Boys will be boys

Donald Trump’s surrogates and his Republican Party are busy bashing their heads against the closest wall. The latest Trump storm is not going to matter to his core supporters. They know what he is and they like it. They don’t care.  He tells the truth, tells it like it is.

There are moderate Republicans in office or running for office, but I won’t vote for any Republican candidate in my lifetime.  Because the Republican Party is dangerous to the fundamental rights of women and minorities. This voter has come undone by this candidate and the party he represents.  They have condoned every single word and every single gesture.  They have made themselves known.

You get that he does represent you, Republican Party and RNC? He is your candidate, your guy.  Right?  My mom used to tell me that you were known by the company you keep.  I know how you guys like to call on mom and apple pie and good old family values.

Once again the Republican Party is aghast, appalled, concerned, troubled (insert appropriate descriptor here), and scrambling to “distance” themselves from Trump. Distance? There’s not enough distance they can put between themselves and that man to make him palatable to me or most of the women that I know. Their “distance” is coming just a bit too late, and their scramble to elect this man-child tells me everything I want or need to know. If they manage to get him into the Oval Office they’ll just revert to the same old party: anti-woman, anti-minority, equal rights for some but not all. Such paragons of “decency”.

Women are raising their voices in outrage and disgust and suddenly we are valuable to the Republican Party.  They want our votes and see them slipping away, so they protest and wail and thump their chests in despair  Distance? I’ll show you distance. I’ll get as far from you as possible and just keep on going. There’s your distance.

I think most women can identify with being grabbed.  If you can’t, consider yourselves fortunate and in the minority.  I’ve been grabbed “there” and other places.  Some of it started before I was a teenager.  I know how it feels.  I remember what it did to me. It’s taken me many, many years to get pissed off about it.

Any man who values his wife, daughter, sister, mother, niece, or any woman in his life (and they are out there so bless them and celebrate them) should be shaking his head in disbelief and sorrow today.  Women know some men talk like this about us to other men.  Sometimes they even do it right to our faces.  It’s no secret, boys.  We know who you are.  We remember you.

Is anyone really surprised that the Republican Party nominee for President said these things?  I need to say that again.  This man is the Republican Party nominee for President. He has had no compunction about saying vile things about women and minorities in public, in front of his beloved TV cameras, or wherever he can get someone to pay attention to him.  He wants to be President? He wants to represent all of us?  Thanks, but no thanks.  I have no illusion that anything I say or write is going to change the hearts and minds that are closed, but I’m not willing to be silent any longer.

A word of caution.  Don’t tell me what so and so did 20 years ago, which makes anything Trump does or says today just fine with you.  Don’t lecture me about Christian forgiveness. Don’t wave God and the flag and whatever else you can dream up in my face to excuse him. I’ve heard or read what he said years ago, and I’ve certainly heard and read enough of what he’s said recently.  There are actually religious leaders out there imploring us to look the other way, keep silent, and vote for Trump anyway because it’s the Supreme Court that really matters.

Sexual abuse and sexual battery is grabbing a woman and forcing yourself upon her WITHOUT HER CONSENT because you think you have that God-given right since you are a man.  You count on her embarrassment and her humiliation to keep her silent.  We’ve had a good long time to ask ourselves what we’re tolerating and why. We are not the women we were 20 years ago.  It wasn’t okay then and it’s not okay now. You can no longer rely on our silence.

Trump’s apology? Bill did it, too! Your basic 3-year-old would get schooled on that one. I’m not even going to try to make that work.

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Yeah, I’m back.

Yes, by all means be sure that your young daughter hears and takes to heart every word Donald Trump says about women. Make sure that your young daughter is body shamed by a man who views women as ornamental objects and told if they don’t meet his standards they are worthless. Certainly she won’t hear enough of that from society, the tabloids, the fashion industry, her own peers. Let her know that if she’s strong and stands up for herself men will call her a bitch and worse. Make sure she knows it’s okay to have her health care decisions taken away from her. Make sure she is very aware that her normal body functions should be mocked and used against her in the work place.

And perhaps you should also make sure your young daughter knows that anything the man in her life does is all her fault. If he cheats on her, it’s because she wasn’t “enough” of something. Not sexy enough, not beautiful enough, not thin enough.
Just not enough. That’s always good for her to hear. Make sure she understands that choosing to stay in a marriage after a soul-crushing disappointment is a cop out, and that love and forgiveness have no place in a marriage. Oh, and if the man cheats but then marries the woman he’s cheating with, that’s okay. No need to stay in the marriage and try to work through the problems just because there is a child involved. Just find someone else and then another someone else and it will all be fine.

And by all means don’t let her enjoy the fruits of her labors. That’s just showing off. Even if she came up from humble beginnings she can’t possibly understand the plight of working women because she’s wearing “nicer” clothing than you are. And make sure your
daughter knows that “things” are more important than people. And that words don’t matter. It’s okay that a man can buy expensive suits and live in golden palaces in the sky, because he will give the honest working man everything he needs and wants. He understands struggle and poverty, really he does, as he
screws over the honest and hard working people who have worked for him by not paying them what they are owed. A woman can’t possibly be expected to have that kind of empathy and understanding for others.

Make sure she knows that her outward appearance is everything, and the person she is on the inside is worth nothing because that’s the way to build a strong, confident human being who can make this world a better place. Make sure that she knows it’s okay to mock her appearance. When you can’t win an argument by substance be sure to post an unflattering picture of her and point to that as a descriptor of the worth of a woman.

Yes, indeed. That is a role model for all young women.

It’s my blog and I’ll rant if I want to

11903795_835020366610594_3140357561995865765_nYes, this week’s topic is all about the rant. Nothing inspirational today, nothing introspective, and more than likely not much of interest unless you’re a “dog person.” However, what’s the point of having a blog if you can’t let fly with a little vitriol every now and again?

Loose dogs. That’s what has me going. Loose dogs that poop in your yard. Loose dogs that poop in your yard and then bark at you when you shoo them away. Loose dogs that poop in your yard, bark at you when you shoo them away, then run into the street and continue barking at you. I live on a busy street, a cut through street, where folks just love to come around the curve in their fast cars, heedless of anything crossing their path.

Those nearest and dearest to me, i.e. anyone within earshot, agree with me about this. I’m becoming mindful of the eye rolls, the complacent nodding, and other cues that they are no longer listening.  (Un)lucky you, straying in here today and feeling too guilty to skulk away!

Let me preface by saying, Dogs do get loose. Dogs are dogs, and they sometimes do unexplainable things like wander away if you turn your back for a second. I had adolescents in the house once who could not for the life of them remember to shut a door behind them. Our dog at the time, Willie, did get out. I would go and get him back, and after doing my best imitation of Linda Blair spewing green goo the kids would promise to do better. Until the next time. I get it. It happens to even responsible dog owners. Adolescents are mostly brain dead, as those of us who’ve had them can attest.

But what to do with the new-ish family on our street, with a brain dead adolescent, and whose first dog was repeatedly brought to my door by other well-meaning neighbors who found him blocks away? (I suppose if you are the crazy neighborhood dog lady people assume you know every dog on the block. Okay. I do know every dog on the block.) One day he disappeared for good.  I was not at all surprised when he was quickly replaced by another dog, and the whole process started anew. Like the last dog they owned, this one is a shih-tzu, so the poo in my yard is by no means what it could be. The fact that he likes to dig in our mulch and throw it all over our walkway, given his size, is also not the end of the world. That’s not the point, nor is it what bothers me about this situation.

If I’m being honest with myself what really chaps my hide is that on July 29th I said goodbye to the sweetest, most loving, and best dog ever. My golden retriever, Levi, missed his 8th birthday by a little over a month. Cancer took him despite chemotherapy and loving veterinary care. My beloved and pampered buddy, who always got the best of what we could afford, who was never out of my sight, who floated on my raft in the pool, and got an ice cream cone on his birthdays, died.  I’m still mad as hell about it, and it isn’t anyone’s fault, just one of the universe’s little ironies.

No, I don’t want this little dog to die. I want his owners to wake up and realize that he needs them to be responsible, because he isn’t and can’t be. They refuse to understand it’s not his fault he gets out of the holes in the back yard fence. They do not comprehend the danger he is in from bad people, speeding cars, and coyotes (yes, we have them). Their first little guy was a sweetheart, running up to anyone who talked to him, which is probably why he disappeared. Broke my heart. The new dog is skittish, fearful, and is becoming more aggressive the more he is allowed to roam.

My next step is Animal Control. I hate to do it. I try to be a good and helpful neighbor.  I don’t wanna be the big, bad, meanie neighbor. That said, I also don’t want to stand by in horror while this poor little animal is scraped off the road with a shovel. Or worse yet, suffers and dies before he can get medical care.  I’ve talked to them twice, done my best to educate them about their responsibilities.  Maybe if they have to bail him out a time or two their wallets will get through when I haven’t been able to do it.  Enough is finally enough.

Ride, Froggie, ride

Frog16The tree frogs sing me to sleep in the summer nights with their creaking voices.  They are loudest in the evening when there has been a late rain, chatting under the dripping oak trees out back.  Their larger cousins prefer our back porch and are attracted to our glass door, maybe by the lights from inside.  They peer in as they cling to the glass and are not afraid of the dog when she barks at them for peeping.  I stood on the porch before dawn this morning, and one used me as a springboard to another surface.  I’m unsure of his intentions, whether to startle me awake or just to let me know I was not alone in the still darkness as we waited for sunrise.

A more polite frog hitched a ride with me one morning on my way in to work.  The car windows were down, an open invitation to a frog with wanderlust.  I glanced over to the passenger seat and there he was, a tiny, iridescent green tree frog with whimsical big frog eyes and funny bulbous frog toes.  He looked at me as if to say, Do you mind if I tag along?  I invited him to stay as long as he refrained from moving about the car, and jumping was absolutely prohibited.  He settled back in the seat.

I have a history with frogs, which explains my lack of alarm.  My first imaginary friend was a frog. As a young child I startled a gentleman at a grocery store in Winder, Georgia when I asked him politely to please not step on my frog.  Apparently I talked about my friend quite a lot, though I never got around to giving him a name.  My Aunt Goofy (that’s a whole other story), well into her 80s, loved to tell stories about me and my friend, the frog.

“Where are you headed,” I asked, curious, since tree frogs do not generally leave their trees.

“Oh, anywhere is fine,” said he.  “I’m a frog that likes a change of scene now and again.”

“Well, I am only going to work.  There isn’t much to see there.”

“Quite all right.  I’ll just sit here and enjoy the ride.”

My philosophical hitchhiker sat quietly and politely in the passenger seat for the rest of the commute.  It seemed the most natural thing in the world to both of us to be sitting in a car together on Interstate 4.  He was not perturbed by the gridlock into downtown Orlando.  I’ve been trapped inside moving vehicles with less charming companions.

Sadly, I don’t remember how we parted company, though I know he didn’t remain inside the car.  Did I help him out?  Did he hop out with no goodbye?  Perhaps he was disappointed in our final destination, hoping for something more exotic.  (I did warn him.)  Then again, I do not know what is fascinating to a tree frog who likes to travel.  It may well be that he hitched a ride back to the subdivision and our street at the end of the day.  I don’t think so.  An adventurous tree frog such as he would surely like to see more of the world.  I like to picture him hitching rides with other agreeable folk, and having adventures in trees far from his beginnings.  Aunt Goofy would approve.

I hope no one stepped on him.

The Landscape of Grief

Recent events in my life have led me to think about grief, and how everyone experiences it in different ways. It takes many forms, grief. We grieve the end of jobs, relationships, changing circumstances. I am grieving the loss of a special being whose life was intertwined with mine. The fight to the death was a longish one. This is partly for Levi, who is and always will be with me. And this is partly for me, in my bumbling attempt to make sense of it all.

I internalize grief and isolate myself from everyone and everything. I give myself over to it. We sit together face to face across an empty room. I study it and it studies me. If I venture out it goes with me into the world, walks where I walk, stands at my shoulder. Grief scrapes my insides clean, leaving me hollow. All my inner contours are rubbed smooth and glow like amber. I become intensely aware of my own needs and desires and offer myself up to them. If I want my coffee with cream and sugar and not the usual black, that’s how I have it. I turn right where yesterday I turned left. I sleep. I eat an orange for supper.

Grief is its own continent. It has its own landscape. A good deal of it is difficult to traverse. Grief looks different each day, and that’s why no one can tell anyone else how to travel through it or how long it will take. I stop at some spots and hurry past others on the way, knowing full well I may be back to spend some time at the places I avoided. Only one thing is certain, I have to experience all of it before moving on, until the day comes when I realize the journey is over. I did not plan or schedule it that way. It has merely ended and I am home, having been where I needed to go.

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I am a . . .

Since the day I started writing poems and stories about my pony, Sugarbabe, I have been a writer. It has taken over 50 years for me to say it out loud to myself, much less to anyone else. Last year, during a transitional point in my life, I joined a writing group. I still didn’t say the words, I am a writer, but I am saying them today. Cancer won’t be cured, peace will not reign over the earth. The milestone is mine alone. I am claiming a part of myself for myself.

Other people have their own struggles owning who they are and saying, I am an actor, a musician, an artist, a playwright. There are those voices in our heads and they like to tell us we aren’t good enough. They rattle chains and hiss, Who do you think you are? For years I told myself that I couldn’t say I was a writer because I hadn’t graduated college. I had not given up everything in life to write. I didn’t suffer. I didn’t live in a freezing, rat-infested hovel eating crusts of moldy bread and writing with stiff, cold fingers by candlelight because the electricity had been shut off. And always, whenever I sat down to write, the voices whispered, Give it up. You have nothing to say. You have no talent.

The writing group isn’t teaching me to write. The other members aren’t offering advice or critique unless asked. Read your stuff, don’t read your stuff. You can sit there and never offer up a word of your own. You can sit there and listen to others read, or talk about their writing, or their process (THAT sounds very arty). What I have learned from the group is this: there are other people out there, just like me, hearing those same voices. We’re all learning to ignore them and to listen to our own. We are writing anyway. What a relief to hear others, whose work I admire, admit their own doubts and insecurities about what they were doing.

For most of my life, in one way or another, writers have been crossing my path. As a youngster I was introduced to two women, published authors, whose lives I envied. They did nothing but write, and unlike a lot of other writers they were paid well for it. It seemed the longer I lived, the more writers I discovered among my acquaintance. People I had known for decades who finally said the words, I am a writer. Wait a minute. You can just do that? If he/she says that, then can I still say it?

As it turns out, yes, I and they and you can. And it doesn’t matter one whit whether you are published, not published, scribble for your own amusement or that of your friends, are writing a family history, or just like to tackle the occasional poem or short story. If you write, you are a writer. Success? Once you say your own truth, live it, do it, that’s success.

I never expected writing to be easy. And it’s a good thing, because it’s not. I am in awe of other writers I meet who say, with confidence, I am writing my third book. For someone who struggles to finish anything, and never shows anyone anything, that’s a statement that carries some weight and inspires a good portion of envy. Sometimes I listen to what others have written and immediately the voices start, You don’t write that well. That’s real writing, that is. She can do it, but you can’t because you have no talent. I find myself saying, I wish I could write like that. But that’s her voice, not mine. Just because she/he writes well doesn’t mean I don’t or can’t. Why is that such a hard truth to accept?

Okay, there are days when nothing comes out the way I want it to, when I struggle to describe the simplest thing. There are days when I am so immersed in my own self-doubt and worries that nothing comes through. Getting three pages written in my journal is the sum total of my writing effort on those days. And self-pitying dreck is what it is. But it’s still writing, and not only that it’s getting all that out on a page and out of my head.

Then there are those transcendent days when it flows, and I know it’s pretty darn good. I’m immersed in it and not just sticking a toe in the water. Those needling voices flee for a good long while and I’m free of them. On those days the words, I am a writer come out pretty easily even though I’m the only one who hears them. Ah, but the thing is, I am a writer on those other days, too. And believe me, I suffer through them.

I’ve had friends introduce me and say, “Leah is a writer.” The words made me cringe, quiver, and feel sick to my stomach. The deflections start coming, the denials, the voices start to scream with laughter. I am more ready to listen to them than to listen to others who know me well, love me, and presumably want good things for me, people who will tell me the truth. And I still refuse to believe them or acknowledge something they know about me which I won’t even acknowledge. Or wouldn’t.

Natalie Goldberg, in her excellent book, “Writing Down the Bones”, says: “All writers, at some level, want to be known. That’s why they speak.” I am speaking. I want to be known to myself and if others want to come along on the journey that’s fine as well. The voices will still taunt me. They are pretty hard to silence. Let’s face it, I’ve given them years and years to get strong. However, let me just say it. I am a writer.