Monday, October 15, 2018

Dogwood Monday: October 15

Last week was humid and warm until Thursday, when a storm blew through and left Fall in its wake.  So though I started the week with the air conditioner turned on, by the end of the week, I had started the furnace for the season.   Fall is here.

The dogwood is getting after its seasonal change assignment.  Rain and cold temperatures are forecast for the week and that should accelerate the transformation.

Changing leaves, pumpkins, mums, fall soups, cozy sweaters…..all of Fall is on tap!

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Throwback Year 8

By the time he was 8, JT was a charming companion.  He loved visits with his grandparents.

His devotion to baseball had taken hold by then, and he watched games and then called his grandfather to discuss their beloved St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants.  In the summer of 2008, he talked his grandfather into taking him to a game played.

He’d come home from school and get started on his homework while I worked out or made supper.

He was always up for an adventure, including pumpkin carving.

And snowball fights.

I’m in Massachusetts this week, hanging out with my school’s sixth graders at The Farm School.  This afternoon, I’ll visit JT at college.  I’ll take him shopping to stock up on Cliff Bars and snacks, take him to supper, and catch up on life in college.  Chances seem good that I will also marvel at the quick passing of time.  I’m sure that he’s be a pleasing companion.  He has been for years.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Dogwood Monday: October 8

My dogwood is one of the first things I see each morning and its seasonal changes are always enjoyable for me to observe.  

So far, it’s been a warm Fall, so warm that it’s rather hard to believe that seasonal change is at hand.  But there have been enough cool evenings to notify the dogwood that it’s time for the leaves to change color; berries and a slight red of the leaves have emerged.

Each Monday for the next few weeks, I’ll mark the progression of the dogwood leaves until the branches are bare for the Winter.  

Saturday, October 06, 2018

It’s Done…Now What?

Last night, Justices Kagan and Sotomayor spoke at Princeton University where they reminded the audience of the importance of the Supreme Court as a trusted institution of American government. Historically, the Court has been trusted by the people.  In a period when neither the Congress nor the Presidency is trusted, it’s essential not to lose this third branch.

The conformation and seating of Brett Kavanaugh is dangerous on a number of fronts.  For starters, it sends an ugly message to survivors of sexual assault.  In the best light, it’s something along the lines of “I believe you but I don’t care.”  In the worst, it’s “I don’t believe you and I don’t care.”  That’s dangerous in a world in which women and men must live together.  It also lays bare a political divide in which the Republican party is willing to do anything in order to win a short-term political battle.  I fear that many Democrats will take up that challenge.  I caution against it because we must believe in our ability to be a republic that tolerates political disagreements without descending into ugliness and violence.  

Though Democratic frustration will likely bring a surge of voters to the November midterm elections, that won’t fix the damage of the Kavanaugh conformation.  Historically, Chief Justices have worked to build consensus in order to guarantee the credibility of the Court.  I’m no fan of Chief Justice Roberts but there is some evidence that he is aware of the role he can play in the longterm credibility of the Court.  Justice Roberts has spoken of this very issue and has, on occasion, voted in a way that suggests he is able to place consensus over politics.  I’m not optimistic, but neither do I think that all hope is lost on this front.  

In the meantime, there is a path forward:

1.  Believe survivors of sexual assault and work to provide them with the confidence to speak out and the resources and space to heal.

2.  Make clear the importance of consent, that we are and must be the masters of our own bodies, that sexual assault and sexual harassment is wrong and will not be tolerated by any of us.  Raise our sons and daughters to understand this.

3.  Work for candidates who will work on behalf of the causes that matter to us.  For me, that’s civil rights for all of us, gun control, protection of women’s rights to make decisions about their bodies, healthcare, the environment, childcare and child poverty, reform of the criminal justice system, student loan reform……there is no end of work to be done on behalf of a future that we can be proud to create.

4.  Register and vote.  Every time there is an election, vote.  Vote, vote, vote.

I usually end this sort of post by noting that I live in hope.   But it’s a hard time to live in hope, which feels fragile and whimsical in a time of such ugliness in our political divide.  So I will pause, take a deep breath, and once-again refuse to be broken or to lose hope.  Hope is the only way forward and we must find it together.

Friday, October 05, 2018

Judicially Intemperate

My liberal credentials and beliefs s are no secret and for that reason I never supported the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.  His reading of the Constitution is different from mine — he does not favor the right to privacy, which protects both a woman’s right to choose as well as marriage equality.  He favors a reading of the second amendment which permits little restriction of guns, including automatic assault rifles.  In terms of the Voting Rights Act, nothing he has written is promising and the gutting of the VRA will continue if he’s on the Court.  Ditto for the Violence Against Women Act.

These are not negotiable issues for me and my opposition was clear from the outset.

Add in the allegations by Susan Blasey Ford and others and my suspicions that Brett Kavanaugh is not suitable for a Supreme Court lifetime appointment is confirmed.  He could have apologized for the behavior toward Blasey Ford; he could have acknowledged that as a young man he drank to excess and may very well have made some poor decisions.  He did not. Instead, he denied and, quite frankly, lied about his drinking under sworn oath.

Then came his appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week.  There, his anger and vitriol toward Senate Democrats and the half of the nation who identify with that party made very clear that this man is nor prepared to be an unbiased, thoughtful judge.  He is a partisan hack whose naked and ugly ambitions govern his every word and every thought.  The Wall Street Journal editorial he penned yesterday further magnifies his disqualification.  It was a pathetic effort to make amends for his trifling and sniping he showed in his Senate appearance last week.  He was called before the Judiciary Committee as a candidate for judge, not as a man, a father, or a husband.  And if couldn’t set aside his politics then (or even create the appearance that he will do so), then he cannot serve on the Supreme Court, let alone the lower federal judiciary.

Historically, the Supreme Court has been an institution in which the American people have confidence and faith.  If Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed to the Court the Supreme Court will automatically become less credible.  Its ability to protect our rights from a tyrannical government will be in doubt.   Our most trusted institution will stumble, perhaps forever.  The stakes are that significant.  

Kavanaugh must be rejected, if not for his Constitutional views and character, then for his unapologetic partisanship.  He is judicially intemperate and the republic cannot take such risks.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Throwback Year 7

7 year old JT was up for any adventure that came his way.  I remember a lot of laughter that year, accompanied by face-painting, costumes, climbing, and running everywhere he went.  His career goal was to be a Power Ranger.

He was also interested in piracy for his life’s work.

He envisioned himself as fierce but mostly he was cute.

And busy, so very busy.

At the start of second grade, he broke his leg while riding his bike.  Even that he took in stride and through a Fall on crutches, he was a trooper.

He was a cat for Halloween, wearing a costume he designed with the help of his grandmother.  He loved that costume and it is the sweetness of kitty cat JT that most lingers in my mind.

That’s happy!

Monday, October 01, 2018

October 1: Garden Hostas

The hostas are weary by this time of the year, the result of all the growing that has been accomplished in the last few months.

Usually, October’s weariness is accompanied by dry and brittle leaves but the rains of the last month have rather prevented the usual dryness.  The hostas are as cheerful as they can be with fall on the horizon.

We’ve another warm week on tap and the longer that frost stays at bay the greater the odds I’ll have a few more weeks of hostas to enjoy.

As summer leans into fall, and my garden starts to look spent, I appreciate the quiet the coming season will bring.  Mother Nature isn’t quite ready to say goodbye to warm days; the week promises daytime temperatures in the 70s.  So I will use these last days to enjoy a few more days in the garden.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

September Book Report: Nella Last’s War

The British Mass Observation Archive was set up in 1937 as a project to encourage everyday English men and women to write down their thoughts and observations.   Nella Last, a 49 year old housewife with two grown sons in their 20s, joined the project in 1939, as World War II began.   The Mass Observation archive collected diaries from 500 ordinary English observers and by all accounts Nella Last’s were among the most compelling.

Nella Last lived with her husband in Barrow-in-Furness, an English ship-building town that was bombed repeatedly by the Germans during the war.   Over the course of the war, Nella worked as a volunteer in the local service member canteen, helped at the local hospital, and eventually she helped to manage a second-hand shop whose proceeds benefitted Red Cross packages for POWs.  In terms of war service, Nella’s talents seem to lie in her ability to keep up her spirits and the spirits of those around her.  She was a good manager of people and a good cook, using her talents to cleverly make-do with the food rations available and she was crafty, seeming to always be knitting sweaters and socks and making stuffed toys for children that sold well in the second-hand shop.

As she records her observations, it’s clear that Nella Last found that she very much enjoyed writing.  She participated in Mass Observation longer than most, writing from  1939 to 1965.  Her journals of the war years were eventually published in 1981.  During the war, Nella had all the concerns of a mother her age: anxiety about her sons, fear of the blitz, and the sadness of watching her friends and her community cope with the losses of the war.  She was also working outside her home for the first time in her life, as a volunteer, but increasingly aware of the power of her labor.  

The personal purpose Nella felt in her work seemed to re-inform her whole sense of the world and her place in it.  These reflections were powerful to me from an historical point of view.  I know that participation in war work in the 1940s fueled the feminist movement of the 1960s and in Nella’s writing was a practical example of how that work outside the home changed women.  In particular, Nella’s ability to use her cooking skills and clever ways in the face of scant resources is much-appreciated in the soldiers’ canteen.  Nella has cooked for her husband for all her married life and reflects that he rarely offered any appreciation of her ability and talents.  During the war, she finds that she likes to be appreciated.  She lets her husband know this.  

Nella’s thoughts on motherhood and her sons’ making their way in the world were also informative to me.  More than seventy years later than Nella, I too am living life without my child at home.  As I read of Nella’s worries about her sons as they fought in WWII, I experienced my first weeks with a child away at college.  Like Nella, I want my son to make his way in the world.  Like Nella, I am proud of how he has grown up.  Unlike Nella, who worried about her boys in a war, I had the comfort of a much-loved child being away but in the relative safety of college.  The perspective was a powerful reminder of my blessings and of the centuries of mothers before me who have had to endure the horror of sending their sons to war.

There was so much in this book to both enjoy and reflect upon.  Nella Last participated in the Mass Observation Project because she was an ordinary woman.  But in both her thoughtful writings about the world of war and her observations about the role of women and mothers within it, she is extraordinary and a reminder that there is so much to be found in the stories and history of  regular folks.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Throwback Year 6

2006 was a hard year for me and JT was the comfort that kept me going.  His commitment to being a pirate remained strong; he spent a good deal of time practicing a mean pirate look.

Only mean pirates can hope to hold on to their pirate booty.

JT at age 6 also spent quality time acquiring weapons and ropes; on a camping trip with his friend D the boys asked us to tie them to the tree.  The mamas obliged because of course we did.  This photo remains one of my very favorites because they were so very pleased with themselves.  Tying your kid to a tree doesn't always qualify as quality parenting, but on this day it did.

In early October of 2006, JT got two kittens, the now-infamous Tiger and Lucy.  He was so proud of them and in that very hard year they made our house a home again.

Sometimes, JT would sit still for long enough for both of the kittens to briefly sit on his lap.  Looking at this picture 12 years later, I can still feel the happiness it reflected.

That's happy!  

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Pumpkin Season

Slowly but surely I am coming to believe that Fall is on its way.  It’s hard to say goodbye to the ease of flip flop weather, but pumpkins help.

They help a lot.

Soon, there will be red leaves on the maple trees, gold leaves on Old Man tree, and cool breezes that require cozy cardigans.  Those things are all very nice.  But for me it’s all about the pumpkins.