Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Cool Girls

An interesting discussion is happening regarding what kind of woman would continue to vote for Mitwit after understanding the Republican platform on rape and control over our own bodies. I recently read an interesting quote by Gillian Flynn that I think, describes some of these women and perhaps the role they have pigeonholed themselves into. "Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl. Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl. For a long time Cool Girl offended me. I used to see men — friends, coworkers, strangers — giddy over these awful pretender women, and I’d want to sit these men down and calmly say: You are not dating a woman, you are dating a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who’d like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them. — Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn I would add that these girls/women do exist and they have been created by our culture and shaped into Republican Stepford wives who, through through faulty thinking and utter terror of losing their hot factor have sold their souls. I would also bet that a disproportionate number of Republican wives have participated in a beauty pageant in their younger days, refer to themselves without irony as "Southern Belles", and share a talent for twirling flaming batons.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Dear James

Dear James, You often remark to me that you don’t know any other grandmothers who speak the way I do. Well, maybe you are right, James Nicholas, but I will continue to talk frankly with you, for as long as I live, without contrition, because I am a thinker, and a reader, and a doer who has had those very fires extinguished in me for a time by the institutions, (apt names), that were supposed to be educating me. It’s my hope that my grandchildren will also be strong-minded individuals, intense in their passions and indomitable enough in character to weather the powerful storms that life can heave at them. So in your process of becoming an adult, I will probably offer up a number of my views, which might surprise you, and perhaps some that your parents might disagree with. The following is just one such opinion… I do not believe that a traditional, or “factory” education can serve you. So I’m suggesting something to you that most grandmothers would not even consider : “Quit school.” Run for your life while you can. Convince your family to home school you because traditional education is boring, because it is dangerous, because it will dumb-you-down and make you a mediocre person. (If you doubt this take a look at our current President’s SAT scores.) Our predominant educational system has evolved from its original roots in the 1890’s, from the thinking of some pretty important industrialists. Yes, James, I said ‘industrialists,’ not great scientists or educators or philosophers, but industrialists, guys like Andrew Carnegie the steel baron, and Henry Ford, the car guy, and John D. Rockefeller, as in oil wells. Men like these had seen models of “social efficiency” work well in Italy under Fascists, and in Germany under Nazis. (If I remember right, you really don’t like Fascists and Nazis, do you James?) In actuality, our “modern” schools were based on Prussian models! Before these new schools came along, the idea of schooling had basically three purposes: 1. To make good people. 2. To make good citizens. 3. To develop the maximum talent possessed by each student. These goals seem pretty decent and honorable. In fact, things worked reasonably well until our country became over-populated by a crazed, commercially-driven culture. New schools that were of an “industrialized” nature had a fourth goal, however, which has affected the habits and attitudes of Americans in general, and that purpose stems from the fact that children drive purchases in this country. “Since bored people are the best consumers, school had to be a boring place, and since childish people are the easiest customers to convince, the manufacture of childishness, extended into adulthood, had to be the first priority of factory schools.” (An American Education History Tour, Gatto, 2006) Children in schools, who are basically removed from the real world where people have differences, compete with each other for better grades, better clothes, better book bags, better shoes. (Would you believe I have a kindergarten student in my class who would not wear his new rubber shoes his grandmother bought him, because they were not “Crocs?”) Schools have become training grounds for consumerism and competition. The message to children is don’t be different, get good grades, get a good job, make more money and buy more stuff. Interest in the absolutely amazing world we live on has been circumvented for the sake of standardized test scores. Self-direction and autonomy have become reasons to get detention. While children are being looked at as mere “resources” that will fill positions in our market economy’s workplace, they are being subjected to the most mind-numbing curriculum, which serves to kill any love of learning that they once held. This is done in the name of controlling large numbers of students, who somehow aren’t always as “standard” as they should be, so most of the “teaching” is aimed at the “middle” learner. In the meantime, some students feel quite superior, leaving other students feeling quite inferior. Combine these facts with a group of young people whose parents are too busy working to teach them values, so they obtain their belief systems from TV and other media, and our culture has problems. Schools have become dangerous, volatile places, where teachers spend most of their time on discipline, and children live in fear of other children. With physical danger presenting itself in schools across our country, the spiritual void, and I don’t mean religion, in traditional schools has received little attention. By spiritual here I am referring to a person’s interests, self-reflection, respect and nurture for themselves and for others. I am referring to wonder. It is an extremely dangerous thing to lose what the visionary Rachel Carson referred to as the sense of wonder. Finally, James, I could go into a multitude of other reasons why you should “Just say ‘No’ to school,” but I listed three points in the beginning of this letter, so I shall try not to stray far from my premise, which you know I am wont to do. I said that traditional education, “factory” education, would dumb-you-down and make you mediocre. I believe this. Human beings are meant to be a diverse group, have different thoughts, skills, beliefs, abilities. In our current educational model, we expect each child to complete the same course of curriculum in the same way, at the same time, despite their general development or aptitude. This is ludicrous, not to mention, very unscientific! Human development does not match up with this educational method, and I find it morally abhorrent to manufacture this kind of homogenized student from the raw material of our children. It is my belief that you would receive a better education by staying at home, reading some books, writing in a journal, and exploring nature. Or if your parents would worry about the lack of structure, purchase a curriculum. But don’t be swayed by your apparent popularity, or your grades, (we’re not meat…), or the artifice and opinions of the undereducated, “apple-wearing” crowd. We are producing armies of citizens who cannot read well, write well, express themselves well, and will probably never produce an original thought from their weary brains. I don’t want my grandson to be one of the automatons. Run, James, run. Get out while you still have a soul.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

In a dream I meet my dead friend. He has, I know, gone long and far, and yet he is the same for the dead are changeless. They grow no older. It is I who have changed, grown strange to what I was. Yet I, the changed one, ask: “How you been?” He grins and looks at me. “I been eating peaches off some mighty fine trees.” ~Wendell Berry

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


MINDFUL of you the sodden earth in spring,
And all the flowers that in the springtime grow,
And dusty roads, and thistles, and the slow
Rising of the round moon, all throats that sing
The summer through, and each departing wing, 5
And all the nests that the bared branches show,
And all winds that in any weather blow,
And all the storms that the four seasons bring.
~Edna St. Vincent Millay

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


"Clarity is one of the things I like to go for. I don’t think we’re ever free from this mysterious mechanism, though. Mystery can go all the way from not knowing what to do with yourself to standing in awe at the vast activity of the cosmos which no man can penetrate. I don’t think we’re ever free from any of that. On the other hand, you can’t go around continually expressing your awe before these celestial mechanics. These are things that maybe we should keep to ourselves. I think that we’re surrounded by, infused with and operate on a mysterious landscape, every one of us.”
Leonard Cohen

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Letter Project

Do you like real letters? I have started a project in which I promise to send any friend a piece of real, handwritten, handmade mail. It could be a postcard, a little piece of art, a poem, a few personal lines, a feather, a tiny gift. If you love real mail and would like to receive something this year in the spirit of friendship, please send me your name and address by private message and then check your mailbox!

Please share with your friends!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


by Naomi Shihab Nye

A man crosses the street in rain,
stepping gently, looking two times north and south,
because his son is asleep on his shoulder.

No car must splash him.
No car drive too near to his shadow.

This man carries the world’s most sensitive cargo
but he’s not marked.
Nowhere does his jacket say FRAGILE,

His ear fills up with breathing.
He hears the hum of a boy’s dream
deep inside him.

We’re not going to be able
to live in this world
if we’re not willing to do what he’s doing
with one another.

The road will only be wide.
The rain will never stop falling.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Art of Being

The Art of Being

By Anne Coray

The fern in the rain breathes the silver message.
Stay, lie low. Play your dark reeds
and relearn the beauty of absorption.
There is nothing beyond the rotten log
covered with leaves and needles.
Forget the light emerging with its golden wick.
Raise your face to the water-laden frond.
A thousand blossoms will fall into your arms.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Long Hand of My Heart

Sometimes when I walk through the doors of the Alzheimer's Unit where my grandmother has lived for the past few years I feel as if all the lead fishing sinkers she and I ever lost together on our fishing trips have suddenly materialized from their mossy lake bed and have attached themselves to my shoes. This feeling makes it difficult to shuffle forward. My boys call the nursing home, "Death's Waiting Room" and I know that many people feel that way. Sometimes I do too. Even though I am thankful for the wonderful care my grandma receives, it will always feel rotten. It shouldn't be this way. Often I get very angry that we live in a world where it is impossible to care for our sick elderly at home- no one can afford to do it. Of course, it would be easier to for me to not visit, to avoid the sadness of the place, but that is what not visiting would be about: me. Who am I to think that I shouldn't have to experience sadness; that I can opt out of what makes me uncomfortable. At some point, that idea- we only deserve happiness and have no obligation to participate in hard things became acceptable and that strikes me as sadder.

As I slog my way through the hallways, towards my grandma's room, I am buffeted by waves of scents, sounds, and other people's memories. Often, residents are in the hallways in wheelchairs, making progress with barely perceptible foot and wheel movements. Sometimes one of the old people will ask me for for help (it is against the rules- you are supposed to get a trained staff person), or ask me a question (I try to answer) or launch into a story (I stop and listen). One of my favorite ladies worked all her life on a farm and is forever worrying about the cow that needs to be milked. Often, to ease her mind, I tell her I took care of it. Sometimes after I tell her this, she smiles and says, "Cock-a-doodle", very matter-of-factly, which I love. Another often pleads that I take the child ( a doll that she holds) home and please watch him for her because she can't keep them there and worries they will get run over by old people in wheelchairs. I don't know what to say to that. I mumble that it will be okay, but she doesn't believe me because she knows it won't.

A tiny, and pinkly wrinkled and very ancient lady who seems to have no eyes has been calling for members of her family for several years. The background of every visit has been populated with her cries. She is surprisingly swift and agile in her wheelchair and so I often feel her little grasping hand clutching mine. I call her the "Daddy come and get me," lady. Usually after determining that I am no one she is looking for, she tosses my hand down in disgust and roars off at top speed, small legs pistoning with purpose,searching in vain for a father she last saw 60 years ago. Today, however,she was stationed in a portable reclining chair parked on the side of the hallway. I realized she must have declined. She was still. Her silence was somehow sadder than her seeking. Her quiet and immobility gave me pause. Then, as I slowly moved on and made my way down the hallway,I heard her say softly ," I am sitting on the long hand of my heart.....and it hurts. I am sitting on the long hand of my heart....and it hurts."