i wish – every day – that my sweet momma and poppo were still here. that we could coffeesit with them, make them great soups for lunch, spoil them for dinner. that we could take them apple-picking and introduce my dad to a new scotch or two he hadn’t tried yet. that we could maybe adventure a little or just be quiet and listen to their old stories. i wish.
the thing i know, though, is that they would be beside themselves in this circus of a country we now have. it would make both of them irate to watch the vitriol being tossed about, the divisiveness that is being fed by rabid spewers, the lack of transparency, the lies. my daddy-o would have a few choice words to describe these folks and they wouldn’t be pretty.
and my mom? well, she would have no time for anyone who is less than kind to another. she would want nothing to do with any politician or religious leader or pundit who skips kindness in their approach to life, who excuses their own behavior, stance, agenda, platform, control tactic, extremism based on warped interpretation of law or scripture. she would point out the colossal hypocrisy. she might reiterate the story about when, in the dark night, they parked their little vw bug next to a small hill off the road. tired while traveling europe by car, they needed to rest and could find no guesthouse nearby. the little hill would serve them well, they thought. they woke up next to a gigantic dung pile, covered with black tarp held down by old tires. she would trust that we could connect the metaphoric dots. sometimes a hill is not a hill.
i think that both of them – were they here – would be ashamed of what it’s all become. my dad would wonder how his service – missing-in-action in world war II and then as a POW in a bulgarian camp – mattered now to these people who are making a mockery of democracy. my mom would be aghast at how people are being treated, marginalized, discriminated against, excluded. she, who worked hard to be kind to everyone, would worry about the popularity of this ugly trend. yes, they would both – were they here – be astonished at how, in so many arenas and in so many circumstances, people are just downright not good to each other.
i guess that – were they here – they would love a sit-down with dolly parton. they’d probably all talk at once, new yawk and a southern drawl all intermingling in conversation. and they’d all agree that they didn’t understand why anyone at all would “let religion and politics and things like that stand in the way of just being good human beings.”
and then – were they here, the three of them together – they would remind us all to stay away from dung piles posing as hills.
in the age-old tale of things-are-often-not-as-they-appear, this beautiful almost-transparent white moth flits from lavender bloom to lavender bloom. in certain moments it is even hard to see, its translucent wings disappearing and then glinting in the sunlight. against the dark background of the deck, it is easier to see as it feeds on the nectar of these deep purple blossoms. it’s a cabbage white butterfly. and it is likely responsible for the tiny holes in the tomato plant leaves. it’s fortunate we do not have a cabbage patch as these little guys have the capacity to destroy it. such a beautiful little creature and so much potential for destruction of goodness.
i’m writing this (ahead) on a rainy sunday morning and it’s too easy on sundays for my mind (and heart) to jaunt over to the things-are-not-what-they-appear heading.
this translucent butterfly has specific markings (a black spot on the upward front side of its wings), a specific size just over an inch, markings that depict the gender, making it easier to identify and, if necessary, prevent or eradicate the damage it can do to a hard-earned crop. if it were to look like any other butterfly – or say, a beautiful monarch – it would be much more difficult for gardeners to recognize the peril, much more difficult for farmers to stand firm and work at keeping the crops safe that they have nourished so carefully, for so long, with so much dedication.
sitting on the deck watching this butterfly flit about, the sunlight catching its gentle wings here and there, i never suspected it might be at the root of the problem i am experiencing late in the season now with our cherry tomatoes. under a cloak of not-knowing and not-asking-enough-questions or googling enough, i didn’t know to point at this gentle creature. but the act of googling has given me information. i can look for larvae on the tomato leaves and examine the damage with a plan for it.
were it to be a full field of cabbage, like out in the county here, it would seem imperative to act upon this. a whole field of cabbage – a field of potential abundance – can be destroyed by the existence of something that people might never question. research says an infestation of the cabbage white butterfly caterpillar can destroy all cabbage growth, and prevention is said to be imperative to avoid the ruinous nature of such an aggressor. that way “you’ll have less work and damage later on.”
this butterfly has been here since the 1860s so its presence seems pretty solid and unshakable. i guess you have to pay attention to damage being wreaked around you in your tiny tomato garden, delve into it, gather information, ask questions and stop the quiet chaos from happening.
it’s easier when the wings are transparent, when the markings easily identifiable and when the community of gardeners and farmers are seeking the goodness of the cabbage field.
yes. i know. it was auto-generated. the three mailings (first class mail stamps cost $1.74) and the three emails and the text were all auto-generated. and all of it? dehumanizing.
we are no longer on molina healthcare since during-the-year 2021, but for a company that literally charged $19,927 for the period of time we were, a balance due of 27 cents seems a bit inconsequential and the threat of policy termination and coverage loss – in the middle of a global pandemic – while they claim to be “caring about people and advocating on their behalf” and “helping those most in need” – well, it would seem that a bit of real-people-ness might need to shine through.
i know that we have grumbled before about healthcare in the united states; this will not be an out-and-out rant, for i’ve written that in previous posts and want to have a bye for future ones. but it is surely a tad bit humorous to think that a company with a january 2022 net worth of $16.24 billion – billion! – cares about 27 cents.
even funnier is that as soon as i knew we had an outstanding balance over and above our premiums – this 27 cents – i paid it online. yet the letters, emails and texts kept coming, even a month after we no longer had their services. auto-generated, aggressive, uncaring, impersonal.
molina – in their employee handbook, as part of how they describe their core values – states: “we focus on what is important. ‘it is a business of nickels.’ little things matter and the nickels add up.”
ahhh. yup. i’m guessin’ they must. focus on nickels, that is. “we are careful with scarce resources.”
this is a company that bases their existence on the early clinic of their founder, “where caring for people was more important than their ability to pay.”
“if we don’t receive your payment, your policy will be terminated and you’ll lose your coverage.”
we paid our 27 cents. molina healthcare lost at least $1.47 in that exchange.
inc. magazine has surprised me time and again. in this period of marveling over the inclination of people in leadership positions around me making what-would-seem really questionable decisions, i have found inc. to be wise and thought-provoking and practical.
i have read articles about management, about good leaders, about equipping employees with confidence, about building people up and not tearing people down. i have read about innovation and support and equality. i have read about not taking things personally, about not ruling your workforce with fear as your greatest tool, about not undermining or being deprecating toward your workers. i have read about organizations working in collaboration, with communication, with transparency. i have read about creating places of compassion and constructive feedback and shared vision. i have read stellar writings about limiting leadership-driven agenda, about truth, about acknowledging discriminatory practices and addressing them. i have read about conflict in the workplace, about identifying it, qualifying it, mitigating it. i have read articles asking challenging questions, sparking maturation of companies and businesses and organizations.
inc. magazine has rocked in its simple approach. it makes me wonder why more manager and leader-types clearly don’t subscribe – in either print, digital or philosophical ways. it’s too bad. any measure of brutally mean dominion over employees does not seem to be a mission of goodness or of growth. organizations that participate in the mission of goodness do not fall into chaos or an abyss of hypocrisy. instead, they grow and change and fluidly adapt. they share ownership with the community they serve and they gratefully appreciate each spoke in the wheel, knowing they didn’t get there without each other.
so when inc. magazine had an article about thanksgiving, we clicked on it. again, a simple approach. instead of going around the table with the question “what are you thankful for?”, the writer suggested you ask the question “what will you do to make others thankful?”. an active verb. what WILL you do?
there’s been a bit of a run on our “be kind” buttons. maybe others are gifting them for the holidays. maybe they are challenging students or service groups to disperse them. maybe they are standing on corners and just giving them out. or, i hope, maybe them are giving them to managers who need be reminded. i don’t know. i do know, however, that we will likely be at the public market or ogilvie handing them out one of these days. or maybe we’ll leave wrapped bundles on the trail or at the check-out line or in the public restroom. free buttons. who can resist? it’s my hope it will make others smile, to concentric those circles out, to generously spread gratitude and kindness.
because inc.’s question is a good one. just like so many of their others. bravo, inc.
“whenever you see a successful woman, look out for three men who are going out of their way to try to block her.” (yulia tymoshenko)
i read this quote on instagram. i hesitated to use it and then wondered why. it stated truth. it is a fact of life. i have lived it – exactly it – just as many other women have. so why hesitate?
the answer seems obvious. because that kind of blocking still exists, that kind of dominance is still valued, that kind of discrimination still squelches lives and careers, that kind of smothering effort – particularly with leading roles by older white men – is still not – really – questioned, nonetheless challenged in a big, broad way. it’s asphyxiating and it’s way past its time. way, way past time.
“it’s 2021 and we are talking about THIS!” they rolled their eyes and so did i. it is beyond the scope of reasonableness that we are – still – dealing with the devastating blows that those who lean into … or out-and-out embrace … the prejudice of white supremacy, suffocating gender bias, ruinous economic inequity, insufficient healthcare, deficient educational options, the loss of multitudes of innocent lives at the barrel of unnecessary weapons, exclusive immigration…
but here we are. 2021.
we came upon the hot-pink lighted ball of yarn in the garden and laughed. then we followed the string, the yarn that was unrolled over the tree branches, under the bushes, along the sidewalk edge, up the fence, down off the fence, and ultimately, to the end of it, the frayed edges.
it occurs to me we can trace the strings back and back. we can see the frayed edges of injustices, the repeating pattern of silencing, of stifling, of deliberate lack, of unacceptable levels of violence, of obstructive intention.
we need be stewards of worth, of mending, of healing, of forward-movement, of equal opportunity. we need to find ways – now – to weave an inclusive, equitable, generous, safe, egalitarian story for all. ungrudgingly and with abundant kindness and good will. it is indeed way, way past time.
i passed by these words: “try being informed instead of just opinionated.” i laughed and then frowned, thinking it was a great mantra for these times. it doesn’t even need any additional blah-blah. it simply can stand on its own, shining a spotlight on, well, most of us at some point or another.
i was recently reading some writings of noam chomsky, a linguist and philosopher and so much more. he is “widely recognized as having helped to spark the cognitive revolution in the human sciences”. his work is interesting and profoundly thought-provoking. and, he is one of those scholars who have quotes galore attributed to him, smidges of wisdom, tomes prompting controversy, questions that parry ignorance.
“the general population doesn’t know what’s happening and it doesn’t even know that it doesn’t know” is one of these quotes. bracing.
any scroll through news media apps in these times is pretty scary. intense drought, raging wildfires, ferocious storms erupting, melting glaciers and rising oceans, a global pandemic morphing and morphing again but not going away, the rise of authoritarianism in the global world, the attack on democracy and fundamental truths, the support of lies and personal agenda by people in trusted positions, the new climate change report issued by the united nations…the doomsday list seems endless.
we stumbled into a short documentary the other evening about doomsday bunkers. people in south dakota and texas purchasing $35k bunkers and tricking them out into homes in which they live, preparing, prepared. it was kind of daunting to see – these underground homes with pantry rooms full of canned goods, homes with no windows, homes that are more-or-less safe – or at least removed – from all that goes on above ground. i expected to see wily extremists but that wasn’t the case in the short we viewed. these were people who wanted to be ready to go on if all else failed – leaving “all else” to your imagination, easily fed by the horrors we read and watch in the news. i personally cannot imagine living this way. though the bunkers are in a community, the premise is removing yourself from the rest of the world and i wonder what is left of value then. a little more googling and other bunkers emerge – bunkers for the super rich, bunkers that are more extreme. what is really going on here? the things we don’t know.
i used to teach in the state of florida, though i have not lived there now for over thirty years. in the mixed miracle of social media, some of my previous students are friends of mine on facebook and i am delighted to see them in their lives as adults. i am horrified to watch the governor of that state remove protections for the children attending school there, not to mention teachers and administrators and other valued employees of school systems. barring mask mandates, downplaying vaccinations, issuing warnings to remove funding, threatening the withholding of salaries – all power ploys for his own sick agenda, which clearly is not to protect or encourage protecting the residents of his state, his constituents. i don’t understand this. and yet, his actions are mostly undeterred and it is only now that there are some superintendents pushing back, placing lives over one man’s warped authority. i wonder why every parent in the state isn’t lined up, pushing back. had my children been little while we lived there, i would have been appalled by the cavalier attitude about their health and well-being. they – and every single other child in that state – are not expendable. what is really going on here? the things we don’t know.
we’ve all heard the expression “ignorance is bliss.” is it really? is not-knowing the best way to go about living? is getting all hooked-lined-and-sinkered into opinion-land responsible? is watching the circus networks opine and distill truth and hatch conspiracy communal? is it ok to not know what’s really happening and not know that you don’t know? is it prudent – without asking questions – to fetch every bone thrown igniting rhetoric, encouraging vitriol, spewing hate, forwarding inequality, ignoring climate peril, wreaking chaos? even dogdog can discern firestarter sticks from real branches.
“basic logical reasoning” seems to be in short supply. instead, there is a vast vat of hook-line-and-sinker-ism with a side of blind, unquestioning ideological buy-in.
i have been stunned time and again reading social media threads these days. i thought that i grew up – and attended a high school – in an area that valued education . . . even at its simplest – to learn the lifelong skill of complex critical thinking and rational deductive reasoning based on learning how to research, how to gather factual information and observations and weigh all these elements appropriately and objectively, working toward a conclusion. i would have guessed that most of the people i went to high school with, like my dear friend marc, – all those years ago – having been taught by world-class teachers – would have this skill but this is apparently not so. social media has proven me wrong.
again and again, i read with horror the comments of those who have narrowed the spectrum of the tools they use to garner information. again and again, i shudder to see how limited they have made their worlds – how learning is restricted to resources that have their same opinion, how crossing any aisle to ponder, question, discuss, evaluate, negotiate – in any arena – is impossible. i’m astounded by the sheer ignoring (note the similarity to the word ignorance here) of factual information. it’s staggering to see so much anger directed so quickly and pointedly – with extensive name-calling – by people who use limited vocabulary, use limited or no citations of unbiased truth, clearly have limited empathy for others different than themselves, but have unlimited dedication to their beliefs – particularly under the ever-widening umbrella of extreme political beliefs these days – with no evidence to substantiate them. behaviors that are outlandish – even in this day and age after the last administration’s unleashed and continued field day on hatred and vitriol and lies – perversity at its best.
it’s disheartening to casually scroll through social media and stumble into a thread in which a participant has gone from zero to warp speed in milliseconds, spouting, spouting, spouting. the spew may be ‘big lie’ related, voting-restriction related, vaccination related, pandemic related, mask related, race or gender related, gun-control related, climate related, taxation related, social programs related, science related, any-color-koolaid related. i – maybe like you – have been the target time and again of being called names (really?!) by people i don’t know, people i’d think would know (or at least speak) better, people who are ‘friends’ of ‘friends’, people from my old high school, people who are just clearly ticked off in a big way and need a target. if you even attempt to engage in a conversation, it quickly disintegrates into stupefying borrowed rhetoric.
i suppose this trend will continue, as a large part of our country has made it perfectly acceptable to just unconsciously follow pied pipers or obnoxious acolytes thereof. it’s somehow become perfectly acceptable, even noteworthily cheered on, to use aggressive language, to be hostile and combative, to be both prey and purveyor of distraction and mediocrity, to state and re-state and post and forward false information, to not ask questions, to disregard facts, to be so deep into belief that it’s no longer necessary to examine knowledge, seek anything evidentiary, or look for relevant logic.
i’m still proud of john glenn high school. i’m proud of the teachers i was lucky enough to be taught by back then. i’m glad i paid attention, that i made learning and how to learn a priority. it’s a fluid and continual lesson. i believe it’s that which is essential for existence, vital for living. i know we’re never done.
but it doesn’t stop me from rolling my eyes at those whose “room for some basic logical reasoning” is scant. it’s dispiriting.
and i just want to add one more thing while i’m at it. a tiny peeve of mine. please check your spelling, grammar, word usage, sentence structure, auto-correct – maybe consider proofreading – before you opine on social media. particularly if you want to be taken seriously. (consider, if you will, a posting of the words: “voter freud“.) words, punctuation, coherence – they all matter. perhaps not as much as your intention, but still…
my sweet momma always said, “if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all.” she also famously said, “look it up!”
she, like me, would be aghast at these more recent trends. and she, like me, would still hold out hope for human decency.
i love #2 pencils – though, in an inane detail you are probably unconcerned about, i love mechanical pencils more – and it was a whole pack of ’em. plus each and every one was printed with the word “dissent”.
that’s why i should have bought them. i could have stashed reminders of RBG’s venerable spirit and dedication to equality and goodness and principle and ethics and probity in my purse, on the kitchen counter, at my piano, in our mélange-planning notebook, in my calendar.
they would have reminded me to stand courageously in dissent, to back it up with facts, to hold to integrity, to not waver in the face of any question or any fear or any threat. the thing about supreme court justice ruth bader ginsburg, though, is that she was intrepid – even without the pencils.
and so, with the sisu of ruth, the belief in “an opinion, philosophy or sentiment of non-agreement or opposition to a prevailing idea or policy enforced by a government, political party or other entity or individual in a capacity of contextual authority” (wikipedia), the steadfast commitment to the truth and transparency, we all batten down the hatches and ready ourselves for whatever things we care about for which we must fight.
at the very least, i should have bought the towel.
PS. “despite the fact that the justices routinely disagree with each other, they never let it get personal, and have good working relationships with one another.” (dhruti bhagat, librarian, boston public library blog – ruth bader ginsburg and dissents: what’s a dissent?)
brazen. how many of us have been this brazen? to make an assumption, to form an opinion, to decide to dislike, with no information, having asked no questions, having had no real conversation, having chosen sides under the dark cloak of one-sided story. we have all heard the idiom, “before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes.” yet, our perspective often remains stubbornly in one camp and we cling to the sideofthestory we heard, professing our disdain, without even a mere effort to understand, to measure, to even hear the other side. and then we haughtily hold tight to our narrow-scoped opinion and aim our arrows of brazen judgment. it’s shocking. and completely not shocking.
guilty. how many of us have been guilty of this? to not care enough about someone’s reputation, someone’s livelihood, someone’s word, with no information, having asked no questions, having had no real conversation, having chosen sides under the dark cloak of one-sided story. we have all heard the proverb, “those in glass houses should not throw stones.” yet, we forgo our own flawedness, our own misdeeds, our own obvious hypocrisy, to hurl pebbles and stones and out-and-out boulders at others, efforts to raise ourselves up by pushing someone else down, guilty of power-mongering in places where that should be more closely examined. it’s shocking. and completely not shocking.
sad. how many of us feel sad, having lost friendships, relationships, potential lifelong allies, colleagues, having aligned ourselves with people who have brazenly been guilty of gauging someone else simply because they did not know the othersideofthestory? we have judged, forgetting our own flaws. we have pummeled, forgetting our own vulnerability. we have turned our backs, forgetting our own need for fairness and truth from others. it’s shocking. and completely not shocking.
devastated. how many of us have been at the center of the firing squad, muzzled and treading water, stuck in inertia, unable to give voice to the othersideofthestory, in the center of misinformation, incomplete information, an absolute lack of information, opinions and dislike forming from the dust of others’ untruths, others’ prejudices, others’ agenda? devastated that there is so much collateral fallout, so much loss, simply because they didn’t hear your side of the story. it’s shocking. and completely not shocking.
but it is most definitely this: brazen.
and we all, at some time or another, are most definitely this: guilty.
and it feels most definitely this: sad.
and it causes most definitely this: devastation.
perhaps we need put on shoes and lay down our stones.
in the outstanding documentary “my octopus teacher” craig foster forges a relationship with an octopus in the south african kelp forest. every day he enters the cold water to search for her and over the period of about a year he bonded an intimate friendship with this amazing creature. when she disappears after a scare, he spends days seeking her, commenting, “i try to think like an octopus.” his success reuniting with her shows he is at least somewhat capable of thinking how she thinks, of seeing how she sees. your heart is filled watching the mutuality of their connection and you wonder why this level of reciprocal respect cannot exist more easily between human beings.
tuesday i had a hissy fit. i have mostly recuperated. i’m not sure where it started but it definitely was a meltdown. anxiety coupled with grief coupled with worry and angst with a pinch of frustration – the ingredients du jour for many of us on a given day in these difficult times. i went on about a propensity for letting things just roll off my back, making things ok, not speaking up – for myself – as often as i would wish or as often would seem apt. in my wild and wooly meltdown, i complained that others can do this and often do this – speak up, push back, say things are not ok – without incident, without remorse, without punitive measures, without concern. i stated examples in that way you do when you are ranting; there are many words you speak asfastasyoucan to make sure the other person keeps listening and there are also many punctuation words you linger on, stretching out the sound of them on your lips, exquisite cuss words that seem fitting at the time. these are not necessarily pretty, but they are definitely handy at providing emphasis. i ranted about neighbors playing music at absurd decibels in a house-dense community. i ranted about the internet and streaming and ridiculously small music royalties, an industry for independents, flailing. i ranted about my right hand’s range of motion plateau. i ranted about speaking up for myself and my rights as a woman, my rights as a professional, my rights as an employee. i ranted about not saying “no”. i ranted about losing my job. i ranted about those who claim to be caring and compassionate not even entertaining having any kind of discussion or dialogue. i ranted about ill-suited leaders in leadership positions, seemingly not being held answerable. i ranted about hypocrisy. i ranted about people’s silent complicity. i ranted about wanting to retort to others about their stance on politics, on gender and racial equality, on the pandemic, on climate change, on gun violence and gun control. i ranted that, even sans retort, even in even-keeled, calm, cool, collected and researched manner, it would be next to impossible to navigate debate. i ranted about the abyss in our nation that makes it impossible to have an intelligent, thoughtful and respectful conversation without vile getting in the way. i ranted about the inability for people to see things together. i ranted about missing my sweet babycat. i returned to the top, taking a breath and again ranted that others seem to do and say whatever they please, despite fallout or impact on others, despite truth or consequences, without care and with agenda, without benevolence and with mean-spiritedness, without kindness and with a lack of sensitivity. i ranted that i could not continue this way. i ranted, “if i can’t at 62, when is it that i can???” can’t what? can what? i’m not even sure i know. ranting is like that.
it would seem that possibly a kelp forest off the coast, deep dives with a weight belt, times of holding one’s breath minutes at a time might aid in establishing some sort of common ground. it worked for craig foster and his fantastic octopus. he carefully, and without antagonizing her or scaring her or moving too quickly, watched her in her short life. he passively, without interfering or having self-serving agenda, watched her deal with day-to-day life, with adversity, with terror, with the pecking order that comes in the ocean. he watched her gracefully and intelligently co-exist with stunning creatures of the sea. he was saddened when she was hurt; he mourned her when she died. relationship. a kinship crossing natural boundaries.
we humans…we have much to learn. we have brains that refuse to look for new factual knowledge, hearts that refuse to respect all love as love, eyes that refuse to attempt empathy or fairness and see what others see. maybe we should spend some time immersed in the vast ocean, in a kelp forest. or maybe we should try harder. or maybe we should spend some time answering the important questions of our hissy fits.