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A Bee Story (Not My Own) 🐝 Random Musings (Not Mine Either, But I Do Agree) 🌤 Crazy Cat Lady 📚

Sunday, time to reflect on the things that make your life worth living. I don't know what floats your boat, but I am happy to see bees in my garden. There is clover growing in sunny spots in the yard and the bees are visiting there. But what makes me especially happy is to see the sweet, little visitors sipping from a bowl of water that I provided for them to hydrate.
I learned from FB friends that along with planting bee-friendly flowers and clover you should provide drinking water. The bee friends recommended using a small bowl. I filled ours up with pretty things, for us humans to enjoy, but which provided a safe place for bees to land upon. For there, the bees can safely drink the water and not drown.
I took a bowl, thrown by one of Lee's former students, that we had previously used for smudging, and I filled it with colorful marbles, rose rocks, tiger eye, and a hag's stone. What is wonderful about the hag's stone is that they are deemed to hold powers of protection, which can be invoked against all forms of negativity. This particular stone--I can't remember where it came from-- has two holes, one on each end of the rock.
To my delight, when I was watering the flowers yesterday, I saw where thirsty bees actually stood upon the hag stone and sipped the water seeping into the holes. It is almost like the stones were designed for the bee's hydrating pleasure. Seeing the little creatures about is mine.

Random musing on a HOT May afternoon.
Damn it's hot!
It is really hot!
It is really very hot!
It is way too damn hot for this time of year.

The planet and peoples' tempers are boiling.
All the time, I see verbal dueling with pro-right-wing-freestyle--gun-toting fb NRA lovers. When anyone says, let's have us some commonsense gun control, then there is a great wailing, weeping, and gnashing of teeth followed by the thunderous rhetorical cry of , "but who else will stop a bad guy with a gun but a good guy with a gun. "
Now, in Buffalo, we see yet another needless tragedy involving innocents and a gun toting lunatic. A brave police officer did his best to put the assailant down, but, instead, he lies dead--a hero. He gave his life for others, but, to our horror, couldn't stop the carnage from being inflicted upon innocent shoppers.
Looks like, a good-guy-guard with a gun didn't have a chance against a racist, hate-filled guy with a bigger, more expensive gun and Kevlar and rantings that inflamed his brain.

Too bad, Americans can't pass laws that will keep her civilians safe, because there is profit in death to be made.
Pray for me, I'm an American and I'm going to go grocery shopping on an unseasonably hot afternoon in a trigger-happy state, with everyone carrying on cranky.
What could go wrong?

BeeKind


Teaching and Writing During the Pandemic as Compared to Now

I looked back at my notes from the year 2020 at the end of the month of July. What I noted about this period of time is that I had to take extra training to teach online. My old community college, a place that treated me with transparency and respect, issued an online teaching certificate course that I completed before the beginning of school. I also spent hours and hours moving content to an online platform. This meant I made a ton of new files, busied myself by scanning books and worksheets into the learning management system for my students, and saved that material in my MacBook and in the cloud. The reality is that the pandemic made me a better prepared teacher, but I received no support or pay for this extra work.

In my end of the month reflection, I wrote this:

Could we be headed for a civil war? This has been a month for the record books. It started out pretty happy with the Fourth of July celebration and my son going with me to visit our hometown. And then it kind of lurched off into an oddly sinister month with continuous political strife, protests both violent and peaceful, super hot temperatures, and drastically rising Covid cases. I guess I will have to start setting up my classes, and I don't know what to do with them. I am confused about making these modules for the community college. I'm also worried about going back to school. I've been so sick, so many times, and I have no reason to believe that I won't catch Covid just like I catch everything else. This is so scary!

One goal that I had at that time was to create a fluid and integrated presentation that I could modify daily, and I managed to do this by using my iPad as a document camera. Rather than rely on a software program, I decided to create visuals that the students could enjoy and imitate. By doing this, I was able to integrate visual literacy into the remote classroom. All of this sounds so smooth and easy, but I struggled. I spent many hours working on materials. And now I am struggling again. I am struggling because someone decided that their timeline supersedes common sense and human decency.

This July, instead of attending social events and working on my class materials, I am in a crack. I am in this crack for no good reason whatsoever. I have heard numerous excuses, but at the end of the day, none of them add up to professionalism. I am asking that my readers say a little prayer for me. I am also going to once again reiterate the obvious. Teachers do not need hoops to jump around in. Teachers need respect and money. The fact that we are in this shortage crisis is not because teachers are making great salaries and experiencing strong support. This crisis is happening because teachers are tired of chaos. I have seen the lowest performing people receive the highest rewards. I have seen administrators brush off teachers in need of help. I have heard the silliest remarks. Teachers need help, not ridicule. This month I have read communications that suggested that I didn't know the difference between rhetoric and a pet bird. Some of these communications are ridiculous and borderline abusive. I allowed these communications because the writer may not understand the concept of audience; the writer could be overwhelmed or new to the job. You never know what kind of information a person feels compelled to act upon. But this example of this terrible communication style is one of the reasons that the teaching profession is withering on the vine. And of course the fact that facts matter, not silly opinions or gossip.

In the end, I believe the month of July, during the perilous 2020 pandemic year, felt more accomplished and productive. That is sad.

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Credit to unknown meme artist 🌹


Writing on the Super Note A5X

I made a major mistake last year when I bought the Super Note A6X because the screen is not quite big enough for serious writing and thinking. Last month I chanced upon an opportunity to buy the A5X open box, which meant that I could somewhat afford to invest again. Now I am unsure of what to do with my A6X, but I might give it to my son to write his music on and make drawings of his projects. 

Now that I have the A5X, I am totally in love with the way it works. It is the size of a piece of paper without margins...it's wonderful. I downloaded my teacher planning portfolio onto it, and I also geared it up with a bullet journal, which I am using to record personal plans and activities. I created another folder to write in for random thoughts and content ideas. The teacher planning kit and the bullet journal are both Etsy purchases from a guy named Brendan, and I couldn't be happier. I had a download issue, and Brendan responded within the hour with the solution even though the problem was not related to his product. Now I don't know what to do with the tons of notebooks and planners that I have at home that now seem so juvenile and wasteful, but I don't want to throw them away because they are full of writing ideas, especially from all of those boring meetings and useless trainings that I've had to endure over the years. While other people are trying to get me to work in an uncomfortable and awkward situation, my thoughts wander off in compelling ways, often forking over into banality and sometimes forking over into comedy. You just can't put a value on observations like that--they are priceless. 

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If you feel serious about writing and you want the freedom to create content on a luxury device that is more intriguing than a paper notebook, splurge on the A5X. If you feel as if you want to write occasionally, and you aren't super serious about your output, just do the A6X Super Note. It will fit in a bag or in the palm of your hand like a greeting card. You will love both of them for different reasons. You will especially love the feel of the device, the way it writes. And it does come loaded down with an array of templates that you can use to create wonderful pages and documents. 

SuperNote Link


My Long and Weird Relationship with Greek Salad

Members of my family used to give me ride alongs in their big trucks down to the Houston Ship Channel to dump massive loads of grain for export. A skinny and long-legged preteen, my biggest joy was to wake up with the seagulls and step out into the gravel-like oyster covered parking lot and go into the cool air conditioned ambience of this one particular Greek restaurant on Clinton Drive. I never knew what entree to order, but I'd always start with the salad, fresh and cheesy, cold, vinegar based, with tons of olives and cucumber.

I remember eating my salad with some kind of fish, and I'd drink glasses of iced tea, and then force whatever family member it happened to be to splurge on coffee and Greek pastries. The place is long gone; the building stands empty; but the decor will live forever in my memory. Painted statues of Greek goddesses, topless, with scenes of the Mediterranean behind them guided you through a maze of columns covered in ivy to the main dining hall where rows of tables dressed in white linen and Greek inspired flower arrangements provided luxury in a neighborhood of trucks, ships, longshoremen, and an assortment of other working people, both good and bad. I continued to visit this restaurant into my adulthood, when in the late 80s it suddenly closed.

After I moved to Saskatchewan in the 90s, I found another wonderful Greek restaurant. It was inside of a mall, and what it lacked in decor it made up for with cheesy and hot delicious food, fabulous intricate desserts, and, of course, the staple of my life--Greek salad. The people that owned this place catered a dinner for me, and if I wanted to meet someone in that end of town, I would always ask to meet in my special place knowing I could always count on a table and be treated to a first class experience.

Now, everywhere on every corner, a Greek restaurant awaits. I could choose from at least half a dozen within a few miles of my Houston home, but I often attend the same one, a chain store offering both Greek and Turkish cuisine that in some ways perfectly overlap in flavor and texture. I am okay with their kabobs and pistachio covered desserts, the array of hot vegetables and the pita bread. But, for various reasons, the Greek salad comes out limp, without a fresh and crunchy texture, so I have to eat that in another place down the road. Now that I am an old lady and completely deserving of something special, I can't have my salad with my fish. But I'm not complaining. I am happy with my memories of my Greek places. I love them.

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Negativity and Loneliness? Let me suggest finding a job 📚

Meaning in Life

Whenever I look to find meaning in my life, I not only access my spiritual side, but I also think about the wonderful work that I do everyday. All of my life, I've been an employed person, sometimes more than one job at once. I think of my current career (teaching) as a way of helping young people meet their college goals. I not only help them to write and read critically, but I also do the hard work to help them make choices. Most of all I encourage my students to not waste time. What, if at the end of your life, you felt an empty and overwhelming sense of regret because you failed to help the people that needed you? What if you had something to offer society, but you sat at home and did nothing but complain? 

Negativity and Loss

Some people become so negative and lost that they lose any sense of everyday reality. Self entitlement and anger can bring on an aversion to the ordinary sounds of life. A running car engine, a misfire, barking dogs, and chirping birds, the sounds of children playing and screaming in joy, all of this pushes the aimless and unemployed into a senseless rage. A severe disability sometimes develops, misophonia. Misophonia usually begins in childhood, usually in girls, and can cause severe reactions and irritability that can result in abusive, fit-throwing, pathological behaviors. 

Actual Experience

My old neighbor experienced this empty and erratic behavior firsthand from a comfortable position on his living room couch. Suddenly, midafternoon, a bedraggled woman frantically burst into his apartment and screamed directly into his face, "I'm from the HOA board, and I'm doing a dog-bark- investigation"! Justin held the couch position a bit too shocked to really move or stand up, and managed to mutter a brief, "Oh." The unwelcome woman hurried past him to the back door of his apartment, and tapped angrily on the window causing her wrist decorated in junk jewelry to loudly jangle. Justin's dog jumped up and started barking. "That's it! That's the dog right there"! The frantic yelling and screaming caused the dog to bark and claw at the back door. Justin gathered his senses, shook off the shock, and scrambled to his feet. "Of course," he politely said, "if a strange person is standing in the house tapping the window, the dog is going to go crazy"!

A Qualifier

Barking dogs on beautiful South Texas days sound normal, like mall music on an outdoor ice rink. Children and Harley motorcycles, the birds in the trees, the sounds of sirens and traffic, all of these noises of life are no reason to act erratic. The negativity, the boredom, the loneliness, confuses the idle brain. Dogs barking, kids playing, adults starting their cars, people talking, all of this drives the empty and the "voluntarily unemployable" into a deep and dark rage. Nothing is too low for the negative and lonely. Sometimes they engage in conspiracy theories, misuse the authorities, and send out hateful mail. They may vandalize the property of the people that they imagine are too noisy, poison or torture animals, or even physically assault someone. 

But all they really need to do is find a purpose in life. Find some cause to contribute to. Find meaningful employment. Find a way out of the neighborhood. 

A Little Advice

I crossed paths with such a person, and my experience caused me to notice that she wrote hateful diatribes about homeless people. She would post her complaints while suggesting something about politics and her own self-entitled sense of privilege. Later, she moved on to complain about cats. She was feeding cats at her door and finding cats out at restaurants, and so on. Her posts about the cats caused me to fear for them. Even though an average person, not well acquainted with the situation, would probably read nothing into her commentary, I found an implied threat lurking between the lines. 

One piece of advice that I always give my students is to never do something that you think you might regret in five years. You never know what kind of shame you might be forced to carry around if you do something stupid in the moment. Your mind will change and grow, but the consequences of what you did may linger forever. Even if no one discovers your stupidity, you will be forced to live with it. If you've wasted the most productive years of your life doing nothing, then that will come back at sunset for you to remember. You will wonder what you could have done to help people had you tried. 

GetaJob

 

 

 

 

 


The Fake Man

    When I think of a "real" man, I imagine a figure that forgives and evolves fearlessly, that carefully chooses the battles that define his character, framing his life in a positive light, while refusing to punish or overpower someone in a weak and harmless position. Real men protect their own legacies.

    I recently ventured out, by invitation, to an event in an Austin bar and immediately felt a sense of overwhelming negativity. The first fake man refused to tell me the location of the ladies room even though he is clearly employed there as a full time sound technician. The fact that he felt comfortable treating a strange woman in a rude and hateful manner set the tone for the rest of the evening. 

    Even more awful, a bassist from another band, a band that didn't appear to have a show at this location on that night, hustled up to my rescue dog, without warning or hesitation, and received a well-deserved nip and growl. Most people, even without much understanding of animals, typically ask before they thrust their fingers into the mouth of a growling canine, but not this dude.

    He then proceeded to stomp about the place, craning his neck and eyeballs around to give me glares, so I asked one of the attendees if they thought the guy looked mad or crazy, or if it was possibly my imagination. Within less than a minute of me making the inquiry, before we even had time to walk away to the patio or escape our position from behind the merchandise table, he came over and rudely called me an asshole. 

    This is just a man having a little fit because he realized how dumb it was to suddenly bounce up and fling his arm down to a strange animal. He felt somehow insulted by the hapless dog, tender feelings of misplaced manhood welled up in his shriveled little heart; women like me that hang around with dogs, we are the enemy. 

 

    Things became significantly worse when I tried to leave this "establishment" with a bottle of water. Another fake man stopped me at the gate, not 10 feet from my parked convertible, and demanded the "open container." I argued back that it was just water, and he tried to physically relieve me of my completely alcohol free bottle of water, water that I really needed due to the hot and steamy weather.

    By this time I realized that I was fuming, so I let him have my water. I demanded to see the owner or manager, and lo and behold, another fake man appears. I will leave this encounter to your imagination.

    The fake man problem persisted throughout the week. One evening while out walking with dogs, I noticed a stench in the air and water running down the curb. I instantly became alarmed because our community is having some sewage problems due to a big apartment building newly constructed. On the porch near the stench, sits another fake man, sucking on a bourbon and smoking on a cigarette. This particular specimen is a product of Pakistan, but he does not follow the teachings of Mohammed in any manner or style. He is the opposite of what Mohammed would expect in a man. 

    I told him I wanted a "second opinion" on the stench and the sewage running down the curb before I alerted the property management team. He proceeded to rhetorically mansplain, a dirty habit of his that he seems reluctant to eschew. He also rudely refused to rise off his seat and carry his bourbon and smoke the 25 feet to the suspicious smelly water. He is one of our board members. 

    I am potentially the target of a fake man in my professional life. I say potential because the threat is not currently present and hopefully it will remain so; however, this particular fake man wrote a scathing email to me many years ago that I received while visiting many miles from my home. The email was so cruel and vindictive in nature that I immediately became upset and needed to leave. I could hardly drive safely. 

    These specific examples in my actual life do not include men like Donald Trump or Greg Abbott. But women every day are reminded of the evil of a fake man whether they want to think about it or not. We are inundated with poor male examples day in and day out; politics is overrun with fake men, think Ted Cruz. But on the other hand, we have excellent examples of real men, think Volodymyr Zelenskyy. And then just when you feel as if you can close the issue, Volodymyr is offset by the cowardice of Putin. 

    If this simple writing contained a call to action, I would ask men to get it together. Think of how you look when you do stupid stuff, whether you invade a country or call a strange woman an epithet, you are not exhibiting the qualities of manhood. You are part of the problem.

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Living in the Village During the Summer Record Heat and Drought: Characters in Crisis

Months into a record breaking heatwave and drought, the drunken sots behind me run a lawn sprinkler morning and evening; I suspect because neither one of them are employed or employable, so I think they sit there in the misty rainbow hoping they don't have to cool the house. The water runs down the street 100 feet around the corner to a parking area and ponds on the hard pavement. The water puddles around day and night, the only water that is wasted in the entire community, but nothing is done about it even though we are asked by the county officials to save water, even though we have elderly people living in our community on a fixed income, even though none of us have a water meter because the community water bill is shared by all and comes out of our monthly HOA fees. The drunken sots are renters, so they don't care.

Someone threw a bunch of bricks and other trash into the storm drain 40 feet from my front door, maybe the same guy that runs a chop-shop-style-fix-it-up place out of his residential garage 60 feet from my front door, forcing all of us to endure the noise, the unsightly scene, and the assortment of junk cars that rumble in and out. I wonder if when he goes to dump the chemicals, oils, paint thinners, and compounds if the clown in the storm drain issues him a receipt. 

When I walk around the bayou, I see the beauty. I wonder how a man, a stooge really, could be so indifferent to our natural world, after all we have been through: Harvey, heatwaves, Memorial Day flood, tax day flood, Ike, and so on. We already endure smog and chemical fires, noise, and traffic beyond belief. How can a grown man trash our little get-away village?

We live around an assortment of mentally ill gossip types, but one stand out case is the broad that walks around here with a hat on her head straight out of the Handmaid's Tale. She definitely puts the P in superficial because she lives in this pretend type world were popularity means something, as if she is still in high school, and lies and innuendo are a weapon of power and prestige. She will run up to another resident and go off about how much someone else is disliked and hated, as if that is what makes her feel in touch with her humanity, the deprivation of someone else's reputation or likability. 

But on these hot summer nights, as the water seeps down the road into people's driveways and under the tires of their cars, a few positives remain. A menagerie of honestly good people still live here: the board president unafraid of taking on a difficult hands-on task; the retired teacher that fussed enough to get us a streetlight; my neat-as-a-pin neighbor with the beautiful life on the seas, constantly sailing and sailing; the man across the way battling a vicious illness but working long hard hours; the fellow dog walkers; the elders on fixed incomes watching the water evaporate into nothingness; and the handsome young men with their wonderful wives and girlfriends. 

Maybe, when the next bill comes, the water will finally be turned off.

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Henry David Thoreau and the Passing of Nature and Time

I'm tan. It's true. This is January, but I have a golden blush on my skin, and I'm worried.

Even though I live in a warm zone, I'm not supposed to look like I've been vacationing in Mexico, so my tan feels and looks unnatural to me. I don't mean Donald Trump orange, but I mean out of season, like wearing a floral boho dress in winter instead of plaid or muted colors. It's really worse than you think because I've been wearing shorts nearly every day for two weeks. Today was the first time I pulled on a warm sweater and leggings, the first time I've seen ice in my bird feeder, the first time I grabbed socks and not flip flops, the first time I made pumpkin spiced tea and pancakes. 

My little dogs quietly snooze on their new Christmas fuzzy blankets, all peaceful and warm. 

Henry David Thoreau, the poetic naturalist from the Transcendental movement, would certainly think a winter tan odd. And even though Transcendentalism faded away into the opulent glamour of the great Gilded Age, remnants of it hibernated within other more modern social and philosophical movements; and now, thanks to the pandemic, it seems reengineered into a full-blown revival.

Outside we go! Once again, elitist progressives become selfish of their leisure time, ponder and reflect on personal decisions and the meaning of life, reflect on brash behaviors, and attempt to make distance between the artificial and the natural. Elitist bigots, conservatives, and supremacists, engage in their own version of adverse Transcendentalism by "rolling coal" and "attempting a "coup d'etat." No matter what poison you ascribe to, conservative or progressive, Henry provides us all with a lesson on health and living well. He died at the age of forty-four of tuberculosis. As you know, tuberculosis continues to spread because no effective vaccine exists to eradicate it. Henry, from a young age, knew he was living with a disease that would end in suffering and death. He also knew his quality of life depended on him remaining physically active and out in the fresh air as much as possible. He appreciated the nurturing aspect of nature, and he accepted the cruel passage of time:

"In any weather, at any hour of the day or night, I have been anxious to improve the nick of time, and notch it on my stick too; to stand on the meeting of two eternities, for there are more secrets in my trade than in most men's, and yet not voluntarily kept, but inseparable from its very nature. I would gladly tell all that I know about it, and never paint "No Admittance" on my gate" (from Walden Economy).

However you interpret Thoreau, whether you appreciate him for his anger over injustice and slavery, whether you appreciate him for his loyalty to his beliefs and his love of nature, or whether you read him for his complex syntax and artistic descriptions, he certainly becomes more relevant with each passing year. As we journey into the Anthropocene, as we ride our planet into unknown territory, Thoreau's writings return us to a time when nature seemed on the verge of becoming predictable and possibly controllable. Darwin published after Thoreau, even though Thoreau seemed to already be aware of natural selection. The idea that the laws of nature were incontrovertible, that we, egotistical little humans, could harness this power like a work horse pulling a plow, is what got us into this ridiculous mess. 

Instead of putting nature first, as the Transcendentalists attempted to do, we corrupted our own menagerie of systems. Not one natural system remains intact thanks to human activity. Until we accept our failure and begin to dramatically change our oppositional handling of nature, we will continue to get these winter tans. And, as you already know, unless you live in the Southern Hemisphere, a winter tan is out of season.

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Professional Development: How Bard's Institute for Writing and Thinking is Helping Me on Day One

It is impossible for me to quantify the many various ways that Bard College IWT has helped me become a more effective teacher. In the past, I participated in three week-long summer workshops on their campus that guided my pedagogy and introduced me to a bevy of other teachers from around the world that shared their own best practices and innovations. Today we did several activities that will inform my future teaching, including a loop writing activity that I must admit that I have neglected to incorporate into my own classroom. 

The theme for this workshop is "margins" and "centers," a confusing concept for someone that might not teach. But for me this poses a true reality as I think about what exists in the margins of my classroom and what exists in the center. I decided to share, verbatim, a couple of excerpts from my loop writing from today because I want you to possibly use this technique to improve your own classroom or workspace.

My teacher asked us to write about what is in the center of our classroom. 

The students are at the center of my classroom because, of course, I am a student-centered teacher. I want every student in my class to feel valued and appreciated so that they can have enough self-esteem and confidence to forge ahead and become happy, productive members of society. The goal, in my case, is to make my students be able to yield power in nonviolent ways by using the pen instead of the sword. I think humanity is tired of the sword.

One of our team members attending from Israel had an interesting response to this question. He wrote that the text is the center of our classroom, the reason we meet at all. I think we both gave pretty good answers. A class needs cohesion, so this emphasis on fragmentation, lit circles if you will, interferes with advanced interpretation and significantly reduces the possibilities of creating a valuable community in a challenging environment. A shared text brings the class together.

My teacher asked us to write about what is on the margins of our classrooms.

I am on the margin of my classroom because this is my students' high school experience. Even though I advocate for them whenever possible, I want them to solve their own problems and be active learners. That can't happen if I don't step into the margins. I don't want my students constantly looking to me for the answers. I want them to take my guidance and then create their own compositions based on what they believe to be true about the text, or I want them to be able to use style and voice to explain what they like or dislike about the text. I want argumentation and persuasion, and that takes confidence.

We did several more loops today, and then we used a metacognitive strategy to analyze what we had written. 

The loops gave me a way to visualize the interplay between myself, the students, and the materials presented. This activity also enabled me to visualize strategies used by my workshop colleagues as we shared our writings. The loops served to fine tune my planning--helped me access those murky spaces in my pedagogy.

We analyzed a visual. I am sad to admit that this has always been an area that I ignore or only briefly examine. My teacher used a photo that had meaning to me personally. Of course, my teacher doesn't know me, so he couldn't have known that this visual would lead me into some interesting ideas...in short, this activity is going to help my students on their exams. This activity is going to help my students with inference, symbolism, and interpretation. 

The pandemic created a climate of confusion and distraction for almost everyone. Thanks to Bard, I am finally breaking out of my cycle of confusion and distraction that haunts me continuously and rediscovering my ability to get in the zone and write. 

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When White Privilege Meets the Dog Walk: Can the Neighborhood Karen be Dangerous?

The old saying that you can “lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink” stands true in my life. From students to relatives, to coworkers and friends, chronically dealing with people that prefer to overlook the obvious can be an exhausting and fruitless task, one I don’t enjoy. It seems like I’m constantly having to explain myself or point things out. Misapplied preconceptions attached to outlandish gossip and silly conniving produces a ton of inconveniences and little messes that I’m always running around trying to fix.

For instance, last night I was out walking the dogs in my community when someone stepped outside of their house to confront me. My earbuds blasted Pantera, and I didn’t feel like talking; therefore, I ignored the screaming, flagellating woman on her door stoop. She kept waving her hands at me, like she wanted me to come over to her—“Come here! I want to ask you something! I need to talk to you!” Believe me, that’s not something I’m stupid enough to do. The fact that this craziness was audible over my music made it weird in the extreme. Why, you might ask, wouldn’t I go over and try to find out what provoked this bedraggled looking woman into such a tizzy. 

Well, I already know the deal with my neighbor. She suffers from “I’m-a-mediocre-over-privileged-white-woman-suffering-from-pettiness-syndrome.” I’m white too, and I’m still trying to understand this illness. But from what I understand, pettiness syndrome is a form of nit-picking that infects the Karen-type woman (or man) who typically never experiences any substantial material hardship (unless it's self inflicted). In over-privileged white men the syndrome usually exhibits itself as straight up hypocrisy and narrow mindedness, combined with hate and an unwillingness to ever forgive anyone. You see, I live in a tiny gated neighborhood, and in order to get enough steps in to make our exercise worth it, we have to walk around again and again and again. We literally walk around in circles in order to get our exercise and stay inside the gate. The only other option on a hot summer night is to go out into the hike and bike trail, and, ironically, for safety reasons, it is closed after dark. 

The woman in question has a Ring camera installed and when me and the dogs make our circle, we activate her camera. She complains. She hates seeing me on her camera almost as much as she hates seeing me at the HOA board meetings. She, in all her modes of social and physical fatigue, can’t figure out why I’m walking around and around, nearly every night, in my own neighborhood. All that petty hand-wringing and complaining actually enhances my workout and causes me to enjoy the ritual even more. I think it’s fun. But even though it’s fun, my Karen neighbors are not without threat, nor are they harmless. One of them actually walked out nattering at me, and when I continued to walk away after telling her to leave us alone, she called the police and tried to make a false report. This woman sports a huge Trump 2020 flag in her garage, telling me everything I need to know about her level of intelligence and willingness to indulge in immorality and disregard obvious facts.

My dogs, like almost any other dog in the universe, can sense when the energy is off. This imbalance, this negativity so near to their own home, heightens their awareness and feelings of paranoia. No more than twenty pounds each, they still pack a ferocious bark when approached, especially if they think a threat towards me is in the making. Lunging on the leash and growling, snarling and acting silly, the whole display is comical in its absurdity. But even their ridiculous behavior is no match for the community Karens in the coveted arenas of comedy and absurdity. 

In the end, never give up on your relatives or friends, neighbors or coworkers, that are suffering from pettiness syndrome due to privilege or hateful politics. They may cut you off and act like they hate you for some silly thing that you could easily fix one day, and they may do awful things to you that make you want to cry and lash out, but just practice patience and tolerance. One of these days, after he or she has had sufficient time to reflect, your own Karen will have an eye opening epiphany. Until then, keep walking.

Westiesonleash


Alone Like Usual: My Post-Quarantine Social Struggle

 

Maybe I shouldn’t try to equate my experience with that of the willfully isolated philosopher and writer, Henry David Thoreau, but lately I’ve been subjected to a person of similar qualities. As most Americans know, Thoreau spent most of his life roaming around the countryside writing and thinking. During his lifetime, his writing and thinking rituals interfered with his ability to support himself, so he depended on Ralph Waldo Emerson for not only friendship, but also for room and board. Emerson, a true intellectual in every regard, never held any moral influence over Thoreau. Emerson undoubtedly truly loved his friend, and that’s why we can all read Walden and learn something about Transcendentalism. Of course, my imaginary friend—I’m told all friends are ultimately imaginary—will always be an unnamed volunteer social outcast that could potentially become a meaningful member of society but prefers to sit atop a throne on a weedy hill and reflect angrily on all of humanity, except, for some remarkable and illogical reason, one insular and regressive geographical location consistently receives his high praise and adulation. 

As I engaged with my friend, I took an opportunity to reflect upon my own bend toward Thoreauness, and I realized that my propensity for exclusivity paralleled in some strange and mysterious ways. I, too, matching breath for breath, handily critiqued society in all its foibles and abuses, and I denounced particular power structures that all Americans must share: the networks of healthcare; the lack of public services during a crisis; and the predictability of bland and unintelligent politicians. To say that we have much in common is a severe understatement of the highest order. Together, we enjoyed lively conversations about our shared experiences, our phrases and clauses mingling together in old and familiar ways like experienced lovers tangled in the sheets during a fearless night of physical and habitual lust. But that is where the commonalities and the habits abruptly came to a pronounced and ultimately bitter end.

The quarantine is over, and apparently, so am I. The truth blitzed its way into my consciousness on a warm sunny afternoon several weeks ago when my friend cut me off due to an in depth conversation with some “people” residing in this pristine, and perfect, geographical location. Curious about how such an isolationist can become transformed by a disembodied voice over 1400 miles away, a basically useless—dead-pan—voice that does nothing except squint into the stars and argue ridiculous ideas contorting them into ridiculous positions, I decided the whole significant adventure would entail a sad, dismal, and rain-infused, conclusion. The renewed relationship, in all its strength and glory, with flags waving and amber grain growing, in the end became prolonged and unhealthy, whimpering its way into a premature death. Now we can all mourn the loss of its beauty and amazing potential, the manuscript incomplete, the novel left unpublished. 

This heartbreaking disaster, cruel and unjust, reminds me of something from Walden. In a discussion about “coats and breeches” Thoreau writes, “I have heard of a dog that barked at every stranger who approached his master’s premises with clothes on, but was easily quieted by a naked thief” (Economy 21). My friend, as you probably surmised, is a definite dog, leery of everything clothed in honesty but easily subjugated by the “naked thief.” All of this is extremely alarming because I know what fueled my outreach, and as much as I would like to have looked away from the disaster en route, I couldn’t. In the end, a quality life with truth and justice is dependent on our willingness to nurture each other with compassion and understanding. Naked thieves are not transcendental, nor do they share Emerson’s values and tolerance. Eventually, just as the nakedness suggests, the motives become obvious to everyone except the dog.

Loneliness