Sunday, December 28, 2008

Hopeful About 2009

Despite the doom and gloom of the times, I am hopeful about 2009.

Akili gave me the Woodstock Concert album on a CD for Christmas, so now I can listen to it in my car, the only place where I really listen to music of my own choosing. Life with a DJ has its pros and cons. I was listening to Woodstock today while running out to the store for more bagels and orange juice (my children are like a plague of locusts in a cornfield when presented with a bag of bagels). I heard the little speech about providing breakfast in bed for 400,000 and the announcer told the crowd they were all going to be feeding each other. “We must be in heaven,” the announcer shouted with glee, and then, “There’s always a little bit of heaven in a disaster area.” Somehow that struck me as a good quote for the times.

I am scared about our family’s financial situation, which remains steady but only by a thread. I am scared about the future for my children, trying to find work and start out in life during this recession and dreadful job market. I am scared for the people in Zimbabwe and Rwanda and Darfur and other war-torn countries, where people are sleeping on the ground and surviving one day to the next. I can find a million things to be scared about. And I think about my friend Carol, now in her 70s, who beat breast cancer this year. Carol says she refuses to fear. She has had a life touched by tragedy, but she has not allowed this to prevent her from creating a positive future, enjoying what she can from life, and making a difference in the world. My friend Phyllee has a similar positive attitude. After losing her husband five years ago when he dropped dead of a heart attack (with no forewarning), she has picked herself up and taken life by the horns, demanding joy wherever she can find it. She went on a Caribbean cruise for the holidays. I am inspired by Phyllee and Carol. I struggle to stay positive. To expect the best. To expect good things coming.

The end of the year is the time for lists and I think about what is on mine. Obama will bring real change. I will come to feel at home in my new house. I will manage to put my boys through college. My diabetic husband and my aging father will both stay well. We will not lose our house. I will continue to get enough work to pay the bills. My children will find good jobs and terrific life partners. My cats will come home at night in one piece. Family and friends will thrive. The people of Zimbabwe will turn a corner and enter a new day. Peace in the middle east. Hope. Change is gonna come. I make my wish lists—trying to manifest the goodness. I am determined to remain hopeful about 2009. Obama helps.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Tough Year for Gay Rights

I am looking forward to our traditional New Year’s Eve jaunt to the co-housing community in Cotati to party hearty with our friends Eris and Leslie and the other co-housing families. Eris and Leslie, lesbians, have been partners for a dozen years or more and this blog is in honor of them because it has been a tough year for gays. They were stripped of their civil rights in the last election and have felt deeply betrayed.

Last summer, when the state legislature ruled to allow gays to marry, Eris and Leslie went to city hall immediately and filed for their marriage license. They got married many years ago in a non-legal ceremony. Eris told me she had not realized how important it was to her to be legitimately recognized as Leslie’s wife until they actually held the paper in their hands. She still tears up talking about it. She never thought she’d be granted this right in her lifetime. She wrote a letter to the California Legislature thanking them for allowing her to marry the woman she loves. So you can imagine the grief, anger, and frustration she felt only months later when the rug was pulled out from under her. They are still waiting to find out if their marriage has been voided. Apparently Ken Starr (yes, THAT Ken Starr) is going to bat for the religious fanatics and attempting to have all previous gay marriages in California nullified in court.

The decision to pass Prop. 8 was engineered by Christian religious fanatics from outside the state. It is well-known that the Mormon Church poured millions of dollars into the Yes on Prop. 8 Campaign by urging Mormons to donate for advertising. Churches in Idaho and the deep South also talked church members into contributing thousands to this negative campaign. The advertising that was bought with their money terrified conservative voters by falsely asserting that their churches would lose their nonprofit status if they refused to marry gay couples and by falsely stating that the public schools would be required to teach children as young as five about sex education in a way that described gay sex in detail (what idiocy). This type of scare tactic is outrageous. And it continues to play on the deep-seated prejudicial stereotype that gays are sexual predators who will corrupt, endanger, and prey on children. I sadly remember a friend of mine, a gay man, who, in the 1970s taught preschool. He had long blonde hair, which he crammed up into a wig to go to work. He was wonderful with the children and had found his niche and his career. He lived in terror that he would be exposed as a gay and that this would prevent him from teaching for the rest of his life. The Yes on Prop. 8 campaign points out that we are barely a whisper away from those days.

The saddest thing about oppression is that it interferes with the ability of people to love one another, on every level. We talk big talk about many freedoms, but perhaps the most basic is the freedom to love. Slavery exploded Black families. Colonization disintegrated Native families. Nazism reduced Jewish families to ashes. Homophobia attempts to destroy gay families. It goes on and on. When will we finally have a society that allows love to flourish? That supports and nurtures families? That recognizes the many shapes and forms and sizes and colors and wondrous diversity of love?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Furnace Blues

The week before Thanksgiving the heat exchanger on our furnace cracked. For ten days we suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning, with sinus problems, burning eyes, cough, sore throat, etc. before realizing that the source of the problem was the heating system. Even the cats were sneezing. Right after Thanksgiving, we turned the heat off for good and called the heating repair people, AC&R. When the service rep came out he discovered the crack and shut the system down. He was required by law to condemn it as unsafe. I was unruffled as we have an excellent home warranty policy that covers the heating system.

But there’s a process. AC&R had to send out someone else to look at the system and write up an estimate for the cost of repair. He informed us that the old furnace was a piece of crap and he could not in good conscience recommend that we replace it with the comparable new piece of crap. He recommended a much more efficient system. He also discovered that the ducts are leaking and need to be resealed. No wonder our heating system didn’t seem to be heating the house. The AC&R rep wrote up his report and sent it to the insurance company, who called and offered us our options. We chose the buy out so we could install a more efficient system. All this took what, one, two weeks, actually more, since it is now already mid-December. In the meantime we are freezing our asses off. I actually had the gas fire insert in the living room removed (cheap, only $100 to take it out) so we could restore the fireplace to wood burning. Ron has made some lovely little fires in the fireplace this week to take the edge off the cold. The fireplace is small and doesn’t warm the living room sufficiently, but it’s definitely an improvement. There is a good gas burning fireplace in the family room and we have that one going nonstop. But let me tell you, the bedrooms are freezers.

On Friday I was able to get a date from AC&R to replace the furnace this coming Wednesday. To complicate matters, we are still working on our deck; and the basement, which houses the furnace, is down the back stairs, which up until yesterday were not there. Ron spent the whole day yesterday putting treads on the back stairs so AC&R can get the old furnace out and the new furnace in. We have laid plywood over the deck framing temporarily for the guys to walk on. Of course the furnace died right in the middle of this deck project. Furthermore, a snowstorm is coming in tonight, to last several days. Do you know how often snow is predicted in Ukiah? Like every ten years. The rain has started this morning and it has been about 30 degrees every night for the last week. Wouldn’t you know it that the coldest snap in ten years is now, when we have no heat. When I get out of bed at night to go to the bathroom my feet turn to ice and fall off. I hope my fish doesn’t freeze in his bowl. I can see my breath as I write this. Wednesday, if I can only make it to Wednesday.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Missing Ella

Five days ago my cat Ella went missing. She is my favorite of all the cats I have ever had, and that’s saying a lot since she and her sister Golda were cats 12 and 13 when I brought them home three years ago. I picked up these girls at the pound in the fall following the summer that Mom passed over and all three of our outdoor cats were picked off one by one by a marauding bobcat at the Ranch. Ella and Golda are very indoor cats. They go out during the day usually, but always come in at night. Sometimes they don’t even go out in the daytime, but sleep all day long and play with their catnip toys for diversion.

Ella is a small child living in a cat body. She is too smart for her own good. Too curious for her own good. Too crafty, sneaky, scheming, perceptive, and detail-oriented. If she were a person, she would be an expert at office politics. But she is not a person. She is a small all-black domestic shorthair with a tiny face and enormous green eyes. She is the fluffiest, softest cat I have ever touched. She is a puffy cat, little more than a wisp of mischief.

Ella has many idiosyncrasies. For instance, she loves the smell of Ron’s feet. She squishes her little head deep into his bedroom slippers and chews on the lining. Then she pulls the lining inside out and rubs her face in it. Ron has to hide his slippers from her. It drives him crazy when she pulls apart those slippers. They were expensive and he depends on them to keep his feet protected when in the house. A diabetic, Ron must take special care of his feet. He can’t afford to have my adorable puffy cat tearing up and sucking on his slippers. Sometimes I think she knows exactly how to get under his skin and does it on purpose.

When we moved from the Ranch to the Villa, I kept Ella and her sister inside for a week to make sure they were acclimated and knew where they lived. The first night in the Villa, Ron assembled our bed. When he needed help keeping all the rails and boards in place for him to screw them in, he called on me and the boys. As I held a rail in position with both hands, Ella appeared and proceeded to nip my ankles for attention. I tried to shake her off, but she would not be deterred. I could not stop laughing and nearly dropped the bed rail. Ron was not amused.

I have been worried about the kitty girls in our new home. There are many cats in the neighborhood. My kitty girls had 40 acres to themselves at the Ranch. Cats don’t always make the transition to a new environment. Although we have been here for a few months, I know that they are still figuring out how to live next door to other cats and how to navigate the street, which is very quiet fortunately. I was worried the first night Ella didn’t come home. The second night, I figured she had gotten stuck somewhere, in someone’s garage or shed, and would come home soon. By the third night, I was alarmed and sad and started to wonder if I would ever see her again. On the fourth night, I couldn’t sleep and imagined her lying dead or wounded somewhere out of my reach. Sudi said, “Don’t worry Mom, cats wander, she’ll come home."

Yesterday morning she appeared at the door first thing in the morning! Unharmed, smelling a bit like fir trees, and hungry. Sudi said “I told you so.” After she ate, I held her and petted her for a long time. I’m sure she knows how much I missed her. But Ella will do as she wishes anyway, probably disappearing again in our new neighborhood. I hope she always returns. Her return reminded me that sometimes something we think is lost for good comes back to us.