Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Please Don't Take My Public Broadcasting Stations!

    Facebook is the modern equivalent of the old fashioned bulletin board. We post notes and posters for our favorite music, books, events, rallies, protests, politics, and opinions. Of course the bulk of the postings lately have been in regards to the political scene in the U.S. of A. and how it is all starting to manifest in our darkest nightmares. I made the comment, "We need to rebel in whatever means our personal gifts allow." For me, currently, that is the gift of words.
    I have always managed to remain what I consider "apolitical." Yes, I vote. But I vote my conscience, not along party lines. Yes, I have opinions. Most opinions I have kept to myself, knowing that no matter what I could say it will very likely not influence anyone else's opinion on their political beliefs. Add to this the fact that most people can't talk politics or religion on even the smallest scale without getting defensive and offensive. So I choose to keep my political thoughts to myself, much as I keep my spiritual beliefs to myself, and live as a solitary practitioner.  
    But desperate times call for desperate measures. The new POTUS is beginning to hack away at the guts of the regulations protecting our rights, our freedoms, our education, and our environment. Every aspect of what truly makes "America Great."  Under the guise of "budget cuts" he is even cutting funding for PBS and NPR, our best hope for untainted, unbiased news. Our best source for scientific, political, and literary information. So much of what I have learned over the years was sparked by an episode of Frontline, Nova, Oregon Art Beat, or one of the many fabulous documentaries offered free of charge through our local Public Broadcasting Station. Since the election I have limited my news source to National Public Radio, since it gives balanced news stories from all sides, and in depth reporting instead of easily misconstrued sound bites. My younger brothers, and my children (as well as millions of other children) were given their first taste of the delight of knowledge from shows like Sesame Street, Mister Rogers, Electric Company, and Bill Nye the Science Guy. I have learned countless recipes from The Frugal Gourmet, America's Test Kitchen, and Natalie Dupree, to name a few.
    Without access to intelligently designed and researched information we are left to the mercy of Google. I am not knocking Google, I use it frequently. But I have learned how to fact check, and sort through the garbage, because I learned at a young age that truth and facts are vital to a good end product be it a book report, science project, or chocolate cake. As they say, "Garbage In, Garbage Out." If we rely solely on the internet for our "news" stories we can be fed a steady stream of what have now been called "Alternative Facts." I can guaran-damn-tee you that PBS and NPR will not feed us the bullshit that seems to be flowing freely from our highest offices. Without truth, knowledge will be replaced with ignorance, understanding with bias, cooperation with alienation. The dumbing down of America could reach unfathomable depths.
    Even if you think I am over-reacting on this particular issue, think of the millions of lives touched by PBS. Can you honestly say that you have not been influenced on some level by Big Bird, the Cookie Monster, Oscar the Grouch, Grover, or Mister Rogers? How many children learned their ABCs, numbers, and shapes with the help of Jim Henson's Muppets? How many children were made to feel special by the kind words of a sweatered Mister Rogers? That impact alone is enough to defend funding for our Public Broadcasting. Even though I am well below the poverty line I am making a donation to OPB, and will try to send money when I can. I think it is the American thing to do.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Today is The Day

    Today is the day. The Time-to-pull-myself-up-by-my-Bootstraps Day. January has been a tough month. Between my standard winter depression, post-holiday blues, politics, bitter cold days that had me iced in with cabin fever and cut into my swim days, freezing days at work that left me drained, fighting off a cold/flu that has sucked all of my energy and motivation, and a weird series of events this week that is dredging up demons from my past, I have been struggling to make myself get out of bed in the mornings. But, last night, as I crawled into bed, aching and tired and having skipped my evening workout, I decided that today would be the day to make myself get my shit together and get back on track. I am returning to the "make no excuses" mentality that has carried me through the last few years, through thick and thin.
    The weather is cooperating. The sun has been shining through scattered clouds, the snow and ice are long gone, the wind is drying things out nicely. I have done a quick perusal of the property and I seem to have escaped any storm damage, thankfully. I am getting the itch to start prepping my garden area, but it is still a bit brisk out, and the ground is far too wet. Instead I will peruse my seed and garden catalogs this evening for inspiration.
    High on the list of getting my shit together is getting my house clean, and I'm already well into a day of doing just that. The last few weeks of ennui have left me devoid of any desire to maintain my housekeeping. The resulting clutter and dust only adds to my feelings of dissatisfaction. I learned long ago that being surrounded with disarray only adds to any depression issues that are lurking about. Time to declutter home and mind.
    One area that has remained fairly consistent, with few blips, is my standard regiment of nutrition and training. True, the weather cut into my swim schedule, but that can't be helped. I have increased my strength training in all areas, and am loving the muscle definition. I have been on a bit of a sugar binge (binge compared to my usual low intake... but nothing compared to what I was doing years ago at this time of year), but am still keeping to the concept of rocket fuel for my body. I have known for decades that the best thing I can do to get through the dark, grim days of winter relatively unscathed is to workout daily, and eat healthy. As the years have gone by I have refined and increased my diligence all around. But this last week, with illness dogging me, I was only able to do daily maintenance, instead of  pushing myself as I prefer to do.
     So, Today is the Day. I've had a few weeks of wallowing, it needs to stop. I can't face the chaos of the world around me if I allow myself to flounder. Time to move ahead.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Political Ramblings

    Rarely do I talk politics. It is rarer still for me to write anything remotely political. But this morning I lay in bed for nearly an hour pondering the upcoming inauguration that is now looming like a shadow over my country. I could go on and on about all the things in his past that make him unfit to hold any political office, lack of experience being the least of them. But if the American people were willing to overlook allegations of child rape, sexual abuse and harassment, misogyny, prejudice, and Russian hacking, then why would they care that he is in the hip pocket of powerful people and groups that are eying the United States like a ripe peach waiting to be plucked and squashed into jam for their own table?
    Pondering this, while I lay in my cave-like room, wrapped in a cocoon of blankets, my mind went down a path to the Big Picture.  A man has been elected to our most powerful office, without the popular vote, who will very likely implode in a most spectacular manner, sooner than later, I think. There is no way he will manage to stay in office for a full term without something from his past (or many things), or some series of bizarre actions on his part (actions that are already lifting their heads), that will have him deemed "Unfit for Office."  By then his cabinet will be firmly in place, and he will be swept under the rug as an embarrassing moment in history.
    Does this make me feel any better. Not by a long shot. He is a puppet. Plain and simple. How else could he have made it as far as he has without the machinations of some very powerful people and groups pulling strings, covering scandals, and manipulating the truth? He is not intelligent enough to have led such a behind the scenes campaign. He may be wealthy, but not compared to the real power brokers of the world, and despite his own feelings of self-worth I don't believe he has that kind of clout.
    Wandering further along the path of the Big Picture takes me to his choices for his Cabinet. It reads like a list of the top of the financial food chain. He is selecting, with suggestions from the behind the scenes puppeteers, no doubt, a conglomeration of people known for their lack of ethics when it comes to filling their own pockets. Our country will be at the mercy of Big Pharma, Wall Street, and Big Oil. These are people with long histories of trying to game the system, get past regulations, and with no concern for us peons. They will rape, plunder, gut, and salt the earth. We are on the cusp of falling under the reign of people so wealthy that all they care about is more wealth, no matter the cost to us, our children and our grandchildren, and I am truly frightened. And so many people are falling right in line, with the all consuming thought that it may (or may not) create more jobs. They will be content with the crumbs falling to the floor, with no thought of what those crumbs are actually costing us.
     Already the president-elect is showing his propensity for spoiled, child-like behavior. Temper tantrums and rants put out publicly for the entire world to see. He has discovered his power over the stock market, with a few offhand remarks he can cause a company's stocks to plummet. He has threatened to take us deeper into a cold war, wanting More Nukes, and yet seems to be a crony of the  biggest threat to our safety.
     As I see the tableau unfolding, with his childish, boorish behavior, I can only think that his masters are hoping he will manage to keep his mouth shut just long enough to get sworn in, and have his Cabinet choices firmly locked in, before he erupts into full meltdown.
    My prediction is that well before his term is ended he will be taken down in a spectacular manner, deemed Unfit, and removed from office. Then his VP will take over, knowing full well how to work the system, milk the country for all it is worth, destroy our rights from the inside, and leave our country destitute emotionally and physically. All the pieces are being put into play, and I feel helpless.
     The Optimist in me thinks that maybe we are just in another cycle of the pendulum swing. All through history we see this happen. Most recently, with us, it was the McCarthy Era. We had to swing so far to one extreme in order to come back and find balance. Maybe that is all this is, the extreme before we can return to balance. I had thought the Great Recession had done that, but instead we managed to become even more divided, the Us Versus Them that has brought our country to the brink. The pendulum swings. The Pit and the Pendulum? Gods, I hope not.
    Now that I have spilled my guts out, airing my own personal Conspiracy Theory, I need to purge myself of the shadows. I need the warmth of my family. Feel the love of those I hold most dear.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Reflection on 2016 Part One

    The old year has come to a close, the new year begun. Always a time for speculation, introspection, review. It is also the 5 Year Anniversary of moving into my own little house. My home is the ultimate symbol of self-reliance and freedom. It marks a turning point in my life that was monumental, painful, explosive, inevitable, insane, and empowering. I stepped out of the shadows, into darkness, and climbed out of the abyss into a glorious independence and emancipation.  Funny thing, as the years pass, I know that I cherish my solitude and autonomy more with the passing of time.
    But this was the year I began to feel the weight of mortality.  Early in the year, my friend James, killed on his motorcycle. Father of 2 young sons, with a third on the way. My friend and mentor, Angus, killed by the cancer that had dogged him for years. I found out that a good friend from my youth, a goofy, loveable guy, committed suicide a few years ago after a long struggle with mental illness.  
    Last month my Station Captain let us all know he was diagnosed with cancer. He won't be specific, just says it is in his abdomen, that is a tough one, and he is pursuing treatment that will likely leave him fatigued, and immune suppressed. This guy is 10 years younger than I am. Four kids ranging from 12 to 17. He is a farmer by trade, and a volunteer firefighter for 25 years. It is likely that exposure to the carcinogens on the fireground are a contributing factor to his current dilemma. This is a guy full of energy, strong, active. He has taught me much of what I know about being a firefighter. Between him and Cap'n Eddie, they have taught me almost everything I know. All I can do is wish him well, and try to silently send him energy to make it through his illness.
    I don't even want to get into the list of the idols of my youth, and celebrities that were lost this year: Bowie, Alan Rickman, Prince, Gene Wilder, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, George Michaels, Patty Duke, Muhammed Ali, John Glenn, Leonard Cohen, Anton Yelchin, Janet Reno... the list seems endless.
    The most vicious reminder was the sudden death of my young friend Bryony.  A beautiful light cut down far too early. I was blindsided by it. An in-your-face reminder of how fragile life is, what a tenuous grip we have, and how we will never know what moment could be our last.
    It solidified the path I have chosen these last few years, to stop wasting time where it doesn't matter. Stop burning energy in relationships and work that suck me dry. Spend time where it matters; with family, with friends, with myself. I have wasted too many years in toxic situations, although my past is what has made me who I am, so I will turn my back on regrets, and turn my face to the future. I am trying to live in The Now, live within the loving circle of family and friends.
    This has been a rough post to write. I have started and stopped multiple times. Writing, closing, coming back to write some more. It has been painful to think back over the losses of the year. It does reinforce my need to look forward, keep my eyes to the future, and surround myself with what I love.