Drumpf 2: Chapter 2

Every war has its casualties.  In the battle that is Roald Drumpf versus the world, the first losses were truth and justice.

Truth was the first to die.  From long before the election, Drumpf has played fast and loose with reality.  By the end of his first eighteen months in office, he had already told thousands of falsehoods, from exaggerations about his accomplishments to outright lies about the actions of others.  Anything unflattering about Drumpf, or which spoke an uncomfortable truth, was labeled “fake news” by his spin doctors.  They were kept busy redefining the xenophobic narcissist as a decent human being.  His sexual misconduct was painted as normal youthful behavior.  With so many other political and entertainment industry icons being accused of similar behaviors, Drumpf’s crimes got lost in the madness.  The question might be whether his spin doctors had anything to do with that.

Once in office, Roald Drumpf set about changing everything about the country which he had been elected to lead.  He first filled his cabinet with people who were determined to destroy the departments which they had been chosen to head.  From the beginning, he did his best to eliminate everything which had been accomplished by the previous administration.  He didn’t wait for the legislature to make the changes he wanted.  Instead, like the king he wished he could be (and perhaps thought he was), Drumpf tried to rule by proclamation.

One of Drumpf’s more economically destructive proclamations involved trade tariffs.  While it may have been intended to add tax dollars to government coffers, it had instead the effect of raising the price of foreign products here.  Other countries created their own tariffs which raised the price of American products overseas.  Several American vehicle makers  (including Harley Davidson) were forced to move some of their manufacturing facilities overseas in order to remain competitive in the world market.  This cost many American’s their jobs.  Drumpf’s response to Harley Davidson’s move was to claim their profits had been down (7%) in 2017 as a result of arguments they’d had with him in 2018.  Despite the dire consequence of Drumpf’s tariffs on other industries, none of these tariffs, of course, had any effect on his daughter’s business ventures.

Drumpf’s bullying behavior nearly caused a nuclear war.  He and the leader of North Korea had a name-calling battle similar to what one might hear on a school yard.  It continued until both were left in fear of an actual attack, which lead to the escalation of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.  Eventually, a private summit between Drumpf and the third generation dictator brought a promise of the end to that, but no signs that this promise was being kept.  The meeting between the two seemed to legitimize the North Korean government in the eyes of the world.  The agreement signed there allowed Drumpf to claim that he had prevented a nuclear war.

Xenophobic Drumpf’s primary goal has been to eliminate from American soil anyone who does not match his image of what an American should be.  His first target was Muslims, and those from Muslim nations.  When his first proclamation to keep them out failed, he just kept writing until one worked.  Next came Mexicans; he insisted a wall be built along the southern border, and then jailed anyone who dared to cross into America, including families with children, who were immediately separated from their parents.  Protests caused this to end, and a plan to be set in motion to reunite the families.  The date for this to happen has come and gone.  Drumpf then turned his attention to naturalized citizens, looking for those “undesirables” who may have slipped in before he had the power to stop them.  How long until he looks at anyone who writes, or even reads, ideas which disagree with his own?  The government may not watch us now, but it would be foolish to not be aware that they could.

Justice is a thing of the past.  With Drumpf’s choice of a new Supreme Court judge, it has come to an end.  The former justice retired from his lifelong appointment to the bench, but not without some coercion from Roald Drumpf, who implied that legal problems might appear for members of his family should he choose to remain.  The new judge was chosen before the old one had announced his retirement, and that choice was part of an agreement reached beforehand.  Any appearance of considering anyone else was simply a pretense.  Drumpf’s choice is ultra-conservative with proven loyalty to the president.  He is anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ, and believes the president should be immune to prosecution.  With the Supreme Court in his pocket, Drumpf will be unstoppable.

Roald Drumpf isn’t only a self-proclaimed Nationalist, he is an isolationist.  He’s made friends of the worst of our enemies, and enemies of our former allies and friends.  With Drumpf at the helm, there is no more America.


 

Several weeks after their return home, Reginald and Grace had finally settled into some semblance of a normal life.  The money that had accumulated in the bank while they were gone had been spent repairing the damage done to their home by the squatters.  “It could have been worse,” Grace mumbled to herself as she swept up the broken remains of those things she’d had to leave behind.  She had scrubbed clean some of the unbroken pieces, but others had been beyond redemption.  Grace behaved stoically as she tossed them out, but rocked herself in silent despair in the hours she was alone.  Any show of emotion seemed to upset Reginald, who worked hard making what repairs he could, and putting the outside of the house back in order.

Some of the money had gone to replace Reginald’s television.  In their search for all things necessary, they had discovered that few stores remained beyond the big chain stores.  Grace was saddened to see that her favorite donut shop had closed its doors.  “How could so much have changed in so short a time?” she asked herself.  So many small realities had begun to change with Drumpf’s election, but she could not have imagined a world so altered.

The place which had been her home for so many years had become a ghost town.  Buildings which had been abandoned when their owners left town had been destroyed by looters looking for anything of value which had been left behind.  Through windows cracked and broken, Grace and Reginald had seen drywall shattered where electrical fixtures and wiring had been ripped from the walls.  Reginald’s comment on the destruction was to say, “We were lucky they didn’t do that to our house.”  Grace thought about that comment while she scrubbed feces from her bathroom walls; she didn’t feel very lucky.

For weeks, police vehicles had continued their slow crawl past the house several times each day and night.  Grace watched them through a slit in their closed curtains and wondered if it would ever end.  Cruisers were not the only thing she spied through her window.  Several times she caught sight of her nosy neighbor peeking through her own curtains.  On occasion, Grace had spied her working in her yard.  When she had raised a hand in greeting, the woman had pointedly turned her back.  Grace had just shrugged and gone back inside; after all, the two of them had never been the best of friends.

Reginald and Grace got along well enough during this early time period after returning home.  Just as they had worked together to survive on the road, they now worked together to bring their lives back to normal.  Each morning they woke up hopeful, and each night they fell asleep exhausted from their efforts.  There was no time or energy for conflict, and each thought the other was happy.  For the most part, this was true.

Over time, they began to fall back into some of their old habits.  Reginald would retire to his den to watch television while Grace prepared their evening meal.  It was easy and comfortable, and neither of them thought anything of it.  When the news of the day began to reach the dinner table, they tried not to argue over its content.  This would change over time.  Eventually, Reginald had discovered the Drumpf News Network.  Things reported there had a tendency to cause controversy between the two of them.  Grace’s choice when this happened was to grit her teeth, or to enter into an argument she couldn’t win.

That first summer home had been long and hot.  To supplement the meager supply of vegetables now available at the market, Grace and Reginald had planted a garden in their back yard.  The seeds they had purchased had been irradiated by the bombs, and so they waited to see if they would grow.  A drought had kept the garden from growing as it should have, but Grace had canned and frozen all she could.  She and Reginald were still trying to get along, but the heat hadn’t made it easy.  By the end of summer, they were barely speaking to each other.  On one night so hot that lightning streaked across a moonless sky, Grace heard a scream so blood-curdling and loud that it caused her to jump in fear.  Turning to Reginald, she said, “What on earth was that?”  His response was to lock the doors; “Mind your own business,” he said.

When the sun came up, they discovered their neighbor sprawled across their front yard.  Her blouse had been torn down her back, and deep scratches could be seen through the rip in her clothing.  Gouges from her attack dug deeply into their lawn.  Reginald ordered Grace back inside the house, and after a moment she complied.  “We should cover her,” she whispered, but Reginald insisted they leave things alone.  He went to call the police.

In the few minutes it took them to arrive seemed like an eternity.  Light flashing, the cruiser pulled to a stop against the curb opposite their house.  As he exited his vehicle, the officer could be seen loosening the fastener on his holster.  He took a hard look in both directions before crossing the road.    He walked up the driveway to get a good look at the crime scene.   Reginald stepped onto the doorstep, but the officer quickly ordered him back inside.  Watching through the window, Reginald and Grace observed as a CSI unit arrived and the coroner’s vehicle took their neighbor’s body away.

 

 

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Drumpf 2: Chapter 1

What follows is a work of fiction.  If anyone or anything within resembles today’s reality, it is entirely intentional.

 

“Make America Great Again”?  In the months following his inauguration, Roald Drumpf and his hand-picked party of yes-men set out to destroy all that was good about the country he had been chosen to lead.  He seemed to believe that he had been elected dictator, as almost daily he signed one declaration after another.  From the bully pulpit of the Oval Office, he told the country, and the world, how things were going to be from that day forward.

Drumpf seemed determined to change everything which had come before, and to stand the world on its head in the process.  He withdrew America from several major international accords reached with allies, then set about joining into agreements with world leaders who had formally been the nation’s adversaries.  In reference to the leader of North Korea he said, “His people come to attention when he speaks.  I want our people to do that for me!”  To make things even worse, he imposed tariffs which started a trade war with countries around the world, hurting domestic businesses in the process.

Many of Drumpf’s decisions in his early days were shut down by the judiciary, and the legislature was no more effective on his behalf, with the red party’s inability to pass the laws he wanted.  The confirmation of Drumpf’s choice for Supreme Court Justice seemed to change his fortunes; by changing the balance of power within the court, he was able to push forward his conservative agenda.  With the impending retirement of one of the court’s more moderate judges, Drumpf’s stranglehold on the Supreme Court will become even stronger.

With the legislature under the control of the red party, corporations have been given many of the same rights as individuals; being allowed to deny health care options to their employees which went against the religious beliefs or moral standards of those in the corporate office.  Further strikes against a woman’s right to determine her own health care decisions  included increased regulations and decreased funding of any place which offered birth control, and even making it illegal to refer a patient to any place offering the choice of abortion.  Medical providers were encouraged to refer patients to places which offered only the options of natural birth control options (such as abstinence), or adoption.

Under Drumpf’s new Supreme Court, gerrymandering became the recognized law of the land.  California took these divisions one step further when enough signatures were gathered there to put it on the ballot to split the one state into three.  Should it pass, it would still require congressional approval to take effect.  Whether or not this might happen could be determined by the political party affiliation of the majority of the voters, and its potential effect on the congressional balance of power.

Drumpf’s wall didn’t stop people from crossing the border, but it did make it more difficult.  In an effort  to stem the tide of immigrant influx, families caught crossing the border were torn apart, with children taken from their parents and detained  in separate facilities; tent cities and metal cages.  Public outcry  put an end to this cruel and inhumane practice, but not before thousands had been traumatized.  Plans were made to reunite the families, but those plans were not to be implemented until the parents agreed to end their petitions for asylum and be deported.  Those few who had already been reunited with their children are being held in prison camps together.  The facilities are private prisons, owned and run for profit by Drumpf’s cronies.  Meanwhile, under cover of the immigration uproar, public lands and their mineral rights are being leased to yet another set of Drumpf’s associates for as little as two dollars per acre.

With the implementation of his “No Tolerance” policy, Drumpf had made his opinion clear.  People crossing the border illegally would be summarily returned to their nation of origin without due process of law.  The Supreme Court had already upheld a version of his travel ban prohibiting immigration of people from primarily Muslim countries; it wasn’t much of a leap to try keeping out all of the (brown) people he didn’t like.  “Immigration must be based on merit,” he said, “We need people who will help to Make America Great Again.”


 

In recent weeks, Reginald and Grace had travelled a country gone mad in the wake of Roald Drumpf’s election.  The populace had not been so divided since the 1860’s, when the nation had been torn apart by civil war.  Statues depicting the heroes of the rebellion had been torn down or removed from town centers across the south, perhaps so people would not be reminded of the last time the citizenry had stood up to the government.  Even so, it did not stop a significant portion of the population from speculating that it might happen again.

No one had claimed either credit or blame for the bombs which had so changed the land during their journey.  Some had blamed the North Koreans, or perhaps the Chinese, but others had blamed the American government for bombing their own people.  It had driven much of the population into the cities, and given Drumpf an ideal excuse to declare martial law.  Stopping just shy of naming himself dictator for life, he did suspend the other branches of the government for the duration.  He had mused earlier about countries whose leaders were chosen for life, wondering whether that might be possible here.  Gathering around him only his family and most trusted advisors, Drumpf proceeded to rule his own world.

The first thing the revised government did was to take over the news media.  With net neutrality a thing of the past, the internet was taken over by Drumpf affiliates and anything which conflicted with the official line was simply shut down; the same was true of television and radio.  Paper news became a thing of the past.

Reginald and Grace had returned home to a town that they barely recognized.  The dimly lit street lamps had hidden the destruction which had been created by the swift abandonment of the town, and by the subsequent looting by those who had remained.

Their own home had been damaged by squatters who had been without water or power for the duration of their stay.  The whole house smelled of sweat, smoke, and rotten food; the bathroom added the odors of urine and feces.

Grace had settled into an uneasy sleep in the hours before dawn, forcing herself to adopt a positive attitude.  She and Reginald had survived so much, surely they could make this into a home again.  “Tomorrow will be another day,” had been her final thought; it had, indeed, but not a good one.

Looking at the mess her home had become, Grace wanted to cry.  Reginald grasped her firmly by the shoulders and assured her that they could get it done together.  His new-found sense of co-operation, learned in their time on the road, caused him to dig into the task at hand.  A bit on the bossy side, he none-the-less did his share of the work.  The trash was soon cleared, but the damage  done to their home was apparent.

Patrol cars were seen to be driving past the house throughout that first day.  At mid-day, one stopped  and an officer came to the door.  Without introducing himself, he demanded to see their papers, then ran their names through the computer in his cruiser.  He looked up from the screen to glare at Grace; returning their papers, he stated emphatically that no nonsense would be tolerated.  “No problem officer,” Reginald answered, “We understand.”  Grace found his humble behavior troubling, but lowered her head in compliance.

In a few days time, the house was put in reasonable order.  Grace had managed to stock their cupboards with basic supplies.  The task had not been easy; most stores were short on supplies, and many items were being rationed.  Until the proper papers could be obtained, these items could not be legally obtained.  Grace soon discovered that anything could be had if you didn’t mind paying ten times its worth.

Money was in short supply.  Their bank account had been closed when it became known that they had left town, and Reginald’s retirement check was being held in escrow awaiting their return.  The bank did not want to release the money, and it was only with great effort that Reginald was able to prove his identity and regain his funds.  With their money once again available and all their paperwork properly in place, Grace and Reginald settled in, hoping to live as normal a life as this new world would allow.

 

Insomnia

(Now for something on the light side.)

Like my father before me, I experience insomnia on a regular basis.  I would say “suffer from”, but in my case there’s very little suffering involved.

Insomnia comes in two forms.  In the first, it is difficult to fall asleep.  I have an acquaintance who suffers from this type, and is sometimes awake for up to forty hours at a time.  In the second type, it’s hard to stay asleep; that’s me.  I wake up multiple times each night and find it difficult to drift off again, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The wee hours of the morning are when I do my best thinking and writing.  I usually fall asleep early in the evening, but that rarely lasts.  Within just a few hours, I am wide awake once again.  What to do?  I have too much energy to just sit very long, and anything very active makes too much noise; just because I can’t sleep doesn’t make it okay to awaken my husband.

I like this time of day the best of all because it is naturally quiet, and because I generally get to spend it alone.  The television is usually still on, so I put it on one of my favorite channels and then set the volume to “white noise” level.  When I am ready to sleep again, I “watch” it with my eyes closed.  I need the noise to sleep, but a whirling fan works just as well, especially when I’m lightly covered by a blanket or throw.

If there’s mental work to be done, this is the time to do it; even the dogs are asleep on their chosen soft spots.  Most mornings, George joins me in the chair around four a.m., but he generally lets me work until then.  My lap is full of one of my many clip cases, or perhaps a thick lap desk that I purchased at (where else?) my favorite thrift store.  It’s sliding top hides and contains the components of whatever my current project may be.  Most recently, that was the contents of my “Word Hoard” notebook, which I mentioned in Dana’s “one good thought” email conversation.  Hand written, it contains literally hundreds of bits of wit and wisdom from dozens of people more intelligent and creative than I ever thought of being.

These middle of the night hours have seen me make progress on so many things, including sorting through various files, purging no-longer-wanted recipes, and even planning major social events.  I’ve written many thousands of words in the darkest hours of the night, which have proven to be both my creative and productive.

Each night, usually right after I first awaken, I make a visit to my computer.  It takes only a few minutes to catch up on my email and to scan Facebook for anything interesting.  Any comments to be written are composed at this time; it’s incredibly important to let someone know when they have touched you, either mentally or emotionally.

Food usually plays a part in my middle of the night routine.  During the day, I eat by the clock, but at night I eat because I feel something akin to hunger.  I’m aware that it’s not the real thing, but it is a tummy rumble combined with a desire to have a snack.  Most of the time it is carbs that call out my name, but now and again it’s dairy; nothing that requires cooking, and rarely anything closer to healthy than a banana or a piece of cheese.  Shame on me!

A variety of Mah Jong games may be found on my monitor screen at all hours of the day or night.  Most puzzle games are okay, too, but action games are lost on me.  I also use this time to pursue other more intellectual pursuits.  Eventually, I will become sleepy once again.  I slip under my cover and begin to “watch” whatever graces my television screen at the time.  It rarely takes long for me to drift off to sleep, only to awaken again at a still-early but more reasonable hour.

My circadian rhythms are a mess; exhaustion has me falling asleep multiple times during the day.  It is currently the wee hours, and writing this has made me sleepy again; perhaps reading this will do the same for others.

… this morning I opened my eyes at 0630 to see George staring expectantly at me from the foot of the recliner.  Even though it had been an exceptionally long rest period for me (about four hours), I was still exhausted.  Apparently George didn’t care, and so my day began.

My Class Reunion

Some weeks ago, my ordinarily mundane snail mail was made interesting by the arrival of an invitation to my 45th High School reunion.  Not everyone’s high school experience was a pleasant one, but I remember mine with fondness.

My initial response was one of happiness; here was my opportunity to visit with people I had not seen in many years, people who had once been my friends, or at least acquaintances.  I had been sort of a non-entity in high school, but I had managed to attend and enjoy an earlier such gathering, and so I knew that more people remember us than we might imagine.  I hadn’t seen many of them in the intervening years; I wondered who might be there, and how much they may have changed.

My secondary emotion was trepidation.  I’ve aged a lot in the past few years; what if no one recognized me?  What if I didn’t know anyone there?  While I wanted to see them, I wasn’t so sure I wanted them to see me.  At the last possible moment, I bought my ticket, telling myself that I could always back out if I changed my mind.  I live only blocks from the venue, so there was no other commitment necessary.

For the twenty year reunion, I had worried about fitting in, doing the right thing.  I spent days shopping for just the right outfit, then put together my accessories, manicure, and make-up.  It lifted my confidence to look my best, and so I had a good time.  I had hoped for the same at this reunion, but I my nerves made me hesitant.  In the end, I wore one of my favorite dresses, flat shoes, minimal jewelry, and no make-up.  I looked okay, but the most important part was that I felt comfortable.  I was dressed before I made the final decision to attend, and even then I told myself that no added expense meant I could come home if I wasn’t enjoying myself.

I shouldn’t have worried.  The moment I entered the building, I heard my name called out, and I was handed my name tag.  I must admit that I didn’t recognize every face I saw, and more than one person read my tag to see if they knew me.  Some spoke, others didn’t.  I walked around looking for those I knew best all those years ago, but most were not there.  Before I could despair, however, a classmate’s wife engaged me in conversation and invited me to join them at their table.  I felt so warm and welcome.  As the night went on, those faces changed by time began to morph back into those so familiar in my youth.

There was a good meal and fun party games, but the best part of the evening truly was the conversation and companionship.  Time really is a great equalizer; those who would have passed each other by without a thought back in the day now seemed genuinely happy to see one another.  I had real conversations with classmates I had never spoken to before, and many were prefaced with a hug.  I shared memories and dreams with those I’d known, but been too introverted to claim as friend.  I was happy to see them, and I think they may have been happy to see me.  That night I learned the power of three little words, “I remember you!”.

What surprised me the most, other than my own social comfort, was that so many of us shared the same nervous anticipation about the night.  One woman who had been very outgoing and popular in high school almost didn’t come because she had gained a little weight.  We’ve all aged, some more than others, and none of us still lives in the body we had at eighteen.  Another classmate, a smart, popular football star during our school years, expressed his fear of having been forgotten.  Some people seemed to want to remind me of who they used to be.  Some people talked about what they’ve accomplished, or who they are now.  A few talked about their dreams for the future.  We have among us an inventor, a famous doctor, and a blogger -Me!  Goodness knows how much special I didn’t get to know about.

I didn’t speak to everyone; I wish I had.  There was so much more I might have learned or shared.  Certainly, there were conversations I long to continue.  That this might have been my last opportunity to speak with these people is not lost on me.

One small table held a framed list of the names of those who have passed on.  For them, there will be no more reunions, no dreams and no tomorrows.  Sometimes I forget that we are all growing older, and that more of this life is not guaranteed.  The committee is already planning another reunion in five years time, and you may be assured that I will be in attendance… assuming.

Strange Birds

“Birds of a feather, flock together.”

Have you ever been called a “strange bird”?  I have, and on a fairly regular basis.  This one’s for all of us, that small flock of odd birds that have become each other’s compass in this often confusing world.  I am speaking specifically to my on-line family.  Our numbers are small, but each of you plays a vital role in my life.  So often when someone passes, we hear or say, “I wish I’d said…”.  I am determined here to avoid that regret.

For most of my life, I have been the odd man out; I just didn’t fit.  That’s okay, alone has its virtues.  Now and again, I have been drawn to someone more like me than not, someone whose foothold in this mundane world is as tenuous as my own.  These precious few have become my true friends.  I have other friends and family that I care about very much, but those whose lives and hearts have touched my own here on line have come to mean as much to me as any of them

It’s difficult to know where to start; we are a family, each linked to the others.  We share our joys and sorrows, even if we have never met.

Marco is the head of our family, the magnet that has drawn us together, and the string that binds us there.  His life, from the beginning, has not been easy, but it has been full of adventure.  I admire in him his courage and tenacity, and his caring.  Was there ever a moment in which he doubted his ability to succeed?  Despite his often solitary life, he was born to be a leader, and has been the best teacher some of us have ever had.  He taught me to think, and to care about the world around me.

Dana was also his student.  Her life, too, has sometimes been difficult.  She is both beautiful and brilliant, with near-perfect memory and an uncanny ability to analyze any problem.  If she has a downfall, it’s that her heart is as big as her mind is sharp, and when thoughts and emotions collide, chaos erupts and it’s hard to find a compromise.  I admire most in her the ability to face her fears, and to walk away from those parts of her life which were toxic.  I love that, instead of hiding behind a wall of “things”, she’s kept her stuff to a minimum.  I love that her choice of heroes includes imperfect men who accomplished great things.  I admire her far more than she knows.

Br. Mark is Marco’s long-time friend, and a man of great faith.  He had a life before the monastery, but I truly believe he has found his home there.  I admire his unwavering faith, and I admire his open and honest discussions when doubt appears.  He is, to borrow one of Marco’s phrases, “in this world, but not of it”.  Above all things, he has learned to (to borrow another phrase) “Let go and let God”.  I still seek my own truth, as I believe we all should, but I am incredibly happy that he has found his.

For various reasons, some of us have issues with accepting organized traditions, aka religion, but we are all spiritual in our own way.  That we accept those differences is a part of what makes us strong.  My granddaughter delights in calling me pagan, and herself pantheistic.  As pagan means believing differently from those around you, I happily accept her title.

Lory is the one of us who has never met Marco.  She is Italian by birth, but has become acculturated to life in Japan.  She and I are the same age for a few days each year.  Her connection to Spirit is very different from Br. Mark’s, but it is very strong.  Angels visit her in dreams.  When I first became “acquainted” with her, the book she had written on the subject was just being published.  I recently (finally) got a chance to read it, and I found it an inspirational delight.  I admire her intelligence, faith, and courage.  She is the most genuinely humble person I know (sorry, Br. Mark), and yet she has so much to offer all of us.  It is my dream to meet her some day; well, all of you, really!

Among these birds, my plumage is the least shiny.  Mary was our hummingbird, and she has flown on to her well-deserved reward.  I hope Br. Mark is right, and that there is a heaven; Wiccans call it Summerland.  Before any more of us go there, I want to thank you all for being a part of my life.  It has been made much richer by your presence.

I’m thinking…

My mother says I think too much; what does she know?  Being inside my own head so much has a tendency to make me over-analyze things, followed by the tendency to be overly critical of my own flaws.  I say it beats thinking you are flawless, when what you are is human.

I embrace within myself what others see as insanity.  It’s not that I think they actually call me crazy, but I’m more than aware that we all know I have issues.  Truth be told, I have subscriptions.

I am motivated to change, but the fine line between inspiration and action is proving difficult to cross.  Progress is happening, but at a snail’s pace.

Most of my favorite television programs, watched primarily in the middle of the night, involve people who are attempting to make improvements in their own lives.  The shows are a way of measuring the level of my own dysfunction.  Other people’s problems, at least the ones on television, are worse than my own.  It helps to see the improvements they are able to make, but it’s also a reality check to see how bad it has the potential to become.

While it could be worse, it could also be better.  Tracking and tackling the reasons behind my problems should help to kick-start the solutions.  I have accepted the way things are for far too long.  No one else caused these issues, and no one else owns the answers to their solution.  I am finally ready to take on my own demons; let the battle begin!

My worst problems are the ones from which all others have grown:  procrastination, and a severely short attention span.  I have to do things in stages because I have trouble concentrating long enough to complete a complex task all at one time.  As a result, things tend to get a lot worse before they begin to get better.

Stage one, step one:  recognize and identify the problem.  Knowing that something is broken is the easy part; figuring out how and why it broke is harder.  Finding the solution, and then implementing it, is where the real work begins.  My problems are two-fold; I have chronic mental issues, and I live in a cluttered mess of my own making.  Each contributes to the other.

Usually, lack of organization plays a part in the creation of the clutter problem, and is a detriment to its solution.  In my case, things going into and out of storage over the years has caused them to become scattered.  Like with like tends to be my first step, and I rarely fail to be surprised at how much I really have.  It’s good stuff, there’s just too much of it.  Each piece had a specific purpose when it was purchased, but as it was rarely immediately put to that use, it piled up, or it got lost in the mire.  We joke that we have a poltergeist who steals, but the truth is far more mundane.  We put something down, then something else is place on top of or in front of it, and it vanishes from sight; we call that being “behind the milk”.  It is one such vanishing that was the inspiration for this ramble.  My dad used to say that it was easier to buy new than to find something that had not been put away where it belonged.  Once like is with like, I can begin to decide what stays (an easier decision than what goes), and finding it a designated place to be.  Too much won’t fit, so it is easy to tell when it’s time to purge again.

Clutter is not my only issue.  Each problem, untended, makes the others worse.   The chronic depression from which I suffer, while rarely severe, drains me of my energy.  I’m tired and sad, and so few things seem worth the effort.  What’s the point when no one seems to notice?… or so my muddled mind keeps telling me.  It leads to lethargy in all areas of my life.  I don’t take care of myself or my environment.  Odd, it never seems to stop me from being at the beck and call of others.

I’ve never been much of a social butterfly, but for a while karaoke was my passion.  I enjoyed dressing up and going out to sing with my friends.  That’s in my past now, a part of a mid-life crisis that holds on only by the thinnest of threads; gone are the excuses for dressing up and going out.  This had lead to feelings of isolation, which in turn has exacerbated my depression.

…and nothing gets done.  Things pile up, making it hard to move or find things.  It could be worse, but I hope to take action before that gets any more chance to happen.  The worst part is, restricting my ability to move causes what feels very like a panic attack.

Years of giving lip-service to these issues has had the effect of maintaining the status quo, with very little real progress.  The frustration of that has added to the depression.  I tend to look at things holistically, and so I know that the mess and the mental issues are interconnected; both are cause and effect, and so progress in one should equal progress in the other.  In point of fact, every issue I face falls back on these two.  I can fix it, all of it, if I can conquer any one part.  Where do I start?  I’d say “wish me luck”, but luck is a false god which will fail you every time.  Instead, wish me patience and endurance.  One day at a time, one step at a time, one breath or heartbeat at a time, I will prevail.

Moving Day

I have lived in my current home for twenty seven years, and have every expectation of being here until the end of my days.  It’s difficult to explain why that sentence makes me sad.  I think most people would like the idea of a forever home, but I am not most people.

For the first seventeen years of our marriage, my husband was in the U.S. Air Force.  As a military family, we moved every two to four years, once on a very short notice.  We also had one assignment cancelled, meaning that all our early preparations were for naught. Through it all, no matter where we were going, I loved the excitement of starting over.  New places meant new people, new challenges to be met, and new opportunities to be embraced.  Military life provided experiences that staying in one place could never have afforded me, and while I can’t say I’m unhappy here, I wouldn’t have traded that part of my life for anything.

Civilians move, too.  Many of the people I know have moved several times within the years I have known them, including my own adult children.  Most don’t mind (or even enjoy) the change in location, but they voice the opinion that the act of packing, and later unpacking, is not pleasurable.

I beg to differ.  Granted, packing involves physical labor.  It involves decisions, some of which are not easy; what to keep, what gets given away or donated, and what (gasp!) gets tossed.  It’s easier to just say, “pack it all”, but it isn’t practical.  Unless one has lived a Spartan life, those decisions have to be made.  Moving things no longer needed or wanted cheats you out of the opportunity to make a fresh start.  Purging at the beginning of a move is much easier than at the end.

Despite staying in one spot for so many years, I am not without recent experience in the fine art of relocation.  We owned a truck for twenty years, and were often recruited to help when one of our friends or family members moved into a new home.  On one memorable occasion, I helped both of my children move on the same (very long) day.

Boxes, packing tape, paper, and even large plastic garbage bags were put to use in these moves, often being randomly stuffed at the end of the process.  More than once, I’ve heard, “It’s all going to the same place.”  I shudder at the thought of an unorganized move; so many of them were just that, full of last minute actions and delayed decisions.

While no move is without some degree of stress, the key to keeping it to a minimum is prioritizing.  First things first; gather what matters most (official papers, deeply sentimental items, small items of financial value) for safe-keeping.  Other “keepers” you can live without on a daily basis come next.  This is a chance to start making those hard decisions.  Our move to Germany forced us to leave many of our belongings behind in storage.  Upon returning years later, I found things I’d forgotten I owned, most of which I didn’t need.  These things were soon purged through yard sales, but they should never have been stored in the first place.

The best time to begin the process of purge-and-pack is as soon as possible after the decision to move has been made.  We all have things (myself more than most) that we no longer need, want, or like; now’s the time to get rid of them.  Gifts? Inherited items? Whether to keep or donate is up to you, but don’t let these items become emotional anchors.  Things have no feelings, and it’s important to make room only for those things which make you happy.  If this reads like a thesis on decluttering, it’s because the process (physical, mental, and emotional) is much the same.  Moving provides the ideal excuse to purge.  I blame my mess (in part) on staying too long in one place.  We become blind to excess and (in my case) the stuff of old dreams.  Pruning away the no-longer-valid allows light and room for new growth.  A move can and should be the beginning of a new chapter in your life.

There are many reasons for a relocation.  A new job takes us to a new city (or country), two people join (or un-join) their lives, families outgrow their current abode, or an “empty nest” feels too large.  People move for financial reasons; the fortunate want bigger and better, the less fortunate down-size for survival.

An acquaintance was evicted from her home for other than financial reasons, but was unable to immediately find another place she could afford.  She put her things in storage and moved into the street.  Denial, poor planning, and shortened deadlines caused her to lose things of great sentimental value.  The less one has, I’ve discovered, The more each thing matters.  She has a home now, but the experience has given her emotional scars from which she will not quickly heal.

This past week was spent helping my daughter move into her new home.  She moved by both choice and necessity.  The move itself was chaotic, and took much longer than it should have.  There were not enough people for the task at hand, and too much was left undone until the last minute.  Many of her things went into storage, an issue with which she will deal in the next few weeks. Some things destined for storage went to the apartment, and vice versa, adding to the final work load.

The new place is much smaller than the last, and less expensive by half.  They have already done the work to make their new abode look like a home; I can only hope it also feels that way.  Moving is an opportunity to fix what is wrong with our lives, and to double-down on what is right.  My fondest wish is that she finds happiness there, and that we don’t have to do this again too soon.

Motivation

My get up and go just got up and went.

 

Sometimes it’s hard to find a good reason to get out of bed in the morning.  Nothing ever really changes, the thousands of things which need done never are, or they don’t stay that way.  It’s a never ending cycle, so why bother?

Life has never expected much from me, and not much is what I delivered.  I have less than half of a proper education, no real job experience, and far too much time to think.

Before children, it took only a few minutes to clean my house.  An employment opportunity presented itself, so I took it, but the small paycheck was not worth the arguments it caused, so I quit.  I never imagined my first real job would be my last.  A move to Italy, and the birth of my first child, put an end to that.  It’s hard not to blame, but my life is my fault.  The birth of my second child preceded (I won’t say caused) a deep depression that lasted until circumstance allowed me to begin my further education.  Those short college days were, without a doubt, the best of my life.  Once my AA degree was complete, and with “my wife isn’t going to work” firmly established, there was no motivation to continue.  There have been a lot of years between then and now.  My life has been more good than bad, but it’s impossible not to be frustrated at so much potential left unfulfilled.  I was just never motivated enough to make it more.

The question becomes, what motivates us to do something with our lives?  What gets us going in the morning (other than coffee) and pushes us to get things accomplished?  Obviously, for some it is money; either the accumulation of great wealth, or the struggle to make enough just to survive.  It’s a necessary evil, but for me money is just another form of wampum beads to be traded for what one really wants or needs.  If there’s not enough, we make do, or we do without.  Enough is enough for some; there is never enough for others.

Power can be a great motivator.  With great power comes great responsibility, along with the stress that entails.  I’ve always been the responsible one, the person others turn to when something needs done.  That’s never lead to power, quite the opposite, perhaps because I completely lack the ability to delegate, or the skills to lead.  It’s been said, “What’s the point in having power if you can’t abuse it?”  That’s not me, but I think we all know who it is.

“A job well done is its own reward.”  What does that mean, exactly?  Should we work without that reward (whether it be pay, praise, or a simple “thank you”) simply for some sense of satisfaction?  Is it enough?  I’m a behind-the-scenes sort of person, doing the work for which others receive the praise.  I don’t normally mind, but I will admit it feels good to gain credit for my work.  President Harry S. Truman is credited with saying, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”  Is an anticipated sense of self-accomplishment enough to motivate us to begin, or complete, a task or project?  Sometimes it has to be; sometimes it is all there is.

If perfection is a goal, then the motivation required to begin can be particularly difficult to achieve.  Here’s a clue:  Perfection is a myth, and to chase that dream is bound to drive you mad.  In addition, one person’s version of perfection is not guaranteed to match another’s.  Please yourself, satisfy your goals to a reasonable degree, then let it go.  The motivation to begin is easier to find when the goal is easier to reach.

My projects tend to be grand in scale, and complicated in execution.  Start to finish takes a lot of time, too much time to do it all at once.  To add to that, I have trouble staying on task, and there tend to be lots of interruptions; in fact, there were three in the length of time it took to compose this sentence.  Every big thing I do is accomplished in stages, and I usually have several projects going at the same time.  The problem is that, when a stage is complete, or if a project has to be put aside for more than a moment, it often sits for long periods of time until something motivates me to pick it up again.

When I’m not busy doing, I’m busy thinking.  I’m thinking about what I should be doing instead of thinking.  I’m thinking about what someone else wants or needs me to do for them.  I’m thinking about possible subjects for this blog, and wondering whether it really matters; it does.  It matters because it gives voice to all those things which concern me, or perhaps what I find interesting, entertaining, or amusing.  It matters because I matter.

For those few of you who still read this: You Matter, too.  Your words matter, your thoughts matter, and your lives matter especially.  I am motivated to write because you read, and for that you have my eternal gratitude.

Adventure Time

The dictionary defines adventure as participation in an undertaking of a hazardous nature.  It is an unusual experience marked by excitement and suspense.  A life completely devoid of adventure would truly be a wasted incarnation.  Fortunately, there is no such thing; it depends on the way you look at it.

Some people would argue that their lives had been a day-to-day struggle just to make ends meet, or at least wave at each other.  Even these lives have the potential for adventure.  Anything which changes our lives, any new thing we attempt or accomplish, any new place we visit, brings with it the potential for excitement which is the very definition of adventure.

Few people have been afforded a life filled with the sort of hazardous adventures we commonly think of when the term is used.  There are old people and there are bold people, but there are few old bold people, and for a very good reason.  Not many people are cut out for that life; hours of boredom punctuated by moments of terror, and worse.  Fewer still survive it long enough to grow old.  I have wondered, from time to time, whether it is a life from which one ever entirely retires; emotionally, how does one not miss living on the edge.  It has been said that, “If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.”  I take up too much space.

My life has not been without its adventures, even though it was “just life” at the time.  I have twice lived in Europe, and twice more travelled there.  I have walked the streets of London, Paris, and Rome.  I have shopped the open markets of Italy, and of Balikesir, Turkey.  I have seen this country from the passenger seats of both a semi-tractor trailer, and a one-of-a-kind Harley Davidson motorcycle.  But, life hands all of us a variety of everyday adventures.  They come in all shapes and sizes, from trying a new food, to scuba or skydiving, to walking hundreds of miles in pursuit of clarity, knowledge, and enlightenment.

Relationships might certainly be classed as one of those adventures.  There is, especially in the beginning, that element of excitement and suspense.  Letting someone new into your life is the start of life’s greatest everyday adventure; letting them into your heart is the next step.  It doesn’t always work out, that’s the hazard, but it can be wonderful when it does.

Raising a family in today’s world is an adventure.  I watch my grown children struggle to find their way through those situations which seemed so much simpler in “my day”, and I know a few things that must be true overall for every generation.  As the world grows more complicated, so do the choices we have to make.  There is no such thing as a perfect parent, but so long as we give it our best effort, things mostly turn out okay (and it’s rarely directly our fault when they don’t).  Families are definitely an E-ticket ride, and grandchildren are the prize for hanging on (or at least around) until the end.

For me, getting an education (even a truncated one) was a real adventure.  There were elements of the unknown, and it was certainly an exciting experience.  It opened me up to the world in ways I never would have expected.  I learned a lot of new facts, sure, but it taught me how to think, and that my thoughts matter.  It helped me to find my own voice, and that I had something valid to add to the conversation.  I sort of forgot that for a while, but writing this blog is bringing it back.  A good education, learning in general, is not just a means to an end, but an end wit its own value.  If you play your cards right, it can (if you don’t mind a mixed metaphor) springboard you into a life beyond your wildest dreams.  Don’t settle for what life gives you; that’s how adventures end, and dreams die.

Major life changes can’t help but be a source of adventure.  A military life, even as a dependent, was one adventure after another.  Our lives were uprooted every few years, then set down for a new beginning where ever we were needed.  Twice I had to learn a new language; we called four states home, and with each move we met new people, enjoyed new foods and new cultures, and immersed ourselves in the “now” that our lives had become.  It was probably harder on my children than myself, but with each new place they made new friends, and had new experiences they would not have had by living in the same place all their lives.

The thing about adventure is that it is so very addictive; just a taste and it’s hard not to want more.  “Adrenaline junkies” get their kicks going fast in cars and on motorcycles, jumping out of perfectly good airplanes, and various other risk-taking behaviors.  My own adventures have taken a much milder, safer form; I love to travel, and do so as often as I can.  A dozen years ago, I dreamed of my own grand adventure.  I was going to follow an 800Km pilgrimage across the width of Spain.  While it didn’t work out at the time, the dream is still alive. Don’t give up on me yet, it may still come true.

Some lucky few get to adventure for a living.  They are the archaeologists, explorers, and travel experts whose shows might be found on PBS or the Travel Channel.  Through them we are able to vicariously live the life of which we can only dream.  I know that true archaeologists primarily live a daily life of painstakingly tedious work, but how exciting would it be to truly discover something which had been hidden for thousands of years?  Those who seek sunken and buried treasures also fall into this category.

Those with a truly adventurous palate qualify, not as adventurers, but certainly as braver than I; oh, did I forget to mention that courage is a prerequisite for a true life of adventure?  These people put into their mouths, and their stomachs, things which I could never put into mine.  They also eat a  lot of things I can only dream of having the opportunity to taste.

Death may be the last great adventure of everyone’s lifetime.  We don’t know when the journey will begin, or where it will take us.  Despite near death experiences, or all the faith in the world, we can’t really know what it will be life.  Will there be glorious discoveries on the other side of the veil, or the flat black of eternal nothingness?  I have made all proper preparations for this final experience, I have no fear of the flight, but I sincerely hope my flight (and yours) is delayed.

If life begins at the edge of your comfort zone, then adventure is only a few steps away.  Step out and feel the excitement.

Unplugged

At 0615 on a recent Monday morning, my internet (and along with it my phone service) ceased to function.  The cable television service functioned as well as ever.  We watched a few recorded favorites, but a call to tech support indicated we needed a new modem for the computer.  When that failed to fix the problem, a repair person was scheduled to come to our home; he/she would be there on the following Monday.  A solid week (or more) without my favorite time consumer (news source, entertainment, and point of social contact) had me trying to remember what I did before it existed.

I didn’t always want a computer; in fact, I fought tooth-and-nail to avoid owning one.  This was in the early nineteen eighties, and personal computers were a fairly new technology.  I could see little use in them; what was I thinking?!

The earliest home computers consisted of a keyboard which would be attached to a television, or perhaps a monitor screen.  At the top were slots into which were inserted cartridges similar to (and sometimes exchangeable with) those used in early gaming systems.  Computer “languages” were also contained on these cartridges, and needed to be inserted in order for the computer to work; subsequent models eliminated this necessity.  Other cartridges contained games, learning programs, and facilitated other computer functions.

At this stage of development, most of a computer’s memory was held externally.  In addition to the cartridges, programs could be found or stored on audio cassettes (Csave) or floppy disks (Dsave).  Magazines flourished which allowed a user to input and save a program onto their choice of “player” and then run it on the computer.

“Trash in, trash out.”  A program is only as good as its user’s ability to input.  I’ve copied my share of programs from computer magazines, and I’ve managed to correct the errors caused by my typing, as well as those found within the printed program itself, but a programmer (or is it called coder now?) I will never be.  I recall “GOTO”, and not much else.

My initial experience with personal home computers came during an extended visit with my sister.  I played several games on her computer, including one called “E.T. Phone Home”.  Despite its later low rating, I found it to be a lot of fun.  Upon returning home, I capitulated on the purchase of a PC.  I had my heart set on a Commodore 64 (remember those?), but ended up with an Atari 800.  It was obsolete before we got it home.  A friend had promised to give us a selection of Dsaved programs, but there was no disk player available; we bought a special cassette player and I started typing.  My favorite game for the Atari was called “Gateway to Apshai”; it was on a cartridge borrowed from that same friend, and was returned to them when they moved on.

That computer was destroyed when my cat used it for a litter box.  The next one, years later, proved useless.  Since then, my relationship with computers has improved.  I will never be a tech-ie, but my time on line (still mostly game play), has become my “goto” thing to do with my spare time.

So, what happened next while the internet was temporarily unavailable?  I worried about what I was missing: what was happening in the world what I only learned about on line, and the personal things I learned about from email and Facebook?  Some things would have to be put off until the return of the ‘net; the rest I would catch up with in good time.

Without the distraction of my games, I got a lot more accomplished in the real world.  Projects long on hold once again became works in progress; they have remained in progress in the days since my computer is usable once again.  Every stimulus which would ordinarily have sent my running to the computer had to be met with a different response.  It was as though I had become a child, and my favorite toy had been taken away.

As a rule, I’ve never been much good with technology, learning each new skill as the task required it.  My granddaughter, however, and perhaps the rest of her generation, seems to have been born with a natural inclination for anything containing a USB port.  After a weekend of camping, her first action was to activate her phone and begin playing games.  I watched her fingers nimbly dancing their way through applications my generation would never have imagined at her age, and I am reminded again how much our world has changed.

After a week without it, my internet was restored.  I immediately checked my email, most of which was highly delete-able.  Marco’s blog was next; I was pleased to see that I hadn’t missed anything, and even more pleased when a new offering was posted.  My last stop was Facebook; I swear I wouldn’t bother with it at all if it weren’t the gateway to my games.  My mind spins all the time; if dreams are any indication, this is true even in my sleep.  The puzzle games I play on line seem to ease this condition.

Computers have definitely earned their place in my world, but my recent minor inconvenience has taught me that there is still life out there without the internet.  Perhaps I should unplug more often.