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photo by Sheri Dixon

Monday, October 27, 2014

Three Little Words

There are three words that rule the universe, have the power to heal, to mend, to open doors and minds, that empower both the person uttering them as well as those within earshot.

Three little words.

"I was wrong."

"I was wrong" signals both an ending and a beginning. The end of stubbornness, selfishness, ego. The beginning of listening, empathy, growth.

"I was wrong" tells your partner you don't NEED to win every disagreement- you are a partnership and are vested in fairness, equality and love above any petty desire to be 'the one who knows better than'.

"I was wrong- please forgive me."

"I was wrong- lets do it your way."

"I was wrong- I love you."

"I was wrong tells your children that you are, in fact, only human and that they are, in fact truly human.

"I was wrong- please forgive me."

"I was wrong- lets do it your way."

"I was wrong- I love you."

"I was wrong" tells your co-workers or employees or boss that you're not perfect. And yanno what? No one really expects you to be.

"I was wrong- lets do it your way."

"I was wrong- help me figure out a better way to do this."

"I was wrong- and here's how I'm going to fix it."

"I was wrong" is the hardest (for me, anyway) when I'm faced with someone I don't usually agree with, maybe don't like very much, and who pretty much stands for everything I hate ideologically. But no ideology or practitioner of same is infallible. Not all my staunch beliefs can stand up under scrutiny. Because that's life. Things we are 'sure' we know turn upside down all the time.

When my first child was born, I was admonished to put her on her tummy to sleep- if she was on her back and she urped up, she'd drown in her urp and die.

When my second child was born, I was told to put him on his back to sleep- if he was on his tummy and got jammed into excess blankets in his crib he'd suffocate and die.

When my third child was born, I just laid him on his side and told him 'good luck'.

So stuff changes. Absolutes we take for granted turn out to be more opinion than fact. And even though it's safe and warm and fuzzy inside groups who only think like we do...isn't that the same thing we chide the 'other side' for? Staying cloistered and cozy in their own little echo chambers?

So I step out. It's pretty easy because in our immediate family we have wildly varying political viewpoints so 'stepping out' means walking 50 feet to Joe's house and having a cuppa coffee. And that's made a difference- for both of us.

When you're face to face with someone, it's harder to defend your superiority.

When you can see a reaction in their face, their body posture, their eyes, it's harder to spit venom with impunity.

If it's someone you care about and respect in other aspects of your life, it's easier to listen and open that hard little center of bullheaded belief just a bit to let the light of another angle shine in.

The interwebs are a wondrous place- you can find anything to support any viewpoint you want to have, groups who think just like you do no matter what you think, and you can be anyone you want to be and as snarky and ugly as your little heart desires- pretty much without repercussions. Therefore it's really hard to have discussions of much worth that don't quickly degrade into name-calling and catch-phrase wars.

That's not helping anyone, and it's hurting us. It's hurting us to become so callous and petty and small, vicious and cold. With every angry sarcastic remark, we lose just a bit of our humanity and every chance we'd have to actually connect with the other person.

We should never look only for flaws and mistakes on 'the other side' and crow about it.

We should look twice as hard for flaws and mistakes on 'our side' and expose them, confront them, fix them. Because they're there. They're always there.

"I was wrong- lets talk about this."

"I was wrong- I'm sorry I snapped at you."

"I was wrong- lets start over."

"I was wrong..."







Sunday, October 19, 2014

Got That Croatian Feeling Going On

Sometimes thing just stick in my craw.

Sometimes it's one of those little sourdough pretzel bites that I eat on my way to work but then I reach for my coffee and DAMMIT I've forgotten it on the kitchen table...again.

Sometimes it's something like this-

http://www.adriaticavillage.com/Adriatica_Village/Adriatica_Village_-_Home.html

This is a thing. It's a thing that's outside of McKinney TX, so we drive right close to it. There are a few 'communities' in between McKinney and Denton; the most notable (until now) being Savannah (complete with lots of imported palm trees and magnolia trees) and Providence (which is just sort of Stepford-ish).

These are not exactly gated, but they are extremely clannish in that they are fully self-contained subdivisions. You gotcher big schmancy houses- the ones surrounding the fountained pond at the lavish entrance, you gotcher more affordable homes all lining quaint little tiny-tree-lined avenues and all juuuuust different enough to not look totally creepy, you gotcher section just for "Over 55 Active Adults" far enough away from the affordable housing children so they don't have to worry about YOU KIDS WALKING ON MY GRASS!!!, you gotcher elementary school and yer private club and exclusive gym and all that mess. Circling the whole shebang is a single layer of strip malls that offer everything from dry cleaning to burgers to hair stylists to emergency rooms.

Providence alone has a population of over 5,000. That's five times the size of my little town. That's quite a subdivision.

But this...this Adriatica is something else.

First off, just by looking at it, you know there is no 'affordable housing'. It's Schmancypants City from the tippy top of the Bell Tower to the 'quaint cobblestone streets'.

Which is cool. If you have a buttload of money and want to pretend you live in Europe, that's great.

This is the part that is craw-stickingly jarring to me.

"The goal is to create community that in a relatively short period of time replicates villages that have taken centuries to develop. The project involves not only proper architecture and visual design, but also expertise in culture and social interaction. Not just how to build, but how to arrange the pieces of daily life, from where we live and work, to where we shop and play. It all comes together to form a balanced way of life."

Which is utter bullshit.

There are no Croatian fishermen here. No hard winters survived and generations of families and their various love/hate relationships intertwining the fabric of every person's history and future simultaneously, no hunger faced or natural disasters survived.

Be honest. Say "The goal is to create community that in a relatively short period of time replicates villages that have taken centuries to develop. The project involves not only proper architecture and visual design, and can do all this effortlessly because we have a metric fuck-ton of money at our disposal. We've studied the wants and needs of today's urban wealthy, and we know just what to build to enhance your life and fill it with truly comforting social interaction. We've artfully arranged the pieces of daily life so that once you enter these locked gates, your every whim will be fulfilled- food, drink, entertainment, shopping...it all comes together to form a life balanced with you in the center of it; as it should be."

Seriously. This is a single family house. They must catch A LOT of fish.



And what Croatian fisherman family wouldn't require the following stores in their village to make their life complete?

Cavallis Wood-Fired Pizzaria
Starbucks
Keller Williams Real Estate
The Guitar Sanctuary
The Sanctuary Music & Events
Independent Bank
UPS Store
The Bella Donna Chapel
Silk Road Thai Cuisine
Zin Zen Wine Bistro
Fleurs & Events
Harry’s at the Harbor

I'm not jealous and I don't care where people choose to live if it makes them happy. But don't say you're something you're not.

It's not a Croatian fishing village. It's a Disney-ish fancied-up version of a postcard of a Croatian fishing village.

It's a Croatian Norman Rockwell; the Face the real villages put on for tourists.

While it IS "a true community perfectly balancing the needs and wants of its inhabitants", there's no getting around that the inhabitants are extremely wealthy, and that piles of money are the very real dues to get here and stay here.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe when one of the residents loses his high-paying job they'll all rally around and take in him and his family, sharing their home and money and food until he finds another job.

I'd like to see that.

Really.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Toad Lickin' News

You know that thing where you can hear stuff even though you're really sleeping? It's that thing that causes you to have really strange dreams until you wake up and realize you've been watching the infomercial channel all night. Which explains your dreams of women who have successfully lost 258 pounds who are wearing the world's most comfortable bra, cleaning their houses with a Shark while clutching Ginsu knives in their teeth.

At least that's what I tell myself.

So this morning, before I was fully awake, I could hear the news. And the news was all about Ebola, or as it's referred to here in East Texas- Eboli. As in, "I sure hope I don't catch me any of that there Eboli that African feller brought into Dallas! Stuff'll kill ya quick as a possum slidin' off a melted trailer roof in July, it will!"

And that's pretty dang quick.

Back to the news. It sounded serious. "More breaking news about the Ebola patient currently quarantined in a Dallas hospital!" The perky reporter was on the scene, in front of Presby Hospital in Dallas. Her tone was serious, somber, her voice filled with foreboding. I opened one eye and gazed across the room to the TV- yep; she was pretty somber lookin'. Across the bottom of the screen the ticker was retelling the whole history of Ebola's attack on the US of A right here in TEX of AS. She continued...

"All forty five people who have been in contact with this man..." (pause for effect) "...are still symptom-free!"

Now both eyes were open, and I was sitting up. "Oh, for the love of..." But there was more!

"The homeless man who rode in the ambulance right after the patient with Ebola has been found!" (another pause) "And he is not showing any signs of illness!"

It hurts to roll your eyeballs too soon after waking up.

Back in the studio, the anchorman announced, "Yes, as ____________ told us, none of the people who were in direct physical contact with the patient are showing any signs of illness, including his girlfriend- who we have on the phone in an exclusive interview!"

"Hello? Are you there?"

"Ummm...yes I am."

"Great! And how are you feeling?"

"I'm fine, thanks. I'm OK."

"There you have it and you heard it here! Stay tuned to this channel for any other breaking coverage regarding the ongoing threat of the looming Ebola crisis here in Dallas!"

Someone once told me that if you lick a toad first thing in the morning, the rest of the day will be uphill. Far as I can tell, this was just as good. Bad. Whatever.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Things That Make My Head Explode

"STOP SHOVING YOUR AGENDA AND LIFESTYLE DOWN OUR THROATS!!!"

You hear that a lot from the Right. Like, every time something comes up that doesn't color exactly within the lines of what they consider 'the right way of thinking about shit'.

Lets take abortion. People like me think that it's a personal decision between a woman and whoever SHE wants involved in making it- family, doctor, God, no one...HER choice. Beyond that, it's a legal medical procedure so no matter what we personally think about it...it's none of our damn business. If somehow pro-choice were really pro-abortion and being 'shoved down the throats' of those opposed to it, we pro-choicers would be pushing for every pregnancy to end in abortion. Every one.

But we're not. Because we're pro-CHOICE.

How about gay marriage? If you are in a committed relationship with someone and desire to have the legal and social benefits that marriage provides, that's your choice and none of our damn business. If somehow pro-gay marriage people were really into 'shoving that gay agenda down everyone's throats' we would insist that everyone marry someone of their own sex. Everyone.

But we don't. Because we want marriage equality,not something narrowly defined by a twisted interpretation of the Christian bible...since there are many definitions of marriage in that self-same bible including how many concubines you can have and the forced marriage of a widow to her brother-in-law. Also some neat ways you can marry slaves and the women you rape.

And about that Bible.

Until the Commie Scare of the '50's, there was no "In God We Trust" anywhere and "Under God" wasn't in our pledge. Before that the money said "E Pluribus Unum" and the pledge went "One nation indivisible". So we went from "Out of many, one" to "One True God" and from "we may be many different people but we are united" to "the Christian God rules this joint!"

Freedom of religion also means freedom FROM religion if you so choose, because we are not a theocracy and there's NO WAY any god of any religion should figure prominently because we do not have a National Religion. Let that sink in for a sec and then segway to the many fundamentals on the Right who are screaming for America to 'turn back to God' and the insistence that we twist our laws around their bible. Exactly who is destroying the Constitution?

So lets think about this for just a second.

Exactly which 'side' is shoving their agenda on everyone else while hollering about PERSECUTION and the KILLING OF AMERICA?

Which 'side' is clamping down on the freedoms of others in order to force them to conform to their narrow view of right/wrong?

Hint. It ain't the Left.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

I Guess It's My Fault For Breathing

And in the latest of a never-ending series of a game I call 'Lets Blame the Victim!' something happened a week or so ago that struck very close to home.

One of my long-time employees was riding her bike and got hit by a car.

She's in her 40's, so not a kid out weaving in the middle of the road.

She rides seriously and competitively, so there was a blinky light on the back of her bike (with brand new batteries, so nice and bright) and she was wearing a helmet and high-visibility clothing.

SHE WAS IN A GROUP OF BIKERS, so it's not like someone was just driving along and..."WHOA, HEY! THERE'S A BIKE THERE!"

Nope. The guy who hit her was driving along CHECKING HIS PHONE, looked up and 'didn't have time to swerve'.

She is in the hospital and just had her 4th surgery to try to repair her broken pelvis and spinal damage.

Here's where it gets really awful.

The news station ran a story on it, which portrayed the facts as stated above. There were many reader comments. I should not have read the reader comments.

"When are these idiots going to realize that cars and bicycles don't mix, our roads are for cars, trucks and motorcycles only, not bicycles, 4 wheelers, horses, golf carts, etc. Use some common sense people."

"Ride bicycles on the road at your own risk then if you want to be that dumb. Drivers have enough things to look out for as it is without adding bicycles to the list, and yes people using phones are a big problem to. All the more reason not to ride on the road."

And on and on it goes. That road is too busy. That road is too narrow (it's a FOUR lane road with a paved shoulder and center turn lane). They shouldn't have been there.

What the ever-lovin' fuck?

Back a few years ago my daughter got bumped and rolled while riding her bike- he never even looked for her...and no one stopped to see if she was OK. Her husband got hit by a car while riding and ended up in the hospital. Both adult competitive riders.

Are we that selfish and heartless? What about, "Hey Asshole- get off your damn phone while DRIVING A CAR!"?

Yanno what he was charged with? Failure to control speed. A damn speeding ticket. Not reckless use of a vehicle, not assault with a vehicle, not anything that says, "Oh, by the way- I hope that chain email you just HAD to check was really important because you've totally and completely fucked up someone's life for it".

Add this to the daily assault of rape victim-blaming, poor people-blaming,sick people-blaming, sneering at those in abusive situations and saying, "Well? Why don't they just leave?" and holy shit are we a messed up society.

Are we that selfish and heartless? Or are we that afraid that if we stand up and say, "NO- IT'S NOT THE VICTIMS' FAULT- IT'S THE FAULT OF THE BULLIES AND CHEATERS AND TAKERS IN THIS WORLD AND WE HAVE HAD ENOUGH" that we'll be the next victims?

So we give the bullies our lunch money and turn our heads when they beat up those who have no lunch money to give them.

We turn our heads so we don't have to think about the fact that in a heartbeat, the victim could be our mother, daughter, brother, father...us.

Putting a stop to the slut-shaming, bully-worshiping, gay-bashing, poor-hating mindset in our society is the first step to healing and actually 'taking back America'.

I'm not sure we can do it.




Friday, August 22, 2014

I Know Just How You Feel

How many times have I heard that?

A hundred? A thousand? No matter- it's always untrue.

Because here's the thing. Although we're all human and may share a bunch of similar experiences, no one on earth has the exact same chemistry, personality and history as you do. No one.

I see many discussions (that devolve into name-calling arguments) that involve both black and white people and invariably some white dude says, "Hey- MY people were also oppressed- I know just how you feel." Because...really?

There was a thread on Facebook recently that started out innocently. Someone (female) posted a photo of herself and some friends out to dinner and captioned it "Good dinner with good company" or something along those lines. Several of us other gals agreed that we need to all go out soon.

Then some guy chimed in that he was down for that.

One of the women said that sometimes women just need to be around other women...no offense.

Well...

At first he was just insistently annoying, arguing that of COURSE he knows just how women feel in our society and that we were being unjustly bitchy to think otherwise.

So we tried to explain.

That no matter how much of a champion you are for women's rights and no matter how 'in touch with your feminine side' you are, if you are a dude...you don't know how women feel.

After a while we gave up because he just kept on about how we couldn't tell him why he can't know how we feel when we used up a million pixels typing it all out for him and we just decided he's really just an asshole, but that thread has stayed with me.

Because there's no way in hell someone of one race knows how someone of another race feels.

No way someone of one gender knows how someone of another gender feels.

No way anyone but your own head and heart know exactly how you feel.

Ward and I are as close as two people can be without actually sharing organs.

A little over a decade ago we became a cancer family.

We have walked that jagged path and clawed our way back up that slippery slope more times than can be imagined a human can do so. Together. Always together.

And yet...when he's being wheeled back for yet another surgery, waking up, recovering and experiencing the pain and the fear and the whole, "Jesus I'm so fucking tired of this crap"-edness there's no way I know how he's feeling. None.

And when I watch him being wheeled away from me and spend the four, six, eight, ten hours in the waiting room hoping for good news and dreading bad news, and then at his side as he's waking up and the days, weeks, months while he's healing there's no way he knows how *I* feel. None.

In addition, neither one of us can know how our son feels; never knowing anything BUT his dad going into surgery and recovering, over and over again for his entire lifetime. We can't know how he feels.

So when you talk about Ferguson and say, "I know just how you must feel" to someone of color when you're white, just stop it. You don't.

When you see that Robin Williams committed suicide after years of depression and alcohol and health issues and you say, "Well, I've been through tough times but that's a coward's way out- I know just how he feels and I got over it", just stop it. You don't.

If women want to go out to dinner to be just among other women because being female IS different than being male- not in a Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus sort of way, but like this-
A man sees a woman walking past a construction site and the guys are all catcalling and wolf whistling and making less-than-polite requests of her and the man thinks, "Geez, what a buncha assholes" and walks on.
That woman thinks, "Geez, what a buncha assholes" and walks on with a tiny but never-vanishing pit of fear in her gut. So no- you don't know 'just how we feel'. You don't.

We can sympathize. We can empathize, commiserate, project, speculate, role-play and make assumptions based on our own reality. But it's not anyone else's reality.

So what do you say?

In the case of Ferguson you say, "I'm so sorry- what can we do to help?" It's not an admission of guilt- it's acknowledging that a young man is dead and we SHOULD be sorry.

Robin Williams? "How awful for him to have been in such torment."

If that dude in the women's thread had REALLY been a true advocate? "OK- ya'll have fun!"

See? Short, sincere, and doesn't turn the conversation around to make it all about you.

Because that's what 'I know just how you feel' really does. So just...don't.







Monday, August 18, 2014

Looking Back Over the Decades

When I was five
I had my first crush.
His name was Mike Tatum
And he was in his fifties.
I made him promise me
That he'd wait till I was twenty five
And then he'd marry me.
Of course he didn't.
But I forgave him...
Eventually.

When I was fifteen
I was assaulted
And shamed
By a church deacon.
Took me thirty five years
Before I had the courage
To tell anyone.
My mother chalked up my
Rebellious teenage years
To rock and roll music.

When I was twenty five
And married for the first time
I had just had my second baby
And thought my life was perfect
Ignoring the gaping holes
In my heart and soul.
If I could just be a
Better wife
Better lover
Better mother
Better housekeeper
Everything would be
Better.

When I was thirty five
I met my Knight in Shining Armor
After shedding my second
Alcoholic abusive husband
Like a virus
Or a diseased cocoon.
A flaming, carnivorous, strangulating
Panic attack inducing
Cocoon.

When I was forty five
I held tight to my husband
(the Good One)
And my small son
As we bobbed and spun
And were dunked and dragged
Under the waters of cancer
Over and over again
Feathers without anchors
Fireflies without lights
But refusing to let go
Of each other.

And now I'm fifty five
And all I can say is
"Gimme my senior discount, dammit.
I'm old and by god,
I've earned it."
IHOP, here I come.

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