Sunday, April 27, 2008

Past, Present, and Remembrance

Yesterday while trying to catch up on my journal reading, a recent entry in Carly's journal caught my eye. She wrote about heritage, about the long road to the very real possibility that a black person could become the next president of these United States. She wrote about the history of black people in this country and her belief that she was casting her vote for Obama for all of those generation who preceded her, who fought, struggled, and often died to achieve the present in which we live.

One of her readers left Carly a well-intentioned comment that reads:

"Who you vote for is your choice but vote for the future and not the past. I'm not sure which Democrat should be in office but I know that whoever it is will not change the past but will impact the future. Look forward with hope for change for this country certainly needs it. Hugs"

I didn't take offense at the comment and neither did Carly. I know because she left her own comment that reads in part:

"I think my vote is for the future as well as the past. If you don't know your past you sure can't see your future."

Her words stuck a responsive chord in me. I share Carly's feelings of pride and hope and connection to my ancestors who are not here to see this new day in America. The past cannot be undone, but neither can it be ignored or forgotten. The blood shed, the tears cried, and the sacrifices made by those who came before me are not abstractions to be dismissed as no longer of significance. The past informs the present.


The commenter is right, the past cannot be changed but it can be repeated, played out over and over again unless we remember it truthfully and learn from it. On my first visit to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC. I was struck by the importance of remembering, of recognizing the horrors of the past as a way of honoring those who suffered and memorializing that such horror must never happen again. However, in the flawed world that we live in, such horrors continue--Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur, the list is long and seemingly never ending. Yet we must continue to struggle to remember, if we are to break the cycle of inhumanity to others whom we perceive as not us, as a "they" who is less than human, and fair game for destruction.


So I too will think of my African forefathers and mothers as I cast my vote for Barack Obama. But I also take pride that for the first time, a woman may be elected to the presidency. A piece of history that many of us choose to ignore or forget is the struggle that previous generations of women endured to achieve the relative equality that women now enjoy. The amendment giving women the right to vote nationally wasn't ratified until 1920, less than one hundred years ago. Strong women, brave women defied the conventions of their time to fight for a right that we now take for granted.


In 1913, a women's suffrage parade was attacked by a mob and many of the protesters were injured. The police stood by and did nothing to intervene and no one was ever arrested for attacking the protesting women.


Alice Paul, a leader of the suffragette movement, was imprisoned for her audacity in advocating for women having the right to vote. Kept in isolation for two weeks, she was fed nothing but bread and water in an attempt to break her spirit. In response, Alice went on a hunger strike; other imprisoned suffragettes followed suit. Can you imagine having the men in your family, your husband, brother, son, turn against you, physically chastise you, for daring to participate in the suffragette movement, for having the audacity to believe that women were entitled to full citizenship and participation in the governing of this country?


Remembrance isn't living in the past; it is honoring those who sacrificed so much to make our present. We can have no future if we allow ourselves to forget the past.


I went to YouTube to find a video of Helen Reddy singing "I Am Woman," a recording that she released in 1972. I was 17 and this anthem for women's equality really ignited my budding feminism. I found this video that uses the song as a commentary on the ongoing scourge of domestic violence. We've come a long way but the journey isn't over.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Commonalities, Sisterhood, and Xena

Marc sent me an interesting pairing of a painting by Pierre-Auguste Renoir and one by Romare Bearden. Renoir was a Frenchman and an impressionist, born in the mid 19th century and a contemporary of Claude Monet. I'm a big fan of Impressionism; I love the use of color and light to create paintings of great beauty. Bearden was an African-American, born in my home state of North Carolina in the early 20th century. He worked in multiple styles and medium and is perhaps most renown for his collages, combinations of torn paper, paint washes, and charcoal lines. I'm also a long time fan of Bearden's work.

Both artists address the same subject matter, two young girls taking piano lessons, the same and yet entirely different. In the Renoir, the girls appear to be close in age and in my imagination, they are sisters, the older teaching the younger. In the Bearden composition, the teacher appears older, perhaps an aunt passing along her talent to a young niece. What I find most intriguing are the commonalities of the paintings. Both young students are shown in profile, touching the keyboard, and both teachers, with heads tilted, leaning in and providing guidance to their pupils. Each painting is awash in color, Renoir's rich, but subdued, and Bearden's intense and primary.

On a broad scale, the paintings make me think of our uniqueness as human beings and the differences that we adopt for ourselves such as race, ethnicity, and skin color. Differences that we assign meaning to, most of it negative and which we use to divide ourselves. Yet, these differences are really of no more significance than those of Bearden's and Renoir's interpretation of a piano lesson. Visually, they are different, but essentially, they are the same, just different perspectives of the same connection between teacher and student.

On a purely personal level, the paintings make me think of my sister. I am the oldest but through the years we have constantly interchanged the role of teacher. She has taught me a great deal. We have always loved each other as sisters do; we have an unbreakable bond. However, as adults, we have chosen to be friends and I treasure that most of all.

A few posts back, I included a video from YouTube of Annie Lennox and Aretha Franklin singing "Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves." For whatever reason, the poster on YouTube has disabled the embed code and the video is no longer available. In my search for another video of the song, I found the video below. I was a major fan of the television show, Xena: Warrior Princess, starring Lucy Lawless. I never missed an episode. I loved Xena, she was strong, fearless, and yet not afraid to have a heart. She and her equally fearless sidekick, Gabrielle, traveled, had adventures, fought for good, and really kicked ass.

This video is a clip from the show in which the actress who played Xena was pregnant, and her pregnancy was written into the show to explain her suddenly wearing a lot more clothes than usual. Another concession in the scripts was no acrobatic fight scenes, a trademark of the series. It happens that the actresses playing Xena and Gabrielle were both good vocalists and the creative writers added some musical numbers to the show as a distraction. This is one of them, where Xena tells her mother that she is going to have her child without benefit of a husband. Xena doesn't mention that she has no idea who the father is because she doesn't recall having recently engaged in the type of behavior that results in pregnancy. (Btw, alas, Gabrielle is not in this scene; I think that she may have been in the spirit world or a prisoner somewhere.)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

All in My Family

I received the following email from my sister two weeks ago and it has been weighing on my mind ever since.

"By the way, Bob read some of your blog entries the other night and was most perturbed that you have not written about him... he said he put his name in search and got nothing... I see this as free reign now!  No Bob subject off  limits... he's going to wish he had kept his little mouth shut!!!!!!"
Bob is my sister's husband of 23 years. I've been blogging for more than a year and while I've vaguely alluded to him in a few entries, it's true that I haven't really written about him.
I live four blocks from my sister and Bob, so I know a lot about Bob. Where to start?
Sometimes, Bob is our mother (mine and my sister's). No, I don't mean that he behaves in a motherly fashion. How to put it? He channels our mother. I call my sister and Bob answers the phone, only it's not Bob.
"Hello Bob, is my sister home?"
"I don't know. This is your mother. How are you?"
Bob does a very good imitation of Mama, but he insists that he is Mama, not just imitating her.
"Bob, get off the phone and put Rhonda on the line."
"You don't have time to visit with your mama? I came all the way up here just to say hey. You know, Bob's the only one that appreciates me. He's such a good son-in-law."
By this point, I can usually hear my sister in the background, "Bob, give me the phone. Sheria doesn't want to talk to you or to Mama!"
Of course, he's not always channeling our mother; he also is fond of adopting the persona of a Latin lover, who speaks in an exaggerated faux Spanish accent.
"Allo, zis ees zee Latin lover, chu need halp?"
I've suggested on many occasions that he is the one that needs help but Bob blissfully pretends that he is unaware of his alternate personalities. Indeed, when I try to discuss his little problem, he refers to me as "crazy Sheria."
In spite of living so near one another, my sister and I do a great deal of our visiting on the telephone. Both of us work demanding jobs and prefer going to our respective homes after work rather than visiting in person. However, we often watch television programs together and engage in long discussions in the evenings via telephone. I think that Bob feels left out on occasion or maybe he's just nuts. He likes to get on the extension and chime in with his comments on our conversation. Of course, his comments generally don't have anything to do with whatever topic my sister and I are talking about. Oh yeah, he generally enters the conversation as our mother.
In addition to suffering from a multiple personality disorder, Bob is also an accomplished musician. The video below features a recording of a song that he and I wrote together, called Satin and Lace. I added images that I thought fit the song lyrics. The song was recorded at a performance by Bob's band, Moments Notice, at the NC Museum of History. Bob sings the lead vocals and he plays the lovely saxophone riffs as well. There is a female vocalist doing back up but I don't know who she is. She's not a regular member of the band, just a guest sitting in for the session.
I really like my brother-in-law and don't want him to ever again feel left out. Next time I'll write all about his obsession with cows. If you're lucky, I'll post a picture of him wearing his cow suit.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Whose Keeper Am I?

The current brouhaha over Barack Obama's allegedly elitist comments has been on my mind these past few days, but I haven't been in a mood to write about the serious issues of the day and have pretended not to notice them. However, I just read Marc's journal entry for today and found myself in the amen corner as I nodded my head in affirmation at his analysis of the efforts to undermine Senator Obama by calling him that dreaded of all terms, an elitist!  Check out his entry; it's good reading, just click here to visit Marc's journal.

In case you aren't clear as to what Obama actually said at a San Francisco fundraiser, here are his remarks, offered in explanation of the difficulties that he faced in reaching people in small town America:

 "You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothings replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are going to regenerate and they have not. So it's not surprising, then, that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

Personally, I think the Senator hit the nail on the head. People who are in pain, who are bitter and angry, look for someone to blame. Scratch the surface of any bigot, whether that bigotry is based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious belief, or language, and you will find a bitter person who is convinced that his or her own lot in life would be better if not for all the ____________ (fill in the blank).

Small town America as the home of June Cleaver is a myth, carefully constructed and nurtured by what we want to believe rather than what is. This country is crisscrossed with insular communities that cling to their beliefs to the exclusion of allowing for any differences of opinion. Every time you find yourself lumping any people into a group and ascribing some negative behavior to that group, you're indulging in prejudice. When you get all bent out of shape because the sales person speaks with an accent, you're letting your prejudice out. When you profess to love the sinner but not the sin, and therefore feel that you have the right to determine whom another person may love, you're succumbing to prejudice. When you believe that the goal of Islam is to destroy America, you're expressing a prejudiced belief. Every time that you blame the misery and problems in your own life on some other group of people, you're indulging in prejudice.

Senator Obama didn't say it this strongly, but I do, because as long as we live with delusions that we are somehow above bitterness, above indulging in prejudice, then we will do nothing to change things. We will lull ourselves into a false sense of higher morality, convinced that we are not a part of the problem because we are not prejudiced, not bigoted, not biased; we treat everyone fairly and respect everyone equally.

Soul searching is something that each of us must do as individuals. I suggest a simple test, at the next gathering that you attend, whether it be a party, or church on Sunday morning, or just an evening of cards, look around the room and count how much diversity there is in the group--race, ethnicity, English as a second language, gay, Jewish, Islamic, poor, homeless, on public assistance etc. Ask yourself how many people you know, not just know of or speak to in passing, who are different from you? Ask yourself who do you blame for societal ills, how do you feel about our prison system, the death penalty, mandatory drug sentencing? Take a good self-inventory, and for goodness sake, don't leave me comments telling me about your self-inventory. It's not about me or anyone else, it's about each of us, taking stock of ourselves, and asking the ultimate question, have I been my brother's, my sister's, keeper?

A little something from Marvin Gaye...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Touched By The Sun

It all began because I couldn't decide what I wanted to write about today. Ever since I became obsessed with being menopausal, I can't bring myself to deal with the current state of world affairs. I haven't found it listed any where but I think that self-centeredness must be a symptom of menopause.

So, I read a few blogs, but didn't bother to comment because that would have taken effort on my part and I'm being very lazy today. I got to my friend Marc's blog, and suddenly I was inspired. Marc has been creating some unique works of art that he labels Hy-Art, for some time, and I think that they are pretty special. I've mentioned them here before and I know that some of you have checked out his work. Recently, he generated a new web site where he sells sets of his Hy-Art as note cards. I have two sets, one that I purchased and one that he generously sent me as a gift. They are lovely and if I can bear to part with them, are actually quite practical for sending all sorts of notes or giving a set as a gift.

I think that another symptom of being in the throes of menopause is obsession. Today I became obsessed with Marc's Hy-Art note cards and decided to surprise him by creating the following video. The images are from Marc's Hy-Art collection. All of the images aren't currently available on cards; I just selected some of my favorites for the video. The song, by Carly Simon, is called Touched By The Sun. It appeals to me on so many levels and seemed a fitting accompaniment for Marc's artistic expressions.

P.S. Marc, I also posted it on YouTube. I really got into this as my activity for the day. Blame it on menopause.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Drying Up One Egg at a Time

There is a lot going on in the world. Icebergs the size of Rhode Island are falling off of Anartica; teenagers who are escapees from the Sci-Fi movie Village of the Damned are attacking their teachers and videotaping themselves doing so; and who knows what Dick Cheney is smiling about behind his sinister sunglasses in today's news stories. However, as serious as these matters may be, I don't have time to write about them. My world is about me, and only me for today.

When I turned 50, my doctor told me that I was perimenopausal.

"Perry who?"

"You're perimenopausal, Ms. Reid. It's a normal part of aging, a transition into menopause, there's nothing to worry about."

Warning: if you're the type of man who passes out or starts giggling uncontrollably when you hear words like period, stop reading now.

That was three years ago and I sort of forgot about it. I read a little online about being perimenopausal and it didn't sound so bad. I was coming to the end of my reproductive cycle and eventually, after 12 consecutive months without a period, I would be officially menopausal, no big deal.

I had my last menstrual cycle 13 months ago and I was delighted at how smoothly I had transitioned from perimenopause to menopause. On my 53rd birthday a few weeks ago, I was chatting with my sister who is two years younger.

"Well, based on my experience, menopause should be a breeze for you, if these things are at all hereditary."

My sister's response wasn't as enthusiastic as I expected, "Uh huh."

As I mentioned in my last post, I was a bit under the weather this past weekend. My doctor had allowed me to switch to a generic substitute for the Lipitor I've been taking for years and I had every side effect possible--muscle pain, nausea, and loss of appetite. I was also extremely fatigued which I also attributed to the side effects from the medication change. Needless to say, I'm back on Lipitor and I'm all better, sort of. Two nights ago I had my first night sweat. Or maybe it was a hot flash. I think that they may be the same thing, except one happens at night, while you are attempting to sleep and the other in the light of day.

It was 3:00 am and I woke up soaking wet. Ohmygod! Who wet the bed? I gave Laa-Laa (she's the yellow teletubby) a suspicious look but she just lay there, looking innocent. As I dragged myself out of my damp bed, I realized that I had experienced a night sweat! I reached for the phone to call my sister, but then I noticed the time again and thought better of it.

Since then, I haven't had another bout with the night sweats, but I've been doing some reading on menopause, and it's not pretty.

My eggs are drying up even as I type this, just drying right up and I will never have any more. That's it, every woman gets a finite number, when they're gone, they're gone. There is no egg store! What if I need eggs in the future?

I've been totally lethargic all week. No energy to do anything. My front flower bed is a weed filled, over grown mess, but do I care? Of course I do, in fact I may start crying for all those poor flowers, trying to live among all those weeds. Did I mention the mood swings?

It gets worse. I can look forward to changes in my libido, that's polite talk for wanting to have sex. According to a delightful article that I read on WebMD, there's going to be a bit of atrophy. Yep, that's right, my vaginal walls are going to thin and atrophy.  I quote, "In addition, your vaginal walls will thin, and the cells lining the vagina will not contain as much estrogen. Your doctor will simply take a Pap-like smear from your vaginal walls -- simple and painless -- and analyze the smear to check for vaginal 'atrophy,' the thinning and drying out of your vagina."

You know that someone is lying; does this sound simple and painless to you? I've had pap smears before I atrophied and even they weren't totally painless!

I have just enough strength to make a shopping list for all the homeopathic remedies that I've found on the Internet. Maybe I can get some nice young man to take the list and pick up the things that I need.  Hmmm, maybe I haven't totally atrophied yet...

I love this song:


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Sunday, April 6, 2008

They're asking about me!

They’re Asking About You

I’ve been tagged by Rod at kickin tina. If you have visited me before, you know that I love attention, so being tagged is right up my alley. If you have never read Rod’s blog, you should visit. He is a very thoughtful writer and has the best taste in music. While there, click on his Finetune playlist and check out what he’s currently listening to. He also posts the most lovely pictures of young men 20 years my junior but a woman can drool if she wants to.

The rules are:
1. The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.
2. Each player answers the questions about themselves.
3. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

1) What was I doing 10 yrs ago?
1998 was a sort of best of times, worst of time year for me. I had just graduated from law school, passed the bar and been on my first job (legal aid attorney) for less than six months when I landed in the hospital with congestive heart failure and some other serious stuff. I got plenty of attention but my sister later explained that everyone gets lots of attention when they’re in cardiac intensive care, so I wasn’t really special. I spent most of 1998 trying to prove the medical experts wrong by recovering. I do love being right.

2) What are 5 things on my to-do list for today (not in any particular order):

1. Spend some time in the bathroom (I’m having a bad reaction to a change in medication or I have some type of stomach virus but the porcelain god is my friend this weekend).
2. Nap (I’m not well!)
3. Counsel a good friend (she has asked for my advice)
4. Call my mother and make her smile.
5. Chat with my sister (she always makes me feel better)

3) Snacks I enjoy:
chocolate truffles, Goldfish, Ruffles with ridges, cheese (especially soft cheeses like a good French brie) and did I already say chocolate?

4) Things I would do if I were a billionaire:
1. Create a network of tuition free elementary and high schools for low income children that offered them aprivate school quality education.
2. Buy a villa in Tuscany and provide all my close friends with their own key so that they could visit whenever they wanted.
3. Hire my sister to do nothing so that she could afford to retire and hang out with me all the time.
4. Fund my blogami Marc’s Hy-Art business venture.

5) Five of my bad habits:
1. Being judgemental
2. falling in love when I shouldn’t
3. self deprecation
4. placing too much value on playing it safe
5. looking for happiness every where except within myself

6) 5 places I have lived:

1. Wilson
2. Chapel Hill
3. Raleigh
That’s it, I’ve never lived any place except in North Carolina

7) 5 jobs I have had:

1. factory worker
2. restaurant cook
3. sales clerk in a book store
4. high school English teacher
5. lawyer

8) 5 peeps I wanna know more about: