Tidings

 

I spent a good part of my morning racking my brains for non-political topics – both for my university course and my blog – thinking both sets of readers are in need of a break. I drew a blank. I surfed around in the internet and checked out social media, which helped . . . not at all.  It seemed like everything and everyone in the world is currently politicized. I went to refill my coffee. I stared out my kitchen window.

That was when I noticed them.

Two little moons, perched in my Red Maple tree.

moons1

 

As I tried to figure out what they were, a candle appeared.

 

moons2

 

Then a second candle showed up. And they were joined by two birds.

 

moons3

I am not sure what they were telling me, but I think it was something good.

They made me feel better.

So I am sharing them with you.

 

Inaugural Blackout

Is it just me, or is anyone else out there getting really irritated at the way he keeps saying everything two or three times in a row?

Before I started writing this post today, I intended to do some internet research on what possible medical condition he has. (Search terms: “symptoms: word repetition, impulse control, pathological lying . . .”) I believe I figured it out too. But that will have to wait till tomorrow.

Because I got sidetracked with the transcript of the inauguration speech. I started circling the word repetitions. Then I suddenly remembered a post from Joan about blackout poetry, which I have been wanting to try out ever since . . .

As usual with such things – I was overly ambitious – this took me hours and hours. At the end I had a whole list of ideas of what I would do differently the next time – starting with better materials.

But here you have it – such as it is – my first blackout attempt and my latest contribution to the Resistance:

inaugural

 

Pretty in Pink

 

It is the second full day of our new reality. Against all expectations, I feel totally inspired. The Laws of Physics tell us that for every action there is a reaction – although, it seems that reaction is sometimes a delayed one. I think we finally saw the first clear glimpses of it yesterday.

The numbers and pictures from the Women’s March on Washington are coming in and they are truly balm for the worried soul. If estimates are correct, about ten times as many people went into the streets against him than for him. Here are links to where I lifted most of the following photos from:

http://usuncut.com/news/official-womens-march-attendance/
http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/01/21/510940708/womens-march-on-washington-goes-worldwide-snapshots-from-around-the-globe

 

Enjoy them!  I sure did!

 

Washington D.C.

march-washington1march-washington2

Los Angeles, California

march-la

New York City, New York

march ny

Chicago, Illinois

march-chicago

Denver, Colorado

march-denver

Boston, Massachusetts

march-boston

Austin, Texas

march-austin

London, England

march-london

Paris, France

march-paris

Paradise Bay, Antarctica

march-antarctica

Rehgraben, Austria

march-rehgraben1 march-rehgraben2

Hail to the Chief

hail1

I have no idea where they came from, but we inherited this ancient German encyclopedia set and these books have spent most of their lives since collecting dust in my library. Recently, however, I took one off the shelf on a whim and gave it a closer look. My first discovery was the old Germhail2an script which I find quite difficult to read. Then I looked at the copyright and saw that these books were published in 1937 in Leipzig, Germany. Almost exactly 80 years ago.

 

1937 . . .

If memory and my high school history teachers serve, 1937 was four years after Hitler’s election to German Chancellor and one year before he annexed Austria, kicking off the march toward World War II in the process. I wondered, what was the mindset of the people who let these developments happen? What were the facts of their world? Here on my library shelf were five volumes with the answers to my questions.

I first tried to think of non-political things I could look up. Things that might have been new at that time. My husband suggested “Jazz”.

After struggling a while with the kooky letters, I learned that Jazz “arose out of English and Scottish folksongs and operetta music as well as the plantation work songs and religious singing of the North American negro and their dances which stemmed from Africa. Jazz is foreign to the German music sensibility.”

The word “negro” stood out. In German it was “Neger” and that is a word that is no longer socially acceptable around here. I assume, however, that no one in 1937 Germany had a problem with it.

I looked it up and read about where the negros come from and all the places they were shipped off to as slaves (“See ‘the Negro Question’”), a litany of their – seemingly unattractive – physical attributes, and (dubious) cultural influences, leading to the fact that: “The power of state-building is inherently lacking in the negro.”

Apparently, (I’m paraphrasing now) their industry is limited and mostly agricultural. Only one tribe in Liberia developed a real written language. Their mostly religious artwork only reached any heights in one part of West Africa. There seems to be a general musical talent. “Intellectually they rapidly developed, but the negro quickly lagged behind the people of European cultures; he is not suited to autonomous cultural work but does not die out when coming into contact with higher cultures, rather resigns himself to it.”

This little nugget of wisdom was immediately followed by the term “Negerfrage” (“the Negro Question”), meaning the dangers of racial mixing and the “negro-ification” of white peoples in places where they live in close proximity. It is a long, convoluted, and disgraceful entry which I stopped reading after the third sentence.

Of course there was one more thing I had to look up.

 

hail3I read about Adolf’s youth and long (seemingly heroic) struggle to finally be elected leader (with 36.8% of the votes). I “learned” how “very early on he became a decisive enemy of narcissism as well as Judaism and realized that nationalism and socialism only seemed to be antithetical, and that the German worker had to be restored to his traditional role.” How he turned a small Workers’ Party into a movement. How after gaining power, he successfully dismantled the longstanding dominance of political parties and the parliamentary establishment. “In foreign policy, he stood for a policy of peace and accommodation based on German honor and equal status.” Or, in simpler terms, he promised to make Germany great again. After that, he consolidated all the power and proceeded to get over 90% of the votes for basically everything he wanted. And there the story ended. For the time being.

To be continued . . .

 

I’ve heard we are living in a “post-factual” world – probably because we have become used to powerful people saying things in front of live cameras and then denying having said it two days later.

But that can’t be true because, clearly, facts are not static things – they are the always changing, commonly accepted perceptions of reality as we grow and learn.

I would say we are living in an era where facts are simply buried under a mountain of manure. Sort of like in Germany in 1937.

Our outgoing president reaffirmed his faith in people just yesterday and I agree with him. I still hope and believe that 80 years from now, people will look back at the encyclopedias of 2017 and have no trouble distinguishing truth from today’s transient turds.

Mission Creep

 

(My Years of Montessori – Part 35)

 

It is my sixth year in my beloved little alternative school. Before that I spent 25 years teaching in a university Business School. The two worlds could not be more different. In fact, it strikes me now as just a little strange how these two worlds can co-exist on the same planet. No . . . “co-exist” is not the right word. Each of these worlds politely ignores the existence of the other. The Business faculty continues to preach the established world economic order and does very well for itself in the process. The Hummingbird School lives on a perpetual shoestring, finding creative new ways to buck the system, continually re-defining itself always in contrast to establishment principles. If I had to create a social/political/economic Venn diagram of these two worlds, it would look like this:

venn

The little red dot is me.

From the very first day of my employment there, I represented an intersection point between this alternative world and most everything outside of it. Over these six years, I have slowly staked out my place in this very complex place as an insider/outsider. The only teacher whose own children do not attend the school. The only teacher who does not participate in the parental organizational structures or pay dues/school fees or commit 30 hours a year to janitorial and organizational duties. The only teacher for whom this work is only a job and not part of some larger, life changing communal project.

So far I have gotten away with it. I’m an integrated foreigner, allowed to be a little different now that I have learned the language. But it also works out because slowly and surely, I have increased my voluntary contributions to the school. I have taken over supervision of the Secondary group. I have taken over the school book ordering. I have taken over the organizing of photos and make the school year slideshow. I’ve started offering lessons to the grade school and kindergarten kids. I attend the weekly team meetings in which we basically administrate the entire school as a group of five. I’ve arranged excursions and camping trips and weeks in London. I’ve gone to seminars to learn more about Montessori. I’ve attended weddings and parties and team-building weekends. I’ve listened to others for hours on end.

I didn’t envision most or all of this when I started. It just happened. When you work with a bunch of idealistic people who are all willing to pull extra unpaid weight, you do it too or you go. It is mission creep. I keep re-evaluating the extent of my commitment and where the borders are.

All of the above became an issue again, because we had a “Supervision” today. It is sort of a group therapy for the teaching team led by a psychologist/coach and it was my fourth experience with this. For the fourth time, I basically listened like a voyeur to other people working out their problems with the help of a mediator and in front of witnesses. This time it was all about one incident way back in fall. The two coworkers involved both felt that the other had acted arrogantly. There were tears.

Some of my thoughts during the session:

“Geez, I have so many other things I could be doing right now.”

“I had no idea these two had a problem with one another.”

“Why don’t they just apologize and move on?”

“Boy, I am really really insensitive compare to everyone else here.”

“This whole week has really sucked.”

“How, pray tell, is this going to help?”

“I wonder if anyone else here feels like I do?”

After about an hour of these two coworkers expressing (non-violently!) their facts, their feelings and their wishes, it didn’t seem to me that they were any closer to an understanding than at the start. A bizarre silence ensued.

“Please don’t ask us to weigh in on this!” I thought.

“So, I think it would be good if the rest of you now weighed in on this,” the mediator said.

 

This is my world now.

Strangely enough, it was memories of my old, coldly professional and highly competitive workplace that made me feel better. I imagined my former colleagues – almost all of whom were arrogant – in this situation. A bunch of old, white-haired (male) college professors in suits, sitting in a circle on the floor, two of them facing one another, looking into one another’s eyes, each telling the other in turn how their statements or behavior had made them feel, with the rest of the faculty watching and then weighing in with understanding and constructive statements. Then the dean asks the two professors if the situation is resolved for them and adds how deeply appreciated they both are as part of the team. The dean then hands one of the professors a tissue . . .

The mental image made me laugh.

Soooo . . . .

Three hours of my today were basically lost and I will never get them back. My butt hurt and my back ached at the end of them. I’ll add those three hours to the mission creep tally.

But in the grander scheme of things, I wasn’t cold. And I am still glad to be here and not back in the real world.

Her Name Was Maggie

And we said goodbye to her today.

 

maggie2She was a great dog for over 15 years. In her prime, she ran like the wind. She squealed and whimpered with excitement whenever my husband put on the running leash. She was always great with the girls, even when they were crawling babies. She only snapped at a person once – Mean Neighbor Lady – so I could hardly hold it against her. That was back in the days when MNL used to take frequent walks – or “Daily Disapproval Tours” – to inspect the state of our house and garden. I suspected that she even peeked into windows when we weren’t home. Those inspections came to an abrupt end. Thanks Dog Three! (Full disclosure: MNL loves Dog Four and she is not so mean anymore.)

Maggie was the perfect guard dog. All bark and no bite. She would lunge at the door ferociously and immediately change her tune when she saw we were okay with this visitor. No one would have walked into this house without us here. I never felt the need to lock the front door.

I was her person. She followed me around the house for years. It was my job to make the call to end her suffering, but then I wimped out. I let my husband and the vet decide.  That was a mistake. Not the decision. Just the fact that I didn’t make it.

I’m Peter Pan and I have lost my shadow.

 

I’ll Be Bach

 

2016 sucked and – so far – 2017 blows.

The first half of the sentence above seemed to be a generally conceded judgment – I heard it on news shows, read it in blogs, agreed with it in conversations . . . Of course, there is no one in my bubble who voted for or is excited about the prospect of the pwesident-elect. No, that is not a typo –it is the name I have decided on and will start using one week from tomorrow: “Pwesident Twump”. (My second choice was “President Tweet”). The second half of the sentence comes from the fact that I woke up on January 1st with a terrible head cold. And now, 11+ days later, I still haven’t quite kicked it. I don’t understand it. Those 2000 tissues, 20 plus cups of tea and 2 full seasons of Star Trek Voyager really should have done the trick. At least I got myself back into good enough shape to return to work on Monday. I also did over 20 turd removals and helped old Dog Three stand up at least 50 times.

Of course, all of this activity pales in comparison to all the stuff I DIDN’T do – basically everything on my ambitious set of resolutions and First-Week-of-the-New-Year project list. I did not quit smoking. I did not tune out political developments in my home country. I did not banish the moth havens from the kitchen cupboards. I did not do any mountaintop removal from the ironing pile. I did not start my daily ballet regimen. I did not drag Dog Four and Devil Cat to the vet for their shots or get any counsel on what to do about Dog Three. I did not take down the Christmas decorations or tree. I did not write my adoption progress reports to send to Ethiopia. I did not get my hair cut. I did not organize my teaching materials. I did not take up the piano again. I did not read or write blogs (with one drug-induced exception) . . .

But all that changes now.

Or if not exactly now, then . . . soon. Very soon.

Wait for it.

ill-be-bach

 

 

Flashback Disorder Syndrome

drugs1

What I really wanted to do this morning was to continue binge-watching Star Trek on Netflix. Unfortunately, it is cleaning lady day, so I spent four hours in a state of compulsory domesticity instead. Today’s project: cleaning out the medicine cabinets. My general rule of thumb at the onset was that any medicines with expiration dates in or before 2015 would be tossed. That ended up being about 3/ 4ths of them. The absolute winner in the category turned out to be this mysterious syrup – good for . . . who knows what? – which apparently expired in the 18th century:

                                  drugs2     drugs3

Fifteen minutes into the project, I started wondering where in the heck all this stuff came from?! Take pain relievers, for instance. We have a fine selection of various brands and strengths dating back to early 2000s. An opioid addict’s dream come true – at least if they are not finicky about freshness. In each of these packages, there are about 2 or 3 tablets missing from 30 or so in there. I can only remember two past maladies for which painkillers were prescribed – and both times it was for my right shoulder. The first time was at least 10 years ago and it was a self-inflicted injury caused by seven hours of ironing. The other time was a year ago and led to my first experiences with an IV drip, physical therapy punishment, and massage sadism. (“Laptopping for Lefthanders” / “Miss Peevish and the Bruiser” ) I stopped taking those pain pills when I noticed that they were making me feel depressed.

More memories emerged as I sifted through the old medicines I had used when my daughters were very young.  Vapor rub, calamine lotion, Bactine (“boo-boo juice”) and Winnie the Pooh Band-Aids, children’s cough syrup . . .  It all made me just a wee bit nostalgic on its way to the garbage can.

I had reached the back recesses of the bottom drawer when things started getting interesting.

I pulled out a (seemingly empty) glass tube with my husband’s name written on the side – it slowly dawned on me what I was holding.

December 23rd, about five years ago. My husband and daughters came home from visiting his parents and the second they walked through the door, I could tell something was wrong. The girls looked scared and their dad was acting strangely – complaining of severe pain, pacing in circles, groaning, and snapping at me when I asked him what was wrong. He finally said he thought it might be a kidney stone and tried to lie down. I asked if we should go to the hospital and he snapped again. I told my older daughter to call Aunt Sue, talked to her briefly and then handed the phone to my husband. I packed up a few things for him as she convinced him to get in the car with me. On the way to the hospital, as we raced through the village at about 15 mph over the limit, he barked at me that there was no traffic so I should step on the gas. Within ten minutes of our arrival, he was in a room with a tube in his arm. As the morphine dripped, he slowly relaxed, looked at me, and started apologizing for his word, his actions, his medical state, basically for everything . . .

Friends of ours came to the hospital and took the girls home with them. I left a few hours later knowing only that my husband had to stay there for the night – that is, if they didn’t transfer him to the hospital in Graz. They couldn’t say how long it might be before he could leave. I picked up my daughters and brought them home. Once they were in bed, I dragged the Christmas tree up to the first floor and started decorating it. Somehow I would have to pull off this Christmas all on my own – making it as normal for the girls as I could. The mental list of preparations was long and daunting.

I’ve heard many a horror story about kidney stones since then. Many told me that the pain is as bad as childbirth, and one woman – who had been through both – said the kidney stone pain was worse. We turned out to be lucky in that my husband was released from the hospital the next day, we had a fairly normal Christmas Eve, and stone passed shortly thereafter. And hedrugs4re that stone was, in the tube in my hand.

Hard to believe such a tiny speck could cause so much pain and trouble. I placed the tube on the keeper pile and continued with my project.

 

One of the last things I pulled out was an ancient package of anti-depressants. The sight of it made me remember and smile.

About 15 years ago, my university students chose the topic “Drugs” as one of the social issues we would discuss that semester. They were expecting horror stories about heroin, but I focused more on prescription drugs. I had them read articles in Time and LeMonde about how the pharmaceutical industry does business. (One of the articles was called “Pharmaceuticals for Healthy People: Selling to the Worried Well”.) They explained how and why these huge corporations try to increase the profitability of each product by finding more people and new ways to use them. In a nutshell, it is easier to create new illnesses for existing drugs than to create new drugs for existing illnesses.

Common, difficult human conditions are relabeled “disorders” or “syndromes” and become chemically treatable. Shyness is now “social phobia” or “avoidant personality disorder” and you can take a pill for it. Highly active children are diagnosed with ADHD and prescribed Ritalin. Depression is also a disorder with an anti-dote, regardless of the cause. Hating your job and not wanting to work in that crappy hellhole anymore is now called “Burnout Syndrome” and products are available. There are now eating disorders, sleeping disorders, breathing disorders, learning disorders, mental, perceptual and emotional disorders . . . . It seems that every common activity in a person’s average day can be done in a disorderly way. The list is as long as the army of pharmaceutical sales reps is wide. They fan out to spread such treatment suggestions to doctors. And in turn, doctors (like mine) tend to reach for the prescription pad before asking what symptoms you are experiencing. But this was not enough – why sell to the few doctors when you can sell directly to the consumer? So -at least in the States – Big Pharma pushed for and achieved the right to advertise directly. Now patients can tell doctors with the pad in their hand exactly which drug they would like to be written on it.

I showed my students three decades worth of statistics. They showed a consistent, gradual, long-term, downward trend in illegal drug use and a steeper upward trend in the abuse of pharmaceutical drugs. I said to them that if they wanted to see the problem with their own eyes, they didn’t have to go to the park at night, they could just open their parents’ medicine cabinet at home.

They weren’t buying it.  It’s still easier to score pot than painkillers or anti-depressants, they said. And if this were all true, it would make headlines in the newspapers. All they ever read about were drug overdoses (whereby they assumed “drug” meant something illegal). I suggested they read those articles carefully and find out what exactly was ingested. They might discover that the majority of these deaths were caused by mixing alcohol (legal) with some prescription drug (legal).

They still weren’t buying it.

I didn’t like losing arguments. So I visited my doctor. She asked me, prescription pad in hand, why I was there. I told her that I had been feeling tired a lot lately – over-extended. I left her office ten minutes later with a referral to an internist to get my drugs5thyroid checked and this package of anti-depressants to tide me over.

I brought the pills to my course the following week and told them the story.

 

Standing by my medicine cabinet this morning, I opened that package of anti-depressants to verify what I already knew – all 30 pills were still in there. I then turned it over and checked the expiration date. 2004. I assume now, over a decade later, with cannabis riding a legalization wave and a new public consciousness of prescription drug addiction forming, it would not be so difficult to convince a bunch of business students to think critically. But who knows? According to my general rule of thumb, I should have tossed these pills onto the expired pile, but they were obviously still effective. They reminded me of the wackier things I used to do when I was teaching. Just looking at the package had made me smile. I slipped it back into the drawer – in the way back – between the Kidney Stone that Almost Stole Christmas and Winnie the Pooh Band-Aids.

It’s possible that I’ll be a Grandma someday. I might need them.

Pigs Galore

 

So . . . it’s my blog’s birthday and I am officially embarking on Year 3. Time for some profound self-reflection . . .

 

pig1

Lately I have been noticing a preponderance of pigs. First, on New Year’s Eve, I drew a good luck candy from a bag a friendheld out to me and it was this little pig.

pig2The next day, another friend handed my two daughters these slightly obscene marshmallow candy pigs.

 

Then, today, we went to a friend’s 50th birthday party and this was part of the buffet.  A sow’s head.

pig3

I admit it grossed me out. Even more so when my husband proceeded to slice off part of its cheek and an ear – which he then actually ate.  How did we two ever end up married? But more to the question: why were these pig images showing up everywhere?

My first theory was that maybe we are entering the Year of the Pig in Chinese zodiac. So I looked it up – and promptly had to scratch that idea. It seems that the same week we get our new president, we will move from the Year of the Monkey to the Year of the Rooster . . . hmmm . . . from monkey business to crowing . . . . Maybe these Chinese were on to something!

I checked out my own zodiac and discovered a few things. I had known that I was born in the Year of the Tiger, but I found out that I also grew up as a Tiger, became a Rat in my married life, and that my internal true identity is a Dragon.

And my husband is an Ox.

As you can see, Oxen don’t mix well with either Tigers or Dragons (“Worst couple”), so thank goodness for my married inner Rat.  (Notice the little red heart and “Perfect match” in the chart below.)

Source: travelchinaguide.com
Source: travelchinaguide.com

 

I then cross-checked with the Tiger’s love compatibility and got the same results. Oxen and Tigers are a no-go.

pigs5

There was one thing left to do to verify these findings – I checked out my husband’s married life sign, hoping it would produce one of the three red hearts in the chart above. And, thank goodness, it did!

My husband is a pig! Yeaayy!

Mystery solved.