Thursday, September 30, 2010

IT'S AUTUMN!

Sunday morning I sat down at my dining table with coffee in hand and my inspirational books unopened, and I noticed with surprise that my back yard was teeming with activity. The birds were everywhere! Sparrows by the dozen were chasing one another from tree to tree, dropping down for a drink of water from time to time. Once there were four very dissimilar creatures sharing space and coming close to one another. The mama squirrel was busily digging up (or burying) nuts, while nearby a mockingbird, a white wing dove, and a big black crow were foraging for food as well.

As I watched, I saw a pair of robins on the birdbath. I had seen them every now and then this summer, usually after a rain. Suddenly, two more joined them for a dip! Four big robins in that small birdbath. I was delighted, and sat very still so I wouldn't frighten any of them. A couple of blue jays also decided to stop by for a drink, and to my utmost joy I saw a woodpecker working its way up the pecan tree. It was much like the one I have pictured here. I took the photo of a small woodpecker in my front yard pecan tree last fall. Maybe this was the same one, all grown up!

I have been watching a squirrel's nest in the pecan tree in back for some time, and have finally seen a young squirrel venturing out. There may be more than one, but this morning they were so active, up and down the trees and all over the yard, it was hard to tell if there were more than one babe. I usually just saw the two of them. (Mama and kit?) They, too, stopped for a drink of water, jumping onto the birdbath with ease. Good thing it was full of water, as it is made of a lightweight fiberglass. I saw a visiting cat tip it over one time when it was empty!

I always am entertained by the "wildlife" in my back yard, but this was an unusually busy morning. I checked the thermometer and discovered it was only 67 degrees outside at ten o'clock in the morning! We had a cold spell move in overnight! The animals and birds loved it -- and so did I! That afternoon I made a trip to Wal-Mart in Marble Falls and bought lovely chrysanthemums to plant in my front flower beds. The seven inches of rain we had after Hurricane Hermine passed through the Gulf made everything perk up and look better than they did in the spring. Some things are blooming for the second time. (As are these Mexican petunias pictured here.) The hanging plants I have in front are getting so huge I will have trouble finding a spot for them indoors this winter. I may have to find foster homes for them. We've had cooler temperatures all this past week. Even down into the 50s at night. For those of you reading this who don't live in Texas, you may not think of 50s and 60s at night, and 80s in the daytime as "cool". However, when you suffer through a long Texas summer with temperatures in the 70s at night and typically high 90s to 100s during the day, you are willing to call this kind of weather a "cold front"! The birds, animals, plants, and I all thrive at this time of year. My favorite time has always been during the brief fall we experience here -- sometimes.
The golden orb garden spider at the top of the post was living by my back porch. She was so beautiful I had to take pictures of her. Unfortunately, a few days later I was hosing off the porch and accidentally caught her with a stream of water. Liberated with love.. I'm sorry grandson Travis didn't get to see her.
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Before I close, I have an addendum to the last blog post on my activist grandchildren. I erroneously made the statement that there were no other "activists" in the family. Talk about being forgetful! I have to chalk it up to so much happening in the last twenty-five years that I almost put it out of my mind. During the 80s, my son Craig was so much of an activist that he made a trip to Washington, D.C. to be a part of a huge protest at the South African embassy. They were protesting apartheid, and he marched with Jesse Jackson. He scared me out of my wits with a telephone call before his departure. He said, "Don't be surprised, Mom, if you get a call from me asking you to bail me out of jail". Thank goodness, that didn't happen. During this time he was also very involved with the Nuclear Freeze Movement, and was a member of the board of directors of the Texas Freeze Voters Association. He was passionate about both of these issues, and his enthusiasm was contagious if you heard him speak on the subjects. At one time, he was also Precinct Chairman for the Denton County Democratic Party, and went to the inauguration of President Bill Clinton. One thing for sure, we are a family who doesn't hesitate to speak our minds, and we stand up for what we believe in.
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I am going to be blessed with a visit from my youngest grandchildren, Travis and Kelly, this weekend. Their mom and dad, Matthew and Amy, each had surgery this past month, with Amy's happening on the day of their tenth wedding anniversary. This weekend they are going to celebrate that anniversary with a short trip, while this lucky grandmommy is going to have fun with the kids. I'm getting ready to bake chocolate cupcakes for us now.
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I wish some of you lived near enough you could drop by and sit with me for awhile, and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea. We could just soak up this beautiful autumn weather, and talk about nothing at all. Or..we could rake the leaves that have started to fall in the back yard...?

Until next time..

Love and Peace,

Marilyn

Sunday, September 26, 2010

WORDS INTO ACTION

(Granddaughter Audrey in white T-shirt on left)

Lest someone think that I endorse just sitting back and "imagining" the things you would like to have or see done in your life, I must say that, of course, I believe that any dream you imagine can and will come true if you back up those words and images with action! My oldest granddaughter, Audrey, who is a junior student at SMU in Dallas, is a perfect example of one acting out her dream. Since she was a young teenager and witnessed brutality at a local slaughter house, she has been a vegetarian. Wanting to make a difference in the treatment of animals, she has been active in animal rights groups, participating in protests and marches. She is now an intern in the group Mercy For Animals (MFA), which recently marched in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade in Dallas. I found it interesting that the banner MFA carried had the quotation "No One Is Free When Others Are Oppressed". This is primarily a Gay Rights parade, and those participating show their support for each other... and that is a good thing! There were many different organizations as well as politicians in the parade... particularly those seeking re-election or election!

I wrote Audrey to tell her how very proud I am that she is willing to take a stand
for her beliefs. I did tell her I was a little concerned, though, when it came to protesting at the opening of a new McDonald's! (She and other members of MFA gave away free vegan samples..right in front of the new restaurant!) That and their stance against egg producers worried me. Dallas is a big city, and there are rabble rousers at any protest. She assured me that at every event there is good police protection surrounding them. This young woman never ceases to amaze me with her accomplishments. She is an A student, studying Environmental Science, and is also a gifted violinist and dancer. She and her cousin, Cameron, also a junior student at LSU in Baton Rouge, are good examples of the kind of young people who will be making changes in the world of tomorrow. Cameron joined in a protest against drilling for oil in the Gulf shortly after the infamous BP oil spill. He also excels in school, majoring in music (he sings opera), and he's interested in making a mark in the world as well. For someone so young, he is quite a philosopher. He impressed me so much with his dreams of the future when he came for a brief visit this summer.

I do not know where these two young folks got their taste for activism. Maybe it's a sign of the times. Even though I have always been outspoken about my own beliefs, I really never got into activism. During the late sixties and seventies, I was busy raising children.. usually by myself.. and didn't have the time to participate when women were taking to the streets and burning their bras! I cheered them on from the sidelines, though.. (and I even threw away my bras, much to my mother's dismay and not that anyone could tell!)

Once, I did campaign for a presidential election. I wrote a protest song or two with a young musician/singer against the Vietnam War. So when Barry Goldwater made his famous statement about dropping a nuclear bomb on Vietnam and putting an end to the war, I cheered him on. I even recorded a book he wrote for a blind music teacher I took guitar lessons from. (Nope, I never really learned to play -- and I had to sell my Gibson guitar to pay my rent a few years down the road!) Boy! Am I glad Goldwater didn't win that election! I was very young, you know.. 24 or 25 at the time. I laughed out loud several years later when my husband at the time called me a "bleeding heart liberal"! And I always thought I was a conservative!

Funny thing, nowadays if you say you are against the war, you are accused of being unpatriotic.. Maybe even too liberal!

I say to my grandchildren, and all the young people willing to stand up for their beliefs today..

"You go, kids!"

Love and peace,
Marilyn

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

INVENTING THE FUTURE?

(Photo of high speed train in France by G. Bowater/Corbis)

In the late eighties I discovered a book at the library with the title "Inventing the Future" by Marilee Zdenek. Around that same time I also read Deepak Chopra's book "Creating Health". Together these books helped me embark upon a journey of self-discovery, and a search for self-empowerment. Twenty years later I am still on that path. Each book, although in different ways, posited the belief that we as individuals not only are creating the situations in our lives, but also the condition of our bodies with our thinking processes. Mostly, we do this unconsciously, not even aware that circumstances we find ourselves in are at least partially of our own making.

Marilee's book is about guided imagery -- or creative visualization as it is
sometimes called. The training exercises in her book are very similar to self-hypnosis. She teaches you methods of shutting down the "left brain" (our critical brain) by using scientifically designed "mandalas" (the spaces in the graphics fool the left brain, which cannot process or deal with spaces), and guiding yourself into a beautiful "right brain" land that you create yourself with your imagination!

One very effective method is imagining you are on a train, moving toward your future.
The relaxation techniques used in the book are marvelous for preparing your body for a delightful experience that you can use for many purposes.. particularly to relieve the stresses of today's high-tech society. The meditation allows you to picture in your mind whatever kind of landscape or future you wish to behold and experience. A peaceful beach by the ocean, a cloudless sky, clear blue water, and you lazily swaying in a hammock, feeling the cool ocean breezes, watching the sea gulls at play. Or maybe you would envision your dream home, surrounded by sleek cars and beautiful people, counting your money at the end of the day! Aaaahhhh.. that feels good, doesn't it?
(Photo by granddaughter Audrey)
Now close your eyes and imagine if you are viewing violent, disturbing, depressing images of war, famine, disease, and disasters throughout the day, either on television or on the Internet. At the same time your mind is being filled with negative, destructive, hostile, angry words.. Words that are denigrating and critical. How does that feel? And how could that not have an effect on your health and ultimately, on your world?

Dr. Chopra suggested in his book using meditation to create a calm and peaceful realm within that is conducive to health and healing. Even ten to twenty minutes a day will very quickly show benefits in your well-being.

I was so impressed with "Inventing the Future" that I ordered a cassette tape to enhance the experience. Along with it came a short meditation tape on world peace.. suggesting you "tell two people", they "tell two people", and they "tell two people" until the whole world is imaging peace.

"We create in our world what we hold in our thoughts." And the words we listen to and read determine what kind of thoughts we are holding. What kind of world are you creating? What kind of future are we all creating together by tuning in to all the negativity surrounding us in this age of technology with its attendant instant news coverage?

I suggest we all use our imagination to project a beautiful world of peace and harmony. An end to disease, poverty, war, and hunger. I'll tell two people, if you'll tell two people, who'll tell two people....

Love,
Marilyn

Friday, September 10, 2010

A HOOD IN THE SAFE

Yesterday my spirits were lifted as I got the results of my lab work at the doctor's office. Not only was my cholesterol down one point and my blood sugar down one point, but I had lost one pound and my blood pressure was 132/64. Hey! Not a lot, but every little bit of improvement helps at this stage of life. I could be going downhill instead of up! As I passed by the lab, I stuck my head in and sang the first two lines of La Cucaracha in Spanish to Roy, the lab tech. He had taken my blood several times over the past year, and although he is Hispanic, he told me he never learned Spanish growing up. Like me, though, he knew a few Spanish songs. He joined me in the last line of the verse.. marijuana que fumar! Then we broke out laughing. Mrs. Holcomb, my fifth grade teacher, taught our class this little ditty without conveying the meaning to us. When I worked at FEMA, a young woman from Mexico told some of us that this is a Mexican folk song about a cockroach. "Why are you walking around in circles, with a limp? (She demonstrated this.) Because you have been smoking marijuana?" I now find that very funny! Obviously, marijuana was not the issue in the 40s that it is today. There have been many different versions and verses, and some verses even held political connotations at times. I left the office smiling and in a good mood.
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While I was out and about, I decided to check out a half-price bookstore someone had told me about. Some of my favorite authors' books are not carried in our local library. I guess they consider them too controversial -- or "new age". I immediately spotted one that I had not read by one of my favorite spiritual writers, Deepak Chopra, M.D. titled "The Deeper Wound". Checking the flyleaf, I realized he had written this shortly after 9/11 in 2001. I knew this was a serendipitous sign for me, so I quickly made my purchase and came home. It was only two days until the anniversary of the horrendous event our country suffered nine years ago. My joyful mood suddenly began to sink into a sort of melancholy. This past week I had been checking a few headlines on the Google news site. Much to my dismay, I read about the minister in Florida wanting to burn Qu'rans on the anniversary of this terrible attack. Common sense should tell one that this would only antagonize the Taliban and Al Queda. They would use this event to stir up anti-American feelings, to recruit new members to their terrorist organizations, and most importantly this would further endanger American troops still in Iraq and Afghanistan! Was this pastor of a tiny (50 member) church trying to attract attention? Surely he could see how "un-Christian" an act such as this would be. What if it provoked another attack on America?

I picked up Dr. Chopra's little book and scanned some of the contents. He speaks of the stages of suffering and healing in the face of tragedy. He says, "In the natural grieving process, layers of fear and suffering come to the surface. If this process is denied or cut short, the trauma turns into a deep and lasting wound." I have not read much further. It's as though I have at least part of an answer to what has been happening in our country lately. So many in our country have skipped this phase of grieving over the 9/11 terrorist attack.. indeed it is a painful process, which causes much fear when we try to understand it. Now the "deep and lasting wound" is making itself known by way of the anger, hate, frustration, and fear we see expressed by many in their alliances with people and groups who can better express their feelings. Their "wound" is being lanced and the infection pouring out.

Not only are some Americans still harboring resentment against -- indeed, some even hate -- anyone remotely resembling a Muslim, the intervening years have caused us even more pain. Wars, the economy collapsing, joblessness.. The conditions are ripe for these people to accept hope in the form of a person (a savior) or a cause that will allow them to vent, and perhaps to finally heal. The Tea Party seems to satisfy these needs in many today.
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As you all know, I have been trying to avoid the negative TV newscasts. In fact, all newscasts. Recently I was surfing the channels to find the weather channel, as we were having heavy downpours of rain that showed no signs of letting up after two days. As I did so, I happened upon the History Channel. This day they were presenting the history of the Ku Klux Klan. For some reason, I decided to watch. Even though the original Klan, which formed after the Civil War as well as the second wave of the Klan, formed in 1915, was filled with those who avowed to be Christians, and many were upstanding citizens of the community, it was taken over by hate groups that used threats and violence to restore white supremacy. It was originally filled with Democrats (that was a shock to me, but explained something about law enforcement, a Sheriff I used to work for, and the Democratic party - which I will write about in a future blog), and their threats were often against white Republicans as well as immigrants. Today's Klan members are known for their far right political beliefs. As I watched and listened I became more agitated, as what I was hearing about the Klan's history kept reminding me of something. Then it dawned on me.

From Wikipedia
: "In 1915, the second Klan was founded. It grew rapidly nationwide after 1921 in response to a period of postwar social tensions, where industrialization in the North had attracted numerous waves of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe and the Great Migration of Southern blacks and whites. The second KKK preached racism, anti-Catholicism, anti-Communism, nativism, and anti-Semitism. Some local groups took part in attacks on private houses, and carried out other violent activities. The violent episodes were generally in the South."

Replace some of those "antis-" with anti-Islam and anti-Mexican immigration, and what do you hear? I find it very scary, and looking at the history of how the Klan once took over many positions of government through fear tactics, I wonder how many of the current Klan members have joined forces with the Tea Party movement. It seems a perfect environment for their brand of hate.

I know that the Tea Party movement is supposedly all about "taxes". Recently someone wrote me that "we pay 50% income taxes" today. Really! Forbes.com writer Bruce Bartlett in a March column said, "For an antitax group, they don't know much about taxes." He went on to write about an interesting experiment conducted with over 500 Tea Party demonstrators on Capitol Hill. When asked how much federal taxes are today:

"Tuesday's Tea Party crowd, however, thought that federal taxes were almost three times as high as they actually are. The average response was 42% of GDP and the median 40%. The highest figure recorded in all of American history was half those figures: 20.9% at the peak of World War II in 1944."

The individuals I have spoken to are angrier about the immigration of Mexicans and the Muslims that are in this country than they are about their taxes. At a Community Dinner at a local church last night I heard so much hate from one woman it made me physically ill when I got home. She said to me, "I don't understand it... why don't those Muslims stay home? They have countries of their own." When I commented about my ancestors being immigrants, she jumped up in a huff, and said "Well at least yours were not illegal!" I was dumbfounded -- I didn't know how to answer such a statement. (In the early 1700s there was no such thing as an "illegal" alien. All were welcome in this country.) As for the millions of Muslims in the United States, as far as I've heard, most of them are legal immigrants, as well as second or third generations born in America.
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As I pondered the history of hate groups in our country, I recalled a story about one of my great-grandfathers, whose own grandfather had fled to the United States in the mid-1800s (yep! another immigrant!), after the overthrow of the Hungarian monarchy. (He was a Count, and a tax collector, of all things!) My great-grandfather was beloved by all his ten children as well as the community he lived in. He was a devout Methodist, a rancher, and also had a general store, which housed the first telephone company in the area. My mother was a 14-year-old who was working as the telephone operator the day her grandfather was dragged to death by a mule.

During the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s one of my distant cousins was doing research on this side of the family, when she discovered that upon my grandfather's death, among the items that were found in his safe was a white KKK hood! No one in the family knew of this, or if they did, they never talked about it. It goes to show that even decent, good, loving people can be fooled into supporting causes that are inherently wrong.
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To the Tea Party -- remember that the first Boston Tea Party was in protest of "taxation without representation." We have representation in this country. If the ones we elected (you did vote, didn't you?) are not representing you as you wish, have you called or written them about important issues or pending legislation? You do not need to join forces with an angry group, led by people who have mainly their own interests at heart, to vote officials out of office and new ones in. Study your candidates carefully -- not just on FOX News, then make that trip to the voting booth in November!

From The Star online: “If Americans were paying attention,” says DeWayne Wickham in USA Today, “they'd realize that the Tea Party candidates who have been winning Republican primaries left and right are threatening to 'turn this nation and its founding document upside down.' Kentucky's Rand Paul and Utah's Mike Lee want to undo the birthright citizenship. Sharron Angle, the GOP candidate for the Senate in Nevada, suggested that angry Americans might take up arms against Congress. This is dangerous, irresponsible talk the U.S. hasn't seen since the 1850s, when the Know Nothing Party tried to close the door on immigrants, and a similar 'warped sense of entitlement' plunged the nation into civil war.”
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As for the anniversary of 9/11, there is a wonderful article on the Good News Now site about a retired NYC firefighter who lost his son in the World Trade Center. It's titled "I don't Understand All of This Hate". If he can feel that way, why can't we?
http://www.gnn.com/article/911-father-i-dont-understand-all-of-this/1261648
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Dr. Chopra says in his book, "A principle of physics states 'When an electron vibrates, the universe shakes.' Let us then, you and I, be those electrons that vibrate at the level of consciousness to bring peace, harmony, joy, and love to the world."

May we all reflect upon those attributes tomorrow as we mourn the loss of so many....

And may we conduct ourselves in such a fashion that our children and grandchildren will not find anything to shame them when our safe is opened at the end of our life!

Peace and love,
Marilyn

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

TIME - IS IT ON MY SIDE?

A lot has happened since I last wrote a new post. At right, you can see a healthy, happy Matthew as he rides a surfboard on a lake near Dallas on August 12th. One week ago today he was in the hospital in Austin undergoing emergency surgery for appendicitis. As the surgery kept stretching into hours, our anxiety levels raised considerably. There were a few unexpected complications that took more time on the operating table. I'm happy to report that he is at home and recovering nicely. However, Matthew doesn't "do" pain or sickness very well, and that makes for a pretty cranky patient at times. The week before his surgery he played golf four times. Now he's told he must wait 3-4 weeks before resuming normal activities! I spent a few days at his home in Austin to be another warm body there while Amy took care of some of her volunteer activities. I enjoyed being with the grandchildren, but I was glad to get home, as usual.

If Matthew had been operated on a hundred years ago, he might not have survived the surgery. And if he had, the chance of dying from an infection was great. Thank God for modern medicine!
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When I returned, two events had me thinking a lot about "time". My next door neighbor, a frail, reclusive Japanese woman named Kiku had died while I was gone. I knew she was hospitalized in a town near Austin, but understood from another neighbor that she just "hadn't been taking care of herself". It turns out she died of Stage 4 colon cancer. Her nearest relative is a brother in South America, who is in the process of getting an emergency visa to come to the U.S. I thought that Kiku was around 80 years of age. I was shocked to hear she was only 76 years old. (I counted on my fingers how many years older than I she was!)

The day I found this out, a friend told me of a doctor in Denton dying recently. I had been to him a couple of times to be fitted for glasses, but I didn't really know him. When she said his service was held in the Unity Church I used to attend, I searched for his obituary. I never found one for him, but I found myself checking the ages of the ones that I did read. In one day the list of deaths in Plano numbered around 25. Of those 25, only 5 of the persons were 70 years of age or older. The remainder of the deaths were of younger persons. That is just the opposite of the statistics in the small towns I've lived in. It must be the stress of "big city" living that shortens the life spans.

I don't know when I started doing that - noting the ages of those who die - but I think it is a common thing to do as we age. It made one feel safe to see that people who were 20 years older than you were dying. But when you see so many are 5 or even 10 years younger.... well, it's hard not to start think about your own mortality.
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You know, I have been single - alone - more than half of the time since I left home to marry at a tender teenage year. Having failed at more than my share of marriages and relationships, I have often looked with envy at couples who have spent twenty, thirty, and now as so many in my age group, 50 years together. I'm speaking of those who have been "happily" married. Not the ones who have stayed together because they were afraid to part.. the ones who continually gripe and complain about the miseries of married life. And go on ad nauseum about the things that are wrong with their spouses. For years, when I had a birthday, I would calculate how many good years I had left to share with "Mr. Right" when he came along. When I was 50, I thought, "Hmmm, I could still have twenty or even thirty years of wedded bliss."

As I continue to age, I notice how much shorter that time period is. I find myself thinking, "Well, if I live as long as my grandmother (93), or my dad (92), I could still have (mumble, mumble) years to enjoy a compatible partner." I think of all the aches and pains I have now, and wonder what on earth I will feel like in ten years! Then, I get out my exercise mat and directions for getting back in shape!
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A woman who does volunteer work with me recently married. She is a gray-haired lady of indeterminate age, who wears her short hair in a "spike" do, and has a tattoo on her ankle! She is a very funny lady, telling tales of her youth, and laughing about how she once was a "go-go" girl in Dallas nightclubs, and rode motorcycles with a Harley gang - before she "found the Lord" and "cleaned up her act". When I first met her, she told me of her musician boyfriend who at the time was in the VA hospital in Austin. I was surprised when she announced their impending marriage, because he was in such poor health. They went through with the marriage and I saw a photograph of the two of them in the local newspaper last week. I couldn't help but think "he is sooo old"! I ran into her this past Monday at a Community Dinner. She was without her new hubby, as she said he couldn't get out in the heat!

Oh, my! I look in the mirror and then I think maybe I can set some kind of record for being single and happily living alone into my dotage! No, my grandmother and now my dad must have some kind of hold on that record. My dad still goes dancing twice a week! And mows his own yard! At 87 my grandmother was still entering the waltz, costume, and hog calling contests that the Senior Citizens Center in San Antonio held every year. If she didn't win, she would insist it was because the woman who did win had "flirted" with the judges! A picture of her waltzing with Henry Cisneros when he was Mayor of San Antonio hangs on my wall in my office. She was 87 years old at the time, and something of a "flirt" herself!
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All of these things caused me to do some research. Did you know that the United States is 49th on the list of longevity in the world? Yep. 48 countries have longer life expectancies than we do. In Japan, Canada, and France, folks can expect to live into their early 80s. The estimated average life expectancy of Americans is 78.11 years. So much for the theory that "socialized" medicine is no good!

I've got to get busy if I'm going to write that novel (or autobiography - or family history)! And if Mr. Right is on his way, he better hurry up while I am still healthy enough to waltz with him!

Love and peace,
Marilyn