One World-Divisible 

On Star Trek: TNG there was an episode about a planet wanting to join the Federation, but could not because a small part of its population was against it. It had to be a united planet to be a member.

A united planet.

We who call ourselves citizens of the United States would be noted as liars to say we are united merely as a country these days. We have not been truly united since a few years or so after 9/11. Perhaps there was a momentary resurgence of patriotism when Osama Bin Laden was finally taken down, but bloom fell off that rose pretty quickly.

Locations of ongoing conflicts worldwide; updated March 2017. - Wikipedia

Locations of ongoing conflicts worldwide; updated March 2017. – Wikipedia

Since Cain first had his jealous streak and took out Able it has been man’s penchant to divide and hold his cause in favor.

It is one the oldest strategies in the book of power. And it works, because it plays directly in to human nature.  We classify ourselves as along political, social, religious, economic lines and so on. We used to agree to disagree and be, if not fine, at least tolerant of opposing views. These matters are central to human social existence and tend resist any attempts at resolution. As a result, each side views the position of the other as a threat to its very existence.  The more we lose sight of our commonalities; drifting away from each other and becoming less human. When we group ourselves away from and regard those outside of our group with fear, with hostility, even if, especially when they’ve done nothing – we forget that they are humans too and that makes us part of the problem.

These intractable conflicts are ones that have continued unresolved and seem stuck in their levels of intensity and destructiveness. People tend to strike out at what is different, what they fear, which is bad when what we fear is each other.
It’s worse when we give in to that fear, give in to that desire to inflict as much harm, physical and psychological, on each other as possible. For so many this constant sense of threat and hostility pervades everyday life and overrides our ability to recognize any shared concerns.

For a nation renowned on embracing the different, some in the US seem to have lost sight of this within our own walls. Where will her huddled masses go if Liberty’s torch grows dim?

Will it ever come to a point it blows out?

And the U.S. is but one nation of many nations trying to get its act together, as a people we seem to be doing more and more separating of ourselves from each other. Earth would never be admitted as a member of the UFP as we stand now.

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Writing Our Lives #52essays2017 challenge – Week 10

52essays2017

A year-long weekly personal essay/memoir/creative nonfiction writing challenge. To learn more about this challenge or to participate, check out Vanessa Martir’s website and learn about it.

 

#SOL2017

#SOL2017

Let’s see how other’s are serving up their slices:

10th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge! – DAY 7

Same Coin

There is something of a bitter taste for what happened at the Oscars this past Sunday. And no, I am not talking about the Warren Beatty – Faye Dunaway – “LaLa Land” – “Moonlight” craziness. “Moonlight” won, some poor twit’s head will roll because of  Twitter, and in the end a worthy movie most worthy of it won the top honor.

Moving on…

Hollywood loves an underdog and that is why the academy was all too keen to bestow Casey Affleck with the Oscar for Best Actor for his widely lauded role in “Manchester By The Sea”. He’s practically a living breathing Hollywood trope: constantly overshadowed by his megastar big brother Ben Affleck, he has spent years teetering on the precipice of movie stardom, clawing to make a name for himself. And then there’s the controversy.

Years ago Affleck was accused of harassing two women on the set of the mockumentary “I’m Still Here”. Both claimed they were subject to inappropriate sexual comments and unwelcome advances saying Affleck recounted his sexual exploits, attempted to psychologically and physically coerce one into staying in a hotel room with him overnight, and ordered a crew member to show her his genitals. At the time, Affleck denied the allegations and countersued. He later settled the case out of court to the apparent satisfaction of all involved parties. But as this year’s Oscar race heated up with praise for Affleck’s performance in “Manchester by the Sea”, though already known, his unsavory past was brought to light again. Clearly bringing up Affleck’s past at this point was a clear attempt to link his alleged off-screen transgressions with his awards fate. But the rehashing occurred after the movie was released and the buzz had a chance to build be heard nationally. And Casey Affleck can ow add Oscar Winner to his resume.

Years ago Woody Allen might have molested a child, and has a tenuous at best hold in public opinion. Yet, even with that cloud over his head he continues making movies with high-powered stars and winning Oscars.

Years ago Roman Polanski was arrested and charged in Los Angeles with five sexual offenses against a 13-year-old girl and other charges upon a child under 14, and furnishing a controlled substance to a minor. Polanski pleaded not guilty to all charges, but later accepted a plea bargain in exchange for a guilty plea to the lesser charge of engaging in unlawful sexual intercourse. And though he avoids stepping foot in any country that extradites to the United States, yet manages to win an Oscar.

And then there is Nate Parker…

Years ago actor/director Nate Parker and his then-roommate were accused of raping a classmate. According to court documents, after a night of drinking at a party, Parker, his roommate and the victim had sex in Parker’s room. The victim, who said she couldn’t remember anything from that night, insisted the sex wasn’t consensual, while Parker and roommate claimed that it was. Long story-short, Parker was eventually acquitted of the charges.

And for heaven’s sake I am not, repeat am NOT, repeat AM NOT excusing anything any of these men have allegedly done. This is not about what they may or may not have done, but how Hollywood reacts to such.

Nate Parker, though not a household name, has had steady career acting in other movies. It was not as if Parker’s past was not known, it was, but he wasn’t a big enough yet to bother him with it. But Nate didn’t know his row, he didn’t stay in his place. Worse he dared to taunt Hollywood by taking one of the most controversial movie within its archive “Birth of a Nation” and not only retell it, but did an undeniably magnificent job of it to boot! There had not been this much talk about a racially charged movie in since Spike Lee helmed “X”. It seems this could not stand.

With Polanski, Allen and now Affleck the talk of their pasts emerged after their movies were released to the public and given a chance to be seen by many. Not so for Parker whose past resurfaced right before the potentially Oscar-worthy movie was set to be released nationwide. All talk became about his past, not his movie. Effectively knocking him and his movie out of any chance of Oscar contention. Please remember Nate Parker was acquitted. Acquitted. In a court of law, but not in public opinion. And only when his star was set to rise high did he get the smack down.

For there is nothing Hollywood likes more than a breakthrough underdog. In fact, Hollywood adores an underdog and controversy. Hollywood courts controversy like a courtesan. Unless that underdog, that courtesan, is a black man, with a controversial movie and is a potential Oscar contender. Ask Roman Polanski. Ask Woody Allen. Ask Casey Affleck. Ask Nate Parker.

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Writing Our Lives #52essays2017 challenge – Week 9
52essays2017
A year-long weekly personal essay/memoir/creative nonfiction writing challenge. To learn more about this challenge or to participate, check out Vanessa Martir’s website and learn about it.

You Can’t See The Condition Of My Condition From There

For the past few years, photographer, activist and friend, Substantia Jones, has celebrated love from February 1st thru Valentine’s Day by posting pictures of couples in love.What makes her work different than the many other photographs of loving couples is that her couples are fat ― and often in various states of undress.  For those first fourteen days of each February Substania shows the world something most rarely see depicted in mainstream imagery – that fat people are in love and are very much loved in turn. That’s the good news…

Each year more and more other media outlets take notice of her work with glowing accolades.   And without fail, whenever she receives these well-deserved accolades for her work in other media, especially social which will often reprint her photos, there is a backlash. Even when an article is overall positive or at least enlightening, as we erstwhile and current models of her Valentine’s Day series, Adipositivity.com, Uppity Fatty and Fat People Flipping You Off  series know…

Now seems like as good a time as any for an important reminder: Never read the comments.

Because, in spite of that good advice, every now and then I forget where I am, the internet, and it will start off with praise and commentary for the article, then someone post that first bad comment. And once that first negative comment appears – from that point on it snowballs into a downhill shitstorm. And that’s the bad news…

For just as inevitably, the negative comments swing from how someone looks around to those who will start spouting their unasked for two cents regarding someone’s “health.”  This is when those, who from a mere photograph can and will spout, near chapter and verse, of the presumed physical, and sometimes emotional, ills of someone, especially the fat someone. Often they do not even bother to be nice about it by wrapping it in the sandpaper of “can” and “may”.

Look at her, you know she has hypertension or diabetes at that size.

I can see his ribs, he’s got to be anorexic.

I just don’t understand how people don’t see the double standard. There could be totally average size people pictured and you don’t question their “health”, because it is the “standard.” Average, thin or athletic looking people could have heart disease, diabetes or liver disease, but no one makes definitive presumptions about their “health”. Give him a salad, get her a cheeseburger.

And for God’s sakes some arm chair Dr. Oz-es out there, really need to stop acting like your judgment is somehow based on some noble concern for our health. Especially when you are basing the things you spew upon a double standard.

Because you simply cannot judge someone’s heath based on a photograph. Unless, you’re Sherlock Holmes, but since he does not exist and even if he did Dr, Watson would tell him to zip it any way, you’re not him, but I digress. You know nothing about the people in the photographs or their background. They may have health issues that prevent them from losing weight, they may have depression or any number of things that would cause weight gain. You do not know if they’re trying to lose the weight and frankly it is none of your damned business whether they are or not. If I have a salad for lunch today, it for the same reason I will have a cheeseburger for dinner tonight, I like the taste. My food consumption is not up for public discussion, especially from a perfect stranger – because there is nothing perfect about them if they are commenting on my food choices–, and especially while I am actually eating.

Average, thin or athletic looking people could have heart disease, diabetes or liver disease, but no one thinks about their health.  No one would comment that she or he could be a contributor to the high cost of insurance. Yet, one look at a fat person and it is almost considered a given. Commenting that a fat is a contributor and that it is something we all have to be concerned is pure sizest bullshit. By making this presumption it bears the extrapolation that some think all fat people are poor and/or do not have insurance. Unless you personally are footing that fat person’s insurance premium, it is just an opinion, an erroneous one at that, and I believe most of us are familiar with the adage regarding opinions and sphincters.

No one should voice an opinion on the healthy or non-healthy status of someone else’s body, whether they are fat, skinny or in between; not even a random someone in the medical profession.  The only person who can voice a definitive opinion on someone’s health without impunity is that person’s private doctor.

You are not attracted to fat people/skinny people, that is fine, beauty is… after all. Do you have a right to that opinion? Absolutely. Do you have the right to voice that opinion? Yes, you do. However, is voicing that opinion germane to the conversation at hand? If not, then please keep that opinion to yourself and avoid potentially derailing a conversation that was not about you and your opinion.

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Writing Our Lives #52essays2017 challenge – Week 8
52essays2017
A year-long weekly personal essay/memoir/creative nonfiction writing challenge. To learn more about this challenge or to participate, check out Vanessa Martir’s website and learn about it.

And let’s see how others are slicing this week:
sol
Slice of Life Writing Challenge|Two Writing Teachers

Soulmates? II

I covered this before, but considering today I’d like to bring it up again.

I have a special person in my life.

I love him immensely. When we’re together there is much laughter, very heated discussions, tears and yes love. When I completely lost my mind last year and had to face up to the reality of my actions, he was my first call for drinks and discussion. The words were never spoken, but there is no question if one calls, the other will answer because we don’t do so lightly.

He is my soulmate.

Luckily, his wife knows I am not a threat to her and is completely supportive of our friendship.

Betcha didn’t quite see that one coming did ya?

Let me begin where I ended the last time I broached the subject of Soulmates…

https://raivenne.wordpress.com/2012/01/09/soulmate/

“Nearly, everyone says and thinks of a soul-mate as the all-encompassing, be all and end all romantic type of love.

I propose a person can have more than one soul-mate and while a soul-mate is always, someone you want to share the rest of your days with, a soul-mate is not necessarily or solely the person you also want to share your bed with for the rest of your days.

But that thought is a blog for another day”

It is now another day…

The concepts of soulmates arose from mythology, Greek if I remember correctly. According to the story, our ancestors once had 2 heads, 4 arms and 4 legs. These ancestors did something to piss off one of the gods so bad that the deity punished them by splitting them down the middle, resulting in the creation of humans. To add insult to injury, we humans are now condemned to spend our lives searching for the other half of ourselves, our soulmates.

You’d think the gods would’ve gotten bored watching us run around pell-mell trying to find the ever elusive One, but nooooo. Here we humans are, a few millennium later, still soul-searching.

As Shakespeare had Puck say in A Midsummer’s Night Dream “Lord what fools these mortals be!”
Indeed, Puck-a-rooni, indeed!

I mean think about it, unless these two-headed, four-armed beings were asexual and/or hermaphroditic and/or aromantic, they were loving each other just fine without the concept of The One, but I digress…

My mileage dictates a soulmate is a person who connects with your soul in a way that changes you and that can happen on various levels.

Temporary Souls: A teacher who intentionally or not provides a valuable life lesson. The complete stranger or barely known acquaintance who unexpectedly reaches out to you at a time when you really need it. They are the people that we encounter throughout our lives, who come, touch our souls for a moment and are gone. Whether or not they have any idea that they touched our souls, we know they did and they will always be a part of us. Think of all the nth amount of people you have encountered in your life, outside of your family, yet of all these people only a select few have somehow made it in to the very core of you however briefly. For that brief moment – soulmates.

Twin Heart Souls: Think your best and/or closest friends. The ones who help you bury the body or at the very least know the right thing to say to you at three in the morning when you’re losing it, to keep there from being a body to to be buried in the first place. The one/s you really click with pretty much from the moment you meet. Those who believe in reincarnation, say it is because you have already met in a past life, and in this life you are continuing the relationship. My best friend of over thirty years and I have a saying of our relationship. Where we are opposite we are polar opposite, but where we are alike we are twins. If we both point at something in a store window – say a piece of jewelry and we both love it, without even looking at each other, we immediately know two things. 1) It’s a classic piece that can work with various styles and 2) it is likely to be considerably out of our price range and to keep on walking. From the moment I butted into her conversation with someone else back in high school, unto this day – we were soulmates. YMMV

Twin Flame Souls: This is the what most people refer to when speaking of the soulmate. If we follow the edicts of the mythology I mentioned earlier, there is only one twin flame soulmate for each of us. Like Twin Heart Souls, in reincarnation beliefs, Twin Flame Souls have spent several lifetimes together in past lives. The chemistry and attraction towards each other is undeniable. They burn with passionate fire for only each other. To go all Jerry McGuire here, they “complete” each other and only a very lucky few are able to find their twin flame soulmate.

If I go by that edict, that would mean my late-husband was my twin flame soulmate. Does this then mean if I happen to fall in love again, this person will only be second best? Considering I tend to lean toward the very self-confident to borderline arrogant types, I’m somehow guessing my potential paramour would not take kindly to that option. In addition, many people change as they grow older. If Twin Flame Souls find each other and grow together that’s perfect and as it purportedly should be. However, for most of us, the soulmate that would have been perfect for us in high school, may not exactly be as acceptable in later years, unless they too have somehow continued to follow a congruent path in life, so then what?

That thin thread of hope the deities tossed out at us, that there’s always a possibility that we will find and connect with our perfect soulmates becomes ever more threadbare when one considers after all these eons, our Twin Flames Souls may be on the other side of the freaking planet. Hell, if Richard Branson has his way, that soulmate could be on Virgin Galactic heading to a galaxy far, far away in the really not too distant future.

Just as your heart has more than one way to love, so can your soul have more than one way to share. It is one of the many reasons why I find the Highlanderish “There can be only one” soulmate bullshit, well — bullshit.

To those of you who have found your Twin Flame Souls enjoy your Valentine’s Day. For the rest of us, lets grab our Twin Heart Souls, hit a bar and and hope Branson does not get his galactic wheels up anytime soon and give us earthlings a chance.

Happy Valentine’s Day!!

Editing to add: Thanks to my Sweet friend, I am reminded that Aristophanes’ speech from Plato’s Symposium is the Greek mythology I was trying to remember and any one who saw Hedwig and the Angry Inch, knows the myth was best explained in the Origin of Love.

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Writing Our Lives #52essays2017 challenge – Week 7
52essays2017
A year-long weekly personal essay/memoir/creative nonfiction writing challenge. To learn more about this challenge or to participate, check out Vanessa Martir’s website and learn about it.

Name Me

Before I begin this I concede that I am a prurient ass, and while I hope I am not the only person for whom the following would be such a point of contention as to blog about it, but it does irk me to that degree.

I have a confession to make: I, a writer, am at a loss for a word. Not words, for this is not a post on writer’s block, but a word. A single word -and speaking of single let me roll this back a bit and make my conundrum clear.

My spouse – the person I am married to.
My fiancé/fiancée – the male/female identifier with whom I am engaged to marry.
My betrothed – the gender neutral term for the person I am engaged to.
My intended** – the very informal use of betrothed.
My lover – the person I am having sexual relations with, but who is not necessarily my betrothed or my spouse.
My paramour – the pretentious and/or facetious use of lover, but indicative that the other person’s holy matrimony is the stumbling block between the two of us.
My friend – the person whose company I enjoy, but I have no romantic feelings for.

I’m guessing at this point you have figured out the missing rung.  So I say this to you: When I enter into a monogamous relationship with a person I am dating, but not necessarily have engaged physical relations. I do not desire to state it so baldly by using the term lover, or any indicative thereof, especially if we have yet to engage in the more physical aspects of such. How do I introduce that person to others? Please note I am not referring to terms of endearment, the romantic nouns with which we would call each other, but a clear-cut specific term when you are past saying my date, because as a grown woman of 53 years of age, I would feel utterly ridiculous being introduced as someone’s girlfriend. Thusly, I would not want to introduce a male of my peerage as my boyfriend. So what are the alternatives for the mature dating couple?

My woman/My man sounds like someone is trying a buy a couple seconds while desperately trying to remember the other person’s name while not insulting their maturity by addressing them as my boy or my girl.

My lady, while acceptable enough, sounds so stuffy as though bowing of some sort is expected. My gentleman caller evokes, well, peals of laughter, and expectations of bows, curtsies and polite kissing of said lady’s knuckles (*press play on hurl.mp3 here*).

Granted there is the classic sweetheart, but seriously. For those who know me, I can already hear their snort at my attempt to say such with tenderness except maternal and I haven’t done that when addressing my sons since they were in grade school.  Saying sweetheart with derision or utter sarcasm? -oh in a heartbeat. Saying it with affection? -never gonna happen. And honestly, could you see me with a man who would call me such, except smartastically? Great the old standard Let Me Call You Sweetheart is now running in the background of my mind as I type this. Ugh!

That leaves the ubiquitous my guy/my gal. The former immediately brings the classic Mary Wells tune to mind, while the latter conjures Judy Garland & Gene Kelly hoofing it. So again, I really would prefer a term that did not engage my already natural tendency to drop a song lyric at any given prompt more chances to run rampant. And cripes – now Bon Jovi’s Runaway is in my head- I really can’t stand myself sometimes.

I have read somewhere that other places, such as in the Chinese language, there are several distinct terms for love. These words define, romantic love, from familial loves, from humanitarian love etc. Whereas English only the generic love which encompasses everything, versus in love, which is solely the providence of romantic relationships. If the English language, which has no qualms in blatantly stealing phrases from every other language in existence to make its point when needed, has such a dearth of more appropriate terms for the varying intricacies of love itself, is it really surprising we are so lacking in terminology for the extended ladder rungs leading to it?

I imagine part of the reason for this lexiconic lacking is a mix of history, tradition and longevity. History in that from the days of yore the human life expectancy was a much shorter one than now. Tradition in that a hundred or so years ago, it was pretty much a given that anyone over the age of 25 was likely either married or widowed, unless the person was a spinster or confirmed bachelor. While it was possible for a widow in antebellum south to reenter the courting pool, she retained her late-husband’s surname if/until she remarried. There was no need, read time, to establish more dating/courting terms for the mature single person beyond the genteel gentleman caller. Longevity in that it is still the relative norm to presume a person will date, became engaged, get married and at some point widowed, and as we’re talking this day and age –  possibly divorced. However, as we are living much longer and by extrapolation, dating longer, and/or returning to the dating pool at later ages, the strictures of old-fashioned courting are as outdated the as term gentlemen callers. As such we find ourselves in a bit of linguistic conundrum.

So here I am a week from Valentine’s Day, throwing out a net into the linguistic waters in search of a word in English that is equivalent to the immediate understanding of girlfriend/boyfriend yet does not immediately bring to mind the days of high school. Any takers?

**While intended as a romantic term is used interchangeably with betrothed, I personally have considered it a step down on the romance ladder because of the classic definition of the word intend. Betrothed, brooks no question, two people are definitely going to get married. John Watson proposes to Mary Mortenson in the traditional way with a ring and everything (Yes, I am a huge fan of BBC’s Sherlock – just zip it – would you do that for me please?). There is no question they are a devoted couple and John is going to marry Mary, thus they are betrothed to each other.
When a spontaneous proposal happens, but there is no ring on hand to seal that part of the deal, I think intended should be used. In a moment of passion (not that type of passion – geesh people!) Pat pops the question to Leslie. However, because Pat has more love than moolah at the moment, it takes a bit before an engagement ring is placed on Leslie’s fingers. Until the rings show up, they intend to become engaged/married.
And going back to 221B Baker Street as temporary analogy (I said zip it), in the case of Sherlock flashing an engagement ring at Janine, Sherlock would have introduced her as his betrothed for we would see the evidence of such on her left hand ring finger. However, as she would have been the sole ring wearer, she could introduce him as her intended. After all Sherlock bought the engagement ring because he intended to propose (<– see what I did there?). Intended – you can all but hear the comma, space, but and ellipses immediately following that sentence can’t you? This is why I place intended as a romantic term a rung down on the ladder.

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Writing Our Lives #52essays2017 challenge – Week 6
52essays2017
A year-long weekly personal essay/memoir/creative nonfiction writing challenge. To learn more about this challenge or to participate, check out Vanessa Martir’s website and learn about it.

And let’s see how others are slicing this week:
sol
Slice of Life Writing Challenge|Two Writing Teachers

Temple of My Familiar

One of the gazillion things I love bout my hometown is its museums. There are many, but there is one in particular I can only let but so much time go by without visiting, and that is The Metropolitan Museum of Art. And even then, regardless of what else new may be there, I must always visit one exhibit. The Temple of Dendur, a real Egyptian temple, is completely open to the public. I remember the first time stepped into the wing and laid eyes upon it I was enthralled. I remember wishing the entire wing were a part of my back yard. Even now, in the nearly two decades since, I still love to visit the temple, walk through its limestone doors and hallways, imaging the temple as it was used way, way, way back when.

The Temple of Dendur dates to 15 BC, in the Roman period. Over the temple gate and over the entrance to the temple itself, the winged sun disk of the sky god Horus is depicted. The temple is partly decorated with reliefs: the temple base is decorated with carvings of papyrus and lotus plants growing out of the water of the Nile. The middle room, used for offerings, and the sanctuary of Isis at the rear of the temple are surprisingly undecorated except for the reliefs on the door frame and rear wall of the sanctuary which show Pihor and Pedesi, as young gods worshiping Isis and Osiris respectively.

Each time I walk through it I am amazed at how something so massive was dismantled, shipped overseas from Alexandria, Egypt and rebuilt in the magnificent wide open Sacker Wing at The Met. That it only took a decade to do so is a feat within itself. The temple was dismantled and removed from its original location in 1963 in order to save the site from being submerged by Lake Nasser, following construction of a dam. It was a gift to America for the nations assistance in saving Dendur and a few other sites that were also in danger with the dam’s construction.

What a lot of people don’t know, or forget, is that the Temple of Dendur is not a tomb. No pharaoh or queen is honored here. It is a temple that honors the various gods and myth of the ancient Egypt. The temple was built to honor Isis, but Horus, Osiris, Thoth, Hapy, and Sekhment are also represented in its walls. And because kings, respect kinds, there is even a rendering of Augustus Cesar, dressed in the Egyptian robes of a pharaoh for kings respect kings, making offerings to Egyptian gods.

Another tidbit unbeknownst to most: Most of the walls of the ancient temples were originally painted in vibrant colors. It’s the erosion of time in the desert sun and the occasion flooding of the Nile, that leaves us with the beauty of the bas relief in sandstone. There are is very little documentation on this, but few examples found and from looking at other temples in the area, indicate there was color on the temple walls. Last year the Met had the Color the Temple project. A light installation using digital technology which projected the colors of the painted detail to the temple without altering the surface itself. The artists chose the scene of August Ceasar giving offerings as it was the most intact scene and in an ideal location in which to project. Alas, that was early last year and is now gone, but I am sure you can find pictures and articles of it somewhere in Googleland.

And with all things beautiful, to quote a certain Country and Pop star people throw rocks at things that shine. You can actually find graffiti carved into the walls of the temple. One dates as far back to the BC times, a few scant years after the temple was built through to another carved in the late 1800s. Leonardo 1820 is the one easily remembered, but my favorite – to my delight and yes, I presume it’s a male, his shame is one carved by a “L. BRAD—” the rest of the name is unreadable, “1821 OF NY US”. Here, nearly 200 years later, in New York City sits the tag of a fellow resident of my state, hey, for all I know, he may even be a fellow resident of the City itself. Now wouldn’t that be ironic and delicious?

The Sacker Wing which houses the temple was designed in a way to mimic the temple’s location in Egypt. The reflecting pool in front of the temple represents the Nile river and the wall behind it represents the cliffs of the original location. The frosted glass ceiling of the wing and the massive glass wall facing Central Park is stippled to diffuse the light coming in and resemble the lighting in Egypt. The view in spring and summer, when the trees are in bloom are beautiful. I myself am most enamored with the view in autumn, where the colors of fall complement the warm limestone walls of the temple. Even now in the midst of the stark contrast of gray winter days is its own beauty. So yes, the views of the temple and its outside environs are stunning regardless of season. I have whiled away many, many hours sitting, reading, contemplating life and simply enjoying the natural light that pours through the windows. Even in inclement weather it is beautiful to pass the time watching a rain storm through those windows.

The Temple of Dendur is also considered one of the most romantic places in NYC. Many proposals have happened in these hallowed halls as well as wedding receptions as the Temple of Dendur can be rented for events by museum members, with the monies for such of course. I must admit when the room is closed for a private event and I cannot have my time there, I am perturbed for days. It is a gorgeous atmosphere that is historically fascinating surrounded by natural beauty outside and over a couple of millennium of art in the inside. Is there really any wonder I continually return?

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Writing Our Lives #52essays2017 challenge – Week 5
52essays2017
A year-long weekly personal essay/memoir/creative nonfiction writing challenge. To learn more about this challenge or to participate, check out Vanessa Martir’s website and learn about it.

I Hope

To choose hope is to step firmly forward into the howling wind, baring one’s chest to the elements, knowing that, in time, the storm will pass.
— “The Book of Joy” by the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu  

I love this quote. The case for pessimism is hard to refute when we live in a very imperfect world, with various struggles and strife.

There has been this undercurrent of fear for many since November 8th. The tensions and animosities that marked the marked the election have only increased in the days between Election Day and Inauguration Day.  With January 20th only a few days behind us there is this sense for many that life is going to be faced with arduous trials, but that doesn’t mean we need to live in despair. We have to have optimism, to have hope.

Hope.

It is such an elusive word. How do you describe hope?

We all know what wrong is when we see it. We may not even have an exact name for it. Sometimes it is nothing more than gut feeling, but we know it. The same is true of the expectation that comes with hope, the trust the comes with optimism. We just know it.

Like pessimism, optimism is a feeling. Hope, however, is a conscious choice. It’s far too easy to wallow in the woe is me. We have to actively choose to have hope.

Hope makes us believe that things will be okay. It is a great support which makes us not give up easily, because it makes us believe that situations will eventually get better and can be solved. Hope finds out bright lines even in utmost darkness. It lets one to think miracles even in impossible situations. Someone who has hope will usually continue hoping. Hope makes our life have more motivation to continue and carry on in hard situations.

If one cuts off hope, it ultimately cuts off life. The desire to get involved in making the world a better place is not a bad instinct, it’s a necessary one.  It’s how we have survived. It’s how we will survive.

Having hope is an active, decisive mindset etched into every single moment. No matter the haze and fog that clouds our vision, hope cuts through, never losing sight of the stars behind the clouds.

Hope is not the promise that it will be easy, but the faith that we will get through it.

And we will.

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Writing Our Lives #52essays2017 challenge – Week 4
52essays2017
A year-long weekly personal essay/memoir/creative nonfiction writing challenge. To learn more about this challenge or to participate, check out Vanessa Martir’s website and learn about it.

And let’s see how others are slicing this week:
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Slice of Life Writing Challenge|Two Writing Teachers

And A House Is Not A Home…

“But a chair is not a house, and a house is not a home…”
– Burt Bacharach and Hal David

Also with a respectful nod to both Dionne Warwick and Luther Vandross of course, I have to say – yes.

Until the age of twenty-three when I moved-out for good, I lived with my parents, more or less – that’s a very long story that can be summed up in a poem I wrote here.  It was my parents’ home yes, but not mine. I lived there as a child as all children do because, I had no choice.  Until I could afford to be on my own, I had no choice.  Most parents, at some point, will explain the finer points of home ownership. It almost always comes first in some form of My house. My Rules.  I had my bedroom, yes, but I never felt at home in my parents’ house. A stanza from the  above referenced poem…

Where do I go
This was my shelter
It was all I’ve ever known
I’m taught never to be where I’m not wanted
But what do I do when I’m a child
And where I’m not wanted is home

It was an intangible difference, but one I innately, if not completely, understood even as a young child.

“Home wasn’t a set house, or a single town on a map. It was wherever the people who loved you were, whenever you were together. Not a place, but a moment, and then another, building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter that you take with you for your entire life, wherever you may go.”
― Sarah Dessen, What Happened to Goodbye

When I moved out of my parent’s house, I moved into Bill’s parent’s house. They were both retired and aging, still for the first couple of years very much with us. Yes, it was technically the parents’ house and there was definite clashing of heads twixt all four of us adults from time-to-time, but there was a mutual respect companionship and love throughout those walls.  As his step-father’s health rapidly declining and his mother was showing the very first hints of Alzheimer’s I found myself in the role of partial caretaker of the elderly parents. Living with them taught me that home and family is are relative terms less defined by blood, more defined by relationships. Bill has cousins, the family of his mother’s best friend. People he was not related to by blood, but were very much his family. That was the first place I felt at home.

“When I think of home I think of a place where there’s love overflowing…”
Home – The Wiz Soundtrack

Whether in an apartment, but especially when we actually owned our own house I learned home was more than my four walls and the roof over my head. Home is an environment. It was my dog I could hear happily barking and doing what we dubbed the happy-happy-joy-joy dance as soon she sensed my approach to the door. It was the feeling that greeted me when I walked through the door. It was my sons and husband who waited for me to get home. It extended out of the walls and windows of my actual abode to those we welcomed within. My sons’ friends who knew they better “greet an adult first when coming through my door” before going to play video games in their bedroom. Our friends and family coming over for barbecue and the annual Superbowl party.   At long last I had found home.

And then I lost it.

“Home is where somebody notices when you are no longer there.”
― Aleksandar Hemon, The Lazarus Project

Through a series of events I’m not going into here, when my husband died I was no longer able to keep living in our home and long story-short I wound up moving in with the one person who always had my back, and opened her home to me when I needed one, my best friend. Coming from a life of being an only child, living with Bill who was estranged from his living sibling and myself having the two boys, I had lived in relatively quiet homes. The realities of living with a large family was foreign to me. It was one thing to know, or rather know of, a string of siblings and nieces and nephews of her family, but I had very little interaction with them over the years. I understood them in the Hallmark card concept of everyone was around for Thanksgiving dinner in which we showed up for an hour or so and then left to visit elsewhere. Still very much walking the Path of Grieving at the time, plus a series of other mayhem that befell, I was grateful, to have a roof over my head. I was grateful it was with my best friend, whom I love dearly. After a twenty years of finally having a true feeling of home in my life, being in a home not my own again was especially stinging. The day-to-day of always having people who were not my family, always around, and as I felt in my business, was something to which I had much trouble adjusting. I quickly understood that none of them would ever really understand how I could be in my room, reading a book not wanting any interaction just as I would never understand the sound and fury and a constant stream of people coming and going that was their norm. Over time I was definitely more at home there. A couple of her siblings have claimed me as I have claimed her as my sister on all legal forms. Still, for all of that, I could never really make the apartment we shared feel like my home. Because I knew from the onset, no matter how long I stayed there, it was always a temporary thing and she would likely be the only person to miss my presence when I finally left.

“Home is people. Not a place. If you go back there after the people are gone, then all you can see is what is not there anymore.” – Robin Hobb, Fool’s Fate

Twice times I rode the train and went back to my old block, to “casually” pass by my old home. The first time was maybe a year or so after the boys and I left. The house was empty of tenants, the fence needed repair, the yard was overrun with weeds.  The second time was perhaps around the third year mark when I saw it in passing from a train.  The yard was cut, a car was in the driveway, the house was occupied by a family not my own. Both times I was still in grief, so all I saw in my heart were how the Christmas decorations would hang from the awning. The football shaped balloons we attached to the fence for Superbowl, where the grill stood in the yard. I saw it while passing by in a car a couple of summers ago. The building was almost out of my sight before I even realized where we were. I understood I would have been immediately in tune with it before, it did not register because it was no longer home to me anymore.

If there is one thing we humans all have in common, it is that we all want a place to call home.

After several years of living with my best friend I am under my own roof again. I am on totally on my own, no children, no romantic partners, just me, but I feel it. I still have some furniture I need to purchase, some décor I need to work out, deal with a host of other changes, big and small, in my life because of it, but I feel it. The views are very different than before, how I move around is very different than before, it is a very different feeling than before, but I feel it nonetheless.  And oh when I climb the stair and turn the key in the front door at the end of the day, yeah I feel it…

“Home is where the heart is.”
Gaius Plinius Secundus

HOME.

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Writing Our Lives #52essays2017 challenge – Week 3
52essays2017
A year-long weekly personal essay/memoir/creative nonfiction writing challenge. To learn more about this challenge or to participate, check out Vanessa Martir’s website and learn about it.

And let’s see how others are slicing this week:
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Slice of Life Writing Challenge|Two Writing Teachers

 

You Must Remember This

I find myself the owner of treasures of value to no one, but history and as the unofficial family historian – me.

My late-husband was a semi-hoarder, a trait well earned from his mother as I came to learn over the years. In a series of happenings in the two years after his passing that I will not go into here, things were put into storage for what I hoped would be for a few short years. Eight years later I in turn have inherited all of these things and have finally begun the arduous process of sorting through them.

Some things were easy to decide what to do with, such as the receipt from Sears & Roebuck. Think about it, I said Sears & Roebuck. The receipt is so faded, I could barely make out the date (06/01/68) and the cost ($27.00), but not the purchase item itself. I’m reasonably sure -were she alive now- Laura, my late mother-in-law, would not be too put out that I tossed it. Reasonably sure – I think. $27 was a hefty amount for a S&R purchase back then. A part of me sincerely feels that she could likely recall what the purchase was for – with the steel trap that was her mind before Alzheimer’s took its toll.

The birth certificate of a brother-in-law, deceased long before I met my husband, is another story. From the 1940s, I can still feel the raised seal of its stamp, letting me know it is official if not the true original. Marriage certificates, note the plural on that. My erstwhile mother-in-law was quite the dish, let me tell you! Old dog tags, family photos, more documents, family letters etc. were also unearthed. Two letters showing some serious animosity between sisters-in-law, shed a light on tensions I had sensed, but could never put name to back then. Letters from my late-husband to his mother while he was in the army nearly made me cry.  I am the only living person who can be the bearer of these captures in time for these specific people.  At least for the moment.

Bill was estranged from nearly every single person he was related to by blood. I know he has, (or knew he had?) a brother in San Diego. A falling out over twenty-five years ago has sealed the deal on my wanting to find him now. Some physical wounds heal, but the emotional scars can still fester. Somewhere out there is a niece with whom I did get along. Regrettably, as life has a way of doing, in with Bill’s passing I am ashamed to say we are no longer in contact. Her father’s birth certificate, among other items are things are rightfully hers and I would love to give them to her. Thus, I simply cannot let them go for I have hopes of finding her and being able to do such someday. But what do I do with this treasure trove now? Had I a private home with the ever useful basement or attic, there would be no question as where to put these in the meantime. However, the reality of living in an apartment where storage space is at a premium I find myself at a personal cross road.  For I also have my own treasures to add to the mix.

In a bin from storage I found the tops Bill and I wore for at our wedding. My best friend presented Bill and I with an heirloom clock. It has the traditional marriage vows printed on it, with our names and wedding date on a plaque attached to it. It is too obvious what it is, and after ten years of being a widow, now living in an apartment he is not a part of, I could not hang it on the wall. So it, the tops and a few other things I’ve deemed a part of “that time” yet feel should not be thrown away, has been stored up on a shelf in a closet. Out of sight, if not entirely out of mind.

As I am still sorting through the cache, currently all are boxed, taking up space on in front of a bookshelf in my living room. I fight the cleaning urge to just toss them and be done with it. It is treasures like these, mementos held onto and passed down are how people trace family. Not just the who someone was on the family tree, but who someone was as a person. The family tree can tell me Dorothy and Laura were sisters-in-law. Only finding those letters tells me that they were not fond of each other and how long that animosity ran between them. The letters tell me how much Bill loved his dogs. The family tree will tell you that Bill and I were married and when. Only the photos will give testament to the not exactly traditional aspects of the wedding itself.

In the interim, my not-so-immediate goal after the sort, is to scan and document everything I can. And perhaps laminate some of the older, more delicate paper items that are in danger of being lost forever. That is fine in and of itself, but while I can scan a photo of my three-year-old child wearing it, I cannot scan the “child-abuse” shirt itself.  Or scan the wedding clock, or the dog tags, or… or…

Most people can easily trace to their grandparents and perhaps back to at least one set of great-grandparents, but not much further.  One of the reasons sites like Ancestry.com and the television series “Who Do You Think You Are?” exist is because there are many who understand the importance of documenting these things, at least the paper things, while you can. In this throwaway society of new or nothing, it becomes harder and harder as people cannot or just don’t hold on to these pieces of the everyday anymore.

The thought that many years from now another family member will come across these previous timelines and enjoy these revelations as I have, fills me with joy. For while the photos and letters can be documented electronically, it is not the same feeling that raised seal or the texture of an old shirt under your fingertips. It is my wish that long after I’m gone, hopefully future great-grandchildren, will come across the old photos, the clock, the “child abuse t-shirt” and other treasures saved and smile just as fondly on them then as I am smiling now thinking of their stories.

That alone tells me I will be holding on to these treasures for a little while longer – throwaway society be damned.

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Writing Our Lives #52essays2017 Challenge – Week 2

52essays2017

A year-long weekly personal essay/memoir/creative nonfiction writing challenge. To learn more about this challenge or to participate, check out Vanessa Martir’s website and learn about it.

And let’s see how others are slicing it up this week:

sol

Slice of Life Writing Challenge|Two Writing Teachers

May Auld Acquaintance Please Be Forgot

Though born in raised in New York City, my family background is from the South. Or as I sometimes joke, I am from South Cackalaky (a colloquialism for South Carolina) via the South Bronx. My Yankee/Dixie mix is apparent in my daily life, but more so around the holidays where part of my Christmas Day meal this year consisted of Italian (baked ziti), Spanish (yellow rice) and Southern (pork shoulder) cuisines.

As we rapidly approach the very end of 2016 I am now reminded of a different tradition — how one must start off the very first day of each year. With variances for local and/or home preferences the checklist is as follows:

New Year’s Day Prep Southern Style:

  1. New mop and broom.
    — One does not bring last year’s dirt into a new year.
  2. A man must be the first one to come into to house.
    (2a. That man must have money in his pocket.)
    — Usually, this was the man of the house, who would walk out the back door, if available, then enter through the front door.
  3. Everything must be clean. Your clothes, your linen, your home, you.
    — A continuation of not bringing in last year’s dirt into a new year – starting after Christmas, the home gets a scrub down.  For some homes, the parts of the house that would be seen by any company that may happen to come calling was enough. For others, the home is cleaned stem to stern within an inch of its inanimate life. Then once everything was cleaned, it was time for everyone to get clean. Hair washed, toe nails clipped, root-to-toot clean.
  4. Prepare the good luck meal of Pork, Black Eyed Peas, and Collard Greens.
    — Though generally a ham, it can be any kind of pork, but it must be pork. Black-eyed peas, on its own or mixed with rice. Collard/Kale/Mustard Greens, or any combination thereof, rounds out the holy trinity of culinary tradition.

All of the above, if followed properly, was presumed to be an assurance of a healthy and prosperous year ahead for you and your family.

So after all that – speaking solely from personal experience – considering the fucked-up, not even close to putting the fun in dysfunction people I was blessed to have to shape my young life, all I can say of all that is BULLLLLLL SHIIIIIIIIIIIIT!

After all, these traditions were ones passed down from families who lived in or were a part of private homes. As poor tenement dwellers, this premise was a glass cliff from the start.

  1. A new mop and broom: Unless it somehow was no longer usable during that week, my mother held on to mops or brooms until the last strands or straws fell off. Who could afford to waste money replacing perfectly good items?
  2. A man must be the first one to come into to house (and have money in his pocket). The only way this could occur is if my father went out for New Year’s Eve and drunkenly stumbled in the door first by happenstance. If there was something needed from the store we could not wait for him to get up first, for if he was home at midnight that meant he did not have any money to go anywhere the night before. So much for money in his pocket. Not to mention, we lived in a tenement, duh! There was no back door to go out of in order to come in a front one. And he damned sure was not getting out of bed and getting dressed to walk out of a door -only to walk back in again- just to satisfy some tradition/superstition. More often than not, I was usually the first person to cross the threshold on the first day of the year.
  3. Everything must be clean.  As an only child and a female, with a father who lifted nothing other than a fork or a liquor bottle, the totality of this cleanliness ritual fell to my mother and I. As I got older the brunt of it was on me.  The days between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day were bloody torture for me. I do not exaggerate when I say bloody as my knuckles often became cracked and raw from the constant scrubbing with bleach, ammonia, Lestoil, Pine Sol and hot water as I cleaned. And don’t you dare ask whether I used gloves. Despite years of seeing others, yes white women, doing so on television and in movies, I was well into my teens before it even became a thought in my head as something I could do for myself. The one time I actually brought it up, my mother looked at me with much disdain. “What? You think you too precious to touch water?” The use of gloves was never brought up again.
  4. The good luck meal. Since ham was made for Christmas, in my mother’s kitchen the pork part of the tradition was almost always in the form of chitterlings and hog maw (the smaller intestines and stomach lining of a pig, respectively, cooked for food). If you have no idea whatsoever of what I speak, my God I how I envy you and wish I shared the wonderful bliss of your ignorance! Years after I left home, the smell of bleach and ammonia combined -something everyone knew you should not mix, yet everyone did exactly that back then- would immediately take me back to New Year’s Day when my mother’s kitchen was an olfactory assault of cleaning products and offal stench as my mother spent a good hour or so at the sink cleaning the -ahem- meat before cooking it. Once I was whipped and not allowed to eat anything if I did not eat everything was cooked for the house for New Year’s Day. I took the beating and went hungry for two days because I refused to let that nastiness cross my lips. The only reason I did not starve for three days was because winter break was over and school had started again where I ate breakfast and lunch. I still was not allowed to eat dinner at night. This stalemate lasted until all of the chitterlings was gone and something else was cooked that I was willing to eat.  This whipping and starving routine were repeated several times over a couple of years before I was taken seriously and allowed to eat only what I wanted. I just realized, I was only ten when I first defied my mother like that. That was truly the precursor to what was coming down the pike – but I digress.

Each January 1st this plague of tradition fell on our apartment with the hopes of a better new year. I presume as we did not follow the rules to the letter, three hundred and sixty-five/six days later, the January 1st of the new year found us just as miserable and poor as it found us January 1st of the previous one.  So what was the point? Suffice it to say, when I became the matriarch of my own household, things went a lot differently for New Year’s Day. At least I thought so.

As I look back on it now, it really was not all that different. I have enough south in me that each time I have moved I purchased new mops and brooms to not bring old dirt into a new place. Yet, like my mother, I do not purchase new cleaning implements each year. With two sons to run to the store if necessary, plus my late-husband –having a man being first to come through the front door, with money in his pocket, was almost a given. If someone non-male somehow cross the threshold first – whatever. Granted, while whatever place we called home was not always white-glove spotless, it was clean – except perhaps for my younger son’s room, depending on his mood, that is. And as I was the one in the kitchen, I cooked any damned meal I felt like cooking that day. As I am now a single woman whose adult sons are out on their own, even that much of the tradition is just a memory. Yet, I am living better and happier than I ever have in spite of it.

The closest I come to preparing for the new year is in my spirit. I fully believe how I find my heart at the stroke of midnight is what guides the rest of my year. The years I started off depressed, pretty much remained so. The years I started off on a good foot, stepped on accordingly.  As for this year, I admit my bank account needs some serious replenishing, but I can keep a roof over my head, pay my bills, not starve and still have something of a life on my own. It’s going to be a long while before I can globe hop again the way I did last year, but I will be able to travel a little this year.  Yet all of those things are material. Most important is that I am content. I am happy with myself. I am happy within myself. I am prepared for some new craziness/challenges with this new year, but I am also looking forward to seeing what new joy/beauty/happiness 2017 will bring.

What better way to start?

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Writing Our Lives #52essays2017 challenge.
52essays2017
A year-long weekly personal essay/memoir/creative nonfiction writing challenge. To learn more about this challenge or to participate, check out Vanessa Martir’s website and learn about it.

 

And let’s see how others are slicing this first week of 2017:
sol
Slice of Life Writing Challenge|Two Writing Teachers