Business cards from the school

So, I ordered business cards from the university because I thought it’d be cool to have business cards to hand out when I am out and about either for school or not. I mean, the nature of the degree will have me out and about interviewing folks about their work, their lives, and their opinions/views. I think it’d be a nice touch to be able to hand them a card that says, “Oh hey! I say I am a student of USC, but here’s a card that confirms that.” Good idea, right?

Yeah … right … I think …

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I don’t know what I am going to do with so many of them …

Politricks

This election cycle has been more exhausting and traumatising than any that I can remember. Not even our most violent elections in Jamaica come close to how traumatised I am right now and we still have another 4 months to go before it’s over.

I feel beaten down and sore. There is so much violent rhetoric everywhere and nothing anyone says can be taken on face value. No one is trustworthy and everyone is corrupt and a liar. Some more so than others until you talk to someone who actually supports that one and then … not so corrupt. It’s exhausting. The number of media houses who are willing to examine this race from an objective perspective is slim and people stick to their preferred outlets even when they know how biased they are. I really wish that the public was more discerning than they are.

I don’t even know how I got so gung-ho about voting either. I haven’t been this interested in voting since I was first able to vote as a young adult in Jamaica. And that was a pretty disappointing experience. I voted for a woman I thought would have more interest in contributing to bettering the community than anything else. Boy was I disappointed. Whatever progress was made was invisible to me and it tainted my view of politics and government for years afterwards.

As I grew older, though, it became clearer to me that politics was less about me and more about community, the most needy, and optics. And it is that last bit that poses a conundrum for me because I am of the opinion that it really should not matter what people think of you, but at the same time I am very much in favour of not behaving like a complete numbskull in public either. Which isn’t necessarily contradicting stances, mind you. One can be one’s true self without being an ass so long as one is not actually an ass.

And this brings me to this whole 2016 election. We’ve got an ass and a hardass as choices. I dunno … it’s kind of shitty that the one year I decide to be good citizen, my choices are between Tweedledum and Tweedledee. And while I am of the firm opinion that one of these is worse than the other (and I am not here to say which that is), I really am tired of the way in which people have taken these elections and turned it into an excuse to belittle one another, alienate one another, and shut one another down.

As someone on a friend’s Facebook thread said, this election season is way too long. Most marriages can’t last with this level and duration of vitriol. Why are we doing this to ourselves?

/sigh

It’s a new year

Lots of good things happening for me this year. I’ll expound on that as the year moves on; some of it I can’t talk about just yet, but you’ll all know when the time comes. I promise.

It’s already almost the end of January. It is just me, or do the years just seem to go by faster now? I came to the blog to just make sure that things were as I left them and realised that I hadn’t posted in a month. There was a time when I posted multiple times per day. I don’t have much of an explanation other than social media is taking over our lives. ? I spend a lot of time on Facebook. I am trying to do better at that because Facebook is truly a time sink of the worst kind. I want to spend more time on Medium, or in Pocket, or even reading or writing offline. It hasn’t happened yet. But it is a new year – maybe I’ll manage to discipline myself better this year.

So, Happy 2016 to those of you who still read this blog. I’ve had tons of ideas of how to revamp it but none have really taken … yet. We’ll see what 2016 holds.

Of course, that’s going to be harder than ever what with me getting into USC for a Masters in Social Work. It’s the full time, 4 semester program too. I may not have time to scratch my ass much less blog. We’ll see though. One never knows.

That’s my good news of the month, by the way. ? I struggle with the notion that I am too old for a masters degree now and I’ll be paying off student loans when I’m on my death bed. Meh. I’m gonna do it anyway. It’s a calling. One I missed in my youth and one I refuse to give up on again. It might be too late to be a forensic psychologist, but I sure as hell can still be some kind of mental health practitioner. ? More on that as the year unfolds.

In the meantime, I’m heading back to my television where I am currently running Criminal Minds marathons.

It’s that time of year again

 

Bah Humbug!Christmas is an odd time of year for me. Traditions and all the cultural nuances make it all so confusing for me that I end up with a kind of conglomeration of ideas about the season and how it ought to be celebrated. If I had to distill it all down into one simple thought, it’d be that Christmas is first and foremost a time for family.

Growing up, Christmas meant a few different things for me. It meant having to get out of bed at 4:00am to get to church for 5:00am service. This is a tradition that has perpetuated in my immediate family for several years – Christmas morning service when we sing Christmas hymns and talk about the birth of Christ as the sun rises in the east and casts an ever-warming glow behind the artfully crafted cross in the east wall of the church. The church was built several decades earlier with glass blocks in the shape of a cross in the wall. On the inside, a wooden cross was bolted to the wall so that when the light hits those glass blocks, the wooden cross on the inside looks to be glowing. Watching that light up progressively on Christmas morning was quite the spiritual experience for the young me. Even if I was pouting from having been forced out of my warm, cozy bed before daylight.

As soon as we got home, Mom would make hot cocoa and I’d open my presents. There were never too many presents for me to open so that wouldn’t last very long. I’d always wondered why I never got a ton of presents. For a long time, I thought it was because we couldn’t afford it. Then I began to understand that my parents were trying to ensure I never got used to getting a ton of presents. That is the route to the dark side and narcissism and entitlement. Thank god for my parents’ foresight.

The rest of the day typically was spent listening to a variety of musical pieces as my father and mother took turns playing their favourite music. The day typically started out with Handel’s Messiah. At some point, Dad would switch that to The Student Prince. If Mom was in an argumentative mood, we’d get a little Nat King Cole in there too. Sometimes, we’d get some Sparrow (calypso) near to lunch time. If Mom wasn’t particularly argumentative, she’d just turn on the radio as soon as Handel or Mario Lanza’s Student Prince was finished, and we’d get Christmas carols for the rest of day. There was no reggae in our house; no-siree; nuh uh.

All of this set a backdrop to the smells of your typical Jamaican Christmas. In the early years, rice and peas, escoveitch fish, brown-stew chicken, roast beef, and ham would mingle with sorrel and rum cake. Dad would drink a beer or two during the day, switching to Vodka later on if friends stopped by for eats. Mom would sip Sherry, switching to a “brown bow” (coffee liqueur and milk) if guests were over. Bonus: I’d get to sample them all.

Over the years, as Christianity took on a more ominous tone for me, Christmas morning 5am service became more about being with my parents for something they saw as important more than anything else and the reality of that cross on the wall morphed into a symbol of the illusion that Christianity and faith actually is. Slowly, over the years, the day became less and less about celebration and music. Less food was cooked, less people stopped by, less alcohol consumed. One of the last Christmas days I remember involved 5am service, Christmas Carols on the radio, escoveitch fish and bammy. We all mostly slept the day away and no one passed by to visit.

I got married in 2008 and suddenly Christmas was this huge deal again. Christmas Eve at one set of in-laws with one set of gifts. Christmas Day with another set of in-laws and a whole different set of gifts. Just as much food and alcohol and company, less religion. It just so happens that 2008 was my first white Christmas too.

Even after a revival of Christmas Spirit as a new member of the Frantz family, the fervor has dimmed even faster in the ensuing years than it had in the years before the wedding. These days, my husband and I “Bah Humbug” our way through what has become a very materialistic holiday. The most one might get out of me this time of year is a “Happy Yule” on December 21st, maybe a small light-returning ritual on the morning of the Solstice, and a quiet day meditating on the return of the sun. And of all the pagan holidays, Yule is the one I tend to observe most because by the time it rolls around, I am sick of short days and dark cold nights. Mostly, we get our food and we hunker down until after the madness.

Today (Dec 23rd) is the last day we will venture out of the house. We’ve got wood, hot cocoa, food, and drink to last us 3 to 4 days and we aren’t moving, unless we absolutely have to, until Saturday. So, Happy Holidays, everyone. Be safe out there. And see you on the other side.

From the overactive mind chronicles

Pine_Needles_(5902273583)This morning as I walked Rusty, I turned my nose up into the air and sniffed in much the same way I’ve seen Rusty do on several occasions. In fact, it is one of his signature looks especially when there is food on the air waves. I like to imagine he’s savouring all the smells and just enjoying life and the ability to experience life. I imagine that’s what is in his head because that is what is in mine when I lift my face up to the sky and take deep breaths too. And this morning was no different.

The air is fresh and clean this morning, like it was washed in fresh pine. The odour of the pine needles is so strong even the least sensitive nose is likely to be able to detect it. The scent overrides just every other smell (except dog poop). I literally walked with a smile on my face for the whole half hour, taking deep breaths, enjoying the scent of pine. (It should probably be noted that pine is one of my favourite scents alongside sage, vanilla, and clove.)

The one jarring note in this idyllic morning walk is that my mind couldn’t help but make connections with the extra strong smell of pine and the storm that just passed through here this weekend. We got 20mph winds on Saturday and the yard is littered with broken branches and the pine needle contingents in the yard, on the driveway, and on the streets have quadrupled.

The bottom line? This lovely walk laced with my favourite scent, heavy on the air, is courtesy of the destruction of nature. Basically, things had to break for me to enjoy my favourite scent “naturally”.

Yeah; my husband is most definitely right – I think way too damned much. /sigh

“Illegal alien?” How dare you!

Want to know what’s wrong with the term “illegal alien”? Actually, it’s a semantics thing; nothing is actually wrong with it per se. However, it does have certain derogative connotations about the person the label is attached to. Let’s dig into that for a minute …

I am also known as an alien. My “alien registration number” is the number attached to my green card. I am a legal alien, but I am still an alien and that feels like someone shit on my grave. It offends me. That feeling, though, is purely emotional. Emotional responses and reactions always make me dig deeper into what happened or what was said because I want to know what the rationale is behind the emotion. It’s how my brain works. I want to figure out the motivation behind reactions and responses that seem so purely driven by emotion. I want to understand what makes people tick. So for me, being offended by the term “alien” means that somewhere deep down, I have some issues with the word. Add to that the often used term “illegal alien” and I am downright angry because “illegal?” fuck off. #emotionaltiradeengaged #watchout (Ugh. Hash tags have made it into my writing now – shameful!)

I looked up the definition for the word “alien”, and to my surprise, the definition of “from another planet/world” was number 3 in the list. Number 1 in the list of definitions was “belonging to a foreign country”. That shattered my whole worldview because in my mind “alien” is the same as “ET” and “ALF” and I will not be categorised in the same space as fictional entities from another world. That feels insulting to me. But as I sat looking at the screen dejected, a caveat at the bottom of the definition page caught my eye: “ORIGIN Middle English: via Old French from Latin alienus ‘belonging to another’, from alius ‘other’.” And there it was – the origin of this word that makes me so angry is the very basis for bigotry and discrimination – “other”.

The question is, if one doesn’t know the origin of the word, does it have the same psychological impact? Probably not; which would explain why so many people defend the term “illegal alien” so vehemently. Maybe if they knew the origin of the word and the subconscious effect that that origin had on people, they might have a better understanding of why the term is so offensive to some.

Thinking about it some more, I realise that if you have never been a student of literature, languages, or culture you might never understand how “other” is an integral part of our subconscious serving to alienate and dehumanise “other” so that we feel better about denying civility and courtesy to those who inhabit that realm.

This is an intellectual conversation and one that I can’t have with everyone because the majority of people think it’s a waste of time to be this intellectually inclined. And thus the nuances of terms such as “alien” will continue to lose flavour over time.

My conclusion? Basically I need to just inure myself to people who consistently say “illegal alien” and move on. People from other countries who cross borders with other countries without express permission are actually breaking the law and are technically “illegal aliens” indeed. Never mind that their crime is more of the misdemeanour flavour rather than the criminal flavour, it’s still against the law.

/sigh

On Hellen Keller …

I fell in love (sorta) with Helen Keller early in life. Before I realised just how much of a literary and inspirational icon she is. To be honest, I still don’t know how much of a literary and inspirational icon she is. I’ve a few articles queued up to read on her and I have a plan to get up out of this bed eventually (I’ve recently had major surgery and am still recovering) and do some thorough research on her and her life.

I knew early on that she was both blind and deaf and that she once said:

“Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence; and I learn whatever state I may be in, therein to be content.”

If you ask me for my favourite quote, that would be the one I’d give you. It’s the perfect embodiment of how I see life. I’m not blind and I am not deaf.  I have bad eyesight that’s correctable to 20/15, but by itself I am about 20/75 … or something.  (I actually don’t know what my eyesight is uncorrected; I should ask next time I get tested …). I hear really well. Sometimes too well. Part of being HSP is hearing, seeing, smelling, feeling things that normally go unnoticed. But I am not blind or deaf at all and thus I can’t even begin to relate to her on that level. Nevertheless, I feel that I get the idea of being satisfied with whatever lot in life one is given and making the best of whatever it is you have while striving to make life better still for the self and for those around you.

In reading more about her, I’ve learned that she espoused several other ideas that run parallel to my own. One of those in particular is the notion that it is in education – truly open and honest education – that tolerance lies. We cannot know how to accept our fellow man, regardless of his state and stature, until we learn that there are several other people in the world who see the world differently. 

“The highest result of education is tolerance. Long ago men fought and died for their faith; but it took ages to teach them the other kind of courage — the courage to recognize the faiths of their brethren and their rights of conscience. Tolerance is the first principle of community; it is the spirit which conserves the best that all men think. No loss by flood and lightening, no destruction of cities and temples by the hostile forces of nature, has deprived man of so many noble lives and impulses as those which his tolerance has destroyed.”

Hellen Keller was an optimist and this is how she is known and what she is famous for. I am not that much of an optimist. In fact, I tend to be a bit idealistic and somewhat fatalistic. Still, I can appreciate the optimists perspective, because if I spent my time indulging my idealism and fatalism, I would probably go jump off the nearest bridge.

Why am I suddenly waxing poetic on some dead deaf-mute from the late 19th century (and who died in the early 20th century)? It was her birthday yesterday.