Short Thought 206

There ought to be a word for the experience of feeling left out of events you wouldn’t want to be part of in the first place.

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My Dracena “Corn” Plant had a baby, er, flower!

I don’t have children or pets. I have plants. I bought a Dracena plant back in the ’80’s from a home store. It cost $4.  These are the plants that look like the ones seen in a corn field, hence the name. It grew & grew and I hauled it with me, over the course of many moves, even after it was taller than I was (and I’m 5’8″ ). It shocked me once when it grew a flower. I didn’t know they did that! I remember thinking it was kind of like when your dog Rex up and has puppies. Who knew?!

The flower was peculiar; it grew out from the side of the plant rapidly on a long “stalk”. And it had a potent scent. I was renting a room on the second floor in someone’s home at the time and could smell that bloom when I entered the front door of the house.

Years passed. The plant, now in another home with me, reached the ceiling. I cut off and rooted no less than three offshoots. Two survived. In time tbe original plant died. I was very sad to see it go but I still had its “children.” Two years ago one of those plants also grew a bloom. I had the blog then and took photos with the thought of sharing them here. I never got around to it and lost all the photos when my tablet took ill.

Which brings us to now. The other plant has a bloom! I am quite excited. Once the bloom stalk mysteriously begins to emerge from  the plant, which it did about 10 days ago,  it grows fast. Every day there was visible growth till the stalk was about 15″ or more (I forgot to measure but it’s seriously long). The process is really quite something to watch – I’m fascinated and I bet a kid would love it.  The bloom was literally reaching for a nearby tall lamp which it got to and proceeded to hook itself over the edge. I hadn’t realized until I moved the plant a bit to take photos and the bloom wouldn’t let go! The bloom was so tenacious in its desire to reach the lamp that it pulled the upper part of tbe plant crooked (I’ll correct this after it’s done blooming by turning that side of the plant away from the light source).

I took these photos on Saturday.IMG_20180428_200407

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It’s strange and beautiful

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The other plant occasionally turns up in my blog photos. Here’s a photo including it.

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I took this today to show you how it’s touching the ceiling. It may soon be time to cut that off but I’m reluctant and a bit nervous to do it! That sure was $4 well spent I must say.

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Colette, Somewhat Improved

At the start of the year I set a few concrete, albeit simple goals for 2018, nothing too whacky, involving essentially: cooking, reading, and being in nature. I visited my progress already in March.

I’m back again to talk about it some more. I have read 15 books. Because I am horribly prone to being exacting and forthcoming, I have to say three of them were short. Two were what you’d call novellas and the other was Roz Chast’s “graphic novel” tribute to New York city, easily read in a sitting. Still…. am I proud of this accomplishment? Oh hell yes I am proud!

As I wrote back in January my ability to read had pretty much gone to shit. It was worse than I realized. I still thought of myself as a “reader” as I’d been throughout my life.  But how much was I really reading, that is, books? Not as many as I thought. I couldn’t tell you how many books I read in 2017 or 2016 or 2015 for that matter, but it damn sure was not 15 in a year, let alone four months

I’ve been thinking about how this happened. When I was preschool age I could not WAIT to get to start first grade because I knew it meant I’d learn to read (these were days long ago when, for me at least, kindergarten was mainly for playing and having stories read to you not learning to read). In gradeschool my class once had a contest for who could write the most book reports. Not only did I win, I blew the rest of the kids away. (Sadly the prize was some  kind of religious  trinket, a holy medal or such, I’ve forgotten what exactly but as you see, several decades later, I haven’t forgot I won.) Reading always excited me. In the years I went to college, it bothered me that my personal reading, as in nontext books, had to be cut back. When I did office work and spent long days staring at computer screens, my eyes were too red and tired after to read much at  home. This too disturbed me.

Once upon a time, books were the main thing and movies, another big love, were the occasional treat. This was when it wasn’t so easy to watch movies, when they weren’t so available. I read more books than watched movies. But in recent years that flip-flopped. I love movies but realizing I was doing more passive watching than engaging (more) of my mind by reading didn’t sit right. I also couldn’t tell you how many movies I typically view in a year, no idea. (I also don’t know how I’d quantify whole series like The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones; every two hours equals one movie??)

More than movies, the internet screwed up my ability to read. I am certain internet use has changed my wiring and not for the best. Your brain gets some sort of endorphin payoff every so often while being on online. The payoff is inconsistent and unpredictable so gaining it necessitates perpetual activity and vigilance. You go online and basically wait for something good to happen. Trouble is there is a whole lot of crap and wasted time inbetween those “payoff” moments, at least for me and I  imagine for many people. There are times when I’m bored or tired and just fool around online hoping magic strikes, or at least something interesting catches my attention.  It was easier to get online & read various (quick) stuff than to read a book.

I wanted to change, I wanted to recapture something I’d lost. And I have. It feels REALLY GOOD to have found my way back to books. My rule is I don’t have to read anything I don’t want to, even if it means quitting a book halfway through. This isn’t supposed to be punishment. I didn’t plan it this way but of the 15 books, only four have been fiction. The funniest was You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein, a woman I’d never heard of. The page-turner was Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan, which I knocked out in two days. I was back!

 

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I’m also doing crossword puzzles; I got a little book of them from Dollar Tree and a second volume for when the first is done. Doing the puzzles has made me sharper (I now can say with conviction there were nine Muses and “Clio” was one. This has come up a few times, despite t the puzzles being written by various makers.) I find myself saying  repeatedly, “I know this” or “I should know this” when trying to figure out clues. I know things I don’t realize I know; it’s often an issue of retrieval. I find real satisfaction in realizing what an answer is, particularly when it doesn’t come to me immediately. However, I  doubt myself because a voice inside me often says at the start of a puzzle when there are too many open spaces, “I’ll never finish this.”  I’ve done 40 (of 88) puzzles so you’d think I’d be a little more trusting by now.

The puzzles show me where my knowledge is decent and where there’s weakness; I don’t know sports or the Bible, and world geography isn’t too promising either. Greek mythology is iffy but improving!  The puzzles force me to consider things from different angles (like when an answer I filled in confidently subsequently messes up other answers and I’m compelled to rethink it). I’ve noticed that this skill is carrying over into other areas of my life; it’s as if my brain is deviating from overworn paths and checking out new trails.  It’s subtle but I can tell.

One of my goals was to make 10 new recipes. I’ve made 14. Also, my diet, already good, is a bit better. I’m eating less cheese and more vegetables for one. And I’m enjoying it. Food is pleasure to me. Tweaking my diet and nutrition makes me pay more attention,  be more conscious, which is a good thing. I really think my little goals this year are doing exactly that:  making me more conscious of how I spend my time, how I relax, how I eat, how I live. Solidly in middle age, I find it is entirely up to me not to become mired in ruts, or lazy and if not full-on lazy, maybe just complacent. I must challenge myself. I don’t want to be coasting along, I want to be alert.

 

 

 

 

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Painting a roadside find in bright colors

When it was still cold I spied this piece of wood (no pressboard crap) furniture  by the road. It’s half cabinet and half drawers. A true find! I was on foot so I had to abandon the drawers in order to haul the main piece home. Fortunately it wasn’t too heavy. More fortunately the drawers were still there upon my return. Not that I thought they’d make a break for it once set free… I just hoped no other passerby would find 3 smallish drawers all that is interesting.

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It’s 33″ long, 29″ tall, 13″ deep (a great size for many options)

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Only once I had it home did I notice the front left leg was a bit chewed up. What the hell??  I guessed a dog might have done the damage (or a big cat?) but I couldn’t think why a pet would gnaw on just the one leg.

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I decided to do a quick-n-dirty repair with spackle. I know that’s unorthodox and remembered about wood filler after the fact. Oh well.

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Somebody had stained the piece dark brown. Nothing wrong with that but I wanted color. First a coat of prime.

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I decided to get brave/experimental with the colors. I am more inclined to do this on a roadside freebee. As always I just selected from what I already have. Even these paints, except the white, were free, abandoned. This is with one coat of color. I could add another if the spirit moves me. I am super happy with how it turned out.  (By the by, now that I think about it, everything on top also was free –  from past finds and giveaways, except the actual plant and the lamp shade.)

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It only looks bad up close. Good enough!

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“Me Too?”

For the most part I’ve been just watching as the “Me Too” and “Time’s Up” movements have unfolded. Watching and thinking. I haven’t yet said anything here. There’s something about it that doesn’t quite sit right with me and I’ve had to figure out for myself what that something is.

A “Not Me” movement would be more illuminating. Maybe a few dozen women would sign on because, um, what woman hasn’t been harassed or mistreated at some point in her life because she’s a woman?!?!? Am I missing something here?? This. Isn’t. New. I just don’t believe any cognizant human being, male or female, thinks women have had it fine and dandy, or they do now, no worries!  I believe anyone who doesn’t know willfully doesn’t know.

I do think these recent movements are good if they make women feel less alone, less ashamed, less afraid, or if it helps them to connect with other women. I don’t want to suggest nothing positive is happening. I would like to think things might change as a result of the movements but the truth is, I really don’t. Because, again, this just isn’t new information. Maybe I’m too jaded but when I take into account the whole scenario, all the factors that go into my viewpoint, I tend to think not.

We have a culture that has a long history of undermining women.  In this country, women, similar to slaves (albeit with more status & privileges), were historically owned by their male family members, as was their property. She went from daddy to husband, if all things went according to plan. Autonomy and women weren’t bedfellows. Relatively few stepped outside those prescribed lines for doing so meant risking social acceptance and security.

It wasn’t that long ago that the law did not consider a man forcefully having sex with his wife rape. For all I know, it still isn’t called rape in some jurisdictions.

Rapes and sex crimes on whole go underreported. There are backlogs of “rape kits” that have yet to be processed. Of those reported, a minority go to trial. Convictions are dicey.  Rapes and sexual harassment between acquaintances devolve into he said/she said. Women are maligned – she wore the wrong thing, was in the wrong place, sent the wrong signals, had too many drinks, imagined it, made it up, agreed to it, or is vengeful that consensual sex didn’t lead to a relationship, etcetera. Even when men are convicted, there’s the matter of prisons being overcrowded, those convicted often don’t serve the length of their sentence. Rehabilitation is rare.

So, okay, the system is messed up, right, historically and currently, but we can change mens’ attitudes yes? Enlighten them so they understand that what many have traditionally considered “harmless” behavior – a whole array of acts on a continuum – isn’t in fact? That sounds nice. But um, when the President of the most powerful country in the world, maligns women, jokes about harassing them and taking advantage of them, talks vulgarly about their body parts, has alleged affairs — and this is the just stuff we happen to know (there must be a lot more where that came from) – how do you get the average male child, the average guy, to think otherwise?

When “entertainment” frequently shows women being beaten, raped, tortured, and killed, how do you convince people that we don’t really mean that? That we actually respect women? Or should?

Who doesn’t  know that a generation of children are being raised on video games where life, particularly, female life, is cheap? Why is this okay? Consciously a child may be able to separate fantasy and reality, but who is to say what is unconsciously taking root in a developing brain? Psychologists and social scientists DO show connections between what we view and how we act.

When children, mostly female (but certainly not all) are far too often subjected to emotional, physical, and sexual abuse in their own homes and communities by the people they should most be able to trust, how do you align that with the “Time’s Up” movement? You can’t deal with one issue and not take on the other as well.

Part of why I’m a bit uncomfortable is that movements of many stripes in this country tend to be passing. “Me Too” feels trendy, one step up from the “Ice Bucket” challenge, something people are paying attention to this week, this month. Weren’t there laws against harassing and abusing people already on the books? If they aren’t enforced, what use are they? If the people in authority who are supposed to help, don’t, what’s the point? If a woman takes the risk of speaking up only to see nothing really change or worse, faces retaliation, why bother? I just don’t think you can address one without the other. The way a woman is treated after being harassed or abused is every bit as important as the abuse itself. Too often she is dismissed or made to feel like she has to defend herself all over again.

The average man is not an abusive jackass. Or an entitled narcissist who uses his power (in whatever form it takes) and physical strength to take advantage of or harm women. But I just don’t believe the men who ARE will be moved by the outcry from women (and supportive men). Yes, it’ll be great if “borderline” types, men who maybe make harassing or inappropriate comments to women but don’t touch them against their will for instance, start to think and act differently. If good men (continue to) talk to their sons or to their friends and associates about how to treat women, that would be great. That still leaves a wide swath of men who are going to go right on doing what they’ve been doing, and unfortunately, probably using the backlash to further justify their anger and hatred toward women. I don’t think you can weed them out and I don’t think you can change them.

The culture has been too lenient with malignant men for too long. The die is cast on the hard cases. There is such animosity directed at women; it permeates our culture. Women are often desired – and objectified – but frequently not respected, not liked, not taken seriously. It’s done in such an unthinking way, that’s what’s most insidious about it.

Younger men, who you’d like to think have been raised by modern women, women who’ve been on the receiving end of mistreatment themselves, don’t seem a lot better. “I’d hit that.” “I’d do her.” “I wanna get me some of that.” This is the common speech of many young men. And far, far, worse. Watch an episode of TMZ, an entertainment news show seen at the dinner hour. The way women are discussed, almost entirely in the context of how they look and whether they are fuckable, is abysmal. Even the women on the show weigh in as if there is nothing problematic about picking apart other womens’ bodies.  Watch enough of this type of fare and you may find yourself thinking the same way. I’m referencing TMZ here but it could be any number of mainstream sources that have normalized a peculiar blend of sexualizing and dehumanzing women.

Women who gain power are perhaps the most maligned of all. In a certain mindset, even the lowest of men thinks he is superior to the woman in high reaches of power and status. I don’t mean all men, don’t get me wrong, I mean the ones who have absorbed a certain belief system and are unwilling to change it.

Men who despise women and wish them harm used to live in isolation to an extent but with the internet they have found and can encourage one another. The dark corners of the internet are breeding grounds for discontent and malice.

So you see, I won’t be saying “Me too” anywhere. I’m just going to stay here, keep watching and keep thinking. This isn’t one little problem to be cleaned up, a few men to be stopped and taken out of their jobs or dressed down publicly. It’s a culture that is historically steeped in a particular attitude, one that hasn’t gone away but has morphed into new shapes over time. “Me Too” and “Time’s Up” are scraping the surface of a much deeper problem.

 

NOTE: I may not be able to respond to comments for a day or two but I look forward to them.

Easy, healthy “vegan” cookies you’ll actually want to eat

This recipe originates with Dr Neal Barnard, vegan advocate. I don’t remember the exact title of the book I got it from but if you are desperate to know I can probably figure it out. I’ve been making the cookies, which have no dairy, for years. Let me tell you why I like ’em. Unlike typical, traditional cookies, these are not full of sugar and fat, but instead more filling, nutritious ingredients. For me this means they are more satisfying because they are made of actual food. And unlike typical cookies, which flip a switch in my brain causing me to want more, more, more, these cookies satisfy my desire for something sweet without an accompanying desire to overindulge.

Here’s Dr Barnard’s recipe:

-3 cups whole wheat flour

-4 tsp baking powder

-1 tsp baking soda

-1 tsp cinnamon

-1/2 tsp nutmeg

-2 (or 2.5) tbsp sugar

-1 15oz can pumpkin

-1 mashed ripe banana

– 1 cup soy milk or water

-1 cup raisins

Yesterday I changed up the recipe by also adding unsweetened coconut, brown sesame seeds, and peanut butter powder. I found all three ingredients on Amazon. The peanut butter powder was a recent discovery; it’s peanuts with the oil squeezed out. These additions made good cookies even better.

Mix all the ingredients together and bake 15 minutes at 350°.  (After dropping teaspoon fulls of dough onto a cookie sheet, I find it helpful to push them down slightly so the cookies come out flatter and less like cookie balls.) Makes about 35 really good cookies.

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Short Thought 205 (mother/daughter)

Many years ago I realized that my mother hadn’t given me a model for how to be a woman. I was largely left to figure it out for myself. I subsequently told this to the man I was seeing. He said no, she had provided a model; it just wasn’t one I wanted. I thought that was insightful and probably more accurate than what I’d said.