So We Have Christmas- What Should We Do..

I remember Decembers when I was a child; on the first of December we received an Advent calendar with its 25 windows waiting to be opened; then we were given a catalogue of toys to obsess over; when we started the cookie baking festivities, we had carols on the record player ( Good King Wenceslas was my favorite and still is)..yes, we were very spoiled kids, and we seemed to have everything.My father always bought a tree which was much too tall for the roof, and had to be trimmed down to fit the living room. I guess he had delusions of grandeur..Trimming the tree was fine except for the throwing on of the tinsel. My brother would delicately fling a bit on each branch, as though he were doing a puzzle where each piece fit just so. My method was to throw clumps of the shiny stuff all over the tree..his method was “less is more”, while mine was more is more.

There was one thing which made Christmas Eve and Christmas day troubling..the alcoholic spirits of my parents.We knew that this was part of the celebration, but we probably hoped (every year)  that sobriety would win.When children are used to something, whether bad or good,  they go into a defensive or a positive posture.As I recall, I felt my stomach drop in advance of the cocktail hour ,while my brother would go off to his room and close the door. We always liked to go to my uncle’s house on Christmas day in the evening. We played a bit with our cousins and received fond words from all the relatives gathered. Unfortunately, the return trip was nerve-wracking and somehow sad. How does a child cope with adults who mean well, but behave in a wreckless and potentially harmful way…We returned home and thankfully went to bed and to sleep.Even now I remember the good and the bad of this time..I guess that I’ve made peace with it, and learned to accept it, but I still remember the hazardous road to Christmas.

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Remembrance

Today marks the  54th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. I remember it well because I was taking an algebra test at the time. Our teacher came into the room and announced that Kennedy had been shot. Then she said “go on with your tests”..this was upsetting to say the least. The day was gloomy and traffic was slow.. people stopped their cars to find out from someone else what had happened. The feeling in the air was one of fear and anxiety. I remember watching Walter Cronkite announce that Kennedy was dead. It was the first time that Cronkite had a tremor in his voice, and had to turn away from the cameras.  At the time, I don’t think we really understood what we were losing; faith in the knowledge that life would go on as usual, and the belief that we were safe. The rumours were wild; did Lyndon Johnson have anything to do with it; was  the Cuban crisis responsible; was there just one assassin, and why was he also killed (which we saw on TV as it happened ); was someone in the government behind this killing..We heard endlessly about the grassy knoll,  the warehouse window from which Lee Harvey Oswald took aim and shot John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and the miraculous single bullet which hit the president in several places.The cameras showed Mrs. Kennedy in her bloodstained suit on Air Force One standing beside Johnson as he took the oath of office. None of this seemed real.. The Warren commission would later report that the president had been shot by Oswald, and that there were no other leads. People still have their own conspiracy theories, while  I choose to believe that someone knows the truth, and remains silent. It is this silence which remains the most troublesome of all.

Hey, Harvey

The fifties were a complex era..

there was a bucolic sense of peaceful and happy rightness..with a faint whisper of bad things to come;

the schools had their playgrounds,

and their brick walls;

in my school, the floor which was used for our Christmas pageants and

concerts was finally condemned..we didn’t worry about it; the  basement where we had our lunch tables was also used for air raid drills..

we didn’t think too much about a possible war..the school was an ugly building with an ugly front entrance, but it was where we went, so we didn’t see it that way;

 

At recess, we girls liked to chase a boy named Harvey McNutt..

he was the school lothario;

in a way, Harvey was a symbol of the 50’s..he was blond and bland and handsome,  and happy to be chased by small females..

he was everything nice and innocent that an American boy should be;

I have a memory of another boy named Kenny Baker..

we had arithmetic tests every day, which were corrected and handed back the next morning;

Kenny always drank the chocolate milk, while most of us drank the usual white variety..

one morning the math tests were handed back, and it seems that Kenny received an “A”-

he was so excited that he threw up all over his desk..I remember this because poor Kenny was definitely NOT the all- American boy..

he was skinny and clumsy and not very handsome, and we never chased him around the school yard;

 

 

One day the school sent us home with a notice to our parents..

 

I don’t think any one of us read it..

my mother told me years later that the notice asked the parents to decide where their children should go in the event of an attack-

at school in the basement, or sent home on the bus..not much of a choice..

I can’t see a school bus as a safe haven-

 

the 50’s also had the hearings on un-American activities- anyone who seemed suspicious for whatever reason(s) was in danger of being called a communist, and was in danger of being ostracised and losing his livelihood-

some committed suicide, some moved to another country, and some stuck it out in prison;

children were taught by parents what to believe, and what loyalty meant..

my mother took my brother and me to see a movie called “Point Of Order”which showed how the hearings were conducted; the committee’s main function was to get people to name names, and then these

people would name names, etc.

finally, Harvard University refused to make professors take an oath of allegiance, and then other colleges and universities followed suit..

the hearings would eventually be declared unconstitutional- the fifth amendment states that no one may be made to incriminate himself;

we  kids thought of safety as having two parents, a dog (or cat), a house with a neat front yard, and a television to provide hours of entertainment;

meanwhile, my father was building a bomb shelter in our basement, and we saw daily civil defense ads showing us what to do in the event of an enemy attack..we were basically asleep with our

luxuries and our pride..

American Tragedies

Another day, another headline, and another mass shooting.. the sad part  about this “incident” is that I’m not surprised..

In a gun culture, shootings will happen..this is not about

evil Muslim terrorists, not is it about crazy liberals or alt-right conservatives..

this is about a society where mass violence has become the norm..

I read the comments of various people on Facebook;

some suggest that we should turn to the bible and pray for guidance;

others suggest that there is a conspiracy a foot to destroy the present government;

yet others believe that this is surely a call to arms..

I feel outrage  and sadness..and compassion for the families of the victims;

how can anyone be okay with the status quo..

there have been calls for gun control, and more calls for more guns..

The 2nd amendment to the US constitution is used as an endorsement for the possession of guns..

Yikes..other countries manage to get along without stockpiling weapons..

If the murder of children is an acceptable casualty

in a gun-controlled society, I see a pervasive mental illness

in the American psyche..and there are no existing drugs to cure the need for protection against an

unknown intruder..

Do You Wanna Dance

Hey- I’m back after a very long hiatus. I have given a lot of thought to my return to blogging..I don’t want to make a political commentary, or a feminist appeal..I have stopped smoking!!

The title of my blog may be changed,  but for now it will remain “The Smoking Lady Says”

If you’ve ever smoked, you know how enslaved you are to cigarettes; they help with stress (you tell yourself), they are a quiet way to relax (if you can stop coughing), they are perfect with coffee or liquor (a strong headache and upset stomach to follow), they look so sophisticated ( yellow fingers and dirty ashtrays), and cigarettes break the ice at a party or function..until you’re asked to step outside..

Does anything take the place of a package of “smokes”..?

Someone once told me to go and eat a peach..clearly this person had never smoked, and  had no understanding or empathy. Well, now he has taken up the nicotine habit, and I suspect that a peach is the farthest thing from his mind..

You may ask about my title (wtf) ?

I feel that life involves a lot of dancing..

meeting someone who looks attractive- pause and go back  a step;

having friendship, old/new- step forward without hesitation, or step backward with uncertainty..

losing loved ones- stand still for a moment- step forward (with resolve) to celebrate their lives;

writing your thoughts and hopes- step up to the plate..

This is all-  for now..

Culling Or Killing- How do you See It?

  1. There are many animal lovers out there- I’m one. I am most disturbed that it is apparently “ok” to kill animals when they are no longer deemed useful- as long as they are  put down humanely. Animals are considered chattel of their owners, who may determine their fate. Initially, the SPCA was asked to “take care” of the more than seventy dogs who were slaughtered. They refused
  2. Unfortunately, there is legislation that supports owners. As a friend of mine suggested, the animals could have been put up for adoption by the SPCA.
  3. Most ( or some of them) could have been saved. I recognize that there will have to be support from animal lovers, as well as money, to prosecute this kind of unconscionable behavior. Tears are not enough.

            

 

           

 

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I Remember When..?

Many of you know what ECT  is- inducing an artificial seizure to help psychiatric patients recover from depression.

I have had the benefit of approximately 27  shock treatments (aka electro convulsive therapy);

At the time, I was pretty much catatonic with a serious depression which no combination of medications could help. This is called treatment- resistant.

My doctor then set up a series of ECTs  for me- I was, to say the least, very apprehensive.

The procedure goes something like this: the patient changes into hospital pajamas, has his/her vital statistics monitored (apparently, my heartbeat was in overdrive, and my pulse seemed non-existent),then shown into a waiting room with other “candidates”.

I remember that most of them looked as though they were awaiting a firing squad- the procedure scared the shit out of me.

I was afraid that I would not wake up. However, as a friend of mine said cheerfully “If that happens, your problems are over!”

The anesthetist injects a sedative into your hand, which is supposed to make you drift off; I never “drifted off”, but had to have an oxygen mask put over my face to help me along.

I remember a smell of garlic just before I was carried away.

Before I knew it, I was conscious and disoriented- soothing voices brought me around.

I was offered breakfast, but I only wanted coffee and a cigarette:; luckily, the nurses knew my priorities, and I was allowed to scurry off to the smoking room ( they still had them then).

All in all, I can say that I cared about the destination, not the journey..

It is several (I’m not sure) years since the treatments and I can attest to the success

of ECT;

But my memory is a sieve, and whole years seemed to have passed me by.

Once again,

my friend said with a smile “You probably don’t need the memories anyway!”

Well, that’s about it..

I find that humor (including black humor) helps me a lot,  and the “Blitz Krieg” on my brain has stopped.

Ta- da!

A brother is..

For those of you with brothers, I salute you!

Brothers have a special place within the family;

They leave the nest and do their things,

while sisters are expected to carry on with the rest of the tribe, caring and sharing any family disfunctions-

we are not always given credit, and we are not in the spotlight.

To be sure, my brother is a pleasant person who adores his children, likes his marriage, is successful in his job- need I say more?!

Me- I am now a long distance sister and aunt;

Perhaps this is best.

I don’t need to impress or suppress any hurts I have felt.

My mother, to be sure, loved us both in different ways;

While I was still her “baby” and was under her scrutiny,

my brother went out into the big, bad world and carved a life for himself.

Mom ultimately found him to be affectionate and empathetic toward her ( until her drinking got out of hand));

I remained behind, trying to understand her sadness-

I was not very helpful, it seemed.

Somehow sons are a credit to the family,

while daughters are seen but not heard- so much.

One particular refrain remains with me:

“Don’t bother your brother”. What?!

I pondered that one for a long time,

and concluded that I didn’t need to worry.

I also did not “bother” my brother with much of anything.

Don’t compare yourself to your sibling- rather, enjoy your successes and be your own person.

Remember, “A son is a son til he gets him a wife, while a daughter is a daughter for all of her life.”

We are still valuable people in our own right.

Cheers!

What are we going to do with Aunty Thelma..

Our aunt is the family eccentric;

She’s the designated hitter-

We try to be kind

and understanding,

but we don’t always “get” her;

She lives on her own

and emails us de temps en temps;

She has a wealth of family history,

and we all appreciate this.

But she’s far away, and somewhat mysterious;

we think that she’s somewhat “reality challenged”,

so we don’t ask her a lot of questions about herself;

Perhaps we should..

True Blue

There are times when we all need support.

I recently lost my beloved cockatiel and felt bereft,

But a close friend was right there, helping me cope.

She knew how difficult it was for me to ask that my Sam be put to sleep;

She watched me hold him as he went peacefully to his final rest.

She didn’t minimize my pain, but helped me to see that I was doing the best thing for him.

Sam went to the “rainbow” and that is where he belongs.

This is a true blue friend,

and I’ll always be grateful that she is in my life.