Solving Problems


We are your lawmakers.

I watch a lot of news. As in, way too much news.

I was a political science major way back in the seventies. And I studied and taught history for a bunch of years. I am a huge fan of the United States of America, and of its founding principals.

So I am feeling pretty freaking frustrated at the inability of our elected officials to solve any problems.

ANY PROBLEMS.

Even the most obvious, most smack you in the face problem can’t seem to find an answer.

For example, let’s look at the suddenly-salient-once-again issue of abortion. So many of our elected “leaders” are suddenly determined to stop all abortions. They are so serious about stopping this medical procedure that they are threatening women with life imprisonment or death if they find themselves so desperate to abort that they go forward with the procedure in spite of the laws.

Those on the right scream about being “pro-life!” and pat themselves on the back for being the protectors of innocent children.

I get it. I was a patient at an infertility clinic for several years. I would have given anything to have had a baby. I understand the pro life position. I do.

But then those on the left scream about the attacks on women and on female power. They insist that they are protecting the rights of women to protect their own bodies, their living children, their family units.

I remember when I found myself shockingly and unexpectedly pregnant when my second child was only 6 month old. The child who was conceived using a boatload of high tech interventions.

I never thought about abortion, but I was badly shocked and thrown off to find myself pregnant, anemic, nursing and working full time.

The fact that I could have made choice to end that pregnancy, protecting myself and my other two kids, gave me a sense of peace.

I get it. I REALLY get it.

I chose to go on with my surprise pregnancy, but nature ended it for me only four weeks later. I grieved for a long time for that lost child, but I am eternally grateful that I had the freedom to choose whether or not to go on with the pregnancy.

I understand the desire to end our need for abortion. I understand our desire to keep our choices in place.

But here’s what pisses me off.

If we, as a society, TRULY wanted to limit the number of abortions in this country, we could do it tomorrow.

It isn’t that hard.

We just need to do more research into the best and safest forms of birth control. We need to be putting a whole boatload of money into finding a successful male contraceptive.

And when birth control is safe and effective, we should offer it out there to EVERYONE. It should be given out at high schools, at colleges, at workplaces. It should be free. Easy to use. Easily talked about.

There should be public kiosks where you could get yours.

Cuz, you know what? The whole idea of limiting unwanted pregnancies by limiting sex is so far beyond ignorant that it can only elicit a laugh.

ALL life is designed to procreate. Mammals do that through sex. We all want sex. A lot. Babies are a side product of our natural, God given, scientifically proven desire to mate.

If you want to stop the unwanted pregnancies, you don’t do it be shaming people about sex. (Weren’t these legislators ever teenagers? I mean….seriously!) If you want to stop pregnancy, you push for birth control.

Easy. Logical. Clear.

So why isn’t that the plan?

I don’t know.

Maybe because those who hold power benefit quite a bit when we “little people” are engaged in street fights about our bodies and our sex lives.

All I know is this: If those people being paid with our tax dollars really wanted to eliminate this problem, they could do it.

Right Now.

Do the Right Thing


Yup

So here’s my question: how do you really know what is the “right thing”? How can you be sure?

Sometimes we find ourselves in situations where “the right thing” feels obvious to us. Help someone we love. Give to someone in need. Reach out to somebody who seems alone.

It seems so clear, doesn’t it?

But here’s the problem: we can never really know what other people are thinking. Even people we’ve known their entire lives. Even people we consider to be our closest, most trusted, most loved allies.

Even then, we can sometimes take an action that feels so clearly “good” to us, but which is met with anger, resentment and dismay.

What do we do then?

For me, having done something wrong out of a desire to do something right, I am at a complete loss. How do you apologize for what you felt, deeply and honestly, was a giving action? How do you get past the rage and resentment to explain what it was that you intended?

I don’t know.

What I do know, what I have come to believe, is that I have to trust my own intentions. I have to trust my knowledge about myself and about those around me.

Someone way smarter than me told me recently, “We can’t control how our messages are received. We can only control how they are sent.”

“Do the right thing.”

Sure. Sounds easy.

Only its actually the hardest thing there is.

Looking For Hope


I watch too much news. I read too much of it. I listen to it on and off all day. NPR, Sirius XM, CNN, Reuters, AP, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe.

I check Facebook and Twitter, too.

I. Need. To. Stop.

Sure, it’s good to stay informed and it’s important to know what is happening outside of these four walls.

But holy disaster movie, Batman, it is really terrifying out there!

There are black holes swallowing parts of the galaxy, giant meteors hurtling this way, hundreds of species facing imminent extinction right here on our own little blue planet.

And that’s only the beginning.

Democracy is crumbling around us. Our country is being run by a paranoid narcissist and his evil minions. War drums are beating around the world. Children are dying in their classrooms almost every day.

Measles are back. Superbugs are emerging. Scientists are predicting another flu pandemic.

Oh, and the planet is a decade away from becoming uninhabitable.

ONE DECADE.

I’ve taken a light tone in this piece, but the truth is far more serious. Like most people I know, I am walking around every single day with a vague sense of impending doom.

Sometimes I look at my beautiful grandchildren and my heart hurts. Will they have a future? What will life be like for their children?

I find myself in need of hope. I need reassurances that humans can truly rise above our worst instincts. I seek out proof that the human spirit is resilient and that good does outlast evil.

For me, hope and reassurance are often found in books. Lately, though, I’ve been struggling to find books that feel real and true. I don’t want a romanticized view of war, where all of the “good guys” are beautiful and loyal and kind, and all the “bad guys” are evil. I want some reality, but I want it to lift me up.

I found a book like that last week, completely by accident. I follow a blog called “The Cricket Pages“. It’s author, Rachel Mankowitz, has a book published on Amazon. It looked interesting, and I try to support other bloggers. So I bought “Yeshiva Girl.”

And I fell into a story that grabbed me by the heart. It’s one of those books that is written with a spare, elegant style that doesn’t waste a word. The main character, a girl named Izzy, is in pain throughout the book. The mood is somber and anxious, but she never gives in completely.

When the book ended, I was sad that there wasn’t more to read. I fell asleep thinking about Izzy, wondering what happened to her next. And I realized that whatever it was, I was sure that Izzy would be alright.

I felt stronger.

We need more books like Yeshiva Girl! Thank you, Rachel Mankewitz!

The BAD PLASTIC Awards


Ok, fine. I am not really one of those “awards show” people. I mean, I haven’t ever seen all the movies nominated for Best Picture. I don’t know most of the Emmy nominees.

And as for the Grammys? Puh. Leeze. I am far too cool and hip and groovy to follow those pop stars.

But I suddenly find myself with the overwhelming desire to create a new category of award winners.

Because I spend WAY too much of my life ordering stuff online, and because I am also a dedicated environmentalist, I find myself enraged at plastic.

Plastic…plastic….plastic wrapped plastic…..

Really.

I go to my local grocery store once a week with my canvas bags. I put my veggies in mesh bags instead of plastic. I carefully choose milk and juice in cardboard cartons, detergents in biodegradable packages, and snacks in cardboard.

I use compostable trash bags, bamboo sandwich bags and metal water bottles that I fill myself.

I am a good doobie. I love this earth! I don’t want to kill her or her gorgeous oceans!

I am VERY careful about plastic.

Until I order on Amazon.

Then I lose my teeny tiny little mind. Because no matter what I buy, it comes in plastic.

No. Matter. What. It. Is.

For example, I was shopping for my grandchildren just before Easter. I saw cute little plastic eggs filled with pastel playdough. I decided to order them in spite of the plastic, thinking that I’d be able to reuse the eggs for years.

Then they arrived.

Four cute little plastic eggs. Each one wrapped in five or six layers of plastic shrink wrap, then carefully vacuum sealed within a hard plastic case.

Seriously?

It was FREAKIN’ PLAYDOUGH! It wasn’t going to rot. Or mold. Or degrade. The four ounces of pink and blue goop came enclosed in THREE layers of plastic.

Three layers of plastic that will remain intact for about 10 bazillion years.

Holy stupidity, humans.

So.

Here I am. I am proposing a group endeavor. I’d like everyone who is reading this to nominate some company or item for our “BAD PLASTICS” Award.

I nominate the Playdough Easter eggs, but I could just as easily have brought up the plastic measuring spoons that came wrapped in plastic, the potting soil (aka, “dirt’) that came wrapped in plastic, or the eco friendly bamboo toilet paper that came wrapped in (you guessed it) plastic.

What have you got, fellow environmentalists? Let’s start our own “Awards Show”.

#weekendcoffeeshare. Mueller, of course


Siberian Squill

If you were here, having coffee in my living room, you’d notice that the air is warm and moist. Almost tropic feeling this morning. Outside my door, daffodils and crocus have opened, and my little squill bulbs have pushed up their tiny blue blossoms.

You would think I’d be happy, wouldn’t you? There are two cuddly dogs asleep at our feet and the coffee that I’ve brewed for us is hot and rich. We have slices of banana bread balanced on our knees, too, and the cinnamon smell is wonderful.

I want to be filled with joyful spring feelings, but I’m struggling today.

No matter how hard I try, I can’t bring myself to understand how my government has become so totally corrupt.

I used to be a fifth grade teacher. I loved teaching the kids about the formation of the government. I taught them about the “great experiment” in the US, in which a people’s government would be saved from corruption through it’s system of checks and balances.

How sad.

We don’t seem to have either checks of balances. Mueller’s report shows us that our President got help in the campaign from the Russians. Might not have been his idea (is anything?) but he surely benefitted and welcomed that help. Then he tried to get in the way of the investigation into that help.

He did everything he could to thwart it. He lied in public. He fired the head of the FBI. He hinted at pardons for the multitude of friends, hirelings and administration officials who’ve been indicted. He threatened those who thought of testifying.

So where’s the check on this?

Nowhere.

The House of Representatives, according to it’s overly pragmatic leader, won’t impeach the President. Oh, sure, he’s committed all kinds of inappropriate and possibly illegal actions. But the Senate is in the hands of the Republics, so impeachment would fail to bring a conviction. So we won’t bother.

REALLY?!

What do teachers tell kids now?

“There is a system of checks and balances but it’s really only about the two big parties. A corrupt President will be just fine as long as he’s protected by a corrupt Congress.”

Gah.

I need more coffee.

I found this little weekend coffee klatch through Eclectic Alli. Check it out. Most people were more upbeat than me this week.

“Laugh, Clown, Laugh.”


I’m trying.

I’m trying to find something funny in the situation. I swear I am.

See, here’s the thing. I’m a lefty. A progressive. A bleeding heart liberal. A pinko. The leftiest of Democrats stands to my right.

I hate, loathe, detest, deplore Donald J. Trump and everything that he represents.

I hate the lies, the greed, the bloated sense of self-worth and self-promotion. I am sickened by his vile hatred and ignorance.

It makes me physically ill to even hear his voice. The way he whines, distorts reality, sniffs between words, abuses and debases the English language itself.

GAG.

Even the way he breathes makes me nauseous.

So what do I do with the Mueller non-finding? What do I do with the feeling of betrayal that I’m left with after the desperately awaited report has come out?

Well.

I’ve been eating chocolate. Drinking. Binge watching “Mrs. Maisel” and baking bread.

I’ve also cried, tweeted, Facebook posted, written letters to the editor and now blogged.

It still hurts.

How strange and discomfiting it is to realize that I have so lost my sense of balance that I’m actually upset to find that the country will not be put through a torturous impeachment battle.

Like my liberal friends, and even many of my conservative friends and family, I really honestly expected Mr. Mueller to find a direct link between Trump and Vladimir Putin. I thought there’d be a letter or something. You know, “Dear Volodya. I enjoyed the emails that you and your pals dug up on Crooked Hillary. I’m working hard to help you get all your money freed up from that stupid Magnitsky thing. Thanks, by the way, for the Deutsche Bank loan! Once the millions are all scoured and shiny clean, I’ll be sending along your share. Love, Donnie.”

I thought there’d be a photo. I fingerprint. Something. Anything.

I fully and totally expected Trump to be found guilty of obstruction of justice at the very least. I sort of assumed that Mueller would have believed Trump himself when he said publicly that he was firing Comey because of the Russian “witch hunt”.

So what do I do with my emotions today?

I’m trying to channel my inner Italian. I’m thinking of Pagliacci and his famous clown.

I remember my grandpa singing the song to me in Italian.

Ridi, Pagliaccio,
sul tuo amore infranto!
Ridi del duol, che t’avvelena il cor!

Laugh, clown, laugh.

I’m trying. I’m really trying to laugh.

I’m also waiting impatiently for the Southern District of New York to conclude its investigation.

Until then…….

Want some chocolate?

One Dozen


One dozen is only twelve donuts. One dozen is only a handful of m&ms.

A dozen years is merely the time it takes for a newborn to get to the sixth grade. Ask any parent on earth and they will assure you that twelve short years go by unbelievably quickly.

A dozen years ago, George H. Dubya Bush was President. The housing bubble was just beginning to burst. General Petraeus was coming under fire for his failure to maintain security in the face of an affair.

You remember all of this, don’t you?

It wasn’t very long ago.

In fact, to some of us it seems like just last week.

A dozen years is not very long. I’m 62 years old, and I figure I’ll still be around in twelve short years.

So why am I writing about a dozen years? I’ll tell you why.

Because as unbelievable as it seems, climate scientists are telling us that if we don’t manage to stop and reverse global warming within that very very short period of time, we will most likely be looking at the end of the world we know. Coastlines will flood, Droughts will intensify. Our efforts to feed the population of the world will be further stressed.

In other words, we have twelve very very short years to try to make things on this earth a little bit less catastrophic.

I don’t know about you, but that seems like a pretty big deal to me. Twelve years? To try to save our current civilization?

Gulp. And gulp again.

Seems to me that given this information, our entire focus should be on changing that terrible prospect for the future. Seems to me that every single city in the world should be looking at ways to reduce the use of fossil fuels. Every state should be looking at ways to increase the presence of trees, grasses and native plants.

Call me crazy, but it sure seems to me that every single country on this spinning blue planet should be working together to reduce greenhouse gasses, increase oxygen production and focus on environmental policies.

So.

Why are we all in a sweat about a freaking wall? Build it, don’t build it, whatever…..Can we talk about stopping climate change yet?

Why are we focused on trading petroleum based products back and forth instead of working together to find some green products that could replace them?

Twelve years.

Holy shit.

Twelve short, short years to try to turn around the probable destruction of the entire planet.

Call me crazy, but I’m ready to vote for any candidate who steps up and demands that climate preservation is the first order of business and all the rest is just noise.

Who’s with me?

Oh, What a Funny Idea!!!


I really liked being a teacher. I mean, I really, really liked it. As in, I loved the hell out of being in charge of a group of ten year olds.

I loved helping them to grow and learn in the most important ways.

If you’ve been reading this blog for any time at all, you know that I was pushed out of teaching by a cranky old guy who resented my ideas. You know that I miss teaching every single day.

I loved those kids. I really, truly did.

Even when they were making me CRAZY because they couldn’t manage to find a way to compromise with their classmates.

Oh, holy headache. I remember long, long, long, long classroom meetings where I repeatedly told two groups of kids, “Yes, you can find a way to compromise.”

I worked so hard to show them that if Team A gave up the idea of football at every recess, Team B might respond by saying they would accept football every day for those who wanted to play.

There were days when I felt like all I did was repeat the idea that ‘If you get one thing that you want, the other guys can get one thing that they want.”

I remember sitting at my deks, waiting for the two groups to come to some compromise.

I remember telling the kids, “If you can compromise, we can go outside to play. If you keep arguing we will miss our recess.”

We did miss a couple of recess breaks. We did. I clearly remember the absolute shock of both sides of the classroom argument as they realized that EVERYONE LOSES when nobody can compromise and come to agreement.

I thought it was wonderful when my ten year old charges understood that compromise was the only way to have the whole community move forward. I was so so proud of those children when they came to that incredibly powerful realization.

So you can see why I wish that Congress and the Executive could be brought under the control of a really good fifth grade teacher.

Until then? I am completely disgusted with every single person in Congress and the Executive Branch who draws a paycheck out of my tax payments.

I would be absolutely delighted if a fifth grade class could address the government shutdown in its morning meeting.

We could find a way to compromise!!! Why can’t you guys?

You Know What I’d Like to See?


I’d really love to see some of the grownups in our government (assuming that there are a few), come right out and address this giant pile of steaming bull shit that we are currently calling our “partial government shut down.”

I would love, more than I can say, for the Democrats to come right out in public and say this:

“We recognize the fact that the President of the United States is having a giant temper tantrum over his ridiculous wall. We know, because we actually look at facts, that the crimes committed by undocumented immigrants are far fewer than those committed by American citizens. Nevertheless, we are willing to overlook the President’s hysteria and panic.

We also know that there is no emergency at the border. We have spoken to the mayor of El Paso, whose city has found itself responsible for thousands of unexpected immigrant families. We get it. Our immigration system needs a major overhaul. We need some laws, some fences, some plans in place for how to help asylum seekers.

But we know that there is no “crisis” calling for emergency powers or sending troops or any of the other hoopla that the Pres is demanding.

Most of all, we Democrats understand that we are wasting way too much time and energy on President Trump’s ridiculous fantasy of a “big beautiful wall that Mexico will pay for.” We recognize the fact that this is all just a big made up pile of nothingburger designed to make Trump feel powerful.

So. Because we have a whole lot of actual governing to do, and we have a boatoad of investigations to start, we are going to give the big baby his 5 billion dollars. We want the American voter to understand that we are giving in to a tyrant and agreeing to waste a bunch of your money. We apologize.

But we’re doing it because time is a-wasting. We need to start governing. We need to deal with a few actual crises. Things like guns and endless wars and climate change. You know, serious issues that are beyond the comprehension of the Clown in Chief.

We are doing this because we understand that you guys elected us so that we’d actually run the country. You don’t care who ‘wins’ in a stupid bullshit made up fight over a big fat nothing.

Wouldn’t you love that?

Let the Democrats finally act like grownups. Let them very publicly roll their eyes, make the “crazy” finger twirl next to their ears, and pat Trumpy on his big fat orange butt. Let them end this entire stupid embarrassing spectacle and let him go play with his little orange bricks and build his pointless wall.

Somebody out there needs to finally start running things around here.

Baby Donnie. Yes, this is the man in charge. He hasn’t progressed emotionally since this photo was taken.

Who Will Speak the Truth?


It is so difficult to watch as a loved one shows changes in thinking and language. When we watch someone struggle to find the correct word, or when we ourselves can’t follow their train of thought, our hearts sink.

I spent a couple of decades working as a speech/language pathologist, so I have a pretty good body of knowledge when it comes to how language is organized in our brains. I’ve seen all kinds of language disorders and deficits, and I recognize them when I run into people who are exhibiting the symptoms.

I’m pretty familiar with the language of dementia, too, having watched a few loved ones progress into old age. I recognize the signs when someone begins to jump from one topic to the next as if every conversation is simply a stream of consciousness. Each comment triggers the next, with a diminishing connection to the original idea.

Here is an example of what I firmly believe is a language/cognitive disorder. Try to follow the thread and see if you notice what I mean.

Q: “Is there a number below five billion that you might be willing to accept in order to reopen the government?                                                                           A: Right.Well I’d rather not say it, ah, could we do it for a little bit less, it’s so insignificant compared to what we’re talking about. You know I’ve heard  numbers as high as 275 billion dollars we lose in illegal immigration and  here we have a wall that you’re talking about, to complete, because, again a lot has already been done because we’ve been getting money in…somebody said that we didn’t spend the money, well, we have spent it but we don’t paycontractors before they finish the job, that’s one of the other things that Pat and I sort of instituted. We like to have people do the work, so if we’re  building a wall, we’re paying as they build it, we pay it when it’s finished.  So they do a good job.This way if they don’t do a good job, we don’t pay them. So not all of the money has beenpaid, but the money has been used. So  maybe you guys could remember that we you say that I haven’t spent the  money, we’ve spent the money. We wanna finish it up. The five billion, five point six billion approved by the House is such a small amount compared to the level of the problem. When you see that the democrats want to give  away twelve billion extra, and we’re giving away 54 billion in foreign aid.  So we give money to countries but we don’t give money to our own country, which is another thing that I’ve been complaining about, and we’re cutting that back. It’s very unfair. When we give money to Guatemala and to  Honduras, and to El Salvador, and they do nothing for us. When we give  money to Pakistan, one point three billion dollars, I ended that, a lot of people don’t know it, because they haven’t been fair to  us. We wanna have a great relationship with Pakistan. But they house the  enemy, they take care of the enemy, we just can’t do that. So I look forward  to meeting with the folks from, and the new leadership in Pakistan, we’ll be doing that in the not too distant future, but I ended the one point three billion that we paid, like it was water, we just pay it. To Pakistan. And I ended that. And we ended a lot of other money that’s being sent out on a  monthly basis, and a yearly basis, to countries that don’t even vote for us  in the United Nations. We give them billions of dollars, they don’t even vote for us in the United Nations. When we want something, to help certain  countries…..and you know it’s not all about the rich countries, cuz the rich countries really do take advantage of us cuz they pay a very small percentage of their military….and they cheat on trade. They take advantage of us on trade. Other than that, they’re wonderful, OK? But there are countries that are poor, that we will com…we don’t want  anything from them! We want to help them. There are some horrible things going on in the world. And we wanna help those people, we don’t want  money from them. We don’t want that. We’re not looking for that.But when you have massively wealthy countries, that have very low military costs  because the United States subsidizes them, so they take advantage of us  on military…they could easily pay us, the full amounts. And they also take  advantage of us on trade. So when I speak up, I mean, that’s why I got elected, issues like that. Issues like the border and it would be so easy  not to do anything. When they say I’m not popular in Europe, I shouldn’t be popular in Europe! If I was popular in Europe, I wouldn’t be doing my job. Because I want Europe to pay. Germany pays one percent. They should be paying four percent.They pay one  percent. They should be paying even more than that. Other countries pay a small percentage of what they should be paying. So when I say, ‘I’m sorry,  folks, you have to pay up’, I shouldn’t be popular in Europe. They do a poll, I was at 88 percent and now I’m at, you know, a very low number. And Europe, I don’t care about Europe. I’m not elected by Europeans, I’m elected by Americans. And by American taxpayers, frankly. So, I think my relationship, I will tell you, with the leaders is very good. A lot of them don’t even  understand how they got away with it for so many years. I’ll say to….Angela, and I’ll say to many of the other leaders, I’m friends with all of them, I’ll  say, ‘How did this ever happen?’ And they sorta go, like ‘I can’t believe it either.’ They can’t believe it! You know why, cuz their  Presidents and other people within their administrations, in the past, they  allowed them to get away. Like some of them would say, ‘Well no one ever  asked us to pay.’  We have negotiations going on with numerous countries right now to pay a lot of money to the United States for what we’re doing for them. I wouldn’t say they’re thrilled. Because they’ve had many many years where they didn’t have to pay. So now they’re gonna have to pay. And if that makes me unpopular in those countries, that’s OK. But we’re doing tremendous service to those countries, and they should at least respect us. They didn’t respect us, and that was the problem.”

 I assume that you noticed a few disturbing things about this “response” to a simple question. Hopefully, you saw that the question was never answered or even addressed. The speaker went on for four minutes and forty five seconds without pause, but never even tried to answer the question.

You may also have seen that each idea lead fluidly to the next, with the speaker never realizing that he had strayed completely off the path of the original question. That lack of self awareness is another hallmark of disordered thinking.

The speaker (pretend it’s your Uncle Pete) also assumed that his listeners were following his internal thoughts. The speaker refers to the Democrats hoping to “give away twelve billion extra,” but never explains what he means. Extra in what way? Beyond what amount? Given to whom?

When he says that “Germany pays one percent,” he doesn’t explain. He seems to believe that we already know, because he does. One percent of what? Why?

I also think that in spite of his ability to recall exact dollar amounts, this man shows signs of a word finding problem. Note the pause before he pulls out the name “Angela” when thinking about European leaders. Note the use of phrases like “certain countries” and “many leaders.” Few specific labels are found anywhere in this response.

Please watch the video that I’ve put at the end of this post. I ask you to turn off your partisan reactions, and pretend that this language and this thinking is coming from your elderly relative.

Then reach out to our members of Congress, no matter which party they represent. Reach out to the media. Ask why in the world nobody is willing to stand up and say that Uncle Pete needs a neuropsych evaluation as soon as possible.

The entire world is put in danger by a US President with this kind of disordered thinking, no matter what its’ cause.

Listen with your eyes closed and try to follow the tangents.