blog description

Old women talk about old things: history, myth, magic and their
checkered pasts, about what changes and what does not.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Crone-within Whispers


Living with trees Crone-like enjoying days/nights of freedom
Betwixt and between  Past/future. There/then
Listening to silence, to birds, to squirrel chatter
Noticing leaf green, tender green, cedar green, spruce green
Shade green, muted green, shifting towards grey
Early morning cool green shadows under leaf shaded skies
Robin song, haze blue, breeze blue
Crow calling, hawk circling
Once, twice.
Pup moves to my side.
Last defiant call, close, close.
Pup quivers.
Later a trail of large bronze feathers
 tell the rest of the story
Somewhere young foxes have
 full bellies, bright eyes, a splash of red.
Crone-within whispers
cycles circle round


Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Great Giveaway

I give you my breast
the earth
and suckle you with
corn and grain
plants and animals and fish
all to sustain you
all to feed you
all to nourish you
the great giveaway
my love for you
the food
so you will live
prosper and grow
From my breast
the earth
because I love you.
- Amy Sophia Marashinsky

                Once there was a woman who had two sons. She loved the boys with all her heart, but they were very different. One boy was a dreamer and he made their house cheerful and beautiful.  Perhaps he was very busy in his mind and had no ambition for material things. Or maybe he thought he had no strength or physical abilities. The other son was a doer - always moving, hunting, running in races. Perhaps he loved to win things and bring food to his family so he could help them. Or maybe he thought he was strong but not very smart.
                None of this mattered to the mother. She was proud of both her sons and viewed their skills as honorable! She often told people, “My sons are as different as night and day!” But she forgot to say that night and day are both very good things. So the boys began to believe that one of them must have a better way to be than the other.
                The mother just couldn’t understand it. She would give things to her Dreamer, and he would take them and say, “Thank you, mother. I love your gifts and cherish them with all my heart.” Then she would give the same things to her Doer, and he would shove them back at her and say, “Here, take what I give you instead. I want you to love the things I do.”  So she listened to her sons and took from the Doer with pride and gave to the Dreamer with tenderness.  She thought this was a good thing, the very best thing she could do for her sons.
                What did they learn from their mother? Perhaps the Dreamer learned to never fail or he would lose the love and care he needed to survive in the world. Perhaps the Doer learned that he had to be strong to survive and that tenderness would never come to him. So the mother was astounded by the ways her sons came to be in the world. She was dismayed by their inability to value each other’s differences or to love each other like brothers. And sometimes she cried because she thought it was her fault.
                That is what happened.  Maybe you know these brothers and what they give to the world. You can tell their mother she is a good woman and the best mother she tried so hard to be.
                                                                                                       by Lari Jo Walker

Marashinsky, Amy Sophia. “Corn Woman: Nourishment.”  16 April 2008. Mydailygoddess.blogspot.com8 July 2012.

Monday, July 16, 2012

You were right. It's been personal, Nora.

Whatever you choose, however many roads you travel, I hope that you choose not to be a lady. I hope you will find some way to break the rules and make a little trouble out there. And I also hope that you will choose to make some of that trouble on behalf of women.- Nora Ephron's Commencement speech at Wellesley, 1996

When screenwriter Nora Ephron died and I read the quote (above) that was posted on my facebook page, I immediately remembered how good her romantic comedy movies were. I often pop one in the DVD player when I want something I enjoy listening to in the background to keep me company when I'm working.

While I thought about my favorite lines and moments from her work and felt sad that she's gone, I recalled how simply and succinctly she voiced a fundamental difference between men and women when it comes to work. And I was reminded yet again that it doesn't make a hill of beans of difference that I'm fifty years old now. I still feel like a kid when it comes to trying to be a professional and run a business. I take it personally when a client goes to someone else for their webdesign.

And that is the problem. I'm a "business" of one. One person. Why shouldn't I take it personally? But I know darn well I shouldn't. I was told this time and again by my ex-best friend as she valiantly struggled to hide how badly she was hurt after twentysome years with the same company who callously screwed her over all in the name of saving their profits. To hell with their employees. You should never let them see you cry. Never be unprofessional and show you are actually human (ohmigod, she's acting like a GIRL!) and you have feelings.

from You've Got Mail (1998)AT

(an online conversation)
KATHLEEN: My business is in trouble. My mother would have something wise to say.
JOE: I'm a brilliant businessman. It's what I do best. What's your business?
KATHLEEN: No specifics, remember?
JOE: Minus specifics, it's hard to help. Except to say, go to the mattresses.
JOE: It's from The Godfather. It means you have to go to war.
KATHLEEN: The Godfather? What is it with men and The Godfather?
JOE: The Godfather is the I Ching. The Godfather is the sum of all wisdom. The Godfather is the answer to any question. What should I pack for my summer vacation? "Leave the gun, take the cannoli." What day of the week is it? "Maunday, Tuesday, Thursday, Wednesday." And the answer to your question is "Go to the mattresses."
You're at war. "It's not personal, it's business. It's not personal it's business." Recite that to yourself every time you feel you're losing your nerve. I know you worry about being brave, this is your chance. Fight. Fight to the death. 

(later in the story, a face to face conversation --)
JOE: I put you out of business. You're entitled to hate me.
KATHLEEN:   I don't hate you --
JOE: But you'll never forgive me.  Like Elizabeth.
JOE:  Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice.   She was too proud --
KATHLEEN:   I thought you hated Pride and Prejudice.
JOE:  -- or was she too prejudiced and Mr. Darcy too proud?  I can never  remember.  (beat) It wasn't personal --
KATHLEEN:  --It was business. What is that supposed to mean? I am so sick of that. All it
means is it's not personal to you, but it's personal to me, it's personal to a lot of people. 
 (she shrugs helplessly) What's wrong with personal anyway?
JOE: Nothing.
KATHLEEN: I mean, whatever else anything is,  it ought to begin by being personal.


I'm flashing back to my last experience in the "corporate world."  Since I was raised in a household of three women and one man (and my father was a very reticent person who rarely had much to say to his daughters. At least while we were growing up),  I rarely if ever saw men interacting with each other.  I worked for three guys who worked together in one room running a small business. They stuck me at a computer in the outer office (and rarely closed the door)  and I had no choice but to eavesdrop on them all day.

Fortunately for sweet little me, I rarely heard them swearing. But I also learned that on a regular basis, men will yell and tell each other in no uncertain terms that the other guy is  a stupid idiot (or worse).  And the subject could just as easily be sports or politics, not just business.  But right about the time I'd start to wonder if my boss was going to have a heart attack (he would get red in the face), and/or if an actual physical fight was going to break out,  things would get quiet and I'd realize they were back to business as usual. The problem was solved, the argument forgotten (really!), and they were all friends, again.

I remember Steve, one of the guys I worked for who I found it the easiest to talk to, telling me that that's the one thing that drove him crazy about working with women. They take everything personally!, he complained. If you have a disagreement and you fight about it, they are hurt and they stay that way for awhile. They hold a grudge. They don't forget. They take it personally.

Just how can they turn all that testosterone on and off at will? At work, anyway. And then I have to tell you about my first boyfriend post divorce. Because I have to remind myself that there has been a time when I really was getting pretty good at this "don't  take it personally" stuff, anyway.

You see, one of the annoying things that helped me realize that I had really did not want to be in a relationship with this guy was the way he held grudges.  He didn't forget.  He could recite chapter and verse all the times in his life when people had treated him unfairly and done him wrong. They hurt his feelings.  And he had to relate in great detail, what had happened and why.  All the way back to kindergarten.  Yikes! It was annoying. And sad. And wimpy.

I tried to impress on him one of the hard lessons I'd finally gotten in my years of counseling.  People don't deliberately try to hurt you. They are just blundering along, living their life and making choices based on what's best for them at any given moment. And chances are, if you get stepped on (and hurt) in the process, it's only because you just happened to be in the way.  And no, they probably won't even notice you were in the way.  And it won't occur to them that their action directly affected you.  People look out for themselves.  They have to.  Because sadly, if you don't look out for yourself,  chances are,  no one else will. 

And in all honesty, in the process of breaking up with him, I deliberately hurt him.  I wasn't nice, and I purposely did things that I knew would push him to the point that he would not want to salvage the relationship.  I wanted out in the worst way and I knew that if I could convince him that I was a horrible person he'd give up and let me alone.  I knew this about him -- he'd take it personally. He'd carry the grudge and not forgive me. 

But I'm on Kathleen's side in You've Got Mail. I have a small business (of one) and I take it personally when I lose a client.  I have tried so hard to look at it from their point of view and realize yes, it was a good business move (for them - not me, obviously!)  Chances are it's never occurred to them how badly losing them has hurt me. And not just emotionally, but financially. Therein lies the rub.   

And that's why it's so hard not to take it personally - when you may or may not be able to recover financially from someone else's business decision. At least I can honestly say that I have behaved professionally when this has happened. As badly as I would have loved to have screamed "how can you be such a jerk?! You just cut my income in half!,"  I didn't.  I sucked it up and took it like a man.  Or not.  I'm thinking about the guys back at the office.  They would have told you about it.  You would have known exactly where you stood with them. But after clearing the air, they would have made up and gone back to doing their jobs.  Then, again, they could do that.  They were professionals at not taking anything personally.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Sally, Speck and the Summer of ‘66

We have things in common, Sally Draper and I. We’re both about the same age. We’ve both lost beloved grandparents. We both watched President Kennedy laid to rest in black-and-white on TV for three solid days. We both love the Beatles. We both want a pair of white go-go boots.

But that’s pretty much where the similarities end.

Sally is the daughter of Don and Betty Draper. Don is a well-to-do ad man in New York City; he’s now divorced from her mom and Sally lives with her two kid brothers and her mother (who’s getting fat) and her politician stepfather (whose horrible mother babysits her) in a haunted mansion in upstate New York.

In the year 1966, right next to the “Mad Men” parallel universe, there’s me, living in blue-collar Berwyn, Illinois, with my working-class parents and friends whose parents couldn’t afford a divorce – their fathers just took a powder.

Sally Draper seems like a pretty lucky girl. She gets to spend weekends in a penthouse in New York City with her dad and his glamorous new wife, who takes her on shopping sprees to Bergdorf’s and Bonwit Teller.

But I was lucky, too. I had a Mafia-wife godmother who bought me cool dresses from Bramson’s in Oak Park, a gold Baume et Mercier watch, and bequeathed me her expensive tastes that my parents could only indulge with orders from the Sears catalogue.

I also never saw my step-grandmother-in-law giving head to Roger Sterling. I learned about sex around the same age, but it was from a whispered conversation with Maureen Hannigan at a Girl Scout Christmas caroling event at the local old people’s home. And anyhow, Maureen Hannigan was lying. There was no way our fathers and mothers were doing that disgusting stuff.

I wonder if Sally has any friends. There are no allusions to any on the show, and that’s a damn shame. The only friend she really confides in is the creepy former neighbor boy, and he’s off at a boarding school and probably has ulterior motives of getting it on with Sally’s mother.

If I knew Sally, I would have invited her over to my house for the weekend. We’d kick off the festivities by watching “Dark Shadows” on Friday afternoon, then go to the movies at the Olympic Theater with my friends. Then we’d have a big pajama party, with everybody wrapped in blankets in our front room floor, playing Beatles and Herman’s Hermits records all night long.

My mother would make a pizza from scratch and we’d put our hair up in big plastic curlers and read about our fave raves in 16 Magazine, tell Polish jokes and get goofy until my father would yell from upstairs to goddamn it keep it down, he had to get up early for work tomorrow.

It probably wouldn’t be sophisticated enough for Sally – who had grown up with a maid, who knew all about sex, who with her brothers and dad frequently assumes the role of mother, sliding into that frigid, stone-faced efficiency so perfected by Betty. No, if Sally hung out with us, she’d get a chance to actually be a kid – although there would be nobody embargoing the news for her. It would be blasting out of our TV set, out of the radio while we listened to WLS Top 10 and Barney Pip or Ron Britain on WCFL.

 She might be scared, considering Chicago is where that guy killed those eight student nurses, the guy who had scared her so much that her grandmother-in-law had to give her a Seconal and she ended up falling asleep under the sofa with a butcher knife clutched in her hand.

 I remember July 14, 1966, when we first got word about the slaying of eight student nurses on Chicago’s South Side. I’d been riding in our 1964 Ford Falcon, going somewhere with my parents, bopping in the back seat to the Top 10 Countdown on WLS. It was summer, the car windows were open, and I was nagging my father to switch stations when the news or the commercials came on because all I wanted to hear was the music: The Beatles’ “Paperback Writer,” Tommy James and the Shondell’s “Hanky Panky,” The Trogg’s “Wild Thing,” The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer in the City.”

 When the news came on, I wanted to switch, but my mother shushed me. It was a bulletin, saying the girls had been killed. It was shocking and scary. Back in 1966, things like this didn’t happen.   

 The murders happened on a Thursday, so maybe it was Saturday that I was riding around with my parents. My mother worked nights during the week, so the only time we would have all been together would have a Saturday or Sunday night. Speck was caught four days later -- on a Monday. My mother would have been at work then. I seem to remember something about her actually taking the day off – something very unusual for her. But she may have been too freaked out to work.

 But even though Speck had been on the loose here in Chicago, Sally could feel safe with us. My parents didn’t drink martinis or go out much – my father worked in a factory and my mother worked in a factory and their idea of a good time was an occasional trip to a local Italian restaurant, where they might have one drink apiece.

 And my friends may have had their share of neuroses, but worrying that Richard Speck was going to come and get them was the least of it. We were glad when the news told us he’d been caught four days later, but I’d never felt that any of us were at risk of being hurt by him or anyone like him. We were just kids, safe and secure in prosperous, post-war America. Who’d want to hurt us?

 Speck died in prison in 1991, sporting a pair of hormone-induced fake breasts. He never even made 50.

 Today, the Summer of ’66 is barely a blip in the modern American collective memory. But in the intervening years, the legacy of Richard Speck has permeated the national zeitgeist, cropping up in new generations of serial killers, “Saw” movies and the fictional world of Sally Draper. Whose fear of life that summer, it turns out, was right all along.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Talk Nerdy to Me

A grandchild of mine was accused, some years ago, of being a “Nerd” because she played War Craft, read and reread Lord of the Rings, and got hooked on TV shows like Fringe and the X-Files.  I wondered about this label at first, because she’s bright, outgoing and swims in a sizeable pod of friends. Then I realized that although the term “Nerd,” is fairly new, the profile remains the same. It’s an inherited condition.

My husband was always neat, even, his mother told me, as a child, a born organizer. The system might not always be apparent, but he will explain it to you, and he will back his preferences with inescapable logic. He built and flew model airplanes through adolescence, and in labeled boxes in the basement, beside his mourned for, obsolete darkroom, are the engines. I have not the least doubt they could be resuscitated.

After we married, he worked as a programmer. For fun, he spent a decade studying Ansel Adams’ Zone System. He could bring a loud party with the latest Stones album and 3 jugs of Mateus to a stand-still in five minutes if given an opening. His photography, as he practiced it in darkroom and with endless test sheets and kitchen table grokkings, was inspired. As a result, we’ve got rafts of wonderful pictures of our growing boys. 

 I was an only lonely child living in the country. Nearsighted, (“Lizzie Lens” was the standard ‘50’s joke) it was easier for me to read than to relate to a world of other children I couldn’t quite see. I hung out in my imagination, creating an entire world ruled by dogs; I drew charts of their dynasties. Oddly, the dogs rode horses, and I had a box of plastic and china stand-ins. Later, I cut to the chase and simply sat on the floor and talked to myself. When I was little, this was called “good” behavior. As I grew older and the habit of talking to myself continued, Mother had second thoughts. All of a sudden—or so it seemed to me—telling myself stories all the time was “weird.”

 I admit it; I’m obsessive. A Bambi fixation drove me to write a play--I guess you’d call it “fan fic” today--which was performed by my Fourth Grade class. I’ve always been vulnerable to historical characters.   I began with Davy Crocket, but by the time I was eleven, my affections had fastened upon Alexander Hamilton, who was a fairly odd choice for a crush in the age of Elvis Presley. Soon after I added Richard III to my obsessive roster, which led to Shakespeare, Laurence Olivier and occasionally parading around in the hokey outfit above.

 So, lately, when my granddaughter puts on her “Talk Nerdy to Me” tee shirt and heads out to play Trivial Pursuit or spends hours online with her friends, I feel a warm glow. She’s definitely a member of Our Clan.