Monday, December 16, 2013

Women Need Expectation of Recognition

I broke my pedicure rule today and read a magazine article while I was supposed to be om mani pedi humming. I don't believe I just wrote that, but I got up at 5 am, so I'm a little zizzy. It was Elle, January 2013, an article about ambition + power + women, featuring Lani Hay, written by Laurie Abraham. Understood that Elle is a fashion mag, evidenced by the photos of horrendously skinny women, and ads like London Fog, which until today I thought was a trench coat maker, but apparently not. Abraham takes a both sides now approach to the interview about women + ambition + power that reminds me of Chuck Todd – everybody is to blame, everybody gets a high five. You can read the whole article if you'd like, but for this post, let's sum up that Lani Hay will be president in 2024. It is her goal. She's accomplished a long list of things already, including the Naval Academy as a pilot, starting her own company, growing that to the multimillion level. She's done research enough to know that governor is the title to get to the White House, and she is eyeballing the guv mansion in Virginia. Never been a female governor in Virginia, but heck, there's never been a woman president of GM until this month either. Hay is getting her creds together, polishing her image, doing all the smart stuff necessary for a successful political career. I'll be keeping watch on Hay's career path. She also mentors other women interested in military training and careers. Abraham makes a point of twitching at the idea of a woman with ambition. She is twitching on the reader's behalf, but she doth twitch too much. Abraham labels some of Hay's funnier anecdotes as cringe worthy. This is the attitude we need to adjust: women calling out women who are honest, tough and don't pull punches. Not reacting to female ambition and power is the response we need and expect. I don't need anybody to twitch for me. And I certainly don't want a female writing about how another female seeking high and higher office makes us twitch. There was one excellent line in the article, and it was quoting somebody else. What women lack–and I will be thinking that this is the critical piece for a long time–is expectation of recognition. Not twitching.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Challenge Number One for Caregivers

The biggest challenge for caregivers is The Bureaucracy Beast. Once you've engaged services outside your home, especially if these are state agencies, or subsidized care providers like home health workers paid for by Medicare or Medicaid, you are in the belly of The Bureaucracy Beast. A few years ago, desperate to get a paperwork tangle cleared up (because doesn't one paperwork misstep just cascade into total chaos?) I called an emergency help line I found on the internet. That organization was a 501(c)(3) that was about 6 levels below the 501(c) I was trying to get answers from. You're seen those ORG Charts in PowerPoint, right? With arrows pointing every whichaway indicating who reports to whozeewhatzit? In nonprofit realm regarding the developmentally disabled, what we have in Michigan is nonprofits that started as state agencies, and were privatized. Through the decades, those nonprofits hire other nonprofits to farm out the work. And it gets confusing, ineffective and frightening. The Beast grows. And, the goddess forbid that they work together to solve problems, because that is called DOUBLE BILLING. Today alone I used too much time trying to make a caseworker understand that people trump paperwork. She did not understand — may in fact be incapable of understanding. But, by golly, she did set up the next round of next level private contractor nonprofit interviewers clutching their paperwork to fill out our SIS or PCP or LMNOP. Meanwhile, my father got his new round of medications from the VA. He's concerned because something is different about the dosage and instruction labels. He knows, because this is not his first rodeo. I called the VA to talk to the doctor. A nurse called me back. She's a third party. We've got an entire day of 3rd party. I'm done with 4rd, 9th, 5th party. If you're not who I called, get off my phone. Doesn't this drawing look like a Beast? It is made of words that cover the officious piece of caregiving, and the agencies that shuffle paperwork from one nonprofit to another. I know what's wrong with our healthcare system. Nobody is face-to-facing with their clients, and may in fact not believe they are customers. I can't believe I'm going to say this but we need a nonprofit ombudsman that does nothing but shuffle through the paperwork for the elderly and senior caregivers. I feel so sad for people who don't have the ability we have in our house to 1) get through the red tape, 2) get the services we need, and 3) not have anyone new added to the family members who need help. Once more today I remember that I have told my friends that if I end up in a straitjacket, please make sure it's a purple one.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Caregiver: Finding Your Self

Many notebooks and years later, this little book is the essence of all the late night wailing, the whinging on paper and the whistling in the dark. 9 years as caregiver. Seems unreal on one hand, and a lifetime on the other. In those years I've learned a little about life, and a lot about myself. I've written before about paddling, and understanding fully that the more you fight the river, the harder it will mess you up. I've mashed up paddling with life in published essays, but not in my head. I'm a slow learner, but once I've got my numbskull around something, I tend to hold it in awareness. I understand caregiving more now, and this is the book about what a caregiver can do to care for herself. To focus on how I feel, is this a good time for me to do that task, do I really want to eat meat and potatoes 8 nights a week? This little book is gentle and gracious, and I sincerely hope–helpful. The next one will have all the wens and wails and whinging. Stay tuned. Being un-noble is a whole lot easier. And more giggles. The Caregiver ebook is available for all digital reading devices on smashwords. While you're there, please take a moment to download the free children's book You May Already Be A Winner! to share with your favorite youngster.  It is an homage to a real Michigan man who is an inspiration for us all. And if you're not yet bored, read the interview. It was the most fun I've had in the house in a long time.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Say No to Not

Found this photo today looking for something else. The tiny lake is somewhere in northwest Michigan. My camera battery was almost gone, but the photography goddess accepted the image and watercolored it as well. I believe the Ayn Rand quote was laid over for a graduation card.

Do not let your fire go out
spark by irreplaceable spark
in the hopeless swamps of the not quite
the not yet and the not at all.
Do not let the hero in your soul perish
and leave only frustration
for the life you deserved
but have not been able to reach.
The world you desire can be won.
It exists.
It is real.
It is possible.
It is yours.

Browsing the local resale for a notebook for a birthday gift yesterday produced bonus bounty. I found a magnetic fake leather journal that had The Secret Gratitude Journal stamped in goldfoil on the spine. The cover has thank you embossed in many different languages. I kept that one for me. Kiitos paljoin [thanks lots~Finnish.] The woman at the counter said she had just put it out minutes before. Found a notebook for the birthday boy. I thought it read Killer Reality, but turned out to be Killer Beauty, and for marketing reasons I can't fathom is merchandise from Snow White & The Huntsman. (It was still packaged and read "Spiral Bound" although it is obviously perfect bound.) Made me laugh, still does. He's a huntsman, and if he gets a deer this year, I signed on for some venison bacon. And I found a travel journal for another wonderful friend who yearns to travel, but life is asking her to stay home for now. Scotland next year. Fingers crossed. A deer for Patrick, Scotland for Nancy, and gratitude for me. It exists. It is real. It is possible.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Linda's Little Book of Caregiving

Informal. Unpaid. Caregivers in the United States, whatever the statisticians call us, number in the millions. Statisticians love numbers and percentages. 29% of the population. 66 million people. Any organization that keeps track does so based on self-reporting. My estimate is closer to 100 million people engaged in caregiving. I'm not sure surveys administered to caregivers, when identified, are accurate for this reason alone: caregivers think of the persons receiving the care before they think of themselves. And caregivers may be prone to underestimating the amount of daily living activities they perform, when they report at all. I participated in a Wayne State University graduate student's survey via telephone interview. I started crying 1/3 through because I could not keep it straight who the survey was about. I kept answering on behalf of my father and brother. Me! I'm the caregiver. Adding to this loss of self are workshops that claim to be for caregivers, when the session is actually about the caree. Remember to have an extra handbag for when mother loses hers is not about the caregiver. These misrepresented sessions add guilt to the stew. One I attended was displayed on the library sign "Caregiving." 2 hour session, and with 20 minutes left, I raised my hand to ask when we were going to get to the part about caregiving. The moderator was surprised. Really? Later, looking at the handout, it dawned: the session was put on by an assisted living facility. It wasn't about us at all. A friend and I went to an inaptly named Caregiver Conference a couple years ago. Some of the workshops were about the caregiver. But the booths were about paid assistance, products for the caree, not the carer. Paid in-home health work. Stand-in bathtubs. Handrails. We were dismayed. No booth offering free neck and head massage. No gifts for caregivers. No booth just thanking us for doing what we do. We pledged to have a booth the following year, but do we describe ourselves as a nonprofit? When we can't sleep we look at the internet for caregiver help. We know it's a loving job, doing [your higher power name here] work, but we still can't sleep, we're losing our hair and our strength, and damn it, when is it about us? Ah, well, we read that caregivers have health issues. Some are predeceasing their loved ones. And site after site reminding us we're unpaid. We don't give a flying fig how much our work is worth. We do care how we can keep our selves, our sanity, and a modicum of independence. We need to know we have sisters who are struggling to maintain well-being. We are who this book is about. All those big numbers, personalized. Me, my friends and the gallant tired carers who need to know we're not crazy. Or alone.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


This is my first movie poster. I was lucky to be involved in creating it, and delighted that the filmmaker let me have that much fun. It began with a screenplay for a science fiction short titled Default, by E.M. Spairow. It is set close by in the future, has education as a theme, and a Bradbury book in the scenic design.The dystopian story displays a soupcon of horror, a touch of dark comedy, a terrible timely trope. What would that look like on a poster? There would be red and black, because those are the colors of the horror genre. Black at the bottom because if you're sinking, you're fading to black. Black is the pit of hell, it's also a dandy pedestal to support the art above, and it works as a perfect place to put credits now, and film festival laurels later. Anyone who has enjoyed seeing a PAID IN FULL stamp will appreciate the terror of a PAST DUE stamp so an inky untidy font surrounded by a decayed box in dried blood red would simulate an old school rubber stamp. The yellow to orange descending gradient in the background is meant to simulate flame. "It was a pleasure to burn," is the opening line of Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. I wanted the lighter versions of the Default stamp to glimmer enough to create a phantom shimmer. One of the prototypes had a 50% transparent gray gaussian blur ascending middle to top, but it was too much, and I remembered to rely on the audience to see what it wanted to see. Put everything in and then take stuff out. It's a good design rule and a good writing rule, too. In drawing class I liked the method of laying dark all over and using erasers to pull the highlight. I haven't seen the poster with gloss paper yet, but I think, with a good light source, it will fool the eyes into seeing fire. Glance at the poster, quickly look away and your retina will supply the ghost image I'm talking about. The filmmaker liked this poster enough to use it on the DVD cover, too. I'm delighted. The creative process is joy for me, and when the person I've drawn for is happy, that is bliss. You can follow the life of Default on the movie's facebook page, or on twitter.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Ocean Storytelling Jewelry

The first person I followed on twitter is a woman in California. Her avatar is a Roy Lichtenstein image, he is a favorite artist, and she writes smart interesting stuff. Today's world of connection by technology is still a strange one for me. Connecting with a stranger on twitter was a first step. Do I know the woman in California? No. Does she know me? No. This year I've been posting jewelry I make on twitter. I feel weird doing that; it's easier to promote other people. The CA woman admired some pieces. Those comments are a connection that transcend twitter follows, a thread that links us as individuals. This week, when she commented on a necklace, I wrote her. She likes my work and I wanted to celebrate that. I'm going to make you a piece. What do you wear? Bracelet, necklace, earbobs and in what colors? She wrote bracelet and she likes ocean colors. I crave freedom to create this way, to disappear in creative bliss, to select findings that tell a story. The story of a woman who likes ocean colors. I do not have to know her, to sit in a room with her, I can picture her wearing this physical manifestation of her story. A woman who likes ocean colors. Anyone who likes ocean colors needs to have her own private ocean. Each of the glass beads chosen had thought of her in the selection. Each glass bead is an individual ocean and circled together are the earth's water in perpetual cycle. The bracelet is on its way to California, to a woman I know likes ocean colors. With the little story she shared and the art circle closed, a new cycle is created in the world.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Bring Me The Head of Kyori Sato

I've coveted the Integrity Toys Fashion Royalty Urban Geisha Kyori Sato for years. I cannot explain it to myself. Nonetheless, I craved. I bought an Adele Makeda doll 6 years ago because she did not have the price point of Sato. I could justify that expense to myself. She's special, but Adele Makeda is not Kyori Sato. If I was feeling flush, I'd shop for the Urban Geisha, but mostly I'm never flush enough, can't justify the expense, chicken out. She is rare and expensive. I do not consider myself a doll collector. I did have all the Disney Great Villains dolls, which I sold this year. So maybe that's why I felt like I could finally get Kyori Sato. A deal showed up on ebay. I won the auction. I was thrilled to see the box arrive. She'd been described as taken out of the box, so I wasn't afraid to take her out myself. What I forgot was that early FR dolls are not fully articulated. I tried to turn Kyori's head. Her head came off. Not from the stem, her neck cracked raggedly, and I was staring at the decapitated body of my dream doll, her detached head still wobbling on the desktop. Stunned, I glanced up at the Adele Makeda doll on my dresser and, for a tiny moment, I thought she was smiling. In the complicated and entertaining backstory of Jason Wu's Fashion Royalty coterie, Kyori Sato and Adele Makeda are mortal enemies. I did not own Urban Geisha Kyori Sato for a full day before I killed her. For another full day I tried not to tip over into crazy. No, Adele Makeda did not cut off the head of Kyori Sato. Yes, the rigid plastic is a problem, and her neck knob was fused, and no, I did not subconsciously buy this doll so I could maim her. So what's the lesson? There are 1001 stories to write about this ersatz tragedy. A million universal truths to mediate upon, another million to discard. And one day I'll be brave enough to open the box again to glue her head back on her jagged neck.

Sunday, August 25, 2013


An ex brother-in-law, a person who thought himself a real grown man, was my sister's husband when this word was born. We were sitting on the couch at a family dinner, and he was blathering about how his family meant everything in the world to him. How he only lives to take care of his wife and his baby girl, how he does without to provide for them. I was squirming mightily, too polite to guffaw. He continued building his own virtual statue in the town square until I did laugh out loud. What? he asked. What you just said, I laughed. He said that's ebonics. He thought I meant the phrase he used. I laughed harder. I know what ebonics is, I said. That was guybonics. This ex-brother-in-law is someone I will happily slap, should I have the misfortune to run into him, for the pain he's caused women I love. But he sure was the creator of some of my best words. Guybonics is mansplaining plus total detachment from any self-awareness, coupled to the belief that women are dumb as stumps. Guybonics is taking the facts, flipping those 180, and calling your bluff to your face. Guybonics is swearing you do without to provide for your baby girl while wearing a $2,000 Hugo Boss suit and some $1,200 skin shoes, and that baby girl is in an outfit her mother bought her. Saying I'm sorry if I hurt you, right after you just told him he did hurt you, is guybonics. Oh, well, I don't know when you explained something from certain knowledge, is guybonics. Saying this is not what it looks like when you discover him naked in the sack with someone not you. Guybonics. Every woman can add to the definition: we know it when we hear it. And it takes the sting away a little to know what the language is. One of an ex's favorite lines is from a chockablock doofus movie D. C. Cab. Some guy asks "what are women so pissed off about? They're got half the money and all the p***y." That is guybonics. That is also why the ex is an ex. He spoke guybonics fluently.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Like Me Fund Me

Talking with a filmmaker friend yesterday, we were enjoying the prospect of a new Alice Guy Blache documentary being produced. Be Natural: the Untold Story of Alice Guy Blache. Actually, it has been told, more than once; and brilliantly by Alison McMahan, but Madame Blache is not in the zeitgeist yet. There are players attached to the project - Robert Redford, ExP, Jodie Foster, narrator. And the researchers highlighted are topnotch. Well done backgrounding by PIC Agency codirectors. The film is a Kickstarter project. I'm an old bird-the crowdsourcing stuff was outside my range of vision. So, I educate myself a little more. The creators want $200,000 from you and me to complete the documentary. Robert Redford is Sundance, yes? Why do they need our money? Looking into project crowdsourcing this morning, I found this article from indiewire on the relative success (as can best be determined by squishy data) of indiegogo, Kickstarter, and newbie Seed & Spark. The big loot in filmmaking is focused on franchise film, overseas sales, and a dumb audience. Please no documentaries, dialogue, story or character. These stories are being left to us, the audience with little money, but a need to feed our brains and hearts. Will I give $$ to realize an Alice Guy Blache documentary? The big studio boys with the real money have zero interest in a story about the woman narrative film pioneer. Pull focus: do I want this film made? Yes. Will I change the dynamic of Hollywood financing by not helping this film be made? No. Do I have a big headache? Affirmative. Will logging in and clicking "confirm" cure it? Probably not, but I just did it. Ugh! Amazon! How much is that behemoth taking out of this? I'm wondering how far we are away from crowdsourcing all our creative - those projects in art, music, literature that keep us human. How far away are we from privatizing education and crowdsourcing teaching children? Log into Amazon, click confirm $K-12.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Newsphere Changed My Brain

In a story I’m writing there is a character named Catalyst. Catalyst is an ambassador. Ambassadors negotiate peace and foment discord, as required by the political body they serve; specifically, the agenda of the power brokers who influence that political body.

Catalyst is a cynical character.

Are our news sources cynical as well? I don’t know. I do know that I became a cynical news consumer, and an aggravated commenter. Read the comments beneath any news piece on the internet and feel the itch to log in and rejoin. En garde! Claim your space, bash the other side. Anonymously. Because who wants to be attacked for an opinion?

To be clear, news is not opinion. Journalism is not opinion. What we read today is primarily not news. What we find is an endless loop of links to opinion pieces that conform to our gut take on a news story, and we choose what we consume based on confirmation bias. Guests on TV nonfiction (can't call these news) shows are well-known for which side they’re on. News has become a virus-its sole mission to replicate itself.

Why do I see weekly Rush Limbaugh video on MSNBC shows except Rachel Maddow’s and Chris Hayes’? Because MSNBC is confirming our political bias, while whining that Fox News does the same thing. Why does Dee Dee Myers wish the Anthony Weiner story would go away, while agreeing to discuss the Anthony Weiner story on a Sunday nonfiction show?

Famine, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, is a character in Terry Pratchett/Neil Gaiman’s book Good Omens. Famine in this modern dark comedy owns a chain of fast food restaurants. The more you eat, the sooner you die of malnutrition.

A friend had been attending a mindfulness class. I asked what mindfulness meant. She gave me an example: pain is pain. It happens and then it abates. When one revisits the pain, that is suffering. Suffering is memory of pain, rather than pain itself.

I was starving for news and could not stop consuming. The news was making me suffer. I was lucky to regain my mental health because of Dr. Christine Tracy and her book, The Newsphere.

News addiction, in an era when news is mixed with opinion like a drug masked in a cocktail, has to be cured by avoidance. Dr. Tracy calls it going on a news diet. She changed my brain. I read the sites and the columnists I had bookmarked, only as Dr. Tracy suggested, I listened to my gut reaction. Was I angry? Did the news story make me think or just make me triumphant because I agreed, or furious because I did not?

One by one I offloaded the bookmarks. Inch by column inch, I quit reading the loudest side-takers. Then the more subtle nudgers. Any news that made my insides holler I stopped reading. In the newsphere, I trained my brain to read those writers/observers who advance my knowledge base, point me willingly to the writers who are thoughtful and can debate the other side, and give me facts I crave. Real news, real reporters. There are rules in journalism, and our world has abandoned too many. Where and when the rules are abandoned, I abandon those sources.

News can instigate dialogue and action. We must be aware and active participants in our news consumption. When I comment today, I point out where the piece went awry in actually being news.

I commented on an inflammatory headline on a major news site, and the headline was changed that day. I commented on an NPR story headline that misrepresented the report of a medical paper, and NPR changed the tagline. Was it me? I don’t know. I feel neither triumph nor anger. I did the thing it was appropriate to do.

Participation in news - in keeping news honest and informative - is healing, not damaging, both to the news cycle and the person consuming. Not reacting when reaction is the goal is a gift. What I learned from The Newsphere applies to life as well. I am calm. And grateful.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Untraining Boot Camp

We need a Boot Camp to unlearn patriarchy. We need an intense 6 week course of untraining. For the first 3 weeks, we unwind the tape. You are a little girl. You do not learn by rote (and suggestion that this will be your work onward) to wash dishes, do laundry, set the table, curl your hair, iron, cross your ankles when seated. You learn that polite is what everyone needs to be; that nice needn't be your primary characteristic. You have never had to kneel on the floor in school to make sure your skirt touches the linoleum, planting permanently in your brain that what you wear is more important than what you learn. Or any other unnecessary female wardrobe tyranny. You are still called on for the correct answer after 9 years old. No teacher or professor has told you what girls can and cannot do. You have never had an adult shame you because you are female; or observed a boy do this and not be reprimanded. You are told regularly by those in authority that you are equal: if not that, you never hear that you are not equal. You have not been counseled to get an education for jobs like teaching or cosmetology that will provide for you if you never marry. You are never told that joy for us is rare, that you will not measure up, that you cannot have a job, a career, a skill or a dream because you are a girl. The second half of Untraining Boot Camp. We are adult women. For 3 weeks we watch movies, television, look at magazines, browse websites, social media sites, advertisements, listen to people who do not know we are listening and understand finally and forever that too much of what we view repeatedly every day of our lives is designed to make women feel inferior, commodified, diminished, and scared. And that what we experience in relationships and work is the result of the cumulative effect, and the implied entitlement to, and acceptance of, that bias. We hear women bear witness about sexual aggression on the street, at work, at home, on the battlefield. We testify in safety and begin to heal. When we graduate from Unlearning Boot Camp, we are qualified to teach others that women are every bit as capable, intelligent, and eager to succeed as any other gender out there. We will be a positive influence and stellar role model. We then can and will all move forward and kick patriarchy in the nards with our shiny new untraining boots.

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Sapphires Is Not About a White Guy

The Sapphires is a 2012 film made by Goalpost Pictures and distributed by Hopscotch Films in Australia. It is based on a play produced in 2004. It is about four indigenous women who formed a singing group and toured Vietnam in 1968. Now the DVD is being released in the US, distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment. You can find it on iTunes. I'm not going to post the Anchor Bay DVD cover here because it makes me crazy mad to look at it. Instead of the 4 women of color that the movie is about (as beautifully shown in the Goalpost poster here), the Anchor Bay cover features Chris O'Dowd who plays the manager of the group front and center. In the back under a blue screen are the women, whitened and obscured for the American audience. So far, I've tweeted a couple of times about this, written to Anchor Bay and outed The Weinstein Company, which owns 25% of Starz Media - Anchor Bay's parent company.  Some of us have been eager for the DVD release. This is a movie about women - about women of color. We need this movie. What we don't need is a bunch of white boys deciding what the image for America needs to be. Sexist, racist, maddening, infuriating - I'm exhausted from the anger. The American entertainment industry is a cesspool of misogyny, and I can no longer accept that this is normal, and that this is the way entertainment will continue. Whitewashing women. Disappearing women. What can we all do to encourage women filmmakers, discourage Hollywood from their anti-women practices, and bring some measure of equity to the industry? Keep shouting foul when foul is delivered. I won't buy this film until the cover is changed. I won't buy anything distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment until the cover is changed. Or Starz Media, or - I am unhappy to write - from The Weinstein Company. 25% complicit is too much. I'm out 100% until this nonsense is corrected.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

My Sister

My sister drew this decades ago. It may be the only thing she's ever drawn, although she has a grandson now and maybe she will draw little pictures for him. The caption is still one of my favorite sayings to use when I need something more dramatic than my grandmother's "oh my aching back." My sister is a human being I described today as a prettier Yoda. She is the sibling who got all the common sense from the gene pool that stewed the Robinsons. She was born wise and has grown into good use of the wisdom. She tells me I'm weird. I correct her in the direction of bizarre. She gets a kick out of my naivete. The world and its people are always a surprise to me, repeated experience notwithstanding. Learning impaired. My mother would ask me "how many buildings have to fall on you before you get it?" My sister is honest, in the Heinlein Fair Witness sense. She is the same with everyone. Facts are facts, humans are flawed, the world isn't built to give us what we want. Pragmatic. And admirable. She's the last person to claim she has her shit together, which means she does. And she is funny. Oh, my, we need more humans like my sister. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Trust Your Gut

Yesterday my neighbor and I were walking from the car to our favorite eating spot when an SUV stopped in front of us, the passenger window rolled down. "Can you help us please?" the woman driver asked. We both walked toward the car. My busy brain started observing. The car was in good shape, the woman and the girl in the passenger seat appeared approachable. Leery of the 2 chihuahuas on the girl's lap, I stopped outside lunging range. The woman explained, "I am $8.40 short to get my daughter her eardrops. She has an ear infection. The ATM here is broken. Can you help us please?" My brain sped up. Flash 1: me with an ear infection, laying in the back seat of the car in terrible pain. 8 years old. About the age of this girl. The girl's face, expression downcast, spins this memory to the top. The woman is waiting. Flash 2: would a woman use a little girl in a scam? Flash 3: good set-up to approach so the passenger side with the girl in pain is in immediate view. Flash 4: aren't 2 dogs an extravagance? Flash 5: aren't there other ATMs nearby? Flash 6: why us? There were men walking into the restaurant. Flash 7: what pharmacy is around here? Blimey! I opened my wallet. Because my gut told my brain to shut up. Would I have the courage to ask a stranger for money I needed to help my daughter? Don't know. Here in front of my nose was human drama, real or well-written. I only had $8, so I turned to my neighbor who was quietly observing, and asked her "do you have $.40 please?"

Monday, July 22, 2013

Shoe Love

A friend posted a picture of high heel bakery confections. Mules with flounce frosting. As a lifelong shoe fancier, it was delightful to see another way to express shoe love. I am happy with shoes in any artful form. My mother had nice shoes - classic styles - being a practical woman as well a tasteful woman. She had a lot of shoes. My sisters love shoes, too. Two of us keep shoes a long time. I wore these orange sandals when I first got them and the trendy sister said, "wow, shoes that are stylish in the decade they're styling!" Heels are heels to me, and never go out of style. Thin, thick, high, higher still. Men have an opinion on shoes which they share out loud sometimes. One podiatrist I dated briefly pummeled me with all the medical reasons high heels are bad for me. He went, the shoes stayed. One reasonable man thought I was tall enough without heels. What's tall enough? I could afford shoes when I could not afford clothes to go with. Shoes changed an outfit in my mind. One suit-5 different shoe looks. And I could see the shoes all day, unlike a blouse or a dress. Taking care, (and having a vast footwear wardrobe) shoes last for years. And I usually found a fabulous sale. I paid full price for a pair of shoes only twice. Shoe shopping was a shared experience with special friends. I knew Beckie liked Steve Madden and Mootsie's Tootsies. She knew I liked Ann Marino and Enzo Angiolini. Our mission on one outing was to get me a pair of black pumps. All those shoes and I owned no black. That was our deal for the day. Just black. Just pumps. I came out with orange sandals and purple mules, and she got in the car with Steve Madden denim platforms. The last time I moved I donated... a lot of shoes. Now I can't wear high heels without suffering calf cramps at night. When I switched to low or no heels several years ago, my calves would cramp because my muscles were evolved to high heels. So, yes, high heels are bad for the body. Yes, at 5' 10", I'm tall. I still love high heels! Elegant shoes are good art. Friends share shoe art now: bakery shoes, eraser shoes, doll shoes, business card holder shoes, shoe cards, picture books of shoes. My niece got me Christian Loubotin shoes for my doll for Christmas. I love new ways to appreciate shoes And my fabulous friends!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Teach Me How, Please

Great-Aunt of a Black Man


What to whom?

No fucking idea.

His great-grandfather
my father
made his mother
my niece

“Does grandpa hate me too?”

She was 5.

Now she’s a mother.

Of a black man.

Teach the haters.

Deny them the comfort of ignorance.

And imagined strength in numbers.

Take their fear.

And teach it to my great-grand nephew.

And not shoot anyone.

Friday, July 12, 2013

How Women Work

Turning into the dollar store yesterday, I saw a car stopped with the flashers on in the exit lane. A woman stood near the driver's door, and I slowed, thinking she needed help, rolled down the window. She pointed to the cement. A big snapping turtle was parked in the drive. I said "Don't pick it up - I've got a shovel. I'll park and be right back." While I was retrieving the shovel, another woman drove in, rolled down her window and said "I'll get a box from the dollar store." The young woman and I talked to the turtle, shuffled our feet to get it moving. The turtle didn't like any of this. We found out quickly that if we walked slowly on either side of the head, the turtle would move. We were herding it to the grass. Meanwhile, the other woman, now with the box in hand, ran up, set the box down, shoved it at the turtle's face. The turtle snapped on the edge. Wow! Now I know why you're not supposed to pick up snapping turtles. She jiggled it a little, and the turtle was in the box. She said she'd take it to the pond by her house. We all thanked each other for helping save a turtle. As I walked by the car, the woman's daughter was freaked out "Mom, what if it comes out? What am I supposed to do? Doesn't this thing bite?" The mother said, "OK, you drive, I'll watch the turtle." We all waved (not the turtle, who was obviously still pissed off.) That's how women work. We rescue turtles. We work together to solve a problem. We think about each other and all of nature. You hear that, guys that just drove by, around and away? That's how women work. This picture is of a snapping turtle I rescued a couple summers ago. An SUV had sped by, flipped it on its back and the turtle was still spinning when I pulled over, picked it up and put it on the grass. That's how women work.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Dress for Success

The suits I can no longer wear (or want to) came out of the closet. Finally. When I moved in 2004, I donated armloads of business suits to Secondhand Rose in Mt. Clemens, keeping the vintage designer suits. I took the remaining suits to the local resale shop last week. The young woman said the shop wasn't taking long-sleeved items. I didn't comment. Maybe I was wondering how many short-sleeved business suits are out there? If you keep quiet, people will fill in the empty space with something, because people don't like quiet. So while I thought about next steps, she offered, "And these are dated." I laughed. One person's dated is another's vintage coutiere. Asked around to find a local shop that will allow women reinventing their lives to choose outfits for free. Dress for Success in Catherine's House on the Saint Joseph Mercy Health System campus in Ann Arbor, Michigan does that. I talked with a woman (and lost the note with her name!) who started as a volunteer, and now does interview training for women job seekers. Dress for Success will take donations of business suits, accessories (not jewelry), make-up (new), shoes, handbags and briefcases. She said their success rate at getting women hired is about 85%. For those women who are clothed and trained in business schools, the job acquisition is in the 90th percentile. Dress for Success is a national organization, and one I am going to support wholeheartedly as best I can. Women helping women. What a divine concept! The website's tagline is Going Places. Going Strong. Yes, ma'am.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Movie Torture

Be careful what you ask for. I've written about women in film and the need for more. Linked below are a few blog posts about women in film. Filmmaking is a man's world, although it didn't start out that way, and needn't continue that way. Women have made some progress, and then that progress was squashed. It's uncommon to have a woman screenwriter, director, producer. Katherine Bigelow has directed two box office hits recently. Both involve war. The latest film riled people about torture as a means to an end.  I was looking forward to seeing Olympus Has Fallen. I like action adventure, hero journey epics, rescue operation movies. The reviews I read this morning changed my mind. I will not be seeing the movie. Torture is featured again. And a woman screenwriter is involved. Is this now what it takes for a woman to get a job in Hollywood? Some whacked version of traumatic bonding/Stockholm syndrome? WTF? And how do we fix this? Fairy Tale Princesses, Boomer Anxiety About Aging?!  Women and Film 2011: Sexual Violence. The Throwaway Woman Plot Device.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Lean In, Push Back, and Then Get You Some

The last Christmas my mother had, she gave me a pair of purple gloves. I didn't figure out the entirety of her message until 10 years later. She was giving me a nod to run my stick along the public railings, and learn to spit as in Warning by Jenny Joseph. Over the years I've dropped many of the behaviors that make up the sobriety of youth. I swear in public and I've worn slippers in the rain. I do not always set a good example for children. I call managers out of their back offices to solve my problem. And I'm not waiting to be an old woman to do what suits me, and not do what doesn't. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg is the flavor of the month. Women may take a seat at the table. Then raise a hand. Then say something. So 60s. Push back, writes Maria Shriver. So 80s. This is the second decade of the 21st century. Women are fighting the same bloomin' fights we fought for all of the last century. Fights I fought in the last century. Michigan's most invasive species is our legislature. Many states are harboring the same invaders. Why? Because women lost our voices again. And the women voices we're hearing are disturbingly reactionary. We have a 21st century woman COO telling us: ladies, it's okay to raise your hand. We have a 21st century woman CEO's edict that employees may not work at home. What is this? The 50s? These woman head up Facebook and Yahoo, monstrously cloudy social networks. And this is their schtick? I feel aprons and pearls making a fast fashion comeback. As if Mad Men wasn't enough. So, I walk by the TV and some egocentric politician is spouting for the cameras, and I casually say "he must clank when he walks." I have been known to say "he's got the balls of an ox." I do not remember if it was in mixed company, or through which decades. I accidentally said it in front of my father once, but that's another post. A couple weeks ago, talking with a friend about the latest male directed preferential ass-kicking, I said what we need to do, what we must do, is get some balls. Big balls. I said this again later to another friend. And so on. From the dim outback of my memory, I looked for a glass necklace I thought was in the jewelry supply storage bin, found it, took it apart. Big balls. Big shiny glass balls. Earbobs. One friend wants brass. Another suggested color - blue balls anyone? The message is self-directed. And it makes me laugh, laugh, laugh. Yes, by all means, sit at the table, raise your hand, use your voice, push back. Then get you some balls. Own some. Sit at that table pushing back, with your big balls on. I can testify that once you have the image planted in your brain, you've already changed. You might even learn to spit.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Three Story Life: Medical Advocate

Nice doesn't get a damn thing done. Civil is good. My mantra these days is "I don't have to get mad, I just have to get what I need done." As caregivers, especially as live-in caregivers, we know the level of need. We know it like we know how high our blood pressure is, but we do something about other people before we do anything about us. That's for another post. Dad's blood pressure is really high. He has a medication in the cupboard that was prescribed by his VA doctor. He got confused and stopped taking it in December. December. His BP is dangerously spiky. He calls in his BP to their "blood pressure monitoring" answering machine. and Nurse Kelly will call and ask "why is your blood pressure so high?" to which I want to reply, well, never mind. Nurse Kelly told him to hold off taking the medication prescribed by his doctor until the results of his vascular tests are in. Ridiculous, but he waited. The results are in. But my father misunderstands what he's told, too. I told him to call the doctor. She's not in. Leave a message. A message just goes into a message center. Yes, that's where messages go. Leave a message for the doctor. He called Nurse Kelly. I used his phone to call VA Doctor. Message person asked if he's reporting to that monitoring bullshit. Yes. They will call, message person said. No, I said, I want to talk with VA Doctor. Okay. I'll leave a message for her team. No, a message for VA Doctor to call. No response. Please repeat the message as you entered it, back to me, I said. Think dog/bone. Think tick/ankle. Think clearly about what you need, and then insist the entity at the other end of an exchange repeats back to you what you want. Be clear. Be specific. Use short sentences. One word responses. If you need to write it down first, do so. And repeat what you need until the other party agrees you need it. Every office you call has a Flat Alice who is the front person supposed to move you away ASAP. It's your decision whether a doctor needs to be bothered, not the gatekeeper. No one bars the door for me any more in medical situations. Use please the first time, but not onward as the conversation ages. Say thank you, only after you are sure you were understood. Nice doesn't get a damn thing done. Civil insistence does.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Three Story Life Separate

I'm sitting here in the dungeon wondering if the pain in my chest is physical. If I don't finish this post, you'll know it was. Just had another quaky conversation with our father about Scott going to the grocery store. We disagree on whether Scott is comfortable going. My brother is Dad's legs. He claims it helps Scott to fetch things - keeps him alert. Perhaps. Dad offered as evidence that Scott hurries to carry out tasks assigned. My brother has speed issues. His awareness of where his body ends, and how fast it's traveling, is compromised by Alzheimer's. Scott said no to the store the other day. That's major involvement for him, and I'd like for his choices to be honored. Later I heard Dad tell Scott to get his coat on: they were going to the store. Tried to talk about it today because Dad's sitting upstairs waiting for Scott to come home from an outing and he'll take him to the store. I tried hard to be reasonable, thoughtful and respectful. I said I would go to the store. Dad said he himself wanted to go out. Fine, I said, I'll pick up most of it and you can go mosey later. Dodging and weaving around the issue. Dad was lulled into confessing that he is still focused on discipline. This is our primary difficulty in the house. While our father may mildly grasp the realities of Alzheimer's disease, he deeply believes that Scott's behaviors can, and should be, controlled. Curbed. That's the word he used. And my heart started aching again. I have no more strength for this situation. So discussions will commence with the rest of the family about alternatives. I cannot help either of them, and I cannot help myself from here. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Gift of Self Esteem

I don't know how it got here, but I know the day it did. I tweeted its arrival. An early and unexpected Christmas gift from the universe on December 22, 2012. For the last half of 2012, I was fascinated by a call for entries from an Eastern Michigan University senior fine arts major named Felicity Baker. She is double minoring in psychology with women and gender studies. The exhibition, during March (Women's History Month) will be head and shoulders renderings of what contributors understand about the looking-glass self. Presented by Charles Cooley in 1902, this theory purports, as Baker quotes, "I am not what I think I am and I am not what you think I am; I am what I think you think I am." Twisty, huh? It took a handful of weeks to even understand the concept. I've had several ideas of art to submit, but I am thinking in three-dimensional art, rather than flat art asked for submission. And I am thinking about whether this theory is true. For me. In the long years of the past. Today. The art I imagined is a discarded frame hanging in my workroom. Around the edges I would paint "I have a framework. It is constant and divine."  True. All the wiggly bits and electricity and chemical compositions that make a human are there at the beginning. Centered in the frame on fishing line is a light. Small, bright. This is my essence. Powerful, as significant in every way as anything else in the cosmos. As mighty, as miniscule. True. In front of this incredible light would be transparent panels representing what has, and is, obscuring that light. 1st layer: painted with the parent brush. 2nd layer: painted with the peer brush. 3rd layer: drawn with the teacher pencils. And so on. Bosses, coworkers, lovers, enemies, circumstances. True. And understanding emerged. We have no way of knowing what others think of us. But we make it up. We absorb what our culture feels about us. We suffer for it. We do it to ourselves. For the last several months, I've been removing the painted layers from my mental work of art. When these obscuring layers are abandoned by me - because I am the person who keeps them installed and effective - when I remove the layers, what remains is my light. Small, powerful, steady, calm and bright. So bright. And on December 22, 2012, when I subconsciously reached for the veil, it wasn't there. None of them were. Self esteem. "I am what I know I am."

Thursday, January 3, 2013


Getting acquainted with Jon Meacham's biography of Thomas Jefferson, I admired the weight and the paper. Hefty and fragrant. Started with Notes on the Text, at which point Meacham writes that he tidied up Jefferson's correspondence for our reading. All the it's were replaced with the proper its, etc. In the introduction Meacham then didn't bother with primping a Jefferson household slave's description of his master. I needed to calm down. Pictures are good. No pictures of Jefferson's wife. Turns out there are no portraits of Martha existing. 10 years married, and 6 children later, she was dead. Jefferson is highly reported as mourning his diminutive and ill wife's death, but what did he do about keeping her healthy while she lived? Aargh. A plate of Elizabeth Merry, wife of British minister Anthony Merry has Jefferson describing her as a "virago," and references a social skirmish over protocol. Meacham's book is subtitled The Art of Power. What more do I need to know about power? That it is male, hierarchical, dominant and a pain in my ass for a lifetime. Words can soothe me, so I looked up virago. Once upon a time, it meant a heroic woman. And then the Latin Bible scholars got hold of it. Aeflic, and St. Jerome, followed by Merriam-Webster, the Oxford Dictionary and its online ilk. Wikipedia gives a more thorough etymology. Jefferson used the repulsive and first promulgated modern [14th c.] definition for virago:  a shrew, a loud and overbearing woman, and (adding insult to other cultures) a termagant. Over a dinner party? I don't want to read this book. I don't remember why I got it from the library. I just finished reading about Generals Grant and Sherman, and I'm male ego-ed out. I hope I'm done this lifetime with reading about gentile slaveholders in glowy prose. I'd rather perhaps read something at all about Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson, who inherited her father's 100 slaves at his death, but didn't really own them because all property went to those wielding The Art of Power.