Monthly Archives: December 2014

Out With the Old…

2014 wasn’t really a great year.

I’m not going to recount the reasons why it wasn’t great; aside from my father-in-law’s passing in January, there weren’t any major catastrophes (and, to be fair, Dad’s death was expected and, to a certain extent, timely), but rather a pretty consistent battery of inconveniences, annoyances, and disappointments that all added up to a persistent state of blah for most of the year.

I’m ready to be done with that, and even though I’m not really a big one for putting a lot of importance on the flipping of the calendar, I’m going to try to run with it this year.  I have some changes I want to make, and now seems as good at time as any to begin implementing them.

I spent today doing a hard reset on the house.  The Christmas tree came down and all the cleaning that had to accompany its removal happened this morning.  Going on the belief that one doesn’t need an occasion to make changes, I decided not to wait until January 1st to get exercise routine back on track; I re-started that just after Christmas.  I’ve made plans to meet with someone on Monday who may be instrumental in my reviving my professional life, and I’m very excited about that.  Overall, I’m feeling pretty good about how 2015 is starting out.

I’m planning to focus more on the things that matter to me.  I’m horrified and ashamed by all the reading I didn’t do in 2014, so I’m going to be devoting a lot more time reading.  I’m going to try to spend more time with friends; I had lunch with Laura the other day, Marcus is coming over on Friday just because, and I’m going to spend as much time as possible with Sweet Pea before she goes to California for college in a few weeks.  My plan is to not let more than a month go by without being in the presence of my friends and chosen family.  I want to write more here.  I am going to focus more intently on my work as an intern supervisor, and I’m planning on doing some boots-on-the-ground activism in my community (I have an opportunity to start that on my birthday).

My goal is to feel better in 2015.  I want to be more confident.  I want to not hate going to work.  I want to feel like what I’m doing matters.  I want to not feel overwhelmed by all the little things that I have to do.  I’m a big fan of little changes; I know how to make resolutions stick, and I’m pretty confident that I can make 2015 significantly better than 2014 was.

Happy New Year to you wherever you are; I hope the coming year is good to you.

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To Accept the Things I Cannot Change

My mother-in-law has no business behind the wheel of a car.

In truth, she’s had no business behind the wheel of a car for going on 18 years.  The last time I was in a car with her, I was pregnant with Punk, and I felt lucky to have survived the experience.  In the span of a 20 minute trip, she ran a stop sign, two stop lights, and ended up going the wrong way down a one-way stretch.  When I made it home alive, I told my husband that on no uncertain terms and under no circumstances were any of our children EVER to get in the car with his parents.  He readily agreed, and nether girl has ever been chauffeured by their grandparents.

Knowing that she’s out there driving around has always bothered me, though.  She’s got dents all up and down both sides of her car that she SWEARS just appeared out of no where one day.  She freely admits to ending up in another STATE when she’s driving home from someplace; she just continues on the highway until she hits a tollbooth that she suspects she shouldn’t have to go through, and only then does she realize that she’s driven a good 15 miles (and a state line) past her exit; the fact that she has to traverse a huge bridge over a major river – not to mention passing several signs that welcome her to this new state in bold letters – doesn’t clue her in to her error a whole lot sooner is, frankly, terrifying to me.

The fact of the matter is that my MIL is a cantankerous, rigid woman who will absolutely NOT hear that she can’t do something.  It was all we could do to get her from a manual transmission to an automatic a bunch of years ago; my FIL had to lie to her and tell her that a manual wasn’t available in the car she wanted in order to get her to switch because she INSISTED that she was PERFECTLY CAPABLE of driving a standard (he, at least, was aware enough to notice that she went from first to fourth gear and burned through clutches at the rate of about three or four a year, not to mention how distracting shifting was; her driving is bad enough without her not being able to make the car go when she wanted it to).

The other day, she was driving my 30 year old nephew (let’s call him Adam) to a restaurant in a part of town she’s been to a dozen times; in fact, she picked the restaurant, so we were pretty confident she could get there.  Adam sent me a frantic text message about 10 minutes after they were expected to arrive, telling me they were hopelessly lost (from his description, they were about 20 minutes away, headed in the complete opposite direction, in a very rural part of the neighborhood).  By the time she’d got turned around and headed back to town, she’d run a red light, bolted into an intersection with a high-speed road, and was very nearly hit.  She refused to pull over, she refused to slow down (Adam said she alternated by going impossibly slow and speeding – 50 in a 30 at one point – and would not relent; she knew what she was doing, by God, and no one could tell her any different).  By the time they’d arrived, Adam was pale and shaking and sweating, but MIL behaved as though nothing had happened.  At one point in the dinner, she actually said (and this is a direct quote), “I’d say I saw parts of town I’ve never seen before, but I didn’t really SEE any of it.”

All I could think was, “Holy shit.”

Bruder Chili drove her home – Adam rode with me – and nothing else was spoken about the incident that night.  When we all reconvened at our house later, we decided that something had to be done; Adam was genuinely terrified, not only for himself, but about the idea that she literally could have killed someone – herself, or someone else (not to mention him) – and was pretty insistent that she not have the opportunity to do that again.  By the time we went to bed, the men had resolved to talk to Mother about it in the morning.

Then the morning came, and they all chickened out.

To be fair, I don’t blame them.  There is literally no way that that conversation could have gone well, and the end result would be that she’d dig her heels in harder, insist that she’s a PERFECTLY CAPABLE driver (do you see a pattern here?) and not spoken to the boys for likely a long time; Mother has a way of expressing disapproval that makes her family quake in their proverbial boots.  *I* would have no problem laying it down for her, but Mr. Chili forbade me from going to the house that morning.  Not that I blame him; it doesn’t matter whether the matter were laid out gently and obliquely or bluntly and straight-out.  Short of selling the car out from underneath her, there is literally no way we can get her to concede to stop driving.

I’ve decided, for my own part, that I’m going to focus on the things I can change.  If I can’t confront her directly – and I can’t – I can at least lay down the edict that NO ONE I love is EVER to get in the car while she’s behind the wheel, and everyone readily agreed (Adam most of all; his eyes went wide and he said, in his lovely British accent, “Right, you don’t even have to forbid me; I’m NEVER doing THAT again!”).  I’m doing some investigation to find out who her doctors are and as soon as I know, I’m going to be making some phone calls; all the articles I’ve read about getting elderly people off the road have suggested that the best way to get that process started is to get in touch with the elders’ doctors and have THEM initiate the process.  I’ll call the State tomorrow to find out what, if any, provisions are in place for elderly drivers, and I’ll likely call her town’s police department and give them her license plate number and ask them to be on the lookout.  I spoke to her pastor today; she’s promised to have a conversation with her in the new year about perhaps scaling back her nighttime driving.  It’s not ideal, but it’s a start.

I don’t want to limit my MIL’s independence; she’s done far better in this first year without her husband than I ever expected, and that’s due in large part to her ability to get herself to the places she wants to be to do the things she wants to do.  I would rather limit her independence, however, than get a phone call from the State Police telling me that she’s been injured or killed in a crash that she caused – or, perhaps worse, that she’s killed someone else.  Her car keys aren’t worth her life, but we can’t be the ones to tell her that.

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Hands Up; Don’t Shoot

On Sunday last, as the Rams’ offense was introduced on the field, tight end Jared Cook and receivers Kenny Britt, Stedman Bailey, Chris Givens, and Tavon Austin stopped near the tunnel and raised their hands in the gesture that’s become a symbol of the strain and unrest in Ferguson, Missouri.

nfl_a_rams01jr_C_600x400Apparently, this put a lot of people right off their feed.

“St. Louis, Missouri (November 30, 2014) – The St. Louis Police Officers Association is profoundly disappointed with the members of the St. Louis Rams football team who chose to ignore the mountains of evidence released from the St. Louis County Grand Jury this week and engage in a display that police officers around the nation found tasteless, offensive and inflammatory.

“Five members of the Rams entered the field today exhibiting the “hands-up-don’t-shoot” pose that has been adopted by protestors who accused Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson of murdering Michael Brown. The gesture has become synonymous with assertions that Michael Brown was innocent of any wrongdoing and attempting to surrender peacefully when Wilson, according to some now-discredited witnesses, gunned him down in cold blood.

“SLPOA Business Manager Jeff Roorda said, “now that the evidence is in and Officer Wilson’s account has been verified by physical and ballistic evidence as well as eye-witness testimony, which led the grand jury to conclude that no probable cause existed that Wilson engaged in any wrongdoing, it is unthinkable that hometown athletes would so publicly perpetuate a narrative that has been disproven over-and-over again.”

“Roorda was incensed that the Rams and the NFL would tolerate such behavior and called it remarkably hypocritical. “All week long, the Rams and the NFL were on the phone with the St. Louis Police Department asking for assurances that the players and the fans would be kept safe from the violent protesters who had rioted, looted, and burned buildings in Ferguson. Our officers have been working 12 hour shifts for over a week, they had days off including Thanksgiving cancelled so that they could defend this community from those on the streets that perpetuate this myth that Michael Brown was executed by a brother police officer and then, as the players and their fans sit safely in their dome under the watchful protection of hundreds of St. Louis’s finest, they take to the turf to call a now-exonerated officer a murderer, that is way out-of-bounds, to put it in football parlance,” Roorda said.

“The SLPOA is calling for the players involved to be disciplined and for the Rams and the NFL to deliver a very public apology. Roorda said he planned to speak to the NFL and the Rams to voice his organization’s displeasure tomorrow. He also plans to reach out to other police organizations in St. Louis and around the country to enlist their input on what the appropriate response from law enforcement should be. Roorda warned, “I know that there are those that will say that these players are simply exercising their First Amendment rights. Well I’ve got news for people who think that way, cops have first amendment rights too, and we plan to exercise ours. I’d remind the NFL and their players that it is not the violent thugs burning down buildings that buy their advertiser’s products. It’s cops and the good people of St. Louis and other NFL towns that do. Somebody needs to throw a flag on this play. If it’s not the NFL and the Rams, then it’ll be cops and their supporters.”

Um…. no.

My take on this – for what it’s worth – is that the people who object to this are the same people who want us all to just stop talking about it, because the more we talk about it, the angrier we’re likely to get and the more likely it is we will demand that something meaningful be done about the blatant discrimination and injustice that Mike Brown’s murder has come to represent.

This afternoon, while enjoying lunch out with Bean and my favorite nephew who’s visiting from England, I overheard two older ladies talking about Ferguson. The one facing me, whom I could clearly hear, was in the “the kid was a thug and a thief” camp; she was spewing all the character assassinations and racial bullshit that the right wing media has been hammering ever since Mike Brown was gunned down in the street, as if the kid’s demeanor justified his murder.

As I walked past their table, I wondered what, exactly, makes people like these women feel the way they do (if, in fact, they really feel that way; there’s a possibility that they’re just parroting the prescribed message and really don’t know what they think themselves).  There is clearly something about this – something well beyond the murder of an unarmed teenager – that makes people (especially white people) deeply uncomfortable.

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