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Shirley’s Blog.

I Am So Proud of Virginia Voters

Another Republican state turns Democrat on its Nov. 5th election date!  How well I remember the plucky women who saw their rights being stripped, one by one, too often by the men who controlled both houses of their state legislature.  It was as though each of these women began wondering, ‘who is looking out for my interests, my rights?’.  The questions they seemed to be asking were: how can I  be expected to control my own life if stripped of birth control as my right to determine?  No such demands were made on men’s reproduction organs.  Why should only men have control of their bodies, have privileged access to affordable education, get more pay than women for the same position?

Why, indeed, they seemed to be wondering, do we continue voting for those who would limit our dreams?  our ambitions?

As I recall, some of these women, who had never run for public office of any kind, began to gather together and wonder, “what keeps us from running for an office?”  It was as though a small number of them began to challenge one another to just run for ANY office — even dog catcher — to get started.  Serve on some community board.  Help another woman enter an election.  It was like the beginning of a Me Too movement for these women saying, “Know my place?  I don’t think so!”

From time to time I’d read an article about this group supporting one another — even a husband or two taking care of the kids so their wives could learn the skills of campaigning.  And then I forgot about them until….

I read the election results of last Tuesday’s election!  The ‘Blue Wave’ hit the state of Virginia!  I immediately thought of those “Me Too” women and wondered how much their efforts contributed to the amazing state victory.  Perhaps Rachel will have another story to share with us about those plucky Virginia women.

Will we hear more stories about women who want nothing more than ‘to control their own bodies? Have a dream or two of their own? Only yesterday, TV news showed a woman in Virginia giving a Trump motorcade her middle finger as she passed them on her bike!

Stay tuned.

What’s Wrong with Trump?

It seems our fearless and fearful leader cares little about being a President who wants to make our country a better place for all of its citizens. Other than wanting to build a wall, keep out all immigrants, and make the rich richer, he has no interest in the needs and concerns of each generation. The middle class has shrunk leaving many with inadequate health care or retirement savings and the millennials wonder if they’ll ever get their college bills paid. No concern has he for our youth who fear they may not live long enough to be an adult due to the ravages of climate change or the fear of get- ting shot at school. His ever-changing staff cannot keep up with his changing moods and ideas. In fact, he now he has varied staff visiting far flung countries searching for ways to discredit our U.S. intelligence agencies’ claim that Russia hacked his election.

Perhaps Psychiatric Physicians at the Mayo Clinic who have developed signs and symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder can offer help. People with the disorder can:

. Have an exaggerated sense of self-importance
. Have a sense of entitlement and require constant, excessive admiration
. Expect to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
. Believe they are superior and can only associate with equally special people
. Monopolize conversations and belittle or look down on others as inferior
. Take advantage of others to get what they want
. Are unable or unwilling to recognize others needs or feelings
. Be envious of others and believe others envy them
. Become angry when they don’t get or receive special treatment
. Have difficulty regulating emotions and behavior
. React with rage or contempt, try to belittle the other person in order to feel superior.

Perhaps a resident psychiatrist should be added to his staff.

Why Does No One Speak Up?

Why indeed does no one tell The Emperor he wears no clothes?  Those who readily agree with anything he says, orders or demands may reply,  “You never get punished for doing nothing!”

So it is with our leader who hears no complaints from his shrinking group of devoted followers who say nothing when he encourages Israel’s leader to prohibit two of our Congressional women, both Muslims, from entering his country.  Seemingly having no moral compass, he and his followers let hate speak for them.  Not seeing the power he has given these women, he sees such actions as a diversion – in this case, possibly against that former day’s disastrous stock market drop. 

We risk getting used to being ordered by such a leader and his handful of wealthy and powerful friends who run us and our country by tweets and his version of fake news.  The use of frequent repetition by our powerful person who sees himself as ‘the best leader in the world — in fact whoever was — who knows only the “winners,”  may occasionally say of a friend who suddenly finds himself challenged by the law and possible imprisonment, “I really didn’t know him very well — only a short time, really.”

But the Earth’s burning in Brazil is a threat to us all and should give our leader pause on his recent roll back on Methane, a major cause of ‘climate change’.  Let the Amazon rain forest be damned, he must think, as he lets it be shut down!

Not enough for our leader to ignore the needs of poor, blacks, kids, immigrants and now educators and scientists, — he seems even more determined to destroy farms, forests, parks, our oceans, Brazil forests, the atmosphere, research, education and a thriving future for younger generations.  And although he remains only interested in creating unlimited wealth for his favored wealthy few and his kids,  yet no one speaks up!

They Wouldn’t Live Anywhere Else!

Anthony Bourdain is a person I have greatly admired, particularly as he found himself exploring the roughest terrain in America – of life lived by true Texan cowboy families.

“In the roughest terrain, you have a weak heart, you won’t last,” Anthony said, on a replay of one of his early broadcasts on CNN.  “Surrounded by high mountains, populated by crowded high trees, with curling gravel roads at ground level require you to go 40 miles to get a loaf of bread or a pack of cigarettes.  Folks here travel mostly by horses.  There was nothin’ but nothin’ between small towns,” he said.  Yet the family he was with, “engaged in hard laughter and LOVED IT!  They wouldn’t live anywhere else.  One family owned a saloon — a good one.  Loyalty was big in this Texas where you have to depend on one another.  Ranchers needed lots of guns cause you were considered an invader of Mexico in the old days.  Mexicans say all their fathers, grandfathers were all here.  In fact you can see the evidence of their carvings on the rocks.  They were in tune with their times.” 

“Diverse folks live in Texas — cross over wherever the borders are from Mexico.  Many live across the street from one another.”  Looking at us, Anthony says, “One side is USA, the other is Mexico.  This appears to be comfortable for most. It was the most amazingly magnificent and rugged terrain I’ve yet seen.  Going outside at night to watch the stars —  at where they live — deeply appreciated by those who live in this amazing state.”

But this was before the El Paso crisis — surprising all its approximately three thousand persons at the Walmart and its adjacent mall on a sales tax holiday that suddenly erupted with multiple gun shots, killing 20, leaving 46 wounded.   An open-carry state, many carried their weapons legally.  It had been a beautiful American city prior to this day on August 3, 2019.

A racist, anti-immigrant manifesto was found near the Walmart Shop, believed written and posted by the shooter, a 21-year old man who surrendered to police.  He drove more than 9 hours to reach El Paso, suggesting the hatred that drove him.  Another 19-year-old man who promoted white supremacy, fatally shot three people, injuring 12 others, at Gilroy Garlic Festival a week earlier.  He had urged Instagram followers to read “Might Is Right”, a novel admired by white supremacists.  He had legally purchased his gun in Nevada three weeks earlier, making this the 240th shooting of the year!

Local leaders insisted we must call it what it is:  a hate problem of non-whites.  The manifesto listed earlier encouraged white folks to take over the country — particularly western European whites. 

A day later, the single largest ICE Raid in history left nearly 700 undocumented people detained after officials raided seven food processing plants in Mississippi.  Hundreds of families were separated from their children.  Three hundred detained were later released but the schools and other city officials had no prior warning of the raid, leaving many feeling highly emotional.  Leaders were saying “We’re losing our way!  This is not who we are!  The timing of these raids is questionable!”  Our president, who has difficulty rising to such occasions, was being urged to stop using words like:  predator, killers, animals, invasions; words he uses to rile his base but turns off other citizens as well as immigrants.

It is hard to keep up with the increasing threats to what used to be a reasonably predictable country.  As for me, It is the beauty and awesomeness of Bourdain’s Texas I choose to remember.

Let’s Make America America Again!

How I yearn for the days when people could politely disagree without engaging in name calling; when politicians could disagree with opponents without calling them childish names, accusing them of possessing dubious intelligence, maybe not even born in America.

And so hearing good old Joe Biden declare, “Let’s Make America America Again!”, I was surprised to find me almost yelling to myself, “Well, why indeed not?” I had initially felt Joe was ill advised to run. Too old, too ill-equipped with remembrances of past ‘goofs’ and too lacking the excitement of a Kamala Harris or Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren or Beto O’Rourke.

But as Frank Bruni commented in his NYT article, that is the essence of Joe’s strategy — “Elect me would mean the past four years were a bad dream.” Then I watched Joe handle a disruptive man attending a recent speech by gently welcoming him, suggesting they have a private conversation after his talk. How welcoming was that! No “Kick that man out!” Probably any of our candidates would be equally polite but seeing Joe in action filled me with a remembrance of times past I had feared might be gone. As Bruni concluded, any yesterday is better than Trump’s tomorrow. This was strangely reassuring to me, giving me confidence that any of our many candidates will help restore sanity to the electoral process.

Yet some of his challengers doubted that working successfully with the opposition was a good thing. To them it showed his willingness to work with Senate segregationists, a ‘no – no’. Joe mentioned that Teddy Kennedy had to learn how to work with segregationists to get any bills passed. As several reporters had predicted, other candidates soon began pointing out why each of them would be a better choice to defeat Trump.

The first debate of ten candidates will be held on June 26 and the second one on June 27. They promise to be lively. Will Joe still remain in the lead? I won’t miss them. How about you?

What I Most Need. . . . .

Following my retirement of traveling the world, I found myself these last seven years living alone in my very large Queen Anne Home.  My partner of 30 years had died. Encouraged by friends, I wrote a couple of memoirs about our travels and my life.  During these years, a number of my relatives and dearest girl friends have died or moved into retirement homes.   My daughter has found her life busier than she had ever imagined with me trying to figure out how to cope with a world of iPhones and other gadgets, and her husband unhappy with his work, —  her trying to be there for both of us and their pets.

What was I to do with myself?  I had to start learning stuff I had never wanted to learn — mostly about details –  like run a huge home,  keep the lawn looking presentable and seek young millennials to enjoy. 

Then a gal named Reneé came into my life, possessing those many skills I most lacked.  I had already decided that to keep me organized,  what I most needed was a secretary!  I’d always had one before retirement.  I also needed  help  organizing all the ‘stuff’ in my huge home.  In fact, I often felt obsolete — lacking the skills so necessary for today’s fast moving world of varied devices requiring continued new learning  of newer yet apps with its regular expensive upgrades.  I was not alone.  Most my generation were seeking varied coping mechanisms or had even giving up having a computer or a TV that also showed movies.

Reneé was living a quiet life with a need for more interesting girlfriends, her new husband who kinda preferred her staying at home and her 27 year old son.  Though she had lived with her first husband in Europe while he served in the army, her main work experience had been with hotels, keeping rooms organized and clean.  The clincher for me was observing how she used her iPhone to keep her life organized.  I no sooner told her how I needed someone to organize my home, room by room — starting with the pantry — getting rid of duplicates like crockpots — then she was ‘on it!’  Before  I knew it, counters were free of clutter, space opened up like magic in the cupboards, dishes were organized on the shelves and duplicates disappeared into the basement where we decided stuff no longer usable would be kept.  Junk there would be eventually  boxed and sealed to be taken to Good Will,  serviceable items boxed and taken to thrift shops.  When I expressed a desire for one of those self-cleaning frying pans, she got me one.  A small tree in my front yard was dying.  She immediately located a person to cut it down and reseed the lawn. Gardening was a great love of hers that got her into my shed containing all yard stuff that she then organized.  When we had an invasion of thousands of ants swarming over the kitchen floor following the ice storm that had frozen, then burst water pipes in the basement, she quickly obtained information on her iPhone for a pest-control site getting someone here the next day.  Several days later, ants were gone.  And so it goes.

We are now examining the first signs of Spring as we check the soggy flower gardens for early blooms and the lawns for bare spots in need of new seeding.  Tentatively we open the shed to check the condition of equipment and jars of ‘God knows what’ in varied containers.  Enthusiasm bursts forth as we plan our first visit to gardening shops, wondering if it is too soon to get hanging pots to cheer up our soggy yards or colorful perennials to border garden edges. 

Following our first day of planting new flowers while thrilled with all the new bleeding heart bushes in full bloom, I get an anxious call from Reneé.  “Shirley, I just heard tonight’s forecast of early frost.  You must take in the baskets and cover up the new plants with whatever you can find!”  Thankful for her call, I stumble out into the windy, chilly darkness of night, hoping to be ‘the big protector of all new life.

Though we’ve lived in very different worlds, and we’re years apart in age, we’ve become ‘girlfriends’ who begin each time together with coffee, chit-chat and cookies, discussing things we might explore when summer finally comes, in this beautiful state of many parks and beautiful lakes.  Maybe even take an overnight trip to Minnesota’s fabulous ‘North Shore’ with its quaint villages, fabulous historic sites and festive annual contests on its shores and harbors.  Who knows what new adventures might await us!  We just know, “We are ready!”  Reneé is my special secret for my more optimistic ‘take on life’.

I suspect I may have a jealous friend or two.

The Case of the Disappearing Blogger

On Feb. 1, the Polar Vortex turned my basement into a minor Niagara Falls, leaving behind a flooded guest bedroom and bath, laundry and furnace rooms that remain gutted with water damaged walls, floors and ceilings but as yet no restoration.  The Vortex created extensive damage in many upper midwestern states’ buildings, causing  insurance and basement restoration firms to be deluged for help.  We think we may finally have found a restoration company we can afford now, four months later.   Thus, the return of the occasional blogger.

Yet, I feel surrounded by bleakness.  Our Minnesota Spring has been most reluctant to free us from too much gorgeous snow,  dangerous ice, and cold windy days.  Even though ice houses of avid fishermen have been closed for the season, and deer hunters back home, TVs bring no relief with its bombardment of hopeless political news.   A cartoon in my local paper pictured a very cold looking man looking at a shivering man holding his hands over his ears.  The first man asks, “Frostbite?”  The second highly distressed looking man replies, “No, Sound Bites from Washington Politicians!”

Yet yards are too wet and so ‘not ready’ for eager gardeners.  In my social world of mostly women whom I cherish, too many leave us each year to death or retirement facilities, reminding us remaining of how tenuous is life.  And how hard we must work to be less burdensome to our children.  My daughter is one of many who must watch over her aging mother and be concerned about the grandchildren.  Articles begin appearing with great regularity about the burden of baby boomers who find themselves wedged between old folks and millennials.

And yet the millennials certainly have their issues.  They will be forever paying off their college education debts while seeking employment that satisfies and helps pay off college and medical expenses.  It certainly feels like my generation truly lucked out.  Born during WWII, we learned frugality and volunteerism, lucky enough to be among the recipients of the G.I. Bill that made college affordable.  I chose to pursue a doctorate, graduating with no student debt and having my choice of varied desirable professions, giving me a career I truly enjoyed with great benefits as well.  Not only were the baby boomers faced with too many pursuing too few desirable jobs but too often the down-sizing of available work included cut benefits and pitiable raises.  My millennial friends seem more accepting of their frugal life styles, perhaps finding fun way of adapting.  Perhaps I’ll explore their worlds next.

So I guess I am ready to continue my writing of blogs, a pursuit I enjoy.

Let Me Entertain You

The ‘natural entertainer’ need only rely on ‘his gut’.  No formal study is required.  Thus he harms no one — other than perhaps those who believe his humor is based on fact.  Notice how he struts onto the stage, with a huge smile going from ear to ear on his orange shaded round-shaped face.  His eyes twinkle with joy as he listens to the adulation of the crowd.

“See how I act,” he may say, having no need to speak truth.  “See how I can act like a President — no big deal,” as he moves woodenly from side to side, holding his arms and hands stiffly at his side.  The audience roars, giving him the mass adulation he needs as he says with a lop-sided grin, “How am I doing?  Do you want more?  Like this”?

He can tell lies fearlessly to this crowd who require being entertained.  Thus, if challenged by a reporter in the crowd on some simple fact like the number of people at a previous event, the entertainer need only point to the person yelling in a commanding voice, “Get that lyin’ person outa here with his ‘fake news’ – as the crowd yell, “Get him out!”

Since he seldom holds convictions for many announcements he makes — except maybe – ‘build the wall’ – he can quickly shift convictions – either denying he ever said it or blaming the idea on a former president.  “Works every time,’ he says or so it seems.

It also seems miraculous how this man plays the shifting blame game so openly and yet so flawlessly.  When will those elected to serve us and our Constitution begin demanding leaders follow truth and law — not letting those who yell ‘fake news’ or ‘witch hunt’ get by with such childish behavior.  

Leave entertainment for actors on Saturday Night Live!

On Honoring an Honorable Man

The word quickly spread throughout our small group of friends:  “Have you heard, Bob Klas died Friday?”  As a young boy from a very large family in Wabasha, his first business was selling popcorn from a homemade shop.  It was the first of many ventures that eventually resulted in his becoming President and CEO of the Tapemark Company in West St. Paul, where he remained a continuing member of the Board of Directors.  He and his devoted wife, Sandy,  created a large family, including several children with special needs.  Together they served on various boards and gave away millions to Universities, hospitals, churches,  schools and people in need.

 Sandy  became my best friend soon after I met her in 1973, when we both served on a Special Education Council in the St. Paul schools.  With her great sense of humor, she collected friends easily and taught me the joys of having fun friends.  In fact, I dedicated my second memoir published by Amazon to her as she had judiciously read every page of my manuscript, guiding me to its eventual conclusion.  This woman has many talents and this one may have been influenced by her parents who had been reporters of the local newspaper years ago.

Three of my present girlfriends, also great admirers of Sandy and Bob, knew we had to attend the Visitation to be held near Bob’s business.  Although the weather was   forbidding, now with its windy, cold rain pelting and turning the 10 or 15 inches of fleecy white snow into slippery hazardous ice, we four, no longer spring chickens, were determined to get there.  Although three or us were over the age of 80, our youngest, Phyllis,  still in her 60s, who could multi-task and drive anywhere, insisted on picking us all up and getting us there, even with roads and sidewalks turning into ice.   Sandy and I often referred to her as ‘the kid’ since she was so much younger than us but still, for unknown reasons, seemed to like us.

 On such a horrid weather day, hundreds turned out to honor Bob and his supportive wife.  It was rather like a class reunion, with so many of us enjoying seeing  friends and acquaintances we hadn’t recently seen.  I even ran into my daughter and ‘son-in-law! ‘  Reluctantly we bundled up, getting ready to tackle the even harder cold rain waiting to pelt us as we left.  Dropping me off last, we discovered the street, sidewalk and front porch were now virtually sheets of ice.  It was apparent there  was no way I could safely get out of the car, cross the street, get on the sidewalk and onto the porch.  

“It’s apparent we have to find some Ice/Melt somewhere,” Phyllis said.  One of her many talents is her quick ability to move into a problem-solving mode in a calm, matter-or-fact way.  Not only did she locate a filling station nearby, she purchased the last huge container of Ice/Melt, caressing it lovingly as she tentatively found her way back to the car.  She insisted I stay in the car until she had adequately covered the sidewalk and porch with newspapers she had purchased to spread over the Ice/Melt, then assisted me into my home.  

As perilous as it was for anyone to be out in this weather, horrid for even Minnesota, the four of us were so pleased we could be among the many who weathered the ice and rain storm to ‘honor this remarkably honorable man’!

Scenes from Yesteryear

To find relief from the  world of Trump, full of lies about crises that don’t appear  to exist, while worshiping a world of countries run by dictators who rule with an iron hand, I wonder what happened to that simpler middle-class world of families who lived without iPhones, held jobs that offered security, whose children attended schools where no one feared being shot.  Those were the days!

On the other hand, such home towns as mine could be awfully boring.  Everyone pretty much looked the same.  My community was white Protestant with few exemptions and special education didn’t exist so little help for those with special needs.  I moved out in 1950, ready to redefine myself to be more interesting so I picked a small college where no one from my home town would be and learned how to dress, smoke, drink, flirt and make interesting small talk — thus preparing me to transfer the next year to “the Big U” where I would be absorbed by over 20,000 students from all over the world!  That’s where life for me truly began in all its many shapes and forms.

Eventually I ended up in Minnesota with a brand new husband, Ph. D., and  Linda, my teen-aged daughter — and here I still reside, single, with a  married middle-aged daughter,  who now looks after me.  

Such was not always the case.  The two of us lived together comfortably for many years – but there were times when neither of us could figure the other one out.  On such occasions, we’d end up our night in the kitchen, trying to puzzle it out over glasses of wine, while having what I”d call our ‘kitchen confessionals’.  I liked my life!  But why couldn’t she just get out there and ‘make things work’?

I must now confess that I sure wasn’t much of a psychologist.  She kept trying to explain that the world each of us grew up in was very different.  True, there weren’t many of us born in the ’30s and ‘40s — only about 75 million of us.  The G.I. Bill changed millions of lives, creating great jobs.  But Baby Boomers with 80 million peers, found too many competing for similar opportunities — thus stripping many of her generation of the optimism my generation had experienced, instead leaving them skeptic.  

The older I get, the fewer people I find very knowledgable about generational differences.  So I now thrive on seeking out millennials, among the 76 million of them, who were born with cell phones and personal pagers while in diapers.  At least I now have a ‘jitterbug’ which I’m  learning how to use when many of my generation just gave up trying.  Now it is those Millennials saying in today’s NYT, “Fly Financially on My Own?  Get Real!”  For those without parental cash, there’s some kind of debt hangover that holds them back.  For many it’s student-loan debt that ruins their credit.  I can’t believe it!  I graduated from the university with a Ph. D., no debt, and many job leads!  Neither my daughter, nor my Millennial friends have experienced that.

In today’s world of clashing headlines, full of disasters and predictions of even more insecurity if you follow the wrong leader or listen to ‘fake news’, I guess we shouldn’t feel too surprised to find wide generational differences among us.  

Therefore, more on Generational Differences coming up in future blogs!

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