Small things, big differences ~

Small things, big differences ~

Sometimes very small things that other people do ~ a 2-3 minute Google search, that turns up an important fact (at least to you, or, in this case, me) ~ have BIG impact. And yes, I’m thinking of something specific.

I have a background in science as well as writing. In 10th grade, I actually wanted to be a geneticist (seriously), and did my term paper on the science of organ transplants, still very new then. My hypothesis was that if we transplanted ovaries, women would be having the biological child of the transplant-er’s genes.

My teacher told me it was an unseemly topic for a young girl. UGH.

Later, I would weld a seam between my love of biological science & my love of writing, working as my daily newspaper’s medical & science journalist. One of my all-time fave jobs.

These days, I read science-based non-fiction for fun. Every year, my husband used to buy me the Best of Science & Nature Writing anthology for Christmas. Lately, I can’t wait that long, & check it out of the library when it’s released!

So trust me when I say I thought my knowledge of basic genetics was pretty accurate.

Offhandedly, I told my elder son – father of my two adored & adorable grandsons – that I had made my peace w/ the fact that my genes weren’t going forward in his wo boys. My X chromosome is not represented in them; they have their mother’s. And I thought that was fine.

But my sensitive elder son somehow caught on to my hidden sadness, and looked up gender & chromosomal inheritance. Mom, he messaged me, only one of your 26 chromosomes is gendered. You live on in the boys. 

I burst into tears when I read that.

It couldn’t have taken him more than minutes. But I doubt I ever forget that my perfect grandsons really are mine as well as their father’s, mother’s, maternal grandparents, paternal grandfather… The long line of my own beloved family line is there in 25 of their chromosomes. And I’m the richer for having that knowledge, as well as a son who took the time to find it out & let me know. Oh! And his sense that it was important, even when I didn’t know myself.

Not a big thing in the schema of his day. But huge in mine. It really is the small things that make big differences. 💖

taking back the flag: a progressive rant for true patriotism ~

taking back the flag: a progressive rant for true patriotism ~

In the wake of the Fourth of July, I’ve been thinking. A LOT. Wrestling with a contemporary conundrum: just why (& when…?) progressives became stereotyped as not patriotic. Because it’s just not true.

But apparently, if you don’t support the neo-conservative platform(s) — unregulated guns & ammunition, Christian religion in public schools, charter schools supported by public funds, racial profiling, anti-immigration, sexism in health care, and more — you’re not patriotic. Please note: not being patriotic doesn’t seem to correlate w/not liking the president: we saw far more of that under Obama, from these same neocons, than we do from liberals & progressives with the current administration. Obama has the sad ‘glory’ of receiving the earliest death threats, as a junior senator running for president. He received at least as many death threats as G.W.Bush, whom neo-conservatives often insisted was the target of many liberal-backed conspiracies of assassination.

So it’s not simply that progressives don’t like #45. We don’t, but that didn’t seem to make the haters of the Obamas feel they were unpatriotic. No, it has to do w/something else, and I don’t know exactly what. But I want to make it very clear: the progressives & liberals I know are VERY patriotic. We are veterans, the children, wives, husbands, & parents of veterans who have given much for this country (unlike the current president’s family, none of whom have served, FYI). We believe in  the American dream — we just no longer believe it’s possible for most Americans. And we still cherish & hold dear fundamental Constitutional rights.

US Armed Forces sealsMy two sisters are veterans — one retired after a distinguished career in the Army, the other serving in the National Air Guard. My nephew is an Army vet. My father was an Army lifer, written up in history books for his contributions in WWII’s  Battle of the Bulge. My beloved is a ViệtNam vet, U.S. Marines, thank you. My uncles all served in WWII, or Korea. Or both, as my father did. So don’t even start on how progressives don’t ‘get’ veterans’ issues. We’re not the ones cutting benefits, or lying about the status of veteran hospitals.

I grew up overseas — from the time I was 8 years old until I graduated from high school. Then my beloved & I lived for 10 years in the Middle East. I am more aware of the privileges that accrue to an American citizen (especially a woman) than most Americans, I guarantee you. I can vote (and do, every election, for every issue). I can own property. I can work w/out permission from my family. I have a safe home, in a safe neighbourhood, and I can travel where I like (within limits not imposed by my citizenship, but by my concern for safety). I can worship (or not) as I please.

These are what I think of — these practical elements of American life — when folks say liberals aren’t patriotic. No, I don’t fly a flag. Why not? Because the folks I know who do hold none of the American values I cherish in common with me. They no longer believe in public education — they’re advocating for charters, many of which are based on Christian curriculum, in direct defiance of our amazing American Constitution (‘separation of church & state,’ remember?). They want to discriminate against those who look different and/or worship differently: I can’t tell you how often I’ve been horrified to hear someone talk trash about Muslims, then questioned them only to find they don’t even KNOW any Muslims. No, it’s what they heard on TV, or in church, for cryin’ out loud!! When did the Christianity of my mother, my father, my grandmother & the rest of my family become license to let fear trump the Good Samaritan’s compassion??

I grew up in a time when we had civics classes. And government classes. And our history classes included reading the formative documents of this country: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Gettysburg Address, JFK’s inaugural address, Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech. Unlike the Trump supporters who thought NPR’s excerpts from the Declaration of Independence were ‘propaganda,’ I’m familiar w/ our country’s incredible written history. Not simply the parts that appeal to me. I understand there are divergent readings of the 2nd Amendment, for instance:US Constitution

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Conservatives see carte blanche for gun rights. Liberals want regulation, and feel this in no way compromises the 2nd Amendment. Progressives are often in-between, as Bernie Sanders has been in the past — some regulation, but not perhaps as much as other non-conservatives might desire. NO ONE in the progressive (or liberal) camp wants to take away guns. But that’s the myth, and it contributes to the ‘anti-Constitution/non-patriotic’ labels.

I’m also not ‘pro-abortion.’ I am, however, pro-choice. And please explain to me: how do you talk individual rights (bearing arms, for instance) & legislate another person’s body?? And how do you claim the title ‘pro-family’ when your party refuses to clothe, shelter, feed, or educate children? When you are cutting back on all support networks for mothers & children? When your idea of healthcare makes it very clear that children w/ disabilities (the very ones poor women might have decided they could not afford to care for medically) are not worth medical insurance? That’s patriotism???

I believe in so many of what I think of as ‘original American values’ (as do most of the liberals & progressives I know): the great outdoors free from pollution; clean air & water; the right to a good education; the right to walk without fear of being shot for the color of my skin (the shooting of Philandro Castile has shown us that the 2nd Amendment doesn’t apply to black men, not to mention the numerous unarmed victims of racial profiling); the right to a free press (which is, by the way, the FIRST Amendment), currently made a mockery of by the administration’s refusal to have cameras inside government offices; the separation of church & state (also in the 1st Amendment, and later clarified in an 1802 letter by President Thomas Jefferson). I could go on, but these are NOT what neoconservatives seem to mean when they speak of patriotism.

Conservative patriotism appears to have more to do w/exclusion than not. The current frenzy re: ‘under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance, for instance, is trumped up: The clause is added in 1948. It’s not original, & gained traction with the support of a Catholic (re: religious) order, the Knights of Columbus. It’s not, in other words, what I consider a legit test of ‘patriotism.’ It is, however, Christian. But there are thousands of Americans who are not. As of 2015, almost 6,000 American troops identified as Muslim, and there are reports of Muslims serving in the US Armed Forces as far back as the Revolutionary War. And yet my hometown wanted to ban Muslims from marching in the Veterans Day parade.

This is a lengthy post for a blog, I realize. But I am sick at heart to be labeled as ‘unpatriotic’ because I believe in the Bill of Rights. It’s like being called non-Christian because you live by the Beatitudes (preached by Jesus) instead of the Old Testament’s Leviticus (currently the ‘law’ in many Christian churches).

Personally? I am taking back MY flag, folks. I’m no longer going to sit silently (or even quietly, & maybe not politely!) when folks go off on progressives & liberals for their ‘non-patriotism.’ And I hope you won’t, either.

dirt in the garden & other outside glories ~

dirt in the garden & other outside glories ~

This week has been a gardening bonanza. A few days ago we went to the garden center and bought several plants, ranging from white cosmos to blue sage to orange-yellow coreopsis to red&green striped fountain grass. Nectar plants. Bee & butterfly plants 😊 It makes me a happy happy camper.

I love the smell of dirt. It heals me. I am ecstatic in the warm sun, w/ a breeze lifting my hair. And there’s little I like better than sitting on the our front porch afterwards, w/ a glass of cold tea from the morning pot’s leftovers. My nails will never be long — I’m lucky they aren’t ragged, given how often I forget my gardening gloves! But the trellis is up, and the 3 climbing roses (two single whites & a single red, w/ a yellow heart) have either already bloomed (the red), or are blooming now (the whites). The trellis makes the front porch so … well, I know it sounds trite & veddddy British, but it’s cosy. Honest. So I put in a window box planter filled w/ meadowy flowers: cosmos, rudbeckia, red fountain grass, blue sage. It’s sitting on the porch floor, and looks like a verrry tiny meadow — filled w/ bees working the old-fashioned flowers.

And then there are the 5 crape myrtles — like we had at our old house, in multi shades of red, cherry, pink, & white — and the very nice mail order place sent a 6th cherry red one. So then we had to buy a 7th white one, so that the island ‘balanced.’ It’s right outside the kitchen window, in front of the back fence. If it all ‘takes’ (gardening is always fraught with weather ifs!), it will be gorgeous to see in the heat of mid-summer.

When I’m in gardening mode, I think in flowers. Or at least in plants (right now I’m beginning to think of an herb border!). I read gardening books: meadow grasses, herbs, garden design, native plants for pollinators & birds. I ‘try on’ this shrub, this understory tree, this climber. And I watch the sun move through the yard, trying to get a feel for this new landscape & what should go where, to be happiest. It’s all a totally absorbing puzzle, w/the added bonus of being outside in this soft mountain early summer.

It’s also meditation, really. Time ceases to exist, at least not in a linear fashion. There’s the soft fluff of peaty soil, the careful choosing of foliage to complement flower, and the smell of water as it soaks a freshly planted pot. Sensory immediacy is a kind of counting of the breath, at least for me. I breathe in. I breathe out. But what I’m really doing is focusing on the plants, their needs. The now of dirt & root & pot.

If you don’t have a yard, it doesn’t matter. Some of my happiest ‘gardening’ days were the clay pots on the front porch of a rental duplex I shared w/ my sister. Then as now, I made tiny meadows in window boxes, and seduced bees w/what they like best: fragrant flowers filled w/ nectar. All you need is dirt, water, & some seeds. You & Mother Nature can do the rest together.

grandsons, & the big rocks ~

grandsons, & the big rocks ~

“I might be too smart for GG. Because I know all her secrets. They are all she loves me. “

Welcome to the world of the besotted grandparent. This is a quote from my 4-year-old grandson that my wonderful son passed on to me today. I can think of nothing I’ve enjoyed more than this child, my first grandchild. Firstborn of my own firstborn son, he dominates my life, in the best of all possible ways. His ‘little brother’ is gaining on him, but right now? At 2 months old, Little Brother is definitely at a loss for words. 😉

Today I sent off a CV for an adjuncting position at the local university. I miss teaching, and we certainly could use the $$ — as we juggle 2 mortgage payments! But as much as I have always adored teaching, I am ambivalent beyond expectation about anything that impinges (however minimally) on time w/ this rapidly growing boychild.

Right now, my beloved & I pick him up 3 days a week from preschool. We usually have him at least one evening a week, when we ply him w/Happy Meals or pizza, his two great loves. I researched healthy popsicles on the Internet, and the freezer is full of crushed blueberry & fresh orange juice homemade popsicles. My beloved spent the last 2 months putting together a park-quality swing set, complete w/ captain’s wheel & propeller swing. I bought 3 Curious George anthologies to have here at our place to read to him. And bubble liquid is a staple these days.

Did I mention besotted?

Aging has the advantage of knowing (if you pay attention, and how can you not?) that time is short. Only a very little bit ago it was my own two sons asking about lizards Will they like me? Will they get lost in the garden? Can we look for one? And measuring love w/two out-stretched arms Do you love me this much?

I’m sure you’re familiar w/ the story of the rocks, pebbles, & sand in a jar. If you put the sand in first, there’s not room for many rocks. Same if you start w/ the pebbles. But if you put your priorities first — the big things in your life, two rapidly growing grandsons, for instance — you really can have it all. Or at least verrry close to all. Even when you know just how lightening quick time runs away.

And Trin — my grandson — was absolutely right: he knows my secrets. And right now? They are, indeed, that I love him. Besottedly.

(re)framing: feeding native bees ~

(re)framing: feeding native bees ~

The overgrown slope to the west of our house is NOT merely a weed patch. It is…an incipient meadow. On a verrry small scale. There are thistles, and there’s clover, and there are the tiny yellow blossoms of sheep’s shower. There are gorgeous flowering tall grasses, some blue with oat-like heads. Others are vivid green blades, w/ thinner, more elongated heads. And did I mention the 100 or so orchard bees diligently working all of it?

It’s all in how you look at it. You see a weed patch (probably our downhill neighbors do, as well). I see where the wildflower seed will go, and a place for the native bee house we’re going to put in. We brought with us to Virginia the lovely little native bee ‘condo’ my beloved bought for me from Crown Bees. It was a Christmas present — a cedar bee house that he put a copper roof on, setting it on a post capped w/ a matching copper top. Beautiful! Just right for our neglected native bees.

I’ve encouraged mason & orchard bees since then, buying cocoons (well, they aren’t really cocoons, but pupæ) from Crown, and putting them out to hatch & reproduce. It’s far easier than keeping honeybees (which aren’t as good a pollinator, and are a LOT more work!). And like honeybees, native bees are having a hard go right now.

I’m besotted with bees. They seem to know this, seeking me out when I’m outside, & settling on my hand, my arm, sometimes in my hair. They never sting me, and seem to understand I love them. But I have stepped on honeybees in clover, as a child, so I’m well acquainted w/ the searing fire of a sting. Just not in decades. I even took a beekeeping course, intending to try keeping honeybees. Note to folks who think they’d like the honey: get it your local farmer’s market. It’s HARD WORK, like farming tiiiiny animals! bee meadow

Bees need pollen & nectar sources, and suburbs are increasingly limiting their plantings to stuff that really doesn’t feed bees. Not to mention poisonous pesticides that contribute to their ongoing demise. Folks don’t want clover or dandelions in their lawns (we do!), and they don’t plant nearly enough native species (which tend to attract more pollinators, including butterflies). So hearing my beloved say he’s okay w/ putting a path around the perimeter of our slope, and calling it a bee meadow, was wonderful! I may even get industrious & put in edging, to make it look even more intentional!

You may still see a weed patch. But it’s not. It’s a bee meadow, complete w/ viewing path/mowing strip & bee house! It just requires a bit of creative re-framing. Like far more of life than we often admit.