Monday, September 25, 2017

Monday Musings

This is about as coherent as I can be right now.

Mom's been in skilled nursing while dad is away on a trip.  Each day is a new adventure.  Today as Steve and I left, she thanked her "stalwart friends" (us) for spending so much time with her.

She's in a great facility with lovely personnel and I still find it upsetting and very difficult.  I've visited people in some pretty ragged facilities, and I know how much worse that is.  But every time I leave and am sick at heart and in my body.  My blood sugars were dangerously high when I got home yesterday.  She had had a very tough morning and was pretty confused.

Keeping this all close to the vest in terms of communicating with Dad.  Don't want him to cut his trip short, as he really needs the break.

And then there's everything else.  Dear Gawd.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Monday Musings (A Day Late)

Last night I watched this short documentary on PBS' POV (Point of View) series. Sweet, poignant, deeply affecting. I highly recommend it.

 I've become the family point person to investigate burial plots at our favorite cemetery (yes, we have a favorite) in Monterey, CA. I was supposed to get this information a few years ago, and have now, finally done it. The woman I spoke with, Michelle, was refreshingly straightforward and said we could arrange all of this over the phone. She even looked to see if there was space near the plots of our good friends who are buried there. There is a spot 5 plots away, if we want it. I think we do. It may be silly and sentimental, but it just feels good to be situated close to their remains when we are nothing but ashes and dust.

My parents have already made arrangements with the Neptune Society, and have their cremation boxes on the top shelf in their clothes closet. I deeply appreciate their planning. It's not something anyone likes to think about, but when you think about the grief you will spare those left behind, well, it only makes sense. Decades ago before my parents left for an extended trip abroad, they sat their children down to talk about their will. Teenagers at the time, we all had that "ewwww" response and really didn't want to hear it. It really creeped me out, I remember that. That's teenagers for you. Now, as an elderly person myself (yeah, get over it), I'm much more realistic and practical about death and the attendant issues of what to do with the remains. I used to think I'd like to be scattered to the wind, but as I've aged, and walked many cemeteries, I quite like the idea of having a place with a marker to acknowledge my existence. Maybe I'll even put the URL to my blog on my headstone so anyone who is interested may get to know me better. Wouldn't that be funny?

 Dear Reader, have you made your arrangements? What would YOU like to happen to your remains?

Friday, September 8, 2017


This has been a week of seeing images from floods and fires.  Hurricane Irma has been sweeping through the Caribbean and my friend Wini who lives in Puerto Rico reports that she is safe.  But photos from PR are showing wide spread destruction.  I'm also worried about people in Cuba, especially in Guantanamo Provence, where Irma is expected to hit first. 

I'm seeing a lot of cartoons about rednecks and Trump supporters in areas hit by Harvey.  Not a lot of sympathy out there for climate change deniers and supporters of 'small government.'  They don't like welfare?  Well then, no flood aid for you.  This cartoons make me slightly queasy.  On the one hand I agree that the people most affected tend to be dyed in the wool red staters, and on the other, I don't want to kick a guy when he's down.  I hope they get all the help they need, and then remember that help when they start yapping about the darned government handouts, damned socialists, bleeding heart liberals.

Meanwhile...I am reading a fascinating book by Fatima Mernissi called Dreams of Trespass, Tales of a Harem Girlhood.  Ms. Mernissi was a university sociologist in Rabat, Morocco, and this is her real life story.  I get completely lost in her world, a world that is completely foreign to me.  She grew up at a time when Muslim culture was changing, a time when Harems became not a thing anymore, where her mother threw off the veil and walked with her head held high on Allah's earth.  There are many magical passages where she describes the friendship between the women, the music and customs, and the street life outside the walls.  She has an Aunt and Uncle who live on a farm in the countryside, and there are no walls, and the women walk freely through the fields to the river.  I haven't finished the book yet, so I don't know if she recounts how she became a scholar, but I do know she has the support of many of the women in the harem who encouraged her to grow up and be something great.  She turned out to be a leading Moroccan feminist herself.

There were many kinds of harems, but mostly they were small communities comprised of many women and some men, usually related by blood, but often not, as they took in widowed women and former slaves who had nowhere to go (in the case of Ms. Mernissi's family).  I also learned that there were early feminists in the Arab world, shut away in harems, but who wrote scathing essays on the Islamic subjugation of women.  And by early, I mean mid 19th century!  The author died a couple of years ago at aged 75.

Another very notable feminist (American) died yesterday: Kate Millet.  She died of a heart attack while vacationing in Paris with her longtime partner.  She was 82.  We're losing the pioneers of the second wave of feminism in the United States.  I won't hazard a guess on the state of current feminist politics in our country.  The news is good and bad all at the same time.  And you have faux feminists like the First Daughter, who uses women for the money they spend on her over priced products worldwide.  That Ivanka is a real piece of work.  Daddy's little girl.  The apple who didn't fall far from the corrupt tree.  What a gonif.  Yiddish for someone known to be shady or untrustworthy, a bamboozler or trickster.  If the shoe fits.  And by shoe I mean made by slave labor overseas for pennies and sold for hundreds of dollars.  Pffftttt.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Monday Musings

Thoughts on my Mother.

At 82 years old, she has a body devastated by Parkinson's (PD) and the resulting dementia which is a hallmark of late stage PD.   First symptoms noticed by us, her children, when she was 65.

It is becoming increasingly difficult for her to move her limbs.  She is rigid and unbalanced and always afraid of falling because she cannot right herself.  The typical PD dementia began to take hold a few years ago.  We all are coping with it in our own way.  Dad tends to scold her for her mental gaps (sad, really) as if she has any control.  I have dealt with dementia before, with a old friend, and learned to go with the flow.  No point in fighting it.  Best to make note of it and move on.  Redirect the conversation, or simply ignore the strange incoherent statements.  It is present every damn day now.  Her long term memory is still very sharp, but when it comes to daily things, she is confused.  She'll get an idea in her (she recently thought I was deathly ill) and won't let it go.

My husband and I managed to get my parents situated in a great retirement facility which includes memory care.  That has been a great relief to us, and to my parents.

When her body grew me in her womb, and for years after,  I was a central focus of her life.  It was a mixed bag of love, and adoration interspersed with  extreme weariness, frustration and sacrifice.  She was young, and already had one child in the world.  An 18 month old.  I can't begin to imagine.  I was a preemie, with underdeveloped lungs and low weight.  I grew up with stories of how my father would get up in the night just to make sure I was still breathing.  Meanwhile, in another room, their other baby would howl to wake the dead whenever she woke to find her pacifiers missing.  More stories there:  dad hearing the pacifier hitting the floor and jumping out of bed to retrieve it and lodge it in place before the screeching began (how does one actually here a pacifier hitting the floor?).  It's a wonder they got any sleep at all.

Dad got a break of sorts when he left daily for the office.  Mom, however, bore the major responsibility for diaper changes, meals throughout the day, activities to keep us busy, naps to enforce (sweet quiet for perhaps an hour), laundry to wash, dry and iron; sibling disputes to sort out and making sure the kids and house were well in order when the master returned home.  And then another child came.  All before my mother was 25 years old.  That's how many did it in the 1950s, wasn't it?

I helped my dad for 3 years take care of her at home.  I was happy to do it, but it was exhausting in every way.  Dad is 85 and he's starting so slow down and has his own mental confusion going on. Probably because he is doing too much.  I sat my parents down last year, explaining that I could no longer help with mom's care while dad was away on week long trips.  The sleep disruption was a big thing for me.  The constant stress of meeting her needs, which are basic but frequent, was not good for my health and I was suffering physically.   I was honest and let them know that I felt I was failing them, I felt guilty for not continuing with her care.  It was necessary, however, very much so.

So dad will be going on a trip in September and mom will go into the skilled nursing facility at their retirement community.  It's a very nice skilled nursing set up, and they provide respite care for the spouses who need it.  Dad needs it.  It is likely to be confusing for mom, and she may not be very happy there at all.  With her confusion, she may believe she's in the hospital and worry about that.  I plan to visit every day, maybe take her on a stroll in  her wheelchair, perhaps even go to their apartment for a couple of hours.  I'll see what she wants to do. 

As many of you have already experienced long term care with your parents, you know how damned difficult it is.  Whether you are physically present or far far away.

It leaves me knowing that I would like to go quickly when I do go, and that I do not want extraordinary measures taken to keep me alive.  My daughter is an only child, and she will have to contend with a father (who has heart problems) and a mother (with diabetic problems).  I'm doing everything in my power to ensure that I have arrangements in place to ease her burden.  Her father hasn't thought about it, and I'm urging my daughter to talk with him about it. 

Who said, "Getting old is not for sissies"?  Too right. Watching someone you love physically and mentally decline is not for sissies either.

There are still plenty of sweet moments.  For that I am extremely grateful.

Friday, September 1, 2017


Just so you know, right up front:  I am a white woman of mainly Celtic origins  (with a smidge of Scandinavian).

So it is from this vantage point that I discuss the concept of 'cultural appropriation.'  I first heard about in a vague sort of way a couple of years ago.  The concept was illustrated by a black woman telling white women to stop wearing hoop earrings.  Hoop earrings?  I wore those back in the 1970s.  They were in fashion then, and apparently are again.  The very first hoop earrings can been followed back to the Sumerian culture (which we now know as Iraq).  Hoop earrings then became wildly popular in Egypt, Greece, and Rome.  White hippie women in America loved them in the 1960s and 70s.  So, who 'stole' from whom? 

And what's this concept of stealing ideas?  That is what humankind has always done.  A good idea catches on, and spreads across cultures, and enriches all.

The current concern about all of this is, apparently, that the ideas are being taken from 'marginalized' groups by people in the 'dominant' culture.  That leads me immediately to youth culture in Japan, where American dress and music are wildly popular.  Are they mocking us or honoring us?

Or how about French rap artists?

And what about the current clothing preference for many American woman, the tunic? The caftan, the kimono wrap? The dress of India and the Middle East and Asia.

Interest in other cultures is as old as the hills. The sharing of ideas, traditions, and material items is what makes cultures beautiful and learned, even (think Alegbra).

Yes, American black blues artists were ripped off, their music adopted by American and British whites who turned it into Rock and Roll and made a huge amount of money.  And changed a culture.  But, in later years, these old blues musicians were better acknowledged and their music shared once again by a new generation.  John Lee Hooker (one of my favorites) comes to mind.  He enjoyed great success as an older man, and worked with the likes of Bonnie Raitt and Eric Clapton.  Can all those old blues men and women ever be fully compensated?  No.  Can painters and musicians the world over who died in poverty ever be compensated?  No.  Dreamers and innovators are seldom compensated monetarily. 

But to get to the core of it: is anybody's culture solely their own?  Does any group of people have any greater rights to their dress, food, entertainment than anyone else?  In a world where people are waking up to the gross inequalities that exist, I can understand the anger from the disenfranchised.  There is nothing new under the sun, my friends.  We can work for economic and racial equality while freely adopting the things which we find useful, attractive and exciting, from each other.

Instead of "appropriation" I like to think of it as cultural celebration.  Or is that my privilege talking?

(Technical note: the comment section is here, but you have to scroll down quite a way to get to it!)

You Can Go Home Again

 I took a vacation in the first week of May.  I went back to my high school and college stomping grounds, still populated by many friends of...