America is getting educated like never before

18 Nov
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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Nobody has ever seen anything like this.  If it weren’t for this bad actor, this very rude and terrible reality show host, America would have continued to snooze comfortably in its democratic cradle.  America is getting educated like never before.

 

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During the Obama era, comedians had to work harder to find material to make people laugh.

 

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Gone were the years of ridiculous speeches like Mission Accomplished.

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Gone was the era of  outrage over an illicit blow job.

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Gone was the era of  Iran-Contra hypocrites occupying the office of Commander in Chief.

Gone were the failures of deregulation

 

 

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The Obama years were relatively ethical, diplomatic, and reassuring for logical, rational beings who are not offended when two consenting adults want to make a commitment to take care of each other.

During the Obama administration, women impregnated by rapists or perverse uncles enjoyed the minimal relief of being free to limit the violence done to them without risk of jail, bleeding out, or permanent damage caused by infection.  During the Obama era, innocent survivors of gross violence would not be punished with nine months of torture.

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Photo by Carlos Herrero on Pexels.com

Never mind all that boring stuff.  The important thing today is that the Trump brand is educating America.  Never before have television news reporters had so many opportunities to enlighten voters on the real-time applications of the U.S. Constitution.  We are learning more about what our founders built because the limits of presidential power are being tested daily by a greedy power broker.  That will be the legacy of the Trump administration and the failure of the Republican majority of 2017-2018.  constitution-1486010_1280We The People have learned more about the meaning of Checks and Balances than we ever would have if we had not experienced seeing what happens when you allow an authoritarian-loving, sociopathic, narcissistic, fake billionaire to become the head of the Executive Branch.

The Purple Wave of November 2018 demonstrates the newly educated voter.  Keep up the good work, Free Press.

Winner:  Democracy

Loser: Tyranny

Again.

 

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California Wildfire Survivors One Year Later

15 Nov

News of the Camp Fire that spread in one hour from 1,000 to 5,000 acres and by the end of the day had wiped out an entire town became too much for me.  I noticed I felt compelled to avoid images, and especially video, of flames and people fleeing in terror.  The mere mention brings me to tears and makes me feel unsafe and depressed.  I want to run and hide.  I want to live somewhere wet.  I feel trapped by circumstances outside my control.  And pouring salt on these wounds is an American President incapable of empathy.

 

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The day after the Camp Fire raged, I received an email from the Northern California Fire Lawyers acknowledging the pain this news must be causing to survivors of the most destructive fires in the state’s history last year–which has now been topped.  Their email suggested that we find ways to help today’s survivors by sharing our stories, our recommendations, our experience about how to cope, how to face the reality that your community has been destroyed, your home is gone, and your nerves are frayed and you feel fragile, yet decisions are bearing down on you every hour of the day.  At the time that email arrived, it was too much to ask of me.  I could not even bear to think about it.  I moved the email immediately out of sight, set it aside in my “Relocation” folder.

Now, a few days later, unable to escape the images and news of Paradise, Thousand Oaks, and Malibu, I feel capable of sharing some insights that may be helpful to today’s survivors.

How did I do it?  How did I move through the decisions that had to be made?  How did I find the mental and emotional strength to sort it all out?  The answer to that is that when you have no choice but to put one foot in front of the other and there is only one direction to go, you do that.  How was it so clear to me that we had to leave Santa Rosa?  I want you, dear reader, to know how much I loved Santa Rosa.  I still cry.  I cry not only because I loved living there, I cry because such a beautiful little city was decimated.  I cry because the senior community of Journey’s End was destroyed and we can’t recreate it.  I cry because I know how much it hurts my former neighbors to lose what we had.

We fled in the middle of the night.  Flames were everywhere, not licking at our car windows like the videos I’ve glimpsed of people trying to get away from a Paradise in flames, but it was terrifying nonetheless.  We saw glowing red, orange and yellow everywhere, the wind whipping it into a frenzy.  We saw neighbors’ homes engulfed, we couldn’t tell whether it was two or three homes, it was a big fireball fueled by wicked winds.   We saw a charred car on the side of the 101 highway and still burning–nobody was in it, and a police officer was present, directing evacuees around that lane.  We evacuated early, so we were not trapped in traffic.  I can’t imagine–I don’t want to imagine–I know how terrifying it was and my heart breaks for them.

So how did we go from that terror, sadness and chaos on October 9th to closing escrow on November 22nd?  In large part, it was me.  While members of my family seemed to be a little lost in hope that there was some reason to stick around, wait it out, see what happens, every molecule in my being shouted to my brain: Get out of here!

#1 – The smoke polluting the entire region was toxic.  I have a health condition that puts me at higher risk, but even without that, it was really bad to be breathing that smoke day in and day out.  The smoke wasn’t going anywhere.  Sonoma, Napa and Lake Counties were on fire and it took weeks to get it under control.  We had to get away from this and the only thing that made sense for us was to head south, to be near family in southern California.

#2 – Immediately file a claim with your insurance company and with FEMA.  Immediately figure out how to do that and get it done.  Fortunately for my family, I am a very organized person and I was able to pull it all together.  Keep every receipt, take a photo of every receipt as you go along, and upload the photos to a secure folder in the cloud.

#3 – Get back to work as soon as possible.  For people whose employment is local, that is a much bigger challenge.  My husband’s job was impacted.  My situation was more flexible, since I work online, I can work anywhere as long as I have a laptop and internet access.  My boss told me to take it easy, time time off, do what we needed to do–but for those first few days, there was really nothing we could do other than wait…wait for access to our personal belongings…wait to meet an insurance adjuster…wait for FEMA to come through.  So working was a relief.

#4 – Avoid the news.  Avoid hearing and seeing the devastation over and over, all day, every day.  Give yourself a break!  Shut down.  Unplug.  For Californians, thankfully, we have access to dispensaries that provide non-narcotic relief from anxiety, insomnia, and depression.  I bought some tinctures in the days after the fire.

#5 – Realistic expectations are vitally important.  Set them early and reset them as you go along.  It was unrealistic to hope or wish that utilities would be restored to our homes–our homes were damaged but still standing–but the infrastructure, the underground utilities–all of that was completely melted.  Our mobile home park was served by an onsite well.  The pipes and pumps were destroyed, and the well was contaminated.  I did not need to know that before I made a decision to leave Santa Rosa.  The smoke was so bad, and the recovery would require years–it was painfully obvious–we could not stay there.  There was nowhere to live!  We couldn’t stay indefinitely in a motel.  We couldn’t leave our cats in a kennel indefinitely.  We simply had to start over!

#6 – Someone has to be decisive.  In this crisis, it turned out to be me.  The pivotal reality was that I had to get away from the smoke and I had to get back to work–my family’s welfare was on the line.  It was not necessary to get hysterical or manic, it was a painful realization that was stated quietly and firmly, with sympathy.  My mental health had to be preserved so that I could function.  So my priorities were what they were:  self preservation, people are depending on me.  I had an obligation, a duty, to my children, to my mother, to myself.  Sanity is paramount.  Be realistic.  Take care of yourself.

#7 – If you can withdraw money from your 401(k) to invest in a new home, do it.  I did not feel so bad raiding my retirement account, knowing that real estate is usually one of the best investments you can make.  I searched for a condo that would be easy to sell in a few years.  This was a strategic purchase–not intended to be a permanent solution, but rather an immediate solution with a likelihood of paying off later when we figured out where we really want to retire–if we cannot go back to Santa Rosa, then where?

So this is my little contribution to today’s survivors who may be looking for clear advice. Every situation is unique, but these things apply to all.  Get it together, solve the immediate problems of where to stay while you figure it out, then figure it out and try to make the best of things.

Above all, what gets you through it is the gratitude of the fact that you did survive.  That gratitude got me through a lot.  We escaped.  We escaped a firestorm.  A year later, that gratitude still lifts me up above the sadness.

Wishing you a year filled with kindness, grace and gratitude.

 

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ABC News: One year after Tubbs fire

 

No longer a fan

30 May

Yesterday morning when I heard the news that Roseanne Barr was in trouble for a controversial tweet, my initial thought was, “Again?” Then I heard the tweet and I wanted to vomit. “That’s hideous,” instantly came out of my mouth. That is beyond disgusting. That’s not even funny. It is racist and I hope she doesn’t get away with it.”

Within hours, I felt the relief of ABC’s decency. They fired her, they canceled her show. Thank you!

There was and is no question in my mind that the now infamous comment is racist. Nobody convinced me of that. Nobody has to tell me when a comment is racist, it is obvious. When you comment about a black woman’s appearance and compare her to apes, no matter how much you are in denial, you are a racist. No decent person who is conscious of the suffering of African Americans since their ancestors were ripped from their homes, sold like property, examined like horses, tortured into submission, denigrated as sub-human…no decent, intelligent person who has an ounce of empathy and is mindful of the suffering of people of color, to this day, their unique struggle…it is truly impossible to imagine for a split second that it’s funny to say such a hideous thing.

I was a fan of Roseanne. No more. She is in jail for verbally lynching a decent person and terrifying millions of children who already have to contend with more than their fair share of fear.

No forgiveness. No free pass. I won’t watch anything with her in it because black lives do matter to me more than white humor.

It was a pleasure to burn.

19 May

shilohyouthrevivalcenters3-1I was a high school sophomore enamored with the ideals of the Jesus People Movement when Fahrenheit 451 first appeared on a reading list in my literature class. I did not even take a peek at it. Instead, I made a special request and was granted permission to read the Bible. Between the age of 15 and 18, I read only the Bible. Based on personal experience I dare say that most people who say they believe it is the word of God have never read it cover to cover. (That is not a judgment, it is a challenge.) I studied every chapter and verse from Genesis to Revelations, individually and within a study group, three times.

From January 1974 to March 1976, I lived in a truly Christ-like commune as a member of the Shiloh Youth Revival Center house in Salt Lake City. We worked regular jobs, pooled our money, ministered to the poor, fed the homeless and gave as many as we could a place to sleep and bathe; some of us were still attending high school while we worked part-time and served the local community. Every evening after supper we gathered in the living room, sang contemporary gospel songs, read the Bible together, and our pastor would lead a discussion about its application to our modern lives as disciples of Jesus. We had no television or radio and we never went to a movie during the years I lived there. For fun, we went camping in the Wasatch Range.

I left Shiloh because they would not let me marry when and whom I chose. A particular pastor, who had a particular opinion about the man who asked me to marry him, issued an ultimatum: break off the engagement or leave. I chose to leave. Shiloh had not been cult-like until that ultimatum. No one else had been prohibited from marrying and continuing to fellowship as a member of Shiloh. It was utterly unfair and unreasonable.

The marriage was a disaster, as we had no support system and my husband suffered PTSD (he was a Vietnam combat veteran). At the time, the world was ignorant of PTSD, our veterans and other survivors of long periods of traumatic events were stigmatized and ostracized. We did not stand a chance. Marijuana was illegal, he was using it to self medicate, he was arrested, and it all spiraled down from there.

mv5bzmm1zgjkzdgtnzblns00yjkyltk3ngetztixmgvkmtk2yjg1xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtmxodk2otu-_v1_sy1000_sx675_al_Fast forward, this is all about Fahrenheit 451, how luminous the plot, how succinctly told (I love minimalism), and why today I eagerly count the hours to watch a new movie based on Ray Bradbury’s stunning novel.

First of all, I was recognized as a writer by multiple teachers in middle school and high school, including the teacher who granted permission to me to read only the Bible instead of his reading list–the government’s reading list–the list from the School Board. To this day, I appreciate his respect for my personal faith and choice, knowing that he personally disagreed with the value of my choice.you-must-stay-drunk-on-writing That very same teacher, Mr. Forrest at Murray High School, told me, based on my written reports about what I was reading and creative writing exercises, “you have a gift…never stop writing.” It was not the first time a teacher used these words to encourage me to exercise a natural talent that otherwise would have fallen by the wayside. In reality, it is a gift and a curse. But Ray Bradbury discovered that we must “stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” This is absolutely true for me. When I stop writing, anxiety slowly causes my mind to stagnate and slip into darkness.

Decades after my refusal to read that book, I decided of my own volition that it was high time I find out what all the fuss was about–why is that particular novel on reading lists in schools across the nation? What’s the big deal? And so I opened my mind and heart, and then I opened the book to the first chapter. As my eyes fell upon the first sentence, it quite stole my breath.

It was a pleasure to burn.

Think about that. The first sentence of the first chapter sets the tone and reveals instantly the storyteller’s style. The first sentence is the bait, it must urge the reader on to the next sentence. If this is not the best first sentence ever written, I beg you to tell me a better one.

It was a pleasure to burn.

A curiosity bomb explodes with six little words. Five one-syllable words and one common yet delicious two-syllable word. I bow to Mr. Bradbury! Wow.

Of course I had to read more! I finished the novel voraciously and then I felt stupid and ashamed of myself for refusing to even look at it as a child. And yet, that one adult who had the power to force me to read it declined that approach. Instead, he allowed my own natural curiosity to guide me on what to feed my head. I was not ready for it at age 15. I was myself a recent survivor of trauma–sexual assault, which I kept secret. I was in survival mode, protecting myself from outside influences, turning to faith for healing and serenity.

In 2012 after Ray Bradbury’s death, I finally read the book. Soon after, I watched a movie adaptation. The book was far better than the 1966 movie. I hope the 2018 movie is a much better adaptation, and I hope it will shake people to the core. Too many of us are half-conscious.

“But you can’t make people listen. They have to come round in their own time, wondering what happened and why the world blew up around them. It can’t last.”
― Ray BradburyFahrenheit 451

Here’s the thing: It is not about books.

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Imagine: The Afterlife

30 Mar

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The Afterlife

It’s Spring and Good Friday and Easter and all that jazz, and it’s a good time for me to answer the conventional thinker’s ultimate question:

Do you believe in…?

 

Here is my infinite answer:  I prefer wonder to belief.  I like to imagine the unconventional possibilities.

That is for real my genuine, thoughtful answer.  I have given The Afterlife a great amount of thought; decades of contemplation, study, and out-of-the-box pondering.  And I have decided, I absolutely prefer wondering over believing!

It doesn’t bother me that people I love like to believe in a certain persona, a certain locale, a certain aesthetic, a specific theme–that is their right to choose what they like to imagine and adopt as their reality.  I think it’s fine to do that–whatever gets you through the night!  I really do not think that God cares if we like to imagine this or that.  I really don’t worry about that.  It really seems obvious that God has a thing for variety, colorfulness, infinity, and such characteristics as are prevalent everywhere!

I really think it is perfectly safe for me to imagine the possibility that imagination is another dimension.  I have written extensively about that in Saardu.  What if having an active imagination is a real doorway into an alternate reality?  What if what we imagine to be so, when we leave this molecular spacetime place, becomes our reality?  Do you really want that?  It’s fine if you do, I get it!  I can see the appeal, maybe, in some cases.  But what if it’s okay for God’s children to imagine…something…else?

I did not care for the notion of “soul mates” until I met my husband.  As we shared more moments, I experienced something I never had before–I was 51 and I realized I had never fallen in love before.  I had experienced wanting a relationship, wanting it to work with a certain someone; I had experienced brief infatuations, and I had accepted marriage proposals, but I had never felt this.  It felt as if we had always known each other, as if we had been playing a game of hide-and-seek and had finally found each other again.  All the love songs suddenly came to life.  It was weird.  Really weird.  I’m a pragmatist, I like scientific stuff, I don’t like paranormal $#*!  I don’t like “spiritual” stuff.  I don’t like the idea of ghosts and I do not believe in demons at all, no fear, no worry.  That’s not real.  So what was this “soul mate” feeling stuff?  Honestly, I don’t know, and I don’t care that I don’t know.  It’s fun:)

I like the idea that he is my soul mate, that I am his, that we are two beings that do this yin yang thing over and over in various forms and settings.  I like Zenya, a lot.  Zenya is my 11th Dimension.  It’s a pretty friggin cool place, if you ask me!

0104lilybunnyI like my ideas of what comes next and where we came from.  I like my ideas about what we really are, what Earth is, and why we can’t hear the telepaths around us (the “animals”).

Easter is about new life.  Spring is about new life.  It is a time when at least a billion people celebrate the possibilities of life beyond this strange rock.

Love, Peace, Joy and Jazzy Harmony

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there is no death

 

 

 

 

i♥minimalism

27 Mar

This morning while scrolling through the usual headlines, I came upon a sweet surprise:  Christina Aguilera bare-faced and more beautiful than ever.  Now hang on here, don’t get lost in the new window just yet.  Come back!  Let’s chat for a sec about minimalism as an artform.  Speaking again as if to my grandkids, allow me to provide a quick snapshot in answer to, first of all the question:  what is minimalism?1996-02-10_wm-1024x351

That is one illustrious example.  Here is a poetic example from my favorite poet of all time, whom I lovingly refer to as Papa Cummings.

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valentine-by-oliver-simonsen.jpgLast but not least today, here is a very romantic example from my very own hunnybear, whose expressions are a treasure far more valuable than a thing that can be bought at Tiffany’s.

This concludes your lesson in the art of minimalism.  Now go and check out Christina’s new look.  I hope you love it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gramma Carmels

Carma is an American poet and author, publishing a variety of ebooks under her maiden name, C.Y. Dillon, and under Carma Chan to honor her Chinese stepdad. Her grandkids call her Gramma Carmels.

 

 

 

The Magic of Art as Stress Relief

25 Mar

What is ‘Art’?

I can’t answer that with a wordy definition.  I can show you what Art means to me.

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Alex Nodopaka Nude 2002-03 

It has been a rare privilege for me to become friends with the artist who created this graphic image (right).

I first met Alex Nodopaka as a virtual presence when I began reading poets at AuthorsDen.  Before his artistry began to ripple and riddle my brainwaves, to be honest, I have no recollection of ever visiting an art museum.  The thought of an art museum bored me.

The only painting I liked (before Alex introduced me to the world of Art)  was…you guessed it…starrynight

And the only reason I knew about Starry Night was thanks to a song I had heard on the radio at age 14.  (Cheers for Radio GaGa!)  No cheers for the impoverished public education that failed me.

alex-langostino-earings-dec-10-20161.jpgHere is the man who would teach me–not to love Art, but that I already loved Art and had been emotionally starved, much in the same way that extremely poor children already love candy but do not know it until a generous soul shares a bite.

Mind candy is magical!  Transformative!  (Plus it has 0 calories, though rich beyond measure.)  Critics sprinkle words like ‘transformative’ sparingly, and readers, probably more often than not, fail to register the depth and breadth of its definition.

Surrealism

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The first instance I was captivated by Alex’s surrealism in 2003.

These days, often overwhelmed by the insanity of “the White House”, exasperated by hypocrisy, broken dreams, misinformation, and a strange war on fact-checkers, Alex and I find relief in a creative project titled Poems to a Friend.  It is a shared journal that we write in once or twice a week, back and forth, stream of consciousness, sharing whatever we wish to say or point to in the moment.  Often he shares a link to his latest published artwork (several online journals feature his work).  The journal is to be published upon his exit from this life stage.  It is my shrine to his eminence, to the artistic genius that has expanded my consciousness and contributed to the quality of life, not only that I now enjoy, also indirectly he has enhanced the perspectives of my children, friends, and everyone in my sphere of influence.

Alex’s artistry is often disruptive and sometimes disturbing–but in a way that I find appealing because it is intoxicating.  Even when I do not like what I am seeing (the way I do not like the taste of tequila, but I like its mood-altering potency), I do not quickly avert my gaze because something in the composition compels me, like a vampire that bites not to suck the life out but to make you immortal (like him).

In closing for now, my suggestion is, for a breath of fresh perspective and to help plant trees for more oxygen, use Ecosia to search for Alex Nodopaka artwork.

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1017 Randomly Beautiful Moments
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