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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Three Hour Lunches and Hanging Curtains [letter 125]

Good afternoon,
   Have just returned from my first-ever three-hour lunch and have to share experience in best way I know how. For me, that means a letter. Not sure how much back-story is required but will fill in spots as it becomes necessary.
  Have been in this apartment over two years and my satisfaction level is way beyond seventy-five percent. I do have bedroom issues - not what you're thinking ... well, okay, that too but that is not something one can take to housing manager. No, my [primary] complaints are 1) bedroom does not have an overhead fixture; and 2) there is a security light just outside my window, so getting the place dark enough to readily facilitate sleep is difficult. During my occupancy, I have added more curtains, but have persistently fallen short of black-out perfection.
   Had recently added a tension bar to hold another layer; that night I went to bed and was *pretty much* satisfied - until a muffled crash alerted me tension bar had fallen. Nothing for it but to shield my eyes with sleep mask and see how things would look on the morrow. I am still scheming to achieve a greater level of darkness but meanwhile must deal with other minutia. This is where a brief review of late December 2016 comes in. On 22 December, went to Tecumseh Senior Center; when I went to leave, car wouldn't start. Traipse back into building, Kim calls somebody at City Office and an amiable young man shows up to give a boost. He follows me to service station, in case car cannot be started after refueling. Fortunately it does and we go our separate ways. I drive home, leave car running, gather stuff to recycle AND my checkbook. After county recycle center, drove to auto parts store, where I was informed of need for new battery. It's not like I spend a ton of money on Christmas, so the sticker shock was not fatal.
   Less than three weeks later - Wednesday of this week, to be precise - I get in my car, intending to go to lunch at senior center; car won't start. Someone from center drives over to get me and I let it go for rest of day, except for telling housing office personnel of my difficulty and saying I would be in touch if jump-start were needed. So, on my way out to luncheon appointment, stopped by office briefly and was wished good luck. Within five minutes, called on cellphone and requested maintenance man's assistance. Cables were judiciously applied and a satisfying vroom was produced. Made a stop at auto parts place, car was checked; all systems were go so non-start incidents were deemed a fluke and I went on my merry way.
   Walked into the bar - which has an excellent burger & beer lunch special - where we had agreed to meet and saw classmate who had not joined us before. We commanded the long table usually occupied by a bunch of rowdy guys; it felt really good. Five or six fellows came in after a while and had to make do with putting two tables together in a corner. Upon leaving, one of their number jovially commented on our rowdiness and I thanked him for noticing. Lunch tab was graciously picked up by gal who had nice windfall from lottery. This venture turned out so well we decided to make the next one at a similar establishment west of town. What the heck? Spread the love, right?
   A couple friends made sure my car started and we all made our various ways to scattered points of county, where we would regale others of greater or lesser significance with details of our three hour lunch. In my case, that would be you.

Until next time,
Jo

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Life ain't for wimps - letter 124

Hello my dear,
   It seems positively forever since I've written. Checking records, I see it has been nearly a month. Earlier I was penning a letter to a young fellow in the Midwestern United States. He is barely a teen but seems wise beyond his years and carries on a remarkably adult conversation. There is definitely hope for this younger generation, in my estimation.
   News here in U.S. - now election is over - has been dominated by number of celebrity deaths. There is much *weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth.* Darling, you know I am a sympathetic and compassionate being but I find myself murmuring, "Cease and desist already." Death is sad business. Life is serious business - though it has its lighter moments.
   Famous people may have done nothing to earn their notoriety but their every action is noted, lauded, criticized, and/or emulated. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to all but those immediately affected, someone nurtures a child's desire to read; helps with cost of maintaining/restoring  a stranger's sight; visits a nursing home and simply listens as residents talk, because everyone else is too busy to bother.
   I understand grief, or at least am well acquainted with it. Bereavement can disturb one's psyche, leading to illogical actions, but for the life of me I cannot understand some of the "tributes" such as massive displays of, say, toys at site where child-care facility was bombed. Does it not make more sense to make a donation to another school to honor memory of one destroyed? And bouquets; bouquets will rot and have to be hauled away by sanitation workers. Take them to nursing homes or hospitals or even a volunteer site to brighten some very drab lives. Emotions which are properly and imaginatively channeled can produce admirable results.
   By all means, take time to grieve when you are saddened: it is the healthy thing to do. Then do something to make sense of living. Nobody gets out of this world alive; while we're here, let us make the most of it and *go out with a bang!*

Besos y abrazos,
Jo Ann

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Suffer the little children

   Holidays are enriched by laughter and carefree merriment. Most of us can recollect the gleeful chortles of children, even if we never had kids. Innocent frivolity is to be cherished.
***
   This essay is about circumstances which are morally painful to contemplate: children in prison. Not just young persons in juvenile detention centers until 18th birthday is reached, but lifers. State of Michigan has 363 such persons. To date, one has been released. Sentenced at age 17, he served 41 years. He was complicit in a crime which included loss of life. Who gets a second chance?
   State Supreme Court has declared it unconstitutional to condemn juvenile offenders to life imprisonment without possibility of parole, except in those most grievous cases where no remorse is evidenced. All these cases are to be reviewed and retried: a daunting task. I have only heard snippets of the NPR series reporting on this situation but the little I have heard is depressing.
   Why are so many people in prison anyway; and why are a disproportionate number of those incarcerated, persons of color? We all know there is rampant prejudice: why do we tolerate it? How can we change it? Obviously, education is one of the better tools which can be employed to bring about change. Courses in arts, languages, and humanities expose people to different cultures, opening minds to new ideas. The sooner we all see that our *differences* are not only unimportant but basically non-existent, better off we will be.
   One of the conversations I caught was a person complaining about the time and cost involved in retrials and investigations. I wanted to scream: this isn't about an over-priced pair of shoes or some other triviality, but somebody's life. Yet I got the impression speaker was dismissing these prisoners as unimportant, as nonentities: *they're only kids who won't amount to anything anyway.* It didn't have to be said in so many words - the attitude came through loud and clear. Maybe part of what facilitates these atrocities is that the offenders are children, without rights or means to seek justice for themselves.
   If you know a prisoner, may you find hope and peace of mind. Maybe your next day looks ho-hum but there is likely a bright spot somewhere in your foreseeable future. Now think of those individuals who have no hope at all. Ever. Do not be quick to judge; find compassion in your heart.
   When one of your relatives is on your last nerve, you know they will eventually go home. Well, unless your the parent and the relative in question lives with you. Even that won't last forever. So please, spare a thought for those who won't be seeing family; maybe not ever again.

Blessed be.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Snark Before Christmas [letter 123]

Well my dear, here we are:
   I was writing out Christmas cards and listening to NPR (National Public Radio) when a pal texted me.
Pal: Can you believe November is gone?
Me: Christmas is right around the corner.
Pal: Yipee!!! Whatcha doin'?
Me: Writing out x-mas cards
Pal: Yeah, I gotta do that
Me: Starts to put me in holiday mood ... the rum and coconut coffee doesn't hurt ;)
Pal: I don't know what would put me in the mood
Me: Getting laid would work wonders for me
Pal: Girl, I don't know about you, lol [In case you forgot, that's textese for laugh out loud]
Me: I still have a healthy sex drive - so sue me

   The frenzy that began with Black Friday is gaining speed, much like a snowball rolling downhill. I recall hearing about Cyber Monday [for online shoppers] and 'Giving Tuesday' - apparently so one can *atone* for all the shopping one has done in previous days. Even when I could physically shop til I dropped, I had no interest in it: waste of time and money as far as I'm concerned.
   Friends are beginning to ask about my Christmas plans and whether or not I'm going to South Carolina. (Unfortunately, not any time soon.) On my immediate agenda: write out cards to global contacts, as those will need to be sent sooner to have reasonable expectation of timely arrival; get haircut; attend Christmas parties at Tecumseh Senior Center and Orchard Terrace; put up holiday decorations; get out of this funk I've been in.
   This is one of those letters that gets written over span of couple days. When I checked Facebook, learned a friend had tagged me in a post to let me know she appreciated my letters to her. It couldn't have come at a better time: had been feeling sorry for myself, thinking I didn't make a difference to anybody. We all need actual or virtual pats on the back from time to time.
   Got cards mailed to far-flung recipients - specifically those outside United States - and just as I had expected, next day brought postcards from Australia. I was a couple days late in sending birthday greetings to Tecumseh Senior Center participants; hope they are kindly disposed toward me and in a forgiving frame of mind.
   Still have quite a few actual cards to address. I readily confess some are postcards with holiday stickers and have already *forgiven* myself on grounds so few people even write anymore, that it will do. I'm big on self-forgiveness - good for my mental well-being.
   Out to breakfast recently, told my companion I wasn't sure whether to call this  The Snark Before Christmas or Visions of Sugarplums. Decided on former, thinking nobody even knows what sugarplums are. On that note, shall wrap this up and post.

Wishing you well,
Jo Ann

Monday, November 28, 2016

Buddy system- letter 122

Good evening dear one,
   It has been quite a day and though exhausted, I must tell you about it. Had alarm set for 7:10 this morning, so of course woke at 5:40. Unable to return to slumber, got up by 6:30 and completed morning ablutions. Scheduled to depart on bus trip at 9:30, was momentarily concerned for an acquaintance who is temporarily unable to drive. Called senior center to make sure he hadn't walked there. Hanging up, saw a spectral figure walking in rain, so called him over to wait in car til bus arrived.
   Names were checked against a roster; Tecumseh contingent was present and accounted for, so we headed for Adrian, Brooklyn and Jackson, then we were on our way to Marshall, Michigan. You may recall I made a trip there in June to see "Nana's Naughty Knickers." Today's show was Christmas With the In-Laws." It was cute and enjoyable but I doubt I will book another holiday trip, simply because I don't like having to drive home in the dark.
   Chatted up Taylor, our server, during intermission. Complimented her tattoo, a mama and baby elephant. She said it was for her and three-year-old son Brayden. Asked her about schooling, learning she has graduated from cosmetology school. Taylor said she did not want to practice her art in the manner school promotes: she wants to be, in her words, a "mortician beautician." Told her I recalled a scene I had scene at auditions once, which featured that very subject. Taylor said it made her happy to see the gratitude on family faces when they see their loved one. Later, on the bus, I could kind of hear her in my mind saying, *I don't just do hair, I do dead hair.* She was a pleasant young woman and I tipped her well.
   Show got out about 3:40 and most passengers were back on bus by 3:56 - but there's always one. Waited a few minutes; nobody else got on the bus. So tour manager goes in and, with cooperation of staff, checked every shop and bathroom stall. To no avail. No one really knew her but seatmate said she seemed to recall at which stop she had boarded. Question went around, "Could she have gotten on wrong bus? (And wouldn't driver of other bus have raised questions?)" Our own driver puzzled, "Why would she have gotten on wrong bus; those other two drivers are white."
   After a time, contact with other bus was made and rendezvous for transfer arranged. Meanwhile several of us had been texting things like: *We can't leave yet - one of our old people is missing.* I got response, "Only one?" To which I gave a terse, "One's enough." Tour manager had lady call husband when we were approximately 20 minutes from her destination. As bus pulled into parking lot, I noticed flash of vehicle headlights. Manager gave lady into husband's custody and we were once again on our way. Value of buddy system was pointed out and there were various sighs of relief that episode had gone as well as it had.
   Finally, we were back in Tecumseh: we had been first on and were now last off. Seems almost Biblical, doesn't it? Manager said now we could go home and tell our families what an interesting day we'd had. Drove Al home. He said it had been an adventure and he never would have heard about it if I had not mentioned it at Tecumseh Senior Center. So there ya go: I'm a promoter of the arts. Getting off bus, told tour manager, "Now I have fodder for my next story."
   Got back to Orchard Terrace and some residents were playing cards in community room. Next door neighbor had made lentil soup, so I went in for a bowl, instead of having chicken and rice by myself at my place. No mail but had got three letters over weekend. Write out a few holiday cards each day so will have all 200 done by mid December. I'm sure that seems like a lot, but it's once a year and it isn't as though I spend money on holiday shopping. As stamps are purchased from United States Postal Service, it would seem I am also a philatelist patriot. [Just be glad I'm not asking you to, "Say that three times, fast."]
   Tomorrow is another day and I have tai-chi. Am undecided whether to have a glass of wine or cup of tea. Either way, shall soon head to bed - so can *do it all again* tomorrow.

Goodnight,
Jo Ann

Friday, November 25, 2016

Mornings *after* [letter 121]

Good morning,
   It is not yet eight o'clock here in Eastern time zone - an hour some would deem 'uncivilized' though you have been awake for several hours already. Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is over; some Black Friday shoppers are likely just now crawling into bed. It's just another day. The excitement or ennui in that simple statement is dependent on one's frame of mind. I shall sit here and sip tea while I jot my ruminations for you to read. Later, shall take up pen and paper to scribble a few notes longhand.
   It occurs to me the world's frenetic pace has caused too many people to forget the simple joys of just being. It seems every breath and movement must be tied to an agenda, some tangible goal. Don't get me wrong - I'm willing to be convinced the world needs *movers and shakers;* I just don't think everyone is meant to be one. For instance, after my shower this morning, I put on a robe, sat in my recliner, and just thought. Not of anyone or anything in particular; simply enjoyed the parade of images, in varying degrees of clarity, which meandered through. "The world is too much with us" made its way to the surface. I'm sure at one time I knew source of that quote but now, *it doesn't matter because, Google.* Some folks wake to mornings after and are disappointed that preceding events are over. They cannot or will not let go, craving the "high" of excitement. I am blessed to have learned to embrace wistfulness, letting it cocoon me.
   Perhaps that is why I am so comfortable with Autumn; it feels like an old friend - or a shoe box full of photographs. (See this one; look how young we were. Oh, remember when we saw that guy in the restaurant and ...) Late November seems perfect for reflection and meditation, which seem to be lost arts - maybe nobody has that kind of time anymore. Anyway, there is a whole month between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I like to ease into winter, so will not put up any holiday decoration until at least mid December. Here at apartment complex, a display of gewgaws is arrayed around the property. Frazzled maintenance worker let on he dreaded having to put up his own lights after doing all the frou-frou here. (My word, not his.)
   Well, it wasn't eight o'clock when I started but it is now nearly nine. I'm on last cup of tea, so shall wrap this up and send it of. Later, will traipse down to mail slot and drop in a letter which is destined to end up on Asian subcontinent.

'Bye for now,
Jo Ann

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Tryptophan visions - letter 120

Happy Thanksgiving my dear,
   In every place, in every generation, there are individuals with untamed spirits which lead them to challenge norms. To my way of thinking, difference between aberrant and unconventional behavior, is how it affects other people. If it causes harm to another individual, it is wrong; if it merely causes a person or society to rethink a situation or perspective, it might not be so bad.
   This is not exactly the story/letter I had intended to write, but I believe it may be the one I needed to write. Anyway, I am sated and content, so let as ramble as the tryptophan works its magic, shall we?
***

   If thou wouldst be so kind, travel with me some three and a half centuries back in time. People of European extraction have made their way to North America. Encountering indigenous peoples, these intruders find it beneficial to learn from experiences of those who know this land. Not every thing or every custom white people brought was disastrous I suppose, but enough were, to fairly state it did not bode well for natives. Much is made of Pilgrims seeking religious freedom. Sadly, exercising their own, they sought to restrict others. Why can some people not leave well enough alone? When folks proudly trace their lineage to founding members of a new society, do they look with open eyes at the faults and failings, the not so noble acts of said esteemed forbears? Do they feel any shame for the harm which was wrought? If those who came across the sea to find a new home had respected dignity and autonomy of indigenous persons, not stolen the land, would it not have made us a better people, a better place? The whole land grab thing does not set well; we are to be stewards, not "owners." It is good to have a proper sense of one's own worth - but that value does not come from seeking to diminish another. We not only can work together, we must: our very survival depends upon it.
   Herein, I shall weave a tale, a memory of things that could have been; may have been; probably were. Do not get caught up in names or circumstances; this is just by way of a *what if?*

   During an arduous crossing, perhaps Hannah's husband had fallen ill and died. The child just beginning to swell her belly was a promise of future but also an encumbrance. Though Hannah was stocky and plain, she was obviously fertile, so she might find another husband. But did she want one? She was rather headstrong - a trait not often deemed "suitable" in a wife. Hannah would bide her time: after all, childbirth would be at least five months hence. Being sturdy and ambitious, she could fend for herself quite capably. Being only surviving child of an academic, she was also well educated. Hannah's inquisitiveness had served her well and definitely made life interesting. Now she was in a place with people, crops, and customs unknown to her. How would the map of her life unfold?

   I would like to believe Hannah exerted her will, became mistress of her own destiny, as it were. In this strange and wondrous new world, someone had to push proverbial envelopes: it's how things get done. People sometimes take chances, *fraternize* with a heretofore unknown group. Chemistry, desire, love - call it what you will - has a way of "upsetting apple carts." In some cases, people get shunned because close-minded individuals maintain antiquated notions about things "no decent person would do." A small band may choose to relocate: I'm sure more than one such integrated couple moved to Canada. It is aptly noted victors recount history from their own perspective but it is imperative to keep an open mind. There are at least two sides to every story. There are also untold stories: perhaps same-sex partners living as siblings, or other combinations deemed *not quite right* by certain segments of society.
   I know I have rambled but I didn't have anywhere else to go. The main thoughts I wish to impart: Cherish those who are "near and dear;" Be thankful for the many blessings you have received.
Know I love you - always.

Grace and Peace,
Jo Ann