhappiness and learn to be stoic. And the hurts build up until it festers.  Some people turn inward and we have a lot of teen depression and anxiety. Others, unfortunately, turn outwards and access a way to strike out. Such are mass murderers nurtured…..and it is all of us who parented that one. Because we are part of the society that encourages this way of raising boys. Today there was another shooting in Texas with 5 dead and 21 injured..and it was a young white male who is the (now dead) suspected perp.

The other is white male privilege. I read an opinion piece I urge you to read. It’s long and you might want to close it down. I urge you, instead, to read it in bits. Take it in. Share it. It may not resonate with you but when I read it, I had a few insights of enlightenment. Perhaps you can, too.

Christianity and the Cult of Trumppublished by Utne Reader, was written by Miguel A. De La Torre, from Burying White Privilege.  

It is apparent to anyone who is not a white male that the white guys have access to many things that people of color and women generally have to work harder to achieve. And we know pay scales are different. We know perception of why people act the way they do is different based on color and gender. This article develops the historic reasons why. Image result for being a member of a group and outsider

The ONLY time I ever was close to a position that the white males of the USA enjoy was the summer of 1972 when I went to Israel. It took a few weeks there when it hit me: most people around me were Jewish. It was the first time in my life that I was in the majority. I was no longer an “other”.

While I had entered the identifiable group, I was only on the fringe because I did not have the language nor a lot of the modern cultural knowledge, but, once learned, I would be there.  I propose to you to consider the experience you had when you visited the country  where your family’s heritage is based. You may not been able to speak (fluently) in that language and you would not know the day-to-day societal norms, but you could learn them if you immersed.  If you have never gone to the “old country” nor ever really learned any ethic cooking, dances, or stories, if your family has lost its cultural heritage and you just “know” you are part Irish, for example, you probably will not be able to access this point of insight.  It is NOT the feeling you get when you are on your 5th green beer on St. Patrick’s Day and just looovveeee everyone in the bar.

That feeling of “belonging” to a group that is in the majority and has a strong voice in the society gave me a sense of calm……and I had not recognized prior that I was otherwise anxious. That anxiety increased greatly when I lived in the Bible Belt and was very definitely an “other” much more than when I grew up in the ethically and culturally diverse New York metropolitan area.

So, without even going into the God-given rights as discussed in Christianity and the Cult of Trump, I could see that white men subconsciously feel safe. Since they have been the predominate group, they have the power.  And when I felt for the experience I had, the feeling of being IN the group in Israel, I could finally grasp just what white male privilege is.

 

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Part of the pushback by angry white men MIGHT be because  it sounds like they are being considered “inferior” because of skin color and that is an impossibly hard concept to swallow (and yes, ironic as hell).  No, it’s not your skin color……it is your attitude. But your skin color gave you access and so your attitude is that everyone has equal access, which is not true.  Once you wake up to the difference, we can begin the job of healing this society.

The second insight I received reading this article was related to religion. As you know, I am Jewish but married to a Christian. For twelve years I have been attending church with him, learning about the stories and practices of this faith. And what I have learned has taught me that Jesus was all about teaching love by actions. He tried to simplify things, since people then like people now seem to have issues with reading long and deep. He acknowledged the Ten Commandments but basically said it comes down to treating others the way you want to be treated. That really should be simple enough for people to understand….but it is not.

I told my husband I would go to church with him but only as long as people respected me. His answer, “If they don’t, we’re in the wrong place.” So I was embraced by people at Ascension & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Pueblo, Colorado for my introduction. The people at Huntington, West Virginia’s St. John’s Episcopal Church asked especially for me to participate in study groups because my point of view would be different and would lead to more interesting discussion. Now in McMinnville, Oregon at McMinnville Cooperative Ministry, a blended Lutheran-Methodist church, I am participating in actions to help the community and even though I am not baptized, I am recognized as a full member of the congregation.

Simply, the exposure I have had to Christianity has lead me to understand that we are all imperfect but should be striving to BE LIKE JESUS.

In contrast, the Christianity I saw on full display living in the Bible Belt was, for the most part, significantly different.  When I first moved to Nashville in 1975 I was greeted “Hello! Welcome to Nashville! What church do you belong to?” in one continuous breath.  Sunday mornings were the best time to go grocery shopping (except the beer was inaccessible until noon, not a big problem for me.) because people either were in church or sleeping in; basically not going out in public if not at church so not to be identified as “one of those”. It also was when I learned not to expect to schedule anything on Wednesday night, as many had midweek church suppers at the very least.

So, if they were so tuned into church life, why was there so much anger towards “others”?

I worked for 18 months (way too long) in an office in Vanderbilt Medical Center where the electronic medical equipment was repaired and kept running at peak efficiency.  The assistant director was a guy in his late 30s who proudly told me he was an elder in his church. He also told me that all the other people who thought they were Christian were not. He belonged to the XYZ Christian Church and others went to Southern Baptist or Church of Christ or some other denomination without “Christian” in their name. Ergo, they were not Christian.  He said all this with a straight face.  Image result for my god is better than yours

This same guy stumbled into work bleary-eyed one morning shortly after his second child had been born. I asked if the baby had kept him up. No, it was another problem. At his church.  Apparently, one of the Sunday School teacher positions had to be filled and the congregation had been asked for volunteers. Two men had offered but they just could not be considered. Why? He was hesitant to speak it….I wondered if he knew his indoctrination was not quite right and that caused him distress? He finally said that the two guys were “a couple.” I responded with “What’s the problem?” He was shocked I didn’t automatically “get it” and asked “Would you want one of THEM teaching your kids?”  I kept calm and asked him if the Sunday School has a curriculum that the teachers use to teach the religious training they want the kids to get. Yes. I asked if any of the curriculum included getting naked and touching each other. NO!!! “Well, then,” I repeated, “what’s the problem?”  He stomped away in frustration. (I seriously hated using that argument because it feeds the convoluted concept that homosexuals are pedophiles even as we hear at LEAST once a month about some ordained Christian minister being caught in incest or some other inappropriate act with a minor. And THAT gets no discussion so it really is a GREAT example of white male privilege.)

The next morning the boss stumbled in again and I played coy and again asked if the baby was ok. Yes,….it was “the other thing.”  Turned out, after kids were asleep and his wife also and he was just drifting off he clearly heard a deep resonant voice (James Earl Jones?) “Love your brother!”  And a few seconds later, it was repeated, “Love your brother!” I asked him if God had ever talked to him before and he slowly said ” noooo”. So then I told him the message was pretty clear…..and was he going to approve hiring the two volunteers for the teaching spot. He didn’t want to. So, I pushed a bit, “But God told you to LOVE YOUR BROTHER and I think God would be okay if you just let him teach the class.”

I have no idea what eventually happened there.  I would prefer to think that those guys found a better church family, one that could respect and love them as Christ taught. (Is it considered teaching if teh lesson is not learned?)   But this was only one of many many incidents related to the need to make everyone believe the same that I experienced and for many, I was the one they were trying to change.

These experiences, when compared to the ones I have had at the churches where I attended, have been significantly different and when Miguel A. De La Torre wrote in his essay Christianity and the Cult of Trumphe mentioned that Christianity as practiced in the South IS different from Christianity practiced elsewhere in the USA.

I want to interject that I know there are “liberal” churches in the South, just as there are “conservative” churches throughout the country.  In the 21 years that I lived in Tennessee I had five active Christian friends who walked the walk and loved me as I am with no “need” to fix me.  And I have also met others in other areas of the country who very much want to “save” me.

The point Mr.De La Torre wrote and I sensed is that when a culture has a majority population with a similar mindset, it influences the mores of the area.  So, with a pervasive attitude in the Bible Belt that the fundamentalist spin is the ONLY right way to Christ, it makes everyone else an “other”. That means the unchurched, the nonChristians, and so many others need to be fixed or made to leave.

I very much felt like an “Other” in the South and there are a few people around me that may try also.  Because white men essentially run this nation and the conservative Christian church has learned how to make their voice heard, we are all immersed in this struggle.  The first step is to stop denying it.

 

 

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Walking a Divergent Pathway

Growing up in the New York metropolitan area provided an introduction to the diversity of the world.  It seemed, at least from my juvenile perspective, that people just sort of understood there were differences, but no one was pushing their way as the only way.

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Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

In elementary school we all decided the Protestant kids had the easiest time of it. While the Catholic kids left school early on Wednesday to take a bus to Catechism downtown, and we Jewish kids were taken by our parents to once a week Hebrew School, the other kids just sort of grinned and enjoyed their week day freedom after school.

 

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I moved to Nashville in 1975. This is the buckle of the Bible Belt and it was a cultural shock to me in many ways. Besides learning that the only way to eat green beans was after they had been simmered with raw bacon for at least two hours, I also quickly learned that it was a welcoming question to include, with “what’s your name” the query “what church do you belong to?”

While I first interpreted it as a way to invite me, I gradually understood it was a way to identify the tribe.  Who was in and who was out.

These were very very real experiences I had:

“My church is the only CHRISTIAN church because it is the XYZ Christian Church. The others are not Christians. They are Baptists or Methodists, not Christians.” (my supervisor, mid-30s)

“My church is the only RIGHT church. All the others are wrong.” (14-year-old in the boy choir who belonged to a congregation of 50 people.)

“You MUST take Christ as your Savior! You could have died and been in Hell for eternity.” (after I had recovered from bacterial meningitis, a 45-year-old wife beating neighbor)

“We can’t have THOSE people teaching our children at Sunday School.” (same supervisor, discussing that the only volunteers to respond to the call to fill a vacancy, a homosexual couple.)

“Jesus was a Christian” (10-year-old who attended a fundamentalist church).

When I got into discussion with people who I now understand were Episcopalian, they cautioned me that no one is perfect. That acceptance of all people also includes acceptance of their flaws.

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That is a truism, but I need not follow the advice of people I feel do not align with me on ethical and moral terms.

Image result for come as you areI started going to church with Graham 12 years ago. I told him I would attend as long as I was respected and he said the very right thing: “If they don’t, we are in the wrong place.” So, until we came to the McMinnville Cooperative Ministry, we attended Episcopal churches in Pueblo, Colorado and Huntington, West Virginia. We also started here in Mac at St. B’s but did not feel the community connection we both enjoy. Jeanne Rahier invited us to sit with her one Sunday at the Coop  and after the Christmas music program at St. B’s fell way short of what Graham enjoyed for celebration, we decided to make the switch.

I think most of the pastors have enjoyed my questions and my comments. Certainly, the members did as I was often asked to be part of a study group because they knew my perspective would allow for more interesting discussion.  I participated in the “Inquirer’s class” and the Priest  completely misunderstood and told me I could be baptized afterwards. When I told her it was not my goal she was surprised I was “merely” interested in learning.

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source: CCA

So, why am I not jumping over after 12 years of exposure to Christianity, especially when I no longer actively go to Temple any longer?

Two main reasons:

  1. To keep my mom’s voice out of my head, I have been focusing on the similarities. I think that was one reason the Episcopal church was comfortable. It has a great deal of ritual. It took me a few Sundays to see the “game plan” so to speak, and once I did, I recognized the patterns. In a way, I understood the root of the practices in a way most of the regular people in the congregation did not. I knew the Church had developed from the Jewish faith and while practices vary from denomination to denomination, there are clear signs of the origin of most practices being from Judaism.  I will say that the Episcopal church never considered me a member while the Coop has. And that makes me feel that the energy I put in to being part of the community is accepted and appreciated and I feel included.
  2. I just don’t understand and can not accept on faith two big doctrines of Christianity: that we are born with “original sin” and that once we accept Christ, we “live forever”. These issues are, I believe, part of the root of the problem with the fundamental branches. Original sin is the stick to demand behavior compliance and the carrot is baptism.   As I was told in Nashville by more than one poor excuse for a proselytizer, they “had their ‘get out of jail free card’ already.” I don’t expect people to be perfect, but I don’t expect people who think they have the ONLY right pathway to be SO damn flawed.

I believe EVERY religion’s fundamental branch has this problem; that they believe in a very narrow and strict interpretation and anyone who questions it is considered to be on the outside and not worth being a part of their community.   In our fear and concern about fundamentalist Islam, we have been quick to be concerned about sharia law. And yet EVERY fundamental branch of every religion has similar rules controlling behavior.

Image result for religious requirement for women to cover their hairAnd many rules relate to controlling women. Have you noticed that ALL religions have long had a tradition of covering women’s hair? Pretty sexy stuff, hair.  Or women and men pray apart? Or clothes must provide certain coverage and women must appear modest.  The common theme is men have problems concentrating on the spiritual realm when women are around.

Women, including women in the South, have long adapted to restrictions on behavior. Many are broken down and fall into line, often being the most vocal and angry that other women disagree. And there are many who disagree, but they remain quiet, in order to keep a “happy home”. And a few, thank goodness, still have a backbone and a voice, but like all protesters everywhere, their plight is not easy.

My first job out of college was for the Tennessee Supreme Court. In 1975 the Old South was still very strong in those halls. All the justices were men. White men goes without saying but is important to say. As a recent grad, I was the flunky, but I was able to take on the tasks they assigned me well and a new project related to upgrading the system how to count court cases was given to me. The opportunity to attend a conference in San Jose, California was offered by my supervisor but had to be approved by the Big Boss. I was 23-years-old, living on my own 1000 miles away from my parents, but he was not happy with the idea of a young woman travelling across state lines on her own. He actually mentioned the Mann Act.  So, as I had learned in the 2 years I already had lived there, I knew the game I needed to play. I connected with a friend of a friend who lived in California. They offered to pick me up at the airport and have me over for dinner one evening. And so, the Big Boss felt better since I had “family” there.  I never saw them again, but I did get an amazing recipe for the pasta sauce they served me. The big take-away, however, was I learned in this instance to act like a Southern woman. All smiles and all duplicitous behavior.

There is an amazing pathway to enlightenment that is not difficult.  It requires each person to have the desire and freedom to learn and reason through things. To be permitted to question and gently guided to better understanding through neutral discussion of alternative options. There are ALWAYS more than one way to solve a problem. Without that inherent capability, people become sheep to be lead. Image result for education opens doors

Sheep are herd animals, generally perceived not to be smart because they follow enmasse what the leader directs.  I personally do not understand why the Christian Church preaches that good believers are good sheep. I do understand the symbolism of Christ as the Shepherd, but I see that in any choice with farming, there is a wide range of farming styles and management. And some of the preachers and pastors and priests and rabbis and imams are very rigid in how they control their flock.

Why am I not going to Temple any longer?  A number of issues, least among them the distance to the closest one.  I was a teenager when I was told after I asked a question that I “should know the answer already.”  That was poor management of this growing soul. And later, when I turned to the Temple I WAS attending regularly for help through a crisis, I was ignored. That is not my community.

And so it goes for many people in the United States. Probably we Baby Boomers were introduced to religion before we could walk much more than current children and so we learned our baby Bible stories.   But somewhere along the way, we slipped off and few every have examined their faith with adult questions. And many found the setting too restrictive. And so, we have many who state they are Christian but behave in a way that would cause Jesus to weep.


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Okay, I know I’m a Bit Weird but…….

I know I march to a different drummer most of the time. I stay pretty busy, even in the past couple of years when I was in a lot of pain needing joint surgeries and eye surgeries. It’s been a long haul and I am pleased at my physical healing.  But I recognize I am not “back” yetImage result for different drummer

My energy level is not where it had been. Compared to most people, my activity is high and I am involved in so so much. But I am sleeping more. Needing to sleep more. That’s okay. Early to bed and not so early to rise, unless I have to set my alarm. (That is one joy of retirement.)

But I used to wake up, for over sixty years, early, often before dawn, eager for the day. I knew what I needed to do. I had figured out how long it will take me to do each task and what all I can get ticked off the “to do” list.  (You don’t so that? Chalk that up to one of our differences.) Image result for household chores

Now, though, I am sluggish. I put off getting out of bed. (one more game of sudoku….is anyone still playing that game besides me?)Image result for sudoku

But here it is 9:43 on a Saturday morning and I have stripped the bed, run the wash,  made coffee (very important job in this household), grated carrots and got them into the dehydrator, put a bag of cut veggie ends I keep in my freezer into a dutch oven to simmer and make veggie broth (you can do this too!), checked emails, signed a petition, checked to see where the “emergency” protest marches are close by on Monday (Portland and Vancouver), wrote someone to ask her to do something I know she won’t want to do (hi PF!), and now yakking up my latest itch in my head. I think I’m doing okay this morning, eh?

So, I think we have two basic categories for people. Planners and reactors.

Planners are people like me, who understand the tasks that they need to do, basically, their responsibilities. They accepted these responsibilities. They know how to achieve them and they know how long the task will take, all things moving well.  Planners also have contingency plans. They understand that not all things move well all the time Other issues come up that have to be considered and people have needs or wants and sometimes as much as the task is important, it is necessary to put is aside, because, well people.  People win over things.   But everything gets done because there is a plan.

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(source: Blue Ridge Tutoring.) I used to plan like this on paper. Now I keep my calendar on my smart phone.

Reactors are people who, to me, seem to come in sometime after the movie has started. They are not there (physically or mentally) to set the stage, plan the action, decide on the actors, let alone direct the action.  These are all decided by others and the reactor is sometimes in a position trying to catch up, figure it all out. Off balance much of the time. Stressed by what they don’t know is coming, but they know something is.  And although there is not as much work product as the planner can get done in the same amount of time, the stress level is high.Image result for movie screen

Someone recently asked me what I do. I started telling them about Can-Do Real Food and how, in the off season (not much harvesting right now) I’m probably only putting in 30 hours a week. During harvest, between end of June and the end of October, I end up putting in about 50 hours a week.

LOGO jpegThey said, but you also are involved in Zero Waste McMinnville. Yes, and like the overachiever I have been since I can remember, where I once volunteered to write a blog once a month about garbage and the environment (you’d be surprised how much there is to share how each of us can make some small changes that will have huge effects), I am now in charge of the Facebook page, put together a website, provide marketing dissemination for all Zero Waste McMinnville events, and somehow I also am on the Events committee because i spoke up with a suggestion. (teaches me, eh? probably not…….) And, because of the public response on social media, a team of us are putting together an amazing event that I sure hope becomes an annual success, the McMinnville Recycled Arts Festival.  So all that also takes about 10 hours a week. Or more. Right now, it’s about 20 hours a week just on the arts festival. (Good thing we’re off season at Can-Do so I CAN do.)

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source: Mostly Inspirational Chit-Chat

So, I am busy staying busy and I recognize that I have not been outside to check out how the apple tree was trimmed by the contractor. I have not gone out to trim my raspberry canes, I have not straightened up spaces that are mine (my office and my storeroom) that got really messy over the past year because of my pain and inability to move easily. I have stuff to do……..and that problem with my energy keeps me in my desk chair in front of my computer……..

I’d ask for someone to help remind me to get my butt in gear but everyone else I know has their own level of busy and certainly won’t eagerly take on a task to manage me. LOL I also suspect that a few of the people offering to “help” may have some ulterior agenda. (Beth will do it…..)

So, yes, I am wired differently than most people. I admit it.  If you want to increase your energy level (you do not have to go as nutso as me) maybe the suggestions in this article can help you.  I get at least 8 hours of sleep a night, drink 3-4 tall glasses of water daily, try to cook whole foods to avoid additives that might affect my body (like artificial sweeteners and preservatives), keep my mind-altering recreational enjoyment to end of the day (when I am finished with my responsibilities), and pay attention to my body when it reports it needs attention (yes, we go to the pool exercise class AKA “geezer aerobics” 3 hours a week).

Source: Freepik

One area where I have not been a success is the financial world. But I certainly know I am not alone there. We are “paycheck to paycheck” like most people and yet, I also count my blessings. And we have many. So while there are stressors, there is no reason to be stressed out. The choice is mine. And so it goes….

 

 


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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Really?  I’m taking a survey. Vote for one or more.

  1. How many of you are done with your holiday shopping? You planned it out and spread the expense over the course of the year so it would not hit your budget ridiculously in February when all those credit card bills need to be faced. This actually happens rarely, although many of us have good intentions. For example, I had half my shopping done by October….but THEN received lists of needful things from my family. 
  2. You set aside money each month and stash it somewhere you hope you forget when an emergency comes up (new tires, dog is sick, etc). This was the budget to spread over 12 months and the shopping can get serious at this time of year, permitting you to catch the sales. Some stores market “BEST PRICES ALL YEAR”  but do you know that? Have you been checking prices earlier?
  3. You’ve told your family that there will be only one present per person from you.  And then you see something perfect for someone…..and get it..and soon you are breaking the rule you set up.  But they’ll stick to it and only get one for you. You will work on not feeling disappointed.  
  4. This year will be different. All gifts will be useful and sustainable.  The family will do a service project for the community to feel that your good deed has been taken care of.  Getting up at 6am to help cook breakfast for the hungry on Christmas morning is NOT a favorite choice. 
  5. This year you need to get serious to protect your family when the SHTF. Everyone needs a new semi-automatic weapon (I think there is a pink one that your  6-year-old daughter will love.) You will not tell the Christmas story to your children. Who needs all that “Peace on earth, good will to all” nancypants liberal garbage?  Oops, the 3-year-old grabbed the 6-year-old’s loaded weapon? Well, your aunt was always a bit odd, so not too big a deal. 
  6. You saw some snowflake on Facebook posted a list of stores that were starting their Black Friday sales on Thursday. Their corporate greed is not your concern, but you can make fun and find fault at the person’s post anyway.  After all, your cousin Bubba earns minimum wage (not a living wage) working at Wally World so he can use the money and no one likes him at the Thanksgiving table anyway. More pumpkin pie for you. 
  7. You really don’t buy much for anyone so this is no big deal. You might go out Christmas Even to the local drug store and pick up some toilet water. Then again, why bother. It’s not as if that person loves you. 

In my family, growing up, we celebrated Hanuka, but on Christmas morning, at the bottom of the stairs as we headed down to breakfast, my sisters and I would find a book, not wrapped, because the appearance of being a gift needed to be hidden. It was usually about a history of the Jewish people or a book about Israel. The only time we discussed this annual habit of my parents was when I was in college and dared to have a non-Jewish boyfriend. We had a loud discussion about mixed messages which, of course, was not resolved.

But what concerns me most of all is all the other hyped up messages that people receive this time of year.

  • Our Biggest Sale of the Year starts now! 30% OFF our entire selection of figure flattering, easy care dresses when you use the code GIVETHANKS at checkout. Proudly made in USA. Is giving thanks for getting a discount a bit self-serving?
  • Our Green Friday sale is here! Get 20% off everything plus a mystery gift*! 🌲ten trees planted for every item sold🌲 *while supplies last! Going GREEN makes you feel good…grab those bargains, keep the mystery gift for yourself, everyone wins! Do you live a sustainable lifestyle 364 other days a year?
  • Get in line early to capture the best! Don’t consider what you look like.  Don’t put any thought into this…just laugh…yup, you’ve been co-opted.pet smart

We know why the advertisements hit us nonstop starting  before Halloween. Retail earns over 50% of their annual income at this time of year.   Ever recognize the puppet strings attached to you?

You have taught your children to ask for toys they see in commercials and to eat foods they see advertised on tv. Your kids have behaviors that show they know only how to express the “wants” as “needs”. You have not been teaching them how to plan for a big purchase, how to defer gratification.  You criticize other people’s children while they are looking at yours with a stink-eye because of their fussing, their whining.

Even in the midst of the recession I was amazed at the people I would see eating out.  It is easier for people to wrack up credit card debt than to learn to cook. And bankruptcies are on the rise, so that explains why people who support Trump did not blink an eye at his multiple bankruptcies. The dream of being rich like him is not reality, but you can wrack up debt like Trump and blow it off like him. You admire him for showing you the way to not be responsible. That has become normalcy.

And meanwhile, we have numerous crafters and artisans who offer their efforts at affordable prices. and small local businesses that are owned by your neighbors.  They offer unique gifts that mean your loved ones will NOT be getting the same things as everyone else. This means that the artists earns pennies for all the hours s/he has spent to create, to share their talent. And most people scoff at what is shown, saying “I can do it” (but never do anything like it) and walk on.

I truly hope people find purpose and joy in their holiday celebrations. I just wonder if the message your children are learning is the one you are hoping to teach.

This video opens the door to fixing this need to buy more get more to feel worthy. My only addition would be, that if you don;t feel yourself as “perfect” as he wants you to feel, get to work! You can achieve a better place, but it starts inside.


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The Ten Suggestions

I think many of us last got this reviewed when we were under 12 years old so, let’s go over it again for a minute. Interpretations are mine, of course, based on my education and experience and very much on my observations of what people actually DO.

 

1. You shall have no other gods before Me.

Outside of the common organized religions we find in our towns and cities, there are many other belief systems that appeal to many.   Some do not hold a belief in a Higher Power, but see life and its value in many forms, including Jedi Knights, which many put this down as their religion on the UK census in 2001 believing that Midichlorians exist in all living beings, which create a ‘living force’ that can be interacted with. While we can smirk at this, it is evidence that mainstream religions and the way their churches act on the holy scripture simply does not appeal to many.  My suggestion: since so many of the major world religions have similar guidelines for nice behavior, please realize that the religion you claim as your own is most typically one you were born and raised in….so it was a matter of when and where you were born. Nothing much more special than that.

2. You shall not make idols.

There seems to be a type of Christianity that worships the almighty dollar.  As stupid as that sounds, there are many conservative Christian churches who preach that successful people are rich….and if you are not rich it is because you are not getting right with God. So send in more money to Preacher Living High on the Hog so he can upgrade his mansion or car fleet or buy a new jet. Meanwhile, you feel bad you are not one of the chosen. My suggestion: find a new God to worship than the one your church is touting.

3. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.

Personally, letting off steam by shouting “God damn it!” is not demeaning to the Lord. What you are doing is calling on your Higher Power to punish someone…significantly.  And if this sounds okay to you, my next question is do you use witchcraft much? Hexes, bad curses, all that stuff? Perhaps you might want to think of a new way to express your dismay. And I know what you mean when you say Gall dang it……same thing.  My suggestion: be respectful to all, as we are taught we are made in God’s image. If you mistreat anyone, you are maligning your God as well.

4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

I learned in an intense Bible study group that this commandment was added to the others at the time of the Babylonian exile.  (Don’t remember that story.? It’s part of the Tenach, the Torah, the Old Testament or what you may refer to as the Hebrew Bible. It is part of your history if you are a Christian.) The rabbis at the time were very concerned about the people becoming assimilated so this commandment was added. Also added at that time were all the laws regarding foods that are clean or unclean….the kosher laws.  My point? Well, two fold. 1. So much of what many believe in the Bible is historically proven to be written by men. 2. Hold time aside (you pick the day if you want) where you can quiet your activity and spend some hours thinking about who you are in the scheme of things in this world. My suggestion: Connect with all that you consider healthy and  calm in your life. Do it with others in community.

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5. Honor your father and your mother.

Seriously, some parents can never win your respect or admiration because of their attitudes and behaviors. Hopefully, you will have at least one or two other adult mentors in your life that will help guide you. Good parents and mentors will challenge you; that is part of their duties to help you grown and stand on your own feet. We end up in arguments. That’s always been the way of the world. But unless a relationship with an adult is toxic, be patient and polite, and learn. And parents: smacking your kid because s/he does not respect you does not work.  They are learning that bigger and stronger wins…so guess what they will do to your precious grandchildren?  My suggestion: Do better when it is your turn to parent.

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6. You shall not murder.

We will always have certain people  in our lives who are affecting us in a challenging way and it is tempting to wish they would just disappear.  While I know many people who get really REALLY steamed up, I recognize they probably would not act on removing the person in question from this earth. But I also know many who would, if pushed to the point. Taking a life of a living person is wrong. Yes, there is evil in this world. But the death penalty has not provided a deterrent; no one says, oh I better not rape and kill this woman because if caught I will be put to death.  And we know of some individuals who torture and kill puppies and kittens. Also wrong. Now, the next hard spot is abortion.  The scientific part of me says no way is a zygote capable of life.  And the emotional side of me says, I support your right to chose while being glad I never had to. My suggestion: be pro-life in all its stages, not just the gestational one, but as part of that, allow that someone else’s life might not permit them the same decision making as your.

7. You shall not commit adultery.

Do you remember when President Jimmy Carter was roasted over the coals for admitting when he looks at an attractive woman he felt he was guilty of lust in his heart. Why did people make fun of him?  I think it’s very clear now that it was because society’s behavior is worse. Our current culture permits men to rape and sexually assault women and get away with it. So, back to being a better parent…..we are NOT doing our job teaching our children what it means to make a lifelong commitment. Now people hold their hands behind their backs, fingers crossed, when they swear “I do.” I do…until the next sexy body crosses my past. I do…..until I get irritated at you and need to feel loved again. I do…until I am bored. I don’t. SO many don’t. My suggestion: We must be much more serious when we make our promises, especially ones where we promise to partner with love and care for the rest of our days. Realize lust is NOT equal to love. Use birth control. As I told my kids, birth control fails, so be ready to have a lifelong commitment to the parent of that child, regardless of marriage.

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8. You shall not steal.

I suspect most of us have broken this one. I was challenged by a Bible thumper that when I took a pen from work I was just as guilty as a shop lifter or someone who bilks others of their life savings. Perhaps, if you truly believe Santa Claus is keeping a list. But starting with a pen and discounting it can lead to bigger issues. Why is there a need for stealing?  Are you hungry? Did you take advantage of the programs in the area where you can access free food? Are you an addict and need money for your habit? You have a larger problem than stealing and you might not be concerned about either, but get some help and you CAN do better. Most people want what they want when they want it. Deferred gratification and saving up for something desired is a skill set many people lack.  And then there are those who assume that someone is better off and they can afford to be without this one thing. Really? Feel like judge and jury often?  My suggestion: If your stealing habit is small and you want to stop, replace what you took. If you can’t do that, give something to someone who needs it. Now, if you think it’s no big deal, I really can’t help you. You missed some major ethics and morals lessons early on.

9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

When we have a President who lies daily and then lies that he lied, it sets a bad precedent in society. When we have people who like him and discount all his lies, we have a sick society.  Many of us fear we are seeing signs of a society descending into something similar prior to Hitler leading Nazi Germany. There, as in other right-wing dictatorships, people turned against people and reported them, even if not true. We have an episode in our own American history with the histrionics over Communism.  After McCarthy destroyed many lives, he was overcome when Joseph Welch, chief counsel for the U.S. Army asked “have you no shame?” Well, currently, it is clear the people in power have no shame. But we should. A person’s good reputation was something to be honored. My suggestion:  Tell  the truth. Don’t be cruel. Be honest about your own work and actions. Image result for telling the truth quotes

10. You shall not covet.

This one is hard because we are beaten daily with things to buy to make ourselves more beautiful, healthier, happier. After the World Trade Center collapsed, President George W. Bush told us to go shopping.  American’s debt level is at an all time high with more and more bankruptcies all the time.   There have been times in my life where my income dropped below what we needed for housing, food, medical care and the normal day to day. There was a time when it was recommended I declare bankruptcy. But I didn’t. Those credit card bills were our doing. The fact that we couldn’t pay them because of illness is a major reason why many people take that step and one more reason why we need to get healthcare costs affordable to all. But we had control over how we spent money during that time. We were on bare minimums and no, it was not fun and yes, it went on way too long, but it finally ended and we climbed out of our hole, proud that we had acted in a responsible manner. My suggestion: make a budget. Really. I remember one woman where I worked around 1980. She earned $400 a week. She wanted to buy a sewing machine. She sat down and made her budget work, saving $25 a paycheck. And in a year, she had her machine and started a new business. Own your life by keeping your desires under control.

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Final suggestion

If all that is still too hard, no matter than you’ve known this all your life here is ONE rule instead. If you can do this, all else will fall into place.

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I’m Reviewing My Life: Seeing the Trend

Image result for jimmy carter not a democracyLike many of my sisters and some of my brothers I am pretty disturbed by the way things work out in Washington, DC. We have moved away from a government with checks and balances and I can agree with President Jimmy Carter than the United States is no longer a functioning democracy.  He actually has been warning about this for quite some time; the need to have millions and millions of dollars to run a campaign is one sign, the way a whistle blower like Snowden is cast as a villain because he is illuminating secrets that are not to be aired for public consumption, and because women and other groups are not accorded equal protection under the Constitution. You may not think he was a good President but he sure stands tall as a good person, a mensch.

So, I’m thinking back over my life, seeing where I benefited and where I was hurt solely because I am a woman.

I was born in 1954 so the first 10 years of my life were in the era the Trump supporters are longing for—a time when we pretty much stuck to the roles society had set out for us. I learned to cook at an early age, how to sew, but not how to change a tire. I learned how to let the man pick first, how to let the man I chose as my husband be the boss.

But I also wanted to be a cowboy. No this was not a case of gender confusion. I just saw week after week on the tv shows of the time that cowboys had more fun than the “cowgirls”. I wanted to be able to chose what I could do.

I was lucky to come of age at a time when there was some movement to hire more women (albeit at a lower salary I found out later). But here are some snippets of what I remember from my life:

  • I married a man who said all the right things “before” and then turned out to be abusive to me and others. He stole from where he worked and made it look like a man working for him had done it.  It was the South in the 1970s and the man was Black. He was fired and my husband was proud no one suspected him.

 

  • This man was emotionally abusive to me, to the inane point of blaming me for red lights and rainy days. I took it, trying all different ways to reach through to him. Whatever I tried earned me more abuse. But I had been brought up in the time when divorce was NOT an option, so kept trying.  I was sweet, I was firm but friendly, I was silent. I did not argue back. Nothing worked. But the day he crossed the line and hit me, I knew I needed to get out. He was a Green Beret and he could kill me.  His response: one more rape.  Yes, rape occurs in marriage but only when the man believes he can take it whenever he wants and has no interest in making his partner ….. a partner. By the way, I was raised to expect it every night…..but come on, it CAN be fun and does not have to be painful! And I bet he would have enjoyed it better, too…since it seemed to take forever…….maybe he had not made me cry enough.

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  • Working for the Tennessee Supreme Court in my first job after graduating college I wanted to go to a week-long training for people doing exactly what I was assigned: changing the information system (how many court cases in each court throughout the state) from a paper system to one that could be computerized.  The training was held at San Jose State University in California and the boss, a Southern man in his 60s, believed a young woman (I was 22) should not travel without an escort outside state lines.  A friend of a friend in San Jose said she would pick me up from the airport and I spent one evening at their home for dinner. Since he agreed I would be “safe”, he let me go learn.

 

  • There were about 8 of us in our group at the Supreme Court. While most of us in our division were not Southerners, one woman was the epitome of a “Southern woman”. She flaunted it (big hair, tight sweaters and a lot of things that are stereotypical of Southern women of that time) and whenever I want to “channel” how to act Southern, I think of her. I can’t even say her name without a Southern accent.  We were all in our mid 20s to mid 30s and when she told us that she went on a weekend with a guy friend and they slept together but did not “sleep” together we all laughed. We were not born yesterday. But she stuck to her story. We still did not believe her.

 

  • Back in Nashville years later, I was sitting in a doctor’s office waiting my turn to go in when a unknown man in his 60s approached me and told me I would be beautiful if I would just lose 50 pounds. I managed not to get too huffy and smiled, telling him I had just lost 200 pounds. (My divorce was recent history.) He patted me on the head and told me to keep working on it.

 

  • Again in Nashville but a few years later, I was in the elevator at Vanderbilt Medical Center with my 8-year-old son. We were leaving from the Neuro ICU where his dad was in an induced coma trying to get his brain chemistry regulated…again.  (We didn’t know but the next 18 months would be the most stressful of that long illness with cancer.) Sam was carrying a stuffed bear that he had purchased for himself the Christmas before and he clung to that baby as if it could save the world. Some man  in his 60s leaned over in that elevator and said “Son, you’re a little old to be carrying a baby doll.”  I got in his face and quietly snarled, “His father is in Neuro ICU dying. He can hold on to any damn thing he wants as far as I’m concerned.” The man backed off rapidly, apologizing.Image result for women in their place
  • A man where I worked served in a position of leadership in his church. He is one who comes to mind when people ask me why I don’t convert.  Basically, after observing this man and many many others who profess they are Christian, I see nothing I want to emulate. He said to me “You know, they think they are Christian but they’re not. We’re Christian because we belong to the XX Christian Church. The rest of them are Baptist or Methodist, not Christians.” But the most telling view of his struggle was the two conversations we had shortly after his second child was born. Dragging into work one day I asked if the baby had had a rough night. No, he said it’s a situation at church. He told me that they needed a new teacher in the Sunday School but the only people who had offered were gay.  I walked him through it….”does your church have a curriculum to teach the kids?” “yes” “Does it include getting naked and touching bodies?” “NO!” “So….?” I asked. He stalked away, frustrated I didn’t understand his viewpoint. The next week he walked in again, dragging his butt. Again I asked if the baby was doing ok. “Yes,” he answered, and then told me how he heard something int he night. His wife was asleep, all was quiet, when clear as a bell he heard “Love your brother!” Not once, but twice. I think my moth dropped open. I said “I don’t think many people have had God talk to them that clearly.” And then I asked what he was going to do. His answer “I don’t know” clearly showed me where his priority lied.Image result for fear of homosexuality

I’ve lived in many places in the United States. I grew up in New Jersey in the New York metropolitan area….that is 21 years. Then Tennessee….I spent 7 years in the 1970s and 80s and then another 13 years 1990s-2000s (so about the same there than in New Jersey!). I also lived in Pittsburgh (6 months), Pueblo CO (6 months) and West Virginia (6 years) as well as Connecticut (12 years). Now in Oregon (6 years).  I have gained a perspective about regional cultural attitudes that few others have firsthand.

What I can simply say is this: in an area with the diversity I grew up in there definitely was sub-textual fears and concerns between people who had differences in religion, nationality and color, but we all lived together and worked together as best we could.  In other places, particularly the South, many of the white people I knew felt that “others” should know their place. Deviating from what was culturally normal brought up conflict.

  • Bonnie, a woman my age who worked at the planning and engineering firm in Memphis when I was there, had never learned to swim. I invited her to come home with me so I could teach her in my condo’s pool. Her first question to me “Is it allowed?” She is African-American. This was 1980.
  • When I was about 50-years-old I contracted meningitis and almost died. Recuperating afterwards  I was approached by a well-meaning man (in his 40s) asking me if I had been afraid of dying. He wanted to “save” me.  He would not take “no thank you” as an answer and I had to cut off talking with him. (This was not the only time this kind of action happened.)

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So, my personal assessment from my time living in the South is that  many people have been uncomfortable for decades over the changes that have been happening. It all shakes up the position of prestige and power if woman gain ground, if people of color really are equal, if the needs of any people with some physical or emotional or mental issues have to be met. It is as if they believe all those people should just simply be invisible. Image result for equality doesn't mean pie

I will not be invisible. Neither will my awakened sisters and brothers of all colors, religions, national origin, or ability.  We are here and we know our Constitutional rights perhaps better than many of the people who only know to spout “2nd Amendment” as their excuse for the latest round of mass shootings.

So, what to do? Keep making noise. Will people who are afraid of losing ground be won over? No. Will their emotionally beaten down wives and daughters? Perhaps. Will their grandchildren? Hopefully.

We are no longer the land of the free , home of the brave. We are  a nation of patriotic lip syncers, people who know stuff by rote but can not explain a thing because of their own perception that they know enough and don’t need to read any more.  What does the Pledge of Allegiance mean? Do you know what the Bill or Rights includes? Do you understand that the Founding Fathers were pretty wise but recognized that we would have issues so they gave us guidelines: keep religion out of government and government out of religion, for example. Image result for patriotism vs nationalism

I have long believed many of us would fail the test people who want to become citizens must pass. The actions of my fellow Americans shows me we all have a lot to learn.

 


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When the Family Fails

I want to share a story while providing some sense of privacy for the people who are at the center of this tale…..they are human like the rest of us. Like the rest of us, the choices they have made and continue to make seem to serve them but they are not happy people, so perhaps even they realize something is very wrong with their life path.

My birth family had its issues. My parents were very close, at times to the exclusion of my sisters and me. See, mom was not healthy. I have no idea what her diagnosis would have been but each of us kids have had our adult issues because what we were TOLD and what we OBSERVED were two different things.

My parents did a lot of good things for us that, for me, offset the negatives a lot. They took us camping around the United States. They encouraged us to learn musical instruments and we were all active in Girl Scouts. We received our religious education and while we did not go to Temple each Friday or Saturday, we went enough for me to understand my heritage and that doing good deeds was a part of making a good life.

But I always knew some of the things mom said were not based in the reality where I was living. I spent a few years in my early adulthood breaking many of those “rules”, proving my life would be just fine even if I rebelled.  I stumbled, and I picked myself up and I learned very quickly that no one, not even my parents would ever ever rescue me.

My sisters and I have compared notes over the years and they did not have the same perception I did. The rules were the rules and there was a lot of guilt over breaking them.  We had failed marriages. We had addictions. We grew through them and beyond them. We still probably continue to stumble sometimes but we have never ever said “stay away from me” because we are family.

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source: Lucky Otters Haven

Meanwhile, around us are a kazillion other families, each trying in their own way to do the right thing with their kids. But we know our society has been failing. We have kids who are out of control. Adults now, they want what they want when they want it. They don’t know how to plan for a goal and deferred gratification is a concept that they never learned.

Many adults were not taught life skills by their parents and do not know how to cook a healthy meal. How to plan a budget. How to get along.  How to TRY to get along. They feel what they feel and everyone else who feels differently is wrong wrong wrong. Even sick and maybe should be hospitalized.  Attack and deflect if you can’t get along…..make it the other person’s fault and never never assume any responsibility.

And it goes to the parents….and then to those adult children who continue the cycle by striking out at anyone who ruffles the waters, who disturbs the system that holds the status quo together.

Image result for shutting the door in someone's faceI have a friend I met over 20 years ago who needed a place when her family told her “don’t come here” and so, she came to me. Now, I know with my own mother, most people looking at our family never imagined we had anything less than “happy” going on behind our doors, but that’s the way it was. So I can imagine that it is hard for a 50-70 year history of aggravation to be set aside to rise and be a family, especially when there is a strong person in charge. Even if she is not healthy.  Especially if she is not healthy.

I understand how hard it is to confront an irrational person, even when it is apparent to all around her that things are not right. Weak people tend to hide. They do not want to be the next target.  So they are compliant and accept the way it is, and anyone who tells them otherwise, like me and this blog, is wrong.

Too many people would rather sweep issues that are difficult under the carpet in the attempt to ignore them. Too many people come on aggressively when they feel a horrible conflict with what they “should” do and what they “must” do.

And so, we see homeless people. We see people on drugs trying to make their world calmer, less scary.

When all they need is love and acceptance.

I know they will read this. I know it will not help calm the waters, but you know what, NOTHING I do would help. The only change that could happen has to be from them.

There will be tears. There will be anger. And you know what, it just is more of the same. A pattern that has gone on for over 70 years. People educated in psychiatry would be quick to tell me this blog is not wise.

But it is time for someone to speak up. Before more families do this to each other.  Maybe someone somewhere will recognize that they need some meds or counseling or something to heal the pain that grew. Image result for love and acceptanceMaybe……I hope so.