Painting Flower Pots

Every once in a while, I have this powerful urge to get creative. I suspect it’s the same feeling that animals get when it’s time to migrate for the winter. It’s not an option. It’s a compulsion.

But as we’re in the throes of a pandemic, I didn’t want to run out to an art supply store to get materials. That made me cast about in the yard and garage to see what was already on hand. That added an additional layer of creativity to the project.

We have a lot of (perhaps too many) mostly used cans of paint in a wide variety of colors sitting around, taking up space. I also happened to have a bunch of empty terra cotta pots in my greenhouse. So I thought, why not? What you see below is the result of my handiwork.

Okay, I never said I was Van Gogh. But it was a fun few hours, and now when I see these pots it makes me smile. I even went a little wild and tried gluing glass beads on one, as you can see. While it looked good on the day I took this picture, it didn’t hold up well. I guess the moisture and drying qualities of terra cotta do not make for a good gluing surface. Lesson learned.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to be artistic. You just need to look at what you have available in a different way. Use your imagination. Have fun. Satisfy that compulsion.

Teracotta pots

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Maximum Wage

Okay, I’m just putting this out there. Why does anyone need millions of dollars a year to survive? I mean, seriously. It’s quite obvious that it’s not necessary. The vast majority of us get by on a mere fraction of that. If Jeff Bezos lost a billion dollars tomorrow, he wouldn’t even feel it. But society would certainly benefit from that billion dollars.

Asking for an increase in the minimum wage in this country always seems to spark great controversy, even though, on the all-too-rare occasion when it happens, not only does the world not come to an end, but it causes the economy to thrive. It’s blatantly obvious that we all do better when money is more widely distributed.

So maybe we should focus more on the opposite end of the spectrum. I truly believe that there should be a maximum wage. Most obscenely rich Americans could easily maintain their lifestyles even if their income was limited to, say, 750k a year. All the rest of their profits could prop up social service agencies, education, infrastructure, health care, and yes, dammit, an increase in the minimum wage.

The fact that this idea seems so radical, the fact that it causes this reflexive flinch in the very gut of most Americans, is a clear indicator that we’ve been well trained. Even worse, this idea will never flourish because money is power, and we allow ourselves to be ruled by it. Literally.

We make it so politicians have to be rich to get elected. We make it so they are supported by the ultra rich. Even if we tried to implement a maximum wage plan, the rich would find a loophole. We have no power ourselves, and yet we’re the ones who prop up this system. We are treating ourselves as if we’re the enemy. This insanity has got to stop.

There is no reason on earth that any American should be homeless or hungry. There is no reason a child should go without shoes. There’s no reason why anyone should be deprived of health care.

By not supporting those in need, we are supporting the very people who don’t need support and never have. We shouldn’t be here. It’s obscene. And yet, here we are.

Daddy_Warbucks_-_Bad_Guys

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Never Stop Learning, Never Stop Teaching

Recently, a friend thanked me for my blog, because, she said, “I always learn something new from you!” That made my entire year. That is one of the primary goals I have for this blog. I’m constantly learning new things, and I feel as though it’s my duty to pass that on.

When I was a little girl and was pressed by a well-meaning adult to reveal what I planned to be when I grew up (as if I knew—I still don’t), my stock response was that I wanted to be a teacher. If they asked me why, I’d say, “So I can yell at kids and get away with it.”

(It’s funny to realize I didn’t like kids even when I was one myself. How telling. But I digress.)

Even as a small child, I knew that I loved learning. And to me, imparting what I had learned was just a natural progression. It used to frustrate me no end when I’d come home from school, all excited about some new bit of information I had acquired, only to be told by my mother that she already knew that. (I mean, throw me a bone. Pretend you don’t know and are fascinated. Ask a few questions. Would that have killed you?)

To imply that teachers are the only ones who teach is a gross fallacy. I do love teachers, and I’m very grateful that they exist. But every one of us is a teacher in one way or another. We learn from each other, if only by example. Every time you tell a story, you’re teaching. Every time you answer a question, you’re teaching. It’s part of the societal contract.

I absolutely adore learning new things. It’s what makes life worth living. It keeps me enthusiastic, and enthusiasm, by its very nature, just has to be passed on. So, yeah, I guess you’re stuck with me and this little blog.

If I only had one piece of advice to give, it would be to never stop learning and never stop teaching.

brainpuzzle

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Quakers and Slavery

My whole life, I’ve been taught that Quaker’s were at the forefront of the abolitionist movement. Movies about the Underground Railroad almost always include a Friend or two. Quakers often hid runaway slaves in their homes. These things are true. And yet, if you dig deeper, you find that their history has been rather whitewashed over time.

You can find the typical story line on the brynmawr.edu website:

The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) was the first corporate body in Britain and North America to fully condemn slavery as both ethically and religiously wrong in all circumstances. It is in Quaker records that we have some of the earliest manifestations of anti-slavery sentiment, dating from the 1600s. After the 1750s, Quakers actively engaged in attempting to sway public opinion in Britain and America against the slave trade and slavery in general. At the same time, Quakers became actively involved in the economic, educational and political well being of the formerly enslaved.

The earliest anti-slavery organizations in America and Britain consisted primarily of members of the Society of Friends. Thus much of the record of the development of anti-slavery thought and actions is embedded in Quaker-produced records and documents. Friends Historical Library at Swarthmore College and the Quaker Collection at Haverford College are jointly the custodians of Quaker meeting records of the Mid-Atlantic region, including Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, New York and Vermont and these records illuminate the origins of the anti-slavery movement as well as the continued Quaker involvement, often behind the scenes, in the leadership and direction of the abolitionist movement from the 1770s to the abolition of slavery in the United States in 1865, and beyond.

Again, all these things are true. So imagine my shock when I stumbled across this article entitled, “The 18th-Century Quaker Dwarf Who Challenged Slavery, Meat-Eating, and Racism”. I mean, with a title like that, one is rather compelled to read the article, right? I was expecting the typical Quaker/slavery juxtaposition, but that is not what I got. Not at all.

It seems this radical Quaker lived in a cave in Pennsylvania, and was a bit of a thorn in the side of his fellow Quakers. According to the article,

One Sunday, 18th-century Quakers living in Abington, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia, were met with a strange sight outside their morning meeting. The snow lay thick on the ground and there was Benjamin Lay, a member of the congregation, wearing little clothing, with his “right leg and foot uncovered,” almost knee-deep in the snow. When one Quaker after the next told him that he would get sick or that he should get inside and cover up, he turned to them. “Ah,” he said, “you pretend compassion for me, but you do not feel for the poor slaves in your fields, who go all winter half-clad.”

Wait a minute. “The poor slaves in your fields?” But, um… they’re Quakers, right?

But it turns out that the Quakers only started muttering about slavery in the 1750’s, didn’t really start a true abolitionist movement until the 1770’s, and all Quakers weren’t really on the same page until the 1830’s. And yet this little guy, Benjamin Lay, was doing his radical protest thing in the 1730’s. Go, Benjamin!

Before he acted up in Pennsylvania, he had lived in a Quaker community in Barbados, where 90 percent of the people were enslaved and treated worse than horses. His protests there got him ejected from the community.

In 1737 Benjamin Franklin published Lay’s tract entitled, All Slaveholders That Keep the Innocent in Bondage, Apostates. (Good old Franklin didn’t have the courage to include his name as publisher, though. He was a slave owner himself, and profited from running ads in his gazette about runaway slaves. He only became an ardent abolitionist just prior to his death.)

Basically, Benjamin Lay was one of Quaker’s first truly dedicated abolitionists, and you don’t often hear anything about him because to admit he existed is to admit that many Quakers were slave owners, and given that they finally and quite outspokenly got on the right side of history, admitting to their slave owning past is, at best, awkward.

I had to learn more about Quakers and slavery, but it wasn’t easy. I waded through a ton of articles that touted the party line, but then I came across this one entitled Slavery in the Quaker World by Katharine Gerbner.

In it, Gerbner states that the earliest abolitionist Quaker article, called the Germantown Protest, is from 1688. It denounces slavery, but the majority of Quakers at the time rejected this article. In fact, many Quakers in the 17th century were involved in the slave trade. She further states that the Quakers of the time were all for converting slaves to Christianity, but that they felt slavery and Christianity were perfectly compatible, and that Christian slaves would work harder and be more docile.

All this information was rather eye opening for me. It just goes to show that nothing is ever as simple as it is described in elementary school history textbooks. I’ll never look at Quakers as pure abolitionist heroes again. Now I’ll see them as a flawed people who came to learn enough from their morally repugnant past to change and do the right thing.

And when all is said and done, shouldn’t that be what we all do?

220px-Benjamin_Lay_painted_by_William_Williams_in_1790
Benjamin Lay

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How Do You Live with Yourself?

A friend of mine recently shared a link to an article entitled, “Black woman attacked by men wielding lighter fluid, racial slurs”, and I was horrified by it. Four men, with a squirt bottle of lighter fluid, doused this girl’s face and neck and then set her alight. I mean, they lit this girl, this total stranger, on fire.

Here’s what I really can’t comprehend about hate crimes, especially ones this horrific: how do you live your life after doing these things? Seriously. You are now a person who has set someone on fire. This is now an indisputable fact about you. There’s no getting away from that.

What’s next? Do you go to McDonalds and order yourself a happy meal? Do you go home and binge watch Game of Thrones? Do you look in the mirror while flossing your teeth? Are you going to put, “I permanently disfigured someone” on your resume? Where do you go from there?

I get it. Alcohol was involved. I get it. This was a radical right hate group. I get it, these were 4 white boys in that stupid zone between age 15 and 25. But at the end of the day, and for the rest of their lives, they’re 4 guys who just set someone ablaze. She will have to live with those undeserved scars, whereas the self-inflicted stains on those horrible boys’ very souls will be detectible by them alone.

Is it really possible to find your way through life without a moral compass? Is it possible for 4 guys, completely devoid of guilt or shame, to have found each other, and the result of that relationship was this scheme? Do you really fill up a squirt bottle with lighter fluid while thinking, “Yeah, this is a very good idea!”

How does that work? Animals. May they never experience a single good second for the rest of their miserable existence. If there is a hell, they’ll be burning there someday.

And after I wrote this, a guy intentionally mowed down two protesters in the interstate here in Seattle. And so it goes. On and on…

Zippo-Slim-1968-Lit

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Some Anniversaries Aren’t Worth Observing

I was told recently that an ex had written a Facebook post commemorating the 10th anniversary of our breakup. Apparently the post was quite dramatic (“Like his own personal opera playing to a packed house.”) and predictably uncomplimentary to me, quite overlooking the fact that he had let his boss, Andy Johnson, steal $3500 from me, and yet he continued to work for him. I mean, talk about not having your partner’s back.

Everyone sees their own version of history, I suppose. For me, that “fateful” anniversary came and went without me even realizing it. I don’t have it written on any calendar. It was before I was on Facebook, so I can’t even look back to see what I was posting at the time.

I’m not one to “celebrate” bad anniversaries. I don’t really get the point. “Twelve years ago today, I had my tonsils taken out with a rusty spoon!” That’s not my idea of a memory that’s worth the annual brain space. Any cake you would order for that event would have to be highly customized. And who wants to attend that pity party in the first place?

I also know someone who looks upon a certain date each year with dread because bad things always happen to him on that day. Um, can you say “self-fulfilling prophecy”? He gives the calendar, a purely human construct, entirely too much power over his life. And, dare I say it, he seems to think his life is a lot more significant than any of our lives are, from the perspective of the universe at large. If there really is some sort of fickle finger of fate, I suspect it has bigger fish to fry than keeping track of a bad luck anniversary for any particular individual.

You can’t happily move forward in your life if you’re constantly looking backward. If you’re focused on dredging up the past, you clearly aren’t happy with your present. Either way, it makes me sad for my ex. I hope someday he can move on. I hate the thought that he’s trapped back there in 2010, even though I have to admit that 2020 isn’t the best time to be living in for any of us.

If we were still talking, I’d urge him to set himself free of me. It’s clearly bogging him down, and I hate that for him. I mean, there were some happy memories there. If he can’t let go entirely, he’d be better off focusing on those things instead of the bad bits.

But really, he shouldn’t waste his time on me. I genuinely hope he has better things to do. Focus on goals, not on perceived failures. My advice would be to concentrate on the present, and the happy memories he can create with the loved ones he has in his life right now. Because it’s all so precious and fleeting. Life is a fragile as a soap bubble.

I’m grateful for all the past experiences that have shaped me, the good, the bad, and the ugly, but I try not to dwell on them. That’s one of the few good things about my brain getting foggier with age. If you have to write a memory down to remember it, maybe you should only write down the good stuff. Give yourself a sort of get out of jail free card. Don’t actively force unhappy memories upon yourself.

There’s too much going on in the here and now, and too many plans to make for the future, to waste time on the past. With each passing year, I become increasingly aware of how little time I have left. I want to savor the moment I’m in. I want to celebrate the triumphs, not the tragedies.

Yeah, I’m not perfect at taking this advice. I have good days and bad days. There’s bitter along with sweet. But I think I’m much better at it now than I was in times when I was surrounded by negativity.

Life is so amazingly good right now, pandemic notwithstanding. I think I’ll keep it.

happy earth spill

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The Freedom to Be a Selfish Fool

There’s nothing quite like a complete nut job with a dedicated following to make you wonder how anyone can question our relationship to other primates. (Spoiler alert: I’m feeling rather inflammatory today.) Case in point: a complete psychopath named Lenka Koloma.

Her Facebook page makes the following claims:

“After making herself a millionaire, healing herself of cancer, and a near death experience, Lenka learned to create healing miracles for herself and others. Let her help you transform your health, wealth & relationship issues into a life of unlimited abundance and happiness.”

She also claims to be an International Best Selling Author of a book called “Unleash the Supernatural”. As of this writing, it has an Amazon Best Sellers Rank of 1,609,092, so this author is looking at “best selling” through an extremely broad lens. But then, making false claims seems to be a recurring theme with Ms. Koloma.

Her Facebook page is all sizzle and no steak. She makes promises but doesn’t keep them. She claims to be a motivational speaker, but I got about 2 minutes into the 13 minute video she posted of herself and realized she was never going to get to the point. So I felt motivated to stop watching.

Incidentally, she made that video while driving. In Southern California. Which tells you all you need to know about how much she cares about the lives of her fellow human beings.

But if that isn’t enough to convince you of her irresponsibility, then hop on over to her website for her Freedom to Breathe Agency. (That is, if it’s still there. Several versions of this site have been taken down. I’m sure this one won’t last long either.)

The main takeaway from this site is that you should exercise your personal liberty, your freedom of speech, your freedom to choose, and your freedom to pursue happiness by refusing to wear a face mask.

The website, which is full of misspellings and awkward grammar, states:

OXYGEN IS No.1 NUTRIENT for every living organism including humans.

Wearing a face mask is an unhealthy obstruction of oxygen flow that can lead to hypoxemia (low oxygen level in the blood) and hypoxia (low oxygen level in the tissue). Both of these conditions are health threatening and can permanently damage the brain, lungs, heart and about any other organ.

​Wearing a face mask has also very important effect on our psychology. It is a psychological anchor for suppression, enslavement and cognitive obedience. When you wear a mask you are complicit in declaring all humans as dangerous, infectious and threats. How long do you think it will be before your social engineers tell you that talking spreads the virus farther ….and they forbid talking?

​How long before your human farmers trick you into believing that it is better you stop breathing altogether….as to stop the spread of a virus?

​All sold as being for your health and safety. You are being conned and your compliance makes the con a reality.

REJECT THE MIND CONTROL AND UNSLAVE

It also provides you with a PDF file that allows you to print out a fraudulent card that claims to exempt you from any ordinance requiring face mask usage in public, claiming that this is an Americans with Disabilities Act violation. It also fraudulently uses the seal of the Department of Justice, and the ADA logo. Apparently this card has been quite popular of late.

But if you go to the ADA website, one of the first things you see is a disclaimer from the Department of Justice. It states:

The ADA does not provide a blanket exemption to people with disabilities from complying with legitimate safety requirements necessary for safe operations.

And, incidentally, “human farming” as mentioned above by Ms. Koloma is the most lunatic fringe theory that I’ve heard in many a year. The ultimate in paranoia is to imply that we’re all such slaves that we have been reduced to the level of livestock. Yes, the rich and powerful are taking advantage of us, but to imply that we are operating under a system of slavery as we order our pizzas and binge watch our Netflix is a tad extreme. And forbidding talking? Forbidding breathing? Yeah, that’ll happen.

So who are you going to believe? Some crackpot woman who is telling you what you’d love to believe, or the truth, from legitimate sources?

Well, here’s the bugaboo. We take our freedoms very seriously in this country. So seriously, in fact, that some people extend them to the freedom to be a complete jerk. Evidence the world over demonstrates that wearing a mask saves lives. Your freedom to not wear a mask should not impinge on my freedom to not freakin’ die.

If your lack of a mask only impacted you, I’d say have at it. We need fewer selfish people in the world. But you are part of a society, and your irresponsibility puts others in danger. It endangers your loved ones most of all. You have no right, none whatsoever, to endanger others.

Wearing a mask has nothing to do with politics. It’s just basic common sense. And it’s one of the responsibilities we have right now, in exchange for all the benefits we experience from living in a civilized, albeit overcrowded, society.

I suppose sticking your head up your butt is another way to protect the rest of us from you, but I think the mask option is a better one.

Exempt

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The Confederate Monument Thing Again

On this day, when we traditionally celebrate American independence, I’m a little surprised that I’m having to revisit a post that I wrote in 2017 entitled, “Historical Statues: One Solution“. But yes, indeed, the controversy over whether or not to remove confederate statues has reared its ugly head yet again.

That 2017 blog post describes a brilliant solution that the people of Budapest, Hungary came up with to deal with their brutal communist era statues. It’s really quite fascinating, and I hope it’s an idea that can be adopted here. It would allow the statues to still exist, but in an educational context in a museum-like setting where those who don’t want to see them won’t have to. Please do read it and tell me what you think.

But for those of you who don’t click through, I leave you with a few points to ponder:

  • Monuments are not history. They’re the glorification thereof.

  • No child should have to grow up under the shadow of statues of people who thought they should be enslaved.

  • Removing a statue won’t erase the history, and we can and should still learn from that history. Learn, but not deify.

It really is okay to become older and wiser as a society. I promise. We’ll be okay.

Happy Independence Day.

Confederate_Monument_-_E_frieze_-_Arlington_National_Cemetery_-_2011
Historically absurd.

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Noctilucent Clouds

I am so in awe of nature. Sometimes it stops me dead in my tracks and I get tears in my eyes. I am just so grateful that I am able to live on this planet, and I’m equally ashamed that humans seem to be so hellbent on destroying it. Nature is miraculous. The things that are happening every single day in nature are things we could never reproduce ourselves, even if our lives depended on it (and they do).

Don’t believe me? Create a vegetable from scratch. I dare you.

And take, for example, noctilucent clouds. I didn’t even know these things existed until about 24 hours before this writing. Once again, the sheer quantity of things that I have yet to learn slaps me upside the head at the most unexpected of times, and I’m so grateful for that. Thank you, universe, for that insight.

The way I learned about this amazing weather phenomenon was by being shown the two pictures that appear below. They were taken by my friend Bill Wainwright at approximately 3 a.m. on two separate nights. Aren’t they beautiful?

I had never seen anything quite like that in all my 55 years. With a little research I found out that they are called noctilucent clouds, and they are still barely understood. According to Wikipedia, there’s no confirmed record of their sighting before 1885 (two years after the eruption of Krakatoa), and yet it seems that their occurrence is increasing in frequency, brightness, and extent.

A whole series of circumstances have to come together just right in order for you to be treated to a sight such as this. First of all, it has to be the summer months in your area, and you need to be between latitudes 50 and 70 degrees above or below the equator. (That means, sadly, that I will not be seeing noctilucent clouds from my back yard. Bill lives a lot further north than we do.) There need to be sufficient ice crystals in the atmosphere, and the sun needs to be below the horizon.

Noctilucent clouds are the highest clouds in our atmosphere, about 50 miles higher up than any other clouds, and they are so wispy that you can’t see them once the sun has risen. Apparently they require water vapor, dust, and very cold temperatures (around -184 degrees Fahrenheit) to take shape.

No one knows where this dust comes from. It could be from micrometeors or from volcanoes, but those are just theories. We still have a lot to learn about noctilucent clouds.

But even as I wallow in my ignorance about this particular subject, I remain in awe. Nature is spectacular. Regardless of how they come about, I’m happy that noctilucent clouds exist, and I’m grateful for those who manage to take pictures of them.

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On Banning Gone With the Wind

As most of us know by now, HBO MAX pulled Gone With the Wind from streaming video. I don’t blame them. This is a movie that makes the Confederate South seem like a place where the slaves loved being slaves, and where the way of life was all fine and dandy until those pesky Northerners butted in.

Here are the opening credits, according to IMDB:

“There was a land of Cavaliers and Cotton Fields called the Old South… Here in this pretty world, Gallantry took its last bow… Here was the last ever to be seen of Knights and their Ladies Fair, of Master and Slave… Look for it only in books, for it is no more than a dream remembered. A Civilization gone with the wind…”

Make no mistake: This movie glorifies a system that should be shown as the ugly, racist, deadly and ignorant thing that it was. Slavery and everything that came with it is not pretty or gallant. It isn’t a dream remembered. It’s a nightmare for which this country should be truly ashamed.

But this movie is also a work of art. The cinematography is stunning, and the costumes are even more so. In the 1940 Academy Awards, it won an Oscar for best actress, best actress in a supporting role, best director, best writing, best cinematography, best art direction, best film editing, and best picture. Whether we like it or not in modern times, it’s a classic.

I do not believe in censoring works of art. What I believe in is providing context for those works that are offensive. This movie should be forever linked with a disclaimer/explanation/warning label. It should discuss how these views and opinions seemed acceptable in 1940, but we have come to realize how unacceptable they really are in modern times. It should come with links to other movies, books and articles that more accurately portray American slavery. It should warn that this film’s racism and misogyny will be offensive to many. It should also warn us not to fall victim to the false nostalgia that is Gone With the Wind.

I think everyone should see this movie and learn from it. It is a gorgeous work of art. I hope will never be created again, but it’s there, a huge boulder in the center of our cinematic culture, and we should acknowledge that. We also should celebrate that so many of us now find this movie inappropriate at best. You might say that we should all give a damn.

(Oh, and it’s rumored that Clarke Gable had really bad breath, so think of that during all the kissing scenes. Poor Vivien!)

Gone-With-The-Wind-Poster-gone-with-the-wind-33266928-1667-2500
“Oh, Rhett, please take a breath mint!”

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