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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

 This is the season I always start thinking of mountain cabins in the snow. I've digitally painted a few, but this time I went to CanStock and found one that would do... Yes, it'd do quite nicely.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

How we think-- or not

My blogs keep getting rearranged by life. Several that I wrote ahead of time simply didn't fit when their Saturday came along. Part of this one still fits, but more has been added. It's about why we think as we do and why it's so hard for us to understand and sometimes even communicate with others.

This one began when as we drove south and all we could get for talk radio was Rush Limbaugh. I am sure I have mentioned before that, as you drive through the heart of this country, right wing political talk is all there is-- which was before Portland, Oregon found itself in that situation other than public radio or one that talks about things/world/life but not political and not my favorite leftie commentators. 

Farm Boss was not thrilled when I looked at the radio dial contemplatively and asked-- how long can you stand Limbaugh? He made a face. I promised I'd turn it off as soon as it irked him; he reluctantly agreed.

When I began laughing at what Limbaugh was saying (it wasn't the times he intended to be funny) Farm Boss also saw the humor and stood it longer than I expected. I suppose some of my laughter came because Limbaugh had lost big time and he was taking it poorly. Although I must admit he did appear to understand what losing means which is more than I can say for other righties. What he said though, in sticking to his schtick, was so funny I laughed out loud more than once. To his listeners, he called Democrats the under informed voters which is funny all in itself given what his callers appear to know-- which is not much that Fox didn't hand them.

The funny part is during the GW Bush years and Obama's first term, I would be enraged by Limbaugh and how he left out facts or twisted them, but maybe November made the difference. He makes his money not by solving the problems of the country but by rhetoric that enrages and makes a percentage of people feel victimized, superior and furious.

You know it's possible Limbaugh thinks this way, but he also might well know that he's twisting it when he claims Obama is deliberately plotting to teach people that raising taxes is how we succeed as a culture. Does Rush live in a bubble, as Romney did and not actually know that this is a president who for two years has tried to keep the middle class from paying the payroll tax as a way to give them a tax cut he couldn't give them any other way. Obama didn't do it out of the sweetness of his soul (his offering to use a chained cost of living for Social Security proves he doesn't have sweetness of soul) but because he felt it would boost the economy.  The battle now is about trying to keep the tax cut for the middle and raise it on the higher income levels-- and frankly Obama is not pleasing us much on the left for his method.

When I really snorted with disbelief was when he tried to paint a Dana Milbank column as indicating Milbank was enraged that Romney was going back to work for a big hotel chain. He claimed Milbank said Romney should work for the poor. I have listened to Milbank in discussions. He's not the kind of man I can imagine being enraged at the least over Romney-- before or after the election. So when we got to a motel that night, I found the article Milbank had written.

As I read [Milbank's article] out loud to Farm Boss, he and I both agreed. In my view, Milbank was wishing Romney would work to shore up the Republican party. He wanted to see him involved in the negotiations on the so-called fiscal cliff but doing it as the moderate he believed Romney always had been. He wanted moderates and even the actually conservative wing of that party to take it back and said Romney, as the most famous name in his party, could use that to bring his party back from the brink of total control by the wackos (like the judge who took 10 years off a convicted rapist's sentence because he said a woman can't really be raped-- her body won't let it happen).

Limbaugh goes so far as to suggest Obama is some kind of tax dictator who will soon take over all our schools with a tax nirvana agenda. Future generations of children will be taught that high taxes are required for a good life-- or so he said. Recently Farm Boss, on his way to get parts to replace the kitchen faucet here, heard some of Sean Hannity (who I can't stand for even as long as it takes for him to get out the first syllable) hitting on the same spiel. It's probably rampant on all these rightie shows.

Where it comes to Limbaugh, I don't know what he actually believes. His callers are where this gets really weird and my bet is the most rabid never get past his screener. They are the same ones who think Obama is a Muslim, that he wants to destroy our country, that he's a socialist, that he and his ilk want to destroy Christmas. They are the ones who think every school should now make teachers go armed as obviously the answer to what happened in Connecticut was not too many guns of the wrong sort. It was not enough guns.

Since the shooting, one of that bunch said it's Jon Stewart's fault as he's attacking Jesus and Christmas. Excuse me, idiot boy, but Stewart is a Jew. Do you know what that means? Likely not. Someone must be blamed to keep the spotlight off guns and mental illness. Atheists are next as some on the right claim they are trying to destroy belief in any god.

Limbaugh praised the NRA which I think gave one of the most self-serving press conferences that I can imagine. According to the NRA, we don't need more control over war weapons-- we need more of them. Armed guards at every school is their idea-- profit for them not a factor. They and their ilk say it's the fault of those who didn't want teachers armed for why this last shooting happened. The NRA is berserk and I only hope more of their members drop them.

You'd think after all of that, I'd feel relief to listen to lefties. Not so fast. Since I don't toe the liberal line, I am also not thinking as they do. It's hard for me to grasp how the left wing has gone after fear of all guns instead of the actual guns that were used in this massacre. Right now they are providing evidence of their real goals to those righties, who fear any reasonable gun regulations. Attacking all gun owners for what a few do is not going to get legislation that many gun owners also support. Can any of these sides look at what actually happened and what might've stopped it?

Okay looking at facts, I look at the issues of guns this way. Yes, guns can be misused. Yes, some kill people. In 2011, our country had 12,664 murders with 8,583 with a gun. Of those most were gang/ drug related shootouts or domestic violence.

The big problem with the drug and gang related shootings in our cities is this: collateral damage. The bullets fly and innocents are killed. Are these guns legally purchased? Probably not since a lot already involve illegal, reckless and violent activities.

Will taking away assault rifles and high capacity magazines stop deaths? Maybe or maybe not as in this country the guns are there. IF, and this isn't going to happen, the gun haters got through a law to ban all guns, who will turn in theirs? It won't be the ones in inner cities using them so carelessly that walking to school can mean death. It's why I didn't laugh when in the film, One for the Money, the grandmother shot the cooked turkey sitting in the middle of the table with the family all there. I don't find guns funny.

As for the many deaths from domestic violence, those could happen as easily with a knife, fist or baseball bat if it didn't with a gun; so it's not going away based on no gun.

One place I read an article intended to scare people into getting rid of all guns, not just the extended magazines and assault and semi-assault rifles. When I got through it validated what I thought before I began-- women need to be darned careful what kind of men they date, live with or marry. Some men are very scary. Whether the woman in the article had been at risk of being shot in the head by a Glock, with a boyfriend violently out of control, a knife would have done the same thing. It has worried me for sometime as to who my granddaughter will start to date when that time comes as a woman's greatest risk is trying to end an abusive relationship that she didn't realize she was in until it was too late.

That's what I thought but not what the other commenters said, who were absolutely convinced that guns were the problem. Get rid of guns, and boyfriends will cease killing woman trying to leave them not to mention half her family when he can reach them.

I see it that once you get in such a dangerous relationship, you probably have to move somewhere that person cannot find you when you finally decide you want out. Women sometimes find restraining orders hard to get but like one is going to stop a man already set on murder? Maybe threats of violence should land someone in jail for long enough to cool of at the least.

To me, the nutty stuff coming out of the right is even worse for what they want as a solution to someone shooting up a school-- arm the teachers too. Wait until a child gets hold of one of those guns (they do all the time in homes where parents were careless with the weapons) and starts shooting. End of that idea along with more deaths. I don't know if they could find someone to train on the faculty but it seems some states are determined to try. The armed guards the NRA suggested are equally asinine. That is the most self-serving, disgusting bunch. Oh wait, did I already say that!

The question I got from all of this was how can humans look at the same facts and come up with such totally divergent opinions on what they mean? Is that brain wiring? How we grew up? Do we get fed what we think even if subtly? I find I can't really talk to the extreme right or left on a lot of sensitive issues. Try having a rational discussion on abortion with a rightie or leftie when your position is not total freedom of abortion and also not total elimination of it. Emotions run high over murder on the one side and total freedom on the other. For me it's a lost cause because I see nuance.

Years ago I did one of those personality tests where it determines where we fit in the human spectrum. My results came out in the less than 5% of the population which may explain some of my problem in all of this at least.

So as I have said here and wherever I've commented on this, I saw what happened in the shooting this time as multi-pronged and in no order of what should be done first.

One--better access to mental health, identifying dangerous people before they get to the mall or school, giving families and authorities the power to do something when the problem is identified (the power is NOT there now). As you read the stories of families and school authorities dealing with mental illness, it's clear that they are on their own, helpless with a problem that they can see has every chance of escalating to deadly violence.

Two-- get the guns that did the killings out of the hands of everybody/anybody. That means assault and semi-assault rifle ban, no extended magazines, no resales and a program to get the ones out there turned in. More controls over the big gun shows that are everywhere. How about the government putting out some money to help with meaningful background checks which means waiting periods no matter where someone buys a gun. And if you sell your own to a private party, you have responsibility for who they are.

On the assault rifles already out there, even if they could make them illegal to own (it'll take a Democratic majority in the House and Senate) survivalists won't turn theirs in, that's a fact, but there could be a big fine if they are found with them. They are the ones who think they need those weapons to defend themselves when the UN comes knocking-- which is no more likely to happen than Santa Claus will come down their chimney-- and in the meantime these guns are designed to look cool to the youths, they are what they see in the video games and movies, and intended for only one thing-- killing humans.

Three-- look at our culture of violence where kids grow up pretending to shoot people in video games and watch films where mass murder is common and part of the excitement.

Yes, I have said all of the above before-- and after each of these mass killings. My posts on violence through the years.  Nothing happens. Nothing is done and the reasons are manifold. Some because Americans are eager for the next cause which is instantly provided. It takes concentration and a reasonable set of goals to get anything-- if we could even agree what anything is.

Four-- replace all school doors with bulletproof glass and solid enough doors that a machine gun can't open them. This should be done before school starts up after Christmas. Can't do it? Why didn't we already do it?

Five-- I've suggested this other places but bear spray in the administrator's offices with them knowing how to use it. Bear spray works better than pepper for an insane, maybe out of control druggie or someone like last one who couldn't feel pain. It works at 30' and although he might not feel pain from it, his eyes would close long enough for the police to arrive.

Six-- quit calling each other names over this. It is NOT the fault of  me and the millions of other gun owners. It is not the fault of atheists. It is not the fault of Jon Stewart because he's Jewish. It is not because we don't have prayer in schools. It is the fault of all those who have been ignoring all of this, which might include us, and letting weapons of war become toys in homes for people who didn't grow up.

Guns are tools. They are used by ranchers to quickly and mercifully kill suffering livestock when what is wrong cannot be treated. They are used to kill predators that threaten or have killed their stock. Where I live they are used by some who hunt for the meat which they very much need as they are marginal for incomes. They can be used if the person is attacked by a predator. Most country folk are wise enough to realize when a bear in the bush wolfed at you, the solution is quietly turn around not shoot into the brush, but if the bear does more than warn you off, then it's good to have more than a shrill yell to hope will stop his charge.

Yes, I've shot my rifle at living creatures-- coyotes. I have also, when I cannot get hold of one fast enough, run screaming at a coyote with a lamb down and scaring it off by my voice. Actually I've done that twice with no weapon, but it only works when I am there to do it. I've seen the animals torn apart by the predator and I guarantee you, it's not a pretty sight.

Because of my experiences with livestock and the need to protect them, because I live a LONG way from any police protection, a gun is a tool for me. I don't love it. I do understand how to safely use it which means I don't keep my finger on a trigger when I am not ready to fire. I also don't point it at anything I don't intend to shoot. (our class for a concealed carry permit said don't point it at anybody as a threat but only if you are willing to shoot-- the other way is apt to see your gun taken away and used on you).

Although I do have a concealed carry permit, I don't carry because I see the risks of having one where my purse might be stolen as greater than not-- besides my purse is too heavy now. I've had friends though who always carry a gun in a shoulder holster, and I feel no fear of them because they know how to use the gun wisely. For those who worry about concealed weapon permits-- how many holders have ever used their gun for a crime?

For those scared of guns. Wise choice. Don't get one. But don't you dare try to put the blame for Connecticut on me or those like me. I won't take it, and you are shooting at the wrong target with the likelihood the real one will escape as it's counting on this kind of hysteria.

Worse though than the possibility the country won't really get rid of assault rifles, for me is that we might not change policies regarding mental illnesses; so that parents and schools have better options than to have to wait until a crime has been committed. Isn't that too late? It was in Connecticut.

If I am talking to a rightie or leftie on this, I lost them both a long time ago. My only hope is enough moderates are thinking and ready to put real pressure onto government, thoughtful, nuanced pressure that we might as a nation make changes that would stop a new tragedy at least using extended magazines, assault or semi-assault rifles. I also hope the changes don't end with the guns.

Of course, my hope is not what the far right wing wants. They want more guns, even assault rifles in the hands of principals. And what I want isn't enough for the far left who want a ban and confiscation of all guns. Three ways of seeing the same incident and three different approaches. Why do we see it so differently?

I hope you didn't think I had the answer. I haven't got a clue as how I see it seems the obvious sensible way but neither extreme right nor left agree with me.

First three photos in our Tucson back yard are of a Harris's hawk. Fourth is a kestrel at Catalina State Park and the one above a Road Runner also there. 

Bird watching is very good for emotional health right now in such a tumultuous time. I know Christmas seasons can be stressful but this seems extreme and not just the mass shootings, just everywhere. It's as if our country has gone for rabid anger and it's feeding on itself. What is that about!?

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Culture of Rage

As soon as the news revealed the horror of what happened in the grade school in Connecticut, the theories began about why it happened. What led to it? What could stop it? Why our country? Although these things have happened elsewhere like Norway last year, they are more frequent here. This one though was as bad as it gets. It is impossible to imagine anything that would more stab the heart of all Americans than what happened in that grade school.  He attacked us all and hit home. In this emotional moment, the words have flown as to what led to it.

Too many guns
need more guns
Assault  rifles
school prayer 
 You name it and somebody said that's what was at fault. I think everyone is clear that it's really the fault of the one who did it (and I would add an irresponsible mother if that doesn't seem too unkind given she was killed), but we are desperate to think there is something we can do because, as it stands, anytime we enter a restaurant, a mall, a theater, send our children to school, drive down a highway, take a walk, go to work, sit in our home, we are vulnerable to it being us or ours. There is absolutely no way to prepare for it and mostly we have to live as though it could not happen-- even as we stop for a moment to listen when we hear a loud noise.

Americans want answers, but the ones I am personally coming up with aren't what anybody on either side wants to hear. People want one simple answer. They want someone/something to blame. My answers are complex not lending themselves to quick fixes. They are more like when we get a disease like cancer and there are multiple factors that led us there. That's what I think this is, and it's a part of our culture not just one group or thing.

I will say that the media's coverage of this horrified me. Yes, we want to know but they gave us misinformation as if it was facts. Mother, shooter, you name it. I don't know if all the networks were as bad, but MSNBC even had interviews with some of the children who had been in the school as reporters asked how they felt about it. Were those reporters nuts? And what led to the network putting it on the air? These little kids did try to answer, but they should have not been asked to make what was already horrible even more difficult. I also didn't like how the networks were trying to calculate if this was the worst in the nation based on numbers-- as though this was some kind of contest. That just seems nuts to me, and frankly I can answer it-- when it targets small children in their schools, yes, it was the worst!

The gun was not illegally purchased.  It is hard to say if we can get a ban on assault rifles, good if so; but the gun he used was purchased by his mother, from all accounts a well-off woman, who encouraged her son to learn to shoot, who collected guns, who was apparently living in fear of economic collapse. Was she feeding her son that kind of fear?

Some have said other nations, like Japan with rigid gun control laws, don't have gun killings. Okay, I can see that but there also are other differences with Japan. It's pretty much of a mono culture. It is not at war. Maybe they monitor the video games/movies that are available  (I don't know this about them by the way).  Could it be they don't have the politics of rage that permeates our country. Maybe they are not caught up in a culture of violence as we justify wars and torture to keep ourselves safe. Moral confusion here is rampant.

I have no idea if this young man watched the news or cared about politics. Isn't it possible though that the politics of rage impacts the energy surrounding us all? And I do not mean just right wingers. You hear it on both sides with the near hate and rabid rhetoric. Talk of overthrowing government does not just come from one side or the other.

From what I read, the murderer was a gamer. What kinds? Most Americans have no clue how very violent, realistic, and oriented to shooting others the video games have become.

And movies-- argh! Last week we watched the last of the Batman movies, The Dark Night Rises.  Part way through I told my husband that this kind of film could incite to violence a mind already unstable. The violence was glorified and used to bring excitement time after time. My opinion is it was a horrible movie, and although stable people could all watch such and not be impacted, what about unstable where it makes violence an exciting solution.

How do we as a nation, where time after time we have used violence as our solution in wars and countries that someone in our government decides threaten us, where over there innocent children have died as we try to kill terrorist leaders, where we have had wars going on now over 10 years, how can we be surprised when the violence becomes an atmosphere that is unhealthy for those unhealthy to begin?

At first I thought how could someone educated, a kindergarten teacher buy those weapons when she knew she had a troubled son. then it turns out she wasn't a kindergarten teacher. Educated or not I wondered how would she have brought such weapons into her home?Others knew her son was troubled. She had to have also and yet she had all those guns accessible to him?

That brought back the memories of the other such events. There was a school shooting in Oregon at Springfield High School in 1998. The teen-age killer's parents (liberals by all accounts) had also bought him guns (his psychologist said it'd be a good thing). He used those guns (and I think stole more) to kill them and then head for the high school where he shot 27 students, killing 2 of them.  When he had to reload, one of the wounded students jumped him and put an end to the carnage.

In my area of Oregon, there have been several families where the parents were murdered by a disturbed son. The last one, the son used a machete to slaughter them both. Once again they had known he was troubled, mentally not healthy, but they were fundamentalist Christians, good people, but naive about mental illness. They paid for that with their lives. He'll spend the rest of his life in prison-- hopefully.

So what am I saying? I have no problem with blocking ownership of assault rifles, ending the right to buy extended magazines, but unless we find better ways of dealing with mental illness, it won't stop such tragedies. Maybe less will die in each assault, but is that okay? Collateral damage? Acceptable to have five children killed but not twenty?

Can we really not find a better way to deal with mental illness? For those who worry about infringement of freedom, it's an infringement of freedom to not know we can safely send our children to school, walk into a mall without fear or be in our own homes.

On MSNBC, a research expert said most of these type of murders are committed by three types of people. One is totally delusional but they are the less common. Another is psychotic like the one who recently committed suicide in Alaska after many serial killings including home invasions. That killer said he did it because he liked killing and knew exactly what he was doing and could plan it out-- that's psychotic. The final one he had as an example were most common-- the clinically depressed.

I would add another level of mental disorder because it takes more than depression to want to kill a bunch of small children. I think that something else is out of control rage. Is there a clinical title for that? Everyone of these killers has had a rage going. What are they mad at? Maybe like the one who just killed his father with a bow and arrow in Casper Wyoming-- he said he was enraged he had been born with Asperger's.

There's a scene in the film Tombstone that might say it well for some of these callous murderers:
Wyatt Earp: What makes a man like Ringo, Doc? What makes him do the things he does?  Doc Holliday: A man like Ringo has got a great big hole, right in the middle of him. He can never kill enough, or steal enough, or inflict enough pain to ever fill it. Wyatt Earp: What does he need? Doc Holliday: Revenge. Wyatt Earp: For what? Doc Holliday: Bein' born. 
Read the following story and expect to feel upset as it's what some parents are facing and on their own with no real help from our laws or culture:  

This is clearly, as was the case with our most recent shooter, something chemical or in the DNA which is seen from the youngest of ages. For someone like that probably nobody can do anything to fix it by the time they are adults. But are we researching it? How about those who are better at hiding it? Many serial killers can hide their rage as did Ted Bundy until they have their victim vulnerable.

Are we really ahead as a culture to have this rampant rage that is being stirred up in all manner of ways when you end up with road rage, strangers hitting strangers trying to shop, someone walking down the street bumping into another, or pushing someone onto a subway track? Some murders have a purpose, gangland types, drug dealers, family disagreements. It doesn't make them okay but we understand them better. But killings where there is no purpose only to kill, how do we understand those?

As a culture, we can do something about feeding rage through our words, our choice of media, our acceptance of violent movies and video games, our belief that we can fight wars overseas to keep the blood over there. It doesn't work but even if it did, what kind of people would buy into such thinking? It's okay to kill there as long as I stay safe? I said it during Vietnam and have seen it ever since-- the blood comes home in different ways.

I had an idea about mental illness. What if when it is identified in children, besides professionals, there could be adult mentors, those who had that illness and had learned to live worthwhile lives despite the difficulty it posed? If such a young person saw that it wasn't impossible to live a good life and got help for how to do it, could it make a difference?

In some cases, we might need, as a culture, to force the meds on the person.  I've heard the complaint that it takes away their freedom. They don't like the side effects. Well, it's not so great to end up in prison for life having slaughtered innocent people either.

Why can't we put more into research and treatment for mental disorders instead of regarding them as a shameful thing to hide. If we treated mental disorders as we do diabetes, might the attitude of parents be more open to their child being treated? If, as the mother in the above article said, nobody will do anything until there is a criminal charge, isn't that too late?

Maybe with better treatments for mental disorders, we'd have more families living happier lives and less total loss of life whether from a knife, strangling, poison, bomb, or gun. We likely can't stop all such attacks, but we aren't even trying right now. It's as though we have given up. Not everyone with such a disorder is dangerous but don't we have tests to determine who might be? I know, because of personal experiences with those suffering from schizophrenia, that we do.

To add to this, what if we look at our entertainment and put up some standards where we don't allow what is purposing only to inure someone to the cheapness of life and making it look exciting to kill? When a child of five is already talking violently, it wasn't entertainment that caused it, but a lot of kids today are being fed on a diet of violence because they like it. Their liking it doesn't mean it's okay. And when small children have no empathy for others, isn't that a warning sign?

I don't have a problem with looking at guns, making stricter rules to block instant purchase, government help for background checks, blocking ownership of assault rifles (the resistance will be fierce), but if we don't look at the root cause of the rage, it will be for naught. We will never get all the guns. but we could admit that a culture of rage is not a healthy place for children to grow up-- mentally stable or otherwise. It's not great for the rest of us either.

We are not helpless in this unless we refuse to look at the real causes, unless we give up before we start. Parents like the one who wrote the article above should not be in this alone because someday that child might be the one grown up and wielding a weapon. Using this tragedy as a way to hit on a pet cause like prayer in schools won't get us anywhere. It takes courage and determination to change something. Why can't we do it?

No way am I saying I have the answers. Like everyone else I am trying to sort through it. I think it's more diverse than one easy solution. Go for assault rifles, background checks, etc. but don't ignore the elephant in the room-- mental illness.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Another national tragedy

I've written two blogs that I originally thought I'd post tomorrow and each time I changed my mind. For the latest, the Connecticut mass shooting stopped me. There is absolutely NOTHING more horrifying to me than that an elementary school would be targeted by such a brutal killer.

I don't know what the answer is to this despite how some wish there was some magical solution. As it stands, I just want to say I am so sorry for the families impacted in Connecticut. As a nation once again we grieve. We all want to hug our children and grandchildren and mourn for those who are once again weeping at another senseless tragedy.

When more information comes out and I feel less upset, I'll write more. It might take awhile.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Even though I have cut way back here to do more with Rain Trueax, I cannot miss the opportunity to post something about 12/12/12 which is the last such combination that our culture will see for another hundred years assuming we don't destroy ourselves first.

I don't know that there is anything magical about such a combination of numbers. Well, actually I do know; but since what I know logically says no way could there be since numbers are man-made conveniences, I'd rather act as though magic could sometimes happen.

It could be a magical time if we make it into one to work on some new idea, something that we want in our life but haven't started but we will today. If there are such spans, the time between 12/12/12 and 12/21/12 could certainly be one such. If there is not, a new start, new seeking of opportunities, anytime would be a great time to begin something new or refine something old.

Photo December 9th at Catalina State Park. 

As I think I have mentioned before, I don't buy into the Mayan calendar stuff anymore than I did the millenium or any other such combination of man-made dates. If the Mayans were so wise, why didn't they know that the Europeans did not mean them well? Ends of calendars happen all the time. I buy a new one every year. So for it to be significant for end of earth, some polar shift, or a planetary pull (an alignment that happens every year), doesn't make sense.

On the other hand, I know from my own experiences that some times are better for me to be creative than others. There are times when everything flows and other times it stagnates and I might as well do some meditation, go for a walk, or sit back as nothin' is happening no way. Does that relate to some planetary alignment? I don't know but try to be observative of how I am feeling and go with it when I get a shot at a  vibrant time (which has been happening this year from before the 12th).

A few links on the subject as we keep one thought in mind regarding this. Such thinking is not about a god or a religion, it's about a repetition of cycles, observation, and some conclusions, that as with all such conclusions, might or might not be valid but can be fun to explore:

Once again we had a tragic shooting, this time in a mall where I could have had relatives or friends and have many times been there myself. Tonight, as I write this, the authorities have not yet identified who did the shooting, but likely we already know a lot about the shooter. This keeps happening and while some will say it's about guns, I think it's more about mental illness and stopping people who are dangerous before they act out. Almost always those around them have worried about the shooters, but there's been no way to do anything. We need to find a way because this kind of random violence simply is not okay. It could literally happen to any of us. To do something about this is going to take better responses to mental illness. I had my blood pressure going up tonight, as I imagine did many Americans. Maybe we can't stop all of it, but I think we can do better.

Saturday, December 08, 2012


 Most of the time I don't think much about my age. It's a fact but not one that seems to have much impact until something happens to remind me. That something recently was doing a lot of leaf blowing, climbing up a sand dune at the coast, some other physical things, and ending up with pain in the muscle on one side of my leg, right below the hip, where it attaches. I wasn't sure where the problem originated, but it was definitely interfering with my daily life. I was not only in discomfort but suddenly not walking right.

Because it didn't immediately go away I began to look at the possible reasons it happened. One of my legs is shorter than the other and years ago a structural masseuse told me that one hip and shoulder were higher (one foot 1/2 size smaller than the other). She felt she could fix the irregularities with enough adjustments-- painful ones. I talked to my chiropractor about it, and he didn't actually think it'd be beneficial at my age. In short, it could throw a lot of other things off in trying to do that.

There was another possible reason this was happening now. When I was in my late 30s I was throwing a bale of hay over a fence to our livestock and the way I twisted caused so much pain in my hip that I had to lie on a bale until the pain subsided. Now I wondered if that had left that joint weakened or susceptible to arthritis. In that region it's hard to tell from where pain originates.

For over ten years I have worn tennis shoes with gel inserts and that had let me forget about the finicky hip for a long time until now. In trying to figure out what this was I found out I could not, when lying on my side, lift that leg laterally up. The other leg could do it but not that one.

Well, I am back to walking normally but still have discomfort if I move wrong and if I am not careful, I end up with the knee hurting as the whole thing gets out of whack. It took weeks before I could finally lift my left leg laterally from the floor. Being unable to do it left me feeling like a bird with a broken wing.

What I think is that overdoing it when old is one good way to end up needing a joint replaced or a permanent handicap. There is the old adage-- if you don't use it you lose it, but what about overusing it when eventually cartilage and joints can wear out. It might seem great in old age to run marathons, etc. but is that a factor in so many aged having hip and knee replacements. Too much weight sure isn't helping my joints or muscles.

I think-- but am still figuring it out-- that it's finding the balance that is part of successful aging-- use it but don't misuse it. Eat it but not in excess and likely not as much or all the things that once were possible. Sugar used to be something I liked and now it's something that leaves me feeling less good afterward. And on it goes as I find new things about this business of being old.

Of all the things in life that fascinate me, I think aging is the greatest. It is so awesome/horrifying to realize how we change through the years and despite the talk of this or that to make someone stay young or age faster (when you are young), it all proceeds at a pace. It's kind of funny how some people talk about how they look younger as though it's a factor in it. It's not. We all are aging whatever we might think we look like.

When I watch a show like the History Channel's The Hatfields and the McCoys and see the characters' lives go past, there are the young, so strong and virile, then those same ones reach old age bodies. They live a life, if they are lucky, and they get old. The lucky ones reach that point. They change with the years.

I remember all my family members who are now gone and how they seemed to me and then what it was like as they aged into their last years. I see it in my pets. The young ones, the old ones, and the gradual changes.

Then there is my own body now 69 and heading toward 70. As astounding as what has passed is what lies ahead. I look at photos of myself as a child, then a teen, finally a young woman. pregnant, with small children, teens, an empty nester and who knows what's next. It's hard for me to believe those other people were me.

A few pieces of my own story up to now-- through photos.

And on it goes.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Hold the line

Here's the thing with all this panic over the fiscal cliff-- if Congress does nothing, tax rates go back to the Clinton era January 1. This is not about the debt ceiling. That is resolved later and frankly, for Republicans to vote not to raise it, is to say equivalently-- I spent too much at the mall and now refuse to pay my credit card bill. Rework the budget but don't renege on the bill once it was already spent.

The federal deficit is not about Social Security even though Republicans are trying to make it part of the package. They will do anything to avoid higher tax rates on the richest Americans. Remember this will only be an increase on the net income (after deductions) over $250,000. That means, unless Republicans refuse to agree on tax cuts for the middle, even the rich get the first $250,000 at the lower rates.

Republicans have themselves in a hole and keep saying it will hurt the economy to raise taxes on the wealthy. It's a lie. If someone making $100,000 gets a tax break, they are likely to spend it on things they've been wanting-- hence bumping the economy. The wealthy already have all they want or need; so it'll just end up in Switzerland or the Cayman Islands.

We have to hang tough on this as right wingers are acting as though we must do what Romney ran and lost on. It will take Americans being behind Obama to hold the line to a reasonable rate on spending, to not make the poor pay the whole cost of two wars and tax cuts that weren't budgeted, and to make tax rates fair now.

If Republican members in the House refuse to value ordinary Americans before the wealthy, 2014 isn't that far off.

Watch Robert Reich as he explains the fiscal cliff.

 Republicans need to use as an adjective for how they operate not patriotism but partisaniam-- [Thugs in the House]Are Republican voters in agreement with this? They are if they listen to Limbaugh and his callers as I did the other day when out and about. It's all about partisanship to Limbaugh and tax cuts for his economic group (who are probably none of his callers) matter more than anything else. Don't believe me? Listen to him for as long as you can stand. It likely won't be long but you will have a better idea of what these people are thinking and how far their reality is from everybody else's.

Saturday's blog will be on aging.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Bullies and Bigots

I am going to start right off offending certain liberals by daring to use the words bullies and bigots as the title. There is a philosophy out there that nobody is what they do, they are who they are. So the fact that someone bullies others does not make them a bully. We must separate out the good in them from the bad. If that person is a great father and husband but mistreats those at his place of business, that means he's not a bully or bigot?

The idea for writing about this subject began with the image above that a friend posted on Facebook. She had added her concern that we find ways to stand up to this behavior without turning into bullies ourselves. Because I agreed with the image and  know it takes courage to confront bullying and bigotry, I shared it but without an explanation and got a comment from another friend asking is this creating a title or talking of a behavior?

Well it's both and I thought it'd take more than a Facebook comment for me to explain what I mean and why this matters. Also where does it lead when bullying is ignored?

I  think people can become bullies and bigots. They can do something so often that it becomes part of their persona, and it's no different than when we speak of someone who is so generous, gives so often that we consider them a saint. We become what we consistently do. Yes, it's not all of who we are; but if we regularly engage in bullying behavior, it should be at least one adjective to describe us. That does not mean that one act of bullying makes someone a bully. It does mean that if it consistently happens, yes, they will attain the reputation of a bully.

The nice thing about being a bully or bigot, and there really is only one nice thing, is such a person can change that behavior. They don't have to stay either. If they recognize it as being a bad thing, not helping their lives, they can turn it around. It's not a skin color, a gender, how they look, having a disability, or an ethnicity. It's a behavior but when that behavior is routinely followed, it  becomes a title.

My own experience with being bullied is mostly through what I have read and the stories I've been told. I actually have never been bullied. I have never bullied anyone else either. I have had people say mean things to me-- mostly when a child; but that's not being bullied. Bullying is something that keeps happening, and it's done to browbeat the victim and gain power for the bully.

I wrote one of my books that centered around bullying and bigotry-- Moon Dust. It explored this behavior from the consequences in schools and homes. Although the villain was a male, there was also a woman I would also call a bully. She never actually appears in the book, but the ramifications of her behavior were still being felt on the one who had, as a child, been her victim.

Here's the thing about confronting bullies. The victim generally cannot stop it. It takes someone either stronger or who doesn't care whether the bully likes it or not. The weak are at the mercy of both bullying and bigotry until the larger population or a strong individual steps in and says-- enough.

Children are where this can do the most emotional damage. The bullying can be physical or emotional. The 'cool' kids find someone different to build the strength of their group. Empathy for what they are doing to the weaker one is lost on them unless someone can show them a better way. There is nothing wrong with using shaming to do it. It is shameful behavior to bully another and deserves to be seen for what it is with no soft soaping.

The whole experience can be turned around when someone steps in to stop the bullying, someone stronger-- leaving a lasting memory on the bullies and the bullied. Some years back, A boy in the church youth group told me how our son, when he was one of the big boys on the bus stepped in to to protect him. He hadn't forgotten it. Maybe someday he'd do the same thing for another when he was the strong one and could.

I have quite a few family stories about someone who confronted a bully. Farm Boss had the experience in high school where he stepped between a bully and his victim and got punched hard for his trouble. But the bully later became a friend and who knows if stepping in that day turned his behavior around. Stepping between bullies and their victims can have a cost but there might be a benefit also.

He told of a boy who was a bully in an earlier school he attended where the principal stepped in but understood the boy was being bullied and brutalized in his home; so what the boy needed was attention. By an adult, someone in power, doing something about it, another life was turned around. Bullying does not have to be a permanent condition.

Where it comes to bigotry, it comes out of the same basic source-- fear and need for power. It is connected to bullying because bigots often abuse and bully. They do it because they get power from it or possibly have decided the 'other' is a threat.

Bigotry can come from those who do not think of themselves as bigots. Like the young woman after this election who said she wished Obama would be assassinated. They asked if she was a bigot when they interviewed her. She denied it. Of course.

Some of the most bigoted stuff I've gotten has come through jokes where when I would confront the sender by saying it wasn't funny, they would act offended. It was just a joke. Well sorry but making fun of someone of another race, gender or ethnicity is a way to belittle them and generally based on lies about who they are.

These days with the internet allowing for anonymous bullies, perhaps the behavior is growing as some threaten and frighten others for the joy of doing it. When it's children taking the brunt, they have gone so far as committing suicide to escape what they feel they cannot any other way.

Bullying and bigotry can be a huge problem in school where children cannot escape from the bully or bigot, where they become so depressed that they cannot function. But it doesn't end there. It can be in the workplace and homefront. It is when a man sexually fondles a woman who has no power to stop him, where insults are thrown around, gossip spread, lies created all to put down the 'other'.

It might seem idyllic to say there are no bullies or bigots only bullying and bigoted behavior. I don't buy it. When someone does something often enough, it's what they become. But they can change it. And it will take someone stronger to make them face that truth. The victim is unable to do it which is why they were chosen or even created.

Tolerating bigotry or bullying, with some sense that it's not the bigot or bully's fault, that it comes out of their religion, etc etc., cannot stand if a culture wants to be a good place for all its citizens. Recently we read of a school girl who stood up to what I consider bullying behavior by a religious group. She was shot in the head for it and is still trying to recover. Will her culture as a whole stand against what she was enduring? Time will tell as it does take courage and the risks are not unsubstantial.

After I wrote this, I saw this story:  Mexican cartel assassinates woman where she had stood against the bullying and illegal activities of a drug cartel. Some might say that is an extreme example but that's what happens when a culture ignores bullying and bigotry. It can go and will to the extreme.

Image on top from Facebook. Photos purchased from CanStock. I am really liking getting these for here as well as my books and trailers. It's not very expensive and often illustrates something that words alone don't really express.