Who wants half-ness?
Don’t have to half nothin
No half-ing Black & half-ing White
Having my whole self
Black + White
White + Black
I occupy my whole self’s space.
Who wants half-ness?
Don’t have to half nothin
No half-ing Black & half-ing White
Having my whole self
Black + White
White + Black
I occupy my whole self’s space.
Went looking online to buy soap today. I try to be a good citizen. Decent at least. So I’m avoiding palm oil and all things palm-ish unless the company blasts disclaimers about how the palm is collected by hand by well- (well, relatively well-) paid farmers who know each tree personally. Or something like that. So I’ve now scratched “palm” anything off the list of acceptable ingredients. (For me the bar is set by Dr. Bronner’s, whose Castile soap I use in nearly everything having to do with household cleaning). For my purchase of personal care products, palm oil now joins other ban-worthy items such as parabens, overexposure of which may lead to breast cancer; fragrance, the contents of which are not required to be disclosed; SLS (sodium laurel/laureth sulfate, both of which are the topic of much debate — I just avoid them and go organic as much as possible); and, as always, anything made in China.
Speaking of chemical overload, this issue is, IMHO, of particular note to women, given that we are the targets of the vast majority of advertising of personal care products and household detergents. Sadly, we seem stuck in the 1950s when it comes to this kind of stuff. I am confident that one day we — as a people — are going to look back at this time in history with bemusement that most women didn’t leave the house without covering their faces … with make-up, whereas men were deemed acceptable naturally and would be deemed odd to spend a scintilla of the hours and dollars women invested making themselves presentable. But that’s a post for another day.
Back on the topic of how our bodies are chemical overload – I swear I’ll ge tthere yet:
In 2004, a six-month study was done about personal care product use.1 More than 10,000 body care product ingredients were evaluated, involving 2,300 participants.
One of the findings was that the average adult uses nine personal care products each day, containing 126 different chemicals. The study also found that more than 250,000 women, and one out of every 100 men, use an average of 15 products daily.
From the same article:
Did you know that, if you use conventional cosmetics on a daily basis, you can absorb almost five pounds of chemicals and toxins into your body each year? Daily use of ordinary, seemingly benign personal care products like shampoo, toothpaste and shower gel can easily result in exposure to thousands of chemicals, and many will make their way into your body and become “stuck” there, since you lack the means to break them down.
So, a couple hours after looking for some simple shampoo, conditioner, and hand/body soap online, I have to admit I’m sad and slightly depressed about our collective chemical dependency. Although it appears we are screwed up and screwing up (the environment, ourselves) beyond repair, I will continue to throw my two little cents in the endless sea, hoping it will make some ripple of a difference. Speaking of cents, all of my desire for good citizenship is balanced by my desire to also balance my budget. Accordingly, price does come into play. It was not just a crunchy urge to get back to basics when I decided to join the no poo movement earlier this year and didn’t wash my hair from January to May. In my mind, though, all of this stuff goes hand in hand —
For now, I will keep making my own laundry detergent, stocking up on Dr. Bronner’s, and today, I’m giving Acure Organics shampoo and conditioner a whirl, along with Kiss My Face fragrance-free pure olive oil soap.
** In the rare likelihood you’re wondering, I don’t do Dr. Bronner’s for hand/body soap because my five-year old doesn’t like it and, as much as the companies think the moms make all the buying decisions, the real ‘rents know they who have us wrapped around their chubby little fingers hold both the heartstrings and purse strings).
Sometimes you can coast
And sometimes you can fly
And sometimes you can fly to the coast
Or coast on the fly.
It’s about how hard we try.
There is no shame in not
Trying harder all the time —
There is also just to be.
“It’s the little things.” You could shrug your shoulders and leave it at that, I tell myself. What does it mean? Who knows what it means. Next, and move on. Accept. Except that it is the little things that – what? What’s the little things? Is it to say it’s not big things that matter? Earthquakes matter. Invasions of countries matter. So what does it mean to say “it’s the little things”? And why say it? Or think it, for that matter?
I was driving home today, and something came to mind. I remembered before I learned to drive, my father beginning to point things out to me about the road. I remember him teaching me about “blind spots” and the importance of looking behind and to the left before switching lanes to trick out that blind spot and catch any cars passing through that way. I was far enough from the age where I’d have my license that I was still a smug young kid, and one day I caught him not checking his blind spot before he crossed over into the other lane. Of course I called him out on it. Normally, he was the type to just let me think I was right, whether I actually was or not. But this time he pointed out that he didn’t need to check his blind spot because he’d already been looking over that way for awhile. His point was that if you watch far enough ahead, there’s no blind spot that can pose a danger. I didn’t think too much about what he was saying until today. Wise man. He turned 70 this week.
That moment has remained in my consciousness for, obviously, many years. I doubt he or anyone else present in the car has a recollection of it. There seems to be no particular reason to – just a random, every day, passing conversation. He wasn’t trying to be philosophical, and I didn’t give it any more thought at the time.
I’ve often wondered why we remember the things we do. My sister paints, or at least she used to. She may still now but we haven’t talked for awhile. I write poetry, and I can’t remember a time in my life when I haven’t. I remember, when we were kids, seeing her tear things up she had made or drawn that she was unsatisfied with, and I never understood how she could or why she would do it. I have kept many things I’ve written, even when they didn’t seem good enough to bother. Years later, though, I’ve read things I wrote and suddenly understood them in a way I never had before. I appreciated them then, even though I didn’t when I decided to keep them. I’m not advocating keeping or letting go. It’s more about the process, how we come back to things and understand them so much later — why we hold onto some things and let others go. Like memories. After all these years of retaining what seemed to be a random memory, my father’s passing comment about being able to see what’s in the blind spot if you have your eye on it the whole time, revealed its meaning to me.
My father was a soldier, a philanderer, a hot-tempered, and sometimes mean, fellow. He is now a lover of the earth, a quiet dreamer, an anticipatory thinker, and very kind. I’ve watched him go through the hell fire of regret. I’ve seen the aftermath of the crashes he certainly wasn’t watching closely enough to foresee. I’ve seen him heal, recover, and still carry enough of the pain to not make the same mistakes again. He taught me how to drive, and I see myself to this day driving very much like him, perhaps with a little greater fearlessness, at least compared to how he drives today as a suddenly 70-year old man.
When we were kids, one of the family’s favorite pastimes was getting in the car on a Sunday and driving aimlessly through the back country roads of south central Wisconsin where I grew up. I remember Dad taking Mom, my two sisters, and me out on those roads and when he saw a clear path, flooring it. In today’s era of hyper-judgment of parenting styles and skills, this probably would be universally frowned upon. At the time, it was nothing less than the height of adventure, and nothing more. I had faith we were safe with him. Despite his weaknesses and failings and occasional unevenness, I always had faith we were safe with him, even if he scared me sometimes. It was just the way it was.
There is truth in random things, in the seemingly senseless way we collect memories. There are nuggets of the essence of a person, in the way we remember them. Sometime when I was around the same age as the “blind spot” moment, maybe a touch younger, I was sitting in the car in the seat next to my dad and as the car was running, I pulled the keys out of the ignition. I don’t know what inspired me to do it, and I was surprised that he was surprised. At first I thought he was surprised I had done it. But then he explained that a car is not supposed to run without keys in the ignition. It turned out to be a quirk in the way the keys had been worn down from so much use. It was an anomaly, an everyday, meaningless miracle.
Dad is the one who told me about God and talked to me about what it meant to be Christian. I was four years old, and we were sitting on the same old rocking chair that’s now in my living room, many miles and years away. When we had this conversation, I remember him being careful to explain things in a way so that I understood what he was saying, and that it was clear that the choice was mine to make. Now, someone can say that a four-year old is too young for religious consent. But it wasn’t about religion. “It” was about a personal relationship with Jesus that I could choose to have. I didn’t feel at the time that I had to invite Him into my heart then. It was clear to me I could do it at any time. Maybe not every four-year old has the kind of mind that can make that kind of consent, although in my heart of hearts I believe so. Regardless, I think my father understood me, and believed that I could. I made the choice that day, and I’ve made it over and over again throughout my life — in a hospital bed after coming close to being killed in a car accident where I was a passenger when I was 18, and when I’ve grieved deeply in the face of some of my darkest loss when I was 25, and every time that something in my mind says “pray” and I drop to my knees when I am alone and reach out to the Known and Unknown, and with my four-year old daughter every night and before every meal.
It happened today that I was saying a prayer, Bless us Oh Lord and these Thy gifts which we are about to receive …. and realized that we say this not because the food is the gift but because God is giving us gifts every day. The meal is just a bookmark to remind us to say thanks for those gifts, not just the ones we see on the table before us. It occurred to me I’d been saying this prayer several times a day for many years. Today was the first time its words carried this meaning to me. Prayers, like poems and memories, unfold their meaning over time and with repetition.
There was something else I thought about today when I was thinking about my dad and cars. One time – maybe more, but just once that I remember – we were in the car, and he put the key in the ignition and started it. I was sitting next to him, and said, “Oh,” disappointed. He looked at me to see what the problem was. I reminded him that he usually let me turn the key in the ignition to start the car. We were in somewhat of a hurry that day. And he was always a stickler for conservation – turning off lights, not idling unnecessarily, and the like – so I was surprised when he turned the car off and let me restart it. Kindness.
So what is it about the little things? That saying that is so fragmented and bears no meaning on its own — “it’s the little things” — came to me today right as I was thinking about my dad and blind spots. And I thought to myself, “What are the little things?” What does that even mean – “It’s” the little things. But the “it” isn’t what matters — what matters is what comes after. The moment comes first – or the painting, the prayer or the poem – and the meaning comes after. Life comes first: meaning, later.
It’s what’s unspoken, what’s not explicit, what’s left to be understood, that matters. And that’s just it, I realized today. It’s the little things that matter. It’s the little things that are big. And both the big and the little things matter.
“..faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13.
The promise of something
we’ve never known
A promise from the quadrangle
of possibility unknown
The impossibility is as clear
as the image in the mirror
glanced on & maybe even
studied in a moments ..
what we call a lifetime
While we still are instruments
to call it so,
instruments of possibility
A love affair of promise and possibility,
this tragic, impossible durability
as plain as the 11 year old’s
eyes, asking who speaks back
and from where —
what authority unknown
and all the birds’ voices
we never really heard
I would take every bra and fling it from the highest heights to the lowest depths because they hurt my back and make no sense.
*NOTE: the following was written before I allowed myself to read an article about the discovery of what are believed to be the remains of Avonte Oquendo, a young autistic and non-verbal teenager who went missing in 2013. As pointed out by Flatbush Gardener, the story is inconclusive. It’s unknown whether there was foul play, if this was an accident, or what happened. I retract conclusions I made based on what I heard of the story before checking it out myself. (As I responded to Flatbush Gardener who noted that it’s too soon to make conclusions, I just read a story in WSJ regarding what has happened – including that the remains have not yet been matched by DNA to Avonte.) That said, there are significant lessons here, including the need for schools to better protect our children. I’m sure I accepted the worst-case scenario that was recounted to me without checking the facts myself because of the horrible occurrences recently that seem to be on the rise – from outright torture and murder of young children such as recently occurred to a young boy left in the care of his babysitter when his father went to prison, the murder of the two young children in Manhattan also at the hands of their babysitter, to the Newton killings in early 2013.
I just learned the news. I don’t want this to be real. Avonte lost to evil. If ever you didn’t believe in a heaven and earth and the forces of good and evil here, this is all the proof you should need. A little boy whose parents dropped him off at school one day, trusting as best as can be, that they would see him at the end of the day, vanished. Truer torture I can’t imagine there ever being than what happened in the hearts of those parents as they waited and prayed for their little boy to be found safe and returned to them. I saw the cover of the Daily News today, that his remains were found and the clothes his parents described him as wearing were there. I couldn’t bring myself to buy that paper. I have been hoping against hope that he would be found. I have waited and prayed. I have believed in the goodness of humankind and prayed, and even kind of believed that he would be delivered somehow miraculously into its arms. Those aren’t the arms that found him. He was not with good people. He was with monsters created by monsters: the result of a society that doesn’t take care of its sick, its depraved, that doesn’t identify and separate them to protect the rest of their neighbors. We all really needed a happy ending to this one. We all really need to fix what it is that is so wrong within us, within our communities, that allowed this to happen. I won’t re-post any article about what happened to Avonte here. I know from hearing it that it wasn’t an accident, that it was instead the evil among us.
It always takes me awhile
to get used to a new decade of years.
At 40, I am older than 42.
At 21 I am ancient, until I am 22.
The slow opening stretch
settling in, understanding, accepting
my place in the stage dance of age
leaves me momentarily agape
desperate to scratch back the days.
Has nothing to do with any reality,
just a moment of sweet relief after long bitter
dread of the unarmed march to new infancy.
I want to buy time, not bide it. Direct me to the nearest corner store please. I want to buy a time bag.
If you’re not proven wrong on occasion, yours is a mistaken sense of security. Sometimes, circumstances happen not to disabuse you of false and cheap assumptions you may have happened to collect. It’s a gift and a blessing when the world proves you wrong and reveals to your eyes alone these wrong judgments. It would be a pity to reach Heaven still holding them, reaching forward but unable to open the gate.