The link below brings to mind another reason why.the gap between the lower and middle class grows wider each year. Who can COUNT ON an additional $3,000 EACH year, “on average”? Some reading these words will think its no big deal, while for others, such a safety net would be a dream come true.

My hero was my first mother-in-law. I was waking up early to pray, taking two buses to get my kid to daycare and then going to work, taking the grocery cart on the bus, and feeling like I had alot on me, while she, with 8 children, worked, woke up at 4:30 to iron and plan breakfast and lunch, and went and got her diploma at some point during all this – cooking big Sunday dinners for all of us to come back to, without a complaint. We all crowded onto the chairs, stairs and every available space. All her kids turned out better than fine, each one with a faithful fine heart, and brag-worthy loving kids of their own – a family that stayed together and takes care of that mom now without a thought – because that’s what you do.
Yet, so many recipients of the financial safety net largesse assume, WITHOUT QUESTION, that they are at the very least, on a level playing field with their colleagues – colleagues like my Ms. Geneva, or the single parent with the special needs children, or the night school attendees, paying their own way by working.
The corresponding secret held close by those financial have-nots, is the deep-seated frustration at those who can’t see. It’s not the inequality that creates the resentment, really. It’s that the help with the rent, car and home repairs, down payment on the house, preferential treatment when applying for jobs, housing etc, freedom from student debt – these add up to unacknowledged (or outright denied) privilege. This refusal to expand one’s world view, this lack of perspective is what causes the resentment.
Openly expressed gratitude and appreciation, towards parents, by their adult children, would create happier families.
Offering of genuine respect by those same adult children, toward peers who struggle and achieve, year after year, without such aid – these would go a long way toward creating less divided and repressed atmosphere among peers. #1stworldproblems #rudetonotice #dontaskdonttell #tabootopics

Secret of Many Urban 20-Somethings

Anne Frank, Slavery, A Piece of God, the President, Choice

Anne Frank

Annelies Marie Frank was born 85 years ago today in Frankfurt, Germany. She would be one of the more than one million children who perished in the Holocaust, but her diary endures. On her birthday, learn more about Anne Frank, read some of her original writings, and help us pay tribute to her and all children who lost their lives during the Holocaust: http://bit.ly/1l4JYSg
Photo: Anne Frank Stichting
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Anne Frank would have been 85 today. We try to act like the most famous and horrific injustices and war crimes, such as the Holocaust and United States officially sanctioned African slave trade and culture are ANCIENT history.

In the case of the Holocaust, some survivors still exist. My father arrived here as a small boy, long before WW II, his parents escaping the Cossacks with the clothes on their backs. But I understand that much of my family that had found it’s way to Europe was lost to the Nazis.

Still, we have rampant memes and story lines, the incessant drumbeat, “all Jews come from money, stick together and are scheming to (or have) taken over the world.” Sadly, I know that these narratives are SO pervasive and convincing that odds are at least one person reading even my extremely progressive (“Hurry up, world, I got grandkids. It was supposed to be better by now!”) posts is actively struggling not to buy in.

Then some BORN into generations of American slavery passed away only recently and their 1st generation non-enslaved children and grandchildren still walk among us, suffering the effects of generations of systematically abused and abolished families and destroyed cultural heritage. The fruits of the efforts to find, restore, reclaim and rebuild are nothing short of stunning. But, still…

We all know the range of ways that we accept and face this or find ourselves being fed some flavor of the “that should have no effect on today, hey, X immigrant group were derided, discriminated against and denied employment too, we all came from somewhere”, whitewash.

In honor of little Anne Frank, who never got to do more in life, than write her hopes and insights (“I still believe people are really good at heart. “) into her diary, let’s resolve to speak out against corruption, torture, slavery and abuse, including of our Earth, still existing in today’s world instead of being part of an equally ongoing, unchanging it’s-not-so-bad, whitewash.

Our president is not a descendent of enslaved destroyed families. His mom had a fine start in life and he never knew his African academic father. He wrote an entire book about his efforts to piece together his paternal background and to understand the choices of this man.But still, his skin color is routinely pointed to as proof that “Everything is all better now. See?” As our President, he would be the first to look around and explain to you why that is not the case. We got work to do – not for the good of some of us, but for the good of all of us.

Still, we persist in dismissing our ANCIENT HISTORY. “How could THAT have happened?” “Oh it was long ago. That would never happen today.” Yes, it could and is. It’s always so complex. There are always so many factors. Money and power struggles are always involved.

Buddhism teaches the three poisons of avarice, anger and stupidity, from which all evil stems. All human beings have an inherent enlightened nature too, though – a piece of God or Spirit within, if you prefer. There is always a choice as to how our life force manifests moment to moment. Follow ingrained habits and tendencies? Or break free?

Today, I will try to love as if I honor and cherish the hopes and dreams of little Anne Frank. I am proud to live in a community where so many fight the good fight to support, restore, repair, build anew, where hope is very much alive and action is the name of the game.

 

Safety, Security, Happiness

Sometimes I get confused and think that strengthening a so-so safety net will FEEL better than generosity. I confuse the feeling of happiness with the feeling of becoming just a bit more secure.

I had no one to rely on in my birth family, and always had to work really hard with no safety net. So building financial security so I would not have to need with no one to help EQUALED happiness to me. When I found out I could make my own moves for myself I was proud that I worked my ass off.

This assumption about the ORIGIN of happiness, though, is encouraged by our culture. Even those of us that know that we are probably not going to achieve the stereotypical materially secure retirement this time around, feel it is IRRESPONSIBLE to choose generosity over trying to reinforce our position if we have the chance.

It’s a dog eat dog, right? We only have ourselves to blame, right? To counter childhood trauma, to fit in, to show society, we do our best not to need.

“This is what I am supposed to be doing, right? Okay, then. I can do that. I can BE that.” We all lose sight of the really big picture at points during our lives.

But if we are truly fortunate, we get to see a a choice, even with the help of a friend, and at a life crossing, we see we can decide between getting a tiny bit more secure or being generous in a meaningful way. We find out that the feeling of happiness we crave comes from giving to a worthy cause and not from another drop-in-the-bucket bank deposit.

LIFE IS SO GREAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am so grateful to not live a life of reactivity from start to finish and be able to grow. Like plants, we grow towards the light.

January 17, 2012 Haiku

Well, it’s May now, but on January 17 around this time, I submitted an entry to my niece Lori’s blog. It was Haiku Tuesday, according to Lori – or Lorelei, as I sometimes call her. So although I am positive my entries are not worthy of the name, I was, at that time, in the habit of throwing one in on Tuesdays. I love Lori.

So I took a little break and was silent at my desk at work for a moment. What I settled on was as follows:

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Ambling along my way

while caverns yawn ahead.

Claire! Take care.

Don’t slip.

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“That’s odd”, I thought. But it felt right so I stopped there. “That’s the one for today.”

A couple of hours later, I received a call from my spouse, Donald James. He was calling me from the middle of a street intersection in Apex. “Claire, I’ve been in an accident. The car is totaled.” I had trouble hearing him. He said, “I’m okay. Sorry if you can’t hear me. There are fire engines.”

Don was not okay. We found out later by looking at the police report that a woman at the wheel of a Chevy Suburban lost consciousness behind the wheel, her foot slipping to rest on the gas pedal. She hit the car in front of her, which sustained minor damage and pulled her way. She hit the car making a right turn into her street, knocking it off course. Then, still picking up speed, she ran the red light and came flying at Don, going about 55 mph, and hitting the front of his car at an angle, still demolishing the vehicle. Had he come through the green light even 1/2 a second sooner, she would have crashed right into his door. She continued on at a slower pace, stopped by the low brick wall near the gas station on the other side of the intersection. From what we know so far, Don was the only one with a serious injury.

But he was able to get out of the car and only thought his shoulder really hurt. His glasses were near the car and he pointed that out to a fireman, who retrieved his glasses for him. They were okay and he put them on. He was ushered to the side of the road, which is where I found him, with a policeman handing him back his license.

He told me our 2004 Prius had entirely sheered off the two front wheels of her Chevy Suburban at the axle. It was dragged on to the tow truck. So, of course, did our car.

We eventually discovered that he was not okay. He had two complete breaks of the C7 vertebra in his spine. That was when the fun really began. This kind of injury can easily cause paralysis or death at any point from the moment it happens until it’s repair, and during the repair as well. The surgery required was, as the surgeon we eventually settled on explained to us, “massive”, “carried serious risk” and “not routine for any surgeon”.

Don is a cautious person and no gambler. He had no good options, but he chose to try hard to give the bone a chance to heal on its own. This was boring and painful for him, and nerve-wracking and stressful for those around him. But hey, it wasn’t my neck! I supported his choice 100%.

He took almost no pain medicine, because he wanted to listen closely to his body and know how he was feeling. He wore first a rigid neck brace, later a heavier brace, covering both his chest and his back. He limited his activity to 4 hours of sitting at a time in the one chair we owned that he could tolerate, alternating with 2 hours of lying flat on his back in the bed he could tolerate, which is in our guest bedroom.

We went through three surgeons, eventually finding one who remains to us, an angel from heaven. An amazing man. He listened carefully to Don’s request for alternatives and brought to his attention a cervical stimulator – an electric device that has been proven to enhance bone growth. It’s more used post-surgery, to speed up healing, but Don was turning over every stone.

Based on what the surgeon explained, he knew it was unsafe to even lift a frying pan. He could not drive. On rare occasions that he had to be in a car, he rode in the back seat with the driver driving very carefully to avoid bumps. An air bag going off could kill him. He could not really walk outside much, because outside our house is a gravel driveway and uneven land. He could only remove the brace briefly to eat.

After almost 4 months of this, there was no significant change in his cat scans and x-rays. So he gave in to the inevitable and on May 8, he trusted Dr. Moe Lim, of the UNC Spine Center, to carry out a 7-hour surgery to re-stabilize his spine. As Dr. Lim reminded him, “It’s not really an elective surgery.” It took 13 screws, 2 rods, 2 connecting rods, bone grafts from his spine and from donor bone. He is now recuperating.

The effects of this accident on his life, but also on mine, and even the ripple effect on those closest to us,  have been massive. He can tell his own story and I hope he will. As for me, I am conspicuous in my absence, from the lives of my friends, and my children and my co-workers, due to both care giving, and to the ripple effect on my own health. I’ve been challenging a disease since 2005, and Don was before this, ‘the strong one’ that made it so I could mostly keep on keeping on with a busy job and a busy life.

But there have also been gifts – many I am sure are still to come and still in delivery. Most areas of life are getting a reboot. But we will save that for another day. It’s ongoing and still too soon to understand. Don is two weeks post-surgery and so far so good. He did well with it. Me: not so much. My health has taken some real hits and while I am out of work to help him, we have both needed help as, after several days of sustained high activity, I would become quite ill. I’m thankful my sister moved here a few years ago, to be close, and for my other friends. I am positive my health dips are temporary. And Don’s proving he is still his amazingly hardy self during recuperation.

I am grateful. I will always remember that haiku that came to me in that moment of reflection. “Claire, don’t slip.”

“Exams are coming. Do your best.” is how I take that now. And I have!

I find it reassuring to look back and remind myself that those words came to me as counsel. It encourages me to take what has unfolded and continues to unfold as something that I can make it through, will make it through, and above all, an event that can have a deeper significance.

I have the highest respect for the still small voice and try ever harder to hear it.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Folks that know me are probably sick of hearing my two fave sayings, one of which is: Normal is someone you don’t know well enough yet.

I am having a hard time right now. Sometimes, people have hard times. I’d be having a hard time regardless of the holidays. I’ll get over it. I’ll figure it out.

After reading my niece Lori’s post today, I am moved to share my evil perspective. Year round, we are pressured into at least halfheartedly attempting to emulate the contentment and satisfaction portrayed in the ridiculous phony TV world. The backdrop to the happy existence we are promised, if only we can make our lives normal enough – is consumption.

In the holiday season, this all works up to a feverish orgasm. In the quaint, but expensive TV holiday world, no one has to work TOO hard to make it happen.

There are folks only too happy to spend time preparing wonderful food, spending money they have put aside all year for just this special purpose, and showing the spirit of the baby Jesus by putting up with cranky mean Uncle Tom or lonely worried Aunt Mary. No one turned away, no one left out, and every child eye gleaming with the sparkle of that special wish fulfilled.

People start revving themselves up to have this mindset just before Thanksgiving – or at least to pretend they have it. It’s part of being a good citizen.

Swimming in this bizarre and emotional and soup, each and  every one of us MUST compare our individual quirky existences to this imaginary phantom ideal – even as, intellectually, we know it is ridiculous.

Fact is, all the same stuff is going on that goes on the rest of the year – but there is more to do, and everyone is completely out of the calming influence of the routine.

This is it, right now: the tip of the spear – for the next week or so. How do each one of us measure up?

Well, the holidays were a bad time for me growing up – profoundly bad – nothing but fearsome trouble with a capital T, family fights, big drama and heightened deprivation. So now, without a small child to take pity on, and make magic for, I am no big fan of any of this but the days off. It’s really not in any part of my history. You can say it: Bah, humbug. But I don’t really believe it. My eyes are clear. I can do good things for others year round. And I try to do so. This week is: a week.

And what if, during this week, we just happen to have genuine conflict or sadness – the kind that is only heightened by contrast with this ideal being shoved into our eyeballs and ears except during sleep – how well can we pull ourselves together to avoid calling attention to this inappropriate and embarrassing situation? We wouldn’t want to be ‘one of those’ who can’t get into the spirit! Chin up! Keep that twinkle going!

Life is life. It is beautiful it is awful, it is magic, it is sad, it is joyous, it is surprising, it is perplexing, it is infuriating, it is educational, it is rewarding, it is sometimes hard to bear, and sometimes too good to be true – year round. Each one of us is unique and in the midst of writing our own never-before-told story, if we allow space for that to be. It does not have to be written for us. Our calendar is our own. Love and peace to all, each and every moment of every day…especially to those who are sad for any reason. You have my heartfelt prayers for your strength, forbearance and progress.

Scott and Life on Other Planets

Today would have been, I believe, the 29th birthday of my cousin Phyllis’ (also passed) son Scott. He was hit by a drunk driver and killed when he was 19, not long before Christmas. He was at a red light, stopped, on his way home from one of his three part-time jobs. He was also an engineering student at Penn State, head of the engineering club and possessed of SADD (Students Against Drunk Driving) bumper stickers in the trunk of his car. Someone came across a double yellow line from the other direction, smashed right into him and changed all of our lives forever – especially those of his immediate family. Naturally, the earthquake created cracks and jagged schisms in the world of everyone who loved him and loves them. The ramifications just go on and on and on in every conceivable way. Issues that would have had time to be sorted out and addressed are now frozen in time. But he is not forgotten and he made a tremendous difference. I pray for him each and every day, at least twice a day. And am still deeply involved, underneath the surface, with dealing with this surrealistic incident, its affect on his mother (and father and sister), his loss, and for me, the subsequent departure of his mom, with whom I was very very close. ANYWAY, I read his sister Lori’s great post about this topic and was inspired to make my first entry into my own blog. She has a wonderful WordPress blog called

UPHILL: Musings on life, learning, social justice, and judo. Mostly judo.

Happy Birthday Scott. I will copy Lori’s off-the-cuff muse and add my own:

Lori: Some things that were awesome about Scott:

1. His hair: Until my brother was in his late teens, he kept his hair short to hide his curly locks and avoid teasing. Then he decided to embrace his natural looks and let his grown into an electric shock of blond curls. It was amazing.

2. His trillion watt smile: My brother had the biggest and best smile of anyone I’ve ever met.

3. He was a big, giant weirdo: My brother had strange taste in clothing, conducted gross experiments with food, and was constantly trying to invent ways to save time that were extremely impractical.

4. He was a compulsive over-achiever: In the last year of his life, my brother was a full-time college student with three jobs, one of which was a teaching assistant. He was applying for internships on top of all that.

5. He loved what he did: My brother was an engineering student whose first love was physics. When he went to parties in college, his friends would realize he was missing, only to find him alone in a dark room with a flashlight and his text book.

6. He made everyone feel special: I don’t know how he did it, but he made everyone feel like he was their best friend. If you were Scott’s friend, he’d give you anything you wanted, listen to you for hours, and always find a way to make you laugh.

Of course that is a lovely tribute. I love #3 the best as I too am a big giant wierdo.
Me again: Alls I can say, and it’s no throwaway comment: I always liked and loved him and I think that was true on his end – largely because of his tremendous sincerity, unique qualities, forbearance, humanity and geekiness. There was alot to be proud of about him, but I am not his parent and so that was not my thing.

Living with my spouse, I have learned to let holidays and birthdays go by without recognition and focus on each day. Previous to our relationship, this  seemed like both a lofty and laughable goal – never an achievable one. One of the most amazing things about our life together is that with him its very doable. He really does try to focus on each day in a meaningful way. There is no need to do a big Make Up day at designated calendar points.

This is, trust me, a minor miracle. But it kind of puts me on a different planet than other humans. So what else is new?

I could go on, but this is Scott’s post.

Miss you Scott. Wish you were here as Scott, hey! I hope you are here as anybody. If you are hanging around, say hi. I will listen up.