Saturday, October 06, 2018

WHAT NOW DO WE TELL OUR DAUGHTERS?

 In 1991, I was riveted with the testimony of Anita Hill during the confirmation hearings on Clarence Thomas, who had been nominated to the Supreme Court.

As Anita Hill so calmly recounted unwanted sexual advances on her by Clarence Thomas, I thought—at last. A woman who is accomplished. A woman who is well-educated. A woman who is brave enough to recount (with the whole world watching) these unwanted advances. And then, the senators—all male—began to attack the woman. As the hearings deteriorated into a side show of male chauvinism and male arrogance and male dominance, I could barely watch anymore. The committee--all men, pronouncing judgment on the woman as a liar at best and as the transgressor at worst.

At the time of those hearings, our daughter was 10 years old. As she was growing up, even as young as age 4, we had been telling her that her body belonged to her. Once, I found a child appropriate book describing “good touch” and “bad touch” that helped with my conversations for her  to understand. I recall distinctly how she turned to me and said “Mommy, why would someone want to bad touch a girl?”  Well, that was hard to explain. So at the time, I reinforced the concept that her body belongs to her and to reject “bad touch.” But, that if it happened, to trust enough to tell us, her parents.

Lest you think our educating our daughter was insufficient or singular, we had also had similar conversations with our son, who was older than our daughter, when he was growing up. Maybe not the same phrasing, but the same idea—that his body belonged to him. AND we also taught him to respect girls. As he grew into his teenage years, we made sure he understood that boys have to be asresponsible as girls as they mature, particularly where matters of sexuality are concerned. 

So when Clarence Thomas was confirmed, I felt bereft—how now to inform my daughter? How could I say—if someone does something to you that you don’t like, touches you and you don’t want that—then just tell him NO.

That same daughter is now grown, married, with daughters of her own.

AND NOTHING HAS CHANGED. In fact, if anything things are now worse. We still have brave women who are willing to testify before yet another confirmation hearing, where the woman recounts the unwanted advances of yet another Supreme Court nominee, and she too is not believed.

Not only is she not believed, but the perpetrator of the unwanted advances is painted as the victim. And, with righteous indignation, the men on the Senate Judiciary committee (some of them the SAME men who sat on the same committee 27 years ago) vilify the woman and exonerate the man. Adding insult to injury, the president of our country led the cheering against her and then pronounced that these are dangerous times "for young men." 

How could they?  How dare they?

Oh, I know there are lots of answers—but are any of them sufficient to continue to deny women the right to what happens to their own bodies?  And, now, the confirmee—presumed to be the deciding vote should the question of the legality of abortion come before the Supreme Court—will be the one to decide yay or nay. He gets a pass on assaulting a woman, attempting to rape her, then he gets to decide whether or not should she (or any other woman) can have a medically safe legal abortion.

What now do we tell our daughters?  Your body belongs to you—unless some drunken boy tries to rape you. Then, shut up. Don’t tell. It won’t do any good. What do we tell our sons? Respect the person in whom you have an interest, unless you are sexually aroused and then it’s OK to force yourself on her?

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Long Distance Family

One of my blogging friends, Julie Zickefoose, has been writing on Facebook about long distance separation from her daughter.

Which set me to thinking about some of my long distance family connection experiences. Herewith some of those thoughts.

When I was around 2 years old, my parents went to southern Africa as missionaries. Their families, who lived in Pennsylvania, had only one way of staying in touch with my parents, and me as a grandchild. LETTERS. In fact, old style aerogram letters.  Also, of course, regular mail. To keep my grandparents up to date, my parents would send photos of me to my grandparents. In turn, they sent birthday cards. It was not until 7 years later, when we returned to the United States, that I saw these grandparents again.  For my paternal grandparents, I was the first (and for a while the only) grandchild. I know how much my grandmother Emma longed to be with me.

Then, after a year, my parents, along with me and my brother, returned to southern Africa. So another several years of being absent from family relatives. When circumstances arose that caused my parents to return to the United States, I was 14. And once again, I got to see my grandparents.

Fast forward to early 1960, when I was 15, my parents once again went to southern Africa, but this time I stayed in the United States to finish my high school years, and begin college. Of course, as a 15 year old girl, I thought that was totally cool.  But it did mean returning to long distance family contact--still at that point letters. 

Of course, there were a few other means of swifter communication than letters then--cablegrams, for example. But that mechanism was laborious and brief.

One feature of letters and cablegrams is that such is asynchronous communication. Send a letter, one side of the conversation. Wait for a return. Another side of the conversation -- and so on, back and forth. Not exactly conducive to interactive communication , i.e. synchronous, that is the hallmark of good communication.

In September, 1956 the transatlantic telephone cable was laid. So, then, it became possible to make telephone calls, and have a conversation...sort of. 

I had a singular experience with a transatlantic telephone call. When I was a sophomore in college, and apparently acting quite morose, some of my dorm mates collected money for me to make a call to my parents.  It was a most cumbersome process. First, I had to submit a request to make a call, in order to be given a time when I could call. Of course, I had to factor in time differences. I recently checked to see how such a call would have been made. In 1963, the time of my call, here's how it worked --

"TAT-3 was AT&T Corporation's third transatlantic telephone cable. It was in operation from 1963 to 1986. It had 414 kHz of bandwidth, allowing it to carry 138 telephone circuits (simultaneous calls). It was 3,518 nautical miles long, connecting Widemouth Bay in Cornwall, England to Tuckerton, New Jersey in the United States". Source--Wikipedia

And that was just to get the call from the United States to England. I have no idea how the call then made its way from England to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia).

So, on the day of the call--as I recall, at a cost of $25 for 3 minutes--I called my parents. And after the various relays, I could talk with my family. Now, factor in a bit of delay for the transit of those signals, and you get the sense. I would say something...hesitation... then get a response. And so forth.

I recall my mother passed the phone to my brother, who breathlessly rushed into telling me about school, violin lessons, and playing cricket (or soccer). Then she passed the phone to my sister, then about 5 years old, and I could hear my sister saying "NO"...
Then back to my mother briefly, and the call was over.

Fast forward to the year 2000. I was now a mother, of an 18 year old daughter, who was launching out of her own to work in London, UK, for several months. By now, there were computers, and there was email. And a kind of text messaging--with AOL messenger. Again asynchronous communication. My daughter could write something, I would answer and so forth. At the time, we began signing off with "love you to the moon and back."  And, there were telephone calls--via a public telephone box. So, she would call from London, dropping coins in the phone, and we could talk. In the background I could hear the London street noise.

So, we arrive at the present. I now have my two children some 8,000 miles apart. One child in California 3,000 miles from where I am, and one child in London 5,000 miles from me.  And they in turn have children--so I now return to the long-distance grand-parenting. Only this time, I am the grandparent.

Communications, of course, has once again changed. We now have text messages instantly back and forth. Plus we have FaceTime (or Skype), and Snapchat. So now, I can see them, talk with them, watch them play. Of course, it's not the same as being together--kind of difficult to hug them). But it is far better than the old type of long distance parenting, or grand-parenting.

Looking forward to teleporting, a la Star Trek.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

The Indignities of Aging

Indignity # 1
Sigh...
For the first time in my life, I have poison ivy reaction--you know, as in "is this a bug bite?'
NO, it looks like poison ivy.
"how the heck did I get into poison ivy?"

Well, OK--I was weeding. And, yes, I do wear gloves. But I pulled out a little stalk of poison ivy, and it just happened to brush against my leg, near my ankle. Frankly, I thought nothing of it. Then a day later, I noticed a small red spot that looked like a bite. I put cortisone cream on it...but it still itched. And the next day, and the next.

Then another spot on my wrist, where I would have brushed next to the pulled out vine I also got a red spot.

DING!  Damn it! I got poison ivy. So I went to the medicine cabinet, and found the bottle of calamine  lotion. Dabbed a bit on ankle and wrist, and then checked the expiration date. HUH! 2003? Well, gotta get some new lotion.  I did ... and now I have a pink ankle and a pink wrist.

Indignity # 2
Continuing the skin theme, due to meds that I take (blood thinners), I bruise very easily. As in opening a cardboard package, the edge of which jabs my arm, which promptly begins bleeding.  All because I have "thin skin."  And the dermatologist doesn't help when he says--well, when you get older, the epidermis thins and you bruise more easily. Really? I knew that.

Add to that my rambunctiousness wherein I tear about doing chores in the house, or outside, and inadvertently bumped into something. Then later that day, I discover a WHOLE new bruise. Bleeding and bruising--what fun.

Internet websites don't help particularly. Oh, they're good at naming things--but the article title of "Weird Things That happen to Your Skin as you Age" doesn't exactly make me feel good. Thanks, WebMD...yes, I know it's being direct, but ease up, will ya?

Indignity # 3
I have developed a whole new power. I can predict the weather. With aging joints, and replaced knees, I can tell you when the weather is working up to a good rain. I feel like the Tin Man in Wizard of Oz--as in the musical rendition in The Wiz--"slide some oil to me."

Indignity # 4
Say that again?
I didn't quite catch that?
What?
Oh, never mind.
Yup--another part conks out, slowly but steadily.
Thank goodness for shows the use subtitles.

Indignity # 5
I have developed a rabbit mind. Let me describe. I head to a room in the house, with a purpose in mind. On the way, I see something that catches my attention, so I shift my direction and chase that rabbit trail. Then I start back to the first destination, but now can't recall what I was going to do. So I track back to my first location, look around and then say "Oh, yes..." and head off again. Upon getting there (usually the basement), I see something else and take care of that--and then wonder, what was I coming to do?  Back upstairs, into the first room--look around and finally see what I wanted to do originally and do it.

Why do I say a rabbit mind? Well, have you ever watched a rabbit when you approach it. It darts off in one direction, then switches course, then doubles back, then reverses again.  That's my mind.

Well, at least I still have my sense of humor.

P.S. I forgot to mention my magical climate powers--I can go from hot to cold and back to hot again!

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Death Be Not Proud

I realize I haven't been blogging a whole lot lately, but that doesn't mean I haven't been thinking. In fact, I have..been thinking, thinking, thinking.

It is difficult for me these days to contemplate the world that is being remade. The U.S. has gone from a leader of the free world, to a near pariah. Leadership displayed as bluster, ignorance, prejudice and just plain nastiness holds the center stage. 


Of late, I find I can barely listen to the news. When I drive, I frequently have on satellite radio--NPR, or MSNBC, or CNN. But of late I can't bear to hear the drumbeat of destruction and the endless panel conversations about what it all means.  What does it mean anyway?


OK--so why the title of my post?  Death be not proud. Of course, the line is the opening for John Donne's Holy Sonnet 10.*  You can read the whole poem at the close of this entry.


So, what do I do instead of listen to the depressing news of the day?  I sometimes think about death. Lest you think me morbid or focused on a depressing subject, not so.  Every day, when I walk our dog, we go to a cemetery two blocks away from where we live. As I walk along, I frequently read the grave markers. I find myself doing the math of a lifespan in my head. Some are very short--mere weeks for babies who are born and then die. Some are several years--I do not know the circumstances, but there are possible explanations--a childhood disease, or maybe an accident.  Others that are several decades long--say in the 20s or 30s--offer another set of possibilities: killed in combat maybe.  Finally, there are the markers that denote a long life span. The common element for all, of course, is the inevitability of death.


So, why has this subject seized my mind? Well, perhaps it is because a friend of mine is dying. She is not a close friend, but a friend nevertheless.  She reached a point in her treatment for cancer when medicine could no longer "cure" her. So, she returned home and has been put on a diet which includes NO solids. Understandably, her death is imminent, even though she does not know the day.


Several days ago she posted on FaceBook "I'm still alive today... Friends visited so we have had a lovely day of conversations and a lot of puking actually. But it beats the alternative and we are laughing a lot."


Three weeks ago she posted this: "Sunday I had a very small group of close friends from church and other venues in my home for a Service of Transition, Anointing, and Healing. Padre did a service that was beautiful and so helpful for me as I was anointed like the dead are for burial and friends laid hands on me to pray. They covered me first in a funeral pall. Afterwards we celebrated the eucharist together. I wanted this particular blessing to mark that my upcoming death will be a sacred and holy transition. . .These past two weeks have been filled with notes of affirmation and wonderful shared memories helping me understand that I have lived my life as faithfully as I could, and spent myself in service to others as much as I could. I am rich in memories and friends around the world. Thanks be to God."


Clearly, this woman' approach to death is very much in keeping with the sentiment of John Donne's Holy Sonnet 10. 


And how does it connect in any way to the news of the day?  Just this. Nothing is eternal in this world. Powers and rulers and kingdoms all pass. History shows us that no human effort has lasted forever. Empires rise, empires fall. Rulers come, rulers go.  However, John Donne's assertion is that even though death rules over all, death itself cannot destroy eternity.


Heavy thoughts, indeed.  OK--time for my daily walk with our dog to the cemetery.

------------------------


Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou’art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy’or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

by John Donne, 1572 - 1631


Sunday, March 25, 2018

Solutions

I am thinking about solutions--to the horrific problem of extreme gun violence in our country.

My primary interest is not the right to possess guns. Actually, the Second Amendment says--keep and bear arms. And in that amendment ARMS are not defined. There are some weapons you can't have--NCBR weapons (yes, I had to look it up; it means Nuclear, Chemical, Biological and Radiation).

So right there a limitation has been made.

What I want to offer brief comments on some of the types of solutions that have been advanced to solve the problem of gun massacres in schools.

Here's a sampling:
Stockpile rocks in classrooms so if a shooter bursts into the room, students can throw rocks at him (or her) rather than passively waiting to be shot.I am speechless at this suggestion. If someone held a gun and was intent on killing people and someone threw a rock, what do you think the shooter would do? 

Teach students first aid, so they can spring to the rescue of their fallen classmates and teachers.  And do what? Recent articles have detailed the horrific internal damage an AR-15 wreaks on the human body. The Atlantic magazine described it this way: "One of the trauma surgeons opened a young victim in the operating room, and found only shreds of the organ that had been hit by a bullet from an AR-15, a semiautomatic rifle that delivers a devastatingly lethal, high-velocity bullet to the victim. Nothing was left to repair—and utterly, devastatingly, nothing could be done to fix the problem."

But, sure, go ahead, teach first aid.

Arm teachers. A proposal has been widely floated to arm teachers--maybe every teacher or some teachers specially trained. So they could?  So they could return fire.In a wonderfully delicious ironic way, there have been a few recent incidents where teachers DID have a gun in the classroom.  And... (drum roll) ... in one instance the teacher inadvertently shot himself; in another the gun accidentally discharged, hitting the ceiling and dislodging some tile which fell on a student below, thereby injuring that student.

Yeah, arming teachers sounds like a terrific idea. Oh, do you want teachers to also -- teach?  baby-sit your children at times? make sure the children learn everything? prep the students for mandatory test?  buy school supplies because public school funding is diminishing? work long hours at school and then long hours at home, prepping or grading papers? 

Improve security in schools presumably so that EVERYONE entering a school has to go through security including metal detectors.  I can understand why this suggestion has appeal. In fact one of those recommending it was the father of a Parkland student who was killed.  But I think we need to examine the sheer numbers.

Well, now--let's see: in 2013-14 there were 98,271 public schools in the U.S. (In a delicious irony, that stat comes from the U.S. Department of Education website...but don't tell Betsy DeVos...)

How many public school students are there? Again, thanks to the U.S. Department of Education we know there are 50.7 million students who enrolled in the fall of 2017.  So, let's see--using airport security as a model, for improved security in public schools you would need metal detectors in every school, and at every entrance if the school has more than one entrance. You would need trained security personnel to screen the backpacks that are being put through scanners.  You would need to keep that security in place ALL DAY LONG, and evenings too when there are after school activities.    

Oh, what about outdoor athletic events?  

Do you want to hazard a guess as to how much time would be chewed up just getting kids into school?  If you assume that each student can be cleared in 5 minutes (how long does it take you to get through airport security?) then the total time would be 5,700,000 minutes or 95,000 hours.  Obviously that's not every school, but if you know the number of students in your public schools in elementary and secondary schools, you can do your own multiplier.  The school district where I live has 11,059 students. So each day, assuming a 5 minutes clearance time, my school district would be using 95,000 minutes to make schools more secure.
-----------------------------------

Food for thought--how much less complicated would gun control be? (Please note the phrase is CONTROL, not BAN.)

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Two More! (Movies, that is)

We may have started late, but we have now watched two more...

  • Darkest Hour
  • The Shape of Water

The nominees for best picture are--The Shape of Water; Darkest Hour; Dunkirk; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Get Out; The Post; Call Me By Your Name; Phantom Thread and Lady Bird. As you know The Shape of Water won.

The ones in bold are the ones we saw.

Here's my rundown on which I thought was the best picture.  In order of best, better, good...

  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Call Me By Your Name
  • Dunkirk
  • The Shape of Water
  • Darkest Hour
  • The Post

Of course, this ranking is forced and COMPLETELY unfair. I loved each of these movies--for different reasons.

The Post was like watching the history that shaped my formative years in terms of my political sensitivities. I would be curious to know how Gen Xers of Millenials reacted to this movie. For me it was like watching history unfold. And it was painfully apropos to the madness coming out of Washington, DC these days.

The Shape of Water was fascinating, creative, dreamy, a touch scary (not really for me), and a touch historical as it invokes the Soviet arms race of the Cold War. I loved the characters--especially Maude, the lead female character who is mute, and the creature. As some friends of mine who had seen the movie indicated--it is a very sensual movie. Please note that is not the same as sexual...unless you are attracted to inter-species sex.

Dunkirk was a tour-de-force movie, capturing and recreating with a critical moment in the early days of World War II. The evacuation at Dunkirk is told in a chaotic way, focusing on various characters to highlight the complexity and sweep of the evacuation.  Our daughter, who lives in London, told me that this moment in British history is still one recalled with pride.  The movie helps you see why.

Darkest Hour also draws on a moment in British history, also in the early days of World War II. Watching this movie and Dunkirk would give you a primer on how grave the situation was at the outset of the war. Darkest Hour centers on Winston Churchill's becoming prime minister, and some of the internal battles that were raging as he began to lead. Since we know how things turned (hint: the Allies won) it might be tempting to think the outcome was never in doubt. Darkest Hour and Dunkirk help you see how tenuous the outcome was. And how grateful we all should be that the Allies prevailed. And how cautious we should be before throwing our liberty away. (Hint: think the current enamorment with Russia exhibited by certain politicians.)

Call Me By Your Name is an achingly sweet story of first romance. I can only speak for myself--but I can vividly recall a "summer romance" I had when was a teen. It was the most important thing in my life...up to that point..and I thought I would not survive the romance ending. Call Me By Your Name captures that and adds to it the dimension of a young boy coming to terms with his own sexuality. The movie ends with the camera focused on the face of Elio, the young boy. No words are spoken, but his face registers all the emotions. It is a haunting scene.

Finally, my vote for best movie would go to Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.  The movie tells a compelling multi-layered story. The characters are complex. The acting is superb. This movie gets my vote for best movie of 2018 because it gets SO many elements right. In my opinion, of course.  AND I don't get to vote.

P.S. In fairness, I know there are three movies we did not see...so my opinion is just that--an opinion.




Sunday, March 04, 2018

FOUR--I'm up to four!

Make that four of the movies nominated for best picture for the 2018 Academy Awards...aka the Oscar.

Last time I wrote about "the movies" I had only seen Dunkirk.

Well, with the televised Oscars tonight (March 4, 2018)--we suddenly got busy. And over the space of two days, we saw three movies.

First we watched (via satellite) Three Billboards Outside Ebbing. Wonderfully acted.
The story line is coherent--you understand what is happening, and as the movie goes along--why.
Frances McDormand is utterly believable as a mother consumed with rage and grief after her daughter has been killed, and the crime not yet solved. It's no secret to tell you that she expresses this rage by having three billboards that stand just outside of town covered with a sequence of signs challenging the town police chief for his failure.

Woody Harrelson is the police chief. He is flummoxed, at first seems ineffective, and nasty. But you soon learn he has his own troubles--which play a significant part in the story.

Finally, there is Sam Rockwell who is a dumb-ass policeman--at least that's how he starts out. And then...
Nope, not gonna tell you. Go see the movie! 
It's a tour de force of good acting, compelling story, and deeply felt human emotion.

Next we went to the movie theater--you know, that old fashioned place where you pay exorbitant prices to be overwhelmed with a popcorn smell for which you pay prices WAY too high, and then get to sit in comfy seats, watch 15 minutes of commercials, a few previews of movies you wouldn't want to see--and THEN the feature.
This one was The Post

This movie is SO topical, even though it is about the publishing of the Pentagon papers during the Vietnam war. That was in 1971, so that was 47 years ago! And the events may likely not even be known about by Gen X or Millenials. But those of us who lived through the years of Vietnam, and were part of the Baby Boomers certainly remember.

What is at stake in the movie is not only abrogation of power in the most arrogant and tragic ways, but also what it means to have a First Amendment, and what it takes to preserve freedom of speech.

It is impossible to cover everything the movie covers--but with two sterling actors--Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks heading up an equally sterling cast--the movie is a sheer joy to watch. And at the same time a cautionary tale. Timely, eh?

Finally, last evening we watched (via a download on to a computer) Call Me By Your Name
I have had some friends tell me how much they loved this movie--how beautiful a movie it is.
And it is.

The scenery alone is worth watching.  Northern Italy--charming towns, lovely countryside, breathtaking mountains. But the scenery is only a backdrop to an achingly wonderful story of a young man's coming of age. 

The young man is played by Timothée Hal Chalamet. His performance as Elio is so perfect. At times awkward, at times obnoxious, at times deeply enamored, and at times fully sexual.
The other lead part of a young university intern, Oliver, is played by Armie Hammer.

The plot--well, a few words summarize it...the two of them have a summer affair--but that is NOT nearly adequate as a description of this complex, multi-layered, singular story.

My advice--go see it. Go see all of these.

Now, on to more viewing...