Numbers really don’t matter

If you’ve lost one family member or loved one to gun violence, that’s the only number that matters.

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My daily meditation

My garden sleeps beneath a blanket of sparkling snow. I sip my chamomile as I survey the quiet scene.

My heart rate slows. My muscles relax.

It’s January, 2017. The election is over, and the United States of America has a new president, and new representatives in Congress. My exhaustion has given way to hope.

 

 

 

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This season is meant to be joyful

A few years ago, when I was living in a house with no insulation and an ancient furnace, I didn’t think about the comfortable homes or the jobs I’d lost. I thought only about improving the life I was living at the time, and the only way I could do that was to help improve the lives of others.

“If you do something good for others, no matter how small, you will make a difference,” I told myself. I still have hope that if I continue doing the right thing, my efforts will be meaningful.

I’ve found myself lapsing into sarcasm, lately, when I’ve been exhausted by fighting the good fight. I can’t offer my exhaustion as an excuse, but I can recognize how it’s affected me, and acknowledge I need to avoid responding to offensive opinions with snarky remarks. Sarcasm is, I’ve found, too easily misconstrued as assent.

Emerging from a state of exhaustion must be a gradual process, I’ve learned, and being “quiet” is essential to recovery. I’m fortunate to have this perspective, while others are struggling in so many ways.

This season is meant to be joyful. If you can, find your joy and hang onto it for dear life, because each life, including our own, is dear. If you can, during hubbub of the holidays, take a moment and find your joy, in some small way.

There is peace within us all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Treasure

I’ve been avoiding the boxes in the attic, particularly those with my daughter’s name scrawled on their lids and sides. I know what’s in them, but I push them aside, not yet ready to remove the packing tape.

I know their contents like I know the whorl just to the right of where I parted her hair before I plaited it into two long braids that reached her waist. There are summer camp photos of girls with braces on their teeth grinning at the camera, arms encircling each other’s necks, and autograph albums with tiny hearts and smiley faces in various places. At the bottom, there are a few broken crayons, partially empty bottles of glitter glue, colorful pencil erasers shaped like puppies, kittens, and ducks, sheets of stickers with faint outlines where a few were removed, and, in all probability, an odd sock or mitten.

The haste of moving from one place to another, for a new job, a more comfortable home, relegated these treasures to a couple of cardboard cartons. They traveled from bedroom closet to basement, from basement to storage unit, from storage unit to rented condo, from rented condo to storage unit, then to another storage unit, and then to a garage, and from that garage, to the attic, intact.  A long journey, spanning almost two decades.

My conscience tells me I should scavenge these boxes for non-edible Halloween favors, (there are some lovely temporary tattoos of unicorns, and flowers, and flocked stickers of a variety of animals that could bring joy to a child whose imagination is ignited something besides chocolate) but I’m afraid they’ll be discarded, or worse, confiscated by parents and sold on Ebay as “collectibles.” I push the memory of my mother’s favorite holiday table decorations on a flea market vendor’s table from my mind, and open the boxes.

Those little treasures, packed away for years, deserve a better fate than to be tossed in the trash, or perhaps worse, to be hermetically sealed in some aspiring entrepreneur’s closet, in anticipation of luring some fetishist, who’ll pay big money for a “My Little Pony,” who a four year-old girl once kissed on the nose each night before her parents tucked her into bed.

Despite my fears and misgivings, I will give away the stickers, the stamps, the small toys at Halloween, hopeful that when another little girl dumps the contents of her orange plastic pumpkin, she’ll find among the tiny chocolate bars and bags of colorful candies, something rare and precious.

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Sticks and stones

I’m sharing some painful memories, which are offered to illustrate, rather than to offend. Please forgive the coarse language I’ve quoted. It was common “back in the day.” Thankfully, those days were long ago.

After school one day, my brother told our mother a classmate called him a “kite.” Our teachers told us, “Sticks and stones can break our bones, but words will never hurt us,” and the phrase, “I’m rubber, and you’re glue. Whatever you say bounces off me, and sticks to you,” was offered in reply to bullying and name-calling.

My mother replied, “Tell him he’s uncouth.”

The next day, my brother told Mom his antagonist had had gotten him in trouble by telling their teacher my brother called him a “coon.”  Mom calmly explained that “kyke” was a derogatory name for a Jew, and “coon,” was an equally insulting name for an African American. At that time, African Americans were still called “colored people,” and “Negroes.”

It’s important to mention that our father was a Jew. Our mother wasn’t. The little boy hurling the racial slurs was white.

My mother was in a difficult situation, because our family was vulnerable, but Mom never permitted others’ prejudice to intimidate her. We learned to ignore the taunts and not to engage with the provocateurs. Fifty years ago, when words were the weapons, rather than guns, that was the appropriate response.

I wish I could end this essay, here, but I need to add an explicit conclusion.

More guns is not the appropriate response.

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Shanah tovah

Each morning, I remind myself, as if in answer to a young child, there have always been, and still are, mean-spirited people.  We must coexist with them, even though we do not share their beliefs or condone their actions, with the reassurance our own convictions will protect us from their influence.

Those who don’t celebrate Rosh Hashanah, can, and must, still have hope. In the forthcoming year, I will strive to let my better self govern my interactions with those who challenge, provoke and antagonize. I will disagree, when necessary, and agree, when appropriate.

Each day will be a new opportunity to promote goodwill and peace.

Best wishes.

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Reprieve

Nothing scheduled. A blank slate. Shall I clean the kitchen cabinets, wash and line the shelves, as I’ve been meaning to do? Drag down more boxes from the attic, unpack them and sort their contents?

I have quarts of frozen berries to use in late fall after all the fresh fruit is gone, a half loaf of bread, some cheese, three quarters of a moussaka-ish casserole from last night. A half bottle of merlot. Some green beans.

The bills that are due have been paid. I will not scrub the floor or paint my nails. I won’t look for cobwebs, or pull weeds.

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Rain

I walked in a rainstorm on Sunday, enjoying the quiet. A block from home, I found three little kids, lying in the gutter, rainwater washing over them, covering their bellies and reaching their chins.

One of them popped up. “It’s not raining!”

I pointed with the hand that wasn’t holding my umbrella, where raindrops disturbed the turrent heading to the grate. He lie back down, determined to out-last every last drop of the deluge.

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Walking

When I was 21 years old, I hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back, skipping much of the way down, despite the whole cabbage I carried in my backpack, enjoying the lightened load during the next day’s ascent.  I’d spend the previous six months working as a National Park Ranger, hiking trails and fighting forest fires for minimum wage, and sopping up every blessed second of the experience. I was young, and fearless, and fit.

I’m older now, with a prosthetic hip and another that’s so ravaged by arthritis I can sleep in snatches of a few hours at the most. My back aches and I imagine x-rays of my neck resemble those of a camel’s.

When my physical therapist, who’s as young and lithe as I once was, encourages me to walk, “on a level surface,” outside, or on a treadmill, I can’t bring myself to tell her how hard it’s become to imagine walking to Machu Picchu, or even to recall the trails I once ran with my boisterous hounds tugging at their tethers, up slippery wet rocks.

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Cronehood

I’m fortunate to live one short block from a small grocery, so I can easily walk there. Getting myself and my purchases home is less easy. My free-standing garage is in the back corner of my yard, so even if I drive to and from the store, I sometimes have to make more than one trip from the car to the house.

During my decades as a a litigator, I unselfconsciously drug several briefcases bungee-corded to “stewardess wheels” behind me onto trains, planes, elevators, buses, and up several flights of stairs. Setting aside my vanity, I reasoned that a wheeled shopping cart would be no different.

I learned such articles are available from suppliers that sell walkers and other assistive devices. I refused to leave my home following my hip surgery until I graduated from a wheeled walker to a cane, and involuntarily cringed whenever teenaged cashiers asked, “Would you like some help getting to your car, Sweetie?” Post-operative pain makes even those of us with the most pleasant of dispositions a tad cranky, and when you throw inhibition-lowering pain meds into the mix, the combination is a bit dicey. I constantly reminded myself that while my collapsible cane would come in handy as a defensive weapon, my temporary disability was unlikely to be a viable defense to an assault charge.

I decided a lightweight black cart would draw less attention than one that was shiny chrome, but, sigh, a red one was cheaper. Having survived using a long-handled claw to pull up my drawers after my hip surgery, I jettisoned the last remnant of vanity and placed my order, imagining myself in a hat with an enormous brim festooned with plastic fruit, pulling a tomato-red cart, retro-fitted with sled runners, over a six-foot snow drift.

“Some assembly required,” has never intimidated me, but after I unpacked the box and removed and opened the instruction booklet, which was securely attached to the metal frame with a twist-tie by someone who was apparently left-handed, I realized this effort would become both a test of my deteriorating eyesight and mental acuity. While the diagram showed where each of the six washers and two springs were to be threaded onto the axle along with the wheels and hubcaps, it was impossible to determine which of the cotter pins went where. To further complicate (I’m not yet perplexed) the assembly, the packing instructions indicated there were only two pins, while there were two sets of differently configured pins in the plastic bag sinistrally attached to the frame.

In case you’re thinking, she needs a man, please understand that while I’ve been religiously doing my exercises, I haven’t regained my pre-surgical speed, at least not sufficiently to sprint to the walls and windows to intercept flying hardware. Moreover, since I’m not yet deaf, the thought of enduring an ear-splitting diatribe about “Chinese instructions” would make that scenario even more distasteful.

I’m much more resourceful. To thank a friend (who loves shopping and loves the color red, even more) for helping me haul a carload to Goodwill, I’d ordered an identical cart for her. I sent her a message, trying my best to sound nonchalant. “Have you put your cart together, yet?”

She replied, “My husband did. I LOVE IT!”

I’ll admit to wondering, wistfully, how many bottles of wine will fit in my cart once it’s road-worthy, but I banished that thought to the same realm as my obsolete vanity and messaged back, “Can I look at it to see where the pieces go?”

I’m not giving up.

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