Friday, November 30, 2012

Where My Mind Shouldn't Go

Three posts in four days. That used to be the norm, but in the last year, I have gone to one or two a week and felt just fine with it.  I know I'm working something out in my psyche when I feel the need to write here more often and I also know it when I start to live in the stream of consciousness.

Stream of consciousness thinking is a way for me to dissociate. It feels like skating on a frozen pond, gliding across without any fear, gazing down below my feet and noticing fish darting about.  Every once in a while I magically breach the ice and reach in to get a closer look at one particular fish and sometimes I follow it for a while before letting go and coming back up to the surface.

I think that this process allows me to divorce myself from my normal routine or patterns of thinking and simply float through thoughts until one snags my attention.  Strings of thought emerge as I begin to notice which kinds of things are pulling me in and often I am able to come to some deeper understanding than I would have if I had diligently worked on finding a solution.

Sometimes, though, the things that catch my attention pull me in ways I'd rather not go.  At my physical yesterday, my doctor told me she felt a lump on my thyroid gland and wanted me to get an ultrasound to look at it.  She wasn't concerned at all and figured it was simply a benign nodule, but she wanted to be sure.  I took my original cue from her calm demeanor, scheduled the ultrasound for the next day, and went on my way.

Over the next 24 hours I skated on that pond, only looking at the fish that reminded me of my mother's thyroidectomy some 20 years ago and the one that suggested maybe my hair was thinning and that might be a bad sign.  I skated past signs that said pithy things like, "If you're going to get cancer, thyroid cancer is the one to get."  I read my friend Emily's blog, Holy Sit, where she writes about spending a year eradicating her cervical cancer using alternative medicine.  I woke up a full hour before my alarm went off, wishing I were tired because when I sleep I forget.  Opening my eyes, I looked at the dark room and rattled off a list of things for which I am grateful and that's when the shaking began.

I managed to get the girls to school without betraying my emotions, only letting tears fall as I walked the dog around the block to pee.  I wondered who would help Bubba raise my girls if I die. Or who would run the household for me if I get sick and lie in bed for a year.  I shoved the dire predictions out of my head with an impatient shake and decided to skate circles on that pond until my appointment, floating above everything else as long as I could.

When I got to the radiology department, more practical concerns entered my head.  I have a 'thing' about my neck.  I don't like things touching it.  I wondered idly what would happen if I started gagging or giggling when the technician pressed the wand into my throat.  I wondered if I would be allowed to swallow while she did the exam.  I wondered if, on the off chance I started to cry, she would be able to discern the lump in my throat on her screen.  I wondered what causes that lump, anyway, when you are about to cry.

I had to lie on my back with a foam cylinder under my neck that tilted my head back and exposed my throat. I felt like a chicken on my great-grandmother's chopping block.  'Make it quick!' I imagined myself saying and felt like laughing at my own joke.  I had to turn left and then right as she swirled the wand over my throat through the warm goo, clicking keys on her keyboard and taking 40 pictures or more.  When I swung my head to the right, I could see the screen clearly and watched as she marked off measurements, "THYROID SUP," "L LAT THYROID."  Then she started marking off smaller areas just to the side of my thyroid and a tear slid from the corner of my eye into my right ear.

After 30 minutes, she handed me a towel and told me she saw nothing out of the ordinary.  There are nodules.  They are perfectly normal - happens to a lot of people.  It may not affect how my thyroid functions at all, but now that we know they are there, we will want to keep an eye on them.

When she left the room so I could change out of the gown, I let myself cry hot tears of relief.  I buried my face in the gown and sobbed. And then I went to the grocery store.  After all, Eve's birthday slumber party is tonight and we have to have supplies.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Post-Holiday Stream of Consciousness

I guess, technically, it's pre-holiday, too, considering that Christmas is coming up, but Thanksgiving and Christmas always sort of lump together in my mind and heart like one long slow hill up to the top of this rickety roller coaster that dumps me down a thrilling dive to Christmas, up another little dip and down again on New Year's.  I wonder when or if I will ever see these holidays as different.  My image of them has been shaped by the school calendar, anticipating the break from routine just as much as the actual decorating and annual Nutcracker viewing and rip-and-tear on the morning of the 25th.

I had my annual physical today and was grateful for so many things.  The doctor who comes in and doesn't touch me for at least 20 minutes as she asks me how I'm doing and what's going on in my life. The fact that she remembers the stories I told her of stress and my husband's health history and my writing three months ago when I was there.  The enormous, green vein nestled in the crook of my left elbow (antecubital fossa - that's forever my favorite anatomy term) that is easily visible to any lab tech and gives up blood without rolling or closing down or even making a squeak.  I was enormously grateful to Bubba for being in town to get the girls ready and off to school so I could schedule my physical first thing in the morning and not have to go without coffee or food for too long.  Tremendously grateful for health insurance that allows me to make this annual pilgrimage to keep tabs on my health.

I am having so much fun shopping for the kids in the family this year. I always do, but forget about it throughout the year. Even if some of them won't be with me when they open them, I delight in finding goofy little things that conjure up memories or that one special item I know they can't get where they are. I used to start shopping in August because I thought I was supposed to get a jump on the holidays, but I always ended up with a closet full of gifts, too many to give each person, embarrassed by the amount of money I had spent.  I shifted to making lists  of possible ideas starting in August, but quickly realized that stressed me out more than anything - making sure the items would still be available when I was ready to buy them. When we shifted to drawing names for adults so that each of us only bought for one other person, I began to get back into the joy of finding that one special gift.  We still buy gifts for all the kids, though, and that is my favorite part.  Like most things, I'm much more sanguine about that these days, picking up things as I come across them in my daily errands or leafing through catalogs in the evenings.

A few years ago I started making anti-gift lists for Eve and Lola in an effort to avoid the things we either had too many of or simply didn't want in the house. Barbie dolls, Polly Pocket, anything pink (in Lola's case)....I may have added a few things to that list that weren't preapproved by the girls but I figure that's my prerogative as the mom.  This year, I happened to mention to my sister-in-law that if she got Eve gift cards to either Hollister or Abercrombie (which she put high on her list of desires), she could get me a corresponding gift by offering to take her shopping there for me.  I hate both of those stores for so many reasons.  I have a girlfriend who calls them both "the naked boy store" because the shopping bags have black and white photos of half-naked boy-men on them with their jeans pulled down to show their hip bones.  There are posters of these boys throughout the store - not that you can see them very well because the stores are so dimly lit that I have been known to mortify Eve by pulling out my phone to shine it on a price tag or two.  There is an overwhelming stench of perfume, so much so that within five minutes of being inside, I can taste it in the back of my throat and begin hacking like a cat with a hairball.  There is never anyone at the locked dressing rooms which means someone has to go hunting for help. At first, I offered to stand in line while Eve went, but that generally resulted in her becoming distracted by other items she wanted to try on and inevitably I stood there for 15 minutes before she finally came back and said she was too shy to ask anyone.  There is only ever one person behind the checkout counter, with five or six other employees scattered throughout the store folding clothes and putting them back on racks.  This means that I stand in line while Eve wanders to look for other things and then I have to step out of line while she goes to try "just one more thing" on. I may have spewed all of this frustration to my SIL. I may have been a little vehement about it.  I may have just put the kibosh on any gift cards from either of those stores. Depends on how badly she wants to be the celebrity aunt. Or how much wine she has before shopping...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Holiday Revelations

Time spent with extended family is always a bit fraught with anxiety for me.  For years I assumed it was the chaos, routine disruption, and extra bodies in the house that put me on edge, but over the last few gatherings I have come to realize that those things don't bother me at all. My discomfort stems from one thing in particular: comparisons.

When we were kids hanging out with our cousins, sleeping all sideways, sprawled throughout my aunt's bonus room in slippery sleeping bags, we loved the extra stimulation.  The kids we only saw a couple of times a year had new games to play, new pranks to pull, and gave us enough bodies for a true game of hide-and-seek or basketball.  We compared ourselves with respect to relative height or free-throw skill, things we felt sanguine about because we knew they would change soon enough. Someone would sprout up over the winter and by the time we all got together again next summer, the arrangement would be different.  We did a little measuring up, but mostly we spent our time and energy playing.  We grudgingly came to the table for meals, squirming with energy until we could be excused to go set up a new game of War or booby trap Uncle Mike's bed.

As an adult, I find myself constantly assessing and comparing myself to my siblings and in-laws.  Trying to make sure that I am "good enough" to be part of Bubba's clan despite the fact that I came from such a vastly different place than they did. Feeling as though my siblings and I ought to find ourselves in similar places because we all started out together and fighting waves of guilt because we aren't.  The simplest things add to the balance sheet in my head; when my dog misbehaves and someone points out that it took them only a week to train their puppy with some special technique they used, or when a niece or nephew comes up to me and wistfully says how much they wish they had something we have.

I have written about (and thought about) comparisons and their power to bring me down so many times. I know it is a trap I ought not to fall into and yet, the tendency to weigh myself and my life against others' lives is so strong.  As I stepped out of the shower this morning I remembered how much I used to love those crazy, chaotic family gatherings and decided that as I continue to struggle with learning not to compare myself to others, maybe at least I can stack the deck in my favor for now by harnessing some of that joy.  Perhaps the parameters I use to measure against can include not only my perception of my sister-in-law's skill in one particular area, but also my own historical lack of skill.  Those can be the bookends and I can find myself in the middle, having progressed beyond where I was before.

Much like we did when we were kids, I can assume that there will continue to be growth in my own life and, when we all get together again things won't be exactly the same as they are now.  If there are things that I deem important enough to work at, I will have progressed.   When we were young, we didn't put much stock in differences because we didn't feel as though we had much control over how things changed.  We certainly couldn't predict who was going to grow a few inches and who wasn't.  We knew that Kim and Karen would be better at volleyball because they played it more often than any of us, but we also knew that Chris would learn to drive first, simply by virtue of his age.  There were so many points of comparison, so many strengths and weaknesses and perks and circumstance-driven changes that beyond making the occasional joke about how bad someone was at something, we quickly gave up comparisons in favor of hanging out together having fun.

I don't know when I will stop looking at my life through the lens of "measuring up," although I suspect it will be one of those things that will happen without me knowing it.  In the meantime, I will work to acknowledge the things that have changed about all of us and then get back to enjoying time spent playing with my family.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I Miss My Easy Bake Oven

*Note: This photo is not of me. This girl is waaaaay younger than I was when I got my Easy Bake. I got it from Wikimedia Commons

Times have changed.

Man, even thinking about uttering that phrase makes me feel old - as old as I thought my grandparents were when I was a kid, and that's ancient!

I was having coffee with the mother of one of Eve's friends yesterday and somehow we got to talking about the things we fear most about having a teenage daughter.  It's hard to even begin to know what we are up against, given how different their world is from what we knew.

The two of us shared the requisite stories of summer days spent completely unsupervised by anyone other than our older siblings (who often meant us as much harm as not).  Those mornings when we would dash out the door in packs, or looking for the roving packs of neighbor kids, to the familiar refrain of, "Be back in time for dinner!" were absolutely priceless.   Not in small part due to the fact that if our parents had known half of the stupid stunts we pulled, their hearts would have stopped no less than a dozen times a day.

We did things I wouldn't let my girls do one tenth of. I rode my bike barefoot or with flip-flops (and lost toenails when I crashed). I rode on the handlebars of my brother's bike as he tore down our steep hill as fast as he could.  No helmets. Only a front brake that would catapult both of us off the bike in a heartbeat if he squeezed it.  Oh, and did I mention that at the end of the street was a set of train tracks running perpendicular to it?  We never stopped. We never looked. Despite the fact that I lie in bed at night listening to the whistle of those trains coming through, it never occurred to me that one might come ripping down those tracks at the very moment we were bumping across them in a mad dash to get to the park that lay on the other side.  Never.

I could go on, but I suspect we all have stories like that from the 1960s and 1970s. Stories of freedom and exhileration and death-defying stunts that we only realized were incredibly stupid when we became parents ourselves.

And then the car seat laws had been enacted.
And we knew about sex predators lurking and lying in wait for unattended children.
And we bought bike helmets and knee pads for our kids and made them wear them.

And the dangers became more nebulous. Like online stalking. Cyberbullying. Sexting.

At least while we were endangering ourselves, we were having fun.  Real, actual, physical fun. We were playing slingshot tag (yes, someone sat in a tree with a slingshot and hurled a bb or a gravel bit or a plastic pellet at people running by and if you got hit, you were 'it,') or exploring construction sites or playing hide and seek in the condemned house down the road.  If someone pissed you off, they did it to your face and, often, others in the group would choose sides and it would be settled right there.  Generally with blood spilled or rocks being thrown, but it was settled face-to-face.

When I think about Eve turning 13 and wanting a Facebook page and her own cell phone, my head hurts.  I am fully aware that I don't know most of the things that could go wrong. Yes, we've talked about being careful not to share too much personal information about herself and not "connecting" to people online that she doesn't know in person.  But, just like my parents, I'm certain that most of the things she will encounter are not things that I could have anticipated, and it's because of this that I wish I could get her to trade me her digital identity for some of those other things we had as kids.

I'd give her a woodburning set for her Facebook page.  Sure, my brother used it to threaten to brand me if I didn't do his bidding, but that's how I learned to stand up for myself. And think creatively (it took me a while, but I finally figured out that if I broke the tip off the damn thing, he couldn't sear his initials in my left butt cheek).

I'd give her an Easy Bake Oven for her text minutes.  My sister and I kept ours in our bedroom. And lest you think we had rats or ants, let me be clear that we only baked cakes in it for the first week we had it. After that we experimented with Shrinky Dinks and our brothers' socks and Barbie dolls. Yes, in our room. Yes, it's a wonder that we didn't burn the freaking house down.

Okay, maybe I wouldn't trade her any of those things.  But I do hope that someday she has a friend that she can reminisce with about all the insane stuff she and her sister pulled behind my back. And I truly, honestly, deeply hope that none of it has anything to do with the Internet or cell phones.  Lawn darts maybe.  Or a bb gun. Or a bungee cord.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Driveway Moments

Just in case you hadn't heard the term before (clearly you are not an NPR-listener if you haven't), "driveway moments" is a phrase used to describe what happens when you are en route to a particular place with the radio on and become fully engrossed in a story or interview that is happening on NPR. So fully engrossed that, despite reaching your destination, you are loathe to leave the car and miss the end of the story/interview/program.  In our family, we have our own version of this, compliments of the move to the city.

Last year and the year before, I drove carpool to and from Eve's school in the city several times a week.   On any given carpool route, I could have between three and six girls in my car who ranged in age from eight to 14.  Oh, the things I heard!  (Just as an example, check out this post from last year.) And we had fun. I always provided snacks because the trek from school to home was generally around 45 minutes and for a middle-school-girl to wait that long after school to eat is, well, impossible.  On Fridays, I always had chocolate which somehow became known as "carpool love," and it wasn't long before my car was officially named the Party Bus. I was always teasing the girls and asking them irreverent questions about their day and sometimes I was really quiet and hoped they would forget I was there and talk about things they didn't especially want their parents to hear. It worked.  I really miss that this year.


This year, the trip to and from school is only eight minutes and the only girls in my car are Eve and Lola.  And it rocks.

You wouldn't think (I certainly didn't) that we could have much of a conversation in the eight minutes between school and home, but we can.  There is something about having us all in the car, looking in different directions that feels informal and open.  Generally someone will ask an innocent question or share some snippet from a book they're reading or play their favorite song for us and that's all it takes to get the ball rolling.  More and more, as I pull up to the curb outside school and watch girls pile out of cars and run toward the building, Eve and Lola and I are snug in our car finishing up a conversation about life or teachers or just about anything else you can imagine.  More and more, I have to urge them to gather their things and head inside before they are late, not because they are resisting school, but because we are having a "driveway moment" of our own.

It's a beautiful thing.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Taking Another Look:Corrected

M.C. Escher knew it.
The Dalai Lama knows it.
Timber Hawkeye talked about it.  He puts it this way:

"The opposite of what you know is also true."

Not, 'the opposite of what you know is true, but also true.

It was rather an arresting comment.  If there had been anyone in the room whose attention was drifting, that sentence brought it back.

"The opposite of what you know is also true."

I think the most important word in the sentence is 'know.' Because so often we fool ourselves into thinking that what we know is absolute. Finite. Provable. Truth with an uppercase 'T.'

Timber expanded on the notion by giving examples.  He saw a TED talk by Derek Sivers, who talked about traveling in Japan and asking for an address so he could find a particular place.  He was given the name of a block.  He asked for the name of the street.

"The streets don't have names. They are simply the empty space between blocks. The blocks have names."

He was confused.  Clearly there was some language barrier.  The person giving him directions asked, "What is the name of the block you live on?"

His reply: "The blocks don't have names. The streets have names. The blocks are simply the empty spaces between streets."


He offered another example from the same TED talk.  In remote, rural China, each small village has its own doctor.  Every morning, the doctor makes his rounds of the houses in the village, collecting coins from a box hung near the front door of each house.  If he comes to a house where the box is empty, he knows that someone inside is sick and his services are needed.  You see, in this model, the doctor is supported by the entire village for keeping them healthy. He is not paid when treating them for an illness and, thus, is given an incentive to prevent everyone in his village from getting sick.

"The opposite of what you know is also true."

Since hearing this phrase and digesting the examples, I have seen it in action.  I was reading an article about a documentary film that followed homeless teens in Seattle and came across the story of a young girl who left home after being molested by a family member.  She talked about how filthy her mother's house was, with rotting food and dirty laundry strewn throughout, and what a relief it was to live under a bridge in the city because it was actually cleaner than her home.  She found places to wash and brush her teeth and worked hard to keep herself presentable and live according to her standards of cleanliness.  It was only a few weeks before she realized, however, that being young and female on the streets makes you incredibly vulnerable and that not washing or paying attention to how she smelled was the best way to prevent herself from being raped.

The words keep kicking around in my head, finding me in the quietest times and in the loudest.  Much like stubbing my toe, I keep bumping up against my own ideas of what I "know" and challenging them.  I suppose that, before this, I would have seen a filthy young girl on the street and assumed she was either mentally ill or been disgusted by her - maybe both - instead of thinking about what it must be like to go against your own convictions in order to simply survive.

Yesterday, I came across this photo on Facebook:
At the original site, there were comments ranging from "right on" to nasty, blaming, shaming diatribes from people who "pulled themselves out of poverty without any social services."  My first instinct was to rise to the defense of the person who posted this photo, and then I stopped to consider what I "know."

I know what my experiences are. That is all I can know.  I don't have to know everyone else's reality or even strive to.  All I have to do is realize that there are limits to my knowledge and that, while it feels terribly, starkly real, it is not "Truth." Except for me.  And so I cannot go out into the world trying to spread "Truth." I can only go out into the world with compassion and a desire to understand and expand my own experience and knowledge and not make any judgments or actions based on my own brand of knowing.

Because the opposite of what I know is ALSO true.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Legalizing Marijuana: More Questions Than Answers

So I live in a state that voted overwhelmingly to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes Tuesday night. I didn't have any notion going in to the election whether or not the measure would pass, but when I saw the election returns I was shocked. In retrospect I probably shouldn't have been.

Last week on our local NPR station, the host interviewed a panel of five voters on a range of issues, including this one.  The voters represented the Republican party, Democrats, and the Tea Party.  There were women and men, and their ages ranged from 30s to 70s.  They had a calm, respectful discussion on issue after issue and, while I appreciated their educated perspectives, I wasn't caught off guard until they started talking about legalizing marijuana.  All but one of the panelists was in favor of it.  I listened to their measured arguments about tax revenue and likening marijuana to alcohol use and sparing law enforcement for more important work in the community.  The lone dissenter was a young family practice physician who wasn't necessarily viscerally opposed to the idea of legalizing marijuana, but she was reserving her judgment until she had more information about the long-term effects of marijuana use and the actual regulation and implementation of the law.

I had long-since resolved to vote against the measure and was a little taken aback at the overwhelming bipartisan support represented by the panel on NPR. I even began questioning my general feeling that it shouldn't be legal to possess an ounce of marijuana in the state of Washington without a doctor's prescription.  What I discovered is that I have many more questions than answers.

1.  Is it possible to get a little bit high? As someone who smoked her fair share of pot between the ages of 14 and 19, I don't know the answer to this. During that period in my life, the entire point was to get as high as possible.  We didn't smoke to alleviate some physical symptom or relax us a little bit, we imbibed to get obliterated.  I was lucky enough to not have a particularly addictive personality or much disposable income so I indulged only when friends were willing to share (which was plenty often) and was able to take it or leave it.  By the time I hit college, I realized that while it didn't feel bad to get high and there was no real attendant 'hangover,' what I really experienced was an extreme laziness and antisocial personality and I got bored and frustrated. I had too much to do to sit around feeling like I was plastered to an armchair in a smoky room and I quit abruptly.  So I don't know if it is possible to take a couple of hits off of a pipe or a joint and get some pleasant feeling akin to having a glass of wine without impairing one's ability to drive or make calculated decisions.

2.  Is it possible to get a little bit high? No this is not a typo. By this, I mean psychologically.  Do people smoke moderate amounts of marijuana in order to achieve some sort of relaxation (like taking a Xanax) or is it generally the pursuit of being high that drives marijuana consumption?  I don't honestly know.  I realize that there are a lot of comparisons being made to alcohol and, yes, there are many - in fact the vast majority of adults in the US - who drink occasionally as a social pursuit.  We have crafted legal limits in order to curb dangerous activities like drinking and driving. Will we do the same for marijuana? Is there a threshold that exists that we know of where the amount of THC in your body is measurable like blood alcohol levels?

3.  Is smoking marijuana the preferred delivery route?  Back in my youth, it certainly was, either via pipe or hand-rolled joint.  If so, do we recognize that we have made enormous strides in teaching about the dangers of smoking cigarettes and there is some hypocrisy here?  There are no filtered marijuana cigarettes that I know of, and even filtered cigarettes cause cancer.  There is no getting around the fact that the human body wasn't designed to inhale smoke on a regular basis without consequences.  So by legalizing marijuana - if indeed people aren't simply going to be munching MJ brownies every day - we have backslid a bit public health-wise by not recognizing the challenges with normalizing an entirely new set of unhealthy behaviors.  Yes, we may be gaining tax revenue at every step of the process here, but how much of it will end up being spent combatting lung cancer and emphysema?

4.  Given that only a few states are legalizing marijuana, how much impact will it have on the drug trade overall?  If one of the goals is to reduce drug trafficking and violence, how does taking away the market from the drug cartels soothe things?  My first instinct is that they will step up their efforts in other states to maintain their market share, or they will end up selling their drugs cheaper than the public market, or they will begin pushing alternative drugs that may be more dangerous.  Are there better ways to combat drug violence that get at the root of the issue?

These are honest, I-don't-know-the-answer questions. If anyone out there has some answers, I'd love to hear them.  I am genuinely curious, although I suspect that it will be years of crafting rules and facing court challenges before corner marijuana stores begin popping up.  We have already outlawed smoking in public buildings (and within certain boundaries outside of them), so at least I won't have to sit in a smoky bar when I want to go have a drink with someone.  I seriously doubt that the Feds will be lying in wait outside on the sidewalks to bust the folks who go out to smoke a marijuana cigarette in the cold, but I am interested in seeing how they mount a challenge to these states who have sent the message that they want marijuana legalized.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

And Now, For Some Refreshingly Un-Political Information...

Last Thursday I went to a book-signing in town.  Not so unusual, except for the way this one went.  I found out about it from a friend who knows the author, Timber Hawkeye, and went in part to explore a new bookstore I had yet to go inside, and in part to support a fellow writer.

The book is called Buddhist Boot Camp and the author recently gave his first TED Talk.  He has a website, a Facebook page, and a blog, none of which I had encountered.  I went in knowing little of him and, in retrospect, I'm glad I didn't spend an hour or two boning up on who he was before I went.

Upon entering the room, I saw a short (6-inch) plywood-wrapped-in-carpet stage at the far North end with rows of chairs facing it. Typical book signing/reading, right? Until the author stepped down from the stage and began rearranging the chairs into a circle.  As people filed in, around 40 or so, we all chose chairs and waited.  Timber spoke,  "I haven't ever done one of these before, so I don't really know how it goes, but I do know that I want to hear from you all tonight.  I don't want to be on a stage - this is not about the messenger, it's about the message."

For the next hour and a half, we proceeded to share stories of meditation practices, our individual journeys to Buddhism, and ask rather frank questions of Timber (such as, "Who named you 'Timber Hawkeye?' - the story is an entertaining one that I won't ruin for you in case you ever see him speak; ask him yourself).

The message in this case is pure, unadulterated, unencumbered by ritual or dogma, Buddhist principles. The book itself is short and the chapters are each only one page long.  Whether you are Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, some or all or none of the above, the topics explored in "Buddhist Boot Camp" are simple, basic, and resonate deeply.  I came home wishing I had bought several copies to give as gifts (I still may) and determined to spend a little time each day exploring one of the ideas in the book.  By the end of the week, I had resolved to spend a little time each week discussing one idea with Eve and Lola.

I often wonder if I am doing my children a disservice by not incorporating some sort of formal spiritual practice into their lives.  I know that as a child I was thrilled with the mystique and drama of Catholic rituals, but couldn't really reconcile them with the patriarchical dogma that was delivered in a vengeful, punitive way. Ultimately, when my parents divorced, it was a relief to leave the church.  I have, from time to time, talked to the girls about Buddhism, but Timber's book may be just the ticket to helping my girls more fully understand why I am drawn to these teachings as a way of life.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Reckless With Our Money

I am certain that, regardless of the outcome, when this Presidential election is over, I will get approximately 27 fewer emails per day.

I can't wait.

Never have I felt so alternately sanguine and frustrated with an election season.

Sanguine because I truly, honestly, deeply in the marrow of my bones feel one thing:

1. Barack Obama will prevail for another four years (don't ask me how I 'know' that, I just do. I feel certain that the pollsters are reaching all of the wrong people and haven't corrected for those of us who avoid them like the plague and only have cell phones)

Frustrated because of the obscene amounts of money being spent and callous disregard for how the rest of us want to live in the future.  On both sides.

Last week, before this horrible, horrible hurricane became front page news, I heard on the radio that President Obama (I refuse to call him "mister" like much of the media does - he has earned the title of President and deserves to have it used before his name) was embarking on a last-ditch '48 hour fly-around campaign marathon extravaganza.' His plan was to visit as many of the critical swing states as possible in 48 hours, ending up in Chicago where he would cast his ballot. He began in Denver and headed to Iowa, Las Vegas, Tampa, Virginia and Cleveland, among other places.

I was disgusted.

First of all, each of these rallies brings out supporters. He is preaching to the choir. They both are - he and Mitt Romney. I know people want to see them in person, but there are generally thousands upon thousands of attendees at each rally point, so how many people actually see their candidate 'in person?'  In this day of technology, why are we spending BILLIONS of dollars on air travel for these candidates to speak to people who already support them? Why is it unacceptable to pick a rally point, set up an enormous projection screen and have a live streaming speech? It would serve the purpose of getting people together who are like-minded, who are supportive of a particular candidate and who want to physically be in the same space cheering and rallying their voices...

WITHOUT costing exorbitant amounts of money,
WITHOUT consuming thousands of gallons of fossil fuels
WITHOUT spending time flying from one place to the next (anyone for efficiency?)
WITHOUT tying up traffic in each of the cities where the candidates appear.

Honestly? Are you telling me there is a compelling reason to pay hundreds of Secret Service agents tens of thousands of dollars to fly around with the candidates to protect them when they could be sitting in an office rallying their supporters?  Are you saying it makes sense to block off airports and streets and entire city blocks every time a candidate comes to town?

The calculations of how much money each of these campaigns has spent is absolutely nauseating.  The number of times a day I am asked to simply 'chip in $5' via email has gone far beyond annoying.  The fact that scare tactics like "Mitt is outspending us!" are used to try and get me to pony up more money makes me want to scream.

So maybe my sanguine attitude about Obama winning a second term is simply a way of avoiding the guilt about not spending more money on his campaign.  Or maybe I don't want to be a contributor to a presidential campaign that can be bought.  This is not a slam on Obama's campaign at all. I truly feel as though we live in a country whose political campaigns have gone out of control and become all about money just like everything else in America (medical care, food supply, you name it, it's all about money these days).

I believe that Obama is the right candidate for the job, but I am sad that he hasn't stood up to the status quo by refusing to spend exorbitant amounts of money when he doesn't have to.  I for one don't feel it is necessary to see him at a rally in Seattle in person in order to hear his message and I would be a lot happier if the amount of money spent on all of the campaigns didn't feel as though it were wasted. If I'm giving $5 or $500, I want to know it is spent thoughtfully and carefully.  Unfortunately, I think that vast amounts of money come all too easily to these enormous campaigns and they don't have any incentive to spend it wisely.
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