Rest in power, Aretha

Today we mourn the loss of Aretha Franklin. I am grateful for the many hours spent listening, singing along with and dancing to her music. She was an extraordinary artist (and I’m just now learning about her social justice work including a willingness to post bail for Angela Davis). I am the farthest thing from a religious person, but this version of Marvin Gaye’s Wholy Holy gives me goosebumps. Every single time.

Do yourself a favor and spend your next five minutes with the Queen of Soul.

Rest in power, Aretha.

Thankful Thursday

I’ve kept a gratitude journal on and off for a number of years, but am currently in an off phase. I hope to resume my bedtime ritual of listing five things I’m grateful for, but in the meanwhile:

Today I am grateful . . .

  • my sister helped me feel more at peace about a friend’s death.
  • my critique group gifted me another week to finish the draft of my work-in-progress and that
  • I am, indeed, making progress on that work.
  • I enjoyed a calm, non-aggressive walk in the warm sunshine with Emma, even though we passed other dogs.
  • I completed my four-minute plank despite learning the hard way that Led Zeppelin’s Four Sticks is absolutely not a good motivational song. Nope, not even close.

The power of a name

Today I finished reading MY CROSS TO BEAR by Gregg Allman (with Alan Light). I was very sad when he died, and put a library hold on his autobiography. I’m currently listening to Brothers and Sisters, the first full album the group recorded after guitarist-extraordinaire Duane Allman died of injuries from a motorcycle wreck, and am listening to the music in a whole new way.

I’m feeling chock-full of Allman Brothers Band lore, but the anecdote that really gives me the chills is the one about how they chose the name for the band. I always assumed it was because Duane and Gregg put the group together, so Allman got top billing.

Not so.

Photo for At Fillmore East album, 1971. Photographer Jim Marshall.

Once they (finally) found their perfect musical combination of two lead guitarists, two drummers, one bass player and one organist, Duane called for a vote on the group’s name. The six members each wrote down the band name he wanted. Gregg chose Beelzebub (the right-hand man of the devil) and Duane, a huge Tolkien fan, chose something from Lord of the Rings. The other four guys? They each wrote Allman Brothers Band.

For some reason, that story really makes me smile.

There was also laughter

Laughter is the tonic, the relief, the surcease for pain.
~ Charlie Chaplin

Zippy and I attended the funeral for a young woman this morning. So much sadness in the church. And yet, there was also laughter.

Rest in peace, K.

Sunday Confessional: Today I’m wishing I could have a do-over

This afternoon I randomly thought about a man I once knew and then looked him up online. Well, I discovered that he’d died about 18 months ago. He used to be married to a friend of mine, but they divorced. The man had done some stuff that ended up being unforgivable. Zippy and I had spent quite a bit of time with both of them as a couple, and we liked the man. He was smart, funny, and always made us feel welcome when we visited. But after the bad stuff came to light, my loyalty was to my friend. The man reached out once, but I didn’t return the call.

I still believe I was right to stand by my friend, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m now wishing I’d tried to communicate with him at some point. The thing is, my friend and I aren’t really in touch anymore so this news makes it feel as if I’ve lost two friends.

But, as Billy Wilder said, “Hindsight is always twenty-twenty.”

Because he loved these flowers.

 

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Carrie Fisher: A mother of nature

I’ve been offline most of the day and checked in to discover Carrie Fisher has died. It’s hard to comprehend. She seemed indestructible. Tiny and fierce. A forever force of nature.

I remember reading POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE the first time. I remember thinking that Carrie Fisher was hilarious, yes, but also incredibly insightful about what it means to be human. She was so damned smart and brave. And generous. She went to her dark places and brought that scariness out into the light as a gift to us. Her writing, tweets, and interviews were a constant reminder that none of us is alone on this spinning ball, and that since we’re in this thing together, we might as well share laughter along the way.

Holding the copy Zippy bought to replace the one he accidentally dropped in a lake while reading.

This is the copy Zippy bought for me to replace the one he accidentally dropped in a lake while on vacation.

There’s lots of gold in the book’s “postcards” written by character Suzanne Vale, but this portion from the Epilogue speaks to me now:

[…I still don’t think I feel the way I perceive other people to feel. I don’t know if the problem lies in my perception or my comfort. Either way I come out fighting, wrestling with my nature, as it were. And golly, what a mother of nature it is. Sometimes, though, I’ll be driving, listening to loud music with the day spreading out all over, and I’ll feel something so big and great—a feeling as loud as the music. It’s as though my skin is the only thing that keeps me from going everywhere all at once. …] 
Happy New Year,
Suzanne

Carrie Fisher lived a life big and bold, and I’m glad her skin kept her here with us as long as it did. Wherever you are now, Carrie, I hope there’s nonstop loud music and feelings so big and great. You were one helluva writer and human being. Rest in peace.

 

 

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Waving goodbye to Gene Wilder

I was very sad to learn Gene Wilder had left the planet until I found out he suffered from dementia. Then I said, “Good.” Because fuck Alzheimer’s. But my heart still hurts knowing there won’t be any other wonderful performances from that gentle genius. I grew up on Gene Wilder movies and it’s hard to wave goodbye.

Gene Wilder accomplished the impossible: his subversive performance as Willy Wonka made me love the movie more than the book. That never happens! I ALWAYS prefer books to movie adaptations.

WillyWonka GeneWilder as WillyWonka

Thank you for the many laughs.
Rest in peace.

 

 

 

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On becoming numb and desensitized

I just saw this tweet:
adam johnson iraq tweet

I responded with this:

And now I can’t stop thinking about how for years and years I maintained an Iraq death toll sign in my front yard. Every day I looked up the death tolls for Iraqi civilians and U.S. troops, and changed the numbers on the sign. The sign Zippy and I kept chained to our locust tree after other versions were stolen. The sign that resulted in vandalism and harrassment from people in our neighborhood. The sign that was my voice after my elected “representatives” refused to listen to me and the millions of people around the globe who took to the streets to demand the United States NOT invade Iraq in 2003.

Death toll numbers as of August 8, 2014

Death toll numbers as of August 8, 2014

That photo is from a post on August 8, 2014, when Obama started bombing Iraq some more. I never put it out again despite the ongoing, never-ending death and destruction following the U.S. led invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Which brings me back to Adam H. Johnson’s tweet and my shame.

The corporate elites and imperialists count on us to be apathetic due to overwhelm, but it’s on me that I’ve let the people of Iraq slip off my emotional radar. Just as it’s on me that I’ve pretty much become numb and desensitized to every single instance of death and destruction. I don’t want to feel numb and desensitized, I really don’t. I’d rather be angry and in the streets with a pitchfork.

But everything feels like too fucking much.

 

 

Still no words

I posted the following (I Can’t Breathe) on December 4, 2014:

I’m a writer and I’m supposed to be able to express myself.

But for the past two days I’ve struggled to put down words about the stark contrast between my experience as a white female in this society and all the black women who can never, ever take for granted that any of the males in their lives–sons, husbands, fathers, brothers, nephews–will walk back through the door at the end of the day.

I’m heartbroken. For all of us.

Nineteen months and a whole bunch more dead black men later, and I still don’t know how to write about what’s happening in this country. It’s seriously fucked up what’s going on here. I’m sad and angry and exhausted by the seemingly never-ending supply of fear and ignorance behind all this police brutality. It must end.

My heart goes out to those who, every single day, worry whether their boys and men will make it home.

Public domain image.

Public domain image.

EQUAL RIGHTS by Peter Tosh

Everyone is crying out for peace, yes
None is crying out for justice
Everyone is crying out for peace, yes
None is crying out for justice

I don’t want no peace
I need equal rights and justice
I need equal rights and justice
I need equal rights and justice
Got to get it, equal rights and justice

On Being There for Those We Love

Yesterday morning I was in my yoga togs, ready for my routine, when the phone rang. It was Wildebeest. Bernice, his beloved elderly cat, was not doing well and Wildebeest was calling for support. Zippy and I divvied up responsibilities: he’d go as planned to help his mother with insurance/tow truck/etc following her Sunday night car accident (!), and I’d go to Wildebeest’s. I quickly changed into jeans, remarking that our Monday morning was now clearly in the Shit-Storm column rather than Sunshine-With-a-Strong-Chance-of-Clouds column.

The day got much harder and much shittier: Bernice died.

Beautiful Bernice (although this picture doesn't do her justice.)

Beautiful Bernice (although this picture doesn’t do her justice.)

Wildebeest adopted her soon after moving out and the two of them were best of friends. She got him through some very difficult times and over the years I was thankful for the unconditional love she gave my son. (Plus, she was a soft and beautiful cat with a quirky personality!)

Yesterday was a day of tears. One of those cry-until-your-face-hurts day of tears. But it was also a day filled with real emotions and conversation, and a little bit of laughter. Wildebeest and I were together for six hours, and while it was excruciating to witness his pain and loss, I was (and am) grateful I could be there. I’ve been off-and-on looking for a job, frequently beating myself up for being out of the employment game for so long, but yesterday reminded me of the benefits to being a non-salaried Mom.

RIP Bernice. You will always be in our hearts.
Flowers for Bernice post

 

His Name Wasn’t Stu

But that’s what I called him.

The name change started about the time he and my mother-in-law traveled to Alaska to visit Zippy and me. I mentioned in conversation that he didn’t seem like a Steve, but more of a Stu. So later on when we were in a gift shop in Fairbanks and I discovered a STU coffee mug, it was a done deal. My father-in-law was forevermore Stu.

Yesterday, the family honored his wishes and let Stu die. The nurses did everything to keep him comfortable, and in the hours before letting go, Stu was surrounded by his wife and four children, two daughters-in-law and one son-in-law. The last thing he said after opening his eyes and seeing us all there was “My chickadees.”

Stu had accepted, once and for all, how much his brood loved him. Following a surgery in early December, his last three months were mostly spent in hospitals and two different rehab facilities, with only a handful of days at home. His health had declined on several fronts and it was incredibly difficult for him. But the gift of those months was that Stu spent time with his family and had conversations he’d never had before. Emotionally honest conversations. Pre-surgery, there’d been a standing joke that Stu’s favorite children were the three different West Highland White Terriers he had over the years. Stu didn’t do emotions. Stu stiffly accepted hugs, but never initiated them. Stu was a rock.

Except, the evidence said otherwise.

From the start, Stu made me feel welcome in the family. Despite our vastly different social and political outlooks. Despite our vastly different dietary habits. Despite coming from such different backgrounds that we were practically aliens to one another, Stu and I had a bond.

Yes, Stu was a rock. Except for that time vacationing in Puerta Vallarta with a six-month-old Wildebeest, when Stu and my mother-in-law babysat so Zippy and I could have a quiet dinner alone. Wildebeest of the mighty lungs wailed the entire time we were gone, and Stu patiently held him and walked round and round the hotel pool, ignoring the other guests’ groans of “Here they come again.”

Stu was a rock, except when we were in Hawaii when I was pregnant with Zebu and the twisty-turny road up to the volcano made me sick and he pulled over to let me throw up in the ditch and then allowed me to drive the rest of the way, even though Stu always, always was the driver.

Stu was a rock, except when putting in hours in his woodshop making toys for his grandchildren.

Stu was a rock, except the time I overheard him telling a nurse about his wonderful family consisting of one wife, four children, seven grandchildren, and one great-grandchild, and ending it by saying he felt very bad for people who didn’t have family.

Stu was a rock, except when he confided that the one good thing to come out of his lengthy hospital stays was that he and I had become better friends.

Stu was a rock, except when he asked the physical therapist to call him Stu rather than Steve.

Stu was a rock, except when I got to his bedside yesterday and he reached out his hand for mine.

I’m so grateful I got to be one of Stu’s chickadees. When I sat down to write this, I caught a flash of movement in the pine tree outside the window. I looked closer and wasn’t at all surprised to see a Black-capped Chickadee hopping around the branches.

Not this morning's visitor, but another Black-capped Chickadee.

A relative of this morning’s visitor.