Sunday, November 6, 2016

Friday, November 4, 2016

I Don't Know What Kind of Free Range Chicken '70s Childhood People Remember But Mine Was Survival

See this nice playset? The chains are plastic encased, like a latex wrap, around each link so that there are no pinched fingers, no accidental scrape from a rusty spot that will develop into tetanus while your precious angel sleeps.

The tire has rubber brackets sealing the rivets that fasten the chain so that your child's thighs don't come into contact with a nasty metal edge. Farther over, to the right of this photo, is a 'horsey' swing, but it's minus the metal horsey head that sometimes became jagged along the mane from exposure to the elements.

Of extreme note is the soft and supple swing seat, the kind of bottom-hugging provided so different from the flat slats that see-sawed you off if you sat in them too quickly.

This is a safe playset. I'm sure there was some sort of play-lab situation where clip boards and white-lab coated researchers were called in to take note of possible injurious situations. This is my kids' playset and this is their life in the 2000s.

Now, my childhood, the one from the early '70s, was a different one from the things that have been written about with regard to growing up before so much child injury and safety obsession.

I read what people remember from this time, the afternoons spent uncaged and unsupervised, and the words are cast with undeniable wistfulness for the free range days of the past.

I don't think that was a good thing. Because when I sit back and place myself in the days before needing deodorant and Clearasil, it's not with the same sighs of nostalgia of these '70s remembers. I sigh, loud and in disbelief, for the number of times we were in the emergency room. Stitches, casts, ace bandage wraps, and being woken every two hours in the night after a head injury. I don't recall free range but I do recall the free fall of those days.

You'd think my question would be Why would my mother buy us plastic guns that shot out corks, bows that did indeed shoot arrows--rubber tips do nothing to tone down the sting of a target hit, bouncy balls the circumference of an electric car and that sent you face down into coffee tables, and rusty gougey untethered unsafe, backyard play sets? Why? Maybe with that last one, I might be able to understand: dirt cheap light weight cash and carry aluminum.

I was talking to a friend this morning, and as conversation goes with good friends, we went from hello how was your coffee to "OMG Do you remember the dangerous toys we had?" in three texts.

Did you have the kid coffee percolator?
OMG Yes.
How about the lawn jarts?
Sweet Baby Jesus we had them too.
How about that dangerous red bouncy ball you rode?
And the clackers that your brothers had that could crack a skull from across the street?
Yes. Both. The clackers and the brother that almost took my eye out.

I look at the safe and reassuring playset above, and think of my children on the day this structure went up. They watched from the kitchen windows while three workers hammered things into place, and after 10 questions of Can we go out yet? Is it done yet? It'll be done today, right? I gave the go ahead and my kids shoved their way out the kitchen door and had at it, not a worry in the world.

That was 15 years ago, and the playset is as safe now as it was that first day. We've had no reason to take it down either.

Contrast what my children's playset memories will be to the playset of my childhood, a metal seat and rod delight that lasted from Friday night to Saturday evening.

It was a saddle-like looking pumping station, made up of four seats. Each seat radiated out from the center and in front of the seat was a handle. You pumped, all four of you, as hard and as fast as you could and the seats would twirl around and now we know why the box was marked with a name I know I will never forget, Twirly Bird.

The first Friday afternoon, we set out to pump. Young, cautious, by Saturday afternoon we had become careless. I'll bet you thought I was going to say braver, maybe confident. Nope, we didn't respect the power of the spin, so careless is what we were. All four of us set to pumping, spinning, pumping, spinning faster, pumping, twirling, going going going spin spin spin! Until the pull became too much for a 42 pound weight of a little girl temporarily mad with spinning power and I (was there any doubt who that little girl was) went careening off my saddle seat and my small pinhead barely missed the cement block foundation of the basement of our house. I landed four feet away, on my back, staring as much as I was able, into the blue summer sky, cumulus clouds overhead, so serene and in juxtaposition to the terror I was unable to voice as I gripped the blades of grass with my fingers, desperate for them to hold me to the ground and keep me from falling in the sky above or below. I was as befuddled as a pilot in a pitch black night flying over an ocean. I could no longer discern up from down.

Next to drop like a shooting star was my brother. My little sister was tossed off like one of those white haired dummies on the shelf at a carnival. We were dropping like flies and after my brother threw up the green Kool-Aid we had had for lunch as he was sent projectile to the other side of the yard, my mother was done. She had the tenant from the floor below dismantle the Twirly Bird and she didn't tell him to take care with it, as I recall.

The Sears purchase was placed curbside, not even donated to a thrift center. My mother did not want any other child plucked into the atmosphere against their will again.

I tried to find a picture of the Twirly Bird for this post. I googled "World's most dangerous toys." I tried "World's most irresponsible toys." I searched "class action lawsuit toys." I tried "vintage but deadly toys."


The thing is, I know the Twirly Bird was real. The memory I have of complete disorientation is one no one forgets.

That Twirly Bird was real, as real as I'm sure the days of the '70s that others remember as free wheelin' exploratory fun.

Free wheelin' for them, but free hurling through space, for me.

Hurling, definition: the act of throwing or casting, usually with great force or strength. See: Twirly Bird.
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Thursday, November 3, 2016

Casting Today's NaBloPoMo for Hillary

During the second presidential debate, I watched Hillary Clinton's patient mode of interaction. Her direct and metered speech had me at the edge of my chair, I could feel how much she knew. But she was aware that she had to pace her information. I sat, transfixed, why did Hillary's face look so familiar?

I recognized the look from somewhere. The pulled back and reserved delivery. Slow and confident, there was no spitting out of bite-back barbs nor revved up reckless toss of empty phrases. Everything she said was worth gold per second. She never slunk down, and no matter what question came around the corner, she was at the ready.

There was no stopping her. I watched, I didn't wince at what she said, unlike my reaction to her candidate. Hillary came to slay, and there was a serenity, not a slinking away, to her presence.

And I had seen it before. I closed my eyes, concentrating only on why I knew this tilt upward of the chin, this direct gaze along with no presence of doubt.

What I was looking at, was my mother's face.

Hillary was my mother.

Hillary was all women who have had to fight against a lifetime of growing up where they were held back by those thinking they knew more, because they were male. My mother, in her lifespan, never censored or kowtowed to anyone. No one and nothing stood in my mother's way when she set her course. Most of that time, that meant her work, and her children. You could not describe either women, my mother or Hillary, without the word fearless. She was a force of nature, as Hillary has shown us she is.

I choose the word fearless, but I know the other words my mother heard when others spoke of her. She told me what they were, and they are much the same words we now hear about Hillary Clinton: annoying, frustrating, bull headed, stubborn. "She just doesn't know when to stop." This is what happens when you've been told your entire life how to be, who to be, because of your gender.
I often felt those same words about my mother. It's uncomfortable to confess, but especially as a young woman, there was no battle that I won when I went up against my mother. I didn’t love growing up under her rules, but I learned a lot from it. With every year that I live in the form of a woman, I have come to an appreciation for what my mother’s life was, as a female working in the 40s, 50s, 60s, and on through the 80s.

Like Hillary, my mother was a qualified woman. When you were on her radar, you felt the heat. My mother, too, like Hillary, did what she had to do, never saying no to work when she felt that she was needed. She struggled to provide as a widowed mother of six children. Of all the jobs that my mother worked, sometimes three at a time to support us, none was more important to her than that of mother. I saw that same thing in the way that I've seen Hillary raise her daughter, Chelsea.

My mother lived without apology. Whether you liked her or not, was secondary to her. Doing the right thing, was of first concern. She did what she had to do, without a worry about fitting in with the women of our 1960s neighborhood. She began working full time in the 1940s, a time and in a country when women didn’t and in the ‘60s, when in the city of Milwaukee women needed their husband’s signature to get a credit card. My mother talked the bank manager into allowing her a card, for the necessity of her children. Never take no for an answer, if my mother would have sat long enough, and cross stitched, that is what she'd have on her pillow.

There is an intuition that Hillary has, the same my mother often referenced, about themselves. A bravery about who they are, resilient when life did as life does — it was as if any adversity that came their way just made them that much more sure of themselves. They spoke first, and then took full responsibility for any fall out, not ever seeking out a scapegoat. Both women were serious in their work and lived by a work ethic that was there seven days a week. My mother was aware, too, that she had a brilliant sense of humor. I was aware of people laughing at the things my mother said, but it wasn't until we had made our peace as mother/daughter, that she astounded me with her comebacks and the way she would press her lips together right before she was about to deliver a sharp-tongued gem... as if to say I can’t stop myself, I have to.

To my mother, there was no such thing as a man’s world, even while she was plunked right in the middle of it. It was just the world, and she didn't give in to it or accept it. She fought for her place because she knew no one else would for her.

Of women like this, we hear "ahead of her time," but what does that say about us? That we merely need to wait and equal opportunity and treatment for women will arrive on our doorstep? My mother  didn't wait for chance to come her way, she showed us to say yes first, and then make damn sure you delivered. She would watch the news during the ‘70s with the rise of ERA, chewing on her thumbnail, she would tell me, “These women, it's good they're saying something, but if they don't do something, nothing will happen."
I grew to love and admire my mother for the same reason that I do Hillary Clinton. And I know I can say the same for the way Chelsea Clinton evolved to see her mother through the softening heart of maturity; as strong, beautiful women, and needing no one’s approval. Though there were plenty of times that I cringed from my mother’s brazenness and intentional lack of restraint, underneath everything I couldn’t help but admire her courage and her belief in women's worth.
My mother has been gone three years now. She is the brilliant stars I see in the night sky when I look up. When I remember her perfect moments, when she would unleash and let go when sexism would butt its way into her life at work with a boss who would take Friday afternoons off for pleasure but make my mother work through lunch to make up hours when she had to take one of her children to the doctor, to dealing with a plumber who quoted an outrageous amount to repair our bathroom because she was a woman, I felt proud to be a woman, not burdened.
I lost my mother three years ago, and I miss seeing a powerful, unstoppable woman in action. 
My mother was what Hillary is now being called, "such a nasty woman." A nasty woman is a woman who is a pain in your ass, because she knows things by living through what she has. A nasty woman is a capable woman, someone not scared to call you on your lack of knowledge and your delinquency in learning what you should have come prepared to know.
Nasty women can't be brought down, they know only one plane of existence: that of the work to elevate. My mother is gone, but during this election decision, she will have cast her vote for the first woman president.

I know because I brought a picture of my mother along with me, the one of her working her first job when she was 14 years old.
I set it down on the ballot, and together, we both voted for Hillary.
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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Why Write for 30 Days: Making the case for NaBloPoMo

Writing for 30 days through National Blog Posting Month forces me to accept that what you don't use, you lose.

I haven't written here for awhile, my energy sapped, going the way of too much anxiety and stomach dropping concern, for the state of our country.

I'm hoping to start breathing again come November 8 but I know that I've got to make steps to return to what I love. I can't let uncertainty and fear keep me frozen out of everything else.

NaBloPoMo has come in my emergency. I'm using these 30 days of blog posting to warm up the engines and learn how to get behind the wheel of my life again.

Why post here for 30 days? Why say yes to National Blog Posting Month when all I've been able to do is what is only required for daily living: work, slight house upkeep, a shower every few days, a walk and talking with the people I live with.

I've got to tell you, something has hurt me over this election. Pain that is physically close to home. I'm hearing words from people I know and I'm seeing people I thought I knew, act in ways that wound. There are signs on their lawns, houses away from mine, showing the man who is their choice for our President. It's left me speechless. Wordless. Blogless. A gut punch will take your breath away like that.

But after not posting for a month, I believed that NaBloPoMo would blow its warm wind back into my life, letting me shed the frozen fear from these intense last weeks. Two days into November, and I'm right. I've put two posts up, one for each day of November thus far. I am accountable to this space. I have committed to 30 days of writing through NaBloPoMo and just as in the past, NaBloPoMo was flint striking together again. Only this year, it seems much more.

And that's why I'm back, that's my case for returning again to National Blog Posting Month. I've got people's blogs to visit, those who are committing to write daily for the next 30 days, knowing the good that always magically appears after four weeks of writing. We are creating community by this act.

I'm not worrying that I may not have something to write tomorrow, or the 28 days after that. Because National Blog Posting Month will get me through November, through the writing of others and through the writing that I'm going to do here. I already feel the spark of ideas of what could be.

NaBloPoMo says we are here, and that we believe that reaching the end of 30 days of writing will help us find our way back home: back to the reason we first posted on our blogs. Because we came looking, and what we found then, we can find again.

No matter how lost this world might make us feel right now.

Here's to National Blog Posting Month. Thank you for being here, and for lighting the way with the lantern of your words.

Need a little help to get your writing going? Click here for BlogHer and their list of November 2016 NaBloPoMo Writing Prompts
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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

NaBloPoMo Yourself Back To Life

It's November 1, the start of National Blog Posting Month: where you post every day in November.

If you find it harder than it's ever been to write because of the weight of this election, as I do, then let's fight it together.

Get back on the horse and let NaBloPoMo be the resuscitation you need. Just a few puffs of the right kind of inspirational air back into your writing lungs and soon, you'll be breathing creativity again.

I'm going to believe it, and I hope you can believe it along with me.

Here's to coming back to life, no matter what November 8 brings us.

Still coming up dry? Here's some stops for blogging prompts:

BlogHer Writing Community (pick up a NaBloPoMo badge here)

30 Days, 30 Posts via Wordpress

The Daily Post with daily inspiration

How to Write Every Day in November Without Losing Your Mind via Mom2.0

Promise me I'll see you, on your blog, tomorrow.

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