Monday, December 31, 2012

Year in Review

Time for my annual New Year’s Eve post…wherein I do the “year in review” by publishing the first couple of lines from the first post of each month of the year.  I decided to do the first paragraphs this time around, since some of the first lines were no more than a couple of words and were rather cryptic.

So here it is…my 2012 in review.  With pertinent year-end comments in the margins, so to speak…

January--It’s happening. I’m beginning to brush up against the downside of the aging process. The everyday aches and pains; the capacity for the mere sight of a bowl of pasta to instantaneously expand my waistline; getting on a train of thought only to have it de-rail, mid-ride. Still, I’ve earned my stripes. I don’t believe I would trade these badges of honor for the opportunity to go back twenty years. Except for one thing: Let’s call it the “Time-Compression(ish) Phenomenon.” That quality of advancing age that makes days, weeks, months, years fly by ever faster. What I wouldn’t give to have two weeks seem like more than the wink of an eye; to have a month be long enough to plan, anticipate, execute and savor. ANYTHING.  (Boy, the holidays flew past in a blur!)

February--They say life is a refining process. Theoretically, the older you get, the more you have learned. The more you can apply past experience; perhaps even use what you know to create a better life, going forward. “You’re not getting older, you’re getting better.” I wish it was that simple.  (Whining…)

March--This morning I got to indulge in my fair-weather morning ritual for the first time in 2012: I took my coffee out to my greenhouse “deck” (a collection of old warehouse pallets covered with wood scraps) and let the morning sun revitalize my vitamin D-starved self from the outside while the coffee did its work from the inside.  (Yay!  Spring!)

April--I rose late this morning, since one of my hormonally triggered bouts of consciousness at a less slackerly hour had informed me that “bright and early” was not going to be a concept congruent to the weather. Tousled blankets and a lumpy pillow won out over greeting the gray and drippy dawn.  (Whining again!)

May--I find I don’t have a lot to say these days. I think my brain is on vacation…I did so much thinking and ruminating and analyzing earlier this year that I just had to…quit. Step back for awhile.  (I’m tired of writing and no one is reading anyway… Oh, Waaa!)

June--Looking back on my writings of discovery, I am surprised to see that it has been well over two years since I began to move in a seriously shamanistic direction. One of the first encounters I wrote about here was with “Elk.” Back in March of 2010. I noted that I had been visited by elk in unusual numbers, in unusual places for several months. My research uncovered that visitation by Elk bade one to “stand strong with pride.” And that Elk’s main attributes included stamina and strength. (Well, at least this one isn’t a whiner…)

July--Now that I have set myself the task of using my own story to demonstrate the abuses suffered by middle class Americans, I find that I have an entire notebook full of experiences at hand to illustrate my point. To avoid overwhelming my intrepid readers, this has sorted itself into a series of posts. Let’s call this first installment “The Erosion/Disappearance of Middle Class Employment;” as illustrated by the saga of the Little PDX Pillow Factory, at which my husband has worked since 1994.  (More than half past the year and we finally get a dose of some political commentary!)

August--Back to enjoying my home and yard after another ten-day stint away. This time, I was in Lane County tending to the Scandinavian Festival and its attendant folderol. My high hopes for the event were unfulfilled, at least from a fiscal standpoint. But as I dejectedly ruminated over this on Sunday evening, a little voice in my head whispered, “Remember: Money isn’t everything…!” and I realized that not only were the husband and I still speaking, but we appeared to be cooperating and enjoying each other’s company. Trust me—this is not a state in which we have found ourselves when engaged together in any undertaking, for a really, really long time. It was…nice.  (Hmmm…maybe hubs and I might like each other again?)

September--In reference to that resume I lately lamented having had to revive:  I’ve sidled up to this job-hunt thing in an anything but conventional way. I’ll confess: As much as I’ve declared my intention to embrace the “p” word (pro-active) when it comes to obtaining an income, I’m still half in love with the idea of the Universe dropping a job in my lap if It really wants me to have one. By way of making some move in the “right” direction, I have conceded to perusing craigslist once a day. If I find a posting that even remotely appeals, I copy and paste the contents of my resume into the “respond to this post” email and hit “send.” No niceties, no research, no painstakingly crafted cover letter. Just, “Here it is. You’re interested, or you’re not.”  (Nope….I really DON’T want a job.)

October--Last week, my little campsite seemed to be located in the middle of an “Ax Men” set. (Much of the footage for this reality show is shot around these very parts.) Every morning, as I sat outside with my coffee watching the birds, a parade in celebration of the logging trade took place up and down Highway 47. Empty log trucks flew past from the north, and trucks laden with piles of fresh logs chugged up from the south. The logs were headed, I believe, for the port at Longview, where they are then shipped to the Far East. In their raw state. So we send both our logs AND our jobs to China and Japan. A pretty crappy deal, really.  (Musings from the woods.)

November--Anyone carrying this picture in her sidebar for four years would certainly be expected to have something to say about the 2012 election results. So I will not disappoint…  This year, I made a tacit agreement with myself to keep as far away from campaign coverage as I could possibly get—from the primaries to the conventions and through the nationally televised stump-speech duels erroneously billed as “debates.” If I’ve learned nothing else from closely following the two presidential elections previous to this one, I’ve learned to loathe the hype and mistrust the fickle whims of the American electorate—or at least as those whims are reported by our intrepid sensation-starved media.  (On the ONE GREAT THING that happened this year…)

December--So many things that were imperatives not long ago, just don’t feel very important any more. The election is over, the post-election wailing and gnashing of teeth have subsided (well, at least I’m not paying attention to it any more…) Peace inhabits a corner of my life that was decidedly NOT peaceful a few short weeks ago. Perhaps it was the last little corner of non-peace in my life. Because once the ripples from that last rock thrown into the pond dissipated, peace spread across and throughout my life.  (The calm before the AR-15 storm…)

I started out with fourteen posts in January of this year, and petered out to three in November.  For the moment, anyway, blogging has taken a vastly different place in my life than it had occupied for more than nine years before that.  In fact, writing of any kind has kind of lost its luster.  I don't know if it's that I've lost my muse or I've lost my passion.  I do my best writing from a position of passion, and I just can't muster up a whole lot of that elusive commodity about anything these days.  I want to hope this is just a temporary thing.  I need to scrape together a pile of new reasons to write, and maybe a pile of new experiences to write about.  Hoping to apply myself to these tasks in 2013.

Until then...

Happy New Year, everyone.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Guns and Freedom

For two weeks—since the shootings at Clackamas Town Center—my most passionate writing has been posted on online comment spaces provided beneath the dismally unfolding stories of two major gun incidents on opposite ends of the country.  Here in Oregon, the Gun Control vs Second Amendment Rights debate was already in full ugly swing when news of the Sandy Hook Massacre broke.  Though the Clackamas shooter only managed to kill two random strangers (and traumatize countless others) that shooting hit home for me. I have been to that mall, and with the Christmas shopping season upon us, the argument could be made that I might have been there that day, might have been one of the innocent strangers upon which this mixed-up kid played out his suicidal drama.

The oftenest-repeated opinion of online commenters seemed to be that if “concealed carry” folks had been present, one of those fine, upstanding, pistol-packing defenders of truth, justice and the American way would have saved the day.  They claimed the kid chose this particular mall because it has posted “gun free zone” signs at all the entrances.  He knew no one would be carrying, and he could shoot up the crowd at will without danger to himself.

I spent many hours between Tuesday evening and Friday morning engaged in attempting to talk sense into gun/concealed-carry zealots.  I don’t know why I do it—it doesn’t make any difference, doesn’t change any minds.  But when things like this go down, and people feel the need to be publicly STUPID about it, I just get possessed by that little avenging angel who sits on my shoulder waiting to call bullshit on ignorant utterance. 

·        And this my friends, is why THIS girl carries a concealed weapon. I refuse to be a victim, and if I am, I'm going down firing.  (127 “likes”)

·        Crazy people aren't stupid. Ever notice how they nearly always pick "Gun Free Zones" to start shooting? An unarmed public can't fight back. (53 “likes”)

·        Since criminals never obey the law, gun free zones really are not gun free. Gun free zones only disarm law abiding civilians.  (25 “likes”)

·        Best way to survive an active shooter who's gun has jammed. Pull out your concealed carry piece and shoot him.  (269 “likes”)

To which I replied: 

I can't believe the number of idiots posting comments about how this is a prime example of WHY we should all have guns and carry them around inside our shirts. This is not a video game, folks. It's real life. With blood and screaming and people dying. I wonder how many of you jackasses who "carry" would actually be able to do anything besides piss yourselves in this kind of situation.

I didn’t get any “likes.”  But I didn’t get any rebuttals, either.

Less than 72 hours after the Clackamas shooting, Sandy Hook became forever branded upon our national consciousness.  Another angry, mixed up middle class white kid with a semi-automatic rifle decides to inflict his angst on unarmed innocents in a public place.  Only this kid was trained on the gun.  Could hit what he aimed at without jamming it up.  So the body count was horrifically higher.  Twenty first-graders and six adult staff lay dead—along with the shooter himself and his mother back at the house—at the end of his rampage.  In the comments spaces below the articles, people were again smearing their brain excrement across the pages for the consumption and edification of the general public:

·        This makes me sick. The fastest way to stop a crazy man with a gun is another gun. I think each school should train and designate several teachers to conceal firearms on their person and use them in case of an emergency like this. "No Gun Zones" DO NOT STOP BULLETS, they make it easy for sicko's like this to slaughter the innocent.

 My reply:  Now all the jackasses are coming out of the woodwork again hollering about concealed weapons permits. You idiots! This was a GRADE SCHOOL, populated mostly by little kids. Should 8-year-olds pack guns? Should teachers? Would it have been responsible for a gun-toting adult to start a shoot-out in the middle of a bunch of small children? Get your heads out of your butts, people. We need to get the guns--at the very least the automatic and semi-automatic weapons--OUT of the hands of anyone who can pass a weak-ass background check and waiting period. The founders guaranteed the right to bear arms, you say? "Arms" in the 18th century consisted of muskets, crude rifles and handguns incapable of shooting more than one round at a time. You need to have a gun? Get one of those...

·        No, if we ban guns then the only ones to have guns will be the bad guys. Guns do not kill people, people kill people.

Me:  Wake up. That "guns do not kill people" thing is so old it wears a mullet. Get a new catch phrase that makes sense when any idiot with a grudge and an automatic rifle can walk into a school and blow away twenty babies in a matter of minutes. People with guns that are WAY too easy to buy, steal, modify and load up with ammunition that only belongs in a war zone kill lots of people, like innocent little kids in a grade school, in a very short period of time. I'm pretty sure if it was one of your kids lying in a pool of blood, "Guns don't kill people" is NOT what you would be wailing as you lifted her lifeless body in your arms...

·        Just imagine if WE were armed. If this guy today knew that teachers were packing and people at malls and movie theaters were packing and they would shoot back. We don't need more gun control cause gun control always stops the law abiding citizen that is being shot at by the non-law abiding who gets guns no matter what. If WE are armed they might think twice about walking into a school or mall and opeing fire on US!

Me:  I'm sure if we were all running around packing firearms, it would have the same deterrent effect on people determined to do violence as the death penalty does...

·        Just a theory...The government with the aid of the UN is slowly working on taking away the American people's right to bear arms by using mind control of a few already unstable guys to go on shooting rampages. The government will use this shooting tragedies as examples that gun control is needed. However, we must remember that if guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns. Support your right to bear arms.

Me:  Dude--Better go get your tinfoil hat and start stockpiling supplies in your fall-out shelter...!

And so it has gone on…for more than two weeks.  I’ve posted something like six pages worth of comments, rebuttals, history and civics lessons.  Honestly, I wanted to write an intellectually stinging masterpiece of gun control commentary here…but I’m tapped out.  My comments run the gamut from calling out the concealed carry folks, to rebutting the time-worn maxim that guns don’t kill people, to theories on how a civilized society is meant to behave, and pointing out the errors in logic of popular arguments like, “Laws only work on law-abiding people” (what does that even mean??)

I’ve gone back to the stories and checked out the comments—a tedious practice since my internet connection is running at roughly the speed of a tortoise on Quaaludes—and there is, at last, only a smattering of new input.  Looks like the novelty has worn off, and folks have already erased this episode of “The Moral Demise of the American Republic” and gone on to the next thing—which, unfortunately, included yet another killing of innocents using a semi-automatic weapon, this time in New York, where a guy murdered his sister, set his house on fire, and then set himself up to pick off the firefighters responding to the blaze.  I just stopped by the comment board under that story on CNN, and my eyes glazed over.  Same damn crap, all over again.  Where does it end?

The brick wall erected behind the rabid gun-lovers is our own United States Constitution.  In particular, the cherished Bill of Rights, that addendum to the original document which ticks off specific rights of the people upon which the government shall not be allowed to infringe.  If only the founders could have understood the Pandora’s box they had constructed with the simple words:  …the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

The deeper I get into this argument, or set of arguments, about the “right” of private citizens to keep weapons with more firepower than could ever be necessary for their personal protection, the more I understand that we no longer have any idea how to deal with this Freedom that our forefathers secured and bequeathed to us.  And therein lies our undoing.  The root cause of all the ideological clashes, moral decay and legislative gridlock that have shaken our nation to its very core over the past couple of decades: we no longer revere and cherish our freedom.  Rather, we’ve leapt to the erroneous conclusion that freedom is meant to benefit the individual.  My freedom.  My rights. 


We have become a nation of self-centered freedom sponges.  We soak up every bit of freedom we can access and label it for our own personal use.  And then we wield that freedom like a club, and downright viciously; we pay no heed to the possibility that MY freedom to do "x" might damage or negatively affect anyone else, or deprive another person of her freedom.   So what?  It’s a free country.  Try to stop me.

Freedom is—has to be—more than that.  That kind of selfish, small-minded freedom is not worth the sacrifice of one life, much less the hundreds of thousands of lives laid down for it over the past 250 years.  I think if you had told an American revolutionary soldier that he was facing disease, starvation, blizzards and British musket fire to protect the right of Rush Limbaugh to broadcast ignorance and fear to 3 million listeners a day, he would have gone home. 

I could write another four pages on what I believe freedom really is, and how it should be taught and cherished and managed.  But not today.  I’ve written too many pages of stuff over the past few days that no one of any significance will read, and that will make absolutely no difference in the end.  But I did have this one thought, and I think it’s a valid one. 

Everyone knows I haven’t thumped a bible in many years.  I cringe at the misuse and the misinterpretation of the passages in that hallowed tome…fume at those who would inflict literal translations (of cherry-picked passages) on our 21st-century society in order to control, enslave or frighten us into conformity with their ideas of God and spirituality.  But that does not mean there is no wisdom contained within the pages. 

The verse that came to mind today came from a most unexpected source—the apostle Paul.  Not generally a favorite among women of strong spiritual opinion.  But as I thought about freedom, and the warped notion of it under which we currently function, I thought of 1Corinthians 13:4-8.  If you don’t recognize the numbers (which I wouldn’t—I had to look it up…) it is the passage that begins with, “Love is patient…”

It occurred to me that if you substitute the word “freedom” for “love,” the result will be a rather stunning accounting of what our freedom really should mean to us.  It would read like this:

Freedom is patient, freedom is kind. Freedom does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 Freedom does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Freedom does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Freedom never fails.

This does not look anything like the freedom we preach and hoard today.

But it should. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

An Unexpected Angle...

I no sooner publish a post about peace taking over my life than the news of the Sandy Hook murders slashes open my envelope of serenity and dumps me unceremoniously back into reality.  A reality that includes the incomprehensible scenario of a troubled twenty-year-old BOY taking up arms and ammunition the type of which belong only in a war zone, shooting his way into a primary school and spraying two classrooms full of first-graders with enough tissue-torturing bullets to silence twenty-six hearts in less than fifteen minutes.  And then turning a gun on himself.  I almost feel, in some minute way, responsible.  After all, what business did I have declaring “peace” in a world where such a thing is possible?

And if the event was horrific, one could almost use the same word to describe the manner in which it was described to the public. If you gleaned your news of the murders from the internet, as I did, you quickly became aware that it was almost impossible to discern the real story from the rumors, conjecture and downright sensationalism.  American journalism has utterly abandoned time-honored methods of responsibly reporting a breaking story in favor of bombarding the public with any and every crumb of information—true or false—which might possibly give a news outlet the dubious honor of scooping its rivals. 

So much of what was originally reported from the crime scene—that the shooter’s mother was a teacher at the school, that the shooter had been allowed into the school unmolested because he “had ties to the school”, that the shooter had been armed with two handguns and left his semi-automatic assault rifle in his car, even down to the identity of the shooter himself—was erroneous.  Hours later, we learned that the mother—the shooter’s fist victim—in reality had no ties to the school; that the shooter had shot his way into the building; that he had in fact done most of the killing with this rifle he had supposedly left in his car; and that he was originally identified as his older brother because he had carried his brother’s ID.  (Imagine being the brother and finding out that you have been identified as the man who just shot up an elementary school in your old home town.)

Basically, our intrepid news media handed us a 24-hour live stream of utter crap.  Every single outlet, from NPR to CNN to FoxNoise.  I wouldn’t have merely received an “F” on this kind of garbage in my high school journalism class.  I probably would have been kicked out of the program.  The media blatantly betray the public trust when they garble the facts so horribly that they spend the next 72 hours trying to REeducate viewers about a story.  By that time, the boat done sailed.  The misinformation is out there; millions of people are going to base their views, possibly even future actions, upon things that never happened.  We already have enough opportunities to choose our own reality in this country.  The least we should be able to expect from our media is the accurate Who, What, When and Where of a newsworthy event. 

The mandate for accurate reporting should not be circumvented by the need for speed.  Just because we can get a story out there in the wink of an eye doesn’t mean we should.  If anything, straight facts are more vital than ever.  Because, almost as instantaneously as the news itself—certainly early on in this grinding-out-a-story-by-inches process to which our media are so addicted—the name-calling, chest-beating and finger-pointing begin, after which all sense of the proportion and magnitude of the event itself are lost.  Let us at least begin the argument with all the accurate facts at hand. 

I’ll bet you expected a completely different take on this from me.  I’ll bet you expected a passionate anti-gun diatribe to flow from my keyboard like the purifying fire of an avenging angel..  Oh…don’t think I haven’t got it in me.  In fact, I spent most of the day Friday online concocting rebuttals to the irresponsible comments of gun-lovers and 2nd amendment perverters all over the country. Egged on by the latest voice to enter the dialogue:  The one that insists that all this gun violence could be curtailed by making sure everyone acquired and carried a concealed handgun.  Oh. My. God.  But before I got into that, I wanted to get this rant off my chest.  I’ll post about the rest tomorrow. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

All Stop

So many things that were imperatives not long ago, just don’t feel very important any more.  The election is over, the post-election wailing and gnashing of teeth have subsided (well, at least I’m not paying attention to it any more…) Peace inhabits a corner of my life that was decidedly NOT peaceful a few short weeks ago.  Perhaps it was the last little corner of non-peace in my life.  Because once the ripples from that last rock thrown into the pond dissipated, peace spread across and throughout my life.     

Peace.  That has become my top priority.  For five years, it was the impossible dream.  There was no peace, no rest, no freedom from the endless list of things I needed to do and never got accomplished.  And then the cafĂ© went away and for many months, tired as I was, I just couldn’t STOP.  You know how they say it takes a freight train over a mile to stop after someone hits the brakes?  The weight of all that baggage moving forward at 55 miles an hour …you can stand on those brakes all you want, but that train will grind forward every inch of a mile and more—and it’s going to flatten anything in its path —before it slows, and slows; and finally squeals to a stop.

I think that it has stopped, now.  All is quiet and still.

I never got all my feelings about the restaurant sorted out.  But I don’t feel like I have to anymore.  It’s not important.  That whole pile of emotional debris I was sure I would have to wade through, and that other pile of the things I thought I needed to be or do now that I was free of the ball and chain—the things that I kept trying on like different outfits and discarding because they just didn’t fit—are gone.  Squashed under the wheels of the train that couldn't stop. 

They don’t seem to matter anymore.  I don’t look for a job, I don’t collect cooking magazines and try out new recipes, I don’t press the husband toward a better relationship, I haven’t come up with a new concept for a business; I don’t write, I haven't found a hobby, I don't work out;  I haven’t completely embraced a new or specific spirituality.  I just AM.  I am letting myself BE. 

 I am not the person I was (which is good) and I am not the person I will be (whoever that is, and whenever that happens.)

Tweny years ago, maybe I could have pulled a "Butch Cassidy" and jumped off the train while it was still moving.  Now...not so much.  And I never realized it was going to take quite this long.  But here we are at last. 

And  I have no clue what comes next.  Definitely not a bad thing.