My St. Helena

GettyImages-146793866_super_csNapoleon Bonapart was exiled twice in his lifetime.

The first time to Elba, an island in the Mediterranean, where he seemed to have a pretty nice time.  He was still afforded the prestige he was used to, his home was maybe not a palace, but still some very nice digs and he made time lying around eating fresh cherries with one of the local girls in addition to spending time with his mistress.  Napolean stayed on Elba less than a year before he went back to France and messed up even more.

It was called Waterloo and it prompted the British to exile him to the remote island of St. Helena, an island in the South Atlantic, which is still one of the most remote, hard to get to places in the world.  And in our age of globalization, that’s no small feat.

So there he was on this tiny rock of an island in the middle of vast ocean.  I imagine him walking around on the cliffs, looking out at the expanse of water surrounding him and knowing he would die there.

But maybe he felt like he was already dead.

From the pictures I have seen St. Helena seems very like a purgatory type of place.  Craggy, windy, moldy, steep, quiet, lonely, isolated, hard to reach…are just some of the words used to describe it.

For a man so used to intrigue and power, how devastating.

We don’t have to wonder or speculate on his state of mind, as so much has been written about the feisty French emperor.  He detested St. Helena Island.

Exilethe state or period of forced or voluntary absence from one’s home or country. 

My Facebook account has not been active for several months now.  I have left all of my volunteer commitments.  My phone now only serves to keep the time or occasionally check the weather forecast.  My contact list has been pared down to emergency only numbers.

I still go to work every day.  I shop and cook and clean my house. I read copiously and write on the computer or with soft pencils.   I watch and wave from the dock as my family and friends venture out, each to their own battles and adventures.  And then when they return I greet them with either trumpets or gauze.

At first it was hard, this self imposed exile, but it was needed.  Exhausted after too many Waterloo’s where I had not been Wellington I felt a bittersweet relief as I stood on the sandy beach.

I do not detest my  island.

I embrace my silence and my exile.

I walk my craggy cliffs and look out at the vast ocean around me and I am thankful for my St. Helena.

The spoils of the library book sale.

 

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I do think at times I have some psychic moments.

Since Thursday I have been thinking about this one library that I never go to.  I think I have been there once or twice maybe in the last several years, but only to run over a pick up a book they held for me, never having the time to browse around.  It’s just not in my neck of the woods, so to speak.

But anyway, anyway….so, I had been thinking about it and since my hubby and both sons were out of town on Saturday, I took my mom out to this library on a whim.  But there, dropped across the front doors was a sign from the Universe!

It read, Library Book Sale!

Cue chorus of angels!!  

Library book sales are the best!  

All paperbacks fifty cents, hard covers, $1.00 and large hard covers, $2.00.  And at this sale you had a very active and helpful “Friends of the Library,” volunteer staff who said all kinds of wonderful things such as, “Can I help you find something?  Could I take those for you so you don’t have to carry them around?  Would you like them in a large box or bags?” 

That last statement will mean a lot to those like me who clear out trunks and bring wheelbarrows to events such as this.  

My entire bill was twelve dollars.  Twelve dollars!

I worked that sale like the professional I am.

Step One  – seek out the miscellaneous box.  This box has all the books which don’t fit in a specific category.  Many novices pass over it because they don’t want to dig through, but you run the risk of missing some real gems.  In the miscellaneous box I found a beautiful Funk & Wagnalls, copyright 1909, Best of the World’s Classics, edited by Henry Cabot Lodge book.  I’m not a “how-much-is-it-worth-person,” but I do know that this small book is pretty hard to find and will be a great addition to my classics collection. IMG_1770

Step Two look for the books you always wanted to get, but never did.  I loved watching the original Carl Sagan Cosmos series on PBS all those years ago and I always thought I would buy the book, but it just never happened.  I got it yesterday for $2.00.  IMG_1768

Step Three – access Goodreads.  I used to think this was cheating, because part of the fun was discovering a new author on your own, but now…well, money is harder to come by and I have grown reclutant to go exploring on my own.  The lovely community of Goodreads convinced me to purchase, My Several Worlds, by Pearl S. Buck.

Step Four– the travel box.  So much of the travel box is filled with out of date Michelin guide books, snooze!  But if you root around in there you can find some wonderful stuff.  I always look for the travel books written in the fifties and sixties.  The war had ended and a lot of people had the cash for travel, so the travel books have lots of lovely photos and the prose is meant to entice.

Step Five- get a little shallow and go for looks.  Let’s face it, some books are just more attractive than others.  And the library book sale is probably one of the only times you can justify buying for looks only.  My mother got some wonderful needlepoint books which are stunning and I got a lovely book of ghost storiesIMG_1767 with hands-down some of best illustrations I have seen in years.

Step Sixtext books.  I love old text books because of the marginalia.  Whenever I see a text book shelf I first look for the subject matter which appeals to me.  I will be passing on the chemical engineering and the geology, but I love to look in the humanities sections.  Then I thumb through and look for the notes.  This may be some kind of phychosis, but I love to see what others have written to themselves in textbooks.  Yesterday I found a wonderful book, Reading for a Liberal Education, which is filled with notes and some kind of mysterious short hand.  IMG_1769

Step Seven – talk to the other shoppers.  Some book sale shoppers are out for blood.  You know who you are.  But most are wonderful and willing to swap and help you look if you help them.  For example, “Excuse me, I see you have a lot of mysteries there, well, I just saw a wonderful book of Ed Gorey art in the miscellaneous box, if you are interested,” or I’m sorry, but I can’t help, but notice you have the only copy of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, would you be willing to trade for my hardback Isaac Asimov Collected Works?” 

Ah the Library Book Sale!

Good times….good times….

 

 

Returning to them.

So I tried to save the world.

But it was grasping and hand aching to tug and pull so much.

Defeated I put the world away on the high shelf.

Then I tried to clear my mind,

But I couldn’t get the memories to come unstuck no matter how hard I tried.

I lay face up in the bed, not praying.

My guilt and shame at leaving them bore a hole right through me.

“I can’t promise you anything,”  I told them.

Their returned silence meant they didn’t want to hear my excuses.

This morning I picked them up and slowly read about their lives.

Let’s see, Annie was stuck in the cave and the water was rushing in….

Seth and Luke were locked in a fierce battle with trust….

And Paul…

I had left Paul, still heartbroken and crying, beside the cold sea. 

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Donna’s Friday Morning Moment of Self-Awareness

I’ve got this gap between my front teeth. I hate it.

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I told you it was awful

A couple years ago, I was talking with some friends of mine about how much I hate seeing pictures of myself. Among the reasons for this aversion? That horrible, horrible gap.

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It’s not really that bad, but it sure feels like it. Fun with snapchat *awkward, nervous laughter*

 

See, when I was a kid, I had braces, and they fixed the gap, but then when my wisdom teeth came out, I guess my teeth spread apart some and now I have this gap between my teeth again. For a long time, I wouldn’t even smile with my lips open, because of that gap, but then several people told me I have a great smile so I have tried to get over it, but still, whenever I see one of these, pics, all I can see is that gap and…

That’s when one of my friends broke in on my story and said, “I’ve never noticed it.”

And I thought, “How many other people would never have even noticed this horrible, horrible flaw of mine if I’d just never told them about it?”

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No more fooling around. No filter. Totally natural expression.

I was reminded of this when the three brothers on my favorite podcast (My Brother, My Brother, and Me (MBMBaM)) did a TV show for Seeso TV.

The oldest brother, Justin, talks frequently about being overweight. He makes comments like “I’m living my life as an overweight man.” He talks about not being able to find clothes that look good – how his jeans are always cuffed because he can’t find jeans that are short enough for his chubby legs.

I do this too. As a podcaster, a writer, a blogger – non-visual mediums – I find that I will start stories much the same way when I want to talk about trying to find clothes that make me feel good about myself, or challenges finding a date, or the like.

But then…

I saw the first episode of the MBMBaM show.  Now, don’t get me wrong. Justin is overweight, he’s not one of those totally average people complaining about how fat they are. But his weight is not his most defining characteristic. It’s not the first thing I notice when I see him. In fact, the first thing I thought was “Why does he talk about his weight so much?” And this is coming from someone who’s overweight!

So, I don’t have a great insight here, really. Sometimes, like if I want to talk about having a hard time finding clothes, I’ve got to mention that I’m overweight, or you’re going to wonder “Why doesn’t she just go to the GAP?”

Which brings me back to the lesson I learned a few years ago about the gap in my teeth.

Maybe we should all spend a little less time pointing out our flaws to other people, because maybe we’re the only ones who noticed them in the first place.

We All Have a Dream

unnamed“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed – we hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
It’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in the US, and as usual, I’m seeing plenty of MLK quotes pop up in people’s social media feeds. There is nothing wrong with quoting the man; he was a genius speaker and writer, and his words are filled with a weightiness that moves us all to do more.
I just wish we read more of his words than just a few “I have a dream” quotes. I wish we had to read him in history and English classes today, as part of American literature canon. I wish we remembered as a nation that Martin Luther King, Jr. was both incredibly dedicated to a higher morality, and also incredibly radical in challenging a status quo that has lent itself to injustice for generations in our country, much of which still exists despite the great strides we have made as a nation to do better.
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Today as you see those quotes and watch some news coverage and maybe attend a parade, I hope you’ll use this opportunity to read more of MLK’s words, many of which are revolutionary and all of which demand a higher responsibility and morality from each of us. Let him challenge you to pursue truth, justice, wisdom and stand for what is right and humanizing to all around you.
 
It may be that we’ll never change the world. Injustice seems to be a problem that plagues the human race, and our generation is no stranger to it. But we can change ourselves and we can change things for the better for everyone we encounter.
But only if we choose that path every day.
 
That’s what I love about Martin Luther King, Jr. He reminds me to choose a demanding path toward ethical living and justice every day, tempered with mercy and humility, even when it’s hard or unpopular. It’s something I need to be reminded of, since it is so easy to become complacent with the daily grind of work, errands, groceries, and bills that I forget about others around me who may be suffering.
MLK was really good at reminding us to look at things not from our comfortable position but from the uncomfortable point of view of those who are rejected, downtrodden, held in contempt, powerless… It’s an incredibly humbling thing to let go of your own opinions to truly live in someone else’s shoes for a while.
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And it’s not only humbling; it creates empathy. It’s only when you’re willing to see life from the point of view of others who are different from you that you can empathize with them and maybe help make their lives better. It takes courage to do that, because you never know what you’ll find out about yourself when you empathize… Perhaps you’ll discover you’re more selfish than you like to admit. Perhaps you’ll discover you’re lazy or uncaring in some ways.
Perhaps you’ll discover how very lucky you are that you were born in your particular skin in your particular country in your particular century, and that without that luck, you’d have a very different life.
It’s a reality check we all need once in a while, especially if we want to make the world a little bit better just by our being in it. I think that’s worth something. And Martin Luther King, Jr. certainly believed that too. It’s what he lived and died for. Let’s honor that memory by doing the same.

“Trump won, so just shut up!”

anti-trump-protestorsI have been seeing this sentiment a lot lately and I have to admit, I just don’t get it.

Why do people have to “shut up” because Trump won?

Trump won because his supporters didn’t shut up.  Trump supporters were loud and proud about their views.  They rallied and chanted “Lock her up!”  and “Build the wall!’ and “Paul Ryan sucks!” and my personal fav, the always keeping it classy, “Trump that bitch!” 

Trump supporters were louder and stronger and most importantly they used their voting voice for a candidate they believed in.  And they won the White House, which now with the House and the Senate, provides them with almost unlimited power.

So why do they care if the protests go on?  What does it really matter?  

Maybe they care because they want the rest of the country to support a candidate they didn’t vote for or believe in.  Just like they did with Obama, right? 

Maybe they care because if the protests continue more and more people will start paying attention to the fact- FACT– that America is a democracy and just as easily as someone can be voted in they can also be voted out. 

Maybe they care because they feel that the protestors for  make too much noise and drown out the commentary from Dancing with the Stars.

To all the Trump supporters- what are you so afraid of?

You made the most of your voices and you won.  YOU WON!

So let the protestors protest.  Frankly there have been many, many protests which have gone un-reported by the news- thank you again to the media for deciding for us what should be covered and what should not be covered.  It spares us the pain of thinking for ourselves. 

Surely you are not afraid of a little disagreement on policy or even a few questions about our new President and his campaign promises, right?

GOP 2016 Debate

 

 

 

 

What do I believe?

Boy Howdy, there has been a lot going on in the world lately, hasn’t there?

All of this turmoil has  prompted me to look deep inside and ask….

What do I really believe? 

First section – The “hot button” issues of the day.

  1. Gun Control – I really don’t care if you have a lot of guns  or even what kind of guns you have, just don’t  go out and shoot people, please.  Also, I think if let your kids play with guns and they get shot or shoot others, I don’t think you should have them, but other than that – I really don’t care.
  2. Abortion – I don’t think it should be easy, but I don’t think it should be never.  If I was told I was going to die from a pregnancy in the first trimester and the pregnancy was not viable – I would have an abortion.  There I said it.  Let the hate comments roll in!
  3. Climate Change – Yes, I think climate change is man made and yes, I think we should take measures to try to stop it or slow it down.  I base this on my elementary science class where I learned that trees and plants absorb carbon dioxide through their leaves and break it down, releasing oxygen into the air. Then I learned humans breath oxygen.  So to me it seems like a good enough idea to keep that going.
  4. God– I believe in God, but I really don’t care if you do or not.  I don’t feel the need to talk about what I believe.  I think Faith is a quiet thing- but it’s fine if you think the opposite, this goes in the “whatever” section of my life.
  5. The MediaI like the media.  I like newspapers and the news and documentaries.  And I like it when the media is tough on public figures- all of them.  My good friend Tracy made a statement once  I thought was wonderful and I try to live by it- “If you say it – you own it,” even if you don’t “own” it forever.  I’m perfectly fine with statement’s such as,  “I did say that, but now I have a different point of view because of x, y or z.” Do I think the media is biased – sure, it can be, but that’s why we should have a lot of it- to get different views and make up our own mind.  I really like Anderson Cooper, but if he told me to jump off a cliff–No thanks, Andy!
  6. Illegal Immigrants – I don’t hate them, because given the right circumstances I would do it also.  For example, I have two boys and if I lived in a place where gun shots rang out overnight and I had no money or food to give them and all I had to do to get them to a safe place was run across a desert at night- load up the packs, boys! I would do anything for my children, even break a law. But it is illegal and with that comes the knowledge I would go to jail or be deported; after all I did break the law. This is a complex issue, one that I don’t think should be viewed as all good or all bad, but should be really examined closely and from all sides.
  7. Feminism“the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities, “ Merriam – Webster on-line dictionary – 2016.  Yes, I believe that, so yes, label me!

Those were some pretty big topics, but now I would like to touch on some more personal subjects.

  1. I believe you should not let your children or yourself leave the house in dirty clothes or with a dirty face.
  2. I believe you should let the person with fewer items get in front of you in line at the grocery store, even if you are in a hurry.
  3. I believe tailgating in traffic show you are a jerk.
  4. I believe if you talk on your cell phone in the movie theater, you should be asked to leave.
  5. I believe you should feel sorry for kids who bully other kids.  I mean, most bullies are losing the battle of life on some level, either at home or at school.  My kids have both been bullied and it was horrible! But when I got to know the parents of the bullies – those  poor kids had some loser parents- trust me!  
  6. I believe you should be kind to animals, even ugly or scary animals, such as lizards.
  7. I believe you should give to charity in some way – either time or money.
  8. I believe you should read or watch anything you want.  If it’s Jane Austen, the Bible or hardcore porn.  It’s your call, not mine or anyone else’s.
  9. I believe you should have good table manners.  I’m not talking about Downton Abby manners, but don’t burp or pass gas or talk with your mouth full of food, at the very least.
  10. I believe you should be fine with people disagreeing with you even if they yell or scream or tell you your views are stupid and crazy.  News flash – I can worship what I want and where I want, I can say what I think and so can you!

God Bless America!