Monday, February 04, 2019

'Good Bones'

I can't figure out how to download my photos. So this post, written 30 minutes ago, is the best I can do. Thanks for coming by even though I'm not reliable. love, kj

I’ve been thinking about this for the last year. Sooner or later I end up writing something about how I see life. I lean on the optimistic side of things. 

Maybe not so much this time. In the last year some major events took place for me. For one, my back gave out. I saw a half dozen doctors and psyched myself for surgery. My brother died, the end of my childhood family. And I turned 71 in August. Seventy-one. That is not an age easily fudged, inside or out. 

The result of these events is that I dropped out of my cushy active confident life and stayed quietly on the couch, uncertain how I”d end up. ( I still don’t entirely know.)

Now, just a year later, to my surprise, the treatment I did to avoid surgery seems to have worked! I walked a full block this week and today I made it to the bay beach with Janet and Mattie, where before I couldn’t tolerate ten steps. I’m not a fan of exercise and I actually like time on the couch. But it’s now within my control to decide how much I help myself through movement and weight and diet and good energy.

The other major event—age 71—is something else. It’s weird to be this age. It sounds old. And based on the number of medical discussions I seem to now hear and have, ‘old’ includes more physical problems and more lost objects. (It’s okay to smile at that last point.)

I’ve worked in a number of different careers and jobs but mostly I’m a Counselor and a Writer so over the years I’ve had a lot to say about life and stress and happiness. I’ve seen people change and grow in giant ways and I’ve always felt the world is more beautiful than savage. But now, at 71, I’m less sure. 

The poet Maggie Smith wrote a poem I wish was mine. She called it “Good Bones:”

“The world is at least fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative estimate, 
Though I keep this from my children.”

It’s a great poem: worthy of googling and reading.

I’ve wondered A LOT if I agree with this. Fifty percent terrible. That’s A LOT. 

There’s also a third major and troubling awareness that’s grown quite large for me—not just my back and not just my age, but how should I name it? Trump. Incivility. Racism. Wars. Refugees. Harmed Children. And damn Cancer. 

Maybe it’s my age now, but I’m not as likely these days to jump into the big picture to change what I can. My family, my friends, my neighborhood—that’s different. In those cases I still do what I’ve always done: offer my skills, help how I can. But I’m not choosing to ‘make a mark’ anymore, at least not in the same way. That’s not to say I don’t hope to have a publisher pick up my novel-manuscript this year. But I’m increasingly comfortable enjoying the company of wonderful children and interesting adults, cooking up new recipes, reading and writing, watching Wheel of Fortune and the Great British Baking Show. I’ve begun to travel again, because I can walk again!—and I’m glad of that. But I don’t mind sticking close to home either.

So I ask myself a BIG question. DO I think the world is fifty percent terrible? 

I answer with great sadness. Yes. Yes I do. BUT:

The end of Maggie Smith’s poem is also true:

“Life is short and the world 
is at least half terrible, and for every kind stranger
there is one who would break you,’
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones. This place could be beautiful, 
right? You could make this place beautiful.”

Yes, says me. Yes We could.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Mish Mash


This image explains the weekend workshops that JB and I plan to offer here in Provincetown, once my back pain is behind me (no pun intended!) We'll combine personal growth and community and awesome food with sand and sea and dashes of creativity. When? Hopefully by next Spring.

In mid August I began a private pay non-surgical treatment plan for the two slipped bones in my back. I did this as a last ditch effort to avoid a lengthy surgery and and recovery. The treatment is laser, decompression therapy much like traction, foot vibrations, nutritional supplements, heat and ice, home machines to wake up and rebuild cells and fluid. The first nine weeks: nothing. But two weeks ago the agonizing pain I've had whenever I bore weight and tried to walk lessened considerably. Since then I definitely am improved and am increasingly hopeful. It's good news for me. I have a long way to go with weight loss and reconditioning but finally I'm looking ahead again.

What else? I'm praying for an anti-Trump election next Tuesday, if only to control his base and disgusting policies and hate filled white supremacy.  I find myself thinking that destiny's at work here; I think this because it's difficult and painful to imagine that almost 40% of Americans are either ill informed or mean spirited and most likely both. I find it all heartbreaking and shocking.

JB and I are preparing for colder weather and winter in our cozy house that we've finally finished. We now have a propane gas fireplace stove that gives such a glow. This should be the season I truly finish the edits to my manuscript and truly shop for an agent or publisher. I've been blessed with 3 readers who have helped me so much with their feedback and corrections. 

Finally, I'm still living day to day with my "Wait to Worry" mantra. If I have a problem that has to be faced on Monday but it's only Friday, I wait to worry. This really works! Sometimes, more often than you'd think, waiting changes the problem to the point it's not really a problem. Wait to Worry: I highly recommend it.

One more finally: if I had one extra wish, it would be that Blogging became fashionable and active again. My time here has changed my life over the last 12 years, and I miss so many old friends from our blogging days. Time for me to start posting poems again also.

with love
kj




Friday, October 05, 2018

Friday, September 07, 2018

September


Fall has come. 

Soon the swimming pool down the block will close and soon we'll plant yellow mums in our window boxes. I'm not in good physical shape. Two weeks ago I started a non-traditional non-surgical back repair program that includes heat, ice, laser, decompression, nutrition, and chiropractic treatment three times a week. This is my last shot to avoid surgery and although I'm complaining I'm committed. 

But that's another story. Here I am on the water's edge of Cape Cod and as always the light is glorious. Little by little JB and I now have good friends, good neighbors, here. If Jess and our grandkids were a little closer, living in Provincetown is spectacular in every way. I bid a happy goodbye to the summer crowds and a blessed hello to crisp air and golden glows.


My brother died a month ago. Because his heart capacity was so weak, he knew he would die but not so fast. He spent the last six months at home feeling better than he ever had, doing what he wanted to do, studying physics and cleaning up his computer and glad that he finally knew why he'd felt so heavy for so many years. He died in 10 minutes, from his kitchen to his favorite chair, and his wife was there to make sure he breathed without panic until the end.

My parents are gone; now my only sibling is gone. I know that there is a family history I will now never know. It feels strange. But what I think most of all is that my brother and I had a good relationship and we acknowledged that at the end. He apologized for not inviting me to his quickie wedding decades ago. I helped him with doctors and hospice. No regrets is its own blessing.

Frankie and our Mother


We're redecorating again. Yesterday we sold our enormous dining room table and in the coming weeks we'll redesign our living room-dining room: ceiling canister lights, wainscoting around the room, probably light aqua upper walls, a smaller table--all with an aim toward beachy coastal comfy.

We're also finishing up our side yard: new decking, a railroad tie retaining wall, a feel of the beach, hopefully, once done. There's nothing I like better than hiring someone to do all the work and I get to watch the transformation happen.


And finally: Donald Trump and the state of the state. I'm sorry to say the American economy and American businesses are rewarding his misguided and amoral policies: the stock market is up and jobs are expanding. This should be good news but the cost of financial prosperity has been at the expense of diversity, human dignity, international friendships, and decency. Donald Trump is an amoral man. It troubles me to no end that a third of Americans actively support him and almost all of the Republican controlled Congress complicitly enables him. 

I have to believe there will be an end to this and in the end American democracy will have survived. The first measurement is the mid term elections in November. It will be a happy day if the Democratic Party retakes the House of Representatives. If not: holy shit....

Finally, I want to add to and ask for good energy and blessings for my friend CS (Secret Agent here on our blogs.) Damn cancer has interrupted her good life and she in the middle of treatment. She'll probably push back on me if I say she's brave but she is, and she's willing to share her journey in a most helpful and intimate way. 

Best wishes in a new season, everyone. What's new with you?
love
kj


Wednesday, July 25, 2018

A Letter to America



I don’t understand. 

Donald Trump continues to attack our government agencies and institutions, our neighbors in Canada and Mexico, our allies in NATO and the European Union, bipartisan congressional efforts to protect the Dreamer kids born in this country, and steps to control the climate crisis—devastating storms and fires we all know are getting worst every season. He’s defended white nationalists and taken children—even babies and toddlers from their immigrant parents, families seeking asylum in the United States because their lives in their home country is at brutal risk—children removed without a plan to return them. He’s making a great effort to convince us that Russia and North Korea are now ‘competitors’ and friendly partners for world peace and the countries we’ve stood by for 70 years are now unappreciative ‘foes.’

For many Americans, about 40% to be exact, Donald Trump is rebuilding the American economy. Wages and job openings have increased. He’s insisting that companies build and operate in America and he's stood up to China about unfair trade tariffs. I can see why support for his economic approach is substantial. I can even see why his push for a conservative Supreme Court promises a return to middle America—the America of the 1950s when ‘aberrant’ norms weren’t a part of the American landscape—abortion was unacceptable, most gay, lesbian, transgender equality were closeted, welfare rolls were controllable, and let’s be honest: white people dominated in a way that left non-white people inferior and unprotected. 

Donald Trump promises a return to those times. He bashes illegal immigrants and liberal judges and the press who warns against him and he divides us into legitimate and illegitimate Americans. He offers permission to criticize and taunt people who look or believe differently, even those who dare to wear a tee shirt with the Puerto Rico flag on it, or who insist on a humane immigration that maintains the country’s safety and  border control but also recognizes the need and value of immigrants to our society.

I grew up in the Fifties. It was a time when I walked three blocks to and from school and  safely left my house each summer morning, came home for lunch, and left again until suppertime. My parents didn’t worry about my safety because there was no need. 

It was a time when churches offered sanctuaries and protections to refugee families who came to America; the State of the Union speeches and the President’s proclamations were more or less respected, and Democratic and Republican members of Congress routinely faced problems and passed bills together. 

It was a time when most of the families I knew—most white—had a mother and a father and had a chance at owning their own house. 

It was a time when manufacturing offered skilled jobs a time before the Information Age of computers and cell phones and cyber security. 

I hear a lot of reasons why he has support: Hillary was an ineffective candidate (mostly true); immigrants take American jobs and depress wages (not true), other countries take advantage of us (mostly not true). I can accept concerns along these lines; I can even understand and agree with the actual facts that contradict my own beliefs.

But folks, something’s brewing that you won’t see coming until it’s on top of you. Our democracy—the norms that follow the rule of law, the premise that America helps welcomes those in need, the belief that people are created equal— sooner or later, you’ll have to face that Donald Trump is systematically, and cleverly, trying to convince us that if we don’t circle our wagons, we’re screwed. If our Congress and ourselves allow him to govern as a one-man show, with his obvious flaws of narcissism and racism and willingness to take extreme positions, even if they hurt people, even if they include a threat to blow up the people of North Korea or denounce our legal system of amnesty—our country may survive in the long run, but it will no longer be the country you know. 

So what does that mean? Well, it means our friends in the world—Canada, France, England, Germany—are reduced to transactional competitors: friendship will not be based on shared values but on financial deals. 

It means Americans will be repudiated and disliked, to the point that international business and vacation travel will be unsafe. It means our country will benefit from selling arms to rogue and oppressive nations. It means the NRA will control the proliferation of guns and our schools, our shopping malls and movie theaters—our children—will be the targets of mass murderers. It means that slowly but surely, you will start to see people with dark skin as threats and they will no longer feel safe in our country. It means our judiciary and press and national security agencies will be questioned and criticized and you won’t know what or who to believe any longer. 

There’s more, of course. I remember when I lived in Germany, I asked the German husband of my American friend how and why his parents allowed Hitler to exterminate the Jews. “It didn’t start off that way,” he said, “And when they realized what was happening, their own lives were at risk if they dared speak up. So they didn’t, at least not publicly.”

Is this where America is headed? Possibly. Probably not, not to the extreme of Nazi Germany, but possibly. If our Congress doesn’t act, and the Democratic party doesn't offer a concrete plan for immigration and border control and job growth and international relationships, and more of our citizens don’t vote, it will be up to a man who believes that all of life and human goodness is about money and transactions and deals, a man who is poorly read, who discards history, who compliments tyrants and betrays allies, who believes in white supremacy—to build America in his image.

I know some of Donald Trump’s supporters—his ‘base,” agree with him, but I also know the vast majority of Americans do not, even those who support his Presidency know by now who he really is. 


We have to get past the vehement thinking of each other as bleeding heart liberals or  cold hearted conservatives. I don’t know exactly how we do that, but the country’s in danger. Recognizing that danger is a first and essential step. The second step is taking the time to sort the truth from the lies. That’s a stressful and depressing and time-consuming thing to have to do, but I can’t think of a more important time to care enough. Yes it hurts to be bombarded with the Trump Reality Show every day and yes it’s understandable to stop believing anything from any source. 

But the alternative is bad. Possibly, really bad. 

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Thursday Thirteen on Saturday

1. I'm in the right place this summer.

I live at the very tip of this peninsula, in Provincetown on Cape Cod, a town which is currently bustling with happy people enjoying the beaches and restaurants and plenty of outrageous  entertainment. It's a magical place to live, really--the way the light bounces off the ocean and bay, and small enough that it's not hard to understand what community means.


2. Why have I stopped drawing?!


3. This girl has a birthday this week. Imagine, I've known her from the very moment she was born. Sometimes I have to pinch myself that she's an adult, with four children of her own. super smart and creative. She can have my eyes, my time, anything she needs. xo


4. JB: you can see the kindness in her face. We've been together 33 years: up, down, around, and still standing and filled with love.


 5. Another sketch. I need to draw again.


6. And Emily V. V. Rabbit. She used to write and complain and whine on this blog frequently. She's been arrested at least twice, forcing me to post bail with no promise of staying out of more trouble.  The last I heard she was in Southern California trying to make jellybean money by selling avocados as weapons against mean people.  I hope she shows up again here. I miss her attitude.



7. I had an eight year old client who during a therapy session wanted to make a birthday card for her best friend. I didn't have the heart to point out her mistake....


8. Thanks to JB volunteering to temporarily helping the motel a block away by setting up the breakfast buffet for guests, we are graciously allowed to use the saline/fresh water pool all summer. This is a big deal! It's barely a block away, the water is refreshing, I get to exercise, and
the lounge chairs are comfy. We'll go often.

9. This weekend 3 dear friends will come to Provincetown from miles away and we will spend a
couple of days and nights chatting and eating and probably making some art. What's unique about
our friendships is that we all met right here on the blogs. Lo from California, Marianne from
the Netherlands, Mim from central Massachusetts. These are now precious permanent relationships and we'll have a blast together.

10. I'm only going to say that Donald Trump and his administration have shamed America and irreparably harmed the 3000 children they took from their parents. Horrible and wrong.

11. Our pup Mattie is a great dog. It's so great to have her in our family. JB and I love her.

12. What a summer ahead! Friends and family all the way into August. Even though I can't stand too long or walk too far, I'm excited by all of it. There's lots to do here in Ptown. It's a hopping happy place.

and finally:

13. I can't explain how I feel about life. I know I don't have regrets and I view that as a huge blessing. I know I want to be kind at every turn. I know I'm opinionated and I actually feel more comfortable about that. I know I got blessed. And I know terrible things can happen. That last part I wish I didn't know.

All in all: mine is a good life, born to be a Lucky Duck.

love
kj


Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Classmates




I grew up in a working class city. It seemed that one or two of my classmates were rich, but most of us were lower to middle class. Recently an old classmate posted on Facebook that we shouldn't let our disagreements about Donald Trump affect our affinity for one another. This was posted while children were being removed from their parents at the southern border, and I disagreed. The response was disheartening. Here's the reply I didn't send: 

To My High School Classmates:

If there’s one thing that’s certain, the Trump presidency quickly drew a thick line separating people who support him and others, like me, who are aghast at his policies and beliefs. 

There, that’s out of the way: I oppose everything he stands for. But I wasn’t always this adamant. Even though he easily slipped racist and violent language into his rallies, I figured he’d moderate his views, if only because Presidents make some attempt to represent more than their base supporters.

For the last two weeks, I have been falling asleep each night with escalating concern about the 2000 children who have been removed from their parents. These are kids who fled dangerous countries and trekked across Mexico to apply for family asylum at the southern border of the United States. These are not the children of gang members or rapists or criminals. I don’t know of anyone who is disputing that, not even Donald Trump.

These are also children who will be forever traumatized by this separation. The facilities where they are being held has rules against holding and comforting them, so there are infants and 2 year olds and 4 year olds and 6 year olds, who don’t speak English, who are apart from their parents, and terrified. I don’t know of any childcare worker or mental health professional or parent who is disputing that either. 

Which brings me to my high school classmates:

I left my Waltham High School graduation in 1969 and like everyone else, built my life. I went to college, started a career, got married, bought a house, had a child, made new friends. But my Waltham roots are never far away. My father was a mason and my mother worked at the Waltham Supermarket and our Catholic Church took in immigrant families from war-torn countries and welcomed and sheltered them until they got on their feet. Even as a young kid, I remember feeling proud that my church did that. 

Fifty years later, through Facebook, I’ve reconnected with many of my classmates. How fun to see our families and grandchildren and vacations and talents. I had a disagreement early on in the Trump presidency with someone I very much like about the travel ban, and that was a hard surprise for me. I learned that not everyone saw the situation as I did and I still try to understand perspectives that are different than my own.

I’ve had grave concerns about the rhetoric and attacks on immigrants and Muslims and the free press and the Judiciary and our country’s agencies and allies. I’ve been scared about our withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate control and other international treaties. But I don't want to be strident and I don’t mind a fair-minded disagreement about these issues. I understand that people who voted for Donald Trump had have reasons they feel strongly about, and I understand they continue to support his approach to managing the country.

But recently, to witness some of my classmates—most of us Mothers and Grandmothers—support the immediate and mass removal of children from their families—to justify arresting and detaining their parents for a misdemeanor, for attempting to apply for asylum because they fled proven violence and fear in their own countries, and then to blame these parents for having their babies taken away: that has crossed a line that breaks my heart. And honestly, I find supporting Trump’s policy about this practice nothing short of disgusting. 

These 2000 children have not been returned. There is no plan to return them. Their parents haven't been given information about where they are, when or if they can be re-united.

How is it that women with the same roots as me could justify a systematic plan to discourage and punish immigrants by taking their children away from them? We can agree and disagree about how to secure the border, about how many refugees we can allow into our country, about the role of immigration control. But removing babies and children? Indefinitely? Possibly forever? 

I am heartbroken that any of the kids I grew up with, all of us with our immigrant grandparents, would ever argue that THIS policy is right. Justifying it leaves me wondering what’s happened in the last 50 years, since our childhoods and teenage days in Waltham. Why is it that the suffering of these children can’t be first acknowledged, and then protected. Donald Trump is dead wrong on this one—this policy is inhumane. None of us should tolerate it, including the kind and smart and decent people from my own childhood. If you don’t stand up against this, what would make you say enough is enough?

Sincerely.

kj