A Dark Time. Is Light Coming?

This week, all I’ve heard is that it’s the darkest time for the country where I live, at least since 9/11. I’m not doubting that. It’s probably not been a great idea, but I’ve been reading a lot about how to help people who’ve been deceived by repeated lies, help cult members move on, etc. The best article I read is this one, “Can members of the Trump cult be deprogrammed after the leader falls?,” from Steve Hassan in 2019, and I wanted to share it, in case it’s helpful for any readers.

Perhaps the beauty of this guinea fowl feather will help us keep breathing.

I have been doing a fairly good job of keeping good spirits until last week, when I saw how many people whom I’ve been extending the benefit of the doubt, supporting their right to their beliefs, etc., are willing to try to bring down the government and the precious Constitution they kept braying about for so many years. Beating police officers, whose lives I thought mattered to them, with American flags, which I thought they held sacred, etc., all brought out my worst fears.

Knowing me, and I sorta do, it’s clear that I can handle one or two crises at a time pretty well. By the time yesterday came along, the crisis count went over my limit. There are a couple of things that I can’t talk about but weigh heavy on my mind. Plus way too many horrible illnesses in my extended circle. Then stuff happened at my job over the past week or so went over my limit for calmly dealing with the barrage of change that comes with an Agile organization owned by a new set of venture capitalists.

Feathers and some nice grounding quartz. Ahh.

By the time my final meeting ended last night, at 7 pm, I’d had it. The darkness enveloped me, literally and figuratively, as I made my way back to the ranch, and I just couldn’t take another thing. I want to help people, I want to talk to folks who need to talk to me, and I want to get things done that I’ve committed to do. But wow, I’m only human.

You know what, all of you are only human, too. It is important to know when you’ve hit a limit and do something about it.

My Zoom background decorations. Perhaps over the top.

I am not someone who feels better by just ignoring current events, but I CAN find good things to balance them. That’s my hope for all of you, too, that you keep listening to the advice I repeatedly give to turn to nature and find its timeless beauty. Breathe. Take a walk. Surround yourself with what makes you happy (like all my silly Valentine’s Day decorations in the office). Talk to a friend. Maybe talk to a friend who is NOT overwhelmed like me!

My view from the desk tries to tell me love wins.

I will now sign off and follow my own advice. Love to all, and I mean ALL.

What Motivates Doing the Right Thing?

Last night, while I could not get to sleep. I was watching lawmakers on television suddenly deciding to say things that made sense, that would calm people down, and that might lead to a better society. I cynically thought to myself that they didn’t do this as long as pretending to be loyal to an incompetent leader was to their advantage. How did they know when it was time to do the right thing rather than the thing that they knew was wrong, but would keep them in power?

I’d have been scared, too. [Papers and other materials litter the chamber after House were evacuated as protesters try to break into the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)]

I don’t know. It could be fearing for their lives as their buddies tried to break into the building where all the non-President leadership of the US was hanging out. Perhaps the incompetent leader finally became so incompetent that there was no more pretending “He was just kidding, ya know, that’s how he is. What a card!”

Get off my lawn! I wouldn’t want to piss him off, whoever he is, but guessing from the moss, he may be Florida Man. Image by @AM__ARTISTRY via Twenty20

The lawmakers’ actions aren’t unfamiliar to many of us, I’m sure. Sometimes it’s so much easier to just ignore something that’s wrong, but more trouble to correct than to live with. To be honest, I’m doing that, myself, with a situation I know needs to be remedied, but I can’t figure out a way to do it without making a bunch of people angry, hurt, or put out. That can have dire consequences. Hmm. Yes, that’s just like the lawmakers’ dilemma.

I can tell those government representatives to just suck it up and not hand over the power to affect their courage to stand up for reason to the personality-cult members who voted for them. But then I’d need to tell myself to suck it up, too. I’m no better than they are. Probably a LOT of us give people who make a lot of noise and make life difficult the power to affect what we do.

Ya know, jerk, facial recognition software exists. You may experience…consequences.

But, we know what’s right. Perhaps the lawmakers are beginning to see that by treating a minority of loud and upset people with kid gloves, they are putting everyone else in danger, including themselves.

I just want to see some logical consequences start to occur. Jerks to jail, lawmakers remember why they were elected…reason. Civility. Back to dreaming.

Image by @annie29 via Twenty20.

Maybe. I don’t know. It’s a really confusing time.

There’s Always Some Gallows Humor

Well, kids, I had a panic attack and came home from work this afternoon. On my way, I said to myself, “Oh, in case there’s chaos on the streets, I better fill the car with gas.” I also washed it (Lee’s car was filthy). Just because your society is collapsing doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep a clean vehicle.

Wait, here’s the humorous thing that came up this afternoon. My coworker and I were Zooming, attempting to do a work meeting. We stopped to watch Joe Biden give a good talk about how our country is about decency and the common good. I moved my laptop to where she could watch and listen to it with me. It felt good to not be alone.

In a split screen, the people occupying and vandalizing the US Capitol building were wandering around. A bunch of them had these yellow flags:

Hmm, that phrase sounds familiar.

This is a thing I don’t think about often. But, that phrase rang a bell. Oh yes, my friend Donna in Master Naturalists wrote a little blog post about an encounter she had with a non-venomous water snake recently. It was, as always, sweet, because she is so kind to all natural life.

She did, though, title it Don’t Tread on Me. You know, a wry commentary on those historical flags and slogans, but applied to an actual snake.

Well, let me tell you that posts on that blog usually get between 10-20 hits. Imagine my surprise when I saw 189 hits to that post the day it was published and 42 the next day. I hadn’t figured out what caused that, though I had some idea that someone shared it for some obscure reason.

I’m an innocent snake!

But, when I saw those flags, I realized that there were people out there searching for that phrase. I have a feeling they were disappointed.

I’m disappointed in a lot of people today. What a world, what a world.

Imagining What to Say about the News: My Dream

For the first time in as long as I can remember, I woke up this morning to happy news about the United States and its government (from my perspective). I am relieved to see that the way our system has been set up is holding up, at least so far. I fervently hope we can avoid violence and move toward a society I can be proud to live in.

WELL I’M NAIVE AND FOOLISH! I’M ASHAMED OF FELLOW US CITIZENS.

Readers of my blog have probably figured out that I fall on the liberal side of the political scale. While it’s true that I’m a pacifist, non-evangelical, pro-choice, democratic socialist, I’m not scary, out to eat you, or hell-bent on destroying anyone’s way of life. And I don’t want to live in a place that forces its citizens to toe some political line or suffer for their beliefs. I’m a big fan of diversity, and that’s why I’ve been having a hard time living in the US since our political parties have turned so violently against each other. How the heck are we supposed to accomplish anything at all if our only goal is to make the other team lose?

I hope that today’s events in the US, with actual elections, voted on by actual people, and certified by neutral parties can lead this supposed democratic republic back to sanity. I can dream, can’t I?

What I Want to See

I too, have a dream, like Dr. King did. In my dream people can:

  • Work together to make the lives of all citizens healthy and safe
  • If we participate in the political system as elected officials, do so to make the lives of the citizenry better, not to benefit a few people in power
  • Help the mentally challenged lead productive lives and contribute to society
  • Use our different viewpoints and perspectives to come to workable compromises for laws, regulations, and programs at the local, state, and national levels
  • Take care of the health of all citizens without causing undue financial burdens
  • Educate our children and adults to create a workforce of laborers, technicians, artists, scientists, and others to create a thriving society
  • Take care of the planet we live on and its non-human citizens as well as we take care of the humans
  • Celebrate our differences and learn from each other
  • Banish hate. Period. Friendly competition is great; hatred of the other is not.
  • Prioritize peace over war. Imagine what the world’s warriors could do if they didn’t have to spend so much time and energy on weapons and fighting.
  • Enjoy our religious traditions and cultural heritage without negating other people’s
  • Stay out of people’s private lives if they aren’t hurting anyone
  • Talk to each other. AND listen to each other
  • Celebrate beauty, hope, love, family, and all the good parts of life
  • Treat children as people, not property

I can be optimistic for one day. Yeah, Imagine.

Book Report: A Promised Land

Rating: 5 out of 5.

If you finish a 700-page book and are still happy with it, you know it was a darned good book. And yes, A Promised Land, by Pres. Barack Obama, was a really fascinating book. That’s saying a lot, because I have mostly been bored to tears by books about presidential politics, international relations, and recent history.

He’s pretty funny sometimes, too, especially about his ears.

Somehow, Obama manages to talk about his life in such a way that it’s easy to keep up with who’s who, and you feel like you get to know the many, many people he comes across. Whoever helped him organize the book and recommended putting in the short-but-helpful descriptions of his friends, colleagues, opponents, and staff members wins my earnest thanks. I didn’t lose track of people in this story, at all. And they all seemed so real, not like names to memorize in a history book.

As you may know, Obama is a pretty smart guy (even if you don’t like him, that’s a fact). He loves explaining things, and this book gives him the opportunity to do so at length, rather than in sound bites. By taking his time and explaining why he did things, why compromises had to be made, and how he could see what other people wanted and needed from their perspectives, I was actually able to understand the complexities of elections, dealing with dignitaries, working with Congress, etc.

The typesetting of the book made it hard for me to read when I was tired. Whenever there were a bunch of letter “g” together, it made a big blob. There’s one in the middle of the right page. I did love the letter “Q” in this font, though, and there were lots, thanks to al-Qaeda.

I think I’d have been drawn into this book even if I wasn’t already a fan, because he does a great job of pointing out where he screwed up, when other people were right, when hard decisions had to be made, etc. It helps to have the context and to realize how much those of us consuming the news don’t get to know (I’m not talking about Fox News, I’m talking about more moderate outlets).

Continue reading “Book Report: A Promised Land”

When Is a Conspiracy Theory Not a Theory?

You may have read my post earlier in the week, about what to do as we move forward. In it, I talked about an article I’d read about some of the less credible conspiracy theories that are going on around the world right now. In response, my friend Marian asked me: “Your blog brings up this question for me. How were you able to determine that the conspiracies were false?”

loch ness
Where IS that Loch Ness monster, anyway? Photo by @dancing_on_rainbows_ via Twenty20.
drawing of V Putin
Only free Putin image I found. Image from @dancing_on_rainbows_ via Twenty20

Well, isn’t THAT a good question? Maybe something’s only a conspiracy theory to those who think there’s no way it could be true (based on no firm evidence), and that same thing could be just a theory to people who think it’s plausible (with the same amount of firm evidence). Take, for example, the theory that Vladimir Putin has a series of body doubles who pretend to be him on some occasions. The evidence for it is that he keeps looking younger and younger in photos. The people who discount it point out that one of his nicknames is Man of Botox (or something like that). So, either he’s conspiring to trick people, or he’s just a fan of cosmetic surgery. Who knows?

Of course, there are much darker, scarier and less provable conspiracies, like QAnon (not linking to that!), who killed JFK, whether there are dead aliens in Area 51, if the moon landing was a hoax, etc. Here’s a handy list of some popular ones. Some seem silly, some seem plausible, and some may forever be theories. It’s the “conspiracy” part that concerns me. I’m fine not knowing stuff. I don’t know a lot of stuff, and one of my firmest beliefs is that there are many things we humans haven’t figured out yet that might make confusing things more comprehensible.

area 51
I can’t believe I didn’t drop in when I was in the area. Image by @lovnjeeps via Twenty20.

A conspiracy implies that there are forces out there hiding things from others, or even that certain in-groups are privy to information that is hidden on purpose from everyone else. At least QAnon is nice enough to leave breadcrumbs for their minions, right? Neither the Illuminati nor the Liberal Media Conspiracy have sent me their clues, though, and I am bummed.

Turning back to Marian’s question, I think it’s easier to prove something is a conspiracy than it is to prove the theory’s veracity. I think we’re just not going to know until they trot out that alien, or whatever. That’s fine. People can choose not to believe things they don’t have good evidence for, or they can choose to do so, if it makes them happy.

It may not matter one bit. It’s what people DO.

The important thing is that we differentiate false claims with evidence to prove their falsehood from unproven theories. That seems to be a real issue in the US right now, where you say something enough times that it’s declared true, or lies don’t matter if you say them with enough conviction.

What I’m trying to get at here, as I type as I think, is that conspiracy theories that aren’t harming anyone really aren’t a problem. When enough people believe there are conspiracies going on, even with no evidence, and they take action that harms others…that’s why I’m worried. I’m afraid I see that as a possibility in the near future. Just because you can’t prove a conspiracy theory is right or wrong doesn’t mean it can’t be very dangerous.

We’ll see. Did this make any sense at all? Do you have any comments to steer me toward making more sense? I’m open!

Moving Forward

First, thanks for your interest in my stories about my past adventures. I expected to get about twelve people to read yesterday’s post, not the actual number! It’s a Blogmas miracle! This makes me think that I may want to write up some memories every week or so. First I have to go plow through some photo albums, half of which appear to be in Austin and half in Cameron (oh the problems of having two houses, lol).

Here, to show you how happy I am, enjoy a photo of me from…a long time ago? I have no idea when this was taken.

While I do have more memories to share, my thoughts this morning got all derailed by reading a couple of posts on conspiracy theories and code words. First I read a cautionary piece on Facebook by Jim Rigby, my favorite Christian minister. He talked about the importance of not thinking that the issues the US is dealing with will just go away with a change in the presidency.

He also provided a handy kind of “dictionary” that helps in understanding what you’ll hear certain groups (conservative subgroups) of people saying they believe in, versus what the underlying implications are. Here are a few juicy ones:

“Elites” is a term of derision. It is not generally applied to the plutocrats who pillage our nation, but is reserved for stigmatizing and marginalizing anyone with expertise.

“Family values” is a term of reverence for the patriarchal hierarchy.

“Religious liberty” is a term referring to the “right” of Christians to impose their religion on non-Christians. If Muslims try to have influence in the public sphere they are accused of trying to bring about shariah law, and Jewish activists are smeared with tropes going back to the Spanish Inquisition

“Christian persecution” is a term often using actual persecution against Christians in other countries to pretend that Christians are being persecuted when not allowed to rule THIS land.

Jim Rigby, link below

You can read the whole thing below.

I’ve gone on and on about how vital it is to take into account the facts (yes, that means things that have really happened) about race relations here, like Jim Crow laws, lynchings, jerrymandered voting districts, educational inequities, housing inequities, yadda yadda. There’s a boatload of it. What I liked about Rigby’s piece is that he spelled it all out so succinctly (considering it’s a boatload).

Oh look, some flowers. Let’s breathe and enjoy them.

Then, I happened upon a great article from The Economist that you can’t read unless you sign up (grr). It talked about conspiracy theories around the world. Whoa, I had no idea how widespread and crazy some are. Did you know Putin has numerous body doubles, so he can live forever? On the other hand, apparently gays are trying to take over his government, even though they have no power. And there were weird ideas from Japan and other places, too.

Conspiracy theories are just fine, until enough people are convinced they are true and start harming others. I’m keeping an eye on them!

Sorry to be such a downer today. I just want to say that it behooves all of us, no matter what “team” we are on, to make sure we are basing our opinions on what it actually happening, and to not hide in our safe little circles. Everyone needs checks and balances, so let’s be responsible.

More flowers, the last of my autumn decorations. I got one bouquet to last well over a week and become multiple smaller ones. Happy December!

Back to cute stories later. At least I shared some fun photos.

Feeling Lighter?

I’m talking about mentally lighter, here. True fact is that I have been feeling much lighter while I’m on my sojourn in the mountains. I have finally given myself space to breathe and permission to do nothing I “should” be doing for a few weeks. I’ve been able to read, knit, watch silly television movies with the family, and eat whatever I want to, whenever I want to. Nice.

It turns out, though, that I’m not the only one. In my casual reading of email, Facebook, and news sites this morning, I have run across a surprisingly (to me) large number of folks expressing that they feel lighter, better, more free, or less stressed. It’s not everyone. But it’s a lot of people.

I’m glad there really isn’t an elephant in the room.

I’ll address the elephant in the room.*

Lots of people are feeling more free and less vigilant because of the US election results. Some of us are relieved at the Presidential election stuff; others are happy that their party did much better than expected in state and local elections. Still others are just glad for a break from all those ads and such. But, I don’t think it’s all about that.

There are still lots of things in 2020 that can keep us blanketed with concerns. The COVID stuff weighs on everyone’s minds, for sure. There have been exposures in my family, and that worries me, of course. And I keep trying to think of ways to have fun in Utah and avoid crowds of strangers (so far, I’ve done pretty well, though one store I went in last week made me uncomfortable, so I left). Being able to figure out ways to enjoy life, even with restrictions, though, has helped me a lot, and I am thinking others are figuring out ways to be comfortable with their “new normal” (a phrase I’m growing to dislike).

I’ll take it as long as it lasts!

Maybe, just maybe, the way we’ve all been forced to do a lot of introspection and many of us have been spending more time in nature and noticing how we’re all interconnected, maybe that’s helped. I want that to be true. And it has really helped a lot of us focus on the here and now, not what just happened or what might happen. When we realize we are a part of everything, even pandemics fall into place. We just deal with what comes up, every day.

I keep mentioning that finding the good in whatever you’re doing seems to work. Attitude seems matter, lots. I think more and more of us are finding this focus, whether intentionally or not. I know it’s how I’ve gotten through previous politically tough times and times when people I love are ill. I think back to when my mom was sick, when my dad was in his horrible accident and the aftermath of that, the loss of my son’s love, and all the hard times I’ve faced, and I realize that all these times I’ve focused on the current moment, realizing there’s nothing that worrying or brooding can do. We all have these kinds of times, and 2020 seems to have brought more than its share to so many people.

Let’s enjoy feeling a little lighter, even for a short while. Hold these times in our hearts as we figure out what to do with all the upcoming holidays and other challenges. Keep those negative thoughts in their proper place (there is still plenty to challenge us, and there’s no denying it). With the support of our inner circles and a focus on the good around us, I think we can make it.


*Another elephant (symbolically) is that maybe a lot of the people who are angsty and upset are hanging out in their Parler now, so I’m left interacting with people who are coping with life right now.

Do We Have to Hide from Each Other?

I realize I keep coming back to this topic, but I’m really concerned. While there have always been different points of view, different “teams” that we’re on, and strong feelings about them (this morning I was thinking about Tudor England and the religious issue), I never have seen that these divisions have helped societies move forward and improve people’s lives. The deepest times of division have led to death, poverty, and great sadness.

Not sorry to be a hippie.

I’ve felt a lack of kinship with people in the US much of my life. Most Presidential and other more local elections tend to be close, meaning there are lots of us on each side. I admit that I was not fond of perhaps most Presidents of the USA. But, I didn’t run away and hide from people who liked those leaders. I still worked with them, went to school with them, socialized with them, etc. I was never so afraid of them that I felt I needed to hide.

Even in the last four years, when people were arming themselves, calling people like me horrible names, and threatening violence against us, I didn’t feel like I had to hide. I did contain my strongest thoughts to smaller circles of friends, but I didn’t want to abandon my other friends and acquaintances. They mattered to me, and still do.

So, I am really disappointed and sad that many people, including people I have enjoyed being around, are running away from the rest of us to go off to their own special social media platform. It’s fine to go be around people like yourself. I think it’s a really human impulse to want to want to be able to relax and not self-censor quite so much, at least some of the time. But, I really hope most of these folks don’t completely abandon places like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., where you can be with people like yourself AND get exposed to other ideas and perspectives.

I can’t caption this. I keep being passive aggressive. That makes me human, right?

Please, friends, don’t take your toys and go hide just because you’re in the minority. Most of us have been in the minority our whole lives and it’s been okay. Sharing power and influence might even make life easier, who knows if we don’t give it a chance?

Even we hermits of the Hermits’ Rest really don’t want to hide from everyone who isn’t “one of us.” There is so much we have in common. I know I harp on this, but it’s true! We need to work together to deal with the pandemic, to create good jobs in our communities (like our company, which has people of ALL perspectives in it), and to keep each other safe. I just wish our common humanity and citizenship of the same planet mattered to more of us.

Anyway, thank you to everyone who is willing to continue talking to each other, caring for each other, and considering each other’s perspectives. We don’t need a civil war, violence, or separate societies. We can disagree, protest, and work toward our goals without hurting or deserting each other. I sure hope.

I’m going to be sure to let people I know hear that I care about them. What about you?

A Close Call after a Close Call

This morning, they announced the winner if the US Presidential election. You probably heard that. It was a close call, for sure.

Anita and I had already planned to go shopping before it snowed. We made a pact to keep our mouths shut and not act all jovial. Half the people are sad and half are happy, after all.

But the second we got into our Uber car the guy started talking about feeling hopeful, so we had to tell him. Then his friends called him. Everyone was so happy. I honestly haven’t seen groups of happy people in so long…

A little rain didn’t dampen our spirits, just our jackets.

So, we went to have lunch at a nice brew pub. I went to scan the online menu, and uh oh. My phone was not there. Shoot. It’s my lifeline.

The server came up to take our order, and we asked for some time so I could look for my phone. It wasn’t in the store we went to before. The only other possibility was the Uber car. I got all worried, as one would.

Nuria! Also the shirt refers to a beer.

Rather than go fetch water, Nuria stayed and helped me try to find my phone using my watch and Anita’s phone. It was so frustrating to try to log onto Uber using another phone. I kept getting things sent to my phone, which didn’t help.

I’m sure Nuria spent 20 minutes to a half hour helping me. And she was so patient, kind, and funny. Eventually we called my phone from Anita’s and the Uber driver picked it up. Hooray for Adam the Uber guy! He quickly brought my phone back and we all elbow bumped. That was another close call, for sure! Whew.

Statue near the public restrooms.

The rest of the day was so much fun. We visited fun stores, got a couple of Christmas gifts, and interacted with some wonderful store clerks. In one place, we had a great discussion, followed by some subdued jumping up and down. The women were so happy to share their relief.

Happy scenery.

The same happened at a couple other places. And we found a new hemp store full of such cute women it almost seemed impossible. More crying and laughing happened there, and we had a good talk about hemp. We all shared how much less pain and anxiety we have (it’s true). I ended up with sore cheeks from smiling.

Anita is exhausted from fun.

That’s rare. Smiling and less stress. Now, we all know the same problems we had before are still here. But maybe people will be kind, civil, and caring with each other. I hope all of our interests will be heard and count. Everyone.