Shut Down

Officially we went up to avoid the Super Bowl crowds and have a little party

Have you missed me?  I’ve noticed that when I’m dealing with big events in my life I stop writing.  My journals all have gapping holes during the times when I would be most interested in going back and reading about what I was thinking in the moment.  I’ve blank spaces from when Orion was a baby, and each of his hospitalizations.  I have holes in the record immediately after recording that I had cancer.  I stopped journaling when the cupboards came off the walls.

My parents are aging and it’s hard.  It’s hard on them and it’s hard on us.  I’ve missed the last two blogs. The first I skipped because my folks don’t have internet, the second because I’d just gotten home.  I have been slammed with emotional content and I shut down.

When I was a kid I was “sensitive”.  I cried in empathy, wore my emotions on my shirtsleeve and was generally harassed about it.  I made an active decision to stop.

The first trick was pretty easy, typical in my family.  That is to put emotion aside while you deal with a crisis.  The idea is to stay clear headed and available, and not add to the chaos while it is occurring.   The aftermath, when everything is safe, comes like a tidal wave and can be very confusing as it appears to have no source.

Here’s sympathy AND distraction

Having that kind of emotional catharsis in public is a great opportunity for gaslighting.   There IS nothing to be so upset about (anymore).  It IS overreacting (because it’s all the reaction at once).  Even the part about “just looking for attention” isn’t entirely false.  If I’ve just spent hours offering sympathy and emotional support to others, yes I may be looking for a little sympathy and emotional support for myself.

So I learned to allow myself to be distracted.  Eventually I learned never to “get around” to dealing with my emotional content.  There are lots of distractions!   I’ve been trying to unlearn that.

Black Panther! We got there early. Theater was sold out for an 11:45am Sunday show.

I’ve found that I’m a better writer when I can be open to emotion.  I’ve found that there is strength in vulnerability.  I’ve found that it’s really hard to make myself do the work and that I need to create a time and space for it.  I still can’t do it in public, at least not until I have a good handle on it myself.  The support would be nice, but the gaslighting I can’t deal with.

So I shut down, a little.  I look for distractions (I don’t have to look hard).  I pick and choose my confidants.  I try to carve out some space.  Please be patient with me.

 

Advertisements

Missing Miss Minnie

Minnie’s puppy picture

I’ve spent the past two weeks babysitting my grandpuppy Minnie.  She’s actually 4 years old now and much easier to have around.  I was sick one of those weeks and she was warm and comforting.  She’s not nearly as hyper or demanding, although she still knows Grandma is a sucker when it comes to treats.

Minnie has been through a lot this past year.  My daughter has moved many times, and I had Minnie because she was moving again.  All the stress and upheaval has taken a toll on the dog.  She’s a lot more volatile, less trusting, quicker to say “enough”.  That’s problematic.

Love me/leave me alone

Of course to my daughter Minnie is perfect.  There is discipline, but not a lot of acknowledgement of an underlying problem.  Mostly, I suspect, that’s because my daughter also feels like there’s nothing she can do about it.  So I take the dog, and establish a routine.  It’s easier for me.  I’m home a lot more than my daughter is and just that is a reassurance.

Minnie and Karina at 4th of July

Minnie and Orion have a love/hate relationship.  Minnie is scared to death of the wheelchair and looses her mind any time Orion moves.  On the other hand he often drops food while he’s eating.  Orion adores Minnie, except he doesn’t actually want to touch her and hates all the noise.  That’s a dynamic that scares me so I keep an eagle eye on the two of them anytime they interact.  I also do a lot to make sure there isn’t much interaction, like putting Minnie outside while Orion comes to the table.  It won’t solve anything, but Minnie isn’t my dog.

Karina has a few days off so she’s taken Minnie back.  It’s nice to have quiet.  No one barks every time a neighbor walks by or comes out of their house next door.  It’s easier to have a morning where I’m not running back and forth letting Minnie in and out while Orion gets dressed and ready for his day.  It’s nice to jump into the car for a quick trip to the library before the blizzard snow starts to accumulate without having to worry about getting Minnie settled or arguing about who might want to come with.

When I had bariatric surgery Minnie came to visit me in the hospital.  In 4 years, I think I’m the one who’s changed the most!

They say the best part about having grandchildren is that you get to give them back.  This is true.  Still, I find I’m Missing Miss Minnie.  I catch myself looking for her, or thinking about her next treat.  It’s definitely easier and quieter having her gone.  It’s also just a little more lonely.

MLK Day

So on Martin Luther King Day I decided to use my platform to expand another voice.  My friend Crystal Blanton    is a Social Worker, an activist, and a talented writer.   Reprinted with her permission:

Losing the Illusion: The Reality of Racism Today

Losing the Illusion: The Reality of Racism Today

Jun 17, 2017

Many of us are angry right now. I am enraged by one more example, another reminder, that Black lives don’t matter in this country. After hearing the verdict today I am numb. I cannot wrap my mind around a society that clears a cop from all criminal charges after shooting and killing a man, Philandro Castille, in front of a 4 year old child and his girlfriend…. while he still had his seatbelt on.

I have been sitting in my numbness thinking about the trauma of this on that little girl, his girlfriend, his family, his community, the school children he worked with.. And the Black community at large. I have been thinking about the ways that trauma are retriggered and how that applies to racial trauma. I have been thinking about the generations of transgenerational pain in the Black community and how epigenetics pass this down generation after generation in our DNA.

It seems like year after year we have been fighting for the larger society of Americans to listen to our stories of pain, trauma, and fears. We have been working overtime to prove the existence of racism and discrimination that continues to be normal in our experience and a part of the fabric of the very society we share with others. It is interesting in today’s times to see the country continue to be divided by race, and to watch a portion of Americans come to grips with how overt racism has become (again) in the age of Trump. It is interesting to watch people come to grips with the ongoing murder of Black people by the state, and work to cope with the increasing realization that the words of our Black friends and family were truthful and real all along. It is essential for people to understand that racism is alive and well, functioning in all facets of our society and interwoven in the fabric of our history and our present.

Critical Race Theory is very applicable to this and understanding the ways that American society continues to thrive on systems of racism embedded into its very operation. And when we are evaluating the impact of racism, and ways to disrupt that pattern, we have to start looking at racism itself from a very different lens. Racism isn’t just the white hooded figure with an ignorant view on life and an affinity for the word Nigger. Racism is a system, a construct, that permeates every corner of our society and has been used as a tool for targeted success in this nation.

On the UCLA School of Public Affairs site it states that “CRT recognizes that racism is engrained in the fabric and system of the American society. The individual racist need not exist to note that institutional racism is pervasive in the dominant culture. This is the analytical lens that CRT uses in examining existing power structures.” Let’s say it again for the people in the back. “The individual racist need not exist…”

People live in a place of cognitive dissonance by convincing themselves that someone is a good person and “can’t be racist”, or that people of color just want to make everything about race. Arguments even ensure about how a cop, like the one that killed Philandro Castile, “isn’t white and so it couldn’t be racism”. Ignorance about the functionality of racism in power structures and institutions, coupled with cognitive dissonance, is the reason people can believe such things. It is comfortable to think that racism is a person, that it is “bad” people, and that others can be separated from it because they have Black friends.

There are tenants to Critical Race Theory, and while those tenants are often a source of disagreement among different theorists in the field, there are a some that are universally accepted. The widely accepted CRT tenets include the following: Racism is Endemic, Race is a social construct, the power of differential racialization, interest convergence and materialist determinism, advancing the voice of the marginalized and intersectionality of identities.

In Critical Race Theory in Social Work Education: A Framework for Addressing Racial Disparities, the first tenet discusses the very point of how we view the role racism plays in society. It isn’t isolated to an individual person or experience and is not abnormal in our society. It is the normal reality of the power dynamics within the society we have created in America.

“Racism is Endemic. First, CRT asserts that racism is not an abnormal experience, but an everyday occurrence for people of color. It is reproduced in our structures, customs, and experiences. Accordingly, race should be seen as a central rather than a marginal force that defines and explains human experiences (Solórzano & Bernai, 2001). Given this endemic nature, CRT suggests that the functions and effects of racism are often invisible to people with racial privileges.”

The reality of this statement strips away the lies modern society has been able to tell itself about what racism is, how they are exempt and the accountability each person holds in the continuation of this demoralizing and deadly epidemic. What we are seeing now is how this illusion of safety for the average American has been  slipping away with every police murder of an unarmed Black person that is caught on a standard smartphone by a passing citizen.

While white America experiences the slow slipping away of the illusion of righteousness and exempt status, Black people are losing the illusion too.

Once again the Black community is faced with the reality that change isn’t really change, we still aren’t safe, and that we are rapidly slipping back to the 1970’s civil rights era. We are dealing with the harsh reminders that our bootstrap muscles are more defined than most and yet we are still target practice in these streets.

We are again and again faced with the reality that we are not in control of the narrative and our voices are too often left out of the historical accounts of our history. Coming to terms with our lack of social capital, in 2017, and the disenfranchised power-base we are holding onto, it leaves us to really think about what it means to navigate as a Black person in a modern racist society. It is comfortable for us too to believe that “We The People” now includes us…. Until it doesn’t.

Going back to the Critical Race Theory, how important is it for us to redefine our understanding of racism and the impact of the illusions of meritocracy, and good will on our psyche? How does this support or hinder positive change that promotes the survival and the ability to thrive for Black people?

For a moment, let’s dive a little deeper into the tenet about interest convergence and materialist determination.  Too often the survival of our people relies in our ability to appeal to dominant culture. Critical race theory makes space for us to understand that this itself is part of the construct of a racist society and an institutional system of privilege benefiting the majority.

“A fourth tenet of CRT is that of interest convergence and materialist determinism. This suggests that racism confers psychic and material benefits to the majority race. Further, it posits that the interests of the oppressed are addressed only when they converge with the interests of the dominant group (i.e. Whites) (Bell, 1980). According to Stec (2007), “acts that directly help blacks must implicate white interests because white economic (and other) interests and black oppression are inextricably interwoven and depend on each other for their survival” (p. 2). This means that those in the dominant culture who enact social, political, and economic change on behalf of racial minorities would only support changes if their own self-interest is better served.”


This leaves us with a lot to contemplate while we grieve yet another injustice at the hands of the state. How do we navigate a system, without the power of the dominant culture, and isolated from a system of justice that is meant to protect us? How do we heal hundreds of years of transgenerational trauma when we are living the horror that continues to retrigger the very pain of our ancestors? What does it mean to be an ally when the very nature of the system we exist within disproportionately devalues the oppressed and empowers others? When will we begin to look at how transgenerational trauma has impacted white America’s epigenetics around empathy, power, worth in our distorted systems?

I think it is time for us to begin the work of diving deeper into the construction of our societal fabric than we have ever been in order to gain understanding that will prioritize change. How can we shift what we do not understand…..

And in the meantime, I will continue to grieve for my people and the reality we are living in. I will continue to contemplate the meaning of freedom in the middle of the warzone. And I will continue to fight for the survival of myself, my family, my community and a collective consciousness that moves us back into future. In the meantime I will fight for love.

More to come…..

 

https://psychology.iresearchnet.com/counseling-psychology/counseling-theories/critical-race-theory/

http://www1.uwindsor.ca/criticalsocialwork/system/files/Constance-Huggins.pdf

Inspiration

Orion with Minneapolis through the window. It can seem odd, with our weather, to have outdoor exhibits. We have a whole sculpture garden – it’s where that iconic spoon lives year round.

I’m back to a daily practice of writing, which is good.  I have noticed, however, that it’s pretty difficult to come up with anything to write about without some inspiration.  I packed up Orion and headed off to the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

We were joined by Karina and two of her friends.  We didn’t have long and wandered the areas she prefers, including the galleries with Native and Indigenous art.  I didn’t take a lot of photos either, as I really just wanted to be in the moment.

One of the reasons we went is because Karina has been talking about going for awhile.  A year ago she went off to training for her job.  There was little to do in a strange city and she ended up visiting a Native American museum.  It opened her eyes.  Not to Native American art, but to how fortunate she was to have the resources in the Twin Cities.

Yesterday she stood in one small gallery and said “This room, this one room, has a better exhibition of Native Art than that whole museum did.”  (And it’s free!).  I made a point to visit the Native American Museum in Manhattan the last time we were in New York and I’d had the same impression.  They did a lovely job of displaying the progression of tribal cultures across America.  It’s not a big museum.  The featured modern artists work was lovely.  But most of the historical pieces were not as culturally representative as similar (and more abundant) pieces often exhibited at the MIA.

We have periods where we increase our collective awareness of the Native cultures that surround us.  2017 was the year many people were made aware of the mass execution in Mankato.  We northerners like to think of ourselves as above racism, but there is plenty here and a significant amount of it is directed towards the Native community.

We are privileged to have so much access to arts in the Twin Cities.  We are privileged that our art community uses that art to educate, to inspire, and to activate the local community.  We are grateful to the support that the art community has, which enables them to offer access for free.  Maybe I’m inspired just to visit more often.

FOR FURTHER REFERENCE:

Art and the Mankato hangings

Minnesota Native preserved and curated sites

Native Community in Minneapolis

Local Native Galleries:

All My Relations Arts

Two Rivers Arts

Northland Visions

 

 

Merry Christmas!

To all of you who celebrate, have a very Merry Christmas!

 

Happy Birthday Mom!

How thoughtful to write Happy Birthday on the desert plate

I got to spend the weekend up at my folks helping to make a happy birthday celebration happen for my Mom.   Fragile is not I word I would ever have thought to apply to my mother.  She’s the strong one, who will do whatever is necessary no matter where she is at.  She bounces back.  Climbing mountains after surgery is something I learned from her.  She’s “in charge” and keeping track of all the moving pieces at any event she attends.  At 82 today, she struggles to reconcile a self image which she can no longer maintain.

She rarely goes out anymore.  It’s hard for her to get around.   It’s hard for her to sit in the car for any  length of time.  When there are a lot of distractions, or conversations going on she gets confused.  My Mom has been dealing with chronic pain for a long time.  Her allergies are severe and complicated enough that medicating pain isn’t an option, beyond an occasional Tylenol.  Her mouth is dry, so eating and talking become impossible when she doesn’t have water at hand.

We took her 100 miles there and another 100 miles back to go out to lunch with a good sized group.  I went a few days early so we could get her showered, lay out her outfit and do some massage therapy in advance.  Just my presence gives her a space to gather her resources.  I make sure her water glasses are always full so she doesn’t have to ask.  I put food in front of her rather than quizzing her about what she might want and what is available.  I do the dishes and sweep the floors, which are both really big jobs for her.  She can bank a little reserve.

There are a few of us when we all get together and we can be quite raucous.

For her, it was more than worth it.  She had a really good day.  She enjoyed it so much she didn’t want to go to bed because she didn’t want the day to be over.  My youngest sister couldn’t make it, but all the rest of the female children and grandchildren were in attendance.  It was a girls day out.  There were lots of leftovers, but she knew I would get them home and see that they were used.  The wait staff sang happy birthday and fussed over her desert.  We all tried to keep the table conversation with one person talking at a time.  There was a lot of love.

I am so very fortunate to be able to help facilitate that kind of good day for my Mom.  I’m grateful for every opportunity I have to see her out and about and having a good time.  It’s a joy to watch her relax and participate and let go of the worry of being “in charge”.  I wish I could do more.

Karina went to work straight from lunch. They were having an “ugly sweater” party. She made us all smile in her get up.

Happy birthday Mom!

Darkness

It’s not been a “holly jolly” kind of year.  In this season, the struggle to maintain without being overwhelmed can be particularly difficult.  Some of it is of course the darkness.  For those of us who live in more extreme latitudes the difference in the length of days between midsummer and midwinter is considerable.

North of the Arctic circle (or South for the Antarctic) We have the land of the midnight sun.  At the summer solstice the sun never sets.  That means at winter solstice it never rises.  Think about that for a minute.  A day where the sun doesn’t rise.  It’s kind of creepy.

Even a little bit of color helps

I will tell you truthfully that even here on the 45th parallel there are winter days when it’s so dark and overcast it feels as though there is no sun.  The snow helps.  It reflects what little light there is and bounces it so things seem brighter.  The holiday lights help.  They add not only brightness but a little color to the black and white photo landscape.

The darkness can also be emotional.  Birthdays during the season that get “lumped in” with everyone else’s celebrations can be great.  They can also build a lifetime of resentment.  A death during the season can bring people together.  It can also be a wound that gets reopened every year.  Being overwhelmed with Christmas Cheer, especially when that’s not part of your religion, can be an opportunity or an oppression.

Then there is the demand.  There is a huge demand on time, both socially and for many people, because of year end, on the job.  If you work in retail or in the food industry you can wave goodby to days off for awhile.  There is a demand on the pocketbook.  All that socializing costs, as do the expected gifts.  When the bills are already scary this time of year can be devastating.  Despite all the seasonal sales, somehow it seems that expenses still go up and up.

Even thinking about a fire seems like a lot of work.

I lean heavily on just do it.  Daily Practice becomes focused on small nitty gritty things.  Cleaning up the kitchen before I go to bed is not always easy, but better to do it than not.  Making my bed in the morning when I get up (even if I might want to go back) makes it less likely that I will go back.  Even paying the bills is better than the alternative.

So I put my head down and write the blog, clean the kitchen, make the bed.  I make the phone calls and appointments.  I meet the obligations and shop the sales with an eye on my budget.  I put in a few extra hours where I can hoping for some extra padding on the weekly income.  I wait in eager anticipation of the Solstice.  Because after the longest night each day has a little more light.

Deck the Halls….

Yule Tree and presents

I seriously debated pulling out all the decorations this year.  It’s not as though I’ll be entertaining.  I’m not even sure I’ll get to baking (although I’m thinking I’d like to try.)  Thing is with so much greed and anger in the world, and the days getting longer and darker, and with unseasonably warm weather and no snow I’m struggling to have any holiday spirit.

Found a spot for the horses and reindeer to gather

Of course that’s all the more reason to dig out the boxes and dig in.  That’s what I’ve been doing in fits and starts all week.  Clearing space felt pretty good.  I’ve needed a new printer for awhile and it’s been sitting in the box since my pre – Thanksgiving shopping.  I pulled the old one out and set up the new one knowing I would put the tree in front of it.

I cleared out shelf space as well.  Since I’ve not had  a kitchen my coffee/tea cups have been sitting on the buffet.  It was definitely time for that runner to be washed.  I did a little dusting (and in a few places some serious dusting).  I also had to make space, in my room full of kitchen boxes, for the ornament boxes to live for the season.

Traded space for my holiday mugs and runner

Orion listens to holiday music all year round.  We have a rule about our shared music spaces (like the car): Holiday music only after Thanksgiving through New Years Day.  So I’ve been playing the holiday music channel during dinner and leaving it on over the weekends.  I have yet to put on my CDs, but I’m getting there.

I’ve spent my evenings watching Hallmark movies with a bowl of popcorn in my lap.  I’ve also had a needle and thread at hand and bit by bit have managed to string a sufficient amount to trim the tree.  I make a point of turning on the lights.  When I’m up early, especially if it’s a grey day, I find myself turning them on in the morning and leaving them to brighten up the house.

The tree again, view from my chair.

Packed up the summer seashells and dug out the bells

I pick up presents when I see them and stash them in my closet.  So I pulled everything down to inventory what I have and what I still need to buy.  Apparently I’ve been busy because I only have a gift card left to purchase.  Santa often makes a last minute online run for movies, but Santa’s budget is bleak.  It’s a relief to know I don’t have a lot of shopping left.  Well, except for the grocery store if I get to that baking…………

Thanksgiving

My sister and her daughter doing “finishing touches” on Thanksgiving dinner

Thanksgiving this year was at my sister’s house.  She and her husband have a lovely space with a beautiful kitchen and it’s close to my parents so it’s the logical spot for family gatherings.  I keep saying that I’m grateful that she’s the one doing the work!

My little sister and her family didn’t make it this year, which is no surprise.  Karina also didn’t make it.  She just got a promotion at work and was assigned the Thanksgiving Day buffet.  She spent a lot of time with decorations and set up.  Karina is a hard worker and she wanted to impress on her first event for the restaurant.  She did a beautiful job and got lots of kudos.  Hopefully she’ll learn fast how to delegate some of that work.

Some of the Thanksgiving Buffet at Claddagh Maple Grove

We missed Karina, but she sent up a cheesecake.  She may not be baking at work, but her love for doing that hasn’t stopped.  It was a great treat, especially for me.  With a cinnamon allergy most pumpkin and apple pies are death to me.

Orion and I came up Wednesday evening and stayed at my parent’s house.  We planned to spend the weekend visiting and helping with some of the housework.  Just keeping up is getting harder for my parents.  Wednesday’s mail brought 36 catalogues.  Mom can’t get through them, and doesn’t really need anything.  Unfortunately that depression era mentality makes it hard for her to just toss them without at least looking at them.  I can sort through the pile, hand her 3 catalogues and send the rest to recycling.

Mom and Dad at Thanksgiving

Friday morning we all slept in a little bit.  The plan was for a lazy day.  Mom was thinking about sorting through one of her old jewelry boxes.  She was also pretty sure there was a box of Christmas ornaments we had sorted that needed to be taken over to my sister’s Saturday for her and her kids.  I got up and my Dad greeted me with, “Good Morning.  You need to go home – today.”

YIKES!

The problem wasn’t me (thankfully), but the weather.  We were having an unseasonable thaw.  All that deer from hunting was frozen in coolers on the back porch.  It wasn’t going to stay frozen based on the weather report.  I needed to take it home and get it in my and Karina’s coolers!

And me and Mom

So we spent the day packing, setting up leftovers into meals, and taking a memory lane trip through Mom’s jewelry box.  We called Karina, who was back at work, and arranged to stay through close so she could haul and carry meat.  At least we didn’t have to drive home though holiday traffic.

It all turned out well in the end.  Sad that we were unable to spend more time with my folks, but happy to have a few “extra” days at home.  I kept off the internet, didn’t tell anyone I was back, and started making space for the rest of the holiday season.  I just have to figure out how I’m going to do the baking in my torn apart kitchen!

Orion and I waiting in the Pub for Karina to get off work

Hunting

Dawn does not conveniently “fall back” for Daylight Savings

I missed posting last week because of hunting season.  We went up to my parents for the week.  They don’t have the internet.  We were up before dawn bundling up to sit in the cold and back again at dusk.  In the meantime there were meals to make, housekeeping to tend to and just visiting.

I knew Karina would wear her favorite shirt so I couldn’t resist finding a similar one for Orion

The area we were in was pretty unrestricted but we did need to have everything inspected.  There is a prion, like mad cow disease, that has been invading the deer herds.  The state is trying to track its spread.  Given that we hunt for meat rather than for trophies this is kind of important.

There are a lot of views on hunting and a lot of reasons to hold those views.  I like wild meats and having them makes a significant impact on my very tight budget.  My family has always supplemented the grocery budget this way, even the farmers.  It makes sense to me to know that something has to die for me to eat.

Participating (even if it just means sitting with a gun in my lap waiting for Karina to shoot something) in this annual ritual is a way to connect to my heritage, my ancestry.  Through both lines I come from northern climates, where hunting was an essential food supply.  My people were not city folk, and even when they were they stayed involved with natural cycles.

Growing up in my family I’ve cleaned fish, tapped maple trees and weeded gardens.  I’ve tried my hand at milking a cow and had pigs, chickens, and goats butchered to accommodate my visiting the farm.  I’ve always known where my food came from.

Karina is also going to look good doing it. This year Blaze Pink was available as an alternative to Blaze Orange.

Karina’s generation is even further removed from food sources than mine.  As a chef food is important to her.  In taking up hunting she is also committed to learning how to field dress an animal, how to process it and of course how to prepare the meat.  The fact of the matter is that she’s the one doing all the work.  I’m just making space in my freezer.

This year hunting was also an exercise in support.  As my parents age it is become difficult for them to be as independent as they’d like.  My Mom worries about my Dad’s eyesight.  She worries about him carrying a loaded gun through the woods, tracking a deer on uneven ground.  My Dad worries about my Mom being left alone too long.  She has trouble getting around and has taken a fall or two herself.

Going up this year we could pretty much be sure My Dad wouldn’t have to go out alone.  We could set Mom up for comfort and give her a “check-in” call before we wandered too far off.  Orion stayed inside so they could “look out for each other”.  Karina took charge of all the carrying.  She says the beer kegs she’s been weighing each week at work are heavier than the deer.  She also appreciates how easily things slide when you drag them on snow.

Now that I’m home I can look forward to some tasty meals.  When I have them I’ll be grateful.  I will be grateful for the deer that sacrificed its life.  I’ll be grateful for my daughter taking care of me.  I’ll be grateful for the opportunity to make memories with my parents.  I’ll be grateful for my heritage.

%d bloggers like this: