A #Mocha Thing Happened on the Way In to The #Ritz

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Over the 4th of July weekend, my family and I jaunted up to Philadelphia to see my nephew race in the “Independence Day Regatta” on the Schuykill River. My dad was there too, it was a family thing, reminding me of my many weekends spent at boathouses as a child watching the rowers glide by.

We left home around 5:45 and, got to the river around 8:30am to watch his qualifying heats, then we all went to the Ritz-Carlton to check in.

Before you start thinking I’m dripping with cash, let me edify you: we are not. We aren’t doing much traveling this summer and decided to splurge on ourselves for a weekend.

It was a splurge. Trust me.

What happened to me, however, was so “Mom’s holiday from home” -esque (read: no such thing as a mother’s holiday from home, even at the Ritz).

After we pulled up to the valet parking (in our 11-year-old super trusty MomCar / SUV) we started to unload our hansom. My kids are not seasoned travelers. For our 2.5 hour jaunt up to Philly, they packed as though we were planning to leave Earth and never return. Pop-tarts, blankets, pillows, water, extra things…

It was just 180 minutes in the car.

Along an interstate highway.

Traveling between three major metropolitan areas.

We unload.

Because my children learned all their best practices from me, I have my shit to get out of the car: my drinking vessels, my Kindle, my car / lap pillow upon which my hands rest whilst I read my Kindle, my reading glasses, my new prescription sunglasses, my new prescription seeing glasses, my mini-fridge, and my apocalypse gear.

Just for an overnight, mind you.

It reminded me of the countless times my family and I would cross the border into Canada as a child, listening to the questions from the Canadian Customs officer, among them, “and how long will you be staying in Fort Erie?”

“Just an overnight…” and the officer would surveil through the glass windows of our loaded Volvo wagon, rest back on his heels, take in a breath and say, “Ok…” and wave us through. 

As I was putting my rations in a duck cloth bag, my catastrophe-grade travel coffee mug (which my beloved gave me last Christmas) managed to leak the recently begotten mocha latte I bought from an amped-up sales dude at the Peet’s Coffee nestled inside the Maryland House rest stop. Unbeknownst to me, mocha latte was forming burnt-sienna coronas all over the Ritz’s marble floor as well.  I was a 21st Century Gretel, instead of breadcrumbs, it’s a latte. I’m a little ashamed… my decanter has been a super reliable device. So I blame the Ritz. All that pressure to be poised. Anyone would leak.

However, it wasn’t until we had walked in through the breathtaking three-story, marble lobby with its dozen or so 30-feet, 4′ columns and gleaming crystal chandeliers that I managed to smell the experience before seeing it. “Mocha?” my nose said… I looked down and witnessed the dark chocolate watery fluid flow through the seams in the bag… A further glance down revealed it had dotted my son’s seersucker pillowcase.

“MOM!” He sort of hissed at me, with as much class as possible, in the lobby. “My pilllllllowwwwwwww….” The bellman noticed what was going on and I asked him where the nearest restroom was. He directed me. I unhooked the soppy bag from the luggage trolley weighed down with our steam trunks and rucksacks, and I was gone.

A trail of mocha latte giving me away.

My husband, who was smiling and nodding, dealing with the front desk and being handed his flute of complimentary champagne upon check-in, was oblivious to my “situation.” My other children were getting their bottled water and chocolates from a statuesque hand servant bearing a tray with all manner of vittles for the travel weary 1%.

Like scullery maid, I got nothing.

To the left, down the hall on the left… restroom.

It was not a room of rest.

Not for me.

Oh, it was glorious: byzantine marble everywhere, byzantine byzantine everywhere. Gold handles, paper hand towels so thick you’d think they were deerskin. My destination was a bank of sinks. Two to be exact, the farthest from the doorway possible.

With a murky mocha trail behind me, I dropped my leaky bag into the sink basin, and exhaled.

Out came all my items. First, the travel mug, that little shit. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know HOW it happened, but my mug betrayed me. 

 

judas. et tu, Stanley?

 
Then the eyeglass cases, all three of them. Two are hard and one is soft. The soft one looked like a biscotti, dipped in the mocha. Then the Kindle, its polka-dotted case besmirched by Peet’s coffee. Then the pillow and my headphones (forgot about those), and then my water bottle: containing Tazo passion tea and a now-clump of chia seeds.

I have my wits about me: I know this is not a real issue, a true tragedy. I know it’s not bankruptcy or cancer. I get it: I was in the bathroom of a Ritz-Carlton. But just… it sucked. I didn’t know about the free champagne until my kids asked me later, “Mom! Did you get your champagne? They were giving it away to adults in the lobby when they checked in …” 

So I started to stake my turf in the bathroom. I turned with my back to the corner, eyeing all I could claim, reasonably, as I imagined a meth addict would as she scoped out where would be the best place to … do whatever it is meth addicts do in public restrooms.

In the sink on the left went all the most inoffensive things that were covered in sticky, opaque, and overpriced coffee.

In the sink on the right went the bag.

To the left of the left sink was the stacked chamois-like disposable hand towels.

I took two.

Then four.

Recalling crisis data from my early motherhood days, I determined to go after the biggest, the source spill first. Dabbing furiously at the interior of my duck cloth bag, I realized my endeavor was feckless. The bag had a liner, which was all cotton, but which was also coated in sizing which makes it semi-impervious, causing the mocha to bead and collect, like quicksilver.

I had to turn the bag inside out. I was wearing white. I started out wearing white. I felt like Peter Graves in a 1960s Mission Impossible episode trying to defuse a bomb. Carefully turning the bag inside out and daring to not to let the now almost-funky smelling mocha spray all over my white shorts and dress shirt, I held it like dirty diaper dusted with uranium.

Get more napkins.

Dab dab dab…

Now, we can begin to rinse.

The faucet. Not the right kind of faucet. It was an infrared faucet. I had to get my hands directly beneath the faucet, just so, and hold them there in order to manifest a flow of water. 

I was begging the water to flow. 

But I had to turn the bag to get the other areas cleaned too.

But the faucet would turn off.

And then on.

And then off.

And then not back on.

And then stay on.

But I needed it off. I wasn’t positioned correctly.

It would turn on when I didn’t need it to and turn off when I needed it on.

And then off.

And then on.

And off.

And still off.

Off some more.

On?

No. Off.

Was I a meth addict?

Yet?

Same with the soap dispenser. It was automatic.

“Fuck it.” I said to myself.

Harkening back, for some really strange reason, I heard the last few lines of the Serenity Prayer’s  “… and the wisdom to know the difference…”

I decided to work on the things I could.

More paper towels… and I started to clean off the eyeglass cases and the Kindle and the pillow.

I’m full on now… GSD: getting shit done. In the zone.

Never mind I’m a mom in the bathroom of a 5-star luxury hotel… cleaning out my travel bag in the marble sinks … constantly checking my clothes to make sure they’re not getting filthy, cleaning the cabinets beneath the sinks and wiping down the counter… suffering under the whims of the infrared faucets and LiquiSoap dispensers… there are no holidays for mothers… 

Scrub a dub, making progress … In walks four of the most beautiful women, all related, I’ve ever seen in one place.

My hair… it’s in a “bun” but Medusa style; my arms are covered in soap and my gear is taking up one sink while my canvas bag is inside out, dripping brown goo into the sink to my right. I swear I look like a meth addict. A new one. One who’s not totally savvy to carrying shit around in canvas bags.

Two empty sinks and my vast unease separate me from the other women.

“Mmmm… it smells good in here. Like a Starbucks…” says one of the younger girls.

“Peet’s. From Maryland House.” I say. With no irony whatsoever.

The mother of the group, she turns and smiles.

“What?”

“Peet’s coffee. It’s a mocha latte. I got it in Maryland. It’s all over my bag here. I’m cleaning myself up. I’ve been here for about 10 or 15 minutes…. Feels like an hour. It’s hard. These faucets… they don’t stay on…”

“Oh, yeah. They’re the infrared ones…” said one of the daughters.

“Yes. They are. They’re moody little minxes too…” I said. Trying to laugh. Trying not to cry. “My family is upstairs in our rooms. We just got here. My mocha leaked all over the lobby and I had to come in here to clean up…All over my son’s pillow case too, here.” I hold it up to show it to them. (WONDERING: WHY DID I DO THAT?) Watery mocha drips onto the floor again. I grab another towel and wipe down the floor again. “I think I got it all…”

“This is one of the times I’m really wishing I had a daughter right now, because she could’ve come in here with me and likely one of us would’ve gotten someone to help us…”

The mother squats down with me, looks at me and says, “How can I help you? I know you don’t know us, but we could stay here with your things while you get assistance… This is no way to start a holiday weekend…”

I wanted to cry. She saw that. She was about my age, maybe a little older. Her daughters were about 19, 20. Her sister was there too.

“No. I’ll stay. Thanks. Could you ask someone from Housekeeping to bring a plastic laundry bag to me? So I can clean this up in the privacy of my suite? So I can work with a faucet that stays on and soap that doesn’t stop flowing?” I asked, relieved that someone saw me and heard me. Feeling like a human again. I figured a plastic laundry bag in the Ritz isn’t such an insane concept.

She knew what I was talking about. “I’ll do just that. A plastic laundry bag… I’m on my way…” And she did. Her daughters smiled at me, wisely kept their distance. Who knows what else could manage to spill from my bag… and they all left the room.

I felt as if I sent up a flare. RESCUERS!

Two minutes later, which seemed like an eternity, a tiny 30-ish year-old woman from Housekeeping came in, empty handed (AGGGHGH! ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!) and with a face full of confusion and … contempt? Did I recognize contempt in her squinted eyes, sneer and open mouth? As though I was interrupting her from something super NOT housekeeping-y? Did I look that bad?!

“What is it that you need? I didn’t understand. A plastic bag?” She asked.

“Yes. As you can see here, I’m a little compromised. I need a bag. A plastic laundry bag? Like the kind people use after they swim? Or even a garbage bag. Like that one beside you. I don’t care. Something to put all this in so it doesn’t drip …” Now I was looking at her with contempt: YOU STUPID LITTLE GIRL.

My inner Walter Mitty wanted to add “…Or I could just let it drip all over your lobby and elevator and hallways.”

Just then, my husband texted me. “Where are you?”

“Rest room.”

“Are you OK?”

“I need a plastic bag. It’s a mess.”

“Oh.”

“Housekeeping is getting one. What’s our room number?”

“We are in 802 and 803.”

Who knows what he thought was going on… He later told me he feared I’d soiled my armor. I had to laugh. 

In less than a minute, she returned. With the bag. And she watched me pack up my mocha shit and then walked away. Leaving me in the restroom to wipe down her counter.

I needed champagne. I wasn’t about to ask for it, because I didn’t know they were giving it away in the first place.

I ascended to 803. It was a lovely room. With a huge bathroom with a bar of soap and a tub. The water stayed on when you turned it on. I went to work. Again.

“Mom? Did you get your champagne?” Thing 2, who is now 14 and two inches taller than I am, asked enthusiastically. “They were giving it away in the lobby…”

I sighed. Looking up from the tub, I turned to him and said, “No. I’ve been in the bathroom… it’s a long story.”

“Here?” He asked, incredulously.

“Ha. No. In the lobby… ”

“All this time? With the coffee? Alone?”

“Yes. Alone. Until a lovely mother with sympathetic eyes came to my rescue and did me a favor.”

I didn’t want to talk about it anymore. I just wanted to clean up and get out. It was only noon. We had a nice weekend in front of us.

The bed was lovely and the room was noisy. The windows aren’t insulated against the sound of traffic in a city as large and as active as Philadelphia. The chocolate on the pillows was tasty. When we left, on the Fourth, the door staff couldn’t tell us how to get out of town (because the roads were all closed off due to Independence Day parades). That was a little surprising. Two people had to tell us how to get out of town and they sort of couldn’t agree. Other door staff were practically high-fiving each other over photos on their smart phones. And thinking back, the bellman who first noticed the mocha spill should’ve taken care of the whole thing right there. I would’ve GLADLY paid $50 in cleaning fees to avoid the feckless attempts in the lobby bathroom.

There were a few more lapses in professionalism and hospitality that I couldn’t really believe I was witnessing in an operation as lauded and as supposedly fine-tuned as the Ritz-Carlton. For instance, when we sat in the lobby after tooling around the city and visiting Reading Terminal Market, one of the staffers placed a menu on the table we were seated around and said nothing. Ever. We all looked at each other and blew him off. We were already guests in the hotel. So if you’re going to propose an item on the menu, invite us to enjoy our stay and let you know if we’d like to order something… It all felt very entitled: as though WE were imposing.

On the way home from the weekend, my husband and I decided to call the local property leadership to discuss it with management. If I were in that business, I’d want to know.

I’d need to know.

I called, and the woman who answered the phone ran through her courteous opening script and then I said, “Yes, I’d like to speak with a manager please.”

She flatly asked. “Which one?”

Suddenly I thought I was dealing with the housekeeping woman. Her crisp on the phone right there was enough to push me into third gear.

“I suppose the general manager, thanks.”

Her response, “Mmmm, oh-kaaaay….”

My jaw hit the floor.

So I left the general manager a message. But later, I thought, “What if this attitude is endemic at this location? What if the manager is part of the problem?” I really hated the way the receptionist treated me.

I went up a notch. To corporate. Y’see, the thing is: when you make a reservation through the toll-free number for staying at ANY Ritz-Carlton, you will deal with calm, modulated, highly polished and exquisite hospitality engineers. “My pleasure,” and “Of course Mrs. Field,” and “Absolutely, not a problem,” and “Please hold for a moment while I connect your call” and “Is there anything else I can do for you?” and “We look forward to seeing you on July 3 ….” are all part of the code and the culture one would EXPECT from a R-C experience.

Not here. Not Philadelphia. Things got downgraded to a Best Western, or worse, Red Roof Inn attitude.

It really was surprising. At first, I thought, “Oh… we all make mistakes…” and then I started to remember how demoralized I felt in that restroom waging war against those faucets and then the attitude on that housekeeper. Then I began to think about our hotel bill, and how much we were looking forward to our stay and how exciting it would be for my kids 11, 14, and 17 to stay in a Ritz-Carlton (my first time was last week!)! And that I wanted to try a robe… maybe buy one…

There is a romance behind that brand. A promise and an expectation that you will be treated with care and pampered. None of that happened.

When I called corporate I did get the kid-glove treatment. The manager on the phone was perfection. He never interrupted me, he waited for me to pause and then asked me if I had anything else to add, and he couldn’t apologize enough. I told him we didn’t get to wear a bathrobe, that there weren’t any in our room, our our kids’ room, and I could hear him gasp. Then I told him about the lobby experience with the silent waiter. Then I hit him with a right hook: “I didn’t get any complimentary champagne. Ever.” And it was as though he were strangling a teddy bear on the other end of the line.

The next day, the executive assistant of the Philadelphia general manager called on his behalf. I suspect she also heard from the manager at corporate and did a little background investigation on her own. We had a wonderful conversation. I had just come back from a glorious row on the Occoquan and the weather was perfection.

In retrospect I feel like I did the right thing. We need to stand up for ourselves. We easily dropped a grand that weekend.

Two days later, my husband received a note from the EA, she wrote of her conversation with me, calling me “quite lovely” (gushing) and thanked us for our valuable feedback. She also added 50,000 points to our Marriott Rewards account, which is effectively a total reimbursement for the rooms we stayed in at the Philadelphia location. So good on them.

I’d like to go back. I’ve had tea and brunch at a few of the Ritz-Carltons here. They’ve all been really lovely experiences. I want to say that this one was the exception to the rule.

The next day, Thing 2 and I decided to grab a milkshake from the McDonald’s drive-thru after running a litany of errands. The young man on the other end of the order intercom was STELLAR. He said, “My pleasure” after every opportunity and then, “Your total is 50,000 Marriott points…” [just kidding.] Please drive forward.” When we got to him, he was super professional, sincere and grateful for the work. My son noted, “He has better manners than those dudes at the Ritz….”

True that.

So let this be a reminder: 1) there is no such thing as a holiday for mothers and 2) tell people what’s on your mind.

Thank you.

I Really Hate the Fighting.

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Sounds so strange doesn’t it? To feel so strongly about negativity so much that it creates “hate” in my heart.

I wear a kyanite pendant. It’s a beautiful teal-blue crystal that suspends from a thread of gold wire from a leather necklace. My niece gave it to me for Christmas last year. It rests on my chest, just at my sternum.

The kyanite is supposed to repel negativity. It’s supposed to help me speak my truth. It’s supposed to balance my 5th chakra, the throat chakra which is concerned with matters of veracity and voice. I have worn it since it was given to me. Almost six months now. I don’t know if it’s working because I still yell at soccer games and I still argue with my kids. I still have opinions and I still feel hungover after expressing them.

I don’t know what to do anymore. I feel a profound sense of unease about the world and I think it’s because everyone is fighting. Myself included, I guess.

I just want people to get along.

But see things my way.

Isn’t that funny?

But that’s not how life works.

Speaking of life and all its zigs and zags and the fact that change is the only constant… A yoga student gave me a bracelet about 2 weeks ago, it’s a lovely Alex + Ani wire bangle with a big charm and then these three little guys which also dangle. The entire bracelet is made of recycled metals and infused with positive energy. The charm on it is called “The Path of Life.”

Emblematic of life’s zenith and nadir moments, the PATH OF LIFE is representative of an infinite number of possibilities and expressions of love. Illustrating life’s twists, turns, and unexpected winds, wear the PATH OF LIFE Charm to proudly celebrate your own willingness to travel towards life’s fruitful moments.

She touched my heart when she gave me the gift. She is a beautiful soul and has so much to look forward to in her ongoing years and the fact that she’s entrusted me with her wellbeing has been the most humbling gift of all. I get that women my age-ish want to take better care of themselves and become more calm in this crazy world, but the fact that this kid keeps coming back… it’s so affirming.

She’s one of those pre turn-of-the-century babies. She is like a daughter or a niece to me. If I didn’t adore and love her so much I wouldn’t care as much as I do for her. I hear the bangle more than I see it and its elegant ampersands and infinity symbols remind me to chill. The charm scrapes across my keyboard as I type, or skitters across the counter as I clean, or dances across the placemats as I reach for the salt at my table, or clink-clinks as I put up my hair, go into downward dog and generally exist. Today when I was in the hot tub, I watched it swish like a fishtail as I glided my hand beneath the surface where it’s warm, noise is muted, the world is softer and floating is assured.

I think of her and her world — mine is 47, hers is so much newer, although she is an old soul and she is here to teach me. The charm on the bracelet couldn’t be more timely. It is reminding me to be willing to travel toward “fruitful moments.” In this context, fruitful means:

productiveconstructiveusefulof useworthwhilehelpfulbeneficialvaluablerewardingprofitableadvantageousgainfulsuccessfuleffectiveeffectualwell spentANTONYMS  futile.

“Well spent.” Yes. That’s a wonderful goal. So I will do my best. I also want to be more like Tom:

this isn't my art. i can't remember whose it is. but i can't claim it. i just want to be more like Tom.

this isn’t my art. i can’t remember whose it is. but i can’t claim it. i just want to be more like Tom.

The world is changing around us.

This student is more like Tom. She is pretty fearless. She has a very open mind about things, sometimes she is strident in her expression. I am open-minded also, but I have learned to be less strident — only recently though, and as long as I’m not on a soccer sideline. On soccer sidelines I’m more like Tom.

I think about that: “open mind.” Because I’m open minded, I’m almost obsessed these days with the concept of “two sides to a very thin coin” and that the “line between my opinion and your opinion” is very thin. Because somewhere, despite the openness, there has to be a limit or a finite end to the open-mindedness… right? Because that’s the mortal aspect of being open-minded, we can’t concern ourselves with everything because then we’ll be overwhelmed, but if we care about nothing, then we’re alone.

I am learning.

Thinness of the coin. Faintness. Vapor. Mirrors. Carl Jung reminds us (paraphrasing): What we don’t dig about others gives us an insight into ourselves… I used to think that meant I had to change. But I don’t think that’s what Jung is saying. He’s just saying, “pay attention” from which I derive: that person is your mirror. If you don’t like her shoes, what makes you so perfect?

I think of America. This gorgeous and screwed-up place. It looks so calm and beautiful from way out in space. We have mountains. We have shorelines. We have forests. We have rivers. We have deserts. We have open skies and crowded cities. We have so much — just in the way of geography, that surely the country, just within its natural boundaries, is big enough for us all.

Our collective birthday is coming up. We are very young, this nation, and we’ve really screwed up along the way, but we’ve also done some amazing things despite our relative age. This will be our 239th (I had to use the calculator) birthday.

We are a nation born of controversy and rebellion and fight.

Maybe this is just who we are –as a nation, as a collective national ego– and I’m the one who’s wrong.

All I know is that it doesn’t feel right to fight so much, and that if I were to live my life as intuitively conscious as possible, I would slow down, cool my jets and try to listen to what my body / energy / stress is telling me and stop trying to win.

So I’m creating a list of things I’m going to try to do consciously for the next year. And maybe just one of them I can do with consistency.

  • Find something admirable about someone I don’t like.
  • Be grateful for my health — I don’t mean just say, “thanks, lungs, you rock.” But to think about what my lungs do, and to let consciously them work and actively hear the sound of my own breath. Put my hand on my heart and feel it beat for ten whole beats. Place my hands on my eyes and thank them for working… ears for hearing…
  • Slow down around anxious people and just let them be.
  • Stop.
  • Listen.
  • Spend a half an hour outside each day, even if it’s raining or horrid out.
  • Make dinner from a cookbook once a week and don’t be chafed if the kids won’t eat it.
  • Appreciate my mother’s memory. The older I get and the more challenging my most important job (mom) gets, I really need to give her past some slack. She is gone from me now, but of late, I get a lot of her struggles. She may have done some irrational stuff, but she was a product of her environment too. I think of her a lot, and that’s impossible to control. She just pops in … like her crazy phone call timing — she would call at The Very Time I Couldn’t Possibly Be More Busy: 5:50-6:30 — and I need to let her pop in. I would love to hear her voice (in a non -terrifying and -creepy way).

I watched The Road again last night. I am going to read it again shortly (as soon as I finish my encore consumption of Atonement, which will be tonight). My husband wanted to see it — he never got to see the last 10 minutes, and I was only happy to oblige. The story is about catastrophe and survival and inhuman conflicts we simply don’t want to ever experience. 

I heard a stream of refrains in my head from the past month in America, “Leave me alone.” “This world is crazy.” “People need to shut up.” “People need to leave each other alone.” “Don’t touch the colors in my Crunchberries.” “Mind your own business.” “We are all doomed.” “Why is there so much anger?”

As I watched “The Road” I saw and felt the desolation depicted in every single frame of that film, and recalled it internally in each syllable of McCarthy’s mastery, “The child is my warrant and he is the word of God. And if he isn’t, then God never spoke” that I started to get a little nervous. 

I started to remember what it’s like to be driving on a road for several hours when no one else is there.

I started to remember what it felt like to be in a mall with no one else around.

I started to remember how it feels to get what you wish for.

I started to worry about anger and its cousin, fear. If left unattended, they can create wars. And  war, as depicted in Atonement, is a horrible thing that NO ONE in my generation, save for the brave service men and service women who have served in war, can possibly comprehend. We think the wreckage after terror attacks is bad… We have no clue. War is what anger, fear, intolerance, hate, greed and ignorance create. 

I have realized that I think America seems to have a case of “no one kicks my brother but me,” because when 9/11 happened, skin color, creed, lifestyle, gender, education, affinity for country music (snort), didn’t matter. We were banded together. It’s not that I want another tragedy, but I don’t like that it takes horror to get us to figure out what’s important. Peace is important. 
Sure, hate the fighting, it’s a waste of energy though. Instead, love the people. Let them sing —

My nation ’tis of thee…

Sweet land of Liberty

Of thee I sing

Land where my fathers died

Land of the pilgrims’ pride

From ev’ry mountainside

Let freedom ring!

I wanted to include further verses because I love the song, but I went to wikipedia for the rest of it and discovered verses added for George Washington’s birthday, and then one for abolition and then I just gave up, because … fighting.

I look at my headline (because it’s right there to keep me on track no matter how often I deviate).

like a mirror of a mirror...

like a mirror of a mirror…

And I’m okay with it. I really do hate the fighting. It gives me a queasy feeling in my stomach. It makes me feel parched and unsteady. It reminds me of how confused I would feel when discord would happen in my childhood and I just wanted it to stop.

And the fighting will go on, because people are afraid. And I guess I will fight too, because I don’t like the fighting. I fear what happens when people don’t fight for their rights. We have anything but democracy.

This is the greatest country in the world. I love everything about it. It’s not going to hell — I don’t believe in hell. Hell is already here: in the fighting. Hell is a manmade construct. Just like shame, and guilt, and control… it’s so much easier without the fighting.

Just everyone be cool.

Learn from your friends, and from the people you disagree with: they are your best teachers. Look beyond the headlines, even mine, to learn more. The best thing I can say about the sadness of the murders in Charleston is that I’ve learned so much more about U.S. history and the history of slavery, not just America’s. The maltreatment of other humans is really upsetting to me, and it’s still going on in human sex trafficking. I would like to think that if there’s one thing we can all get behind, its the effort to end exploitation, kidnapping, drugging, theft, and murders of children and adults around the world. But I am out of gas at the moment; that’s a fight for another day.  

I also recognize that I’ve been too focused on the dialogues of late and despite my discussions (authentic) that I’m cool with all the hyperbole, I am sensing now that I’ve personalized a lot of what I’ve read and heard and witnessed and that some of it really scares me — I am fearful of people and their irrationality about topics which really don’t affect them in a truly carbon-based, one-breath-at-a-time way. I don’t think I’m alone in this. It is extremely delicate ground when Americans feel their personal liberties are being trampled and it provokes more thinking and more imagining to me of that very thin two-sided coin and I think that’s why I’m writing so much these days; I am unsettled.

So I think I’m going into hiding for the next week and I’ll read a lot and watch videos about teaching yoga and how to be more centered in an off-kilter world, and I’ll send harmony out to the world because I think people are afraid of instability. We need to give ourselves permission to have off days, and to be unbalanced at times, because no one is 100% sure of anything unless they lived it, and even then there will be fearful people who refuse to believe it.

And speaking of balancing: above all, be OK with yourself when your opinion changes. That’s growth. That’s a good thing.

Love to all.

Thank you.

You Can’t Argue with “Okay.” #rights #guns #marriage #America

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Man, what a month.

So much going on.

The prisoners escaped from NY prison

Charleston

Obamacare

Confederate flag debates

Gay marriage protected by the Supreme Court.

Obama singing “Amazing Grace” which was written by a former slave owner, at the funeral for the mass murder in Charleston.

I don’t know of a time in my recent memory when so much has happened of such a magnitude in such a compressed timeframe.

I woke Friday to the terrorism news in France, Tunisia and Kuwait — about 60 people have died as a result of insurgency violence that occurred while we were sleeping. Did you know about these incidents?

Then a couple hours later, the news about Supreme Court and marriage rights.

The night before, I got slammed on Facebook for posting a meme about a bunch of Republicans who bashed a college loan refinance bill. I’ll never share another one of my father’s posts again. Never. That’s the second time I’ve gotten burned — and not just because it was hysterical, but because it was incomplete. 

So I knew the next day was going to be rough, regardless of what was on the SCOTUS docket. I had no clue.

It was like I turned on my computer and the entire world changed.

But it hasn’t, much has it?

I mean, we still live and breathe. We still have to pay taxes. We still love our kids. We still drive cars. We still buy more than we need. We still practice hypocrisy and jealousy and reactivity.

The anti-side of gay rights says that homosexuality is an abomination. They speak of God and Scripture and Jesus and Corinthians and Leviticus and all the words of the Gospel which decry homosexuality. But then they say God will judge in the same sentence that they say gay people will go to hell. But isn’t that God’s decision, if you really believe in Him? You can preach the Gospel, but it’s never your decision to speak for God. Catholic priests think they’re supposed to do that. It’s so funny.
NO, THEY’RE NOT. 
It’s no one’s business, really.
All this hate and fear and arguing and finger pointing feels so very much as though the line demarcating the “other” side is getting fainter and fainter.
 
What we once thought were opposite views, are so radically close to one another in tone that they are almost identical. The two-sided coin is getting very thin from wear and tear.
 
All people want their rights, and the U.S. Constitution says they should have them. I dig that. But the arguments become anemic when one starts denying someone else’s rights.
 
“I want gay marriage but you can’t have your guns.”
 
“I want my guns but you can’t have your healthcare.”
 
“I want my healthcare but you can’t have your birth control.”
 
“I want my flag but you can’t remind me of its history.”
 
It all reminds me of a scene in “Friends” when two characters were yelling at each other for taking the last pieces of bread and they were each accusing the other of being selfish. 
Just because you disagree it doesn’t mean there’s hate. Just because you agree it doesn’t mean you’re OK with everything else.

I don’t really have an opinion on gay marriage other than to say it’s about time. I certainly don’t have a negative opinion of it. If gay Americans pay taxes, then they should be afforded the same rights as anyone else who pays taxes. I wrote the other day, that on that basis, if you decide to exempt gay couples from paying taxes, soon everyone will file as gay. I was trying to be humorous. No one laughed. I wonder if people think that if gay people are allowed to marry then all of a sudden their children will “turn” gay.

Anyway…

Well, no. If one of my kids discovers he is gay, then I will take a deep breath. Not out of shame, not out of hate, but because I know 1) it takes guts to be who you are; 2) regardless of all the rainbows all over the place, the world is hostile; 3) the odds of having a grand baby in our lineage are cut by 50% without an effective and successful sperm donation and fertilization and pregnancy via surrogate from my kids (but I also recognize that the world is overpopulated and that children are children and they all just need loving homes).

So I’m deciding, starting now, to conserve my energy. My oldest son is finally starting to learn how to drive. We go out for 45-minute stints every day, starting in school and commuter parking lots. Today was day 3. He’s getting better. Today he and his dad (my current and first husband) went out in the rain and took our smaller car. He prefers my big SUV because he can see better, but he likes the tighter steering on the smaller car. I need to conserve my energy for him and my other sons and my household and marriage and laundry and my sanity. I’m tired of fighting. None of these changes affect me. I don’t think the country is suddenly going to be alright with matrimonial bestiality and allowing people to marry children. It’s going to be alright, I really believe this.

It’s summer. Let’s chill out, the weather makes things hot enough as it is.

So I’ve decided, that when I don’t agree with someone, I’m just going to take a deep breath, say nothing or just say, “Okay” and I’m going to keep on doing what I was doing before: taking deep breaths and trying to say nothing.

Wish me luck.

Thank you.

Red Flags, Jesus was Jewish

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I don’t usually write about controversial stuff, but I find myself unable to not have something to say. It’s not so much an opinion, but an affirmation that I have a voice to share my affirmations and the world has presented itself as good a place as anything in which to vocalize.

I can’t say with any confidence whatsoever that everyone is horrified by the evil which manifested at an historic black church in Charleston. The reason I say this is because there are people out there who share the opinion of that weak-kneed skin sack who murdered nine good people out of nothing but hate, ignorance, fear and fear and fear and oh yeah, fear.

Fear starts wars.

Fear keeps them going.

Fear wins elections.

Fear keeps us home.

Fear keeps us away.

Fear keeps us silent.

When fear wins, the world is a very sad place.

I have seen the Internet.

I have read about those who hold the opinion that the Confederate Flag is not a symbol of hate. It’s just heritage. They cry, “you can’t take our heritage…” and “I’m proud of who I am…” and “This is my heritage…” and I have to say… nothing.

I just take a deep breath and think of fear. How the fear has manifested in that person. And I shake my head as my lips are totally pressed to each other and wonder about what else those people think is ok.

It’s not heritage and pride. Really… it’s not.

So if we operate under the schema that pride is at stake here, and history is at stake and heritage is at stake, let’s drill down…

Watch “12 Years a Slave” and don’t look away, especially during that gut-wrenching, extremely uncomfortable 13-minute scene which depicts just a fraction of an entire afternoon and talk to me about your pride, your heritage and your history.

Because that restriction of freedom in that film or “Amistad,” or “Lincoln” or “Mississippi Burning” or countless COUNTLESS similar films about “inconvenient truths” is what that flag is about.

Then maybe you should watch “Schindler’s List” or “Sophie’s Choice” and talk to me about pride, history and heritage.

I’m not of the ilk that taking down those flags means we are entering a place of revisionist history — there are stains on this map and on our flag that can never be washed away — and they shouldn’t because, like the proponents who argue in favor of the Confederate Flag, it’s a part of our collective history. We dishonor the blood of countless slaves who were torn from Africa and taken to America against their will, and forced to live out an UNIMAGINABLE EXISTENCE. I’m also not of the ilk which says the flag didn’t kill those people. Just like the gun didn’t kill those people. The flag and the gun don’t have thumbs, they can’t kill things. It’s the fearful who hide behind them who kill.

Go ahead, watch “12 Years a Slave” and what that film represents, the Southern heritage you all hold so dearly, is that horror. That place where your heart bleeds. That’s your history. That’s your story. You can have it, but don’t fucking jam it down my throat and tell me you mean no harm by flying that banner of hate. Go ahead and tell me you think the swastika is no big deal either. That it’s misconstrued; that it has been hijacked from a crucifix and became a symbol of hate — that the intention was good.

I am a white person and when I see the Confederate flag, a part of me cries. I can feel it in my stomach, right now, pain from having to share the highway, or a movie theater, or a restaurant, with a person driving or wearing something with that symbol on it. I love people. I really do, but there is no good in that symbol. It represents a time … I am sitting here shaking my head with woe. I don’t hate those people, I just feel sorry for them.

When I moved to Virginia in 1981, I ended up going to a school, Robert E. Lee High School, named after what my northern relatives called a traitor. There are highways here dedicated to Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis. Another high school is named after JEB Stuart. Lee is a hero around here. I threw up in my mouth a little when I found out the name of my high school. Our mascot was the “Lancer” — which has to do with the Civil War … right: not much. I remember for the longest time after MLK Day was added to the Federal Holiday calendar, that Virginia did the decent thing and named it the “Lee Jackson King Memorial Holiday.” That was mighty white of those good ol’ boys in Richmond.

Anyway, I adore the friends I made in high school, but I will never proudly say I went to RE Lee High School; people have to get it out of me.

I am a northerner at heart. I am from New York state. My blood is thinner after living here for 34 years, but my heart bleeds “yankee” blood. And I’m not even a yankee like some of my New England friends are — those peeps, they’re the real deal. But according to a writer of Alabama’s Musckogee Herald, yankees weren’t fit for the company of a “Southern gentleman’s body servant…” (a what?):

This debate over the Confederate flag is truly American. No where else could we have a dialogue for or against or about an emblem which represents a refusal to conform to decency and humanity after the murder of innocent church goers?

Little minds think in little ways.

Big minds think in big ways.

Stay true to your traditions, Confederate flag lovers. Watch the world change around you at 190 miles per hour. Watch your friends become educated about reality and history regardless of a sentimental and LEARNED attachment to a sensibility which no longer serves. Watch yourself get alienated, still the butt of jokes, such as this one stolen from NPR regarding “heritage”: you mean your surrender as your heritage? 

Just a reminder, if you hate change so much and you like to stick to your traditions, Stuck Southerners, let’s do this:

For the ladies — the female Confederate flag lovers:

  • Reject your right to vote.
  • Reject your right to personal property.
  • Reject your right to healthcare — how do you like that Planned Parenthood? Kiss it goodbye.
  • Reject your right to protection under the law.
  • Reject your right to education.
  • Reject your right to serve on a jury.
  • Reject your right to earn fair wages.
  • Reject your right to drive.
  • Reject your right to attend a four-year college.

Just sit there under your parasol on your 1,200 acre Terra, sipping your mint julep and fanning yourself.

Because all those rights came your way AFTER abolition, after slaves were emancipated and seen as human beings.

I feel sorry for you, Confederate flag lovers. Bless your hearts.

“Leave my flag alone!” You’re like a baby with a wet diaper. You live under a blanket of fear. You want everything the way it was. You hate the fact that you got your ASS HANDED TO YOU during the “War of Northern Aggression.” You were so bitter about it you killed a president.  You even like to debate that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery. That’s funny pathetic. I see the most pathetic comments about this debate invoking Christianity and that all civilizations were formed on the backs of slaves. Sure. No one is denying that, but… eww: no one is really asking everyone to be cool with the symbol of wanting to keep slaves enslaved flying over government buildings. If I see a restaurant flying the stars and bars, I’ll eat elsewhere.

I just wish that some of you would just come out with it and admit it: “I’m a little racist, yes. I check my car doors when I see a black person at an intersection… ” or “I have black friends!”

And do you dare to ask me to believe that if the rest of the free world insists that your flag comes down that we’re suddenly all going to forget about slavery? That somehow all the books and videos and historical documentation will be vaporized? What is your argument for keeping the flag? History? Oh! I get it. That’s simple. Leave it in a museum.

That flag is meant as nothing but a code — like the MS-13 gang and their use of tattoos now instead of bandanas and gang colors. It’s meant to intimidate people of color and let other small-minded, stuck-in-the-past fearful people like you know that you’re afraid too.

So do you really want to go back to those days?

Be my guest… prepare to leave behind:

  • electricity (and all its trappings: the internet and cars, airplanes)
  • running water (and all its trappings: toilets that flush, showers, clean water to drink, coca-cola)
  • plastic (and all its trappings: boob jobs, acrylic nails, BiC lighters)
  • oxy-clean

I mean, you’d be worse off than Cuba or North Korea. But you can hang on to candles everywhere, public outhouses, wells and pumps, horses to take you everywhere (that might not be such a bad idea) and trains — you can still have trains! Just not Acela. You get the old coal system. And sailing. You can keep sailing. And golf. You like country clubs. Right? But no slaves, ok? Because, that’s horrid.

You slay me, Flag Lovers. You really do. I sure do miss those days when white men could

  • beat women within an inch of their lives just because,
  • force women to have sex,
  • exploit their children

The great part about this though, and I’ll say again: is that we are all legally allowed to have these opinions. It’s part of our Constitution, you know, that document which frames the freedoms afforded to citizens of the nation from which you wanted to secede, because you wanted to not grant freedoms to slaves because … WHY? That dig about the Constitution was just a little reminder. So know that you’re protected under it.

No part of American history is easy. This country was built on the backs of kidnapped and raped black blood.

One thing I like to remind us all is that the cradle of our human civilization is in Africa. That means we all have African blood in us. And that most black Americans are part white, due to the rampant sexual exploitation and rapes of female slaves by white land owners and overseers and and and …

I also like to remind people that Jesus was definitely not white. He likely resembled people who live in another area of total unrest, war, horror and conflict: the Gaza Strip area of the Middle East. I also like to wonder that if that Jesus were around today, that he might look like the guy who pumped my gas at one of the New Jersey Turnpike rest stops.

I also like to remind people that Jesus was Jewish. His Hebrew name is Yeshua, or Joshua, or Yahushua… ‘Jesus’ is a “shadow” name. Heaven forbid we in America call him “Joshua Christ.” That just won’t do, will it?

And that Mary, his mom, was Jewish too. His dad? He created everyone. All of us.

So… yeah.

People have issues with perspective, heritage, truth and reality.

So your homework, Confederate flag lovers, is to watch “12 Years a Slave” and “Sophie’s Choice.” You can also check out this list of content, if you’re still in denial: http://aaihs.org/resources/charlestonsyllabus/ and then this, when you’re done with that growing list… http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/06/what-this-cruel-war-was-over/396482/

And if you hate this blog post, I also suggest you unfollow me because I fart a lot after I eat my Buffalo Wings.

Thank you.