A House Divided

I never would have broached a subject as divisive as politics when I started blogging in my early 20s. I was afraid to publish much of an opinion about anything for fear of offending someone. I’ve lived most of my life that way, to be honest…and I don’t want to short myself too much on that, because I believe my intentions have been noble. I’ve long-held that the worst feeling is to know that you have hurt someone, intentionally or unintentionally, by word or deed…there’s enough pain in the world without anyone adding to it.

It has taken the intervening years to accept that I can respectfully disagree with someone without hurting their feelings.

My heart hurts for my country. My political evolution has followed my maturity and personal understanding of the world. (Yes, probably much to my parents’ chagrin, I had political opinions from an early age.) I leaned right when I was young, when everything was still black and white in my very small world. I have been lucky in a good many things over the years, but none luckier than the excellent start I had in life. I had a parent who crammed gratitude down my throat from my earliest memories. Yes, crammed. It’s lodged down there so deep now that I wouldn’t be able to loosen it if I tried.

Expect nothing. Be thankful for everything.

As I began to understand this simple tenet, as my world grew, my views changed. Somewhere along the way, I learned empathy…not only learned it, but it is woven into the foundation of who I am as a person. Nothing is as simple as it appears. Everyone has a story. Nothing is black, nothing is white…everything is gray.

There was a candidate whose stance on the issues aligned with many of my own, and I saw a piece of myself in HRC. I understood her. I understand what it’s like to feel misunderstood because you’re trying to make it in a world that wasn’t built for you. It forces you to maintain two identities: one for the public, where you’ve wiped away anything that makes you stand out…and one you share only with your loved ones, guarding it closely so you never lose yourself in the struggle to succeed. I know the landmines of working in a heavily regulated field. I’m also a thorough researcher with a marketing degree, so I’m not vulnerable to fake news or spin. Unfortunately, many are.

So with full disclosure of my far-left affiliation, I never saw this past election as Republican vs. Democrat. I would like to believe I would still feel that way if the candidate of my party had questionable intellect, morals, or qualifications. Regardless, I want to be able to respect and trust the leader we elect, whether our policy views align or not. I may not have voted for GWB in either election, but I admired his quiet strength and patriotism in the face of unbelievable tragedy. He was judged too harshly for his handling of events that had no precedent—from 9/11 to Katrina. I disagreed with nearly every decision he made politically, and I hated the downward spiral he greased for our economy, but he thought he was making the right decisions for our melting pot of a country. I can’t fault him for that, even though we disagree.

I don’t feel that our current leader is focused on what’s best for the country. Even if he were, I don’t think he or his advisors understand law or history well enough to know how to pursue positive change. His conflicts of interest concern me, as does his rudimentary understanding of our government and the scope of his power. I’m sure our founding fathers would be shaking their heads at some the issues we’re facing today, pointing forcefully at the documents they penned. We don’t have kings here, and we don’t “force-place” religion. Nearly all of us have immigrant ancestry, yet not nearly enough of us are upset with the rhetoric.

I’m tired of the uncharitable, self-focus painting our world ugly. “It doesn’t affect me…so why do I care?” Ever heard of someone named Martin Niemöller? He was a pastor who lived during WWII. He had some sharp criticism for those without a target on their back who did nothing to stymie the evil in those days. I will add his words then below, but it turns my stomach that they should be relevant today.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

I have led a privileged life—and don’t confuse privilege with money (‘cause we didn’t exactly have a lot of that just laying around). No, my life was privileged because I grew up in a safe place with family who were present, kind, and loving. I was never discouraged from any dream I dreamed, and my achievements in school and life meant something to someone other than myself. On the face of it, my privilege seems ordinary. That’s the gift: that I think it’s common for children to have stable, supportive beginnings. It’s not common though, not at all. I’m—yes, Mom—GRATEFUL for the very belief that I could do anything if I put in the time and hard work. That early support has been enough to help me through the condescension that a five-foot-nuthin’ woman with a soft voice faces in convincing someone that she’s just as capable as the tall, muscular, deep-voiced competition. How would anyone find the strength to champion themselves if no one ever has?

Sometimes it takes a village. To be frank, our village sucks right now. We don’t care enough about helping each other succeed. Success begets success. Failure begets failure. So if we continue with this “what’s in it for me?” mentality, it still doesn’t make sense that we don’t help each other, regardless of our ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, country of origin, or religion. The campaign of fear that laid the path for the man in the Oval Office is as sad as it it inflaming.

The disenfranchised inspiring so much fear may include the doctor who discovers the cure to cancer, the parents of the kid who comes up with some technology as life altering as the iPhone, or a poet who speaks to our souls. They’re human beings with needs, hopes, desires…and gifts, just like the rest of us. If we block them from the tools they need to develop those gifts, we all lose…every time.

During one of our trips to Chicago several years ago, Nick and I were walking along Michigan Avenue when we passed a poorly dressed man who was calling out for any generosity the passersby could afford. I never carry cash on me, but I smiled gently, apologetically, as I passed. He called after us, “A smile to a stranger is generous act. Thank you, and bless you for seeing me.” That man taught me something that day…that no effort is too small…that the generosity is in the effort, not the gift. Everybody can afford to share a smile.

Please…just be kind. Follow the Golden Rule. Be a good person. To quote the venerable Jiminy Cricket, “Let your conscience be your guide.” Ignore the propaganda. Do your own research. Come to your own conclusions. I fear that in this age where everything is just too easy, someone else’s words too available, we’ve lost the voice inside ourselves that kept us more in touch with each other than divided.

I want to repair our village. We all need to roll up our sleeves and get to work.

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I was walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale

I know, I know…more song lyrics in the title. I can’t promise that won’t happen A LOT. I was not blessed with the ability to create music, but I appreciate it all the more because of that.

Memphis before dawn
Not quite ten feet off of Beale in this photo…
 

I look forward to our anniversary trip every year…the rest of January is pretty painful for me, but I have a handful of days at the beginning of year that I can celebrate love without hurting. The sweet without the bitter, if you will. Nick and I spent our anniversary (11 years since our first date, 6 since our I Dos) in Memphis, TN. Walking in Memphis has new meaning for me.

In the six years since we married, we’ve only spent one year at home, but it was at our NEW, just-built home, so that was a pretty wild trip in and of itself.

The Rundown
Married in a butterfly conservatory in Key West, then…

  1. Pasadena
  2. Chicago
  3. Bayfield
  4. NEW HOME!
  5. Back to Chicago
  6. Memphis

But back on topic: Memphis.

Our Memphis visit was little more than a whim. We had a new vehicle, so we figuratively threw a dart on a map within a specific radius of our home. Memphis was a manageable driving distance and would seemingly offer a break from Wisconsin winter. I think the emotional connection I felt to Memphis is all the more amazing because so little thought went into the decision to visit that city.

Memphis before dawn
 

We spent a week in the Home of the Blues and Birthplace of Rock ‘n Roll, and I was mesmerized nearly every moment of the trip. I will never forget the opening of our first tour, when our guide said he was going to tell us about three kings—the King of the Blues, the King of Rock ‘n Roll, and the King of Civil Rights. Memphis royalty indeed. Of course, the tour guide was referring to B.B. King, Elvis Presley, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

For whatever reason, I’ve felt a strong connection to the 1960s from a very young age. The music, the politics, the conflicts…my religion tells me that reincarnation is impossible, but there are times I feel like I’ve lived another life…series of dejà vu moments strung together then shrugged off. The mysteries of life, I suppose…but I digress.

There is too much to shove into one post, but consider this a warning that Memphis entries, probably several of them, will be coming in the near future.

Memphis in the morning
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I’m Somewhere Over the Rainbow

I have always loved color.

Color soothes my moods and makes brilliant the dull corners in my mind. It comforts me in ways I have not acknowledged until recently. What setting do you create for yourself when you seek respite?—have you ever given it much thought?

As part of this house-building adventure/madness, Nick convinced me that we needed to try a smart light bulb before the house was finished to see if the technology was worth the investment. The prices are slowly becoming more reasonable, but that “trial bulb” was a little ouchy on the budget. Besides integration with mobile devices, these lights can show a full spectrum of color and 1000 shades of white. The color thing seemed silly to me…in the beginning. We had the bulb about an hour when I changed my tune.

Since we moved into the house, that first bulb has lived over our chromatherapy soaker-tub.

Chromatherapy Tub

So, the science on color therapy…look, science was never my thing. I always told anyone who asked me about chromatherapy that it may all be hokey, but it sure is pretty to look at. My favorite combination is to light the water either aqua or royal blue with the overhead bulb a saturated magenta.

In fact, it’s always been magenta overhead. I sometimes experiment with a different color, but I always return to magenta before the end of my bath. There’s just something about that color that makes me feel better, and I’ve never stopped to consider why that is. A visceral contentment and peacefulness washes over me…and the hard day washes away.

Last night, we installed four additional bulbs in the great room and some strip lighting over one set of cabinets in the kitchen. My first response was to set them all to magenta. It was like an autopilot switch was flipped and a voice said, “Doesn’t feel right…must make magenta!”

Again, I fully admit that I have never researched chromatherapy or even what different colors represent. After last night, when nearly the entire first level was bathed in deep magenta, I really started to wonder. It’s not like magenta is my favorite color or even close to it.

Thus, I started digging. Magenta is the magical eighth color that can be observed beyond Newton’s Wave Length Theory—the theory that gave us ROYGBIV, or the following seven colors on the spectrum: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet (also known as my closet organization index). The color Magenta (no idea why I just made that a proper noun) was observed later as an eighth color comprised of Newton’s first and seventh colors. It’s the color that completes the circle and signifies a marriage of secular and spiritual.

To quote Marty McFly, this is heavy.

Prettying up the kitchen...one set of cabinets down, two to go.

 

Magenta is said to be the link to spirituality, divine love, and letting go of the past. It is the color that supposedly realigns a person to their life’s purpose. A little tongue-in-cheek, I read that people who have a preference for this color have a focus on self-realization but suffer from becoming fixed on certain ideas (you know, like assuming color therapy is hokey).

In an effort to open my mind to possibilities, perhaps my time under those rosy rays is connecting me with my mother, helping me cope with unanswerable questions, and serving as a reminder why I’m still here. If any of that holds merit, given the weightiness of those questions and the prominent themes they play in my life, it’s not so surprising that magenta is my own gateway to bliss.

Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high.
There’s a land that I’ve heard of once in a lullaby…

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Eleven Years an Angel

This year, the anniversary of Mom’s death hit me worse than in years past. I’m not quite sure why…but for the first time in years, I spent a January 26th crying the night away. The last couple weeks have been emotional, really.

Nick was involved in a car accident ten days ago. He was hit from behind by a speeding motorist who was checking his phone. After the collision, he spun out of control across two lanes of traffic, the median, two lanes of oncoming traffic, down an embankment, and finally came to a stop in a field. Just typing that out makes my heart thud and my stomach hurt.

By grace, he was unharmed. I don’t know how that’s possible, considering the damage to the vehicle and all the little variables that could have changed that outcome. How did he avoid hitting any other vehicles during lunchtime on a busy highway? I can only believe that someone was watching over us from the other side.

The enormity of it all didn’t sink in until that evening. We were making dinner, wading into the darkest waters of what-ifs, when he said (trying unsuccessfully to lighten the mood) something like, “Not another one in January!” Dam: broken…poor Nick.

It’s just that I hadn’t felt terror like that in almost a decade—the doubt that life could go on, the feeling that all of the oxygen has left the room, the sharp ache in the center of my chest.

Obviously, life does go on, even when it seems cruel to leave your loved one behind to live only in memory. I am profoundly grateful that I do not need to relearn that hard truth. Thank you to…well, I’m not sure who or what I should credit…but I have my own theories.

Please keep looking out for me, Mom. I love you.

Caledonia Picnic
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Patience, Please

After a much-needed break over 2016, I’m baaaaaaack…and trying to figure out a new blog content management system. After over 10 years in Serendipity, this old dog is trying to learn a new trick in WordPress.

And it’s hard, particularly since I don’t do a lot in HTML or CSS on a day-to-day (or even month-to-month) basis anymore. Eventually I’ll figure out where to resize columns, and line spacing, and, and, and…

Point being, it’s a work in progress…and please don’t mind the dust during construction. I suppose you could have gleaned that neat little summary from the title, but why stop at two words when you can spew 150 with a few HTML tags too? (I don’t know the answer to that. I’ve never stopped at just two.)

I can tell you that I’ve been influenced by a Moroccan-esque design aesthetic in dark teals, blues, oranges, and golds for last few years, so expect that theme to continue as I make LL mine again. I think it’s all the tessellating shapes…makes my mathematician’s heart happy! Pottery Barn has done nothing to stem the obsession either. I don’t mean to get all conspiracy-theory on you, but I strongly suspect that they’re after my money.

Why thank you! This makes me feel very welcome :-)
More to come!
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