What the hell happened in 1968? (The How to Get a Standing Ovation Edition)

“[The] American Independent Party candidate for president … urged Veterans of Foreign Wars Thursday not to be misled by what he called ‘liberal left-wingers, guideline writers and newspaper editors.” The first line of the Associate Press story states the news in faded shades of cream and grey.

wallaceI consider whether to find this opening funny or disconcerting. “What were they thinking in 1968?” I ask, as I take a closer look at the faded old newspaper, crumbled decades ago around the dishes that I am unpacking. It turns out to be an article about George Wallace, a former Alabama Governor most known for his zealous support of racial segregation, not for his failed run for the presidency in 1968. As I read on, forty-seven years melt away and I am Sherri Roth, thirteen-year-old news freak and hopeful Lois Lane-style journalist, skimming the news as I search for answers to the burning questions about life that keep me awake at night as I try to understand the universe.

“George C. Wallace” I read “devoted much of his speech … to attacks on communism.” I have to smile. Attacks on communism seem quaint and harmless today, although thirteen-year-old Sherri Roth was under the firm impression that both Lenin and Marx specifically advocated tyranny, massacres, and cruelty. It will be a few more years before she is surprised to learn that Communism is merely an economic philosophy and not a mandate to do evil.

panty girdlesIn his speech, captured in a copy of The Wichita Eagle from a Friday August 23 of long ago, Wallace took potshots at newspapers for being soft on Fidel Castro. He also decried anarchists, saying both they and communists “imperil this country internally and externally.” Young Sherri Roth isn’t sure exactly what an anarchist is, but the older Sherrie Cronin is pretty sure that Wallace was referring to hippies. The VFW of 1968 was not particularly fond of this group, and her suspicions are strengthened when she reads that “He was interrupted 25 times by applause, [and] given a standing ovation as he finished.”

Okay. This is starting to sound more like the news of today. Except for those poor guideline writers, that is. Even Rush Limbaugh doesn’t rail against guideline writers, at least as far as I know. What did they do back then to piss off George Wallace?

infinite times1“Guideline writers in Washington are trying to … cover every aspect of life, even to the point of telling a person when he should get up and when he should go to bed,” Wallace complained. Oh. Some government study must have recommended getting eight hours of sleep each night. Looks like that constituted government overreach in Wallace’s opinion.

I sigh as I remember some of the Tea Party complaints that have made the news recently. In 1968 you might have been able to buy a men’s pullover for $2.66 and a woman’s panty girdle for only a dollar, but other things haven’t changed all that much in forty seven years. Would George Wallace have a shot at the presidency today? You have to wonder.

For more notes from 47 years ago, where 13 year old Sherri Roth reports the news from the Friday August 23, 1968 Wichita Eagle, see my other blogs posts for the Vietnam Edition and the Race Relations Edition.

[From page 15A of the Friday August 23, 1968 Wichita Eagle from the Associated Press News Service]

This box went everywhere with me

On April 28 I gave my king-sized bed away to a stranger, and for the next fifty-five nights I slept on the beds and couches of family, friends and a few hotel chains. It was a transition I orchestrated, born of selling a house sooner than expected while still needing to work and save money before moving across the country. I’ve known folks who’ve volunteered in Haiti and Kenya for longer, others who served in harm’s way in dangerous conditions. I would be safe and comfortable, so my little stint without my own place hardly seemed to qualify as an adventure. It even sounded easy.

mind unleashed 2But life is relative, isn’t it? After fifteen years with my toothbrush in the same place, I found being afloat disconcerting. Like most poor swimmers, I looked for things to grab onto. I was lucky in what I found. Two years ago I started a daily qigong practice, and my fifteen or so minutes a day of moving meditation became an anchor. Greek yogurt, readily available and easy to eat, was my daily bread. While putting the house on the market I worked to develop the habit of sipping water whenever I became tired or anxious, and this routine worked remarkably well once I was adrift. (As a plus, I was better hydrated than I have ever been in my life.)

My most effective idea, however, was an eighteen by thirty inch box I threw together just before closing. It was meant to hold a few comforts that wouldn’t fit into my suitcase, but over two months in turned into more than that. It became my treasure box, a child-like source of comfort that I carried in to wherever I was staying. As I added new items to it and threw other things out, it became a picture of the woman I had become. What did I really need to be happy. Which comforts did I rely on? This box was not about what I wanted people to think I was like. It was about the real me, trivial as that might be.

Contents:

1. a thin microfiber blanket
2. an extension cord
3. to go coffee cups and lids for taking that last cup with me in the car
4. a tote bag with a picture of my husband, 3 children and mother
5. a popcorn bowl and several bags of microwave popcorn
6. a cloth napkin and a real fork
7. a real wine glass and cork screw
8. a scissors and scotch tape.
9. speakers to attach to my computer
10. clean wash cloths
11. a white noise generator
12. a hair straightener to keep my bangs straight
13. a plastic bag with band-aids, hair ties and Emory boards
14. a couple of cans of soup and a can opener

box2Add my cell phone and my laptop to the list and this was everything but my clothes and wallet that I needed to survive. It is accurate to add that the phone and computer provided favorite music, contact with those I love, and entertainment, making them my two most valuable possessions.

Okay …. so it looks like the real me is a lot about eating, drinking and getting a good night’s sleep. And while Ford Perfect traveled the galaxy armed only with his trusty towel, it looks like I prefer cloth napkins and washcloths. To each their own. Could I have gotten by without my box of precious belongings? Of course I could have. Did I need much more? Not really. At least not for only fifty-five days.

 

Proud to be Irish

Dalai8My husband is 100% Irish-American, and in spite of the three generations that form a wall between him and the old country, he feels the tie. Maybe it is the 100% part — all of his family history and traditions come from the same place. Maybe it is the 16 years of catholic schooling he got along the way.  Today, he is proud of his heritage in a new way. The people he has to thank for his genes and much of his outlook surprised the world.

They didn’t hold a bitterly fought election on gay marriage in which one side managed to barely out talk the other. Instead, they voted in droves, as parties ranging from conservative to liberal stood up and said “it’s wrong to oppress people”. As a group, the Irish do know a thing or two about being oppressed. As a group, it looks like they’d as soon see less of that in this world.

The odd thing is that many in Ireland continue to hold very traditional religious views. I’ve gotten to visit the island four times, and wouldn’t particularly describe it as a hotbed of progressiveness. However, I would describe it as having a culture in which being openhearted is considered a virtue. My thoughts are that, as a group, the Irish just voted to put warmth and kindness ahead of politics or religion. You have got to love that. I plan to drink a Guinness or two tonight to celebrate. Go Ireland!

 

 

This box goes everywhere with me

I wrote it in bold magic marker, lest the cardboard container get mixed in with the books going to storage or the dishes going to Goodwill. When I realized what I had started, I smiled.

Dalai 10I was making a “happiness box” and filling it with my most precious treasures. Over the next month and half I will be living four or five different places and staying in several hotel rooms as I coordinate a move across country with the timing of selling a home. I will actually couch surf, a little unusual for a professional woman my age. Outwardly, I say it is going to be no problem. I’m a highly flexible human. The child inside me knows otherwise. She is scared about having nothing to hold on to, and she is the one who started this box.

First thing to go in it? The bowl I like to use for popcorn. Makes sense. You can pretty much do popcorn anywhere. It never fails to bring cheer. Second item – my favorite glass for wine. My inner child isn’t really a child. The lady within wants a cloth napkin she can use anywhere, and the wanderer in my head has added my passport. Yeah, I ought to keep that with me anyway.

This box isn’t even half full yet, and that’s good. There are a whole host of other folks that live in my brain, and they are all clamoring for something small to hold on to. It is funny how having one small container forces you to select the things that really matter. As I continue to pack, I suspect it will be surprising what some of those things turn out to be.

Happy yet?

fractal 2Today we did it. We signed the document that says yes, in exchange for x amount of money minus y amount of concessions and repairs we will leave our home which we love and go somewhere else. We will allow it to be filled point forward by strangers whom we will probably never will meet.

In some cultures this would be a monumental, every-few-generation sort of event. In other circles, our sadness is hard to understand. We’re a little embarrassed about it, frankly. We like to think we are not so attached to our possessions and that our spirits have been longing for the freedom to roam.

pat polacco 2But like most things, it’s not a simple choice. This is a beautiful place with space for gardens and the front porch on which I’ve now written five novels. Yes, we’d keep it if we could. That is, if we could without having to work so hard to keep it beautiful, and without continuing to work long days in a windowless office just to afford it. It has come to consume our resources of every kind, and we chose not to accept that. We choose a little house, with far less yard and fewer things that break, and we will cherish the time and the freedom that little house will bring.

Are we happy yet? Well, we are relieved that the deed is nearly done. The best I think we are going to manage tonight is “bittersweet.” That will be followed by a lot of hard work. I mean actually putting our furniture into a truck and driving cross country kind of work. Will we be happier for having done all this? We think so. We hope so. We’re going to find out.

For more about letting go of one’s old life and moving on, see my post “How full is too full?”

Learning as you go

The story of Biafra’s failed struggle for independence moved me so much when I researched my first book, x0, that I spontaneously decided to pledge 10 per cent of x0’s proceeds forever to the international aid organization that was born out of the conflict, known in the U.S. as “Doctor’s Without Borders.”

At the time I was sort of feeling my way along with this whole book writing thing anyway, and with the idea of blogging as well. I made a blog called Face Painting for World Peace to discuss everything from Nigeria to telepathy to, well, world peace. Turns out that I’ve enjoyed keeping up the blog ever since, and been proud to send a couple of checks off to DWB as well.

When y1 came along, it seemed like I needed a second blog. I wanted it to make the URL http://www.tothepowerofone.org to be similar to the x0 website http://www.tothepowerofzero.org. I liked the symmetry. However, that web address turned out to already belong to a non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating poverty throughout the Pacific Islands. Wow. y1 was about Pacific Islands. I decided that was pretty amazing, and meant that ten percent of the proceeds from y1 were destined to be donated to To the Power of One. So while this organization was in no way involved with or endorsed my book, I encouraged the readers of y1 to visit their website and consider supporting them. Because, well, it just seemed to fit.

Healing Light 1Several months ago I finally got around to sending that first check off from my y1 sales. At least I tried to, and was sad to see that To the Power of One had vanished from the web. I was unable to find another organization that they had perhaps morphed into, and concluded that for what-ever reason, the group no longer exists.

It’s not like I have a lot of proceeds from my books to donate. If you know a self-published author you probably realize this. But a promise is a promise and I was determined to send my small check off to someone. But who?

Afi, one of the main characters in the book and Zane’s eventual love interest, is from the islands of Kiribati. These low lying Pacific atolls will likely be one of the first causalities of climate change as rising sea levels submerge an entire nation.

I looked around for a group working to abate climate change in sensible ways and I was delighted to discover the World Resources Institute.

According to their website WRI’s mission is “to move human society to live in ways that protect Earth’s environment and its capacity to provide for the needs and aspirations of current and future generations.” You can hardly quarrel with that. The organization receives top ratings from GuideStar, Charity Navigator, CharityWatch, the Better Business Bureau and Philanthropedia. They organize their efforts not just around climate change,  but also around clean energy, food, forests, water and cities and transportation.

So off my check went, and now I get regular updates (and requests for more money) from them. It’s okay.  I like them and what they do and I like the idea that y1 is in some small way making a contribution. It’s not quite what I had in mind when I started this, but then none of this adventure in writing novels has turned out quite like I expected. I’m learning as I go. I think that’s a fine thing to do.

 

with a breath of kindness blow the rest away

New Year’s Eve plays a role in y1. Each Dec. 31 since I wrote the book, I find myself thinking of adolescent Zane throwing up on coffee liqueur as he attempts to greet the new year like an adult. Creating this scene required a better sense of balance than most. I meant to capture both the fear and joy of letting go of childhood, and in fact of letting go of anything, in such a burst of determination that it leads to inappropriate behavior. I wanted my readers to cheer on Zane as he tried to be older, in spite of their hopeful disapproval of children drinking alcohol. I wanted them to empathize with how the process of releasing the past is seldom an easy one for any of us. Metaphorically, a lot of us end up with our heads over the toilet bowl when we try to move on.

farewell 2014That is what New Year’s Eve is about, isn’t it? Drunk or sober, alone, with family or friends or surrounded by loud strangers, we each find out ways to release the joys and failures of last year as we resolve to be stronger, better, and happier during this next trip around the sun. Some of us do it from the comfort of our couches, others while setting off fireworks in our front yard. (At least if we live in the country in Texas we do.) Some will acknowledge the moment with a quick sigh as they go on about their work, keeping hospitals running, drilling rigs drilling, and streets safe for those who had the luxury of deciding what they wanted to do tonight.

New Year’s Eve is an ending and a beginning, whether we like it or not. Maybe that is why so many of us drink so much. There will be jobs, relationships, possessions and habits that won’t go with us through 2015 and we know it. Replacements and voids will be there instead when we greet 2016. They’re gone or going. Say good-bye. It’s not an easy thing to do.

A friend shared the above saying with me, and it has become my New Year’s resolution. I’m going to work a little harder to keep what matters healthy. I’m going to make a better effort to send the rest softly on its way.

Here’s a gentle kiss, 2014, with gratitude for all the good times, and for all the lessons, too. Welcome 2015. With a breath of kindness, blow the past year away.

 

 For more thoughts on letting go, check out my post Face Painting for World Peace.