Saturday, December 30, 2006

Home Sweet Home - End of 2006

Rojo at Four Months - Wonderful Pup!

Rojo continues to be a delightful newest member of our family. He can be amusing such as when he scares himself looking at "the strange dog looking at him" (in the mirror). He now (thankfully) sleeps through the night. He chews on everything - teething at four months. He is an expressive dog moaning, groaning, barking and making odd other sounds. At 25 pounds, it is getting harder to carry him. He loves being with people (including young children) and other animals.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Generosity at this Time of Year +

I clearly remember being in Milan Italy in the summer of 1964 when I was 13 years old. On a large square there was a gypsy family with a mother and a lot of children begging. I remember thinking: "this will never happen in the U.S." Hah!

Recently in Florida a family friend of my wife's mother told me of how a group of her friends and she all contributed their "Christmas gifts" not to each other, but rather to a family or cause locally that they felt was worthy. She said that they were all retired and had what they needed and wanted already.

A recent year's gift was to a poor local family that her son had told her of. They surprised the mother in the family greatly pleasing her with their gift. This family had pallets rather than beds. The preceding year one of the children stayed out of school to allow them to afford clothes for the other children to wear so they could attend school. They had no money for presents for their children.

I was amazed at the kindness and generosity that was shown by these very nice people! I'm also saddened that we can have such extreme poverty amidst all the wealth we have in the U.S.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Puppy's World

Rojo, our Labradoodle Puppy, must weigh close to 25 pounds now (at four months), up from 9.5 pounds when we got him (when he was 7-8 weeks old). We've grown very attached to him! He's mostly mellow. With his teething underwear, socks, pieces of paper etc. - are all "chewing toys".

In our bedroom he gets very anxious barking when he sees himself in the mirror behind the door, seeing the "other dog" there. Chewing on various of his toys, his moanish sounds are very amusing. On walks he always wants to tug and pull us to any person within sight, as well as fellow dogs (of course!). It is presumed that others want to pet and play with him.

He was filthy when he came back from the kennel yesterday. In the laundry tub when lathered up, he looked like a skinny funny looking dog, not the fluffy beautiful roundish looking pup that he looks like normally.

When I picked him up at the kennel, he seemed to barely recognize me - living in the world of play with at least 20-30 other large dogs he had been with 12+ hours each day. Now he's moving back to "normal", though he is a "little older" after being away for 6 days.

He looks funny sitting in my lap now, as his body is a little big for that.

Thankfully, now he can sleep through the night, so I don't have to get up every 2-4 hours to let him out!

It will be fun and funny to look back on his pup days far too soon when he's fully grown!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

James Brown, Sam Cooke - Racism + Music

Coming back from Florida Monday (Christmas) morning in the airport the tv showed James Brown and I heard of his death. Coincidentally I was finishing reading a lengthy biography of Sam Cooke who was his contemporary.

The biography of Sam Cooke talked at great length of the tours that both men made in the Deep South (U.S.) in the late 1950's and the first half of the 1960's (until Cooke's death in late 1964). It is hard to imagine today a world where any Black Man (or Woman) no matter what his economic status could have been arrested, killed or harassed because of anything which might be perceived as "not respecting" any White Person.

It is interesting to compare the racism that James Brown lived through in the early days of his career with racism today. James Brown spoke up at length for Black Pride around 1960 when this was a radical and "foreign" concept in a world where "Negroes" (or worse) were expected to always defer to any White Person no matter what the circumstances.

A Black Person could never try on a piece of clothing in a "White Store" if they could shop there at all. In the South a show could only contain either White or Black performers and if the audience was "mixed" the "races could not mix" - so the Blacks were usually on a balcony only. Black musicians and other Black people - always came in the back door unless it was a Black establishment solely for Black people. Stores in Harlem and elsewhere often were owned by Whites and Blacks could only work in low paid jobs that had low status where they could work in such establishments at all.

Today racism in the U.S. is generally much more subtle! My partner (Black) can pick up how particularly in stores catering to wealthy White Women how she is looked at and treated as if she perhaps doesn't belong there, though nearly always very politely. We were shopping for blue jeans for me in Marin County, California a little over a year ago when a White Man - totally ignored B - a Black Woman - to get his clothes purchasd - she wasn't there in his world. I was shocked - B wasn't!

Often with racism today - it isn't clear that it really is racism, however because it happens over and over again, one knows some of the time racism is prevalent.

It's very interesting! Black People are of nearly every religion, different sizes and shapes, differ in their political beliefs to a large degree (though the number of right wing Black Folks may perhaps be "under represented"), have varying educational levels - yet We White Folks - think often that we "know Black People" as if they were most predictable.

For Black People, such as my partner, they exist in a world where they often feel a need to "make White People comfortable" - to translate the feelings and expectations of them, because they are Black Folks. "Passing" in this context is "passing as normal" - e.g. - comfortable to White Folks. B - is much better than I am at breaking down barriers with others. I never had to learn such things.

It wasn't until recently that Alabama, in 1998 I believe, legalized Black and White people marrying each other (though the U.S. Supreme Court had invalidated this prohibition years before). My Black Partner and I her White Husband - could have in a sense been - "illegally married" not that long ago.

I'm saddened at the death of James Brown. His music and his being as a Proud Black Man were very important in the growth of the U.S. in the second half of the 20th Century. I loved his "sweet music" such as: "Please, Please, Please" while having trouble listening to his funk and other "rougher" music.

I read a lot about Black History and Culture. I hope that many more other White Folks are similarly learning an important part of our history in the U.S.


Sunday, December 17, 2006

Looking Both Forward and Backwards

2006 has had:

1.) The clear recognition by many, if not most, USians that the War in Iraq is not being "won" and indeed may be lost either by being an endless mess or by simply being lost and

2.) Elections in November which changed the power of the Bush Adminstration limiting their powers to control Congress

It is unclear what we will learn from the War in Iraq. For some it is a repeat of the Vietnam War where "the generals were not allowed to win the War" - more troops and more money are seen as the answer as well as better leadership.

For others the War in Iraq is unwinnable because "Arabs don't like Democracy" and we can't help them because of this.

For others still we have another situation of the U.S. Government going into a part of the world that we don't understand and making numerous presumptions about the people there. As with 9/11 - we have wasted the good will that we may have had and really become "the enemy" or at least "the bully" who others love to hate.

It seems amazing to me how we can think that our military might makes us knowledgeable as to how the rest of the world functions. In our own country the intolerance for "Arabs" has translated into a world where Sikhs, and many other South Asian people who are not Muslim at all are presumed to be: "the enemy" and are scapegoated and sometimes killed or injured as a result of our ignorance.

In the Middle East we presume that Arabs are part of "The War on Terror" against us as a unified force when in fact the divisions among Sunni's, Shiites, Kurds and factions within them make forces such as the supposed "enemies" Hezballah of Lebanon and the Hamas Movement of The West Bank and Gaza as well as the various factions within Iraq, the Taliban of Pakistan and Afghanistan - as if they are unified against the United States.

While all of these forces may dislike the Bush Administration it is important to understand the fear for example that the Saudi Arabian leadership has for the Iranian Government. Lebanon has a significant Christian population. Iraq's former leader Saddam Hussein was not a religious based leader. Where all else may have serious divisions, Arabs often find unity in opposing the Israeli occupation of The West Bank. At the same time there are certainly fears within the Arab world of a democratic independent West Bank State which might threaten the autocratic regimes of all the other Middle Eastern Arab states.

Unfortunately we rarely look at the complexities of the Middle East and break things down into logical situations based upon looking at the history of the region and how it has evolved into today. We create boogiemen such as Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden and now the Iranian leadership (which is extreme and poor no doubt) and fail to look at what is going on.

We have no business trying to decide who should rule in Iraq! Getting U.S. forces extricated from this quagmire may not be simple or easy, however it will be the best way to eventually get peace in this country. Increasing troops and "winning the war" is naive and extremely unlikely to do more than result in greatly increased deaths and costs to Iraq and the U.S.

It will be interesting to see how things change politically in the U.S. in 2007! Will Congressional leadership move towards positive changes such as an increased minimum wage, major changes in national healthcare and other worthwhile causes? Will Republicans be able to woo conservative Democrats or will Democrats pull "moderate Republican's" and further isolate the idealogues within the Bush Administration.

Undoubtably the Bush Administration will do its best to use its powers to entrench Conservatives and rightwing Evangelicals and similar in non-elective positions which they will control.

How wise and successful the Democrats will be may have a lot to do with the political fortunes of 2008. Will the candidates be: McCain, Clinton, Obama and whomever else may seemingly move forward? McCain and Obama - would certainly offer greatly alternate visions of a future in the U.S. I think that Hillary Clinton will Not have a chance to win in 2008. She may be the Democratic nominee particularly if Barack Obama's popularity does not continue to grow as it has so far.

Time will tell as 2007 begins and evolves!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Coping - and Trying - in a Trying Period of Time

Tis the Season to be Jolly, yet all is not relaxing and simple in our household! My partner's work situation is difficult, to put it mildly! Shortly, she will be of necessity seeking employment elsewhere. We moved here when she was recruited for her current job. The job has not worked out and she is made to appear the "bad guy" when clearly that is not the reality that most people in the know would conclude if they understood what had transpired.

Emotionally my partner is paying a heavy price! She takes her work very seriously and though intellectually she knows the truth, emotionally she pushes blame within herself. It is hard to face the world when it feels so stacked against you! She will make it through this period a stronger person, but the wounds and hurts will affect her for a long time.

Both of our mothers - getting older - are facing serious health issues and necessary surgeries.

I have Morton's Neuroma (a benign tumor) on the top of my right foot - which is painful at times. Next week hopefully a podiatrist will help me find a path to dealing with it.

Yesterday while spin cycling I felt a snap in my upper left leg - I strained my hamstring! I'll have 1-3 weeks of no exercise - and coping with the pain - slowing down.

Financially things will be difficult for the forseeable future.

I'm physically - very drained! Often I am rushing and multi-tasking (me the non-multi-tasker!) and bouncing from thing to thing. There is never enough time! Rojo - our puppy gets me up around 1-2:00 a.m. and then about 5:45 a.m. - usually the end of my sleep night.

Amidst all this stress though, I find an inner peace. In my younger days I would have been hyperactive and frenetic. Now I appreciate - the things of beauty in my life. I accept that things are hard, but am doing quite well at not letting the hard things take me down.

I feel good - Extremely good, considering all that is happening! I don't want sympathy. I really am happy. It is hard, but life has its rewards, amidst the difficulties.


Sunday, December 10, 2006

Separate Paths: People, Dogs & Cats

I walk our puppy Rojo several times each day and enjoy our time together very much!

In my "human" world I'm choosing where we walk, cleaning up the "messes" he makes, untangling his leash and in general trying to "run the show". My "human" world involves thinking, planning, leading and following other humans, feeling for others, feeling my own feelings and various other things.

Rojo seemingly has a simpler path! His tail wags incessantly as he move optimistically ahead. When he sees people or other animals he tugs on his leash to try to play with them. When he finds interesting smells, he pulls to a stop and sometimes tugs backwards to get at what he wants to sniff at.

Rojo is very dependent upon attention from others much of the time. At other times he's resting or sleeping or sometimes playing with his toys or whatever he can get his mouth or paws into.

Rojo's feelings are focused upon the moment - simple, but certainly there - picking up on our reactions to him.

Cats - certainly are more independent than dogs and less dependent upon others in general. Not having a cat now, I'm less in touch with them

Rojo - helps teach me to "be in the moment" and helps me be calm and just being "there". I enjoy listening to him and gaining from him what he shares with me.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

WHY ???


Commonly we individually or collectively ask: “Why?” such as:

Why was the Holocaust allowed to happen?

One may answer this question in varying ways such as:

1.) Hitler, a horrible individual came to power and together with other
evil people used the Jews and others as scapegoats and killed millions
of innocent people, or
2.) World War I began with an incident that triggered a war where there
were no “good nations” nor “just cause”. At the end of the War,
Germany was humiliated and its people collectively punished with war
reparations and related punishments. Out of the chaos that resulted
people pushed to both the radical left and right seeking an answer.
The radical right won out through Hitler as many people sought order
and self-worth. Initially Hitler gave many Germans a sense of
well-being and his cleverness pushed good people on a horrific path ….
3.) There is “no good answer” to this question. One can explain many
things, however the end was in no way justifiable or understandable, it
just happened.

The “Why” question becomes much harder when we face questions such as:

1.) Why is my child dying of cancer at a young age? or
2.) Why was “X” killed by a drunk driver when s/he was so young? or
personally for me:
3.) Why did my father (who lived a “good life”) die at 46 of stomach
cancer, while my ex-father-in-law lived to around age 80 (despite
abusing his body with smoking and drinking heavily much of his life)?

Answering such questions related directly to our own lives requires us
to do various things such as:

1.) Examining ourselves critically and looking for parts of ourselves
that may perhaps have contributed to the issue that bothers us, and:
2.) Recognizing the importance of our deep seated fears and other
emotions and relating them to what is bothering us, and
3.) Seeing how others may be different from us in important ways and
both honoring the differences and not taking responsibility for things
that are beyond us and not part of us, and
4.) Accepting reality – both our part in “why” where it may be anywhere
from totally “not our fault” to where we may have had some or all the
responsibility for what happened, and perhaps most importantly,
5.) Having faith – whether through religion, other spiritual beliefs or
simply part of our inner core – so that our doubts and fears are felt
but do not control us or hurt us more than they have to.

Life isn’t “fair” some of the time. We each face our own doubts and
questions. Individually we must find how we can best deal with our
own “whys?” recognizing our past life experiences as well as looking to
the future.

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