Being Beaten by Baguettes

Assault with alliteration. And carbs.

I love alliteration, and I love bread, so the title of this post came naturally to me. It actually manifested long before the content did. But I knew that a title that trips off the tongue so tantalizingly should not be tossed out. (See what I did there?) I had to find a way to make use of it. But how?

And then I had an exceedingly bad day.

We all have those, of course. But I didn’t handle the situation well at all. It was entirely too triggering, and I therefore had a massive melt down. Whenever someone witnesses that occasional coping flaw of mine, I can see them looking at me like I’ve become completely and utterly unhinged, and the look of confusion and discomfort on their face makes me feel worse. Off I slide into a negative spiral. It’s not fun. (It could be argued that it’s not exactly a picnic for those who helplessly bear witness, either.)

Welcome to my world.

It’s really hard to explain an apparent overreaction to someone who is basically cool, calm and collected. They are seeing a minor thing and what appears to be an over-the-top response thereto. To that I say: you have no way of knowing what negative memories one has rotting in the basement of one’s brain. You don’t know which straw will be the last one for the camel. You see a surface situation and a surface reaction, but you don’t see the crux of it. You don’t see the scar tissue or the deep, deep down final freakin’ straw of it all.

So back to the headline. It alludes to assault with alliteration. And carbs. So here’s what I came up with to accompany it.

Imagine this: You’re walking down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris (lucky you!), and you happen to see a man hit a woman with a baguette. Naturally you are startled by this. One does not witness such a contretemps every day. Oh non.

Before you can react, the man disappears down a side street. You aren’t even sure you got a good look at him. Was he dressed as a mime? (Probably not, or he would have been on the receiving end of the assault. But I digress.) It all happened so quickly. It’s hardly surprising that your main focus was on the yeasty weapon he chose to employ.

When you turn back to the woman, you see that she has dropped to her knees and is doing that kind of chest-heaving, exhausting, cleansing cry that most men cannot imagine. (Unlucky them.) They don’t understand the subtle healing powers of some negative emotions.

But why such a strong reaction? I mean, yeah, it was a strange situation, but after all, it was bread. There are much worse things in this world to be hit with, literally or figuratively. Bread probably won’t even leave a mark. Nevertheless this “hysterical” female is drawing a crowd.

Why is it that so many of us default to judgment rather than comfort? Do we have to agree with her feelings for them to be valid? Must we empathize in order to feel compassion?

For all you know, this woman is being stalked by that man, and this was not the first baked good she had been pelted with this week. Perhaps baguettes remind her of her recently-deceased and much-beloved father who owned a boulangerie not far from this very spot. Perhaps she has a health issue that magnifies even the slightest pain to excruciating heights. Maybe she has a serious problem with food that is not gluten free. It could happen.

I’ve never understood people who believe there is a right way and a wrong way to feel. We are all individuals with different life experiences and different trauma. Our feelings are our own, and we have every right to express them as long as there’s no violence involved.

It may not be easy, especially with strangers, but if you see someone suffering, offer comfort, not judgment or solutions or any phrase that begins with “you should.” Just acknowledge their feelings and offer your presence in whatever way you both feel is appropriate. Don’t pony up unsolicited advice or roll your eyes.

I would like to think that if I saw a woman being assaulted on the street, even if it were just with a pillow, I’d ask if she needed help, or a hug, or just wanted to talk about it. This type of offer allows dignity and agency to be restored to the victim survivor. This gives a fellow human being the opportunity to gather him or herself and take the next step on what will most likely continue to be a very complex life path.

Only the receiver can know just how many “baguettes” they can take before they begin to feel like these implements of destruction are actually baseball bats. And that’s as it should be. But because of that, it behooves all of us to cut people a bit of freakin’ slack.

And… now I’m craving bread.

Choose your weapon wisely.

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Making It All Better

Couldn’t we all use a bit of healing these days?

Children stop crying when their mommy kisses a boo boo. I think that many of us never grow out of that need for solace. We might learn to disguise it better as we grow and become increasingly independent, but we all love to be comforted to some degree. That’s why hugs exist.

With the advent of YouTube, we’ve been able to take our comfort seeking to an extreme. I’ve written before about my obsession with Dr. Pimple Popper, and my brief flirtation with Mukbang, but now I have a new fascination: The Hoof GP.

Graeme Parker is a cattle hoof trimmer who started making videos in 2019 in order to “promote hoof care standards throughout the world.” I’m sure he assumed that all his viewers would be farmers who were looking to hone their hoof trimming skills, but at the time of this writing his videos have garnered more than 541 million views. Why?

I can’t speak for everyone, of course, but originally, his YouTube channel drew me in because he has a lovely Scottish accent and his videos often give you a glimpse of the beautiful countryside in Scotland. The slower, rural pace of his life appeals to me, too. It didn’t take me long to realize that he’s also a really, genuinely decent and kind man who loves his job and his family, and that’s also nice to see. But the thing that keeps me coming back, much to my surprise, is the hoof trimming itself.

Many of his videos show him working on a severely damaged hoof. Those poor cows will come limping in, looking miserable, and he’ll work on them, often amidst a shower of pus, blood, and cow poop, and those cows usually leave feeling much, much better. Some cows have such big hoof problems that he has to revisit them again and again over the course of months, but that’s cool, too, because then you get to see the progress.

Healing is happening before your very eyes. Couldn’t we all use a bit of healing these days? And the great unspoken is that if he is unable to resolve the cow’s issue, it will most likely be off to the knackery with her. So he’s saving lives as well. These cows will live to moo another day. You might say that it’s moosmerizing. (Sorry. Had to.)

I know, you’re thinking that this is just another one of my weird obsessions, but I have come up with a plausible theory as to why I’m hooked on the Hoof GP. What it boils down to is that Mr. Parker is the video equivalent of a lullaby. He makes it all better. The accent is just the cherry on top of the sundae.

At this moment in time, I really, really need to be able to focus on someone who loves making it all better. In the midst of a pandemic, and unprecedented American political turmoil, and mass shootings, and a really scary flirtation with WWIII, and the wholesale dismantling of women’s rights, it’s nice to tune in and lose myself in a world where the goal is to relieve pain and improve lives. That must be a really satisfying way to earn a living (although I often wonder if his wrists give him as much trouble as mine do.)

Mr. Parker is presented with a problem, and he does his best to solve it. He’s not an obstructionist. He’s not a conspiracy theorist (or if he is, he hasn’t mentioned it.) He’s not spewing hate or lies, or being scandalous or greedy or cruel. He’s just doing a job that he loves, and improving the quality of life for other creatures on this increasingly crazy planet of ours. How refreshing. I’ll often view a few of his videos just before bedtime, so I can drift off to sleep with the impression that all’s right with the world.

If you’re curious, but not sure you could handle the gross elements, then I recommend that you start by watching his video about a cow with three toes. No blood. No pus. I promise. You can work your way up to that stuff or not. But at least watch that one and delight in the pure, compassionate, problem-solving, rural Scottish routine of it all.

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Night Night, Sweet Lana

Bonobos with blankets! What’s not to love? Well…

I am addicted to the videos from the Cincinnati Zoo. It’s always amazing to see other living things doing their thing. But this video, entitled “Bedtime for Bonobos” has to be my all-time favorite.

In it we see Lana, an adult bonobo, prepping her nest in a tree as bonobos do. But she is dragging a cushy blanket with her, and she’s making a point of arranging everything just so, so she can be all comfy. I find this really sweet, but I also think it could be a slippery slope.

Now that Lana is used to having cushy blankets, could she ever be comfortable sleeping without a cushy blanket? I bet she would love a memory foam mattress and a goosedown pillow too. And nothing but Egyptian cotton for this girl!

Bonobos are our closest living relatives. I’m sure that they could get used to quite a few of our luxuries and comforts. In fact, according to the description below the video, “Adult bonobos sometimes share a nest, which is a unique behavior among the great apes.” So yeah, they are very much like us in many ways.

I just feel hesitant about introducing them to human luxuries unless we are going to guarantee unequivocally that they’ll have access to those luxuries for the rest of their lives. I doubt very strongly that the Cincinnati Zoo is ever going to go belly up, but if we have learned anything recently, it’s that the future is uncertain. Living in captivity is far from ideal, but if we’re going to do that to animals, we bear a certain responsibility.

The thought of Lana in some cold, harsh lab somewhere, or back out in the wild without her cushy blanky makes me really sad. Sweet dreams, sweet Lana! I wish I could tuck you in and read you a bedtime story.

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A Redirected Maternal Instinct

There are many ways to love and nurture.

I never wanted children. Ever. And so I never had any, despite the thousands of people who have told me over the years that I’d change my mind. Well, I’m 56 now, am still childfree and have zero regrets.

Rest assured, I have never tried to talk people out of their desire to have children. I say go for it, if the spirit moves you. Even though I don’t feel the same way they do, I don’t view them as broken in any way. I wish they didn’t act as if I were broken in return. “I find it strange that you have no maternal instinct,” I’ve been told multiple times.

But I don’t see myself as missing any vital thing. In fact, I do believe I have a maternal instinct. It’s just not directed toward having children. There are many other ways to be loving and nurturing and maternal.

For example, I love dogs. I’ve always gotten my dogs from animal rescue, because there are so many pets out there in desperate need of a home. I view it as a win/win. A mutual rescue. And I tend to go for the full-grown dogs. Puppies are cute, but they’re a trial.

I also love my little free library. When I look out the window and see someone, young or old, excitedly choosing a book, it makes my heart swell. I enjoy promoting literacy in my community, because I think it makes for better, more well-rounded people.

And when I see someone hurting, I naturally want to comfort that person. I don’t care what the reason is. I just know that I want comfort when I hurt, so I want to give comfort when the tables are turned. Compassion is an organic reaction for many of us.

Recently, I rented mason bees (and blogged about it here). I love to quietly visit the bees and see them poking their fuzzy little heads out of their little holes. They’re so cute! I just want to hug them. But of course I don’t want to hurt them. I also love watching them fly over to my blossoming cherry tree to belly flop their way into the pollen. And I know that they wouldn’t be at that very place, enhancing that particular bit of nature, if it weren’t for my putting them there. Yay for nature! Double yay for those who nurture nature!

And speaking of nature, I love seeing the flowers and vegetables in my garden thrive. I love watering them on dry days, and I even talk to them just as I do with the bees and the dogs. I enjoy making delicious food from the harvest, and also adding beauty to the world.

In addition, I am very protective of the friends and family whom I love. Don’t mess with my peeps! I will turn into a lion!

So I don’t see myself as lacking a maternal instinct. I just see it as my putting that instinct to a different use. I hope it makes a difference. I know it makes me happy.

Happy Mother’s Day, dear reader. This day should also celebrate those nurturing souls out there who don’t have children. And I’m blowing a kiss skyward to my own mother, may she rest in peace.

My mason bees, peeking out to say hello!

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The Rational Dress Society

Women should not have to harm themselves for fashion.

I first learned of the Rational Dress Society by watching a show on Youtube entitled, “The Deadly Fashions of the Victorians”. Not only did it discuss their love of lead paint, and of gas heat which was prone to explosions, and of baby bottle designs that were impossible to clean and were therefore bacteria factories, but it also went into detail about the wearing of corsets.

Corsets were in fashion for 500 years. Heaven knows why. They restricted breathing to the upper lungs, often causing the lower lungs to fill with mucus. There is a reason that women were often described as “breathless” or having a “heaving bosom”. Women practically had to hyperventilate to breathe in one of these contraptions. A recent study shows that a woman wearing a Victorian corset of the most extreme type from the 1860’s had to breathe 25% faster to avoid fainting. Women who wore corsets were prone to lung infections.

Further, corsets caused livers to be squashed upwards. Many Victorian livers, after autopsy, were shown to be deeply ridged as they attempted to push through the rib cages in a desperate search for enough space to function. Corsets pushed the stomach and abdomen down as well, and were the source of many a prolapsed uterus.

According to Wikipedia, some mothers forced corsets upon their daughters at very young ages, and this caused distorted bones. Sometimes women’s rib cages would crack and puncture their lungs, bringing about death by fashion. The strictest of mothers would force their daughters to wear corsets even at night, and some even resorted to tying their daughters hands or chaining their waists to prevent them from taking the corset off for a comfortable sleep.

The Rational Dress Society was founded in 1881 in England, to protest such harmful fashion. The members felt that a woman’s movement should not be impeded, her health shouldn’t be put at risk, and her figure shouldn’t be deformed. I have no doubt that I’d have joined this society, and gladly. I’m all about comfort. I haven’t even worn heels in decades, and can’t imagine that I ever will again. The society also spoke out against high heels, and any clothes that were heavy for any reason other than warmth.

The RDS wasn’t promoting radical fashion changes. They just believed in comfort and convenience, and perhaps a style that wouldn’t render the wearer sterile. Was that too much to ask? Some of the most ardent members of the society were women cyclists, who wanted freedom of movement to cycle, as riding a bicycle was “an opportunity to escape overly restrictive societal norms.”

Unfortunately, the existence of this society didn’t seem to alter the popularity of the corset. It continued to be worn into the early 20th century. What seemed to bring about the change was a combination of things. The hobble skirt came into fashion, and it required a wider waist. In exchange, ironically enough, it severely restricted the legs. That fashion got women out of the habit of wearing corsets for about 6 years, which was the beginning of the end for corsets.

But the thing that really took the corset down was something I love: The fact that women were finding their voices. They were learning to speak out as suffragettes, and when they got the vote for women in 1920’s America, they found the time to look up and say, “I don’t want to be uncomfortable anymore!”

Good on them! We owe those suffragettes a debt of gratitude not only for getting women the vote, but also for taking our bodies back. That is why I look on in horror when I hear girls today complaining about the size of their waists.

I think the Rational Dress Society would be proud of me, sitting here in my t-shirt and baggy shorts and bare feet. No woman should ever be restricted in any way! Never again.

The internal results of tight lacing a corset.

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Songs of Comfort

Here are the songs that comfort me. What are yours?

In these stressful times, I often turn to music to comfort me. Music can soothe like nothing else. It can put me in another place and time, and it definitely puts me in another frame of mind. Music can be an embrace, especially in socially distant times like these.

Here are a few songs that never fail to comfort me.

Mister Rogers Remixed: Garden of Your Mind by PBS Digital Studios. I draw comfort from this song because Mister Rogers is the epitome of comfort for me. He’s the father I never had. This song is a remix of many of his words of wisdom. It delights me to think that you can grow ideas in the garden of your mind. No matter how stressful life might be, somehow, if you view the world through Mister Rogers’ lens, you just automatically feel like everything is going to be all right. If you enjoyed this song, there are a few other PBS remixes you should check out. Namely, Bob Ross, Reading Rainbow, and Julia Child.

Another very comforting song is Let The Mystery Be by Iris DeMent. I just feel like she and I would be friends. And the song itself reminds me that I don’t have to have everything figured out, especially the biggest, most important things, such as my own mortality. This song just feels like a relief to me.

Sometimes you just want to be reminded that It’s OK. NNAMDÏ sings a song by that very title. It tells us that there’s no need to pretend we’re ok if we’re not. It’s important to remember that. I sing it in my head all the time.

And then there’s a song sung by the UU General Assembly 2020 Virtual Choir. It’s called Tomorrow, but I have no idea why. That word doesn’t appear anywhere in the lyrics. It’s primary message is that there will be better days. I think we all need to hear that from time to time, and when you hear it as sung by a hundred voices or more, you really believe it.

This one, I have to admit, is an odd choice for comfort. It’s got a sing along quality to it, and makes me feel like I’m part of the music. Colin Hay shows you how to sing the “Tumblin’ Down” part of the song, and you repeat that all the way though as he sings the lyrics. They blend well. Check out Come Tumblin Down. I have no idea why. It just makes me happy to sing with Colin Hay.

Another song by the UU General Assembly 2020 Virtual Choir is this song called “We Are”. It makes me remember that who we are is wonderful. It makes me feel like humanity is pretty darned good. I wish I always felt that way.

I hope these songs bring you comfort. I’d love to hear what songs bring you solace in the comments below!

comfort

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Finding My Tribe

When you find your tribe or your homeland, embrace that feeling.

I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of feeling as if we do not fit in. That’s actually pretty much my status quo. But every once in a while, I’ll go somewhere or meet someone that makes me feel completely comfortable and at home inside my own skin. When that happens, it’s such a relief. It feels as though I’m removing shoes that are two sizes too small. I feel understood. I can be myself.

We humans are so nomadic and so culturally, emotionally and politically diverse that it’s a rare and precious moment when you find a member of your “tribe.” It’s also a gift to feel at home. These people may not look anything like you, they may be a different age or gender identity or nationality or religion, but you can tell that they get where you’re coming from. And these home places may be far flung and entirely unexpected, but you know that a piece of your very soul resides there.

When you find your tribe or your homeland, embrace that feeling. Hold onto it if you can, if only in your memories. These feelings will remind you of who you are at your very core. And whoever you are, it’s nice to be reminded, sometimes, that you’re exactly who you are supposed to be.

finding my tribe

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þetta reddast

Everything will turn out okay.

It takes a lot of intestinal fortitude to live in Iceland. Harsh winter weather, earthquakes, volcanoes, severe storms, avalanches, isolation from the rest of the world, and days with only 4 hours of sunlight are just a few of the challenges that Icelanders have faced. According to this article, the country’s founders arrived in open boats in the 9th century, fleeing Norwegian slavery. With no maps or navigational devices, they braved the harsh North Atlantic, and their descendants have thrived.

After enduring so much, it’s really impressive that their unofficial motto is þetta reddast, (pronounced thet-ta red-ust), which means, basically, everything will turn out okay.

Are they foolish, cock-eyed optimists? Not exactly. They just have confidence that they can fix things, combined with a capitulation to the fact that so much is out of their control. It’s a comforting phrase that helps them get through the harshest conditions. Perhaps we all need to adopt this attitude during these trying times.

Once we realized that our trip to Italy had to be cancelled, we considered Iceland. That was in the early days. But at the time of this writing, Iceland had reported 890 cases of COVID-19 and two deaths. I’m sure by the time you read this, those numbers will have increased. May their positive attitude see them through.

thetta-reddast-filosofia-de-vida-dos-islandeses

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Security Blanket

Most children will learn that the world is cruel soon enough.

I hadn’t thought of this in years. When I was young, I had what I called a security blanket. It was flannel. Cozy. I couldn’t sleep without it.

I kept it to an embarrassingly old age. Into my early teens. I also watched Mr. Rogers Neighborhood to an embarrassingly old age. Comfort and security was hard to come by in my household. In fact, the inmates were pretty much running the asylum. So I clung to my security blanket until it was a ripped up rag.

Then one day my mother threw it out. And I fished it right back out of the trash. I’ve always thought it was extremely arrogant and insensitive of parents to rip comfort objects out of the arms of a child. The world is harsh enough as it is without that foolishness. Rest assured that most children will learn that the world is cruel soon enough without you providing a demonstration.

I never really got rid of that blanket. It just sort of disintegrated one day. By then I had outgrown it anyway. I was just clinging to it to prove that there was something in this life over which I had control. Ah, well. So ends a delusion.

Now, after 13 years of working graveyard shifts, I’ve gotten in the habit of having something covering my eyes when I sleep. I still do this even though I now have the luxury of sleeping in the darkness again, and have done so for many years. I was positioning that cover just so last night when I thought of that security blanket.

Perhaps I never really gave it up after all. I just replaced it with something else.

Security Blanket

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Reaching That Summit

Most of us have struggled to get where we are.

Recently I encountered a very angry young man who called me a “Bougie Baby Boomer.” He resented the fact that I was living so much better than he was. He seemed to feel that we should be in the exact same place in terms of comfort and financial stability.

To that I say, “Wait a minute, whipper snapper. It was a long, hard slog to get to where I am. You have to earn it.”

I remember the years when I lived in a tent. I remember sweating to pay off my student loans (although, granted, these loans are a lot more substantial for the current generation.) I remember having lawn chairs in the front half of my studio apartment for years on end, and a mattress on the floor because I couldn’t afford box springs. I remember surviving on canned soup with rice added in, and generic macaroni and cheese. I’ve been working since I was 10 years old.

I saw my 50th birthday long before I ever had more than one pair of shoes that wasn’t bought at a thrift store. My husband had to convince me it was okay to buy more than one pair of jeans at a time. I only recently got a phone plan that wasn’t pay by the minute.

At the risk of sounding horribly conservative, I really think it’s insane to expect everything to be handed to you on a silver platter. Getting to a point where you aren’t waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, wondering how you’re going to pay the bills, takes a lot of hard work, planning, and delayed gratification.

I was so excited today to be able to give my niece a Home Depot gift card as she’s moving into her first house. That was something I couldn’t have done until very recently. It feels good to be able to behave generously for a change. It brings tears to my eyes. It’s a luxury I couldn’t afford in my younger days.

I’m not rich by any means. And I am painfully aware that not everyone gets to pop their head out of the lower class. I never thought I would. But I’ve passed the soup and rice stage.

I’m not overly thrilled with our capitalist society. But like it or not, we are in this system. We are stuck playing by its rules.

So yeah, kid, you’re going to have to eat your share of Ramen noodles as you climb that mountain. Most of us have struggled to get where we are. It builds character. Man up.

Mountain Peak

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