Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Public Discourse and Its Variations

Listen to Ep. 49 - Jon Stewart (Live) by The Axe Files #np on #SoundCloud https://soundcloud.com/the-axe-files/ep-49-jon-stewart-live

It is such a difference between the discourse of Axe and Stewart and the polluted public discourse currently heard at the RNC. I have heard hate speech and mindless unprovable claims before, but this Summer, tops all I have heard in my 72 years on this planet.

Being young or minority we are exposed to rhetoric that is meant to hide the RNC agenda and at the same time make those of us who are not pure white feel ill at ease in the country of our birth. This feeling is scary because if Trump wins many of us could find ourselves in a surreal existence.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Learning from a Boxer, Champion, Muslim Called Muhammad Ali--RIP

Today at last, The Greatest--Muhammad Ali was laid to rest. I heard his funeral and memorial via the radio. I saw pictures via web newspapers and while I feel great sadness at his passing, I also am overjoyed with the knowledge that he did more than box and earn championships.

I never met this man except through old black and white television, so I have no person to person connection to him--his family and friends have the honor of knowing him better. Yet I am pleased with stories by people who met him by chance and whose chance encounter with the man filled them with hope and the love he shared. These are good things to know about another human being. Why? The answer quite simply is that it proves that each of us in our one on one encounters with other human beings have the same talent for spreading hope, joy, warmth, and most of all love. The stories coming out from people who knew him are those uplifting.

Considering the conditions in our society with so much cynicism and fear and even hatred of things and people who look different from ourselves, the lessons of Ali's life as showed in his funeral cause us to pause and reflect. Is what we experience outside our communities what we want for our nation? I don't think anyone who loves this country really wants for our country to live in fear and in a manner that is reactionary instead of thoughtful. We can work out of love for all of humanity as Ali did. We can build bridges to other people and in the process we can break down walls of fear, envy, and need other peoples around the world seem to have about US.

In closing this blog entry I would like any passing reader to consider if we can make the changes within ourselves to make our lives happier and more loving. Can our country likewise, build the kinds of alliances that lead to peace first and war never.

As the pragmatic idealist that I am, I certainly hope this is possible.

RIP, Muhammad Ali  You were an example for the world even if you did not start out to be one.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Why We Should Care for One Another

Like all good citizens I've been following the goings on of people running for office. People I used to support are now flashing their true colors of indifference to the people who will vote for them. Now I see the greed and vehemence with which they fight to attain the power of the office for which they are standing.

Has our country become an oligarchy or fascist state already? I had hoped now. It seems that my vote truly doesn't matter because people running on important issues no longer receive media attention. The only folks receiving media attention are those who start media cat fights which bring ratings to the TV or radio stations that carry their programing.

We need to have people who care about what is happening and are brave enough to take stands which are unpopular but which will correct the ills of too much money and too little concern for reform of the system. The system in its need to protect itself will never willingly accede power to the people. So the grassroots people for change must fight for the changes needed. The powerful will fight to maintain power. So persistence and solidarity will eventually win out. We must take care of one another and support one another in order to stop the erosion of the tenets on which this country was built.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

About My SonI

This is an abbreviated version of incidents surrounding my son. He grew into a good person despite the sorrows and traumas of the past. I believe we all have had to let go of a great deal. Today, James is the leader of a national and international non-profit dedicated to families and the importance of fathers in their children's lives. He is generous to his children and his mother. God's hand has protected him from the beginning of his life through the present. He remains a God loving person and I believe he is a credit to those of us who love him and the people he helps.

Like many Latina/o families, having a son is of paramount importance. At least it was that way for my parents. I made up for being a female by giving birth to my son. Fortunately, for me and for Jimmy, I fell in love with my baby boy. He was a good little guy until he turned 4 and his mischievous ways popped up.

Unfortunately, although his life began fairly well--he had  a Mom and Dad and then the sisters arrived and his little world changed a lot.

There were other issues that changed life for our family.

Life for me was hectic because I had a demanding husband who moved me and the children too often. At the beginning, when it was just me and Jimmy with his Dad, it was terrible to have a husband who could not settle in one place. So thanks to him, I became acquainted with the great NorthWestern part of the United States. We settled in Oregon eventually, but before doing so Jimmy, his Dad, and me and my pregnant belly travelled to New York. Jerry could not find work that suited him so we moved. The process was my first introduction to letting go of things for which I cared.

It was good for me to meet up with Dad and my New York bound family. I reconnected with aunts, uncles, and cousins and even relaxed a bit. Something happened when I was not present which alarmed my Dad and had him asking that I stay with him until the baby (Louise Alexandria) was born. How I wished I'd heeded his plea.

At this point, I want to move forward several years to the time after Jerry died because that was the time during which I learned what Jerry had done to Jimmy. Apparently, in front of my Dad, Jerry picked up his son and flicked his penis or other genitalia with his finger leaving bruises. I don't recall this. However, when my son heard this from his Grandfather, it added to many issues he would develop against his father and his fathers family.

Indeed, I agreed to stay with Dad, but my husband came back with a great amount of self-righteousness to get us. Why would a man with no prospects for a living come to get his wife in the third trimester of her pregnancy and his little toddler to go for another long drive to the west coast? Now I can think of these things logically and without the many emotions that enveloped me at the time. Then I thought I should stay with a man with whom I'd exchanged marriage vows.

To get to the consequences of that second return trip to Oregon, I had a horrible labor. My child couldn't turn around--after all I'd been seated for so many hours driving cross country. Life was so difficult that within two weeks of going through a 33 hour plus labor and having to have the humiliation of being a kind of guinea pig for the student doctors at Multnomah County Hospital in Portland Oregon, I was finally delivered of a little girl. Louise was a beautiful child but her beginnings would be difficult too. Before she was two weeks old I had to find and begin working to support the family.

I'm not even covering the fact that it took a snow plow to get my car out of a slanted driveway so I could get to the hospital in the first place.  Wow my adventures were so exciting.

To skip many years and to get to various incidents that demonstrate my son's character from his toddler-hood I'll share some incidents. They'll show that many of his adult characteristics: persistence, stubbornness, goal orientedness, extreme sensitivity behind his outgoing facade began in childhood and teenhood.

While I was going through many of the trials divorce brings to an isolated and very insecure woman, my son tiptoed down the stairs and quietly put his arms around me and told me "Don't cry, Mama. I'll be your lover boy." Many times when I have disagreements with Jimmy (James), I think of that moment and forget the argument.

At age 4 he climbed through his sisters' upstairs bedroom window, grab a tree branch and swing his little self to the top of the fence. Then he'd shimmy down the fence and have a field day.

Waiting for his father to pick him up were the most heartbreaking moments for him and for me. I suffered with him when Daddy did not show up and called at last moments if he bothered to call at all. The pain on Jimmy's face was palpable. and it was hard not too cry with him.

Before we moved out of the two story house where Jerry and I lived, I sometimes had one of Jimmy's friends over to keep him company that is when the spirit of adventure would rise again. One Sunday morning I received a call at around 6:30 in the morning. The woman asked me if I were Jimmy's mother and did I know where he was. I told the woman I was Jimmy's mother and that he was in bed. She asked me to go check. Sure enough Jimmy and his buddy Chris, were not where they were supposed to be. The kind woman gave me her address and directions as to where to get the two boys.

Divorce created a great deal of trauma for me and my children. We as part of the divorce settlement were supposed to sell the house divide the proceeds and go our separate ways. The problem that rose, however, was that because he stopped supporting us financially, I had to apply for food stamps. The agency worker, came over to my house to check me out. Of course, we did get the food stamps, but Jerry never got half of the proceeds from the sale of the house. He did not count on me being a clever woman.

At court I presented an analysis of Jerry's submission of proof that he'd paid child support. I indicated that the face of the check, the back of the check, and the receipt were not for 3 payments but for 1 payment. That way I showed how his estimates of support for his family were in fact 1/3 of the actual amount he'd submitted.

A year later, 1976 or there abouts, he called concerning his health. He knew I was interested in nontraditional as well as traditional medicines. From what he told me I suggested he see an oncologist. The symptoms sounded like cancer. In the meantime he wanted something to build up his immune system and I made some basic suggestions while reminding him that these herbs and vitamins were no match for his symptoms.

In the meantime I had gone to a therapist because I knew all the children and I had to deal with the major changes. That did help Elizabeth, but James and Louise balked at being thought of as not normal which of course was not my intention.

Suffice it to say, the family had many issues to deal with because I had to work. In the meantime, I took children to see their grandmothers and Jerry showed up every few months to be the fun parent.  However, in 1978, I became concerned because Jerry hadn't called to make arrangements for Father's Day visitation. I knew the children were looking forward to his visit as they did have a good time with him.

During the waiting period, my mother-in-law called to ask how I'd manage if I couldn't receive child support from Jerry. I told her if that happened I'd go on welfare to supplement my income.  She slurred as she spoke so I know she was drunk. However, after a few more weeks I asked James to call his grandmother Beulah. She answered the phone and asked him if he was big enough to handle some news about his Dad. She then told him that Jerry had been dead, buried for a month. My son bolted out of the door and I grabbed the phone. It was then that I learned of Jerry's death and the fact that this woman did not call to allow my children to say goodbye to their father. My daughters internalized the pain. In a way this was worse for them. I also impacted our relationships with one another.

James began to act out by dropping all his "white" friends and hanging out with "Cholos". He became a Mexican wannabe and later a Black wannabe. I'm not a psychologist.

I fought off many of the changes in James by keeping him involved in sports. However, the loss of his father without having the opportunity to say good bye and ask his father's forgiveness for not saying I love you after their last visit ate at Jimmy's conscious.

Other issues that led me to take James to New Day had to do with the fact that I knew I could not fill in the male role in a family. I tried to wrestle with him when he was young; however, when I had to cheat to break even or win, I knew it was time to stop. Also, there was the matter of sex education. I could speak about it from a female point of view, but where was he going to get a man's perspective? James was always considered a good boy by his teachers but all of his teachers and one principal spoke to me about concern for his academic future. It seems he did not put in as much effort into his school work.

James' grandparents tried to fill in gaps for his needs. I always felt they spoiled him tremendously and if I had assigned a punishment for misbehavior or not complying with his school requirements, I could count on my MOM to let him slide. She really adored her only grandson.

So after Jerry's death, the contacts with his paternal grandmother slowed down. In part because she did not act as loving toward my children. The Maternal Grandparents continued to be involved in his life and trips to visit them and to the beaches and mountains were distractions to help James and the girls get out of Rialto. However, the ANGER issues that James had for his dad's family could not be undone.

One further note: while living in Oregon when James was one year old and his sister just a baby still in diapers, I almost lost my children because I left the care for them in my husband's hands. Apparently, he lost control one day when Louise was crying and he hit her bottom. Even through the diapers, he left an imprint. I never told my children about this because I felt guilty about staying with a jerk. But my parents took Jerry's death as permission to unwrap many secrets. Thus the need for James to get more attention from me and the underground Dads I encountered to help him deal with lack of a father.












Monday, February 01, 2016

Like My Mother/Like My Father

There is a lovely wedding portrait of my parents in this room where I am to dine, but where I do most of my writing. Looking at their youthful faces, I do not wonder that I look like both of them. They looked like they could have been sister and brother. Yet their temperaments were polar opposites. Physically I look more like Dad except for my Mom's dimples and smile. My dimples and smile are almost duplicates of my Mom's.

Reminiscing becomes a pastime as we grow older and wiser. So looking at my parents and myself is a way to view who I am and what I value. I value love, family, music and humanity. Those are big chunks of the things I've studied throughout my life. Recently, a high profile singer songwriter passed away. David Bowie was someone whose work is important but I did not follow his performances as closely as I followed the Beatles, Elvis, and other artists of my younger life. This reminded me of something my ever "positive" Mom told me. Once you get to a certain age, you'll see people your age or even younger die and that will be a constant reminder of your mortality. Indeed this has been true since Elvis and Freddie Mercury passed to other realms. Now Bowie who was younger than myself.

As many pass from this world to another, Mom's anecdotes resound in my mind and I am more country-philosopher like she was and less the theory bound scholar of my college days.

I imagine that the genetics from my parents influence my thinking as much as the reading that I've engaged with during and after my college career.

Respect for family is a good thing as it helps me connect with Mom and Dad although they've been long gone.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

I Have Been Thinking of the Past and People No Longer With Us

Because November 22, 1963 was the date that we lost a president to an assassin's bullet, I remember John Fitzgerald Kennedy. I too often wonder what would have happened to our country if that event had not taken place. However such musings do me no good as it happened and I have no power over the outcome of that singular event. What I remember of that era is that families clung tight to one another. We looked at the Kennedy's as an example of beautiful people. However, with his assassination, the Kennedy's became more like the rest of us--human and not on a pedestal.

Mom and I stayed glued to our television set as most other USAmericans did. We were Americans too. We love the country and the government. We were naive about all the behind the scenes arguments as to what was right for our country. One quote I use as part of my email signature is JFK's summation that if we did not put an end to war, war would put an end to humanity. He truly was a Warrior for Peace.

Because my mother was very politically engaged. I pay attention to what Congresspeople say and do. Today, I am not voting for my representative in Congress. She voted in favor of pausing the government's action to take in Syrian Refugees. Why? Because Paris France had its equivalent of our 9'11. I'm fuming because the fear mongering hordes of Republicans have placed this issue on the line--front and center. They know how to scare people. We need people who are cool, calm and collected when dealing with dangerous situations. Inciting the hatred others have for the United States we need to resurrect more politicians with courage to do what is right instead of what is expedient for their political careers.

In order not to get angry with them I've been thinking of my Mom and some of the music she liked. I'm pasting one song as a remembrance of the old Puerto Rican songs as sung by Marc Anthony and many singers of the past: I hope I get this in right. Both are in. One song is clearly newer than the second video. However, they each underscore the patriotism that Puerto Ricans feel for the beloved Isla del Encanto.

I was born in the United States on the island of Manhattan on a blusttery winter night in February. Still seeds of love for the island and its people,my people were well and deeply planted by my Mom. I love the passion in the voices of the singers. Interestingly it is through music that the past and the present converge. Too frequently this duality has left me longing for two diametrically opposed positions. Is it any wonder that I like and desire so many wonderful and diverse things in life?



Preciosa is a term Puerto Ricans use for their beloved Isla del Encanto.































Sunday, September 27, 2015

Reviving the Past

I am a Queen/Freddie Mercury fan. Since I first heard Freddie's voice during the last year or two,  I became mesmerized by his vocals. Later, I purchased a video or two of Queen during various performances and I instantly knew the Mercury's performances were part of the reasons for Queen's success. He was the kind of showman that kept his audiences in mind, and who made sure each member of the audience felt a connection to him. (These are comments made by Brian May and music critics of the era during which Mercury performed. In addition, many songs are anthems which are remembered for occasions when they're called for. My favorite of these are We Are the Champions, and Deacon's We're Going to Rock you. Or that could be May's song.) What can focusing on the work of a deceased singer/songwriter/performer teach us? This is a question I have about all the historical events such as WWII or the Cold War etc. 

I  tried teaching the importance of knowing one's and other's histories. Young people are vastly self confident in their futures without looking back at histories. Yet looking back and studying biographies would teach people that they are not alone in feeling shiftless without a goal that would bring success to them, however, they define success.

Beatles and Presley are equally beloved by me and others for many reasons. Queen is mostly about fun as are the Beatles. However, as Beatles broke up the attention to social issues grew for them in different ways. John Lennon became more involved with social issues that are still associated with him."Give Peace a Chance" and "Imagine" are forever connected with Lennon and these ideas are sorely needed by society because we are constantly looking for ways to get into more wars. Korean, Vietnam, Cold War, the two Iraq Wars and others in the Middle Eastern part of our Earth.

Brian May's contributions to social issues came in the form of "Is This the World We've Created." I do not know who among them wrote "Under Pressure" which is a song I love, but it's obviously a song about humanity taking care of itself--brother to brother. The idea that teaches us most about Mercury is Mercury's idea of loving and enjoying what one does. Otherwise, he once said if I stop enjoying what I do; it is time to stop and do other work that satisfies my idea of fun. 

Mercury was great at taking chances. His performance in Rio once had an audience in rebellion as he came out in drag. He also took chances with music he wrote and I especially appreciate his work with Monserrat Caballe a Barcelonian opera soprano. The collaboration came toward the end of Mercury's public careers. The CD Barcelonia is a tour de force combining rock, gospel, and opera. Brilliant is a word for the work. It also was taking a chance instead of doing the usual rock and roll.

Doing what one loves is an idea I often taught because I believe that we become callous and thoughtless about other people if we are miserable at the jobs we do. 

Presley was not a song writer although he re-arranged many of the songs he sang. I especially like his "In the Ghetto" because it discussed the truth of poor people's lives. I can imagine that baby crying. Furthermore, Presley could convey emotions without the tackiness of making a sound in his throat to evoke tears or crying as Mercury did when singing "Is This the World We Created" as their special request following all performers of Live Aid 1985.  

Looking at these people from the past who succeeded at what they did is a good exercise in learning for our futures.  Presley did not take the chances Mercury took although he is still revered by those who lived during his time. Mercury is picking up followers among the young for many reasons.I think Brian May's insistence of keeping Queen going helps, for a digitalized video of Mercury appears sometime during each concert. Love of My Life a song reputedly written for Mary Austin is the song May uses for those moments. 

So taking chances, following your heart and doing what you love are the two main lessons along with perseverance. Without those elements success can come slowly if at all.

To be honest, many philosophers and people I've studied such as Joseph Campbell taught these concepts during the time Mercury lived. The thing is that I did not know about Mercury were, his struggles at boarding schools, his feelings of abandonment, and his eventual decision to "follow your bliss" as Campbell would say. Some valuable lessons can be learned best through the biographies and performances of people in the arts. I prefer listening to the music of the artists but reading their biographies enriches enjoyment of their works.This is especially true when we learn how the composers arrived at their God given goals.