Friday, February 14, 2014

A Valentine Love Story

I have been feeling particularly open to Valentine's Day this year -- not sure why, and I'm not sure I care why.  I thought, instead of my amorphous Seneca quote cover page, I'd take at least Friday - the actual day - to have a true, hearts-and-flowers, HappyValentine-y image for my cover photo.

So I set about Google to find just the one that made me smile.  The sheer number of Valentine's images on any search engine is staggering, let me tell you.  And many of them are cartoons and teddy bears (no, thanks), flowery sentiments (I'd rather not this year, if you don't mind), and images of Edward and Bella (still? seriously?) in hearts looking longingly at each other (do vampires get to celebrate Valentine's Day, I ask myself).  

Then I happened on a quiet little image from a Valentine promotion that a pub was doing last year - some special giveaway on Valentine's night during Happy Hour.  Aha, I thought.  This might be just the thing.  It was abstract, red on a colorful background, looking very much like a painting.  No slogans. No teddy bears. No vampires (thank the gods).   It was different.

Yet... also... familiar... 

I opened it up to full-sized in the browser and took a better look.  My eye was immediately drawn to the signature in the lower left hand corner.

"Sowards '01"

Yep.  I made it, twelve years ago, using an old iteration of UltraFractal and a filter program by Alien Skin called Snap Art.  I had it posted on an art blog a while ago.  Someone must have lifted it from there for their own use.  (Just a little reminder this Valentine's Day when you're considering posing in front of a digital camera for your Significant Other in that new negligee... Relationships come and go, but the interwebs is forever, kids.)

It still holds up, by golly.  I love art, and I also love the internet - both for reasons that are different, yet familiar.  

Happy Valentine's Day, my peeps.  I love you all.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Flowers Are A Girl's Second-Best Friend

On this Wednesday before Valentine's Day, can we talk a moment about the gift of cut flowers? I have heard at least three men say they "don't believe in cut flowers" as a gift, because it's a waste.  Because they're only temporary.  Because they die.  They have proclaimed proudly that they buy their wives living plants, because they "go on forever".

While it's true that it is the "thought that counts", the thought process here is flawed, and I'd like to discuss this.

First of all, I have met a lot of women in my life, and regardless of what they tell you most days of the year, a bouquet of gorgeous flowers -- unless sent by a stalker, or inadvertently bearing a card addressed to the "other woman" -- is rarely the cause for unhappiness in a woman's life.  Especially on Valentine's Day.  Even though the flowers are temporary, and will only die in a week or so, they are lovely while they are lovely and they represent something ethereal and beautiful that most women (and some men) "get" on a deeper level.

Second, when you give a woman a living plant, it won't generally "go on forever" unless she is prepared to take care of it.  It sends a message that these men probably haven't considered.

To wit: "Here, honey... you take care of the kids, me, the house, your job, the pets, our social calendar, and all the other things that you handle in the course of your day... My way of saying 'thanks' is to give you one more thing you get to care for."  (One of the men claims he handles all the gardening and plant maintenance in his home, but I know this man, and doubt the voracity of this statement, even if he thinks this is true of himself.)  Most men have little idea of what women do in the course of their day, particularly if they are wives and mothers and they have jobs as well.  Statistically, the division of household and parenting chores is not evenly divided between men and women.  According to a survey by the UK's Daily Mail, working women spend approximately three times longer on household responsibilities than do men.  That's not just in London.  That's worldwide.

I'm not indicting men for this. This is often the result of women who have been raised to believe that they must take on certain tasks, and have never considered not doing them.

I'm only bringing this up to say that most women already have their hands full caring for small helpless things, like kids and pets.  They don't need anything additional added to the mix as a "gift", regardless of the thought.

Cut flower arrangements are totally impractical.  They have no active function, no purpose, no task to perform. Their only justification for existence is that they are beautiful. They smell good.  They make a dark, empty corner of a house come to life.  They are fragile and temporal and tender and delicate.  They exist only to warm the heart and make it sing.  They are worthy of love not for what they do, but simply for being.  They are, in fact, delightful.  Especially if they are only available at certain times of the year, like Valentine's Day.

Gentlemen, when it comes to your women, do what you want. Give what you can.  But also know that if you choose to give flowers to set on her desk at work or a corner of the dining room, you will be rewarded in ways you might not have expected.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Friday, January 03, 2014

For Us Or Against Us

I have stated on this blog in the past that I have mixed feelings about Edward Snowden, the whistle-blower who brought the entire NSA surveillance fiasco to light.  Most of my objections regarding Snowden revolve around his sketchy motives and his demeanor that makes him appear as though he's a publicity hound.  I have stated that I never got the feeling Daniel Elsberg particularly wanted to be famous for exposing the Pentagon Papers.  I get the opposite vibe from Snowden.  While I think it was important that the NSA's activity be brought to light and made transparent, I am uncomfortable -- deeply uncomfortable -- with the idea that a person would blow the top of a secret government spy agency simply for the self-aggrandizement.
Now that several national newspapers are angling for clemency for Snowden, there is sure to be renewed discussion about why he did what he did.  Is he a freedom-loving American, truly motivated by a desire to take us back to pre-Patriot Act protections against unwarranted search-and-seizure methods by the government?  Or is he a shallow opportunist angling for his 15 minutes of fame?

At this point, I neither know nor particularly care.  The NSA has been outed, the government has had to come forward and take a stand saying everything they're doing is hunky-dory, and that's that.

I am disturbed though by this black-and-white characterization of Snowden is beginning to form.  At the bottom of the HuffPost article, there's a little survey asking "Is Edward Snowden a hero or a traitor." HuffPost readers get to click a little button by either "hero" or "traitor" and neatly wrap up a complex and multi-layered situation with the mere point-and-click of the mouse.

Why? Why does Snowden have to be either?

I can find nothing that he's done to make him much of a hero. But neither do I find his behavior traitorous. He's made a bit more transparent an intelligence agency that has quietly been building steam and strength since it was formed in 1952.   Unlike the CIA, the NSA is absolutely entitled to spy on American citizens on American soil.  Now, they're being allowed to do it wholesale, without benefit of a warrant or judge's order. Somebody should be keeping an eye on that, don't you think?

But Snowden is no hero, either.

He's kind of a conniver and a schemer who used a classified position to get the goods on the government.  It's like asking a two-bit conman to testify against a mob boss. You're glad he brought the mob boss down, but you wouldn't invite him to Thanksgiving if you could help it.

What happens with regard to continued or broadened NSA surveillance remains to be seen. As I've said before, I'm glad there is an awareness now of just how much harm the Patriot Act has done to erode Constitutional freedom in this country.  We have spent the last twelve years, allowing our leaders to govern us through fear and threat.  And as such, we have gotten precisely the country we ordered out of the catalog.

Now, we know.  And we do have Snowden to thank for it.

So I will say "thank you" and send him on his way, without a title that burdens either of us.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

To My Mother, On What Would Have Been Her 80th Birthday

Today, my mother would have turned 80 years old.  I have been thinking about her a lot lately, working on erasing my past wounds and grudges into remembrances of loving kindness and compassion.  It does get easier with practice, and it makes for a much happier memory of childhood.

For all of her difficult ways, my mother had much to recommend her. Besides being beautiful, she was also brilliant with a sharp wit, and a keen mind.  She could cook like a demon, often making up recipes on the spot, based solely on what was in the fridge the day before grocery shopping day.  She was funny and appreciated that I was funny, too.  She loved animals, often to a fault (someday I'll tell you about our 22 cats).

My mother had a way with the holidays that made Christmas in our house always fun and always a joyous celebration.  Though she was an avowed agnostic, Christmastime was a sacred holiday of the inner spirit, and it was set aside as a time of peace, beauty and appreciation for humanity.  Arguments and fights were rare, and the house was a singular place of calm and good will.  Whatever our difficulties, whatever our finances, or the world condition, my mother "kept Christmas well", as Dickens wrote.  And others kept it well around her.

In the past five years, though I am rarely ill, I have gotten fairly significant upper respiratory infections over the Christmas holidays. In 2011 and 2012, I lost my voice entirely for several days, in fact.  This year, third year running, I am suffering from a deep chest cold, that appears to be settling in my throat.  I don't think this is an accident.  I think I am missing my mother. As my anger toward her has melted away, I am feeling sad for the things that went unsaid and unexplained, on both sides.  I don't think those things could have been said when she was alive, but it doesn't change the fact that the words hang there, in the open, like sharp icicles, waiting for gravity to claim them. I think this is why my voice goes away.  It goes away for all the things we never said, and should have.

So, I say them to her now.  Not here, in public, but privately and between us.  But here, I will say, "Happy birthday, Mom.  I hope, wherever you are now, you are able to have the peace and happiness you created once a year, every year, at this time of year."

Peace and Merry Christmas to all.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Practicing Dreaming: Or, How I Plan to Walk from Biloxi to New Orleans

"Golden Dreams" by Moroka323
I am reading a really wonderful book... No. Strike that.  I have been reading, for the past several weeks, a really wonderful book, several times in row.  The book is called "E-Squared: Nine Do-It-Yourself Energy Experiments That Prove Your Thoughts Create Your Reality", by author Pam Grout.  It's a Hay House publication, so you know there's going to be homework.

Grout sets forth nine experiments that readers can do to illustrate how thoughts become things, and how our thoughts can also thwart our intentions.  In her chapter on manifesting material things, to illustrate how one gets from being a doubter to a believer, she uses the analogy of a walking trip from Biloxi, Mississippi, to New Orleans.  If you want to get to New Orleans from Biloxi, you simply have to set out on the path to New Orleans, Grout says.  And by "New Orleans", she means the life you want (great job, dream house, sexy love interest).  And by "Biloxi", she means the life you have (crappy car, boring job, night in front of the t.v. with your cats).

The problem most of us have in achieving what we want is that we're so busy wallowing in the Biloxi of it all, we can't get started on the way to New Orleans.  When you're walking to New Orleans, there is going to be some time where you are neither in Biloxi, nor are you yet in New Orleans.  Trouble is, most of us, when we can't see one place or another, when we're in the the transitional territory, we panic and find ourselves circling back to Biloxi -- moaning about the crappy car, feeling stuck in the boring job, etc. -- instead of simply trusting that we're on the way to New Orleans by celebrating the exciting new job, by mentally picking out wallpaper for the new house, by picturing the qualities we want in our sexy new love interest.

We're trained to imagine that what we have is the best we can hope for, instead of understanding that what we want, the Universe wants us to have.  We just have to be clear in what we want.  Stating the intention, then living the intention as if the intention is what is meant to happen, is how things manifest themselves.  Because of this training, Grout's experiment on manifestation -- in fact, all of her experiments -- often require a couple of go-rounds before you really get the hang of it all.

But I've been practicing. And that which is practiced with diligence is eventually mastered.

When I first read this chapter of Grout's book, I began to stumble immediately.  A page or so into the chapter, she instructs the reader to write down three things that you desire, then wait and see how quickly they manifest.  Here was my dilemma: I couldn't even think of three things to manifest.

It's not because my life is so freakin' wonderful it couldn't stand some embellishment, either.  I had spent so little time pondering what would actually make me happy, that I had to spend days... several days... nay, weeks... to come up with a list, and then narrow it to three. Any wonder why the Universe was confused about how to fulfill my deepest desires?

I think that was indication enough that  was going to be practicing Grout's experiments more than once. I'm on my third pass through the book, and only now have I finally figured out how I want to set my sights on New Orleans, without looking back to Biloxi.

Here's another valuable lesson Grout teaches -- it's only by getting clear about what you want that you can begin to change your reality.  And yes, reality can be changed, and more easily than we imagine. As Albert Einstein so succintly put it: "Reality is an illusion -- albeit, a persistent one."  Illusions can be re-imagined, re-worked, edited and redefined. But only if we can list what we want and send it out there for the Universe to schedule the delivery.

Do I have a list of three things?  Yes, I do.  I'm not sharing it with the world, lest manifestation be like birthday wishes, ceasing to have power once they're spoken aloud.  I have written them down in my journal, and underlined them.  Crossed them out and written them again in a different color ink. Then written them again, in both block printing and cursive handwriting.

The list is listed.  The intentions are stated.  The dreams are dreamt and the map from Biloxi to Mississippi is laid out and ready.


(Picture credit: One thousand thank-yous to Moroka323 at Deviant Art, for allowing me to use the gorgeous artwork above for this post.)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

About 9/11/2013

Let's have a moment of silence.

And by moment of silence, I mean... A single moment. Of pure silence.

Please do not regale me with stories of where you were when you heard and how devastated you were and how scared and how crazy it got, and "oh, my God, people be jumpin' outta buildings and shit."  Don't take this the wrong way, but.... I don't care.  I don't give two pins about your fear and anxiety and depression and confusion.

It was twelve years ago.

Get over it.

Unless you actually lost a loved one in one of those towers or on one of those planes, please. I beg you. Get. Over. It.  You don't have to feign 12-year-old PTSD over something that didn't actually happen to you, just to get a little pity and a hug.  You want pity? Poor baby. You want a hug? Come here. I'll hug you.  But don't go all "9/11-and-I-still-have-nightmares" on me.

No hugs for manipulators.

Remember the dead. Honor the living. Live in the present. Be good to each other today. Move on. Enjoy this day and every day, and love the ones you're with.


Monday, August 19, 2013

The Whole Truth, and Nothing But.

I got this email today from Paul Hogarth at Daily Kos:

"Catharine, join Daily Kos and CREDO by urging McDonald’s to stop cheating its workers by paying them with fee-laden debit cards, even when the workers ask for checks. Click here to sign our petition.

We all know that McDonald’s pays its employees poverty wages. McDonald’s even admitted this, when it recently and infamously advised its workers to take a second job to pay the bills.

But it gets worse. Now, they’re paying workers in “payroll cards”—which charge $1.50 for each ATM withdrawal, and numerous other transaction fees. If employees ask to be paid with a check, McDonald’s refuses.

What is next, paying them in gift cards?

Join Daily Kos and CREDO by signing our petition to McDonald’s President & CEO Don Thompson and Chair Andrew McKenna, demanding that they cease the practice of paying with fee-laden debit cards.

Keep fighting,
Paul Hogarth, Daily Kos"

This has been happening more and more these days.  We have seen fit to respond to Wacko Right-wing bat-shittery with our own bat-shittery on the Left.  More and more, in HuffPost, and on Facebook, on blogs that I have long admired and respected, there is a newly borne tendency from political writers who hang out on my side of the yard to take on the the craziness that's going on on the other side, and try and match it.

Here was my response to Paul, where I try to set the record somewhat straight:

"Dear Paul -
This email is a tad misleading. 

First off, although I'll be the first to admit that McD's pays slave wages, the implication that paying employees wtih fee-laden debit cards is a corporate policy is misleading and inaccurate.  In fact, there are certain areas in the country where doing so is expressly forbidden by law. Each McDonald's franchise handles its own employee relations, including payroll and disbursement, and operates (one hopes) inside the laws of the cities, counties and states where it does business.  So if it is permissible to pay employees with debit cards that charge them for accessing their pay, then the solution, it would seem, is NOT to waste time signing a petition directed at McDonald's Corporate,  which has little power over currently operating franchises and their payroll practices, but rather at the state and local lawmakers for allowing this abomination in the first place.

Secondly, there is much craziness in America politics today.  Our government -- on all levels -- is, every day, a living, breathing textbook demonstration of Newton's Second Law, as it cascades more and more from what little order ever existed there into a pool of chaos, disunity and confusion. 

We do not help by stirring the pot with our own brand of lefty looniness.  We need to hold steady, keep our wits about us, and continue to speak sense in the face of the nonsense and gibberish coming from the other side.  This is, I believe, what Mr. Kipling meant when he talked about keeping one's head while those around one are losing theirs. 

Let's keep our heads, people.  Let's keep our heads, and keep our eyes on the ball, and put our passion and our energy where it will affect the most change.  Spending our precious energy and effort in a scatter-shot, ill-targeted movement does no one any good, especially not workers who must work at places like McDonald's to keep from starving.

Step back.  Look at the Big Picture.  Breathe.  Then, tell the truth. The absolute truth, without embellishment or creative license.

This is the key to our survival, as a Party, and as a country.

Thanks for letting me share."

And thank you, dear readers for letting me share this with you.

Now go forth and smother Crazy with the Pillow of Truth!!!