All posts in the Philosophy category

Gun stuff

Published February 20, 2018 by livinggraciously

I can make a colorable argument that I once defended my life with a shotgun.

I was still a newlywed, and John and I had purchased a house in the woods north of Wasilla, Alaska. I was home alone, out in the yard splitting wood, when a car came down our cul de sac, turned around, and left. This wasn’t completely unusual; we were one of only two houses out that far, but people sometimes take a wrong turn. I noticed them come back around, driving more slowly this time. Maybe they were looking for a different street.

The third time they came around, they stopped, blocking my driveway, and sat there staring at me.

It was two men, but I couldn’t see any details beyond that, the driveway being about a seventy-five feet long and the car dappled with sun and shadow.  I was suddenly aware that there was no one else within half a mile of me. I stood there with the splitting maul in my hands, looking at them and making sure they knew that I knew they were there.

When they didn’t budge, I walked in the back door, picked up the shotgun, and walked out onto the front deck, ostentatiously ratcheting a shell into the chamber and taking a wide, alert stance.

They took off, not to be seen again.

Maybe they never would have worked up the nerve to get out of the car. Maybe their intentions weren’t actually dangerous. But the maybe balancing the other end of that scale is quite dire. And I never again chopped wood on my own without that shotgun sitting within arm’s reach.

From that, you might assume that I am a great advocate of guns as home defense. But let’s unpack the incident just a little bit more.

If those men had been motivated victim-seekers, I would never have stood a chance. They could have driven right up the driveway, gotten out of their car with a friendly greeting, and I wouldn’t have even moved toward the house until it was too late.  A gun is rarely an effective deterrent–it’s far more likely to kill a family member than an intruder.

Furthermore, my gun was a Winchester Defender repeating shotgun. I had five slugs in that thing, which would do plenty of damage to any would-be assailants. I was not in need of a semi-automatic weapon to protect my life and property. The notion that anyone does need such a weapon is ridiculous and one more straw man in the attempt to intelligently discuss gun control.

I do not fear guns. Living in Alaska, they were tools, protection against wild animals and a method by which meat came home for many. I do not believe that we should confiscate all guns. They do have their place.

But I strongly believe that we can and should regulate the hell out of guns. There are weapons that should be illegal and should be confiscated or bought back. There should be registration and insurance requirements. Background checks without loopholes. If a gun I own is used in a crime, the police should be showing up at my door and asking some pretty tough questions: if it was stolen, why didn’t I report it? If I sold it, why didn’t I do a title change? If I don’t have good answers, then the claim for damages goes against my insurance.

Yes, there are millions of guns in the wild that will be hard to track. But there are thousands of meth labs in the back woods that police can’t locate and no one throws up their hands and says, “Oh well, I guess there’s no point in laws against them.” Laws we make now won’t pay off this year or this decade. But they will pay off for our grand children.

It’s time to get real about the future.


Swinging into the final third

Published January 21, 2018 by livinggraciously

I went to the cardiologist the other day, and my numbers all look good. LDL cholesterol is still a wee bit high, but trending in the right direction. I’m exercising, eating right, doing all the things I’m supposed to be doing.

But I had an odd thought. I turn 60 this spring. Ferrett and I have lived in this house for almost 20 years. Going by average lifespans, I can really only bet that I will continue living here going forward for as long as I’ve lived here thus far.

And wow have those years gone fast. I really felt my mortality in that moment; this is all going to be over with in a blink of the eye.

So I’m going to do what it takes to try and extend those 20 years into 30 or 35. But I’m thinking about how best to spend my final stretch. Several things come to mind.

  • I’m done with reading “important” books that just make me depressed. I’ve read some amazing books over the years thanks to lists like The Big Read. But I’ve also slogged through books that I felt I should read. And now I wonder if there is any point other than bragging rights. So when The God of Small Things was just making me sad, I thought, “Nope. ” This may mean I read a lot more fluffy romance, or urban fantasy, or fantasy from the pre-everything-is-gritty era. And the world will not crumble.
  • I have too much sentimental stuff, and my kids shouldn’t have to deal with it. Without a doubt, when they carry me out of here toes-first my girls will have a ton of junk to dispose of. But right now there is a cedar chest in the basement that contains my mother’s wedding dress (unwearably awful 1050s waltz-length dress that she always regretted her mother talking her into), and albums of birthday cards from when she was a child, and all kinds of other stuff that means almost nothing to me and will mean far less to my girls. They are going to have enough to deal with deciding what to keep from the things I cherish (mostly quilts, I suspect); they shouldn’t have to deal with my parent’s and grandparent’s and great-grandparent’s things–at least not the ones to which I’m not terribly attached. Great Grandma’s tea set and music box definitely stay, but I need to make some of the wrenching decisions, instead of leaving them all to the kids.
  • I have too much stuff, and it’s time to get lighten the load. Our stuff really does own us. And I have way too much of it. This is a continual source of tension here–vacant is restful to me and stressful to Ferrett. We both make compromises, and we mostly make it work. But I’m going through my stuff and paring down. I did this a couple years ago, and we are still much better organized. But it’s a constant war against atrophy.
  • I’m allowed to walk away from the news for a while. One of the best ways to get depressed these days is to read the news. Even better? Read the comments sections of articles. No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, the bile and vitriol is unhealthy, but it’s also a train wreck that’s hard to ignore. I get to turn away. My participation isn’t going to change the dialogue, and my absence for a day or two won’t change the course of history.
  • I have to fight against content isolationism. I love my house. I love my sewing room. I love reading and quilting, and can happily stay in the house for days and days. We used to have people over a lot, and we don’t these days. We used to go visit a lot, and that’s slowed down, too. Any one day is fine, but too many of them and some day I will be lonely and sad. So I must remember to fight inertia and get my butt out the door.
  • I have so much to be grateful for. I love my husband. I love my job. I love my house. My kids are amazing. My extended family is fabulous. My friends are the best. I’m white and financially secure and have a safety net. That’s a lot to be grateful for. It’s easy to become cynical these days, and fearful as well. Everything can look very dark. But there is light, too. And it’s beautiful.
  • I’m going to pay attention. All of us have a limited number of days, evenings, weekends. I’m more aware of that fact now. It’s super easy to lose entire weekends to staring at the TV or a computer monitor. Sometimes that’s fun and intentional–a movie marathon, for example. A lot of times, it’s, once again, inertia. I can choose to watch ten episodes of “Say Yes to the Dress” and another seven of “Tiny House Nation,” but I want to make it a choice. Would I rather be sewing? Reading? Am I content, or just bored? The dog would appreciate a walk; wouldn’t that be better time spent? I’m going to check in on myself.
  • Ultimately, I don’t matter. And that’s okay. I will leave very little mark on the world–a few people will remember me fondly while they live; someone might stumble across my journal now and again. But I’m going to be one of the masses of anonymous people who lived their lives and left no mark. I’m comfortable with that. It means I get to choose my level of happy, choose my own adventure, if you will. And I like the adventure I’m on.

All in all, it’s not a bad way to start the final third of my life.


Eras ending

Published April 25, 2017 by livinggraciously

I’ve wrapped up the last birthday I’ll ever have for an age that begins with a 5. A year from now, I move on into the 6s.

That’s not weird AT ALL.

Age is an odd thing. I think it was Jim Gaffigan (if not, excuse my senility) who recently said that a generation ago when someone approached 60, people solicitously guided them to a rocking chair; now, they are given a mountain bike and told to get going.

For the most part, I’m all for that mountain bike (crap, I own three bikes; I’d better be enthusiastic). But there are days when I long, a bit, for the solicitous guidance, the gentle pat on the back of my–so far unmarred by age spots–hand, and the voice to tell me to slow the hell down.

It’s not that I want to get old–hell, you line me up a dozen random virgins with the promise that drinking their blood will restore me to my thirties and those bitches are going *down*–but there is a lot of balance to be sought in the reality of this point of life. I spent an hour gardening today. I went to the gym. I am fighting the good fight against the ravages of time and reality.

In the end, ravaging reality will win. Maybe not for another 20, 30 years. But we haven’t found a cure for age yet.

So here I am, dancing on the balance. I can’t get 30 back (for the record, no, I don’t want 20–those years were still WAY too hormonal). I can’t get 40. I can’t even get 58.

What I’ve got is 59, and how to use it best. How to use it smartest. One of the most humbling decisions I ever made was buying myself a walker for Star Wars Celebration. Did I need the walker for support? Not at all. But degenerative disc disease and the inability to stand for long periods of time means that I *did* need that flip-down seat and the ability to plant my ass for the long hours we had to wait in some lines.

As a woman with a walker, I could have cruised right up to the Medical Disability station, gotten myself a special sticker for my badge, and had some advantages as far was getting into lines. I did not do this. I had a walker because I needed a doggone chair whenever I needed a chair. Not because I am disabled. I felt like taking advantage of a visible piece of equipment to get special treatment would have been dishonest.

By Celebration 2019? I might not feel that way. One of the things I did today, my birthday, was take time to get to the gym. It wasn’t a great workout. But I did show up. And it means something to me. Not that I will ever be thin–because I fought for that for decades and fuck it, I end up fatter every damned time–but that I can stay mobile. I can stay able. I can keep walking, and moving, and lifting. And planting, and pulling up the goddamn weeds that will just keep growing no matter how much I loathe them. And harvesting. And reaching for the stars, howling at the moon, bursting warm, ripe tomatoes with my teeth, scrounging the dirt for carrots and onions, swinging a lightsaber in the moonlight, juggling balls my dog can’t believe aren’t for her, swinging on my porch swing, riding my bike through the park, dyeing and sewing fabric into new treasures for the future and just existing. On a thousand levels.

Tomorrow morning, it’s editing books. In the evening, it may be plunging cotton fabric into purples and greens it never knew could exist. Or spying for that first curling sprout that promises a pound of snap peas. Or riding to the river to just listen to it sing. I have a thousand miles of everything, calling to me. Let’s see whose song is sweetest.


The Ultimate Hope in “Turn Away the Gay” legislation

Published March 4, 2014 by livinggraciously

Last month states like Kansas and Arizona made John Stewart’s life so easy. The Daily Show practically wrote itself, thanks to the appalling behavior of legislatures whose elected officials have a distorted view of what constitutes religious freedom.

And it would be natural to look at their behavior and be depressed. But instead, I celebrate it. Because it means that we actually are winning.

In the years after the Second World War, when African-American soldiers returned from serving their country and refused to return to the subservient role that they had left, the push for civil rights could no longer just be swept under the rug. So in the south, the state legislatures and city councils reacted in a very predictable way: Jim Crow laws were proposed and passed right and left. What little wasn’t already regulated was by gosh regulated now! Those in power clutched at that power with everything they had.

And they lost. It wasn’t easy. It took a lot of time, and a lot of bloodshed, but they lost. All those laws were overturned.

What we are seeing now? That same, final panicky grasp at the status quo. The turnaround on these changes is a lot faster–after all, neither state actually enacted these laws. But what we are seeing, and what we saw back in 2008 when a bunch of states passed constitutional amendments prohibiting same sex marriage, is a final bodice-clutching, fan-wafting, smell-salts-fueled hysteria.

They’ll lose. It’ll take a little more time, hopefully no more bloodshed, but they will lose.

The poison of always and never

Published March 3, 2014 by livinggraciously

Ferrett and I are passionate people who get along wonderfully until that unfortunate moment when we aren’t getting along. We will never be one of those couples who says, “Oh, we never argue about anything!” We are both stubborn and convinced that we are right.

But one of the things we have tried to do over the years is to learn to fight fairly. To use “I” language, to step back when discussion turns into yelling, to trust that if one of us says, “I need a minute to calm down” that doesn’t mean “I’m going to stomp off and fume and not speak to you anymore.”

And to deal with “always” and “never” language. We are both given to hyperbole. And high emotion in our worst moments. And so at one point we would readily throw around those two words: “You always assume I’m trying to control you!” “You never show me any respect!” These statements had nothing to do with reality, and everything to do with the mental state we were in at that moment, where the world narrows down to the grievance at hand.

But once the disagreement at hand was resolved, there would be a secondary tension based on the accused hurt at being told that he or she was “always” or “never” doing something that they knew was unfair. And that lower-key tension could be carried as a deep hurt for hours or even days, waiting its moment to erupt into an echoing argument, leaving the other person–who had generally forgotten entirely about the moment–suddenly blindsided with hurt that felt like it was coming out of nowhere. And, frankly, ridiculous to the one party while monumental to the other.

So we reached an agreement. We would both do our best to stay away from “always” and “never.”

And you know what? We both fail at it dismally.

In the midst of a disagreement, those terrible words still erupt from our mouths on occasion. But there is a big difference now. Usually, we are aware enough to catch ourselves doing it. And if the other of us points out what we’ve said, we take a step back, acknowledge that we are in error, and start again with calmer, more realistic language.

But even if we don’t manage that, we each know that the other didn’t mean it and we don’t carry it around with us for days. Our dialogue is healthier for it.

And now? I’m working at removing those dreaded words from my internal dialogue. We are our own harshest critics, and we say things to ourselves that we would never dream of saying to our friends. Example: last night at the Oscar party I ate WAY too much junk food. I woke up this morning feeling bloated and logy. In my head, I started scolding myself: you always do this. You never have any self-control around snack food.

And then I made me stop. It was a party. I had fun. I have plenty of self-control, in that these snack foods only enter my house about 4 times a year, but I’m at the grocery store every week and I don’t buy them. I am, in fact, a competent person who is capable of taking good care of myself. I deserve my own love and respect.

Here’s the one always I need to internalize: I am always worthy.

My insanity: let me show you it

Published February 28, 2014 by livinggraciously

I am about to embark on a completely crazy project, and the only way to do it properly is to put it out to the world so that I have nailed my trousers to the mast (“don’t you mean your colors to the mast?” “No, trousers; that way I can’t crawl back down”)*

I am starting a project that I’m calling “100 Days of All The Things.” From March 1 until June 8, I am committing myself to:

  • Go to the gym daily
  • Cook healthy meals (except for days when we are specifically going out or doing something that takes me away from the kitchen, but no, “Eh, don’t wanna cook; let’s get Chinese.”)
  • Read
  • Practice Italian
  • Journal (and not endlessly about this experience; actual, substantive journaling)
  • Do something crafty

I fully expect that by day 2 I will be wondering what the hell I was thinking. But if I can do this, I hope that I will develop some good habits that will stick. I feel like I’m doing too much “drifting” through my days. I want to live more intentionally. I will also continue working, and keeping house, and having time with Ferrett, and walking my dog, throughout this.

And now y’all know. So you can help keep me honest. Wish me luck.

*Extra Brownie Points of Extremely Impressed-ness for anyone who knows the original source of that slightly-rewritten exchange!

Dear Xenophobic Hate-Mongerers: The Coca Cola Company thanks you for your support

Published February 4, 2014 by livinggraciously

On a relatively mild Sunday afternoon in early February, during a ball game that people continued to watch mostly because it was like unto Christians being fed to lions, the Coca Cola company aired a commercial in which people of many nationalities appears and “America the Beautiful” was sung in numerous languages.

At which point, the Internet went batshit crazy.

I will not recount the spewings of hatred aimed at the Coca Cola company as a segment of the population vented their spleen over the taking of “Our National Anthem” in vain. Instead, I will try to reimagine the reaction at the Coca Cola headquarters when the first of those Tweets and YouTube comments came pouring in:

Several people in suits, drinks in hand, leap from their chairs, cheering. Fist bumps, chest bumps, and mimicry of spiking a football follow. After the initial cheers, toasts are drunk and the suits all settle back to their computers, watching the insanity unfold, reading aloud the most ridiculous complaints and laughing, laughing, laughing.

You see, dear redneck ‘Murican, the Coca Cola people did not make that ad to try and get your dollars. They know very well that your soda dollars will be returning their way in a few days when some other outrage has come along to blow up your proverbial skirts. No, the Coca Cola people were not surprised by your vitriol. They were, in fact counting on it.

For a few million dollars, they made and placed an ad in the Superbowl time slot that, without you, might have had a minor branding bump to their label. But thanks to you, that ad is worth millions more in the outrage of the greater population at your despicable, hate-filled behavior. People who don’t buy Coke are suddenly feeling a need to defend the label for their bravery in taking on bigots like you. And how better to display loyalty that to buy a Coke and stand with this brave company against the embarrassment caused by your rude and appalling — and frequently misspelled and ungrammatical — spewings on the internet.

Yes, dear racist, your own disgusting attitude is selling cola to the rest of the country in ways that one mere ad could never accomplish. And if you don’t think that the Coca Cola ad executives counted on your reaction to that ad, then you are even stupider than your internet rantings make you sound.

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