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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

Monday, November 14, 2016

Some wounds need more than a band-aid [letter 119]

   On 8 November, 2016, United States Electoral College declared Donald J. Trump President-Elect. Since then, many people - in U.S. and abroad - are asking, "What happened? What went wrong?" If in fact something did *go wrong,* it went awry a long time ago in the collective soul of humanity. Perhaps it has not yet gone right.
***
Hello dear friend,
   On many issues, we see eye to eye; yet even when we do not, we remain friends. A key element of our enduring friendship is mutual respect - which means hearing each other out and, when necessary, agreeing to disagree. Sometimes our discussions become impassioned but they never come to blows. So you can well imagine how distraught I was over news stories reporting riots as a backlash to election results. Why do some people not understand the futility of violence? Is it a matter of distorted vision? It would seem instant gratification is the goal of most humans; that planning, to achieve a long-term effect, is for losers.
   When I am met with the term "law and order candidate" what I hear is *candidate who espouses oppression* - because there is an increasing awareness of law enforcement personnel engaging in violence.  Is it really "natural" for individuals to strive for dominance - or is it a symptom of patriarchy? In my opinion, rules are necessitated by an unwillingness to treat everyone as equal. Class distinctions lead to resentment. Do we or do we not believe all persons are created equal? If we do, then why is there discussion of 'white' interests as opposed to 'black' interests? Seems to me we should see human interests. Period. We have a lot of nerve calling ourselves civilized when we advocate for dominion of one group over another. It is [moral] weakness to conduct relationships in a manner which gives one party leave to subjugate another.
   Two terms bandied about ad nauseum are "pro-life" and "pro-choice" - used [primarily, if not exclusively] to differentiate stances on reproductive rights. As I see it, pro-choice IS pro-life because it grants autonomy to an individual making a choice. Obtaining an abortion should be no more difficult than buying a pack of cigarettes or getting a tattoo. Were gun purchasers subjected to the same degree of scrutiny and outright intimidation as women seeking termination of pregnancy, the cries of outrage would be deafening. Here is what I would like to say to *holier than thou* persons: If you are so all-fired concerned with the "rights" of a fetus, then you pay the costs of having it implanted in your own body; carry it to term; provide for its welfare for minimum of 16 years - and if it is deformed or disabled, longer. Now what do you say? Thought so.
   I would like to revisit the subject of class distinctions. Over millennia, have we not celebrated individuals who overcame adversity or "station in life" to distinguished themselves in some way? So why the outcry over Melania Trump's history as a nude model? She would no more appear at Inaugural Ball wearing sequined pasties and thong than most people would masturbate in front of strangers. Let us respect the dignity of every person - at least until said individual mocks our respect by physically/mentally harming us. I sincerely hope no one insults my intelligence by claiming some individual's sexual orientation or religious practice causes them 'severe mental anguish.' If such is the case, *that's why God invented Prozac.*
   Recently I heard of a young man who is elated by Trump election who says he longs for the day when United States is a white nation state - I believe those were his words. Explaining himself to interviewer he stated he believes there exists a fundamental hate between persons of different race. I have to tell you, I see people of that mentality as 'part of the problem.'
   I did not intend this letter to become a tirade; it is just my need to verbalize and vent. Now it is *out of my system,* will conclude thus: May we distinguish our [human] culture by showing civility to all: making sure everyone has basic needs - ready access to potable water, adequate food, clothing, and shelter, safe environment. No one person can save the world but anytime an individual opts for a positive action over a negative, it helps.

Grace and Peace,
Jo Ann

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Fruit of the poisoned vine

   All relationships are fraught with potential dangers. When a toxic personality is added to the mix, run for your life. Seriously. Run - with all due haste. Toxicity can take varied forms and come in a variety of strengths and guises. Whether or not humans are made "in the image and likeness of God," once that product *rolls off the assembly line* anything can - and usually does - happen. People do not live in total isolation - not even hermits. Experiences gained through contact and interaction shape one's psyche.
   There are many disorders which can distort a personality. Since people live in communities, distortions are not contained within the affected self but leach into surrounding persons and situations. If a person contracts a deadly and highly contagious disease, that individual is placed in quarantine. The penal equivalent of quarantine is solitary confinement. Alternatives to those two extreme solutions can include restraining orders, divorce, even "unfriending" on Facebook. It isn't always so simple - not to diminish the accompanying trauma of even the least of these actions.
   If you have ever been in any relationship in which abuse was a factor you are likely aware that knowing the need to get out and actually leaving can be *miles apart,* as it were. Whatever actions are or are not taken will affect the lives not only of the immediately concerned individuals but also their satellite people. And not just current generation, but progeny. One recalls the John Donne (1572-1631) quotation "No man is an island."
   There are persons who have "broken the cycle" by remaining childless. Others have taken a less drastic path, instead changing parenting tactics. Both courses of action require tremendous inner strength - not only from the *central character* but supporting cast of friends/relatives. If you are in any role of an unfolding drama, I applaud you - and wish you a successful run.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

*Surprises* [Letter 118]

Dear one,
   Over the course of our friendship we have traded confidences, commiserating or laughing -sometimes both - as deemed appropriate. You know as well as I, there comes a time when age-related humor is a conversational mainstay. One can either laugh or cry but it is best to remember that laughter can be an aerobic exercise, while crying just makes one's nose fill up with snot. Must tell you, our corner of restaurant sounded much like a chicken coop during peak laying season when a group of us gathered recently.
   Am reminded of a passage from Sam Levinson's book, Everything But Money. As older generation gathered on Sunday afternoons, one would mention a liver complaint, another spoke of angina, a third told anyone who would listen about a peptic ulcer: Sam and siblings roguishly called it "The Organ Recital." You and I, not to mention a goodly number of our friends, have regular appointments to see a cardiologist. For some, time with *replacement parts* exceeds number of years with current spouse. Hey, been there; it happens. On this occasion, some of us had not seen others during intervening years since high school graduation - SOMETIME LAST CENTURY - so there was a lot of news to cover. We compared notes on spouses, jobs, retirement, and medical procedures. The one which nearly made us spew was when a stocker spoke of second colonoscopy and number of polyps found. Our friend told tech, "Anything you find up there is probably stuff I couldn't find room for on the shelves." What can I tell ya? I know some wry folks.
   Many people refuse medical counsel, having gone through a particularly unpleasant experience. Others know they have "issues" but not specifics. As one of our number phrased it, "When I die, I want to be just as surprised as the doctor."

Laugh: it's good for your health,
Jo Ann