Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Institution(?) of Marriage

""...therefore You should not by the vulgar Notion of Marriage make yourself uneasy, since that ceremony is nothing but a piece of Formality, introduced on purpose to bring Profit to the Church; and I think that Love is much more to be Esteem'd, which has no other Motive but mutual Affection." Mary Draper (c.1718-1810)

Those who would deny marriage rights to homosexuals are in turmoil. Pity them for they know not what they protect. And pity the gay man or lesbian woman who desires to be married. Let's level the playing field and do away with this institution altogether. Let's consider making every child legitimate. Let's consider actually honoring the humanity in each person, united in couple hood or not.

Because "everyone" does anything - oh say, cross cultural rites of marriage that discriminate against homosexual people - does not mean marriage is good thing. ("Earnest men never think in vain, though their thoughts may be errors." Bulwer-Lytton) It does probably mean marriage is a tribal thing and and therefore unquestioned. What and whom does it protect? What does homosexuality actually threaten in marriage? Why do heterosexual couples so frequently say that gay marriage undermines family values? If it truly undermines their family values then those values were to weak to begin with. Quickly - someone point Leviticus and the bit about spilling seed. That usually happens about now. I always wonder why the people pointing out the phrase are not keeping a Kosher kitchen. Deli-style bigotry. But I digress. I think the fear of Marriage being violated in someway has nothing to do with homosexuals and everything to do with the fundamental differences and problems between men and women and things like property, money, birth rights. Dominance can not be hammered out in the courts. Who gets to "wear the pants" in a relationship will be some combination of gender struggle and/or force of personality but ALL the other 'stuff' could be legislated. If people still want religious ceremony - have at it. But leave it in your church. Leave it in your homes. Honor and OBEY on your own turf. Discriminate against each other. Leave discrimination against those who do not share your beliefs in your house and in your bed...not in theirs.

Let me be clear about something. I am not a Democrat. I am not a Republican. I actually equally dislike both parties.

The diatribe to SAVE Marriage sickens me more than the political mindless tribalism rife in the country these day. What about jobs? What about roads that are falling apart? What about a country that has lost nearly all its manufacturing? What about cancer? What about drought and water rights? Arguing about marriage is a distraction. A form of cultural self-mutilation. Want to get married - great, change the laws make it for everyone or do away with it but chose one or the other. Then get back to the business of the serious and costly problems facing our futures right NOW!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Nailed by the ... flu?

Am under the weather and having a private pity party. I've not had the viral infection in a while - forgotten how many places can ache at the same time.... :(

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Approaching An Anniversary

" It is a maxim here (at Venice), handed down from generation to generation, that change breeds more mischief from its novelty than advantage from its utility."
~ Hester Lynch Piozzi 1861

Pondering change.....
It will be one year since my arrival in the Central Valley on June 3rd Change is always a challenge. The new has included: the mystery and excitement of making friends - people new to me who have intersected my path; an interesting if somewhat bleak landscape to photograph and attempt to comprehend; last, but not least, being able to navigate city streets without the GPS on ALL the time. A job took shape: connections were made and goals have been set. For the most part, I work with a group of gentle people. There are recruiters knocking on the electronic door. There are job offers else where. The economic downturn has turned the financial incentives to move to the Central Valley into jelly with too little pectin in it - decrease in benefits and no raise. On the other hand, who is getting a raise these day? Well, okay...bankers, but other than the outlier This current company has noble goals and a touching mission statement. The corporation, as with so many others, has been hard hit by the recession. There have been too many acquisitions. Policy, procedure, and staff education as well as staffing itself, have awkwardly fallen behind - that invites health care regulators to dine on practice problems. The corporation, like so many others is withdrawing benefits and promises. I believe the leader when I read his written word. Everyone tells me this in one man for whom giving his word is still a serious business. He has said that if the companies fortunes improve wages and benefits will return eventually. However, this is an interesting time to be an experienced nurse. There is a need far greater than our dwindling numbers. Odd to have recruiters calling a woman in her 60s with potential job offers. All the baby-boom era nurses are beginning the great merge onto the Retirement Pathway. Those of us wanting to continue to work are sought after and urged to considered other "opportunities". The problems will be similar. The solutions will take root over time, with much coaxing, teaching and follow-up. Starting over AGAIN is daunting. There is great comfort in progress and my little team of gentle professionals is definitely making progress. The Central Valley is hot and dusty. The dust and wind work in concert to carry Valley Fever into the body and dust on and into every crevice of the house. The air is filthy and there is a drought. What is the question you ask? The check marks on the negative side and the pro-side. Friends, a book club, a photography pal, and being settled cause me to hesitate. Packing followed by unpacking is exhausting. Moving costly. Being familiar with people and places has an equivalent value in cash.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The new week

Yesterday I joined some of my co-workers for the christening of their new baby. The ceremony was held in a Catholic Church at 2 o'clock. It is hot here in the Central Valley - in the 90's already. The church had fans and it perhaps air conditioning as it felt reasonably cool inside. I have not been inside a Catholic Church in many years. I was struck by how casually dressed the participants were. Gone are the suits and ties, covered heads, nylons and dresses. Today there was the wailing of babies as they were anointed with oils and washed with the waters of a christian baptism. I thought it was a sweet sound. New life. My work is with elders and the end of old life. Please know that I do not wish to do other work - I believe that bearing witness to the end of days of our elders is its own special blessing and grace. Still I found that baby noise as comforting as some people seemed to think it was annoying. I was struck by all the instruction to the participants to be guardians of the faith. There were 12 babies being baptised. The family that I was joining there is from the Philippines as were several others, there were numerous Mexican families, one African-American and one white baby. The church of today. The church was an indicator of the beauty and the problems that beset California and the country.

Later I and several of my co-workers attended a luncheon given by the family of the newly christened babe. They served Chinese food. That was a treat. I enjoyed sitting with the people for whom that I must normally direct, provide instruction, goals and manage. There is a joy in being a visitor/guest. Three of the staff, nurses from the Punjab, also came to the luncheon. They were so beautiful in their national style of dressing. Regal in the way they moved. How nice to see everyone dressed for real life and out of the today-to-day scrubs that usually identify them.

Somehow yesterday's celebration of family and new life makes the tedious business of getting on with the work at hand seem less a burden and more a simple part of engaging in life.

So let's get on with it. Let's celebrate having another day no matter where it takes us - we are here might as well count blessings while we pass through time.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Please Give a Hand to Friday!

"Home is the seminary of all other institutions" Spurgeon
This morning as I prepare to head to my work place I wonder about things related to workers and their homes.
Yesterday following a meeting with nursing assistants one woman stayed to talk to me. She wanted to know why I was not stricter about people using their cell phones on the care units. I asked "are they?" and she told me indeed they were and doing it while they were giving care. I can not be every where and the cell phones are a problem. The image that is glued to my mind is the elder who is receiving intimate care while their care giver is texting a friend. How does that feel? You all will be old one day - if death does not nip you out of this world before the rest of us, that is. When you need someone to assist you to bath or toilet how will it feel if your care giver is snickering because her boyfriend just texted a loving message? Or perhaps it is the teen at home is asking about permission to hang out with friends or your spouse wants to have hamburgers for dinner... Will we feel safe? Will we feel that the care giver protected our dignity? Waiting is not the strength of this generation. This nation of people with cell phones and other I need it now gadgets. What are people who break rules at work teaching their children at home? How do I ramp up discipline in this environment and not inadvertently punish the Innocent or perhaps worse insult the Innocent? This is mightily on my mind as I prepare for the day. Most of the care givers are good caring people...the few who are not, leave large dirty footprints over the carpet of our work. Time to shower, make-up and dress and all the while designing a how to in my head. Drawing that line in the sand and daring the malingerers to cross over it....

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Thinking about April and Poetry

David Wagoner

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you

Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Home.

And you must treat it as a powerful stranger.

Must ask permission to know it and be known.

The forest breathes. Listen. It answers.

I have made this place around you.

If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.

No two trees are the same to Raven.

No two branches are the same to Wren.

If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,

You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows

Where you are. You must let it find you.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Down One

"Life is an adventure in forgiveness"
Norman Cousins My uncle died yesterday. He was a man in his 80's. He fell and hurt himself...his head. The fall was likely the result of a second, and subsequently fatal, stroke. I wasn't with him. I have not seen him in decades. He was in Utah with his wife. There will not be a funeral. He will receive the prayers of his immediate family at the graveside. And a long family tale will come to closure.

When I was very young he was one of the constant and kind males in my life. He was a hard working man. He and his son raised sheep. He was also fond of horses and I hear he bought and sold a number of them. Later in his life he made excellent business decision with real estate and I've also heard he sealed huge business deals on a handshake. He was a Mormon and I know nothing about his religion or his side of the family.
This group of people we call "our family" is so loosely connected that I can't tell you if my Uncle had sisters or brothers. I don't know who else called him "Uncle" outside his wife's side of the family. I don't know when his parents died or how or why they died.
What do I know? That he was kind to me when I was a child. I also know that a number of years ago he had an affair. And this is where it gets a bit complicated. His sister-in-law, my mother, was married to a man from Sandy. The man from Sandy was my father. He was at least half Mexican. That was the source of enormous shame to my mother - that subject is a story for another time. Anyway, my father died suddenly of a massive heart attack in 1965. My parents were divorced when I was five and when he died I was in high school. My Mother was in her 3rd marriage (three of six) . My father had remarried a woman who was Greek. His wife had been married before and had two children. Then they had one together, a boy. After Dad died one thing led to another (I don't know the any of the details) and my uncle and my father's second wife had an affair. My Aunt eventually found out about it and the affair came to a halt. She never forgave him his infidelity. But she did not leave. When he had the first stroke she was there and managed his care until the very end.

Is she saddened by this passing. I don't know but if she behaves anything like a normal person after caring for a sick person for along time, she is probably just relieved. She fulfilled her duty. She and I have never discussed her husband's cheating. I know that the "other person" was a kind woman. But I have been cheated on too. I know that in that circumstances, the "other" person and the spouse who strays, no matter how kind, loses some if not all, moral currency.

So, I run my hand over this piece of tattered fabric - this piece of memory. My mind's hand strokes the frayed threads of a long-ago childhood and adolescence. My mind's ear remembers him coming in at night after a day of assuring that his farm was well run with his sheep herding dog "Killer" and saying a simple "Why Hello". I did not budge. The dog "Killer" had that name for a reason! The two, the man and his huge dog, ambled off to do man things. I was in my 30s and visiting after not seeing my Aunt in some 10 or so years. We spent the evening, my Aunt and I, just chatting. I had no idea that moment was the last I would see him or hear his voice. Time is a rascal. It has a way of spinning us around so fast that we don't know we're spinning. Our silly imitation of the planets around the sun. And the sun image...our own lives.

In a few weeks, one of my adult children and I will journey to his burial site and leave some flowers. I'm sorry he cheated. But I am not sorry that he was my Uncle.


Monday, April 13, 2009

What is it???

Can't tell if it is a Catfish or someones garden pond Koi that has taken up residence in the lake.

Bass Boat with It's Family

Even the family dog gets to use the boat. Life is not fair to the rest of us - those of us who are consigned to watch from the shore of life. :)

No Fish for WR

I knew it was too late to fish as soon as I arrived. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it! No fish for Wildwoods. Not one. A few nibbles but no bites. The water weeds ate several of my lures but not the fish. As for the lures, they were not my favorites. I rarely use my favorite lures. The fish must be jumping, it must be early evening, it has to be slightly cloudy and the temperature must be perfect before those little jewels leave the tackle box. Those lures are reserved for serious fishing. When I start at 11 AM - not so serious.
Watched people in bass boats float by the shore. They didn't seem to be having any luck either. WE were all too late or too early (dawn or dusk would have been the right time). Many Latino families joined the lone anglers after noon. Probably when Easter mass and dinner were over. Little children in their Easter best frolicking in the sun and dutiful parents toting multiple fishing poles. It was too much noise for serious fishing but no one bothered the children because everyone knew, even if we did not say it, that we were not seriously fishing. Seriously hoping that perhaps something would bite but not truly believing it would happen. Too much sun and warm weather slow down even large mouth bass. We were all being lazy. But we were out of doors and not in front of the TV and not arguing with spouse, not fretting about making the house payment or worrying about losing a job that might be hated but paid the bills. For a few hours it was the silliness of human versus fish (fish 1 - human 0) and the rest of the world was held at bay. All in all a perfect day.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Gone Fishing

Time to get out the tackle box and get it cleaned up. The last time a single cast was made was back in New England. I'm told that Bass lurk in the man-made Lake Kaweah. Bring it on! :) This is incentive to: get the gear cleaned, dust and vacuum the house, tidy the office and hit the road early tomorrow morning. If the weather and roads cooperate, I and the dogs (my companions and fishing critics) will be ready to fish at dawn. Joy! There are several goat farms out that way as well and would like to get a few snap shots of those critters on the way home. BTW, I am a catch and release angler. This isn't about eating. It is about the human brain vs the fish brain. The truth is the fish usually win.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Sound of Water

Sometimes we don't know what it is we miss...we know only that there is an ache somewhere and that it is difficult to extinguish. While driving through and ambling about the Sequoia National Park I managed to pass several small waterfalls. The sound of that free flowing water is sweet to the ear. Listening to the water fall down it's delicate path to a pool below is a comfort. Somewhere in us, our primitive brain must hear and remember as well. Remember that water is safety and renewal. Rebirth. Perhaps that it is the genesis of so many religious ceremonies that involve water. Where there is water there is life. So simple and so complex.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Anyone Home?

Birds, especially large ones, build nests where ever they like. This pseudo-country (lives just about 10 miles from a city) cliff dweller has pitched tent in a particularly dangerous spot. Once again Robert Frost's poem about fences comes to mind. What is being kept out here and what is kept in side the fenced yard? Does the electrical current have an effect on the babies growing up here? There are tough Valley winds here ~ how does this avian engineer put together a house of sticks and know it will last? Does it last? I don't know if this is lasts years home or if it was built recently, perhaps during the time of wild flowers. Some sights raise more questions than answers.
One does not have to have a sentient mind to have security concerns. The ancient brains worry about this ~ it appears, even small ancient brains do .

Monday, April 6, 2009

End of an Era...

Today marks the end of an era. Today I've made the decision to stop painting. Watercolors. Inks. Acrylics. Arthritis and painting are no longer compatible in this persons body so they are divorcing. I'm giving the 70 trillion brushes and paints to a friends who has a passion for that medium. My heart is aching a bit. I never painted enough. Always waiting for the right time, the right relationship, the right room...silly to wait and loose precious time. Now I have the time and space and my fingers will not, can not work in concert with a brush. Eight months of trying has led to this day. What to do with the remaining work. I think I will burn most of it this summer....or perhaps next some kind of ceremony. Someway of acknowledging the peace that water colors brought to my life.

I am reminded of the "trilogy" of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Universe. The final line "good bye and thanks for all the fish.." ~ watercolor muse you helped mend a heart and soul..."farewell and thanks for all the inspiration".

Friday, April 3, 2009

When is Life Fair?

Plants that survive in the desert lay low to the ground, conserving water and energy, and allowing harsh winds to blow over them or they develop prickly tough exteriors. Both endure heat and high winds. Both require that the observer do just that....look, don't touch.

A young woman sat in front me. She reminded me of the Joshua Tree...tall and prickly. She looked me straight in the eye. She wants to survive and be seen. It is a challenge. Not even all Joshua Trees make it in the desert. She has a steady gaze ~ there was no glancing away. Nor did she lower her gaze after she met my eyes. The muscles in her jaw tighten slightly. I thought briefly about how much I dislike these encounters. This one and the hundreds that have happened before this moment in time. The aging white woman on one side of a desk and in this case, a African American much younger woman sitting proudly and defiantly on the other side of the desk. She was about to receive a written warning. Her absences had far exceeded the allowed number. She told me she had discussed her day care problems with "The Scheduler". I could see that she thought that discussion made it okay. It did not. The 'rules' are made elsewhere and the rule makers do not care that she is a single parent of a 6 month old and the adoptive mother of a five year old. They also do not care that in order to be at work on 6 A.M. she must drop her infant off at day care at 5:30 A.M. It costs her an additional $20 a day for the privilege to be to work on time. That is an expensive luxury of the half hour of early drop off time. She makes $10 and hour and supports herself and two children on what is left after taxes.
I can hear my voice go through the drill. The chat about the 'team needs every player here on time'. The residents believe we will be there to care for them. I do not say 'no one cares about the infant at 5:30 AM or what time you have to get your young family up to get yourself to work on time.' Even though she now has tears in her eyes, I can see defiance there. She hears the sub-message loud and clear. She silently signs the attendance reminder. The one that goes in her employment record. The one of three that will likely end her job in about six months. She wants to be a nurse someday she says. She tells me she doesn't need this job. She can make more on medicaid and no one will mark her late is she just stays home with her children. I am quite sure that is true. My gaze never falters from hers. I tell her to be on time or she and I will end her employment here. Then I shift. A brief chat about getting to that goal of being an RN. The list of others who've made it. The others who made it with their young families in tow. My mental hand searched for that fine thread of connection that might help her hold on and move up. She made a reach for it but I'm uncertain if she grabbed on tight. Some do and pull themselves up and some don't, only to slide down into an abyss of financial worry and insecurity. She listens. She puts her indignation just slightly to one side. My guess is that she will call-in again before the week is out. She is thinking the short term gain of welfare is better that putting up with an insensitive 60 year old woman who doesn't care about her or her problems. She acknowledges that tuition reimbursement would help her reach her goal. She repeats she would like to be a nurse someday. I wonder once more if they (the whole mass of people who tend to elders) think I need to hear them say they want to be nurses. I don't care about that "I want to be a nurse" part. Some should be nurses. Some should be poets, teachers, painters, computer programmers, stay at home moms and so on. Destiny will carry them forward. I want that destiny to be fulfilling but I also need all of them including this young woman to be to work on time. I will work with her to support her dreams and encourage employment success. The hard part, the 80% piece of showing up on time...that she will have to do herself. Will she make it? I watched her leave my office. She stood tall and exited with a determined stride. I hope she will succeed but I have my doubts. The rules do not work in her favor ~ they are set up to favor the company. She works for them, not the other way around. She has to bend. I think she thinks that she's done enough bending. I think 'we should chat again', when she is the 60 year old woman ~ but alas, I will be long gone.