Politics · Society

Sick and Numb

Reading the headlines and the tweets, it is clear the search is on for a reason why this particular guy planned and carried out a mass murder with guns. Same as always.

Was it his religion? His race? His mental health? A grudge? Was he just a bad guy with a history of violence or run-ins with the police? Nope. Oh, wait. His father was a bad guy.

What a stretch. A contortion to explain away the most recent horror, and make it about the man and not the guns. He’s a lone wolf, you know. An aberration.

Except he’s not. He joins a very long list of people who have used guns to commit mass murder of strangers. There is no useful profile of these murderers. All we can know is at some point, they came into possession of one or more guns that can kill a lot of people quickly, and the ammunition to do so. And they made a plan and carried it out.

We also know that no amount of locked doors, metal detectors, security personnel, school resource officers, or space and distance can keep the innocent safe from such a murderer with the right weapon. He can drive long distances across state lines to kill, or he can walk down the street to the local elementary school or church. He can kill on a military base, or from a tall building, or in his workplace, or a shopping mall.

Our elected representatives are powerless to keep us safe from gun violence. If they advocate for any laws whatsoever regulating guns, they will lose their seats to someone funded by the NRA. Gun stocks rise after a mass murder because speculators know that the NRA will attempt to raise fears that this time, Congress might do something, triggering a spike in gun and ammunition sales.

This is how we choose to live. Recently my city was forced to hire a police officer to monitor the entrance to the public library. This is because the city posted a sign that notified patrons that no firearms are allowed on the premises. Our state legislators insisted that the open carry law allowed open carry in all public spaces, even libraries, unless entrance to the space was restricted at all times. So, in order to keep guns out of our public library, where people are reading books and working on computers and children are listening to story hour, our city has to hire an armed police officer. Because the state of Alabama insists.

I saw an armed man when I was buying a new muffin tin in Bed, Bath and Beyond the other day.  My brother who just retired from a long career in law enforcement, has taught me to check how a person secures his openly carried weapon. A loaded, unholstered gun carried in a pocket, or a purse, or stuck in a waistband is a danger to the owner and all those around him. In my opinion, a person who takes his gun out and waves it around for show, as our Republican nominee for United States Senate, Roy Moore, did at a recent campaign rally, is a danger to all those around him.  Some people do not have the training necessary to safely carry guns in public. But our elected leaders are afraid to even mandate training.

Congress just announced that they will be looking at a bill to prohibit abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. That seems completely unrelated to the massacre in Las Vegas but it is not. It is a message. “We are so very sorry about all the dead and wounded in Las Vegas, and our legislative priority right now is … preventing abortions.” In other words, don’t worry, NRA.

This is how we choose to live. There is no “common sense” solution anymore. After Sandy Hook, where the murderer shot each of the six and seven year olds three to eleven times at close range, nothing changed. If we are powerless in the face of that horror to make even the smallest changes to protect innocent lives from gun violence, then this is who we are.

 

travel

Vagabond Shoes

I have never been to New York City.

Can you imagine? My mom went almost every year with her girlfriends, usually in the fall. Over the years they saw a ton of shows, and all the museums, and stood on top of the WTC about a year before the towers came down. She loved New York.

So, in a very uncharacteristic moment of impulsiveness, I booked a trip for the fam. Just a four-day long weekend. Ben wants to tour the UN, I want to see one museum, Gary wants to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. We’ll see a show on Friday night. We’ll ride the Staten Island Ferry. We’ll go to the top of something, maybe the Rock, or the Empire State Building.

This will be our First-timers Trip: touristy, but not too touristy. We have to do it without Will, because he has plans and can’t really take off work. He’s our Yelp! Manager, and we will miss him. He has a very good record of picking places to eat that are good and local. Ben is going to have to pick up the slack there.

I have my usual travel anxiety/excitement (anxitement? exciety?). I’m obsessing over shoes, weather preparedness, and camera choice. I’m aiming to cut the amount of unnecessary shit I pack by half.

I’m a little scared of pissing off New Yorkers. Gary lives for breaking “the rules” and I’m afraid New Yorkers won’t put up with his shenanigans.

I would love to hear advice from folks who have been to New York. What is the one thing you wish you had known/done/not done your first time there?

Awards

Sunshine Blogger Award – Whaaat?

I’m a little overwhelmed, because Angie at Freckled Foolery nominated me for a Sunshine Blogger award. Being nominated by Angie is very cool. She is one of my small list of bloggers I read immediately every time she posts. She is refreshing and honest, a terrific writer, and her blog is pretty to look at. Thanks, Angie!

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Also, she made it clear that a little cheating is allowed. I’m following her example.

Here are her questions, and my attempts at answers:

  1. If you weren’t worried for your health or your life, is there anything you would choose to do differently?

As unlikely as it sounds coming from an introvert/depressive/pajama-clad cat lady, I would be out in the streets where marches and protests are happening, interviewing people and taking video and intervening in the screaming matches and violence. I would be sitting in the halls outside my worthless Senators’ offices, demanding that they LISTEN to the PEOPLE who elected them, and basically calling out the powerful on their bullshit.

2. What is your guilty pleasure?

True crime. My grandfather used to tell us stories about the mobsters and criminals of his day, because he loved that stuff, too. I read Vincent Bugliosi’s Helter Skelter in high school, and later Ann Rule’s book about Ted Bundy, and on from there. My husband thinks its freaky, and he doesn’t even know about the podcasts, like My Favorite Murder and Serial.

3.  If you could’ve been born in a different time or lived through a certain moment in history, which would you choose?

I used to think I lived in a very boring time, but looking back now, I’ve seen a lot. I think I would not prefer any other time. I’ve seen the entire United States Space Program, almost from the beginning. I saw men walk on the moon. I received the first widely distributed polio vaccine. I saw television on a tiny black and white screen, and on a 60″ “smart” tv. I saw the beginning of the Internet, as well as the Cuban Missile Crisis. I searched for information in heavy, tiny-print encyclopedias, and on a 5 inch device I carry in my pocket. I have listened to my favorite music on vinyl albums and beamed by satellite to my car. I saw 9/11, and Katrina, Sandy, and Harvey. I have seen automatic weapons become accessories carried around like handbags. I saw hundreds of thousands of women march on Washington. What a time to be alive, said the Simpsons. It has been. It is. I wouldn’t change it.

4. Apple or Android?

Apple.

5.  Do you have a favorite blog post that you’ve written?  Why?

This one.  It was one of those posts that was so easy to write, it just burst out onto the screen, without giving me anxiety. I’m not sure there was even a second draft, so be kind.

Thanks again to Angie for choosing me. I am honored to be in such good company, and I will post my nominees tomorrow when I have time to think up some questions. Today is a nutso day, and off I go!

 

 

Inspiration · Making things · Memories

Buttons

Last fall, thanks to my friend Cindy, I went to Christmas Village at the BJCC. It was my first time ever. We hit the door at 9:00 am, and covered every inch of the HUGE arts, crafts, food, and gift show. Thank goodness Cindy is a veteran, and knew the best system to get around and see everything.

It is a mind-boggling event. Craftspeople and vendors from all over the southeast are there. I heard there were over 700 booths. We saw them all.

The trick and the challenge is finding the real jewels in the truly amazing amount of things for sale. I had in mind some things I wanted to look for, and for the most part, I found them. I wanted some unique Christmas tree ornaments for my sons. Found those. I wanted a “W” initial to hang on the wall in my kitchen. Found it and it’s lovely and unique and handmade.

I wanted a wooden tray to sit on my kitchen counter to hold the salt and pepper, olive oil and other things that are frequently used. I did not find that, but I found a beautiful, hand-carved bread bowl that will display on my open shelves in the kitchen. It is EXACTLY the style I love.

But the best finds of all were the people. It would not seem plausible that in that crowd of thousands, you could strike up conversations with busy vendors and laugh so much and have so much fun! I love that they live this life making things with their hands – pottery, wood, silver, paint, clay, fabric, ribbons, sauces, and dips and soups. My favorite booths were the ones where some individual person designed and created truly unique beautiful things that you couldn’t get anywhere else.

That is why the buttons are my favorite purchase. The are handmade glazed and fired knitters’ buttons. The artist made them especially for knitters, every one different, with large holes for the yarn to go through. She is truly an artist. Her pieces are beautiful and obviously made with care and love as well as talent. She was so friendly and adorable that as Cindy and I walked away, we agreed that she should be our friend.

I admire the creators of beautiful things. Today’s world needs more beautiful things made by loving hands and creative minds. Whether practical, decorative, or edible, things made by hand add a richness to our lives. A loaf of banana bread, a hand-knit sweater, a crocheted baby blanket, a monogrammed bag – I believe that they carry within them some of the crafter’s or cook’s joy.

Many thanks, makers. See you soon.

Christmas Village Festival is 2017 is November 1-5. Tickets go on sale October 2.

The quilt pictured above is a pinwheel crib quilt I made when my children were babies. It is machine pieced, and machine and hand quilted.

Beach · Family · Inspiration · Memories · travel

Vacation

I have spent the last few days slathered in sunscreen, dozing under an umbrella with this as my view and soundtrack.

Gulf of Mexico, Aug 2017

For 25 years, one week each summer, we have gone to the same beach, eaten at the same restaurants, shopped at the same grocery store, enjoyed the same delicious seafood. It is truly a relaxing vacation. We read, we nap, we walk, we cook if we feel like it. And when it is over, we come back home, more calm and more tan, and ready to fit ourselves back into our “real” lives and responsibilities.

Memories · travel

I rode in a helicopter

DSC01035In Alaska. Over mountains and lakes and snow and many a rocky precipice until we landed on a massive glacier.

I have a fear of heights, but I love mountains. I know I should have a little fear of flying, because that is very high, but I don’t. During the safety briefing before we boarded the helicopter, there were many instructions about how to walk out on the helipad: stay between the yellow lines, stay with your guide, if your hat blows off DO NOT run after it. Don’t deviate from the instructions, and load in the order the guide tells you. It was all about not getting chopped up by the rotors, which I was definitely pro that.

But, instructions about what to do in case something happens to those (very flimsy) rotors that are holding us up in the air and we start to go down? Not so much. In fact, nothing. Because, I realize now, what would be the point? If you fall out of the sky onto a mountain in a thing roughly the size of a Volkswagen, emergency exits and flotation devices are not really going to figure in. But I didn’t think about any of that at all while we were flying. I think my whole thought process during the 30 minute flight over the mountains consisted of, “Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh. Wowwwwwwwww. Ohhhhhhhhh.”

I’ve seen movies and National Geographic specials about the glaciers, but to fly over one is stunning. There is no sense of scale because there are no roads or buildings to compare. You just know it’s huge. It is blindingly white because new snow was still falling regularly in late May, and the mountain peaks threw dark blue shadows across the vast whiteness.

As we continued up the glacier (it was the Mendenhall, not far from Juneau), we spotted a faint grid of black dots on the snow far up ahead. It had to be manmade, and as we got closer, we realized it was the dog camp where we were going to learn about dog sledding and meet the dogs and finally ride a dogsled. Each tiny dot was a doghouse. There were probably 200 of them, flat-topped, and on many of them, the occupant was happily standing or sitting on top, barking and howling as if welcoming us.

Our guide explained to us that sled dogs are not the blue-eyed Huskies that you see on commercials that are bred for their beauty. These dogs are small, strong and amazingly eager to do one thing, and that is pull the sled. They don’t mind the cold. In fact, the May weather was a little warm for them. They prefer the frigid air, and hard-packed, icy snow. Running is what they do, and they each burn more calories on a race day than an adult male human.

The two lead dogs of our team were veterans of the Iditarod. This team runs only for one particular “musher,” and they respond to his voice. It was amazing to watch them watch him, waiting for his voice signals. They pulled like their lives depended on it. There was joy in every muscle in their bodies.

When we stopped and got off the sled, we went up and petted each dog, telling them they did a good job, and they just about wiggled out of their skins with delight. We got kisses. When we boarded the sled again, they were ready to go, jumping up and down with excitement.

Back at the camp, we thanked the dogs and our musher for the ride and went over to visit the puppy pen. A mom dog had a litter of 9 day old pups and we got to hold them! Incredibly adorable! They fit in our two hands and their eyes weren’t open yet. It is so hard to believe that those little guys will grow up to be strong, eager sled dogs like the ones that pulled us.

After a while, the helicopters returned; three tiny red dots against the blue sky. They landed one by one, a careful and precise distance apart. The dogs howled their good-byes and we boarded to fly back to the heliport. The trip back seemed way too short. I couldn’t look hard enough at everything – the vast glacier, the moraines of ground up stone and dirt pushed up by the pressure of the slowly moving ice, the sharp mountaintops, the light and shadows. I knew I probably would not see these things again, and that this incredible place is undoubtedly thawing away, and someday will be gone entirely.

The Mendenhall Glacier. I was so lucky to see it. I am proud that my children saw it. I hope their children see it.

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Blogging · Writing

The big 6-Oh.

I turn 60 years old on August 4. I’ve been feeling very restless lately. I want to travel, to make things, to interact with new people, to learn a new skill, to start a new project. (Or ten.) It is hard to put my finger on exactly what I want. I spend a lot of time planning trips. Then I line up the excuses why I can’t take those trips right now. I have a list of 100 books I want to read.

What is this restlessness? It feels like I am racing against time; as if the things I can do with my life are whittling down as I get older.

And this is true, I guess. There are only so many books I can read, only so many places I can travel. So in addition to the restless feeling, I feel frozen in space. I can see so many possibilities, but I am not reaching out for them.

At 60, is it too late to reach for a bigger life? Am I too old to travel alone? Am I too old to write a book? Do I have the stamina to do what it takes to build an audience for my blog?

My gut tells me that of course it is not too late. There are dozens of stories of people who found success in their last third of life. I have the freedom. Do I have the will?

Writing is my one real talent. I have played at several careers, but writing is the thing that gives me joy. It isn’t easy, but it is always satisfying. Words on paper, rolling into sentences and paragraphs and pages. I love them.

I blog for myself, although having an audience is amazing. My blog entries are the result of taking my thoughts and feelings out and putting them into words and sculpting those words into something hopefully readable and meaningful and maybe entertaining. I resolve not to worry so much about my themes, or my categories, or what readers “expect” my blog to be about. Today, it is about turning uncertainty and timidness into courage and action. I am a (soon to be) 60-year-old woman who wants, still, to do magical things in this life and write about them.

My Local World

Wherein we have opinions on car parking

For those of you who are not from Hoover, or are not in the Facebook Group “Hoover Vote,” I’ll share a little background. There has been a discussion going on for the last few days about parking ordinances in residential neighborhoods in Hoover. This was triggered by one of our city councilmen who was approached by citizens asking for an ordinance prohibiting overnight parking on the street, and also prohibiting parking on front lawns. He asked what people thought. And wow, did he get responses!

People get bent out of shape about cars being parked on the streets. Bent. Out of shape. Except for the people who park on the streets, that is.

Hoover is a sprawling suburb and we have no public transportation, so almost everyone has a car. Some families have more cars than licensed drivers. Two-car garages are probably the most prevalent, but some houses have more, and a lot of houses have carports, and a few have none. Our streets are narrow, and there are no marked parallel parking spaces in any residential neighborhood I know of. But neither are the streets marked with “No Parking” signs.

Anyway, the parking on the street issue is not one the city can legislate with a blanket ordinance. There are too many cars. And most people are not going to deal with musical moving of cars when the kids are home from college, or the grandparents are in town.

But the other issue, the one about parking on front lawns, is the one where the rubber meets the road. Or the grass. You know what I mean.

The most interesting comments are the ones from people who say, of course, we must allow street parking sometimes; my kids come home from college, and we have friends over, or there are parties, or Bible studies, and so on. But parking on front lawns? We get really judgey about that.

My homeowner’s association (which is not one of the very strict ones) occasionally mentions in the newsletter that it is unsightly for cars to be parked on front lawns, and please don’t do it. As far as I can tell, that has no effect. The people who do it continue to do it. It doesn’t bother me because I can clearly see that their only other choice would be parking on the street. If they want to park on their own lawn, rather than on the street, who am I to complain?

But the interesting thing is the different rationale for why people should not park in their own yards. It is not unsafe or unlawful.

It’s tacky.

Yes, people in my town want to outlaw tacky. It sends a chill down my spine, because I get my life from tacky.  I grew up in the country, where people had lawn art, and sometimes lawn chickens, and our house had no fence between the yard and the pasture and we ate breakfast with the cows staring in placidly at us from three feet away. We parked in the yard, the dogs ran free, and we had numerous “outbuildings” and disabled vehicles. My parents grew up during the Depression, and they didn’t get rid of things. We hung our clothes out to dry on a clothesline. We didn’t have these, because my mom came from town, but if other folks did have those half tires painted white and set in the ground to form a border, it meant they CARED about their home and their image in the community. Uppity.

So I accept the possibility that my “tacky” meter is calibrated differently.

I love bottle trees, and flower pots hanging on fences, and tomato plants in the front yard, and bird houses made from gourds. I love a profusion of mixed, crazy wildflowers, sidewalk paths inset with multicolored shards of broken dishes, and ivy tumbling over stone walls. I love those old metal gliders from the 40’s like my grandmother had on her front porch. My neighbors got a new toilet the other day and set the old one out by the street. I drove by it several times before it was taken away, thinking that in Red Hill, Alabama, that baby would have been a flower planter in a heartbeat. Morning Glories. I sort of grieved for it.

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I just can’t help feeling, when I read some of these comments, that some folks would really like it best if everyone in the neighborhood was more …how shall I put it…homogeneous. Fewer wildflowers, more begonias. There is a lot of concern about the “older neighborhoods” like mine, where the houses, and the people, are not so new and shiny anymore. We’ve aged, kids have grown up, and we’ve had illnesses and knee replacements. Maybe our houses and yards show it a little. Or worse, maybe we’ve moved to a house better suited to our health and abilities to keep it up, and have relegated the house with the big yard to ………. (yeah, I’m about to say it)……….renters. (Duh-duh-dunnnnnh!)

I swear, you would think renters were about to cause the collapse of civilized life in Hoover. They park on the lawns, people say. The live too many to a house, people say. They don’t care, people say.  And sometimes they are black or brown, but people don’t say that.

Personally, I don’t really know how you spot a renter. It’s not like you can bring it up when they move in and you go over to introduce yourself. “Hi, here’s a cake I made to welcome you to the neighborhood, and, by the way, are you buying or renting this house?”

My mother taught seventh graders for over thirty years, and she had a saying, “Let every tub sit on its own bottom.” The seventh graders liked it because it had the word “bottom” in it, which made them snicker, but what she simply meant was mind your business and don’t tattle on each other.

I think we need that advice now. I see no evidence that property values are affected by the parking habits of my neighbors. I think what makes our property valuable and our homes sought after is that our neighborhoods are nice, welcoming places, where we know each other’s names, and are aware when someone on the street is in the hospital, or has a new baby, or gets a new son or daughter-in-law. Let’s not judge each other from afar, but try to be the kind of neighbors we want to have.

I know my neighbors reading this are thinking, “Is this that Hermit Woman on Russet Cove Circle writing this?” Because I am. I own it. I am an introvert, and an inside person. Coming over to introduce myself or inviting everyone over to grill out is SO out of my comfort zone. But I know you all. I know your names and your children and who leaves for work at what time. If you are renters, I couldn’t care less. I DO care if your car won’t start and you need jumped off, or if your dog or cat is lost, or if you need eggs or sugar, or a ladder or long extension cord. I am right here, neighbor.

Just please don’t judge my weedy yard.

Nonsense

Moms of adult sons: Advice, please.

How long is appropriate to follow your sons’ exes on social media?

Don’t judge me! I’m not stalking. Just occasionally a picture or comment shows up on my feed. And I’m only talking about the serious relationships; the ones who were in our lives for a significant time. They did not become daughters-in-law, but I was absolutely sizing them up for the role, as one does.

Now, certainly, when they marry someone else, yes, I get that.

But what about before that? In my defense, I have no daughters, and these young women are my window into Millennial Woman World. Besides, my boys have good taste! These women are funny and intelligent, and their views on life are interesting.

So, what say you, moms? What’s the “don’t get creepy” cut-off?