Friday, December 6, 2013

7 December 2013

This is the view from my window from November 20th. It looked like the clouds were down around the mountains. There wasn't really fog at street level, but not far above, against the hills, it rolled in like that. I thought it looked pretty interesting, but it cleared out quickly.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

26 October 2013

I spent my afternoon driving around the almost deserted streets of industrial Sparks. It was 74 degrees, calm and sunny, and except for the leaves on the trees, it could have been an August evening with the slanting rays of the late afternoon sun. It's been mid-70's, sunny and nice for so much of this month, cold at night for the color, warm during the day so the tomatoes can bask in the sun. It's been a sad month, though, with the deaths of students. Last Saturday I took my 10 year old to a funeral for a 6 year old where the closing song was Pinkie Pie singing Smile, Smile, Smile. Then we walked to Daughter's Cafe and had cookies and sandwiches on their patio.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

12 October 2013

I'm sitting outside at 5:36 pm PDT as the sun sets. I was lying in the bedroom, missing my tree, but enjoying the sunlight, and I felt like I should be out in it. So I got up and came out, only to realize it's rather chilly. But I'm sitting on the base stump of my tree, next to my tomato plant, soaking up the last rays as best I can.

The leaves of my maple are about 3/4 of the way turned, but this ornamental cherry, or whatever it is, is maybe only a quarter of the way done. Both trees have leaves that turn yellow. It is really windy, part of my tomato plant broke off, but it has a lot of tomatoes on it, so I'm letting it get sun, and bracing it with my knees. It is still trying to flower. I planted it from seeds in the middle of summer, and then transplanted it into this big outdoor pot, and it took well, but it might be getting just a lithe fatigued from the pot, because two of the sproutlings grew up, so there are two separate plants in the one pot. One has two bigger tomatoes, and one has a bigger one and 3 tiny ones.

Today was a nice day in Reno, I was hot walking the dog around an hour ago in my sweatshirt, but now the wind has moved in and the sun is far on the horizon, behind a cloud. The sky is still a nice light blue, but soon we will revert to standard time and it will be dark by this time.

When I think of my time in southern California, I think of the sun coming in the back of my house, which was the west facing side. The sun coming in through the slats of the white plantation shutters, and it was warmer in December, but with enough chill in the air at night to turn the maple leaves red. I don't have that kind of maple, though. The arborist who arranged the removal of my locust tree that shaded and dappled my bedroom window in the afternoon, she said my maple looked good, and she told me the name, but I've already forgotten it.

It was too cold, I had to come in. I dragged my tomato plant into the garage. Today is my husband's birthday, but he isn't here. He flew to Pennsylvania to visit his mother, and he is in Philadelphia right now, waiting to get on a plane to Scranton.

Friday, September 13, 2013

13 September 2013

One of my mother's favorite sayings were: "There but for the grace of God go I"

The other was a little chestnut she got from her aunt:
There's so much good in the worst of us
And so much bad in the best of us
that it hardly behooves any of us
to talk about the rest of us.

She actually won some sort of Mother's Day contest with that as advice given to her by a maternal figure. It's common enough, but not quite as widespread as other sayings. I admit that I kind of used to roll my eyes when she'd say it, I think particularly because she was judgmental at times. I enjoyed the first saying, though. As a youngster, it seemed to acknowledge the fact that life is fickle and we are so fortunate to be where we are because life could be so much worse.

As I got older, I started to question it a bit more, because sometimes I heard this saying turned around, being used to justify bad things happening to people, as if God chose not to bestow His grace on some as He might for others. Karma is a bitch and God will judge seem to be two ways of saying the same thing, which is people who do bad things will have to pay in the end, and we really want that to happen, so we say it as if we really mean it and can bring it to bear by the force of our will.

Sin and karma have similar underpinnings, and I often I feel like people aren't looking at it from the more common and much older point of view which is that people suffer in this life as a result of sin or karmic retribution. Who knows what the souls of those children killed in violence were touched by, why they are suffering. Perhaps it is in payment of a debt. Or perhaps it is punishment for lack of faith. If you really believed in God and gave your life to him, He would protect you, or give you a way to help yourself.

I think this is a minority opinion, yet it does seem like when things work out for people, they assume that their own goodness and effort are at least part of the reason why. It's normal, but it can lead to a feeling of self righteousness and callousness. To me there but for the Grace of God go I just stripped that all away. It was probably my Presbyterian upbringing where I always felt that God was some alien creature whose ways were not to be understood. We didn't know why bad things happened to good people, we just felt blessed when they didn't happen to us.

All of this, though, is really beside the point of what I want to talk about, which is how I now understand and embrace my mother's other favorite saying in a way I couldn't when I was younger. It seems trite, it seems obvious. It seems designed to shut down conversation that could root out negativity that should be challenged. My mother probably used it this way at times. And yet, the longer I live, the more I realize people don't believe that there is good and bad in all of us, that we have the capacity, at least at some point in our lives, to do good and to do evil. Yet the very same people who are advocating putting down evil are using evil words: words that advocate torture, acting out in hate and anger to wreak vengeance. And scariest of all, to me, is that they don't see these feelings are the flip side of the coin.

I agree that we can have good intentions when we do bad things, which is different from bad intentions and doing bad things. But I cannot tell you how many times I have been reading some news story with commenters decrying the horrible things that are perpetrated by criminals, and then wanting the same or worse treatment for the criminal. Wanting violence and torture to be done to another person is probably a normal response in some cases, but this is why we continue to have a world full of violence and torture.

We talk about ending bullying, anti-bullying slogans are everywhere. Every time I walked into my daughter's middle school, I saw the results of their anti-bullying campaign with posters designed by the students, talking about how bad it was. They all had a common theme which is bullying is bad, bullies should realize they are hurting people and not do what they do. There was never any ownership of the problem or examination of how we should examine and root out the causes and effects of bullying. There was never any acknowledgement that the sometimes downright disrespectful treatment of the students by the teachers was the very thing they were campaigning against.

The same people who wring their hands and cry about bullying are sometimes the same people who are leading the fight against childhood obesity and feeling that a little shame is a good thing if it's for the greater good of weight loss. They may not even realize they are advocating shame and humiliation as tools, because they don't see themselves as the problem, they see themselves as the good. It doesn't hurt them so how can it possibly hurt a fat child who should know he is fat and want to do something about it.

I can't tell you how many times I've seen these stories where someone does something wrong, and people are advocating for twice the punishment to be visited upon the perpetrator. But then they also scream about how parents don't discipline and if parents just whooped their kids' asses, we wouldn't have these problems, as if discipline didn't come from the words to teach. Yet when there was a story about a woman who was found to be slapping a one year old baby, people thought all sorts of bodily damage and punishment should be visited upon her in addition to her jail sentence. And probably some of those very same people advocating torture think it's OK to slap their children as punishment, even children as young as a year old, if necessary.

If you can wish for torture to be done to others, then you have shown you have the capacity to desire bad for others. If you can humiliate a child with words, and punish with slapping you are a bully. If you desire for other people to be abused the way they abused, you are a a hypocrite. And that isn't wrong, actually, it's part of being human. Because there is so much good in the worst of us and so much bad in the best of us that it really behooves all of us to examine our own contribution to this dynamic.

Monday, July 29, 2013

28 July 2013

Last night I went to see the Tahoe Players production of Les Miserables at the JA Nugget. I've loved the story of Les Miserables since I happily discovered it at the age of 12, and I always thought it would be fantastic fun to be in the chorus of that show. When they held auditions last February, I had to go, but ultimately I had to decide not to do it. I was a little worried I'd feel remorse that I wasn't in the show, but I didn't. I knew the rehearsals were going to be grueling, and they were. I got to hear a lot of gossip about what was going on, and it sounded like pretty much a worse case scenario in terms of time management and the like.

The show was done with a modern interpretation and a minimalist approach in terms of set and scenery. They had two construction scaffolds on the stage that served as the prison and various homes or businesses that were needed at times. The factory looked to be a pharmaceutical one, with workers in white biohazard suits putting pills in bottles. When Javert came out to release Valjean on parole, he was dressed in police blues, with a modern flat-topped police cap, and a billy club and side arm. Later on, when Valjean had to escape to rescue Cosette, he pulled Javert's gun and held him at gunpoint, but then was disarmed and ran off without getting shot.

The backdrop was a set of photos that reflected various scenes, many which were rundown or barren American places, like in Nevada, some just city street scenes. There were scenes of prostitutes at night, or women who looked like prostitutes, and at one point, during the scene that precedes Black & Red, they did a Twitter type tableau announcing the death of LaMarque. It actually caused some laughter in an otherwise serious scene. The most controversial part, however, was when they showed a photo of Trayvon Martin in a hoodie. Apparently there were some people put off by that and wanted to walk out. For modern American singers, though, there was too much fake Cockney accent going on. I feel like a working class crew should reflect the accent of the country where it is taking place, so why not sing like you're from Texas or Brooklyn?

The pacing of the music was extremely fast. Since Toccata backed out of doing the show, the orchestra was kind of cobbled together from various musicians in the community. It was a good orchestra, though, conducted by Jane Brown from the Reno Pops with professional players. I felt like it was a bit loud at times, mostly because not all the singers were mic'ed, or the mics went out. The horns had a few wonky chords, but the string players were talented and worked up a sweat. The pacing was just too fast for me, but I tried to keep an open mind. I like more phrasing, but maybe phrasing is a stylistic choice. However, even with the words getting spit out at auctioneer speed, there were people who rushed. At one point Jane was beating the hell out of her baton to bring the orchestra up to the speed of one of the singers, and she had to mouth the words during one of Marius' pieces. It was possible that the actors just couldn't hear the orchestra well, which would honestly shock me.

Michael Jackson as Jean Valjean was fantastic. He had a beautiful voice and seemed to get stronger as the show went on. The cheers for his Bring Him Home were deafening, and unfortunately started while he was holding out his final note. Audience members annoyed me a few times. They clapped in the middle of pieces where different characters were passing the solos back and forth, instead of waiting for the entire number to be finished. Some people walked in during the middle of the first half to sit at a booth right behind the conductor, almost to the point of bumping her. Why that seat wasn't blocked off, I have no idea.

I felt like Fantine, Valjean, Cosette and Eponine had strong voices. Javert was brilliant at times, lackluster at others. One of the members of the student uprising group was pretty good, but Enjolras wasn't that exciting, and Marius almost ruined it for me. He was out of tune in some parts, notably during a duet with Cosette, and he was the biggest offender of rushing the entrances. The other thing I had a little problem with was the minimalist staging. They had a barricade with modern slogans, reminiscent of a Occupy Wall Street kind of protest. But they all had guns, and the they fought on the barricade pointing the guns towards the audience. So some of the action with Valjean and Javert happened upstage rather than down, like I saw in the San Francisco production. There were times when I felt like if I wasn't already familiar with the story, I'd have no idea what was happening from where they were going onstage. The whole sewer scene had no scenery change, the dead on the barricade were still there. Then Javert and Valjean's final confrontation took place with Javert on the scaffold above Valjean on the floor behind the barricade. Since they were both standing and facing the audience directly, the impact was really lost, I felt. Javert killed himself on the scaffold with a gun to the head, and the actor fell realistically behind a piece of plywood that was on the front of the scaffold, so that was pretty interesting.

So I'm glad I saw it and I liked the modern interpretation even though it didn't always work with the text. I'll save the gossip for another post.

Monday, June 3, 2013

3 June 2013

Now is the melancholy time of year, the month of endings and beginnings, the month of the longest days, but the month when they start getting shorter as well. It's a time of tempered excitement, where the mundane things I do are imbued with more feeling than they normally have, a feeling that what I am doing is at the same time unnecessary, yet urgent. It reminds me of the feeling I have when people who have been visiting are leaving to return home. I want to do things that are nice for them, to help them with their journey, but the main point of my actions is in the offering. I am cleaning out my daughter's backpack, looking for final notes, organizing it, signing off on a planner for the last time. It really doesn't matter, but it will be the last time I do this, so it feels important.

Tonight I walked the dog, and I stood in the darkness while she sniffed all the things she needs to sniff in a walk. As sure as I am standing here, still hale and healthy, holding my dog's leash and feeling the sadness of all the years past, one day I'll be dying in my bed, knowing it's all over, nothing will really be necessary anymore, there will be nothing I can really do to make any difference in the world again. When my mother was dying, I liked to busy myself with all the little tasks I could do for her in that moment, living in that moment, while she was still alive, knowing she was dying. But we are always dying, the big thing that you do that you might feel significant can be rendered useless if the person you are doing it for steps off the curb into the path of an oncoming bus. So every little thing we do should be done with purpose, I think.

When I walk out in the warm days of these late spring days, the sensory input can evoke the same feelings in me as a 46 year old as they did for me as a 16 year old. I remember being a 6 year old, lying on crisp white sheets in a bedroom with an open window, afternoon sun, curtain riffling in the spring breeze. I remember going on summer vacations, riding in the car for hours, sleeping in the back window. Then later falling asleep in my grandparents bedroom and waking up when my father carried me out to put me to sleep on the couch so they could go to bed. I remember my mom crying every time I left, telling me how she cried on the toilet whenever I'd go back to college. And then one day I left my state, I left her for good. She probably cried on the toilet then too. Now all that crying is done, she has nothing more to cry about.

It's another end of the school year. My older daughter is 14 and will be done at her middle school on Wednesday, all the accoutrements of her time there now unnecessary. They are collecting uniform pants and shirts in big boxes in the hallway. She'll be in high school next year, and then all of a sudden, faster than it took for her to get from infancy to preschool, she'll be grown and leaving. And then I can cry on the toilet.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

19 May 2013

Today, Sunday, was a beautiful May day in Carson City. My choir had a concert at the First United Methodist Church there, and we had a little reception afterwards. It wasn't a well attended concert, but the people who were there seemed very appreciative.

Some of the women had carpooled from Reno, and they were going to go to the Olive Garden before heading north. They invited me along, so I ended up meeting them there, and we had a table for 8 with a jovial waiter. At one point a member of our group told him we were a choir, to explain some of the matching uniforms, and we joked about singing for him. After we had already ordered, one of my friends from church came in with a group from her daughter's musical show. It was their last performance, 2 hours before ours. We chatted briefly, and she returned to her table. We were all having fun, some of us drinking wine and chatting. Then a few servers came up and sang happy birthday to a booth next to us. We thought the singing left something to be desired, and I figured the 8 of us plus my friend at the other table could do a better job. I got her, and she came right over. Then I asked whose birthday it was at the table, and she told me her name was Cheyanne. So I stood there and started us off, since no one else wanted to, and I must have picked a good starting note, because we sounded great. My friend, who sings in the church choir with me, but not the women's choir, does a good harmony for Happy Birthday. The restaurant chatter died down as people listened. It was actually fun to sing a song like that, the sheer joy of singing something to celebrate another person.

So it was a fun night, and then later, the waiter came over and told me I was awesome for doing that. I guess sometimes when I want to do something, I can get it going.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

15 May 2013

Last night as I was drifting off to sleep, I was thinking about sleeping position in the bed. My mother always slept on the right side and my father on the left as opposed to how my husband and I position ourselves. He must sleep on the right. Later on in my parents' lives, my mother made my father switch sides. Due to health considerations and the fact that my father could only sleep comfortably on his right side, my mother made him sleep on the other side of the bed, the side closest to the bathroom. I started wondering about how and why people make these choices, and do they ever change like that. Then I was wondering about my mother. After my father died, she started sleeping with a body pillow on his side of the bed, the right side. She didn't move back to that position, even though it had been hers for the majority of their relationship. I wondered what side she was sleeping on now, and my mind visualized her in her various home places as my mind tried to picture her sleeping in a bed.

It happens in the space of a second, the speed in which your brain can conceive of all these ideas and conjure they images without any words actually being verbalized internally. It led to the realization that my mother is dead, so she doesn't sleep on any side of the bed. In her rehabilitation home, she had a twin bed with a rail, and I saw that, but then nothing, so I realized. It hit me at that moment, with a deep, absolute, heavy feeling--heavy as in a weight pressing me down and making the pressure of the air around me seem dense--that my mother is dead, completely gone from this earth. I couldn't breathe for a moment, and the house seemed absolutely still. I felt a weird little spark. Why have I never really comprehended it? She is gone. She was cremated, so she is burned up. Her soft, pinky white and freckly skin is burned up. The bony bridge of her nose is burned up. Her curly brown and silver hair, just newly permed not long before she died is gone, burned up. Her beautiful, perfect & strong oval fingernails that always got her so many compliments are burned away. Her bony feet are gone.

Why do we burn bodies? It seems so ecologically unsound, if more hygienic. Can't they put me in the ground in no box, and let my body return to dust as it nourishes the soil? Doesn't it take a lot of energy to burn a body? I have a little sample of ashes in a tiny memorial urn, so I still have a few molecules of her, I guess. What good does that do anyone, though.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

17 April 2013

I posted this on Tumblr late Wednesday night/early Thursday morning, so I'm backdating to the 17th. I had been thinking about it after seeing the Dove video. Unlike this blog, that I try not to promote, I wouldn't mind people following my Tumblr. But I get no likes or reblogs or people arguing with how stupid my opinions are.

The Dove Video The Dove video with the sketch artist who draws pictures of women described both by the subject and by a third party…that’s been making the rounds the last couple of days. I’ve read people say it brought them to tears. It certainly made the women in the video cry. I can’t say it wasn’t interesting, because it was interesting to me. The whole process wasn’t there, but the pictures seemed more accurate when people were described by others. It seemed like the artist probably internalized the way people talked and put that into the sketches, because the people actually looked happier in the drawings described by the other person.

But the scenes of the women crying, realizing they didn’t see themselves as being as pretty as others saw them left me cold. Why, why, why are seemingly useful human beings crying over this. So you don’t think you’re pretty? Big fucking deal. A lot of people aren’t pretty, a lot of people don’t fit neatly into the societal standard of beauty. Don’t cry about it, go out and do something useful.

Now don’t get me wrong, I get that beauty as it is defined by society is a commodity and a power. I lump it right up there with all the other useful attributes that humans have, like intelligence, physical strength or good communication and relational skills. It might take a lot of work to get and keep beauty and make it work for you. It’s interesting, though, that most people aren’t crying about how they aren’t those other things. I’m sure we all feel that we wish we were smarter or better, but at the end of the day don’t think it’s within our control to be as talented as we could be, we learn to accept things as they are and work to change what we can.

The bottom line is that I am not beautiful by society’s standards. I am not even considered pretty by society’s standards. I fall short of being truly ugly, but ugly is a word that I think is cute (and I think the word cute is rather ugly), and to me it’s a word that conveys a certain kind of power. There are day where I just embrace the hell out of my ugliness. It’s not anything that anyone has to give me. I’m not pretty. I say that frequently. I don’t cry about the fact that I say that or that I feel that I need to say that. Because, the truth is, of course *I* feel like I’m a lot prettier than others see me. I think I’m smarter than others see me too. I actually think I’m pretty damn valuable. And, it might be really surprising for many people to learn, since I publicly lament not being as kind as I want to be, but I actually think I’m nicer than most people give me credit for.

One thing we all realize fairly early on in our adult lives is that who and what we are attracted to, what we find beautiful, is affected by a lot more than mere aesthetics. We fall for people, and then they define beauty for us. I can call myself ugly because by society’s standards as a middle aged, morbidly obese woman, that’s what I am. I can look at my children and find them absolutely gorgeous to my brain and heart, but I can also pull back and look at them through the lens of current standards of beauty and see where they fall short. Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but it’s still a commodity, so I can look at it that way. But because I might say I’m ugly, don’t ever let that fool you into thinking that I don’t actually find the beauty in myself and try and embrace it or keep it just for me my loved ones. And don’t think I don’t have self esteem. Some days I don’t, but that very fact is what helps me evaluate what I’m doing in the world. We all need some, but we don’t need too much of it!

Yes, I wish I were wealthier in the beauty department, but I’m plenty privileged enough. I don’t feel like the truly useful and valuable among us actually worry about it the way many of us might. It kind of makes me sick, in a way because I’d like to feel that transcending this petty crap was possible. But I’m still vain, oh yes I am.

Another thing to keep in mind is that it’s totally normal and desired in some cultures to be self-deprecating, to not take compliments at face value and to deny them out loud even as you partly internalize them. I may not be good at that, since I like things to be pretty up front. But the compliments, oy vey, the “Oh, you’re so pretty” can feel so artificial to me. How many times have you seen a photo of someone and you’re all, “Damn, rough night for that one” and people are all, “Oh you’re so beautiful!” It can take all that I have in me not to say, “Wait, are we looking at the same photo? Because I’m not seeing it.” But I remember that 1)beauty truly IS in the eye of the beholder, 2) people see the beautiful compliment as a statement of how valuable they find that person and 3) people don’t want to kick someone when they are feeling vulnerable.

I try and post new profile photos of myself regularly on some sites, and not at all on other sites (like this one, other than this cartoon thing my husband had done for me as a birthday present years ago—and the artist made my face thinner, because I guess that is a gift). I hate posting new photos of that static moment in time, because I feel like many of us look kind of less than appealing that way, like this one still shot cannot possibly capture the totality of how awesome or how not awesome I am. But I post them to be real, although, of course, yes, you’d better believe it, I don’t post the pics where I think I’m ugly…at least not unless I’m really feeling my ovaries that day.

I accept the societal standard of compliments and looking past the words to the intent even though the words may offend me. The truth be told, I’d rather people say, “awww, you’re so pretty” rather than to say, “Although you are not aesthetically pleasing to my eye and I feel no sexual affinity for you, I wish to show that I find you worthwhile by paying you the compliment of saying you are beautiful.”

I’m 46 now, so I’m really coming into that womanly freedom of not having to be beautiful. I’m not quite there, not quite able to embrace my cronehood, I’m at the crux. I think I’m actually really nice more for the things I don’t say than for the things I do, and I think I have talents that other people don’t appreciate. And I don’t really think I’m ugly, although, as I said, that has it’s own kind of power and freedom. But what if I didn’t second guess things, didn’t stop to question my motives, my actions, my brains, my appearance? I’d be fucking insufferable. And we have all known insufferable people. It’s not pleasant. So let me be self-deprecating and let me have my self esteem and self preservation instincts too, because somewhere in the middle of it all is the truth of who I am.

13 April 2013

I was driving to South Suburban Reno to do a publicity mailing prep for my choir on Saturday the 13th. I turned onto Lakeside from McCarran and drove towards the Bartley Ranch area. Just in that one little stretch of road where there is an apartment complex next to a shopping area, I saw some interesting things.

There was a garage sale like thing happening in the grass between two apartment buildings, but it was really an overstock lamp sale. There were all sorts of lamps and lamps with tables out on the grass, and people were stopping to buy them. About 30 feet up the street were some men removing one of the large pine trees that grow in front of the apartment buildings. It looked to be a serious job. Then after that, in the shopping center, were a group of bicycle riders, all decked out in their bright, graphics-covered spandex. I wished I had my camera and could have taken photos. It looked like a Richard Scarry picture book.

Coming back, the bikes and arborists were gone, but the lamps were still out. There was a beautiful dog with silky blonde curls with its feet up on a table while the human pondered a lamp.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

27 March 2013

When I was in middle school, I was teased and called names. You learn to shake off a certain amount of this. By the time I got to middle school, I was used to a fair amount of name calling and meanness. I could just put my head down and ignore the people who were calling out to me to get my attention, just so they could look me in the face and laugh when they made a joke at my expense. People saying they liked my homemade pants, where could they get a pair; boys pointing at each other saying, "He likes you!"; the names like fatso and tub of lard were familiar. I had heard them from my own mother at some point in my life. She didn't like fat kids either.

But one day when I was in the hall on the back end of the gym, having either just come from gym or from the bathroom nearby, a boy called me Blubber Lips. I was mortified. I didn't even know that was a thing. I knew I was fat, there wasn't anything I could do to hide that fact. But blubber lips? Is that a Thing, a Bad Thing, to have fat lips? It bothered me a lot at the time even though I have no idea which boy said it and, truth be told, whether he was actually talking to me. I assumed he was, because it felt like most random comments shouted out in my direction were towards me, even though I tried to ignore them and pretend they weren't about me at all.

For some reason, the thought that there was another part of my body that could be fat and considered unattractive, a body part that I just had never considered as problematic, that was just hard to take. I think after that I deliberately tried to make my lips look as non-fat as possible. I kept them closed tightly often times.

A few years later I was in a musical with a local singing group. A woman was helping me apply stage make-up, and she drew a line around my lips with lip liner before she filled it in with lipstick. She told me she was making my mouth a little fuller as I had thin lips. I do? I asked in amazement. I wasn't sure if that was a good or bad thing either, but it seemed like fuller lips were better. It was just a statement of fact, and I wasn't sure if it was good or bad, but later I realized I wanted fuller lips. I was a person with lips not big enough for the rest of her, it would make more sense if all of me was big, I thought.

My top lip is thin. It seems to have always been problematic. It has a scar, and it is uneven. When I was 7, I was in a bike accident. A boy deliberately rode into me and knocked me over...I think. I lost a bit of time around the accident. I remember riding down the street with a group of girls, going as fast as we could, and seeing this group of boys in a driveway. A boy was on a bike, at the top of a ramp, smiling. The next thing I remember is waking up as my dad was carrying me down the street to my home. He was wearing a maroon shirt, and my face was against his chest. I was in pain. My hands were torn up, with flesh gouged out of them, and my lips were a mess. I must have landed right on them. I had a giant swelled lip that was black and red. It looked like the bubble in a pizza crust at that pizza place at the mall.

My parents took me to the emergency room, and I had stitches. I remember lying on the table and feeling so sleepy, looking at the lights. They told me to put ice on my face to reduce the swelling. My mom and sister thought I looked so terrible that I remember being very diligent with the ice pack, wanting to impress my mother with my healed face. It worked, she was excited when it started to look better. I remember lying in bed at night, looking at my poor chunked out hands and crying that someone would hurt me like that.

My mom was angry at the boy who did it, and started making me go out with her into the street whenever she saw him playing. She would go up to him and yell, "Look what you did to my daughter, look what you did to her! Are you proud of yourself?" That was embarrassing, and I started resisting going outside, so she'd yell from the doorway. Eventually she got over it, thank goodness.

When I talked to friends about the accident, they told me I was passed out on the street and bleeding, and you could still see the blood stains. I couldn't see them when I went to look--they looked like old oil stains, there was no blood. And I wasn't damaged internally, so it wasn't like I was coughing up blood, as they said I was. Oh, the melodrama of that age. The girls also told me that the boy's mother came up to me and told me to get up go home and stop faking it. I was really angry at her for saying that. I wanted her to admit she was wrong. My sister apparently brought some kids by the house to look at me through the window, saying I was a monster. I don't remember that ever happening, thankfully, although maybe I would have thought that was funny. I remember getting to eat poundcake cut into little squares. My lip healed, but there was a scar at on the top lip where the little peak was supposed to be, and my lips were forever asymmetrical after that, although that probably isn't uncommon anyway.

I asked my father about that accident when I was an adult, what did he see when he came to get me. He said I was just sitting on the curb, crying. I seemed stunned. He told me come on home, but because I seemed out of it, he picked me up and carried me.

The other day I was putting lotion on my face, and lamenting that I have my mother's thin top lip with very little peak--unlike my husband and my daughter's beautiful little cupid's boy lips. My scar isn't even noticeable anymore, but it's the same darn lip my mother had, that's why I have thin lips. She did too. At that point I remembered when that boy called my Blubber Lips. I'm 46 now and was only 12 then, and he may not have even been yelling at me, but I carried it anyway. Funny how those things stick with you and come back at the oddest times. It probably explains some of my insecurities and why it is still easy for me to believe that I get less respect because I am a fat woman. But in some ways this can be freeing.

15 December 2012

Guns are violent. Guns are inanimate and often silent, but in their function they are violent. They are like the forces of nature in that way, and reflect the natures of human beings who created tools that are useful and violent to help them persevere against a capricious and often violent world. Many things are strong, deadly and operate with a violent effect, but guns were created specifically with one need in mind--a way to concentrate power into a wieldable form, a power that is beyond what the physical bodies of humans can achieve without a tool. All weapons, all tools are a way that we use our intellect to extend our physical abilities to gain an advantage, and a firearm is a tool in that sense. But to see a gun, to see a photo of a firearm has a specific effect on us, produces a specific reaction. We know the significance of them; we know they are created to kill. Even if we never fire a gun except at a target, and see guns only as a type of sport, we know the original purpose of target practice. This is true of weapons.

Yet we are able to distance ourselves from the violence of guns, knowing we have them for a purpose we hope never to encounter. We can view them in a historical context that is colored by the very bloody, deadly conflict between humans so that guns are just part of this noise, a somewhat interesting and admired part of it. We can evaluate the tactics of war like a game and reenact these wars in recreation as an enjoyable pastime. We will adhere to a religious belief in which the instrument of torture and death of our Savior becomes the symbol of the Savior's sacrifice. Eons pass, and we distill very real things into symbolic ones, and then change the meanings. Humans do this all the time. It's one of the things, I believe, that is uniquely human. It takes a certain amount of intelligence to be calculatedly violent. Yet we maintain that ability to gloss over the significance of things so that as biological organisms, we can continue to thrive and reproduce. Many many things suffer at our hands, and we laugh at their suffering, deeming it part of nature.

Part II, written after December 15th
People love guns, people hate guns, people imagine a world with no guns; they should imagine a world without violence, for a world just as motivated by greed and self preservation in the gathering of resources but one without technology is a part of history. The truth is not necessarily revealed by facts. It may be ludicrous to talk about guns as being protection for women when more women and children die today because of firearms. But we are talking at cross purposes, comparing the statistical with the ideological. Do you believe, at your core, that you have the right to take up a weapon and defend yourself and your loved ones? Are you a pacifist. If you are not, what are the limits of the weapon you should be able to choose? Does the Second Amendment even address this? It seems very vague and insufficient for our purposes today.
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
The right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed could be interpreted as there shall be no governmental regulation of any kinds of weaponry. But there is, of course. We regulate and control when and where firearms can be used, who can own them and who cannot, and what kind they can own.

A Constitution that cannot change or be interpreted in such a way to reflect the needs of the people in the society it is used to govern is useless. Philosophical beliefs can transcend time and space, the good ones always will. But we can't take 200 years of technology and ignore it. We are dealing with an issue of rights in a world where what was once not even something someone could imagine is now beyond possible. We can argue that the technology we have is too dangerous and we need to find ways to reign it in because our culture and society are such that we demand this as a people who elect leaders to govern us. We can interpret the Constitution literally, and therefore say we believe that we are limited to the firearms technology available at the time. We can't, however, say that there are only two options: no firearms, or unlimited weaponry. We aren't allowed to own nuclear suitcase bombs. We are allowed to interpret and write laws that we feel will serve us best as a technology.

Ultimately I do believe that people have the right to arm and defend themselves. I do believe people have the right to work together to interpret and change the laws in a way that is beneficial to society as a whole, in a way that is Constitutionally sound. I feel that, like the abortion issue, we are comparing apples to oranges. When you look at the issue of individual owning and using firearms, and when you look at the issue of people having abortions, the thought at first might be that these things are terrible and basically exist to end the life of living things. Just like most women who choose to have an abortion aren't saying, "yay, I get to kill a fetus", most people who use weapons aren't saying, "I'm going to go kill some children." People are making decisions about what is best for themselves and their family, even if it comes at a price that seems too high to others. I'm always amazed, I must say, when people who want to reserve the right to kill another human or group of humans to preserve their property as well as their safety, don't believe that a woman should have the right to end the pregnancy in her own body before the baby could ever exist outside of it. If there is a repercussion from the Universe and the State in making this decision, then each person has the right to make that decision for him or herself and deal with both the legal and spiritual fallout.

With the culture, the history, the ideology around the myriad of dangerous technology, whether weapon or not, we will never be able to keep people from dying violently, before their times. I'm willing to be proved wrong, I'm willing to try, but part of me believes that there are worse things than dying by a firearm. When I think of that woman in India, pulled gang raped to death, and thrown off the bus, I think it would have been better for her to have been shot.

I started writing this on December 15th, but I kept it as a draft for a long time