Thanksgiving

Begonia preparing for winter, primrose in spring mode, and hardy little fever few keeping on!

Begonia preparing for winter, primrose in spring mode, and hardy little fever few keeping on!

It’s the time of year to count our blessings, and to all who read my blog posts, you are among my blessings! You provide me a reason to put into words thoughts and inspirations, to share photos and tidbits of information about this and that. Such sharing is important to me, writing is important to my muse, and I hope, now and then, it is of value to you. Thank you!

Perhaps like many of you, I have been riding an emotional roller coaster the past few weeks, each news story deepening my concerns and fears for many people. Part of my coping is to limit news, (easy since I’ve also been coping with chronic headaches and dizziness, making it hard to read) and to make and share a mandala a day. Yup, I mentioned in last week’s blog I was going to do this and so far I have!  If you would like to see my mandalas, besides Facebook & Instagram, I post them here: mandalas. This has helped me focus my thoughts on the beauty of Nature, the satisfaction of design, and the joy of sharing with others a bit of visual pleasure.

we-stand-with-youYesterday’s mandala was made specifically for a hashtag on Instagram, #artistsforlove, a call for solidarity among artists to support all those feeling fear due to the future administration’s agenda of exclusion and bigotry toward many groups of people. (For those unfamiliar with Instgram, hashtags are a way of grouping similar posts from many people, i.e. by writing #artistsforlove under my post, it automatically posts to a group of pictures posted by other artists with the same intent).  I also purchased, on Amazon, wool blankets and socks to be sent to the Water Protectors in North Dakota, where medics are treating many people sprayed with pepper gas and water during sub-freezing temperatures Sunday night, and shot with rubber bullets. (If you would like to donate, there is a list of needs and were to send in this article: Truthout)

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have a spicy Thanksgiving! 😉

As we enter the holiday season, beginning with tomorrow’s celebration of gratitude and abundance, a time to count our blessings, it also seems a good time to assess our priorities and values. What is important to us?  What, and who, are we willing to support and how can we do so? Even very small gestures like those above help someone, somewhere. And they helped me to feel less powerless. When we feel powerless we give someone else our right to be who we are, regardless of outer circumstances. As an aging Caucasian woman with health issues, living in the woods, far from cities and neighborhoods where people of different religions, skin color, and ethnic backgrounds are scared, scared for their children, scared for their lives – what can I do? If we look, there are always small ways to help – letters, phone calls, goods and gifts, donations, prayers, sharing with others what you do to inspire them to do similar acts. You might want to rethink your holiday shopping and gift giving based on your current assessment of your values and priorities.  There has been a shift, a change, and it is time to shift and change how we live our lives and how we (even us recluses in the woods!) are involved with others.   It is a time not just for good intentions, but for good actions.

People anticipate funds will be cut for many services and resources that help people, our state may lose funds for refusing to follow a policy of exclusion, environmental organizations will have extra battles to fight to protect lands, parks, species. The list goes on, and only as time goes on will we see what happens when those in “power” take actions that do not reflect our values.

I know I ‘preach to the choir‘, as most of you have already realized the importance of supporting and helping others. Thank you for what you’ve done, I hope it helps you feel less powerless. I’d love to hear in the comments below your stories of decisions you’ve made on how to make a difference, how to support what and who is important to you.

Let the news inspire you to take action, not ” steal” your peace, your power…….and most of all, do not let it steal the joy of the holidays!

still some color on the ground!

Many blessings for Thanksgiving, may it be filled with joy and love from family, friends, or if a quiet time for you, feelings of gratitude and peace! ❤

Keeping On

dsc01410This week-after the election I notice many friends are taking social media sabbaticals. Though there may be shared feelings of grief, disappointment, and uncertainty, everyone copes with these feelings differently and it can be hard to absorb other people’s thoughts, reactions, and feelings, and reading all the pundits predictions can be overwhelming.  There is a range of emotions – fears of doomsday, rallying cries of revolution, and, at the other end, those who say move on, it will all work out. None of these sentiments fit everyone. Perhaps none fit you. Or maybe they all do.

I fall somewhere in between revolution and moving on and that’s a big space to fall into!  We no doubt, at the very least, need a major change of the old guard in both our governing and election systems. To me personally revolution sounds exhausting and I have little energy for it. We are a society so polarized at this time, hopes of transition without people getting hurt in some way seems dubious, something important to my concept of revolution and transition.

dsc01515Moving on in our lives is most important – there are jobs to go to, families to care for, gardens to tend, births, deaths, weddings, education to be had, services to provide for others, all more important to expend our energies on than fear and anger. Most important, there is looking out for one another as the months unfold and uncertainties manifest.

 

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Below is a favorite poem that came to mind the night of the election.

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This poem, especially in the last verse, speaks to the need to keep on creating, keep on learning, to keep ourselves engaged regardless of circumstances, especially when faced with unknowns, when the winds of change around us seem threatening.

made with old spices and powdered herbs, of which I have many so this is likely the first of a new experiment!

made with old spices and powdered herbs, of which I have many, this is likely the first of a new experiment!

To that end I hope to create a mandala (my latest creative outlet) every day, at least several times a week, until the end of the year, perhaps beyond. With less floral and herbal materials available this time of year, they may be made of other materials, but my mandalas are not meant to be permanent. Mandalas have been used throughout history and in most cultures for meditations, for healing, for rituals, for many purposes. For me they remind me to focus on what is front me, whether a creative project, a mundane task, a person needing to be heard or cared for, my own self care.  And they remind me everything is transitory.  I create them and within hours they have changed, blown away, shriveled up, been made into tea, or gone off to the compost pile! They keep me connected to Nature and my love of aesthetics, life lines for me, and provide a way to share those connections with others. I’ll be sharing them on Instagram, some on Facebook, and they will all appear on the mandala page on this blog.

img_6282I encourage you to identify ways to keep on keeping on, letting your muse, your heart, and your curiosity keep you focused on what’s important in your life.  It may seem obvious, but in moments of fear, anger, uncertainty, it is good to have consciously made a choice on how you will step out of those emotions, or express them in a way that is helpful.

Based on life experiences, I’m a proponent of the concept that we bring about what we focus our energy on, and it is often a challenge to focus on what we want when distracted by the needs and emotions of others, especially if you are an emphatic. Creativity can be a place to center a distracted, scattered mind. Perhaps it will work for you. Another favorite re-focus strategy is hanging out with and caring for children.  My life isn’t blessed with them right now, not on a daily basis, but for many of you, children, grandchildren, friend’s children, are a constant reminder to stay in the present moment, and to play!

Collectively we can create a society of caring and inclusion, one that honors others and Nature, by applying our energies in our individual lives in the direction we want our country to go.

Remember, when the mind and heart gets fearful ~ “Each note of your flute, each word of your song, can drive out the sound.”

Post Script:

at the beach

at the beach

Sharing also a link to an essay by Charles Einstein, an excellent writer, able to express a “bigger picture” understanding of world events and people.  I found many of his thoughts similar to my own, only better organized and articulated.  Perhaps you will appreciate it too. http://charleseisenstein.net/hategriefandanewstory/

 

Veterans Day

dsc01476War changes people. My Dad was a Lt. Commander on a mine sweeper in Japanese waters in WWII. Lonely, dangerous work, he watched several times as other mind sweepers got blown up. He was in the Navy reserves all my growing up years. He did it for his family, for the extra income. He was handsome and proud when he put on his uniform. As he got older he told stories of his mine sweeper days, some were funny, about life on the ship. The experience never left him.

dsc01478My husband Mike, stationed on Mt Tamalpais in CA during the Vietnam era at an Air Force defense station, never went overseas, his job was radar detection, watching for (mostly Russian) planes that might wander into our air space. He was proud of his work, but a motorcycle accident landed him in a military hospital for months where he laid immobile. He watched Vietnam soldiers get carried in, broken men, many screaming through the night, many died. He became passionately against the Vietnam war, but completed his work protecting the country.

                                                               Wars change people.

                                                               Blessings to all veterans this Veterans Day.

An election baby grows up in a changing world

pj-2-mos-001-2I’ve been hesitant to post this, but after Mike said “You are reflecting on your participation in history as a woman.”  I decided I would share, because yes, that is what I am doing.

November 8 isn’t just Election Day, it’s my birthday. If you are weary of hearing about political candidates, let me indulgently tell you some stories about me, and my family, that hopefully will seem relevant to this historic time. (the politics comes later.😉 )

I came in with the returns, born in Seattle at 3:05 Wednesday morning following Election Day in 1950. It was not a presidential election year, Harry Truman was in office.

family portrait before me, two cute boys!

family portrait before me, two cute boys!

The daughter mom wanted (dad thought two was enough to support), I was “willed” in by a woman who married her high school sweetheart because he was handsome, hard working and they’d survived their teen years during the depression together. Her father left the family because of shame he felt after trying to “commit” his wife to an asylum. The stress of the depression had made her bitter, anxious about food on the table. An osteopathic doctor, Grandpa was more often paid in-kind rather than cash during the depression. Sometimes the in-kind was food, sometimes not. Unhappy in his marriage, a colleague told him how easy it was for a husband to commit his wife to a mental hospital.

my maternal grandparents in happy days, Frank Merrithew & Emma Jo Penney on their wedding day

Frank Merrithew & Emma Jo Penney, my maternal grandparents, on their wedding day.

Grandma, who got wind of the plan, crawled out a window with her two children and went to a neighbor’s house on the day the plan was to be carried out. Grandpa left. Though he contributed money when he could, grandma, who worked at Boeing, became a single mother in the middle of the depression. A profound life experience for mom, she wanted her children to have a different life.  She never resented her father, an otherwise kind man who buckled under pressure. And she forgave her own husband the times he was unkind. They were a team, through thick and thin.

Mom and me, age 5

Mom and me, 1955

I was born in the post-WWII era, when working women were encouraged to be stay-at-home-wives, a campaign aimed to remove women from the work place so soldiers returning from WWII would have jobs. Mom always worked, it was how my prudent parents afforded family summer vacations, a second car, etc.  She paid for the “extras” in our lives, especially the expenses of raising her daughter – my clothes, dance lessons, scout camp, etc. were her responsibility.

My dad, home from WWII, met my brother, his oldest son for the first time when he was 1 yr. old

The Korean War began in 1950, a war too soon for war-weary people recovering from WWII, putting war-interrupted lives back together. The day I was born the first jet-to-jet dog fight in history occurred over North Korea.  North Korea, considered to be the most authoritarian regime, was (is) ruled by a totalitarian dictator, a sociopath narcissist. The war, the fighting, the dictator, was too familiar to those who lived through WWII and the horrors and stories of Hitler. A war, and a country, mostly ignored, except by those in the military who were sent there to fight.

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While going to college in Washington DC, I marched against the Vietnam Nam war and attended the first Earth Day event.

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Fast forward a few decades. I went off to college in Washington D.C. during a time of demonstrations and political unrest. Later I moved to Eugene to finish my undergraduate degree at the University of Oregon, where I co-organized a West Coast Woman’s Conference while working at the campus YWCA, and where I taught a controversial course on Women and Religion through the religion and philosophy department. Later, department heads decided the topic wasn’t “relevant”, and the sociology department, where “women’s studies” were just coming into vogue, welcomed the course under the sponsorship of a tenured professor, one of the few feminists on the faculty.

Of nine paternal female cousins, I was one of three to graduate from college, the only one to later go on to graduate school.  After achieving my Masters degree in Psychiatric Rehabilitation, I received congratulation cards from my aunt and most of my cousins. These are not women I grew up around or knew well, but somehow my accomplishment was noteworthy to them.

Skipping ahead again. While working as the director of the Quilcene Community Center, after a friend was lost in the woods over night, I started Jefferson County Search and Rescue. When our co-ed group of volunteer rescuers attended a state training conference we were the only search and rescue team with women participants.  Slide shows shown at training workshops included random slides of naked women in pornographic poses and instructors used many sexual jokes. The slides, a technique used in military training, search and rescue being based on that model, were apparently meant to keep men awake and interested. It was uncomfortable. Some of the men were embarrassed, realizing the inappropriateness of the search and rescue culture toward women.

Why do these personal and family stories that reflect attitudes toward women in our culture come to mind as I approach my birthday, a day that will be historic no matter what the outcome? Perhaps because the status of women in our society has gone through so many changes in a “mere” 66 years.  People younger than myself are one or two generations removed from the memory of a time when it was acceptable to marginalize women and women tolerated such treatment because it was the ‘norm’ in the society they grew up in.  Women adapted and learned to forgive to fulfill their own dreams.

My grandmother’s generation was the first to vote, women were ‘given’ the right to vote in 1920, when she was 27, one year before my mother was born.  My generation was the first generation of women to talked about our bodies and decided we should make decisions about them. Women in my mother’s generation needed their husbands permission to have a medically necessary hysterectomy. (Sadly, body shame is still part of being female in our society). We were the first generation who went to college in large numbers, went into professions previously not seen as “women’s work”, to realize marriage is only one option, and if chosen, that option could be a partnership of equals.  The feminist movement of the 70s partially grew out of the sexism in the anti-war movement of the 60s.

But the work is not over for women or other marginalized groups.  As a society we are still struggling with many of the same civil rights battles fought in the 1960s.  Being gay has come out of the closet to be celebrated – but there is still homophobia driven violence and discrimination. Though women’s social status has come a long way – rape, violence against women, workplace discrimination and sexual harassment, though no longer condoned, still exists. Do we want to lose the gains or do we want to keep progressing forward to a society where all people are celebrated and the differences between us do not divide us but enrich us?

Here’s my political punchline.  The more I learn about Hillary Clinton, not just the rhetoric in media, but through my research, I find she is a woman much like myself.  She grew up in the same culture, with many of the values and ideals that grew out of the 60s and 70s.  She has great perseverance when lambasted with sexism, discrimination, shame and blame while following her passions. As Secretary of State she was the voice of, and changed the lives of, girls and women throughout the world. Scrutinized like no male candidate has ever been, many journalists have judged but rarely praised her for what she has accomplished as a civil servant. I’ve watched and read candid interviews of her and found her to be sensitive, a decent human being highly qualified to be president. She has screwed up, made bad choices, changed her mind on issues. She has her flaws, like the rest of us. And she may represent a political system that needs changing. But she does not have an agenda of undoing progressive gains of equality in our society.

And if she doesn’t win?  A man who fits the criteria for narcissistic personality disorder, with dictator tendencies, so unqualified it is astounding, becomes President. Someone who has bullied people for their religion, berated women for their appearances, been accused of rape, discrimination against blacks in his businesses, refused to pay people who have done work for him, proudly does not pay taxes, is seriously uninformed about the world, creates his own reality, and incites violence, becomes President. (Yes, he is a symptom of bigger issues that will not go away after November 8, regardless the election outcome, but that is another discussion.)

voteWhen you read this you will likely have voted, if not, please don’t waste your vote. There is no “perfect” candidate, I don’t recall there ever has been, considering one person can’t reflect the ideals and ideologies of millions of unique individuals in our country.  I dedicate my vote for Hillary to the women, and men, of all races and religious, who have had the courage to stand against sexism, discrimination, homophobia, racism, bigotry.  Their work needs to continue. It won’t happen under a Trump presidency.

Blessings to us all for how this election turns out.

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1954 – You can tell who the birthday girl is.